An Open Cookbook

An Open Cookbook


Blackberry Basil Crumble

Speaking of blackberries...with all of these little tart packages in my fridge, freezer and purse, I have been whipping up all kinds of recipes.  Sometimes for a snack I mix blackberries with sliced almonds.  Sometimes I eat them like popcorn.  And sometimes (actually twice in the last week) I have made Blackberry Basil Crumble.  I got the idea from the book 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle' by Barbara Kingsolver which is such an inspiring book.  Really made me want to grow my own food, or at least use fresh local ingredients as much as possible.  And it brings back memories of the summer I lived in the Appalachian mountains. 

So after all this blackberry picking, I bought some basil and made a crumble.  The first time I used whole wheat pastry flour and the second time I ground oats to make oat flour.  They are neck and neck in the rankings, but the oat flour version won by a grain.  The oats give the crumble a grainier, richer flavor that goes so nicely with the fresh basil.

I also used verjus in the recipe.  For those of you new to verjus, it is an acidic juice made from pressing unripe grapes.  It tastes like a very smooth smooth you could almost pour yourself a glass of it.  But if you have balsamic vinegar, you can swap that into the recipe instead of the verjus.  It will mix just as nicely with the honey.

So do yourself, your friends and your family a big favor and make this recipe asap.  It sounds a little different with basil in your dessert...but it is quite a pleasant surprise.  It is sort of like drinking mint in mojitos.  Many of you probably have fresh basil growing like crazy in your garden...and us lucky people who have blackberries coming out of our ears won't even have to go to the grocery to get the ingredients.  So enjoy...many times.

Blackberry Basil Crumble
Adapted from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Yields 4-8 servings depending on who you dine with

Blackberry crumble is the perfect finish to a breezy summer meal.  The combination of verjus and honey thread a sweet and acidic balancing act around the berries.  The basil adds a refreshing lightness to the earthy whole wheat pastry flour or oat flour. 

4 cups blackberries
2 Tbsp verjus or balsamic vinegar
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup honey, (melted if using honey that has solidified a little) 
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour or ground oat flour
3 heaping Tbsp brown sugar
2/3 stick (6 Tbsp) cold butter, cut into small cubes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a pie dish or ovenproof casserole dish, combine the blackberries, verjus, basil, and honey.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, pour in the flour and brown sugar.  Cut the butter into small cubes.  Using your hands, blend the butter into the flour and sugar until every ingredient is well mixed together.  It is okay for the crumbles to be different sizes.

Crumble the topping onto the blackberries and bake for 25-30 minutes or until bubbling and golden.  Serve with a good quality vanilla ice cream.


Honey Mint Fruit Salad

One of the many great parts of summer is fresh fruit.  It is such a treat to go to farmer's markets, or even the local grocery store and see all the berries and melons at our finger tips.  A few years ago, my co-worker B and I used to each bring in a few different kinds of fruit at the beginning of the week.  Then we would make a fruit salad and have a giant bowl of it in the fridge to leisurely eat all week.  Sometimes we would add to it as the week went on, but what a fun activity to share at work...and a built-in snack too.  I am so much more likely to eat fruit if it is already cleaned and cut.  And if you share the duty with someone else, and make it ahead of time, it makes the experience so easy.

If you live in an area with fresh blackberries, they would make a great addition as well.  I have been carrying around plastic containers for about two weeks now...because you never know when you may come across a prickly blackberry bush.  I was picking some the other day and it was utter bliss.  The sun was warm on my the blackberries, making the whole area smell of fresh blackberry jam.  A recipe will soon appear.  In the meantime, make some honey fruit salad.

Honey Mint Fruit Salad
Yields about 3 cups salad

This recipe starts you off by making honey simple syrup.  Traditionally simple syrup is made with sugar and water.  But I decided to do honey for a healthier and different flavor.  It yields about 2/3 cup of syrup, and the recipe only calls for 1 Tbsp for the salad.  So save the rest and sweeten your tea, mojitos or more salads with it.  Also, this recipe includes cantaloupe and blueberries, but feel free to use any type of fruit combination!

1/3 cup honey
1 cup water

1/2 cantaloupe, cubed
1 1/2 cup blueberries
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon (use the same lemon from zesting)
1 Tbsp honey syrup
2-3 Tbsp fresh mint, minced

Make the honey syrup first by bringing the honey and water to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid volume has reduced and is a syrupy texture.  Occasionally whisk the syrup while it is simmering to help the honey dissolve evenly.  Take off heat and cool completely.  You can quicken the process by putting the pot into the refrigerator for awhile.

Meanwhile prepare the rest of the ingredients.  Chop the cantaloupe and wash the berries.  Zest the lemon onto the fruit and then squeeze the juice over the salad.  Add about 1 Tbsp of the honey syrup and top with mint.  Toss it so every piece of fruit gets syrup and mint.  Enjoy immediately. 


Millet and Wheat Soda Bread

This recipe was one of those very pleasant products of a pretty eccentric experimentation.  I bought molasses a few weeks ago for the recipe swap Molasses Date Muffins.  Molasses is not a usual suspect in my pantry.  In fact, it feels quite foreign.  So the other morning, I was trying to figure out what else to make with it.  I also recently bought two gigantic bags of flour for the yard sale muffins.  So I could definitely make some sort of bread product.

Then I came across this recipe on Epicurious for Molasses and Oat Soda Bread.   Sounded perfect.  Except that I didn't have oats....or buttermilk, or any milk for that matter.  But intuitively, I knew I had to have other ingredients that could replace those.  What sort of grain could I use that would soak up liquid?  Hmmm.  Oh yeah, there was puffed millet in the freezer.  I had put it in there because I didn't have any other cereal or milk, and I didn't want the millet to go bad.  This just might work.

The other minor issue was a lack of buttermilk or any milk for that matter.   This was a stretch, but I could just use water with some vinegar in it.  I decided to go for it and see.  The worst that could happen would be bad bread.  But as I started getting my ingredients together, I remembered a really expensive bag of organic nonfat dry milk I bought months ago from Whole Foods.  My posture got a little taller.  Yes, this would be perfect.  It was a small example of  'If you build it...they will come'.  The universe provided quite nicely to this stretch of the imagination for soda bread. 

Wow did it turn out nicely too.  Two little loaves that work perfectly for toast with butter and jam.  Or two thin slices for a sandwich of roasted veggies and cheese (like I had that afternoon).  Or peanut butter bread dipped in a cup of coffee.  

Millet and Wheat Soda Bread
Yields 2 loaves
Adapted from Epicurious 'Molasses and Oat Soda Bread Recipe'

If you have rolled oats, any sort of puffed grain cereal or any other grain that would soak up the milk, you can use that.  The original recipe calls for oats, which I swapped puffed millet in instead.  The original recipe also has raisins, but I didn't add those in.  But feel free.  If you don't have buttermilk, just take regular milk and add vinegar as suggested below.  It will do just fine.

Yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 cup buttermilk (or 1 1/4 cup milk with 1 1/4 tsp vinegar)
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tbsp safflower oil (or any mild tasting oil)
1 1/2 cup puffed millet (or 1 1/2 cup rolled oats)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Sprinkle cornmeal onto pizza stone or baking sheet lined with parchment or oiled.  In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, molasses, and safflower oil.  Pour in the puffed millet (or oats).   Set this aside to let the grain absorb the liquid.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and baking powder.   Make a well in the center of these dry ingredients and pour the buttermilk mixture into the well.   Mix all of these ingredients together until it forms a sticky dough.  Let rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, generously flour a clean surface like a large cutting board or counter.   With your hands, break the dough in half.  Knead one of the halves into the floured surface, until it isn't a sticky dough anymore.  This should take 30 seconds to a minute.  Form this into a round loaf shaped ball and place on the pizza stone or baking sheet.  Repeat this process with the other half of the dough. 

Using a serrated knife, cut a criss cross pattern or two parallel lines (about 3/4 inch deep) on the top of each loaf.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 375 degrees.  Bake for about 20 more minutes, or until the loaves become dark and crispy and sound hollow when you (carefully, and with an oven mitt on) tap the bottom.   Place the loaves on a rack to cool completely.  Slice and eat with butter or as a sandwich.  It is best to consume it the day you make it.  So if you have leftovers, slice and freeze.  They taste just as good when you take out of freezer and toast.


Tart Lemon Coconut Oat Bars

Last month when I met my family in South Carolina, I wanted to bring along some good plane snacks with some to share with my family too.  I wanted them processed-sugar-free, portable, and hearty.  And T had recently sent me This Recipe called Tropical Lemon Cranberry Coconut Chia Bars. Well, coconut oil, oats, nuts, dried fruit and lots of lemon just happened to be in my house was our lucky day.  

Through this recipe, I found out how cool chia seeds can be.  I had heard of them and eaten them when I went to Bastyr.  We used to recommend a breakfast blend of oats, chia seeds, flax seeds and dried fruit.  But I haven't visited with them since then, and that was a while ago.  As a bonus feature, they are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.  With this recipe, I found out that if you add lemon juice to chia seeds, it makes a sludge-like gel very similar to egg.  So it turns out to be a great egg substitute for those of you who are allergic or egg avoidant.

The original recipe calls for dried cranberries, which make for a much prettier bar.  I had dried apricots, which were good too...but I didn't have very many.  So if you can, use the amount she suggests in the original recipe, which is 1/2 cup.  Or try making a blend of cranberries and chopped apricots.

The dry ingredients were so colorful with the pistachios that I wanted to capture it.  I really could hardly wait for the final product.  I was measuring and whisking as fast as possible.  All of my favorite ingredients all in one little bar was really getting my heart pumping.

So next time you are looking to make a great energy bar, plane snack, road trip treat or tart oatmeal know what to do.

Tart Lemon Coconut Oat Bars
Adapted from Oh She Glows Blog
Yields 16 squares

These lovely bars are so portable and freeze well.  The lemon zest and juice provide quite a tart punch in the teeth with every bite.  I was expecting them to be a little bit sweeter, so if you are looking for a sweeter bar, add a few more tablespoons of honey or maple syrup.  But keep the amount the same if you really want to taste the will give you a largely toothsome smile.

3 Tbsp chia seeds, ground or whole
6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 cup oats, ground
1/2 cup oats (as is, not ground)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut + more for sprinkling
2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/4 cup pistachios, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp (or more) dried apricots, chopped
4 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup applesauce, unsweetened
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare an 8 or 9" square baking pan or spring form by lining it with parchment paper and set aside for later.

To simplify your kitchen experience, zest your lemons first.  Put the zest in a little bowl or ramekin and set aside.  If you want to grind the chia seeds, do so now.  Then combine them with the 6 Tbsp of lemon juice in a small bowl.  Let it rest so it can form a nice gel.  This will act as an egg-like binder.

In a coffee grinder or food processor, grind the 1 1/2 cup oats.  This is your oat flour.  In a medium bowl, combine oat flour, oats, baking powder, salt, coconut, lemon zest, pistachios and apricots.  Mix thoroughly.

In a medium, microwave safe bowl (preferably glass bowl), melt the coconut oil.  Pour in the applesauce and honey.  Whisk well.  Add in the chia seed gel.  Whisk again.

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.  It takes a little while for every little bit to get incorporated.  Spread the batter into your prepared pan.  Using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, spread it evenly throughout the pan.  Sprinkle the top with the extra coconut.

Bake on a low oven rack (to avoid the top burning) for about 20 minutes or until the sides start to crispen and the center feels firm.  Take out of oven and let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes for final setting.  Transfer to a wire rack and let sit for 30 minutes.  This is very difficult because you will want to sample immediately.  So make yourself busy and distracted. 

After 30 minutes, cut into 16 squares.  If you have leftovers, wrap in little individual packages and freeze.  They are great portable treats!


Coconut Chai Muffins

It is muffin mania here in Seattle.  I have several requests for the Coconut Chai Muffins, so no time like the present to do a post on them...especially while they are fresh in my head (and in my freezer).  One trait you may have noticed by now is how often I freeze my food.  I actually just pulled some frozen coconut milk out of the freezer on Monday.  And I have been mixing it with leftover 2% and curry powder to make curried onions and kale.

Another food that freezes really well is MUFFINS.  After the yard sale last weekend, I had about 1 1/2 dozen left to eat.  They were already individually wrapped, so I just popped them into a Ziplock bag and strategically placed them in the freezer.  Other freezer contents include: peanut butter vegan cookies, a gigantic bag of shredded parmesan, pumpkin puree, a small bag of Sun Chips, miso, 1 chicken sausage, cooked rice noodles, homemade pesto, Moroccan carrot dip, and more coconut milk.  And that is just the actual freezer.  The doors are full too.  It is a family joke how much I freeze my food.  Last year my brother was visiting, and we went out to eat at least once a day.   With so many leftovers, and so little time, I started freezing them.  Worked out nicely. 

My mom and dad gave me an extra shelving unit to put in there to help organize it a little better, which was great because I didn't have any shelves.  It used to be containers and bags all stacked on top of each other.  Now they are all nicely nestled within shelves.

But back to the (frozen) muffins.  Last month I met my family in South Carolina for a beach vacation.  We made the most fabulous breakfasts each day and dined outside on the warm back porch.  One morning my mom made Pistachio Chai Muffins that we ate with blueberries and scrambled eggs.  I have been waiting for an excuse to make them...and the yard sale was that such excuse.  With or without an excuse, make them soon!

Coconut Chai Muffins
Adapted from Cooking Light May 2011
Yields 12 muffins

The original recipe is Pistachio Chai muffins.  But I didn't want to go out and buy pistachios.  And I always have coconut on hand (or in the freezer door).  What a better way to complement chai.  And actually, I didn't have chai either, but did have Rooibos, which is pretty similar.  The original recipe calls for two tea bags, which I used.  But I recommend using one more to get more flavor.

1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup shredded coconut + more for sprinkling
2 chai or rooibos tea bags, sliced open
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, measure the flour, leveling out each cup with the back of a knife.  Add the brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and coconut.  Combine.  Cut the tea bags open and empty into the flour mixture and mix well.  With your hands or the back of a spoon, form a well into the center of the flour mixture.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk, butter, vanilla and egg.  Slowly pour this into the well of the flour mixture.  Stir just until blended, making sure to not over mix.

Prepare the muffin tin by making little cups out of parchment (like the Molasses Date Muffins post) or use store bought liners or cooking spray.  Pour batter evenly into the 12 cups.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Pull out of the oven, and sprinkle more coconut on the top of each muffin if you want.  (At this point, I put the muffin tin on top of a baking sheet in case the coconut fell off)  Place back in oven for about 5 more minutes.  Bake until muffins bounce back when touched in the middle, or a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire rack.  Eat for breakfast or snack with a cup of tea.


Molasses Date Muffins

This month's Recipe Swap perfectly coincided with my annual yard sale yesterday.  Our assignment this month was Sorghum Molasses cookies, which everyone will post Sunday night (August 7th).  It really couldn't have been a more perfect weekend.  Two of my girlfriends and I took up half the block with our clothes, a wake board, gigantic artwork, strollers, a purple blow up fish, wooden puzzles, pots, pans, an array of ceramic fish, polka dot high heels, DVDs, and so much more.  So interesting what dozens of people will pick up and look at, but won't buy.  At this sale it was a leather bag I had gotten in Italy to carry all my presents for everyone.  Everyone looked...but no one bought.  I even went down to $5 to no avail.  So thankfully M took it off my hands, and therefore kept it on the family. 

To help nourish all the buyers, I made muffins and T's kids sold lemonade (quite successfully...with two cash registers full of money).  We had music playing, pizza and cocktails in the afternoon and money in our pockets.  Our friends and neighbors stopped in here and there to say hello and scan the goods.  And the sun peeked out for the second half of the day.  We recirculated so much of our things into society...what a great feeling.  It even sparked me to do a deep clean of my house, two trips to the thrift store and one meeting at the consignment shop and a major car cleaning.  Ah.  What a productive weekend!

I made three muffin varieties for the sale...Strawberry Rhubarb Pecan muffins, Coconut Chai muffins and Molasses Date muffins, which was an alteration of the Recipe Swap's original Sorghum Molasses Cookies:

This was a fun one.  I wanted to maintain the molasses, cinnamon and ginger flavors from the original.  So I thought a muffin theme would be a nice portable snack.  And my mom had just recently made chai muffins that I wanted to make, so this was perfect.  And also, my aunt's famous Strawberry Bread recipe that my mom gave me a copy of has been waiting for me to make as well, so I made that into muffins too.  It was synergy.

I wanted the muffin cups to be a little different than the usual ones you buy at the grocery store.  And in the spirit of using already-stocked-in-house items, I cut pieces of parchment paper into squares and then cut a sliver into each corner so that it would nestle nicely into the tins.  We do this for 9x9 pans at work, so I thought why not try it for the muffins.  And it worked out quite nicely!  So try it if you want your muffins to be dressed a little more fashionably.

Please check out the 30 other bloggers that are participating in the swap as well.  It is so much fun to see how everyone chooses to alter the original recipe: Burwell General Store Recipe Swap .   You will start thinking molasses thoughts.

Molasses Date Muffins
Adapted from Epicurious May 2009
Yields 12 muffins

These hearty muffins are a great start to the day because they are packed with fiber, naturally sweetened with dates and go quite well with a cup of coffee.  The molasses provides a nice rich color and adds flavor depth.  You can also use creative liberty with the flavorings.  Feel free to swap out the cinnamon or ginger with other spices such as ground cloves.  Or experiment with adding pecans or almond meal.

1 egg
1/3 cup molasses
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar)
3/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Set up the muffin tin with parchment paper cups, regular muffin cups or cooking spray.  Start with the liquid ingredients first.  In a large bowl using a whisk, combine the egg, molasses, buttermilk (or homemade buttermilk), ground flax, salt and vanilla extract.  Drop in the dates and incorporate.

In a separate medium bowl, blend the flours and cornmeal, baking soda, cinnamon, and ground ginger.  Slowly pour the flour mixture in with the liquid mixture and stir until evenly blended.  Fill the muffin cups with all the batter.  Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until they are fully baked and bounce back when you tap the top center of a muffin.


Feta and Dill Stuffed Zucchini

There couldn't be a better reason to buy an armload of zucchini, but for another Food Group get together with the girls.  This time we went over to R's house for another magnificent night of food.  We started off with a glass of wine, and then moved on to cheese and baguette.  A chilled coconut curry soup helped wash down the bread crumbs.  Then we casually ate through a whole table of vegetable dishes like beets with a shallot dressing, heirloom tomatoes swirled with balsamic, a massaged kale salad, and feta and dill stuffed zucchini.  I believe my eyes actually got millimeters bigger just looking at my plate.  I really didn't want the food to disappear from my place setting.  This colorful assortment scented by a nice breeze and good conversation weaved throughout...what else could make the night?  Oh yeah, berries and dark chocolate that D brought to round it out.  Ok food party complete.

There are so many things I need to tell you about making stuffed zucchini.  I think it was a combination of the warm weather and iced coffee in the afternoon, but I felt like I could have had a camera crew following me around my house for a cooking demonstration...I was amped and all over the place (in the kitchen, on the front porch, standing in the backyard) with a gigantic smile and hop in my flip-flopped step.  Hopefully this happens to you when you make them.

First and foremost, because it is summer, please use fresh corn when making this recipe.  I mean, if it is frozen corn versus no corn, use the frozen of course.  But if you have the chance to get some fresh summer it.  I learned this great trick while watching Rachel Ray the other day.  Get yourself a large bowl.  Then invert a smaller bowl in the bottom of it.  Cut the ends off the corn cob, and carefully slice the kernels off.  They will just slide right into the bowl.  Let me rephrase, I did this in the backyard, and a few did pop into the grass.  There will likely be a few strays.  But keep this method in works beautifully.

The next order of business is clearing out the insides of the zucchini so to allow space to stuff it.  If you have ever de-seeded cucumbers, it is very similar.  But let me warn you, that if you drink coffee before doing this, pump the brakes a little with the spoon.  I got really excited and was a tad bit stronger than usual, and when I went to clear out the first zucchini, I pressed too hard, and ripped it in half. 

So...very carefully, slide the spoon (turned over like pictured above) over the meat of the zucchini and take out enough to make a nice lining for filling.  Then reserve the meat because we will be adding that back into the filling.  Just chop it into chunks and set aside.

So those are my two main points.  It was a great dish to make for a potluck, because I prepared and assembled everything, so that all I had to do when I got there was broil them for about 5 minutes to warm the cheese.  Eating immediately afterwards works best.  But stuffed zucchini the next day, cold, right out of the fridge, without utensils is pretty dang tasty too.

Feta and Dill Stuffed Zucchini
Adapted from Epicurious Gourmet September 1992
Yields 4-6 servings

The original recipe calls for fresh dill.  But last week I cleaned out the spice rack and realized my dried dill needed to be consumed ASAP, so it was a contribution to this recipe.  But feel free to use fresh, especially if you have some nice summer product.  The instructions may look lengthy below, but this is quite a simple recipe.  So just trust the process.  You will be pleased, and so will your friends.

1/2 medium onion, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 zucchinis, 3 for stuffing and one for sauteing
1 ear corn
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup feta + more for sprinkling before broiling

Heat a medium saute pan on medium to low heat.  Add the olive oil.  Allow to warm up for a minute or so.  Drop in the onions and do a slow saute.

While onions are cooking, cut 3 of the zucchini in half.  You can keep the ends intact (it makes the 'boat' easier to fill and also looks more authentic).  Carefully with a spoon turned upside down, as pictured above, comb out the filling of the zucchini.  Take enough out so that you can portion a generous amount of filling in each one, but not so much that there isn't any meat left.  In a steaming basket (or just a pan with a shallow amount of water if you don't have a steaming basket), place the halved zucchinis (cut side up) in and cover.  Steam for just 5 minutes so they are bright green and partially cooked.  Remove from heat and turn them cut side down on a paper towel to drain and cool.

Cut the 1 remaining zucchini into small cubes.  Add this to the sauteing onions and cook until lightly browned.  Very carefully cut the corn kernels from the cob as pictured and instructed above.  Add to the onions and zucchini.  Chop up the zucchini meat you carved out for the shells.  Drop into the mix.  Sprinkle in the dill and salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly and saute for a few more minutes.  Turn off heat and pour mixture into a medium sized bowl.  Toss with the 1/2 cup feta.  

Turn broiler on.  In an oiled oven proof dish, arrange the zucchini shells, cut side up.  Spoon in the filling.  Sprinkle with a little extra feta if you like.  Broil for 3-4 minutes (depending on your oven), until lightly browned and feta is melted.  Enjoy as a side dish, appetizer or bring to a potluck.  


Crunchy Coconut Pecan Granola

Moving right along with my goal of using ingredients already at home, granola is the perfect recipe.  Generally oats, some kind of oil, maple syrup, a dried fruit and nuts are always in my house.  And I just happen to be lacking in the cereal department on Saturday morning.  I also just happened upon three bags of nuts that no one wanted at work (because of expiration issues).  Lucky me.  All signs pointed to granola.  What a great way to start the weekend...and week.  Granola and coffee were the two things on the kitchen counter that got me out of bed this morning.

The best and most liberating aspect of granola is that you can use so many different ingredients.  Any type of sweetener will do: maple syrup or honey or agave nectar.  Many types of fats work such as butter, safflower oil or coconut oil.  Any variety of nuts and dried fruits are fine.  And any final additions like flax seed, chia seeds, or shredded coconut round out any recipe.  A little bit of crystalized ginger would give your morning a nice kick start.

Another note about this recipe is to make it at a point of the the day that you aren't ravenous, but hungry enough that you can wait about an hour until you eat.  I say this because I was in the former position.  I had just woken up, and while drinking my coffee, prepared the granola.  I was pretty hungry.  So I kept sneaking little spoonfuls of the oats mixed with the oil and maple syrup before they went into the oven (which by the way is quite nice)...and little nips of raisins and pecans.  So if you want a full batch by the end of cooking, eat a piece of fruit before making.

Crunchy Coconut Pecan Granola
Yields 2 cup granola

My main recommendation is to have fun with granola.  You can take so many angles with it.  Sprinkle in dried apricots or cranberries.  Toast up some macadamia nuts.  Toss in some peanut butter with the maple syrup.  Whatever you choose to do, always make it a different way next time.  Life's too short to live the same day twice...right? This recipe below was a representation of my cupboards from the weekend.  It will definitely be a different variety next time!

1/2 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 Tbsp ground chia or flax seeds

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Pour the pecan halves onto a baking sheet lined with parchement paper or Silpat.  Toast in oven for about 8 minutes.  Pull pan out of oven and add the coconut flakes on top of the pecans.  Toast for about 3 minutes.  Be sure to keep an eye on this step because the coconut will burn easily.

Take out of oven and carefully remove the pecans and coconut from pan.  Chop the pecans into smaller pieces.  Set aside.

Prepare the oats by combining them in a medium bowl with the vanilla, coconut oil (melted), maple syrup and salt.  Mix well and then spread onto the same lined baking sheet.  Bake for a total of 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Pull out of oven and let sit for at least five minutes.  A very difficult step, but this allows the granola to really crispen.  Once cooled, toss with the pecans, coconut, raisins and chia seeds.  Sprinkle over granola or eat with your favorite milk beverage.