11/20/14

Judy's Hearty Granola


I posted my original granola recipe four years ago, and since then I've refined it a bit. The old version is still very good and easy, with few ingredients. But I've gradually added more nuts and seeds, and I found that maple syrup makes the mix less sticky than honey. I like the flavor - and the extra nutrients - of molasses too. Our southern version of molasses is sorghum syrup, and, after a visit to a Menonite community which specializes in sorghum production (in Muddy Pond TN), I have an ample supply of their delicacy. All this has evolved into my new granola, presented here. Still pretty simple, just a few more ingredients than the original - and more nutritious.

You can process this granola into finer crumbs in a food processor and use it as you would a graham cracker pie crust, mixing the crumbs with melted coconut oil, which will stiffen the crust when refrigerated. See how I use it in my chilled fruit pie recipe.

INGREDIENTS

6 c old fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats)
1 c raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 c raw hulled pumpkin seeds
1/2 c raw sesame seeds
1 c chopped raw nuts (pecans, almonds and cashews are my favorite choices for this recipe)
1 c unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 c coconut oil, melted
1/2 c maple syrup
2 T molasses or sorghum syrup

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the coconut oil, maple syrup, and molasses or sorghum. Spoon wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir to coat the mixture evenly.

Spread the mixture in an even layer in shallow pans (I use 2 large pizza pans). Bake for 15 minutes, stirring with a spatula if the edges brown faster than the center of the pan. Rotate pans from top to bottom oven rack and bake 8-10 more minutes, until everything is toasted golden. Remove from oven. When cooled, spoon into a container with a lid to store.

You can also add grated orange peel, raisins or other dried fruit after baking. Great as a breakfast cereal with fresh fruit, and we like it sprinkled as a topping on baked fruit or yogurt.

11/14/14

Pumpkin Chai Snickerdoodles

The first baking lesson in my 7th grade Home Economics class with Mrs. Hamel was Snickerdoodle Cookies. This is a great variation on the classic, especially made with homegrown pumpkin. Did you know you can use butternut squash in place of canned pumpkin in recipes? When making your own, just be sure to drain the liquid off the cooked squash or pumpkin, to get that similar thick consistency to canned. More on using fresh pumpkin in a future post....

These are gluten-free, to fit my lifestyle diet, but certainly can be made with wheat flour to produce the same delicious results. 

Remember, ingredients shown in red are described in more detail on the Ingredients page of this blog.
 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles with Chai Spices (makes about 15 cookies)

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 c fine almond flour or (part almond and part all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice or chai spices*
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 c fresh pumpkin puree, drained to make it thick
  • 1/4 c melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1 T psyllium husk powder (makes a firmer cookie texture)
COATING:
  • 2 T coconut palm sugar
  • 2 tsp chai spices*

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut parchment paper to line your cookie sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk the dry ingredients. In another bowl, mix the wet ingredients. (Make sure your pumpkin is at room temperature so the coconut oil does not harden.)

Mix the coating ingredients, sugar and spices, in a small bag.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mix and blend by hand. The dough will be thick, so mix to moisten everything well. Form one tablespoon of dough into a ball (wet hands if necessary to prevent sticking), roughly golf ball size. Drop it into the bag of sugar and spice coating and shake to coat. Reach in and shake off excess, then place the dough ball on a cookie sheet. Flatten the ball with your fingers to about 1/2" thick. These cookies don't expand much except to puff up a bit, so you can place them close. Repeat with rest of the dough.

Bake for 20 minutes until bottoms are golden and the tops begin to crack.

* You can substitute cinnamon for chai spices. I mix my own chai spices, mimicking the traditional chai tea flavors:
4 parts ground cinnamon
1 part ground cloves
1 part ground nutmeg
1 part ground cardamon
1 part ground allspice
1 part powdered ginger root
1 part ground black pepper

10/9/14

The Pumpkin Tree

This photo is for those who think milk comes from a supermarket... a pumpkin tree, ready for harvest! I spotted this unusual sight at an apple farm in New England two weeks ago.


8/17/14

Fiesta Black-Bean Salsa

This is a good summer harvest appetizer, served with corn chips, which I derived from different salsa recipes my friends have made. The proportions are not critical, and you can mix it with different veggies than those on my list. My ingredients make it very colorful, in addition to being really tasty, thus the name. Of course you can use fresh corn and/or your own cooked beans where I've suggested canned. Adjust the "heat" to your taste.
Ingredients
  • 1 14-oz can of black beans
  • 1 15-oz can of organic corn (or 1-3/4 c of fresh cooked corn kernels)
  • 1/2 c chopped red onions
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeno, including seeds
  • 1 cup of loosely packed cilantro leaves
  • one roma tomato
  • 1 cup of chopped sweet peppers (all one variety or a mixture of colors)
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1/2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t salt (omit if your beans have salt)
  • 1/2 t hot jalapeno powder *
* I dehydrate and grind my home-grown red jalapenos into a fine powder, but you could use chili powder or hot pepper drops instead.

Directions
Rinse and drain the black beans and the corn, and put them into a mixing bowl. Chop the jalapeno (carefully) and add. Chop the cilantro and other veggies. Add them and all the other ingredients, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving so the flavors can blend. Nice served with corn chips.
 

Keep in mind that much of the corn (and available garden corn seeds) grown in the US are now genetically-modified (GMO). Not only are there potential health and environmental problems from GMO crops, but the ability to save and replant seeds is denied by these Monsanto-produced seeds. Growing your own corn from heirloom seeds or buying organically grown corn and corn products can help you avoid GMO corn.

6/22/14

Easy Yummy Nut Cookies and Biscotti - A Theme and Variations

My friend Diane gave me a simple recipe for a Peanut Butter Cookie she had made for a gathering of friends. "Only 4 ingredients," she noted, and it makes for a delicious, easy dessert. After tasting one, I got her recipe. If you ever need a baking project with children, I'd recommend these cookies… fun and yummy! The original cookie recipe is at the top of this post, followed by recipes based on the original which I've created. The biscotti variation is my claim to fame, however - Rick judged them the best biscotti I've ever made (and I've made many)! These are all gluten-free too. (NOTE: Ingredients in red type are detailed on my "ingredients" page.)


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Peanut n’ Honey Cookies (makes a dozen 2-1/2" cookies or 20 small cookies)
- original recipe from: 7 Secrets Cookbook by Neva and Jim Brackett, called Peanut Butter N Honey Cookies

2 cups dry roasted peanuts (lightly salted; if not salted add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt) *
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or one cup of flour)
1/2 cup honey (warmed in microwave - this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place peanuts and oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until they are the texture of fine bread crumbs. Pour into bowl and add salt if using. Mix in honey and vanilla. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour (gluten-free flour, if GF is a concern for you).

Make walnut size balls and flatten on parchment-lined cookie sheet, then use fork to press down (use a cup of water to dip the fork into). The cookies don't spread while cooking, so they can be fairly close on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Putting them on the top rack of the oven helps keep the bottoms from browning too fast. Watch them and remove from oven when they are just beginning to brown on the edges. You can take them out before they look like they are done. They over-brown quickly. Cool on a wire rack.


* Check the ingredients on your purchase of roasted peanuts. I assumed the ingredients would be just peanuts, salt, and perhaps some oil… but then I detected a sweet taste. Not only did the jar I had used include sugar AND corn syrup, but it even had added monosodium glutamate. Yuck! My next trip to the store revealed there is such a thing as a jar of roasted peanuts which only includes peanuts, so that's the one I stick with now.

 JUDY'S VARIATIONS:
1) Mix chocolate or carob morsels or broken pieces of hazelnut candy into the batter before baking and flatten the ball of dough with your hand, not a fork. Bake.
2) Make Thumbprint Peanut Butter and Jelly cookies: Instead of flattening and pressing the raw dough with a fork, press your thumb into the unbaked round dough ball, just enough to make a well while flattening the ball (not so deep that you go to the cookie sheet). Bake cookies as directed above for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and fill the well with 1/2 to 1 tsp of your favorite jam. Return to the oven to finish baking.
3) Add chopped dried banana chips to the dough before baking
4) Flatten unbaked dough ball with your palm before baking, then press a chocolate candy kiss onto each cookie as soon as you remove them from the oven
Be creative and make your own version!

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Judy's Almond Gingersnap Cookies (makes a dozen 2-1/2" cookies or 20 small cookies)

2 cups raw or unsalted roasted almonds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (or one cup of flour)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 c molasses or sorghum syrup
1 teaspoon ground ginger root
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: 1 tablespoon dried fine orange peel; 1/2 cup currants, raisins, or chopped dried plums

Place nuts and oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until they are the texture of fine bread crumbs. Pour into bowl and add salt and spices. Mix the maple syrup and molasses and warm them in a microwave - this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough. Mix maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla into the dry ingredients. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour.

Make walnut size balls and flatten on parchment-lined cookie sheet, then press down to flatten the ball slightly. The cookies don't spread while cooking, so they can be fairly close on the cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Putting them on the top rack of the oven helps keep the bottoms from browning too fast. Watch them and remove from oven when they are just beginning to brown on the edges. You can take them out before they look like they are done. They over-brown quickly. Cool on a wire rack.

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Judy's Peanut Butter and Jelly Biscotti

2 cups dry roasted peanuts* (lightly salted; if not salted add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup honey (warmed in microwave- this is a critical step; it needs to pour like water and if too little the mix will be dry and if too much the cookies will be tough.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup jam (I used St. Dalfour's Red Raspberry, which is sweetened with grape juice, not refined sugar)

Place peanuts and flour or oats in food processor and whiz for 1 minute until crumbly. Pour into bowl and add salt if using. Mix in honey and vanilla. Stir together and then mix with your hands. Dough should hold together nicely. If dry and crumbly add a bit of water; if too wet add a bit of flour.

Separate the dough in 2 pieces. Working on a piece of parchment or waxed paper, shape one piece into a log about 2-3" in diameter, then flatten it to about 1/4" thick. Spread the jam to within 1/4" of the edges. Roll from the long side, making a log again. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

Move each log to the parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Cut the logs on a diagonal into 1/2 inch thick slices. Return slices to the baking sheet, on their sides, and bake again for 10-15 minutes or until desired crispness. They over-brown quickly so watch them for doneness. Cool completely on a rack.

6/4/14

Life is but a bowl of cherries!

Not to be outdone by my strawberry harvest, my lone sour cherry tree is heavy with ripe fruit. The photo is this morning's harvest (minus those I ate while picking) and I've picked that much previously. The tree is a montmorency tart cherry. It's the only one of 4 cherry trees we tried to grow which survived. This one was planted about 8 years ago, and it's the only dwarf fruit tree which stayed short for us… the apples, pears, and peaches all grew 20+ feet. Without ever doing any drastic pruning, the cherry tree stands about six feet tall. At that height, it's very easy for me to trim, spray, check, and pick! I've read that sour cherries are easier for home orchards than sweet cherries, and my little tree has had no serious pests or diseases.

Montmorency is the most popular sour cherry variety for pies and preserves. I hand pit the cherries, which produce so much juice it looks like a scene from the opening credits of "Dexter!" If someone has a good cherry pitting tool, please let me know - I expect my harvest will grow in future years, so it will be worth investing in one. Once pitted, I either freeze the cherries in zipper pint bags, or use them fresh on granola or in smoothies. For a little sweetness, I use a combo of my own stevia extract (made from organic stevia leaves I grow) with a touch of maple syrup… wonderful mixed into Greek yogurt, our used in a pie. Cherries are high in nutrients and particularly good for sufferers of gout.

I've read recently about a cherry shrub called Nanking cherry, which I'm tempted to buy and plant. I've only found them online, not at any nurseries. If you are interested in sharing an order with me, just let me know!

5/29/14

Strawberries and Garlic

Don't worry, this isn't a post with a recipe using those two ingredients. It's a gardening update!

This has been a great year for growing strawberries in my edible front yard garden. The bounty I picked this morning is shown in the photo. Do you grow strawberries? If not, you should. They grow from Florida (February harvest time) to New Hampshire (July harvests) as perennials. Here in Tennessee, the month of May is my banner season for these juicy sweet berries.

My second favorite berry to grow, strawberries take just a bit more care than my favorite, blueberries. I find the biggest challenge is to keep the beds from getting too crowded with all the "baby" plants which the mature strawberry plants send out to root. When the weather is not too rainy, as has been the case here recently, the berries ripen without getting moldy or soft or dirty.

Here are ten of the many reasons I love growing my own strawberries:
  1. freshly picked strawberries have much more flavor than store-bought
  2. when you grow your own, you can wait to harvest them when they are fully ripened on the plants; those you buy are usually harvest a bit early, before the full flavor develops
  3. they are great to eat plain, added to fruit or veggie salads, topped with Greek yogurt, chopped and added to breakfast granola, chopped and used over a pie crust with a cream filling OR on shortcakes and topped with whipped cream (I did a variation on brownies last week), baked into quick bread, muffins, or pie.
  4. strawberries freeze well (wash, dry, and remove the stem end), either whole or sliced
  5. frozen or fresh strawberries are delicious in smoothies
  6. harvesting is spread over several weeks, so it's not overwhelming
  7. new baby plants are constantly produced, so you can start new beds, and - after a few years - replace the mature plants… free!
  8. non-organic commercially grown strawberries are highly likely to have pesticide residue (strawberries are the most chemically intensive crop grown in California) 
  9. in my garden, organically grown strawberry plants are not prone to diseases or insect infestations
  10. nutritionally, strawberries have high levels of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins
There's nothing quite like biting into a just-picked bright red strawberry still warm from the sun! By the way, if you live near me or will be visiting and you want to start your own strawberry patch, please let me know and I'll share my plants with you - that's the fun of gardening! Plant some between now and fall, and you can start harvesting some next spring.

And from the garlic patch….

My fall planting of garlic cloves has resulted in a patch of greenery. Plants of the hardneck varieties are sending up the tall, curled garlic "scape." Gourmet cooks cut off this top stem when it first begins to grow and is most tender, adding it to stir-fries and other dishes for garlic flavor with a unique decorative touch. Some garlic growers cut the scape off, so the plant will put its energy into the root. I love to cut them and use 3 or 5 in a flower arrangement, adding an unusual accent. Others use the scape as a ripeness indicator - when it unfurls and stands up straight, the garlic is said to be ready to harvest. Left on the plant, the scape will mature to form small garlic bulbs. These can be dried and planted, but will take more than a year to grow into a whole clove. My garlic is generally ready to harvest in June-July. Good thing, because I am nearly out of all the garlic I dried, froze, and otherwise preserved from last year's harvest. Garlic is even easier to grow than strawberries, so find a garden patch and plan to plant garlic this fall.

By the way, sorry for my lack of posts recently on this blog. My "day job" (commercial artist/designer) has been keeping me so busy, along with my many other interests and pursuits. I hardly have time to garden or cook, not to mention writing about it!