Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Gallery

In my very first post I mentioned that we still had very few pictures hanging on the wall of our home. I've recently made a little progress toward correcting that by finishing this project. I turned our hallway into a picture gallery. I purchased these frames oh, long about eleven years ago when I was in college. They've held a few different pictures, hung in a few different hallways, and I believe there has been some attrition when frames have been smashed in moves. But over all they've served well, and I still like the style of these frames quite a bit.

This was a particularly fun picture project. My mother-in-law had given me stacks of pictures of my husband's childhood, so one day I hauled them to my parent's house. Then I spent an evening paging through the endless albums of photos from my own childhood, and I picked out matching sets of photos--one of him and one of me. I paired first day of school photos, pictures of each of us with our grandfather, with our mothers on our birthday, with new baby siblings, wearing silly hats, etc. Then, since we are currently without a scanner at our house, I took the pictures to Target one day and used their picture scanning/editing machine to print copies and crop the photos, blow them up, or rotate them as needed to fit the required slots in the frames.

I know some people don't care to display lots of family pictures in their home, but if you are the scrapbooking sort, I think this idea would translate really well to a scrapbook. In fact, maybe I'll turn this project into a one eventually, when I'm ready to give these frames their next iteration in life. In the meantime, we are enjoying the added layer of coziness that our once stark hallway has acquired.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Crock-Pot Granola

After a long (Lenten and Paschal) interlude, I find myself once again in a blogging mood. I feel like I've actually been doing some stuff lately worth blogging about, and I'm trying to remember to take pictures. I know I could write blog entries without pictures, but I find I love looking at the photos in other people's blogs so much I want to include them in mine. I'm trying to ignore the desire for a new camera and work with what I have.

We had a very busy holiday weekend, that included going out of town for a family wedding and graduation party. We came back Sunday, and I was pleased that I managed to get quite a few things accomplished yesterday, including making granola. In the winter time, I eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every day. In the summer, I like to eat granola, but this involves advanced planning, or buying pricey boxes of the stuff. I'm very much a grab and go breakfast person. In the evenings I pack both my lunch and my breakfast for the following day. I eat breakfast at my desk first thing while I read my email, so if I don't plan ahead and make granola it's usually a piece of fruit and an handful of nuts, or peanut butter and crackers.

I made the granola in the Crock-pot, which is handy for a couple of reasons. First of all, it doesn't heat up the kitchen nearly as much as using the oven. Secondly, it's much harder to burn that way, so you can do other things while you leave it to get all toasty. You just have to give it the occasional stir when you pass through the kitchen. Make sure you get right into the edges when you do that, because that's wear it gets the toastiest.

I consider granola recipes to be more of a formula or a guideline. I take the basic framework and substitute whatever I have on hand, am in the mood for, or think will go well together. It's pretty hard to mess up. I got the original recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson. It makes a cereal style granola, not a big, chunky trail mix one. I'll start with the broad outline, and then give the specifics of what I did this time.

Crock-pot Granola

5 cups rolled oats
3 1/2 cups add-ins (dried fruit, seeds, and nuts of your choice)
2/3 cup maple syrup (I think I've also used honey, or part honey before.)
1/4 cup oil (I use canola)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (opt.--feel free to leave this out and change or add seasonings to suit yourself)

Lightly oil your crock, then add all your ingredients and stir together. If you don't want your fruit and nuts toasted, leave these out. I like them that way, but I know some prefer them raw.

Cook on high, uncovered 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Reduce to low, cook an additional 2 hours, uncovered, until your granola reaches the desired level of crisp toastiness. If you left out your add ins it might not take so long.

Spread it out on a cookie sheet or other relatively flat surface to cool. Stir in your add-ins if you left those out. Once cool, store in an airtight container. Serve with the milk or yogurt of your choice and enjoy.

For this particular batch I used: 1/2 cup sesame seeds, 1/2 cup chopped almonds, 1/2 cup broken pecans, 3/4 cup dried blueberries, 3/4 cups chopped dried figs, and 1/2 cup chopped dried pear slices. I left the pear slices out and stirred those in and the end because I think they get a bit burnt tasting and too chewy if I toast them with everything else. I also used only 4 cups of rolled oats, plus one cup of quick cook, because I ran out of rolled.

The main drive behind my choice of add-ins was that this is what I happened to have. I think this is the first time I've ever made granola without some unsweetened coconut. I was out of that, and I decided to forge ahead. This batch is still really tasty. Even though I'm a big coconut lover, I don't really miss it. Other things I commonly include: walnuts, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, raisins, chopped dried dates, apricots, peaches, etc.. Really any mix of nut, seed or dried fruit that you take a fancy to will work. Crock-pot granola is pretty forgiving, and tasty, so try it!