Food, family, crafts, and other stuff we like


Sunday, February 28, 2010

make your own granola

homemade granola is one of the best treats ever, and surprisingly easy.
it takes a little effort to gather all of the ingredients, but if you have a decent bulk section at your local grocery store you'll be fine. sometimes  i will be surprised by how many of the ingredients i already have sitting on my shelf, and can throw together an impromptu batch without having to make a trip to the store. my favorite recipes are ones that are flexible, and can be easily customized to your tastes, whims, and what you have in the cupboards. granola is one of those recipes. you can really push the envelope with this recipe, make it how you like it! you could use any kind of dried fruit, nuts, or cereal grains. i think it would be good with dried mangoes and crystallized ginger.
this goes great with yogurt, milk, fresh fruit, and as a snack right out of the jar. the original recipe came from my boyfriend abram's mom, cindy lou, who made it regularly when he was a kid. i suggest doubling or tripling the recipe if you have granola lovers in your house.


1 cup oats (can also use rye or wheat flakes)
1/3 cup wheat germ or ground flax or both
2 tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tbsp. shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup raisins 
4 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp warm water
4 tbsp honey, rice syrup or agave
3 tbsp mild favored oil (i use walnut oil)
1 tbsp vanilla

preheat the oven to 350.

mix all dry ingredients together in a large bowl. 

in a seperate bowl stir the warm water and honey together, and then mix in the oil and your best to evenly coat the dry ingredients with the wet mixture. use your hands to mix it all up in a bowl. the mixture should be sticky and moist. (i like to taste it at this point and gauge if it needs a little more sweetener.)

spread the granola out onto a baking sheet, if you made more than one batch you will need two baking sheets or to bake separate batches.
bake for 10 minutes, then pull pan out and stir. bake for another 5 minutes and stir again. bake for another 5 minutes if needed. it is easy to over-bake granola so I tend to take it out early rather than have it turn out too crispy.

 store in an airtight container for up to a month.


Crowns are so darn simple to make. Just cut the crown shape out of construction paper, stapling or taping pieces to make it long enough. Lay flat. Add stickers, glitter, little jewels, scrap cloth, yarn, ribbon, anything. Size to head, tape or staple, and ta da!   Instant Royalty.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

homemade yogurt

i've been making yogurt for almost two years now, and have never had two batches turn out exactly the same. i never mind this though, because they are always good. i always feel like heidi when i make yogurt.
it is simple to make and easy to customize to your likes. i am a super-sour plain yogurt lover (think nancy's), but most people aren't. i have never been able to get my homemade yogurt to be quite as sour as i would like, but i'm not complaining. its delicious by itself right out of the jar, with honey, granola, fresh fruit, in smoothies or in tsatsiki sauce! 

all you need is:

one or two tablespoons of plain yogurt

about a pint of milk or half & half (i like the thickness of half & half)

a clean mason jar with a lid.

you can heat the milk if you want, but its not necessary. if you do heat it, its best to keep a thermometer in and keep a very close eye on the temp. turn heat off around 110 degrees to preserve a bit more of the enzymes in the milk, but do not let it get above 180 degrees or it will burn. 
i rarely even heat my milk anymore, just pour it straight cold into the jar, along with the tablespoon or two of yogurt. i do a quick stir and put the lid on the jar. 
leave the jar in a warm place for 12 to 48 hours. i am lucky enough to have a spot warmed by a pilot light to culture my yogurt, which may speed up the process a little. try the inside of your stove or the top of the fridge. as it cultures i will often tilt the jar to gauge thickness and give it a sniff to test for sourness. to be honest i haven't noticed a huge difference between a jar left for 12 hours vs. 48 hours, have fun experimenting.
the yogurt will firm up even more in the fridge, so let it rest in the fridge for at least 8 hours before you eat it.
i have used nonfat and whole milk to make yogurt before, but its hard to get the thickness i like. you can add a few tablespoons of nonfat milk powder to your mix to thicken it up if you are looking for a lower fat version of this and using a watery milk.
this recipe can also be used to make sour cream or cream fraiche by using a tablespoon or two of either as the starter culture instead of yogurt. instructions are the same. sour cream is so good in soups, casseroles, baking, tacos, etc...
what i have learned about making yogurt is that it is easily adaptable, not too finicky about exact measurements or times. it is fun to experiment with, and you can always start a new jar with the last spoonful of yogurt from the previous batch. if you like a sweeter yogurt add some maple syrup, honey, or fruit jam to the finished yogurt after it has set in the fridge. i love a drizzle of maple syrup on yogurt.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Shannon's Beef and Barley Stew

I am a soup master. There, I said it. But seriously, I have been pumping out some ridiculously delicious soups all winter long. Full-flavored, chunky (or not, depending), savory and all-around perfect soups. Brag, brag, brag. I know. So last night I made a bomb soup, (actually more like a stew) from a recipe Amy's sister, Shannon, gave me a couple of years ago. I thought I was going to make a traditional Irish-style beef stew, with potatoes and maybe peas, but I could not find my bag of potatoes from Trader Joes.  Did the kids sneak off with them for some god-forsaken purpose? Will I find them, sprouted and moldy, in a closet someday? Hmmm.

Anyhoo, I remembered this soup from Shannon, and low and behold it was filed away in my "Recipes" folder. (Feeling organized!).  I modified things, based on what I had.  The result: perfect winter stew. Yum. We served it with fresh sourdough bread smothered with butter.

You Will Need:

1-2 lbs Beef Stew Meat (Lamb would be excellent, too)
1.5 cups dry barley
3 carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, or 1 tsp of minced garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
garlic powder
olive oil
quart of stock (I used chicken)
Better than Beef Bouillon (kitchen necessity)

Put the stock in the crockpot on low. Heat a cast iron frypan on medium-high, add some olive oil. Sprinkle stew meat with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. When oil is nice and hot, add stew meat. Once brown (approx 5 minutes), add beef to warm broth in crockpot. In remaining juices in frypan, saute onion, garlic and celery. Add some salt, pepper, herbs of your choosing (oregano good, little sprinkle of red pepper flakes). After 7 or so minutes, add onion/celery to crockpot, as well as diced carrots. Add tomato paste. Add barley. Use less than 1.5 cups barley for a thinner soup.

Now let your slow cooker do the work! 6-10 hours later, your house has slowly filled with the mouth-watering aroma of onion and meat and garlic. You keep opening the lid to smell and sample, though you tell yourself you should keep it closed so everything cooks right. Add a tbsp of the Better than Beef Bouillon at the end.

If I had had kale on hand, I would have chopped it up real finely and added to the stew with the carrots, for nutritional benefit. Gotta sneak the green stuff into the kids anyway you can, ya know? Kale in soups is just one of my sneaky vegetable inserts. It would taste lovely, too. 

Serve with bread and butter.

(Alas, my picture quality is poor.  Bad lighting at night...)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Super Simple Baked Salmon

...i think i fell in love with Matt Kerley the day he gave me a mix cd with the song "She Belongs to Me" by Bob Dylan on it, and said that Bob wrote that song for, and about, me. SERIOUSLY?? Who does that? Well, Matt Kerley does...and I've been his ever since. In fact, Oliver (our son) came along not too long after. Living proof that a simple dedication can turn a girl to mush, a puddle, clay in your hands, and you can do whatever you want to her, whenever you want to, and, well, you get where I'm going with this. Next thing you know you are playing peek-a-boo and planning for college.

ANYWAYS...Matt Kerley is the REAL chef in our house...
 By that I mean, he is a chef by profession, he runs a restaurant, & he is an AMAZING cook, and I'm not just saying that cause I live with him. It's true. I, on the other hand, am certainly not an amazing cook. I'm a mediocre cook at best, but there are a few things I do well and those things I tend to make pretty often. The difference between Matt and I is this...he makes duck confit, I make tuna casserole. He makes gnocchi from scratch, I make spaghetti and meat sauce. He makes pâté, I make peanut butter toast. But I do happen to do almost all the cooking at our house because by the time he gets home from work, cooking is the last thing he wants to do. And he always finishes all his food and usually asks for seconds, so I guess he kinda likes it. Beyond cooking at home, I've been working in restaurants since the beginning of time, and eating in them too, AND I am lucky enough to live in one of the foodiest cities in the world, San Francisco, so I have access to farms, and fresh, and free range, and all that good stuff. At this point in my life cooking has become the one creative act that I do almost everyday. And everyday I look forward to it. I spend a lot of time thinking about what I might cook that night, and what I need, and when I'm going to go to the market, and which market, and blah, blah, blah...So the recipes I share here will be my own, or not, and I hope you will try them, like them, eat them up, and then make them YOUR own. Let's start with last night's dinner...

Super Simple Salmon (this recipe is for 2 eaters, get 3 pieces of fish if you happen to have 3 eaters, and guesstimate about 1/2 tablespoon of butter & 1/2 clove of garlic for each piece of fish)

2 Wild Salmon fillets
1 tablespoon butter
1 clove fresh garlic

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in a small sauce pan and toss in your chopped garlic, saute about 1 minute, or until garlic loses a bit of its sharpness, but don't burn the garlic! Place salmon fillets skin side down in a baking dish, I prefer glass. Sprinkle fish with salt, pepper, cumin, and your butter & garlic mixture. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish. Salmon is one thing I like either totally raw (sushi!) or totally cooked through, so I always cook mine until it is just cooked through, but not dry. Serve with a simple green salad. Delish!!

P.S. Everyone knows how good salmon is for you, Omega 3's and all that stuff, but its especially important when you are a breastfeeding mama, like I am, because it helps our babies brains to grow big and strong. So eat up Mama's! Eat your fish!!