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Monday, June 29, 2009

Baked Quinoa with Spinach and Cheese

After our friend Krysta Doerfler saw our recipe for Quinoa and Lentil Salad, then tried some at our house, she sent us a recipe for another quinoa dish she likes to serve. It's hearty fare, more of a main dish than our salad.

Baked Quinoa With Spinach and Cheese

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach (kale or Swiss chard will work, too)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

2 plump garlic cloves, minced

3 cups cooked quinoa, (1 cup uncooked) (Click here to learn how to cook quinoa)

2 large eggs

3 ounces Gruyère or Fontina cheese, grated (3/4 cup) 

1 1/2 t. chopped fresh sage

1/4 cup grated parmesan 

1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Oil a two-quart gratin or baking dish.

2. Heat a medium frying pan or a wide saucepant. Wash the spinach and without spinning it dry, add it to the pan and wilt over medium-high heat. You may have to do this in two batches. As soon as the spinach wilts, remove from the heat and rinse with cold water. Squeeze dry, chop, and set aside.

3. Wipe the pan dry and heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until tender, about five minutes. Add the garlic and stir with the onion until fragrant, about one minute. Stir in the spinach, and season with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat.

4. Beat the eggs in a large bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the quinoa, the onion-and-spinach mixture, the Gruyère, and the sage. Add freshly ground pepper and stir the mixture together. Scrape into the gratin dish. Sprinkle the parmesan over the top and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Place in the oven and bake until nicely browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to sit for about five minutes, and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

Advance preparation: The cooked quinoa will keep for three or four days in the refrigerator. The recipe can be made through Step 3 several hours or even a day ahead. The gratin can be assembled several hours ahead.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Quinoa Provides Complete Protein: Here's How to Cook It

Quinoa (pronounced keen-WA) has been around for centuries, but it is becoming popular as people look for ways to get protein in their diets without loading up on meat. Unlike most grains, quinoa provides complete protein.

We haven't found anybody—carnivore or vegetarian—who doesn't like our quinoa and lentil salad.

Basically, you cook quinoa like white rice, but with a little more water.

First, always rinse it well under running water in a fine strainer, or soak it for a couple of hours and then rinse.*

Next, using the proportion of one cup quinoa to two cups of water, put the water and quinoa in a saucepan with a teaspoon of salt and bring it to a boil.

Cover and reduce the heat to simmer, and let it cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the water is absorbed. You'll be able to see the curly germ of the grain about the time it's done.

One cup of raw quinoa produces about three cups of cooked quinoa. As with rice, you can substitute broth for the water to give it more flavor.

Here's what Wikipedia says about the nutritional value of quinoa.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, being secondary only to the potato, and was followed in importance by maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%), making it a healthful choice for vegetarians and vegans. Unlike wheat or rice (which are low inlysine), quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it an unusually complete protein source.[3] It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest.

High in protein, high in fiber, gluten-free, with a nutty flavor and al dente texture—what's not to love about quinoa?

*Rinsing not only cleans the quinoa but, more importantly, removes the saponins, which protect the plant against microbes and fungi when growing, but can taste bitter.

Proposed Law Might Be Threat to Local Food Markets

We don't know many of the details yet, but a bill working its way through Congress is thought by many to be a severe threat to local food artisans, CSAs (community supported agriculture) and farmers markets.

The bill does little-to-nothing to stop the sort of industrial widespread food-borne illnesses that have made the news lately (peanuts, e-coli in meat and produce, etc). But it gives the USDA power to alter our little local food artisans in a way that will put some of them out of business.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Ruth

There is nothing like good food, good wine, and a bad girl.
—Fortune cookie

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Box: Garlic Scape Pesto

What we like best about our weekly CSA box—aside from the surprise each Wednesday afternoon of seeing which beautiful vegetables and fruit we've received—is that it forces us to come up with uses for unfamiliar ingredients.

For the past two weeks the box has contained garlic scapes, the curly green tops of garlic
bulbs. The scapes are a bit too fibrous to simply cut up and sauté, so last night we made them into a pesto, mixing about a cup and a half of scapes with a half cup of basil, a half cup of grated parmesan, two tablespoons of pine nuts, two tablespoons of olive oil, a teaspoon of lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

We ate the pesto with roasted potatoes and some goat cheese. The sharp cheese blended nicely with the intense garlicky greenness of the pesto—this combination would also work well mixed with pasta or spread on grilled bread for bruschetta. It tastes just like summer.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Best Bottle of Wine We've Ever Drunk

Back when we were in college we used to save wine bottles to use as candlesticks on the coffee table in the apartment. Remember Mateus? Swell bottle; swill wine.

We've long since gotten rid of all of those old wine bottles — except one that we saved. Our empty bottle of 1966 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac Bordeaux red.

It's the best bottle of wine we've ever consumed.

In the early 1990s we lived near the Russian River in Northern California. Our house was just a block or so away from our long-time friends whose wedding anniversary was within a couple of days of ours. When we all lived in San Francisco the four of us went out on the town for the co-celebration. And in San Francisco when you're celebrating, you can have very good meals and very good bottles of wine.

But in Sonoma County, we decided that we were accomplished enough cooks that we could probably collaborate on a meal that was every bit as good, and a lot cheaper, than the local fare.

So one year we went all out. Herb and garlic crusted rack of lamb. Rich and creamy scalloped potatoes. Some kind of vegetable, probably garlic-finished green beans. And for dessert, our friend Margarita made simulated paper bags out of chocolate and filled them with chocolate mouse with raspberry sauce.
Dan, Margarita's husband, decided that such a meal deserved a good wine, so he pulled out a bottle that had been given to him as a gift some years before. We knew it would be the best bottle of wine we'd had at that point in our lives. It had been appraised, Dan said, at about $350.

Our palates were not sophisticated enough to give a professional-level accounting of the details of the wine. And the intervening years have clouded our memories a great deal. But we remember that we realized how a great wine tastes: deep and complex.

We don't remember a wine that tasted so good and went so well with the food on the table. It was a memorable anniversary all the way around.

For the record the wine was made with 71% Cabernet, 25% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot.

The 1966 Lafite Rothschild, if you can find a bottle, is still worth about $350. It was an average year for such bottles from this famous vineyard in this famous region. But it was anything but average to our little party of four, and remains the best bottle of wine we ever had.

Forget What You Can't Have

This week our friend Cynthia is embarking on an extremely strict diet. She's been feeling lousy, and her doctor figures that if she eats nothing but brown rice, beans, fruit, and some vegetables for a month, they'll be able to determine what's making her feel bad. Cynthia is not thrilled to be facing a month of severely limited eating, but Kevin, Tim, and Ruth are going to try to come up with recipes to make the month more delicious.

As any weight watcher can attest, one of the big problems of a limited diet is the perception that you're being deprived. Other people are enjoying deep-fried cheesecake, while you must make do with six green grapes (not even that if you're still following the Atkins Diet). But if you can focus on what you have rather than what you're missing, the deprivation disappears.

For this to work, you need good food. 

We were thinking about this last night while leafing through The Garden of Vegan, a great cookbook by two Canadian writers, Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer. A lot of people would never buy a vegan cookbook for fear of tasteless food and self-righteous attitude, but this book is a treasure, full of simple recipes that look so well-thought-out and flavorful that we're sure even a meat lover would forget that she's not eating meat. Who needs meat when you have Spicy Szechuan Noodles, Balsamic Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and the Most Amazing Chocolate Pudding? 

We'll be trying them in the weeks to come and keeping you posted on what we find. In the meantime, please help us come up with recipes for Cynthia.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Good Fast Food: Creamy Tomato Sauce

A simple piece of protein — meat, game, fish, tofu, or poultry—browned and then finished in a sauce on the stovetop (or in the oven) and served with rice makes a quick, healthy meal for harried weekdays.

Recently, we made an amazingly fast and flavorful creamy tomato sauce that let us pull together dinner in the time it took to cook rice. It's roughly based on a British version of the Indian sauce called tikka masala, but it's not hot, and it goes with just about everything.

1. Heat two tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil. Brown a pound to a pound and a half of protein, along with four minced garlic cloves and half a cup of chopped onion. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside, reserving cooking juices.

2. In a food processor, combine a 14-ounce can of tomatoes, a heaping teaspoon of tomato paste, a very generous handful of cilantro leaves, the juice of half a lime, a half-teaspoon of sugar, a scant tablespoon of chopped fresh ginger, a teaspoon of ground cumin, and a teaspoon of ground coriander. Pulse to smooth consistency.

3. Start the rice.

4. In a saucepan, melt three tablespoons of unsalted butter. Add the tomato mixture and a half-cup of cream. Bring to a simmer, then add the protein and juices from the other pan. Simmer until the protein is cooked through, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Serve with the rice and a crisp green salad. Serves four. Add a side vegetable if you're serving a particularly hungry crew.

Bere Means "to Drink"

With the recession making everyone think twice about spending money, we're all moving toward drinking lower-priced "weekday" wines on the weekend. Ask any wine merchant and he'll tell you that people are buying less expensive wines.

That's why wines that cost less than $10 are more important than ever. People who used to pride themselves on serving expensive wines to guests are now looking for the cheaper wines that pass the "guest test."

It also makes us pay attention when a wine dealer is having a sale—we mean a real sale, with real bargains. When you find a really good wine in one of those bargain stacks, go for it.

We lucked out recently when a wine merchant we know put a bunch of cases on sale for $60. That's $5 a bottle.

It's difficult to find any drinkable wine for $5 these days. How could we not try a few of these?

Our favorite was from the Viticcio winery, in the small town of Greve, in Tuscany's Chianti region. Viticcio is known for Chianti Classicos, but like many premium wineries, it also makes a blended red wine. Viticcio's is named Bere, which in Italian means "to drink."

Viticcio's Bere is 50% Sangiovese grapes, 25% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon.

We found it rich, full-bodied with a long finish, and far superior to the usual casual blended reds. If we hadn't found it on sale, the bottle probably would have cost us $11 to $15, and it would have been well worth that price.

This is a very balanced wine with notes of blackberries and chocolate. It stands up well to pasta or anything with a red sauce.

And we find ourselves happily drinking it even on weekends.

The Rule of 17 for Rice and Wine

We try to look for the little rules of cooking that make it easier. Not because we want to be slaves to always doing things the so-called right way, but because when you know a few little formulas, you can get by without a cookbook or recipe card.

As when you're away from home—say, at a friend's cabin—and helping throw together a meal. Knowing that a vinaigrette dressing is three parts oil and one part vinegar means that you can dress any salad. Add a little mustard or some herbs, and you've got a great dressing.

Two of our favorite simple rules involve the number 17.

1. Put any room-temperature bottle of white wine in the freezer for 17 minutes, and it will be cold enough to serve.

2. The perfect rice cooks in 17 minutes. When it comes to white rice, whether basmati or any other, no matter what the directions say, always remember that 17 minutes of simmering will result in nutty, crunchy rice.

More details: Wash your rice thoroughly, especially if you buy in bulk. Add 1 cup of rinsed rice to one and a half cups of cold water, along with a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of vegetable or olive oil. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Cover the pan, lower to simmer, and set the timer for 17 minutes.

It works every time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our Apologies . . .

. . . for the lack of posts, but Tim's having surgery today on his shoulder, so things have been slower than usual. But we get our second Fort Hill Farm box this afternoon, so we hope to post a few things soon.

Monday, June 15, 2009

No-Photo Polenta with Broccoli Raab and Spinach

Tim fractured his collarbone over the weekend, so the next few days will be photo-free.

Our CSA box from Fort Hill Farm contained some beautiful, perishable greens that we needed to use regardless of our personal medical emergencies. Fortunately, quickie recipes are our specialty, and polenta is one of the quickest in our arsenal.

We chopped up a small bunch of broccoli raab and half a bunch of spinach, wilted the greens in a wok and set them aside. Not wanting to create more dirty pans than necessary, we used the wok to make polenta, wondering if this was a stupid idea, given polenta's tendency to belch and spatter (and briefly contemplating a new blog category to be titled "Don't Do as We Do"). But the wok worked great—the polenta cooked faster than it does when we use a deeper saucepan.

We added about a third of a cup of goat cheese, stirred it into the hot polenta until it melted, tossed in the greens, turned the whole thing into a buttered cake pan, and baked it for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees.* Accompanied by a light tomato sauce, it made for a fast, delicious dinner. With luck, the calcium in those dark-green vegetables will help Tim's collarbone heal . . .

* Had we been less stressed and pressed for time, we would have added some grated Parmesan and red pepper flakes, and we'd have added some chopped garlic to the greens before we wilted them.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Box Is Here

For the second year, we're shareholders in our local CSA program. Once a week we go to Fort Hill Farm and pick up a big box filled with whatever organic produce the farm is picking that week. It's always a surprise, and it's always good.
This week we got the first box of the season, loaded with broccoli raab, head lettuce, salad mix, spinach, scallions, radishes, and the best strawberries we've had all year.* As the summer progresses, the box will get heavier, full of carrots, corn, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and plenty else. By the time our share winds down in the fall, we'll have enough potatoes, squash, and beets to carry us to the arrival of winter.
As we work our way through this abundance, we'll be offering recipes. In the meantime, check out the recipes offered on Fort Hill Farm's site. You'll be glad you did.
* We split our share with our friends Kevin and Cynthia, so the box actually contained a lot more than you see in this photo.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Italian Salsa Verde (All-Occasion Green Sauce)

We generally think of salsa verde as Mexican, but the Italians make a great green sauce. Oh, how we miss the version we ate many years ago at a favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C. We don't remember the restaurant's name, only the creamy green sauce that surrounded its chicken. 

"This is a thick green herb sauce that's wonderful on anything from roasted vegetables to fish and chicken," says Paul Spring. "It is robust and complex—yet like most Italian food, very simple."

He found it in the "River Café Cookbook" by Rose Gray and Ruth Rodgers, which is available on

Italian Salsa Verde

1 large bunch of fresh Italian (flat-leaf) parsely
1 bunch fresh basil
A generous handful of mint leaves
3 medium garlic cloves
½ cup capers (the salted variety are best when rinsed, but you can use capers in vinegar if you cut down on the vinegar and mustard in the recipe)
6 anchovy fillets
2 T. red wine vinegar
5 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 scant t. Dijon mustard
Salt and fresh-ground pepper

Pulse everything but the olive oil and mustard in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and slowly stir in the olive oil to create an emulsion. Finally, add the mustard.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Cheap Peach Preserves

Maddalen at Red Velvet Jumper has a good idea for getting the most from farmer's markets. Check out her recipe for Cheap Peach Preserves.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Make Your Own Chutney

Food and wine lover (and friend) Paul Spring has been promising to fork over some sauce, appetizer and accompaniments recipes. We posted the first on Sunday — for tapenade — and now he's given us his recipe for a chutney.

We like chutneys, but mostly eat them from the jar, so we've always thought that we should try to figure out how top make our own as a way to use up fruit that's gone just a bit around the bend.

We'd like to discover some general proportional rules, such as how much fruit, how much acid and how much sweetness. If you have some guidelines, let us know.
Apple and Cranberry Chutney (makes about a cup)

If you’ve only had chutney from a jar, take the time to make your own just once. It stores in the refrigerator for at least a week and freezes well. It’s great on just about everything; my favorite is pork tenderloin cut across the grain about an inch thick and quickly sautéed, served with chutney. 

Amazingly complex (not surprising given the ingredients) and an great expression of sweet, sour, and spicy.

1 tablespoon oil
1-1/2 cups red onions, chopped
3 apples (tart varieties will require a bit less lemon juice/vinegar; pears are also nice)
6 tablespoons brown sugar
Zest from 1 lemon
Juice of ½ lemon
¾ tablespoon of cinnamon
1+ tablespoon fresh ginger (finely grated)
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 large clove garlic (peeled)
1/3+ cup of dried cranberries
¼+ golden raisins
1 small dried Asian pepper
1 tablespoon Quatre Especes (which is a combination of white pepper, nutmeg, cloves & ginger)

Roast the apples or pears in the oven in an open dish @ 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Then slice into 1/2–inch cubed pieces.

Sweat the onions and garlic in a deep saucepan in oil. After 5-7 minutes, add all other ingredients (including apple) and cook on med/low (simmer) for 20-30 minutes (until surface moisture is mostly gone). 

Refrigerate for 12 hours to let the flavors knit. Keeps in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tapenade for a Bruschetta Bar

Our friend Paul Spring shares our love of food and wine. He has gone to the Tuscan region of Italy often enough to have volunteered for the olive harvest there at a high-end olive oil producer.

He sent us this recipe for tapenade, which would be great as part of a bruschetta bar, an idea we picked up in a recent eLetter from Fine Living TV. We love this idea for a summer party buffet! Let your guests pick the crostini topping they want.

So, to help with one topping, here is Paul's own account of his recipe for tapenade.

I love olives. I’ve grown them, picked them, and cured my own. Most tapenade is a compromise and not very notable. This recipe tastes like olives and the orange zest gives it a fruity zip. As crostini (on grilled ciabata bread)  this  gets oohs and aahs.  

Even if you hate anchovies, don’t leave this little fillet out—it gives the tapenade a meaty, gutsy flavor. And never add salt given what the olives contribute.

1 cup pitted olives (half oil-cured; the other half Kalamata)
1-1/2 tablespoons capers
1 anchovy fillet (minced)
1 medium garlic clove (peeled and minced)
Zest from half an orange
½+ teaspoon of herbes de Provence
¼ teaspoon lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil

Put everything but the olives and the olive oil in a food processor and mascerate well. Then add olives and pulse so they are chopped but not pureed. Then add oil and pulse a few more times.
Stores for literally weeks in the fridge.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

How Our Diet Impacts the Earth

Meat eaters like Tim don't want to admit it, but they have a significantly bigger impact on global warming than vegetarians. The United Nations says so. Stonyfield Farms, a big eastern U.S. dairy, says so. And lots of scientists are now looking at ways to reduce the effect that livestock has on the planet.

This is a touchy, touchy issue. Our doctor is a yoga-advocating, exercise-promoting, good-eating health nut. But don't talk to him about meat. He doesn't believe that a big piece of seared red meat slows you down, let alone that it has an outsized effect on the planet's health. 

Here's the first half of the problem: Not only is raising livestock energy intensive, because half of all grain grown in the U.S. goes not into cereal but into cows — to fatten them up. Those grains require a lot of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers — all energy intensive. Then the meat and dairy has to be trucked to the butcher/processor, and then trucked to warehouse, and then trucked to the store. 

"Stop eating animals," says Mike Tidwell in the February issue of Audubon magazine, "and you use dramatically less fossil fuels." As much as 250 gallons less oil per year for vegans, says Cornell University’s David Pimentel, and 160 gallons less for egg-and-cheese-eating vegetarians.

Tidwell, who grew up in Tennessee on Memphis barbeque, says he loves to eat meat. But he says that changing light bulbs and driving a Prius probably don't do as much for the planet as changing your diet. But nobody wants to talk about it, because 97 percent of Americans love to eat meat. This ain't a popular notion.

Here's the second half of the problem: Cows belch.

Livestock used to eat what they always ate — grass. But government subsidies after World War II made corn and soy cheap and plentiful, so farmers began feeding it to their cows. But corn and soy have a different fatty acid structure, and now cows do what people do when they have a dramatic change to their diet: burp and fart. 

"Ruminants — cows and sheep — generate a powerful greenhouse gas through their normal digestive processes (think burping and emissions at the other end)," Tidwell writes. "What comes out is methane (23 times more powerful at trapping heat than CO2) and nitrous oxide (296 times more powerful).

Frank Mitloehner, a University of California, Davis, professor who places cows in air-tight tent enclosures and measures what he calls their “eruptions,” says the average cow expels — through burps mostly, but some flatulence — 200 to 400 pounds of methane a year.

"Indeed, accounting for all factors, livestock production worldwide is responsible for a whopping 18 percent of the world’s total greenhouse gases, reports the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. That’s more than the emissions of all the world’s cars, buses, planes, and trains combined."

Now livestock farmers and dairy producers are trying to do something about it. 

Nancy Hirshberg, Stonyfield’s vice president for natural resources, commissioned a full assessment of her company’s impact on climate change in 1999 that extended to emissions by some of its suppliers.

“I was shocked when I got the report,” Ms. Hirshberg said, “because it said our No. 1 impact is milk production. Not burning fossil fuels for transportation or packaging, but milk production. We were floored.”

From that moment on, Ms. Hirshberg began looking for a way to have the cows emit less methane, according to an article in the June 4, 2009 New York Times.

Since January, cows at 15 farms across Vermont have had their grain feed adjusted to include more plants like alfalfa and flaxseed — substances that, unlike corn or soy, mimic the spring grasses that the animals evolved long ago to eat.

At one of the farms in the Stonyfield study, the methane output of Guy Choiniere’s herd in Highgate, Vermont, had dropped 18 percent. Meanwhile, milk production has held its own.

And there's a side benefit. “They are healthier,” he said of his cows. “Their coats are shinier, and the breath is sweet.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Waste-Not-Want-Not Curry

A few weeks ago Jeanetta Miller shared a quick-curry recipe she and her husband use when they're too tired to make anything else. Last night we came up with another one.

 We were both out of energy and had little patience for planning a meal, let alone cooking one. At the same time, we had some leftovers that needed to be used up.

On a recent trip to the Asian store, we picked up three different curry pastes: a very hot green one, a spicy red, and a fairly easy-going yellow. We use all three of them in different dishes, but we like the fact that you can use a heavier hand with the yellow. (Even a half-teaspoon too much of the green will make your throat scream.)

Our leftovers included a bag of broccoli, a couple of tomatoes, and some cubed cooked potato. Combined with a container of aging tofu, this made for a fine dinner.

The best thing about this dish—“recipe” is too precise a word for it—is that as long as you have some coconut milk, some curry paste, a protein, and some vegetables, you have a fast dinner. All you need to do is cook some rice while the curry is simmering.

Here’s what we used:

2 T. vegetable oil
1 T. yellow curry paste*

1 can coconut milk**
2 T. fish sauce
1 t. brown sugar
1 c. water 

1 container firm tofu (or 1 ½ cup other protein), cubed
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. cubed cooked potatoes
2 medium tomatoes

Basil or cilantro (optional—nice to have but by no means necessary)

1.     Heat oil in wok or large saucepan. Fry curry paste until it bubbles, just a few seconds.

2.     Add coconut milk, fish sauce, sugar and water, followed by protein and vegetables. Bring to a boil and simmer until everything’s cooked through, about 20 minutes.

3.     Taste for salt. Garnish with herbs if you have them.

4.      Serve over rice.

* Feel free to substitute red or green curry paste, but you’ll probably need to dial the amount way back.

** Both coconut milk and curry paste can be found in the Asian sections of many supermarkets. 



Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Make It Yourself: Granola

For a long time, we didn't think we could make our own granola. Costco sold a good brand at a decent price, and even though it was higher in sugar and fat than we liked, it didn’t seem worthwhile to try to come up with our own recipe. Then we discovered Costco’s nine-pound box of Quaker Oats—that's right, nine pounds, the size of a small television—and we decided to give it a whirl.

A big challenge was figuring out how to sweeten the granola without using loads of sugar. First, we tried using applesauce mixed with maple syrup, and although that tasted fine, it resulted in soft, stale-feeling granola. So we tried a small amount of maple syrup supplemented with granulated sugar, and that did the trick.

This recipe is highly adaptable—you can fiddle with the sweetness, amp up the nuts, or add any dried fruit you like. It’s still a work in progress, so please share any suggestions.

Granola Recipe

4 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup oat bran
½ cup ground flaxseed
½ to 1 cup chopped nuts (we use almonds)

½ cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 to ½ cup maple syrup, depending on taste
2 T. granulated sugar, brown or white

1.   Mix everything together in a big bowl.

2.   Spread on an ungreased baking pan, and bake in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes.

3.   Remove the pan from the oven, stir the granola, then bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

4.   When it’s browned and dry, it’s ready. Mix in dried fruit, if you like. Raisins and Craisins work particularly well.