What to give as a gift? People already have so many things. Past blogs have made suggestions for Twelve Days of Stocking Stuffers and my Top 5 Serious Gifts for Home Entertainers. But what about the more casual and less cook-focused gift? A gift for your office Pollyanna, a next door neighbor or the legion of family members gathered at the tree? My suggestion? The gift of made-at-home food. Homemade food — like entertaining at home — is a gift from the heart. It can be savored and remembered.
A year ago this week I was testing At Home’s recipe for granola. My goal was the best granola I ever ate. Something wildly extravagant — for granola.
I imagined my Nutty Maple Granola – loaded with toasted nuts (almonds and pistachios) and seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower and pumpkin) and dried fruit (apples, apricots and cranberries), nestled in rolled oats and lightly sweetened (brown sugar and maple syrup). An irresistible snack, ice cream or yogurt topping or Christmas morning cereal treat.
Recipe development begins with an idea. From there, I sit at my computer, think through and type and print a recipe draft. The draft includes the ordered ingredient list, with my best guess as to the quantity of each ingredient, followed by the numbered steps in the procedures as I imagine them. This part all occurs in my head.
After shopping, I go into my kitchen with my recipe draft for my first and carefully measured run-through. I must say that the “carefully measured” part is always a challenge for me. I am a cook. I love the spontaneity of cooking –“measuring” ingredients by how they feel in my fingers. Careful measuring takes every ounce of discipline I can muster. Occasionally I have to go back to the beginning to re-think and re-test a recipe. Usually I come pretty close with my draft and testing notes such that when I taste the tested result, I can make modest “on paper” adjustments to the specified ingredients and certify a tested recipe ready for editing.
Here’s a side note along with two great Pascal Lemaitre illustrations about the difference between Cooks and Bakers from At Home:
Cooks and Bakers
There are cooks and there are bakers, and they are fundamentally different. Cooks are by nature impatient and improvisational. Bakers are patient, and although great ones learn to improvise, baking generally requires a steadiness, consistency and a willingness to let things happen slowly and on their own. With cooks, measuring is optional. Bakers must measure. Cooking is alchemy; baking is chemistry. This characterization may not be entirely fair to bakers—but I am most assuredly a cook.
I loved my Nutty Maple Granola. With little time to holiday shop and in need of holiday gifts last year, I couldn’t think of a more delicious gift for my holiday list. I made three very big batches, packed my Nutty Maple Granola into clear bags, wrapped with ribbon. This granola is not like any granola someone could buy in a store because the ingredients would be too expensive and drive the retail price too high. But as a make at home gift, $50 worth of ingredients will go a very long way. So, this weekend, think about making my Nutty Maple Granola and cross off a bunch of gifts from you list. Tripling the recipe will yield nearly 4 quarts or four to six generous gift bags. Bake in batches rather than crowding your rimmed cookie sheets. You’ll get into a rhythm and before you know it you’ll be done.
Nutty Maple Granola
No store-bought granola is this good. Honey tends to overwhelm everything else, so in this honey-less version, maple syrup serves as the glue. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients—that’s just shopping.
do ahead Granola may be made up to six months ahead and stored in the freezer or up to two weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container.
2 cups rolled oats
1⁄2 cup shelled pistachios
3⁄4 cup slivered almonds
1⁄4 cup hulled sesame seeds
1⁄4 cup flax seeds
1⁄2 cup sunflower seeds
1⁄2 cup pumpkin seeds
1⁄4 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoons salt
1⁄3 cup maple syrup
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil (any except olive oil)
1⁄2 cup dried apples, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried apricots, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes
1⁄2 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 325°. In a large bowl, combine oats, pistachios, almonds, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, brown sugar and salt. Mix well. Add maple syrup and mix well. Pour oil in a separate bowl. Add granola mixture to oil and toss well. Spread mixture on 2 parchment-lined rimmed cookie sheets. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. When granola is nicely tanned, remove from oven and cool. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in apples, apricots and cranberries.
yields 61⁄2 cups
Buy At Home
If you enjoy my At Home blog, but are not yet a book owner, you have a sense of my approach to cooking and entertaining at home. I am suggesting that you buy the book, first and foremost for yourself. I promise you will immediately consider it one of your most cherished books — cooking or otherwise. Honest! Next, it is the perfect gift for everyone on your list who enjoys reading about food, cooking and entertaining. The book is available online at athomebysteveposes.com.
Upcoming Book Signings
The Reading Terminal Market to include next Tuesday and Wednesday
I will be at Reading Terminal Market lots between now and the end of the year. This Saturday two elves will be manning the table while I travel to Weaver’s Way. I will be at Reading Terminal after 3 PM, but books will be there all day. Look for At Home’s table in Center Court across from Meze on Saturday’s and near Spataro’s Cheesesteaks — across from the pig — on Sundays. I will also be at Reading Terminal Market on Tuesday, December 22nd and Wednesday, December 23rd across from Meze. Buy a book or stop by to say hello.
Saturday, December 19th at Weaver’s Way
I will be at Weaver’s Way in Mt. Airy this Saturday, December 19th from 11 AM to 2 PM. Weaver’s Way’s Mt. Airy is located on 559 Carpenter Lane.
Plus Two Retail Locations
You may also buy At Home at Beth Cooper’s Coopermarket at 307 Levering Mill Road in Bala Cynwyd where you can also buy wonderful prepared food. In addition, books are now at the Joseph Fox Bookshop at 1724 Sansom Street in Philadelphia. (Note: In the past I have said that At Home would not be available in bookstores. Joseph Fox is no ordinary bookstore. It is one of the great independent bookstore and for nearly twenty years my Commissary restaurant was a Sansom Street neighbor. You may buy signed copies of At Home at the Joseph Fox Bookshop.
Thanks for visiting.