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Crafty, healthy, and eco-friendly recipes: enter to win Vanessa Barrington’s “DIY Delicious”

November 18, 2010

Creative Spark, Stuff I Love

Wheatberry Salad from "DIY Delicious"

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.

Granola Your Way, Chronicle Books

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
  • Honey
  • Agave syrup

Fat options (use one):

  • Coconut oil
  • Butter
  • 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):

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Cranberries
  • Currants
  • Raisins
  • Cherries

Almond Milk
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
  • Salt
  • 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
  • Salt
  • 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!

5 Responses to “Crafty, healthy, and eco-friendly recipes: enter to win Vanessa Barrington’s “DIY Delicious””

  1. Sara Ghedina (onegirlinthekitchen) Says:

    Hi there,
    I have a food blog myslef and over time I’ve posted few DIY recipes.
    Here are two of my favorites, one super healty and one….well….let’s just say more delicious than healty, but definitely healthier than the store-bought version.

    Ok, so here is the first one:
    HOMEMADE RICOTTA (for about 1 lb. of ricotta)
    milk – 2 quarts
    heavy whipping cream – 1/2 cup
    white wine vinegar – 5 tablespoons
    salt – a pinch

    To be precise, this is not really ricotta, since ri-cotta (as the name says, literally re-cooked) should be made by the cooking a second time the whey that’s left over from making cheese. Regardless of the name, this thing is really good, and most of all, it’s far better than any version I’ve been able to find at the supermarket.
    In a large pot, mix milk, cream, vinegar and salt. Put on the stove at medium heat until it reaches between 195 and 205 degrees (what? you still don’t have a cooking thermometer?). It’ll take about 40 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for approximately 20 minutes in the same pot, without ever touching it, so that milk can curdle and coagulate. Using a slotted spoon, gently transfer ricotta in a fine sieve (even better if it’s lined with cheesecloth) and let it drain until it reaches the desired consistency. Adjust with salt and keep it in the fridge.
    (You can read the original post with picture here: http://en.onegirlinthekitchen.com/2010/02/homemade-ricotta.html)

    And, here is the second one:
    CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT SPREAD, or NUTELLA-LIKE SPREAD (for two medium-size jars)
    hazelnut – 130 gr.
    milk chocolate – 200 gr.
    sugar – 120 gr.
    low-fat milk – 150 ml.
    sunflower seed oil (or other neutral tasting oil) – 90 ml.

    Toast hazelnuts in the oven, let them cool down, and then eliminate their outer skin. Put them in a food processor with a little bit of sugar (taken from the total amount) and grind them finely. Chop up the chocolate. Pour all ingredients in a pan with heavy bottom, place it on the stove at low heat, making sure the spread doesn’t warm up too much. As soon as chocolate is melted, use an immersion blender to grind the hazelnut grains as fine as possible. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes longer, always stirring, until the spread is smooth. Pour the Nutella-like cream in the jars when still warm, and let it cool completely before sealing them.
    (You can read the original post with picture here: http://en.onegirlinthekitchen.com/2009/12/nutella-nutellae.html)


  2. Elena Elmoznino Says:

    Sauteed Bok Choy and Ginger (I saw a video of this recipe being prepared a few years ago on youtube and have made it many times since).

    3 heads of baby bok choy (those are the slightly smaller ones)
    1 red pepper, optional
    2 cloves of garlic, chopped or minced.
    1 tbsp of ginger, grated or minced
    Pinch of red pepper flakes
    1 tbsp of tamari/soy sauce
    a few drops of toasted sesame oil

    Wash and separate the celery part of the bok choy from the leaves.
    Cut the celery part into 1/4 inch diagonal slices.
    If the leaves are large, you can cut them in half.
    Heat veg. oil on med/high add the celery part (you can also throw in a sliced red pepper for color).
    Saute on med/high for about a minute.
    Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and stir well for few more seconds.
    Add the leaves (they cook super fast) so add the soy sauce and drizzle several drops of sesame oil and stir until the leaves have just wilted.

    Serve over rice, as a side, or however you see fit!

  3. desiree Says:

    my friend brenda introduced me to your blog, love it!

    since i recently went back to school, i have found myself much lower on time and money that usual (which is not saying a whole lot). this soup has been one of my favorites for a long time, and is super filling, simple, and inexpensive. i make a huge pot (it’s hard not to make a huge pot of it) and freeze most of it for a quick future meal. i don’t measure anything, but tried to get a decent estimate for this recipe. i just add everything to taste, and it can be easily made veggie or vegan.

    olive oil (as you see fit)
    as much minced fresh garlic as you wish, i use an obscene amount
    1/2 large red onion, diced
    2-3 ribs celery, chopped
    1 cup chopped carrots, or bagged matchsticks, much faster
    1 tsp finely chopped rosemary, thyme, tarragon, or any other fresh herbs yo may have
    1 can petit diced tomatoes
    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
    1 can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
    1-2 tbs basil pesto
    1 cup frozen spinach
    handful frozen french green beans
    1/2 bag frozen cheese tortellini (optional)

    in a large stockpot, saute the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery in olive oil (med-low heat) until they are softened a bit. add the pest and other herbs (unless you are using tarragon, save that for the last 5 minutes) and stir in the canned tomatoes (juice and all) and raise the heat to medium for about 5 minutes. pour in the chicken broth, add both cans of beans, and bring to a boil. lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or so (you may want to add some water, i usually do). 5 minutes before you want to eat, return to a boil and add the frozen veggies and tortellini. once the tortellini is done you are ready to go.

  4. Elton Batarse Says:

    I’ve invited the family to ours this xmas for a traditional dinner, so the roast is pretty important! I found an archive of ideas at this roast recipe site, but cant seem to decide on one in particular – there’s too many to choose from! It’s fun planning such a big family dinner though!

  5. desiree Says:

    so looking forward to my book, thank you for such a neat giveaway!

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