Sunday, November 17, 2013

Stocking up


At 5 a.m. when the dogs woke me for their first trip out today, the moon hung behind the laced trees like a buttery coin above the western hills.  Outside, the sky was still dark, the air crisp, and the grass crunched beneath my slippers.  The temperature dropped overnight and frost glittered in the pale moonlight. We were back inside soon, the air too chilly for dawdling, and after the required treats, the pups curled up in their chairs to doze until the day begins.
The bounty of the garden has been processed: 209 packages of vegetables and fruits tucked into the upright freezer and the pantry cabinet is full of jellies, jams, pickles, and relishes.  We await the arrival of local meat and poultry, all for good eating through the long months of winter.   The wood is split and stacked, the chimney cleaned, the quilts on the beds, and all that remains to do is putting together the homemade mixes we use all winter: cocoa, pancake mix, biscuit mix, bean soup, homemade sausage, and others for our winter sustenance and Christmas gifts to friends.  In this brief lull between harvest and holidays, we take stock and brace ourselves for a month of preparation.
The mixes that we make provide many a meal and save us time and more than a few dollars when our days are busy and also delight our friends with whom we share our wealth.  Breakfast is sometimes a catch-all meal, but when the wind howls and the snow flies, we want something quick and easy but more substantial than the fruit and toast or cereal that has carried us through the summer and early fall.  Years ago I began making an almond raisin granola that was a hit with Kasey and her friends when they were in college.  The recipe is easy and adaptable.
Almond Raisin Granola
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees.
3 cups cooked, old-fashioned rolled oats
1 ½ cups shredded coconut
½ c. wheat germ
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
¼ cup sesame seeds
½ cup good honey
¼ canola oil
½ cup cold water
1 c. slivered, blanched almonds
¾ cups raisins

In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, wheat germ, sunflower and sesame seeds.   Mix together thoroughly.  Combine the honey and oil and pour it over the dry ingredients, stirring well until thoroughly mixed.  Add the cold water a little at a time until the mixture is crumbly. 
Brush a large baking pan lightly with oil, and pour the mixture into it, spreading the granola out evenly in a thin layer.  Put the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 ½ hours, stirring often (every 15 to 20 minutes).  Stir in the almonds and bake a half hour longer or until the mixture is crispy dry and light brown. 
Turn off the oven, stir in the raisins and let the granola cool completely. I sometimes make this in the evening and let it cool overnight. Store in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark place. 

The nicest part of this recipe is that it is adaptable.  I have added in flax seeds for half of the sesame seeds. I also make a blueberry pecan version, substituting chopped pecans for the almonds and dried blueberries for the raisins, and a cranberry walnut version, substituting dried cranberries and chopped walnuts for raisins and almonds. 
This can be eaten as a quick snack with yogurt, or dry with milk as with any cereal, and on frosty mornings, I often pour boiling water over it and let it soak up before adding milk.

On weekends, pancakes are also a big favorite, and I like to make up a big batch of quick pancake mix, which saves time and makes tummies happy.

Basic Pancake Mix
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I like King Arthur)
½ c. malt powder
3 T. baking powder
2 tsps. baking soda
2 T. sugar
1 1-2 tsp. kosher salt

Mix all ingredients in a big bowl with a whisk. Store in an airtight container until ready to use.
To make basic pancakes, combine a cup of mix, one large egg (well beaten), a cup of milk, and a tablespoon of canola oil. You can also add a pinch of cinnamon if you like, and it’s easy to throw a handful of fresh or thawed frozen blueberries or chocolate chips into the batter just before cooking.  Top with butter and your favorite syrup.  One cup mix makes about six medium-sized pancakes.
You might also like Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancake, a recipe a student gave me.  They are heartier and great alone or with bacon or a slice of fried ham.

Pomander ingredients

Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancake Mix
(Makes about 8 cups – 24 servings)
4 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup non-fat dry milk
3 Tablespoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
1 and 1/4 Tablespoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients. Seal tightly and store in a cool, dark place.

To Prepare:
Combine 2 cups of the mix, 2 eggs, 1/3 cup canola oil and 1 cup water.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs. Beat in the vegetable oil. Next, mix in the mix alternately with the water. Scoop in heaping Tablespoon amounts per pancake onto a lightly greased skillet set at medium-high heat. Cook until the tops show broken bubbles (2 to 3 minutes). Turn and cook about 2 to 3 minutes more, until golden brown. Makes 12 5-inch pancakes.

Cocoa is always a favorite here, for breakfast or after skiing or sledding, and making homemade allows you to control the quality of the ingredients but always have this tasty treat on hand. 

Cocoa Mix

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred)

2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper (this brings out the chocolate flavor)
Sometimes I even add in mini marshmallows

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly.  Store in an airtight container.
To make cocoa, fill a mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water or warm milk. Stir until well mixed.  

The grands and son-in-law Andrew love a warm cup of cocoa when they come in from the cold.
We eat a lot of soups and chowders during winter, and hot biscuits are almost always part of the meal.  This recipe makes a large quantity that keeps well, but must be stored in a dark, cool, dry place in a tightly sealed container.  It will last all winter.
Basic Biscuit Mix
17 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
8 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoon salt
4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups instant non-fat dry milk powder
4 1/2 cups shortening

In a very large bowl, stir together all dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place. Makes 26 cups. Mix will keep for two to three months.  To make biscuits: combine 3 cups mix and 2/3 cup milk. 

We grow a lot of beans in the garden, and though we also freeze a lot, we also save them dried for baking beans and bean soup mixes.  Bean soup is a favorite and is often on the menu during the winter.  It’s healthy and hearty and easy to make, especially if you have a mix all set for the pot. 
0 Bean Soup Mix
Seven Bean soup
The basic combination for this dish is easy, and beans are generally inexpensive.
Combine and mix thoroughly:
3 cups dried pinto beans
3 cups dried cannellini beans
2 cups dry kidney beans
2 cups dry lima beans
2 cups dry garbanzo beans
2 cups dried chick peas
2 cups dried split peas
Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.
To make this into soup:
1 ¾ cup dried beans
2 quarts broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
1/2 cup dried minced onion
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 14ounce can diced tomatoes

In a large bowl, soak the beans overnight or all day if for supper) covered in water.
In morning, drain the water set the beans aside.  In a soup kettle, bring the broth to a boil, then add beans, onion, paprika, salt, mustard, garlic, and parsley.
Reduce heat, and add in canned tomatoes.
Cover and simmer very low for an hour to an hour and a half.
Great with warm biscuits.
You can also add a smoked ham hock, Polish sausage, or cooked bacon if you want some meat in the dish, but it’s not necessary.

Mug mats and sachets
Finishing up the mixes guarantees that we have enough for eating through the seven months of snow and cold and some to be packaged into canning jars for Christmas gifts.  As the wind howls around the eaves, we pull the shades early shutting out the cold, and turn our attention to the holidays.  There are orange pomanders and spiced mug mats to finish, Amy’s homemade taffy to be pulled, cookie and bread recipes to be sorted, scarves to be crocheted, wreaths to be made, and quilts to be finished.  The house is redolent with the smell of baking and spices- clove and cinnamon, garlic and onions.  The fire spits and hisses on the hearth, the dogs sleep curled in their chairs, paws twitching in dreams.  The nights are still and silent, and the glimmer of the stars in the deep black sky is like a song.

Cookie Dreams

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