Monday, May 23, 2011


Granola with Yogurt, Berries & Honey 
Ben and I are in a granola phase right now.  It has a little something to do with the warmer weather, I’m sure.  Just about this time every year, our morning routines shift a bit, and we end up saying a sentimental goodbye to our regular winter breakfast of stone-cut oatmeal with stewed fruit, and waving a warm, enthusiastic hello to its summery cousin,  granola with yogurt, fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.

Oats, the Back-Bone of Granola

It also has something to do with Ben’s many up-coming hiking trips.  Granola is always a back-pack staple for him.  Tossing it with all sorts of goodies – peanut M&M’s, salty green pistachios, wrinkled golden raisins, sugary dried papaya, wide white chips of coconut, etc, etc  - he can make dozens of differing assortments of delicious trail mix.  Dividing it up into pre-portioned snack baggies is a regular pre-trip ritual for him, his first step in packing up his bag. 

Fresh out of the Oven

But mostly, our recent renewed enthusiasm for granola is a direct result of a surprise gift of thick, creamy yogurt, given to us by our dear friends Erin & Karim, all the way from Dubai.  Karim’s jet-setting job takes him to Dubai pretty regularly.  And when we marveled at his tales of the incredible yogurt he enjoys while abroad, he responded by smuggling in a huge tub of the stuff for us on his very next return trip!  Immensely luscious and impossibly creamy, this yogurt was absolutely  to die for.  We were utterly thrilled by the unexpected surprise.  And so I responded in turn by whipping up a double batch of our favorite granola.  Figuring that home-made granola is a somewhat even trade for smuggled yogurt, I made a surprise delivery to Erin & Karim, gifting them back with a perfect partner for their twin tub of imported yogurt.

Home-Made Granola

And so, let me tell you a bit about this favorite granola recipe of ours.  Aside from being addictively delicious, it’s as plain and simple as any granola recipe could possibly get.  Nothing more than oats and almonds really, with a bit of sweetness from dark brown sugar and golden honey, a savory warmth from cinnamon and vanilla, and an addictive edge from a generous sprinkling of salt.  A hearty crunch and even tones of golden brown come thanks to a minimal addition of oil.  And there you have it, a really delicious and perfectly plain granola recipe.  Just how I like it. 

Granola Inredients

Of course, just like Ben does for his hiking snacks, you can add anything you’d like to it, from plump dried cherries to toasted pecans to leathery dried apple slices to crisp banana chips.  And that’s the beauty of a simple base recipe like this.  From here, you can go absolutely anywhere you’d like, limited only by your own (limitless) imagination. 

Golden Goodness

That said, I find it pretty difficult to waver from my own favorite combination.  Call me boring, but I won’t mind at all.  I’ll be too busy savoring my granola topped with yogurt, berries and honey!  Absolutely, positively delicious.  I urge you to try out this summertime breakfast staple of ours.  It just may end up being a staple of your own, too! 

Our Summer Breakfast Staple

Makes about 7 cups
This is a very simple, very plain granola recipe.  But that’s exactly why I love it.  There’s nothing fancy about it, no extra ingredients.  And so, it is very versatile.  One of my favorite ways to serve it is with a nice thick yogurt, fresh berries and a good drizzle of honey.  Makes for a wonderful breakfast any day, or even a nice summer supper every once in a while.
The best granola recipe ever!
4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus more for greasing the pan
1/4 cup honey
1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Pre-heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle position.  Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil. 
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. 
Granola in the Making
In a small pot, combine the oil and honey.  Bring to just a simmer over medium heat.  Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.  Stir to combine, then pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture.  Stir thoroughly, to evenly coat the oat mixture with the liquid. 
Spread the granola evenly over the baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes, stirring with a metal spatula two or three time during the baking process.  Cool to room temperature, then store in an air-tight container.  Will keep at room temperature for about 2 to 3 weeks. 
For a real treat, serve with yogurt, fresh berries and a a good drizzle of honey.
Utter Deliciousness

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Butter Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs

Butter Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs 
I know that  in the last post, I pretty much reached the absolute maximum level of enthusiasm acceptable, for that Lemon-Coconut Bundt Cake.  Had I heaped on even an ounce more praise, sang even one note more of its glory,  it would have been just way too much.  It wouldn’t have been decent, really. 

Garlic Cloves

Yes, I went a little overboard.  But that’s not to say I exaggerated.  Seriously guys, it truly was that good.  (And lots of you can vouch for that.  I was so glad to hear from the many of you who’ve already tried it!  Thanks again, you guys!)  Even so, all that over-the-t0p acclaim left me in a sticky spot.  Because now, how can any future recipe I share, ever compare to that cake?

Butter Beans

Bowl o' Butter Beans   
And so, I had to be a bit strategic this week.  With such a tough act to follow, I obviously couldn’t run with another cake.  Or for that matter, any dessert at all.  I knew I’d have to go with something humble, something overtly plain and explicitly simple.  And that’s how I arrived at beans.  Because with the lowly bean, you don’t expect too much glory in the first place, so you can’t get too disappointed when my description doesn’t live up to the high standard I inadvertently set in my last post.

And so, here’s what I have to say, here’s all that I have to say about these beans, these giant creamy butter beans bathed in a flavorful tomato sauce with fresh herbs and garlic-infused olive oil.  All I have to say is that they’re good.  Good because they’re 1. delicious, 2. quick and easy to throw together, 3. inexpensive, 4.  healthy, 5. pretty, and last but not least 6. great as as side to all sorts of dinners.  I think that says it all, right?

Garlic, Thyme & Sage

I’ve made these delicious, quick & easy, inexpensive, healthy, pretty, versatile butter beans about half a dozen times in the last couple months.  They’re stupendous alongside roast chicken, and just about anything else you happen to be in the mood for.  A couple nights ago we simply had them over crusty toast, topped with a sunny-side-up egg, and with a quick salad on the side.  (It was one of those use-up-the-leftovers nights.  We kinda love those nights!)

Chopped sage

Chopped sage, up close

I really am trying to restrain myself from saying other nice things about these beans, because they surely are one of my favorite go-to recipes.  But I do have to be careful.  I don’t want to start a pattern that’s impossible to keep up with!  But just know this: No matter how short or long my praise for any given recipe, no matter how typical or grand the adjectives I choose to describe it, I will only ever post up here recipes I’m sure you will like, ones I’d love you to try, ones I adore myself, ones I truly want to share with you, my dear readers.  

Butter Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs

Butter Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs
Serves 4
Butter Beans with Tomatoes & Herbs
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 (28-oz) can diced tomatoes, with their juices
2 (15-oz) cans butter beans
kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Heat a medium-sized sauce pot (or a large sauté pan) over medium heat for about 1 minute.  Add the olive oil and continue to heat for another 30 seconds.  Add the garlic, thyme and sage and cook, stirring constantly, until the garlic just begins to turn golden, about 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes, season with a good pinch of salt and pepper, and simmer until the juices are slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. 
Tomatoes simmering with garlic & herbs
Add the butter beans and stir to combine.  Lower the heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes longer.  Taste, then season as needed with salt & pepper.  Serve hot.