12.12.2011

Perfect Soaked Granola, with Chocolate and Peanut Butter Variations!




I've tried a lot of soaked granola recipes. The first several failed. Then I tried the recipe in Healthy Snacks to Go by Katie of Kitchen Stewardship. It was almost right. It was more like chunky cereal than granola, but very delicious. Recently I tried another recipe that had all the same ingredients but different proportions. But the best yet is a combination between a few recipes. It is chunky but not a solid mass, with distinguishable oats.

So here it is: my perfect soaked granola!

Why soaked? When you soak grains in an acidic medium, like yogurt or buttermilk, the good bacteria and acid can help break down the substances that inhibit our digestion of grains, called phytates (or mineral blockers) and enzyme inhibitors. That means you absorb more of the good stuff in the grains! I for one would like to actually be able to use the nutrients in my food! An added perk of soaking granola is that it makes it chunky and clumpy - something many granola-bakers (including myself) strive to achieve!

This recipe really has limitless variations. Alter the nuts, seeds, and fruits to your taste. Add extra spices if you want. I like a hefty dose of cinnamon. Lately we've been enjoying it with sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and dried cranberries. We just have to try to keep our toddler from eating only the dried fruit!

I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to make this but you can also use a strong arm with a wooden spoon or your hands - though the latter option is pretty messy! This batch is almost too big to fit in my mixer, so when I turn it on I have to guard the edge with my hands to try to keep granola from getting all over the counter. :) But it's still easier than mixing by hand!

Perfect Soaked Granola

Ingredients: 

6 c. rolled oats (I use thick rolled oats)
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. plain yogurt
1/4 c. water (or enough to make the mixture sticky)
1 c. unsweetened shredded coconut (I order this in bulk or get it from the health food store)
1 c. seeds (pumpkin, sesame, or sunflower)
1 c. chopped nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.)
1 T. cinnamon
1 c. coconut oil (you can also use butter)

3/4 c. honey
2 t. salt
2 t. vanilla
1 c. dried fruit (raisins, cherries, cranberries, papaya, apples, etc.)

1. Mix together oats, flour, yogurt, and water. You want it to be evenly moist but not overly wet. Leave this mixture to soak 7-24 hours at room temperature or slightly warmer (the oven with the pilot light or oven light on is a great place).

The soaked mixture is evenly moist and holds together if you grab a handful, but is not especially wet.
2. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 250. Add to the soaked mixture the coconut, seeds, nuts, and cinnamon.

3. Melt the coconut oil in a saucepan. Add the honey, salt, and vanilla to the melted oil and stir. Add the wet ingredients to oat mixture and mix thoroughly. 

4. Spread on 2 rimmed cookie sheets lined with parchment or a nonstick baking mat and bake at 250 until dry and crisp, stirring, flipping, and breaking up as needed. When cool add the dried fruit. Store at room temperature if you will eat it within a couple weeks. If not, store in the refrigerator to keep the nuts from going rancid.

Variation: Chocolate Coated Granola

Directions are for half of the recipe. Double proportions if you want the whole batch to be chocolatey.

When granola is finished cooking but still warm from the oven, sprinkle onto half of it: 1/3-1/2 c. dark chocolate chips and drizzle with 2 T. honey. Stir on the cookie sheet to mix evenly and let cool before storing in an airtight container. Omit dried fruit.

Variation: Peanut Butter and Honey Granola 

Directions are for half of the recipe. Double proportions if you want the whole batch to be peanut-buttery.

When granola is finished cooking but still warm from the oven, drizzle on to half of it: 1/3-1/2 c. creamy natural peanut butter and 2 T. honey. Stir on the cookie sheet to mix evenly, then add dried fruit. Let cool before storing in an airtight container.

(I'm pretty sure this would also be good with peanut butter AND chocolate...but I haven't tried it yet.) 

This is part of Monday Mania, Real Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, and Fight Back Friday.


12.01.2011

Tips for Pleasant Dish-Washing

Look familiar?

Cooking real food means dirtying a lot of dishes. Even on a simple meal kind of day (which is most days lately) we still dirty plenty of dishes. No microwave hot pockets or canned soup for us.

Unfortunately, I really dislike washing dishes. And this dislike plus a busy life causes me to put it off. And then they pile up, I get frustrated, I melt down, I plead with the hubby to help even though he's super busy with school...etc. Add to this the fact that our dishwasher is not functional as more than a dish-drying rack, and it is not going to be replaced until we move out. Not happy.

Obviously the best thing to do is to wash dishes right away, several times a day. That is always my goal. But when that doesn't happen, which is most of the time, and both sides of the sink and the counter are covered in dirty dishes, and you're pregnant and dishes repulse you, and your husband is at the library frantically finishing a paper, what's a girl to do?

Here are my tips for making dish washing a pleasant experience, especially when it's going to be a long haul.

How to Survive Washing a Ton of Nasty Dishes

1. Get some tunes goin'. We've got a handy set-up in our kitchen that involves cheap speakers on top of the cabinets and an 8th inch cable threaded between the wall and the cabinets. That means I can plug in the iPod to accompany my dish-washing marathon with whatever music will lift my spirits. Which of course lately is Christmas music. Always. I prefer something peaceful, since dishes stress me out, like George Winston's December album. My husband, on the other hand, prefers to listen to the ugliest music imaginable when he's on dish duty. Like The Dirty Projectors. Yuck.



2. Get yummy smelling natural dish soap, and/or put a drop of essential oil on your (clean) dish rag. I keep some lavender oil in a cabinet near the sink so it's always there when I need it. Oh my goodness does that make me happy. Nothing like the smell of lavender to relieve stress and brighten one's day. And as for the yummiest smelling soap, you MUST try Almond Dishmate, made by Earth Friendly Products.











3. Light a candle. Lately I've been lighting an apple-spice scented soy candle. (I don't like soy, except in candles. It burns cleaner and lasts longer than regular wax.) If my candle isn't especially scent-ey, I put a drop of essential oil in there, too.




4. Brew yourself a cup of something yummy. (Can you tell that these tips are all about pleasing your senses?) My choice on the day I took these pictures was Organic Earl Grey that I got from my friend Sarah, who works for Sterling Tea, a small Texas-based tea blender that makes exquisite black, green, white, rooibos, and herbal teas. Best Earl Grey ever.  If you love tea, you've gotta check them out. And if you or someone you know owns a coffee shop or gift shop that might be interested in selling their tea, let me know and I'll hook you up!


Isn't that a happy picture?

While I was taking pictures and sipping tea for this post, Caedmon started asking for "hot tea" as he often does. So I hooked him up with some of his favorite "ha-po tea" (that translates as "apple tea") And he had a blast slurping it up with a spoon and making a big mess. But our carpet is already nasty so I didn't mind!

You like my bed head?


oops...

Ooooh that's good tea!
If I had a tip number 5, it would be to wash dishes A) when your children are napping, or if that fails, B) when they are engrossed in something entertaining like slurping tea or crumbling play dough all over the floor. So you can scrub away in peace, while your ears and nose and taste buds convince you that washing dishes really isn't so bad after all. 

This is part of Simple Lives Thursday, Freaky Friday, and Fight Back Friday.