Simple Granola

the perfect granolaI have always had a hard time getting store bought granola when it’s so easy to make.  This batch took me no time at all.  The ingredients are fairly common but the flavor and crunch is all there.  The trick is in the process.

Granola:

  • 8 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole almonds (or any nuts of your choice, husbands excluded)
  • 2 cups coconut flakes, unsweetened (if large flakes, children excluded, put in the oven with your oats and nuts)
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup flax seed
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 cup raisins

Toast the oats and almonds in a 350 F. oven for about 15 minutes, ’till the oats start to golden, stir occasionally.   I usually have two big cake pans in the oven.  The tall sides help me to not worry about dumpage when stirring.  Place the coconut, flour, wheat germ, flax seeds and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.  While the oats and nuts are toasting, put the butter, coconut oil, sugar, and honey in a pan to boil.  Turn on medium high heat, stirring until it comes to a boil.  Boil for a minute without stirring.  Pull off the burner and stir your raisins in.

sugar/oil combo

Once your oats have toasted (don’t wait for all of them to toast, just the first sign of golden color) pour in the rest of the dry ingredients and your sugar/oil combo.  Stir to combine and put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.  Watch the color to make sure it doesn’t get too dark.  When it looks good, place on the counter and don’t stir.  Letting it sit ’till warm will help the oats to clump up.  Give it a light stir when it’s warm to break the granola off the bottom of the pan and to break up any big clumps.  Now, let it sit ’till completely cool and your granola will be nice and chunky.  Put in airtight containers and it will keep for a few months.  However, I make this a part of my monthly baking.

granola

It also makes for a fantastic “out of the box” gift!

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Pork Short Rib’s visit to the Crockpot

roast

I very randomly shoved things in my crock pot:

  • 1 apple, cored and cut in half
  • 1 onion, cut in half
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1/4 C. duck fat
  • 2 racks of pork short ribs
  • 1/4 C. bbq sauce

Surround your ingredients (except the bbq sauce) with the pork ribs.  Let simmer in the crock pot for 8 hrs.  For the last hour slather on some bbq sauce to melt into the meat.  We added a bit more once they were ready to be eaten.  I’m not a huge bbq sauce fan, but just that little bit was enough to give it some spunk!

bbq pork

Mango & Meyer Lemon Sorbet

Mango Meyer Lemon SorbetI had such great expectations for sorbet!  The mango’s were on sale, so I bought a whole bunch.  We made popsicles and chopped them up to put in small baggies to freeze.  The kids eat them frozen, right out of the baggie. (smash the bag of mango to be flat like a pancake and freeze in that shape so the kids can bite into them)  And the popsicles were a mash of blueberries, strawberries, mango and apple cider.  But to finish off our frozen treats we were going to have sorbet.

Unfortunately when organizing my garage last winter, I dropped the ice-cream maker.  “It’s fine.” I said, “It only fell on the cement.”  Well, I was wrong.  The motor only hummed a dreary tune… maybe I can get my husband to work on it?  Until then, I’ll have to do the old fashioned, fork and freezer mash.

Sorbet:

  • 3 mangos, chopped
  • Juice from 6 Meyer lemons
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar (we try and use raw sugars such as turbinado)
  • 1 Tbs Rum
  • 1 Tbs instant clear gel, dissolved in 2 Tbs. cold water

Boil your water, sugar, rum and instant clear gel, making sure to whisk constantly.  Once it comes to a boil, immediately remove from heat and let stand ’till cool.  Blend sugar solution with the mango’s and lemon juice.  If you want to add some zest from the lemons, go for it.  I personally find them interfering with the smoothness of my sorbet.  Now cool and make into sorbet according to your ice-cream maker’s instructions.  However if you’ve dropped yours… or you just don’t have one, place into a metal pan and on a flat space in your freezer.  Ever 30 minutes give it a whisk with a fork ’till it’s frozen and mashy.  Make sure to get the corners and edges as they will freeze first.  If you forget, set it out on the counter for a little while and let it soften up enough to mash, then place in the freezer and continue to check it every half hour.  It takes about 3 to 4 hours ’till it’s ready.  You can store it in a sealed container in the freezer for a couple weeks.  Have a happy summer!

 

Camping Donuts

Happy Camper

Recently while camping, I attempted to make donuts.  By SHEAR LUCK, it was a success.  I’ve had a lot of baking moments flop on me this last while, so I wasn’t holding my breath with these.  But the three things I had in my favor were: 1-butter 2-sugar 3-the “fry” factor!  Anything’s better fried!  jiffy donuts

There are a couple of ways to do this.  The easy way is to pack some jiffy dough, oil and frosting.  We used some vanilla pudding to make them more “eclair-like”.  But whatever suits your fancy.  I bought the croissant version which was quite heavy with oils.  Don’t get me wrong, it was gooood, but we had to sit down afterwards and work on our digestion.

cup cutter

At this point, all you have to do is roll out your dough with a cup or jar.  Cut the rounds with the same jar.  And fry them up.  If you’ve never fried dough before, check out the end of this post for frying tips.

To make the dough from scratch is really easy and a much healthier alternative.

“Healthier?  Really?  These are donuts, Ju!”

Well then, healthier… for a donut.

butter

Ok, so here’s my process:

  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbs. yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

Let soak and proof about 10 minutes

Then add

  • 1 Tbs rum
  • 1  cup whole wheat
  • 4 cups white bread flour
  • 1 cup room temp butter cut into small chunks

Add the flour and butter in 1/2 c. batches while mixing in between.

butter chunks in dough

Now mix the batter for a good 10 minutes helping the gluten to stretch.  The most important part is not getting your batter too thick.

It should be sticky!  See in picture below:

super sticky dough

Before any rising time.

I allow two rising periods.  Make sure it’s doubled in size (about 30 minutes) then punch down and allow to rise a second time.  These two rising periods cause the gluten to stretch and the batter will become less sticky.

After two rising periods with no extra flour added.  Notice the stickiness is stretchy not gooey.

After two rising periods with no extra flour added. Notice the stickiness is stretchy not gooey.

After it’s done rising, lay down a bed of flour, pour your dough out on top, sprinkle more flour on top and press out.  Keep the dough coated in flour being careful to not let it stick to the counter underneath.  Roll out ’till it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick.roll out doughAt this point, you can cut the dough into squares, circles, or traditional donut rounds.  I used a biscuit cutter and a decorators’ tip.

improvised donut cutter

Save the small holes for donut-hole treats!

Lay out all your donuts in sheets to freeze.  Once frozen, place in a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer ’till your ready.

frozen donut sheetsNow to take them camping:

I put the ziplock bag of prepared donuts with my frozen foods ’till I was ready.  The night before I put them in my  unfrozen cooler to thaw.  The morning of, set them out on a floured paper towel strip to rise for 30 minutes.  Place another paper towel strip over top to keep the bugs off.  Bugs like dough.

small dough in oil

I loved how quickly this enamel pot heats the oil up.  The cast irons take forever and it’s harder to cool off if the oil gets too hot.  You don’t want it too hot or they’ll burn.  So with the propane (where it’s all or nothing) keeping the oil at a good temperature was tricky.  Once I turned the heat on, I stayed with it and would throw little tester dough balls (like the one pictured above) in the oil.  Those are the bubbles you want.  Small quiet ones.  Once I get this effect, I turned my propane down as low as it would go.  That seems to do the trick.

chock stick fryersChopsticks work great for flipping the dough.  Let one side fry ’till you can see the golden color, then flip, about 1 minute on each side.  Make one, then test to see if it’s still doughy on the inside.  Don’t be afraid to let it get darker in color, so the inside can cook all the way through.

perfect homemade donutPlace on a paper towel and let cool.

donut holesThe kids loved the little donut holes.

homemade eclairSome we filled with vanilla pudding and topped with fudge frosting.

And some we left traditional.

homemade donut

Donuts and coffee for breakfast is my kinda camping!

Tapioca Glitter Collage

results-of-the-glitter-hater

     Never, in all my years of mothering, have I ever liked a substance known to the common world as GLITTER!  It’s evil and should only be bought by responsible people with amazing hand-eye coordination.  The last time we had glitter usage in this house, my Dotty asked, opened, and immediately spilled gold sparkles ALL OVER my living room floor.  In only 10 seconds it looked like a Gnome and Tinkerbell had wrestled in my house.  So I have vowed to never allow that kind of mystical hooligan to romp where I am until I’ve reached the point of feeling somewhat sane.  I’m still recovering from toddler years and I don’t know how long it’s gonna take.  For now, here’s my approach to filling in those spaces in our hearts that need glitter.

how-to-makeSupplies:

  • dry tapioca noodles
  • gel food coloring
  • tacky glue
  • card stock paper
  • sharpie
  • paint brush’s
  • plastic baggy’s
  • toothpicks
  • weird Grover finger puppet (optional)

coloring-tapioca-noodles

Place about 1/3 cup of noodles in a plastic baggy.  Very carefully, use a toothpick to dispense a dab of food coloring gel into the bag with the noodles.  For small hands I tied the top so nothing escaped.  Now rub so that all the noodles have coloring all over them.  It doesn’t take much gel to create a very vibrant color.  Once they’re done, pour into small bowls or store for later use.

They store indefinitely.

blue-yellow-green-purple

 These were the colors we decided on.  It’s a nice color pallet I thought.

sharpiesSharpies make great drawing pens and the kids love the feeling of drawing with them.  But I’m a risk taker and my table’s old.  Usually we put down mats for messy crafts but these little balls roll everywhere.  So after the craft time, I do a good sweep.  They sweep up just fine.  Unlike my nemesis, the glitter, that creeps in all the cracks of my old wood floors.

bowl-of-tackyglueFill a small dish of tacky glue.  We went through quite a lot, so be generous.

brushWhen brushing on, keep the glue really thick so the noodles can squish in.  The more noodles the more colorful the collage.  Your hands will get a little messy from the coloring.  But it washed right off for us.

glue-your-noodleReally pack in the noodles.  After they’re all stuck, funnel them back into the bowl to get rid of the loose ones.

more-noodles-to-glueWe used both white card stock and some previously water colored paper.  I don’t know which I like better?

sharpieMake sure to sign your work.

TaDa!

Roasted Potatoes and Thyme

potatoes

Perfectly roasted potatoes!

apple slicerI’ll start by going backwards.  Do you own a apple slicer such as this?  If not, they aren’t very expensive and I’ve even found a few at garage sales.  This one in particular was from a garage sale.  Make sure to always rinse them off immediately after you use and shake it around to get the water off as best as you can.  My last slicer rusted up very quickly from being in water too much.

IMG_5429Now we’ll start at the beginning.  Use smaller’ish potatoes.  I’ve got a russet here, but any kind of potato will do.  If you want to take the skin off, skip the next step but I would highly recommend keeping the skin on.  It get’s nice and crunchy and also helps keep the potato from falling apart.

unscrewSee this little screw?  Unscrew it.  That will remove the peeler feature and thus your potato will only be sliced.

removedOnce removed, it should look a little like this.

sliceProceed to slicing those spuds.  It helped to place my hand at the tip so the spud would stay together and not break apart.

spudPlace in your pan all in-tacked.  I got a fork to help remove the potato from the spiky thing so the center would remain inside the swirl.  Make sure to not launch spuds across your counters and into deep spider web hole like I did the first one.  “Eww!” followed by a slight depression.  But I learned and the next one was successful.

Once they’re all assembled and ready to bake, put a little dollop of butter (I even gave them a little Olive oil sprinkle as well) salt and pepper.  Cover with some dry italian herbs and fresh thyme.  Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for roughly 45 minutes, or until the skins are nice and crisp.

It makes for a heavenly side dish!

15 minutes from Clam Chowder

clam chowda ingredients

Lately I’ve been really bad at meal planning or planning a head in general.  Summer just started and all planning has stopped except the here and now.  So dinner?  What dinner?  Oh yeah, I’m the mama, and they need food.  Here’s my fast soup fix.

pestoThis is my accidental pesto but it didn’t taste right.  So it’s going into the soup to use it up.

soup baseFirst finely chop a couple carrots, a couple stalks of celery and 1 onion.  Make sure they’re finely chopped so they’ll cook quickly.  Sauté in a little olive oil and cook ’till they’re wilted and soft, about 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

herbsThrow in a Tbs. of dry herbs, or fresh if you’ve got ’em.  A good bunch of dill would have been great if I’d given myself time to think about it.

liquid

Pour in a quart of the Imagine Potato Leek Soup and 1 Cup half and half.  Once it’s boiling add a can of clams.  At this point determine if you need to add a little water to thin the soup.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  Let simmer ’till the kids are called.  Toast up something bread “like” (all I had was a strange array of tortillas).  I sprinkled some green onions on top.  Super easy, fast, filling, and cheap!

15 minute clam chowder