Homemade Granola: Your Way

titleI mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week.  Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples.  It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth.  I love granola!  I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.

dry ingredients

I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too.  Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!

wet mix

As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy.  Just think of it as a ratio!  My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener.  I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed.  With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless!  Here are some ideas for each:

baked

My granola looks extra dark because of the molasses–it’s not burnt!

Customizable Granola!

Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination.  Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!

1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:

Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • melted butter
  • melted coconut oil
  • olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • safflower oil
  • 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above

Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):

  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • Lyle’s golden syrup
  • honey
  • agave nectar

Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):

  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
  • Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
  • Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
  • Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)

Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.

jars 1

My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch.  I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!

jars 2

Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola

Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes

  • 3 c rolled oats, raw
  • 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 c. sliced almonds
  • 1/3 c. shredded coconut
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 6 Tbsp. melted butter
  • 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. molasses
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • big pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Lightly spray with cooking oil.  Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl.  Mix until combined.  Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined.  It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners.  Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated.  Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes.  Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance.  This will allow the granola to stick to together.  Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces.  Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size.  Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.

yogurt


How to Roll Sushi

Not exactly a recipe today, but more of a technique post.  But I do have a few sushi recipes, that can be shared here, now that I’m covering the basics!

Since I know you have all been waiting with baited breath to hear what M picked for Valentine’s dinner…(haha)…surf and turf!  Perhaps a little traditional, but oh so delicious!  He grabbed some personal-sized sirloin steaks and a cluster of snow crab legs for each of us!  It was so, so good!  I think it’s actually been over a year since I had crab legs and I definitely will have to do some scrimping and scrounging of pennies and some careful sales watching so that we can have them again before this year is over!  I’ve admitted to my own recent conversion to seafood-appreciator on this blog before, but I had forgotten how much I like crab!  Especially the legs, because the insides and organs and gunk of blue crabs still grosses me out.  Plus I’m bad at picking those little legs.  Please give me those (somewhat) tidy clusters of snow crab legs!

Yummmmmm.  I thought about those crab legs and butter all day.  I also spent the day enjoying my Valentine’s gift of a brand new office chair!  It’s red, it’s sleek, it has any amount of support…perfection!  I’ve had a sad history of used and often-broken office chairs, though my latest model was doing just fine enough for me to stop complaining about my back pain (mostly).  But, M remembered and got me one and totally surprised me at work–enough to have me on the floor teary-laughing!  So I am very excited to adjust this exactly how I need it and improve my daily office life!

Anyways, I thought I would take advantage of the simple cucumber rolls in this week’s meal plans to take a few step-by-step photos to show how to roll sushi.  I’ll be honest: the thought of making sushi was on my list of Very Intimidating Cooking Things. (Side note: if you’ve been reading along for a while, you should be celebrating with me because you also realize that I have now tackled everything on that scary list!!!)  But then I finally did it and it really can be very not frightening and even almost easy, if you are kind to yourself!  The biggest impetus was honestly that sushi is so expensive!  It it so much cheaper to make at home, and if you are very, very nervous, then just start practicing with some veggies rolls that will cost you pennies!  But they look super fancy and taste delicious and still have that sushi magic of filling you up without much food actually being used…I still prefer the ease of keeping the seaweed on the outside of the rolls–still got all the right flavors in there!  Someday, perhaps, I’ll be brave enough to flip the rice to the outside!

Let’s get started!

First make your rice.  Be sure to use rice marked as “Sushi” or “Nishiki” rice!  Prepare according to the bag’s directions.  I usually bargain for about 3 sushi rolls-worth from 1 cup of uncooked sushi rice.  Remember, 1 cup uncooked is going to result in several cups of cooked rice!

After the rice has cooked and steamed according to the package directions, for every 1 cup of uncooked rice that you made, mix together 3 Tbsp rice vinegar + 1 Tbsp sugar + 2 tsp salt in a small bowl until the sugar and salt has dissolved (if I’m in a hurry, I’ll microwave this, since the warm liquid will dissolve the salt and sugar more quickly!)  Fluff the cooked rice with a fork, then pour over the vinegar mixture and mix gently, but well to distribute the flavor!   Continue to stir gently for 1-2 minutes more, to help the rice release steam and cool.  Cool the rice to room temperature.

Prep your sushi filling–thinly slice whatever you are putting in there: fish, veggies, etc.

Fill a bowl with water, grab your nori (seaweed sheets), put the filings and the rice beside you, and you are ready to go!

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Okay, so you do need to invest in a sushi mat.  I found them for a very reasonable price at my local grocery store–it came in a kit with a wooden spoon that can be used instead of the fork to stir the vinegar into the rice!  While it is possibly to roll sushi without a mat, it make it so much easier that it is definitely worth the investment!  Place the mat in front of you with the sticks running perpendicular to you.

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Put a sheet of nori on the mat.

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Dip your fingers in the water.  With WET hands, scoop two small handfuls of rice onto the nori.  Wet your fingers again and press the rice into a thin layer.  Leave about 1 inch of space at the far end of the nori, but make sure that the rice goes close to the other edges.  If your fingers are not wet enough, the rice will stick.  Keep dipping them in the water as needed.

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Lay your fillings on the near end of the nori sheet.  Try to make them even, across the whole sushi roll.

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Grasp the edge of the mat with your thumb and forefinger (with both hands, I just needed one hand to take the photo).  Use the rest of your fingers to press against the fillings.  Lift the sushi mat and begin to roll the edge of the nori sheet over the fillings as your middle, ring, and pinky fingers tuck the filling under the edge of the roll, like you would with a burrito. (Check out the technique next time you are at chipotle–they flip the tortilla over the filling and pull/tuck it back into the roll of the tortilla.  You are doing the same pull/tuck technique with your fingers!)

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Keep rolling with the mat guiding the nori sheet until the edge of the nori goes entirely around the filling to meet the rice (I’m just lifting the mat to show you).

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You can release the mat once the filling is encased in the first part of the roll.  Keep  rolling until the rice is covered and only the edge of the nori remains.

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Use a little of the water to liberally wet down the edge of the nori wrap, all the way across.

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Roll all the way over.  The wet nori will stick to the roll.  Gently flip the roll over and press down the seam.  Place seam side down on the plate and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.

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When you are ready to slice, use a serrated meat or bread knife.  Wet the blade before every cut.  I usually chop my sushi into eight pieces, as that’s simplest.  I’ll cut the roll in half, then line up the two pieces side by side to cut those pieces in half again, and then those four pieces in half one more time.

And there you have it!  Homemade sushi!


Thanksgiving Gameplan 2012

Yes, I know, I’m pushing this one a bit close, but it is better than last year.  Planning for Thanksgiving this year has been trying, and I’ve hardly started cooking, yet!  But I think all is –finally–as settled as it can be.  From here on out, I’ll have to cross my fingers and hope that my general time schedule for shuffling dishes in the oven actually works out.  Here is this year’s line up:

Appetizers

  • Brie with Cranberry Chutney– My mother’s infamous chutney, found years ago in one magazine or another.  A delicious compote of cranberries, cider vinegar, and spices, served over warm, melty brie with crackers.  The number one “holiday smell” for me, my friends have proclaimed that it “tastes like Christmas” and it earned the coveted space on one friend’s father’s annual cheese-plate with one bite.  I will add the recipe after Thanksgiving (because it is perfect for Christmas, I’m just greedy enough to find room for it on Thanksgiving).  I’m just waiting for photos!
  • Crabdip with Gluten Free French Bread— M’s mum is making their family recipe and I’ll be providing the baguette.  Seems like the typical recipe (crab, cream cheese, butter, Worcestershire sauce, etc) as far as I can tell.  I’ll get the recipe from her someday
  • Pickles and olives, as mentioned last year, are an annual tradition in my family.  Not sure how it started, but it stayed.  It is so engrained that it was the first thing my sister asked when Thanksgiving discussion began.

Meal

  • Turkey–is under M’s direction (I think).  There was some discussion of cooking it on the grill to free up the oven, but with all of us so unfamiliar with that process, I believe we’re just going to make the oven ‘work’ and do the side dishes around that.  Aside from a rub of butter, I don’t think we’re planning to do much else with it.  M’s mum will make the gravy with the drippings.
  • Cornbread Stuffing–my tried-and-true Knockoff Pepperidge Farms Cornbread Stuffing, Gluten Free.  I’ll be making it the crockpot again, and am toying with the idea of adding some other tasty additions.  Maybe pine nuts or some apples or cranberries.
  • Potatoes–two kinds: mashed, from my mother (mixed with cream, butter, and chive & onion cream cheese) and slow roasted, from M’s mum.
  • Green Bean Casserole–by M.  We managed to find fried shallots at the asian market that do not contain gluten ingredients, so we’ll have the traditional crispy topping as well.
  • Ratatouille–my sister will be bringing that.  Don’t know much more about it…
  • Cranberry Relish–another recipe of M’s mum, cranberries and oranges and spices whirled in a food processor without any cooking required.  I’m a lover of all cranberry sauces (including the can-shaped jelly), but this sounds especially refreshing against the richer flavors of the other dishes.
  • Sweet Potato Souffle— I’ve been trying to track down the recipe for the dish I sampled at M’s mum’s friend’s last year, but I’m afraid it might be too late.  Emeril’s recipe seems promising.  It’ll be my first try at a soufflé, which does make me nervous.  Maybe I’ll have Pioneer Woman’s Sweet Soul ‘Taters on standby.  They’ll make a delicious breakfast the next day, if we don’t need them.
  • Popovers–my go-to, favorite buttery puffs of bread.

Desserts

  • Pecan Pie–M’s mum’s task again.  
  • I was left to come up with the second dessert.  My family is a big fan of pumpkin pie.  M’s family is not.  I’m hoping that this Spiced Pumpkin Cheesecake might just be the bridge in between.  I might even sub in part goat-cheese…I’ll let you know!

So.  The plan is set.  But between now and then, I have a pile of work that should get started.  Most of my recipes are gathered on my planning board.  Best of luck as we enter the food Olympics!  What are you making for Thankgiving?


Helpful Hints: Volume-to-Weight Conversion Chart for Gluten-Free Flours

This mightbe the best discovery I’ve made in the complicated land of gluten-free baking.  To be honest, I’m not sure who to credit with its compilation, I always googled “gluten-free flour conversion” and this would be the first link to pop up.  I didn’t even bother to bookmark it.  So imagine my surprise and despair as I set up to bake 7 types of Christmas cookies (that became 18 DOZEN cookies–more on that later), typed in my google search, clicked the link and…

An error page opened.  A scary “web content cannot be found” error page and I spiraled into a mild panic and haphazardly googled to try to find another route to this Flour Conversion Chart.  No dice.  I managed to make it through cookie baking by finding one or another flour’s weight-to-cup ratio and doing far too much math.

But I had one last drop of hope remaining and today, I googled one last time…

A true Christmas Miracle occurred.  I found a copy of my beloved chart on Autumn Makes And Does.  I saved it, printed it out, and jumped for joy in that order.  I’m not taking any more chances.  And, I am sharing the love and reposted the chart here.  Use it.  Love it.  Print it out immediately and keep it out of harm’s way.

Here is a PDF from Real Food Made Easy

And buy a kitchen scale.  The only reason I didn’t run out crying to the nearest kitchen-gadget-carrying-retail-store is that I think I’m getting one for Christmas.  I am slowly becoming a true believer in baking by weight, but all this grams-to-cups conversion is making my head spin.

Gluten-Free Flour Conversion Chart

*Please note: this chart is not my original work, nor am I claiming it as such.  Just sharing the wealth.

Be on a look out for the Christmas cookie round-up:  Almond Slice Cookies, Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti, Gingerbread Cookies, Lemon Tea Cookies, Turtle Cookies, Coconut Macaroons, and Easy “Twix” bars–All Gluten-Free 🙂