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!

Burgers Made with Beans and Grains

I eat a lot of veggie burgers. Veggie burgers are one of my go-to meals. When I need something quick and satisfying, a burger does the trick. I have a couple of frozen brands that I like and I always keep some in my freezer, ready to make a quick meal.

But it has certainly occurred to me that I should be able to bypass the frozen brands and simply make my own at home. That gives me complete control over the ingredients, the added flavorings and the freshness. And of course, I can use beans and grains!

Awhile ago, Mark Bittman had an article in the New York Times titled, “No Meat, No Dairy, No Problem“. He presented several meat-free, dairy-free recipes. One of those recipes was for a bean burger. Naturally I was intrigued. It’s such a simple recipe and is just chock-full of good-for-you ingredients. A similar recipe appears in Mr. Bittman’s book, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”. If you get the recipe from the book, he presents lots and lots of options for the preparation of these burgers.

The time had come for me to give this recipe a try.

I used his recipe from the book which is slightly different than the recipe in the NY Times. The recipe called for 2 cups of drained beans (any variety), one onion cut into quarters, 1/2 cup rolled oats, chili powder, salt and pepper, and some olive oil for pan frying. The book calls for one egg, to act as a binder or if you want the recipe to be vegan, leave out the egg and use a 1/4 cup of vegan mayonnaise.

Bean Burger Ingredients; simple and healthy

 

You can use canned beans or home cooked beans. If you cook your own, let them cool before making this recipe.  I used garbanzo beans for my burgers, because I like their taste and texture. I used only half of an onion because I didn’t want it to be overpowering.  And I used chili powder, but it occurs to me that many other seasonings would also be delicious (curry powder, Old Bay, a Moroccan spice blend…).

I threw all the ingredients into my food processor and pulsed that until the mixture was broken down but still has some texture. I am going to show you a photo…but be aware that it’s not the most delicious looking thing you’ve ever seen!

Burger ingredients in the food processor. Not very photogenic!

 

The recipe in the NY Times suggests that you make 4 burgers out of this mixture. I think that results in a patty that is way to big. I divided the mixture into 7 patties. That seemed more manageable. Keep reading…I’ll tell you more about that in a bit.

Patties formed and ready to cook

 

I heated a large non-stick skillet that I had coated with a tablespoon of olive oil. I cooked the patties three at a time for about 5 minutes on each side. Here is the trick – these patties are a little bit difficult to turn over.  They will have a tendency to fall apart and/or lose their shape. Don’t over crowd the skillet so that there is plenty of space to maneuver. Also  use two spatulas to flip the burgers so that you can keep everything together.

Burgers cooking on the second side

 

The burgers turned out very  nicely. They were well browned. They had a crunchy exterior and a moist, crumbly interior. They didn’t taste really “beany”. I served them just like a burger; on a bun with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, mustard and mayonnaise.

My Burger

I took the remaining burgers and froze them. I laid them out carefully in a freezer bag and froze them flat so that they weren’t touching and would not stick together too much. I have used my frozen burgers. I didn’t thaw them. I put the frozen burger on a piece of foil and put it on a hot grill. I am sure that a hot skillet or toaster oven would work as well.

So what’s my take-away? I like these a lot and I will definitely make them again. But I will make one change.  I would divide the bean/grain mixture up into smaller patties, maybe the same diameter but less thick. I think I could easily get 10 patties out of this recipe. I found that if the burger was too thick it had a tendency to smoosh when eaten.

I think that this would great served like you would a crab cake…so it wouldn’t be on a bun, but would be the centerpiece of the meal. You could season it with Old Bay and serve it with tartar sauce and cocktail sauce. You could season the patty as you would falafel and serve it with a yogurt or tzaziki sauce. You could use black beans instead of garbanzos and serve the patty with salsa.

I love that it is so simple to make. I love that it is made with straight-up beans and grains. And I love that it is something that I can make ahead and freeze.

I think there are lots of interesting ways to play around with this recipe. I will be experimenting!

 

Snacking on Beans and Grains

Here are some ideas how you can power up your daily snacks using beans and grains. Because beans and grains are naturally low in fat and calories, high in fiber and nutrients, adding them to your regular snack repertoire just makes sense.

Muesli and Fruit

Great for breakfast, but also makes a good daytime snack. Not a bad stand-in for dessert.

Muesli with raspberries and blueberries

Mix a quarter cup plain non-fat yogurt, a quarter cup low fat milk or milk substitute and quarter cup of rolled oats. Add either vanilla or cinnamon to season. Sweeten with a teaspoon or so of honey or agave syrup, to taste. Cover the mixture and stick in the refrigerator for at least an hour but over night is OK too. The mixture will thicken and the oats will soften.

I use Bob’s Red Mill Extra Thick Rolled Oats.  You can’t use steel cut oats here because there is no cooking involved. The steel cut oats won’t soften adequately.

When the mixture has softened, serve in a pretty bowl topped with fruit of your choice. Berries, bananas, pineapple, mango are all good. Top with slivered almonds. This recipe makes a single serving but can easily be doubled, quadrupled etc.

To take this as a snack to work or school, consider using  frozen fruit.  The frozen fruit will keep your muesli cold for a couple of hours and when the fruit has thawed it will make a good mid-morning snack. I particularly like frozen cherries!

 

Edamame – The Easiest Snack Imaginable!

Edamame is immature soybeans still in the pod. This is a popular appetizer to order at sushi restaurants. At my store I can buy frozen edamame in a bag that is microwave safe. You just throw the whole bag in the microwave for a few minutes, open and drain. Then toss the edamame in a bowl with a little bit of sea salt.

Frozen edamame in a microwaveable bag

This is a great snack because you basically have to shell the edamame. The best way to do that is with your teeth. It’s a tasty snack that takes a little bit of work. It slows you down a bit!

Edamame with a bit of sea salt

At the sushi restaurant we go to regularly, they serve a spicy edamame. They toss the cooked edamame in a mixture that I would guess is soy sauce and chili paste. They are messy to eat but still quite good.

 

Roasted Chickpeas

You can serve roasted chickpeas in a bowl, just like you would serve nuts. They are crunchy and salty like nuts. The bonus? Chickpeas have fiber whereas nuts do not!

Chili Roasted Chickpeas

You will need two cups of cooked chickpeas. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Using a clean kitchen towel, get the chickpeas dry as possible. In a large bowl toss the chickpeas with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil. I season this mixture with chili powder but here are some other ideas:

  • a simple sprinkle of sea salt
  • Old Bay
  • curry powder
  • Tabasco
  • any favorite spice rub or blend

Put the seasoned chickpeas on a foil (or Silpat Mat ) lined baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 15 minutes. Using a large spoon, stir the mixture once or twice during baking. Let cool slightly before eating or cool completely and store in an air tight container for a couple of days.

These are great as a snack but also make a tasty, crunchy salad topping.

 

And Don’t Forget the Popcorn!

Yes my friends, popcorn is a whole grain. Don’t get the microwave kind. It has too many weird additives. Just buy plain old, simple popcorn. I buy Bob’s Red Mill Premium Popcorn but you can get whatever you find on the shelf in your store.

And here is a simple way to cook it in your microwave. In a large glass, microwave safe bowl, combine 1/4 cup popcorn and a splash of canola or other vegetable oil (leave out the oil if you want it to be fat-free). Cover the glass container with a microwave safe plate. Microwave on high for 2 to 4 minutes until there are 1 or 2 seconds between pops. Remove the top carefully so that you don’t get a face full of steam. Your microwave may take more or less time, so don’t walk away from it.

Now I am going to give you some of the best advice you will ever receive. When making microwave popcorn stop the microwave cooking sooner rather than later. You may think “Hey I want every last kernel popped” but don’t do it. Burnt popcorn is awful. It will make your house smell. It will leave a bad taste in your mouth. So sacrifice those last few kernels. Popcorn goes from perfect to awful in the blink of an eye!

You can top your popcorn with a drizzle of butter or olive oil. And be creative with your seasonings. Yes a little salt is good. But try some chili powder or some grated Parmesan. Or give it a dash of curry powder for a real twist! A quarter cup of unpopped popcorn yields about 3 cups popped.