Supermarket periphery cereal

I’ve always been a big fan of cereal – and as a kid, there was no cereal I liked better than Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries™. Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not talking about these newfangled GMO blue, green and purple crunch berries. I’m talking about the original red ones – the ones that grow on crunch berry trees, and are coveted by the likes of the infamous Jean LaFoote – natural crunch berries, that grow wild. Man I loved those berries … the way they stained the milk pink … the way they kind of cut the roof of my mouth.

The great tragedy for us Canadian kids was that crunch berries were only available for a brief period – just long enough for us to fall in love with their subtle charms. Then they simply disappeared. It was a dark time.

We kids knew they still existed just south of the border, as we could see ads for the cereal on US channels, taunting us through a translucent veneer of white noise. But, for whatever reason – perhaps an embargo on the import of tropical fruit – they couldn’t cross the 49th parallel.

Fortunately, I had family in Massachusetts that I stayed with for a few weeks every summer. A highlight of those trips was always heading to a US supermarket – a magical place with an entire aisle of brightly coloured, plastic-toy-laden cereal boxes. Fortified with niacin. I was always allowed to choose a box of my favourite, and that favourite was always Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries™.

Funny thing: now that I live in the US, I never even walk down that aisle. Aisles are where the processed food lives. The packaging alone represents a level of waste that is hard to justify – never mind the fact that it often involves multiple stages of processing and transportation, and the waste associated with the creation and use of additives and preservatives that humans can easily live without.

But, damn it, I still love cereal.

Fortunately, I married Bonnie Lee .. and, fortunately, a few months after we got married, she made her first batch of granola. It gave the milk a lovely brown tinge and caramel tone, had a satisfying crunch, and best of all was made with ingredients we could find in bulk at the edges of the supermarket (plus oil and honey). When I had my first bite, I knew it was love.

Granola has been a staple in our home ever since (except when we were in Japan, and had an oven the size of the bottom third of a shoebox). The recipe is never the same twice, so we don’t get bored, and it keeps well in the fridge. The recipe for Bonnie Lee’s latest batch is below.

July’s batch of granola

Granola

Ingredients

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 1½ cups shredded coconut
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup flax
  • 1 cup pumpkin seeds
  • ¾ cups vegetable oil℉
  • ¾ cups honey
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup raisins

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 300℉.
  • Place rolled oats, shredded coconut, and sliced almonds in the largest glass baking dish you have.
  • Place the baking dish in the oven, and toast the ingredients for 15 minutes, stirring them every 5 minutes so that they toast evenly.
  • Remove the baking dish from the oven, and increase the temperature to 375℉.
  • Mix the flax and pumpkin seeds in with the toasted ingredients.
  • Heat the oil and honey over low heat or a microwave. The goal here is just to make the mixture a little less viscous, so that it blends well.
  • Stir the honey and oil mixture into the dry ingredients, until they are evenly coated.
  • Return the baking dish to the oven, and bake until the granola is nicely browned (about an hour), stirring it every fifteen minutes or so.
  • Remove the granola from the oven, pack it down, and let it cool.
  • Break the granola into chunks, and add in the dried fruit.
  • Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container.
Granola & Thai pickled cherries

Granola & Thai pickled cherries – probably not so great when eaten together.

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Stone soup dahl

About a month ago, I wrote an entry on what I call stone soup. The recipe in that entry is simple:

…whenever I peel or chop vegetables or meats, I toss any bits that would usually be destined for the compost or garbage bin into a colander, wash them, then put them in a container in the freezer.  When I want to make stock, I throw the stone-like frozen scraps into water and boil.

As one friend noted, though, “Ive started my stone soup freezer bag! Once you start, it grows quickly!” Very quickly – and the challenge is to find varied ways to use up all that stock (we end up making about 8 cups of it every weekend). Last week, I did something based on this great dahl recipe from  Wolfgang Puck, and it’s definitely a keeper.

For the version I made, I used brown lentils, rather than orange ones – and stone soup stock rather than chicken stock. The stock that week was made with a healthy amount of beet peelings, and was dark colored with earthy tones, which worked perfectly in this recipe. I served the dahl with some homemade dosa (a rice and lentil batter pancake), kale salad, a spicy coleslaw, and some watermelon rind chutney – a satisfying, warming meal.

One thing to note: unless you’re catering a wedding, I suggest that you make about a quarter of the recipe at the link. That makes about 4 normal sized servings.