Friday, June 28, 2013

longest day link love

We are now counting down from the longest day of the year.

Last Friday, we had 17 hours and 3 minutes of daylight. I guess that's what happens when you live in Canada's largest northern city.

All the light snuck up on me. Suddenly, I found myself going out to the garden to check on the kale at 10:15. Another night, we set out for a sunset run just after 10. And last week, on the longest day of the year, we went for a walk along the North Saskatchewan River. We set out just before 10:30 and arrived to find a pale blue sky and the moon just starting to rise.*

It had just rained and the puddles reflected the remains of the sunset. Edmonton, I think, will do summer well. (As it also does winter well. Very well.)

Here's what I've been up to in these early summer days:

Making pasta with yogurt, peas and chile. Molly said we should make this right away. She was right. I might make it again next week.**

Trying to convince my better half  who actually peels the chickpeas  that we should have this ethereally smooth hummus on hand every day for the rest of our lives. (Note to self: this is the second recipe inspired by Ottolenghi. I wonder if it's a sign?)

Canning grapefruit rhubarb jam!

Squeezing every last drop out of my new favourite wine, which I can only afford to drink once a year.

Dolloping tarragon mustard on everything.***

Discovering a new friend in the neighbourhood: a whisky and wine bar called The Bothy. (Where I ate a Lorne sausage sandwich with greens, four-year cheddar, Branston pickle and sundried tomato mustard and fell in love.)

And finally: trying not to stay up too late watching The Hour. (BBC, I love you.)

* The mosquitoes also seemed to be rising. But let me not disabuse you of the notion that I live in a romantic place.
** Although Scott says he is banning it (as he licks his lips) because it creates too many dishes.
** No link, but you can find The Jam Lady at the downtown farmers' market in Edmonton.

Monday, June 10, 2013

chewy granola bars

When I work the super-early shift on the radio  please don't even ask me what time I have to get up  I get ravenously hungry by the time my break rolls around just before 9 a.m.

At that point, I've usually eaten breakfast and at least one snack, but all that food always feels like it's part of the very distant past. I need my black tea and more snacks now.

A few weeks ago, I walked over to Credo, which makes some of the best Assam tea in Edmonton. I love how they actually brew the tea for me, so I don't have to fiddle around with extracting a sopping wet tea bag from my too-full cup.

Credo had the usual muffins out, but then I spotted a big silver pan of warm granola bars. I tilted my head and considered it. Honestly, I had never understood the appeal of homemade granola bars when I already make my own granola.

But I find muffins to be almost universally disappointing and I needed to eat something now, so I took a chance. (I know, it is a daring life I lead.)

The girl behind the counter cut me a bar that was almost as big as my hand and put it in a little white paper bag. I looked at it dubiously and thought I could probably save it for snacks for the next two days.

I sat down in a big armchair while my tea was steeping and cautiously took a bite.

It was warm and oat-y and there was just a bit of chocolate and it was exactly the right chewy thing. I had eaten the whole bar before I left the café ten minutes later.

Then I remembered reading about chewy granola bars on Orangette more than a year ago. I dug up the recipe and tried it out.

They turned out a bit different from Credo's  for one thing, I try not to cut as big pieces  but they're really, really, really wonderful. You drizzle this mixture of peanut butter and honey and vanilla and melted butter over a tumble of oats and chocolate chips and whatever dried fruit and nuts you have around, stick it in the oven, and you're in business.

I guess I go through snack phases (hummus and crackers, yogurt and honey, etc.), and this is my current snack phase. When I need a snack, these are all I can think about. Luckily, I have at least two snack times scheduled each day.

P.S. I like the way Molly keeps these oat-centric, with just hints of nuts and dried fruit. She was also brilliant enough to add chocolate. But it appears that the original King Arthur Flour recipe lets you use lots more nuts and fruit, if that's your thing.

one year ago: loganberry vinegar and hop & go fetch it: pacific rim edition
two years ago: blueberry rhubarb rum jam and tomato cheddar soufflé with asparagus
three years ago: chocolate peanut butter oatcakes and chilli pasta

chewy granola bars
slightly adapted from Orangette, Smitten Kitchen and King Arthur Flour

1 2/3 c. (155 g.) quick-cooking oats*
1/3 c. (35 g.) oat flour**
1/3 c. (65 g.) brown sugar
scant 1 c. (100 g.) raw pecans or other nuts, chopped as roughly as you like
1/2 c. (85 g.) chocolate chips
1/2 c. (25 g.) coconut chips or flakes***
 2 tbsp. ground flax (optional)
1/4 c. (40 g.) dried fruit (cherries, raisins, currants, prunes, etc.), chopped
1/2 tsp. fine salt
1/3 c. (85 g.) nut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
6 tbsp. (85 g.) butter, melted
6 tbsp. (120 g.) honey
1 tbsp. water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8 by 8 inch baking pan. Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle that will line the bottom of the pan and overhang on two ends.

Take out a big bowl and mix up the oats, oat flour, brown sugar, pecans, chocolate chips, coconut, flax, dried fruit and salt. In another bowl, whisk the nut butter, vanilla, butter, honey and water together. Drizzle over the oats and friends, and mix well. Dump the mixture into your prepared pan. Use a piece of plastic wrap to press it down evenly.

Bake for about 30 minutes. Start checking on them after about 25 minutes. The edges will get golden and (hopefully) the top will also get a bit golden (although not as much as the edges). Put the pan on a rack and let cool completely. Then put it in the fridge for a few hours. Do not attempt to cut them into squares before they are thoroughly chilled or you will freak out because they'll all fall apart and you'll think you've made granola cereal instead of granola bars. Of course, if you need to cut a bit out while it's cooling to taste, that is absolutely recommended. Just don't stress about its crumbly nature when it's warm.

I keep mine in the fridge because it's almost summer, but I hear they're fine wrapped on the counter, too. They've certainly held together for hours in my lunch bag outside of the fridge.

* I've also used regular rolled oats and they were good, but a bit more crumbly. If you are gluten-free, make sure you get oats that are labelled "pure" and "wheat free." This means they have not grown next to wheat or been processed in a factory that also processes wheat.
** If you don't have oat flour handy, you can just grind them in the food processor
*** Unsweetened is best, but sweetened is fine, too (that's all I could find!)