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Archive for the ‘Raisins’ Category

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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Oh, yeah, baby, you can crumble my topping anytime!

Ooh, I just wanna cut you up into little pieces and eat you!...wait, that wasn't sexy.

Confession time: I’m a sucker for any recipe described as “Midwestern.”  For me, the term conjures images of pies cooling on windowsills, sounds of cows musing to themselves in a field just over yonder, and scents of clean breezes wafting over fields of fresh hay.

HA!  JUST KIDDING!  The clean and pure and wholesome country wants nothing to do with your Bad Mama Genny.

But really, I do stop for a second look at recipes like these because they remind me of the home-y and decadent desserts I was raised on, desserts rich with the sweetness of fruit and often topped with a crumbly, crispy, textured THING happening, thanks to the addition of oats and whole grains.  And, uh, oh yeah–the unmistakable taste of butter was in there, too.

So when I saw this recipe, attributed to commenter greenandlean on thekitchn.com, I knew I had to try it.

With a few leeeeeetle revisions.

You see, friends, through extensive experimentation, it’s come to my attention that most dessert recipes call for a little more sugar than I really need.  I often cut the sugar in a recipe by as much as a third.  And it’s still good.  To compensate, I’ll sometimes up the fruit content and include more whole grains, which add a nuttiness and depth of flavor that white flour just can’t touch.  The sugar that I do use is raw, which adds a certain je ne sais quoi that you can’t find in ordinary, heavily-processed granulated sugar.

So I edited the recipe to my liking to include more whole grains, more raisins, less sugar (and less refined sugar), and highly probiotic plain kefir or plain whole milk yogurt instead of sour cream (a swap which cuts out a bit of fat and calories and ups the tang factor, not that I have anything against sour cream OH HO NO I MOST CERTAINLY DO NOT but sour cream has something against me READ: I AM A LACTARD).  I also cut the recipe in half since The Boy is notoriously bad at helping me eat dessert.  He prefers to drink it.  In the form of beer.

Thanks a lot for not helping your darlin’ eat dessert, The Boy.  I hope you like FUCKING LOVE HANDLES!

Oh, you do?  Why, thank you, The Boy, you’ve made my day, my, oh, my, how you DO look nice in those worn denim overalls of yours!  What’s say you and I disappear with a pan of raisin bars behind one of these here hay bales and not reappear until this here pan is empty and I’m a’blushin’ real hard?

But The Boy doesn’t wear overalls.  That’s okay.  I don’t blush, either.

Sour Cream/Kefir/Yogurt Raisin Bars
Makes and 8 x 8 pan of bars

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups raisins
3/4 Cup old-fashioned oats, plus 2 Tablespoons
3/4 cup whole wheat flour, plus 2 Tablespoons
1/2 cup raw sugar or evaporated cane juice (plus an additional half cup for the filling)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick organic/grass-fed butter, softened
2 beaten egg yolks
1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 cup plain kefir or plain whole milk yogurt or sour cream

Directions:
Soak the raisins in a bowl of hot water to fatten them up.  Meanwhile, heat your oven to 350 and generously butter a square baking dish (approx. 8 x 8 inches).  Mix the oats, flour, 1/2 cup of the raw sugar, and baking soda.  Now use your fingers to squeeze the butter into the mixture.  Don’t take things so far that the butter is melted–just make sure little bits of butter are distributed throughout and that the mixture is crumbly.  Measure 3/4 cup of the mixture and set it aside.  Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of your baking pan and set it into the oven to bake for about 10 minutes.

Now mix the yolks, the other 1/2 cup of raw sugar, the cornstarch, and the kefir/sour cream/yogurt.  Heat the pan over a medium-low flame, stirring occasionally, until it’s thickened.  The original recipe mentions 15 minutes–mine took less than half of that time to get where it needed to be, so check frequently.  Dump in the raisins and mix it all together.  Smile.

Once your crust is done baking, pull it out and pour the kefir/raisin mixture over it.  Spread it evenly over the crust and bake this for about 10 minutes (the middle will still look pretty loose).  Take the bars out and crumble the remaining oat mixture evenly over the bars.  Put them back into the oven and bake until the creamy filling is set and the crumble topping is starting to turn golden, 10 to 15 minutes.  Pull your bars out and allow the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Wait until these are cool to cut them, or you’ll end up with a bit of a mess.  Alternatively, follow my bad example and take a spoon to them when they’re just the teensiest bit cooler than lava.

What can I say?  I know what I like.

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Oh, wow.

The inspiration and recipe structure for this one came from one of my favorite cooking web sites, 101 Cookbooks, on which the author, Heidi, posted a recipe for Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread from the book Southwestern Vegetarian, by Stephan Pyles.  I won’t reprint the recipe here, for copyright reasons, but I will link to the page on Heidi’s site, and tell you what changes I’ve made to it.  On with the friggin’ show!

Have you ever wanted to bottle a smell so you could have it whenever you wanted it?  Actually, I think there’s a creepy movie like that…called “Perfume,” about a French guy who has an unbelievable sense of smell, and he starts murdering women and stuff so he can have their smells as perfume.  So, what I’m trying to say is, that has nothing to do with banana bread, but everything to do with a bread so good you would kill for it.

Still too creepy?

This bread smells like you want it to smell…it smells like the words, “coconut,” “banana,” “rum,” and “bread,” combined.  It made me think about the power of food to recall certain memories and emotions.  Typically, the scent of baking banana bread makes me feel comfortable.  It reminds me of sitting in my mom’s kitchen while she baked from her favorite version of the recipe, from the cookbook Vincent Price wrote with his wife.

No, I am not kidding.  THAT Vincent Price.  To this day when I think of that recipe, I picture the “Thriller” video, and can almost hear Vincent Price saying, “And grizzly ghouls from every tomb/Are closing in to seal your doom/And though you fight to stay alive/Your body starts to shiver/For no mere mortal can resist/The evil of the thriller (maniacal laughter)”–

–immediately followed by a chipper, “Hey, who wants some fresh banana bread?  I baked it myself!”

In any case, baking this loaf of banana bread the other day brought me back to those days in the kitchen, wrinkling my nose in disgust at the black bananas in our fruit bowl, eagerly anticipating their zombie-like rise from the oven, the tomb which would re-animate their dead bodies so that they could WALK AMONG US ONCE AGAIN MWAHAHAHAHHAAAA…eh?  Eh?

Okay, fine, banana bread makes me feel cozy…that sweet and un-creepy enough for you?

But there was another scent, too–that of coconut rum rendering its alcohol in my warm, moist kitchen, and when the two smells mixed, I couldn’t tell whether I wanted to sit in a rocking chair with my Gammy Gam and a stuffed animal or fall off the rocking chair drunk off my arse while Gammy Gam threw a blanket over my miniskirted legs and called for Jesus’ aid.

Don’t even try it, Gammy.  Jesus seen me drunk too many times to bother intercedin’ no mo’.

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As for what I’ve done differently–originally, this recipe was a roasted banana bread with pumpkin seeds and golden raisins soaked in dark rum.  My version used several kinds of raisins, coconut rum, flaked coconut, and no pumpkin seeds.  Make the following changes:

Instead of  _____, use _____.

*golden raisins; golden raisins, or a mixture of golden, regular, jumbo, etc…even currants would work here.

*Meyer’s dark rum; Malibu coconut rum (and for Delilah’s sake, do NOT throw out the rum after the raisins have soaked, as the recipe suggests–that is just plain irresponsible alcohol abuse.  Instead, have Delilah take a delightful rum-raisin shot while she bakes.)

*cake flour; all-purpose flour, or cake flour (I used AP with great results)

*white sugar; raw cane/turbinado sugar

*toasted pumpkin seeds; toasted, unsweetened coconut flakes (mmmm…..)

There you have it.  Bread good enough to raise the dead.  Or, you know, just slice up and eat for breakfast.  Either is good.

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