Thursday, January 27, 2011

Homemade Granola



Packaged granola in the grocery store can be quite expensive, not to mention high in fat and other unwanted ingredients. Why not make your own at home? It's less expensive, easy to make, and doesn't contain preservatives or trans fats. And, while it's in the oven baking, it fills the house with the most wonderful aroma. I've tried a few different variations -- one with dried blueberries, one with honey -- but my favorite so far is maple-nut. It's delicious over yogurt or oatmeal, and it makes a great snack on its own. It can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Maple-Nut Granola
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl, mix 3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 1/4 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup slivered or chopped almonds, scant 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt. 

2. In a small bowl, mix 5 teaspoons vegetable oil, 5 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Sprinkle maple syrup mixture over oat mixture and stir well to combine. 

3. Spread oat mixture on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes, rotating sheet and stirring mixture halfway through. Let cool completely. 
Makes 4 cups.  
Adapted from Everyday Food.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Knitting


Years ago, my friend Diane taught me and several other women at work how to knit. Diane, an avid knitter, is also a patient teacher. Some mornings I'd show up with my latest project in hand, a dropped stitch or other problem needing Diane's help. Eventually I learned how to fix those problems myself.

Learning to knit was a bit frustrating at first, but once I got the hang of it, I loved it. I couldn't wait to experiment with different yarns and various needle sizes. I learned how to knit on circular needles so that I could make a 26" x 60" throw, which was a labor of love, to say the least!

As much as I've enjoyed knitting all these years, I've never advanced beyond the knit stitch or the making of scarves. On the one hand, this is okay because I LOVE scarves. In the winter, I wear them almost daily, indoors and out. On the other hand, I know that variety would make knitting more interesting and challenging. Some day I would like to knit a cap for my husband, a sweet pair of baby booties for an expectant friend, even a sweater for myself. Perhaps one of my goals for 2011 should be to finally learn the purl stitch and broaden my horizons in the world of knitting. If are you reading this, Diane, take note: I'll probably need a few lessons.


This grey scarf is my favorite. It's soft, lightweight and warm, and can be worn fall, winter and spring. The yarn is a cashmere/silk/cotton blend that I bought at Purl Soho, a charming store in New York City that I visited with Diane. It was her first trip to the city, and Purl was on her list of places to see. On my list was Magnolia Bakery for one of their famous cupcakes. Both were great choices.

On a return trip to New York, I went back to Purl and bought another skein of the same grey yarn. I'm nearly finished with my second scarf so I will have a backup, just in case. I'm using number 5 needles to create a small stitch, which is perfect for this delicate yarn.


This multi-colored scarf is made from a Japanese wool, which my husband actually picked out when I took him along with me to the knitting store one day. This was a fun yarn to work with because of the variations in color. With every few rows, the scarf took on a new look. This scarf is very warm, and perfect for keeping out the winter chill.

Over the years, I've made many other scarves in addition to these. My first was a charcoal grey wool made using medium sized needles. It continues to be one of my favorites. Another, made from a yarn that has a bit of mohair in it and a little metallic thread, is fuzzy, colorful and fun. I've also knitted numerous scarves and given them to family and friends. It's a great feeling to give gifts that I've put my time and care into making by hand.

Are you a knitter? What are your favorite things to make?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Broccoli Soup

One of my favorite things to make is soup, especially when there's a chill in the air. This recipe for creamy broccoli soup couldn't be easier! Its creaminess comes not from cream or half-and-half, but from rolled oats. With only 150 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 6 grams of fiber per serving, it's a healthy and tasty alternative to cream of broccoli soup.


Broccoli Soup

Directions:
1) In a stock pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-low heat. Add 1 medium onion, halved and sliced thinly, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt. Cook until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds.

2) Stir in 4 cups vegetable broth (or reduced-sodium chicken broth), 1-1/2 cups water, 1/3 cup rolled oats, and 1-1/2 pounds of broccoli, florets separated and stems/stalks peeled and cut into 1/2 inch rounds. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until broccoli is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. 

3) Using a hand blender, purée soup in pot (if using a blender, purée soup in batches and fill blender only halfway; return soup to pot). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves four. Total time: 30 minutes.
Adapted from Everyday Food.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time for a Nap


Here's our other pup, Winnie, taking a nap (her favorite pastime) with dad. Fortunately, our dogs have never been ones to jump up on our beds or furniture. If they want to spend some time looking out the window or snuggling in for a nap, we actually have to lift them up onto the bed. Once there, they usually don't stay for too long before jumping down. I'm glad I captured this moment of Winnie and her dad taking a nap in the sun.


Winnie on guard, always on the lookout for squirrels and rabbits.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happiness Is a Warm Puppy


Here's Phoebe, our little sun worshiper, enjoying the brightest room in the house, the guest bedroom (more commonly referred to as the dogs' room). In the winter, when the sun is lower in the sky, the sun streams into this room. As the hours pass, Phoebe follows the sun from one side of the room to the other. We like to accommodate her by moving her bed to each new sun spot so she will have a soft place to sleep -- and if we forget, she'll remind us with some whining. One of my favorite things on a Sunday afternoon is to curl up with her for a nap, the two of us soaking up the warmth of the winter sun. The author Charles M. Schulz was right: happiness is a warm puppy.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Hearty Winter Meal


One of our favorite winter suppers is curried lentil stew, an Everyday Food favorite with a couple of ingredients slightly tweaked. Curry is a favorite seasoning in our house, and this vegetarian dish is hearty and satisfying with its sweet potatoes, cauliflower, tomatoes and lentils. It's high in protein (20.1 g per serving) and fiber (14.3 g) and low in fat (5.3 g). Try serving it with toasted pita bread or naan, an Indian flatbread.

Curried Lentil Stew

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon curry powder
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 head cauliflower (2-1/2 pounds), stemmed and separated into florets
1 cup brown lentils, picked over, rinsed well, and drained
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes with juice
coarse salt

Directions:
  1. In a Dutch oven (5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Stir in sweet potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, tomatoes and their juice, and 1-1/2 cups water; season with salt.
  3. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover, and cook until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, about 30 minutes. Serve with nonfat sour cream or plain yogurt, if desired. Serves 4.
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