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Homemade Vanilla Extract

By Vicki Walsh:

I’m trying to be a better version of myself. I’m trying to be thoughtful, prepared, and more in control of my life. In order to achieve this, I’ve been planning more, I’ve been organizing my days more … and I’ve been buying vanilla beans in bulk. The planner inside me has eagerly been studying the calendar lately – it’s already the second week of November! Colder days, darker evenings, colourful knitwear, hot chocolate by the fire, extra blankets. All of this can only possibly mean one thing: it’s time to start planning our holiday gifting!

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Vegetarian Meals

This Is How We Do It: Roasted Potatoes

I remember being a kid at my family’s holiday dinner table, passing along the dish of boiled, buttered potatoes without a second thought. My potato world was so small. I wasn’t crazy about the buttered spuds, but they weren’t especially terrible. They were just there. The world is full of incredible potato preparations, and there are far too many ways to enjoy the humble tuber without ever settling for something boring. A frozen shredded potato has very little in common with the knobby, dirty, delectable gems you can find at farmer’s markets. When you can find them, the heirloom varieties benefit from simple preparations that don’t mask the potatoes’ earthy goodness.

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Vegetarian Meals

This is How We Do It: Homemade Granola

Granola often suffers a boring ‘health food’ rap, which I think is unfair. My granola recipe is more of a treat with healthy ingredients, which I am always happy to feed to my family. Once you discover your favorite blend, you’ll find yourself craving fresh, homemade granola, and not just for breakfast.

I’ve found my favorite combination of ingredients over the years, and the basic components are: grains (I always use oats), fruits, nuts, and seeds. You’ll need something sweet to bind everything together, and my favorite sweetener is maple syrup (with a touch of good honey added, if I have it on hand). I tend to make a triple batch; not only do we eat tons of it, but it makes a lovely little gift in a cello bag or glass jar. The recipe below is delicious with yoghurt for breakfast, and it makes a superb topping for custard or ice cream after dinner.

When I am trying to minimize my sugar intake, I will make muesli with the same ingredients. Mix your dry ingredients together in bulk. Serve with milk or fruit juice, allowing a few minutes for the liquid to soak into the oats. Top with fresh fruit for a super healthy breakfast or snack!

If you like the recipe below, here are a few other flavor combinations I’ve tried and liked:

oats, cashew, coconut, pumpkin seed, dried cherry
oats, poppy seeds, orange zest, almond, dried currants
oats, rolled dates, coconut, hazelnuts, flax, cinnamon
oats, dried apricot, pistachio, walnuts, cardamom

Kate's Homemade Granola

Print Recipe
Serves: 8 Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 16oz/450g thick rolled oats
  • 8oz/225g whole cashews
  • 6oz/170g pumpkin seeds
  • 4oz/113g unsweetened coconut chips or unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 6oz/170g dried tart cherries
  • 5oz/177ml maple syrup
  • 1oz/29ml honey
  • 1oz/29g butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste

Instructions

1

Preheat the oven to 325°F/162°C.

2

Combine the oats, cashews, pumpkin seeds, and coconut in a large mixing bowl.

3

Set aside the dried cherries.

4

Bring the maple syrup, honey, butter, and vanilla extract to a low boil.

5

Pour over the mixture of dry ingredients, mixing well.

6

Add the salt and mix a bit more.

7

Toast the granola on two large sheet pans, stirring every 5-7 minutes, until golden (about 15 minutes)

8

Add the dried cherries to the toasted granola.

9

Cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

Notes

The ingredients are easy to switch around; try rolled spelt flakes instead of oats, sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin seeds, etc. There are endless possibilities!