Homemade Granola Goodness

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We eat a lot of granola at our house.  I usually buy the healthiest I can find at my local grocery store, but most of it has some form of processed sugar in it – even the “natural” brands – and it’s a bit expensive.  $3.50 for 8 oz.  So, after discovering my sweet husband had late night snacked away what I was saving for my breakfast this morning, I decided enough is enough.  I’m going to start making my own granola again.  It is a little time consuming, and I would much rather be in my quilting studio (okay, the spare bedroom with a few shelves and my sewing machine), but I splurged at my weekly trip to Natural Grocers this morning and bought the ingredients for homemade granola.  Its in the oven now and smells wonderful baking away with its orangey aroma.

I thought I would share my recipe just in case anyone else out there finds themselves in a granola dilemma.  A lot of this is just hit and miss on the amounts, so it may take some practice to achieve the consistency you like personally – dryer or stickier (my personal preference.)

HOMEMADE GRANOLA

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Combine the following:

2 lb. box or bag regular rolled oats (not quick cooking)

8 oz. unsweetened shredded coconut

16 oz. natural almonds (I use whole almonds)

6 oz. chopped pecans

3 oz. chopped walnuts

8 oz. bag natural dates (not sugar coated), chopped

6 oz. bag dried apricots (I used Sun Maid brand), chopped

1-1/4  cup or 1/2 box of Sun Maid Golden Raisins

approx. 1/2-3/4 cup Chia seeds

approx. 1/2 cup milled flax seed

Mix all this together really well in a really big bowl with a really big spoon!

Next  you will need your oil and sweetener.  I use organic extra virgin coconut oil.  You really must use the organic extra virgin kind to get quality coconut oil, only available as far as I know, at natural grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, Sprouts and health food stores. I haven’t found organic extra virgin coconut oil at my local run of the mill grocery store. If you can’t find good coconut oil, use organic light olive oil. If you use regular vegetable oil, you might as well just throw it all away, in my opinion. Coconut oil is SOOOOO much better for you. If you don’t believe me, check out Dr. Axe’s website.  But I digress.  Here is also where my approximations are really approximate.  I used two really heaping regular teaspoons (not measuring spoon teaspoons) of coconut oil and melted it in the microwave.  Stovetop melting is always better to maintain molecular consistency, but I was in a hurry.  So I’m going to call it:

1/2 cup melted Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

Go ahead and mix that in the oats mixture from above.

Next you’ll need sweetener.  I use unprocessed honey.  I finished off a little that was in a jar of regular honey (about 1/4 cup), and then added my absolute favorite honey in all the world: Tangerine Honey from Walker’s Honey Farm Store.  There is a little store down in Rogers, Texas, where my sweet cousins live.  Every time I get to go for a visit, I stock up on Walker’s honey.  Its a family owned business that’s been around since my Mom was a girl.  I found it in the Natural Grocers in Temple, Texas, but I know you can order online.  This is where your stickiness preference comes into play.  I used 1/2 of a jar and would have used more, but it is my last jar and I must some to spoon with organic peanut butter for my midnight snack!  So I’m going to call it:

3/4-1 cup honey or more to taste

Start with less, you can always add more.

Mix the honey in well.  This is what mine looks like in the bowl.

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Now, you’re ready to bake it.  I spread mine out on cookie sheets, not too full.  Like this.

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This recipe makes about 5 cookie sheets worth, which is a LOT of granola.  So, feel free to half the recipe if you need to.  Now she tells us.

Bake in your preheated 250 degree for a total of 30 to 45 minutes.  BUT – and this is important – bake it in 15 minute increments – and give it a good stir after each 15 minutes.  My oven will hold two cookie sheets at a time, so I am looking at being tied to the house for a couple of hours to complete the baking, but it is so worth it.  Mix your granola, pop it in the oven, set the timer and go clean that bathroom!!!  Don’t forget to take the timer with you!  This is what mine looks like after 45 minutes.

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It tastes a little burned after 45 minutes in my oven.  Next time I will try just 30 minutes.  So, I will put this in a bowl to cool and then move to glass jars for storage.

Oops, forgot to set the timer. Be right back.  That could be disastrous with my gnat-like attention span.

Okay.  While I’m waiting for another 15 minutes to pass, let me tell you about another favorite stop down around Rogers.  (Rogers and Temple are just about 1 hour north of Austin if that helps).  I’m talking about Green’s Sausage House in Zabcikville, Texas, just about 14 miles from Temple on Highway 53.  The BEST homemade German sausage you have ever put in your mouth.  They take online orders, too.  Just saying.  They also make good kolaches.

Well, I guess that’s it for now.  I really should post stuff more often.  This is fun.

Keep it simple, ya’ll.

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Recipe- Savory Pecan Loaf (The Abascal Way)

I’ve been trying to make more meatless meals, so when a friend loaned me her copy of The Abascal Way Cookbook, I was pleasantly surprised at how good many of the recipes sounded.  Or maybe my pallette is changing.  Could it be that I’m getting past my cravings for fries and ice cream?!?  Naaa.

Tonight I prepared the Savory Pecan Loaf.  Being a southern girl who LOVES pecans in any way, shape and form I can ingest them, trying this recipe was a given from the getgo.

Here are the ingredients (I have posted the no-pictures, traditional version on the Recipes page above.)

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I found the quinoa flakes at Sprouts.

This recipe takes quite a bit of chopping. If you have a small electric chopper, it will really come in handy here.  Measure 8 ounces of pecan – not 1 cup- measure by weight.

IMG_1019 And then process them until fine.

IMG_1020Add 2 cups quinoa flakes to the pecans and pulse to mix.

IMG_1022Chop 1 cup each onion and celery and grate 1 cup carrots.

IMG_1023Saute in 2 tablespoons oil until soft and golden.

At this point you’re supposed to add the saute’d vegetables, 1 cup nut butter, 3 beaten eggs, 1/2 cup parsley, 1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp.pepper to the food processor that holds the nut mixture and pulse it all to mix.  My food processor bowl isn’t big enough to hold it all, so I mixed the veges, nut butter and eggs in the processor with a small portion of the pecans/quinoa to mix all the wet ingredients, dumped it all into a BA mixing bowl and dug in with my hands until is was all mixed.

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Ta-da!!

Put it in your grandmother’s vintage Pyrex loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 35-40 minutes.  It smells heavenly, by the way, while its in the oven.  Roasted pecans- yum!

IMG_1026No, it’s not your imagination, it’s blurry

I baked it for the full 40 minutes which was a little too long in my oven.  It was a little dry on top, but was moist in the middle.  It has a chewy, nutty texture, just a hint of veges and is very filling.  It makes a lot for the two of us, so I’ll be eating it for a few days.  I think I’ll brown a slice in the toaster oven, slather it with butter and have a nice, protein-rich breakfast in the morning.

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Now, who’s coming over to do the dishes?

The Dirty Dozen – Top Foods to Buy Organic

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about all the chemicals in our lives.  In our food, in our environment.  While there may not be a lot we can do about the air we breathe, we can make food choices that will put less stress on our livers and lymph systems as they work to detox our bodies.  Buying fruits and vegetables  that have not been sprayed with pesticides will not only keep those chemicals from harming us, but those foods have been tested and proved to be more nutritious, according to Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman, the detox diet expert.

There are 12 foods that are most easily contaminated with pesticides and 12 that she lists as okay to not worry about buying organic.  Here are the ones you should buy organic whenever possible. They are listed in the order of their toxicity.

1. Peaches

2. Apples

3. Sweet bell peppers

4. Celery

5. Nectarines

6.  Strawberries

7. Cherries

8. Pears

9. Grapes, imported

10. Spinach

11. Lettuce

12. Potatos

Wow!  I buy ALL this stuff. 

Here are the foods not to worry about:

1.  Onions  (just bought a bag of organic ones today.  Oh, well..)

2. Avocados

3. Sweet corn

4.  Pineapples (ooh, I love pineapple, good idea…)

5. Mangoes (yuck)

6. Asparagus (double yuck)

7. Sweet peas

8. Kiwi (good!)

9. Bananas

10. Cabbage (something else I just bought organic)

11. Broccoli (second verse same as the first)

12. Papaya (triple yuck)

The good Dr. Gittleman also shares a recipe for a Clorox wash that is supposed to “help remove pesticides, bacteria, parasites and other contaminants.”  She credits Dr. Hazel Parcells for proving that a very dilute mixture of 1 teaspoon of Clorox bleach to 1 gallon of water will not only clean your fruits and vegetables, but make them last longer. 

Thin skinned fruit such as apricots, berries, plums, peaches should be left in the bath for 15 minutes, same for leafy vegetables; poultry, fish, meat, eggs for 20 minutes; thick skinned fruit such as apples, bananas and citrus for 30 minute as well as thin skinned root or fibrous vegetables like carrots and radishes.  After the alloted time in the bath, place in clear water for 10 minutes.  Then remove, rinse and dry thoroughly. 

So, her point is, if organic is too expensive or not available, the above bath is a good alternative.  Think I might give it a try with the strawberries I bought today. 

So, let me know what you think.  Is this sort of information helpful?  Has anyone tried the Clorox bath?  Comments, comments, comments!

Keep it simple, ya’ll.

The Good Stuff

I had a great time last night, even though ibuprofen was required.

It was a beautiful evening, light winds, spring temperatures and a husband who needed to be elsewhere until about 8:00.  The perfect opportunity to work in the garden.  I still had to work my way to the bottom of the compost pile to have stuff to work into last year’s beds.   I slowly sifted and refined the pile of leaves and decomposed matter.  I had just enough to make a 1-2″ layer on each bed.  Then, do my eyes deceive me?  What’s that dark brown stuff?  I don’t know why I was surprised, this is what’s supposed to happen.  At the bottom of the huge pile of mulched leaves and food scraps was a 6″ deep, luscious layer of new, sweet smelling earth with earth worms, rolly pollies and other bugs I couldn’t identify.  A whole ecosystem of goodness right there in front of me. 

I got the shovel and started digging.  It took about 3 loads with the wheelbarrow – keeping in mind I’m a woosy girl with no upper body strength – but I had enough of the good stuff to layer about 1″ deep on an old flower bed where I’m going to grow the squash this year.  I just put it down on top of the clay and went ahead and put in my seeds.  A beautiful sight to behold.  I might order some worm castings from the co-op and fertilize all the beds well once I get them planted. 

I got the leaf mixture spread on top of the other two beds, but ran out of steam, my back was killing me and the DH was due home and we were hungry!  So over to bed #1 to cut a little lettuce, spinach and cilantro for the first salad from our garden.

One more nice surprise was some small dill plants coming up volunteer from last year’s crop. 

I thought I had pulled it all up.  It was kinda overwhelming last year.  As with everything else, I planted way too much and had no clue what to do with it.  This year I’m going to pick it young and use it in salads, etc.   I had planted it to use in pickles, but since my cucumbers failed miserably, I was left with a lot of dill I didn’t know how to use.  But, from what is coming up on its own now, it should be just enough to use for the season.  God is in the details…..I love it.

Keep it simple. 

Easy Tomato Sauce and Salsa Recipes

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that my tomatoes weren’t ripening.  Guess I should be careful what I wish for because now I have more beautiful Romas, cherry tomatoes and Best Boys than I know what to do with!  A good problem to have.  We have made two huge batches of salsa and as much as I love it, I know that if I make a third batch it will get old and will probably be wasted before we eat it.  Even making another round of the hot stuff won’t use up all the tomatoes we’re getting on a daily basis.  So today I went online in search of a frozen tomato sauce recipe.  I went to a great canning class last fall and came home with some recipes, but I don’t want to do the glass jar canning routine.  First of all, I don’t have the jars and lids and don’t want to spend the money.  And to be truthful, it really sounds like an awful lot of hard, hot work.  So, this is what I found today online that I think I’m going to try.  It’s  from Kalyn’s Kitchen on Blogspot. 

The most inspiring thing about my recipe is the flash of brilliance I had when I realized that you don’t have to peel the tomatoes. You can put them in a food processor and puree everything, and then when you cook them the peeling disintegrates into the sauce for brighter tomato color and more flavor. This method will produce a rather rustic tomato sauce which still has the seeds. You can always use a food mill to remove seeds when you defrost the sauce if you’re making something where you want a more pure type of sauce.

It’s important to use tomatoes that are well-ripened and it’s best to pick them the day you make the sauce if that’s an option. I’d estimate that it takes about 6-8 large tomatoes to make a cup of sauce, but make as much as you can because this tastes wonderful in the winter when you’re dying for the flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Put tomatoes in the sink and rinse well with cold water. Cut out stem area and discard. Cut each tomato into pieces about 1 inch square. (Don’t make the pieces too large or the tomatoes won’t puree easily.)

Using the food processor with the steel blade, puree diced tomatoes in batches and add to large heavy stock pot. The puree should be nearly all liquidized when you add it to the pot.

Turn the heat as low as you can get it and cook the mixture until it is reduced by at least one half and as thick as you want it. I usually cook my sauce at least 6-8 hours to condense it down to the thickness I want. Your house will smell delightfully tomatoey while you cook this. I like to use a rubber scraper to scrape off the carmelized tomato that sticks to the side of the pot as the level decreases and do that about once every half hour.

When sauce is condensed and thick, put into individual plastic containers and let cool on the counter for an hour or so. When sauce is cooled, snap on plastic lids and freeze. This will last for at least a year in the freezer.

When you’re using the sauce, if you want a more pure tomato sauce that doesn’t have any seeds you can put it through the food mill after it’s thawed. Freezing the sauce this way with no added seasonings at all creates endless possibilities for using it. Add garlic, oregano, basil, or any other seasonings you want when you use the sauce to create soups, stews, pasta sauces, or other dishes this winter.

I think I’m going to add onions and some garlic while cooking the tomatoes to eliminate that step later on.  This should make a great soup base and should be good in chili, too.  Ooh, maybe I should add those green chilis I have in the freezer that I grew last year.  Sounds like maybe I need to make two batches of the sauce.  One plain and one hot. 

My okra is coming along.  The first planting is yielding enough for a meal about every 3 pickings.  My second and third plantings are getting tall but aren’t producing yet.  They may not have enough time to actually produce if the weather gets cool early this year. 

I finally found the baby spinach seeds I was looking for (Noble Giant) and I need to get out and get them planted when all this rain stops.  Hopefully I learned a lesson from over-planting lettuce and Swiss chard.  A little goes a long way in a family trying to switch from canned to fresh veggies.  

Oh, I almost forgot.  I was going to share my Off the Top of My Head Salsa recipe.  I just throw whatever I have in the way of peppers, hot and mild, in the food processor; red and green bell peppers, banana peppers, pickled jalapenos are good, canned chiles; then throw in some fresh cilantro – not too much or it tastes a little grassy; green onions; garlic.  Process all that until it is just slightly chunky but not enough to liquify it.  Set that mixture aside.  Wash and chop your tomatoes into chunks and process those.  I don’t peel or deseed.  Then in a large bowl mix your pepper mix and tomatoes and if it is too hot add a few more processed tomatoes.  Add just a teaspoon or two of lemon juice.  I don’t add any oils or salt.  Why add fat?  And the chips we eat it with usually have enough salt.   The recipe changes  from time to time just depending on what I have in the way of peppers.  I was given two habeneros but haven’t had the guts to use them yet.  I barely touched my tongue to one and got a very hot surprise.   This salsa is better the next day – if there is any left by the next day.

So, give these recipes a try and let me know what you think. 

Keep it simple.

  

A Week of Eating Local

Here is a great article by my friend and manager of our food co-op pickup site, Chelsey Simpson.  She is the managing editor of Oklahoma Living magazine and does a great job of including local food items in every issue with recipes by local chef and founder of OKC Slow Foods, Kamala Gamble.  So read and enjoy!

http://freshgreens.typepad.com/fresh_greens/2009/07/show-and-tell.html

Have a great day everyone and remember to keep it simple.

Pass the Butter!

I received this information today via email from our local foods group and thought it worthy to pass along.  So here are some interesting  – and disturbing –  facts about margarine.  Comments inside brackets [ ] are mine. 

Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback. It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow coloring and marketed it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavorings. [“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”  – it ain’t, trust me]

Margarine has the same amount of calories as butter [okay, not so bad]
Margarine is slightly lower in saturated fats at 5 grams versus 8 in butter [so where’s the bad?]

Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study. 

Very high in trans fatty acids.

Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers  HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)
Increases the risk of cancers up to five fold.
Lowers quality of breast milk.
Decreases immune response.
Decreases insulin response.

And here’s the most disturbing fact…. HERE IS THE PART THAT IS VERY INTERESTING!
Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC.
This fact alone is enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).  [Eating the stuff is like mainlining plastic into your veins!]
You can try this yourself: [Disclaimer: I have not tried this but if anyone does, let me know what happens]
Purchase a tub of margarine and leave it in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will note a couple of things:
* no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)
* it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny-weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow. Why? BECAUSE IT IS NEARLY PLASTIC!!! Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast? 

Now for some butter facts: [there is a lot more out there on the internet about the benefits of butter versus the fake stuff]

Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.
Butter has many nutritional benefits where the few nutrients in margarine are there only because they are added!
Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavors of other foods.
Butter is natural!  It has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.

So, that’s just a thumbnail about yet another frankenfood.  Another good reason to eat locally!  Explore your local farmers market for a vendor that sells fresh butter; contact your state department of Ag for local creameries or dairy farmers who might be willing to sell fresh cream for making your own butter.  Check out this video.

Have a great day everyone! Keep it simple.