DIY Granola 101

Throughout my pregnancy, I’d have to say that breakfast foods have been a consistent craving, or rather food preference.  Which is fine, since we eat good, local eggs, homemade jam, and good (sometimes homemade) bread.  I also have been going through a lot of yogurt, and the organic choices out there just seem to be getting more plentiful.  Yay!

There’s nothing better with some thick, creamy yogurt than some good, crunchy granola.  I’ve bought my share of it over the last 7 months, some of it good, some of it, not so good.  So when I started searching for my own recipe, I stumbled upon one easy, healthy recipe from CHOW. 

It’s super simple, economical, and my favorite part is it’s flexible.  Once you’ve got the base, you can pretty much add anything you want in the way of dried fruit, nuts, seasonings and seeds.  I also like that you know exactly what’s going in.  Even with some of the natural or organic cereals and granolas out there, I still find words I don’t understand in their ingredient lists.

DIY Granola

1. In a large bowl, stir together three cups of old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats), three tablespoons brown sugar, a quarter teaspoon kosher salt, and a half teaspoon cinnamon.

2. In another bowl, stir together one-third cup honey (I used maple syrup), a quarter cup canola oil (I used grapeseed- canola is pretty much guaranteed to be GMO), and a teaspoon of vanilla. Dump this over the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Get your hands in it to mix everything well, and to coat the oats evenly with the honey mixture. Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

before baking

3. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the heated oven. Bake, stirring after 15 minutes, until the granola is a very light golden brown. It should take 20 to 30 minutes. If you like your granola crunchier with a toastier flavor, bake it a little longer, keeping a close eye on it—if it gets dark it will taste burnt.

after baking

4. Cool the granola completely, stirring it around so it doesn’t stick together. (It hardens as it cools.)

5. Once the granola’s cool, get creative: Now is the time to stir in all your extras like dried fruit, raw or toasted nuts and seeds, toasted coconut, etc. Store in an airtight container (this is very important—the granola goes stale easily) and eat within two weeks.

add goodies!

A couple of things with this recipe I did: the first time I made it, I added just about everything I could think of, coconut, bran cereal (hubby bought and never eats), nuts, dried fruit.. The last time I made it, I added a handful of trail mix, some rice crisps, pumpkin seeds and hemp hearts.  Both were good and it all depends on what you like in your granola (I’m not picky).  My suggestion is to add your nuts & seeds in with the granola when you bake it- it helps bring out their flavor. Don’t do this, however with your dried fruit, or it will dry it out even further.

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Food in Jars

I’ve been spending some time lately preserving some of the spring harvest by canning.  A while back, I stumbled upon the blog Food in Jars, and its been such a great resource.  I love Marisa’s small batch recipes that don’t require a huge investment of time or produce.  Often they give you 2 or 3 jars of jam or pickles, which is just perfect for me (there’s only so much you can eat and give away- besides, there’s too many recipes I want to try to invest so much in one go!)

Here’s what I’ve made recently:

Pickled wild asparagus
My hubby went and did one last harvest in the coulees, and then he had to leave town for about a week.  So I thought I’d surprise him by not eating it all myself and preserving it instead!  I used the Small batch refrigerator pickles recipe and blanched the asparagus first.  These are so much better than any store bought.  I had to add a little extra vinegar and this gave me 2 large jars.

Pickled Spring Onions
Having finished off a jar of the aforementioned pickled wild asparagus, I didn’t want to throw that yummy, garlicky, dilly brine away.  And the zucchini patch is slowly taking over some of my onions in the garden, so I pulled a bunch and cut the white parts into 4 or 5 inch lengths.  I packed a jar full and re-boiled the brine and added a bit of extra vinegar.  Voila!  I haven’t tried them yet but I think they’d be good chopped up in a salad, or on a cheese plate with some crackers, or maybe chopped up on a veggie burger.

Rosemary Rhubarb Jam
This one got me excited.  I’ve have a slight obsession with rosemary ever since I visited Sooke, BC where it grows in bushes and the air is filled with its scent.  I’ve had a potted rosemary plant for a few years now and its never really produced much, but I still love it (and even hung some Christmas decorations on it last year).  Its living outside for the summer, which I think is doing it well:

I like weird combinations of flavors too, and since I had plenty of each of these on hand, I had to give it a go.  I’m quite proud of the result- I like how the rosemary taste is not too over powering, but still there.  The flavor and color of this jam can only be described as earthy- it reminds me of walks in the west coast forests- makes me feel like I am in a pine forest foraging for berries!  The amount of sugar is a little more than I would like to put in a jam, but then again, rhubarb is pretty tart.  This recipe produced quite  a bit of jam, 4 jars and a bit, enough to share for sure!

Small Batch StrawberryVanilla Jam
Lots of sugar again in this one, but the lemon was a really nice surprise, and I think I will be adding it to my jams again in the future.

 

Have you preserved or canned anything this spring?  What are you favorite recipes?

Signs of the Season: Breakfast Quiche with Fresh Chives

After I made this breakfast quiche, I realized almost every ingredient was sourced locally!  The eggs and cheese curds I got at the farmer’s market, and the chives were from my front yard.  The only thing that isn’t local is the milk, s&p and breadcrumbs!  I love eggs, they are a source of comfort, a childhood favorite, and a quick source of protein in the morning.

When I moved back to Lethbridge, I was determined to find a local source of eggs.  I don’t want to support the factory farming system and I knew there are plenty of acreages and farms that have chickens.  So I put an ad on kijiji saying I was looking for some local, hopefully free-range eggs.  After the second bite, I found my source.  I order in bulk; often 8 or 10 dozen at a time since they are from out of town.  As I awaited my next big order, I still had a half dozen in the fridge that I picked up from the Exhibition Park Farmer’s Market so I decided I should use those up.  And I also had some wonderful cheese curds left over that I purchased there too.  Delighted I was, to find out there is some local cheese being produced in these parts (if I remember correctly, its made in Iron Springs).  I have 3 clumps of chives growing in different places in my yard, too- cheese, eggs and chives?  Sounds like a good breakfast to me!

Flowering Chives

This recipe is super easy, and can be altered in many different ways.  You can add different veggies and combinations of cheese and even veggie meats if you like that kinda thing.  The layer of breadcrumbs forms into a beautiful crust and is even better if you use homemade breadcrumbs (an easy way to use up loaf ends, and day-olds).  Its easy to mix up and perfect if you have company.  Add some toast, fresh fruit or hashbrowns and you’ll have one deluxe start to the day!

Breakfast Quiche with Fresh Chives

Preheat oven to 350 C
In a bowl lightly beat:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 c milk (as usual, i  used almond) or plain yogurt
  • s &p to taste
  • any other dry spices you fancy

In a standard pie plate prepare the crust & fillings:

  • lightly spray or coat the pie plate with oil or butter
  • sprinkle breadcrumbs generously- shake from side to side gently to distribute evenly.  My crust is usually a few mm thick
  • add your fillings- in this case about 3/4c  cheese curds and 2-3 Tbsp chopped chives

Then gently pour the egg mixture over the crust & fillings.  Cover with tinfoil and place in your pre-heated oven.
Bake for 20-25 min
then remove the tinfoil for the last 5-10 min of baking.
Quiche is done when eggs are set and quiche is slightly brown.

 

Friend Feature: Mandi’s Amazing Salads

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of a very good friend, former Lethbian who now lives in Edmonton, Mandi.   She has slowly transitioned to become almost full time vegetarian for the health of her family. Way to go Mandi!  Below she shares a flexible recipe for salad… and its not your standard crappy lettuce salad.. this stuff’s a meal!

When my mom came to visit my family for the week she made all sorts of salad combinations. She use to do this while I still lived with her before I was married. I loved  all the combinations , you really can put anything in a salad – it doesn’t have to be a bowl of bland greens with a few chopped veggies. It doesn’t have to be greens, croutons and a pound of dressing.

This was an LP-PL salad remix. the base of it all was my mixture of ‘rice’ I find brown rice a hard to swallow sometimes so I mixed it up and added green lentils, buckwheat, quinoa, and pearl barley to it and mix it in a container. I find that in the rice cooker I have, a 1/2 cup of this grains mixture with 1 cup of water is perfect for making all grains soft and edible without being mushy.

With the grain mixture heated and in the bottom of the bowl acting as the base, we added rainbow slaw which is shredded broccoli and cauliflower stalks with shredded purple cabbage and carrots.
Then we added pumpkin seeds, pomegranate crasins, peanuts, black beans, catalina dressing, Vega EFA oil, and cracked black pepper. *mom used lemon juice and olive oil instead of catilina dressing*

Well it was a hit! we ate it for lunch and dinner then we experimented and made up so many different combinations but always keeping the above as our basics (until we ran out of pumpkin seeds and peanuts) each combination was so good. I have re-discovered that salad can be amazingly flavorful.
pickles
lettuce
taco chips
snap peas
green beans
crushed spelt pretzels
pineapple chunks
blueberry crasins
spinach

We would add one or more of these ingredients to give each dish a new hit of texture or flavor. I really liked the base salad with the crushed pretzels on top when we ran out of peanuts. And throwing in a few slices of pickles in there was a surprisingly good thing.

I choose crazy home made salads to any of the salads on any fast food menu any day.

Signs of the Season: Rhubarb Muffins

In addition to asparagus and chives, rhubarb is a springtime favorite around these parts.  A super hardy plant, it can be found growing in a wide range of places from abandoned lots to the most pampered gardens.  Its been a constant in many prairie gardens for years; as it can tolerate some of Southern Alberta’s toughest conditions.

It is one of the first perennial plants to pop up in the garden and perhaps one of the most beautiful.  I love watching it grow and change every day in the spring- what starts out as a few curled up yellow leaves poking out of the ground soon springs open into a mass of leafy abundance.  The tart, celery-like stalks can be used for muffins, pies, crisps, jams, chutneys and can even be simply stewed and put on your morning oatmeal or your midnight ice cream.

My grandma has always made the best rhubarb muffins- and as soon as there was enough of the reddish-pink goodness to harvest, I braved the rain and picked some rhubarb to whip up a batch.  I didn’t have any walnuts in the cupboard so I omitted them- feel free to do the same if you are allergic or don’t have any either!

Eat ’em up fast- muffins are at their best the same day you bake ’em!  And I promise you, they won’t last long 🙂

Rhubarb Muffins

preheat oven to 350

Combine in one bowl:

  • 2 c flour (I used half white and half whole wheat)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 walnuts or pecans, chopped

In a second bowl combine:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 3/4 c orange juice
  • a few pinches of orange zest
  • 1 1/4 c chopped rhubarb

Mix the 2 bowls together until batter is moist.  Portion out in muffin cups and bake for 25-30 min.
This made me 8 large muffins; but I filled the tins pretty full.

** Two notes about the leaves:

  • They are apparently quite toxic, so don’t eat them!
  • I use them as mulch in my garden- simply cut a slit half-way into the leaf and place around your tomato plants.  Keeps moisture in and weeds out!  They eventually dry out and form a nice ‘seal’ around your plant.

Meatless Monday: UK National Vegetarian Week 2011

You may be sad the long weekend is drawing to a close, but one good thing in sight is, it’s the beginning of the UK National Vegetarian Week!

National Vegetarian Week (NVW), sponsored by Cauldron Foods, is the UK’s annual awareness-raising campaign promoting inspirational vegetarian food and the benefits of a meat-free lifestyle.

Created by the Vegetarian Society and celebrated since 1992, the Week gives organisations, schools, community groups and individuals the free promotional tools and inspiration to give vegetarianism a go while highlighting their activities to the public through the popular What’s Happening page.

After a quick search, it doesn’t appear as if Canada has our own National Vegetarian Week 😦  And who’s this Cauldron Foods?  Sounds like a better version of our Yves veggie cuisine here in Canada… So we have a few reasons to be jealous.

But I say let’s join the Brits, regardless.  It looks like they have some pretty yummy recipes on the NVW site and even Jamie Oliver is putting a few recipes out there for the occasion.

Have you ever participated in a vegetarian challenge such as NVW?  If you are already vegetarian, did participating in a challenge like this assist in your decision?

Veggie Lentil Pot Pie

I recently had a hankering for a good ‘ol pot pie.  Something savoury, filling and hot; nothing like those salty, frozen, single-serve types- which I’m pretty sure don’t come vegetarian anyway.

I always thought you needed a pie crust to make one so I would shy away from the idea.  But then I looked around for some recipes, and many just had a biscuit-type crust on the top.  Voila, how easy could that be?!  Basically, you just fry your fave veggies, add a protein (I used green lentils as I think they take on ‘poultry’ type seasonings well), make a gravy and top it with your biscuit dough and pop it in the oven!  Coupled with a fresh salad, you’re good to go!  I had some left over brown rice in the fridge, so I added some of that too.

Veggie Lentil Pot Pie

Preheat oven to 400F

Filling:
Fry over medium heat:

  • 2 carrots, peeled & diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 ribs of celery, diced

When onions turn clear, add:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1.5 c cooked green lentils (I used canned)
  • 1/2c brown rice

Fry Lightly.
Then add:

  • 1/4c flour
  • 1/2 tsp of each dried rosemary, sage and thyme
  • salt & pepper

Fry lightly for 3 minutes.
Then add:

  • 1c veggie broth
  • 1.5c milk (I used almond)

Lower heat, stir and wait for your gravy to thicken.  Once thickened, remove from heat and spoon into a pie dish.

Crust:

Combine:

  • 1 3/4 c flour (I like to use a mix of white and whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Cut in (using a pastry blender or 2 knives):

  • 4-6 Tbsp cold butter or margarine

Once the mixture is well combined and butter is the size of small peas, pour in:

  • 1 c milk (again, I used almond)

and stir until combined.

Drop walnut sized pieces on top the filling in pie dish so that pie is almost entirely covered.

Place pie dish on a cookie sheet before putting in oven to prevent the filling possibly boiling over (I learned this one the hard way) and bake for 30-40 min until filling bubbles and dough is golden brown.

Before baking

After- golden brown!