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I found a good basic recipe for granola but have made quite a few changes and additions to it. My husband loves it. It isn’t hard to make and keeps well without any preservatives but it doesn’t last very long around here. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

1/2 cup melted Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Makes about one cup of hot syrup.

————————
In large bowl mix with 1/2 cup of the hot syrup:
3 cups Old fashioned Oats
1 cup dried unsweetened coconut (Bob’s Red Mill)
(Oats take longer to bake so bake separately from other grains.)

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In separate bowl mix with 1/2 cup of hot syrup:
2 cups puffed Kamut (Arrowhead Mills)
2 cups puffed brown rice (Arrowhead Mills Organic)

Melt ingredients for syrup in a saucepan until simmering.

In a large bowl, mix the oatmeal and the dried coconut together. Mix 1/2 c of the hot liquid into the oatmeal/coconut mixture and mix well. Use the other 1/2 cup of syrup for the rice and kamut in a separate bowl.
I use the bottom rack and the middle rack. Bake the oatmeal/unsweetened coconut and syrup mixture on two greased cookie sheets for about 15-16 minutes in a 300 degree oven. Turn the oats after about 7 minutes and rotate cookie sheets from bottom to middle and middle to bottom of oven to cook evenly. After 15-16 mins total baking time, remove toasted oats from oven to a cool cookie sheet. Don’t let the oats get too brown. Spread them out to cool.
Mix the puffed Kamut and puffed rice with the remaining 1/2 cup of hot syrup and stir well until well coated. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for about 7 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Mix with the oats. Break up any clumps and store in an airtight container.

I buy my coconut oil by the gallon from the Soaper’s Choice site:
http://www.soaperschoice.com/cgi-soaperschoice/Web_store/web_store.cgi?query_price_low_range=0
It is food grade and costs $33.00 plus shipping and is around $40.00 with shipping. It comes in a big plastic container so I cut the container and then melt the coconut oil and put it into smaller containers so it is easier to use. Here is the description of the one I order:
Coconut Oil, Extra Virgin QAI NOP USDA Certified Organic – ID# 59507SC ($4.7142/lb.)
7/lb. Jug Food Grade Oil Cold Pressed Smells and Tastes like Coconut

I saw this recipe last year on a forum and tried it. They were easy to make and were delicious too!
In top of double boiler melt together:

2/3 c. of sweetened condensed milk (Eagle Brand)
1 1/3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix together until well blended then refrigerate for several hours. Roll into balls.

Melt 2/3 cups semi sweet chips and 2 tsps oil in top of double boiler until chocolate is melted. Use spoon to roll each piece in the melted chocolate until covered. I used the remaining chocolate to drip over the tops of the candy. Let the chocolate dry and enjoy!

Here’s our favorite recipe for brownies. It’s a recipe I came up with by using substitutions. The original recipe used baking chocolate and butter. One time I ran out of baking chocolate so substituted cocoa. Another time I substituted some Crisco in place of part of the butter. It turned out well so I still make it that way. A lot of people have asked me for my recipe. I’ll try to post a picture the next time I make it. Enjoy!

Brownies
Mix together the dry ingredients:
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

In small bowl beat together:
4 eggs and set aside

In a large mixing bowl add:
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 tsp water
9 TBSP + 1 tsp melted Crisco (over medium heat, watching closely) 150 ml mark in measuring cup
1/3 cup melted butter (5 1/3 Tablespoons)
nuts if desired

Melt Crisco and butter. Blend the melted Crisco and butter with the sugar, vanilla and water.
Cool enough to add the eggs and blend well. Mix in the dry ingredients. Because of the Crisco, it will become stiffer as it cools so try to stir in the dry ingredients quickly. If it gets too stiff to stir, you can put it in a warm oven for a few minutes then stir. Spoon into a greased glass 14″ X 9″ pan. Sprinkle top with broken nuts before baking, if desired.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 mins or till toothpick comes out clean. Brownies will rise then fall
when done.

Our older hens spent last month molting so we’ve had to buy eggs for awhile. They’ve finished molting now but because of the cold weather we’ve still had to buy eggs. One of our Rhode Island Red pullets has started laying every other day, and sometimes every day. Then about a week ago, one of our older New Hampshire hens started laying again so we’ve been getting an extra large egg every other day and sometimes every day too.

It’s been bitter cold here and the chickens hate the cold. They don’t like to get their feet in the snow so they usually spend all day hanging out in the chicken house. They always have layer pellets available. My husband has been taking them hot water which freezes in a short time. In the evenings before they go up for the night, they get some chicken scratch for a treat. They rewarded us with two eggs again today. I hope they will give me enough for all my Christmas baking.

This is something I just made for company tonight and it’s always a hit. I served it with my chicken salad and homemade rolls. It’s a lot like scalloped potatoes. It’s so easy to make and is delicious. It’s also good reheated, unlike most potato dishes. My husband likes it the best when it’s crunchy on top from reheating. Sorry I don’t have a picture to post of it because I don’t have a digital camera. If some of my fellow bloggers want to make it and post a picture here, that would be great. I scanned my slice of bread in our scanner for the last post but I won’t try it on this. I had to clean the oil off it last time. I think the cheese would be a lot messier.

6 large potatoes, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup chopped onion
Boil the onion and potatoes and drain well.

In a saucepan, heat and mix together:
2 TBSP butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can evaporated milk (3/4 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese cut in cubes (6 oz. = 1 1/2 cups)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the potatoes. Boil with the onion till tender. Drain. On medium heat, stir soup, milk, butter and cheese together till cheese is melted. Add drained potatoes to the sauce and pour into a glass 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 325-350 degrees until the top is browned.
Serves 8.

Ready for some butter and jam

This is the easiest sourdough bread I’ve ever made. Even though making and keeping the starter sounds complicated at first, it’s really pretty easy. Most sourdoughs are made with flour and water and are thicker than pancake batter, but this one is a liquid. This light, sweet bread has become one of our favorites. It makes good rolls too.

If you don’t know someone who can give you some starter, you can try making some starter using store bought yeast. As it works, the wild yeast will (hopefully) replace the store bought yeast until you have a colony of wild yeast. It might take more than one try to catch the elusive “wild yeast” though.

To make a starter beginning with store bought yeast:

Boil water to sterilize a quart jar, lid, a measuring cup and a spoon. Punch holes in the lid of the jar. Add:
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. dry yeast
1 1/2 TBSP instant potato flakes

Leave your newly created starter at room temperature for two days then feed it again without adding any more store bought yeast. If it is active and you can see some bubbling, you can refrigerate. Each time you use your starter, feed it. I usually put it into a new sterilized jar each time I feed it.

I usually keep about two to three cups of starter in the refrigerator. I keep some boiled water in the refrigerator ready to use. Boiling the water prevents any bad bacteria from growing in the starter. I’ve had bacteria ruin some of my sourdough starters before, so I’m extra careful now. I try to use/feed mine at least every five days. You can feed/ use it sooner.

Feed 1 cup active starter with:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 TBSPs potato flakes

I leave it sitting out at room temperature until it is foamy on top then I refrigerate.

You can use the starter right out of the refrigerator if you have enough made, or if you need to make extra loaves of bread you can take your starter out of the refrigerator early in the morning and feed it and leave it out all day. It should be ready to use by bedtime. When it’s ready to use it should look sludgy and will have bubbles rising to the top with a slightly fruity/alcoholic smell. I usually start making bread at night before I go to bed then make it into loaves the next morning. After about 3 hrs hours rising in the loaf pans, it’s ready to bake.

Potato Flake Sourdough Bread
Makes two large loaves
See the light whole wheat version below.

1 cup active potato flake starter (can be cold or room temperature)
1 1/2 c lukewarm water (not hot)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 TBSP oil
About 6 cups bread flour (Occident flour is the best to use if you can find it!)

Variation: You can use 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of all bread flour. It makes a delicious light whole wheat version. This is how I make it now. I like to use King Arthur Whole Wheat flour.

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, salt, sugar and oil, then add flour. Add enough flour so dough is not sticky. After kneading, pour a little extra oil into the bowl and turn dough to coat well with oil. Cover with a towel and rise overnight. In the morning the dough should be more than doubled. Spray bread pans with Pam. Knead dough. You want it to stick to itself but not to your hands. Brush with water if the dough will not stick to itself or add more flour if it is still too sticky. Flatten into a rectangle pressing out the big air bubbles, brushing with water if necessary so it will stick together when folded in half. Pinch the seam together than repeat. Roll it gently to shape it. Place the seam side down in loaf pan. Rise loaves 3-4 hours. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. I put a cookie sheet on the top shelf to keep the top from getting too brown.

As I finish off the leftovers of our dinner last night, I wonder if anybody is in need of a good, quick, stovetop mac & cheese recipe. I wouldn’t call this gourmet, since it doesn’t include chopped apples and wine or some such. But the addition of Dijon and use of a good quality block cheese pretty much raises this to the standard of side dish for a nice dinner, in my opinion. I am still a novice cook so I have hardly any truly original recipes. For this I combined a few different recipes and tested it with different cheeses to determine our favorite. The recipe comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee: if you don’t like it, you win an all-expenses-paid trip to my house, where I will show you how to make the recipe properly, since you obviously didn’t do it right on your own. ;)

Edit: I’ve made this again and have downgraded the serving sizes. It really only serves 3 if the third person is a small child.
Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 2 generously as an entree; 4-6 as a side
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. Frank’s hot sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, preferably Cabot, shredded

1. Bring 2 qts of water to boil in a Dutch oven. Add the salt and pasta, and cook til al dente. Drain and return to pot over low heat; add the butter and stir til melted.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the evaporated milk, Frank’s, Dijon, pepper, and a pinch of salt to taste.
3. Add the milk mixture to the pasta; let come to a simmer. Slowly add in the cheese, one large handful at a time, stirring until it is all melted. Taste and season if necessary. Serve. (I don’t think the texture suffers when it’s served leftover the way some stovetop recipes turn hard and dry.)

Summer is my least favorite season and will remain so as long as I live in the South. I do appreciate watermelon, and farmers markets, and… maybe some other summery things I just can’t recall at the moment, but the fact is that our summers are hot, humid, and long, and we don’t have sprinklers to play in anymore. A consequence of my low threshold for being hot all the time is that my passion for cooking cools tremendously during the summer, when we keep our house quite a bit higher than standard room temperature to save on the electric bill, and turning on the oven never helps it feel more comfortable. To try and overcome the disinclination to do anything that exacerbates the heat (and thus makes me cranky), this summer I intend to explore the vast territory of salads and sandwiches. The potential for either goes far beyond a Caesar or a ham-and-cheese, and both require little to no oven use. The past two summers (the only in my history as a housewife) I wasn’t very innovative with meals; I was a bit too fixated on keeping grocery costs down by working from the pantry and not buying much produce. I was as a result turning on the oven to braise tough meats (cheap year-round), or serving tuna or pasta salad a little more often than anyone should have to eat them. This time around I’m going to use my brain and take advantage of the benefits of a well-stocked pantry (thanks Southern Savers), which means I have more money to spend on produce and fresh sandwich fixings.

One obstacle I’ll have to overcome is a chronic inability to have ingredients for salad on hand, starting with the lettuce. It only recently dawned on me that when you buy a head of romaine ($1.79) rather than those stupid 6 oz bags of pre-cut salad ($2 on sale, which is the only time I buy them), the difference in yield is at least 3:1. Way to finally do the math, dear. In my defense, I was unaware that there WERE heads of romaine at Publix; I’d only seen the super expensive hearts of romaine packages (3 thin and shabby looking hearts close to $4) and overlooked the blissfully dark green romaines and lovely red leaf lettuces, which didn’t even begin to turn reddish brown around the edges after one week in my fridge. I spend maybe 15 minutes washing and drying the whole leaves, then rolling them up in a kitchen towel and putting the whole bundle in an open plastic bag in the crisper. Then the rest of the week, I enjoy the convenience of a bagged salad, so that preparing a side or appetizer isn’t like another dish needing attention while I’ve got things to watch on the stove (I’m a bad multi-tasker and only have so much counterspace for prep work). That, obviously, can be applied year-round.

During the summer, we always have some sort of tomatoes on hand, and as long as I keep some interesting nuts and seeds around, with dressing that completes a very basic side salad. I also want to try some entree salads besides our staple, Cobb (though I want to know, can you really get any better than avocado AND bacon AND hard-boiled eggs AND blue cheese all on the same plate?), and I need to get up some kind of repertoire of flavorful dressings. I have a blue-cheese dressing with buttermilk that is to die for, but sometimes we want something lighter, and we haven’t been too impressed with my simple vinaigrette attempts so far. It’s probably because I don’t exactly splurge on my vinegars and oils. (Though I have officially placed Crisco Olive Oil on the Do Not Buy Even If Free list.)

If I am to make our bread for sandwiches, the oven will have to be on at least a couple times a week. I am determined to master ciabatta (promising steps were taken toward this goal last week) and the money saved by making our own bread is significant, so this is a non-negotiable. With rustic breads, baking several loaves at once to store in the freezer is not really an option because it fairly ruins the crust you work so hard to get. (If there is an option of which I’m not aware, DO enlighten me.) I’ll make the most of this by using the oven for other things while it’s on, e.g. roasted garlic and croutons for salad that night. Or dessert. I can always justify turning on the oven for a dessert.

Another category of oven-free meals I intend to make lots of is Thai curries. We love them with plain old chicken and occasionally shrimp, and even keeping them on the conservative side of the spice scale they pack in lots of flavor. Then each of us can customize spiciness with Sriracha. I made a large batch of green curry paste that turned out very well, and should provide plenty of curries before I have to make it again (it was a 2-hour ordeal because of the plethora of ingredients combined with the fact that my knife skills are nonexistent). Curries are fast and basically a one-skillet meal, plus mindless rice, and fewer dishes means less time cleaning up in a hot kitchen. And if I don’t like cooking in a hot kitchen in the summer, you can guess how much I like cleaning up after myself in a hot kitchen. So that’s my game plan. What are your favorite summer dishes?

You’ll notice that I published this post under kitchen because that’s where this memorable dialogue took place!

The kids and I were having leftover tacos, from last night’s dinner, for our lunch today.  We ended up running out of the meat filling, but, the kids were still hungry.  But, we also had some leftover beans and rice.  So, I told the kids that they could put the beans and rice on their taco shells and add their topping to that.  Andrew, our oldest, was quite excited with this idea.  After reloading his plate, he said, “This is a feast!  It’s like feeding the tacos to the five thousand!”  To make it even better, he clarified, “What I mean is that we eat like we’re five thousand people.”

I’m often surprised at the funny things that kids come up with.  And, sometimes embarrassed too, when the say the wrong thing at the wrong time.  But, I thought I would share this with you while it was fresh in my mind and see if any of you had any similar stories that you would like to share?

So a couple hours ago I became overwhelmed with disgust at the dust and hairballs visibly lurking under and around the keys of my laptop. We have a cat and she sheds year-round, and we like most humans produce a fair amount of dust. I use my laptop often and even when closed, it is not airtight, so after about a year of frequent use it has become really, really gross. I started picking at the dust between keys using my fingernails and had some luck. Then I picked up a credit card and had much more luck, swiping the edge along each row and between the keys vertically to gather the little balls of dust and cat hair at the end of each row and pull them out. This task gave me that excellent sense of satisfaction which only certain tedious and disgusting cleaning tasks can do, and I picked up steam. Somehow in zealously running the credit card along the bottom of the space bar, I disabled it. Ohnowhatismyhusbandtowhomthislaptopbelongsgoingtosay? I took a swig of cranberry green tea—that wondrous elixir of encouragement—and decided to pry the key off to “check it out.” Never mind that I did not know what I was checking out or what it should look like. But in five minutes after a successful Google search, I had FIXED it! I who am handicapped in the area of tools and handymanship beyond belief. The rubber cup in the middle of the key had detached from its place and was keeping the spacebar from fully depressing the things that make the computer make spaces. So I applied a small amount of glue from a generic glue stick, held it on for a minute, and let it rest an hour before reattaching the key (which I didn’t even need directions for, it was so simple). Hurray for a spacebar restored to health.

Also, a recipe for cranberry green tea. Makes about 5-6 servings, unless one’s husband guzzles half of it in one evening after working out.

1 can Old Orchard (not necessary to be brand loyal, but theirs is GOOD) 100% cranberry-raspberry juice concentrate
2 c. + 1 1/2 c. filtered cold water (separated)
5 bags green tea
1 Tbsp. honey (optional)

Heat 1 1/2 c. water to just under the boiling point (or around 190 degrees) in a small saucepan or kettle or whatever. Once there, steep the green tea bags in the hot water for 3 minutes. Discard bags and stir honey if desired into brewed tea.
Meanwhile, dump juice concentrate into a medium pitcher (this fills up maybe a quarter of our gallon-sized one). Pour in the 2 c. water, then the tea. Stir to combine. I’m sure there are many scrumptious variations that more creatively inclined readers may try, and they are required to share them with the recipe’s uncreative author.

P.S. Welcome to the Twilight Zone. I see you all have already gathered to congratulate me on my birthday…again…*screams*

August 2017
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