Holy Granoly.

Most of my life I’ve been like, “What’s the big deal about granola!?” Even when we made it at Local Harvest, I thought “this is good, but….I don’t get it.”

Until recently when I couldn’t afford $4 boxes of cereal (and frankly didn’t want to eat that sugar laden, preservative filled, GMO’d stuff) and needed another option. Once I made my own granola, I was blown away by how delicious it was. Maybe because I made it myself, or maybe because I took care in choosing the ingredients – but whatever it was, I hadn’t eaten granola so satisfying before.

Since I started making granola in my own kitchen, I can’t stop eating the stuff. And I can change the flavor as much as I like and I control the ingredients completely. After about five months of eating it, I’m not sick of it yet.

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Granola is simple. Generally it is just oats (old fashioned rolled oats – not instant or steel cut) and nuts, covered in a mixture of sweet (sugar, molasses, honey) and fat (oil, butter) then baked for a short time. I recently made three different granolas, to show you the range of fats and sugars you can use – as well as the different things you can throw in, from nuts to dried fruit. These recipes yield a very small amount of granola, I usually make about 3 or 4 times this much and it lasts for at least a month in an airtight container.

The basics of granola making are: heat sugar and oil mixture (with other flavors if you desire), stir into oats and nuts, spread on cookie sheet(s) and bake at 250 – 300 degrees for about an hour, mixing and rotating often. Once it has cooled, mix in dried fruits, chocolate, or anything else you want to use raw.

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Honey Butter Granola

This is a light granola with a subtle flavor, the honey gives it just a slight sweetness.

1/2 c honey

4 Tbl butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c pecans (raw and chopped)

1/4 c sunflower seeds (I used roasted, but you can use raw)

1. Place honey, butter, vanilla, and salt in a small pot – heat until butter is melted and everything is combined.

2. Place oats, pecans, and sunflower seeds into a bowl – stir in honey butter mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Molasses Hazelnut Granola

This is a darker granola, with a richer flavor. I love using unsulphured molasses for it’s complicated flavor and it nutrients. Reminds me of gingerbread a little bit. 

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl unsulphured blackstrap molasses

2 Tbl grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c hazelnuts (chopped)

1/4 c flax seeds

 

1. Place brown sugar, molasses, oil, cinnamon, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, hazelnuts, and flax seeds into a bowl – stir in sugar oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 300 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Super Seed Granola

This is called Super Seed, not only because I used a couple different kinds of seeds, but I also used a Garden of Life product called Super Seed to add flavor and fiber to this granola. This granola uses coconut oil and agave, giving it an interesting flavor.

*Note: you can replace the 1/4 c brown sugar with 1/4 c agave.

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl coconut oil

2 Tbl agave

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/4 c Super Seed

1/4 c sesame seeds

2 Tbl pinenuts

1/4 c pepitas

1. Place brown sugar, agave, coconut oil, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, Super Seed,sesame seeds, pine nuts, and pepitas into a bowl – stir in agave oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Go crazy! Try anything! Let me know how it works out.

And if you don’t want to make your own, Sarah Kate makes amazing granola for sale various times of the year – I suggest getting yourself a bag (she evens ships it).

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Scones, one of the best quick breads

I love scones, because they are basically a biscuit that you can fill with any amount of fun things – sweet or savory!

The last few times I made scones I tried all different kinds of combinations:

Cheddar and Cashew

Sunflower Seed, Dried Cherry, Mexican Chocolate

Flax Seed, Pecan, Dried Cranberry

 

This is my simple scones recipe:

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I often write recipes to myself as just a list of ingredients (ask any one of my former employees and they will surely roll their eyes about it), so it’s not surprising that there are no directions. In baking, I like to make sure I have measurements for the ingredients, as I am not a good enough baker (yet) to guess on the amounts of leaveners, etc. The technique on scones is a basic biscuit technique – simply: mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, add liquid and other flavorings/additions (like nuts, berries, or cheese).

A few words of wisdom from my years of baking at work and at home:

*Make sure your baking powder and baking soda are no more than one year old. Everything in your kitchen runs out of life eventually (even dried beans can become inedibly dry after a few years) and these items are not an exception. If you are in doubt, just get new ones – it’s not that much of an investment to ensure successful baking.

*Use unsalted butter. Always. Salt is a preservative, meaning salted butter is more likely to be a lot older. Plus you want to be able to control the salt content in your cooking.

*Don’t get overwrought about “room temperature butter,” just let it sit out for like 10 minutes – that’s it. It just has to be slightly pliable.

*Don’t overwork your dough – unless you are making bread or pasta, you don’t need to knead a dough. Stir it until it is wet and everything seems evenly distributed.

*Last, but certainly not least, don’t get stressed out. Food is like a reflection of your mood, if you are stressed about making something it will most likely turn out tough/undercooked/wrong because you nervously stir it/open the oven too much/skip a step. Relax, enjoy the feel/smell/taste of it all.

 

Simple Scones

makes 12 small scones

 

3 c flour

1/3 c sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp baking soda

3/4 c butter, room temp

1 c buttermilk, milk, cream, or yogurt

 

1. Preheat oven to 400degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, add butter pieces. Cut butter with a pastry cutter or using hands until you get a gravely texture.

3. Add liquid and any other flavorings (nuts, dried fruit, cheese, etc) and stir until combined.

4. Separate dough into thirds, and turn each third on a floured surface until a cohesive ball – form into a 4″ puck and chill for about 30 minutes.

5. Remove from refrigerator and cut into fourths. Bake on a baking sheet for 15-25 minutes, until slightly browned.

note: You can keep the puck in the freezer for up to three months. Just pull it out and let it thaw on the counter for an hour or two, cut into fourths and bake as usual.

 

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Dry Ingredients

 

Cold Butter

Cold Butter

 

Room Temp Butter

Room Temp Butter

 

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

 

Cutting Butter By Hand - squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

Cutting Butter By Hand – squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

 

Halfway Through the Cutting Process - the butter is still big and looks flakey

Halfway Through the Cutting Process – the butter is still big and looks flakey

 

Done Cutting the Butter - the mixture resembles small gravel

Done Cutting the Butter – the mixture resembles small gravel

 

Add Liquid Ingredients

Add Liquid Ingredients

 

Four Inch Puck - chill before cutting

Four Inch Puck – chill before cutting

 

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

 

Golden Brown Scones

Golden Brown Scones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Housekeeping

I took this tattered cookbook from my mom’s house years ago, and somehow figured she wouldn’t notice. The ignorance of youth.

Well, she told me not that long ago that she knew I took it and (like only a mother would) said she is glad I have it. So, thanks mom. I love this book, it is basic and easy and it has had years of use at my mother’s hand. I remember her pulling it out whenever she couldn’t remember exact measurements for her favorite recipes. It gives me a warm sense of home.

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On a recent cold Sunday morning (ok, more like afternoon) I decided to make French Toast. I actually went through about five old cookbooks until I found a recipe for it. Didn’t seem to be a popular dish until the sixties, though it does appear in really old publications (like the White House Cookbook, 1894, as “American Toast: To one egg thoroughly beaten, put one cup of sweet milk and a little salt. Slice light bread and dip in mixture, allowing each slice to absorb some of the milk; then brown on a hot buttered griddle or thick bottomed frying pan; spread with butter and serve hot.” An interesting and savory version from over 100 years ago.)

The recipe given in the Good Housekeeping Cookbook, 1964 was pretty simple, I suppose for me too simple. So I took the base recipe:

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and added some things, so it looked like this:

FRENCH TOAST

(makes 4 – 6 servings)

4 eggs

1/2 t salt

2 T brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup yogurt (vanilla or plain)

6-12 slices of any kind of bread

oil, butter, or fat for browning

1. Break up eggs with a whisk, then whisk in salt, sugar, milk, and yogurt until well mixed.

2. Dunk bread in egg mixture. Let them soak for a few minutes if they are thick.

3. In a skillet or on a griddle, melt butter or fat on medium heat. Add in as many pieces of toast to fit in pan. Brown both sides and keep warm in oven as you brown the other pieces.

4. Serve warm with cinnamon sugar, honey, maple syrup, jam, or any such sweet thing.

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Eggs.

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Whisk.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

Add Salt, Sugar, Milk, and Yogurt.

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Let it soak up all the goodness.

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And soak.

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I love a cast iron pan. I use have oil half butter, which keeps the butter from burning.

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Brown. And don’t overcrowd the pan.

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Another flip.

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Brown the other side.

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Serve.

Try this for a perfectly subtly-sweet hearty breakfast, I suggest serving it with any form of pork (or if you are disinclined to eat meat, try some other such salty goodness to pair with this sweetness like: homemade eggplant sausage, soy-free vegan bacon, or just delicious hash browns).

Old Cookbooks.

Oh, do I have a lot. Old cookbooks, that is. Before my recent move across the country – it was nearing the 700 mark. I know, it’s an illness.

I had the arduous task of whittling down my collection and then leaving it in storage for about a year. It has made me that much more appreciative of the weird stuff I have. These throngs of cookbooks usually serve as a inspiration, lots of flipping pages randomly.

I decided to finally start using the cookbooks as what they meant to be used, by cooking the recipes.

The first book I wanted to feature is appropriately the first Americans cookbook, called The Art of American Indian Cooking.

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Published in 1965, this book opens to a map entitled Early Explorers’ Dates and Contacts with American Indians – and sets the tone for the direction the book takes. This book divides the country in five parts (NW, SW, Plains, East, and West), details the native plants and cooking techniques, and (the part I find most interesting) goes over how the blending of Native and European cultures happen through food. The authors put the emphasis on how so many foods that are native to the Americas have changed the cuisines of so many cultures around the world.

I learned that the mash up of Spanish livestock and Native American open pit cooking techniques was the advent of BarBeQue; that the corn, potatoes, and tomatoes of the Western Hemisphere has changed the world in ways we could not quantify; and that the Native populations were generally extremely helpful and important players in the new settlers putting roots down in the New World.

There are about 3o recipes of interest that I marked, including Trout Consomme, Sunflower Seed Cakes, Adobe Bread, and Fried Cucumbers. But you have to start somewhere.

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I chose Green Pepper and Pink Bean Casserole from the Gardeners and Gatherers of the Southwest chapter. Mostly because beans and peppers were things I already had, but also becuase it is freezing in our log cabin and I will take any reason to turn on the oven. I made a few slight adjustments to the recipe: I added more ham, I used nutmeg instead of mace, I used a poblano pepper (assuming they meant a green bell pepper), I used pinto beans and a few chickpeas instead of the allusive “pink bean,” and I used canned tomato sauce (just tomatoes, no flavoring). Here is the recipe in a legible manner.

GREEN PEPPER AND PINK BEAN CASSEROLE

(makes 4-6 servings)

3 strips bacon, cut into julienne strips

1 green pepper, washed, cored and coarsely chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon minced, cooked ham (optional)

1 cup canned tomatoes

1 teaspoon brown sugar

pinch mace

salt and coarsely ground pepper to season

2 (1 lb) cans pink beans, drained

1. Brown the bacon slowly, add green pepper and onion, and saute gently until tender.

2. Stir in garlic, minced ham (optional), tomatoes, brown sugar, mace, salt, and black pepper, and simmer, stirring, for about 10 minutes.

3. Mix tomato sauce with pink beans and transfer mixture to a 2-quart baking dish.

4. Bake, uncovered, for 45 minutes in a moderate oven, 350 degrees.

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This recipe was super easy. Plain and simple. I, obviously, started and finished the recipe in the same pan – making it even easier. And turned out really deliciously. Real smokey, salty and sweet, not too tomatoey. I had to fight the urge to cover or stir the casserole, for the fear it would get to dry on top. It did not get too dry, it was pretty much a perfect texture.

So, for a easy delicious nutritious warm winter meal (or side dish) this comes highly recommended.

CheeseBall!!!

I got one call for the recipe for this delicious guy, and at least one sibling making fun of me for making it. So – as all amazing things – it’s controversial. (Ok, not really. It’s a just cheeseball.)

This zippy, nut-covered ball of cheese has been a fixture at just about every family fall/winter holiday since I can remember. It is, also, the first recipe I ever wrote down. I remember getting a pencil and a piece of looseleaf, pulling up a kitchen chair to the counter, and asking my mom for the recipe for her cheeseball so I could write it down so it would never be lost. (Yes, I was a slightly dramatic child.)

My mom smiled and gave a soft laugh before she indulged me. I scribbled it on the paper, which knocked around my junk drawer for years most likely. Unfortunately I do not have that original pencil scrawled recipe, but I have made it for years now and have the recipe tucked away in my brain – just like my mom did when I pulled up that kitchen chair to the counter.

So please go forth and conquer your friends and family with this super-simple super-delicious cheeseball!

 

Everything in the bowl.

Everything in the bowl.

 

Old School Cheeseball

Makes two small balls or one large one, serves up to 10

  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 8oz block of cheddar, grated
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, grated
  • 5 oz of blue cheese (trust me, even if you don’t like blue cheese…you won’t be able to really taste it)
  • 5 dashes of Worcestershire
  • 1 cup of chopped and toasted walnuts or pecans

Be sure you buy a block of cheddar and grate it yourself, already grated cheeses are coated and dried out – they won’t work. Mix everything but the nuts in a bowl until well combined. Place bowl into refrigerator to chill the cheese and make it easier to form. Spread nuts over a cutting board or a plate. After 20 minutes in the fridge, take out cheese and form it into one large ball or two smaller ones – then roll in the nuts, coating all sides. Keep cheeseball refrigerated until ready to serve. You can make it up to two days ahead of time. Serve with crackers. (My family always uses the Breton Original or Multigrain.)

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my papa’s 60th

In my move I pretty much missed my father’s birthday – and it was a big one.

So on my last trip home I got the fam together and made of my pop’s favorite dishes – osso buco. (I found out this was his favorite when we went to Italy a few years ago and he set out on a mission to eat osso buco at every place that served it. Honestly it was an amazingly interesting experience – we tasted osso buco from fancy places to corner cafes, each a little different.)

You will find soon that I am not the biggest fan of traditional recipes – I much prefer the paragraph method that is basically me telling you the story of how to make something with extremely loose quantities.

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Start with thick beef shank; salt and peppered. Sear to a dark crust in cast iron. Add chunky mirepoix (carrots, celery, and onion) garlic, and sage. Deglaze pan with red wine – about a half inch. Cover and throw in a 300degree oven until the beef is falling apart. Add more liquid if you need, the meat must stay moist. This will take a few hours.

Pull the meat off the bone – place on platter. Scoop out mirepoix with slotted spoon and place around meat. I also like to place the bones on a separate platter on the table, so people can eat the marrow at will. Simmer the pan liquid – adding stock if necessary – until it is tasty. Whisk in a whitewash (water and flour, 2:1) and thicken the sauce. Season with salt and pepper and add a touch of light vinegar or lemon juice if it needs a bit of brightness.

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I also made home made peanut butter cups – my dad’s two favorite things are peanut butter and chocolate.

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something else.

i’m not in Seattle right now – so there is no going out to eat.

but i have been spending some time on the computer – and i found this lovely lovely cupcake recipe.

it’s made with black rice and coconut milk – and the most exciting part is the crazy stand-alone muffin cups the recipe is made in!

i have never seen anything like that – what about you? and if so, where can i get em?