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12 February 2010

Peanut Soup

I recently have started watching "The Minimalist" podcasts from Mark Bittner in the New York Times, and I'm hooked. I love the way he cooks; it's very easy, no emphasis on exact measurements, but you can find the recipes if you feel like you need exact measurments. And I'm a fan because the very first video I watched of his, he explained how to temper chocolate, which I have always heard is important, and I've had it explained to me before, but I never understood it until he talked about the different temperatures and admitted that he thinks "bloomed" chocolate looks lovely (I have always liked the look of it myself). Plus, I think he's pretty funny.

Well, I tried this peanut soup the other night, leaving out the chicken, of course. It was great! It was rich and delightful. I used collard greens for the first time in my life, and Lovemuffin even ate leftovers from it. Lovemuffin's one criticism was that he thought the sweet potatoes could be in smaller pieces, and I had even started with small cubes instead of slices the way Bittner did it. The leftovers were creamier and even more delightful than the first time around. I actually forgot the whole peanuts, but the peanut butter did a good job of flavoring the whole soup and it goes so well with the flavor of the sweet potato. I suppose because it's one of those sweet and salty combinations. Here's the exact recipe, if you need it.

10 February 2010


Here's another recipe that my mom invented. She used to make a huge batch of this granola for our annual backpacking trip. Her batch made 4 times as much as the recipe that I'm giving you now, it was pretty amazing. And it is much cheaper than buying granola at the store. This recipe is really easy to change the flavors by using different spices, or adding nuts or coconut or anything you like. Today I even added some soaked cracked flaxseed. You could make it taste like gingersnaps by using ground ginger and replacing some of the water with molasses, or you could use maple syrup and eat it with bits of dried apples. You may want to add even more spices than I call for here if you find that it is too bland. If you want to add dried fruit like raisins, you should just add them to your bowl when you eat it. I once tried adding raisins to the mixture before baking, and they soaked up all the moisture and then burned, even though the rest of the granola was fine. But if you add dried fruit to the granola when it is dry and packaged, the remaining moisture will soak into the granola and in a couple of days you will have damp or even moldy granola. But the options are endless, so go crazy!

9 cups regular rolled oats, or a mixture of regular and quick cooking oats
1 cup chopped almonds, lightly toasted or raw
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup oil or butter
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
3/4 cup water
1 tbsp cinnamon
other spices to taste

In a large bowl combine the oats and almonds and any other dry add-ins you want. Heat the sugar, water, oil, salt and spices in a small saucepan, stir until sugar is dissolved and butter (if using) is melted. Pour the liquid mixture into the oats gradually, a little at a time, and stir it thoroughly. Divide the mixture between two or three cookie sheets and bake slowly at 250 for about 1 hour, turning with a spatula every 15 minutes. Let it sit in the oven to finish drying in the residual heat and then cool completely.  Store the granola in an airtight container.