Thursday, October 02, 2008

combining cranberry and lime

luscious red cranberries.

a tarty hint of fresh green lime and a dash of almond extract.

Mouthwatering goodness.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

making granola is so easy...

Last Friday, the Bean and I found ourselves in the kitchen once again. This time, I decided that it was time to make granola. It's been on my to-make list for a while. As soon as I published that oatmeal was the favorite family breakfast, the Bean and the Boo switched to a preference for granola. And now that I've written that, it will probably switch again.

We go through about 750 grams of granola a week. Does that seem like a lot to you? It does to me...
Before I started making granola it was a staple on our grocery list in the same way that our favorite yogurt has become a staple. I buy three big tubs of yogurt when I shop and they are usually are gone in 3-4 days (my boys are 3 and 1--what happens when they get to be teenagers???)

Buying granola is a huge racket, if you ask me. And the issue of what exactly goes in to store-bought granola scares me. (I've finished the section of The Omnivore's Dilemma dealing with the subject of processed foods, and it scared me). I like the idea of knowing exactly what goes into my foods. Fortunately-- most of the ones my husband buys are made locally and have a pretty simple ingredient list.

I haven't actually figured out the real cost of the ingredients yet, but I get the sense that the markup for granola is up there with alcohol and Starbucks coffee. At least the history of granola is interesting.

So the real appeal of making my own granola comes down to two things: it's satisfying to be able to customize it to my our exact tastes, and as it turns out it's easy enough to let the Bean actively participate in the process--or make it whenever we are on the verge on running out. The other thing I really love about homemade granola is that it's easy to sub ingredients in and out depending on what you have and what you like. Everybody has their favorite recipe.

Ok, so how easy is easy? The Bean was able to help me:

  • choose and gather the dry ingredients
  • measure them out and mix them together
  • stir in the honey and oil to coat all the grains
  • flatten the mixture out for baking in the oven

The only real "mommy job" was for me to heat the oil and honey together on the stove, and chop the dried apricots to mix in at the end (and even that was optional).

The whole process took a grand total of 30 minutes. I now can't believe that I ever thought that making granola was too complicated.

A final note: The possibilities are endless. The key is to start with the basic oats, oil and sweetner (honey) and then go from there to add your favorite nuts and fruits. My husband has asked for a maple walnut granola, so the next time I will use maple syrup instead of honey. And after that I will try almond extract instead of vanilla, and add some pecans and almonds... And after that I'll try dried blueberries and dried cherries....and after that...

Food on the Brain Granola
I'd combed the Internet for granola recipes a while back, but got overwhelmed by the possibilities. To keep it simple, I wound up using the recipe from my new old standby, Hollyhock Cooks, and then adding the ingredients we wanted.

3 cups whole rolled oats (not the one minute kind)
1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp flax meal
2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup safflower oil
2/3 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla

1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped apricots

1. Preheat the oven to 250 F.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in one bowl, except for the dried fruit, which is added after it comes out of the oven.
3. In a saucepan, stir the oil and honey together on low heat until the two mix well together. Do not allow the honey and oil to boil.
4. Take the mixture off the stove and add the vanilla.
5. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and toss it all together until the dry ingredients are shiny and well-coated.
6. Spread the mixture onto a cookie sheet and bake until golden. This takes about an hour or so. I stirred the mixture every twenty minutes as recommended, in contrast to my hesitancy with the slow roasted tomatoes). The granola will be slightly soft when you take it out of the oven, but don't let that fool you. Stir it up one last time to ensure that it does not stick to the pan as it crisps up (especially good if you are not sure if you over cooked it or not)
7. Cool completely and then stir in the dried fruit.