Entries in oat (7)


New Year's Muesli


If you were to bushwhack into my New Year's brain, you'd find two major themes:

1) No more dip. For the rest of my life.
2) New Years makes me sad.

As for theme #1, see my "recipe" for muesli below. Granola, much as I love it, has a lot more fat and sugar, and January calls for something more restrained. I like to mix a couple big spoonfuls of muesli with yogurt, a drizzle of maple syrup, and some winter citrus.

As for theme #2, I suppose I'm one of the strange people that actually likes Christmas. I feel Advent Time slipping away, and I'm not sure I can mount the energy and enthusiasm the "Fresh Starts!" require. I'm taking my Vitamin D and making some lists. I'm cleaning out drawers and packing up the Christmas decorations. All of that is good, but I'm also resenting coming out of hibernation. Mary is still my guide in these short days, and I've found myself thinking about what happened after the birth when reality set in. Here's what I imagine. (And Happy New Year. Despite my melancholy, it's a gift to ring it in.)

After Birth

When adrenaline of angel choirs
and birth has worn off,

when the bright star
is shrouded in fog,

when frankincense and myrrh
get lost in the luggage,

when I stand in the doorway,
burping the baby, saying goodbye to Joseph,

there is just this:
my sheer humanness,

diapers to wash,
sleep to find, water to carry,

knowledge of all the God-births
still waiting to happen,

and unstoppable mother-love
that's draining me already. 

New Year's Muesli
Quickly pulse 1 c. old fashioned oats in a food processor or blended. Just a few seconds. Combine the pulsed oats with 2 or 3 cups of whole oats, some toasted nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts), a few Tablespoons of chia, flax, sesame, or pumpkin seeds (or all of the above!), a few Tablespoons of brown sugar, unsweetened dried coconut flakes, pinch of salt, teaspoon of cinnamon, and any dried fruit of your choice, chopped to bite-sized pieces. Store in a canister and eat it with milk, yogurt, or cook it like you would oatmeal. It will keep for a few months in your pantry or on the counter. 


Everything an Oatmeal Cookie Should Be


I have finally found it--the perfect, crave-it oatmeal raisin cookie. Chewy, moist, crispy around the edges. Thanks to Alice (Medrich), of course. And thanks to the continuing inspiration of my big, fat cookie jar from the antique mall. It really looks forlorn when it's empty.

For his birthday, I gave my father-in-law a jar of these and told him I'd refill the jar indefinitely with whatever he wanted. I gave him lots of choices this time around--brown butter snickerdoodles, molasses, salted chocolate. But he said he wanted oatmeal raisin again. This time, I was smart and made a double batch.

Emily was supposed to come up last weekend. We've been planning it for a long time and had characteristically assembled little collections of gifts and hand-me-downs to exchange. We'd been sending anticipation texts, and Loretta spruced up her room. (That's where Emily sleeps when she comes.) But it didn't work out. We are both sad, but it was the right thing. And the silver lining, as I told her, was that I still felt like she was here and that my regular life was on hold. I didn't check email. I played lots of card games with Wyatt. We went to the farmers market, the Ski to Sea parade, and the street fair. I made pancakes twice for the kids and am halfway through two new books. I sorted my craft supplies, slept in, made and photographed these cookies, and put off folding the laundry. Yancey and I managed a last-minute afternoon date and I exercised every day. In short, just what the doctor ordered.

I hope you're able to find some time like that soon. You might even find yourself reaching for your mixing bowls.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
As with many of Alice's recipes, you've got to think ahead with these so you can refrigerate the dough. It helps the oats soak up the butter and makes all the difference. I doubled the batch and did half dark raisins and half golden raisins. You could also add nuts, other dried fruit, or a bit of flaked salt on top. Yum.

2 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. water
1 1/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanila
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1 c. raisins

Place the oats in a small bowl and sprinkle with water. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork.

Cut the butter into chunks and melt in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugars, vanilla, and salt. Add the egg and stir briskly. Stir in the flour mixture just until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in the raisins and oats. Let the dough sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and position oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

For large cookies, scoop about 2 level tablespoons of dough and place the cookies about 3" apart on the lined pans. For small cookies scoop 1 level tablespoon of dough. Bake for 12-15 minutes for large cookies and 10-12 minutes for small ones, or until the cookies are just barely golden on top and they still look a tad undone. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time.

Cool the cookies completely before storing or stacking.  


Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters

Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters

Happy New Year! Predictably, I've started out with a lot of health resolutions. Even I am not divulgent enough to display my little chart here, but some are easy, some are harder. And by "health," I mean it all--body, mind, spirit. Go overboard with fruits and veggies, send mail, get outside, sit up straight, meditate and read poetry more often. I've learned the hard way that it's not about conquering all those resolutions. It's about putting them out there. 

I've read a lot of poetry this week, remembering how its economy of words gives me something to hold onto when the day's anxieties hit. Coleman Barks, the preeminent translator of Rumi, relates this story:

Meditation, or any solitary practice (a walk before dawn, a poem every morning, sitting the roof at sunset), gives depth and expands the soul's action.

A man in prison is sent a prayer rug by his friend. What he had wanted, of course, was a file or a crowbar or a key! But he began using the rug, doing five-times prayer before dawn, at noon, mid-afternoon, after sunset, and before sleep. Bowing, sitting up, bowing again, he notices an odd pattern in the weave of the rug, just at the quibla, the point where his head touches. He studies and meditates on that pattern, gradually discovering that it is a diagram of the lock that confines him in his cell and how it works. He's able to escape. Anything you do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place, which is freedom.

I just love that--anything we do every day can open into the deepest spiritual place. And you know me--I put cooking into this category. Increasingly, cooking is something it's possible to get away from. You can do "food preparation" instead, removing things from boxes and warming them up. You can buy all your carrots already cut up or eat most of your meals out. But when we do that, I think we're missing out, not just on the health benefits, but on the meditative ritual cooking can be.

I paid $4.00 yesterday for a bunch of rainbow carrots grown in this county. Splitting the red one down the middle, I saw two more layers inside--orange, then yellow. A whole riot of color! Standing there with my knife on New Year's Eve, arranging those beautiful carrots on a platter, was another chance to be mindful, to think of the farmers that tended those carrots, to be grateful for this region we live in, and to enjoy the small movements of running the carrots under the sink, twisting off the tops. Of course I don't always slip into this state while cutting vegetables! But these moments aren't as accessible to me when I'm not in the kitchen. It's one of the places I feel most free.

And my kitchen always has a jar of granola in it. The kind I'm into lately is made with brown rice syrup, which makes it unbelievably clustered and shiny. Almost shellacked. This is the olive oil granola recipe I've been into for the last 18 months, just a bit different. Another health goal of mine is "Automate my breakfast." A jar of this makes that easy to do.

Hazelnut Sesame Granola Clusters
You can find brown rice syrup at good grocery stores, at a natural foods store, or even bulk at some places. This is the same olive oil granola recipe I've been wild about for the last 18 months, courtesy of Melissa Clark. As you're cooking this, it might look like you've done something wrong. The syrup will be bubbling up around the oats and it will look much more viscous than your regular granola might. Don't worry! Stir it every ten minutes, and let it cool all the way when it comes out of the oven. It will dry up nicely.

3 c. old fashioned oats
1 c. slivered almonds
1.5 c. hazelnuts
3/4 c. raw sunflower seeds
1/4 c. sesame seeds 
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
3/4 c. brown rice syrup
1 c. whole dried cranberries 

Preheat oven to 300 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (I wouldn't recommend doing it without parchment paper, a silpat, or something that will make your sheet non-stick, as the syrup acts like glue!)

Combine first 9 ingredients in a large bowl, then add olive oil and brown rice syrup, mixing until everything is coated.

Spread mixture out evenly on baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes and removing when mixture is an even golden brown. Granola will be wet when you remove it from the oven, and will stick together quite a bit as it cools. Once it's totally cool, break it up into chunks. You can, of course, break it up so it's quite loose. Whatever is to your liking. Add cranberries and store in an airtight container.


Oatmeal Coconut Chews

Oatmeal Coconut Chews

I'm generally not a giant oatmeal cookie fan. I can be found, peering into the cookie case at any given bakery or cafe, stopping just short of asking the clerk to let me perform a biopsy on the poor cookie. When they're good, cookies are really good. When they're bad? A disappointing waste of calories. (Don't ever let this snottiness stop you from offering me a cookie from your kitchen. I adore eating other people's food, whatever else this blog might project.)

Last week, my father-in-law had knee replacement surgery. I asked my mother-in-law what I could do for them. She was in the middle of saying "Nothing, honey. We're fine," when Dick grabbed the phone and said, "Oatmeal raisin cookies!" So Loretta and I made a special delivery, and I made them again today for a picnic with Bethany at the remodel. And there were enough left over for a barbeque with my other father-in-law tonight. The kids are in bed, and I finally have a few minutes to myself, which I've been craving all day. I have a little internal pressure gauge, and since 3:00 pm today, I could feel it getting dangerously close to the red zone. I am in love with my life, but I'd go bonkers if anyone needed anything right now. 

What I needed was to be here with you. These cookies are EASY, as cookies should be, and depend on the high butter to oats ratio and watching them carefully so they don't overcook. If you're about to explode from all the people and details that need you, excape to a little corner, crouch down, and nibble one of these with an afternoon cup of coffee. It will be alright.

Oatmeal Coconut Chews
Makes about 3 dozen. 

3 1/2  c. old fashioned oats
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. unsweetened coconut chips
3/4 c. raisins
3/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. coarse bakers sugar

Preheat oven to 375 and butter two baking sheets (or line with parchment).

Stir together oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Beat together butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add oat mixture until almost combined, then add coconut, raisins, and dried cranberries.

Form dough into balls (1 heaping tablepoon) and dip tops in baking sugar. Place aout 2 inches apart on baking sheets and bake until golden and slightly underdone, 10-12 minutes. Let cool.


Olive Oil Granola

Happy New Year, friends! Have I ever been away so long? I don't think so. I will not impose on you the litany of all I did or thought about the last three weeks, but it's been rich, full, sometimes quiet, and sometimes crazy. Favorite moments include:

Being at the beach in Bellingham with Pippa and the Johnson family on New Year's Eve day, hard-pressed to take a decent photo because of the blinding sun:


Taking a Christmas Day walk with my Dad and all the Murphy grandkids, seeing Loretta and HannahMae in their riotous color:


Lots of wonderful conversations with Yancey in the car while we drove that stretch of I-5 yet again.


Please do not abandon or malign me because 50% of my posts are about granola. Recipes for this version have been ubiquitous in the blogosphere the last year, but I tended to ignore them. I imagined the olive oil leaving a bitter aftertaste or otherwise wrecking the little bit of sweetness I crave in the morning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though you have learned to take my pronouncements with a grain of salt, I hope, I'm ready to pronounce that vegetable oil in my granola is a thing of the past.

I blame this new obsession on Melissa Clark's new cookbook. She describes her first sampling of it:

I never would have bothered trying any if it weren't for the hordes yelping with delight as they swallowed their umpteenth portion. I stuck my hand into the fray and grabbed a cup. It was filled with copper-colored oats, pecan slivers, and flat chips of coconut. Like most granola, the first bite was sweet and crunchy. But then the salt hit me, followed by something savory and almost bitter. The sweet-salty-bitter combo was addictive, like a Campari soda and a bowl of salted almonds. I just couldn't stop.

Come on, now. You expect me to resist a description like THAT?

I missed you and wish I could deliver a little bag of this to each one of your doorsteps. Here's to sticking together in 2011.

Melissa Clark's Olive Oil Granola
The version in my photo doesn't have apricots or coconut chips and has the addition of sesame seeds. The important thing is to make sure your ratio of oil/sugar/syrup to oats and nuts/seeds is the same as the recipe, no matter which nuts and seeds you use. And I like cooking it at a lower temp for longer as she does here. Sometimes my impatience with other methods has gotten me into trouble.

3 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 c. raw pistachios
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 c. coconut chips
3/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cardamom or ground ginger
3/4 c. chopped dried apricots

Preheat oven to 300.

In a large bowl, combine everything. Spread the mixture on a large rimmed baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and well-toasted.

Transfer granola to a large bowl and add apricots, tossing to combine.