A couple of years ago I had an unfortunate allergic reaction to some MSG in a bottle brand of ranch dressing.  It was a lesson in reading ingredient lists and why I now make my own dressings.  It was easy to put together good vinaigrettes, but I also wanted a ranch recipe for variety (and because my husband loves it).  It took awhile to find just the right one.  We had a few disasters and a couple that were…okay.  My boys weren’t really ranch fanatics, but I thought if I could get the right recipe they would like it for dipping their veggies and maybe, just maybe they would eat more veggies because of it.

Well, over the summer I finally found just the right one.  My boys refer to it as “The Best Ranch Dressing Ever” recipe.

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You never know when or where inspiration will strike.  For me, on Friday, it was the produce isle, bakery and the soft light in my kitchen.

What inspires you?  Feel free to share…I’d love to know.

Alison

 

 

 

Things that are homemade almost always taste better. I’ve always known this, but somewhere along the line, a few years ago, I forgot.  I was so overwhelmed with 3 small children (all 4 and under) that I shifted to survival mode.  That meant putting whatever was easy and affordable on our table.  Nutrition and taste fell to the wayside.  I see now it was the season of my life and sometimes you just have to do the best you can.  As the boys have gotten older and a bit easier I have had the time, energy and clarity to think more about what I feed them. Several health crisis of loved ones, almost 3 years ago, brought the issue of what we ate front and center.  I started looking for better ways to feed my family.  It took baby steps, but soon we had more fresh fruits and vegetables filling our produce bins.  We stopped eating meat and drinking dairy.  I noticed differences in how we felt and behaved….more energy, less irritability, improved allergies.

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Yesterday we celebrated Samuel’s 7th birthday.  He chose a robot theme and asked for a bike.  Happily, he got both.

We are in the midst of a garden project tackling a huge pile of dirt in our driveway.  Last night after the birthday feast and cupcakes we headed outside to continue our shoveling and dirt hauling.  Samuel and I were in charge of filling a wheel barrow with the dirt Bret was hauling to fill our raised beds.  As we worked away I said to him, “Sam, you can remember your 7th birthday as the day you shoveled dirt with your mom.”  He laughed and said, “Yea, Mom.  You should write that down somewhere.”

It got me thinking.  What will he remember of being 7?  I have memories of being seven and in first grade.  Aside from a few very vivid moments those memories are more impressions than anything else.  So, I decided to write here for Samuel my thoughts on what he looks like at 7.

Samuel at 7…

You are creative and love to build with your hands.  I am amazed at the inventions you come up with and how you can see something in your mind even before you build it.

You love math and ask me to quiz you on your facts, just to show me how well you know them.

Your favorite food is spaghetti.

Your favorite colors are red, black and white.

Every night you think of some way to negotiate “5 more minutes” before bedtime.

The freckles across your nose are spreading to your cheeks.  I love that.

You don’t like to tie your shoes.

You tell me you love me everyday and thank me for being your mom.

You love that for the first time ever you are “busy” going to both baseball and soccer.

Every morning for breakfast you eat oatmeal with pears, cinnamon and a little maple syrup.

When you talk about growing up you tell me not to worry, because you’ll always live with me.

You love playing baseball and soccer with your brothers and half the neighborhood everyday after school.

Yesterday, while we shoveled dirt, you told me it was your best birthday ever.

Alison

 

I think I’ve mentioned my love for cookbooks here before, but just in case I hadn’t, I’m saying it now.  I love cookbooks.  Especially those that are well written with beautiful photography.  There is little I love more than settling in with a cup of tea and a cookbook, new or old, reading over the lists of ingredients and taking in the pictures.

A couple of weeks ago I picked up ‘Good to the Grain’ by Kim Boyce.  I kept reading about it on various food blogs and was curious to find out what all the talk was about. It is a beautifully written cookbook with photography to match.

When I get a new cookbook I’ll often sit and make a list of recipes that catch my eye first.  This recipe for Maple Pecan Granola was at the top of that list.  I love a good granola, and have shared here the one I most often make.  The ingredient list for this granola is short and the process is quite easy.  You’d never know by the layers of flavor you get in the end.

Maple Pecan Granola

from ‘Good to the Grain’


Dry Mix:

2 cups pecan halves

3 cups old fashioned oats (the recipe also suggests trying barley or rye flakes)

2 cups unsweetened coconut

1/2 cup wheat bran

Syrup:

1 cup maple syrup

1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups dried fruit such as blueberries or cranberries

Heat your oven to 325 degrees.  Spread the pecans onto the baking sheet and toast for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through, until toasty and golden brown.

Butter rimmed baking sheets or one large roasting pan (I skipped this step because I used nonstick baking sheets.  The granola came off fine.)

Measure oats, coconut, wheat bran and toasted pecans into a large bowl and toss them together.  Squeeze the pecans to break some into small pieces.

To make the syrup, measure the maple syrup into a small saucepan.  Place it over medium high heat for 7-10 minutes to reduce the syrup to 3/4 cup.  It’s fine to have slightly more than 3/4 cup, but do not let it go below that amount or the granola will lose it’s gloss.  After measuring, pour the reduced syrup back into the pot and add the butter and salt.  Swirl the syrup until it melts.

As soon as the syrup is done, immediately pour it over the oat mixture, making sure to use the spatula to scrape every last bit out. Use the spatula to combine.  This means going over and over tossing and scraping to make sure the syrup has coated every bit of the dry ingredients.

Scrape the granola evenly over the prepared baking sheets, spreading it evenly.

Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove the sheets from the oven and scrape the outer edges of the granola toward the center and the center out to the edges.  Repeat this two more times for a total of 30 minutes.

Allow the granola to cool thoroughly on the sheets; this allows the clumps to form.  Once the granola has cooled stir in the dried fruit if you are using it.

As spring rolls around I start looking for a lighter option for breakfast, other than my usual bowl of oatmeal, this granola completely fit the bill.  I’ve been eating it mixed with a bowl of fresh fruit and it’s been a great, light breakfast to start the day.

This granola is also a great snack post workout or in the afternoon when you just need a handful of something to get you through until supper.

Alison

 

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