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Archive for October, 2010

Confession time for Bad Mama Genny: I’ve been using my Crockpot a lot lately.  Also, my text software just tried to edit “Crockpot” to read “crack pot”.

Please let it be known that I have not been using my crack pot a lot lately.

It’s addictive, that thing.

The Crockpot, not the crack pot.

Okay, you know what?  We’re gonna call it a slow cooker from this point forward.

So I’ve been using the slow cooker a lot lately, and once you get started and master a few basics, it’s actually pretty amazing and easy to end up with very nice food that doesn’t always taste like beef stew.

Unless it’s beef stew, and then it tastes like beef stew.  Or, at least, it should.  And if you have a problem with that, well, why were you making beef stew in the first place?

So last night I felt that it wasn’t enough to make salmon croquettes with lemon aioli and a side of steamed spinach and artichokes for dinner.  Hmm, surely there’s SOME ridiculous project I could start too late in the day?…I know!  I know!

GRANOLA!

Except I’m not a glutton for punishment (lie, totally am, but still) and I’ve burned more than my fair share of granola by leaving it in the oven for 0.29 seconds too long.  This here granola is a delicate business, folks.  And I just wasn’t up for a delicate project.

I’d heard that you could make substantially less finicky granola in a slow cooker, but only recently did I look into it for really reals.   And you know where you should go for the basics?

Right here, to Stephanie O’Dea’s site.  She’s the genius behind the cookbook, “Make it Fast, Cook it Slow,” a bible for those of you who heart your slow cooker big time.  Or your Crockpot.  Or heck, even your crack pot.

I didn’t use Stephanie’s granola recipe, and decided instead to go off in my own direction.  See, while O’Dea’s recipe calls for two liquid components–butter and honey–mine adds a third: fruit puree.  what worked for me was 1/2 cup fat, 1/2 cup sweet stuff, 1/2 cup fruit puree.  This cuts down on the amount of fat and sugar you need, adds flavor, and–oh, fluffernutter!–gives you even more scope for the imagination when it comes to cool taste combos.

Yesterday I made pumpkin granola.  I used pureed sugar pie pumpkin and added cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Three words: OM NOM NOM.

I wish I could explain just how good this smelled while it cooked.  But I can’t.  They just haven’t invented Smell-o-Vision yet.  Or the Smell-ternet.

So now that we’ve added that fruit component, let’s review just a few of the taste combinations that come to mind:

Pumpkin puree with pecans, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Apple butter with walnuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, pie spices, and butter.

Any fruit puree you desire, or none, with maple syrup instead of honey, and walnuts

Coconut oil instead of butter, banana puree, banana chips (or dehydrated banana, added after cooling), macadamia nuts, chunks of dried pineapple, and shaved, unsweetened coconut

Cherries and almonds.  Mmmm….

Apple butter with blueberries, almonds, and butter…just like a muffin!

Banana puree with walnuts and butter, and dehydrated bananas added after cooling…like banana nut bread!

Pumpkin puree with dried cranberries and pecans…perfect for Thanksgiving breakfast!

Basically, what I’m saying here is: this is the easiest granola you will ever make.  You will not go back to burning tray after tray of granola in the oven and sobbing all over your own The Boy while he tries to console you about all those wasted ingredients.  And the sky’s the limit with this recipe–if you can imagine it, you can do it!

Who’s that on the phone?  It’s Legal?  And they’re telling me I can’t guarantee that if you can imagine it, you can do it?

Okay, revision.  More like, if you can imagine it, you can try it, be my guest, but I won’t be held responsible for the results.

There, that’s better.  Legal should be happy with that.

Hey, what are you still doing here?  Shouldn’t you be playing with your crack pot?  I mean, Crockpot.  I mean, slow cooker.

Damn. Legal again.

Crockpot Granola, a Jillion Different Ways

Go Get:

5 cups oats
1/2 cup honey (or maple syrup, etc.)
1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil, or Earth Balance, or half butter/half peanut butter, etc.)
1/2 cup fruit puree of your choice
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons wheat germ
1/2 cups sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup dried fruit and/or dehydrated fruit (Trader Joe’s, among other places, sells fruit that’s been dehydrated–the second it comes into contact with moisture, it rehydrates and becomes soft again.  While dried fruit can be added during cooking, I’d hold off on adding dehydrated fruit until you’re bagging the cooled mixture.)

Directions:
Toss all ingredients except for dried fruit (and any dehydrated fruit you may be using) into the stoneware and set it to high.  Don’t bother melting the fat and honey together first, as O’Dea recommends.  While this is a nice touch, I can’t bear the thought of washing an extra pot when I’m already using the slow cooker.  Call me crazy.  Vent the slow cooker by sticking a wooden spoon in between the lid and the stoneware.  This will help your granola to lose excess moisture.

During the first hour, your butter will melt and you’ll want to make sure it gets evenly distributed, along with the honey or whatever other sweetener you’re using, throughout the dry ingredients.  Watch this stuff–you won’t have to stir much at the beginning, but as your granola gets further along, you’ll wanna give it a stir every few minutes or, as O’Dea says, whenever you can smell it cooking.

When you’re 2/3 of the way through, put in your dried fruit (NOT yet on the dehydrated fruit).  O’Dea has you adding everything at the beginning.  This does work, but my fruit got a bit dark where it touched the stoneware.  I’d hold off next time.

And that’s it!  Keep stirring every so often, and after 3 to 4 hours, everything will look nice and toasty.  It will NOT be dried out.  I’d say, when everything’s golden brown and there’s no excess moisture, you’re probably there.  Toss the mixture onto some parchment-lined cookie sheets and let it cool.  Once the mixture is cool, you can add any dehydrated fruits you’ve been holding onto and put it all into an airtight container or gallon-size ziploc bag.

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Mmm, fall.  Delicious, delicious fall.  Succulent, tasty, juicy fall.

Aaaaand we’re already creepy.  I would say that’s a new record for this blog, but maybe not.  I do creepy things all the time and then “forget” them later.  It’s called “creepout amnesia.”  Or, as the rest of you might call it, “a reasonable sense of shame.”

Anyhow.

It’s officially fall, seeing as how I can no longer lay on the beach with those little wine juice boxes and a volleyball to give the impression that I’m sporty.  Oh, it’s such a lark when someone walks up and asks if I’d like to play volleyball!

“AHAHA, ahaha, AHAHAHAHA, oh, PLAY volleyball, stop, STOP, really, you’re too much!…::sip::sip::”

Anyhow.

So it’s no longer lay-on-the-beach-in-a-bikini-and-get-drunk-next-to-a-for-decoration-only-volleyball weather.  Man, what a sad, sad sentence.  But no one get too down about it.  After all, it’s just about lay-in-the-back-of-an-SUV-in-jeans-and-The-Boy’s-jersey-next-to-a-for-decoration-only-football weather.  Yes.  To everything, there is a season.  It’s the circle of life.  A wheel of fortune, if you will.  Turn, turn, turn.

Anyhow.

So it’s getting chilly, and I’ve been gallivanting around doing all manner of fall-like things.  Things like…

Using the last of the red tomatoes from the garden…

Preparing this delightful native dish that I’ve just learned about: soup…

Going apple picking…

Ooh…

Think we have enough apples for two people, The Boy?

You do?  Oh, that’s nice.  I think we need lots more.

Whaddya mean, you’re cutting me off?

Whaddya mean, you’re walking to the car?

Whaddya mean, you’re starting the car?

Whaddya mean, VROOM?

Oh.  I think I’m starting to understand whatcha mean.

…and of course, as the lead photo would suggest, we’ve been gallivanting (yes, MORE gallivanting) through pumpkin fields.  But only to look at them.  In my world, field pumpkins, like volleyballs and footballs and modesty, are for decoration only.  The flesh is scarce, stringy, watery, and not the least bit sweet.  Now those cute lil’ two-pound pie pumpkins?  THOSE are pumpkins.  Adorable AND delicious.

So if you follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent yesterday roasting all kinds of squash and squash seeds, and I’d be lyin’ if I didn’t admit to a bit of a pumpkin obsession these days.  Yesterday, I saved 79 pumpkin recipes on my desktop.  True story.  True story that I wish were even a little bit false.  78 would’ve sounded much better.  Thank goodness it wasn’t 80.  I mean, 79 is a lot, but 80 is just sick.

Ooh!  Just found a recipe for pumpkin french toast!  ::click::

<hangs head>

And today, as you’d know if you followed me on Twitter (hint hint FUCKING hint), is The Boy’s birthday.  That’s right, everybody’s favorite accidental sorta-celebrity was born ::mumble mumble:: years ago today.  To celebrate, I decided to start his morning off right (the poor dude had to work!) with a pumpkin latte.  YUM.

Now let me just be clear: The Boy does not NEED a pumpkin latte to feel good in the morning.  How could he ever have a bad morning when he opens his eyes to the sight of me rolling over, my hair in the most conspicuous white girl afro you ever did see, my nightie twisted around me like a straightjacket, the pillows on the floor, and my eyes half open?  How could he NOT have a great morning when my first words to him are usually something akin to “What the…f*&#…it’s not morning, right?  THE BOY, tell me it’s not morning, tell me it’s not morning, IFYOUVALUEYOURLIFETELLMEIT’SNOTMORNING, oh God, it’s morning.”  Also, a man needs to feel wanted and needed, right?  And when I wrap my arms around his ankles as he’s trying to scale the stairs to the door and beg him not to leave me to work all by myself, I’m sure what he’s thinking is, “God, it’s so nice to feel needed.”

BUT.

Just in case your mornings need perking up, UNLIKE THE BOY’S, you might want to try a pumpkin latte.  It’s a heck of a lot nicer than the one from the coffee shops.  And it’s made with a healthy dose of neurosis.  I mean, love.  Love.

Pumpkin Latte
*makes one*

Go Get:

1 shot of espresso (alternatively, probably about a 1/2 cup of really strong coffee)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon raw sugar (I’m thinking maple syrup would be a delightful substitute)
1 cup milk (this works with soy milk, nut milk, whatever turns you on; I’m a lactard, almond milk it is)
3 hearty dashes cinnamon (can I recommend–again–the Saigon Cinnamon from The Spice House?)
1 pinch ginger
2 whole cloves
1 pinch nutmeg
2 Tablespoons pumpkin puree (you could use canned, but…you know)
whipped cream, if you’re feelin’ naughty

Go Do:

Start brewing your espresso or coffee.  Meanwhile, toss all other ingredients except whipped cream into a saucepan and blend.  Cook over low heat until the milk is just steaming (don’t boil it.  Ew.).  Now if you want your latte super smooth, remove the cloves with a spoon and put everything into the blender, set it to “milkshake” or its equivalent, and let that sucker blend ’til things are lookin’ frothy.  If you’re not picky and your pumpkin puree was smooth, just take out the cloves.  Now put your espresso into a mug, and pour the milk mixture over it.  Top with whipped cream if you’re using it.  Aw, what the hell, toss on another dash of cinnamon.  Let’s go whole hog.  Now doesn’t that sound like a nice way to start the day?  I’m thinking decaf and a walk after dark on a chilly, crisp day would suit me just fine, how ’bout you?

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