Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happily Homemade: Fruity Granola

Ever since I was served homemade granola by my friend Rachel during a visit to her place a while back, I've been kind of obsessed with making my own granola. I've poured over granola recipes. I've compared ingredients. I've experimented. I've accidentally allowed a couple batches to get a little too toasty. And I've eaten a lot of granola.

After all of that, I think I've finally landed on the composition of my favorite homemade granola. It has everything I was looking for: a bit of crunch, a bit of chew, a dash of spice, low in fat, high in fiber, and just different enough to keep me from getting bored with granola. It's also super easy to make, open to alterations as you wish, and quite inexpensive. Without further ado, here's my favorite Fruity Granola:

First, preheat oven to 250. In a large bowl, measure out 2 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1/2 cup quick oats, 2/3 cup ground flax, and 1/2 cup crisped rice cereal.

Add to that 1/4 cup raw sunflower meats, 1/2 cup sliced raw almonds, and 1 cup dried fruit (I used currants, golden raisins, and snipped apricots) and mix well.

In a 2-cup liquid measuring cup (or small bowl), stir together 2 Tb canola oil, 2 Tb maple syrup, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup pomegranate molasses, 2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cardamom, and 1/4 cup brown sugar until sugar is dissolved and mixture is well blended. 

Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients in the bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until all of the dry ingredients are moistened. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spread out the granola mixture into an even layer. Bake for 30-40 minutes until nicely toasted, stirring the granola and rotating the pan every 10 minutes. When fragrant and toasty brown, remove from oven and allow to cool in pan. When cool, store in an airtight container for up to 1 month.

I love this granola with milk as cereal, with fresh fruit and yogurt as a parfait, or just by the handful as a snack. The pomegranate molasses and cardamom set this apart from regular granola by lending a certain fruitiness. If you can't find pomegranate molasses, or don't have cardamom, have fun experimenting with substitutions until you discover your own favorite granola concoction.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food for Thought: The Fear of the Lord

"Obviously, to be in the fear of the Lord is not to be scared of the Lord, even though the Hebrew word has overtones of respect and awe. 'Fear' in the Bible means to be overwhelmed, to be controlled by something. To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love. It means that, because of his bright holiness and magnificent love, you find him 'fearfully beautiful.' That is why the more we experience God's grace and forgiveness, the more we experience a trembling awe and wonder before the greatness of all that he is and has done for us. Fearing him means bowing before him out of amazement at his glory and beauty."
 - Tim Keller, in The Meaning of Marriage

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Spice Delight

One of the things my sweet Hubs gave me for Christmas was the gift of organization, in the form of a new system for storing my spices. The more I've delved into cooking over the past few years, the more spices I've collected. The collection outgrew my previous system (if you could call half my spices on a stair-step thing in the cupboard and the other half jumbled in a basket in my pantry a "system") and it had gotten to the point that I had a hard time remembering which of the more "exotic" (i.e. rarely used) spices I actually owned vs. had only thought about buying. Which resulted in lots of rummaging, and a few accidental duplicates.

After quite a bit of research online to see what my options were (the Hubs knows me well, and wisely discerned that while I asked for a spice rack for Christmas, I would want to pick it out myself, and so at his invitation I did), and after contemplating what was really important to me when it came to my spices, I decided on The Spice Stack. It met my criteria of:
  • I can leave my spices in the bottle they came in. 
  • It can accommodate various sizes of spice containers.
  • I can arrange the spices in the order I choose. 
  • It fits in a cabinet (and specifically my unconventionally-sized over-the-sink cabinet).
  • It has space for labels, so that each spice has a designated home.
  • It requires no hardware or installation (since we rent).
Each drawer of the Spice Stack has six divided slots for spices. The three slots on the top can accommodate larger spice bottles, while the slots on the bottom can accommodate standard size spice bottles, or two of the little ones (see photo below). Each drawer pulls out and can rest open on its own as you select your spices. There's space on the end of each drawer to affix a label identifying the contents as they lay inside.

I regret that I did not think to take a "before" picture before I embarked on my spice system overhaul. It was only after I'd finished and stepped back to admire my organized cupboard that I thought "this is so beautiful I should take a picture and blog about it." And so here I am. I apologize that the photo quality isn't great, but hopefully you can still get a sense of the blessed orderliness the Spice Stacks have brought to my kitchen. (These go for $24.99 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond if you're interested. And don't forget to use one of their 20% off coupons!)

The start of a new year always seems to get us Americans thinking about reorganizing, decluttering, simplifying, etc. Have you taken on any such projects in this new year? Discovered any helpful products? Have a great tip to share? Leave a comment!