Homemade Granola kind of morning

I’m on a granola kick now. This of course goes back to my yogurt making. I’ve stretched the yogurt making time from 12 hours to 15 so now its tart. Which I love, but it screams for granola. I considered buying some in the store. But the kid was sleeping, Hubs was running the Broad Street Run and so I rummaged.

Granola

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Preheat oven to 250F

In a large bowl:
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup sweetened coconut or shredded unsweetened
3 Tablespoons Maca Powder
1 cup raw hazelnuts
3/4 tsp salt

In another bowl/measuring cup:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 cup honey

In a separate bowl:
1 cup roasted & salted pistachios
1/2 cup tart cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup hemp seeds
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

Add oil & honey mixture to oat mixture. Mix with your hands. Spread out on a sheet pan. And put in the oven.

Set a timer to go off every 15 minutes. You will need to turn the mixture so it bakes evenly.

Let it bake for an hour and a half. As soon as its done, take it out of the oven and pour the contents of the remaining bowl on top of the hot oats and turn with a spatula to mix it all together while its still warm.

Let cool completely on the sheet pan. Use spatula to loosen from the sheet pan (this is crumbly granola not bars) Store in an airtight container.

Serve with tart Greek-style yogurt & fruit.

It’s the End of The World As We Know It, And I Feel Like Comfort Food

So, we’ve reached the end of the world… again. With such a traumatic event coming I feel it only fitting that we end it on a good note — with comfort food. Soup, crusty bread and cookies seem like a fitting end to me. We’re short on time, so let’s just get to the cooking:

 

Poblano Corn Chowder w/ Smoked Sausage

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1 lb. smoked sausage, diced 1/4″-1/2″
2 c milk
1-1/2 c water
1/2 large Spanish Onion, diced 1/4″ (about 1 c)
4 yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced 1/4″ (about 3 c)
4 c cold water
6 ears corn or 4 c frozen corn
3 poblanos, diced 1/4″ (about 1-1/2 c)
1 T kosher salt
1 T paprika (smoked or sweet)
1 T italian seasoning herbs
2 T all-purpose flour
2 T potato flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/3 c fresh cilantro, minced (optional)
shredded sharp cheddar cheese (optional)

 

NOTE: Put diced potatoes in the 4 cups of cold water to prevent them from changing color until you are ready to add them to the soup.

Cut the corn kernels off the cobs and cut the cobs into thirds. Blanch the corn kernels. If you are using frozen corn you can skip the blanching.

  • Blanch the Corn Kernels: Prepare a large bowl of ice water (only fill about half way). Fill a large pot about half way up with water and set on the stove on high heat (if you have a pasta insert that would make this much easier). When the water is boiling, add a large handful of salt (about 2-3 T). Add the corn kernels. After about three minutes the water will start boiling again and the kernels will look bright yellow. Remove the kernels from the boiling water (using either a slotted spoon or the pasta pot insert) and dunk into the ice water to stop the corn from cooking and cool it down. After about 1-1/2 minutes, remove the corn from the cold water and set aside. Discard the water in the pot and the bowl.

If using corn ears: cut each corn cob into three pieces.

In a 2 qt. saucepan, add the 2 c milk and 1-1/2 c water. Add corn cob pieces (if using) and warm milk on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the smoked sausage to a large (4 qt) soup pot. Turn the heat to medium-low and render the fat slowly.

  • Render the Sausage Fat: You’ll want to do this slowly so you get rid of most of the fat. Move the sausage around the pan so all sides of the diced sausage comes in contact with the pan. The idea is to make sure the fond (stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan) stays brown and doesn’t get “blackened.” So, after about 10-15 minutes when you see a layer of fat in the bottom of the pan, set a strainer over a bowl and drain the oil from the sausage so the fond can stick to the pan. Add the sausage back to the pan and continue rendering the fat. Discard the oil from the first rendering. When the bottom of the pan is covered in the browned fond, drain through the strainer and set the sausage aside.

Raise the heat to medium and add diced onions, poblanos and potatoes to the pot. Add 1 tsp salt.

Add the 3 cups of water to the milk/water/corn cob pot.

Move the vegetables around the pan with a spatula. Use the spatula to scrape the fond off the bottom of the pot as the liquid from the vegetables helps loosen it.

When the vegetables have given off all their liquid and start sticking to the bottom of the pot (about 10 minutes or more depending on the vegetables), add the smoked paprika, italian seasoning herbs and flour. Stir everything for about two minutes to make sure the flour is cooked.

Add the corn kernels and stir to combine.

If there is a skin on the warm milk/water mixture, remove it. Add the warm milk & water mixture (and corn cobs if using) to the vegetables.

Add the sausage and let cook covered for 10 minutes.

Test the corn and potatoes for doneness.

Taste for salt and pepper.

Serve with toasted (rosemary-olive oil) bread. Put minced cilantro & cheddar cheese in bowls on the table to allow people to add to their own taste.

 

 

Strawberries — Grow Your Own Organic (Part 1)

I (like most people who aren’t allergic) love strawberries. I used to buy huge 2lb containers of them every week.  So, when I read a while back about how many chemicals are used to grow them commercially, it really hurt me to stop. I switched to organic only and of course, I started growing my own again.

There are three main things you need to figure out if you want to grow strawberries.

  • Ever-bearing or June-bearing
  • Size
  • Containers or garden

June-bearing strawberries come in all at once during the summer and are fantastic for having big bowls of strawberries or having enough to freeze or make preserves. Ever-bearing are good for having strawberries “year-round”.  Well sort of… They wouldn’t survive outside in northeast weather so I generally keep a few ever-bearing plants on a windowsill indoors through the winter so I can get an organic fresh strawberry in the winter. When you buy your strawberry plants make sure you either have your phone to check the type online if you are in a store.  If you are buying mail order then it should tell you in the description.  Do not buy strawberry plants that just say, “Strawberries.” You need to know the variety and the bearing type.

Strawberry Shortcake (yes, I made it)

Size matters in strawberries. Everyone loves the classic huge strawberry (because they’re good), but the teeny strawberry is the true joy of growing your own. The big strawberry is great for fresh eating, strawberry shortcakes or dipping in chocolate. The teeny strawberry has a more intense strawberry flavor than the big ones.  The teeny ones are best picked ripe but don’t ship well which is why you will rarely find it fresh in the supermarket, but you may find some at a farmers’ market.  If you want to add strawberry flavor to something, use the teeny strawberries.  Oh, and if you want something amazing you can sub in the teeny strawberries for blueberries in muffins. So good!!

Wow… this is getting long quick… I’ll post the second half later today.

What to do…. What to do….?

Sometimes my overindulgence in buying vegetables works out to some sort of magical symphony of ingredients available in the house. That was what happened on Wednesday… National Sandwich Day (I guess there’s a day for everything). So, there seems to be an odd phenomenon in our family… I can’t pick a good sandwich. It is my Food Achilles Heel. If The Hubs and I go to a restaurant and get sandwiches, I always end up liking his sandwich and not eating mine. I’ve learned over the years to just have him help me pick a sandwich because he is a sandwich genius. I don’t even try anymore. So, I was dreaming of The Hubs’ grilled cheese sandwich when I realized I roasted all the tomatoes I had in the house last night to make the Roasted Pepper & Tomato Sauce. I had to come up with some other way to convince The Hubs to make me a grilled cheese. He makes the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had and I love to dip them into a smooth super creamy soups (usually my Balsamic Roasted Tomato Soup) so I had to come up with something else.

I was at the produce place last weekend and since it’s that time of year, I got winter squash, sweet potatoes and apples which are plentiful and relatively inexpensive at the moment. I ended up roasting the butternut squash (in a 400F oven for 1 hour) and making sweet potato fries (roasted in a 400F oven for 1 hour) and when I looked into the fridge this afternoon and saw the leftovers, I had an idea…. What if I made a super creamy soup with the butternut squash, sweet potatoes and apples. If I made it spicy enough It could hold up to a grilled cheese sandwich….hmmm…. So I started fiddling.

Okay… so here’s the other thing…. my “blender” is a Vitamix which I love (and which is expensive).  If you see any contest to win a Vitamix, I highly recommend entering it.  You won’t be disappointed if you get one.  It blends things really fine so I didn’t peel the sweet potatoes or squash (I did peel the apples).  I leave the skin on most things I puree in the Vitamix to boost the texture since The Hubs likes creamy soups and corporate microwaves don’t generally do a great job with creamy soups when you reheat them.

The soup turned out far better than I expected.  The ground poinsettia peppers gave it a lot of heat.  I really recommend growing them and drying them because their heat sneaks up on you so you get to taste all the spices before the heat hits you like a wave.  The apples are sweet enough so you’re not left with a permanently burnt tongue and if you pair it with a grilled cheese sandwich you’ll be all set.  This is a great cold weather soup!

 

Spicy Sweet Potato &  Butternut Squash Soup

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Spanish Onion, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cayenne pepper (or ground poinsettia peppers if you have it)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp apple pie spice
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
6 apples, peeled and cored (I used 2 small McIntosh, 2 Gala & 2 Fuji)
1/3 cup AppleJack (or apple juice)
2 large roasted sweet potatoes, cut in large pieces
1 medium roasted butternut squash, cut in large pieces
2 quarts water

In a soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the onions and garlic. Cook slowly moving onions around the pan as needed until the onions have given up most of their moisture. Add the apples and all the spices. Let this cook slowly for 5-8 minutes. Stirring as needed. Add the AppleJack or apple juice to deglaze the pan and scrape up any spices that may be sticking. Add the sweet potatoes and butternut squash and the water and turn the heat up to high. When the mixture starts boiling, turn down to a summer for about 10-15 minutes. Puree the mixture to a smooth texture in a blender and serve.

Why eat “healthy food” if it tastes bad?

You ever order something “healthy” and taste it and think, what were they thinking when they put this on a menu?  I forgot my lunch the other day and ordered the “healthy option” and it was seriously terrible.  It was LOADED with salt and had little other flavor.  It was supposed to be Cashew Chicken with Brown Rice and Snap Peas.  I expected at least one discernible spice.  I’ll tell you the snap peas were cooked to brownish-grey death, the Chicken and Cashews had so much salt that the sauce could have been sea water and the rice was like mush.  You always see these shows where doctors and nutritionists are so concerned about the food choices people make.  Everyone likes to talk the talk of choose the healthy option, but,  if the healthy option tastes bad then what’s the point?

I have a habit of checking the nutrition labels on supermarket foods and I have to say, some of the substitutions some of the companies make to label foods fat free or sugar free or even low fat are ridiculous when you actually do a label comparison.  What’s the point of getting the low fat version if it has three times the sodium of the  full fat version?  How about you don’t give me a lot of low fat cream cheese that tastes like grit and give me a smidge of full fat cream cheese that tastes amazing.  Or, you know what… I’ll pass on your cream cheese and spread some avocado instead and we’ll call it even.  Seriously… And while I’m on the subject.  What kind of idiots do packaging people think we are when they put “FAT FREE” in bold letters on a package of hard sugar candy?  Really?!

So, I forgot my lunch today and instead of the “healthy option” I went for a sandwich.  At least the veggies are fresh there.