From my place in a chocolate centered universe, I considered that some people might mind that this gift is (gasp!) chocolate free, but I have learned that not everyone likes chocolate. Really, it’s true. So while either of these granola recipes stand on their own, if you really feel you must, oh, I don’t know, put lipstick on a pig, feel free to add chocolate kisses or Lindt truffles or chocolate coins (coins pictured are from Trader Joe’s – they have a great selection of holiday candy) to ease your mind. I package these treats in a variety of ways, tins, cello bags, parchment paper, waxed paper bags – get creative, use what you have on hand and top it with some ric rac or ribbon and a card. Add tea, coffee or hot chocolate and you have a lovely gift.
From years past, here are my two favorite granola recipes – be sure to head over to Pragmatic Mom‘s blog to see her spin on gifting granola.
Martha Stewart had some adorable packaging ideas (what else is new?) on Facebook today.Love the envelope – of course Martha has stamps that match the food inside (chocolate and hazelnut) and, yes, it is a brittle disguised as a candy bar (in case you are not buying my whole granola thing).
Really. Sometimes I am productive in a normal way and then sometimes I am crazy productive and know that people are saying, “Someone give that woman a decaf. STAT. Or at the very least pry the cookie from her hand.”(brownie, banana bread and muffin can all be substituted here). I woke up at 4:50… something…that’s all I could process, and despite it being a perfect day to sleep in (to – oh, I don’t know…6:30?), dark, rainy and cold, I got up and baked for a few hours. Well, I did have the muffin batter prepped so that was nice and easy. The banana bread was more of an afterthought and because I bought to much creme fraiche. How much is too much? Three containers is too much.
The muffins are from the flour bakery + cafe cookbook and are lovely but call for that annoying amount of ingredients that put you just over one container. Luckily, the banana bread calls for a bit of creme fraiche and I was sufficiently motivated to bake it. I still have one plus containers in my fridge so I guess this is a bad week to give up baked goods! First I baked the muffins without berries because some of us like our baked goods free of extraneous ingredients. The were well-received and I went on to make mini-muffins which were a fail in looks because I couldn’t get them out of the pan in one piece but yummy. The other (regular sized) blueberry muffins were perfect and the banana bread (two ways) a huge hit.
Banana Bread two ways – one with walnuts one with chocolate chips
although some days I do need an assist, this is about the celebration of May Day. No, not all the political worker stuff but the pagan celebration – that’s more my thing.
A friend is putting together a May Day Breakfast for our walking group tomorrow and I am making blueberry muffins from the Flour cookbook. No, they won’t be as good as Joanne Chang’s – no matter how closely I follow the recipe – that woman is magic – but I did a trial run yesterday with blackberries and the muffins were delicious (if I do say so myself) and I can make the batter today and bake tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know how they come out -I used fresh blackberries but wanted wild blueberries so I bought frozen packages at Trader Joe’s.
Here is the recipe – and yes, I did not have creme fraiche on hand yesterday and used Greek yogurt (is Joanne Chang reading this and freaking out? Sorry! Now I have three containers of creme fraiche in the house and ready to bake it the way you intended it!)
3 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (it calls for kosher – use it if you have it)
2 eggs plus 1 yolk
1 1/4 sticks butter, melted (I melted in in microwave and let cool slightly before mixing with the other ingredients)
1 cup milk (okay, I had 1% but bought whole for next batch)
1 cup creme fraiche (no idea yet how many containers this will be – bought three – thought two would be slightly under – yes, I do not do conversions so I have no idea and evidently guessing is risky in baking).
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup frozen raspberries (I used a handful of blackberries – some people in my family like their muffins berry-free – Great recipe for picky eaters.)
1 cup frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line muffin tins with paper liners.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and then add the sugar, butter, milk, creme fraiche, and vanilla.
Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and fold gently using a spatula.
Fold in the berries gently. The batter is a little lumpy but don’t worry.
Spoon into the muffin tin to fill the cups.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the muffin tops are golden brown and let cool for 20 minutes before removing the muffins from the pans.
Now I am off to make a Martha Stewart craft for May Day. You probably have everything already, too. Paper, ribbon and flowers from your garden. I have left over paper from a project, ribbon that I am compelled to save (Every holiday my mom calls out, “Save the ribbon!” Now I have to. It’s that ingrained now.) There are some decorative scissors somewhere in the house but don’t stress that detail. You aren’t really Martha, after all.
The theme of this blog for the next 12 Days (at least – no telling which direction I’ll go after that) is great gift ideas. It started last year when Pragmatic Mom and I got all hopped up on caffeine brainstormed at L’Aroma and decided to write up a series of 12 Days of Shopping (it started out as five days but Pragmatic Mom over achieved as usual peered at our coffee stained notes and came up with more days) for those hard to find/fit/figure out people on your list – so, yeah, pretty much everyone. So here is the new and improved 12 Days of Shopping.
What makes a great homemade gift? Well, food is my default for pretty much everything, so that is where I start. I do actually like to bake (results may vary) and have a few tried and true recipes that I will post below. Making your own gifts is great and not only because it is nice but it also helps you get around the no gift rule in schools so you can actually give a teacher a gift. Seriously, can anyone refuse a sugar cookie or a nice cup of tea? No, I didn’t think so.
Do you have a signature baked good? A great banana bread or coffee cake? Chocolates? Make what you love (presentation idea – wrap breads in foil or cellophane and then wrap in a pretty dishtowel as wrapping paper). What if you can’t bake? No time? You hate it? Not a problem. Grab some nice chocolates or favorite candy (you can find nice candy in almost any store from Trader Joe’s to T.J. Max – I know – I was out and about this morning) and repackage it. Fill a nice container and add a hand written note. No one will care that you did not bake. Seriously, relax.
Use a plain brown coffee bag ( 39 cents at The Container Store) or in clear cellophane bags (Container Store, Target) or any container you like (I am a born New Englander so I don’t spend a lot on containers – I pick them up throughout the year – everywhere from The Christmas Tree Shop to the Target Dollar Spot to China Fair in Newton. If you want to add a fun simple craft project, have your children decorate the bags or containers with stickers or crayon drawings. If you have an artist or two in residence and you can bear to part with any of their ceramics creations and fill them with treats – great for family and teachers. Maybe for a really special gift make it a nice ceramic or glass piece from a local artist.
Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe by Joanne Chang
1 cup (80 grams) dried apples
1 cup (160 grams) dried cranberries
1 cup (160 grams) dried apricots
1/3 cup (70 grams) granulated sugar
2 cups (480 grams) water
1 cup (100 grams) walnut halves
1 3/4 cups (245 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (150 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (80 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks/228 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 8 to 10 pieces
6 tablespoons (128 grams) honey
3 tablespoons flaxseeds
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
3 tablespoons millet
This and many other wonderful recipes may be found in Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston’s Flour Bakery + Cafe
by Joanne Chang from Chronicle Books
Every so often, a Flour customer puts a request for more healthful items in our suggestion box … please! It’s not that Flour is full of unhealthful items-I think our baked goods are healthful, in moderation-but we are a bakery, after all, which mans that many of our offerings are necessarily indulgent. We came up with this bar as an option for customers seeking a good-for-you snack. You make a granola of oats, nuts, coconut, and honey for the base. Add a fruity filling made by blending a dried-fruit compote into a sweet, chunky jam. And finish off the bar with more of the granola base mixed with a handful of sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and millet. The bars stay moist for several days and actually get better with age (I like them best after 2 or 3 days). We make huge trayfuls of these at Flour, and one of my favorite ways to snackat the bakery is to raid the pans after the bars have been cut for serving and enjoy a plateful of edge trimmings
To make the jam: In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cranberries, apricots, granulated sugar, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8 to 10 times, or until a chunky jam forms. (The jam can be made n advance and stored n the refrigerator n an airtight container for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 1 month.)
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted and fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
Leave the oven set at 350 degrees F. Line a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
In the food processor, combine the flour, oats, brown sugar, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and butter and pulse about 15 times, or until the mixture is evenly combined. Dump the mixture into a medium bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Work in the honey with your hands until the mixture comes together.
Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Place the remaining one-third of the mixture in the refrigerator.
Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until light golden brown throughout. Remove the pan from the oven, spoon the granola jam on top, and spread in an even layer with the spoon or with a rubber spatula, covering the surface. Remove the reserved granola mixture from the refrigerator, and break t up with your fingers into a small bowl. Add the flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, and millet and stir to combine. Sprinkle the mixture, like a crumb topping, evenly over the jam.
Return the pan to the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 2 to 3 hours, or until cool enough to hold its shape when cut. Cut into 2 bars.
The bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Not your thing? Too crunchy? Go to the goddess of all homemade and fabulous, Ms. Martha Stewart’s site for killer cookie recipes – like these basic sugar cookies. Hint: double the recipe, your family will be sad if all of these cookies go out the door!