It’s a Granola kinda day…

It’s Two for Tuesdays and Tasty Tuesday! Woo Hoo! Hang on to your ponytails – an adventure is about to unfold!

When I was growing up – seemed like all the kids I knew were best friends with Tony the Tiger and pretty much lived on breakfast cereal. Not me so much – I was the weird kid – allergic to milk. If I ate cereal at all, it was dry – and well, not all that exciting, you know?

When I was a second grader one of my deepest, heartfelt wishes came true… to go to Camp Sambica for a week of camp! Sigh… I can still remember it. RJ was my counselor – and I remember wistfully saying to her, “When I grow up, I want to be a Camp Sambica counselor!”

Little did anyone realize that I’d not only grow up to be a Camp Sambica counselor, but I’d also grow up to be a Camp Sambica registrar, lifeguard, housekeeper, bookstore clerk, and baker! It was when I was the baker at Sambica that I formed a friendship that will last a lifetime, no doubt.

Of what do I speak?

Granola.

Yeah – I know. Kinda nutty, huh? (ha! I crack me up!)

Honestly – I love the stuff.

And what’s not to love?

It’s good for you.

It tastes amazingly wonderful.

It’s easy to make.

It keeps for almost forever.

It seems a little selfish to keep the wonderfulness all to myself, so I’m gonna share. This is my world famous granola recipe – and you can take it – make it your own, and share the wealth as well!

Dina’s World Famous Granola

First – preheat your oven to 350 F.

Now – gather your dry ingredients… Oats (not the instant stuff – go for the grown-up version, please!), nuts, coconut (and please, avoid the sweetened crud, go for the all natural), dry milk, brown sugar, and salt.


Do you love the bulk foods section at your local grocery store like I do? 🙂

A little disclaimer here… I consider recipes as guidelines (anyone? Pirates of the Caribbean?!) and you make them your own with a little tweaking here and there. Keep that in mind as we go forward from here.

Every woman ought to own a ridiculously large mixing bowl that really only gets pulled out for ridiculously large quantities of food. Like for now. I mean, come on – why make granola if you’re not going to make a huge batch and be set for a while. Right?!

Here is my ridiculously large mixing bowl with the 16 cups of oats (steel cut and red both), one cup each of wheat bran (although you could use oat if you liked – sometimes I use both oat and wheat), coconut, and golden flax seeds. Yeah, alright, you got me – it’s really more like a cup and a half of the coconut. Can you blame me?

And about the flax seed. It’s something I’ve been wanting to give a whirl in the granola – so there it is!

Now the nuts… Yes, the recipe calls for peanuts and sunflower seeds. They are in there. But I like to mix it up now and then and this time I added some roughly chopped almonds, too. You keep nuts on hand in the freezer, right? Cause you never know when you might need some – and well – I needed some almonds in my granola this time out, and I’m glad they were there!

And just for reference sake – I buy nuts in the bulk section of the grocery store, get them home, and if I think they’re gonna be destined for granola in the future, I pull out the food processor and give ’em a whirl or two before transferring them to the freezer bag and throwing them in the freezer. Then, when it’s time for granola making – you’re all set!

Now I add the brown sugar, dry milk, and salt.

About the dry milk. I usually have dry buttermilk on hand and use it. I honestly don’t really know why there’s dry milk in here at all – someone older and wiser and much more accomplished as a baker than I told me I oughtta throw it in there, and so I do. To be honest, I’ve made it with and without it – and the difference is not profound.

Okay – now it’s time to get your hands in there and mix it all together. It’ll look something like this:

Pretty, huh?

Now time to mix together the wet ingredients: hot water, oil, honey, and vanilla.

I pull out my 8 cup measuring cup and start with the hot water, then the oil, then the honey, then the vanilla. Why? Well, I’ve found over the years that the honey distributes so much more nicely if it’s done in this order. That it’s warmed up and thinned out a bit doesn’t hurt, either.

Next, I make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients in…

Now it’s time to mix!

The best method, in my experience, is to take a wooden spoon, start at the outside edge, dig down to the middle, lift up, and fold the ingredients together. It’s gonna take maybe 5 minutes of doing this to get everything incorporated together nicely. Be sure to pay attention to balls of granola – that’s a glob of honey hiding out – be sure to mix it in.

Now you’re going to need a BIG pan.

I use my cake pan. It’s 18″ x 12″ x 2″ and just accommodates this batch of granola…

“WAIT!” you’re thinking. I know you are. You read the recipe ahead like any good cook or baker does, and you saw raisins and/or dried fruit on there. You’re thinking – “You forgot! Add it in!”

NO! I didn’t forget.

NO! Don’t add it in!

Not yet… patience padiwan! If you add it in now it will turn into charcoal-looking, exceptionally bitter tasting, hard as a rock little lumps of fruit. Don’t go there, please!

Now – you put the granola in the oven!

My son always asks, “Why do you put it in the oven?” Well, I’ll tell you why. You want it to dry out. That’s why. And you want it to get golden. That’s why. And you want it to melt all of that honey through evenly, so that each bite tastes like a bit of sunshine. That’s why.

Now here’s the tricky part. I wish I could say to you: bake at 350 F for 25 minutes. Sorry – not that easy. There are several factors that go into this. Like – how humid is it out today? Here in Oregon – none. It’s a gorgeous day with virtually no humidity. But if it were winter time, when we have tons of humidity – it would take a good extra 25 minutes just for that! And remember how I said you can throw extra stuff in? Well – if you add a whole boatload of something that absorbs fluid easily – well, then it’ll take a bit longer for everything to dry out sufficiently and brown. Make sense? And, if you throw enough extra stuff in, you might need to add a little extra honey and oil, and well – more moisture, means more time in the oven to get everything dried out, right?

This batch of granola? A good 2 hours. And you don’t just throw it in the oven and go do something else for a couple of hours. Nope. You gotta babysit it. The first half an hour – just let it be. But after that, you’re going to need to check on it and stir it, and rotate the pan.

Big insider tips:

The more time that goes by, the more frequently you’ll need to check it. It can go from golden brown to black in no time. Charcoal-tasting granola is NOT okay.

Set the pan on the top rack of the oven. It browns on the bottom of the pan and on the top. I know – makes sense, right? But I’m always surprised at just how much it browns on the bottom. So that means you need to be careful to use an appropriate tool that helps you scrape the bottom of the pan every time you stir. I use a flat edged wooden spoon.

Rotating the pan makes it go so much better. Seems simple and basic – but it really is an important thing. You’d think not doing so wouldn’t have a big impact. Well, it does – it’ll take WAY longer for it to be done.

Okay – so, two hours, about 10 stirs and turns later – here you go – beautiful granola:

NOW we add the golden raisins and/or dried fruit. And you know what? You can add a wild and amazing array of potential ingredients here. I seriously eyed the dried pineapple in the bulk foods section today… Hmm… that would be yummy! Go wild. Heck – back in my days as the Sambica baker, I used to put in dried dates – cause we got ’em free. Not a single kid knew they were eating dates – and they loved the granola!

I think it’s important to point out that it’s just so much easier to add the raisins while the granola is hot. I’ve tried it both ways – hot and cold – and hot wins in my book every time!

After you’ve added in the dried fruit, allow the granola to cool completely.

Once it’s cooled, store it in a canister or the like. At camp we used old 5 gallon buckets with lids. I happen to have a nice big glass canister that I keep it in. If you want it to keep forever and ever amen, then put it in an air tight container or the freezer.

There you go. Homemade, amazing, better than you’ve ever had anywhere else in the world, granola!

Aren’t you proud of yourself? You just helped make an awesome batch of granola!

Dina’s World Famous Granola

  Dry Ingredients
1 cup Bran
1/4 cup Dry milk
1 cup Coconut
1/2 cup Brown sugar
1 cup Peanuts, roughly chopped
2 pounds Oatmeal
1 cup Sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
  Wet Ingredients
2 cups Hot water
3/4 cup Safflower, Sunflower, or Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Vanilla
1 pound Honey

  Optional Ingredients
1 cup Almonds, cashews, or other nuts to your preference
2 cups Golden raisins, or any other dried fruit you may prefer

 

Preheat oven to 350°.

  1. Combine the dry ingredients in a very large mixing bowl. Mix thoroughly.
  1. Mix together the wet ingredients.
  1. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients – mixing just until they are incorporated. Do not over mix! This should NOT be a doughy mixture.
  2. Place in a baking dish with at least an inch side on it. (I use a 1/2 sheet cake pan – it works great!)
  3. Bake at 350°, stirring and turning as it browns. Bake until the entire mixture is golden brown. This process can take up to a couple of hours. Be careful to keep a close eye on it – as it dries out, it browns very quickly.
  4. Remove granola from the oven – being certain to do so before it begins to overcook and burn.
  5. Add in raisins, being careful to stir them through thoroughly.
  6. Allow to cool completely.

Notes: Store in an airtight container, or in the freezer for a longer shelf life.

Advertisements

Blueberry Jelly

It’s Two For Tuesdays! Fasten your seatbelts, and come along for the ride!

Opening day at the Blueberry Farm…

A gorgeous Saturday afternoon…

Some of the most important people in my life…

…and amazing, luscious, ripe to perfection Blueberries.

With enough mostly non-whiney helping hands – in short order:


(Okay, so we picked more than blueberries… we got some Coho Raspberries, and Marionberries, too.)

But this post is all about the Blueberries.

Do you ever start out on a project – full steam ahead – plowing forward and then mid-project realize, “Umm… I’m out of…” Yeah – you probably don’t. But – in real life – in MY real life – it happens all the time. You’d think I’d figure out a system to keep this from happening. But I guess if I did, half of my adventures just wouldn’t happen, would they?!

I digress – back to the topic at hand!

Do you have a juicer/steamer?

No?

Why not?!

‘Cause you NEED one. Not even just want one. Seriously – this is a need thing.

The possibilities are endless, mind-blowing, and fantastic.

Know all that excess straggler produce from your garden toward the end of the summer and early fall? Steam the veggies and make vegetable stock for your soup making during the winter! Make your own fruit juices. I make an amazing pomodoro tomato sauce with it. Seriously – it’s the right thing to do. Start right now by watching the canning section of every store that carries anything canning related. Watch the extra percentage off coupons. My $170-ish steamer/juicer cost me about $40 with an end of the season sale and percentage off coupons. How could I NOT buy it?!

Okay – tangent done…. on to Blueberries.

I traditionally make blueberry jelly and blueberry syrup most summers. (Last summer, not so much since I was too sick.) I also really, really, really want to have some picked in the morning, sorted, washed, allowed to air dry, and then frozen and stashed away for baking all year long blueberries, too. There is just something so right about blueberries at their peak of freshness.

When I make the blueberry jelly and syrup, I rely on my juicer/steamer. It’s a total breeze.

First, you fill the base with water:

Then you add the collection portion:

…and the steamer basket:

And finally, the berries and the lid:

That took all of about three minutes.

Next, you set the heat on the eye on high, and let the juicer do it’s thing. It takes about 80 minutes. And for this hopper full of fruit – I got about a gallon of blueberry juice. (It would have been more if it hadn’t been for that pesky little spill I had – but thankfully, maybe only 1/2 a cup or so lost.)

Here’s what the fruit looks like when it’s spent:

My chickens love the spent fruit!

While the fruit is steaming, I typically get my jars and lids sterilizing, my canning supplies all lined up, and take inventory of the ingredients I need… sugar – check. pectin… um…. pectin…. STINK! I’m out of pectin! And we’re broke! UGH!

So decisions need to be made here.

Freeze the juice and jelly at another time?

or…

Think outside the box.

You know I’m an outside the box girl, don’t you?! 🙂

So, I pulled out Grammy’s old cookbook:

Read up on the old school methods of jelly making, and then checked out a couple other resources.

I mean – did they have pectin in Little House on the Prairie? Surely you don’t HAVE to have pectin, do you?

Well – as I found out – it depends on which fruit you’re working with – and fortunately enough for me – blueberries is one of the fruits that it’s easier to get away without it. And pectin – while lovely and convenient – doesn’t necessarily have to be a factor. It just takes a little more time, and attention to detail to do it without the pectin.

What I learned:

One to one ratio with sugar if you’re using a concentrated fruit juice (like I got from my juicer/steamer) – although it’s okay to go slightly less than 1 cup with the sugar. So I had 16 cups of juice, and 16 cups of sugar.

You need a GOOD and LARGE pan to boil the juice/sugar solution in. I used my All Clad 20 quart stockpot. I love that thing!

You need a little patience. This is gonna need at least 30 minutes to boil at about 200 F.

Having a good quality candy thermometer sure as heck is a nice thing to have on hand!

I decided I could do this with the supplies I had on hand and forged ahead!

I combined the blueberry juice and the sugar, put the heat to high, and stirred until the sugar was completely dissolved. It took longer than I thought it would to get it to boil and the 200 F mark. But once it got there, and I got the heat adjusted to just the right spot to keep it there, it was just a matter of setting a 30 minute timer and letting it boil away.

Can I just tell you how nice it is to have a nice deep large pot with a solid base on it that makes this sort of task no problem whatsoever?! No worries of boil overs. No worries about splatter – see below – it’s all splattered inside the pot – just where it ought to.

I was actually pretty thrilled that in pretty short order I started to see the mixture begin to form a gel!

Amazing!

In no time I was filling canning jars with jelly, processing them in the boiling water bath, and getting them tucked away into the pantry.

Voila!

I will confess – we ate so many blueberries that there weren’t enough for syrup quite yet. But we’ll get around to it before the Blueberry season ends. Promise.

Other things we got done that day:

Coho Raspberry Syrup

and

Marionberry jam.

All in all – a lovely – and very productive day!

REAL Canned Beans

spaininiowa

I got a tip from another blogger about this great Blog Carnival going over at girlichef featuring REAL food.   And Diana has launched Simple Lives Thursday at her blog.

So totally up my alley!

Especially when I’ve been pondering things that I probably ought to have known, and well – just really didn’t!

Do you ever just buy stuff because you always have?

Does it ever rock your world when it occurs to you that you can make it at home – better, and more often than not – WAY cheaper?

Ugh! I hate that I’m such a consumer sometimes!

So… Some time ago I came across a great post over at Foodie With Family about a copy cat barbeque bean recipe. For canned barbeque beans. Said beans – according to all who have tried them – will turn all consumers into diehard fans for ever more. I read that post and recipe and suddenly the light bulb went on!

DUH!

I can buy dry beans in the bulk foods section and can beans until my little heart’s content!

I love beans.

I put them in soups…

I put them in salads…

I put them in stews…

I put them in chili…

They’re packed with tons of great stuff for you.

And I carefully monitor all of the grocery adds to see when my favorite canned beans go on sale – cause they’re not cheap! And I’m not just gonna throw a buck a can at them without thinking it through.

Especially when said beans cost me $0.49 (yes, that says forty-nine cents) a pound on sale this week in bulk foods!

Dang!

I’m SO canning beans, people!

Being a bit unsure how my experiment with canning dried beans would turn out I hit the net and did lots of reading. You know what? There are LOTS of different opinions out there on how it ought to be done. But I chose to stick with a method from my Grammy’s 1926 cookbook, which followed closely to the Ball Blue Book. I then went to the bulk foods section at the grocery store and choose about a pound of several different types of beans…

Black eyed peas

Small red beans

Black beans

Navy beans

Garbanzo beans

All tolled – given the price differentials – this about 5 pounds-ish of beans cost me about $5. I happen to have an embarrassment of riches in the canning jar/lid/ring department (Freecycle rocks!) – so no outlay of cash there. The biggest thing required? Time.

It all started last night – yes, I confess, I was still up at midnight putting said beans in bowls, filling them with water, and then covering them with plastic wrap. (Yeah, that took all of about 5 minutes – so totally not the reason I was up way too late!) These babies need to soak anywhere from 8 to 18 hours – depending on who you believe. My Ball Blue Book said 12 hours, so I went with that.

A little after noon – after I’d done dishes, and sanitized the kitchen, I set my big kettle and a saucepan to boiling.

The big kettle holds the clean canning jars, the saucepan holds the clean lids and rings. See?

Pretty much, all you gotta do from this point in time is…

Rinse the beans… You discard the liquid they’ve been soaking in, pick through and make sure you get out any discolored beans or debris that might have made it through the packing process before being marketed.

I dumped the beans from the bowl with water into a colander over the kitchen sink. Then transferred the beans back to the bowl they’d soaked in (after giving it a quick rinse), and rinsed again with cold water. Drained once again with the colander. At that point I place the colander on top of the now empty bowl, and transfer over to my work area adjacent to the stove.

Then it was time to pack the jars…

I pull a few jars out of the boiling water and put the funnel on the jar closest to the bowl of beans. These puppies are HOT – so I use silicone wrapped tongs to work with them, it’s so much easier!

I got about 1 1/2 cups of beans per pint jar. I pulled out my electronic scale to check out how it weighed in. Just bean weight – roughly 9 ounces – within about an eighth of an ounce. The important thing here is to be certain to maintain an inch head space on the jars.

Now you put 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in each jar.

And then you fill each jar with boiling water – again, maintaining that 1 inch head space.

It’s important to get rid of air pockets that may be stuck in the jar. I pull out a handy dandy chop stick and gently stir to dislodge any air. If the volume is significantly affected, then I top off with additional boiling water.

Now all you do is wipe the rims and tops of each jar, and then put the lid and band on!

We’re fortunate enough to have a 23-Quart Pressure Canner (and yes these MUST be pressure canned!) – so I packed it with the beans… It’s important to make sure you get the right amount of water in the base of the canner, too. Mine calls for 3 quarts (12 cups) of hot water. And you GOTTA have the insert in the base of the canner, too. You don’t want exploding canning jars going on, right?!

That’s two layers of pint jars in there. When you do two layers of jars like this, it’s important to use another insert between the layers. I also stagger the jars so that no jar is sitting directly over another one.

That middle jar up there- it’s a “mix” jar. I do this when I’m making jams and jellies, too. Does it ever just bug you that you never have an exact right amount – always a little too much or not quite enough? I just keep an extra jar on hand and fill it with the leftovers. Life goes on, you know? And I’ll always use them.

Once you get the canner loaded, you put the lid on and put the heat on the eye on high. You want the steam to start to build up in there. Once steam is built up enough to be exiting the vent, set a timer for 10 minutes. When that 10 minutes are up, place the regulator on the vent tube.

Pressure needs to build to 10 pounds, and pint jars need 70 minutes at that pressure.

It’s really important to set a timer when you’re doing these stages. It’s just too easy to get sidetracked and lose track, and when you’re working with a pressure canner – NOT okay.

Once the 70 minutes is up, you remove the pressure canner from the heat, making sure it’s resting somewhere on a level surface. I had John move it to the dining room table (with appropriate heat pads underneath, of course). It took about 45 minutes for the temperature to drop and the steam to release.

The unveiling….

Pretty, huh?

All-in-all, probably one of the easiest canning projects I’ve ever tackled.

For my $5 investment in beans I’ve got

6 pints of black eyed peas

4 pints of small red beans

4 pints of black beans

5 pints of navy beans

5 pints of garbanzo beans

Not bad. Not bad at all!

This will definitely NOT be the last time I can my own beans! In fact, I think I’m giving up store bought beans from here on out!

Now – I’m off to finish up canning the yams the gleaners dropped off for me this afternoon. An unexpected blessing!