Fig and Molasses Granola

First, there was apricot, cashew, and coconut oatmeal.

Then, there was raisin, walnut, and flax meal baked oatmeal.

Today, I am happy to share my latest fruit/nut/superfood oat concoction: Fig and Molasses Granola.

granola pan

Chunks of dried fig and crystallized ginger dance with chopped walnuts and pecans in this crunchy and not-too-sweet granola, made using The Professional Palate‘s “overnight” method.

Breakfast heaven!

figs2

Let’s talk for a minute about Figs. Regarded by many ancient cultures as sacred, figs were originally grown in southern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Spanish missionaries brought them to North America, and in the U.S. they are mainly cultivated in southern California, though they do grow elsewhere (Charlottesville, VA included!). There are many varieties of figs, ranging in color from deep purple to almost white and in shape from round to oval. Figs are a good source of iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

This granola is a great source of iron, as it also includes blackstrap molasses. Molasses is produced when the juice squeezed from sugar cane and sugar beets is boiled down into a syrup from which sugar crystals are extracted. The first boiling produces light molasses, the second, dark molasses, and the third, blackstrap. It is a good source of iron, calcium, copper, manganese, potassium, and magnesium (source).

jars

As I have been learning more about the ingredients I have been cooking with, I have been intrigued by the many facets of “food knowledge.” From history and anthropology, to horticulture and nutrition, there is so much to learn about the foods we eat and the way our bodies process them.

I would love to hear which tidbits of information resonate most with you all, our lovely readers. Please let me know if you are enjoying learning about ingredients, and which aspects are most interesting to you.

granola pan close

Fig and Molasses Granola

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap molasses
  • 1/8 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, melted
  • chopped figs
  • chopped crystallized ginger

Method

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, flax, chia seeds, pecans, walnuts, cinnamon and ginger. In separate bowl, whisk together molasses, brown sugar, orange juice, vanilla and oil. Pour over oat mixture and mix well.

Spread granola evenly over baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring at 15 minute intervals. Turn oven off. Leave granola in oven. Granola will crisp as it cools overnight. Just before serving, toss in chopped dried figs and crystallized ginger. Store granola in jars in the fridge.

jars and bowl

I have really been enjoying this granola atop a bowl of greek yogurt, chunky applesauce, and sliced banana. The flavors come together so nicely, and the crystallized ginger adds an almost surprising element.

“Superfood” indeed.

-L

WIAW–What I Ate Over the Holidays

While Lindsey and I were on hiatus for the holidays, I was shockingly lazy.  In a week and a half, my only exercise was one (ONE!) walk.  My usual physical activity was replaced by lots of kitchen activity!  For this WIAW post, I’m sharing some of the best dishes I made and ate while on vacation.

After my matinee performance on Christmas Eve, I hopped on a plane to Southern California to spend Christmas with my aunt, uncle, and parents.  Shortly after walking in the door, my uncle handed me a Cranberry, Gingerly cocktail.  YUM!  I have a bit of a ginger obsession, so this delightful concoction with ginger beer, ground ginger, and a garnish of crystallized ginger was right up my alley.  It was also a fun, festive shade of red.

Great way to kick off the break!

Great way to kick off the break!

Christmas morning began with coffee and mimosas.  After opening presents, we sat down for an delicious brunch.  My mom and aunt had prepared a Sausage, Fontina, and Bell Pepper Strata the night before, so we just had to pull it out of the refrigerator and bake it in the morning.  The creamy fontina cheese balanced the spicy Italian sausage wonderfully.  It was a delicious, savory dish.

Sausage Strata

Sausage Strata

We can’t have savory without sweet, so we also prepared Maple-Poached Pears with Ricotta and Pistachios.  These tasty pears could be served as a dessert as well.  They were so good!  The crunch of the pistachios was a nice contrast to the soft pears, and the ricotta kept the dish from being too sweet.  I will definitely make these again.

Poached Pears

Poached Pears

With beautiful food and beautiful weather, our table for Christmas Brunch looked lovely!

The table

The table

My main contribution to Christmas Dinner was a Gingerbread Layer Cake with Candied Kumquats.  I think I may need to bake this cake annually.  It looked great, and tasted even better.  The cake was moist and full of flavor.  The spices came through nicely.  The cream cheese frosting included a bit of caramel, so it ended up being a lovely cream color.  It was a sweet and creamy,  and complemented the ginger and molasses flavor of the cake well.  The candied kumquats were difficult to prepare (Thanks Mom and Aunt Kris!), but were delicious!  We used the leftover kumquats to top off a fruit salad the following morning.

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Gingerbread Layer Cake

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

Fruit Salad with leftover Kumquats

My parents and I came home to Texas a few days after Christmas, and were later met by my sisters and their husbands.  Before they arrived, I met some old friends for a coffee date.  Someday I want to be able to make latte art that looks this good!  Props to the baristas at Buon Giorno for making this lovely latte.

Soy Latte

Soy Latte

The first morning the whole family was home, we did Christmas Round 2, complete with another Christmas brunch.  We prepared another strata, this time using broccoli, red pepper, mushrooms, and bacon.  We served a fruit salad and sweet breads with it.  Lindsey and I each prepared a bread the evening before.  She made Banana Bread, and I made Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which I modified to make a bundt instead of 2 loaves.

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

Our breads: Pumpkin Bundt and Banana Loaf

That evening we had a blast at our annual holiday party.  As usual, we prepared Caprese Sticks for our guests to munch on.

Platter of Caprese Sticks

Platter of Caprese Sticks

The full spread for the party

The full spread for the party

We enjoyed leftovers and what Lindsey referred to as “the obligatory Mexican meal” for the next couple days.  The last night the sisters were in town, we had a special New Year’s Eve dinner.  Lindsey made a delicious Roasted Parsnip Soup with Walnut Pesto for the first course.

Walnut Pesto

Walnut Pesto

We also ate roasted chicken with mushroom gravy, roasted vegetables, and a potato medley with rosemary.

First course

First course

I had so much fun with my family, and loved having the opportunity to cook together again!  It was the perfect way to wrap up the rollercoaster year of 2012.  I look forward to sharing more good food with good friends in 2013!

Cheers!

Cheers!

Happy Eating and Happy New Year!

-C

Gingerbread Cookies

To be honest, baking is not really my “thing.” Casey is much better at it than I am, and enjoys it more (I am more prone to random kitchen experiments and breakfast explorations). But Casey’s cookie brittle, along with the blog-world Christmas cookie take-over, had me itching to bake a mess of Christmas goodies.

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

I planned to make gingerbread cookies, pistachio and cherry biscotti, and something minty and chocolatey last weekend. I even bought the ingredients.

But then, Friday’s tragedy happened, and instead of spending Sunday in the kitchen baking up a storm, I spent it on the couch, snuggling close to my husband, for once not worrying about a to-do list but instead enjoying the comfort of the moment. I hope that you all have had a similar chance to hug your loved ones extra tight this week as we all struggle to comprehend the tragedy in Newtown.

But last night, as I prepared to leave town and spend the holidays with family, I finally got around to making cookies! I’ll be sharing these with one of my best friends today when we meet up for lunch, and with my husband’s family when we arrive at their house tonight.

Gingery Goodness

Gingery Goodness

These crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle little cookies include not one, not two, but three types of ginger (ground, freshly minced, and crystallized)!

crystallized ginger

Crystalized Ginger

I can’t use crystalized ginger without thinking of our dad… One year we were making something that called for crystalized ginger. We sent my dad to the store to pick up a few things, and asked him to get the ginger. When he returned home, he was beaming from ear to ear, carrying a 3 pound bag of crystalized ginger he had personally scooped from the bulk bins.

3 pounds of crystallized ginger is more or less a lifetime supply… I think we still have some of that bag left left in the freezer…

But I digress… back to the cookies!

Christmas cookies

Christmas is for cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap (robust) molasses
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup raw sugar

Method

  • Preheat to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar and coconut oil in a large bowl, about 3 minutes (this will not get fluffy like it would with refined sugar and butter).
  • Reduce mixer speed to low. Add egg, molasses, grated ginger, and vanilla; beat just to blend.
  • Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger (dough will be soft and sticky).
  • Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out dough. Using a second spoon, scoop dough from tablespoon measure into bowl with raw sugar; turn to coat well. Roll into ball. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with half of remaining dough and sugar, spacing balls 1 1/2″ apart.
  • Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are firm and centers appear cracked, 10–12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with remaining dough and sugar, using cooled baking sheets and new parchment.
  • Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.
Served with Eggnog

Served with Eggnog

These cookies are absolute perfection. So much ginger flavor, such a great texture, and, thanks to the blackstrap molasses, they are somewhat healthy (blackstrap molasses is very high in iron. Read more about its nutritional benefits on Gena’s blog).

I enjoyed my cookies last night with a glass of eggnog, my indulgence of the week (eggnog as coffee creamer = fabulous). Change the rain that was pounding on the roof to snow, add a gently roaring fire, and it would have been the perfect Christmas-time evening. But even without the snow and the fire, the cookies and eggnog have me feeling much more in the holiday spirit.

We will be taking a break from the blog over the holidays. You can follow me on instagram (@lindzjane115) for photographic evidence of my holiday eats and adventures.

Before we go, however, it’s time to announce the winner of the Awesome Bars Giveaway!

Awesome Bars winner

Congratulations to Val, my Foodie Pen Pal from October!!

See you back here in 2013.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-L