best of (a holiday round-up)

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Season’s Greetings! It’s really happening. Since I’ve adopted the tradition of giving mostly food gifts, my kitchen becomes a factory of sorts this time of year. While I really love to do a little bit of experimenting during the holidays, I have a few go-to treats that I can’t do without. Here are a few of my favorites. If you’re looking for some last minute gift ideas, this is for you.

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granola – I’ve heard that this granola has become somewhat legendary in certain circles. People tell me that it’s become their favorite and that they’ve passed the recipe on to others, which makes me incredibly happy. Granola is surprisingly easy to make and totally customizable – add whatever seeds or nuts or dried fruit you like. I love this granola mixed in with a big dollop of plain Greek yogurt. And if you put it in a Mason jar and tie it with some pretty ribbon or fancy twine, you’ve got yourself the perfect gift.

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vanilla marshmallows – The first time I made these marshmallows, I was shocked by how insanely good a plain marshmallow could be. These are perfection. Pair them with a tin of hot cocoa, or some graham crackers and a bar of dark chocolate and you’re all set.

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fleur de sel caramels - I could not let a holiday season pass without whipping up at least one batch of these caramels. Rich, chewy caramels topped with a sprinkle of fleur de sel – need I say more? I know a handful of people who look forward to seeing these caramels every Christmas, and I can’t say that I blame them.

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quince jam - My obsession with quince is relentless. Every Christmas, I make some sort of quince treat; whether it’s membrillo or jam or jelly, I just love this stuff. Since quince pairs really nicely with cheese, I like to give jars of quince jam with a wedge of Manchego. It’s the perfect gift for the foodie(s) in your life.

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rugelach – Rugelach is one of my all-time favorites. These little crescent-shape pastries are one of those treats that really get me going, especially because they’re not super easy to come by in these parts. A tin of ruggies is such a treat. Your friends and family will be impressed.

I know we’re nearing the big day, but I might have one or two new goodies to share with you before then. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that I get everything done over here. In the meantime, I hope you’re getting all of your holiday shopping and/or treat-making taken care of and enjoying these days with loved ones. I’m hoping to sneak in a little down time – I’m so ready for some warm, spiced apple cider (with a nice big splash of bourbon). Happy Holidays, my dears!

 

granola!

2011, I like you already! The new year has been full of friends, old and new, laughter, great food and great drinks. I rang in the new year at a spectacular dinner party hosted by the lovely and talented Mr. Anderson. Chocolate mousse, Veuve Clicquot, an amazing view of San Francisco and fireworks – it was an ideal way to start the new year. I really couldn’t have asked for more.

Since we all want to start off the year on the right foot, how about some granola? Every new year, I swear to myself that I’m going to eat healthier. And I know I’m not the only one, which is why I decided a few weeks ago that I would give the gift of good health in the form of homemade granola (along with salted caramels and marshmallows, and a few other sweet things – you can’t deny the people of all the good stuff!).

Why granola? Because it’s healthy! Or maybe wholesome is more fitting. And because a little bag of homemade granola landed on my desk one evening (thanks, Ginger!) and inspired me to make my own. And when poured into jars and tied with some good looking ribbon, it’s practically begging to be given away.

This is my dream granola. It’s full of nuts and dried fruit and toasted coconut and sweetened with brown sugar and maple syrup.  It’s a sweeter granola, which makes it perfect over plain yogurt. I think next time I’ll throw in some candied ginger, maybe some pumpkin seeds. Or dried figs. Mmmmm. The possibilities are endless, sort of like the year to come. Happy New Year, my dears!

homemade granola

adapted loosely from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

makes 1 pound of granola

2 cups rolled oats

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 cup nuts ( I used a combination of walnuts, pecans, almonds, and hazelnuts)

1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 cup dried fruit (I used dried cherries, golden raisins, and chopped dried apricots)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with salt and cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, brown sugar,  oil and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Pour the syrup mixture into the oats and stir until evenly coated.

Spread the oat mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving a few clumps for texture.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the oats with a metal spatula. Scatter the nuts and coconut over the granola and return to the oven.

Continue to bake for 5 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the mixture again. Return the baking sheet to the oven.

Bake for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and flip the oats one last time.

Return the baking sheet to the oven and bake for 5 minutes. Cool completely. Once, cooled, toss the granola with dried fruit. Store in an airtight container. The granola will keep for 1 week.