A few weeks ago General Mills was nice enough to send me a few boxes of cereal. I was ecstatic because I love General Mills cereals, especially Cheerios. See, I’ve never been much of a sugar cereal girl and since Cheerios are low in sugar and have a great crunch, they’ve always been my first choice when it comes to breakfast. I like the cereal so much in fact, I now give it to my boys.
Also included in the package was a box of General Mills newest cereal, Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch. I was so excited. I love getting and trying new things, especially when it’s food. Guess what? The Medley Crunch was delightful. It was sweet, but unlike other sugar cereals out there not over powering. And the oat clusters gave the classic Cheerio a nice crunchy blast of flavor that I’d be more than happy to eat every single morning.
You’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with granola bars. Well, while I was happily savoring the nutty flavor of this new breakfast cereal, another thought sprung into my head – “this would be a phenomenal granola bar.” I don’t know why I thought that, I just did. So it became my mission to create some granola bars using it. And I’m so happy I did. The bars were awesome – not too sweet and so much healthier than those other bars you get at the supermarket.
Unlike some of my other recipes though, these took a couple tries. See, I needed something sticky to hold the granola together, so of course I used honey. But I used too much in my first batch. Not only could I barely get the granola out of the pan, letting them cool for several hours did nothing to help. After five hours I still had a gloppy, sticky mess that clung to the plate. Needless to say, this batch went straight into the trash. Luckily all I had to do was cut the amount of honey I used in half and the next batch was perfect.
It was also during this second try that the idea of using cocoa nibs came to me. See, I love chocolate, but since I already had the sweet cereal and honey and sugar going into this recipe, the last thing I needed was another sweet ingredient. The nibs were perfect. I got the chocolate flavor I love so much without the added sugar. The end result was one of the best granola bars I’ve ever had. I can’t wait to make another batch.
Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch Granola Bars
- 1-1/2 cups Honey Nut Cheerios Medley Crunch, crushed
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 1 cup shredded coconut
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup Scharffen Berger Roasted Cocoa Nibs
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter an 8×8 inch baking dish and line with parchment paper.
- Toss the cereal, oatmeal, and coconut together on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and lightly toasted. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.
- While the oatmeal mixture toasts, place the butter, honey, brown sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for a minute or two until the sugar is dissolved and everything is combined. Pour this over the cereal mixture. Fold in the cocoa nibs and stir a few times until everything is coated with the honey mixture.
- Pour the granola into the prepared pan and press into the pan until it’s an even layer. Bake for 25-30 or until golden brown. Let cool for at least 3 hours.
- Run a knife around the edge of the granola. Invert the pan and dump the large bar onto a cutting board. Remove the parchment paper and cut into squares. This should make about 10 good sized bars. Serve immediately or store in an air tight container for up to one week… if they’ll last that long.
Today’s post isn’t a cocktail. I know what you’re thinking. “Wait, it’s Friday! Where’s my cocktail? I need my cocktail!” Well, the good news is there are plenty on this blog to choose from including this one which uses the subject of today’s post. Yes, it’s Gomme Syrup.
What’s gomme (or gum) syrup you ask? It’s a sweetener that was used in cocktails throughout the nineteenth century instead of simple syrup. But since simple syrup has taken over as the sweetener of choice today, you’re probably wondering why you should switch. You don’t have to. As a matter of fact, most bartenders still use simple syrup today. But here’s why you should seriously consider switching to the classic – flavor. The difference in flavor and texture between a cocktail made with simple syrup and one made with gomme are like night and day. While simple syrup sweetens up the drink quite nicely, the gomme acts as an emulsifier and adds a silky texture that makes the drink so smooth and velvety, it’s like drinking a dream. If you’ve never had a cocktail with gomme in it, you need to… at least once. It’s now the only way I make my sazeracs.
If you don’t know where to get gomme, no problem. You can make your own. While it’s true, you can buy a bottle for anywhere between $20 and $30, making it is super easy and not nearly as expensive. All you need is some sugar, a little gum Arabic and water and you’re good to go. The one thing about making gomme syrup though, is that it does take time. You have to wait about two hours for the gomme to thicken in order to get that velvety texture I mentioned. But once gelled and combined with the sugar syrup, you have a thick, subtle syrup that will easily be with you for the next few months and a perfect addition to several classic cocktails… or any cocktail that uses simple syrup as part of its recipe.
- 3/4 cup water, divided
- 4 tablespoons gum Arabic powder
- 1 cup sugar
- Boil 1/4 cup of water over high heat.
- Place the powder in a large glass cup and slowly add the hot water, stirring constantly until the powder is dissolved. Set aside. Let this mixture stand for 2-3 hours until it looks like gel.
- Dissolve the sugar in the remaining water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove the sugar mixture from the heat and slowly add the gum mixture, stirring constantly.
- Simmer the syrup over low heat, stirring constantly, for about five minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. A thin layer of foam will appear on the top of the syrup.
- Once the syrup is completely cooled, remove the layer of foam and transfer to a glass jar. This syrup will last in the refrigerator for up to five months.
As you may have noticed from previous posts of mine, I love strawberries. I can eat them by themselves for a snack, blended up in a cocktail, or as part of an entreé. But my favorite way to eat them is as a dessert. I love them in cakes and pies but I especially love them with chocolate. I don’t care if they’re dipped in chocolate or part of a chocolate cake. Give me chocolate and strawberries and I’m a happy pinup.
But while I’m a huge fan of chocolate and strawberries, making chocolate covered strawberries intimidates the hell out of me. I don’t know why, I mean it’s just melting chocolate and dipping strawberries into it. I guess it’s the fact that they take forever to make and the strawberries you get from chocolate stores around Valentine’s Day and anniversaries are so perfect and pretty and mine… well mine aren’t. Mine taste good, but they’re a gloppy chocolaty mess. So, I don’t make chocolate covered strawberries. I find other ways to combine chocolate and strawberries.
That’s how I came up with these. See, I love my Black Forest Brownies, so I thought why couldn’t I just substitute strawberries for the cherries? Why couldn’t I just add some strawberry goodness to a gooey batch of brownies? I could! And I did! And the result? Awesome! They’re still rich and super chocolaty, but now you have the sweet tang of strawberries as well. Best of all, they’re much easier to make than chocolate covered strawberries because you don’t have to dip each and every strawberry into a hot pot of melted chocolate. Since all the strawberries get folded into the batter at the same time, you save a ton of time and you don’t need to worry about how pretty they are. You still get the delicious flavor of chocolate covered strawberries without the precision needed when making chocolate covered strawberries.
- 1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
- 4 squares of unsweetened chocolate
- 2 cups of sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1-1/2 cups strawberries, chopped
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a 9×13 pan.
- Melt the butter and chocolate in a small pan over a low flame.
- Pour the melted butter and chocolate into a mixing bowl and beat in the sugar one cup at a time. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the vanilla. Gradually mix in the flour. Then fold in the strawberries.
- Pour the batter into a greased 9×13 pan and bake for 45 minutes. (I like my brownies really fudgy so I only cook them for 40 minutes.) Let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes before cutting.
If you’re a mom like me, then you know that this Sunday is Mother’s Day. And if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait! Why? Well because for one day out of the year, you won’t have your family wondering “What’s for breakfast?” or “What’s for dinner?”. They won’t be wondering what they’re eating because ideally they’ll be doing the cooking and serving it to you.
While it’s true that the last few years have been either going out for food or cooking it myself, my son is finally old enough (he’s four) that he and Daddy could actually get together and make me breakfast in bed. Will it be pancakes and bacon or eggs benedict? I doubt it. But even if it’s just a bowl full of Cheerios, that’s good enough for me; mainly because it means I won’t be anywhere near the kitchen.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my kitchen. Hell, I wouldn’t have a food blog if I didn’t. I love cooking and baking and coming up with cool cocktails. But every so often I not only like to be served, I like to have someone else do the cooking; and Mother’s Day seems like the perfect day for that happen. If however, you’re a mom who cooks and doesn’t agree with me… well… you’re lying.
So, since you’re trying to decide what to make mom for breakfast this year, I can tell you there’s nothing better than french toast… unless it’s Bananas Foster French Toast. I know, I know… Bananas Foster is a dessert, usually served over vanilla ice cream. But who says it can’t be turned into breakfast? I mean we have donuts and coffee cake for breakfast all the time. Why not Bananas Foster? Just substitute the ice cream for some thick challah (or egg bread) and you have a sweet, lip smacking entreé that will make every mother from here to New Orleans thrilled she’s a parent. You can make this dish with bourbon or without. Honestly though, unless you’re under the age of 21 why would you make it without? I know I wouldn’t. But whether or not you decide to add the extra kick, I promise you it’s delicious both ways. It’s also the perfect way to show Mom how much you love her.
Bananas Foster French Toast
- 1 loaf of challah, sliced into nice thick slices
- 2 cups of heavy cream
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup butter, divided
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1-2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)
- 3 ripe bananas, sliced
- Whisk together the cream, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla in a large bowl.
- Melt one tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip the bread in the cream mixture, making sure it’s soaked through. Place the slice of bread in the skillet and cook, flipping once, for about five minutes, or until it’s golden brown. Transfer to a plate, set aside and keep warm. Repeat with the rest of the bread.
- Once the french toast is prepared, melt two tablespoons of butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the maple syrup and bourbon (if you’re using it) and cook for one minute. Add the bananas and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the bananas are heated through and covered in the maple/bourbon sauce.
- Divide the french toast among the plates, ladle the bananas foster over it and serve immediately.
While most people are making margaritas this weekend for Cinco de Mayo, I thought I’d post that other cocktail you find so often in Mexican restaurants. No not the Strawberry Daiquiri, the plain old Daiquiri. But believe me when I tell you that the original Daiquiri is anything but plain. It’s got punch. It’s got zing. And that kick of sweetness should put this cocktail at the top of your Cinco de Mayo menu.
I know people think of tequila when they think of the Mexican holiday because tequila and Mexico go together like chips and guacamole. But rum shouldn’t be dismissed during this holiday. And neither should the daiquiri. The rum isn’t as sharp as tequila (especially Cuervo) and has a smoothness that when coupled with the lime juice and syrup makes for a wonderfully refreshing drink. Actually, if you think about it, the only difference between the margarita and the daiquiri is the alcohol you use. Oh, and the salt. But otherwise, they’re the same drink. Okay, so they’re not the same, but they’re definitely related.
Just like its icy counterpart, the original daiquiri was created in Cuba. Although most believe it’s from 1896, there’s some skepticism behind this date because rum, limes and sugar (the ingredients in the cocktail) were all (and still are) readily available in the country. But even if Cubans were drinking this refreshing concoction before 1896, it wasn’t until Jennings Cox, an American believe it or not, ran out of gin for his VIP guests and decided to record his new creation. The only liquor around was rum and since he didn’t like his rum straight, he added fresh lime juice and sugar. He named the drink after the town he worked in as a mining engineer. That’s right, Daiquiri. It remained a Cuban specialty until 1909 when Admiral Lucius Johnson of the US Navy brought the drink back to the States; and of course once it was here, it really took off.
For some reason, the original daiquiri fell off people’s radar sometime after WWII, though no one really knows why. Maybe it was because the frozen daiquiri was sweeter. Maybe because there were so many other delicious cocktails to choose from. But whatever the reason, seeing as how Cinco de Mayo’s tomorrow, it seems like the perfect reason to renew its popularity.
- 2 oz. white rum
- 1 oz. lime juice
- 2-3 dashes gomme syrup
- Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for about a minute. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.