Tuesday, June 22, 2010

granola morning


Right now in my kitchen I easily have ten to fifteen pounds of fresh fruit. Delightful dilemma. This morning, facing the cereal, yogurt or toast question I decided on yogurt. One fragrant, juicy and very ripe peach and a cup of fresh blueberries topped with plain Greek yogurt and a serious helping of home made granola was my breakfast of choice.

If you haven't tried Greek yogurt, you really should. Trader Joe's carries the Fage brand at the best price in town. My love of Greek yogurt grew naturally from a desire to make tzatziki without straining regular plain yogurt. Greek yogurt is already very thick and does not require draining. Fairly obvious that Greek yogurt would work well in tzatziki, but my Barefoot Contessa cookbook was published before Greek yogurt was widely available. Look it up and make the recipe using only Greek yogurt instead of draining regular yogurt and adding sour cream. Greek yogurt is a great substitute for sour cream in recipes. You can buy non-fat, low-fat and fully-leaded varieties. The Greek yogurt by the cup with fruit in the bottom sold at Costco reminds me of good old Dannon fruit on the bottom from high school. Yummmm....

Today's recipe is for granola based on a recent Bon Appetit recipe. Sara loves to visit the make your own granola website, Moja Mix (www.mojamix.com) and if you need some ideas for your own yogurt play around with their site. If you order some, please let me know how you like it. It's an awesome site. It calculates your nutritional information and you can make personalized labels. So fun. Just a little unnecessary in the new economy that I am not terribly enjoying.

Granola

3 C old-fashioned oats (highly recommend Trader Joe's toasted oats)
1/2 C golden flax seeds
1 C coarsely chopped almonds (slivered, blanched or whatever)
1/2 C unsweetened shredded coconut (not hard to find, I buy mine at Meijer and it's organic)
3 T packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C honey
2 T vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet/jelly roll pan with parchment paper (or if you are super lucky, use a stoneware rimmed baking pan like mine from Pampered Chef-nothing sticks to it for long). Mix oats, nuts, coconut, sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir honey and oil in saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture over oat mixture. Spread on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, stirring every 10 minutes for about 40 minutes total. Remove pan from oven and cool. Store in an airtight container.

Obviously you can mix in anything your heart (or stomach) desires. If you add fruit stir it into the cool granola.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Pig Roast notes



Last night Greg and I shared in the hosting of the 6th Annual Bellingrath Pig Roast. Possibly one of the best ever with the weather miraculously cooperating, the pig cooking too slow but turning out perfectly delicious and a big happy gathering of neighbors and family.
How was it so beautiful last night? We have had storms blow in almost every evening the last week or so after days hovering around 90 degrees and the humidity climbing into the 99th percentile. But last night, the skies were my favorite color of blue, the clouds were wispy, the humidity cleared and a cool breeze fluttered through as the evening turned into night. Ahhhhhh....

Greg had quite an adventure retrieving the roaster at 8 a.m. from dear family friend Herb Miller who hosted at least 35 pig roasts with Greg's parents and their "pigger" friends. Bob grabbed Tammy's convertible and Greg and Bob set a new land speed record for two men and a pig (don't worry, the pig was secured by the shoulder belts). The cooking grate for the pig roaster always spends the first part of this weekend at a Boy Scout Jamboree so Greg meets the scouts and the grate is handed off. Somehow this time he parked the van already loaded with the keg and the scouts surrounded it with their gear and had a lengthy awards assembly. Greg tapped his foot and bit his tongue and finally parted the sea of scouts and made a break for the hood with the grate and the keg.

Meanwhile the coals had been waiting for the grate a bit too long and the temperature in the roaster was struggling to reach 200 degrees. The pig was rubbed and salted. Coals were added. Shade tents went up. The keg was iced and tapped and some time around 1:30 the pig finally was hoisted onto the grate in the 350 degree roaster. Bob and Greg swore since the pig was smaller and we've done this so many times that this would be a 2-3 hour roast. I kept telling them it would take 5 hours (and truly for the most tender meat it needs to roast slow). Five hours of roasting would put us pulling right when the guests were to arrive and indeed we started pulling at 6:15.

Looking good when you greet your guests is entirely over-rated. If you are a good enough friend to be invited to my house or my party you surely have seen me in my workout clothes drenched with sweat so being drenched with sweat and up to my elbows in pork is not something you couldn't imagine. I honestly think that it's more alarming for people to see me with my hair down, make-up properly applied and clothes that don't have a Nike/UA/Adidas logo on them. I have been known to serve my guests appetizers and drinks and hit the shower while they warm-up for the main event too many times to worry about it. Thank God for good long hair that sweeps up nicely into a "messy bun" (and thank God that's actually a style).

So the pork was fabulous. Everyone came. They all brought delicious things to share. Two neighbors brought bounce houses and the Wede children filled a wheelbarrow full of water balloons for the always popular water balloon launch. As the evening flowed along the chairs were pulled together under the tents and candles were lit and the "grotto" around the keg was aglow. Sitting, sipping, laughing, listening and thinking all the while that life is truly good.
By the time the clean-up started it was well into Fathers' Day and we were off to a good start.

My food contributions for the evening beyond the rubbing, salting, testing and pulling of the pork included a couple of pounds of baked mac and cheese (and I hear everyone saying "it's the world's best", yeah!), not enough guacamole (that disappears) and a pitcher of raspberry mojitos.

My dear sister-in-law, Lisa requested that I post a recipe for mojitos. So if you like to read my blog posts you can thank Lisa for getting me motivated to post again. I have a few ideas from some summer meals in back log and I'll promise to get them online this week.

Mojitos by the pitcher (makes 4-6)
1 C simple syrup (recipe below)
1 C fresh squeezed lime juice (buy the big bag of limes at Costco and get one of the yellow metal lemon press juicers anywhere)
1 C light rum
4 nice big sprigs of mint (grow your own, but in a pot because mint is very invasive)
bottle of mineral water (Pellegrino)

Make your simple syrup. Put 2 C water and 2 C sugar in a small saucepan. Stir to dissolve sugar and continue stirring bringing to a full rolling boil. Stir and boil for about 5 minutes to thicken and reduce the liquid a little bit (if all you do is dissolve the sugar it will be okay).
Save the extra syrup in the refrigerator.

Put the mint in the bottom of a pretty pitcher. Pour in the syrup, lime juice and rum. Muddle the mint and mix it all together. If you don't have a muddler, just smash the mint a bit with a wooden spoon. Pour maybe half a bottle of Pellegrino in the pitcher. Pour a bit over some ice and taste it. If it's not sweet enough add more syrup. If it's too strong add more Pellegrino. Serve in glasses over lots of ice. My pitcher easily traps most of the mint. If your's does not, you might use your hand to strain it a bit. Personally the mint in my glass is just fine, but I'm the same person who jumps in the shower after my guests have arrived so that might not be your thing.
You can do so much with this recipe. We have too many bottles of coconut rum from a trip to St. Thomas (such a problem) and coconut rum makes an amazing mojito. Last night I had some smooshy (I know, not a word but you hear me on this) raspberries so I put about 1/2 C of fresh berries in a 1/2 cup of syrup and poured that through a fine sieve and pushed the berries through straining out the seeds. I used the berry syrup in place of some of the plain syrup. Yumm.
Have some friends over and mix up a batch. It's hot, they'll love you for it!