|Epic honeymoon granola!|
(I feel badly posting that, because we received so many heartfelt, thoughtful and generous gifts! All of which we loved so much!). But the one that really stood out was Newmie's homemade granola. I think it especially stood out because we got into the stuff on our wedding night (that's technically the honeymoon, right? So we didn't cheat, Sarah!). We sailed away to Bowen Island for a few days, and on the trip over got the munchies.
|Maple Nut "Moosewood" Granola|
We had left the gifts behind with our parents while we went away, but shrewd Sarah forced her gift into my going-away bag at the last minute and said that we'd need to eat up the granola in the next couple of days.
We ate that granola by the handful at all hours of the day. It was ridiculously good - even one of my brothers tried it on the sail over and said it was the best he'd ever had. Dried cherries, clusters of sweet oat goodness . . . it was truly inspirational!
Now that I'm back at home and the wedding mayhem has finally begun to die down (I have a whole pile of wedding-related posts coming up! Just waiting for photos, etc.!), I can get back to blogging. And granola is going to be the first post, since it has very recently become my favourite thing to make. I love these fads I go through...!
Actually, I'd better mention one of the other fantastic, excellent and super fun gifts we received - cooking classes at The Dirty Apron downtown. I can't wait to see what I get hooked on making/doing after that! Stay tuned, because I'm sure I'll wax poetic on all things culinary once we get going!
(Incidentally, there's this neat company in Vancouver called "Swallow Tail Tours", who very kindly supported our latest Heart & Stroke fundraiser last spring. They have neat West Coast culinary tours and classes too, like wild mushroom foraging trips, and canoe-crabbing! Follow the link here for a fun adventure...! I think these would make great gifts for relatives visiting the city, too.)
I've made two full batches of different granolas since we got home. The summer sun is finally here, and I suddenly have stopped craving hot breakfasts. Enter: Granola!
|ReBar's Cranberry Hazelnut was good, but I think Moosewood has it beat!|
Here are my top 5 reasons on why you should make a batch of granola this week:
1. It's high-calorie.
Now normally a high-caloric intake is something we fat North Americans should all be actively avoiding, but consider, if you will, the warm weather and the amount of energy we'll be burning roller-blading along the seawall, hiking the Grouse Grind, swimming at the beaches, and biking the sideroads. Wouldn't you love to start the day off with a small, 'light' meal that gives you half a day's worth of energy without giving you that lethargic I-just-ate-the-lumberjack's-breakfast-and-am-still-burping-up-bacon-4-hours-later feeling? You would, wouldn't you?
2. It's full of complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy stuff like oat-bran.
Not only will a little granola fill you up efficiently, it'll also last a long while! The barley malts or molasses (i.e. NOT refined sugars) keep it sweet while preventing that all-too-common sugar crash that leaves me (and many others!) running to the cupboard for a 'snack' while my blood glucose levels ride the insulin roller coaster. Not so good. Satisfy the sweet-craving with some homemade granola and get your sugar a little more slowly and in a controlled fashion. It'll keep you full longer and might even help you to not snack when you shouldn't. And if you pay attention to the Cheerios ads, oat bran helps lower your 'bad' cholesterol - and now you can do that without having to consume Trisodium Phosphate (read that Cheerios label - I won a bet once with my Inorganic Chemistry prof that I could show him that the toxic stuff was actually intentionally ADDED to food. He didn't believe me. Then I showed him the Cheerios box!). Now before you start freaking out, it should be noted that even the EU thinks it's okay to use as an acidity regulator in foods. Personally though, I'd cut back and keep it simple. Use the stuff to get the grease off your garage floors and try not to eat it is my advice.
|Good morning! Skim milk is a low-fat additive, but Liberte yogurt is another delicious option!|
3. Your kitchen will smell amazing, and it's fast & easy to make.
Brew a pot of coffee and bake the granola and you can get even the sleepiest husband out of bed in a jiffy! Granola requires only 15 to 20 minutes of baking time (with regular stirring at 5 min intervals - be careful not to walk away and let it burn), and it's pretty idiot proof. It's one of those 'mix the dry ingredients - in a separate bowl, mix the wet ones - then mix together' recipes. Great for first thing in the morning! Easy and impressive all at once.
4. You can use up all the half-used pouches of nuts and dried fruit from other recipes.
This is one of my favourite aspects, because I always have a handful of chopped walnuts or dried cranberries lurking in the door of my fridge. And I always feel guilty for not using it up, but I can never find a recipe that needs 1/8 cup of chopped pecans, for example. Well chuck it into the mix and experiment a little, because nuts and fruits belong in granola! Raisins, currants, dried apricots - all of these work really well. Just remember to ADD THE DRIED FRUIT AFTER BAKING THE GRANOLA and not before (it will burn).
|Yet another use for glass milk bottles! Cut some fabric (trace out a circle with a coffee mug or small bowl), and pop an elastic over the top (or better yet, scrap ribbon) and it's a well-packaged gift!|
5. It makes a great gift (and it looks cool packaged in a recycled glass milk bottle - extra points for being green!).
Trust me, as a recipient of homemade, fresh granola in a lovely glass jar, there are few things I enjoy receiving more. It's better than trail-mix, it makes a perfect warm-weather breakfast, and it's not full of preservatives and junk like the store-bought stuff is. It's also handmade (and local), which is always a good way to go. I wonder if there's a 10-mile-diet granola recipe out there? Or a no-bake (i.e. raw food) granola recipe? Probably, and I'll bet it's tasty, too!
Alright, so there's a downside to granola - point #1 can go both ways, because granola can be very high in fat. The nuts themselves are quite fattening, but the addition of coconut flakes (however delicious!) will drive up the calorie count like mad.
Fortunately, there are a few ways to lower the fat and calorie content of homemade granola (remember store-bought is very likely to be full of calories! Read the labels!). Advice from Moosewood's New Classics cookbook:
Moosewood granola is made from nutritious ingredients that are less refined than the ingredients in most commercial cereals, and we bake it only briefly so it retains nutrients. For the most healthful cereal, avoid using coconut, heavy vegetable oils, sweeteners, and lots of nuts, all of which can add dramatic amounts of fat, sugar, or calories.They also suggest using only a pair of added flavours to their basic recipe, like one nut plus one fruit, to keep the flavours balanced and complementary. My favourite would definitely be a cherry-almond combination, but the possibilities and combinations are endless.
(Get a used (enviro-friendly AND cheap!) copy of this awesome cookbook here! From $4.50 plus shipping - pretty awesome deal! Get on it! I bought mine 'used' and it still had the original price tag on it...!).
|A funnel is required for filling milk bottles with granola|
Tips for filling cleaned-out milk bottles:
Make a funnel. Any piece of scrap paper and a bit of tape will suffice! That narrow neck is difficult to fill, but it pours out very nicely. Just roll a piece of paper into a cone, stick a piece of tape on the outside and that's it! Just make sure the point is large enough to let granola down and out into the milk bottle, but small enough to just fit inside the neck of the bottle. Sometimes you have to readjust and move the tape.
A circle of fabric (or printed paper) secured with a ribbon or string will cover the ugly plastic cap and make it look 'wrapped'. Tie a small recipe card on the side with either the list of ingredients, the recipe itself so they recipient can make more if desired, or a short & sweet note. This is always the point at which I realise I still don't own a one-hole punch...
|I'm not sharing: for immediate consumption!|
And that's about it! When Sarah nexts gets in from her exciting geology adventures, I'll see if she won't share her recipe for the awesome honeymoon granola with us!
Here's a few granola recipes that sound good me - a good place to start, if you still haven't bought the Moosewood "New Classics" cookbook I keep telling you about! Or the ReBar cookbook (which was also from Sarah, way back in 2002!). I haven't tried any of these, so please do post your reviews!
Nutty Granola Recipe from West Coast Paddlers (Gulf Islands/Howe Sound sea kayakers)
Best Ever Granola Recipe from Island Vittles (Pender Island)
West Coast Trail granola from "Extra Hot, No Water"