Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Lauren: Basic Homemade Granola January 10, 2013

Filed under: Gardens & Compost — lkcook20 @ 9:08 pm
Tags: , , ,

Cereal is one of the hardest things to find unprocessed and without a million ingredients so I’ve started making homemade granola instead. This recipe is husband approved, which is saying something since I’m pretty sure that whenever I go out of town my hubby eats nothing but cereal and pizza. . . and more cereal. 

 

Ingredients:

6 cups oats

1 cup nuts ( I usually use almonds because they are the cheapest)

3/4 cup oat bran

3/4 cup ground flax seeds

1 tbsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

pinch of salt

1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups honey (local is best)

 

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl.

Image3. Combine honey and oil in separate bowl. Add to dry ingredients. 

4. Spread mixture onto rimmed cookie sheets lined with unbleached parchment paper.

ImageCook for 10-15 minutes and then stir. Cook for 5-10 minutes longer or until lightly browned.

5. Enjoy over milk, yogurt, or just by itself! 

 

It might seem more time consuming  but I’d say it takes me about 10 minutes to make a batch (not including cooking time), which is probably equivalent to the time I spent looking for coupons for name-brand cereals. (One batch lasts us a little less than a week.) And another upside: my husband used to eat three bowls of commercial cereal in morning before work, but now he says just one bowl of my granola fills him up! So I don’t think this ends up costing us too much more.  

 

Sarah: Popcorn January 7, 2013

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Snacks — suburbanpioneers @ 4:09 am
Tags: , , , , ,
Waaaay too delicious...

Oh, yes…another batch please…

Here is yet another I-meant-to-post-this-in-Deprocessed-December-and-didn’t recipe for those chilly winter evenings.  There’s nothing extraordinary about this…other than that it’s something we think will be too much work to make ourselves.  Instead we settle for chemically-laden, microwavable popcorn.

Making your own isn’t hard, I learned from my sister, who has made it her specialty (and who says she has to stop making it her specialty as she makes it far too often and eats far too much at once).  Here’s what you need:

Homemade Popcorn

1/2 c.-2/3 c. corn kernels1-2 Tbsp. oil (I use olive oil, sunflower or grapeseed oil instead of vegetable oil)
salt to taste
grated parmesan cheese and/or melted butter (optional…but dangerously delicious, though I hear you can use yeast or olive oil as a healthier option…I myself go for full calories whenever possible)

  1. Put oil in a tall pot with a lid over medium-high heat.
  2. Add corn kernels and cover.
  3. Continually shake the pot a bit to keep the kernels from sticking and burning.
  4. When the pot is full of fluffy goodness, you’re done.  Top with salt and cheese and butter.
  5. Consume.  Repeat.  Consume.  Repeat…

Believe it or not, this whole process takes about 5 minutes…ironically, only two minutes longer than the normal popping time for a bag of microwavable popcorn.  And the finished product tastes far, far better.

Put oil and corn kernels into a pot.

Put oil and corn kernels into a pot.

IMG_2059

Shake pot to prevent sticking and burning.

IMG_2060

When pot is full of fluffy goodness, you’re done.

IMG_2061

Drizzle with butter, salt, cheese…whatever you feel like!

 

Sarah: Homemade Vanilla

I even reuse my vanilla beans if they haven't lost their potency by refilling the container with vodka when I've used up the first batch.

I even reuse my vanilla beans if they haven’t lost their potency by refilling the container with vodka when I’ve used up the first batch.

Yes, I know.  Deprocessed December is officially over.  But…well…I got all caught up in the holiday busyness of family, friends, cooking, wrapping, baking, church-going, candlelighting, decorating, and I didn’t get to finish putting up some of my favorite recipes!

I’m working on a few more to post.  Consider these the New Year Bonus Recipes.  Today’s?  One that would have been quite useful for all that Christmas baking.

Really, really delicious, authentic vanilla extract is expensive…unless you go to Mexico.  Mexican vanilla is awesome and cheap.  Except that it’s not because traveling to Mexico is pretty pricey.

So unless you have friends who regularly go to Mexico and will pack their suitcases with large bottles of Mexican vanilla to smuggle back for you, here’s the way you make it at home.

Mexican Vanilla

vodka (yes…it can be cheap vodka, too…don’t go for the pricey stuff)
3-4 vanilla beans (find at the bulk foods store or co-op–the more beans you use, the stronger it will be)
a pinch of cumin (yes, cumin)

  1. Fill an old container (I save my maple syrup bottles and use them) with vodka.
  2. Stick the vanilla beans in and add just a pinch of cumin.
  3. Leave it in the back of your cupboard for a month or two before pulling it out.  The longer it sits, the darker and more delicious it will be.
 

Lauren: Salted Caramel Mocha / Hot Chocolate December 12, 2012

This is one of my very favorite treats. I like the homemade version even better than the Starbucks one- and so does my wallet, which also makes my husband happy. It’s a win-win-win!

DSCN1245

Shout out to my incredibly talented sister-in-law who made the mug!

Ingredients:

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp honey

1/4 cup water

2 tsp caramel (Try to find some at the store with only five or six ingredients. They are out there! Or make your own!)

generous pinch of sea salt (not coarse)

1 cup milk

Homemade whipped cream (see below)

caramel and salt (for drizzling and/or sprinkling)

Microwave Directions: 

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a mug. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Add caramel and sea salt. Stir until dissolved.

2. Microwave milk in a seperate glass for one or one and a half minutes. Slowly pour into chocolate sauce while stirring. Top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

Stovetop Directions:

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Add caramel and sea salt and stir until both are dissolved.

2.Add milk. Heat until hot but not boiling, stirring occasionally.  Pour into your favorite mug and then top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

For the more caffeinated version:

Reduce milk to 1/2 cup and add 1/2- 3/4 cup strong coffee. Pour in the coffee at the same time that you add the milk in the recipes above.

Homemade Whipped Cream:

1. Chill the mixing bowl for about fifteen minutes. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract to the cold bowl. Mix on medium speed until soft peaks form (about five minutes). Don’t leave it too long or you’ll make yourself some butter!

 

Sarah: Simple Apple Cider December 10, 2012

As our next Deprocessed December recipe, fill your home with a little holiday cheer!  Of course, you can buy hot apple cider in instant packets at the store.

But I recommend you substitute thisScreen Shot 2012-12-09 at 10.35.16 PMfor this:

Easy Homemade Apple Cider

6 c. apple juice (no sugar added)
1/2 tsp. whole cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 sticks of cinnamon

Heat all ingredients to boiling in a pot over med./high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 10 minutes.  Strain if desired (I usually don’t because it’s too much work).

Frugal Reduce and Reuse Note: finding the cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon sticks in the Hispanic foods aisle at the grocery store means they’re not only cheaper, but the packaging is much less bulky than those plastic bottles that are in the spice aisle.  For an even better solution, though, go to the spice section of your bulk foods source and reuse your spice bags (save your empty spice bottles, containers, and small jars so that you don’t need to buy the packaging just to get the spices).

I sometimes double this apple cider recipe and then freeze half.  I think the real substitute for individually packaged apple cider would be to freeze it in individual serving sizes (if you ever get to-go cups from eating out, they’re the perfect size to rinse out and fill partway with the cider).  Once they are frozen, you can remove them from their cups and put all those frozen chunks of cider in a gallon ziplock or other container to pull out and microwave as single servings on those wintery nights!  So…it’s a little more work, but I see two advantages: 1) No mysterious ingredients or additives (have you ever read what’s in one of those packets?!)  2) Making your own cider makes your house smell heavenly…and it always impresses the in-laws.

 

Lauren: Spiced Stuffed Acorn Squash December 9, 2012

DSCN1124I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of plain baked acorn squash, but I love it stuffed with couscous, garbanzo beans, carrots, peppers, raisins, and apples. Underneath all those delicious ingredients, the acorn squash gives just a hint of sweetness in every bite. Yum!

This recipe is very flexible. Feel free to substitute other fruits or veggies, and if you don’t have some of the spices on hand, omit them or use other ones.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter                                                                              1 tsp cumin

4 acorn squash                                                                           1/2 tsp coriander

2 tbsp olive oil                                                                            1/2 tsp turmeric

2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 carrots, chopped (small)                                                           1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup red pepper, chopped                                                     1/4 tsp ginger

1 can garbanzo beans, drained                                                   1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins                                                                           1 14 ounce can chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup peeled, chopped apple                                                  1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cut squash in half. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until tender. After removing the squash from the oven, spread butter on squash.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, carrot, and pepper. Cook approximately five minutes. Add garbanzo beans, raisins, and apples. Stir in cumin, coriander, turmeric  cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.DSCN1122

4. Pour the broth into the skillet and mix in the couscous. Cover and turn off heat. Let sit for five minutes. Then stuff squash halves with the skillet mixture. Serve and enjoy.

 

Sarah: Join us for Deprocessed December! December 6, 2012

I don’t know about you all, but I find December one of the harder months to resist…

chocolate

In fact, I’d better just admit the dark (or milk) chocolate truth.  I love most sweets.  And chocolate is pretty much at the top of the list.  I would eat it for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner and dessert, too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert in various forms (and quite possibly on the same day).

The down side (apart from cavities and possible weight gain)?

This:

The problem is that, in December, the chocolate pie, the chocolate chip cookies, the hot chocolate, and all the other sweets that end up getting passed around the office or at a potluck or with family are often processed.  And that’s pretty much because we all think we don’t have enough time to make actual food with real ingredients.

That’s why we’d like to invite you to join us on a winter adventure: Deprocessed December. Let’s kick the intake of chemicals, preservatives, refined sugars, and hydrogenated oils this month.

That doesn’t mean we won’t eat sweets or snacks or other delicious comfort food at all.  No, indeed!  That’s not possible for me in December (or any other time, really).

Instead, we’ll look at all the things we could easily be making with real food, without additives.

Every few days, we will post a recipe for snacks or food that we often buy prepackaged that just isn’t that difficult to make at home.  Here’s our promise: as few ingredients as possible.  No refined sugar or prepackaged items.  And as fast as possible.  The above stipulations are necessary because we’re both busy people with children who scream if we are in the kitchen too long.

So…this might mean spending just a few extra minutes in the kitchen before the office holiday party or the family gathering. But our bodies, our scales, and our wallets will thank us for resisting the over-processed and instead taking responsibility for the process.  Who’s in?

And to start us off, here’s our first recipe:

Replace this   Protein Bars which not only contains exciting ingredients such as Organic Oat Syrup Solids and Vegetable Glycerin in addition to the ever-mysterious “Natural Flavors,” but also costs $1 per bar

With this:

Homemade Protein Bars

2 c. flour (+ more if needed)
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. peanut butter (all natural…no sugar, no oil)
1 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. molasses

Those are all the necessary ingredients…the fun part comes when you add extra goodies:

1/2 c. flax seed (this just makes it healthier, but if you omit, you might need more flour)
1/2 c. slivered almonds or walnuts or any other nut you desire
1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract (or none at all if you prefer)
1/2 c. raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips, or any other goodies

Combine all dry ingredients (flour, oats, salt, baking soda, flax seed, nuts, and dried fruit/chocolate.  Then stir in wet ingredients (peanut butter, maple syrup, and molasses).  Press mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and bake 20-30 m. until a fork stuck in it comes out clean.

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 10.43.31 PM

A 9×13 baking pan will yield about 12 thick and delicious bars.  I eat them for breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dinner or snack, as the mood strikes.

And…to give credit where credit is due, I would like to thank Terry Walters’ book Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source for inspiring me to bake without butter and sugar.  Her “Teff Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies” on page 275 were a revelation.  The purchase of the entire book was worth it for that one recipe!

 

Sarah: Keith’s Quest September 23, 2012

 

Keith claims it all started the night we found out that I was pregnant.

 

We had  been hoping to have a baby for quite a while, so when the test was positive, I drove out to the lab where Keith works to share the news with him (incidentally, the lab was locked and there is only spotty cell phone reception, so I had to linger creepily by the door until an unsuspecting undergraduate exited).  When I walked into his office, Keith panicked, asking, “What’s wrong?!?”  But once we cleared up the misunderstanding, and he realized that something was instead very right, he decided we should go out to celebrate.  We were trying not to go out to eat too often (remember…do-it-yourself spirit of frugality?), but that night was a bit surreal, and we felt the need to commemorate it somehow.

Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s 31 states. Did you know Mexico had 31 states? I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea until I researched it for this post. Can you believe that I’ve lived almost 30 years without knowing the number of states in a country that borders ours?

 

We went to El Monte Grill.  Though this white girl is pretty partial to mushy refried beans and basic taco salad (see my previous post about my mom’s idea of family dinner night), Keith likes “authentic Mexican food.”  So El Monte is no Tex-Mex place.  It specializes in Oaxacan food (Keith tells me that “Oaxaca” is pronounced “wa-haw-ka,” but I have to ask him to say it again every time–“Hey, how do you say that word that’s the name of that state in Mexico?”–to his credit, Keith always knows what I’m talking about).

 

Well, as we ate our celebratory meal at El Monte, Keith was completely distracted from the purpose of being there.  “So, we’re going to have a baby,” I kept starting, and Keith would say things like, “Yeah.  I can’t believe it.  I’m so…hey, these beans are really good!”  “Yes,” I would reply impatiently, “but a baby!  I mean our lives are going to change!” And Keith would respond, “So maybe it will be a boy.  Or maybe a girl…hey, sweetheart, you really need to try these beans!”

 

These are the moments in the “happily ever after” phase of marriage that the movies don’t show you.

 

“I didn’t know that beans could taste like that!” Keith said later of his meal at El Monte.  “I mean, I was distracted from the main dish by the thing that was supposed to be the side dish!” And so, according to him, the quest for flavorful, from-scratch, authentic, stand-alone beans began.

Though Keith normally loves carne asade tacos, the side of beans was more engrossing that night.

Our track record with beans has not been good, so I have to admire his gumption for trying again.  Six years before that night at El Monte, in our humble Bratislava apartment, we first attempted to cook beans, and it is a painful memory.

 

Though we both loved quesadillas and craved Mexican food, we could not find beans (see previous post about packaged foods in Slovakia looking different than packaged foods in the States).  But we vaguely remembered that, if one couldn’t find canned beans, there were these hard things one could soak and then cook, and then, voila! It was just as if one had opened a can of beans.

the original bean recipe from Keith’s stepmom

 

We got a recipe from Keith’s stepmom.  It involved soaking uncooked beans overnight in a pot of water, adding (actual) garlic (not garlic powder?!), and cooking them in boiling water with other things like onion and salt and pepper.

 

Our first attempt at beans went beyond mischance or misadventure.  In fact, it was an unmitigated disaster approaching calamity status.  Full of do-it-yourself spirit, we put the beans in a pot on the stove to soak.  Then, overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of teaching, we forgot that we were soaking beans.

 

A few days later, we started sniffing the air.  “Does it smell funny in here to you?” I asked Keith upon entering the apartment one day.  “Hmm.  Yeah.  Kind of like something died?” he responded.  “Like that,” I said. “Maybe it’s time to do some dishes.”  I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true: dirty dishes occasionally pile up haphazardly on our counters.  For extended periods of time.  Until they start to look crusty or fuzzy or until we have company coming.  Gross, I know.

Our kitchen in the Bratislava apartment…note the dishes scattered about. This picture was not posed for blogging purposes.

So Keith manfully started in on the dishes.  I elected to clean the bathroom.  When possible, we try to clean at the same time.  It’s much easier to clean when you’re suffering through it with someone else.  Misery loves company and all that.

 

The unmitigated-disaster-approaching-calamity happened when Keith unthinkingly grabbed a dirty pot off the stove to carry it to the sink…except that it wasn’t just a dirty pot.  That was when we remembered the beans because they spilled, along with their fermenting bean juice, all over the stove, the wall behind the stove, and the floor under the stove.  And that was also when we pinpointed the source of the foul smell in our apartment.

 

I pretended to be very engrossed in bathroom cleaning, despite Keith’s curses and pointed mutters of, “Disgusting! Foul! Wow, this is a lot of cleaning!”  I don’t think I emerged from the bathroom until he directly requested my help in lifting the stove so that he could clean behind it.  After performing my part while breathing only through my mouth, I beat a hasty retreat back to the bathroom to give the toilet yet another scrub as he finished removing all traces of bean juice and scouring the offensive pot.  I refused to come out until he assured me there was no way I could be called into service to clean any bean-juice-drenched objects.  Yeah, I probably still owe him for that one.

 

We waited several months before our second attempt.  We tried making beans again a few times, but we never really got it down to a science or an art, either one.  Haunted by our foul failure, when we returned to the States we resumed our habit of buying beans in cans.  After several years of buying the store-brand cans of beans (they’re cheaper, you know, than the name brand ones), we finally decided that we really couldn’t stomach the canned bean-sauce taste any longer.  I guess people who want the convenience of canned beans without the canned-bean taste probably rinse and drain their beans.  We, however, didn’t think of that, and so our bean consumption dwindled.  We kept thinking we needed to pull out that old recipe and try again, but somehow we didn’t get around to it.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit…let’s eat beans at every meal!

 

That brings us to the fateful (in oh, so many ways) night of Keith’s revelation and the beginning of an intense phase of bean research.

 

Keith took copious notes and did some scientific experiments (when not cooking beans, Keith studies electrical engineering, so he has a very exacting approach to kitchen work, changing one variable at a time and eating on the results for several days to really take in the full impact of his work).  His version of Mexican beans is good.  Really good.  Like I said, I am a fan of the refried bean mush found at most Tex-Mex places.  However, I have set aside my predilections and trained my palate to appreciate the fruits of his labors.  His beans have good flavor.  When he doesn’t put too much chipotle in them (white girl, remember?), I like to eat them in burritos or tacos or on their own as a side–or a main–dish.  They’re also really healthy because they have other vegetables in them, too, AND they use up some of that garden produce that otherwise tends to slowly wilt its way from our refrigerator to our compost pile!

 

I am disseminating the results of his experimentation here free of charge (with his full permission), though Keith would add the disclaimer that, like any quest, this one is not (and probably never will be) finished.  He welcomes your input and recipe adjustments.  Feel free to add comments!

 

Step 1: Soak 2 and 1/2 cups of beans (any kind, really–pinto, black, red, or a mix) overnight.  This makes A LOT of beans, so prepare to freeze some or feed a family reunion.

Step 2: Next day, in the food processor, pulverize 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 3 cloves of garlic,  a bell pepper (any kind), and 1 onion –NOTE: we usually double these vegetables and use half of the resulting mixture to make marinara sauce a la Giada de Laaurentiis, a delicious and very easy marinara sauce that enables you to say impressively, “Why yes, I did make this from scratch.”  You can also use this veggie blend as part of salsa or chicken stock.  It’s very efficient!

Step 3: Sauté pulverized vegetables in a BIG sauce pan with bit of olive oil.  After the onions become translucent, add spices: 1 Tbsp. paprika, 1 Tbsp. cumin, 1 tsp of chipotle powder (though I like pretty much none…and Keith likes it with 1 Tbsp…it just depends on how hot you want your beans).  Sauté spices with vegetables 5-10 m. until very fragrant.

Step 4: Add all beans to the sauté and just enough of the bean water to cover the beans.  Bring to a hard boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer several hours, stirring occasionally til beans are soft.

Step 5: At the end, add all other flavors: 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt (to taste), diced jalapeño (if desired), 2 Tbsp. vinegar, and the juice of 1 lime or 1/4 c. orange juice.

 

If you’re interested in other bean recipes, I’m really digging this website called the Kitchn.  The title of their section on beans is “Beautiful Beans.”  What’s not to love about a website that glorifies the musical fruit?

 

 
%d bloggers like this: