Cold and dry equals Homemade Granola

As the temperature drops into single digits here in the Midwest, some folks crave a big bowl of chili while others dream of a plate of cheese dripping, mac and cheese. Well, not me.  As the thermometer drops and the moisture sucking air moves in, I gleefully announce, “I’m making granola.”

So, I happily made granola last night until I realized, I had not bought any dates. Too darn lazy(and cold)to go to my local co-op, I continued-on with figs, apricots, raisins, and cherries.  Still, it’s just not the same granola without medjool dates.

I’ve been making this granola off and on since the late 90’s.  I pulled it out of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and I said, “I can do this.”  It isn’t a cheap endeavor but neither is buying granola of this quality.  Besides, it tastes great over my often soupy, and tart, raw-milk yogurt.

These are the dry ingredients: A mix of chopped, raw pecans and cashews, coconut flakes, raw sunflower seeds, a mix of chopped figs and apricots, old fashioned oats, cherries and raisins, and golden flax seeds.

After preparing the dry, I move on to heating up on low: Vanilla, maple syrup-Grade B, coconut oil, honey(buy local if you can), and cinnamon. Whisk until fully combined.

After the wet ingredients are warmed, stir into dry ingredients except the dried fruit. Add the dried fruit last.

Prepare two jelly-roll pans and line with foil(or not–I like easy clean-up). I do not add non-stick spray even though the recipe recommends it.

Heat in a 350 degree oven for five minutes, pull out, stir and return back to oven, switching the rack placement. To keep it straight, the pan I pull from the top rack always goes on the right and the bottom goes on the left.  I then know the right goes on the bottom rack while the left goes on the top. You do this three times. I do not stir the granola after the final five minutes–I just leave it.  I leave it be for at least a couple of hours or even overnight. Dry air keeps the granola crunchy and downright delicious.

Cranberry Raisin Granola
3 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 C sliced almonds 
1/3 C sunflower seeds
2 Tbls flax seed
1/4 C maple syrup
1/4 C mild flavored honey
2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C raisins
1/2 C chopped pitted dates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In bowl, combine oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds.

In small saucepan, heat maple syrup, honey, oil, cinnamon and vanilla until mixture is warm, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir, then pour warm liquid over oat mixture. Stir with rubber spatula until oats are moist and coated evenly. Mix in dried fruits.

Cover jellyroll pan with foil. Coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Spread granola to cover pan in even layer.

Bake 5 minutes. Remove from oven. Stir and turn granola, to let it dry and color evenly. Repeat, stirring every 5 minutes, until oats are lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  They will still feel slightly soft and moist. Cool granola in pan; it will get crisp. Stored in airtight container, granola keeps 1-2 weeks.

As you can see, I changed up the ingredients a little bit.  I’m all about the pizazz, and I have it with pecans, cashews, cherries and coconut.

Granola, yogurt and dark chocolate chips=YUM!

I always double the recipe and refrigerate–it stays fresh and crisp longer. I used all organic ingredients except the honey. This is a healthier granola recipe but pay attention to the serving size of a half a cup.

Stay warm and be sure to make your kitchen smell delicious soon with this recipe.

Fermenting 101–Water Kefir

A facebook friend, a yogi in Colorado, posted a link about the benefits of water kefir. I read it, and quickly ordered the grains from someone referred to as the kefirlady. For $20.00, I received live kefir grains, directions, and a tablespoon or so of organic sugar(turbinado or sucunat).  And so began my trials and tribulations with water kefir grains.

What drew me to water kefir was it mimicked soda/pop, and it was a probiotic that will aid in digestion and elimination. Since I was giving up soda(that’s how we say it here), and I could always use some digestive help, I was intrigued.  Let me assure you, it was not love at first taste.  It was live bacteria, and I needed to nurture them with sugar, warmth and delicate handling–oh, great. Oh, and did I mention they have an odor about them?  Trust me, nothing like dairy kefir but that’s for another blog. I went out and bought organic, brown sugar and bottled water, and I treated them gently, but I continued to “lose” grains at an alarming rate. I thought my stainless steel strainer was to blame, so I ordered a tighter weave, plastic strainer from Amazon 4.
I then added organic molasses to the mix and also some organic, dried fruit(A tip on dried fruit: It’s messy and a pain to clean from your grains. Leave it in your kefir container for a day only or tie it up in cheese cloth). I still lost grains and had to order more. Where did my grains go, you ask?  Well, as far as I can figure, a fair amount went down the sink while the others dissolved due to not enough food. Since my baking with yeast turned out to be gigantic failures, it appeared my luck with live bacteria was equally pathetic. I would not give up!

I have tweaked my methods and I have had the most success when I change them every 4-5 days, and add four tablespoons of Whole Cane Sugar with two tablespoons of organic molasses in 6-8 cups bottled water.  Another addition to assure success is to add the dried fruit for the last few days of fermenting-this energizes the grains with more sugar. Be sure and rinse the boys when you refresh the recipe and use glass to store them in and non-metal to handle the grains.

 Water Kefir

DSC_0848Here is the outcome from my last batch.  The grains have been soaking for five days with figs thrown in for the last two days. Notice the natural carbonation with grains floating on top(the large pieces are the figs).


In this photo are the items needed to change-out the grains. The items are pretty obvious, but I want to stress the nylon strainer.  I was losing a lot of grains through my other larger holed strainers until I found this strainer on Amazon .It works like a charm.

DSC_0853I’ve strained the grains and saved the liquid in the water container. The saved water kefir will go into the fridge and consumed once chilled. Never put your grains into the fridge unless you want them to go dormant.  I’ve heated the water to take the chill off, added 3 Tbls of organic sugars and did a generous pour of blackstrap molasses. The molasses is what is making this future batch so much darker.   I gently spoon the grains into the sugar water and stir.

DSC_0855 DSC_0856

I attach a paper towel and rubber band and place the jar in the bottom oven. It will sit in the cold oven for the 4-5 days.

It takes a little getting used to, but I have learned to love it.  I’ve been making water kefir for three years, and I drink about 8 ozs. at night mixed with powdered magnesium, before I go to bed.

So much to cook and so little time to do it

I’ve gone a little crazy in the kitchen, and I’m not fitting under the labels of cook or baker. Rather, I am more of a creator in the kitchen.  I create fermentations of all kinds, and I make mustard and prepared horseradish. Plus I bake, cook, can, freeze and dehydrate. Maybe this is why my daughter was discussing me at lunch with some of her friends, and they had suggested I started a blog. Well, that’s not a bad idea.  I would love to chat with other foodies and like-minded folk about all my DIY/science projects around the kitchen, and the garden, and my latest passion, raising chickens. My daughter and her twenty-something friends thought I was blog worthy so why not.

I live in a fairly large city in the Midwest, but since my hubby and I own a double city lot, we’ve turned the yard into a food factory: Half the yard is a vegetable garden and another quarter of it into a chicken coop/run.  I’m still working on the hubby to pull-up the remaining grass and plant more food-bearing plants. That’s going to take a little more coercion(what is it with guys and grass?).

Join me in discussions about cooking, kitchen DIY projects, baking, raising chickens in the city, and possibly starting a beehive. I will talk about my vegetarian lifestyle, the frustrations of working with yeast, raw milk, how much I am loving chickens and all of the pitfalls of becoming self-sustaining.