Joy of Cooking: Unsweetened Dried Fruit and Nut Granola

Cookbook Challenge Recipe #2 from the Joy of Cooking; Unsweetened Dried Fruit and Nut Granola. I was telling Husband about this recipe and he was mystified as to why anyone would want unsweetened granola. He’s really likes granola but he is a traditionalist.

Well I like granola too. But I always think it is a little too calorie dense because of all the honey and brown sugar that most recipes call for. So this recipe sounded like a good solution to that problem.

I had to make some substitutions in the ingredients because there were some things that I couldn’t find.

The recipe called for :

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup wheat flakes
  • 1 cup rolled rye

I couldn’t find wheat flakes in the bulk bins or on the cereal aisle in a box. I had a box of Uncle Sam cereal in my pantry. The label says that it is “toasted whole wheat berry flakes and flaxseed” so I substituted that for the wheat flakes.

Uncle Sam Cereal – Toasted Wheat Flakes

I also could not find any rolled rye. I went to two natural food stores as well as my local grocery and couldn’t lay may hands on that. So I substituted in another cup of rolled oats. I felt like both of these were reasonable substitutions.

To make the granola, I preheated the oven to 300 degrees.I poured 1/2 cup of canola oil into a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and then placed the pan into the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  When the oil and pan are hot, I carefully removed the pan from the oven and stirred in 3 cups of rolled oats. The recipe called for me to add the wheat flakes at this point but as mine were already “toasted” I decided to hold off on that. Otherwise I would have done just as the recipe described.

Bake the rolled oat flakes for 15 minutes stirring often. They should get toasty, slightly browned and smell terrific!

Rolled Oats After Toasting – delicious aroma!

As the oats are toasting, combine in a large mixing bowl 1 cup of chopped almonds, 1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup wheat germ, 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds and one cup of the Uncle Sam cereal (or other toasted wheat flakes!)

Almonds, Sunflower Seeds, Wheat Germ, Sesame Seeds and Uncle Sam

Stir that into the toasted oat mixture and bake for another 10 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir in 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup dried apricots.

Unsweetened Granola Cooling on the Countertop

Let the mixtrue cool completely and then store. This will store at room temperature for several days or in the refrigerator for a month or so.

I ate mine on top of my morning yogurt. But it would also be great eaten with milk or cream. You could just eat it out of a zip-lock bag like trail mix!

Yogurt Topped with Unsweetened Fruit and Nut Granola

 

The Verdict – I LOVE this. It is so healthy. It tastes so yummy and crunchy and and toasty and nutty. The dried fruit gives it a chewy sweetness. Its a wonderful, good-for-you snack. It’s great on top of yogurt. It would be good on ice cream. Or even on top of some cooked fruit.

The granola was very easy to make. You have to stay around and tend to it but it was really no trouble at all.

You could use any variety of nuts and dried fruit. I’m even wondering if you could make it a sweet-salty-spicy mix. I may play around with that. I love that combo.

This is a terrific recipe. Easy to make. Inexpensive ingredients. Healthy. Great snack. Love it! Joy of Cooking – two for two!

By the way, here are some links to websites where you can purchase Rolled Rye and Wheat Flakes online:

Homestead Mills – Rolled Rye

Bob’s Red Mill – Wheat Flakes

 

Beans and Grains – Colorado Vacation Round-Up

 

Home Away From Home for 45 Days

As I have mentioned in a couple of previous posts, Husband and I went on an extended vacation to Colorado. Yes, we spent 45 days in a 27′ travel trailer in a gorgeous campground just north of Durango. Our home-away-from-home was at an altitude of 9000 feet above sea level. We have a small kitchen that is outfitted with all of the usual amenities. The only thing it doesn’t have is a dishwasher (I got really sick of hand washing dishes!).

The altitude and the small kitchen presented a few challenges for cooking beans and grains. And being on vacation took away some of my usual high level of interest in cooking, presenting, photographing and posting about my food. I got lazy…what can I say?

Anyway, we are safely back in Texas now. So I thought I would do a little recap of some of my bean and grain adventures.

On the trailer we really try to minimize the use of our oven and stove top. They both generate a lot of heat and make it a little too warm inside. So I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to prepare foods in my little crock pot. I am a huge fan of the quart-and-a-half crock pot.

The mornings in Colorado are cool so, a nice bowl of oatmeal is a real treat. Making oatmeal in a slow cooker is super easy and it delivers a very creamy product. I used one cup of Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats and 4 cups of water.

I cooked my oatmeal first thing in the morning.  I set my crock pot on high. The oatmeal was ready to eat in about an hour and 15 minutes. My little crock pot gets hot pretty fast. Cooking times will certainly vary according to the slow cooker in question. I believe you can also set the crock pot on low and start the oatmeal the night before. A bit of experimentation may be required.

Oatmeal with honey, raisins and pecans

I had enough oatmeal for several mornings. I simply reheated it in the microwave. I ate my oatmeal with honey, raisins and pecans. Very satisfying!

I also used my little slow cooker to experiment with making granola. Husband loves granola! Making granola at home is not at all difficult but it does require an oven (click here to get the recipe for the best granola in the world – Lilla’s Granola).

I thought it would be fun to see if I could do it in the crock pot.

Let me warn you up front – this was not a complete success. But it wasn’t terrible. And I think that with a little more experimentation, I might have gotten the hang of it.

In a large bowl I mixed two cups of rolled oats, a quarter cup each of honey and canola oil, about 1/3 cup each of pecans and raisins. I also added about a teaspoon of cinnamon and a teaspoon of vanilla and a bit of salt.

This is not a recipe that you can dump in the crock pot and walk away from. It needs to be checked frequently and stirred.

Put the mixture into the slow cooker. I set my crock pot on high and I put a chop stick under the lid to prop it open. It needs to be vented so that the steam can escape, allowing the granola to stay crisp, not soggy. Every 20 minutes or so I gave the pot a stir. This process can take an hour and a half or two hours. You are looking for the granola to get sort of toasty. Fair warning – it goes from toasty to burned really fast. And therein lies the trick. Mine wasn’t exactly burned but it was definitely too toasty!!

The Granola Experiment

The other problem with my granola was that it wasn’t quite sweet enough. I should have added a quarter cup of brown sugar in addition to the honey.  This was a fun experiment. I will try it again. But now that I am back at home, I think I will just use my oven to make granola. Much easier and certainly more predictable.

I did cook some bean soup while we were away. As I have mentioned previously, cooking beans at high altitude is a skill that I do not possess. I just can’t seem to get them done. But baby lima beans cook pretty quickly and tend to fall apart. So I made a baby lima bean soup with onions, carrots and celery. It turned out well. The beans were very tender. So there is one bean that I can cook at high altitude.

We ate lots of other beans and grains, but like I said, I was on vacation. So I don’t have photos or even notes about those meals.

I will tell you that as soon as I got home, to my giant, well equipped kitchen, I put on a pot of beans. You may remember that I purchased some cranberry beans in Durango. They are actually grown in Dove Creek, Colorado, very near by.

Cranberry Beans – Aren’t they pretty?

I also cooked a batch of farro.

Farro

And made a delicious new-wave Waldorf salad.

Waldorf Salad with Farro and Vinaigrette

My Mom and Dad came over and shared this meal with us. It was a great opportunity to catch up with them. It had been way too long!

Vacation is nice – but it is great to be back home!

Living Out of My Pantry for Two Weeks (Lots of beans and grains on hand!)

I woke up this morning and decided it was absolutely imperative that I clean out and organize my pantry. This is a job I feel like I have to tackle every few months. I am lucky enough to have a very large, well-stocked pantry. My pantry is of the walk-in variety, it is a room that is about 7′ x 6′. It has rows and rows of shelves that I try to keep organized.

Despite the fact that I have all this food on hand, I find myself heading to the grocery store once or twice a week to stock up. We once had a dear family friend who told me, based on the contents of my pantry, that I must have some weird food issues. Well, I won’t argue with that.

As I was organizing my pantry this morning, it occurred to me that I could probably skip going to the store for weeks, if I would just get organized and eat the bounty that I already have.

I have at least a dozen types of dried beans on hand.

My shelves are stocked with at least a dozen types of grains.

We have pasta, canned tomato products (whole, crushed, diced, and paste!), nuts, nut butters (peanut and almond), dried fruits, whole grain crackers, oils and vinegars of every ilk. On top of that there are pasta sauces, salsas, artichokes, olives and every kind of herb and spice imaginable (alphabetized). OK – I’m a nut.

This is the goal that I have set for myself: I am going to eat food out of my pantry for the next two weeks, no trips to the store. You must be thinking “with all that food in her house, is this even a challenge?”. Well I’m certainly not going to starve to death. I guess the challenge here is to break a habit of running to the grocery store whenever the mood strikes. The challenge is looking at what I have available and figuring out how to use it.

As it happens I went to the grocery store yesterday. So my refrigerator is adequately supplied with fresh produce and other items. I have some varieties of frozen fruits and vegetables in the freezer.

My two week pantry quest will commence tomorrow, Tuesday, May 8 and run through Monday, May 21. I there will be lots of beans and grains on the menu. I will post every day or two with an update.

Today is a preparation day. I got my pantry organized and made a few notes about what I have on hand and some possible meal ideas.

I cooked a batch of 6 bean soup that I had on my pantry shelf. At Christmas I put together several jars of mixed bean soup to give as gifts (see my post “Giving the Gift of Beans and Grains“). I gave away several jars but this one was still on my shelf.

I like having some soup in the refrigerator  to heat up for a quick meal.

I also made two batches of Lilla’s Granola. Lilla is my niece and she is a pastry chef. So she shared her recipe for the world’s best granola. I am making a double batch of granola today. We’ll have that on hand for two weeks, for breakfast and snacks. Husband REALLY loves this granola. And it is a snap to make with pantry items.

Here is the recipe:

Lilla’s Granola

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Any combination of nuts, seeds, dry fruit your heart
    desires….to equal about 1 and 1/3 cup

In a large bowl toss the cinnamon and oats. Mix together in a different bowl the salt, oil, honey, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Add the liquid to the dry. With your hand, or a spatula, mix it until the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour it onto a non-stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake about 25 minutes at 300 degrees. With a metal spatula, stir the granola around on the pan; this prevents you ending up with big clumps of granola. If you like big clumps, skip this step. Bake about 10 more minutes.

Add the nuts/seeds/dry fruit and give it another stir.
Bake about 10-15 minutes longer. Let the granola cool completely. Granola can
be stored in a zip-lock or other air tight container for about a week. It can
be frozen, for even longer.

 I make one slight change to Lilla’s recipe. Instead of using 2 cups of oats, I use 3 cups. This change means that each serving has more oats and a little less fat and sugar. It’s not quite as delicious as hers, but I consider it a reasonable concession in the war against middle age spread!

 

 

Two weeks without a trip to the grocery store? I am ready to start my two week program with a delicious bean and grain soup in the refrigerator and a large air-tight container of granola.

Husband is not totally on board with the 2 week pantry idea. He will almost certainly make some trips to the store. But I’ll make sure that none of his purchases make it into my meals. He and I generally eat different menus because of my non-meat choices. And he usually goes to the store every couple of days. He likes to make his food decisions on the fly. I’m more of a planner.  We’ll see if I have any influence over his ways. Doubtful!

Beans and grains are perfect partners for making pantry meals.  They are generally inexpensive. They store beautifully. And they can be prepared in unlimited ways.

I am thinking that at the end of the two weeks, my pantry shelves will be less full, perhaps easier to keep organized. I will have to do some planning to come up with meals that really work based on the ingredients that I have available. And I will have to figure out how to incorporate my refrigerator and freezer items, to keep things tasting fresh.

I’ll keep you posted!

Give the Gift of Beans and Grains

Now that I am totally hooked on beans and grains, I thought it would be a nice idea to share that with friends and family this holiday season. Here are two great ideas that you can put together in your own kitchen. They are inexpensive, easy and make great gifts.

A Bean Gift: Six Bean Soup

Six Bean Soup: The final product

You will need five, one pound bags of different types of beans. You can use any combination that you like, but it’s nice if the beans are a variety of different colors. I used pinto beans, black beans, small red beans, baby lima beans and split green peas. You will also need some pearled barley. I purchased the barley in the bulk section of my store.

For the spice bag:

  • Dried minced onion
  • Paprika
  • Garlic powder
  • Basil
  • Dried ginger (entirely optional)

Keeping the beans separate, pick through each bag of beans removing any ugly beans or debris. Using 12 clean pint jars, gently layer a heaping quarter cup of each bean variety in the jars with barley being the bottom layer. Try to layer the beans so that the colors make a pleasing array. You will have a little over a cup and a half of beans in each jar.

I got some really small zip lock bags at the Container Store, but any little plastic bag will work. You will need 12 little bags. In each bag place 1 tablespoon Minced Onion, 1/2 tablespoon paprika, a half teaspoon basil, a quarter teaspoon each garlic powder and ginger. You can can vary that to your own preferences.

I also bought tiny bottles of Tabasco at World Market to attach to the bean soup. Daughter and I cannot eat anything without some sort of hot sauce. We’re Texans…what can I say?

I cut little fabric circles to put under the jar rings…just to make things more festive. Cut a circle of fabric that is about an inch larger than the top of the jar. Put the fabric under the ring as you screw the jar shut. Not necessary, but cute.

Make a little gift tag with the following instructions:

“Place beans in a large stock pot or slow cooker, with 6 cups water. Add contents of
spice packet. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for about 3 to 4
hours. Stir occasionally, adding water if needed. Soup is done when all beans are
completely tender, soupy! Garnish with fresh parsley, chives, Parmesan cheese,
lemon wedges. Serve with a green salad and crusty bread.”

 

Six Bean Soup: The components

 

 

A Grain Gift: The Best Granola in the World!

Granola ready for giving...unless we eat it first!

As for the grain to give this holiday season, my niece Lilla Bernal gave me her unbelievably good granola recipe. This recipe is so good that every time Husband sees Lilla, he asks (begs?) for some granola. Husband is hooked on this stuff.

And Lilla has credentials. It’s not just that she’s my niece. Lilla is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, or as we like to say, she received her Toque.  She is currently the Pastry Chef at the best restaurant in San Antonio, Biga on the Banks. Her name is on the menu…she’s a big shot. She sells her fantastic pastries and baked goods every Saturday at the, oh so chic,  Pearl Brewery Farmers Market.  She is also the mother of the two most adorable children in the world.

Trust me, this is good stuff.

Lilla’s Granola

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Any combination of nuts, seeds, dry fruit your heart
    desires….to equal about 1 and 1/3 cup

In a large bowl toss the cinnamon and oats. Mix together in a different bowl the salt, oil, honey, sugar and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Add the liquid to the dry. With your hand, or a spatula, mix it until the oats are coated with the honey mixture.

Pour it onto a non-stick baking sheet, or a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake about 25 minutes at 300 degrees. With a metal spatula, stir the granola around on the pan; this prevents you ending up with big clumps of granola. If you like big clumps, skip this step. Bake about 10 more minutes.

Add the nuts/seeds/dry fruit and give it another stir.
Bake about 10-15 minutes longer. Let the granola cool completely. Granola can
be stored in a zip-lock or other air tight container for about a week. It can
be frozen, for even longer.

 

Granola right out of the oven

 

Bean and Grain Gifts to Purchase:

If you would rather purchase bean and grain gifts to give, here are a couple of websites that you should check out. Both sell gift packs that anyone would be happy to receive:

Ranch Gordo Bean Samplers – heirloom beans beautifully packaged

War Eagle Mill – Check out the beans and cornmeal. It looks great.

 

I love receiving food gifts because it is something that I can use up. I don’t have to find a place to put it. It doesn’t have to be dusted. Both the bean soup and the granola make great gifts. They are easy and inexpensive to prepare. Give these a try…you will get raves from your friends and family!