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,



Anonymous said...

Please take all the time you need to heal up. xo thea

Blondie's Journal said...

I am so sorry about your losses...this must have been a hard start of the New Year for you. And I hope you have shaken your infection.

I so appreciate your recipe...I love soups and stews. And I am so with you on the insomniac thing. I read. blog, toss and turn. It's the never ending stream of thoughts..good and bad, that never get their chance in the light of day.

Wishing you well, Sharon.


Lydia said...

Hugs and prayers from down the coast.

When I can't sleep- I like to sit with magazine articles and books by favorite writers- such as you!

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Dear, dear Sharon ~ I am so sorry for the losses of dear friends in your life, and so close together. I do hope you are feeling better healthwise.

Your midnight excursion into your lovely kitchen sounds like a wonderful remedy for what might ail one. You made some delicious goodies too. Thank you for the recipes.

Have a good week.

Lots of love, hugs and prayers ~ FlowerLady

Julie Marie said...

Hello dear cousin... so sorry about your losses and also that you have not felt well... I loved reading about your "midnight kitchen"... it looks so cozy... when I can't sleep, which is often, I usually get up, fix myself a nice hot cup of tea, and lay down on our living room couch. From there, I can watch the comings and goings of all of our nighttime critters... usually the deer are out and about and often a raccoon will stroll through... your recipes sound delish!... I love granola and can't wait to make some of yours... I've been making some from a recipe my friend Deb gave me too... and your lemon chicken soup has me drooling!... sending much love to you, xoxo Julie Marie

Nellie said...

Sending my sympathy for your losses, Sharon. Also, I hope you are back on the track to good health. Can't believe how much you did "in the midnight hours!" My husband is my trusty dishwasher when I undertake big cooking projects!:-) You had a treat waiting for yours when he awoke! Yum!

Bernideen said...

Oh what a wonderful treat - this recipe is splendid! I am printing to try!

The Painted Garden said...

Hi Sharon,
I am sorry to hear about your losses of dear freinds in the past month.

Goodness you were certainly productive during your Midnight Kitchen adventure. Thank you for sharing your yummy recipes. I usually read if I wake up and can't sleep - next time I will try a "midnight kitchen adventure" - sounds more productive.

Sending Best Wishes for the New Year and good healing thoughts and prayers that you are on the mend.
Blessings, Erin

Bernideen said...

Hope your eye infection has cleared and you are feeling better. Winter too has it challenges and confining downside! Take care - plenty of sleep is important!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

A big hug and kiss from me to you, dear Sharon! Your lemon chicken soup looks delish! Love you and the Phone man, Nancy

rebecca sweet said...

What a hard January you've had - I'm so, so sorry. Here's to a new month, and a fresh start! And thank you for the recipes, too. I love making chicken soup and can't wait to try adding lemons. I've never thought of that!! Take care and get some sleep now, and know that we're all thinking of you. XOXO

Vee said...

Three losses in knocked me flat. Guess that it is inevitable to experience more of them as we grow older. Probably need to get my thinking sorted on it all before I'm in bed more than I am out.

Now I read this last night around midnight and I wondered how it would be if I were to do as you do filling the small haven with the smells of granola toasting in the oven. Soon, I'd have company, I'm sure. Does Jeff join you in the midnight kitchen?

Kristina said...

It sounds like you have had a tough start to 2014. I'm sorry. I fall asleep with no problems but wake up super early (4 a.m) and can't fall back to sleep. So frustrating. I also tend to try to sort my problems out in my kitchen. Kneading bread dough or zesting citrus for recipes is a great way to burn off anxiety, frustration, anger and eating it is a great way to feel comforted. The snow is flying here in Nebraska and I'm cooking up a big pot of vegetable beef soup to warm our bones. Peace, love, and health to you, Sharon!

Lorrie said...

Oh those wee hour thoughts can be so troubling. Creating in the kitchen is a great antidote. Homemade granola is in the pantry here regularly. I've never heard about soaking the almonds.

Loss in January seems harder, somehow.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

3 losses over the last month
and the rocking chair
is always in the kitchen - it is old and rocked all my babies in it.
From you
I learned
to soak my almonds :)
Take care
stay well...

Susan said...

The granola looks divine! I've had some of my best inspirations at midnight! XOXO

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

So sorry to hear about your losses Sharon. That is enough to keep you up at night. Lovely recipes from your kitchen. I make granola using a recipe almost like yours. My problem in the evenings, that won't bring sleep, is my husband is a light sleeper and would be up too. Take care of yourself and glad to hear you are better! ♥

Pondside said...

I'm sorry to hear that January was such a difficult month for you, health-wise - and then the loss of your friends. No wonder you are up in the wee hours.
Your granola looks wonderful. I am much less productive in the midnight kitchen (I like that term!). I get up, make myself a cup of herbal tea and do the cross word puzzle from the day's newspaper.
I wish you good nights' sleeps for the rest of the week!

Tanna said...

I know about those Midnight Ramblings of late. Ugh.

The granola and the soup look wonderful... but it is your oven and kitchen sink I am in love with! ;) That range is just wonderful! Hoping you have a restful night... blessings ~ tanna

Pom Pom said...

Yummy midnight makes, Sharon! I love that copper kettle!
Thank you for your sweet words and comments on my blog. You are nice.

WordsPoeticallyWorth said...

Thank you. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Tanna,

Thank you! Jeff now has to work on refinishing the old farm sink.

Check out the March 2014 issue of This Old House Magazine to see the complete kitchen.

Aren't you going to be doing some kitchen magic?


Val said...

I'm so sorry for your losses--and three so close to one another is horrible.

I've been a night owl all my life--my mom even mentioned it in my baby book--so I relate to your midnight kitchen. The tricky part for me is washing dishes in my tiny one-bedroom apartment without waking my husband. :)

Best wishes for a brighter 2014 ahead,


camp and cottage living said...

I see you have a window full of blue medicine bottles, they are a favorite of mine too. My collection is small compared to yours though.
Thank you for the granola recipe. I have been tired of the same old breakfast cereal and wanting to find a good granola recipe. Perfect timing I'd say. I will add the blueberries afterwards, for sure!

Marcie said...

Loved spending some time with you in your midnight kitchen. So sorry January was such a difficult month. Am sending love and good energy for better months ahead.

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Now January is over and February is good.

I am in Mount Vernon, Illinois right now and will speak at the Midwestern Herb and Garden Show today and tomorrow. I look forward to meeting some great gardeners.

We awoke to temperatures below ZERO. My first time to be that cold.

Joys to you all,


Vicki Boster said...

Sharon- your midnight kitchen is truly a scared place- every woman knows that the kitchen is a special place in the middle of the night. There is no such thing as insomnia when you are banging the pots and pans in the kitchen:)

The granola looks wonderful- the perfect midnight recipe I think-- and I can just imagine the smells of your lemon chicken soup-- pure bliss--


Rebecca said...

Sounds like you've had a bit of a rough patch. (Funny. A lot of my friends are having sleeping problems lately....)

Both recipes sound yummy - and I'll def. remember about not baking the dried fruit with the granola mix :)

I love the photos of your midnight kitchen, by the way. I have a rocking chair in mine, too.

Rebecca said...

Sounds like you've had a bit of a rough patch. (Funny. A lot of my friends are having sleeping problems lately....)

Both recipes sound yummy - and I'll def. remember about not baking the dried fruit with the granola mix :)

I love the photos of your midnight kitchen, by the way. I have a rocking chair in mine, too.

Anna said...

Hi Sharon, I've been enjoying your blog! Just a question about your vintage sink. I have been looking for resources to have mine completely re-porcelained, but I could not find a proper place. Do you have any recommendation? Thanks!


Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Anna, Sharon asked me to reply. WE can't recommend the person who re-porcelained our sink and bath tub. The tub went unused for 4-5 months, but it started to peel in a year and a half. The sink needed to be redone twice, maybe three times before we installed it. The sink finish (about 6 years old) needs to be redone as it shows rusts spots and is peeling. When I have time, I'm going to strip it and redo it myself with over-the-counter products. We paid $400 each to have the sink and tub redone. Sharon will take photos and share the project here.
Husband Jeff

Happy@Home said...

When I can't sleep I tend to lay there worrying and tossing and turning. I think your midnight kitchen sounds like a much nicer way to face sleeplessness. Your kitchen looks particularly cozy and that granola has my mouth watering.
I was sorry to hear about the difficult start to your year. I hope February is kinder to you.
Thanks for sharing your recipes :).

Lili said...

So sorry to hear of your recent loss and illness. You must have been comforted by your midnight kitchen antics. You have such a beautiful space and you have me craving granola now. Luckily I froze some in canning jars earlier this year. So good to catch up with you over here. xoxo

Farm Girl said...

Well at least you get up and do something, I just lay there and panic.
I have had a hankering for homemade granola too. Yours looks fantastic. I did not know that about almonds.
Your stove is wonderful.
It all looks good. So glad I stopped by.

Anonymous said...

So sorry you haven't felt well and to lose friends is always so very sad. In spite of, or maybe because of your life experience and talent, you tell a wonderful story no matter the subject. Thinking of you my dear friend. Love from finally sunny Oklahoma where the birds are flying and starting to sing.~~Dee

Betty said...

Dear Sharon, Hope things are starting to pick up for you now and that you are looking forward to a new season with all of the hope and joy it brings.
Kindest regards,
Betty ox

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Hi Dee dear,

I am up and att'em now. Thanks for your words. I just received your wonderful new book and can't wait to dive into it. Perfect cover too! Love it when I can read the written word and hear the person's voice. I can hear your sweet drawl.

Sending love and I am going to post something about writing tonight on this blog. Honestly.