Saturday, February 12, 2011

Starting in Winter

It's winter.  Has anyone ever started a blog in the summer?  I think not.  Not when there are beaches to visit or gardens to weed, seeds to plant for the next wave of garden gems.  But it's winter and it's cold and I have a ton of work to do.  So what better way to avoid work than by starting a blog I'll never have the time to keep up? 

I've been obsessed with making granola lately.  I think the attraction is the wonderful smell while cooking.  I love to eat it but I could buy a box and do that and I never have.  It's definitely the smell.  That plus the self-satisfied smugness I get opening the mason jar eating the left-over stash the rest of the crazy work week.  So for the past four weeks Saturday morning means granola.

There are a million granola recipes and I imagine that even the authors of the recipes never make it the same way twice.  Tweaking is way too tempting. It's the reason I'm a lousy baker - I cannot follow directions.  But granola - like most recipes - is forgiving.  Tweaking is the point.

My two favorite basic recipes are from Molly know, the amazing blogger/author Orangette, and Melissa Clark and her adaptation of Early Bird Granola (excellent book "In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite").  One is honey-based with a neutral oil (in the original recipe) and the other brilliantly combines maple syrup and olive oil.  But again, the point is to tweak - which for me is usually based on what do I have . . .

Recipe can easily be doubled but you must use two baking sheets and switch them back and forth during baking.

Master Granola Recipe
Serves two people all week
3   cups Old-fashioned rolled oats
1-1/2 cups   Nuts (pistachios,  pumpkin seeds, pecans, almonds or sunflower seeds   with a little sesame thrown in - your choice, mix it up or pick one or two)
1 cup Unsweetened shredded coconut (Bob's Red Mill are good - available in the health food section of most well stocked grocery stores or - hope you are a Prime Member)
3/4 cup Maple syrup or honey
1/2 cup Extra virgin olive oil or 3 Tbsp. Coconut oil (now you probably don't have this but you can pick up a jar on Amazon and it's worth it to have around, Eugenia Bone has a great recipe for mushrooms sautéed in coconut oil on her terrific blog, Well-Preserved)
1/3 cup Packed light brown sugar or palm sugar
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
1/2 tsp. Ground cinnamon (clearly you can play with the spices to suit your tastes)
1/2 tsp. Ground ginger
1/2 tsp. Ground cardamom
1 cup Chopped dried apricots (I use a scissors to cut them in half and then in thirds or chopped figs or dates or prunes or golden raisins or any combination of dried fruit)

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. If you are using the honey and coconut oil, melt them together in the microwave for 45 seconds to make it easier to incorporate into the remaining ingredients. Mix everything but the dried fruit together in a large bowl.
3.  Spread in one layer on a rimmed baking sheet (covering the sheet with foil makes clean up simple).
4.  Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. You want the granola golden brown and well toasted but not burnt. It can take longer than 40 minutes but just keep an eye on it.
5.  Let cool on the baking sheet (lacking a baking rack, I put it over the grates of my stove-top burners so the air circulates underneath).
6.  When cool, stir in dried fruit. Serve with milk or yogurt or ricotta and berries or bananas or just munch plain and store the remainder in a large mason jar with lid. Feel smug.

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