Friday, August 29, 2008

Homemade Foods: Granola, Yogurt, Sundried Tomatoes

Over the past four days I've tried making homemade granola, yogurt and sun dried tomatoes.
First, the granola is fabulous!
Considering how expensive healthy granola is to buy - it is well worth it, and even healthier than what you can find at Whole Foods. I got the recipe from a book I purchased at Anthropologie (my favorite store of all time -- weakness, weakness) last year called Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. She also has a recipe journal at . She is pretty hardcore -- cooking with flours most of us have never heard of like amaranth flour, barley flour and mesquite flour. A big part of her philosophy is cooking with foods that will give you the most nutrition. In this day and age so many things are hyper processed. We have gotten so far from our food that to transport it long distances and increase the amount of time it can sit and to make things taste "good" on the cheap by adding junk, they (the food manufacturers including unconscious commercial farmers) "sold" us away from simple, quality foods closest to it's original form and nutritional value as possible. Anyway, enough editorializing. Granola is actually very easy to make!
Here it is:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. (changed from 300 for a chewier, stickier consistency)
4 Cups Oats
3/4 C unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1 C nuts of your choice chopped slightly (I used slivered almonds and walnuts)
1 1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut
I also added about 1/3 C cold milled flax seed (flax seed needs to be broken down slightly to digest it and get any nutrition out of it) because I never seem to get around to eating it like I should.
Grated zest of 2 oranges
3/4 C raw honey
1/4 C coconut oil
1 1/2 C assorted unsulfured dried fruit (I used blueberries, cherries and raisins)
Put everything but dried fruit, honey and coconut oil into a large bowl and toss. Heat honey and coconut oil over low eat -whisk together, pour over dry ingredients and toss until everything is coated. Spread granola onto two large cookie sheets and put into a 250 degree oven for 1 hour - stirring every 10 minutes - until golden. After taking it out of the oven, toss the dried fruit into the granola. (I found if you cook the fruit in the oven it gets TOOoooo chewy and hard.) Cool completely then put into air tight containers. Store at room temperature. That's it. I even got Ripley to eat it! Wow! Think of all of the vitamins I sneaked into him! To try and encourage you to purchase her fabulous book, let me tantalize you with her Otsu recipe. It's the soba noodle dish with tofu, sesame seeds and ginger-sesame dressing that you often see at the Whole Foods deli. Good for you and incredible. Ripley didn't like the look of it at first, but when "encouraged" with the promise of more tofu (yes, picky eater Ripley LOVES tofu. go figure) he tried a bite of the pasta, then asked for more. Hard head.
OK, now the yogurt. I got the instructions off a blog I check out from time to time called The Real Food Revolution. Sounds good doesn't it? She has simple instructions and insists that yogurt is just not that hard to make. Hey! I make bread and a great pie, I can handle this! Well, for some reason my yogurt didn't set. I'm trying again. I've had many a bread failures -- I won't give up on yogurt yet! Check out her blog and How to Make Yogurt.
The sun dried tomato project. I don't know, but I think in general it's too humid to sun dry tomatoes here in New England. Granted it's been a cooler week in the high 70's -- maybe next week in the 80's would have been better. I read online that it should take 3 days to dry -- bringing them inside at night. (They are set on drying racks, on screens, covered with cheese cloth to prevent bug visitors.) Anyway, some are looking great -- there are a few that have mold. Anyway, I've ordered a food dehumidifier.
I would be taking pictures of all of this, but I left the bloomin' charger at our little beach bungalow. Apologies. Take my word for it, the granola looks fabulous packed away in several large mason jars, and the tomatoes that have dried properly look tasty. (not so much the moldy ones).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Gardening News

As we speak several jars of pureed tomatoes are boiling away in a pan on the stove. At long last tomatoes are ripening at a fast clip! Last week I canned whole Roma tomatoes. This week I did pureed tomatoes and I'm trying to sun dry tomatoes outside -- the old fashioned way. We will see.
Isn't it funny how everything seems to ripen all at once? This is partly to do with the fact that some of the quick and easy plants to grow I struggled with this year. Like beans, squash and cucumbers. Good grief. Of course the peppers, broccoli and tomatoes that I started from seeds did beautifully. Go figure. Anyway, it wasn't until two weeks ago that I picked my first cucumber! I had to replant them once and the green beans two times. Finally they are churning away and I have to harvest beans every few days.
I have also done some plantings for cold friendly veggies such as certain lettuces, beans, peas, carrots and broccoli. My leeks are still churning away and should be ready next month. The cool thing about leeks is that you can "winter-over" them. Mulch them in straw and pull them out with a pitch fork when you are ready for one. I've also ordered garlic -- which you plant in late September (that's when the come from the seed company) and harvest in the early summer. I like the idea because not only do we use a ton of it, but I'm able to utilize garden space in the winter -- harvest it in the early summer, then plant another crop in the empty space. Cool! So, I thought it might be worth giving a try.
Although our little blueberry bushes have been quite productive considering it's their first year, and my strawberry plants have recovered from the attack of Bambi and produced a bunch of daughter plants for next year ... I have had to "pick your own" strawberries and blueberries this year at local farms. I picked large quantities of both and made strawberry jam (two varieties) and blueberry jam. I'll post the recipes I used later.
OK -- time to go and tend to my boys and some errands. Keep well!


Summer is winding down, school is gearing up. I've almost finished cleaning the house here in Rehoboth from "stem to stern". Once the kids get into school, I'll start attacking clutter that's accumulated (even though I'm pretty relentless about getting rid of things we don't need or use) AND hard core things like the bottom of your bathroom drawers or the bottom of the kitchen "junk drawer".
Benjamin will be in 4th grade! He can't wait to go. He told me about a month ago that he missed school -- he missed his friends and "all of the subjects".
Ripley is starting a Montessori school this year -- they generally believe in five days a week, so Ripley will be going to preschool five mornings a week. Although am at the point in the summer where I'm starting to fantasize about time to myself and concentrating on one task without interruption -- I think I'm going to have to battle some sadness about the Montessori schedule. It's pretty hard core. Last year, Ripley went 3 mornings a week. The other two weekdays we went to story hour at the library or to a sport activity like swimming lessons or hockey. Now, we will have to fit these things into the afternoons.
Speaking of activities ... Benjamin is going to being joining the swim team at the Y. Swimming is something that he is really good at -- more so than sports like soccer and basketball. I'd checked last year, but gave up when the receptionist "thought" that you had to be in Junior High to join. This year I spoke with the head of aquatics. The minimum age is 6. All set! He is excited and so am I.
Ripley is going to take swimming class in the afternoon one day a week, and parent / child soccer at the Y on Saturday mornings. Ripley has an October birthday so he has had to be patient waiting to be old enough to participate in sports he's been ready for since he was 2! Needless to say, he can't wait.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Poetry by Benjamin

A sample of poetry from Benjamin's 3rd grade folder:

Thank you

Thank you
for all my hands can hold -
sweatshirts colorful,
blue birds blue,
pages of nice new books!

Thank you
for all my eyes can see -
cool movies that are awesome,
lots of science in the world,
hundreds of rockets in the sky!

Thank you
for all my ears can hear -
electronics very loud
fun is loud fun is fun to hear,
compliments so good to hear!

Thank you
for all my mouth can taste -
cheese and crackers so delicious
milk so yummy in my tummy
H2O so good to sip.

Thank you
for all my nose can smell,
leaves on trees so delicious
snow on the ground so good to smell.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My little helper

Ripley helping to plant green beans.

My Victory Garden

Here are some pictures for your viewing enjoyment.
Yesterday as Benjamin and I were weeding, 3 rabbits marched into our garden like they owned the joint. When I tried to "shoo" them away, they just stared at me. "What's your problem? This is our munching ground!" Suddening visions of Mr. McGreggor's garden came to mind. I understand how those bad little rabbits lost their mittens! "And we shall have no pie. And we shall have no pie." Dern right no pie. I sent our dog "Church" after them. Fixed their pointy little ears.
Last week I replanted bush beans where I had the potatoes (Russian Banana potatoes came out the best -- others were a flop). I also planted some cool weather lettuces and more carrots. A friend of mine gave me her old windows from her antique home. After the kids go back to school, I'm going to strip the windows down and make them into cold frames. I'm hoping to follow Elliot Coleman and grow things in the winter time. We will see!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Way to go Tanya!

On Friday night around 8:30pm "Spencer" was born to Tanya (my Sister-in-Law) and my brother Scott in the Alternative Birthing Center here in Rhode Island. He was born at 7 lbs 13 oz with curly dark hair, alert open eyes and a gift for nursing like a champ within minutes of leaving the womb. (No lactation consultant needed) My guess is the darker hair will give way to lighter hair (as happened with Benjamin) since both Scott and Tanya were blonde headed kids ... but who knows? Maybe he wants to be just like his Auntie?! Pictures will follow ... as I'm still dealing with Victor's photocard-less laptop. I promise.

Thoughts, Happenings and one Recipe

Benjamin has just started sailing lessons. We have just finished with day two, and – he hasn’t even officially sailed a boat yet – but so far, so good. He loves it. He has exhausted me of all of the knots I know, mastering all of them. Sailing School is action packed with a lot of “to do’s” and is out doors – this is why I think he is enjoying it so much. But, like I said, we are only on day two. Personally, I’m green with envy. I taught sailing for three summers while I was in college and loved every minute of it. Being outside all day, on the water, sailing boats teaching kids who are having the time of their lives. Fun stuff.
Ripley on the other hand is too young for most camps. At the age of three and a half, with an October birthday, he “feels” old enough, but has to wait. However, as of last night, he has “officially” become a swimmer. When it comes to athletics, Ripley will work at something until he gets it – undaunted by failures and setbacks. I wish he had the same drive when learning his numbers and letters … an acquaintance suggested pairing the numbers and letters with sports. I’ve tried a little of that – but generally Ripley looks at me like “Ma, would you just throw the ball?!” as I try to point out the numbers inside the foursquare game.
To get exercise in the summertime while the kids are with me 24/7 I get up a couple times a week at 5:30 am to go running. Victor needs to be at work by 7am, so I have a small window to get my run in. The joy of getting up early to exercise during the summer is that it’s light outside. This morning, just before I got going I was even able to see the remnants of a gorgeous sunrise. The real reason I bring up running is because I get to laughing to myself, wondering where Candid Camera is hiding when I go to take off my jog bra. Does anyone else feel like they are wrestling a straight jacket?! Seriously, I can hardly get the thing off. Of course I’m sweaty from my run and everything is sticking to me – which adds to the problem. Asking Victor for help seems just a little too over the top hilarious – so I stand there struggling to get the bloody thing off. Sometimes I seriously think I’m stuck – either that or my arms are going to rip out of their sockets. Am I the only one??
When checking up on my garden the other day, I realized that the embarrassing tangle of wild raspberries in our backyard is actually bearing fruit this year. And, lo-and-behold they are black raspberries. We always assumed they were red, but really never got to see any fruit, so we didn’t know for sure. And, they are really sweet! I picked as many as I could without looking as if I’d just wrested a team of four cats – and put them together with the small pile of blueberries that was ripe. With this small batch of homegrown fruit I decided to make a small tart for dessert. It was so quick to make that I whipped it up while putting dinner together. This is how I did it:
Summer Fruit Tart
Rinse fruit – put on towel to dry
Mix in small bowl approximately 3 T sugar and 3 T flour (blueberries need quite a bit of flour b/c they make a pie very runny)
Put the fruit in a bowl. Pour one capful of Cointreau over the berries and toss gently.
Pour the sugar / flour mixture over the berries and mix gently.
Make one oil pie crust
Roll out crust to 1/8” thick (in between wax paper) then flip onto cookie sheet covered with tin foil.
Put fruit and any sugar / flour at the bottom of the bowl into the center of the pie crust.
With a knife, lift up sections (one section at a time) of the crust up and over onto the berries working all the way around the circle --- there should be a 3to 4 inch opening on the top where you can see the berries.
Sprinkle top of tart and fruit showing through the top with a little more sugar.
Bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
You can use this recipe for any type of fruit – just test for doneness by poking fruit with a knife to make sure it is tender.
Let me tell you, that tart was yumola. And that the fruit came from our yard – even better.Now I need to research growing wild black raspberries. I think if I trim them back a little – to give more energy to each individual plant – I think they may produce more fruit on a regular (annual) basis.