Honey Granola Clusters

  
As the summer sun ripens a delicious array of fruits and vegetables, I make sure that nature’s bounty takes center stage at the kitchen table. Living in the Midwest, we have so few months during the course of the year where we can have locally grown foods literally sitting at our doorstep. Backyards, gardens and farms throughout the county have the opportunity to produce foods situated in patio pots, raised beds, trellising on garden fences and planted in rows along county roads.

As I was mowing the lawn last week, I spied the beginning of a few delicious looking pears that I can’t wait to harvest when they are ready. My grapes are coming along nicely. I have gathered and prepared several generous heads of romaine lettuce, lots of sweet peppers, and fresh herbs. Nothing compares to the flavors of fresh picked fruits and vegetables that accompany family meals carefully prepared from scratch.

   
   
We’ve also started raising bees as a hobby and as a source for our own golden delicious honey. Planting patio pots with wild flower seeds and leaving our land as natural as possible will provide them a source of food as well.  

   
   
This morning I made a batch of granola clusters to accompany many of the fruits that I grew or purchased from a local farm. A dollop or two of plain yogurt finishes off the dish. (The peaches aren’t quite in season yet so I suppose, there are a few things in the dish that I am hopelessly awaiting as the season continues to bring us an abundance of delicious and nutritious delicacies.)

Here’s to bright warm days and unpredictable summer rains… This is definitely one of my most favorite times of the year.
Honey Granola Clusters


1/2 cup canola oil 

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whatever you prefer)

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, whatever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or line a 11 x 17″ baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon until sugar is dissolved and oil is well incorporated. Add in the oats, nuts and dried fruit; mixing well.

Pour the oat mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it out into an even layer, firmly packing the oat mixture into the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking. Remove from oven and let the granola cool at room temperature for at least one hour.

Use a small spoon to scoop up the granola off of the baking sheet using the spoon to break the granola into clusters. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

   

Make these ahead of time; cover them to store in the fridge for a few hours.

 

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Hearty Apple and Oatmeal Pancakes

  
One of our daughters took the train home from college this weekend. She said she was missing mom’s home cooking and the quiet of the country. We are always thrilled to have her home and I was up to the task as I whipped up some of her favorite foods.  

Her request for oatmeal pancakes had me thinking of a new combination of flavors that I knew she would love. I had just made a batch of homemade applesauce and my husband had several jars of pure maple syrup that he had processed after tapping our maple trees this spring. I quickly mixed up the batter for the pancakes and as they cooked on the griddle, I carefully added some of the cinnamon applesauce.

 A quick flip of the pancake to finish the underside, and they were done. I made several batches so that she could bring a few back to school when she returned on Sunday. 

   

 I received a lovely text when she arrived back in Evanston. A big thank you with lots of “heart” emojies covered my screen. She said that she was having the pancakes for dinner. Somehow, I think she’ll be having them for nearly every meal until she finishes them up. Then she’ll be back to eating the ole’ college favorites of pb&j, canned soup, and boxed macaroni and cheese.

Hearty Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 cup flour

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup canola oil

Combine oats, flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk, oil, and extracts. Stir into dry ingredients; just until moistened. Pour batter onto lightly greased, hot griddle. Flip pancakes when bubbles form on top of pancakes. Continue to cook until underside is golden brown. 
 Chunky Homemade Applesauce
8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine apples, sugars and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes; while stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Mash apples to desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Easy Peasy Pound Cake

This week marks the beginning of the official holiday season.  Like many of you, my calendar is filled with holiday commitments, most of which require a carry-in dish or baked treat to bring along to the party.  I really enjoy this time of year and I do my best to take advantage of a few stress-free tips that can really simplify things.  One such tip would be to choose recipes that are easy yet flavorful.  The recipe below includes ingredients that are nearly always on-hand in my kitchen. It’s adapted from a recipe that I found in an old community cookbook many years ago.  This one’s a no brainer for me… It always turns out perfect.  A few simple ingredients bake up a moist and flavorful, good ole’ fashioned, pound cake.  

Easy Peasy Pound Cake

3 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter

6 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or almond extract

3/4 cup milk

Grease and flour a Bundt pan (take your time with this step, getting all of the softened butter and flour into all the nooks and crannies). DON’T PREHEAT THE OVEN.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add vanilla/almond extract and continue mixing well.

Add flour mixture alternately with milk. Beat until smooth batter is smooth. Pour into prepared pan.

Place cake into the oven, set the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for approximately 60 to 90 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean.

Back To School Blueberry Bread

It’s that time of year again… Back to school!   This is a great quick bread loaf to bake in quantity and pop in the freezer for lunchbox treats throughout the year.  We recently visited our daughter who has started her clinical year at a hospital in Illinois.  I brought along an assortment of quick breads that I carefully sliced and individually wrapped for the freezer.  This way, she can take out one slice at a time and pack it into her lunch bag for a morning snack or a lunchtime treat. As I think back to all of the blueberry recipes I’ve made for the family, this one is surely a winner!



Back to School Blueberry Bread

1/3 cup butter, melted

1 cup sugar

3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons grated fresh lemon peel

GLAZE:

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup sugar or 1 cup powdered sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, lemon juice and eggs. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into egg mixture alternately with milk, beating well. Fold in the blueberries, nuts and lemon peel.

Transfer to a greased 9X5″ loaf pan. Bake at 350° for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Continue to cool on a wire rack.  

Combine the glaze ingredients and drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely before slicing.



Classic Pancakes for a Crowd



During the summer months, when our children are home from college, I am often amazed by the amount of food that passes through my kitchen.  While we all have a responsibility to report to work every morning, the never ending supply or food provided for breakfast, lunch, and dinner amazes me.  We are not a family that chooses to eat “out” very often so packing or making quick meals can be a challenge. The weekends are used as a time to prepare foods that can be reheated during the week for a quick start to the day. We’ll make a crockpot full of steel cut oats that will be divided up into serving sized containers for a week’s worth of breakfasts or sometimes I make omelette muffins for a handy, bite-sized meal. This recipe for Morning Glory Oatmeal is devine. This weekend, I made Pancakes for a Crowd that would feed the group during our Saturday morning breakfast with leftovers for a “re-heat” during the week. 

I love the ole’ fashioned tradition of actually gathering around the kitchen table for a home cooked meal.  We all have busy schedules but this ritual  is incredibly important to me.  It gives us a chance to catch up, talk about our week, and come together as a family.  Then, it’s out the door and off in our separate ways to tend to our busy lives…



This recipe is adapted from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook that I have had for over twenty five years.  I triple the ingredients to make enough pancakes to feed a family of five with about ten left over.  I make sure to have on hand a small jar of homemade maple syrup from the trees on our land.  During the week, a full breakfast is a bit much so I notice the children will spread a dollop of peanut butter or homemade strawberry jam on a flapjack, roll it up and head out the door with a hand held meal for the road.   A healthier version of these pancakes can be found here.

Pancakes for a Crowd

3 egg, beaten

3 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour

3 tablespoon sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cup milk ( more or less for a thinner/thicker batter)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil or melted butter

In medium bowl, stir  together ingredients just until flour is moistened (batter will be slightly lumpy); do not overmix or pancakes will be tough. 

Heat a non-stick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat; use cooking oil if necessary. Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake. Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until bubbly on top and dry around edges. Turn; cook other side until golden brown.

Pack up extras after the meal for leftovers during the week…



Semi-homemade Scones

Well, another school year is over… Yesterday we made our annual trip down to campus to load up the car with dorm room accessories and furniture that will be stored away for the summer. Packing and unpacking can make for a long day!  Sometimes it’s hard to find a break to stop for a meal as parking is limited and the anticipation of the heavy traffic on the return trip home makes everyone anxious. 

Having said this, I was prepared for the worst as I loaded up a goodie bag with scones, yogurt, cold pizza, bottled water, sandwiches, homemade applesauce and a few energy bars as we started out on our daylong voyage.  I have a recipe that combines just a few ingredients to make a batch of tasty scones so I got up early to prepare them for the trip.  I must say, I had to slap a few hands as I took the scones out of the oven for everyone wanted to nibble on the treats before leaving the house. I quickly covered the tray with a light tea towel and told everyone to find something else to eat.  These little gems were to be packed in with the other goodies we would eat after a long day of packing and pitching.  Here’s the recipe for the tasty 4-ingredient scones.  They are made using a muffin mix which is super convenient, quick, and easy!  I had an egg white left over from another recipe so I brushed the tops of the scones and sprinkled them with a bit of sugar before popping them in the oven.

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Semi-Homemade Scones

One 18-ounce box of cranberry-orange muffin mix. 

(Krusteaz or another brand with canned berries included)

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup Greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)

2 tablespoons water

Extra flour for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Use non-stick spray to lightly coat a cookie sheet.

Pour the muffin mix into a large bowl.  Add egg, yogurt and water. Stir to mix batter. Batter will be thick. Rinse and drain the cranberries that come with the mix and stir into batter. Pour mixture onto a lightly floured surface on pat together to make a flat round about 1″ thick.  Add flour if needed.  Cut the round into 8 triangles by slicing in half, then fourths, then 8 triangles.  Carefully place onto a lightly greased baking sheet.   Bake for 15-20 minutes. Slightly cool; remove to a baking rack to cool completely.

Amish Snack Cake



Jeepers creepers, it sure is busy around here…

This happens every December as the temperatures drop, the snow starts to fall, and holiday celebrations begin.  

I recently attended an early morning co-worker’s meeting.  We only meet four times a year and our December meeting is more like a meeting/potluck lunch.  We discuss business during the morning hours and then celebrate the upcoming holidays with a carry-in lunch in the afternoon.  As a special breakfast treat, I had volunteered to bake a few items and run to a local coffee shop for a box of hot coffee for the crowd.

Well, to my dismay, it started to snow heavily the night before the event and I knew the snow would hamper my trip to the donut shop the following morning.  I decided that I would get up really early to throw my baked goods into the oven so that I could travel into town and onto the meeting in a timely manner.  I wanted to make an uncomplicated recipe with only a few ingredients to speed up the process so I grabbed my recipe file to look for a recipe that had appeared in the newspaper many years ago.  I had clipped it out and tucked it away for just such an occasion. For this simple recipe, I used a box of spice cake mix and a can of apple pie filling for two of the ingredients.  The addition of three eggs was all that was needed to finish off the batter.  I threw in a handful of chopped walnuts to add a bit of crunch.

Below you will find the basic recipe.  The addition of nuts, raisins, chocolate chips, etc. will certainly add to the flavor and texture of the cake.  I’ve added a note with some classic flavor combinations if you would like to change things up a bit… Enjoy this moist and flavorful cake!



Amish Snack Cake

1 box cake mix, any flavor (I use spice cake mix)

3 large eggs, beaten

1 can pie filling, any flavor (I use apple pie filling)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 13×9″ pan with non-stick cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs and pie filling. Stir together until well blended.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or test for doneness with a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake.  Cool completely before icing (if desired).

Other variations:

  • Chocolate cake mix with cherry pie filling and chocolate chips
  • Butter pecan cake mix with apple pie filling and nuts
  • Yellow cake mix with peach filling and walnuts
  • Pineapple cake mix with blueberry filling and coconut
  • Yellow cake mix with cherry filling
  • Spice cake mix with apple pie filling and walnuts