I’ve published a new blog post every day for the past 14 days. So exciting! I didn’t get blog posts up so regularly even when I was doing my 365 recipe challenge in 2010. It’s addictive; I don’t want to stop! I’ve more-or-less blogged about everything interesting that I’ve made recently, so I’m reading some old drafts of mine to see what I meant to tell you about but never got around to.
I wrote the majority of the following in July and August, while I was preparing to move from our house and while we were house-sitting, and in fact, before we had rented our current apartment.
Most people, when they think about packing up their entire house, think of furniture, clothes, books, and all their other belongings that will need to be piled into boxes and carried from one residence to another. While I thought about these things as well, for months I also thought about the things that I do not want to take with me. Things to get rid of, things to use up.
Naturally, these thoughts turn to my pantry. As you can tell, I keep my pantry well-stocked. I freeze extras that I make. I buy some things in bulk (like the 12-pack of cocoa powder I ordered). I didn’t want to move all of this stuff with me – particularly since I wasn’t sure how big my kitchen would be and what kind of storage I would have. My apartment kitchen is roomy, but I still miss my old kitchen.
But since I had to move, many of my thoughts focused on clearing out my pantry. I knew I couldn’t use up or get rid of everything, but I wanted to do what I could.
I already told you about the Green Pea Soup I made to help clear my freezer. I also blogged about the Lavender Angel Food Cake, which used the egg whites I froze. Now it’s time to tell you more about what I did with specific baking ingredients I had around the house.
Once again, I made Almond-Honey Power Bars. Twice. I originally made them in January 2010, and meant to return to the recipe at some point but never did. In July 2011, I had lots of oats and fruit and nuts to use up. Power Bars time!
Both times I’ve made them, I more or less followed the recipe. The first batch featured almonds, apricots, and currants. The second batch featured the same, but also included a few cashews and a little almond extract. Let me just tell you – almond extract in place of vanilla really adds oomph to this recipe. They were tasty before, but I think the almond extract made them special.
Give the Power Bars a chance. Use almond extract if you have it and like it. With nuts, oats, and dried fruit, they pack a whole lot of goodness and yumminess into a small package. They’re very portable, so they’re great for road trips (which we also took them on) and to add to lunches.
I’ve made granola a few times in the past. With a full canister of rolled oats, and bags of dried blueberries, cherries, and cranberries, I decided it was time to make granola again. My timing could have been better – I made granola during some of the hottest weather we’ve had – but granola in the morning is refreshing. It’s great with milk or yogurt.
My favorite, most versatile recipe that I’d made was the Cherry, Almond, and Cinnamon Granola, so I decided to adapt it. It seemed like it took a lot of oil, so I wanted to see how 1/3 cup oil would do (equal parts oil and honey) – the answer was great.
I followed the proportions in the recipe, excepting the oil.
This is what I used. I mixed:
4 cups oats
3 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup pecans/walnuts (odds and ends of nuts I had)
1/3 vegetable oil
a dash of cinnamon
together in a bowl. I poured it onto a sheet pan and baked it at 350F, stirring once or twice, for no more than 20 minutes because it was starting to get a little extra brown. I removed it from the oven, and sprinkled on top:
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped dried apricots
After it was cool, I mixed it all together and stored it in some glass jars I had around. I left half of this with my in-laws, and Alex and I made quick work of the rest of it. It was very delicious, but I think that I may have used a little too much coconut in it.
I still wanted granola, so I made it again. This time, I baked the mixture for 25-30 minutes at 300F because I was toasting something else at the time. This time, the ingredients were:
4 cups oats
2 cups coconut
2 cups almonds (maybe with a little coconut substituted in)
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
a dash of cinnamon
~ 1 cup dried blueberries (1 bag)
1 heaping cup diced dried apricots
This is pretty tasty too. I adore the combination of oats and honey. Toasted coconut is wonderful in granola.
I still had some oats, dates, and coconut left after we moved into our friend’s house to house-sit for a month before we could move to St. Louis. After we finished off our last batch of granola, I made another recipe. This time I decided to adapt the Olive Oil Granola recipe I tried last year. I remember that when I made it last year, it was incredibly sweet. This time, I decided to leave out the brown sugar that went into the recipe. Here’s the ingredients I used:
3 cups rolled oats
2 cups cashew pieces
1.5 cups flaked unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup maple syrup/honey (mostly honey, because I only had a little maple syrup left)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each salt, cinnamon, and cardamom
1 cups dates (added after granola is baked)
I mixed together the ingredients in a baking sheet (too lazy for a bowl), and baked it for about 45 minutes at 300F, stirring each 15 minutes. The mixture was very sticky from the honey. The granola was a deep golden color when it was done. I tossed on there about a cup of diced dates (an open bag I had). After the granola cooled, I put it in containers. It was very clumpy, and stuck together in the glass jars. Not very pourable although it tasted good. The cashews were an unusual element to this granola.
That sums up what I wrote last year. I wish I could tell you more about the last granola. August was a hectic time, and you’ll note that I didn’t blog much then. I can’t remember much about that granola; I think it was kind of sweet. I was surprised at how well the mixture went together. I think it was a richer, earthier flavor than the other granola recipe I tried.
What have I learned from my experiments with granola? It’s only as good as what you put in it. Much like with fruitcake, you’ll only like a granola if you like its components.
I prefer granola that:
– Isn’t too sweet. Probably no more than 1/2 cup of honey per 8 cups of granola mixture
– Uses honey, rather than maple syrup (because I love honey)
– Uses cherries, apricots, or blueberries – fruit that tastes brighter than raisins or dates
– Has toasted coconut, but not too much. There’s such a thing as too much coconut
– Uses no more than a 1:1 ratio of oil to sugar/honey, to cut down on calories