Thankful for Pie – Extended Metaphor 2013 Edition

Sometimes life is a big mess.

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And it takes a little bit of elbow grease to make things come together.

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Sometimes things just seem like they just don’t go together.

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But even if it seems like something’s not quite right…

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…it all works out.

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Sometimes things just look gross.

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And then they become beautiful.

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And tangy!

Sometimes you just have to get that butter worked into that brown sugar, so you throw aside the pastry blender…

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And get your hands dirty.

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And then you run out of metaphor.

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But you have streusel topping, so it’s all good.

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And brown sugar whipped cream, too, which is a miracle unto itself.

The point is…no matter what life throws at you, if you have pie (and homemade cranberry sauce), you can handle it, rest assured.

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This particular one is an adapted version of Pillsbury’s Maple-Walnut Pumpkin Pie (that I got off of a calendar!), made with Joy the Baker’s Easy No-Roll Pie Crust (of course) and pecans substituted for walnuts, because Louisiana, dammit.

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When you’ve got pie, you’ve got smiles. You’ve got people gathering together to chat about nothing in particular. You’ve got warm, pumpkin custard goodness and buttery crust to share with those you love.

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And we all know how we feel about crust. It could solve all the problems of the world, that crust.

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I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of cranberries, pie, parades, love, laughter, and warmth.

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And an extra dollop of whipped cream. That just goes without saying.

Eat It by the Handful – Orange Cranberry Granola

Granola is a big deal in my house.

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Whenever granola gets made, granola gets eaten at alarming rates, usually just in handfuls while standing in the kitchen when deciding what else to eat.

I started musing out loud about different kinds of granola to make, and Dan only made the specification of “no chocolate,” so the granola world was my oyster. What says summertime? What says sweet and tart and midday snacks?

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Orange and cranberry? I think so, too!

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This one starts out fairly similarly to my Orange Chocolate Granola, heaping together all kinds of oats, nuts, and orange zest, plus the addition of fresh-squeezed-orange-juice-soaked dried cranberries.

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Hot damn.

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Doesn’t that look like something delicious you’d find professionally available for sale in a Whole Foods bulk bin? Is that weird that that’s my basis for pride?

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Resist the urge to shove your face into the hot melted butter-sugar-honey goodness. It’ll be delicious, but extremely burn-y.

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Bake it up and feel proud of yourself.

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Orange Cranberry Granola

4 cups oats
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup sliced raw almonds
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
zest from 2 large oranges (approx. 2 tbsp.)

juice from 1 large orange
1/2 cup dried cranberries

2 1/2 tbsp. butter
scant 1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

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

Zest both oranges, and set zest aside. Juice one orange (and save the other orange in the refrigerator for a refreshingly cold summer snack later after you come in from the garden). Place the dried cranberries in a small bowl with the orange juice (so that the berries are completely covered with delicious juice), and allow the cranberries to soak for 20-30 minutes while you combine the other ingredients.

Put all ingredients from oats to orange zest in a large bowl. Drain the cranberries and add to the bowl. Mix thoroughly and make sure that everything 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 everything completely covered with sugar.

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.

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Allow granola to cool completely on the cookie sheets and then break apart. Put in an airtight container with a lid that allows for easy snacking during your kitchen indecisiveness time. It’s awesome.

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Soaking the cranberries not only prevents them from scorching in the oven, but also gives it that super orange zesty kick every time you come upon one of those delicious tarty morsels. It’s like eating an orange cranberry muffin, but super toasty and crunchy. I had some for breakfast this morning with some vanilla yogurt, and I think that if you do the same, you’ll be a happy, satisfied person for at least 20 minutes, I promise you. Possibly for the entire morning. And then the whole rest of the day. It’s highly likely.

Fancy Bird Food for People

I made cookies today. This is nothing new. This is usually what I’m doing on Thursdays when I’m not studying or watching Doogie Howser, M.D. on Hulu. (Don’t pretend you didn’t like that show. When I was a kid, we even taped it every week just in case.) However, these cookies are not quite my usual.

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One might even call them healthy, if one were inclined. These are my very-slightly-altered version of everybody likes sandwiches‘s Smart Cookies.

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So many ingredients! (not pictured: even more stuff) I was in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, trying to not have a small panic attack at how much this was going to cost, trying to remember that this would make a whole boatload of cookies that would last a while. For some reason, I tend to have grocery price anxiety (much to Dan’s chagrin), especially since moving and getting re-established in New Orleans, but I persevered.

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I mean, look at how pretty that all is in the bowl! Oatmeal, oat bran, walnuts, dried cranberries (subbing in for raisins, my only modification), flax seeds, sesame seeds, chocolate chips, coconut, oh dear…it’s like fancy bird food for people.

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It all gets held together with applesauce and maple syrup somehow, making these vegan treats not-too-sweet and delightfully chewy. It’s also mildly amusing that these cookies look almost exactly the same raw as when baked, just slightly browner out of the oven.

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The taste is both weird and great at the same time. Depending on the elements in your bite, you get either apple cinnamon oatmeal, bright and tart cranberry, dark chocolate and coconut, or even something that vaguely tastes like popcorn.

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It’s awesome. It’s moderately healthy. It makes my kitchen smell like I’ve been productive today. I’m going to make it a point to get more things involving oatmeal into our stomachs as soon as possible. I think that Shutterbean‘s Maple Oatmeal Cashew Squares might be on the way. I’m going to need to get a real cookie jar at this rate.