Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On Missing the Farmer's Market + Making Your Own Granola

Farmer's Markets are one of the things I look forward to on Saturday mornings (and/or Wednesday afternoons... and/or Friday mornings) during the summer. Now that it's cold and produce is imported from far, far away or "fresh" out of warehouse storage, I miss it so much!

Pike's Place Market, Seattle

10 Things I Love About Farmer's Markets:

1. FRESH fruits and vegetables in season... when they taste so good they almost don't need to be cooked or overdosed with salt and pepper.
2. Bright smiles and cheerful greetings from local vendors.
3. Friendly chats with the farmers and running into friends.
4. The fruit samples!!!
5. If you get there late when they're almost done and the crowd is dwindling, these nice vendors give you great deals and something more of this and that. (Yeah, I'm cheap like that...)
6. Standing by the cheese makers while eating your tacos and getting an extra sprinkling of fresh chevre!
7. Winning an awesome door prize: 10 pounds of apples! Especially if a strong boyfriend happened to tag along to save you from shoulder injury. :)
8. Discovering new vegetables (new to me, at least) and how to cook them.
9. Buying real honey.
10. The smells wafting from the food stalls... tacos, donuts, phad thai, grilled meat... YUMMM!!!

As much as I love Farmer’s Markets, it makes me sad that the “artisan” food products tend to be overpriced. For instance, the fancy granola sold in our market costs $20/2 lbs. Half of that is one serving for my guy! Now, I know that a lot of hard work goes into everything handmade and homemade, and I appreciate food products like that. However, it is too spendy for me and is definitely beyond my budget. So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and started making my own granola. You should do it too, if you’re not already doing it!

Here are two granola recipes that I found to be the best… I picked the recipes that use less sweeteners and adapted them to cut back on the sugars even more and to accommodate for the ingredients that I had in the pantry. They turned out wonderful! Really, you can’t go wrong with toasted oats, honey, nuts, and dried cranberries!

This one uses just ¼ cup of honey for a touch of sweetness!

Easy Granola (Makes about 5 cups)
(adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup chopped cashews
¼ cup walnuts
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup currants or raisins

Toast almonds, cashews, and walnuts in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Stir often for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the oats for about 2 minutes.
Add sunflower seeds and stir for about 1 minute.
Away from the heat, stir in the honey and oil until the mixture is well coated.
Spread the granola in a deep baking pan.
Bake the granola at 325 degrees.
Stir every 5 minutes for 15-20 minutes, until the granola is golden brown.
Out of the oven, stir in the cranberries and currants or raisins.
Let the granola cool to room temperature and move to an airtight container.

I was stingy with the sweeteners on this second one and omitted the shredded coconut to cut back on extra sugar and fat. Tell you what though, my boyfriend’s mom followed the original recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/granola-recipe/index.html) and it was the best granola I have ever tasted . Well, this one is almost as good… I say almost because you can’t compete with extra sugar and maple syrup. ;)

Delicious Granola (Makes about 8 cups)
(adapted from Alton Brown, Food Network)

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
½ cup cashews
½ cup walnuts
¼ cup sunflower seeds
¼ cup maple syrup
3 tbsp honey
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup currants
or 1 cup of whatever dried fruit you desire

In a deep, large baking pan, mix oats, almonds, cashews, walnuts, and sunflower seeds.
In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, honey, and oil.
Pour syrup mixture into the oat mixture and stir until well coated.
Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 250 degrees F.
Stir every 15 minutes to cook everything evenly.
Remove from oven and add cranberries and currants. Mix until evenly distributed.
Let the granola cool to room temperature and move to an airtight container.

Designate Sunday afternoons as granola making time… it only takes about an hour or two. Enjoy!

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