Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Monday, February 3, 2014

In the Midnight Kitchen

Homemade granola for breakfast

A rocker is a necessity in a comfy kitchen (at least for me)

So dear friends, what do YOU do when it is 12:38 A.M. and you can't sleep? Isn't it true that we always mull over our problems and challenges and try to solve them during nights? I should always remember that you just can't solve anything when the dark cloak descends and you're bumping into everything between you and sweet sleep.

During daylight I go for a walk, weed, or plant, but at night I head for the kitchen, brew some herbal tea, pick up a cookbook, and read. Then, the Midnight Kitchen comes to life.

Though I love cookbooks, I'll have to admit that many, many times I travel my own pathways and ad lib everything. Sometimes I hit a home run, but others, well, saying things turn out dismally isn't really right because creating and filling the house with the scent of cooking food makes everything feel more do-able, more easily reckoned.

My friend Carolyn Eicher brought me a lovely bag of rolled oats that were grown organically right here in San Luis Obispo county by WITH THE GRAIN. I decided that a big tray of homemade granola was what I needed to put me into a peaceful place.

For easy clean-up, I always line my jelly pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper.

So I dipped into a container of almonds I'd been soaking (this removes bitterness and tannins and makes them taste sweeter and allows our bodies better nutrient absorption). Next I added organic pecans and rolled oats blended with brown sugar, maple syrup, (sometimes I add coconut flakes)...

...and slid the cookie sheet into Abigail, my faithful oven (named for my grandmother Abigal Lovejoy). You are witness to the major boo boo of the Midnight Kitchen. I put my dried berries into the oven and baked them with the granola. WRONG move. I guess I was tired. Anyhow, the cranberries were fine, but the blueberries resembled little marbles and almost broke our teeth.

My version of homemade granola:

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees (low and slow is the key to success)

6 cups of rolled oats
2 cups of pecans
2 cups of soaked almonds (soak 12 hours and drain water before using)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Mix above ingredients together in a big bowl 

In another bowl mix together:

1/2 cup of organic coconut oil (I melt it in the microwave)
1/2 cup of maple syrup
1 tsp. salt

Mix ingredients from both bowls together and pour onto jelly pans or cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake slowly, stir every fifteen to twenty minutes. After about an hour and 15 minutes this mixture should be a golden brown.

Remove cookie sheets from oven and add dried cranberries, and/or dried blueberries, raisins or? Whatever strikes your fancy.

Allow to cool thoroughly before packing into jars for storage. If you've ever seen granola in specialty stores, you know how expensive it can be. So I always do a double recipe (original was for 3 cups of rolled outs and all ingredients cut back by half), and package up some granola for gifts. 

Two bowls of homemade granola

I didn't end up going to bed until after 3 A.M., but the next morning Jeff awoke to fresh, homemade granola and a pot of homemade chicken lemon soup simmering on Abigail.

Lemon Chicken Soup

I use organic chicken broth when I don't have any homemade broth lurking in the refrigerator or freezer. Sometimes I make chicken noodle or chicken rice, but this time I did a cous cous, sesame seed, and garbanzo bean blend (the blend is from Trader Joe's). They tasted great, but they absorb too much of the broth when they simmer on the stove for awhile.

My secret ingredient (not too secret since you're looking at it) is lemon. I roll them around on the counter to free up the juices, then I squeeze the juice into the broth and add the sliced lemons, which cook in the broth for hours. Wow, this is a winner, winner chicken dinner. The zing of the lemons really tastes great.

My version of lemon chicken soup:

Dice carrots, celery, one half onion and sauté over medium heat in butter and olive oil (the olive oil keeps the butter from burning) 
One or two cloves of garlic, crushed on a bed of 1/2 tsp. sea salt, and sliced (or if you're a garlic fanatic it never hurts to use more)
One inch piece of peeled, diced fresh ginger
Cut at least two lemons in half and add juice to chicken broth
Chicken pieces (I use leftover chicken)
Organic chicken broth
1/2 tsp. Cayenne pepper
rice, noodles, or other grain blend

Sauté veggies and once they're soft you can quickly stir in garlic and salt, but don't let garlic brown as it gets bitter. Add garlic and veggies to 32 ounces of chicken broth. Add lemon juice and lemon pieces. Add ginger. Simmer slowly with lid slightly ajar, which will help thicken the broth and deepen the flavor. 

After a few hours of filling your kitchen with delectable aromas, add the chicken pieces (I add these at the end so that they are still chewable and tasty) and rice, noodles, or grain blend. Stir thoroughly and cover tightly. Simmer on low until rice or grain is cooked (usually takes about half an hour)

Taste and season as you are cooking your soup. Sometimes you can simmer it for hours and it still tastes like a wet washrag. Add pepper and salt as needed and top the soup with sliced green onions (aka scallions).

I am sorry to have been away so long, but I've had bronchitis and an eye infection and we have lost three friends in the past month. January was a tough one, but thanks to the Midnight Kitchen, friends and family, we're getting back on track again.

Sending love across the miles,