Smells Like the Holidays – Orange Chocolate Granola

Sometimes trying new things ends in disaster.

For instance, yesterday, I attempted to eat a grapefruit. I have never liked grapefruit, but I had really high hopes for this homegrown pink beauty that was given to us with nothing but friendship in mind. Needless to say, it didn’t end well.

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However, sometimes you take a chance on something, and things go so much better than expected.

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Last year, I tried my hand at homemade candies of various types, with mostly positive results (and moderately singed fingers), but I figured this year we’d go a little healthier. And a little safer on the digits.  Granola it is!

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Two different granola recipes from Joy the Baker were the major inspiration for this recipe, but the combination of chocolate and orange is what really screams “holidays” for me.

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Photos for this post provided by Dan, of course, as you can tell by my oh-so-glamorous-and-attractive face here. Seriously, why don’t I have my own cooking show already?

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The orange kick in this granola is provided by copious amounts of orange zest, which will make your kitchen and house smell just as festive as your party favors.

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Hell yes. How can you go wrong with almonds, walnuts, coconut, cocoa powder, and orange zest? You just can’t.

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And then we add honey and butter? Oh my.

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Almost forgot the brown sugar.

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Mix. Mix. Mix.

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Spread. Spread. Spread.

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Resist the urge to eat the pre-baked granola while it’s sitting there being so fragrant and delicious.

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Bake. Bake. Bake. And then stir. Stir.

You only stir twice. Combo breaker!

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Fill up those goodie bags! And then top with a heaping spoonful of mini chocolate chips to make the whole thing even more festive.

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Yum.

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This recipe makes two pans full of toasty granola, which was enough for 11 people to get a healthy breakfast-sized portion.

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Spoon it up on top of some yogurt or ice cream or just eat it by the handful like those of us with no willpower do. Enjoy that chocolate and orange and make the holidays last just a bit longer into the new year!

Orange Chocolate Granola
inspired by Joy the Baker‘s Toasted Almond Granola and Cocoa Almond Granola

Ingredients:
4 cups oats
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. salt
zest from 2 large oranges (approx. 2 tbsp.)
2 1/2 tbsp. butter
scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
mini chocolate chips, for topping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Mix together all ingredients from oats to orange zest in a large bowl. Make sure that everything is as equally coated with cinnamon and cocoa powder as you can get it and that the zest is well-distributed.

Heat the butter, vegetable oil, honey, and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Allow mixture to briefly come to a boil and then remove from heat. We want to make sure that everything’s slightly caramel-y so that our granola isn’t too soft from the orange oil. Add the vanilla extract after you’re done with the heat and mix well.

Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the oats and mix well with a rubber spatula, making sure to get all the good bits completely covered with sugar. This might take a while. Be patient.

Spread the mixture evenly in a thin layer over both cookie sheets. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring twice during baking time to prevent scorching.

Allow granola to cool completely on the cookie sheets and then break apart. Add chocolate chips here as you transfer your granola to a large airtight container or into individual goodie bags. The more the better.

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A super special holiday thanks to all my readers who voted for me in Movita‘s gingerbread throwdown! I felt your love from across the interwebs, and I’m so grateful for all of you! You guys are awesome!

I hope that everyone had a very lovely holiday season, and I wish everyone a very happy new year!

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Vote Vote Vote for Me!

Tomorrow, December 19th, is the big day!

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Go vote for my gingerbread creation at Movita Beaucoup tomorrow to get me into the finals for Ginger 2012! Help me lay the smackdown on these other gingerbread-lovin’ bitches and give ’em what for.

Yeah.

Man, I can’t even sound hip and cool when I’m typing.

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Anyway, vote vote VOTE so that I can get some glory (and maybe some awesome cookbooks!), and I’ll consider putting up some embarrassing photos of kitchen disasters for you. Or maybe I’ll bake everyone some cookies. Either way, you guys win!

Do it. Make me proud.

Adventures in Gingerbread – Part Two: The Exciting Conclusion!

There’s a moment when you’re sitting in your kitchen with a cherished project, where the royal icing is all made up and just about to flow out of the tip of that pastry bag, and you think back on all the cookbooks you have read, all the baking blogs you faithfully follow, and all the YouTube videos you’ve seen to prepare yourself, and you take a deep breath and say to yourself…

I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.

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Which was basically the thought that was racing through my brain the entire time I was attempting to ice my gingerbread monstrosity.

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(Can you guys tell yet that the birds are my favorite part?)

As previously stated, I’ve never made anything involving proper gingerbread before, especially nothing that eventually had to stand up and carry its own weight. I’ve never made royal icing and piped it onto a surface before, but surely, reading so much Bakerella should prepare you for this experience, right?

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In theory, yes. But in my real-life, very cold, very early morning kitchen…not so much. There’s nothing that can prepare you for drawing with liquid sugar than the very precise act of drawing with liquid sugar for the very first time.

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So all that you can do is just jump in and realize that it may be a complete disaster, and that’s totally okay, because you’re still going to post it on your website so that others can share in your delight at your kitchen failure. And then keep taking deep breaths, because with enough patience and toothpicks, it might actually…look…okay.

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Not exactly the storybook page come to life you were envisioning, but goddamn it, you drew a freaking boat in sugar! Who cares if there’s a whole bunch of bubbles in there! Not me! I guess! Hopefully!

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Now, when you’re getting ready to work with royal icing, people warn you to get ready to work quickly because that stuff dries fast. This might be a big lie, especially if you made sure you were completely ready for this. It might actually take several hours.

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It did. It did take several hours, which meant that our big moment of truth was left until this very morning. It was finally time for…The Stacking.

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I’m hoping that the addition of graham crackers as a structural element here doesn’t get me disqualified (even though I might already be because my gingerbread seascape is in no way residential).

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Ta da! The miracles of three-dimensionality.

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Here’s a little bit of what this bad boy looks like underneath, keeping up all those layers.

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Hooray!

At this point, I sat and anxiously ate a bowl of cereal, hoping that the whole thing wouldn’t slide apart all over itself before I could stand it up. Then I started to worry about it falling apart when I stood it up for the pictures. And guess what!

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It didn’t! It’s actually still standing up on my counter as we speak! (Although, I’m totally going to lay that sucker right back down before I leave for work, because who knows what might happen while I’m gone. The universe might decide to shatter those cookies all over the place. Or more likely, the cat will decide that it finally needs to investigate what the hell has been going on on top of that counter all these days.)

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A little backstage action, past the sight lines, so to speak.

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Birds!

You guys, I am so excited. I know that there’s no way I’m going to win anything in this contest, what with the non-house, non-traditional, non-gingerbread, so completely non-perfect elements at work here, plus…these people are super-serious about their gingerbread houses. Movita‘s going to lay the smackdown, and I just. Cannot. Wait.

Sometimes getting up weird and early to bake cookies and play with sugar in order to make something completely impractical is totally worth it. Because you get to take super moody pictures of it in the morning light and feel pretty dang good about yourself.

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Adventures in Gingerbread – Part One

So. There’s a lovely blogger lady about whom I have already gushed effusively, the wonderful Movita Beaucoup. She holds several no-holds-barred, throw-down, food-related contests during the year, one of which is Ginger 2012.

I have never gotten a chance to participate in one of these contests. Until now.

Bum bum buuuuuuuuummmmm!

Those were awesome suspense sound effects, by the way. Because…I have never made a gingerbread house. Ever.

There is mostly good reason for this. I’m not a big fan of ginger, as we all already know, and growing up in New Orleans just doesn’t lend itself to typical winter activities. Yes, we try to pretend it’s really cold and turn on the fireplace and drink hot chocolate and wear scarves like this is a normal activity in 60 degree weather, but really…you’ve got to have that undying holiday spirit in you to pull this off without feeling extremely silly. Gingerbread houses are just not a part of my family’s average holiday activities.

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And after all of this is over, I’m pretty sure that I still will have not made a gingerbread house.

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Because I am a big, ridiculous person who has to do something different. I can’t just make a little house and cover it in gumdrops, apparently.

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Nope.

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I have to make a gingerbread diorama. Of something completely non-holiday-related. Of course.

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Not Martha‘s awesome gingerbread recipe lends itself well to cutting out strange shapes, plus it has some extremely finicky steps, which usually guarantees that I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

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This also might be the only time I haven’t had problems with rolling out dough in my kitchen, probably because I made some serious concentrated attempts to cover everything in my kitchen in flour out of dough anxiety.

Did I mention strange shapes?

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Yep. Birds.

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And a really messy countertop.

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There’s also a slight issue with me in that fully cooked gingerbread doesn’t really look all that different from raw gingerbread that I just put it in the oven. I’m crossing my fingers.

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Now, I know that the seaside scene I’ve presented here doesn’t have much Christmas-y-ness to it, so here’s a sneak peek of some super secret presents…

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Shh! Don’t tell.

Part Two…coming soon. Stay tuned.