Monday, December 29, 2008

Granola for Dinner

Last night, we had granola for dinner. It was good, very good. Marianne and Liang and their kids who are visiting from France were enthralled by it, and the recipe that follows is in many ways written for them. But as I ate it, I felt defeated. It has only one local ingredient: dried cranberries. And that and lettuce are about the only local fruit or vegetable I've had in the past month. I haven't given up on our project, I just can't find anything else in any of the grocery stores. And yesterday I had to throw out my last farmer's market turnips because they had gotten both mush and dried out at the bottom of the vegetable bin. I'm usually a very, almost ridiculously, positive person. So I've been feeling like we're doing quite well these first winter months with our local meat and dairy. But that nagging question of "what do you eat in January?" if you're going local and seasonal in New England seems all of a sudden to have no answer at all.

What to do? When I start to look for solutions, I get positive again. In fact, I can come up with a nice long list of answers:

1. Plan changes for next year:
a. Join a year-round CSA
b. Can, freeze, and dry a lot more
c. Make a cold frame for my garden and do a fall planting in it
2. Research more:
a. What are local winter fruits and veggies?
b. What are the best storage methods for things like potatoes, apples, rutabaga?
3. Expand the reach of "local" in the winter months
4. Find more local sources for grains and seeds so that granola for dinner can be a great, local option!


Granola is exceptionally easy to make. And it has all of the other benefits of home-made food: you know exactly what goes into it; you can vary it precisely to your own preferences; you can taste the love that you put into it; you really do save money by not paying for someone else's labor.

My basic granola recipe is this:

4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey

To that I add an every-changing variety of nuts and seeds.

After mixing everything together, pour the mixture into a cookie pan. Bake at 300 for 1-2 hours, removing to stir gently about every 20 minutes. It's done when the oats turn a light golden brown.

A few favorite add-in combinations follow:

New England Cranberry Granola

Basic granola ingredients
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup shelled walnuts
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds

Almond Coconut granola

Basic granola ingredients
1 cup sliced or whole almonds
1/2 cup shaved or shredded coconut

Other favorite add-ins are:
chopped prunes
chopped dried apricots
other rolled grains such as barley (to substitute for a portion of the rolled oats)
shelled pecans