So granola.

Homemade granola

A new season of Portlandia was released on Monday. Only appropriate to make some granola, right? Maybe some Pistachio, Coconut, and Dried Cherry Granola?

Granola is so expensive that I’ve always assumed it was somehow too complicated or fickle to make at home. Turns out, nope! Probably the easiest thing you could make. Plus there is an immediate AND long-term payoff (when you put some in the freezer).  And who can resist anything that you store in a big beautiful mason jar?

Homemade granola

I tried this recipe because I happened to have everything it called for, but if you don’t, it’s easy to call in some subs. No cherries? Try raisins. No pistachios? Almonds or walnuts. Honey is also a common binding agent in granola, so if you don’t have maple syrup, maybe give this recipe a try (then tell me how it is).

Shelling pistachios

Dave and Kath kept us company while I shelled pistachios and Alex worked on his new website, The Common Vision. (You should definitely go take a look. He’s been writing like a madman and getting all kinds of talented folks to contribute on subjects of faith and culture.)

Granola baking

Once it’s all mixed together, onto the baking sheets it goes. 25 minutes in the oven, a few more to cool, and you’re done. I put half of it in a jar to enjoy this week, and the other half in the freezer as soon as it was cooled. (The one mistake I made with this recipe is using salted pistachios instead of unsalted. The finished product was delicious, but more of a salty snack than a breakfast addition to yogurt and fruit. If you only have salted nuts, leave out part or all of the added salt from the recipe.)

Granola in a jar

I can’t wait to try another batch (or 2 or 4) with new ingredient combinations. (Our first jar is going fast.) Maybe this one with wheat germ and sunflower seeds. Or this one with cinnamon and pecans. Or this one with ginger and honey. If you like granola and have never made it yourself, consider this your invitation!

We can pickle that!

We can pickle that! (Really.)

Have you ever wanted to live in pioneer times? Oh man, have I. I couldn’t get enough of Laura Ingalls and her little house, quilting bees and barn raisings and berry picking. And you better believe that Kirsten was my BFF of the American Girl variety. Well, turns out I’m not alone. My friend Alli (of livingfullywithout.com fame) came over this weekend to teach me how to make pickles! And even though she was a Felicity girl, we had no trouble imagining ourselves out on the frontier, pickling our summer garden spoils to get us through the harsh winter.

They had mandolin slicers, refrigerators, and blogs on the frontier, right?

Alli was kind enough to buy our pickling cucumbers at the farmer’s market. It’s cucumber season RIGHT NOW, so that means they’re cheap and ready for pickling! But first, give ’em a good wash.

Homemade pickles | handmaden.com

Then slice and dice those cucumbers however suits your fancy.

Homemade pickles

Now separate your cucs into pint size mason jars. Fill them up nice and full. The liquid will fill in around them. Oh, and we sterilized the jars first by boiling them in a large stock pot for a few minutes.

Homemade pickles | handmaden.com

Now it’s time to make the brine, the vinegary liquid that works magic on those unsuspecting cucumbers and turns them into delicious pickles. It just requires boiling water, vinegar, and whatever spices you choose. It was so easy and boring that I didn’t even take a picture. The point is, you should just do it, because if you can boil water and vinegar in a pot, then you can make pickles.

We were a wee bit ambitious and made three different kinds. Here were the recipes we used (generally, but Alli is a pro so she mainly winged it):

Once the jars are filled and the liquid is cooled, put them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Then they’re ready to eat and can be kept in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.

Homemade pickles

Look at all those pretty pickles! Pickle spears, pickle sandwich slices, pickle rounds! Spicy pickles, dill pickles, garlic pickles! AND don’t forget, bonus pickled red onions!

Pickled red onions and cucumbers

This made for an incredibly satisfying project. Ingredients you mostly have on hand, a couple of hours in the kitchen, really easy clean-up, and a fridge full of pretty mason jars showing off your beautiful homemade pickles.

Thanks for teaching me how to pickle that, Al Pal!

Homemade pickles with Alli

Blueberry Kuchen

You know that feeling you get on Sundays when you know the weekend is just about over and instead of thinking about Monday’s reality you just stretch out Sunday by cramming in as many fun weekend things as possible? Well, that’s how I’m feeling about summer these days. So even though it’s about time to start making apple and pumpkin desserts, I need to stretch out summer just a wee bit longer. So I went out and bought the last few containers of over-priced blueberries and got in touch with my German roots. (I did used to be a Schmunk remember.)

This is one of the recipes Sally Wilgus passed on to me as part of a wedding gift, but this is the first time I’ve tried making it. So easy and so gorgeous! Hurry up and get some blueberries before they’re gone for winter. You’ll most likely have everything else you need.

Start by mixing up the crust and pressing into a tart pan or pie plate.

Coat the blueberries with the sugar/flour/cinnamon mixture and fill the crust. As a little experiment, I made a bit of extra crust and tried making some bite-size tarts in a mini muffin pan. It worked beautifully!

Bake for 45-60 minutes (the mini tarts were more like 30 minutes). Then top with some fresh blueberries and powdered sugar immediately.

We’re taking the full size version over to some friends this weekend. But the mini versions would be great for easily serving at a party, or you could reduce the recipe to just make a bite of satisfying dessert without the temptation of a whole pie sitting around.

This is as delicious as it looks! Especially served warm with a bit of homemade whipped cream on top.

Here’s the whole recipe for Blueberry Kuchen:

Crust
1 cup flour
2 T sugar
Pinch of salt
Mix with 1/2 cup of softened butter
1 T white vinegar

Filling
1 cup sugar
1 T flour
1/4 t cinnamon
3 cups blueberries
dash of lemon juice

Press the crust into a tart pan or pie plate. Fill with blueberry mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes. Top with an additional cup of fresh blueberries immediately. Then dust with powdered sugar.

This Little Piggy Went to Market…

And then made strawberry shortcake!

Today I went to the Logan Square Farmer’s Market and came home with lots of pretty goodies. (You can’t see the peonies, but those are my favorite.)

There’s only one thing to do with strawberries that fresh. So I pulled out Mom’s recipe book and lucky for me, I had everything I needed for some shortcake (you probably do too).

The dough comes together quickly. Then you can press the dough into a pan or use a biscuit cutter to make rounds. I tried stacking two little dough discs in a muffin tin for easy splitting, then topped with sugar.

They only needed to bake for about 15 minutes. Another benefit to this method.

Then I took a little sample shortcake outside with my pretty peony and my husband for a taste test.

It didn’t take very long to finish it off.

And it got a big ol’ “mmmmm” from this guy:

Strawberry Shortcake Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 egg

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk dry ingredients. Cut in butter. Whisk milk and egg then add to dry ingredients to form dough. Press into 8″ cake pan, or bake rounds on cookie sheet. Top with sugar. Bake 15-25 minutes depending on the pan you choose.

Top with strawberries (I didn’t add sugar, but that’s up to you!) and whipped cream.

Je vous aime, Quiche.

That means, I love you, Quiche. Oh boy, do I love you, Quiche.

I love the warm crispy crust, the creamy and perfectly salty sweet filling. I love eating it for breakfast, brunch, and dinner. And mostly, I love wowing my family and friends with such a wonderfully fancy dish while secretly “mwahaha-ing” over how simple it is to whip up. And trust me, I take as many opportunities as I can for a good wowing.

Here’s how:

Thanks to Marmie for this tried and true recipe. We grew up on this ham, cheese, and broccoli version (which I still love), but my quiche go-to these days is spinach, feta, and caramelized onions.

Play around with the ingredients to your heart’s content, but don’t change one thing: the perfect egg to cream ratio. Just don’t. 5 eggs. 2 cups cream. Perfect.

Here are a few other quiche secrets: 

  • Pre-made refrigerated pie crust
  • Pre-washed bagged baby spinach
  • If you include veggies (onions, broccoli, red peppers, etc), saute them first. It will pull out some of the water to prevent a mushy quiche. eww.
  • This time I tried using fat free half and half. It worked surprisingly well!
So first, just unroll your crust (home or store made) into a pie plate. Cover the bottom with caramelized onions (great how-to here) and feta cheese.

Add a generous amount of raw baby spinach.

Then pour in the egg and cream (5 eggs, 2 cups cream. Don’t forget.) over the whole thing. Top it off with some parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. (That makes it pretty in the end.)

Stick it in the oven for an hour. And it comes out in all its glory looking like this:

It saves well, and is best reheated in the oven (rather than the microwave) covered with foil to keep the crust flakey. Just another reason to bake this up for a crowd or a dinner for 2.

Here’s the recipe for Marmie’s Quiche:

1 unbaked pie shell
5 eggs
2 cups half and half or heavy cream
Fillings of your choice!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Fill the unbaked pie shell with cheese and veggies. (Saute any veggies for 3-4 minutes before adding to shell.) Add meat (ham, bacon, crab), finely chopped to shell. Beat eggs until smooth. Add cream and mix well. Pour into shell. Top with salt, pepper, and parmesan cheese. Bake for 1 hour.

I’m So Proud of My Honey Muffin

Alex is taking the GRE this weekend, on top of taking multiple classes, while working a full time job, mind you. That means there’s been lots of studying around the Wilgus home lately. (I’m one proud Mrs.)

So last night I baked up a batch of “I’m-So-Proud-of-My-Honey-Muffin.”

Check out the recipe here (originally called Marmalade Muffins) and then soak up all of their jammy gooey goodness. They were sweet enough for an evening study break and nutty enough for a satisfying breakfast the next day.

Oh, and they call for Marmalade, but I used Strawberry Jam instead. I get the sense they’ll be good with whatever flavor you have in your fridge.

Home Cookin: Chocolate Chip Bites

Everyone has a chocolate chip cookie recipe they rarely stray from, I know. But seriously, you gotta try these. Then thank Mama Schmunk for passing on the recipe. You can tell mine is oft used already.

The secret weapon? Canola oil. Butter can leave cookies crunchy in the long run. But the canola oil ensures soft chewy cookies immediately out of the oven, or thawed from the freezer weeks down the road. (If they last that long.)

Once the chips are mixed in (a few extra certainly doesn’t hurt), drop by spoonfuls onto a baking sheet. It goes against every fiber of my being to say so, but smaller spoonfuls tend to work better. Just means you can eat more of them.

The other secret to getting these just right? Bake them for 8 minutes. They should look just underdone. But they’ll continue cooking once they’re out of the oven, and mature to perfection from there.

These will definitely make you, and whoever you share them with, feel special today. So pull out the red plate.

Here’s the recipe for Mama Schmunk’s Chocolate Chip Bites:

1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
2 egg whites
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix the sugars and oil. Add eggs and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients. Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake until just light brown.

PS: With just 8 ingredients and a short baking time, these are perfect for budgets of both time and money. And of course, my favorite kind of before and after.