Coconut Cherry Pecan Granola

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I chanced upon this granola recipe from the New York Times; it is originally an Eleven Madison Park recipe. Apparently, after the end of a meal, all diners are gifted a jar of this signature granola to take home. The reviews on the NYT were stellar, and I was intrigued.

I will say that I’ve made a few granola recipes in my lifetime, and this one is the best of them all. It has the perfect balance of sweet and salty with the coarse salt and maple syrup. Coarse salt is so important here, because you get little bursts of savoriness between bites and it’s just delightful.

The bake is on point – no soggy clumps, just crisp toasted oats accompanied by buttery shreds of toasted coconut and nutty pecan pieces. I’ve since made two batches of this recipe, and had it on a near daily basis with Greek yogurt for a healthy snack. I did make some substitutions from the original NYT recipe to make it a little more healthful and more to my tastes, which I’ll share in the recipe below.

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Coconut Cherry Pecan Granola
Adapted from NYT
Yields 5-6 cups of granola

Note: I generally prefer using weight measurements, which I’ve provided below.

2 ¾ cups (200g) rolled oats
1/2 cup (60g) chopped pecans
1/2 cup (50g) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt (this is very important – it has to be coarse, not fine, or else it’ll be too salty)
1/4 cup (50g) light brown sugar
1/4 cup (50g) maple syrup
1/4 cup (40g) extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup (120g) dried sour cherries, chopped

Preheat oven to 300. In a large bowl, mix together the oats, pecans, and salt.
In a small saucepan set over low heat, warm the sugar, syrup and olive oil until the sugar has just dissolved, then remove from heat. Fold liquids into the mixture of oats, making sure to coat the dry ingredients well.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and spread granola over it. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring granola a few times along the way. Stir in coconut to granola and bake for another 5 minutes. You want to see the granola looking dry and lightly golden.
Remove granola from oven, and mix into it the dried sour cherries. Allow to cool to room temperature before transferring to a storage container.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies by Ocean Spray

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This is the third oatmeal cranberry white chocolate cookie recipe I’ve posted on my blog, the others being Cooks’ Illustrated and Serious Eats, and I think this one is one of the more successful ones. (Got my coworkers’ stamp of approval!) I usually have little faith in corporate recipes and I don’t believe them to be as rigorously tested as other baking blogs, but I decided to give this one a shot because it had a surprisingly low sugar-to-cookie ratio and it also looked really easy.

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And it turned out great! I loved that it wasn’t too sweet, and it felt almost healthful in certain bites. I feel like most cookie recipes tend to be overly sweet, and I usually have no problems reducing sugar by 1/4 cup or so to no ill effect. The other perk of this recipe is that it bakes at a slightly higher temperature of 375F than the standard 350F, so it didn’t spread out too much, had a crisp edge but still retained a chewy center.

Since it is an Ocean Spray recipe, I found that the 5 oz portion of cranberries that was listed was excessive and I only used about 3 oz, or until the cookie dough looked sufficiently studded with cranberries.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Ocean Spray
Makes approximately 40 two-bite sized cookies

2/3 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 oz dried cranberries
2/3 cup white chocolate chunks or chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Using an electric mixer, beat butter or margarine and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs, mixing well. Combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a separate mixing bowl. Add to butter mixture in several additions, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate chunks.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack.

No Bake Homemade Cranberry Chocolate Oat Clif Bars

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I’m a big fan of Clif chocolate brownie bars. They’re only a dollar at Trader Joe’s, taste like a brownie, and unlike Luna Bars, don’t have rice crispies in them. I might have discovered the holy grail to making no-bake, gluten-free sweets that taste very similar to Clif bars – Medjool dates. By themselves, they are sweet, chewy, and have a rich caramelly flavor that makes me think of chocolate. However, I do find them a tad bit dense, and they are fairly caloric (about 60-70 calories per date; for context, an average apple is about 90 calories). However, their sticky nature means they act as an effective binder when blended in with oats and other nuts.

I browsed around for some recipes, and it is really great how flexible this recipe is. Some combination of dates and oats along with almond flour and other berries would work well. I think this would be a pretty good hiking mix since it’s so compact and easy to eat, but note that there isn’t a ton of protein in it compared to the Clif bars. I made my version with cranberries and cocoa powder, but I imagine you can switch up the flavors as you like, using dates (to bind) and almond flour (for protein) as a base. I imagine raisins, chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, maple syrup, and honey would work well here too. I also used a Vitamix to blend the ingredients since I don’t have a food processor, but that seemed to work out fine.

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No Bake Homemade Cranberry Chocolate Oat Clif Bars
Makes 6-8 snack-sized bars

120g Medjool dates, pitted (10-12 dates)
3/4 almond flour (or 1 cup raw almonds)
1/2 cup cranberries
1 cup oats
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup water

Put everything in a food processor and blend till it is reasonably mixed up. You still want some chunks, so no need to puree it up. Mold it with your hands into balls or bars, and either eat right away if you’re hungry, or refrigerate so it hardens up.

Light and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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These cookies were inspired by a mom’s homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that she had sent to her (adult) children. When I was vacationing in California and visiting a friend, he opened up a package he had just received from his mom and inside was a big tupperware of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Having felt deprived of honest-to-goodness homemade food for a while, those cookies were manna for my hungry soul. Oatmeal cookies tend to get a bit of a bad rap because of those darn raisins that fool you into thinking that they are chocolate, but those cookies were all oatmeal chew with the deliciousness of chocolate and none of that raisin deception. I did a bit of research on the Internet for a recipe that would replicate those cookies’ chewy yet light texture, and I struck gold with this one. Just look at the alluring crackly tops in these cookies!

I’m typically all for a chewy cookie, but chewy cookies tend to be a little denser, and I wanted something that had some levity to it. This Cooking Light recipe seemed like it might be a good fit, and the 1/3 cup of butter confirmed my intuitions. The cookie itself has a crisp exterior, and a chewy interior due to underbaking it just a touch.

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Baking soda and baking powder lent volume to the cookie, while oatmeal added bulk and texture without the density of flour. Pecan pieces added just a right touch of crunch. Instead of using chocolate chips, I used semisweet Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate, chopped it up into small, almost flaky pieces, which adds subtle chocolate flavoring here and there, with an occasional melty chunk. I used 1/2 cup less sugar than the recipe recommended and it was still sweet enough. Since these cookies are meant to be light, use a weighing scale to measure out your ingredients as far as possible.

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In the vein of Louis CK, you don’t stop eating these cookies when you’re full – you stop eating when you realize you have just eaten 7 of these at a go and nothing else for the day.

Light and Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cooking Light
Makes 3 dozen

1 1/4 cups (150g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (80g) old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (100g) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (75g) butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/4 cup (60g) chopped pecans, toasted
1/4 cup (48g) semisweet high quality chocolate, chopped

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt), stirring with a whisk; set aside.
Place sugars and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and egg; beat until blended. Gradually add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in pecans and chocolate. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350° for 12 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

Soft Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies (Gluten-Free)

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As my foray into gluten-free baking continues, I have been pushing the boundaries slowly. I’m not going to be making gluten-free bread or cake anytime soon – basically anything that contains flour as its main component will be tricky to perfect with gluten-free flours. I thought that an oatmeal cookie would be a decent compromise, since the oats take up considerable bulk in the cookie. I took a popular oatmeal cookie from Allrecipes and used a homemade gluten-free flour blend from the Celiac Support Organization website, specifically Carol Fenster’s General Baking Mix #1. I picked that recipe for its simplicity, and because I already had tapoica starch lying around.

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Then came the actual baking. These cookies are actually my second attempt. My first attempt came out overly spread out and lacy, and all the cookies merged into a giant lattice of baked cookie dough. It was still tasty, but it was more of a crisp and thin variety than soft and thick. Gluten-free flours without any additives generally don’t create structurally sound baked goods because the gluten protein provides a great deal of stability to a finished product. My hack was to then freeze the cookies so that they are less inclined to spread out. I then freezed the dough after shaping it into balls, and baked it at a higher temperature at a shorter duration. That worked wonderfully, and gave me cookies with a soft, almost cakey texture with a crisp caramelized rim.

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Soft Oatmeal White Chocolate Cookies (Gluten-Free)
Makes 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Allrecipes

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup gluten-free flour (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup white chocolate chips (I eyeballed it – add to your heart’s desire!)

DIRECTIONS:
1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter, white sugar, and brown sugar. Beat in egg, then stir in vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. Roll the dough into teaspoon sized balls, and freeze till hard.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Place cookie balls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet until completely cool.

Gluten-Free Flour Mix
Makes 1 cup
From Carol Fenster

1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup potato starch
2 tbsps tapioca starch/flour

Blend all flours till combined. These flours are very light, so take care to avoid coating your counter in white powder. Potato starch is also different from potato flour – be cautious in your purchase.

Chocolate Almond Granola

One of my favorite snacks these days is Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola. It’s chocolatey, it’s crunchy, it satisfies my breakfast and mid-afternoon snacking needs – it’s really a great product. What’s even better about it is how simple the ingredients list is. Just about everything can be found in the grocery store, and I decided that instead of buying this cereal over and over again, I’m just going to make it. It’s too simple not to.

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Enter my riff on Trader Joe’s chocolate almond granola. My version contains old-fashioned oats, almond slivers, cocoa powder, honey, and canola oil, and chocolate shavings. The only item that I cannot procure easily that’s within the Trader Joe’s version is barley malt syrup – but that’s okay. Honey does a decent job of gluing it all together.

Aside from the taste of honey, this is a pretty close replica in terms of taste. However, I still have to figure out how to replicate granola that will actually clump together. That remains an untested challenge. I suspect a lower temperature and quick-cooking oats will help with the agglutination.

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Chocolate Almond Granola
Makes approximately 4 cups of granola

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings, as desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, almonds, and salt.
Mix honey and oil in a small bowl and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour over dry ingredients and toss to coat.
Spread granola onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until granola is no longer sticky, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. When granola is just barely warm, grate a chocolate bar over the granola.

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Candied Ginger Chunks

IMG_4002This may look like a nondescript oatmeal white chocolate chip cookie. But little did you know that when you bite into it, there would be unexpected warmth and spice from the candied ginger chunks that cuts the sweetness of the white chocolate a little bit. What I like best about these cookies is how it is reminiscent of the winter holidays. The flavors are definitely very seasonal, and somehow the combination of oats, ginger, white chocolate and honey just feel like a warm, comforting embrace.

Which explains why I have eaten so many. Nom nom noms.

Oatmeal Cookies with White Chocolate and Candied Ginger Chunks
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes about 50 cookies

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (It’s okay to use all-purpose flour although I suspect whole wheat can add a nutty, earthy, wholesome flavor)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups (packed) brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat to 375°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In medium bowl, combine oats, all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Using electric mixer at high speed, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg, honey, and vanilla and beat until smooth, about 1 minute. Add oat mixture and mix at low speed just until incorporated. Stir in white chocolate chocolate and ginger. Refrigerate dough for 30 minutes or until slightly stiffer. In the interest of time optimization, I recommend doing the dishes now.

Drop rounded tablespoons of dough about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake until golden and slightly crisp on edges, about 14 to 16 minutes. Cool on sheets 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.