Molly’s Everyday Granola

I don’t usually stray from my mother’s granola recipe.  It is definitely one of the few recipes I make over and over again.  Basically it is my standby when people are coming to visit – it is so delicious and easy to make – and I never have to worry about it sitting in the pantry.

I happen to be a huge fan of Molly Wizenberg though – who has a column in Bon Appetit each month.  The other month she wrote about her granola recipe – and she had me sold on a single ingredient – the unsweetened coconut.  Basically I had to swap out the cranberry juice concentrate for the unsweetened coconut – and change the proportions of honey – and the recipes were almost identical.  I made some changes below based on what I had in the house – but I was very impressed.  I loved her granola – it was crunchy, sweet and the coconut was a perfect addition.  It wasn’t a strong flavor, but a subtle difference that I really enjoyed.  Next on my list – my mother’s recipe adding the unsweetened coconut – so at what point can I call it my recipe?


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon (generous) salt
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 cup assorted dried fruit


Preheat oven to 300°F. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium-low heat until smooth. Pour honey mixture over oat mixture; toss. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes, about 40 minutes. Place sheet on rack. Stir granola; cool. Mix in fruit.

DO AHEAD Can be made 1 week ahead. Store airtight.

Makes about 5 cups.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Molly’s Everyday Granola

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Chilled Avocado Soup Shots with Spicy Breadcrumbs

Avocados are one of my favorite vegetable, or is it a fruit?  Either way, I love their creamy texture, their subtle flavor – they are perfect in mexican food, on salads, to turn into a dip (guacamole) – I could go on and on…in fact, my favorite restaurant serves an Avocado Mousse for dessert.  Although I have not been able to stray from the olive oil cake to try it – but that is another post.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit and I knew it would be on my short list to try.  Every week when I order my fruit and vegetables from the CSA, if avocados are available, they are on my list.  This soup was OUTSTANDING!  First of all, I loved that it only took 2 avocados to make (mine were medium-sized), and what a wonderful flavor the soup had!  The breadcrumbs on top were definitely amazing with the soup – and the whole thing was so easy to make.  If you are trying to impress someone this summer, this is the perfect soup to make.  I can picture eating this soup outside when it is sweltering out – even though when I served it, it was dumping down rain and in the 50s – and yes, it is June.  No, really, I am not bitter at all.



  • 1 large ripe avocado (11 to 12 ounces), halved, pitted, peeled, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups (or more) vegetable broth or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Generous pinch of coarse kosher salt


  • 1 4x4x1/2-inch slice soft white sandwich bread with crust
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper



Place diced avocado in blender. Add 1 1/2 cups broth, whipping cream, lime juice, and coarse salt. Puree until smooth. Transfer soup to 4-cup measuring cup; add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin soup, if desired. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD Soup can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Keep chilled.


Finely grind bread in processor. Melt butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add breadcrumbs to skillet; stir until golden, about 1 minute. Add paprika, coarse salt, and cayenne; stir until crumbs are crisp, about 1 minute longer. Transfer to small bowl and cool. DO AHEAD Breadcrumbs can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.

Pour cold soup into eight 1/3-cup glasses or other small glasses. Sprinkle each serving lightly with breadcrumbs.

Makes 8 shots, or 4 small cups.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chilled Avocado Soup Shots with Spicy Breadcrumbs

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Chocolate Chip-Peanut Butter Cookies

I love peanut butter cookies, and I love chocolate chip cookies.  When I think about the combination, this great little jingle comes into my head – “two great tastes that taste great together.”  The ironic part is that jingle is from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups – which I really don’t like.  So why is it that I LOVE chocolate-chip peanut butter cookies – but I would choose any number of candies before I would ever eat a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup?  I think it is the sweetness – they are just too sweet for me.  Now, give me a chocolate bar, and I would gladly dip it into peanut butter – but the peanut butter in Reese’s is just not pure – it is mixed with a ton of powdered sugar. 

When I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, what struck me was the addition of the Butterfinger Bar.  I had to give it a try – and see if adding this candy bar makes a big difference in the cookie.  These cookies were terrific – although they were very crispy.  If you like a crispy cookie – these are for you – I even removed them from the oven a good few minutes before the recipe stated – because I like my cookies soft.  Even though I prefer soft cookies, I still loved these.  The Butterfinger Bar didn’t make a huge difference, but they definitely had a buttery taste.

What I liked most about these cookies is that they are great to make with kids – you get to roll them into a ball, roll them in sugar, then smash them down.  No forks to deal with – and they don’t stick to the glass because of the sugar.  So – if you are having a Junuary where you live – and need something to do when it is dumping rain outside – I have just found you a perfect activity – and at the end, you get some delicious cookies.  What a bonus.


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup natural no-stir crunchy (or chunky) peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 2.1-ounce Butterfinger candy bar, chopped (scant 1/2 cup)


Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven and pre-heat to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat peanut butter, butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and brown sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla extract, then flour mixture (dough will look crumbly). Stir in bittersweet chocolate chips and chopped Butterfinger candy.

Place remaining 1/4 cup sugar in small bowl. Using 1 1/2 tablespoons dough for each cookie, roll dough between palms to form balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on prepared baking sheets, spacing 1 inch apart. Using bottom of glass or measuring cup, press cookies into 1/3-inch-thick rounds.

Bake cookies until edges are golden brown, 15 to 16 minutes, reversing sheets halfway through cooking time for even baking. Transfer parchment paper with cookies to rack and cool.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe:  Chocolate-Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

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Blueberry Pancakes


Blueberry pancakes, what a wonderful way to wake up in the morning.  I let my older daughter choose the breakfast, and this was what she had in her mind.  I went to Epicurious, and found this perfect recipe (perfect because I had all the ingredients) from Bon Appetit.  It had almost 4 forks, which always is a good sign.  I was just a little concerned because the blueberries were gigantic.  Bigger than I had ever seen in my life – and I was worried about the weight of them in the pancakes.

Well – I had good reason to worry, this was a very tough batch.  Not only did they keep flying out when I flipped them, the first batch was raw around the blueberries.  So – I tried a different method – the same method I use with chocolate chips.  I just added the plain batter to the pan.  Just when I thought they were cooked enough to flip – I added the blueberries, and pressed them down into the batter.  I still lost a couple of blueberries, but at least they were cooked all the way through. 

These pancakes were delicious – so delicate and tender on the inside – and crisp on the outside.  The blueberries added just the right amount of sweetness for me – but of course my family doused them with maple syrup.  I am excited to try this with baby blueberries, right off the trees from our backyard – if the sun ever comes out to ripen them.


  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for cooking
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries


Preheat oven to 250°F. Place baking sheet in oven. Whisk first 4 ingredients in large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, eggs, and 2 tablespoons butter in medium bowl; stir into dry ingredients. Fold in berries.

Heat large nonstick griddle or skillet over medium heat; brush with butter. Drop batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto griddle. Cook pancakes until brown, brushing griddle with more butter as needed, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to sheet in oven to keep warm. Serve pancakes with maple syrup.

Makes about 12 pancakes.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Blueberry Pancakes

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Asparagus Risotto with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Even since I made this almost hands-free version of risotto, I have been wondering how it compares to the workout version – where you stir for at least 20 minutes.  Of course I have made risotto before, but I felt like I needed to make it again, just to be absolutely sure.  Plus, I felt like my arm needed a little exercise – typing on the computer all day does nothing for me.  I was ready.

I took this recipe out of the pantry that I found in Cooking Light, adapted it slightly to my taste, and to what I had in the refrigerator – and off I went.  I couldn’t believe it – but it tasted exactly the same.  This batch of risotto was really no better (except for the fact that it had some delicious fresh asparagus and beautifully roasted cherry tomatoes) than the hands-free version.  I guess there is really no need to ever stir risotto by hand again, unless your arm really needs to get some energy out (like we say to our kids – go run around outside, get that energy out).

This technique for roasting cherry tomatoes is also excellent over pasta with some bread crumbs and mozzarella cheese – my neighbor has an awesome recipe that I will make soon and get it on the blog.  Perfect for those vine ripened cherry tomatoes that you will start seeing in the next couple of months – or if you live in Seattle, maybe next summer.


  • 1  tablespoon  olive oil, divided
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt, divided
  • 1  pint cherry tomatoes
  • 5 1/2  cups  fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2  cups  chopped onion
  • 1 1/2  cups  Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 12  ounces  asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2  ounces  pecorino Romano cheese, divided
  • 1  tablespoon  lemon juice
  • 1/4  teaspoon  black pepper


Preheat oven to 400°.

Toss 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and tomatoes on a parchment-lined jelly-roll pan. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until tomatoes burst.

Heat 5 1/2 cups broth in a saucepan over medium heat (do not boil).

Heat remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add rice; cook 1 minute. Stir in white wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly. Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion is absorbed before adding the next (about 20 minutes total). Add asparagus to pan with last 1/2 cup of broth. Remove from heat; grate 1 ounce cheese. Stir in grated cheese, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt, and juice. Spoon about 1 3/4 cups risotto into each of 4 bowls; top evenly with tomatoes. Shave remaining cheese evenly over each serving; sprinkle with pepper.

Serves 4

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: Asparagus Risotto with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

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Marshmallow Frosting (aka 7-Minute Icing)

Remember when I made these and said that two times a year, it is all about the what it looks like – not what it tastes like?  Well, here we are again.  My other daughter’s birthday – and yes, these cupcakes have been in the hopper for a while now.  She knew she wanted to have a sleepover for her birthday, and to go with the theme, she had picked out these sleepover cupcakes from the book, Hello Cupcake.  I have heard this book referred to as “cupcake porn” – and I know why.  The pictures are absolutely ridiculous – you love looking at them, but they are just utterly outrageous.  And to think they make you feel like, yes, you too can make these babies, it’s just absurd. 

So when my daughter came and showed me these cupcakes, I just laughed.  But she begged me, she pleaded – and then she used flattery – she said, “Of course you can make these mommy, you are the best baker ever!”  Ok, how could I say no to that?  I actually had been dreading the party for weeks – wondering how I was going to pull it off.  The weekend before, I went shopping for all the accessories.  The night before I baked the cupcakes.  The night of the party – all I had left to do was make the frosting, then decorate the cupcakes.  At least I could make the frosting…my saving grace.

I decided on a marshmallow frosting – a nice white base for the masterpiece.  I found a 7-minute icing recipe in the book, and I was sold.  The frosting was AMAZING.  I was eating spoonfuls of it while I was decorating the cupcakes – it was an excellent stress release.  I am not suggesting to decorate your cupcakes like this – but if you are looking for an excellent marshmallow frosting that you can make in less than 10 minutes – look no further.


  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Bring 1 inch of water to a simmer in a medium saucepan.  Combine the egg whites, sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar in a large bowl.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the water.

With an electric mixer on high-speed, beat the mixture, still over the simmering water, until thick and fluffy, about 7 minutes.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  Serve this the day it is made as it becomes granular if it sits.

Makes about 3 cups.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Marshmallow Frosting

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Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

If you have been following my blog, you know that I am pretty new to Cook’s Illustrated.  For the most part, every recipe I have tried has really been a winner.  They definitely do their research, and have different techniques to make sure that whatever you are making – ends up being the best.  They don’t just give you the recipe either – they go into depth about what you are making, and why their techniques work better than probably anything else you have ever tried.

I saw this recipe for Banana Bread – and they claimed it was the best recipe ever.  Ok, with a statement like that, how can I pass that up?  The problem is, I think I already have the best recipe ever – my mother’s recipe.  I really couldn’t imagine this recipe topping that, but I figured I had nothing to lose.   I looked at the ingredients – and there were two main differences – one was the number of bananas, and two was that this banana bread used butter instead of oil.  Then, I read the instructions – wow, you cook the bananas in the microwave and drain the liquid?  Are you serious?  And if that is not enough, then you reduce the liquid until it makes a sweet banana syrup – this was quite an extra big step in the process.  This better be good – and with 5 bananas, this has to be the most banana flavored bread in the world.  I made one slight change below – leaving off the step where they “shingled” another banana by slicing it up and layering it on each side of the bread before baking.

Ok – so it comes out of the oven – and looks very similar to my mother’s recipe.  Then comes the true test – the tasting.  I swear my mother’s is better.  It is moister – and I really didn’t see how these extra bananas did anything for the bread.  But – the biggest problem with this bread was how it stood up for the next few days…after one day, it already started to taste stale – I think that is the butter.  When you use oil, it somehow gives it some extra moistness so it stays fresh for a few days when wrapping it properly with plastic.  Sorry Cook’s Illustrated – this is one recipe that doesn’t beat mine.


  • 1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 5 large very ripe bananas, peeled (almost 2 pounds)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed (5 1/4 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

Place bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have 1/2 to 3/4 cups liquid).

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: 

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining.   Scrape batter into prepared pan.  Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 1 loaf.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cook’s Illustrated Banana Bread

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