Saturday, June 12, 2010

Basic bright red tomato sauce

This is my go-to tomato sauce for so many reasons. So easy and so delicious, you'll have a tasty, healthy meal put together in no time.  It's a simple recipe with basic ingredients that work really well together to let all the flavors shine through.  Ideal for pastas, thin-crust pizzas, lasagnas, and grilled fish, this light and lively tomato sauce is perfect for a summer meal.
Perfect in its simplicity, this sauce stands strong on its own.  But, if you choose to, you can jazz it up in a million different ways.  For a more sophisticated sauce, add some roasted red peppers and balsamic vinegar.  Toss in some onions, capers, olives, and/or anchovies for a Mediterranean flair.  Add lemon zest for an unexpected boost in flavor or cinnamon and nutmeg for a spiced tomato sauce.  The possibilities are endless, I'd love to hear of any sauce traditions that you have or any new additions that you may come up with.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Orange strawberry sorbet

June is here and what better time to break out the ice cream maker (one purchase that hasn't left me guilt-stricken with buyer's remorse).  It is so rewarding making homemade ice cream--it doesn't take all that much effort and there is none of those added ingredients that you can't pronounce in your frozen dessert.
If you don't have an ice cream maker, I think it's a must purchase.  You can get a decent one for under $50 and you're on your way to homemade frozen deliciousness all summer.  Making sorbet is great too, especially if you nix the sugar and use honey, you're left with a delectable summer treat that is actually healthy! Sorbet, different than sherbet which is made with milk or cream and sometimes eggs, has a light, refreshing taste and a smooth, slightly icy consistency. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Griddle me up some sweet corn pancakes

Corn pancakes are so unassumingly delicious.  Who would think that chunks of corn folded into pancake batter would make such a lovely combination?
My mom would always make a variation of these growing up, usually as a way to use up leftover corn, but these pancakes are reason enough to go cook up some corn on the cob.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Roasted cherry tomatoes and summer on my mind

Summer is just around the corner and I couldn't be happier.   A relaxing day on the beach with a few friends or a good book followed by a Jersey fresh meal and some cocktails on the porch is about as good as it gets.  Memorial Day weekend marks the beginning of the season in south jersey, where summer brings long beach days, boardwalk bike rides, refreshing drinks, fresh seafood, delicious produce, and loads of tourists or, as they're affectionately called by locals, shoobies (supposedly named for folks who would come down for the day and bring their lunch in shoe boxes).  
It also brings the summer mentality of just needing to be outside on those sunny, cloudless days when you think the sun might never go down--soaking up every possible ray of sunlight because we all know how dark and cold the winter will be.  But when the sun goes down on a hot summer day and you pick up your beach chair, walk off the beach, and head back to your house for some fresh seafood, corn on the cob and stewed tomatoes (yum!), there is no doubt in your mind that life is good.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Cucumber salad and a belated ode to momma

It took me until college to realize that not everyone knew the bare-bone basics of cooking.   I realized not everyone had a mom that made them help her in the kitchen--forced them to listen as she explained what she was doing and why, telling them the whole time that they would thank her later.
Well, as predicted, I'm eternally grateful to my mother for forcing me into the kitchen--for teaching me so much of what she has learned without me even realizing it at the time.  But, more than that, I am so thankful for having a one-of-a-kind childhood.  While I was in pre-school, my afterschool program was chopping parsley and peeling potatoes at my mother's restaurant.  Kindergarten came and I was promoted to official napkin folder, at which time I mastered the "Standing Fan."  As hard as I tried, school lunches never meant Gushers, Fruit roll-ups, Sunny-D, or the highly desired peanut butter and jelly on fluffy white bread.  I grew up eating and loving sushi, craving brown rice, and never having a TV dinner.  Despite the occasional and sometimes overwhelming turbulence that rocked our family, I never felt unloved.  At a young age, I was taught to see the world differently and any small struggle that I have experienced has only made me a stronger and more grateful person. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Ahh, sweet bliss

I'm a big fan of potatoes in all shapes and sizes.  Whether they're mashed with butter and sour cream, fried to perfection, baked whole, or keeping eggs company, I'll forever be a potato groupie.  But this is one of my absolute favorite ways to cook up some potato delight.  What could be better than red bliss potatoes roasted with rosemary and garlic to tender perfection and served alongside a tangy yogurt-mint dipping sauce? My thoughts exactly.
The best part of this recipe is not the blissfully-roasted potatoes or the tangy yogurt-mint dipping sauce, it's the roasted garlic you're left with in the pan.  I don't know if there is a food that gets me more excited than roasted garlic. Do yourself a favor: peel those garlic cloves and smear the roasted garlic on some good quality toasted bread. Heaven. But, if you don't want to listen to me, you can peel the cloves and toss them with the potatoes, which will also be utterly delicious.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Morning treat: spiced banana bread

While I was produce shopping the other day at the local market, I came across a bin of brown-speckled bananas with a sign on the front-- 3lbs for 75¢!! Immediately, thoughts of banana bread went flashing through my head--think of all the loaves I could make with those unwanted bananas.
But then I was reminded that I never actually end up baking bread.  Whenever my family happened to let bananas ripen past the point of cereal-worthiness, my mom would predictably say something like, "those bananas are perfect for banana bread," and my sister and I would agree, saying how much we loved banana bread, especially in the mornings, toasted with some butter.  But then, the days went by, until the bananas had no trace of yellow and had gained a following of fruit flies, crushing any hope of waking up to the deliciously sweet smell of banana bread baking in the oven.  I made a promise to myself that I would not let these bananas suffer such a fate as the ones before and I would run home and bake banana bread immediately.
Well, good thing I had several pounds of bananas on hand--all those years of not baking bread really showed.  The first loaf I made was from a recipe that left me with overly-moist banana bread.  Plus, it was unnecessarily loaded with white sugar and I'm the kind of girl who prefers her banana bread on the healthier side--that way I can enjoy it with my morning coffee without feeling like I'm eating dessert.  So, I ventured out on making another banana bread with no egg and no sugar and it was too dry (shocking, I know).  I tried again with more maple syrup and a few tablespoons of soy milk--better but still too dry.  Well, turns out the 4th time's a charm in my case... this banana bread has no egg and no sugar and it's absolutely delectable.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Don't wear white

I wear white t-shirts a lot.  My uniform is pretty much jeans and a white v-neck tee, worn with boots or sandals depending on the season.  My college roommates can attest to watching me get ready to go out on the weekends--as I plowed through my closet, trying on colorful dresses and patterned shirts that, upon buying, I thought I would wear all the time, until after two hours of dressing and undressing I would surrender and sheepishly throw on what I always did: jeans and a white v-neck tee (swapping white out for dark grey or maybe even black if I was feeling risky).
So, if you're anything like me and patterns make you hyperventilate, take some deep breaths and don't wear white while making this recipe.  You're probably thinking, "well, duh, I wouldn't wear white while I was cooking anyway, who could be that dumb?" Well, me. I could be that dumb.  Don't make the same mistake or your favorite white tank will be permanently demoted to undershirt.

Like white tees, I'm also a sucker for beets.  But, sadly I just don't eat them that much. I guess it goes back to the ol' cooking dried beans syndrome--thinking it just takes way too much time and effort.  But, how wrong I was!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jazzy black bean salad

Before I left for Central America, I was so looking forward to eating rice and beans at every meal.  The last time I had been in Costa Rica, where the traditional dish is gallo pinto (rice and beans), I was completely satisfied scarfing down black beans all three meals a day.  The rice and bean combination is so simple yet so delicious--I don't know if I can think of two ingredients that go together better.  Well, I probably could if I tried.  But the fact remains--I love black beans.
Growing up, my mom always had a pot of beans on the stove.  The back burner was reserved for the pot of beans that always seemed to "need more time."  Once I started cooking, I joined the rest of the world in thinking that it took days on end to cook dried beans and really, who has the time for that?  All that cleaning and soaking and rinsing and picking and cooking, it just seemed overwhelmingly complicated.  Well, being that I had the time what with no job and all, I figured I'd take the extra time to cook up a bag of dried beans.

And turns out, cooking dried beans, not all that hard!  Yes, they need time to cook but it is not at all time-consuming.  The beans just cook themselves, with just a little helping hand adding some water from time to time.  Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still going to keep some canned beans in the house for all those times when I need beans in a hurry but when time is not an issue, dried beans are the way to go--they're inexpensive and have a lot less sodium than those that are canned.  Either way, though, eat your beans--they're jam packed with nutritional goodness including soluble fiber, iron, and protein and they're absolutely scrumptious.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

10 degrees north

Well, I'm back in the States after a rather adventurous stay on an organic farm in rural Costa Rica.  I apologize for my absence, it has been a hectic couple of weeks with shaky internet and overbooked planes--but the good news is I'm ready to get back in the groove and back in the kitchen.  Before I get back to the cookery, I thought I'd take some time to share the highlights of my trip--before the visions of hoeing and tilling under the Costa Rican sun become nothing but a distant memory.
My good friend, Laura, and I arrived at the farm by way of an old American school bus that took us on a very bumpy ride up and over the green mountains of the San Jose province to the small pueblo of Mastatal.  A full ten minutes before we arrived at our "stop" (the one and only grocery store in town run out of a woman's house), it started to downpour and I was happy about my last minute decision to pack a raincoat. We were greeted by two volunteers and put onto yet another old American school bus for a short 5 minute ride up the dirt road to the entrance of the farm.  Stepping off the bus and into a giant puddle of mud, I hear a voice yell, "Welcome to the rainy season in Costa Rica!"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another day in paradise

Rainy here is Bocas today. Probably for the better, my back got a little too much sun from snorkeling the other day (I know, it's tough being me).  Plus, it gives me time to update you on all the grub we've been enjoying. We arrived in Bocas del Toro, a little island town with a good mix of locals and tourists (and tourists turned locals), on Wednesday.  Thursday was spent on a boat tour of the islands, including Dolphin Bay and Zapatilla Cayes.  Dolphin bay felt slightly like a Disney ride as we sat in the boat and watched dolphins swim around us.  That got boring pretty quickly.  Zapatilla, on the other hand, would never get old. With beautiful beaches and crystal clear water (below), the pictures basically took themselves.

On Friday, we spent the day relaxing and reading.  I finished the book I was reading, Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food, which I highly recommend to anyone who has the slightest interest in their health and well-being.  In the afternoon, we rented bikes and toured Bocas town, stopping for smoothies at Bocas Blends, a truck-turned-smoothie-stand near the main street. We enjoyed the Vitamin C Craze: pineapple and papaya blended with orange juice.  Simple, delicious, and refreshing.

We were a little thirsty... couldn't wait to take the picture before downing our smoothie.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Radio silence

I have to apologize in advance, I hopped a flight to Panama City leaving my blog and my very few, very dear readers behind.  Not quite sure what the internet connection will be from place to place, I am trying my darnedest to keep up with my food explorations.  The good news is, however, that I am also sampling the local fare, for which, quite frankly, I cannot offer any apologies.

Today my traveling partner and supportive friend, Laura, watched as I got a little camera happy when our ceviche arrived.  We ordered the ceviche camarones (shrimp), landing on our table in an oversized martini glass with a bed of lettuce and plantain chips.  Unlike any ceviche I've ever had, this one was creamy and mixed with corn, shredded cabbage, and chopped onions.  With a hint of lime and a spicyness that I couldn't quite pinpoint, I was surprised and pleased by the zesty, creative blend of flavors.

Tomorrow, we leave Panama City for Bocas del Toro, a series of islands on the Caribbean near the Costa Rican border. In other words, paradise.  I promise to eat up for you all while I'm there and be back soon with the latest dish (pun intended).

Saturday, March 13, 2010

School lunch, revisited

Growing up with a macrobiotic chef for a mother, school lunches were not my favorite time of day.  Every day, without fail, someone would ask me with a disgusted look on their face, "What are you eating?"  Too young to understand, let alone defend, the heath benefits of a vegan diet, I would simply shrug and proclaim, "I don't know, my mom packed it," and they would go back to eating their fluffy and somehow-never-soggy peanut butter and jelly on white bread and I would go back to eating my soba noodles with ginger and scallions.

But there was something I was always glad wasn't in my egg salad sandwich.  Yellow and mushy with way too much mayonnaise and a strange odor, presumably from sitting in an eight-year-old's locker for hours, I never understood how anyone could possibly eat an Egg Salad sandwich.  It was just so... eggy.

Well, years later and I figured it was time to overcome my fear of egg salad and maybe see why anyone would even want to attempt to eat it in the first place.  I perused through some recipes and came across some with avocado added.  Now you're speaking my language.  I could probably eat just about anything if avocado found its way in it.  So, after perfecting the technique of hard-boiling and egg (it's harder than it looks), I set out to make an egg salad that I would actually want to eat.

I knew I would be adding avocado, but I didn't want my egg salad to be oozing with mayonnaise, so I opted to add Greek yogurt instead.  Red onions were a must and celery was added for crunch.  A little mustard, some fresh parsley, salt, pepper, and lemon and voilà! An egg salad sandwich I actually enjoyed!

Egg Salad

4 large organic eggs
2 stalks celery, washed and chopped
1/2 large red onion, diced
1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp Dijon mustard
3 tbsp Greek yogurt (or mayonnaise)
1 avocado, pitted and cut into chunks
little squeeze of lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Place eggs in a pot and fill with enough cold water to cover eggs about an inch.  Add salt and cover with lid.  Over high heat, bring water to a boil.  Once the water reaches the point of boiling, turn off heat but leave pot on the stove, covered, for ten to twelve minutes.  Immediately after, place eggs in a bowl of ice water for three minutes to stop the cooking process.

While the eggs cool in the ice bath, in a separate bowl use a fork to mix red onion, avocado, parsley, lemon juice, celery, salt and pepper.  Crack and peel each egg and place in a separate mixing bowl.  Add the yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper until just mixed--you don't want the eggs to get mushy.
Add the onion and avocado mixture to the eggs and mix with a fork until desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste, if needed.

For a perfectly easy sandwich, place a bit of lettuce on a slice of toasted whole wheat bread and top with your new favorite egg salad, finish by making a sandwich with another slice of toast.

Serves 2-4, depending on size of sandwich.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Show me your brussels

After reading over some of my earlier posts, I realized I haven't done a very good job of showing you what really goes on in my kitchen. In an attempt to lure you in with sweet treats and breakfast cravings, I neglected to demonstrate my real passion for natural, wholesome ingredients.
Oh, don't get me wrong, I love me some darker-than-dark chocolate and I'm famous for curling up on the couch with a bowl of Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream while catching up on episodes of Big Love, but my true love is for vegetables. And I have a particular sore spot for brussels sprouts. Yup, that's right... brussels sprouts. These little guys have had to endure years of scrutiny as the "yucky" food that, in order to eat, you had to pinch your nostrils together in an effort not to taste them (something, by the way, that should not be performed by any person over the age of eight).

But brussels sprouts are truly delicious, when cooked properly. Slightly bitter and uniquely soft, I love the way these bite-size "cabbages" crunch in my mouth. This classic recipe is really easy and is so good as a side dish or as a mid-day snack on its own. I usually opt to keep it simple when cooking veggies, allowing the actual taste of the vegetable to come through in the dish. Finishing them under the broiler gives the brussels sprouts a subtle crispness that gives the flavor a little more depth.

I specify using fresh garlic in this recipe, but that goes for any recipe really. I just finished reading Anthony Bourdain's impossibly funny and twistedly brilliant Kitchen Confidential and he says to treat your garlic with respect--if you can't take the time to chop your own garlic, then you don't deserve to eat it. I couldn't agree more. Always go fresh with garlic, the minced mess in a jar has a chemically funky taste that will just ruin a dish.

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

1 10-ounce package of brussels sprouts
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh garlic, chopped (see above)

Cut brussels sprouts into quarters by cutting off the ends and removing any yellow or spotted outer leaves. If brussels sprouts are small, just cut them into halves. Give them a good rinse.

On medium-high, heat a sauté pan that has a metal handle, one that you will be able to put directly into the oven. Allow the pan to heat up and then add the water and the rinsed and cut brussels sprouts. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and cook until basically all water is evaporated. Place brussels sprouts on a plate and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and, in the same pan, heat olive oil, chopped garlic, and salt and cook until garlic just begins to brown. Add brussels sprouts again and cook for about 8 minutes, using a wooden spoon to stir occasionally.

Turn broiler on high and place entire pan under broiler for about 3-4 minutes, until brussels sprouts are slightly charred and they look good and crispy.

Serve immediately. If you like, you can add some freshly grated Parmesan cheese or a squeeze of lemon for some extra pizazz. (Cue Emeril's POW!!!)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Rainy Day Pancakes

I know, for most of you, a rainy day still means you have to get up and go to work. But, for me, it just means that I don't feel as guilty for not leaving the house all day. The plan for a cozy day? Whole grain pancakes with warm maple syrup and fresh strawberries. I've hinted at my love for PURE maple syrup before, but I seriously don't think I could live without it, especially when I'm cooking up some rainy day pancakes. So, if you don't have any pure maple in your kitchen, do your yourself a favor and run out to get some. It can be pricey, but it's sooo worth it.

The recipe for these golden-delicious pancakes is adapted from Heidi Swanson's recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, with a little of my own tweeking. I add oats that have been blended, it gives the batter a fantastically subtle crumb texture. For the ingredients I specify organic eggs, but obviously any egg will do. Though, I really stress buying farm fresh eggs rather than the cheap ones from the factory--they're free of antibiotics and added chemicals and the treatment of the chickens is more humane.

Whole Grain Pancakes with Warm Maple Syrup

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats, blended
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 large organic eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp melted butter
1 cup pure, accept-no-imitations maple syrup
1 carton fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced

In a small saucepan, heat maple syrup on very low heat, whisking occasionally. When the maple is loose, turn heat off but leave on burner until ready to use.

In a blender, add the oats and pulse a couple of times, just enough to break up the oats. In a large bowl, mix the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, brown sugar, and salt. Add the buttermilk, beaten eggs, and melted butter, stirring until ingredients are mixed. Be sure not to beat out all the lumps--overmixing will toughen the pancakes.

Heat your skillet or pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with enough butter to cover the pan, allowing it to melt but not brown. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto skillet for each pancake, allowing it to cook until the bottom of the pancake is just golden brown. With a spatula flip pancake and cook until cooked through. Repeat until batter is finished. Quick tip: Do not over-flip your pancakes, it toughen the cakes and ruin your dreams of being in fluffy pancake heaven.

Serve pancakes with a warm maple syrup and sliced fresh strawberries and you are in for a perfect start to any day.

Yield: 10-12 large pancakes

Monday, February 22, 2010

Gone in the middle of the night

Yesterday was a one of the more sentimental days of my life. It was the one year anniversary of my father's death. Gearing up for the obvious sadness that the day would bring, I was still terrified of what I might feel. I thought it would be like someone was throwing salt on my broken heart or ringing out my insides Indian-burn-style, just like it did one year ago. But surprisingly it felt kind of, well...good.

Before you start sharpening the guillotine, allow me to explain. I spent the last year trying to figure out if I was grieving the way I should be, the way I needed to be. Initially, I shut down that part of my brain, the part that kept reminding me my dad had just died. Three months from graduating college and it didn't seem like I had much of a choice. But, after the initial shock, I started to get a grip on what I was feeling. As difficult a year as this one has been, I feel like the worst is over. I understand the world just the slightest bit better and, more importantly, I have gotten to know myself in ways I didn't know I could. Undoubtedly, I still have some much needed therapy sessions to attend to, but overall I think I am in the right direction on the slow path to healing.

The strangest thing I have learned about death, though, is that you still think about that person as if he were alive. I watch a new movie and think, "I have to tell Dad to watch that," and for that split second I forget that he will never be able to watch that movie. Sometimes the ridiculousness of it makes me laugh. The same goes with food. Whenever I make mashed potatoes, I think, "Dad won't eat any of this," (as a child, his mom had always made him finish them before leaving the table, inevitably forcing him to eat the cold mush that he so dreaded). Or I think to make something because I know he'll love it, which is why I opted to make an old favorite yesterday.

My dad always had an intense sweet tooth, so it wasn't abnormal to find him in the kitchen at 3am with his hands in the cookie jar. He would devour a pound of Boardwalk fudge in less than three days, cutting himself a sliver every time he walked past the kitchen. And, even though the days of hearing him rummaging through the kitchen like a desperate mouse are over, I can still make some of his favorite treats. So, Dad, I hope you enjoy.

This recipe is adapted from the back of the chocolate wafer box. Instead of making a cake "log," like my mother's mother used to make, I like to make individual servings because they are easier to serve and they look adorable. Trust me on this one, these little cookie cakes are jawdroppingly simple and unbelievably delicious.

Chocolate Cookie Cakes with Vanilla Cream

1 9oz package of chocolate wafers (I use Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers®)
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup
chocolate shavings, for garnish
fresh fruit, for garnish

Using an electric mixer, in a medium bowl beat cream until it's whipped and fluffy, about eight minutes.

Add vanilla and maple syrup and beat for another minute, until mixed. You don't want to over whip the cream or it will become thick and butter-like.

Using a butter knife, take one chocolate wafer and layer on a dollop of whipped cream. Stack with another chocolate cookie and another layer of whipped cream until you have five cookies stacked up. Top off the fifth cookie with a layer of whipped cream, wiping away any excess cream that has creeped out onto the sides.

Place on a flat baking sheet that will fit in the fridge. Repeat to make 8 mini-cakes, all five cookies tall. Top each cookie cake with chocolate shavings. Chill in refrigerator for 4-6 hours. Put excess whipped cream in a plastic container and chill until ready to serve.

When you're ready to wow your guests or enjoy these yummy cakes on your own, cut up some fresh fruit (I like strawberries and blackberries) and give the excess whipped cream a quick whisking, until fluffy again.

Serve each cookie cake with a hefty portion of whipped cream and fresh fruit.

Yields: 8 servings.

You can always play around with extra ingredients, like mint leaves or orange peel. Me? I like to keep it simple. Store these in the refrigerator covered and be sure to hide one in the back for yourself, these little guys have been known to disappear in the middle of the night.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Crunch time

For the longest time I have been making my granola with raisins and dried cranberries... but I'm on serious coconut kick right now so I thought I'd give that a go. With a little inspiration from Orangette, I came up with this recipe for pecan coconut granola with chocolate. The shredded coconut gives the granola a contrasting texture and adds just the right amount of sweetness to each bite. You can really use any nuts that you like, but I went for pecans in this recipe. Almonds would make a nice substitute, though. The dark chocolate is optional, but really, why do that to yourself?

I love using maple syrup in my cooking, the earthy sweetness is like nothing else. And it doesn't overwhelm other ingredients like honey does. Add whatever you like--dried cherries, apricots, raisins, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, toasted walnuts--to make the mixture your own. I hope you enjoy!

Chocolate Coconut Granola

3 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup toasted unsweetened shredded coconut
1 cup toasted pecans (roughly chopped)
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp light brown sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
6 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp good vanilla extract
¼ c. good dark chocolate finely chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.

Spread coconut evenly on baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes or until lightly browned, giving it a good stir about half way through. To toast the pecans, spread them evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are crisp and aromatic. Be sure to give them a toss or two, as well, to ensure even toasting. Remove and let cool before coarsely chopping.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, toasted coconut, toasted pecans, salt, and brown sugar.

In a small saucepan, heat the maple syrup and vegetable oil over low heat while whisking for about 1 minute, until smooth. Put mixture in a small bowl and whisk in the vanilla. Pour mixture over oats and mix with rubber spatula until every last oat is covered with sweetness.

Spread the mixture evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, stirring about half way through to make sure it cooks evenly. After the granola is a beautiful golden brown color, take it out of the oven and let cool completely before adding the finely chopped chocolate. Store in an airtight container and you've got smashing granola for days!

Yields about 6 cups.

What kind of cookery is this?

Like so many other twenty-somethingorothers, I recently graduated college and am back living at home... in New Jersey. Yes, it is as bad as it sounds. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have a home to come to while I ponder my fate and believe it or not I do actually love where I live, but it is, for lack of a better word, boring. Really boring. So, in an effort to keep things interesting and enjoy life, I cook and I eat. And I eat.

I guess you should know that I have always loved cooking, having basically grown up in the kitchen. My mother instilled her love for food in me, making sure I knew at young age how to properly cut an onion. She spent twenty years in the restaurant business as a vegetarian chef until she made a career change to flight attendant. I know, I know...flight attendant? Hell of a career change but she has always been known to keep things interesting.

Anyway, like I said, I love food. Real food, though. Not that stuff you get through your car window after yelling into a microphone. Food is what makes life delicious and spontaneous, and I want to write about it. More for me, I created this blog to start writing for myself about what I truly enjoy. I plan to keep rummaging through cookbooks and trying as many recipes as my bank account allows for (I am still young and broke, after all). So, if you're out there, keep reading and I'll keep cooking and writing and eating (of course!).