Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Glorious Granola

I’m a total breakfast girl -- give me eggs, bacon, toast slathered in butter any time of the day. Bagels with cream cheese and lox… bagel sandwiches… fresh-baked muffins… om nom nonm. But all that stuff takes a lot of work in the morning, so I usually reserve it for weekends or brunch at a restaurant. What I’m always looking for is a quickie breakfast that can accompany my 3 cups of coffee while I open up my laptop and prepare for work or writing. Oh, and I don’t like oatmeal, bleh! So what’s a girl to do?
Here's a "weekend breakfast" : On Sunday made scrambled
eggs with onions and peppers and served
with baked potatoes and onions.

Call me a tree-hugging hippie if you’d like, but I love granola. Crunchy, crunchy, crunchy granola. Though I love granola, I almost never buy it in the stores. Mostly that’s because it’s expensive (or more expensive than I feel like it should be -- it’s just oats and nuts for Pete’s sake!) But it’s also in part because I don’t like raisins -- or any other fruit for that matter -- in my granola, and you wouldn’t believe how few granolas are available sans fruit.

That’s where making homemade granola comes in. I’ve made it once before… the recipe I made was gloriously delicious and I ate it as a snack at work for nearly a whole month. Let me tell you a little about the last version: it was made with peanut butter which created those wonderful big granola clumps which were perfect for snacking! OH YUM! But, while the last version was good I wanted to try something new this time.

The dry stuff: oats, almonds, coconut, and sunflower seeds

I searched around the internet for some recipes, and cobbled one together on my own based on suggestions from various sites and bloggers. (As I’ve mentioned before, I love the DIY sort of recipes where it’s easy to adapt things to your own specifications.)

The wet batter all whipped up and ready to pour on the dry stuff.

What I came up with was a deliciously sweet and spicy, kind of salty, cinnamon-y granola. It had the kind of flavor that actually bursts in your mouth. Perhaps the granola was a bit overdone… I suggest limiting your salt content if your seeds/nuts are already salted -- whoops… but all that flavor works well when the granola is tossed into a bowl with milk, and I bet it will be delish when I stir it up with some yogurt and berries which will probably help to mellow out the saltiness. (Yes, I do like berries WITH my granola.)

30 second granola making lesson:

  • Pick your dry stuff -- rolled oats (not the instant kind!), seeds, nuts, spices, sugar, salt, coconut, brown sugar, maple sugar
  • Pick your wet stuff -- honey, oil, peanut butter, vanilla extract, maple syrup
  • Mix your oats and nuts and seeds in a bowl. In another bowl whisk together your wet stuff, sugar and spices. I found this tip from a fellow blogger and it’s definitely key to making well-mixed granola. When your wet stuff has a nice well-mixed consistency pour it over your dry stuff and stir together so the dry stuff is coated well with the mixture. My wet mixture looked a lot like brownie batter, and it smelled OH SO GOOD.
  • Place the wet granola on a greased baking sheet, or a silpat like I used, and bake for an hour at 300 stirring the granola around every 15 minutes. While I mentioned that the wet mixture smelled good, the granola smelled EVEN BETTER while baking in the oven… it made my whole kitchen smell delicious and like autumn!

Ready for the oven!

When you have only one silpat you will have to bake the granola in 3 different batches. When you get antsy near the end of batch two and decide it might be a good idea to let the whole thing cook for a few minutes under the broiler to speed up the baking process, be ready with a towel because your granola may start to smoke and you may set off every smoke alarm in your apartment and then you may have to run around like a madwoman opening windows and frantically fanning away at your smoke detectors. And then you may be embarrassed because you know that your neighbors upstairs can totally hear what’s going on and assume you are an awful cook. Not like I know from personal experience or anything…

When all batches are done let the granola cool and then store in containers. Enjoy alone or with milk or yogurt!

While there were some errors with my granola, it’s certainly still edible and generally tasty. Finding the right mix of spices/sugar/nuts/seeds might take some time, but once you perfect it you can say goodbye to the small $7 bags of granola at Whole Foods.

Look! Enough granola to last me through the rest of 2010!
Jillian's Glorious Granola:
If you’re looking to replicate my exact granola recipe, here’s what I used. I chose to make a really large batch both because I wanted enough to enjoy the granola for a few weeks but also because then I could use the whole bag/containers of the nuts and coconut I purchased. It’s easy to slim this recipe down to a 1/3 the size of what I made:

  • 12 cups oats (I bought mine from the bulk container at Whole Foods – it’s cheaper and you can pick out just how much you want)
  • 3 cups sliced raw almonds (one bag from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cups sunflower seeds (one bag from Trader Joe’s)
  • 3 cups coconut shredded coconut flakes (one container from Whole Foods)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup (use the good stuff!)
  • ½ cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons salt (I recommend not using any salt if your nuts/seeds are pre-salted)
  • 3 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Saigon cinnamon (which the package tells me is fancy stuff)

Happy Breakfasting!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn Squash Soup

Have I already told you that the immersion blender is one of the greatest kitchen gadgets invented? Oh, I haven’t? Well, let me tell you… It. Is. AMAZING.

The air is chilly, everything smells like leaves, apples are fresh for the picking -- it’s officially soup season. As you know, I love a good soup. When I received a few butternut squashes in my weekly farm share I knew that there was no better way to cook than up to turn them into soup. Mmmmm.

Chopped up squash and potatoes ready for cookin'

I used to shy away from blended soups. I hated having to spoon hot chunks of squash (or whatever veggie) and broth into my blender for pureeing, all the while crossing my fingers and hoping to not have a disastrous mess. Not to mention when I made more soup than the blender can hold I would have to blend in batches – bleh! Enter immersion blender, which lets me blend everything right in the same pot I just cooked with. THE SAME POT!

The soup before blending

I was eager to put my new gadget to use for this autumn-inspired butternut squash bisque. I used my farm share goodies, as well as some potatoes that were grown by Byron’s mother in her garden.

Final product: creamy and smooth!

Overall, the recipe was pretty good. It was nice and creamy but I could have gone for a bit more flavor. It’s worth making, especially as an accompaniment to something like baked chicken, but next time I might find a way to spice it up a bit more.

Butternut Squash Bisque (recipe adapted from The Soup Bible)
Serves 4
Ingredients --

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 small onions, minced (I also threw in a bit of leeks because, you know, I had them on hand)
  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed butternut squash
  • 1 ¼ quarts chicken stock
  • 1 ½ cups cubed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ cup whipping cream (I used a few dashes of milk instead of cream)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons snipped chives, plus a few whole strands for garnish
  • salt and pepper

Directions –-

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until soft (5 mins).
  2. Add the squash, stock, potatoes, and paprika and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 35 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  3. Pour the soup into a blender (or use an immersion blender!) and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper and add milk/cream.
  4. Stir in chopped chives and garnish with slices.
  5. Serve with toasty bread! (My own addition, I love toasty bread with soup!)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tear-Jerker Chili

I have FINALLY located the little contraption that takes the photos on camera’s photo card and imports them into my computer! HORRAY! While means I can finally be back up and posting some of the yummy things I’ve made since moving… and share new things, of course, too! HERE WE GO:

As Natalie Portman’s character says in Garden State: “I look forward to a good cry. It feels pretty good.” Well, if you’re in one of those moods, I have the meal for you. Voila! Tear-jerker chili!
Peppers and tomatoes

  • A variety of chili ingredients – most importantly, onions and spicy peppers
  • A sappy movie or two – may I recommend, Rudy, My Girl, Scruffy, Titanic, or Up.

Step 1: Pop in your sad movie to watch in the background as you cook. (Or if it’s Sunday turn on the TV to watch the Bills.)

Step 2: Brown your meat. I used a 2/3 lb of hamburger meat from Whole Foods coupled with 2/3 lb of hamburger meat purchased at the Brookline Farmers Market from River Rock Farm.

Step 3: Slice the rest of your veggies. For me that included tomatoes that came from Byron’s mother’s garden and mixing those with 2 cans of beans: one kidney, one black.

Step 4: Slice your onions. I used 3 onions from my Enterprise farm share. As you slice the onions feel free to let those tears flow, just remember to have a hankie on hand to wipe away any mascara smudges.

Step 5: Slice up your peppers. I used:

  • 1 LARGE jalapeno grown in Byron’s mother’s garden
  • 1 small jalapeno grown in Byron’s mother’s garden
  • 1 red chili pepper purchased for 40 cent at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • 1 bell pepper from my Enterprise farm share
  • 1 sweet red pepper that I bought at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • 1 habenero pepper purchased at the Brookline Farmer’s Market
  • (Note: Farmers markets are CHEAP for peppers! Stock up when you go. A single pepper will cost anywhere from 25 cents to a dollar – a total steal compared to the supermarket.)

Sliced up spicy peppers... mmmm

Step 6: Cry when juices from the hot peppers get into the little cut you have on your finger. If you don’t have a cut on your finger, fake it, then you don’t have to feel like a schmuck when you start to cry when Rudy finally gets called onto the field and everyone chants RUDY RUDY RUDY!

Step 7: Throw everything into the slow cooker. You can use a can of tomato paste, I used a Campbell’s tomato Soup at Hand because I didn’t have any tomato paste in my pantry. It seemed to have done the trick. Add some spices. I used a tablespoon of garlic powder and a few large shakes of chili powder. Plus some salt and pepper. Cook on high for as long as it takes for the veggies to get tender (a couple of hours.)

Step 8: While the chili cooking, watch another sappy movie. Or, if you are a writer like me, write the first draft of a chapter where you kill of a loveable/sympathetic grandmother, or stab an unsuspecting, friendly grandmother in the back.

Step 9: Spoon chili from the slow cooker. Sprinkle cheese on top. Eat your first bite. Yell out in pain when you realize how spicy the chili is, and then start to cry again.

Step 10: Crack open a beer (or five) so you can blame your crying on Beer Tears. As if that’s a better excuse…

If you follow these easy steps, you, too, can have a day full of tears. Cheers!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...