I haven’t seen a simple, hands-on cookbook that got me excited to experiment in the kitchen in a while. But Vanessa Barrington’s “DIY Delicious” tackles traditional recipes like kombucha and sauerkraut to home made cheese, and makes it an art form. I liked the book so much I’m giving one away to my readers by early next week! Scroll down to enter.
Vanessa’s not only a talented chef, but an environmentally-conscious writer. Motivated by a trip back for a family reunion, Vanessa was touched by a longing to revive the “lost kitchen arts” in her aunt’s home. She reconsidered buying appliances, yogurt in plastic containers, and packaged food altogether, embracing a complete “do it yourself” attitude towards creating healthy, delicious meals.
Surrounded by a bounty of fruit trees in Oakland, she began by making her own jam using neighbors’ leftover plums. She developed tasty granola recipes and went on to tackle fermenting her own yogurt and mixing up homemade ketchup – essentials you and I might normally buy at the supermarket.
Covering a spectrum of main dishes to condiments that many of us take for granted, Vanessa offers tasty dish pairings with easy instructions. The recipes in her book also use a very short list of highly nutritious, sustainable food ingredients easily found at the farmer’s market – all big pluses for me.
Check out the following recipes reprinted from Chronicle Books and pick up her book on Amazon! Consider starting with her granola and almond milk. I am looking forward to the Wheatberry salad myself! Let me know what you think.
Granola Your Way
Time Required: 10 minutes active; 25 minutes passive
Yield: 2 quarts
There are many advantages to making your own granola. You’ll use less packaging, you’ll save money, and you can completely customize it to your taste and health needs. You’ll never go back to store-bought. Basic ingredients in granola include grain flakes, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, sweetener, and fat, such as butter or vegetable oil. You can embellish with vanilla, coconut, and spices like cinnamon. What follows is a formula to help you create the granola of your dreams, to enjoy every morning. See the mix-and-match suggestions.
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil or butter (as desired)
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup sweetener (you will need the lesser amount if using agave syrup or honey)
- Vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, or cardamom
- 4 cups flaked grains, such as oatmeal, kamut, rye, etc.
- Coconut, wheat germ, nutritional yeast, flax seeds, chia seeds (optional)
- 2 cups (about 8 ounces) lightly chopped nuts (any proportion)
- 1 cup chopped dried fruit
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter (or, if using oil, warm it) and add the sweetener along with vanilla, cinnamon, or other spices you’re using. If using honey for the sweetener, see the variation.
- In a large bowl, combine the flaked grains, coconut or wheat germ, seeds, and nuts. Toss to mix. Pour the warmed butter or oil and sweetener over and toss with a large spoon or spatula until evenly and lightly coated.
- Transfer the mixture to a large baking sheet and spread out evenly in a thin layer. Bake until evenly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Stop halfway through and stir the ingredients so that they brown evenly. Remove from the oven, add the dried fruit, and toss to combine.
- Let the granola cool completely on the baking sheet and store at room temperature in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to 3 weeks, stored properly. I store mine in mason jars on the counter. It looks nice and keeps the granola fresh and handy.
- If using honey, there’s no need to heat the oil first, but you still need to melt the butter (if using). Just whisk the fat together with the vanilla or cinnamon and pour it over the flakes, nuts, and extras, and toss and bake as directed. When you remove the granola from the oven, add the dried fruit, and drizzle the honey over it while still warm, toss to coat, and cool and store as directed.
- Note that honey will produce a sticky granola that clumps together. It’s not unpleasant, just more difficult to portion as you can’t pour it, and it’s difficult to scoop.
Mix-and-Match Custom Granola
Here’s where we play. Mix and match the items below to come up with your own dream granola. You’ll want to change it up depending on the season and your spirit of adventure.
Sweetener options (use one):
- Brown sugar
- Maple syrup
- Agave syrup
Fat options (use one):
- Coconut oil
- Vegetable oil
- Olive oil
Flaky options (use one or more):
- Oat flakes
- Kamut flakes
- Triticale flakes
- Spelt flakes
- Rye flakes
Nut and seed options (use one or more):
- Chopped or sliced almonds
- Chopped pecans
- Chopped walnuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
Dried fruit (unsulfured and chopped evenly is best) options (use one or more):
Homemade almond milk is so easy to make and so fresh tasting compared to packaged almond milk. It is great in smoothies, on Granola Your Way or whole-grain porridges, heated up for hot chocolate, or simply enjoyed as a beverage, sweetened with a little agave syrup or honey and a dash of vanilla extract. The more powerful your blender,
the better the results. I make almond milk with an old thrift-store blender just fine, but I have to strain it well. No need to discard the spent almond pulp. Spread it out thinly on a cookie sheet and dry it in a 200-degree oven for 6 to 8 hours. Sprinkle it over yogurt or porridge or add to muffins or cookies. You can freeze the dried pulp and use it over time.
Time Required: 20 minutes active; 8 to 12 hours passive
Yield: about 5 cups
2 cups (about 8 ounces) whole raw almonds
- Soak the almonds in 8 cups water overnight or for up to 15 hours in a bowl in the refrigerator. Puree the almonds, using all of the water, in batches in a blender and strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Pour into a jar or bottle, seal, and refrigerate. The milk will keep, refrigerated, for 5 days.
- Chill and shake before serving. Sweeten and embellish to taste with vanilla, cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, sugar, or agave syrup.
Wheat Berry Salad with Roasted Beets, Kale, Toasted Walnuts, and Sesame Tahini
This is just one of many different seasonal grain salads that can be made with the Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing. You can vary the grain by using brown or other types of rice, farro, quinoa, or kamut. Likewise, vary the vegetables seasonally. In summer, you’ll want to use tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers; in fall, roasted squash and pumpkin seeds; in spring, sweet peas, asparagus, or fava beans. You could also add shredded leftover chicken, canned wild salmon, or hard-cooked eggs for protein.
Time Required: about 45 minutes active; 1 hour passive
Yield: 6 servings
- 4 small to medium beets (see Tip)
- 1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) walnut halves, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup wheat berries, soaked for 4 to 5 hours or overnight and drained
- 1 bunch Lacinato or green or red kale
- 3/4 cup Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing (recipe follows)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
- Trim the beets and wrap them in one or two foil packets, depending on their size, keeping like-sized beets with like-sized beets. Put them in a baking dish to prevent beet juice from leaking into your oven and roast until tender and fragrant, 35 to 40 minutes. Use a small paring knife or skewer to check for doneness. The knife or skewer should go in easily with a small amount of resistance. Set them aside to steam in their foil packets. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them by rubbing the skins off with your fingertips, and cut the beets into bite-sized wedges. Alternatively, the beets can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and refrigerated, left in their foil wrappers, until ready to use.
- Lower the oven to 300 degrees F.
- In a small baking dish, arrange the walnuts in a single layer. Toast until brown and fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
- While the beets are roasting and the walnuts are toasting, set a medium saucepan with 3 cups of water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and add the wheat berries and a pinch of salt. Lower the heat to a slow simmer, cover partially, and cook until tender and pleasantly chewy, 45 to 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the wheat berries sit until you are ready to assemble the salad.
- Meanwhile, trim, stem, and wash the kale and put it in a vegetable steamer set over boiling water. Steam until tender and wilted, but still bright green, about 5 minutes.
- Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and squeeze out excess moisture. Chop coarsely and set aside.
- When all the ingredients are ready, drain the wheat berries and transfer them to a serving bowl. Add the beet wedges, kale, and walnuts. Add the dressing and toss thoroughly.
- Taste and correct the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve immediately or within 2 hours at room temperature. The salad can also be covered and refrigerated for 3 to 4 days.
- Bring to room temperature before serving.
Note: I like to roast beets this way whenever I have the oven on for something else. It’s an energy-saving strategy and a great way to have cooked beets on hand for adding to salads anytime.
Simple Sesame Tahini Dressing
Besides being tasty on grain and Asian noodle salads, this dressing is also fantastic drizzled over grilled fish or chicken or fresh sliced tomatoes, or used as a sandwich spread. Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds, used often in Middle Eastern cuisine (it’s one of the essential ingredients in hummus). You can find tahini in both raw and roasted versions, in either jars or cans. It is produced both domestically and overseas. Look for it in health food and specialty stores and in the world foods aisle in some grocery stores. Any type of tahini can be used in this recipe. I buy locally produced organic, raw tahini from Artisana. Tahini should be refrigerated after opening as it goes rancid quickly.
Time Required: about 10 minutes active
Yield: about 3/4 cup
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
- 1/3 cup sesame tahini paste
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon soy sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
- With a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic to a paste with a pinch of salt. In a blender, combine the garlic paste, tahini, 1/3 cup water, the lemon juice, honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil and blend until smooth. Season with salt. Use immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.
Enter to win a copy of “DIY Delicious” by sharing one of your favorite easy and tasty recipes using healthy ingredients. Extra entries if you share the post with others and they subscribe. Thanks!11/29/2010: Congratulations to Desiree for winning the raffle!