Lemon Ginger Lozenges, and an Anti-Valentine to Alton Brown

Folks, the equation is simple.

Sugar + Equal Amount of Water + Heat = Candy

Yup.  With no flavoring though, you might as well suck on a sugar cube.

The first time I made this recipe, I gave it as a gift, which was brave considering I had no idea what they would taste like, if they would ship well, or hell, even if they would pack and store well.  They didn’t, by the way.  Because the majority of sugar in AB’s recipe was honey, it still didn’t quite set at hard crack stage, and actually ended up chipping the tooth of a friend who tried to chew on it (whoops!  Her dad’s a dentist though, so it turned out to be OK).

Then, shortly after my mom requested the recipe, I came across this Instructable…And I was so angry with Mr. Brown.

You see, his instructions at the end said to spoon teaspoons of the liquid candy onto parchment paper.  They looked fine in his pictures; in my kitchen, not so much.  And on top of that it was counter to EVERYTHING I had ever learned from him – there might be a process, but if there’s an easy way with the same resulting taste go that route.

Oh, AB.  How could you let me down like this?

Needless to say, this new method not only is much easier in terms of portioning out the candy, but also in storing it.  I love simple solutions, but this one has made me call my favorite TV chef into question.

Lemon Ginger Lozenges

Ingredients

2 c. water

4 tea bags (doesn’t have to be Lemon Ginger, just pick a good flavor of good tea)

2 c. sugar – I used 1 c. turbinado and 1 c. honey

Zest of 1 lemon

Powdered sugar

Method

  • Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a high sided sauce pan and steep the tea bags for about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add sugar and turn the stove back on medium low heat.  Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring the mixture to a boil, occasionally washing the insides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

    process shot! see I told you I was working on it

  • The mixture needs to read the hard crack stage without the sugar burning, which is between 300 & 310 degrees.  Grab a book, this is going to take forever, but keep a watchful eye on your stove.
  • Before the mixture reaches 310, prepare your candy mold!  Oh my, you don’t have one?  Me neither.  Here’s the handy trick I was talking about.  Get out a pie pan, or a cake pan, or a casserole pan…any shallow-ish pan with sides.  Put some powdered sugar in it, enough to make indentations in, about a half inch to an inch oughta do it.  Then, get out some sort of roundish bottomed thing (like a food coloring bottle, or a glass tube that your vanilla beans came in)…are you seeing where I’m going with this?instant candy mold
  • Go around the pan, making indentations in the sugar, making sure they’re about 1/4 inch apart.  I needed 2 pie pans for the amount of candy I made.
  • When the mixture reaches hard crack stage, remove from heat and add the lemon zest, stirring just to combine.
  • Pour mixture over the mold slowly and watch the magic happen.

    pour slowly to make sure this doesn't happen, but if it does just leave it and break it apart later

  • Allow mixture to cool and harden, about one hour.  Toss the candies with the powdered sugar in the pans, making sure each one is coated thoroughly.  Sift the excess sugar off the candies (or not), and store in a container of your choosing.

HOW EASY WAS THAT?  No parchment paper, no sticky teaspoon…  Alton Brown, why, oh why, did I have to see this on Instructables and not in your book with your recipe?  As I type this I’m finding it very hard not to use caps and unnecessary punctuation.  I am that upset about it.

That being said, I think this would also be good with lemon extract , cinnamon, or any number of flavor combinations.  Just be sure to add them at the end right before pouring into your nifty molds.  Here are some suggestions:

Lemon + Ginger – I would actually add some grated ginger to these next time, as the tea didn’t really carry the ginger flavor through all that well.

Cinnamon + Chai

Ginger + Peach

Black Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Lemon

Green Tea + Orange

Black Tea + Orange

Mint + Raspberry (think fresh mint and raspberry extract…mmm)

The possibilities really are endless.

Oh and here’s a tip for the dish-doers in the bunch:  To clean, fill the pot with water and bring to boil.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Granola

So I have a new kitchen obsession, and it’s granola.  I have never been able to find a granola in the store that I found was worth the money, not to mention the calories.  Oh yes, don’t be fooled.  That stuff in the fancy packaging has some serious sugar and packs a lot of calories into quite a small amount.

clumpy

Admittedly, this recipe is not as healthy as the last one I made.  But it is so much better.  I enjoyed the last one.  It was crunchy, nutty, not too sweet, and delicious by itself or with yogurt.  But this takes that and cranks the volume to 11.  Full disclosure, I had a really hard time sharing this with my neighbors.  I did, but it was an inner battle for me.  Also, while I was home I got a lot of compliments on the photography on here, but my neighbor Tim takes the photos you guys are oohing and aweing and drooling over.  His granola was much deserved.

Olive Oil Granola

Makes about 9 cups.

adapted from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/dining/151arex.html

Ingredients

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 C roughly chopped pecans

1 C pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)

½ C slivered almonds

3/4 C pure maple syrup

1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tspish kosher salt

1/2 tspish ground cinnamon

1/2 tspish ground ginger

3/4 C chopped dried apricots

1 C dried cranberries

Method

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, pepitas, maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and ginger. Spread mixture on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

2. Allow to cool a bit and then break up the clumps to whatever consistency you like, then toss in the apricots and cranberries.

Resolution Friendly Peanut Butter Cookies

As much as I love being home, spending with family and old friends, it always comes as somewhat of a relief to return elsewhere.  The holidays are crazy for everyone, but especially those who have to travel during them.  A week home is often a marathon of drinking, baking, catching up, drinking, gift-wrapping, drinking, shopping, and drinking.  It’s exhausting and can wear a gal down.

I was fortunate enough to return home with something I picked up from an old friend (probably) and was bed ridden for a week.  Too sick to bake, too sick to work, and too sick to enjoy being back at my own place.  I was also too sick to do anything for New Year’s in New York, for the second year in a row.  I’ve never been a giant fan of New Year’s, but I would like to have at least one in New York that I don’t spend on the couch watching movies, asleep before midnight.

I’ve also never been much for resolutions.  Nobody really keeps them and they just make you feel bad about yourself.  Instead, I like to set small, reachable goals for myself throughout the course of the entire year.  This is especially helpful for avoiding crowded gyms.  However, I know a lot of people who do make resolutions, and they’re usually along the lines of ‘eat healthier’ and ‘exercise more.’  So folks, this one’s for you.

This recipe actually came about because my brother started dating a vegan, and I got to meet her over the holidays.  She’s a pretty cool chick, and I like the idea of cool chicks reading my blog and making my brother happy.  So without further ado, I present to you: no butter, no flour, no oil, no egg, no gluten, but still AMAZINGLY delicious, 4 step

Resolution-friendly Peanut Butter Cookies 18ish cookies

Adapted from http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/dessert/internet-sensation-the-noflour-nobutter-peanut-butter-cookies-revisited-080693

Ingredients

1 C peanut butter (see note)

3/4 C turbinado, or raw sugar

1/4 C brown sugar

Half a banana (if you’re not vegan and don’t like bananas, use 1 egg)

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp vanilla

6 ingredients

Method

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees°F.

2. Mix all the ingredients up in a bowl.

3.Roll walnut-sized pieces into balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Feel free to flatten slightly with a fork in a crisscross pattern, as is customary for peanut butter cookies. I forgot to do this, and it did not affect the taste.

dough!

4. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool before removing from baking sheet.

healthy cookie!

Note: Peanut butter comes in all kinds of configurations and the kind you choose will influence your outcome. Some peanut butters are very sweet, some have been hydrogenated, some have a whole lot more in them than peanuts! Then there is the chunky versus smooth debate. I used a natural smooth version that literally was just peanuts and salt.  If you use a peanut butter like Jif or Skippy, your cookies will be sweeter but your waste line will not.

Seriously, these cookies are too easy, too delicious, and too healthy to pass up.  Give them to someone on a diet as a helpful little gift.  It allows them a sweet treat without feeling too indulgent.

Also, since I was sick last week and did not post, I’m doing two this week.  Next up, another delicious granola!

Wyatt’s Granola

When I come home to Memphis I like to take advantage of my parents’ enormous kitchen (which is approximately the size of my entire apartment) and willingness to buy ingredients.

I originally intended to come home and bake up a storm – a buttery, flour-y, sugar-fueled storm.  Then I baked one batch of cupcakes (which is a whole ‘nother post) and became immensely frustrated when I realized how spoiled I have become from owning a stand mixer.  Hand mixers certainly serve a purpose in some applications, but not for cupcakes, frostings, or anything else that requires creaming tons of butter and sugar to light, fluffy cloud of happy.  So I’m opting for the easy way out – no special hardware required, and healthy upon request of a quite amazing young artist currently residing in the Chicago area, Wyatt Grant.  I suspect you will see him on the cover of Art News one day in the not too distant future.

My parent’s house is also pretty close to a pretty amazing ‘gourmet’ grocery store armed to the teeth with fancy pants food-stuffs.  I got most of the ingredients for this granola here, except for the Costco-sized bottle of honey and vegetable oil.  Generally I would say get whatever brand or quality level your budget allows, but for a recipe with so few ingredients, it really is more tasty when you have the good stuff.

the good stuff

Wyatt (Earp)’s Granola

Except for the stirring, this is a ridiculously easy recipe.  I suspect you could even forgo the 15 minute intervals and stirring while cooling if you prefer clumpy granola, which I do.  For anyone who prefers a lighter Christmas morning breakfast, this recipe is it!  Slightly sweet with a hint of cinnamon and a harmonious ratio of nuts to fruit, this granola is sure to be a crowd pleaser, or selfishly coveted over Greek style or plain yogurt.

Ingredients

4 c toasted whole grain cereal with raisins, dates, and almonds (such as Mueslix – I used some fancy pants organic brand from Fresh Market)

3 c old fashioned oats

1 c coarsely chopped walnuts

1 c sliced almonds

¾ c coarsely chopped hazelnuts

½ c honey

¼ c vegetable oil

1/3 c dried blueberries

1/3 c dried sweetened cranberries (Craisins, unless you’re shopping at Fresh Market)

1/3 c golden raisins

1 tsp ground cinnamon

¼ c turbinado (raw sugar)

Application

  1. Preheat oven to 275F.  Throw the cereal, oats, and nuts together and mix them up on a big sheet pan, preferably with sides.
  2. Put the honey and oil in a saucepan and bring it just to boiling; drizzle it over the soon-to-be delicious granola mixture and toss to coat as evenly as you can get it.  Stick this in the oven and bake until golden brown and dry, stirring about every 15 minutes.  It will be about an hour and a half, so there’s about 6 fifteen minute intervals.

    drizzled and ready for some oven lovin

  3. Remove from oven and scatter the dried fruit over the oats and sprinkle cinnamon and turbinado over the whole shebang.  If you think the sugar will be too sweet, feel free to omit it.  I sampled it pre-sugar and it wasn’t as sweet as I like, but I have a sweet tooth.

    dried things

    I could not believe how big the raisins were - that's my pinky. Seriously, get the good stuff for this recipe.

  4. Cool completely in pan, stirring occaisionally to prevent clumping…or, you know, not, fifteen minute intervals is kind of a lot.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks, but I doubt it will last that long.

    coolin off

    The great this about any granola recipe is that if you don’t like one of the ingredients, you simply swap it our for another you do like.  I would like to try this with dried cherries, pecans, apricots…the possibilities are really pretty endless.

Enjoy!

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