Saturday, January 25, 2014

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola (& Confronting Stereotypes)

We've been talking about Stereotypes in my Human Diversity class this week.  It's been intense and meaningful.  We discussed how stereotypes are those attributes that we project or assume about a person because they belong to a certain group.  (And though this attribute might be true about some people of that group, it is not necessarily true for all people of that group.) 

I asked the students to be courageous and consider stereotypes that they hold – that might be obvious or more latent for them.  We talked about the damaging effects of stereotypes and how they can cause "micro aggressions" to occur.  Micro aggressions are those comments we make or actions we take, that might be careless or jokey, or derogatory to a person that wound people perhaps unbeknownst to the perpetrator.  They might be unconscious acts but they have painful consequences. They occur repetitively, and their impact can be cumulative, "like a thousand paper cuts as opposed to one deep wound".  (Miller, J. & Garran, A., 2008)

This reading asked us to take a personal audit and consider how we might confront stereotypes in our lives.  
1. Think of a racial stereotype you hold that makes you feel uncomfortable.
If you have difficulty identifying one, try to think of something about a person from a different racial or ethnic group that you would not want to discuss with him or her but would be willing to confide to somebody who shares your racial or ethnic identity.

2. What is the stereotype? If you were trying to teach this stereotype to someone else, how would you explain it?
3. What uncomfortable feelings surface when describing this stereotype? It can help to list them.
4. Where might you have learned this, and from whom? (Include multiple sources if you like.)
5. What might have been the historical and social contexts from which this stereotype evolved?
6. What in society or your daily life perpetuates and reinforces the stereotype?
7. What do you know or believe that contradicts this stereotype? 

These thoughts were swirling around in my head today, when I was starting to write this blog about Granola.  (I know… I have a lot swirling around in my head and this is going somewhere). I have a granola recipe that I love and make all the time, and share with people, and serve at brunches.  But I recently made this recipe, that my friend Kirsten sent me from SHAPE magazine.  It's peanut buttery and oatey and it is great! But it's different from my other one- this one is chewy, and richer. and doesn't need fruit, and stays in clumps.  It may not be your stereotypical granola. :)
So, I thought I would look up the definition of Granola in the dictionary to see what exactly constitutes Granola, by definition.
Here's what it said:

granola |grəˈnōlə|nouna kind of breakfast cereal consisting typically of rolled oats, brown sugar or honey, dried fruit, and nuts.• as modifier ] chiefly derogatory denoting those with liberal or environmentalist political views, typified as eating health foods.ORIGIN late 19th cent. (as a trademark): from gran- (representing granular or grain-ola. The current term dates from the 1970's.Interesting.  Granola, in its second definition is a stereotypical group of people.  "You know that guy, he's Granola".  So...if you are environmentally bent, and eat healthy foods then you must be "Granola".  I feel that by this definition, I might fit the description. However, I don't think I've ever been called Granola (at least to my face).  Come to think of it, I don't know what group I would be ascribed to.  And maybe that's because I don't want to be pigeonholed, judged, reduced to a label like that.  But who does, really?  
adapted from SHAPE magazine
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups oats
½ cup wheat germ
anything you want to add-in: mini chocolate chips, dried fruit, chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325˚. Spray cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (or line with parchment paper) and set aside.
Combine peanut butter and honey in a bowl and microwave until peanut butter melts, approximately 20 seconds. (Or do this in a pan on a stovetop). Stir.
Stir cinnamon and vanilla into peanut butter and honey mixture.
Add oats and wheat germ and stir until oats are completely covered in peanut butter mixture.
Spread out oat mixture onto prepared cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until granola is slightly browned.
Let cool until granola is crunchy. Remove from sheet in clumps.

Keep in an airtight container.

(if you decide to add nuts- do so before baking, and if you add a lot of nuts, you might need more of the goo to cover it well). 

If this is way too deep, social justice-oriented, and serious for you, I apologize (kinda).  I couldn't keep myself from sharing this stereotype challenge with all of you- especially on the week we celebrate the life and work of Dr. M.L. King!   Regardless, if you like peanut butter and granola, I recommend you try this easy and delicious recipe.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Apple Coffee Cake

In June, I wrote about a delicious Raspberry Almond Cream Cheese Coffee Cake that my friend Haley introduced to me one Sunday morning at church.  When I tasted it at the snack table at church, I hunted down the creator of this great goody.  A similar incident happened recently with this Apple Coffee Cake. (What is it about coffee cake??) 
It looked so delicious and moist, so I cut off part of a slice to taste.  And then quickly went back for another little piece, and another. I found out that my friend Hannah had made it.  I asked her for the recipe and she promptly shared it with me.  She said the recipe was originally from Cooking Light magazine and that she had made a few changes to it.    

I was looking for a good occasion to make it, because I knew that if I made it just for my household, I would eat far too much of it.  So, I waited, and then made it for Christmas morning to share with more people. It was enjoyed by all…I think especially by the guys. 

It is a comforting cake.  
It has a block of cream cheese in it, so it has a nice creamy texture.  It is chock-full of cinnamon, sugar and apples.

1 3/4 cups sugar, (divided- reserving 1/4 cup)
1 stick butter, softened    
1 tsp. vanilla extract    
1 (8 oz.) block reduced fat cream cheese, softened     
2 large eggs    
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour    
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder    
1/4 tsp. salt    
2 tsp. ground cinnamon    
3 cups chopped peeled apples
powdered sugar for dusting
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Beat 1 1/2 cups sugar, butter, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). 

Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. 

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. 

Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until blended.

Combine 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. 

Combine 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon/sugar mixture and apple in a bowl.  

Stir apple mixture into batter. (I reserved about 1/4 cup of cinnamon sugar coated apples to put on top- for an added texture and to show a peek at what's inside.) 

Pour batter into an 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture (and top with a little pile of apples, if you choose to reserve them).

Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack, and cut using a serrated knife.

When I made the cake second time, I was taking it to dinner with friends for our dessert.  My friend Catherine was at my house when it was baking. It smelled so good that it was hard to resist slicing a piece to share with her.  I decided that the dinner friends wouldn’t mind if I brought a cake with a couple of pieces cut out of it, so Catherine and I had some (and then Dave entered the kitchen and snuck a piece as well).

[If you are in a similar predicament and you feel it would be too tacky to take a cake with slices already eaten, you can always cut the cake and nicely arrange slices on a plate, and no one will ever know that you snuck a piece or two!]

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Soup, Salad, & Snowflakes

Several friends told me about this recently published book, Bread and Wine, by Shauna Niequist, thinking I would enjoy it.  It is filled with stories of community, food, faith and life around the table – as well as corresponding recipes.  Also, the book is endorsed by Anne Lamott and Brene Brown, two of my favorite authors, so I knew I would enjoy it.

I bought the book and had the chance to read it over the holidays.   It is inspiring!  It made me want to have a cooking club, try every recipe, and keep a record of the special occasion menus we have like Shauna does.  I have tried several of the recipes and so far have loved them all.

One that I wanted to write about is her
Super-Healthy Lentil Soup, because January seems to call for soup!  This is my adapted version of her recipe. It's really simple to put together, makes a big pot, and keeps well.  Shauna introduced this recipe in the book as the one she makes when she's had too much feasting and needs something healthy, nutritious, to have on hand.

I made it a week ago and shared it with two friends, who immediately asked for the recipe and later texted me that they kept thinking about the soup.  I laughed.  Lentil Soup was not the food that I thought would make such an impression.  However, it really is that satisfying.  It's not fancy and the texture of lentils takes a little getting used to.  But it is warm, savory, and hits the spot on a cold day.   And Lentils are a great source of protein, fiber, iron and are low in fat.  I added sweet potatoes to the recipe – because I love them in soup, they are a pretty amazing source of all-things-nutritious, and I had them in my pantry.  I made it again Thursday night so I could eat on it this weekend and share it with some more people in need of a container of soup.

Super-Healthy Lentil Soup (serves 8 ish)
(adapted from Bread and Wine)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cups onions, chopped (or 2 onions)
1 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6-7 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 1/2 cups lentils (dry)
2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes in juice
Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of chopped rosemary to taste

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onions, carrots, sweet potatoes, and garlic; sauté until vegetables begin to brown, about 15 minutes.  (I chopped my vegetables in the food processor for speed- it works great, though they are no cut semetrically.)
Add broth, lentils, and tomatoes with juice, and bring to boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, about 35 minutes.
Season with salt, pepper, rosemary and a splash of vinegar.

And this Caesar Salad was one that I couldn't wait to try after reading her description in the book. It goes nicely with the soup too!
It's basically comprised of: homemade croutons (which are like the ones I made HERE but with parmesan added to them before baking); chopped romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese and this yummy zesty dressing.

Brannon's Caesar Salad Dressing
(from Bread and Wine)
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
A few dashes of Tabasco, to taste
Juice of half a lemon
1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. sugar

Chop garlic clove in food processor, then add remaining ingredients and blend together.  Or chop a garlic clove, drop it into the bottom of an old jelly jar, add everything else, and shake like crazy.

Toss lettuce with croutons, parmesan, and dressing.

Also this month, we carried on our annual January tradition of making paper snowflakes to hang in our windows.  Everything is so grey and drab in our city, it seems to add some whimsy.

We usually look online for some patterns, like THESE, and then get inspired to make our own patterns.

This year the girls went a little berserk and added frost and icicles too.  So much for simple and's more like a blizzard in our

living room.

I hope your January is going well – that tasty, healthy soup and zippy, crunchy salad are finding their way to your table and shared with friends. And that the only snowflakes inside your home are made of paper!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Some December Favorites

December was such a busy month with a very full load of grading and closing down the semester,  followed by a child-filled holiday season. Therefore,  blogging had to be put on the back-burner.

However, two things that I made this month, that I just have to share are Cranberry Sauce and Jalapeno Poppers.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce.
I have a great love for cranberries. I wrote about it HERE.  And this very time-limited cranberry season is about to end!  So, if you haven't already stocked your fridge/freezer with cranberries, get them quick.  My Kroger had them on clearance this week for 25 cents a bag!

Cranberry sauce is one of those recipes that people think is complicated or difficult but actually it is quick and very simple. I made a few batches of cranberry sauce this season. YUM! So easy and so delicious!
Just a few ingredients!
Place a bag of fresh cranberries in a large pot on the stove (pick out any rotten or shriveled berries from the pot). Add 1 cup of granulated sugar. Pour in 1 cup of water. If you want, you can add the zest of an orange. Stir ingredients together. Heat on medium high for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the berries pop. Take off of stove and let cool. Sauce will thicken as it cools. Store in a tight container in the refrigerator.

I love cranberry sauce on top of meat, on a turkey sandwich, as a side dish with a savory meal, or swirled into my plain greek yogurt for breakfast!
Having a jar of it in the refrigerator inspires all kinds of uses.

Secondly, these Bacon Wrapped Jalapeño Poppers were a favorite of our season.

Maybe because it's been the holiday season and it inspires party food.  Or maybe it's because cooking a whole meal lately has felt overwhelming.  But I've been wanting snack dinners lately.  We have had appetizers for dinner several times during the holidays.  Sometimes we have had crackers and cheese, sliced apples,  hummus and veggies, goat cheese with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes with crackers and pita chips, texas caviar and chips.  And if we're really going for it- these bacon wrapped pepper poppers have made it on the menu!
We made these a couple of summers ago for the first time when grilling with friends and we fell in love.
They are a little kicky but the spiciness really varies pepper to pepper.

They are simple and just have three ingredients: jalapeño peppers, cream cheese and bacon.

Slice jalapeños long-wise and carefully hull out the seeds and the white inside the pepper (the seeds are the hot part of the pepper, so be careful when handling them!).
Use a knife to smear softened cream cheese into each of the peppers.  Slice bacon in half and wrap a piece around each pepper, securing the two sides together on top.  Place them on a grill over medium heat.  If you have a higher rack, use it. Cook until bacon is fully cooked and crispy, and the jalapeños are softened. Serve immediately.

Or if you don't have easy access to a grill, you can place them on a baking sheet and bake them in a 375˚ oven for 25 minutes, or until bacon is crispy.    

I love December and the foods and festivities, however, I sure enjoy starting a new year, embracing a clean slate.  So, I've packed up the Christmas decorations, made some resolutions and am thankful it's January.

 I hope you are having a great start to a new year.