10th day of Christmas Granola

This blog was launched on a resolution, my first in years (decades?), and is a great reminder of why I stopped doing resolutions. Life changes in a year. Life changes in a few hours with kids at home. I was going at a good clip until June, when my delicately balanced house of parenting/wifing/working cards caught a little breeze and came crashing down. The details aren’t that interesting or important, but it was ONE appointment that essentially set (and then upset and reset) our entire summer schedule.

I’m pretty sure I tried (at least) 52 new recipes last year, but I didn’t keep track of them that well or share many at all, so I readily admit that failure. I over-promised and under-delivered. The former business consultant in me is deeply disappointed.

I’m going to keep cooking and sharing (when time and interest allows) and maybe writing about not cooking stuff, too. If at first you don’t succeed, change the parameters to increase the odds next time!

We finished the Christmas cookies last night. Before Christmas, I baked 4 types of cookies (Nutella thumbprints, sugar cutouts, chocolate shortbreads, and gingersnaps), a panettone, a panforte, and made horribly sticky cornflake “wreaths” with Peanut and Meatball (perhaps “roundish wads of sprinkleglop” is a better descriptor). This was down from my usual production of at least 6 types of cookie (Rangers and white chocolate cranberry oatmeal got passed over this year), the aforementioned Italian confections, and German Stollen and a traditional English fruitcake (don’t start, my fruitcake is delicious). We travelled this year and I just didn’t want it all sitting around while we were gone. Because I skipped the fruitcakes and had to buy some additional ingredients for the other stuff, I found myself sitting on an apocalypse-ready cache of dried fruit and nuts. Granola basically staring me in the face, I found a “Basic Granola Recipe” on chowhound and used it to make what I’m calling Tenth Day of Christmas Granola (it will have all the Lords a-Leaping!). Just like last year, my notes on the original recipe are in bold.


  • 3 cups rolled oats (not instant) The cheapest rolled oats at our local grocery were thick cut (from Bob’s Red Mill). I figured granola isn’t something that needs to be delicate or tender so I went for it, and I think it may have helped the oats to not burn like they often have when I have previously made granola.
  • 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar This seemed like a lot in addition to the honey, so I used 1 tablespoon of turbinado sugar (it was the most accessible sugar in the cabinet. I’m really scientific about all of this.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt I used pink salt because ours is much finer than kosher and I wanted more even distribution (see? science!)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil Canola is my flavor-neutral, high smoke point oil of choice, so I used that.
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract Because I was using hazelnuts and a fruit blend, I went with 1/2 teaspoon each of orange and vanilla extract.
  • 1/2 cup small-dice dried fruit I used a whole cup of King Arthur Flour’s Fruitcake Blend, which is raisins, cranberries, dates, currants, and pineapple.
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped raw or toasted nuts or seeds I used about 3/4 cup of chopped raw hazelnuts.
  1. Heat the oven to 300°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  2. Place the oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine; set aside. I also added the nuts and fruit here. I wasn’t too worried about the fruit burning and I wanted the raw nuts to toast with the granola.
  3. Place the honey, oil, and vanilla in a small bowl and stir to combine. Pour over the oat mixture and mix until the oats are thoroughly coated. My honey was crystallized almost solid, so I microwaved the honey and oil together before stirring in the extracts.
  4. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Save clean up, use a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet! Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking until the granola is very light golden brown, about 5 to 15 minutes more. Despite having nearly twice the volume because of the added fruit and nuts, I was able to easily fit everything onto a half sheet pan and it cooked in the same time. 
  5. Place the baking sheet on a wire rack and cool the granola to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. (Note: It will harden as it cools.) I kind of got to typing this and forgot to stir. Things got sticky and it took a little more effort than maybe it could have to get things moving once they had set, but it still worked out and then I didn’t have to worry about step 6 because it was already all together.
  6. Add the fruit and nuts or seeds to the baking sheet and toss to combine.Store the granola in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. 2 weeks? Not necessary, this will be lucky to make it through the Epiphany.


So there it is, and the results are exactly what I was looking for; the fruit is chewy, the oats are nice and crispy, the hazelnuts are toasty and crunchy, and it’s not overly sweet. The cinnamon and orange are magical together. I have some slivered almonds and dried cherries for my next batch, which I’ll probably do with almond extract. I also want to try pistachios and apricots (with ginger instead of cinnamon?), or pecans and dates (maybe with maple syrup in place of some of the honey). I love recipes like this that can be made differently every time.

I can’t (okay, WON’T) commit to timing on future posts. Under-promise and over-deliver is my plan for 2018. #whatevergetsdonein2018



11/52 Irish Soda Bread Muffins

20170317_135057On Friday morning, St Patrick’s Day, Peanut and Meatball were all over the place. On the average morning, they race downstairs, find me at the kitchen table and immediately fight over who gets to put in his breakfast order first (not that they need to order, they eat the EXACT same thing every morning), but Friday, they were opening doors and looking under chairs and Mommy was confused. They were searching for evidence of a leprechaun.

When did leprechauns start harassing us at home?

When I was a kid, St Patricks Day was when we wore green. Full stop. Maybe we got shamrock stickers on a good year. In the *mumble mumble* decades since then, SOMEONE (I’m looking at you, Pinterest) has decided that childhood can’t have enough magic and now the leprechaun comes into our homes and keeps Mommies up at night trying to outdo each other. Somehow, I had NO IDEA, but was able to scrape one together pretty quickly. Fortunately, Peanut had put on a blue shirt and Meatball wasn’t even dressed yet, so I sent them up to change and get dressed while I frantically shook some green food coloring into the partial gallon of milk in the fridge. A recent windstorm helped convince them that before turning our milk green, the leprechaun also threw one of our patio chairs into the woods. They ran with it and reasoned that he couldn’t get in at night, got mad and messed up the furniture, then snuck in that morning when Wombat let the dog out. St Patty’s Day was saved, but seriously, WHY IS THIS A THING NOW? Also, Peanut wouldn’t drink the green milk, in case the leprechaun was trying to poison us. His exact quote: “I’m not sure the magic is safe for people to drink.” So, thanks, leprechaun (still looking at you, Pinterest).

Before we cooked our corned beef and cabbage, Meatball helped me make an accompaniment, Irish Soda Bread Muffins. I’ve made soda bread most years, the typical americanized version with caraway and currants in a round pan. I’ve tried a few recipes, and they’ve all been similar in flavor and dense, scone-like texture. Because data-mining algorithms are incredible, this muffin recipe from King Arthur Flour popped up in the ad bar of my Facebook feed Thursday night. I had planned to stop at the grocery Friday morning anyway, so adding currants to my list was a no-brainer.

Currants do not exist in Leonardtown, Maryland.

There are two groceries near the gym, so Meatball and I went shopping right after my workout. Two groceries and a liquor store (for Guinness, because priorities) later, still currant-less, I was lightheaded, grumpy, and eyeing the McDonald’s drive-thru, so we gave up on the quest for currants and used golden raisins instead. I chopped them up so they’d be distributed more like the smaller currants, and Friday was the first time either boy has happily consumed a baked item containing dried fruit of any kind! In fact, the entire batch was gone before lunch on Sunday, and only lasted that long because we wouldn’t let them eat 3 muffins each on Saturday. 8 thumbs up; forgot to get a yum scale reading from Peanut. These are much lighter in texture (like typical muffins) than my previous soda breads, and they also didn’t dry out as quickly. The recipe makes 12 muffins, which is a manageable quantity. Many recipes fill two 9″ pans; I’ve thrown out surplus soda bread more than once.

My notes are in bold as always. This recipe was pretty straightforward and like all King Arthur Recipes, clear and concise, so I didn’t have much to add. If you go to the website, you can get the ingredient list by weight as well (which is what I use, because it’s more precise and eliminates having to wash measuring cups).

Irish Soda Bread Muffins


  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour It doesn’t have to be King Arthur, though that’s what I have used exclusively for years, and it’s pretty widely available.
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur 100% White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder I use aluminum-free baking powder.
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups currants (first choice) or raisins Golden raisins for us, the only dried fruit everyone will reliably eat.
  • 1/2 to 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, to taste I used only a teaspoon this time, but will use 2 teaspoons next go-round.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup buttermilk, yogurt, or sour cream I didn’t have quite as much buttermilk on hand as I thought, so I augmented with yogurt.
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted; or 1/3 cup vegetable oil I don’t know why you’d not use butter where it’s an option. 
  • sparkling white sugar, for topping Sparkling white sugar is very pretty and makes a nice glittery crust atop the muffins, but table sugar would also work, though the crust will be finer and more subtle. Raw sugar is another option, with the coarseness of the sparkling sugar but not as, well, sparkly.


  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin pan; or line with papers, and grease the papers. I never greased muffin papers before reading it as an instruction in the Bread Bible. It really does make a difference in removing the papers from finished muffins. Completely worth the extra few seconds to do it. Rainbow muffin papers aren’t required, but Meatball thought they would be nice for St Patrick’s Day (I had forgotten we even had them. He’s such a good little pantry forager.)
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, currants or raisins, and caraway seeds.

    Mixing dry ingredients is Meatball’s jam.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, buttermilk (or equivalent) and melted butter (or equivalent).
  4. Quickly and gently combine the dry and wet ingredients; honestly, this won’t take more than a few stirs with a bowl scraper or large spoon. As soon as everything is evenly moistened, quit; further stirring will cause the muffins to be tough. Overmixing danger is real, but it’s worth doing one more turn along the bottom of the bowl. What’s worse than overmixed batter? A pocket of completely dry flour.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, filling the cups about 3/4 full; the stiff batter will look mounded in the cups. I used my 1/3(ish) cup disher and overfilling the disher just slightly was the perfect amount for each muffin. Top with sparkling white sugar, if desired.
  6. Bake the muffins for 20 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove them from the oven. Tip the muffins in the pan, so their bottoms don’t get soggy. This means pop them up and set them still in the tin on their edges to let the steam escape. They’ll be screaming hot, so if you’ve not yet developed asbestos-tipped baker’s fingers, use a skewer or thin spatula to lift them. fullsizeoutput_2b3cWait 5 minutes, then transfer the muffins to a rack to cool. Serve them plain, or with butter and/or jam. We enjoyed ours with Irish butter. I’d love to say I bought it special for the occasion, but we just eat (copious amounts of) Irish butter around here.fullsizeoutput_2b3d