Friday, December 10, 2010

Vegan Dumplings

As often happens when I browse the bulk section at Good Earth, I found a food I had to try but had no plan for.  My lovely guinea pigs - I mean children, put up with these experiments fairly well and they usually work out.  This time it was the TVP "chunklets" that caught my eye.  A winter favorite from seasons past is Chicken and Dumplings and I thought maybe these would work for a veggie version.


This is one of those 'accidental vegan' recipes because as I've mentioned I'm in love with the Better Than Bullion vegan chicken and beef flavors and I use them a lot, and all the veggie versions of homemade soups and stuff are just becoming vegan as my pantry changes over time.  

Get out:
chicken bullion
veggie bullion
1/2 Cup diced carrots
1/2 Cup diced onion
2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp mustard powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 pkg frozen peas
1 pkg frozen corn
two handfuls TVP chunklets

For the dumplings:
2 cups Bisquick
3/4 cup unflavored plant milk (I've been using Better than Milk from powdered for cooking)

I toss the baby carrots and onion chunks in the food processor and pulse away till it's diced and set aside while the hot water dissolves the bullion.  I did equal parts veggie broth and chicken broth for a deeper flavor.  Get 2 Tbsp oil heating in a big pot (pick one you have a lid for you'll need it).  Sauté the carrots and onion with the spices until you have a nice aromatic smell and pour in the broths.  Add salt and pepper to taste as the broth gets hot.  Once the broth is bubbling dump in your frozen veg (we also sometimes drop in brocolli, lima beans etc depending on mood and freezer stock just stick to dense small pieces for even cooking).  

Let that come up to a boil and mix your dumpling dough.  Add the milk to the mix and stir until just mixed it will be dense.  Since I had no idea how to do the TVP chunklets I decided to drop them in just before the dumplings.  Pinch off small sections of the dough and drop into the boiling liquid.  After all your dough is in turn down the heat to keep it from boiling over.  Let it go for 10 minutes uncovered and then pop on the lid for another 10.
  before lid     
 after cooked

The TVP cooked up great and may have been a bit too like chicken actually, but it kept in the fridge great and reheated well the next day for lunch.  :)


Monday, December 6, 2010

Pantry Raid BBQ Sauce

So I woke up today craving BBQ (and out of money).  This was not a problem at first because I knew I had tofu and I was sure I had a bottle of BBQ sauce.  I did have tofu...

Then I went looking for an easy recipe for sauce that would consist of stuff I already had at home, a sweet vegan friend recommended Chipotle Barbecued Tofu and it looked great but, as often happens when I go to the pantry, I went off script.  This is what I came up with instead, I hope you like it.  :)

Find these staples in your pantry:
Two cans tomato sauce
1/3 Cup Sweet and Sour sauce (I use Sun Luck brand)
2 Tbsp each:  Sriracha, Soy Sauce, and Braggs
3 Tbsp Chili Powder
2 Tbsp each: Dried Chives and Dried Onion flakes
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Honey (if you are vegan sub Agave or replace all the sugar with the same amount molasses) 
2 tsp each: Red Curry powder, Smoked Paprika, White pepper, Mustard powder and celery salt
a dash of Worcestershire sauce (there are several good vegan brands)

Get the whole thing boiling in a pot for about 5 or 10 minutes then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for about an hour.  The longer it simmers the more developed and rich the flavor will be.  I had the tofu draining and pressing while it simmered so by the time the sauce is ready to go, so is the tofu.

Pour out some to coat the bottom of a glass pan (let me save you the heart ache of tofu bonded to metal) and lay out your tofu slices on the sauce, then cover up with the remainder of the sauce.

Cover with plastic wrap and let the tofu soak up the sauce for a while.  [This could be done the night before in the fridge if you don't have the time during the day for this process.]

Bake your tofu at 425 degrees for 30 minutes and enjoy.

We served it with veggie baked beans, broccoli and corn muffins.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

TVP Tacos

Here are the TVP Tacos I've been promising to my friends.  I've invited dear Chef to guest blog since he's the one who made this delicious awesomeness possible.  :)

Start off putting 2 Cups TVP into a largeish bowl and set aside.

Measure 1/4 Cup Kitchen Bouquet in a 2 Cup (or larger measuring cup)

Top off the liquid to 2 Cups with water

mix in 1/3 Cup taco seasoning.  Commercial works (I will add a recipe soon for mine... much cheaper)
and bring to a boil.

While you are waiting for the juice to boil, it is a good time to prep your toppings. We go with red leaf lettuce, limes, avocado, onions, tomatoes, black beans, peppers, green onions, olives and what ever else sounds good that night.... oh yeah tortillas are a must.

When the juice boils, slowly add it to the TVP while mixing.  You want to be sure to get all the TVP wet.

Let the TVP sit for 5-10 minutes, just until it has no crunch left, but is still nice and hot.


I hope you all like it as much as we have!

Thanksgiving Feast

Hello all.  I've decided I have the energy to start blogging again and thought I'd start by sharing our lovely feast pictures with you all.

We made several standard items: mashed potatoes, the Chef's stuffing, grilled haricot verts, and a lovely vegan "turkey" gravy, but a few items were inspired by all the Vegan MoFo out there and I thought I'd share the pictures and links.

We always do a fruit and cheese plate to start the day before the big meal:

Eldest did the fruit and cheese.  She put out grapes, strawberries, baby cucumbers, baby carrots and pomegranate pips.  

She also did a baked brie wrapped in puff pastry surrounded by various cheeses (all local!).  The endive is tipped with a local chevre and green onion, we dipped these in the balsamic vinegar reduction Chef made on Monday.  

Then for the main course I made the seitan roulade from Vegan Yum Yum's recipe.  There was a warning on it because many people have, apparently, had trouble with it.  I suspect it's due to regional humidity differences, since we are so dry and the recipe stresses that the dough should be wet, I simply added a couple extra tablespoons of the liquid.  It was simple and SO GOOD!

Sorry you only get the raw view, I meant to take a finished picture but we ate it too fast.  I did tweak the recipe by adding some poultry seasoning to the dry and using 6 tablespoons of water with three parts "chicken" bullion and one part "beef" to replace the same amount of veggie broth.  It gave it a more "turkey" flavor.  

I hope you all had a good vacation and I will get the roast beast and lentil loaf recipes up soon.  :)

Monday, August 23, 2010

A word about eggs...

Hi all sorry it's been a few, but, well, summer.

I have been following the egg recalls very closely as we still eat eggs in our house and as we don't own our own chickens.  I can say that I'm very happy how low our exposure is and that we buy local.

We have boiled eggs in egg, and tuna salads or poached for breakfast.  I haven't baked with an egg in ages.  This tends to confuse the non-veggie people, and challenge novice veggies and vegans when they first crack into baking.  I thank goodness my mother is a baker and I came armed with some simple, yet magic, info for vegan baking.

Ground Flax seed, corn starch, and tapioca flour.

These three things are all you will ever need to bake with instead of eggs.  It's a simple basic ratio of one tablespoon alternative = one egg.

How do you know which one to reach for?  It helps if you know why eggs are in a recipe.  Eggs do two jobs in baking, either the yoke adds fat to bind the ingredients or the whites add lift (the fluffy), sometimes its a bit of each.

This too just takes some simple thought about your particular project.  I've listed the alternatives from "heaviest" to "lightest".  If you have a pretty fatty recipe like peanut butter cookies odds are you can skip the egg all together, but otherwise I usually go with flax in a cookie.  Making a cake?  Reach for the tapioca flour.

Play with it a bit but with this simple info you can convert any baked recipe that's been handed down from the ages or found online to a veggie friendly, salmonella free treat.

Also, save money on flax by buying it whole in bulk.  It keeps in the freezer [forever practically] and you can just slap it in the coffee grinder to make your own small batches of flour.  

Friday, August 13, 2010

Computer program deciphers a dead language that mystified linguists

Computer program deciphers a dead language that mystified linguists: "Computer program deciphers a dead language that mystified linguists

By Alasdair Wilkins

Originally posted on

The lost language of Ugaritic was last spoken 3,500 years ago. It survives on just a few tablets, and linguists could only translate it with years of hard work and plenty of luck. A computer deciphered it in hours.

The computer program relies on a few basic assumptions in order to make intuitive guesses about the language's structure. Most importantly, the lost language has to be closely related to a known, deciphered language, which in the case of Ugaritic is Hebrew. Second, the alphabets of the two languages need to share some consistent correlations between the individual letters or symbols. There should also be recognizable cognates of words between the two languages, and words that have prefixes or suffixes in one language (like verbs that end in '-ing' or '-ed' in English) should show the same features in the other language.

That might seem like a lot of information for the program to require, but even all that is no guarantee of decipherment. After Ugaritic was first discovered in 1929, it remained untranslatable for years. It finally revealed some of its secrets to German cryptographer Hans Bauer, who was only able to make substantial headway when he guessed the drawing of an ax was next to the Ugaritic word for 'ax.' Even this breakthrough wasn't a complete success, because although Bauer's guess was correct he matched the wrong sounds and letters together, resulting in a mistranslation.


The results were stunning. Of the thirty letters in the Ugaritic alphabet, the computer correctly identified twenty-nine of them. Of the roughly third of all Ugaritic words that share Hebrew cognates, the program figured out sixty percent of them, and many of the errors were only off by a letter or two. These results are particularly encouraging because the program still doesn't use any contextual clues, meaning it can't differentiate between the different uses of a Ugaritic word that means both 'daughter' and 'house', something that is (thankfully) pretty easy to identify in context. The program also wasn't able to use the 'ax' coincidence that had made the human decipherment of the language possible. Best of all, the program did all this in only a few hours.

Ugaritic itself is an awesomely fascinating language. Spoken 3,500 years ago in the city of Ugarit, located in modern Syria, the language is a Semitic relative of Hebrew, although its alphabet closely resembles the cuneiform used in ancient Sumeria. The surviving Ugaritic texts tell the stories of a Canaanite religion that is similar but not identical to that recorded in the Old Testament, providing Bible scholars a unique opportunity to examine how the Bible and ancient Israelite culture developed in relation to its neighbors.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Children's quality of life declining, says report

Children's quality of life declining, says report: "
About 21 percent of children in the United States will be living below the poverty line in 2010, the highest rate in 20 years, according to a new analysis of children's well-being released Tuesday.

New Toxic Pesticides to Replace Older Ozone Depleting Pesticides

Put in a garden. Get a few containers if you literally have no yard. Grow something of your own. Learn you can do it. Begin to wean yourself off of factory food of all kind while you still can.

New Toxic Pesticides to Replace Older Ozone Depleting Pesticides: "
Originally published on The Daily Table, by Dawn Brigid.

Nothing says summer like strawberries, but before you bite into your next, read this.

Methyl Bromide, a soil fumigant often used on strawberry crops, was phased out in the US by 2005 because it was depleting the ozone layer. The phase out was based on the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer and the Clean Air Act.

Good news, right? The EPA was acknowledging that yet one more federally-approved chemical was actually causing more harm than good. But I only found out about the banned Methyl Bromide because of the attention recently placed on Methyl Iodide. Approved in 2007, and currently used in many states as a “good” replacement for the banned Methyl Bromide, Methyl Iodide has its own set of problems.

Methyl Iodide is currently under scrutiny as the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) proposes approval of its use. Even though Methyl Iodide is used in many states already, California, which has its own pesticide approval process, has been questioning its safety level for the last year. While Methyl Iodide is not an ozone depleting pesticide like Methyl Bromide, it is extremely toxic to humans, a consistent carcinogenic that is used in the lab by chemists to induce cancer in experimental subjects such as mice. It has also been found to affect the nervous system, lungs, liver and kidneys, and to damage human fetuses.

While an independent review requested by the DPR concluded that “any anticipated scenario for … use of this agent would result in exposures to a large number of the public and thus would have a significant adverse impact on the public health,” the agency is still pushing for its approval, suggesting more stringent regulations than originally spelled out by the EPA. These tighter regulations include better training in proper application, controlling the amount used, limiting exposure for workers and requiring special permits. They would also include bigger “buffer zones” between fields sprayed with the toxin and local hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and schools.

Though it isn’t looking good, if the California proposal is rejected, it could have a large impact, possibly moving up the next scheduled federal review of Methyl Iodide, now slated for 2013. It could even help lead to a federal ban.

As the revolving doors between industry and the government continue to …revolve, it takes very little digging to unearth a sketchy connection in this situation. In 2007, the year Methyl Iodide was approved by the EPA, Elin Miller, a past employee of Arysta (the company that makes the pesticide), was EPA Administrator for Region 10, which includes Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Washington State and 267 Indian Tribes. Methyl Iodide was originally approved for one year, but the probationary time line was extended indefinitely as the Bush administration left office.

In the wake of President Obama’s Cancer Panel report, which found that the “risk of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated,” and links between chemicals and diseases (such as that between pesticides and ADHD) showing up regularly, the DPR’s proposal flies in the face of facts we’ve been privy to for a long time. You can send your comments about the proposal to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation until June 29th at

More Information:

Scientists Fume Over California’s Pesticide Plans, Pesticide Action Network – Methyl Iodide

Helpful tips:

Dirty Dozen – Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides


Our lack of attention is killing the oceans

This is an excellent article with good links to other resources. I hope people take time to understand what we don't know before it's gone.

Our lack of attention is killing the oceans: "
These past six weeks, we've been thinking a lot about the ocean.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

L&CV: Grilled Mushrooms

In the interest of keeping with the menu idea I decided to post the super simple mushroom recipe.

Take your favorite mushroom (we went with Crimini).  Bag them up in your favorite marinade for a minimum of four hours, the meatier the mushroom the longer it can take a marinade, Criminis can go all night.

We went with a mix of Bragg's, Teriyaki sauce and garlic.  

After a good soak, slip them all into a grill basket and put them in a heated grill for 10 minutes, turning half way through.

Enjoy these as is as a side dish or on top of a good boca or bean burger!

L&CV: Grilled Artichoke

Here is a wonderful summer kitchen recipe that is a staple of our warm weather diet.  I did not discover artichokes until after I was married several years.  I watched a cooking show one day where they were making this "exotic" veg that I had never seen.  :)  I walked over to the local grocery and promptly bought four to make for dinner (I had no idea how much food there is on one of these babies).  I was going to surprise my Chef with my new kitchen find.  After painstakingly following the really complex preparation and getting them all plated up - the Chef comes home and says, "Oh artichokes, that looks good."  Like it was normal food!  Needless to say they were good, I was hooked, and I found that they are VERY simple to make (this also marks the last time I ever listened to one of those TV people beyond the cool idea).  So if the basic prep directions are redundant feel free to skip down to the grilling part but I would love to think I'm not the only adult who found these post puberty.

Step one is popping them in the largest pot you have that will fit your pieces right after you cut the bottom of the stems off (only take a quarter of an inch off - the stem center is VERY edible!).  Some directions will tell you to carefully cut the tip off of every single leaf - this is a ridiculous waste of time designed to make these seem harder to make than they are and to protect some special people from possibly poking a finger after they are cooked.  If you are special, by all means cut off the tips.  

Fill water to just cover the veggies, add some salt and garlic or whatever mild savory spice you'd like to the water for extra flavor.  Boil the water until you can easily pull an inner (near the top center) leaf out with a gentle tug.  This seems to take between 20 - 40 min depending on how many we are cooking.  If you were not grilling these would be ready to serve.  Grilling is an extra flavor step not a cooking step.

Take your cooked whole artichokes and slice them in half with a large sharp knife. 

Spray the exposed center area with oil.  We hit them with an olive oil mist, but if you like some other oil flavor go with whatever sounds good.  Artichokes are a natural flavor enhancer, they contain a very unique chemical that makes whatever they are paired with taste slightly sweet and rich - keep that in mind when choosing spices and oils to match them up with.  

Put these out on an already hot grill for about 5 minutes, give them a quarter turn to the right or left and let grill for about 3 or 4 more minutes and they are ready to eat!

We serve these with a simple lemon butter dip.  [Simply take a few tablespoons - more or less depending on how many chokes you are serving - earth balance and squeeze half a lemon into it.  Heat while stirring.  When its melted, its done!]  

These pair up well with all sorts of summer food, on this day they went well with marinated, grilled mushrooms.  

One quick side note for anyone who might be like I was: You eat a grilled (or otherwise) whole artichoke by peeling off each leaf, dipping the end that was attached to the stalk in the butter and scraping the soft white "meat" off on your teeth.  Keep working your way to the heart and the soft white part gets bigger and bigger until you can eat almost the whole leaf.  Stop when you reach the inner purple leaves!  Take a spoon and gently scrape the purple leaves and the hairy spines off of the heart.  The entire heart and the clear-ish center of the whole stem is very edible and supper yummy in the butter sauce.  Enjoy it - its worth the "work" of eating it!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two Short Films. Two Amazing People.

Very cool films. Enjoy!

Two Short Films. Two Amazing People.: "

Two short films. Two amazing people I’d love for you to meet.

1. Soren. You know TV’s reality drama “The Deadliest Catch” about the world’s most dangerous profession. Well Soren Sorenson has lived that hardcore commercial fisherman’s life for 50 years, and he’s lived it without an ounce of bravado or showmanship, despite his record-breaking catches and the fact that 6 of his boats have ended up on the bottom of the ocean. Now at 72 years old, you can bet he’s seen a lot of change in his life.

2. Krishna. As the world “goes green” most of us are doing our part by finding recycling bins and seeking cars with better gas mileage. Krishna Nadella has taken on a bigger mission. Having emigrated from India to the US at 23 years old, and with inspiration from his grandmother’s primitive recycling efforts back home, he has set out to completely redefine what it means to recycle plastic–and it’s working. By intercepting millions of pounds of “trash” from our landfills and making plastics infinitely recyclable, he’s poised to change the world. By licensing a patent from a US University for $1 and putting it to use for us all, he is one of the most innovative minds I’ve ever met.

Both these 4 minute documentaries are shorts in film series I’ve been commissioned to create for Russell Investments. I’m exploring topics… like Innovation and Change, as seen in these videos, but also ideas around Risk, Planning, and beyond. The rest of the films can be found here. Please check them out. My goal has been to make this series insightful and beautiful. I’d love to hear your thoughts below if any of this strikes a chord.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Industrial ag can’t get enough federal bucks?

It is articles like this that really show where these Senators get their bribes. I'm fairly confident that if you were to trace the money in their coffers it would track back to Industrial Ag concerns. Either that or they directly own stock/make personal moneys off of Industrial Ag.

The other subset of this article that I can't help but find troubling is the continued idea that food stamp holders either can't or don't eat healthy food. If I never manage to do anything else I want to convince people that it is in fact CHEAPER to eat healthy than it is to purchase pre-made high cost low health foods.

Industrial ag can’t get enough federal bucks?: "
Snow us the money! David Goldstein, Washington correspondent for McClatchy newspapers, reports that three senators are standing up for the poor, neglected industrial agriculture industry against the wicked Know Your Farmer Know Your Food program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From the story:

Sens. Pat Roberts of Kansas , John McCain of Arizona and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia complained in a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that his agency spent $65 million last year on a program “aimed at small, hobbyist and organic producers whose customers generally consist of affluent patrons at urban farmers markets.”

Maybe someone should tell the senators about the soaring use of SNAP benefits (aka food stamps) at farmers markets. Could it be that poor people recognize good, healthy food when they eat it too? And what a slap at the farmers who grow food for direct sale to people who eat it. The lawmakers evidently don’t know how much hard work is involved if they think it’s a hobby.

Goldstein also spoke with Bruce Babcock, an economist and the director of the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development at Iowa State University. The money quote (emphasis added):

[Babcock] said it was “ironic” that the senators and others objected to the USDA spending $65 million on Know Your Farmer when commodity producers received $5 billion during the past two years, and the crop insurance industry received $7 billion.

Sounds like the senators want their friends to get all the money, not just 99% of it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A thought on defining your terms

One of my preoccupations is religion.  I write professionally on religion, faith and its affect on real people.  I do this because of my own passions and whims.  This leads people to assume certain things about me - especially as I will attend a congregation for some time as part of my research without necessarily subscribing to or sharing its faith.  This isn't done out of a lack of respect or even out of a dearth of personal faith, but it really confuses all those people who want nice categorical boxes.

I study religion and faith because of my love of the metaphysical, the divine and the passion people hold for those ideas, as well as a basic curiosity.  I spend a lot of my time thinking about these things.  I recently read a much more interesting post on this topic sent to me by my friend Tod - Mad Max Mormonism vs Star Trek Mormonism.

It has led me to question a definition: Latter.  Weird right?  Ok, but here's the thing - SO much ideology hinges on that word.  Latter.

Is it the end of days?  Jesus is on the way and the worse it gets the better it gets?  Or.  Could it be the other meaning of latter?  You know, the one that simply means "second".  Not latest, not last, but latter.  The one wherein the Lord, our God, is giving us a second chance to get it right.

Maybe if this definition had been made clear, many things in our state would be different.  Instead of feeding the beast that is corporate greed, polluting and raping the environment out of some sense that disregarding our stewardship of the earth is actually a good thing, we would be focusing on some of those other ideas our big brother tried to get us to hear.  The ones like loving our fellow humans, spending a lot more time with the needy, the lonely, and doing good works, the stuff that gets our hands dirty but our souls clean.

Maybe true believers could believe the good stuff not just the Apocalyptic Book part.  If we understood the definition of Latter, we could see the Revelations Book as a warning not a promise.  We could stop judging one another (which btw we aren't supposed to do either) and racing to the End of Days.   We could build intentional communities, enrich the earth, sustain ourselves and each other in joy.  We could also raise children who are thinking, connected citizens and most of all, we could practice faith instead of just preaching it.

True believers need to ask themselves what they are rushing forward to.  If we get to the end of the race today, do we meet the requirements?  Have we done anything other than rapine and war?  This isn't that kind of race.  How we get to the end actually matters more than how fast we do it.  For myself, I would like more time to get it right, to be that community described as Zion.  Hugh Nibley didn't seem to think we were getting it right and he was a much better thinker than I.

Maybe we need to define our terms.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Food Nifty: Granola Math!

Ok here is one recipe my family does, and I was going to blog it the next time I made it, but my wonderful pal already got an excellent blog post up - so why redo an excellent blog? My only add is that if you are a "camper" or "hiker" there is nothing better than homemade trail mix... Enjoy!

I have fond memories related to granola. My mother made ours, and the warm, toasty smell of oats wafting up the stairs late at night (the only time she could assemble it without lots and lots of “help”), to where I lay in bed, sneaking extra chapters in my book by the thin crack of light at the hinge of my door, was one of the best smells of childhood. (The others were the smell of freshly sharpened pencils, rubber cement, yeast for bread, and peppermint tea. Also, books.)

The mornings after Mom made granola were lovely. Sweet glazed oats, sunflower seeds, cinnamon… I could even tolerate the raisins. (Pleh.)

These days, granola is a favorite breakfast, snack, or supper at our house. I prefer to make it at home, to better accommodate our own flavor preferences, and also to fit our budget (it’s dirt cheap! Yay!) and avoid the chemicals that seem to go into even the expensive types. Why is xanthum gum in my cereal?

Granola is marvelously flexible. I stick fairly closely to the general ratio (see below), and then just go wild with the fun stuff.

Granola Basic Ratio

    5 cups old fashioned rolled oats about 3/4 cup honey, though you can substitute other sweets, like maple syrup, brown sugar, or molasses for a portion of the sweet. a scant 1/2 cup light-flavored oils, part of which can be other fats (see below again!)

Mix the sweet and fat together to more easily coat the oats; drizzle them over the oats and toss/stir well to coat them thoroughly, without globs.

Spread the oats in a shallow baking pan (the thinner, the better), and toast uncovered in a low oven (250* to 300*) until the oats are golden and fragrant. This could take as little as 20 minutes. Be sure to check and stir the oats at least every 10 minutes, and every 5 minutes as you get close to the end.

Clumpy, or Free?

If you like clusters of oats, try to disturb the mixture as little as possible while toasting and cooling it. If you prefer loose flakes, go ahead and break up the clumps each time you stir the oats during toasting.

Interesting Flavors

Variations and add-ins are where you can find the personal creative outlet in your breakfast foods. For instance:

Base Flavors

You might also consider adding a splash of good extracts to the sweet/fat mixture before drizzling, such as vanilla.

Dried Fruits

I prefer to mix in chopped dried fruits after the granola has cooled. It prevents the fruit scorching or hardening. Aim for about one cup of dried fruit in an official morsel size (rather small, about the size of raisins) rather than just a few great honking figs tossed on top. Those look like bugs, and no one wants that. Raisins are bad enough.

Raisins are also familiar, and cheap (almost tawdry, one might say, if one had a particular bias against raisins. Pleh.) Don’t overlook chopped dried apples, bits of fig or date, bits of banana chip, chopped dried tropical fruits, dried blueberries, cherries, raspberries, or cranberries… the options and flavor combinations are quite varied.

Think of dried fruits as an enhancement, not the main show; try to limit yourself to about a cup of mix-in fruit, total, per basic ratio batch of oats. This is harder than you think. It’s rather like taco salad. You start with something reasonable, and then it tends to get out of hand very rapidly.

Nuts In General

I prefer to use raw, naked nuts and let them roast with the oats, as above. You could choose to use already roasted nuts (but good gravy, buy them in a bulk food section, because the pre-packaged stuff is just highway robbery); if you do, look for unsalted nuts, or you risk an over-salted breakfast. Not nice.

You can mix in just about any nut (haven’t met one I didn’t like yet!), but make sure they are thoroughly shelled and quite naked.

If you’re mixing in flaked coconut (unsweetened), you could add it before roasting. If it’s the sweetened kind, sprinkle that in when the oats have cooled, or again, you risk scorching due to the higher sugar content in the sweetened flake coconut.

With these mix-ins, as with fruit, aim for about one cup total blended in with the five cups oats base. You could certainly vary the contents within that cup, though.

You can enhance the nut flavor by using nut butters in partial place of the oils in the basic ratio. For instance:

Honey-Nutty Granola

Substitute melted peanut or almond butter for about half the oil. Add about a cup of raw, naked nuts to the oats as you coat them, and let everything roast together.


I like to blend any spices, such as cinnamon, ginger, clove, or nutmeg, directly into the sweet/fat mixture for more even distribution through the cereal. Oats are fairly bland, but aim for enough spice to flavor without overpowering. For a hint of cinnamon, try a half-teaspoon blended with the sweet/fat mix for a basic granola ratio batch, and use about half that of the stronger spices. If you really like cinnamon, try a full teaspoon in the sweet/fat mix.

Storing It

Granola needs to be kept cool and away from ambient humidity, so something airtight on the shelf, or in the fridge, can work well. I prefer making smaller batches (10-cup oat bases), and doing it more frequently, rather than trying to put up 100 pounds of oats in a year’s supply of granola. Some things were meant to be stored as raw ingredients, and converted to nifty in small batches.

Eating It

Some members of my family like to put granola in a cup and eat it dry (tossing in a tablespoon of chocolate mini-chips makes them very happy.) Others are traditional “with milk” eaters. Still others prefer a bowl with a big blop of yogurt on top.

You can even make chewy granola bars by melting some marshmallows with butter, as for rice crispy treats, and blending in the granola instead, pressing it into bars and cutting. I don’t bother with wrapping or storage instructions for those, since they never survive long enough to need storing.

Rebel against Industrialized Breakfast Foods! Get crunchy and make your own granola. It’s a great way to ease into home-crafted food, and adds a lot of fiber to the family diet, too.

Just be forewarned: no one under the age of five actually chews raisins, so if you have kids in the diapering stages, be wary of “grapes.”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Menu One: I think it worked, $18 fed 7 people well

My first attempt at the food portion of the blog is up.  I think it is easy to understand but, as happens with people who cook a lot, I don't know if it all makes as much sense as I think it does.  Please, if these aren't easy to follow, let me know.  I really want to help other people eat well, eat cheap and be healthy.  

On another note, this is all part of my sustainability movement.  I will be adding tidbits on different sustainable skills, resources and ideas.  I really think the key to freedom is moving away from the capitalistic cog in the machine system.  Opting out.  Ultimately this means buying land, no debt, living well on less.  It means making things with my own hands, eating food we either grow or grown within a short distance.  It also means getting our calorie base from plants, not animals.  I know that I don't know everything, but I have some skills and I love to share, that's how revolutions happen.  

I wish I could have you each over to dinner, share food and thoughts.  In the mean time, this is my table, wish you were here: