chocolate pecan cookie granola recipe | writes4food.com

Chocolate cherry pecan cookie granola.

It’s such a small world, isn’t it? In my many years as editor and brand leader for HOW, I collaborated with many insanely creative and smart people, including Alison Strickland. Alison’s the senior PR manager for The Creative Group, a longtime content partner for HOW (whose blog for creative freelancers I contribute to pretty regularly). Alison and I worked on projects for the magazine, the website and events, but I don’t think we’ve ever met in person. (Or maybe we did, once, fleetingly, at the HOW Design Conference.) Anyway.

Until a mutual friend mentioned it recently, I had no idea Alison was a fellow food blogger. No. Idea. What a miss: Her Two of a Kind Cooks (co-’written’ with her sweet dog, Rookie), is a treasure. I love Alison’s recipes and her enthusiasm. Her food photography makes me green with envy.

As a granola enthusiast (witness: almond granola, Granddad’s granola, granola bars) I was particularly smitten with Alison’s “cranola” idea: cookie + granola. Whaaaat?

Recently, we decided to play in the kitchen together and create a mashup of her cranola concept and my favorite pecan-cranberry-chocolate granola recipe. See Alison’s version, Almond Berry Chocolate Cookie Granola, on Two of a Kind Cooks. I decided to stick with pecans instead of Alison’s almonds (though almonds are never a bad choice); my version, below, is Pecan Cranberry Chocolate Cookie Granola.

This cookie + granola thing has totally rocked my world. It’s great as a nibbly snack, or crumbled on yogurt or ice cream. Thanks, Alison!

pecan cranberry chocolate cookie granola

makes about 4 cups

½ cup chopped pecans, divided
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup coconut oil, room temperature
1 large egg
½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose (or white whole-wheat) flour
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
2½ cups old-fashioned oats
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup milk or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. In a food processor, pulse ¼ cup pecans and the sugar until coarsely ground. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl using a hand mixer), beat the coconut oil and pecan/sugar mixture on high speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until well combined. Add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined. Add the oats and remaining pecans and stir; when the mixture gets stiff, use your hands to continue mixing until the oats and pecans are evenly incorporated into the dough. Use your hands to squish irregular chunks of dough onto the baking sheet; if you have any mixture that doesn't want to clump together, just add that to the baking sheet (it'll be delicious on yogurt). Bake the cranola for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and stir gently. Bake for another 10 minutes, remove from the oven and stir gently. Bake for an additional 5–10 minutes until the clumps are dry. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and scatter the cranberries over the hot cranola. Let cool for 15 minutes and then scatter the chocolate chips over the cranola. Let cool completely before stirring (or the chocolate chips will melt).
Store the cranola in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week, if it lasts that long.

 

how to cook with garlic scapes

Spring’s secret ingredient: cooking with garlic scapes.

They’re here—in my own garden and at farmers’ markets—just in the last week: Garlic scapes!

What is a garlic scape, you ask? The scape is the little curlicue sprout that shoots from the top of a hardneck garlic plant. Many home gardeners and professional growers cut off the garlic scape to direct the plant’s energy toward growing a fat bulb (the underground part) with large, flavorful cloves. In our hardiness zone 6a, scapes typically arrive in early June, and garlic is harvested in late June to early July. (See here for a how-to on growing garlic. You should absolutely try it.)

Garlic scapes have a milder, “greener” flavor than garlic cloves, and you can chop the green parts and use them in place of (or in addition to) the cloves. Garlic scapes make a healthful way to add taste and interest to your springtime cooking.

I snipped a few garlic scapes from my garden last weekend, chopped them and tossed them with a pint of cherry tomatoes, some fresh thyme, and a glug of olive oil, then grill-roasted them in a foil packet for 20 minutes. Divine!!

Like everything wonderful, garlic scapes are a fleeting, seasonal pleasure. If you can find a bagful at your farmers’ market, by all means bring some home.

About the illustration: The generous and talented Linda Cassady provided the lovely image of garlic scapes. Linda is a Chicago-based illustrator and designer with a soft spot for ordinary beauty and a strong sense of visual optimism. She and I met at a HOW Design Conference eons ago and have stayed in touch. See more of Linda’s work in her illustration portfolio.

What to do with garlic scapes?

free form strawberry tart recipe | writes4food.com

Easy strawberry galette.

Ahhhhh, Spring. You’re here, and you’ve stayed. And look what you’ve brought us: snappy stalks of asparagus, sweet peas, crisp radishes, cool lettuces, tender greens. And strawberries. You’ve brought strawberries.

I don’t know about you, but I’m in full-on, eatasmuchasIpossiblycan strawberry mode. I sliced strawberries over my cold oatmeal muesli for breakfast this morning. I stirred strawberries with some homemade strawberry jam into yogurt for lunch. Later this week, I’ll experiment with a recipe for The Clara Project that includes strawberries.

And then there’s this easy strawberry tart recipe, which I shared here quite awhile ago (and which you may have missed). The richly buttery crust is courtesy of my brother, whose fruit galettes grace the cases at his Baker & Nosh in Chicago. This tart is baked on parchment, so you don’t have to fuss with crimping the dough or filling a tart shell. (Be sure, though, to bake it on a rimmed baking sheet; it’s juicy!) You could use any kind of fruit in this free-form tart, but to me, there’s nothing better than fresh spring strawberries. Give this a go while these ruby beauties are in season.

free-form strawberry tart recipe

For the fruit filling:
1 quart fresh strawberries, cleaned and trimmed, halved if they're huge
1 Tbsp. brown, granulated or raw sugar, or to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp. liqueur, such as Amaretto, Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or brandy or port (optional)

Before making the tart dough (about 1 hour before baking), combine fruit, sugar and liqueur in a large bowl; toss to combine and let sit to infuse.

For the crust:
1 3/4 sticks (14 Tbsp.) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (reserve white)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
zest from 1 lemon or orange
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
pinch of salt

In a stand mixer or using a bowl and hand mixer, cream together butter and sugar; add egg and egg yolk and stir to combine, then stir in vanilla extract and citrus zest. Add flour and salt, stir to combine. Transfer dough to a floured pastry cloth or clean kitchen towel, shape it into a ball and divide it in half. (Wrap one half in two layers of plastic wrap and freeze for a couple of months.) Press the other half into a disc and wrap it in plastic or waxed paper; chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment. On the floured cloth, roll the dough out to about 15 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer the dough circle to the baking sheet. Use a slotted spoon to mound the fruit in the center of the dough circle, leaving an inch or two around the perimeter; drizzle fruit with a spoonful or two of the accumulated juices and liqueur. Gently fold the outer rim of dough over the fruit. Brush the dough with the reserved egg white. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until crust is deeply golden.

homemade almond butter cookie recipe | writes4food.com

Crunchy almond-butter cookies.

My love of peanut butter runs deep, twined in the double-helixes of my DNA. I know this because my beloved grandfather never turned down a handfulorthree of peanuts. Family lore has it that he favored peanut butter-and-horseradish sandwiches. (I firmly draw the line at that one.) Dad keeps a 55-gallon-drum of roasted peanuts in the pantry. Me, I drove my mother nearly to madness by requesting a PB&J sandwich for my school lunch. Every. Single. Day.

Her: Chicken salad, maybe?

Me: PB&J.

Her: Ham and cheese?

Me: PB&J.

Guess what I’m having for lunch today? Youbetcha.

Now, while I’m committed to the nothing-but-roasted-peanuts peanut butter we get from J.E. Gibbs at Findlay Market, I’ve been casually dating other nut butters. Almond butter and I have enjoyed a little fling (I’m just as much a sucker for roasted almonds as I am for dry-roasted peanuts). And this almond-butter cookie recipe is inspired by the classic peanut butter cookie, taken in a slightly different direction.

almond-butter cookie recipe

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (but not too soft)
1 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup almond butter
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whole toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; place a sheet of parchment paper on two cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a mixer, cream butter until light. Add sugars; cream until fluffy about 3 minutes. Beat in almond butter, then add eggs, one at a time, and mix to blend. Add vanilla and mix. Add dry ingredients (about 1/3 at a time) and mix slowly to thoroughly combine. Stir in chopped almonds.

Scoop generous teaspoons of cookie dough onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 14–15 minutes, rotating the cookie sheets halfway through, until set and lightly brown. Cool a bit on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack. Enjoy with a glass of ice-cold milk.

beautiful homemade pea ravioli recipe | writes4food.com

Spring pea ravioli with asparagus butter.

About 2 weeks ago, I was in New York City for the Edible Institute—a meeting of fellow editors and publishers of Edible magazines across the country, followed by a public conference of food advocates, chefs and producers. (Including Mark Bittman, about whose presentation I wrote here.)

One of my Edible Ohio Valley magazine colleagues and I stopped into Mario Batali’s Eataly food emporium, just for grins. It wasn’t the complete and total madhouse I’d expected, so we put our names on a waiting list for dinner at the pasta counter and browsed around.

Sure, it’s kind of a tourist trap. And yes, it’s pricey (though our dinner was no budget-buster). It might be easy to rail on Mario because of his celebrichef status. But damn, the place was amazing, and the food even better than you’d expect, given the sheer quantity the kitchens must turn out. Jennifer and I enjoyed a lovely salad of arugula and fennel (my new favorite combo), and a plate of springtime ravioli with the most luscious butter sauce.

The ravioli was, at its essence, such a simple dish that I figured I could re-create it at home. And I did. Mario’s butter sauce was better than mine, but it’s really hard to go wrong with just a drizzle of melted butter on any kind of pasta. I used wonton wrappers to contain a simple filling, cooked them quickly, garnished them with sweet and tender pea shoots from Kentucky Roots Urban Farm, and fixed a fancy dinner with minimal fuss. Plus, making your own ravioli is a whole lot of fun. (And my freezer is now well-stocked with homemade pea ravioli.)

spring pea ravioli with asparagus butter recipe

1 1/2 cups frozen peas
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and finely ground pepper
1 pkg wonton wrappers
1 egg white, beaten
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
6 fat asparagus spears
Parmesan cheese, for serving
Pea shoots or microgreens, for serving

Cook the peas in a saucepan of well-salted boiling water, 5–6 minutes. Drain and return the peas to the pan. Add the ricotta and mint; use an immersion blender to puree the mixture (or put everything in a food processor). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside. Place one wonton wrapper on a cutting board; use your fingertip or a pastry brush to apply a stripe of egg white to all 4 sides of the wrapper (be careful to get the corners well-covered). Place a teaspoon of the pea-ricotta filling in the center of the wrapper; fold the wrapper in half diagonally to form a triangle. Press and seal the edges completely, then use your fingers to gently "burp" out any air trapped in the ravioli. Repeat with remaining filling.

Trim the asparagus and slice it very thinly on the diagonal. In a small skillet, warm the butter over medium heat; add the asparagus and cook, stirring, until the asparagus is bright green, about 3 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of well-salted water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the ravioli (about 1/4 batch at a time, if you're cooking all of them) and cook at a simmer, for 3 minutes. Transfer the ravioli with a slotted spoon to serving plates; spoon some of the asparagus over each serving and drizzle with butter. Top the ravioli with shaved Parmesan cheese and a few pea shoots for garnish.

classic lemon chiffon pie in no-roll pie crust recipe | writes4food.com

The Clara Project: lemon chiffon pie.

My goodness: This is such a classic lemon pie recipe, it’s a wonder it’s taken me so long to show it off as a featured recipe in The Clara Project. Tart, fluffy, pretty—and totally make-ahead-able—this pie recipe is an instant favorite.

This recipe in Clara Shenefelt’s collection comes from The American Home magazine. These old recipes are written in such a style that it took me several read-throughs (and several more) to intuit the preparation instructions. I’ve clarified them here so you can easily make this at home.

I started with my favorite No-Roll Piecrust recipe, which produced fantastic results. The crust stayed crisp and light even after several days of refrigeration. Because I made this pie for my Mom—who loves a lemon pie that’s so tart it’ll roll your eyes backward—I tripled the amount of lemon zest called for.

Think of this pie as a sort of lemon-meringue mashup, with the lemon custard and meringue topping combined into one pillowy, lemony filling.

old-fashioned lemon chiffon pie in no-roll piecrust

serves 8

1 prebaked single-crust no-roll pie crust

1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin powder
1/4 cup cold water
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided use
1 tsp.–1 Tbsp. (or more) freshly grated lemon zest

In a small bowl, stir together the gelatin powder and cold water until the mixture resembles applesauce; set aside to soften the gelatin. Place the egg yolks in the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl); place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer or large mixing bowl. In the double boiler or heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks, lemon juice, 1/4 cup of sugar and the salt until the mixture is smooth. Place the double boiler or bowl over a pan of simmering water. Cook the custard, whisking constantly, until it becomes thick and pudding-like, about 8 minutes. (The mixture will foam, and then the foam will subside as it thickens.) Scoop the softened gelatin into the custard and whisk until smooth, then whisk in the lemon zest. Set aside to cool. Meanwhile, whip the egg whites using a stand mixer or hand mixer until foamy; add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue whipping until firm peaks form. Use a rubber spatula to transfer about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites to the cooled and thickened custard and fold in gently. Add the remaining egg whites to the custard, and fold gently to thoroughly combine. Transfer the filling to the prebaked pie shell. Refrigerate until serving.

bacon pepper cheddar cheese straws | writes4food.com

Bacon black pepper cheddar sticks.

As you become a more experienced cook, you become a more confident cook. You learn that it’s OK to substitute ingredients for what you happen to have on hand or to accommodate your family’s likes and dislikes. You realize that recipes are suggestions rather than absolutes (with the exception of baking recipes: those you need to follow closely). And you start hacking some of your favorite recipes, playing around with different variations.

That’s how I came up with this recipe for bacon black pepper cheddar straws. I started with my older recipe for cheddar cheese straws. Then I figured, you know, bacon and cheddar are pretty much BFFs—and pepper is never a bad sidekick for those flavors. I threw the ingredients into my food processor, hit ‘Pulse” a few times, rolled out the dough and baked off a batch of these golden cheesy breadsticks. Tasty!

black pepper bacon cheddar sticks

1 cup flour
1/4 cup crumbled cooked bacon
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
3/4 stick (6 Tbsp.) cold butter, cut into 1 Tbsp. pieces
1 1/2 Tbsp. cold milk

Preheat oven to 325 degrees, and place racks in the top and bottom third of the oven. In a food processor, pulse together flour, salt, pepper and bacon, until the bacon is chopped fine. Add the butter and cheddar and pulse until very coarse meal forms. Add the milk and pulse until the dough comes together in a ball. Be patient; it takes several pulses for this to happen, but add a dribble or two of milk if needed.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board, counter or pastry cloth. Divide dough in half; working with the first half, shape into a rough rectangle with your hands. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick, keeping the rectangular shape as much as possible. You’ll want to make the straws 10 to 12 inches long, so trim the dough with a pizza cutter if the rectangle is too long on one side. Using a straightedge or your rolling pin as a guide, cut long strips, 10 to 12 inches long by 1/3 inch wide.

Transfer strips onto two ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 7 minutes, then switch the baking sheets between shelves and rotate them 180 degrees to even baking. Bake another 6 to 7 minutes, until straws are lightly golden. Remove sheets from the oven and let cool a few minutes. Gently loosen straws from the sheets and carefully transfer to a wire rack for cooling.

best tip for making the perfect salad | writes4food.com

The best tip for making a perfect salad.

Here’s the first thing you need to do to make a perfect salad: season your greens with salt.

Before you toss the salad with dressing, sprinkle a good pinch of salt—preferably quality sea salt—over the lettuce and other vegetables. Use your hands to gently fluff the greens to incorporate the salt.

It’s a step that most home cooks overlook when making salad. If you think of salt not as a flavor in itself but as an enhancer of other flavors, then you’ll understand how a few grains can completely transform even an ordinary salad. Plus, if your greens have flavor, you’ll need less dressing.

Speaking of which: Here’s how to dress a salad. Put your greens and vegetables in a big salad bowl. Season with salt and toss gently with your hands. Then drizzle a thin stream of dressing, just about a tablespoon, down the inside of your salad bowl so it settles in the bottom. Then toss the salad gently to distribute the dressing. (And here’s a simple homemade vinaigrette dressing recipe. Skip the icky store-bought stuff.

Dressing your salad from the bottom up keeps the lettuce from getting soggy and globby. You’ll use less dressing. And if you’ve seasoned your greens, you’ll have a perfectly flavorful salad, with less fat and calories.

arugula pesto recipe

Easy spring arugula pesto.

Back in chilly February, on the 21st to be exact (according to the garden journal I’ve started in Evernote), I sowed arugula seeds in a large pot in my driveway. I covered the pot with this handy popup greenhouse and waited. But I didn’t have to wait long.

As any home gardener knows, arugula provides instant gratification. Despite the freezing temperatures (though my mini greenhouse was snug), the arugula sprouted in about 10 days. By mid-March, we were cutting baby arugula for salads, and by the end of April, I had taken three cuttings, filling the produce drawer in the fridge with home-grown arugula.

This early spring arugula was delightfully mild; sometimes I find that arugula takes on a sharper flavor once the plants mature or in summer heat. When that happens, I like to do two things with larger arugula leaves: either cook it (like in this recipe for pasta with arugula and mushrooms) or make pesto.

This recipe for arugula pesto is super easy, and the result is delicious tossed with pasta and Parmesan or spread on toasted bread with goat cheese.

easy arugula pesto

4 cups (lightly packed) fresh arugula
1/2 cup good-quality olive oil
1/2 cup (lightly packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts
3 small cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine, until the mixture is as smooth or as chunky as you like.

Photo_On an Ohio Farm

The cooking revolution: Are you in?

This past weekend brought a huge infusion of information and inspiration (and, to be honest, a little bit of depression and resignation) into the way I think and write about food and cooking. As the editor of Edible Ohio Valley magazine, I joined my lovely colleagues in NYC for several days of business meetings. Then on Saturday, the open-to-the-public Edible Institute brought together speakers and experts from all around the country, people who are deeply involved in and passionate about healthful, sustainable, local food. The issues are enormously complex, and yet we are making progress toward a healthier food system.

I hauled out of bed early Saturday morning because I was most excited to hear from Mark Bittman. I’d read Bittman’s “Minimalist” recipe column in The New York Times for years, and have followed his work now that he writes about the politics and practicalities of food and nutrition. I’d heard that Bittman can be a bit bossy in both his material and in his presentation, so I was braced to be put off a little, even though I’m certainly among the converted to whom he was preaching. Instead, he surprised me by saying, “We need to NOT be dogmatic about eating healthfully.”

He said that if we want to have any influence at all over the food system in America (and I hope to), we need to be OK with incremental change. He described a “spectrum of eating” that runs roughly from a diet of Big Mac and fries to a diet of celery and carrot sticks. No matter where you are on this spectrum, from wildly processed food to completely unprocessed plants, it’s important to move toward the healthy end, bite by bite.

Eat less generally, eat less of the bad stuff specifically
… and don’t worry about it.

He also said, “The most radical thing you can do is to cook at home.” And this idea is very close to my heart. “Almost everything you cook at home is better for you; almost everything you buy that’s been prepared by someone else is not. Cooking gives you control. We outsource decisions about what we put in our bodies to companies that don’t care. That’s reckless.”

When you look at nutritional or dietary claims about food without looking at the food itself, you’re missing the point. Oreos are vegan. Cheeseburgers can be organic. Potato chips are gluten-free. None of these are particularly good for you.

Cooking at home. I understand that cooking isn’t the joy for everyone that it is for me. Not everyone knows how to cook. (I’m hoping to change that, incrementally, with this recipe blog and its emphasis on seasonal and healthful recipes.) And there’s a small portion of our population that simply doesn’t have the resources—time at the end of a two-job day, or equipment other than a microwave—to cook at home.

Want to send the big agricultural concerns and the massive manufacturers who are churning out cheap, crappy food a HUGE message? Want to help small to midsize farmers and producers have a fighting chance?

Every meal that you prepare for your family, from whole ingredients (wherever your procure them, though local is ideal) is a win. Just when I feel disempowered and frustrated by the enormous influence of those companies cranking out sugary soda and artery-clogging frozen dinners, just when it all seems so hopeless … I realize that simply sauteeing some fresh spring vegetables is an act of defiance. We have more power than we think.

So, what’s on YOUR menu tonight? Will you join the Cooking Revolution with me? It’ll be delicious.