Dehydrated Granola.

Last week, I happened to notice a bookmark and comment I left on a recipe more than a year ago. It's shouldn't be so surprising when time passes so quickly, but it always is. Little glimpses into my thought patterns from a while back are kind of strange. Who was that person who commented then? What was I eating and obsessing over? When the comment is left on a staple like granola, it isn't too hard to remember the reason why I bookmarked it - but it is easy to see why I forgot about it, since I only inherited a dehydrator somewhat recently.

Now a granola recipe from a blog entitled Roasting Rambler has to be great, right? And, it is - that's for sure. I actually made it without tweaking (the last photo on this post), well, I barely tweaked it, for the first time last week, all those months after I had forgotten that the idea of drying out a paste granola was absolutely brilliant. I wasn't disappointed either. It was super crunchy and delicious, my hand and both of my Kiddo's hands both made swift work of the rather small batch over the course of the week.

Yesterday after breakfast, I was hit by the urge to organize my spice cupboard. It's actually one of my favorite things about my kitchen, and contains a lot more than just spices. The top shelf appropriately holds my modest liquor cabinet. The next down, canning jars of bulk grains, nuts and seeds. Then, my shelves of spices: one shelf holds jars contained in a wooden filing box I found at a rummage, and another two baskets of miscellaneous must haves from Spice House wanderings (and things that I use in close proximity like extracts, brown sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch. The bottom shelf is for oils, molasses, honey, sugar jar.

In the late 40's when my house was built, I assume that having such a convenient nook for cooking and baking essentials was still prerequisite for the modern housewife. I like considering myself a modern housewife who appreciates it still. I do not like that it frequently needs going through, as I tend to toss things in there despite my constantly renewed vows that I will keep it organized and faced, beautiful to look at when the shuttered door swings open.

With the success of dehydrated granola still implanted, I consolidated my jars. I discovered dried dates that were almost brittle with age, dried figs that were surprisingly soft enough to tear in two, several cranberries that were past their eating-out-of-hand prime. Using the same proportions as the Roasting Rambler's original recipe, I concocted another dehydrated granola - excited that the possibilities for this were endless.

The base of the granola is dried fruit mixed with lemon juice and enough water to make it run easily through the food processor blade. I found both times I've made it that I didn't need the full amount of water, just add it until the mixture is homogeneous and moves freely. I also found that the double batch amount that I've listed below has no trouble being mixed in the food processor. If you would double my amounts listed, it's possibly you may run into some blending trouble depending on the age of your dried fruits...

Dehydrated Granola (original recipe from the Roasting Rambler, adapted)
  • 12 mixed dried fruit (I used about half dates, then figs and cranberries)
  • 14 oz. total nuts and/or seeds (I used a 12 oz. mixture of crispy almonds, walnuts and peanuts, and 2 oz. sesame seed)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 t. salt (you may wish to use a tad less)
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 1 c. water
  • 2 oz. unsweetened coconut (I use a brand like this)
  • 1 oz. cacao nibs
In a food pro, pulse the nuts (I leave the sesame seeds out, since they are so small anyway) until they are a uniform consistency that you would prefer in your granola, about 15 one second pulses. Empty them into a large bowl.

Add dried fruit to food pro, and pulse to chop. Add the lemon juice, salt, cinnamon and vanilla, and run the processor to blend the mixture well. With the motor running, add the water through the top until the mixture is like a runny paste. (I'm imagining I will add cocoa powder to the mixture at this point sometime...)

Scrape the dried fruit paste into the bowl with the nuts and add in the sesame seeds (if you didn't add them to the nut mixture), the coconut and the cacao nibs. Stir well to combine.

Spread the mixture on two dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper. Try to spread it as thin and as even as possible, without worrying about it too much. Dehydrate (I used 147 degrees) for 8-12 hours, longer if it still isn't brittle when you check it.

Break into pieces and store in glass jars. I like to keep excess of all granola in the freezer if I have the space, since I feel that it stays crunchier - but it's not necessary I'm sure.

fruit paste.

the granola mixture prior to dehydration.

spread as thin as possible.

after dehydrating.

I got 2 1/2 quart jars full of dehydrated granola. I keep my dehydrator in the basement, and when I ran busily up and downstairs, trekking clean laundry to the clotheslines I kept peeking in to look at it. Laundry complete, I then forgot all about it until this morning, when the machine had turned itself off, and it was done: crunchy, brittle shards just waiting to be broken in my hands.

I want to more fully embrace my dehydrator this year. Since it came to live with me, I don't feel I've given it the usage it deserves. I have quite a lot of tart cherries on the way, and think I'll enter the world of fruit leathers as well as dried fruit. We made fruit leathers when I was a kid, but I don't think I've had one since. I'm fairly excited to puree something cherry and apricotish in the VitaMix to try out. Come Fall, I may even try candying my own cranberries, if I can get past the tradition of just making and then eating a whole batch of these instead.

It seems like I'm starting to feel like I can barely keep up. I remember often my Mom telling me that it felt like her 30's came in "clumps", the time just flew with the business of child raising, food prep and preservation, gardening and yard work. I like to think that I have unending stamina, that I can work until my hands positively bleed, sleep 3 hours and then get up and work some more. But today I'm tired. I slept on the couch this afternoon in full sight of a basket of unfolded laundry. I didn't do the lunch dishes until after 7 pm, after a nighttime library nature program where my son was transformed into the cutest ant ever. I refuse to admit that I need sleep, and I do - though now it's getting late and that nap is beginning to make me feel like I could go all night. I probably should since I have 4 pounds of dilly beans to pickle...

I suppose they will still be there in the morning, when a handful of this new granola makes itself my breakfast with a few tart cherries that I had to buy from a favorite orchard owner today. It could be disheartening to think of all the things I've forgotten out there that are likely as great as this granola. It's disheartening to think that my memory isn't quite as sharp as it used to be. For now, I remember what I need when I need it I guess.

Soaked Granola Bars

Of all the things I am reading about the traditional foods diet, soaking grains is probably the most confusing. Not confusing due to the labors involved, but confusing as to the benefits of soaking. I am all for making work for myself, but am I making more work for a reason? Is there actual value to soaking, say, oatmeal in whey inoculated water for a day and then dehydrating it for many hours before using it? On taste alone, I would say yes - since these granola "bars" were superior to any granola I've ever made at home. But as for nutritionally, I would say that for me the jury is still out.

Soaked and Ready Oats.

It is so easy for me to read and believe almost anything written relating to healthy diet. It wasn't hard for me to banish my microwave to the basement (for occasional Husband-usage only) and to commit to using my cast iron pans for almost all stove-top duties. After a while, it wasn't even hard for me to give up canola oil - though that was probably the most difficult given the overwhelming insistence that for years health and diet sources told me was the superior and healthiest oil to use. But giving up non-soaked grain, oatmeal in particular, proves to be the highest hurdle to date.

The flavors that come from soaking and sprouting grains and then grinding them is reward enough for the extra demand for my time and devotion. But soaking oatmeal in whey-water and then drying it... well, that isn't so intoxicating. You need the bit of acid to kick-start the process in things, like oatmeal, that won't sprout. The smell of the dehydrating oats was pleasant enough (I am so lucky that my Mom never got rid of the food dehydrator that we used years ago - it's now proudly perched atop my childhood play table in the basement), but the taste of soaked then dried oats was not so much. Aside from looking rather like dog kibble, it had a certain fermented sourness that I knew I would have a hard time passing over on my picky boys.

A sure way to get this one to try something is to have him help me make it!

Cultures around the world have soaked or fermented grains before consumption for generations. Americans, and our independent and inventive spirits, appear to have successfully removed this extra work from our lives and perhaps that may play a role in some of our collective poor health. Obviously, I don't think just because we have modernized and something has a Whole Grains Seal of Approval that it is going to be healthy - I'm certainly not going to run out and buy General Mills cereals. But sometimes I think it is probably speculation at best. Other cultures are subject to other climates and geographic anomalies that we New World-ers are not. The coconut and palm oils well used by tropical cultures are readily available in those areas, and maybe my northerner ancestry will never do well with them. It's hard to say, but so far, I'm happily using coconut and olive oil most of the time; I am choosing not to worry too much about it.

We do know that the phytic acid present in all grains, nuts and seeds can be reduced greatly by a gentle pre-treatment of either acidulated soaking or sprouting. According to Sally Fallon (who is very well-researched), "untreated phytic acid can combine with calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc in the intestinal tract and block their absorption. This is why a diet high in unfermented whole grains may lead to serious mineral deficiencies and bone loss." How about that, Sally Field?

Last week I read this post at Kitchen Stewardship bulleting the differences between soaking and sprouting and the benefits (or disadvantages) of each. It is confusing to know what to do or what is best for human consumption. We all will "live until we die", I suppose, but sometimes I wish I was a more science minded type who could really know and decipher all the dietetic contradictions I come across.

No matter what I have read and the confusion I feel, I still wanted to try this recipe for soaked granola bars from Kitchen Stewardship. I made a half batch using the soaked and ready oats, and let the Boy-O dictate the add-ins: equal parts chocolate chips and coconut. Since the soaked and dehydrated oatmeal is so crunchy, the recipe is better than any other granola I've tried. (I chose the baking method: 10 minutes at 325 degrees.) I couldn't cut true bars from them, but rather have large chunks that are easy to pick up and eat. Because you essentially make a caramel from honey and butter, the chocolate melted - masking all remaining traces of whey flavor from the oats. The final result was a richly satisfying snack that the Boy-O loved, and I felt good about giving him. Since I have the dehydrator now, I will be making more soaked and ready oats.

Soaked and Ready Oats (Kitchen Stewardship)
makes enough for 1/2 batch of Soaked Granola Bars (easily increased)
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 T. whey
Place the oats and wheat flour in a non-reactive bowl. Measure water and add whey to the water, stir to mix. Pour water/whey over oats/flour, and stir well. Let sit for at least 7 hours at room temperature. (I didn't have any standing liquid at all, and didn't need to drain any off. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.)

Spread in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Since I dehydrated, I lined the dehydrator tray with parchment - and dehydrated at 147 degrees for about 12 hours until completely dry. Kitchen Stewardship recommends drying until hard and crispy in a 250 degree oven for 2-4 hours.

When dried and cooled, break into chunks resembling oatmeal size. You can pulse in a blender or food pro, or even break by hand.

Kitchen Stewardship really does have many great recipes, and I love them as a resource for both soaking/sprouting grains and for using sourdough starter. The soaked granola bar recipe is actually from the ebook Katie Kimball wrote called Healthy Snacks to Go. I have never purchased an ebook, and am thinking that this may be my first one. There is something about holding a book in my hands, even though I appreciate the paper-freedom of the computer, especially in the kitchen. (Obviously, since the "M" key and some punctuation near my right hand are sticking on this kitchen netbook... How do you even clean that?)

Meanwhile, I'll likely go on sprouting and soaking a number of things. It is true that the more fermented foods you introduce your taste buds to, the more they will accept and even crave them. And, while I can't see cooking up a bowl of "soaked and ready" oatmeal in the morning, I can see making more of this delicious granola. I may eventually try eating it plain, but likely will need to add some sweetener, maybe maple syrup.
What do you think about sprouting and/or soaking? I am anxious to hear some thoughts from other fermenters and experimenters!

Vegan Monday: Almond Almond Granola

This Monday's post isn't flashy and sophisticated, but I accomplished my goal: to use up the almond pulp that is leftover from making almond milk. I have been making and drinking more almond milk since I discovered how easy it is, and it is a versatile and tasty milk alternative, that I find addicting. The only thing bothering me is the leftover almonds, finely ground, which just seem too viable to me to toss away.

I have been thinking that my homemade by-product would work well in granola, and have been waiting until I needed to actually make more to give it a try. In the name of experimentation, this is sometimes hard for me to do, and then I find myself with too much to eat up. It seems like it's been a while, but I finally ran out, and am happy to announce that I found a good and serviceable way to use up almond pulp (you could substitute almond meal, or ground almonds, if you wish), and a way to maybe somewhat satiate my complete addiction to almond extract flavoring.

This recipe could easily be transformed to Raw Vegan Muesli. Instead of baking the ingredients, just combine the ingredients raw (without the oil and maple syrup) and soak them overnight in almond milk before eating. Then I guess it would have to be called Almond Almond Almond Muesli, because of the triple almond punch of extract, milk and pulp. I would probably recommend storing it in the fridge if you make the muesli out of almond pulp, since it has a higher moisture content. Either way you try it, if you are an almond fiend, this is a nice almondy way to get your fix!

Vegan Almond Almond Granola
  • 3 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. dried, unsweetened coconut
  • 3/4 c. almond pulp (or almond meal)
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 t. (or more) almond extract
Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Lightly beat oil, maple syrup and almond extract in the measuring cup to combine, then add to the dry ingredients and mix well.

Spread onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and bake at 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until it is as brown as you like it. I think mine took longer than usual, since I used the leftover almond pulp, and it isn't as dry as an almond meal would be.

Feel free to add additional nuts or seeds prior to baking, or chopped dried fruit(s) after to change the flavors up a bit. It isn't the most complicated granola, and is better served as a cereal instead of eating out of hand, but I love it's soft and gentle flavor. So many granolas I experiment with are full of fruits and crunchy nuts, which I love, but this one is kind of the polar opposite. I like something a little basic for breakfast once in a while, and this is the perfect, basic, nutritious breakfast in my book, since it has no refined sweetener, a good amount of protein, and is full of my favorite almond flavor.

Happy Vegan Monday to you, and hopefully you will find this an easy granola (or muesli) to slip into your breakfasting!

ginger-cacao nib granola

ginger-cacao nib granola, originally uploaded by Rcakewalk.

If you like ginger, you must make this granola straight away. You will be as addicted as I am...

I adapted this recipe from Burp! since I was out of a few ingredients, but the results were still stellar. To their recipe, I added a cup of chopped walnuts, omitted the brown sugar and vanilla powder, and added 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Go on and start your ovens! You won't be sorry!

Operation Mascarpone Day 4: Quinoa Granola with Honey Mascarpone

So many happy things happened this week - and not all of them are mascarpone related. Early on, (during one of my new favorite pastimes) in emailing Lo back and forth, she sent me her "non-recipe" for Peanut Butter Granola. This was after I sent her a forwarded email from E. about her revelation for Quinoa Granola, after I posted the recipe for the Spiced Nuts and Seeds. Peanut Butter Granola was way too tempting to resist, so of course I made time to make it on Monday. There is still a little bit left, but then this morning, I had to make another batch of Quinoa Granola, since it too was very intriguing. Both are fantastic! And both would go well with the Day 4 way of using up mascarpone cheese: mixing it with honey and serving it with granola.

Actually, R1 and her slew of Luc-aged children were here for the morning - all playing together well enough that we had adult conversations about such important things as V (the re-made TV series), the Alien Illusions scarf that I finally just gave her, and miscellaneous things that have happened since the last time we chatted. I told her about the mascarone, revelations of Crystal Ball Farms milk, and then we ate cold slivers of crostada from yesterday with that amazing Kenya AA coffee from Alterra. She suggested mixing it with honey, and adding it to the Quinoa Granola, since it was out of the oven and still sitting in plain sight as we were discussing. Of course, it was delicious. And of course, I have a just a bit more honey-mixed mascarpone which will be devoured in exactly the same manner.

Both of these granolas demand your immediate attention! And I hope Lo won't mind that I'm excitedly posting her "non-recipe" without her explicit consent. She also mentioned having made it with almond butter to great effect, and I'm sure any nut or seed butter would work similarly well. I make granola following my method outlined here, but really you can use whichever method you are preferring at the moment.

Thanks, Lo!

Lo's Non-Recipe Peanut Butter Granola

  • 2 c. oatmeal (Lo likes steel-cut, which I tried, and LOVED!)
  • dash of honey
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • nuts, seeds, whatever

I guess I changed this up more than I realized as I consult my post-it note. I used:

  • 2 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. steel-cut oats
  • 1 c. nuts (pecans, walnuts)
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 T. agave syrup
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1/2 c. peanut butter
  • handful of leftover coconut from when I made these
  • handful of raisins, since Boy-O loves them

However you do it, it is going to be wonderful - and you will not be able to stop eating it. I did heat the honey, syrup and peanut butter in a small skillet to warm up before tossing it into the dried mix. I find it particularly good in milk.

Quinoa granola, ready to go.

E.'s Quinoa Granola

  • 6 c. oats
  • 2 c. quinoa
  • 1 c. sesame seeds
  • 2 c. nuts
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 3/4 c. oil

I changed this one too, as it seems I just cannot help myself. For the half batch I used:

  • 3 c. rolled oats
  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 1/2 c. sesame seeds
  • 1 c. nuts (almond, pecan, walnut)
  • 6 T. honey
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • pinch of salt

Boy-O had a big bowl of this for lunch, and I am happily reassured of his imminent nutrition due to the complete protein content. My mascarpone week has been fun, and I look forward to making it again. If you are in any way able, I'd urge you to check out Crystal Ball Farms milk products, and make up a batch yourself. I think I'm sold for life. I made some yogurt out of their 2%, and it turned out really well. I don't find them on a proper website, but a simple Google search will turn up many articles on their dairy.

I wonder what I'll be obsessed with next week!