Making breakfast cereal: granola and bran flakes

May 21, 2012 § 6 Comments

Someone recently mentioned that J and I seem to be getting crunchier over the years. I like that description. On the topic of crunchy, I was wondering if anyone makes their own breakfast cereals. I put the question out to facebook, and my friend Helen passed me this great granola recipe from her blog. Another friend emailed me his granola recipe as well. I took a little from both and made my first granola. Yum!

My favorite sweet indulgence lately has been homemade yogurt with a swirl of apricot jam and granola sprinkled over the top. Unbelievable luxury.

I also found this site, which made me to want to make my own bran flakes. Who knew you could do that? I purchased all of the ingredients at my favorite cooperative grocery store, Rainbow.

The dough is made from almond flour, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, sugar, baking powder, salt, milk, and water.

There is something so nice about knowing what has gone into my food.

The tough part was rolling out the sticky dough nice and flat on my Silpats. The fun part was crumbling the giant bran flake into baby bran flakes.

At the end of it all, I had a pile of bran flakes that looked small enough to devour in one sitting. Hmmmm. Worth it? I took a crunch – delicious. A project like this is such a creative outlet for me, so I would say it was a definite win!

The kids love both the granola and the bran flakes. Anyone know how to make Cheerios?

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Making yogurt in the thermal pot

April 13, 2012 § 3 Comments

My kids eat a whole lot of yogurt. It’s the first snack food I pass them when we are home.

I had heard of people making yogurt themselves, and wanted to try it out. There were some great directions on this blog.  Genius! Here’s what I did:

Measure out some milk.  I poured out two quarts.

Heat milk to 180 degrees. It will look bubbly. When it hits 180 degrees, turn off the stove, and let the milk cool to 110 degrees. This part was the most difficult for me – all that waiting!

Scoop out half of a cup of the milk, and stir in a small bit of good yogurt that contains live and active cultures. I used 1 Tbls of Trader Joe’s Organic European-Style yogurt.

Mix the milk-starter mixture in with the rest of the milk. Insulate it. I use my Thermal pot.

Leave it overnight for at least 6 hours. I usually let mine sit for closer to 12 hours.

It’s tangy and delicious mixed with a little jam or fruit. Mmmmm. I’ve done this several times now, and I use yogurt from the previous batch as my starter each time.

Side note: J’s parents purchased this wonderful Thermal pot for us, and we love it.  It is a wonderful alternative to a Crock Pot, and doesn’t need to be plugged in. We make soup by adding ingredients, bringing it to a boil, and then putting it in the thermal pot to cook all day. The soups come out delicious and fresh-tasting. Highly recommend. And now it’s our yogurt-making pot as well!

Out of the garden and into the oven: kale chips

March 22, 2012 § 3 Comments

When I first heard about kale a few years ago in Ruth Yaron’s book Super Baby Foods, I was convinced our little girl could benefit from some super-porridge. We started buying kale, which we would cook up with lentils, oatmeal, and cheese. It made for a great baby breakfast, which she ate daily for many months.

We were also starting to get interested in growing our own food, and learned that leafy greens would grow well in our foggy SF microclimate. We decided to give it a try, and are now in our second successful season of growing lacinato (dinosaur) kale from seed.

One way we love to use our kale crop is to make it into chips. I heard about it through a friend’s blog.

They have since become a favorite in our home.

Here’s our how-to.

Get a bunch of kale. Lately we have been going out and picking a pile of kale leaves from our winter garden.

My sweet girl loves helping with the harvest.

Wash the kale and lay it out on a baking sheet. Spray the leaves with olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake at 275 for maybe 20 minutes, or until the leaves are nice and crispy.

Let cool. Then enjoy.

The whole family loves them. Highly recommend.

Out of the garden and into the soup!

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been carefully watering and watching my turnips, and noticed one growing a little faster than the others. A couple of days ago, I noticed a little crack in that beautiful turnip. Time to pull him up!

He had strong green tops. Who knew you could eat the tops of turnips?

I gave him a good washing and chopping, then added him in with some potatoes and chicken that I was roasting for dinner. Next, I chopped up the turnip greens.

I pulled out a hambone from the freezer, then sat down and googled, “hambone soup turnip greens”. After reading through this recipe for inspiration, I came up with my own hambone soup recipe.

Hambone Soup

    • 1 hambone with some bonus meat on it
    • 1.5 cups of baked black beans (from my freezer)
    • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
    • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1/4 cup of butter
    • 1.5 cups of greens (used turnip greens and kale)
    • 4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
    • water

In a stockpot (mine is a 6-qt), melt the butter. Sauté the celery, carrots, and onions until they are nice and soft. Add the hambone, and cover with water. Throw in beans. Simmer for 1.5 hours, uncovered. Skim off any yuck from the top, and add the potatoes and greens. Simmer for 30 minutes more.

We ate ours with some brown rice and crusty sourdough bread. Delicious. Its highest praise – my daughter, who generally isn’t interested in dinner, loved the broth. WINNER!

I think the best part of the whole thing was that we were eating something from our own garden. Planting the seeds, watching them grow, and eating the greens of our first turnip of the season. I suppose it’s telling that this process is so exciting for us – it’s not a regular every-day part of our lives. Here’s to hoping it will be from now on.

Making crackers!

February 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

My friend Alinna passed me a jar of sourdough starter back in October of 2009. We named the 3-year old starter Jim and got a copy of The Cheese Board Collective Works. I read the instructions on maintaining my starter, eager to get some sourdough bread baking in the oven. Then I got to this part:

“To feed it, remove it from the refrigerator, discard all but 1/4 cup, and stir in 1/2 cup lukewarm water and 2/3 cup bread flour.” – p. 91

DISCARD!? I hate wasting things. Oh well. J and I began experimenting with sourdough, and enjoyed baguettes and sourdough rounds. Sometimes we used the discard to make pizza dough, other times we winced as we dumped the extra starter into the compost bin.

But recently, we hung out with our friends Nate and Christina. They always inspire me with their sourdough projects, and suggested we make crackers out of the discard starter. I woke up our neglected starter, and threw together a batch of dough following this whole wheat cracker recipe. Great recipe and super-easy!

The dough sat overnight in my measuring pyrex. In the morning I rolled it out on a silpat baking mat as flat as possible.

Next I cut the crackers into squares gently with a pizza cutter.

Finally, I coated the dough with a layer of olive oil, and sprinkled on kosher salt, sesame seeds, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.

I just love how simple and quick they are. Love! I think I’m going to try to feed Jim once a week, and hopefully make crackers at each feeding.

Our first batch of crackers were gone that same day.

Feeding our garbage to the wormies!

January 30, 2012 § 3 Comments

I posted recently about trying to find “green shapes” in my life – things that are wins on many fronts (example: biking is good for the earth, good for health, good for the soul – a green triangle). One green shape we put into place last month was that we set up a worm bin.

After seeing a worm bin in action at the little m’s rocking co-op preschool, I was inspired enough to actually have a worm bin. It was surprisingly pleasant – not smelly and gross like I had expected.

We did some research on then J began. He drilled a bunch of holes in a Rubbermaid bin we already owned, and sat it inside another.

Holes drilled around sides and top with 1/8" drill bit.

Into the bin went some great kitchen scraps – carrot peels, apple cores, some greens, along with some shredded cardboard and newspaper.

We purchased a pound of red wrigglers (you cannot use regular garden earthworms – they aren’t garbage dwellers) and loaded them into their new habitat.

Red worms purchased from Sloat Garden Center. That's J's hand holding them. I can't do it.

Our worms had a few troubles at first – we had some that didn’t make it. One of m’s preschool teachers gave me some ideas about what could be going on and loaned me a book called Worms Eat My Garbage. The worms needed more damp newspaper to balance things out.

Now, the worms are thriving. They are growing bigger and multiplying! We love that some of our food scraps will go back into the garden, building our soil. Happy worms, happy us, happy earth, happy plants…a win, win, win, win – a green rectangle!  WOO HOO!

Another win for the whole process is that the little m loves when we open up the bin and check on the worms. I hope my little ones continue to have that excitement and wonder over the amazing things in life. Things like worms eating garbage.

Simplicity in food

January 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

My good friend Jackie introduced me to a book called Simplicity Parenting. I have been reading it slowly and soaking in some wonderful ideas that really make sense to me at this moment in my life. The chapter I am currently reading is dealing with the importance of regular rhythms for kids. Regular schedules and activities become anchors for kids who have so much going on in their lives. I think this is even true for me – I like routines and rhythms in my life.

One area I want to inject good rhythm into is food. The author suggests having a regular menu plan according to the days of the week (i.e. Tuesday is rice day, Wednesday is soup day, etc.). I LOVE this idea. Since the end of last year, I’ve been attempting to plan out the week’s dinners ahead of time to avoid the dreaded standing in front of the fridge thinking, “WHAT can we EAT!?” Coming up with meals on the fly was stressing me out, and also leading to some food waste. Having a plan has been super-freeing! So I’m excited to simplify even further by having a category for each day. Hopefully it builds in a good and predictable rhythm for our family.

An app called Zenbe stores my grocery list, which I update as I plan the week's menu.

I’m thinking something like this (examples in parentheses):

  • Monday: soup/stew (chicken soup, beef barley soup, chili)
  • Tuesday: vegetarian night (bean and cheese burritos, quesadillas, falafels)
  • Wednesday: rice+ (roast chicken, stir fry, chicken a la king, ma po tofu)
  • Thursday: leftovers and sandwiches
  • Friday: rice+
  • Saturday: pasta (chicken and sun-dried tomatoes, pesto)
  • Sunday: Meal with our house church

I think I’ll do it for awhile and see how it goes. Perhaps if it works well, I will menu plan lunch as well (currently I scrounge around). The author brings up that if you have a regular rhythm, it also makes breaking out of rhythms really exciting.  “I know tonight is soup night, but we’re going out for dinner!”

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