This past weekend I accomplished my 1st solo road trip with Squishy and Bean! The Mr was heading into the city to go to Pitchfork with his brother, so the rest of us took a mini vacation! Saturday morning Squishy, Bean and I loaded up the car, dropped of the Mr at the train station and drove to my parents house. It’s a nice 2 hour drive across northern Illinois through countless corn and bean fields. We spent the weekend hanging out in mom & dad’s back yard and deck, celebrating my nephews’ 13th birthday(!) at my sisters’ house and investigating mom’s garden. Squishy even got to take a swing at a piñata for the 1st time!
Good afternoon! We’re having one of those ‘getting odds and ends done’ type of days around here. Laundry is getting caught up (again), the car is in for service, floors are getting swept and I’m baking granola. I’ve been making our granola for a few years. It’s so easy to throw together and I love knowing exactly what is in it. The Mr eats granola almost daily on his yogurt while Squishy and I love sprinkling it over out shredded wheats and milk.
~ Honey Almond Granola ~
2 C. Old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 C. Wheatgerm
1/4 C. Flax meal
1/2 C. Sliced almonds
1/4 C. Broken pecan pieces
1 C. Shredded coconut
2Tbs. Dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 C. Honey
1/2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
1/4 tsp. Nielsen-Massey Almond extract
3Tbs. Coconut oil
1/3 C. Water
Preheat oven to 325.
Combine wheat germ, flax meal, nuts and coconut and spread on a dry baking sheet. Put the sheet into the oven and toast these ingredients for about 7 minutes. Check them half way through and stir. If your oven is like mine, your ingredients will brown faster near the edges of the pan.
Mix oats, salt and brown sugar together in a large bowl. Stir in your toasted ingredients and set aside. Combine honey, coconut oil, vanilla bean paste, almond extract and water in a separate small bowl.
Mix into dry. If mixture is still a bit dry add a little more water. Bake for 20-22 mins stirring after 10 minutes with a large spatula until it reaches the golden brown of your preference. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container.
Sunday afternoon we were looking for something fun to do with Squishy. After hearing about it from several locals we decided to head to Cosley Zoo in Wheaton, IL. Squishy’s been asking to go to a zoo since it warmed up for spring. It’s just a short 20 minute drive for us. So Cosley Zoo is perfect for an afternoon outing!
This past Friday I had the amazing opportunity to go to a chef demo at Nielsen-Massey in Waukegan, IL. Thank you to Rosie Discovers for thinking of me! In case you don’t know, Nielsen-Massey has been making the worlds finest vanilla since 1907. They craft vanillas, almond (my favorite), chocolate, coffee, lemon, pure peppermint and orange extracts, orange blossom water, and rose water! It smelled absolutely amazing there, everyone was so sweet…thank you Katherine in reception for getting us the wifi password. Bloggers are dependent on their wifi connections, you know. The demo kitchen and reception area are impressively well equipped.
The smells of vanilla hanging in the air and watching cooking demos got my brain to popping. It was great watching Chefs John Conley and Sarah Simington, yes from Diners Drive-ins and Dives!, but right in front of me all morning…can you see it?
Yes, the Madagascar bourbon vanilla paste! It was right in front of me the whole morning and to my delight we were sent home with a bottle of it in our goodie bag! Thank you again Nielsen-Massey! After tasting Sarah’s captain crunch French toast and cinnamon rolls, then John’s flan and pollo papantla I was 1. on a nice sugar rush and 2. so inspired.
~Bourbon vanilla, oatmeal chocohunk cookies with browned butter
1 cup browned butter
3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 raw sugar
1 tsp Madagascar bourbon vanilla bean paste
1/4 baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup oatmeal
2 1/2 c flour
1 cup roughly chopped dark chocolate
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Add 2 sticks of butter to a heavy pan and heat to medium low. After a couple minutes it will bubble and begin to foam. Once it starts foaming, stir with a whisk until it turns a nice golden brown and takes on a nutty aroma. Take off heat and pour into your mixing bowl. Add sugars and mix well, this will incorporate your sugar and help cool the butter. You can let this set for several minutes to cool a bit, or temper your eggs before mixing them in. I tempered my eggs by cracking them into a small bowl and stirring in bits of the butter/sugar mixture. I then turned on my mixer and slowly added the eggs. Add vanilla, salt and beat until well incorporated. Mix in baking soda, baking powder, oats and four. Your dough will begin to come together and pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add in your chocolate bits and stir well.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a sheet lined with parchment and bake for 7-9 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool for 1 minute on the sheet and transfer to a cooking wrack.
Squishy asked for 2nds, 3rds and 4ths. The Mr liked the balance of sweet, salty, vanilla and bitter from the chocolate.
Sometimes you’re in the kitchen looking at what you’ve just mixed up and you say to yourself “what was I thinking?!”. Then you taste it and think “why haven’t I done this before?!” Today was one of those times.
2 Cups rhubarb cut into 1/2 in slices
1/2 Cup raw sugar
1 Cup rough chopped strawberries
1 Cup yogurt
3/4 Cup heavy creme