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Monday, January 10, 2011


Maggie, hoping for a spill
I guess I could be digging through paperwork, organizing invoices and preparing taxes this time of year but procrastination, being one of the things I do best, takes me to a variation on the theme of organization. Instead, I am digging through my pantry, measuring what needs to be used up in the myriad jars of nuts, grains and flours.

As the 6th of 9 children, I learned to cook in very large batches. I tend to buy ingredients in bulk when I can find them at a good price, use what I can and store the rest. Sounds great and it is, except that fresh ingredients like nuts and whole grain flour have a shelf life and will eventually go rancid unless you use them or freeze them. 

Toasted fresh coconut, nuts and seeds, bits of dried fruits

After the holiday baking extravaganza that takes place each year at my house I tend to have lots of nuts, seeds and dried fruits in various amounts in a dozen or so jars around the kitchen. 

 I make my list – Semolina flour and sesame seeds? A natural combo for semolina bread. Red Lentils? Mmmm. Soup with those root vegetables in the frig. Hmm. Random amounts of raisins, dried cherries, pepitas, pistachios....and oats. Aha. Granola. I look in the 'stash' my husband keeps in the pantry. 3 Clif Bars and 1 last package of granola, still perfectly vacuum sealed from the last batch months ago. Now that's timing. 

Ready to go

Woody, an avid hiker, backpacker and deer hunter carries small packages of this homemade goodness with him on each trip. He is, as I write, in the adjoining room spreading camping gear across the floor and carefully weighing the merits of each item he packs for his upcoming backpacking trip to Anza-Borrego Park in California. He smells the granola and hovers for a moment. “What's in this batch? Pistachios? Dried Cherries! Wow.”

I love the taste of fresh, unsweetened coconut and it is all but impossible to find it in my small town unless you prepare it yourself. I did buy a fresh coconut a few days ago, clearly in some weird, psychic anticipation of this moment. 


I head for the concrete floor downstairs, hammer a nail into the 'eyes' and drain the liquid from the hairy beast. Then, the real hammering begins. Two good cracks with a ball peen hammer does it and the beautiful white flesh of the coconut is exposed. A little prying with a butter knife and soon I have separated the sweet meat from its seemingly impenetrable shell. A quick rinse and it is ready to shred. 

Toasting is a simple process of not-too-high heat and paying attention (again, not my strong suit). I set the timer: 325 degrees for 10 minutes, stir, repeat. Toasting fresh coconut is as much about drying the shreds as it is toasting and once it is lightly golden and mostly dry, we are good to go. I repeat the process with the oats and the nuts and gather the rest of my ingredients. The joy of this “recipe” is that it is always a variation. The total amount made and number of ingredients depends upon what you want to use up.

Maggie waits nearby in readiness for any spilled ingredients, eager to 'help' with cleanup. I toss together the mixture, heat it through, add the fruit and let it cool. It's a little fussy preparing the parts but couldn't be simpler. The real satisfaction is two-fold. First, using up all those bits of goodness that might be lost in the shuffle of the pantry for months to come. Second? The twinkle in the eye of my happiest of campers, ready to sample what will become the reminder of a warm home while he treks some far off wilderness on his next adventure. 

Woody's Granola
This recipe can be varied in infinite ways. Nuts, no nuts. 1 fruit, no fruit. Don't have a coconut? Leave it out. My constants are organic oats and fresh coconut (because I like it). Virtually everything else can be changed in amount left out or substituted. Play with spice and ingredients to come up with your own favorite.

1 medium fresh coconut, cleaned, shredded & toasted
4-5 cups organic rolled oats, lightly toasted
1 cup hulled pistachios, lightly toasted
1 cup pepitas, toasted and lightly salted
½ cup sunflower seeds, toasted and lightly salted

¼ c butter
½ cup honey
½ cup real maple syrup
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp vanilla (I use Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla)
¼ tsp kosher salt – more or less to your taste

½ cup dried apricots, diced
¾ cup dried cherries
1 cup dark raisins
½ cup golden raisins

Toast all nuts, seeds, oats and coconut separately, then combine. Melt the butter, honey, maple syrup, cinnamon and vanilla together. Pour over oat and nut mixture and mix well. Pour onto cookie sheets and bake in a 325 degree oven until just lightly toasted – about 20-25 minutes, stirring twice. Pour into a large bowl, add dried fruits and stir to mix in thoroughly.

Let cool completely and vacuum seal in individual portions or store at room temperature in glass jars.

Makes a large batch of granola - about 3½#

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