mom’s granola

A lot of the recipes that I love to make are the ones that remind me of memories – special occasions, holidays, that kind of thing. But I have to say, the ones that are the most special are the ones that take me back to my family’s kitchen. Spending time in there, especially as my sisters and I got older, are some of my most cherished memories. Nowadays, whenever we can all make it back home for a visit, that’s where we spend the most time. Grouped around the kitchen island with assorted goodies and drinks, bumping elbows and sharing in conversation, I find myself brimming with happiness and love.

Since the hubs and I live several hours away from my parents, I find myself recreating dishes that remind me of home. It’s a great way to “transport” us there, in a way. It might not be exactly the same, but it certainly does a great job of making me feel there! That’s where today’s recipe comes in – for lack of any better name, I’ve dubbed it Mom’s Granola. It’s a super simple, super customizable recipe, but it takes me back into her kitchen each and every single time I make it.

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Most of the ingredients I’ve called for are ones you probably have on hand. However, like any other cook, I’ll find myself in a pinch…a few ingredients short…and have to sub in or swap out certain items for others. I’ve shared a few of my favorite *optional* add-ins, but don’t hold back! They can be added in as you see fit, in any amount. That’s the beauty of home cooking, in my opinion. It is so easy, and so satisfying, to take a recipe and make it your own, but still have it take you to a special memory or place.

Enjoy!

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Mom’s Granola 

A nostalgic recipe that brings me home every time I make it, this granola can be easily adapted to fit the taste buds and needs of anyone who wants to make it. It comes together in no time, leaves the house smelling wonderful, and most importantly – it’s good for you!

Ingredients:

5 cups rolled oats

1-1/2 cups slivered almonds

1 -1/2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup raisins

1 cup cranberries

2 tbsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. vanilla

1 small can of sweetened condensed milk {can be any fat content}

1/4 cup molasses

pinch salt

optional add-ins: chia seeds, flax seeds, unsweetened coconut, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, assorted dried fruits, pumpkin seeds…etc. 

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Generously spray a large rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients {except for the molasses, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla}. Toss liberally to combine, making sure that the cinnamon is evenly distributed. Add in the sweetened condensed milk, molasses, and vanilla; fold in carefully, making sure to evenly distribute.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and smooth into one even layer. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes; remove and toss the granola {you want to give the top some contact with the bottom of the pan, ensuring everything gets crispy}.

Turn the oven up to 350 degrees, and bake for another 15-20 minutes, depending on how dark and crunchy you prefer your granola. Once cooked to your liking, removed from the oven and let cool completely.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week; any longer, transfer to the freezer to maintain freshness.

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hosting 101

I don’t know about y’all, but our summer months are usually filled {happily} with an influx of visitors. Some from nearby, others we may only see a few times a year – regardless of whom is coming, I like to make sure that each and every guest feels as welcome and at home as possible. The hubs and I have owned our home for 5 {!} years next month, and I must say that we’ve done a pretty upstanding job of making sure our home is always guest-friendly with little to no extra time/effort involved. I’ve come up with a list of my favorite tips & tricks, as well as some helpful articles, that have been useful for us both in the past and present; hopefully, they’ll make life a bit easier for you!

c/o a good hostess

c/o a good hostess

*feel free to share: what are some of the ways you love to make your friends and family feel at home, while in your home?*

-Alicia xoxo 

Helpful Articles:

Some of my Favorite Things to Do:

  • last minute guests dropping by? I always find it helpful to carve aside 20 minutes after work, just a few days each week, to do a quick vacuum and spot check of the house; tidy up any loose ends on tables, clean up any pet spills/nose marks on the windows, straighten the curtains and throw pillows. The house will instantly look fresh and well-kept.
  • Candles! I am a huge fan of candles; not only do they add a wonderful ambiance to any room, day or night, but the crisp and fresh smells really bring the home to life. I try to pick ones that match the season – think bright floral notes for spring and summer, spicy and warm aromas for the cooler months.
  • On that same note, be sure to be mindful of guests’ allergies. Are they bothered by pet dander, or sensitive to certain aromas? Try to remove any offensive items a few days beforehand, to make sure that everyone will be comfortable. Non-scented odor eaters can be a lifesaver.
  • Fresh linens are key! Make sure that your guest bed{s} look cozy and inviting; I tend to layer on extra blankets so that guests can pick and choose what they like. The same goes with pillows; the bigger the selection, the better chance of ensuring comfort.
  • Pick up a few of their favorite food/drink items so that they feel welcome from the start; no one wants to be running to the store at the last second! 
  • Finally – HAVE FUN!

Happy Hosting!

plum tarte tatin

Have you seen anything more beautiful?

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Fresh, juicy plums just begging to be transformed into a luscious dessert. Typically, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to fruit desserts {hello, apple pie} but with my parents in town…which just happened to be her birthday weekend…I knew I had to do something special.

I’ve seen the oh-s0-wonderful Ina Garten make tatins countless times; I’m a huge fan of her show, and while watching an episode not long ago, this plum tart tatin jumped out from the screen, just begging me to make it. After reading up on the recipe, I was sold – packed with fruit and little else, it was a simple dessert, but a total showstopper.

This particular recipe is practically a one-pot wonder. Aside from making a rich simple syrup, it is a no fuss, low maintenance dessert. Halved plums are packed into a buttered baking dish, then topped with the syrup. A light and fluffy batter is haphazardly dropped on top of the fruit. Once popped into the oven and baked off, you wait with bated breath until the cake has cooled slightly, and you can invert it onto your baking dish. You want the entire dessert to come out in one fell swoop, but fear not! – if a plum or two pops out during the turning out, you simply re-position it back into the cake. It will be out little secret.

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And y’all? The juice that is created from the fruit baking and marrying with the simple syrup….wow. Soak up every last bit of that heavenly liquid. You won’t be sorry.

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Plum Tarte Tatin {recipe adapted from Ina Garten}

Wonderfully simple and totally gorgeous, this cake will impress anyone. Served with a bit of sweetened whipped cream, it’s the perfect springtime dessert. I recommend enjoying it al fresco! 

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter {room temperature} + 3 tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt

additional butter for greasing the dish

6-10 large plums, cut in half and pitted

3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar, for separate uses

1/3 cup water

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

optional: confectioners’ sugar, for serving 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9″ glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour evenly over the plums. Set aside.

Cream the 3 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy {about 5 minutes}. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add in the 1/3 cup yogurt, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until combined.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add it into the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.

Pour the batter evenly over the plums {you might have to use your spatula to spread it a bit; it’s ok if some of the tops of the plum peak out} and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes.

Invert caked onto a flat plate or serving stand. If a plum sticks, simply ease it out and replace it in the design on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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lately: easter weekend

This past Easter was spent at home with some special visitors – my youngest sister & her boyfriend! We enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner on Friday night, followed some winery & brewery hopping on Saturday. Though not pictured, our slightly modified Easter dinner was enjoyed on Saturday evening – grilled lamb burgers, roasted asparagus…and of course, some chocolates! We took them to one of our favorite local brunch spots before their Sunday departure; take a peek into how the weekend looked : ) 

-Alicia xoxo

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How was your Easter?!

lately: beer and bacon

…the title of this post says it all – the 2nd annual beer and bacon festival! We were lucky enough to snag VIP tickets again this year, and spent a glorious weekend down in North Carolina with dear friends {who, by the way, are recently engaged; talk about a great way to celebrate!} Plentiful sunshine and a crisp breeze made the morning/afternoon event totally fabulous, and evenings were spent playing cards and catching up on the happenings in each others’ lives. Here’s a peak into the weekend! 

-Alicia xoxo

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strawberry-lime jam

Don’t let the feature image fool you…these sweet strawberries and fresh lime and going to converge together in what might just be my new favorite spread.

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We’re taking {yet another} trip down the road that leads to my bread machine today, y’all. Except today’s recipe is one that has a sweet twist! Spreadable and delectable, and with uses beyond imagine…it’s jam day.

If you would have asked me a few years back, I never would have known how multifaceted a bread machine really is. I know, I know – I probably say this all the time, but it is so true. The uses outweigh the cost more than I thought possible. Hands down, it’s been one of the best investments I’ve made for my kitchen repertoire.

…but I digress. Let’s return to focus, yes? JAM. Wonderful, luscious, colorful and bright; the combination of strawberry and lime might sound more fitting for a cocktail or frozen drink that a spread, but let me tell you. It will change the way you approach breakfast. In the morning, my taste buds crave a punch, something that will knock my socks off and kickstart my day. And the best way to do this, I’ve found, is with flavorful foods! It may sound silly, but I truly believe that bold flavors first thing in the morning really awakens me, both mentally and physically. By creating the perfect balance between the sweet berries and the oh-so-tart-but-oh-so-wonderful lime, it’s a match made in heaven. We grate in some of the lime zest, as well – hello essential oils!

Perfectly suited for smearing on toast/waffles/muffins, this jam can also be transformed with a bit of warming up into an amazing syrup for pancakes. And don’t be shy, get creative! – I have plans for a sweet and savory breakfast sandwich, bursting with tangy goat cheese, a piece of proscuitto, and yes, this jam. Mind blown.

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Strawberry-Lime Jam

Frozen fruit, at the peak of ripeness, is transformed into a tasty spread perfect for any time of the year! Bright strawberries and crisp citrus come together, creating the perfect flavor marriage sure to please any palette {or piece of toast!}.

Ingredients:

1 lb. frozen strawberries, thawed to room temperature and mashed slightly

juice of one lime, freshly squeezed

1 box {about 2 ounces} of fruit pectin

1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar

To Prepare:

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the specific cycle and preferred method of loading the ingredients into the well of the bread machine {the ‘JAM’ cycle on my model lasts about 1 hour and 20 minutes}.

Once the cycle has completed, allow the jam to cool slightly before handling – it will be very hot!

Spoon into one large, or several smaller sized, Mason jars.

Store in the refrigerator; jam will keep for 3 to 4 weeks.

Enjoy!

Happy Easter!

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…wishing everyone a joyous Easter celebration. Enjoy the day spent with family, friends, & loved ones!

-Alicia xoxo