Tuesday, May 31, 2011

granola costs HOW much?

Shopping this week led me past a display stand of "artisanal" breads and granolas. The price breakdown showed that the cost of granola was almost $6 a pound. HOW much?! No, it did not make its way into my shopping basket. Neither did our usual big brand name standby.

When I got home, I broke out the granola recipe I found several years ago in a magazine. I immediately remembered why I hadn't made a second batch. It called for 3 or 4 different kinds of grains and other hard-to-find ingredients, and a dazzling assortment of nuts and dried fruits. I remember paying handsomely for assembling all those ingredients the first time, and the resulting granola wasn't really all that good. We went back to buying the standard Quaker granola which Sam's Club had obligingly started carrying in large sizes. That worked out fine for a couple of years. Recently, however, Sam's switched to carrying the fruity/nutty "improved" version of Quaker granola, with dried apples that taste like cardboard. . . .

OK. Time to revisit home-made granola. I threw out all the old stale ingredients I found in the back of the pantry and did some research on granola recipes. Here's what I ended up with, and believe it or not, I had all the ingredients already on hand! 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
1 cup raw cashews (others use almonds, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds – experiment!)
½ cup coconut
¼ cup wheat germ
½ to 1 cup raisins (or combination of other dried fruits – apricots, dates, craisins, dried pineapple)
scant ¼ cup good cooking oil (not olive) (you could substitute butter – ¼ cup is a half stick – but must be more careful with storage so the butter won’t go rancid. . . )
½ cup honey – or brown sugar – or combination of both
(and the best combination is ½ cup honey and ½ cup brown sugar. I know; I know!)
dash of vanilla

Mix the oats, nuts and grains in a large bowl. Measure oil into the measuring cup (oil first, then honey) and then measure the honey into the same unwashed cup - the oil slides the honey out! Dash in some vanilla and toss everything together until evenly coated (Note that the dried fruit will be added after baking). At this point, you will be questioning your decision to make the granola, which looks pretty bland, dry and highly uninteresting. Stay with me. It gets better. Spread onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. It's best to use something with a bit of a lip to it, so you don’t make a mess when you’re stirring the granola during baking. I use half sheets, as you see.

Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes (or more), turning it with a spatula every ten minutes or so. Things start smelling really good about 20 minutes in. You want everything to be an even golden brown, so don't take it out the minute it starts smelling good! Watch carefully the last few minutes, as it will start to brown rapidly.
When it is finished cooking, return the baked granola to the mixing bowl, add your raisins or other dried fruit and stir to combine. Stir gently several times more as it cools, so it won’t clump together too much.

This stuff is good. Better than anything I've gotten at the store - and SO easy to make! I make it in double batches now.

Here's a printable recipe. What variations will you make?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

War, Basil and Dragons

The garden is doing well.

After 3 days in a row of almost 90 degree weather in April, I disregarded the conventional wisdom of waiting until Mother's Day to set out tender plants. I just couldn't help myself. I came home with six-packs of tomatoes, basil, cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and romaine lettuce. Beans, sugar snap peas and radishes went in by seed. [Note to self: if the radishes don't improve next year, that's three strikes. No more.]

Today, Memorial Day weekend, found me looking at my weather stick which is moving towards predicting rain (just beginning to point down), but having to water the garden and new transplants all the same, as the clouds just scudded by, with no rain. While watering, I regret to report that I attacked a dragon fly with the hose. He tried to land on my shoulder without warning and without filing a flight plan. Sorry about that.

In other garden news, it appears Luther decapitated several snap dragons. He was lucky he had returned indoors by the time I discovered his fell deed. . . .

I never knew snap dragons returned every year! I planted these the first year we moved in.

This stand is particularly vibrant.

I do hope Luther will not make a habit of snapping their heads off.

Continuing in a war-like dragon theme, something has been attacking the basil. Every morning for 4 or 5 days now, I discover a basil plant sheered off and lying on the ground, with bite marks on the leaves! What dastardly creature is doing this? The king has named him Basil Wrath-bone. I went to work.

Research reveals that the prime suspect is a cutworm. We had finished a roll of paper towels, so I used the cardboard tube as a collar for the smaller plants, meaning to adapt something else for the larger plants. Tin foil was suggested.

This morning, Mr. Wrathbone had struck again. Here, a close up. See the sheered off stems? I cut the bottoms out of some plastic cups and ran them over the rest of the seedlings.
In the process, I transplanted some seedlings into the war zone, and believe I have now found the culprit! Here he is is, a black cutworm.
They move surprisingly fast. After his photo op, he was bisected by the trowel.

I know, it's a cruel world.

Meanwhile, almost all of the smaller basils now have little anti-Basil Wrathworm collars.
I've left a few teensy basils out there as bait. If they go, I'll dig under the surface to find and dispatch the miscreant. Apparently, they won't attack the larger plants, so those are safe.

Moving on. I am amazed at the size of the cabbage. They are almost 3 feet across. I'm on the lookout for fireflies (no sign yet); we have green tomatoes (duly cayenne peppered, given last year's experience!); and the sugar snap peas are twice the height of last year's, but no blossoms until just this week. They're all also cayenned to within an inch of their lives. I am not growing food for the deer.

I'm not growing watermelon either, but dinner tonight is wine and watermelon. A good choice for a hot summer night.