Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

I had a wonderful couple weeks off of work. I still haven’t caught up on my blog reading and at this point it seems seriously overwhelming….I think I may follow a few too many blogs on feedly but it’s just so hard to eliminate some when there are so many good ones!

For Christmas we went down to Nate’s moms, as I told you guys last week, and I got some great Christmas presents that can be used in the kitchen! I got a scone pan (I’ll let you know how it works), a donut pan (expect a recipe using this when I break it in!), an Alice Waters cookbook and the Flavor Bible. The Flavor Bible is something I read about on another blog and it tells you all kinds of awesome flavor combos to help develop recipes. I can’t wait to get into it. 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

Nice big chunks!

A present that I gave rather than received, however, is this Pumpkin Spice Granola. My mother-in-law eats granola for breakfast every single day (you can see where Nate gets his routine eating habits from) and she told me that she specifically likes nuts and seeds in her granola but no dried fruit, and that she likes the kind that has big clumps. According to her, this combo is quite hard to find, so I thought making her some would be the perfect Christmas present. 

I also gave her one of the awesome paperweights we made when we went glass-blowing for Nate’s bday present. I forgot to tell  you guys about that! 

We went up to Beacon, NY to this awesome little shop call Hudson Beach Glass. For Nate’s bday I got us a lesson to do together, which really involved each of us separately making a paperweight while the other person watched.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate went first. We were allowed to chose the style of paperweight we wanted, and we both chose the kind that has that swirl inside.We got to choose 2-3 colors to swirl. Nate chose red and gold, while i chose purple, blue and green. The pic of him above is putting the first color on his glass. Because he only chose two colors, he had to put a white background color so those colors would stand out better.

And here’s me with my three colors.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

After the colors go on and you melt them in the hot furnace, you twist them together:

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

After twisting the colors together, you smooth the glass out using this wooden cup so it ends up round.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

 

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

And here’s Nate’s finished piece right before it went in the oven to slowly “cool” from the super hot temp it was to, eventually, room temp. You can’t see the true colors until it has cooled. The red you see now is mainly the hot glass that would eventually become clear.

Hudson Beach Glass glassblowing lesson ~ ElephantEats.com

So pretty, right?!

It was super fun and our teacher, Kathleen, was so knowledgeable and cool. I highly recommend it! Sorry I didn’t take a pic of the finished paperweights but they looked kind of like this but multicolored in the colors we chose.

But back to my granola! I read that the trick for clumpy granola is to add an egg white before baking and not to stir it! Halfway through I gave the giant clumps a flip and then just left it alone. Obviously you can alter the ingredients you put in this (dried fruit, more or less sugar, etc). 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola ~ ElephantEats.com

 It’s great served with yogurt or milk! 

Chunky Pumpkin Spice Granola
Yields 6
A chunky seed and nut granola with spiced pumpkin flavor!
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Ingredients
  1. 3 cups quick oats
  2. 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  3. 3/4 tsp salt
  4. 3/4 cup brown sugar
  5. 3/4-1 cup pumpkin
  6. 2 Tbsp oil
  7. 1/2 cup maple syrup
  8. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  9. 3/4 cup chopped pecans (not toasted)
  10. 2/3 cup sliced almonds
  11. 1 egg white, lightly whisked
  12. 3/4 cup sunflower seeds, roasted (if you can find unroasted then add them along with the nuts)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine everything except nuts, egg white and seeds.
  3. When thoroughly mixed, add in nuts and egg white and mix well. You can add the seeds now too if you managed to find raw/unroasted seeds.
  4. Spread everything out onto the prepared baking skeet in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes then flip the granola over, taking care not to break it into pieces more than necessary.
  6. Sprinkle seeds onto granola and bake an additional 20-25 min or until crisp and golden. Remove the outer crispy pieces as necessary to prevent them from burning. The largest pieces may still seem slightly chewy inside but they will crisp up when they dry.
  7. Remove pieces to a wire rack over a baking pan to catch the smaller pieces. Once cooled, break granola up as desired into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. Great topped with yogurt or milk!
http://elephanteats.com/

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

With all the cookie making and eating going on around this time of year, it’s important to still remember to eat regular, healthy meals. 

Not that I’m judging you…trust me, I’ve eaten cookies for an appetizer or for dinner on more occasions than I can count (*cough* yesterday *cough*). But I always end up making myself sick and being hungry an hour later. 

So with all the cookie and dessert posts on all your favorite food blogs right now, I thought it was my duty to give you something to make for dinner. You and your family will thank me, I promise. 

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

This meatloaf isn’t just any meatloaf. It’s the one my mom made when I was growing up. It brings back so many memories when I smell it baking away in the oven, and when I take my first bite it transports me back to my carefree days of childhood…when I wasn’t the one who had to cook dinner ;) (thanks, mom!)

This can be made with any meat you want. Growing up my mom sometimes used lean ground beef and sometimes ground turkey. Now I make it only with turkey because Nate doesn’t like beef. This isn’t your typical dry, gross meatloaf (although Nate would probably like that), it is very moist and has the most delicious sort of sweet and sour tomato sauce that goes over it. I can eat that sauce with a spoon (and do), it is that good.

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

So do yourselves a favor and make this for dinner tonight. Just make sure you leave enough time since it does need to bake for over an hour. It’s worth it though!

This was definitely one of my favorite dinners when I was younger. Now, Nate begs me for this meal on a regular basis, and I’m so glad it’s become one of his favorite meals too. It’s delicious when served alongside some homemade mashed potatoes and green beans :)

Mom's Barbecued Meatloaf ~ ElephantEats.com

Mom's Barbecued Meat Loaf
Serves 4
This is a moist meat loaf with a delicious sweet and sour tomato sauce. I have no idea what the origin of this recipe is, so as far as I'm concerned, it's from my mom :)
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Ingredients
  1. 1.5 lb ground beef, veal or turkey (i usually use 1.25 lbs because that's how big the containers of ground turkey are, and it's even better because there's more sauce)
  2. 3/4 cup bread crumbs (Italian style are great, or panko works fine too if that's what you have)
  3. 1 onion, minced
  4. 1 egg, lightle beaten
  5. 1 1/2 tsp salt, dash of pepper
  6. 2 cups of your favorite jarred tomato sauce
  7. 3 Tbsp brown sugar
  8. 2 Tbsp mustard
  9. 3 Tbsp cider vinegar
  10. 2 tsp worcestershire sauce
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix together meat, bread crumbs, onion, egg, seasonings, and 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.
  3. Form into a loaf and put into pan (a 9x5 loaf pan works best but make sure it is big enough to hold all the sauce, as it will bubble up).
  4. Combine rest of tomato sauce, brown sugar, mustard, vinegar, and worcestershire sauce. Pour over meat loaf.
  5. Bake for 1 hr 15 min, basting occasionally with sauce.
  6. Remove to serving plate. Slice and serve. Pass sauce from pan on the side!
http://elephanteats.com/

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

This past weekend I had my annual gingerbread house decorating brunch with my friend, Erica. We do it every year, but it has gradually been changing for the better, I think.

The first year we did it we used graham crackers and tried to attach the structure together with icing. Anyone who has attempted a gingerbread house knows that this method works, but only if the structure has a day to dry before decorating it. Since we only had an afternoon, we found out the hard way that royal icing takes a while to set.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

The next year I had read online that you could use melted sugar to instantly bind the crackers together. This works awesomely, as long as you’re SUPER careful not to burn yourself on molten sugar. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. We did this for a couple years, but you still have to set aside time to assemble it. 

But this year I decided to just buy a couple of those gingerbread house kits.

gingerbread house kit ~ ElephantEats.com

The kits come with pre-assembled houses, saving us hours of aggravation, and they also come with candy included and an idea for how to decorate. I knew the kit was great because I decorate a house from a kit every year when I go down to my mother-in-law’s for Christmas. 

photo 2

Anyway, it ended up being perfect. We had a tasty brunch that Erica prepared and then got to spend a couple hours decorating our houses. I think Erica did a much neater job with the icing, but it was fun nonetheless.

Gingerbread Houses 2013

Today’s recipe is related because it’s for gingerbread bars! Not only that, but I literally think they’re the best thing to come out of my kitchen this year…and that’s saying a lot since it’s now December.

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

These bars are spicy from the molasses, have tons of flavors from all the spices and have the ooey gooey texture of the perfect brownie. I chose to add some orange juice and zest too, because for some reason i feel like gingerbread goes really well with that citrus flavor.

Basically, you NEED to make these. They taste like the holiday season :)

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

 

 

Orange Iced Gingerbread Bars
Yields 9
A spicy, citrusy, dense and chewy gingerbread bar!
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Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  2. 1 large egg
  3. 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  4. 1/2 cup unsulphered light or medium molasses
  5. zest of 1 orange, divided in 2 (will be about 1 Tbsp total)
  6. juice of 1 orange (will be used in both bars and icing)
  7. 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  8. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  9. 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  10. 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  11. 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  12. 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, melted
  13. 1 cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Coat an 8x8 baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, egg, brown sugar, molasses, half of orange zest (about 1.5 tsp), 1 Tbsp of the fresh orange juice, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg until smooth.
  3. Add the flour and stir until just combined, don't over mix.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake 32-34 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs clinging. Allow the bars to cool while you prepare the icing.
  5. In a small bowl, combine melted butter, powdered sugar and rest of orange zest. Add orange juice (you will only need about 1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp) a little at a time until it reaches a smooth, pourable consistency. Pour evenly over cooled bars. Cut and serve.
Notes
  1. Best served at room temperature.
Adapted from The Live in Kitchen
http://elephanteats.com/

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

I hope that everyone who celebrates had a wonderful Thanksgiving! My family had Thanksgiving in Manhattan this year, for the first time ever.

This is the last year that Nate and I will be living in NYC, and the first that we were actually here on Thanksgiving, so my parents, brother, Nate and I decided to go to my office to check out the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Macy's Day Parade 2013 ~ ElephantEats.com

Snoopy!

It was a pretty awesome view since my building is right on the parade route. The only problem was that the balloons were kept low to the ground this year because they were worried about the wind, and the floor we were on was pretty high above them. It was still closer than I’ve ever been to the parade though!

We took a nice family photo on Thanksgiving but I think my mom is using it for her holiday card, so you’ll have to settle for this pic of just me and Nate. I think I dressed for the wrong holiday :)

Thanksgiving 2013 ~ ElephantEats.com

Yes, I’m really that pale…

Actually, I think my outfit is kind of appropriate for this post, since it matches this dessert I’m sharing with you. I don’t know why but I just got this idea of peppermint white chocolate cheesecake bars in my head and couldn’t get it out. I had visions of these swirly pink and white bars perfect for a holiday dessert. 

These definitely need to be refrigerated overnight if you like them to firm up a bit, but they’re more on the softer side of cheesecake bars- this is according to Nate who likes cold, dry, hard food. If you leave the candy cane bits out of the batter and just sprinkle them on top, they should firm up a little more, but I thought they were perfect!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

Oh, and for another house update, since you guys seem to love that so much :) :

The contractor had told me at the beginning of last week that he was pretty much done with demolition and would start framing by Friday. On Wednesday he texted me, saying his guys had removed the ceiling in the basement and found some asbestos underneath that had been overlooked when they did the asbestos removal back in August…UGH! 

He told me that he called up the company that I had used for the removal before and they said it was ok for him to work, but he thought it would be best to wait til Monday when the asbestos guy would meet him at the house to check it out. Because of Thanksgiving, that only meant one day of work (Friday) would be wasted. 

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

So Monday, my contractor had a smaller than normal crew there working and the asbestos guy came to assess the situation and gave me a quote for removing it ( $$ :( ), but the good news is that he can do it this Thursday and that the contractor can continue to work in the meantime. 

But the exciting part is that I took my family over to the house on Friday since my brother had never seen it, and when I opened the door, I was SO surprised. There are NO WALLS in my house at all! Like completely gone…all that’s there are the studs. I had NO idea they were going to remove every single wall!! It was so crazy to see the house that way and I’m sorry I don’t have a pic, but it was getting dark out. I should be able to take one before they put up the drywall I think.

Anyway, I’m so psyched :) It totally made this project feel like it’s really happening!

Oh yeah, and on Friday morning my mom came with me and Nate to the bath store and we managed to pick out pretty much all of our faucets, sinks, toilets and a bath vanity. Still a few more things to decide but good progress. Thank you, Mom!!!

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars ~ ElephantEats.com

Peppermint White Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake Bars
Creamy cheesecake squares with a festive minty swirl!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies (about 35 cookies)
  2. 2 Tbsp sugar
  3. 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  4. 4 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened (I used two light and two regular)
  5. 1 cup sugar
  6. 1 tsp vanilla
  7. 1 cup sour cream
  8. 4 eggs
  9. 6 oz. white chocolate chips
  10. red food coloring (I used 7 drops of red liquid food coloring)
  11. 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  12. 3/4 cup crushed peppermint candy canes (about 6 oz), divided
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease bottom of a 9x13 pan.
  2. For crust, mix crushed cookies, 2 Tbsp sugar and the melted butter. Press mixture evenly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 min then set aside to cool while making batter.
  3. For filling, in a large bowl, beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, sour cream and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs until blended. Pour 2/3 of batter over the prepared crust, spreading to edges and set the remaining 1/3 of the batter aside.
  4. Put white chocolate chips in a microwaveable container and microwave 1 min at 50% power. Stir well. Continute microwaving in 30 sec increments, stirring well in between until melted. There can still be a couple solid pieces- do not over cook!
  5. Stir white chocolate into the 1/3 of the batter that you set aside. Stir in about 6 drops red food coloring (or enough to give a pink hue), along with peppermint extract and 1/2 cup of the crushed candy canes.
  6. Put the pink batter on top of the white batter in the pan in 5-6 large blobs, making sure to leave white in between. Drag a knife back and forth through the batter to create swirls.
  7. Bake for 35-40 min or until set (a knife pierced 1" from edge comes out almost clean).
  8. Cool in pan for an hour or so, and then cover and chill for 4-24 hours. Cut into bars and sprinkle with remaining peppermint candies as desired.
Notes
  1. For slightly firmer bars, leave the chopped peppermint out of the batter, and only use as a garnish.
  2. Best served after being refrigerated overnight.

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownie ~ ElephantEats.com

Well, yesterday Nate ran the NYC marathon. It was his 7th marathon overall and his 4th time running New York. A lot was riding on this marathon after the 2012 Boston marathon heat wave, and the fact that Sandy caused last year’s NY marathon to be cancelled.

Nate's 2013 NYC marathon ~ ElephantEats.com

Nate had a goal to finish under 3 hours since his last marathon he ran in 3:03. The temperatures were perfect this year but it was VERY windy. To give you an example, this year’s male winner, Geoffrey Mutai, finished in 2:08:24 which was well off his course record of 2:05:06 set in nearly perfect conditions two years ago. 3 minutes to an elite runner is huge. Nate ended up finishing in 3:24:21, which he wasn’t completely happy with, but it’s still an amazing time! I’m so proud of my hubby :)

On to the recipe…since the last recipe I gave you guys was a healthy one, I figured I’d include a very unhealthy one to go with it. I mean, you’re probably having sugar withdrawal since your halloween binge, so this should help with that.

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownie ~ ElephantEats.com

These brownies were another Nate-inspired recipe. You see, we’ve been stopping by our new house a bunch since we closed on it back in August, and there’s a deli nearby that has the most amazing peanut butter-frosted brownies. The brownie itself is really moist and delicious, but what takes it over the top is this really thick layer of peanut butter frosting- the really sweet kind. That frosting must be like 1/2 inch to an inch thick!

So I set out to recreate the brownies for Nate since I know he loves them so much. Plus, it will probably save us money in the long run since I could see Nate stopping by the deli a little too often to grab a brownie once we finally live nearby ;)

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownie ~ ElephantEats.com

And for those of you that have been wanting to know about how our house stuff is going, we officially got the permits on Thursday! The contractor bids were also due on Thursday and on Tuesday I will be going over everything with the architect so I can make a decision as to which contractor we will hire. 

I think that once I narrow it down to two people, I should probably meet with them to really get a feel for whether I could work with them. I’ll share our finalized house renovation plans with you guys soon! Hopefully demolition can start in the next 2 weeks!!

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownie ~ ElephantEats.com

Thick Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies
Yields 18
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Brownies
  1. 2 sticks unsalted butter, chopped into small pieces
  2. 6 oz. dark chocolate, chopped
  3. 1 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 2 tsp vanilla extract
  7. 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  8. 1.5 cups flour
  9. 2 tsp baking powder
  10. 1/2 tsp salt
Frosting
  1. 6 Tbsp shortening (i.e. Crisco)
  2. 2 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temp
  3. 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (like Jif or Skippy, not "natural" pb)
  4. 2 cups confectioners sugar
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 2 Tbsp water
Brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges. Lightly grease foil and set aside.
  2. In a medium, microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate and butter for the brownies. Microwave in 1 minute increments at 50% power, stirring in between, until the chocolate and butter are melted and smooth.
  3. Whisk in the granulated sugar and brown sugars. Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture with a spatula until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes, until a thin knife or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Remove brownies from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
  5. Once brownies are fully cooled, spread frosting (directions below) evenly over brownies. Remove from pan using foil "handles" and cut into pieces.
  6. Store brownies in airtight container or tightly wrapped at room temperature or in fridge for 3-5 days.
Frosting
  1. Using an electric stand or hand mixer, combine butter and shortening. Add peanut butter and combine til fully incorporated. Slowly add confectioners sugar and vanilla. Add enough water (about 2 Tbsp) to get to a fluffy, moist consistency.
Notes
  1. These could probably last longer than 3-5 days in the fridge, but I personally love them room temp.
Adapted from (Brownies, not frosting) Annie's Eats
http://elephanteats.com/