Thursday, February 25, 2016

Granola Happiness!

Earthiness + Sweet + Chewy + Crunchy = Granola Perfection!  I do not think that all granola is created equal.  Granola needs to soften in yogurt without getting soggy.  It needs to be the perfect 3:00 pm sweet craving without throwing your healthy eating under the bus.  Granola needs to be oat based but have layers of other treasures like toasted coconut, dried fruit, and nuts to make it interesting.  For such a sleeper food it has to preform like a star.
Granola is so versatile and with the recipe below you can keep changing the layering ingredients to your heart's content.  I never make it the same way twice.

For this round, I used rolled oats, flake coconut, and peanuts.  I mixed the three ingredients in a large bowl and tossed them together with the Tovolo Dough Whisk.  (The dough whisk is my granola secret weapon; it mixes all the ingredients without breaking them and keeps my hands clean when mixing in the wet ingredients into the hot, dry ingredients.)  I spread the dry ingredients out onto a half sheet tray lined with a Tovolo Baking Mat.  In a 350F degree oven, I let them bake together for about 10 minutes.  A good indicator of doneness at this point is that your kitchen will smell the best it has ever smelled and that the coconut flakes will start to get some color to them.

While all that goodness is in the oven, you can chop about 3/4- 1 cup of dried fruit into small bites.  A combination of dried fruit really makes it all pop with flavor and helps create chewiness.  I like dried apricots, golden raisins, and prunes.  Prunes get a bad wrap but they are so good for you and super yummy.  They are really earthy and deep in flavor. Not dissimilar to a fruit that has been poached in red wine.  I encourage you to open your tastebuds and give them a whirl.  Plus, apricots and plums are perfect compliments.  I often use sliced almonds or pecans or if you are feeling especially fancy you can use pistachios.  In this batch I chose Spanish peanuts because...umm, they are AWESOME!

For the wet ingredients, you can use butter and brown sugar for sure but I like to pretend to be healthier than that by using a combination of coconut oil, honey, and a little maple syrup.  I melt the coconut oil in the microwave, add the honey and maple syrup, and stir in about 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the sweet mixture. 

When the oats, nuts, and coconut come out of the oven, place back into the original large mixing bowl and add any spices you like.  I usually add about 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, a sprinkle of nutmeg, a pinch of cardamom, and a healthy dash of salt.  Stir the spices into the oats along with the dried fruit and then add your wet ingredients.  Using the Tovolo Dough Whisk, mix until glossy and combined.  Then spread that all back out onto your lined cookie sheet and bake for another 25 minutes.  When the granola comes out of the oven RESIST eating it for about 2 hours.  This time lets everything set and later when you go to break the sheet of granola you get lovely clusters of granola as well as just loose granola, perfect for yogurt.  
Experiment with seasonal flavors.  Make this recipe your own.  I guarantee you will be very happy with the result and your family and friends will think YOU make the best granola!

Granola Ingredients

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds or any nuts
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed **used unsweetened chips – not shredded
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ or  pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped prunes
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried blueberries, cherries, and strawberries 
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 by 12-inch baking dish with a Tovolo Baking Mat
Toss the oatmeal, nuts, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ or pumpkin seeds.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.
Place the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan (or microwave) until melted together. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dried fruit and stir well.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, February 19, 2016

My Iceland Adventure!

So this week I had a unique opportunity to visit Iceland for 24 hours.  Icelandair is running a promotion for anyone who has booked a flight on their airline and flies through Reykjavik, you can "Stopover" for up to 7 days.  I have always wanted to visit Iceland. I booked my trip to Germany on Icelandair so I thought I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.  I decided to take the stopover on the way back when I knew I would be tired but would really need a diversion day.

I had to prioritize what I would be able to see in 24 hours and what was important for me to experience.  It came down to two things: the Northern Lights and Faeroe Island Salmon.  I have been to many cities in my travels so as much as I would like to experience Reykjavik I will save that for next time.

I chose instead to book a room in a little guesthouse not too far from the airport.  In my research, I found that transportation and food are particularly expensive. I needed to find a  place that would be far enough out to see the Northern Lights, be walking distance to restaurants, and would provide transportation to and from the airport.  This was a bit of a tall order.  Luckily, I found a place that had all the things I was looking for.  The Hotel Berg is in Keflavik, a small town about 10 minutes from the airport.  It is further out on the Reykjavik peninsula right, on the Bay.  It was originally the owners house but in 2011 she expanded it, remodeled it, and made it into a guest house.  I was amazed.  It had very homey touches like a hand crocheted afghan at the end of the bed coupled with modern looks like frosted glass showers with rain  shower heads.  The house is located on a cliff overlooking a small marina with mostly fishing boats.

The town on Keflavik is about a 5 minute walk from this little gem.  There is a walking path above the guest house that affords a beautiful view of the bay, snowy mountains in the distance, and darkness for a perfect viewing environment for the Northern Lights. 

I arrived about 5:00 pm so I only had about an hour of sunlight left before sunset.  I immediately changed into warmer gear and walked up the path to the cliffs.  It was so beautiful.  The light had just started to change and I could see the pink of the sunset starting to deepen.  Just as the sunset was in full glory, my phone died.  It was a spectacular sunset but you'll have to trust me. 

I made dinner reservations at a little spot close to the house and walked down about 7:00 pm. It was a really cute place with windows all around.  My only requirement being that they serve Faeroe Island Salmon.   I am obsessed with this salmon.  I live in the PNW where we have some of the best salmon in the world but one bite of this fish and Alaskans would be jealous. My best guess as to why it is so good is that the northern Atlantic near Iceland, Greenland, and the Arctic Circle is freaking COLD and that salmon needs to be really fat to protect itself in the frigid water.  The texture when cook correctly is like eating butter. It feels almost lush in your mouth.  It definitely tastes like salmon but more delicate in flavor.  I am drooling just thinking about it.  This little place only had one salmon dish so it took no time to order.  The strange thing was that almost everything on the menu was a combination of fish and seafood.  My oven baked salmon came with a lobster tail and garlic poached bay shrimp.  It was so much food!  It even came with potatoes and mixed vegetable.  Don't get me wrong, everything was delicious and cooked really nicely, it was just a big plate of food.  I ate it like a champ though and washed it down with a local Icelandic micro brew. 

It was cloudy and windy, not ideal conditions for Northern Lights viewing but everyone kept saying the clouds were due to pass.  Ok, so I am not stupid.  I know that I had loooong odds to be in Iceland for one night and think that I was going to behold one of the earth's most spectacular phenomenons.  A girl's got to try though.  I hung out for a while after dinner and got a call from the front desk that some guests out on the cliff path had just spotted the Lights.  I hurried out about 9:00 pm walked up the path and lo and behold a perfect fluorescent green beam!  It was peaking through the clouds but I definitely saw it.  It wasn't the dance of light you see in pictures but it was enough for me to know what it was and that I was lucky enough to see it.  Soon after, just like a rainbow, it faded and was gone.  It then started to snow - hard.  The snow was supposed to stop by midnight, be blown away by strong winds resulting in great view conditions by midnight.  I stayed up and at midnight bundled up with as much down as I had and walked up to the cliffs under the moonlight.  It was a COLD but clear night.  There was even a frost ring around the moon.  No more Northern Lights though.  I stayed out for about 30-40 minutes until I was just too cold to pretend the wind wasn't winning my battle to wait.

I am writing this on my return flight home.  I was in Iceland for 24 hours.  It was in a snowy white wonderland full of lovely people and gorgeous landscape.  I checked off another country on my passport.  I ate Faeroe Island salmon.  And I can say I glimpsed the Northern Lights from a cliff on a cold February night on the Icelandic coast.

A good day indeed.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Super Bowl Pizza!

Pizza is always the perfect guest at Super Bowl Parties.  It is the one guest you can count on to be there for you when the score dips in the second quarter. Pizza gets along well with both beer and wine. It is equally loved by meat eaters and vegetarians, by adults and kids, and by fans of both teams.  Pizza is typically one of the last to leave and everyone is sad to see it go. And not to get personal, but it is kind of a cheap date too.

Making Pizza from scratch is a staple in my house.  If I owned a wood-fired pizza oven, I would probably not eat anything but pizza ever again.  It is so versatile.  Thin crust, deep dish, bubbles in the crust, sweet sauce, spicy sauce, white sauce, the list is endless.  It is great on the night you don't feel like cooking.  Perfect for the days you clean out your fridge.  A big hit with the kids and a fun date night without them.  

At Tovolo we take pizza pretty seriously.  The Tovolo Pizza Wheel has been in the line for about 10 years.  It is one of the MOST underrated product we sell. It has two wheels, one Stainless Steel blade for cutting through crusts on metal or wood surfaces and one made of plastic that is perfect for non-stick pizza pans. It is also amazing for cutting pie crust or dough of any kind.  The blades simply change out with a easy twist on/twist off.  We are excited to announce the release the Tovolo Silicone Pizza Mat this Spring.  Oh my Gosh!  I am so excited about our Pizza Mat!  For those of you who use our Silicone Pastry Mat, this will make you so happy!  It is the same silicone fiber material but it has all the dimensions for rolling out the perfect size pizza dough or flatbread!  L-O-V-E!  It even has ingredient suggestions and a dough recipe!  

Make the dough, let it rise, stretch it out, roll (if needed) to desired size, cut with plastic blade Pizza Cutter, add toppings, bake, and eat! 

Super delicious + Super easy = Super Bowl!

The crust is crispy but not dry.  It has flavor (the longer you can let it rise the more flavor will develop) but it is not sweet or too yeasty tasting.  It has a nice chewy texture without being doughy.  You can add fresh rosemary or some minced garlic to the dough or try adding some fresh cracked pepper.  For toppings, the rules are simple - you do you!  I like fresh greens such as spinach or arugula, with fresh tomatoes, and cheese.  I prefer pesto over tomato sauce but that is me.  For the Super Bowl, I would double the recipe to make 4 - 10" pizzas.  That way you can tailor each pizza to the group that is eating them.  If you have a leftover dough, no worries, the dough freezes really well.  (If you do freeze it, make sure to bring it back to room temperature before using it.)

Tovolo Pizza Wheel cuts through pizza like Buttah!

Best of all, the dough can be made ahead of time.  There is next to no prep time for pizza.  The best part is that you get credit for seemingly doing something that is really special but in reality can be made in the same time the delivery guy would be there during the game!  Better still is the fact that YOU control the quality of ingredients and make it exactly the way you like your pizza! 


Crust recipe:
Make 2 - 10" thin crust pizza


1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees is ideal)
1 1/2 teaspoon of dry-active yeast
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon freshly chopped rosemary (optional)
2 Tablespoons of olive oil

Heat over to 475 degrees for about 30 minutes before baking the pizza.  

Combine water and yeast in a measuring cup until yeast is dissolved.  In a mixing bowl combine flour, salt, and rosemary.  Add water and yeast to dry ingredients and stir with Tovolo Dough Whisk (your hands also work well for this).  Add 1 T olive oil until dough comes together.  It will be a little shaggy but that's ok.  

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, like the Tovolo Silicone Pizza Mat, and knead a few times until a ball is formed.  Set dough in a clean bowl coated with the rest of the olive oil.  Let rise until doubled in size.  This should take about 30 minutes to an hour.  When ready, divide dough in half and stretch and/or roll out to desired size and shape on a lightly floured Tovolo Silicone Pizza Mat. Move crust onto your desired baking surface (pizza pan, cookie sheet, pizza stone, etc.) Add toppings and bake until crust is golden and sauce and cheese are bubbling!  

Monday, February 1, 2016

The BEST Chocolate Cake!

This was the best chocolate cake I have ever eaten!  I have made many chocolate cakes.  I have made this exact chocolate cake recipe a million times but for some reason this particular cake at this particular time made me believe that fairies exist and that one day I will have my own narwhal.

I made this cake to celebrate my mother's birthday. (Do you think birthday cakes always taste better?)  She recently fell, downhill skiing (at 78), and I went back east to help her out. Luckily, I was there around her birthday and it was an excellent excuse to make her favorite cake - Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting.  Oh man, I forgot how good that can be,  This is the same recipe I have posted a few times.  The Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe.  It is found on the back of the Hershey's Cocoa box.  It is almost infallible.  

The description of "moist crumb" does not do it this cake justice.  It is rich in chocolate-y flavor, not too sweet, is better the next day, AND makes equally great cupcakes.  You don't need a mixer - just a bowl and a spoon or spatula. Where the recipe says to add vegetable oil, I use olive oil.  The olive oil brings out a fruitiness in the chocolate that is unmistakable. (And well worth it!)

I struggled with what icing to make.  I usually would make a traditional buttercream and add cocoa powder but for this occasion I decided on the other recipe on the back of the cocoa box. Perfectly Chocolate Frosting. I had not made that recipe in a long time.  I was curious how it would come out given that the butter is melted.  

Turns out, it is out of this world!

The cake came out tall and even - which NEVER happens for me!  I had more than enough frosting to be generous frosting the cake. I used 2- 8" cake pans which helped the cake to be a little taller and also allowed me to get a few cupcakes out of the deal - nothing like a little pre-taste of the birthday cake. YAY!

Needless to say the cake was a big hit!  My mom and I had a piece the next day with coffee for breakfast.  A birthday tradition in my mom's house. 

New Tovolo Flex Core Spoonula - THE Go-To Tool of 2016!

even the cupcakes look happy!

Cake recipe:

Frosting recipe:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
  • 2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency.
  • Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.