Saturday, July 26, 2008

Chocolate hazelnut spread (like Nutella)


The beautiful blend of chocolate and hazelnuts that makes up nutella has long been a favorite of mine. I remember my first experiences with it at breakfast in a hotel in Europe. I then went to a grocery store to obtain more, and the exciting moment of understanding between myself and the clerk and following him thru the store, him yelling "Nutella! Nutella!" before arriving next to it. Yum.

So when my dear friend sent me a few links (another) (one more) for make your own nutella, I wasn't sure. Is it really that simple? A bag of hazelnuts purchased, a quick ride in the food processor - and of course fresh bread to place it on and my husband & I were in chocolate hazelnut heaven. Mmmm.....

It isn't as fine of a grind as the commercially made nutella - that is an equipment problem that I won't be able to fix. But I got to use dark chocolate cocoa in it which made it delicious! The first batch was gone within 5 minutes of being made. Thankfully it took less than 5 minutes to make so no big loss!

Do yourself a favor and try this recipe. Simple, delicious, satisfying... I will be trying some of the other versions, though the simplicity of this version is nice. And if you aren't really sure - half the recipe - though then it disappears faster!

Homemade Nutella Recipe

2 cups chopped hazelnuts
3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder
1/8 to 1/4 cup canola oil

Place hazelnuts in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process until nuts start to clump together in a ball. This will take some time (about five minutes), so be patient.

Add the powdered sugar and cocoa powder and process again for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture turns dark and the ingredients are well combined.

Now, slowly drizzle in enough oil to make a spread.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4 to 6 weeks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Blueberry soda

Here is a fun way to use blueberries - make your own soda! This recipe makes a cold refreshing drink that is delicious and simple to make.

How simple? You make the juice from the berries, cook in the sugar and your syrup is done. To serve, you put carbonated water over ice, add some syrup and enjoy.

Right now, this is up there with homemade lemonade on my list of refreshing delicious drinks of summer. The recipe comes from Alton Brown, and his blueberry episode of Good Eats.

The fact that you make the soda yourself old school style and know exactly what is in the syrup makes it more appealing to me, as I have a son who LOVES carbonation. Being able to give him a cheaper but healthier option is nice. If you aren't a soda fan, I suggest a blueberry smoothie ala pioneer woman. (Also delicious! Try both!)

Club soda & tonic water will not work or taste right in this recipe. You need regular carbonated water/sparkling water because the additives in the others will mess with the flavor.

Blueberry Soda

20 ounces blueberries, about 4 cups, rinsed and drained
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 lime, juiced
Carbonated water for serving
Ice for serving

Place the blueberries and the water into a saucepan, set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Put on lid, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour the mixture into a colander lined with cheesecloth that is set in a large bowl. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.

Gather up the edges of the cheesecloth and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. (Wear plastic gloves so you don't stain your hands!) Discard the skin and pulp.

Return the blueberry juice to the saucepan along with the sugar and lime juice. Place over medium high heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly.

Remove from the heat and carefully transfer to a heatproof glass container and place in the refrigerator, uncovered, until completely cooled.

To Serve: Combine 1/4 cup of the liquid with 8-ounces of carbonated water and serve over ice.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Granola bars

A dear friend shared this recipe with me, it makes delicious granola bars. I have given up my dependency on Nature Valley because now I can whip up my own! Yay! Cheaper, healthier, tastier and definitely kid friendly. I took these on a trip with some friends and all the kids were eating them and asking for more and picking at crumbs. Perfect for emergency snacks in the car, on trips, or just for snacking, You will love this simple recipe too.

Granola Bars

4 cups quick cook oatmeal, unprepared
¾ cup chocolate chips
¾ cup grated coconut
¾ cup chopped nuts/dried fruit
¾ cup honey
¾ cup peanut butter
milk as needed (4 Tbsp seems to be perfect for me)

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, adding small amounts of milk until the dough begins to stick together. Press mix into well greased large baking pan (jelly roll pan or cookie sheet with lip) that has a ½ inch lip on the edge. Bake at 325◦ F for 40-45 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. Cut into desired size bars while still hot but do not remove from pan until completely cool. (Your pizza cutter is your friend here, makes it easy to cut them.)

Chocolate chips, coconut and chopped nuts/dried fruit may be taken out and replaced with other ingredients of your choice. Also, the peanut butter may be omitted and the honey doubled.

Best storage option according to my friend is a tupperware container, and its worked well for me. They haven't lasted longer than 2 days in our house so I can't give a time length beyond that.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Perfect Whole Wheat Bread

To save money on bread, I've been trying out homemade bread recipes. Spending $3+ on good bread at the store per loaf adds up quickly, especially when the same bread can be made at home for less than $1 a loaf.

I checked out lots of bread books at the local library; one was called Beth's Basic Bread Book. The recipe for this bread was inside and I was amazed at how easy it was. It kept getting better. A wheat bread that takes 3.25 hours is faster than my breadmaker, it makes 2 loaves at once, it's more reliable, it tastes great, they keep well for 3 days (or more in the freezer!) (Most homemade bread starts to go stale pretty fast without the store preservatives.) It makes great sandwiches, great toast, great snacks...we're in love with this bread!

This is a simple bread recipe, and the easiness makes it even more worthwhile. Try it out. You'll love it!

Perfect Whole Wheat Bread
(Also great for burger/hot dog buns, dinner rolls and more!)

1 cup warm water (105-115 F)
2 Tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
pinch brown sugar
1 cup warm milk (105-115)
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, elted
1 tablespoon salt
1 egg
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, fine or medium grind
3 1/2 -4 cups unbleached all-purpose or high gluten bread flour
melted butter or olive oil for brushing

1. Proof the yeast: In a small bowl or 1-cup liquid measuring cup, pour 1/2 cup of the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast and pinch of brown sugar over the surface. Stir to dissolve and let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes. I use cool water right now in summer when its so hot to slow down the growth a bit)

2. Mixing the dough: In a large bowl using a whisk or in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining water, milk, 1/3 cup brown sugar, melted butter, salt, egg and whole wheat flour. Beat hard until creamy, about 1 minute. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft, shaggy dough that just clears the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary if making by hand.

3. Kneading: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and springy, 1-3 minutes for machine mixed dough, 4-7 minutes for a hand mixed dough, dusting with flour only 1 Tbsp at a time, just enough as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be smooth and very springy with a slightly rough surface and sticky quality, but not dry. Do not add too much flour or the baked loaf will be dry and crumbly.

4. First rise: Place the dough in a lightly greased deep container (preferably with straight sides so its easy to see when it has doubled). Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until double in bulk, about 1-1.5 hours. Do not allow to rise any higher than double, or it may collapse and bake into a flat loaf.

5. Shaping and second rise: Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface to deflate. Lightly grease bottom and sides of 2 9x5 loaf pans. Clay pans are wonderful for this loaf. Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. With the palms of your hands, roll into 4 fat sausages, each about 10 inches long. Place two of the pieces side by side. Starting in the center, wrap one around the other to create a fat twist effect. Repeat with second loaf. Place in pans. Brush tops with melted butter or oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until the dough is almost double in bulk and about 1 inch over the rims of the pans, about 30 minutes. These loaves need only a 3/4 proof for the best baked volume.

6. Baking and cooling: Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush tops with more butter or oil. Place in center rack of oven and bake about 35-40 minutes, or until the surface of the loaves is golden brown, the sides slightly contract from the pan, and the loaves sound hollow when tapped with your finger. Remove the loaves from the pans immediately to a cooling rack. Loaves are best slightly warm or at room temperature.

You take them out of the pans immediately to keep them from getting moist on the sides. Store completely cooled unsliced bread or rolls wrapped in plastic food storage bags at room temperature to keep moist for 3 days or freeze. If you use black-finish or glass loaf pans, reduce oven temp. by 25 F.


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