I currently live in Charlotte, NC and after spending 7 years as a personal chef and caterer, I am now happy to share my love of cooking with friends and family. My heart is in the kitchen, but my soul is in the stars!

It really is that good......

Granola is one of those foods that I never really liked until I started making it myself. The store bought stuff is always dry, essentially tasteless, hard as a rock, and loaded with yucky raisins. And let's face it, the stuff's not cheap. I ran across this recipe on the message forum that I mentioned in my last post and according to the poster, it is loosely based on a recipe by my idol, Ina Garten. The first time I made this granola, I decided it was a keeper so now we make it in the catering kitchen to bag and sell in the gourmet market. It's versatile in the sense that you can use whatever dried fruits that you want and the recipe can be halved or doubled, depending on how much you want to make. I revised the cooking time and temp a bit from the original version and made a few notes about the type of fruits and nuts that I used - pineapple, papaya, dried cherries, and dried blueberries (no yucky raisins!) and I picked up a can of Planter's Cashew Lover's mix.

I made this granola at home with the good intention of storing it on my counter in a pretty glass jar and using it to spoon into yogurt (another good intention of trying to eat a little something in the mornings so my blood sugar doesn't do a nose dive before I get around to eating lunch). The stuff was so moist, tasty, and (no raisins) loaded with fruit that once I started nibbling on it, I couldn't stop!! I'm somewhat ashamed to say that the entire jar of granola was gone in only a couple of days.

* Exported from MasterCook *


Categories : Breakfast

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
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4 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups favorite mix of nuts
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup honey
4 1/2 cups favorite dried fruits -- small dice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, and nuts. Whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl. Pour over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the oats and nuts are coated. Pour onto a 13 by 18 by 1-inch sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

Bake, stirring occasionally with a spatula, about 15 minutes. Increase oven temp to 350 and continue cooking for 5 more mins, until mixture turns golden brown.

Remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Add the dried fruit mixture and mix well. Store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

"12 cups"
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You're never too old to pretend.....

When I was a kid, my grandfather built the most awesome playhouse for me. It looked very similar to the yard barns that you see nowadays with the dome shaped roof line and it sat across the driveway in our side yard. There was a small flower bed on each side of it, curtains on the windows and door, and it was filled with furniture that was also handmade by my grandfather. There was a couch, a chair, a coffee table, a stove, and the neatest thing of all was the sink. He made two cutouts in the wooden frame and inserted two plastic wash tubs. There was a hole in the bottom of each one of the tubs and a hose ran through the bottom of the frame and down through the floor. I could pour water into the sink to wash my dishes after a play dinner party and when I was finished, I could pull the plug and the water drained out just like a real sink. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to have a "real" sink! My kitchen shelf and refrigerator were stocked with miniature boxes of play food and I would spend hours and hours playing house and hostess to imaginary and real friends who stopped by for some freshly baked playdough biscuits or just-cooled mud pies. Evidence shows that having a good imagination as a child translates into more creativity as an adult and while I can't say that I'm extremely creative, I think all of those hours spent pretending in the kitchen can't have done me any harm in my catering career :)

I woke up this morning to a rainy, dreary day. You know, one of those days where you have all the lights on in the house in the middle of the day and it's still too dark to see. It was the first drops of rain we've had in probably two months and our temperatures have hovered in the high nineties for weeks and the humidity has been so high that I feel like I'm living in the tropical rain forest. For some strange reason, I equate rainy, dreary days to also being cold. This was a day made for staying in your jammies all day, curled up by the fire with a really good book while a pot of soup simmers on the stove. The kind of day where the ingredients for a big pot of creamy clam chowder are beckoning you from the pantry. Since the thermometer was confirming 85 degree temps, I knew I was going to have to drag out my old imagination and dust it off. Time to turn the AC down, put on my flannel jammies, and pretend it was cold outside.

Clam chowder isn't something that I crave. I can't even say that I really enjoy it but for some reason it was calling my name today. Maybe it was because just the other day one of my friends was telling me how much he enjoyed a bowl of good clam chowder and I was bragging about my recipe. I got this recipe from a message forum that I frequent and it claims to be a copycat of the "world famous" clam chowder from a restaurant located in Depoe Bay, Oregon called Gracie's Sea Hag. How close it is to Gracie's, I don't know, but coming from someone who doesn't even like clam chowder to begin with, this recipe is definitely worth trying. It is a little time consuming and you have all the stove eyes going at once, but it's rich, creamy and satisfying - exactly what you need on a pretend cold, rainy, dreary day. Enjoy!

* Exported from MasterCook *

Sea Hag Restaurant's Clam Chowder

Serving Size : 8
Categories : Soups

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
3 cans chopped clams -- 6-1/2 ounce cans
4 bottles clam juice -- 8 ounce bottles
1 tablespoon Minor's clam base
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 pound bacon
3/4 cups celery -- chopped
3/4 cups onion -- chopped
3 cups potato -- peeled, chopped and cooked
4 cups half and half -- or milk
salt and pepper -- to taste
chopped fresh parsley -- for garnish

Drain clams, reserving juice. Combine reserved juice and clam juice in a large soup pot. Stir in clam base, basil and thyme. Set aside.

Melt 1 cup butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in flour to make a roux. Continue to cook on low for about 10 minutes, stirring fairly often.

In a separate skillet, cook bacon until limp and slightly brown on the edges. Rough chop bacon and set aside. Drain off excess fat, (but save some to saute veggies). Add celery and onion. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, or until tender-crisp.

In the meantime, bring clam juice to a boil. Stir roux into boiling clam juice, using a wire whisk to blend thoroughly. Stir in clams, bacon, celery, onion and potatoes. Bring mixture back to a boil, then reduce heat. Stir in milk or half-and-half. Do not let soup boil. Top each serving with chopped fresh parsley.

"Our often copied but never duplicated recipe has been selected as the "Very Best" in the New York Times Heritage Cook Book, by Jean Hewitt. It is a creamy treat, swimming with chunks of chopped ocean clams."
"Contessa's Kitchen msg board"
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