Another Recipe: Granola

As you can imagine, I’ve been pretty busy lately. I hardly have time to check my email let alone post a blog entry. But this recipe has been screaming out for posting lately. Which is because I’ve been making it alot. Which is because we’ve been eating it alot. In fact, the only problem with this recipe is how quickly it gets eaten around here! I’ve actually been known to take spoonfuls out of my husband’s bowl because he has taken “too much”! He didn’t like that.

I love this granola: it’s easy, fairly low-cost, and absolutely delicious. It’s based on the recipe in the Moosewood Restaurant’s New Classics cookbook, but with a few modifications. Here you go:

Moosewood Granola

4 1/2 cups old fashioned oats

1/2 cup each sliced almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, coarsely chopped walnut pieces, sesame seeds, wheat germ, large flake coconut (sweetened or unsweetened–it’s up to you) or combination of any of those

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup liquid sweetener (maple syrup, fake maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, golden syrup, etc.) with 1-2 tbsp molasses added to total 1/2 cup.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients including cinnamon and stir until everything is well distributed. Add oil first and then liquid sweetener, and stir until well combined.

Pour out onto a large rimmed cookie sheet and place in oven. Bake for a total of about 20 minutes, stirring several times during the cooking to prevent burning and promote even browning. I used to stir every 5 minutes but found I can bake it in 3 bursts of 7 minutes instead. Try it on the cautious side to see how your oven behaves. You don’t want to burn it!

Some notes: I never worry about the “ratio” of dry ingredients to oil and sweetener. No matter how much or little I add, it always turns out. Also, see how I’ve cleverly changed the recipe to use only one dry measuring cup. If you measure the oil first, and put the liquid sweetener into the same un-rinsed cup, it just slides right out! Oh, and my favourite version has been with the cheap fake 15% maple syrup pancake syrup! I’ve never done a cost analysis of this, but it seems to me that it is cheaper than the store-bought variety. In any case it is better and healthier, and pretty easy to whip up if you need a quick treat. I eat mine with raisins and milk, but dried cranberries are also delicious! Vegan if made with anything but honey.

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Fruit Crisp

[photo to come] I was writing up this recipe for my friend Holly, but it fits the bill for the blog as well. It is cheap, easy, and delicious, especially when it takes advantage of seasonal fruit. I made this yesterday with most of a 3-Litre basket of peaches that I got for $3–and that was at the overpriced grocery store near my house!

I actually doubled it in 2 dishes, and froze one with an aluminum foil “sling” so I can remove it from the baking dish, and then take it out and plunk it back in the dish when it comes time to bake it later. I’m hoping to be able to bake it from frozen–maybe for longer at a lower temperature?–but I will have to look into this more.

The recipe is from my good ole’ Five Roses Cookbook. It’s basically just a crumbly sweet oat topping over chopped up fruit. The fruit really compacts as it cooks so if you have it, I suggest really filling up the dish with fruit and then topping it. Also, I added sugar as the recipe called for, but then I found it too sweet. In the past I have usually just put fruit on the bottom and with the topping, found it sweet enough, so that is what I am going to instruct here. If you want to add the sugar, the recipe called for 1/3 cup sugar or brown sugar, depending on the fruit, so you can decide for yourself.

Oh, and a vegan alternative would be to use margarine instead of butter, or another recipe I saw called for chilled coconut oil . . . sounds tasty especially with the addition of shredded coconut in the mix!

Fruit Crisp

2/3 cup flour

2/3 cup oats

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup soft butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter until completely incorporated. A food processor would make short work of this in a few pulses.

Prepare fruit as indicated below and spread in the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch baking dish. Sprinkle oat topping over it and bake about 30 minutes until top is crispy and fruit is soft. Delicious hot with vanilla ice cream, or cold with yogurt for breakfast.

Fruit filling instructions

Chop fruit, peeled or unpeeled as you wish, core or pit removed, until it rises a good way up the side of baking dish. The fruit will shrink substantially during cooking. Add sugar if you wish, to desired sweetness, and mix with sliced fruit. You may also want to add lemon juice or grated lemon rind, especially for apples.

Suitable for: pears, apples, peaches, blueberries, rhubarb, or apparently canned pie filling . . . though I wouldn’t recommend it!

Super Economical Black Bean Soup

I kinda regret making this today, with the humidity at 80%, but it is super cheap, super easy, and pretty delicious. And with its wholesome list of beans, tomatoes, corn, lime juice and cilantro, it fits the nutrition bill too! It can also be vegetarian or vegan depending on the broth and additives you choose.

This comes in under $3 for the pot, and will feed our family of three for at least 2 meals. Whoever said eating beans was cheap, was right on!

Black Bean Soup

1 onion, diced

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsp chili powder

1 green pepper, diced

1 tbsp garlic, crushed (1 large or 2 medium cloves)

1 can diced tomatoes

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 cup fresh, frozen or canned corn niblets

2 cups chicken or veggie broth

juice of 1 lime

Toppings (optional, depending on what you have on hand)

chopped cilantro

sour cream

shredded cheddar cheese

crushed corn chips

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add diced onion and chili powder and cook until onion is soft. Add green pepper and cook until onion is somewhat browned. Add minced garlic and stir until fragrant (30 seconds). Add tomatoes, beans, corn and broth. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes until tomatoes start to thicken. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Serve with toppings on the side so everyone can add what they want. This would be delightful with quesadillas or toast, depending on what kind of day you’re having.

Urban Foraging: Experiment #3–Crabapples!

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I can’t believe this is only my third urban foraging experiment. Well, so far this one was more successful than the last two (though I’m not quite done, but almost!).

The beginning of it was particularly lovely. It was a HOT day, but the tree I picked from was in the shade, and as it was right next door, I could zip out while my girl was napping (my husband was there to watch her–don’t worry!) and pick in peace.

The picking was very easy and pleasant. The smell of the crabapples filled the air, and several people, including a small group of visitors from Spain, stopped to ask me what I was doing. It is amazing how impressed people become when they find out there is stuff to eat around them. It’s also amazing how much people want to talk when they come across someone doing something a little out of the ordinary. I think 4 different people stopped to chat or comment while I was out there.

And that was only a span of 15 or 20 minutes. And in that time I easily got the 13 cups of crabapples my recipe called for, and more! It’s so satisfying to hear the heavy plunk-plunk of fruit that is around 1 inch in diameter dropping into the jug (rather than tiny berries that seem to take forever!). On further review of the recipe I saw that it is adaptable for any quantity of fruit (juice), so the 16 cups (or 4 Litres) I gleaned worked out fine.

That was the fun part. The not-so-fun part was when I got them on the table and read the next instruction: “Stem and Quarter” 16 cups of crabapples. Gah! While it was lovely, warm and breezy outside, inside my dining room it was fairly sticky. Moreover, my back and legs hurt, and it turns out crabapples are surprisingly tough little fruit. I spent the next hour and a half chopping the little buggers. Every 5 minutes or so I would think about giving up, but the thought of reporting back to my loyal readers kept me going.

IMG_1422Well, I got through it (but BARELY!) and now had a big pot full of quartered crabapples, fragrant and read for the boil. And boil they did, for about 30 minutes, in the 80% humidity with a humidex of 38! But that’s just how hardcore I am. On reflection, I think chopping them in half only would be sufficient as they break down a lot in the water, and I could always mash them a bit if they seemed to be keeping their shape too much.

After boiling, I strained out the juice using cheesecloth instead of a jelly bag which I don’t have. I suspended the ball of crabapple pulp over a bowl overnight and dripped every last drop out of that ball of goo. I folded the cheesecloth so it was quadrupled, but it was still probably less fine than a jelly bag would have been. i didn’t squeeze the bag, but I suspect I won’t end up with crystal-clear gorgeous jelly, but a semi-opaque pinky stuff that will still be quite lovely.

After all this, I ended up with about 8 cups of juice, which I put in my freezer. THIS is where the satisfaction starts to come in. 8 cups of juice will get me lots of jars of jelly, especially after adding the sugar, and esPECially if I use tiny jars. PLUS if I get my act together today to put the pulp through the food mill to strain out the skins & seeds and then freeze it, I can make crabapple butter with that part. More yummy gifts for xmas!

I will wait until a cooler day in September before boiling the juice with sugar until the gel stage (have never done this–any advice??), pouring it into sterilized jars, and setting it into the hot water bath to finish. The nice thing about the butter is that it doesn’t have to gel, so that one will be even easier.

So my third urban foraging experiment has been a great success so far. I would even recommend it to other northern urban dwellers as a way to take advantage of this abundant fruit. I will report back with photos once I actually get the canning done.

My Favourite Summer Soup

It’s green–the colour–and also very eco-friendly if you choose local organic veggies. I made this soup on Sunday after finding zucchini, cilantro and garlic at my favourite stall at the farmer’s market, Waratah Downs. Not that I came up with the idea this Sunday–I’ve been making this fabulous soup for years–but it has never been so good as it was using fresh local veg.  We had it for dinner with some grilled cheese sandwiches, and I froze enough for another dinner some time in the fall.  (Have I mentioned I LOVE my new freezer??)

So here is the recipe:

Zucchini-Cilantro Soup

1 tsp veg oil

1 onion, diced

approximately 1 lb or more of zucchini, sliced

1-2 cloves of garlic, minced (fresh if you can get it)

4 cups broth, or enough to cover the zucchini

large handful of cilantro, minced fine

Brown the onion in the vegetable oil over medium-low heat. Add the zucchini and let it get nice and brown in spots. Add the minced garlic and stir so it gets fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth. Let the soup bubble gently until zucchini is soft, about 15 minutes. Mash with a potato masher and then add cilantro.

Blend in a blender or with a hand blender–in a regular blender the zucchini will become very fine and the soup will take on a beautiful bright green colour. With a hand blender, it won’t mix in quite so well, but the soup will be just as flavourful.

Stir in some plain yoghurt if you like. Also if you are a lover of tofu, you can blend in some silken tofu, though don’t add too much or the flavour will dominate.

Enjoy with some grilled cheese sandwiches for a light and easy weekday supper.

Frugal Vegan Soup

I love soup.  To me it’s just about the best food: simple, cheap, nutritious, low-fat, high-fibre, a great way to cram in some veggies, and it can be pretty eco-friendly too if you source your ingredients locally and from low on the food chain.

Yesterday I made a surprisingly good and super cheap soup that also turned out to be vegan!  I found a head of cauliflower marked down 50% at the Rideau Loblaws, so the total cost came in around $3 for a huge pot that served us for dinner, lunch, and I froze 2 servings for a simple supper down the road.

Curried Cauliflower-Bean Soup

2 tbsp oil

1 onion, minced

1 tbsp curry paste (I used Patak’s Madras paste)

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets

1 can cannellini (white kidney) beans

6 cups broth (I used McCormick’s Chicken flavoured vegetarian soup cubes)

Heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until lightly browned.  Stir in curry paste and garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add cauliflower and brown it a little.  Rinse beans and add to the pot, then add 6 cups broth (or enough to cover).  Bring to a boil and then simmer until the cauliflower is very soft (15-20 minutes).  Puree and serve with toast or croutons.

You could probably add some yogurt to this for some extra creaminess but the beans make it very creamy and substantial.

Urban Foraging, Experiment #2: Black Currants!

Today while walking . . . well, somewhere in . . . a city . . . I noticed something dark purple and shiny calling out to me from some shrubbery.  It was . . . it couldn’t be . . . no, it really was a blackcurrant bush!  And there were ripe purple berries dangling there just begging to be picked. (photos to come)

I couldn’t believe my good fortune, that such a treasure had not already been gleaned by another observant forager like myself.  I filed the location and vowed to return at a more convenient time to collect my treasure.  X marks the spot 🙂

So I returned under cover of dusk, wearing a green dress so as to blend in with the shrubbery, and spent a good half-hour picking.  Oh, the smell!  I was in cassis heaven as I plucked the juicy berries from the branches.

I brought my treasures home and marched through my little girl’s bedtime routine all the while thinking about the jam I could make with my find.

Well, after getting her into bed, and chatting with my mom on the phone I got down to the serious business of microwave jam making . . . at 11 o’clock.

First, I found a recipe seemingly from a Four-H club (?) for making small batches of microwave jam.  Aha!  Perfect.  For what I had was the makings of a small batch.

I knew that when I started out, even before I had measured my one-and-almost-three-quarters cups of picked berries.  The recipe calls for 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cut up fruit, but I was willing to go a little on the lean side.  I even included all of the “blemished” fruit, hoping that it wouldn’t spoil the flavour too much.

Then I topped and tailed them, and washed them.  In the measuring cup full of water, several of the more blemished ones floated to the top.  “That can’t be good,” I thought, and took a peek inside. Nope, not good.  It was a dried-out stinky worm-bed inside my beautiful berries.

There was no denying the fact that they most certainly would spoil the flavour, so I went through them again, discarding any berries sporting what looked remotely like a worm hole.  Down to . . . a very respectable 1 cup of washed, sorted, topped and tailed berries.  Sigh.

So I decided to halve the recipe.  “At least I’ll get one jar of jam,” I reassured myself as midnight struck and my dear partner (who had stood by me during the sad, sad culling process) went to bed.

The recipe calls for:

1 1/2 cups of chopped fruit

flavourings and lemon juice (this refers to a mysterious unlinked “chart”)

1 1/2 cups sugar

So I halved the sugar and added a bit over a tablespoon of lemon juice for good measure, and set about following the instructions.

Heat in microwave about 6 minutes, or until boiling–mine took much less time. Stir well, and then cook in microwave 10 to 13 more minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes.  Mine went faster here too, and I was done after about 6 minutes.  It says at this point you should chill a spoonful in the fridge for 15 minutes to test the consistency, but I was pretty sure mine was jelling, so I jarred it*.

And this is what I got:

Approximately 2/3 of a one-cup jar of black currant jam.  Sigh.

Well, what this experiment taught me was respect for two things: 1, the price of high-quality blackcurrant jam, and 2, the value of pesticides.

I’m going to bed now, but at least I can look forward to some tasty jam tomorrow morning.

* Microwave jam is not processed, so it must be refrigerated immediately and will last for about a month in the fridge.