Wednesday, September 30, 2009


So I didn't drink the last beer. It will probably remain in the fridge for the whole month next to the can of Sofia that has been there since election day and the Coke Zero from my in-laws visit in March. We will look at it every day, comforted by it's presence, secure in the knowledge that there is a beer to be drank if you really want it.

But I did make granola so we can have it for breakfast. We have various breakfast cereals and some Quaker Oatmeal on-the-go pastry that have been grandfathered in, but I think something home made for the inaugural meal is important. I also love this granola. This is the third time I have made it, so I did not have to make multiple trips to the store in a panic, and it didn't take me three hours. Also, I have significantly adapted the recipe from the original one I found on Epicurious, and I now feel that it is my own.

Some Assembly Required Granola Cereal

3/4 cup pecans
1/2 cup almonds
4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 wheat germ
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 tsp fine salt
2 egg whites
1 cup chopped dried white peaches
1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat the overn to 375ºF. Line a large shallow baking dish with foil. Spread the pecans and almonds on the sheet and roast for 8-10 minutes, until lightly toasted. Transfer the nuts to a cutting board. Let cool, then chop and set aside.

Reduce the oven temperture to 300ºF. Pour the oats and the wheat germ in a mound on the baking sheet. Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over the stove, or in a bowl in the microwave. Stir in the honey, salt and egg whites. Drizzle over the top of the oats, stirring to mix it in as you go with a rubber spatula. Then spread the oats out in an even layer.

Bake the oats for about 30 minutes, stirring once with the spatula halfway through, until the oats are lightly colored. Let cool. The mixture will crisp as it cools. Add the fruit and nuts and toss.

You can use any combination of dried fruit and nuts that you have or like. I love the flavor the peaches give it, especially when eaten with milk. I made this once with peanuts, and that wasn't really a good choice. But another time I used walnuts instead of almonds and that was delicious. Instead of honey you can also use maple syrup or cane syrup. I never have good luck getting the granola to cluster, but I don't really care. I use it mostly as a cereal, so the looseness is fine with me.

Notes on the ingredients and their origins
Pecans - Trader Joes - these were salted, so I guess that is contraband, but I bought them before the deadline. I'm pretty sure they sell unsalted versions
Almonds - These came from backstage at the Flogging Molly show at the Greek Theatre... that is another story, but they were raw and unsalted, and I didn't buy them so that's good all around.
Oats - Trader Joes. Organic Whole Grain Rolled Oats
Wheat Germ - I think I got this at Vons or Pavillions, it was a while ago.
Butter - Organic unsalted butter from Trader Joes. Sweet Cream is the only ingredient.
Honey - 100% local organic honey from Tierra Miguel Farm. I get a CSA box from there. They are wonderful.
Salt - table salt. I have had it for years.
Eggs - I get these from Gammil Farms, which is a lady who keeps chickens in her backyard in Altadena, which is about 9 miles from me. They are free-range and vegetarian fed.
Dried Peaches - Trader Joes. They contain sulfur dioxide. Is that an ingredient? or part of the process of drying fruit? I will have to figure that out.
Golden Raisins - Trader Joes. Same question.

I now have an hour and thirty-two minutes to buy multi-ingredient foods. I'm not worried about my resolve. I'm just going to go to bed.

One Ingredient

The Rules:
For the month of October I cannot buy any food that contains more than one ingredient. I can make and assemble meals of as much complexity as I am capable, but I must start from single ingredients. This means I have to make my own bread, cereal, salad dressing, and dozens of other things that I haven't even thought of yet. There is one concession that I am making that will make things easier, at least to start... I can use things that are already in my house. Meaning, we have access to the mayonnaise and Worcestershire sauce that is already here. But if we run out, we either go without, or make our own. (This is to avoid wasting things I have, as well as to provide a bit of a transition)

I made the decision to do this on Sunday and I was tempted to go out and buy a bunch of contraband before the deadline, but I a reasonable degree. A brief panic set in when my husband mentioned that this harebrained scheme meant no beer for a month, but calm was restored when we determined that wine was admissible since it is just fermented grapes and water, and water doesn't count as an ingredient. So I bought four bottles of everyday wine at Trader Joe's this afternoon. Now that I'm thinking about it, I don't really know what goes into making wine, and there may in fact be more involved, but it was an innocent decision, and the wine is here now, so it is fair to drink it. I'll figure out the details on that one when we run out. Other than that, there were only two other things that I bought that were suspect... 1. A medley of Mediterranean dried fruits (Figs, Apricots & Cherries). The fact that three fruits were mixed together is of course a problem. But more importantly: sulfur dioxide, potassium sorbate, rice flour, sugar and sunflower oil were all listed as well. I don't know why, but I really wanted this medley, and I was afraid they wouldn't have it in a month.
Suspect purchase #2 Buttermilk - this was very surprising to me. Ingredients: Grade A Milk, Grade A Nonfat Milk, Culture, Salt. This is on the cusp, I think. I'm not bothered by the whole milk/nonfat milk combo, I think that is permissible. It's the salt and the cultures... borderline ingredients, part of me wants to make a case for it being ok, but I don't want to fudge the rules this early in the game... but these purchases were made on September 30th, so they are fair game anyway. And this is nothing compared to the innummerable other processed foods we have in our house and will ration out over the next 31 days.

The reasons for this experiment are varied. I will try to go into more detail about them over the next month. But for an overview... I've been moving in the direction of making more of my own food from scratch for a long time. However I always fear doing new things and it usually takes me weeks of imagining myself doing something before I take any real action. The decision to make something new and complicated from scratch is generally made at 9:00 at night, just in time to dash out to the store for supplies before closing, and the dish is served around 1:15AM. I think this challenge is going to force me to try the things I have been avoiding so that we will have something to eat.

So we will see what happens. I have three hours and five minutes to go out and buy all the prepared and processed foods I can find. I think I'm going to fight the temptation by making some granola and possibly drinking the last beer. It's almost 9:00.