Category Archives: DIY Cooking

Cook from scratch with real food

Make your own Granola

Why make your own Granola?

As my “DIY Cooking” philosophy expands,  I’ve gradually been replacing store-bought items with homemade versions of them, granola being a prime example. It all started with my love for Milk and Honey Granola, made by a local Chicago food company that inspired me to make my own.

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Homemade Granola

Before deciding to DIY any food product at home, I do an intuitive cost/benefit analysis that goes something like this:

  • Will it taste measurably better?
  • Is it simple to make?
  • Is it something I eat often enough that it’s worth the trouble?
  • Will I save money?

And the answers to all these questions are a resounding yes!

Especially if you eat granola almost everyday, which I do, as part of my weekday automated breakfast routine.

Eat it with Yogurt and Berries

It’s really good with yogurt and fruit. We drain the yogurt to make it thicken and then add fresh berries or frozen raspberries and the granola.  A little bit goes a long way.

Granola Mama Recipe

Homemade granola is not just for hippies and Whole Foods shoppers with big budgets. It's easy to make at home and tastes better than fancy in-store brands. You can leave out the flax seeds and quinoa if you don't have any - I added them to add fiber and other whole grain nutrients.
Ingredients
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 T flaxseed (optional)
  • 2 T quinoa (optional)
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds), or other nuts
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of garam masala (optional)
  • 1/4 cup mix of golden raisin, dried cranberries, and currants, or any dried fruit
Instructions
  • Preheat oven to 325° F
  • Melt honey and water together and let cool
  • In big silver bowl, fold together rolled oats, quinoa, flaxseed, pepitas, honey mixture, oil, brown sugar, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, salt and garam masala
  • Pour into unlined, ungreased 1/2 sheet pan (cookie sheet)
  • Spread evenly so there are no bald spots on the pan or it may burn
  • Bake, stirring and flattening every 10 minutes until very golden brown, 30-35 minutes; let cool slightly
  • Mix in the dried fruit. Let cool completely
  • Store at room temperature for up to three week
Serving size: 1 oz Calories: 73 Fat: 3 g Saturated fat: 0 Unsaturated fat: 3 g Trans fat: 0 Carbohydrates: 11 g Sugar: 5 g Sodium: 61 mg Protein: 1 g
Best Lobster Roll we Ate

Anatomy of a Lobster Roll

I first heard of lobster rolls years ago, when a restaurant in Chicago put them on the menu as the next best thing. I didn’t get it at the time. To me, lobster was a special treat– I couldn’t see using it as a hot dog bun filling. The only thing I could figure was that lobsters were so abundant back East, people had to find a way to make use of them. We visited Cape Cod shortly after, tried a few rolls, but still didn’t grasp the idea of forking over nearly twenty bucks for mayonnaise and lobster on a hot dog bun.

Undeterred, we headed to Maine recently for a lobster roll tour, self-planned, with likely contenders culled from online reviews and discussions. We planned our lobster route in Portland and nearby Mid-coast, as locals call the region stretching north of Portland.

Our first discovery was the two different schools of thought on dressing lobster rolls –mayonnaise or butter being the predominant contention. Before long, some other foundational principles emerged as the keys to a great lobster roll, as follows:

Do not shred the lobster meat – You are not making tuna salad–you want big chunks, even the whole claw or half a tail
Dressing on the side or with a light hand – When lobster is this fresh, you want nothing to mask the flavor
Grilled buttered bun – Whether you choose butter or mayo or nothing, butter the bun and grill it.
Top-sliced hot dog bun– you may have to special order the bun, but it’s not really a lobster roll with out it
Fresh lobster –It goes without saying, but the best lobster rolls, naturally, come from the freshest lobsters
A lot of lobster –The most popular rolls on the circuit boast an entire lobster between the bun

Aside from that, we enjoyed a great diversity of lobster rolls – our favorite being “The Picnic,” from the Bite into Maine food truck camped in South Portland, the key to which seemed to be a barely detectable pinch of celery salt mixed with the requisite butter. We very quickly came to subscribe to the butter camp – I’d rather taste the sweetness of the lobster than lobster muted by mayonnaise and only butter seemed to enhance, rather than mask the ultimate luxury of fresh lobster.

Best Lobster Roll we Ate
Best Lobster Roll we Ate

Flageolet, Feta and Arugula Salad

Flageolet, Feta and Arugula Salad

It was time for beans – yes beans once again. Part duty, part pleasure, my healthy eating regimen prods me at least once a week to peer into my pantry, choose a bean, and make something healthy out of it.

“What in the heck are flageolets?”

This time, I peaked in and found a bag of flageolets, stamped with the reassuring label from the bulk bin section at Whole Foods. “What in the heck are flageolets?” I wondered, having no memory of why I bought them. A quick Internet search revealed that they are a type of white bean, prized by the French in a manner similar to the reverence held for Le Puy lentils. Sounds goods, I thought, and then immediately recalled the baby arugula in my fridge and how those two could pair together in my attempt to duplicate the wonderful arugula and white bean salad they sell at the Sopraffina Marketcafe in Chicago as part of their lunchtime antipasto trio selection.

Sopraffina Marketcafe’s Killer Dish

Flavor memories of the dish flooded my mind –the zing of the lemon, crunch and herbaceous notes from the celery, and the salty tang from the occasional fleck of feta. With these thoughts in mind I cooked the beans, set them aside and later quickly tossed a bean salad that come out even better than my memory of that famed Soprafinna version.

Here’s my take on a Flageolet, Feta and Arugula Salad

You can substitute Cannellini or Great Northern or any other white beans for the Flageolets.

Ingredients

  • Flageolet Beans, 1.5 cup cooked (1/2 cup dried)
  • Lemon zest, minced, 1 tsp.
  • Lemon juice, 2 T
  • Red pepper flakes, pinch, to taste
  • EVOO, 2 T
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • Red onion, finely diced, ¼ cup
  • Celery, finely diced, ¼ cup
  • Celery leaves, chopped, 2 T
  • Arugula, small handful, about ½ cup, loosely packed
  • Feta, 1 T, small dice

Method

  • Cook the beans, use some from a can
  • When beans are cool, add to a bowl and toss with lemon zest, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, extra-virgin olive oil, red onion, celery and celery leaves
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Right before serving, add arugula and toss until it wilts slightly
  • Toss with feta and serve