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Salted Maple Walnut Granola

This salted maple walnut granola is perfect for gift giving and holiday brunch buffets. Pair it with a jar of homemade jam for your favorite people.

Every year, I try to make something to supplement the holiday gifts of jam that I give to my friends, family and neighbors. Sometimes I make shortbread cookies. Other times, I roll out cracker dough and use a wavy pie cutter to slice them into diamond shapes. Occasionally, I work up a giant batch of my dad’s pancake mix and package it in ziptop bags the way he always did when I was a kid.

This year, I made a giant batch of spiced and salted granola to pair up with the jams and fruit butters I’m sharing this year. Made with walnuts because I bought a giant bag at Costco (so many of my recipe development choices are spurred by what I happened to have in excess), it is nutty, crunchy, and perfect for topping bowls of yogurt and preserves.

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Kabocha Squash Quick Bread

finished-kabocha-squash-bread

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I went a little crazy buying squash. After two trips to farmers market and a dash through Reading Terminal Market, there were three small butternuts, two acorns, and a kabocha squash on my dining room table.

kabocha-squash

My sister is a master of squash-centric quick breads in my family and the kabocha squash seemed to cry out for that destiny. Rather than cast about the internet for a recipe, I used the bones of Raina’s regular approach to build my version. I made a few tweaks, including changing up the flours and sweetened my bread with coconut sugar (since writing Naturally Sweet, it’s a regular player in my kitchen).

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I also didn’t have quite enough squash to fill out the two cup measure and so topped it off with a few tablespoons of honey sweetened pear vanilla jam. It worked gorgeously and I highly recommend that approach any time you need just a bit more squash or applesauce for a baked good.

avocado-oil

The other change I made was to use avocado oil. I confess, this bottle of CalPure was recently sent to me for review, and while I don’t plan on offering a full-on review here, I will say that it’s a gorgeous oil. Thick, deeply green, and very rich, it went beautifully with the squash and made for an incredibly moist loaf.

greased-mini-loaf-pans

I divided the batter between four small vintage Pyrex loaf pans. I love these for quick breads because they give me one loaf to keep and three to share with friends and neighbors. Particularly this time of year, I like to have something around for spur of the moment gifting.

kabocha-squash-batter

A couple days ago, I mentioned that I’d started a FB group for this site. Lots of you have come over to join up and the conversations and connections that are happening are totally delightful. Please do check it out!

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Odds and Ends Banana Bread

brown-bananas

I think we can all agree that this has been the most divisive election cycles in recent memory. I don’t typically talk about politics here because my goal is always to foster a sense of community and connection that transcends party affiliations, religious convictions, and ideological differences. I firmly believe that creating spaces where diverse people can connect around shared interests is one of the ways that we can foster peace and hope in the world.

banana-bread-in-loaf-pan

But my candidate lost and her defeat has left me seeking solace in friends and homemade food. Yesterday, I had coffee with a friend, took a walk, and made a big pot of chicken soup for dinner that Scott and I ate in our pajamas while watching The Crown on Netflix.

sliced-banana-bread

Today, I made some banana bread. The goal here was to salvage three aging bananas, use up a bit of almond meal I had kicking around, and to fill the apartment with warmth and fragrance. May we burst our bubbles of isolation, break bread together, and remember that more unites us than divides us.

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Mary’s Maine Bars & Bake a Difference with OXO For Cookies for Kids’ Cancer

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I met Shianne on the first day of 6th grade. She had impressively high bangs (as was the fashion in 1991), had a delicately pretty face, and walked with a limp. Her family had moved to the area over the summer and though all of us were new to middle school, she was new to everything.

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We became friends in those first weeks of school and I learned that she loved the New Kids on the Block (also all the rage in 1991) and had a younger sister the same age as mine. Once Shianne started to trust me, she shared the reason for her limp. When she was a baby, she had developed bone cancer. In order to save her life, they’d amputated her leg.

marys-maine-bars-ingredients

As an 11 year old, the hardest thing that I’d dealt with in life had been a little teasing from other kids. It was incredibly tough for me to fully grasp all that Shianne had lived through. Still, the thing she most wanted was to be normal and have a life like other kids. And so that’s what we did.

dry-ingredients-for-marys-maine-bars

We put on make-up for the school dances together, and gossiped about the boys on whom we crushed. We were cabin-mates at outdoor school and worked on the school paper together. At slumber parties, when our group of friends were all snuggled in our sleeping bags on the floor, there would be Shianne’s prosthetic leg on the floor next to her. It was an entirely normal middle school existence, until sometime near the start of 7th grade, when Shianne’s cancer came back.

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She started missing large stretches of school for treatment and recovery, but came whenever she felt strong enough. She lost her hair and came to school bald, but with make-up meticulously in place.

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Unlike her earlier bout with cancer, this second round did not end in remission. Shianne was treated endlessly, but the cancer was stronger. She died in the fall of 1994, just as she should have been starting high school with the rest of us.

I often find myself thinking about her. I wish I’d gotten to know her for longer and I wonder what her life would have been like had she lived.

mixing-marys-maine-bars

Recently, the folks at OXO put out the call, looking for bloggers to participate in an campaign for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer to help raise both awareness and fund for childhood cancer research. They were also offering to donate $100 for every blog post written. Having been witness to Shianne’s experience, I volunteered to participate.

marys-maine-bars-batter

They offered up a few different recipes from Dorie Greenspan’s upcoming book, Dorie’s Cookies, along with the gear necessary to make the cookies. I opted to make Mary’s Maine Bars, which are a tender, molasses-rich bar cookie.

To ease the baking process, folks at OXO sent over a pair of their relatively new Good Grips Glass Baking Dishes with Lid (2 quart and 3 quart), as well as a clever Brownie Spatula and their Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer.

finished-marys-maine-bars

The baking dishes are made from BPA-free borosilicate glass, which allows them to withstand significant temperature changes. The handles are easy to grab and the lids make it possible to prep, stash in the fridge or freezer, and then go into the oven (obviously, you remove the lids before baking).

The OXO On Illuminating Digital Hand Mixer is the best hand mixer I’ve ever used (though, to be fair, the one I was using previously was from 1999). It has a simple-to-use digital control that allows you to change speed smoothly and the illuminated headlight means you can always see what’s happening in the bowl.

The recipe for Mary’s Maine Bars is after the jump. They’re perfect for sharing with friends, and are a good way to temper bittersweet memories.

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Homemade Chickpea Flatbread

These homemade chickpea flatbread rounds are gluten-free, low carb, and high in protein. They’re also easy to make and quite delicious.

Finished rounds of homemade chickpea flatbread on a plate.

On Saturday, my cousin hosted a family gathering. It was a lovely evening with a generous spread of food. When it was all over, Scott and I had a large grocery bag full of leftovers to bring home. After two nights of salads topped with cold cuts, marinated vegetables, and cubes of cheese, we needed a change. And so I made chickpea flatbread.

Faced with a fridge full of sandwich makings, most people would just reach for a loaf of bread. However, we’ve been trying to cut back on carbs lately. This homemade chickpea flatbread, while not without some carbs, is a really great, high protein alternative to regular sandwich bread.

Cooking homemade chickpea flatbread in a cast iron skillet.

For those of you familiar with socca (and in fact, I adapted my version from the socca recipe in Clotilde Dusolier‘s The French Market Cookbook), this recipe will seem familiar to you. It’s a simple batter made of chickpea flour, water, salt, cumin, and a little olive oil. However, instead of pouring a large amount of batter into a skillet and transferring it to the oven to cook the way you do when you make socca, I treat it like crepe batter.

I heat a large cast iron skillet, grease it with a little refined coconut oil (it’s the highest smoke point oil I regularly keep around), and the pour a large serving spoon’s worth of batter into the pan. I use the back of the spoon to spread it out as thin as I can make it. They cook on the first side for two or three minutes, and then another minute or two on the reverse. A flexible fish spatula is my favorite tool for flipping.

Homemade chickpea flatbread wrapped around eggplant dip and vegetables.

I find that it’s a lot like making pancakes. The first one sticks and looks terrible, but as you get a feel for the pan and that day’s batter, they get easier. The end result are thin, flexible flatbread rounds that you can use for sandwiches or as a bread to dip in soup.

Tonight, Scott made himself a pair of deli meat wraps, while I stuffed mine with roasted eggplant dip and an assortment of veggies. They’re satisfying and delicious, particularly if you haven’t had a good loaf of sourdough in a while.

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Rhubarb Yogurt Loaf with Noosa Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt

The finished rhubarb yogurt loaf cake with a cup of Noosa yoghurt.

A couple of weeks ago, the folks from Noosa sent me a box full of their strawberry rhubarb yoghurt (they’re from Australia) as a way to celebrate National Strawberry Month. Now, I don’t really need an excuse to celebrate strawberries, as I typically spend most of the spring in thrall to them, but I was happy for the excuse to indulge even more.

The unbaked rhubarb yogurt loaf cake, with a cup of Noosa yoghurt alongside.

I’ve been eating my way through the containers of sweet, creamy yogurt, but thought it would be nice to do a little baking with it. A rhubarb yogurt loaf cake is what sprang to mind. Dorie Greenspan’s yogurt loaf is my starting place any time I want to make a quick snacking cake with yogurt (one version is here).

A close-up of the rhubarb yogurt loaf cake, to show the finished texture.

I reduced the sugar to compensate for the sweetened yogurt, used white whole wheat for a bit of extra healthfulness, arranged some frozen rhubarb on top, and then dusted the whole thing with a packet of turbinado sugar for a little crunch. The finished cake is tender, mildly sweet, and perfect for breakfast, afternoon snacking, or a late night nibble.

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