One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

I think I’ve teased this recipe enough with various photos on social media and now it’s time to actually reveal what’s become essentially its own food group in our household. I’ve been tinkering with the ingredients and baking time and I can safely say that we’re addicted. It hasn’t come to marking how much is left in the mason jar before I leave the apartment, but we’re getting there.

Yup, it tastes that good. Lightly sweet, plenty of crunch, lovely toasted coconut and flaked almonds. Excellent sprinkled over yogurt with a handful of blueberries or some pieces of fresh pineapple. What’s even better: all the ingredients can hang out in the pantry, no special trip to the grocery store required, and it only takes one bowl. So even when we’re reaching critically low levels we’re really only about 30 minutes away from a fresh batch.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola (yield 2 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw sliced almonds
1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced

Instructions:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, vanilla protein powder, brown sugar, ginger cinnamon, and salt. (If you’re not into protein powder you can leave it out – just keep an eye on your baking times – or sub in whole wheat flour.)

Pour the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract onto the dry ingredients and stir until the oats are evenly coated and the granola is well mixed.

Spread the granola mixture in an even layer on the prepared rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir to break up the clusters and sprinkle the almonds evenly over the granola. Bake for another 8 minutes, again stirring before adding the flaked coconut. Bake for a final 6-8 minutes until the granola is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, the slide the parchment paper and granola onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before adding the dried apricot pieces.

Allow the entire mixture to cool completely before storing or serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Serve with vanilla greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

Adapted from Small Batch Granola by Joy the Baker.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I used a medium mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, rimmed baking sheet, and a wire cooling rack. Parchment paper will prevent the granola from browning too quickly and helps with the cooling process.

The Verdict:
Our granola consumption has gone up 1000% since I started making my own. It’s just the right amount of sweetly spicy, the oats and almonds give it enough satisfying heft, and the apricots are pleasantly chewy. We often bring along a small container to jazz up a cup of yogurt, and it makes a parfait or dish of ice cream feel like a treat. I also love that the basic oat mixture is endlessly adaptable to what’s in the pantry, so expect more variations down the road.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

It probably sounds elementary, but once upon a time I used to think of Salad – capital S – as something that strictly consisted of lettuce, carrots, cherry tomatoes, and possibly a cucumber slice. Essentially, the Olive Garden version of a side dish. Sad.

Once my eyes were opened to the possibilities of adding cheese, nuts, grains, even fruit to the veggies and greens (or not!) a whole new world emerged. Mike started a new job a few weeks ago and the dining options near his office are pretty limited. To keep him sustained through the day I’ve been packing him lunches and thinking of new salad combinations.

Given my recent obsession with grilling basically everything, especially fruit, it was only a matter of time before I started putting grilled fruit IN SALAD. Crazy, I know, but it works! This one layers peppery arugula with slightly smokey grilled watermelon and shavings of salty parmesan. A sprinkle of toasted pine nuts for good measure and you have a salad that’s actually fresh and healthy but doesn’t taste like homework*.

*Not in the notebook paper sense, more in the I’m-only-eating-this-because-I’m-supposed-to sense.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts (serves 4)

Ingredients:
4 cups or 1/8 large seedless watermelon
4 cups arugula leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
3 ounces parmesan, shaved
1/3 cup balsamic or yogurt mint dressing (recipe below)

Instructions:
Pre-heat a grill pan over medium-high heat.

Remove the rind, and slice the watermelon into 1/2 inch thick wedges. Grill in batches for 2-3 minutes per side allowing the watermelon to sear. While the watermelon cooks, toast the pine nuts in a dry pan, stirring occasionally, for 4-5 minutesover low heat until lightly golden.

Allow the watermelon to cool to room temperature before layering with the arugula leaves, shaved parmesan, and toasted pine nuts. Serve dressed with balsamic vinaigrette or for a lighter option, Yogurt Mint Dressing.

Yogurt Mint Dressing (yield: 2 cups)

Ingredients:
6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
7 ounces plain or lemon Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:
Place the scallions, mint, dill, red pepper flakes, olive oil, and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and puree until it forms a coarse paste.

Add the Greek yogurt, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined. Transfer to a jar or food storage container and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop.

Recipe for Yogurt Mint Dressing very lightly adapted from Ina Garten’s Yogurt Mint Sauce.

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used a cast iron grill pan (surprise!), a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, y-shaped vegetable peeler, tongs, small skillet, and a small food processor. Measuring spoons and cups, a rubber spatula and a clean jar with a lid round out the tools.

The Verdict:
If you couldn't tell, I've been on a bit of a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern-ish kick lately, so when I served this salad for the first time it was along side the Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce we had the other night. Which is when I discovered that while balsamic dressing is perhaps the more traditional addition, that I actually really like the combination with the cool yogurt and mint. Fresh, delicious, low effort, and an excellent way to cling on to the waning days of summer. 

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Grilled Watermelon Salad with Arugula & Pine nuts | Image: Laura Messersmith

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce   Image:  Laura Messersmith

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce  Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Herb Story”

The Set-up: Ina is taking her cues from the herbs she grows in her garden.

The Menu: Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce, Oregano, Tomato and Feta Salad, Heirloom Tomatoes with Tarragon

0:21 – Ina takes us back into the garden where she has a Fort Knox level wall around her herbs to keep out the deer. Certainly more attractive than chicken wire fencing!

1:33 – As she lists off everything she grows back here – parsley, basil, chives, thyme, mint – I can see why fresh herbs are such a big part of her cooking this is bordering on a farm!

2:06 – Ina says when she thinks about making a marinade for the Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce she goes immediately to the classics. As she said, “what grows together, goes together” … “why fight it?”

3:10 – In this case she’s using a ton of rosemary because it has a strong flavor that can stand up to the lamb.

4:27 – Ina is mixing the marinade right in the dish that the lamb will rest in which I am all about, except that my “dish” is a ziplock bag inside a food storage container. The better to clean up quickly, my dear!

5:39 – Lamb chops are on the grill and Ina cautions us not to overcook them – easy to do with a too hot fire and a teensy piece of meat.

6:44 – We also get a little food safety lesson when she reminds us not to use the marinade on the cooked meat.

10:03 – Back in the garden to collect mint and dill for the Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce. Pro Tip #1: Measuring herbs accurately is easier when they’re roughly chopped.

11:18 – This is a straightforwardly Greek inspired recipe and I think I read somewhere that dill is a heavily used herb in Greek cooking. Google will know for sure…

12:42 – The mini food processor makes another appearance for the yogurt sauce which Ina says is so thick that she’s going to put it underneath the lamb chops.

13:01 – Now for the Oregano, Tomato and Feta Salad essentially big wedges of tomato, slices of feta, and a little arugula dressed with a splash of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and a sprinkle of dried oregano.

14:14 – Pro Tip #2: Rub the dried oregano between your palms to release the oils before sprinkling over the salad.

15:26 – Ina’s friend Frank shows up and they escape to the garden to pretend they’re in Mykonos over dinner. (“Don’t tell Jeffrey!”)

19:33 – We’re in New York now at Eli Zabar’s greenhouse on top of his specialty food store picking tomatoes for a salad of Heirloom Tomatoes with Tarragon.

20:05 – A few herbs are selected and then Eli and Ina go down into the kitchen with their flat of loot.

21:47 – We’re getting a little arranging lesson as Eli cuts the tomatoes into vertical slices and wedges of all sizes emphasizing the variety of colors and textures.

22:11 – On to the seasoning and Eli explains that since tomatoes are a fruit the heavy dose of salt and vinegar will draw out the sugars and juices to create the dressing.

23:30 – We’re supposed to let the seasoning sit for a little, but Ina is impatient so they taste immediately. Here’s the word: basil is OUT, tarragon is IN when it comes to tomato salads.

27:02 – A little “Ask Ina” on herb related questions. Not that kind of herb! Bill wants to know if he can substitute dried herbs when Ina’s recipe calls for fresh. Short answer: no. Long answer: who knows how long those dried herbs have been preserved? PS: Look at my spice drawer – no herbs!!

28:38 – Deborah would like a recommendation on which herbs to grow, and Mike needs advice on which variety of basil is best? Ina says you should grow what you like and recommends Genovese basil (the large leafed type commonly found in stores.)

29:45 – Last question - Kim needs help storing her fresh herbs? Ina says wash, dry very carefully, and keep in a sealed plastic bag in the refrigerator. Or, mince them up and store them in an ice cube tray in the freezer so you can pop a cube into a recipe when you’re cooking.

Final Thoughts:
I absolutely need to try Ina’s method for storing herbs – they are the bane of my existence the way they wilt so quickly!

I love the simplicity of the recipes in this episode, just allowing the flavors and freshness to be the stars.

Did anyone else have major flashbacks to My Big Fat Greek Wedding? “That’s okay; I make lamb!”

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce    Image:   Laura Messersmith

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce  Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I have never cooked lamb before and most of my experiences with it have been of the shady, “what’s in this gyro?,” mystery meat variety; the most egregious of which was during our trip to Croatia when we tried the much-hyped ćevapčići. No thanks. All that to say, I didn’t think I liked lamb, but if anyone could convince me it would be Ina Garten and her Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce.

Read the Recipe – I must have been half awake when I mixed the marinade for this recipe because in re-reading it I realized I was supposed to use the food processor and the ingredients called for red wine, not red wine vinegar. I also didn’t buy enough lemons (why?) and had to substitute lemon greek yogurt in the sauce. Thankfully it appears that my mistakes were imperceptible in the final results, and dare I say might have even improved the recipe?

Marinating – The recipe recommends at least 2 hours, I marinated mine over night (about 20 hours in total) and it’s well worth doing that far in advance. The flavor really permeates the meat. Same deal with the yogurt sauce, the longer the herbs are in contact with the yogurt the more they meld and develop.

Cooking Lamb – If you can cook a pork chop or a bone-in steak then lamb is essentially just a miniature version of those two cuts. A cast iron grill pan pre-heated over medium flame is your friend and Ina’s cooking time (4-5 minutes per side) is perfect. Make sure the meat good contact with the pan so that it sears and don’t neglect to crisp up the edges!

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce    Image:   Laura Messersmith

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce  Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! A small food processor will be helpful in both stages, along with and measuring cups and spoons. I also used a medium cutting board, chef’s knife, a cast iron grill pan, and tongs. A ziptop bag, aluminum foil and a large food storage container will come in handy too.

The Verdict:
I was really prepared not to like Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce and frankly I was nervous to serve it to Mike, but we both though this recipe was delicious!!! (Yes, three exclamation points.) The marinade imparts a great blend of bright lemon and spikey rosemary; and the sauce is beautifully fresh and light. I don’t know if I’ll be ordering lamb left and right in restaurants now, but I can fully endorse this recipe, even for people who think they don’t like lamb. A perfect special occasion dish that takes very little effort to get great results.

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce    Image:   Laura Messersmith

Greek Lamb with Yogurt Mint Sauce  Image: Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread

Lemon Cranberry Bread  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread | Image: Laura Messersmith

We just passed the longest day of the year, so scientifically we’ve turned the corner and are now on our way to spring, but practically we all know winter has just begun. Here in New York we can probably expect another 3 months of grey, cold weather, so I’m thankful that we have citrus season to look forward to.

It’s ironic to me that citrus is in season during the coldest months of the year, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth and just enjoy the gorgeous lemons, grapefruits, clementines, and oranges arriving here in the north.

While I plan to eat a ton of fresh fruit, I also want to incorporate citrus into my cooking and channel some of those tropical flavors. I can’t take full credit for this recipe – my girl Ina Garten’s Lemon Yogurt Cake and this recipe for Lemon Cake with Cranberries on Melangery helped guide my baking ways. Thanks Ladies!

Lemon Cranberry Bread    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread (yield: 1 loaf)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Chobani 2% plain whole-milk greek yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lemon zest (2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup fresh cranberries

For the glaze:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions:
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla. Next, add the vegetable oil into the wet ingredients, making sure it's all incorporated.

Lastly, slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

Prepare a loaf pan by buttering and flouring the bottom and sides. Pour the batter into the pan and evenly sprinkle a 1/2 cup of fresh cranberries across the top. Use a bamboo skewer to gently press the cranberries toward the bottom of the batter spacing some closer to the bottom and some toward the middle.

Repeat the process with another 1/4 cup of cranberries, pressing them just below the surface. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool completely before turning out of the pan. Use a spoon to drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake.

Alternate Version:
Prepare the mini-muffin tins with non-stick spray or paper liners. Spoon the batter into the tins with a 1/2 teaspoon cookie scoop. Sprinkle 2-3 fresh cranberries in each cup and press gently into the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Yield: about 2 dozen mini-muffins

Glaze:
Measure the confectioner’s sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the lemon juice one teaspoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. It should drip from the spoon in a thin ribbon.

Lemon Cranberry Bread      | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes! I used one small mixing bowl, one medium mixing bowl, a mixing spoon, rubber spatula, liquid and dry measuring cups and measuring spoons. I also used a microplane zester and glass loaf pan.

The Verdict:
In this Lemon Cranberry Cake I wanted the lemon flavor to come through clearly and for cake to be on the savory side so that the addition of a lemon glaze wouldn’t make it too sweet. I love the citrus and thanks to the greek yogurt the cake is really tender and moist. This is perfect for a holiday brunch or as a fruit option on a dessert table.

Lemon Cranberry Bread    | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Lemon Cranberry Bread | Image: Laura Messersmith