Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade yogurt and granola

So in my quest to improve my own granola recipe, I discovered a recipe in the cookbook Cowgirl Cuisine by Paula Disbrowe for what she calls "Canyon Granola". Thought I'd give it a try and wanted to share my results with you! First, here's a link to the book on in case you've not seen it.

Paula and her husband live in Nueces Canyon, not far from here, on a ranch, having moved to Texas from New York to work at a bed and breakfast in the Hill Country. Like many I know they fell in love with the area and decided to stay. The cookbook is great! A combination of cookbook and commentary on ranch life and life in the Texas Hill Country. I've tried two recipes from the book so far, this one for "Canyon Granola" and another for a cookie called "Milk Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies". I wasn't a big fan of the cookies, preferring my own chocolate chip recipe, but I may take a cue from her recipe and incorporate some cocoa nibs in my recipe in the future as a test... I plan to test one additional recipe tomorrow night for Texas greens and will post about that recipe later... But now for the granola!

As I said, I have my own personal granola recipe (which I will post at the end of this entry) that I tweak and play with occasionally and am always looking for ways to improve it, so I thought I'd try Paula's recipe from the book to see what I thought.  It is REALLY GOOD! Usually when I am testing a new recipe I try and maintain it to the original for the first go-round and then improvise on future use.  This one is really good as is, so I'd totally recommend using it as is! I also made some homemade crockpot yogurt using the recipe from Stephanie O'Dea's blog "A Year of Slow Cooking". It turned out really well and I will definitely be making it again and again! It will be a big money saver in this house I'm sure! :)

Unfortunately this blog post will be a little light on photos because I forgot to take a "before" picture of the ingredients...but suffice it to say that they are exactly as directed, except for the fruit addition. I was able to get a big bag of dried apricots and Sunmaid raisins from Sam's Club (I use the apricots for baby food in the crockpot) and so I decided to use those instead of the fruits called for in the recipe. I'm sure you could substitute your own favorite dried fruits as well...

The Recipe:

* Exported from MasterCook *

                              Canyon Granola

Recipe By     :
Serving Size  : 0     Preparation Time :0:00
Categories    :

  Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  1                cup  maple syrup
     1/2           cup  dark brown sugar
     1/3           cup  canola oil
     3/4      teaspoon  salt
  1         tablespoon  vanilla extract
  4               cups  old-fashioned rolled oats
  4             ounces  pecan halves -- about 1 cup
  2             ounces  pepitas -- about 1/2 cup
  2             ounces  sunflower seeds -- about 1/2 cup
     1/2           cup  whole wheat flour
     1/2           cup  nonfat dry milk powder
     1/3           cup  ground flaxseed meal
  4             ounces  chopped dried peaches or nectarines -- generous 1/2 cup
  4             ounces  dried cherries or golden raisins -- generous 1/2 cup

Place the oven racks on the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 300F.

Combine the maple syrup, brown sugar, oil, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the brown sugar is dissolved. Stir in the vanilla.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, pepitas, sunflower seeds, flour, milk power, and flaxseed meal. Pour the warm syrup over the dry ingredients and use a rubber spatula to combine well.

Divide the moistened oats evenly between two baking sheets. Bake for 20 minutes, then stir with a metal spatula and rotate the sheets to opposite racks ot ensure even baking. Bake another 20 minutes, then stir and switch pans again. Bake until the mixture has a fragrant, toasty aroma, another 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the granola in the pans, breaking up any unwieldy clumps with a spatula. When the mixture is completely cool, mix in the dried peaches and cherries and store at room temperature in an airtight container.

  "12 cups"
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My Results:

As I said, I try and follow the recipe exactly the first time I make it.  This time, however, I decided to make the "syrup" element in the microwave to cut down on the heat in the house (it is July in Texas after all!) I don't keep canola oil in the house, so I used vegetable oil instead and combined all the ingredients from step 2 in a 4 cup glass measure in the microwave. I then microwaved it for 2 minutes, stirred, then another 2 minutes. This was the perfect amount of time for my microwave, but YMMV depending on your microwave. I then stirred in the vanilla (my own homemade of course!).

I put all the dry ingredients into a large plastic bowl and, using latex-gloved hands, stirred them together. I then poured the syrup over top and used my hands to thoroughly mix it.  I would suggest waiting a little while for the syrup to cool a bit before doing this if you want to use your hands instead of the spatula suggested in the recipe (I didn't and it was HOT!) but think that using your hands gets a better mix than the spatula.

The recipe doesn't call for it so I didn't do it, but I think in the future I would suggest spraying the baking sheets with cooking spray before adding the granola.  It didn't stick BAD, but it did stick a bit when I went to stir it in the oven. I'd also very much recommend a RIMMED baking sheet since otherwise you'll have granola all over everywhere when you go to stir it! :)

I ended up over-baking mine a bit (at the end of the second 20 minutes I turned off the oven, cracked the door and left it in there because we were in the middle of eating dinner...) but even so, it's very, very good! I really like the maple flavoring and the use of the flaxseed meal instead of the whole seed that I use in my recipe. I also think that the whole wheat flour helps bind it a little better to the individual ingredients so may tinker with that in my own recipe. Here's a picture of my results:

Now, as I said, I have my own granola recipe that I love and give as gifts at Christmas and other times. I'm posting it here for those who will undoubtedly ask for it, but be aware that it makes a LARGE batch, so plan to scale it down if you don't want a big batch in your pantry!

* Exported from MasterCook *

                           Honey Spice Granola

Recipe By     :
Serving Size  : 0     Preparation Time :0:00
Categories    :

  Amount  Measure       Ingredient -- Preparation Method
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
                        ***The Base***
  16              cups  old-fashioned rolled oats
     1/2           cup  oat bran -- (to 1 cup)
  1                cup  wheat germ -- (to 1.5 cups)
     3/4           cup  powdered milk
  1                cup  sesame seeds
  2               cups  chopped nuts -- (to 3 cups) pecans or walnuts preferred
     1/2           cup  flax seed
  2               cups  sunflower seeds -- shells removed
  2               cups  shredded coconut meat -- (to 3 cups) unsweetened
  2          teaspoons  salt
  2          teaspoons  cinnamon -- or to taste
     1/2      teaspoon  ground ginger -- optional; or diced candied ginger as add-in later
                        ***The Binder***
  1                cup  vegetable oil -- *see note
  1                cup  water
  1 1/2           cups  honey -- *see note
  1         tablespoon  vanilla extract
                        ***The Add-Ins***
  2               cups  dried fruit -- (to 4 cups); raisins, dates, dried apricots, craisins, etc.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. 

The Base:
All the base ingredients can be adjusted to suit your tastes. Add more of anything but subtract from something else to get a general total of 25-26 cups of dry ingredients. Mix all the base ingredients together in a very large bowl or several smaller bowls.

The Binder:
*Note: The oil can be your choice of oils or melted butter. I personally use 1/2 cup butter (melted) plus 1/2 cup vegetable oil, or if I have it on hand, 1/2 cup flax seed oil plus butter, but really as long as you have 1 cup total oil product, you're set.

*Note: The honey can also be adjusted to suit your taste and/or sweetener preference. Because of my no sugar diet, I now use 1 cup Splenda granular or Nature Sweet plus 1/2 cup sugar-free maple syrup or use 3/4 cup Steel's Sugar-Free Country Maple Syrup (thicker than regular sugar-free maple syrup) plus 3/4 cup Splenda or Nature Sweet.  But in the past I've used anything from brown sugar to maple syrup to honey to molasses to raw cane sugar.  All have had good results.  If you use ALL "dry" sweetener, you may need to add extra water to adjust.

Mix oil, water and sweetener of choice in a microwave-safe container and microwave on high for 30-45 seconds or until heated and combined.

Pour the binder mixture over the base ingredients and mix well with hands. Disposable gloves are wonderful here, or make sure to spray hands with non-stick cooking spray before mixing. Lots of kids love this "messy" part, so let them join in if you want :)

Divide all of this between four 9x13 pans or a couple large roaster pans. I usually invest in disposable turkey roasters for this as I don't like the cleanup, but if you would rather not do that, make sure to spray your pans well with non-stick spray before loading them up!  Bake at 300, stirring every 10-15 min, until golden brown, usually a total of 45 minutes.  Let cool.

If desired, once the granola has cooled, you can add dried fruit to it.  We personally prefer to leave the granola "plain" and then add dried or fresh fruit when eating because it gives more choices then...  This keeps well in an airtight container and also makes a great gift!

  "Makes a big batch which keeps a long time!"
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Can't wait to try the greens recipe tomorrow night and will be sure to post and let you know how it goes... I've not had much success with greens in the past, so am very hopeful...