Clean Living & Granola

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I like to start the new year with a clean slate and cleaned out kitchen. It means emptying every cabinet, drawer, pantry and even the fridge and freezer. Everything is wiped clean, expiration dates are checked and ingredients are either returned to their shelves or lined up on the counter to be used up ASAP.

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I don’t throw any food out, but take those half empty bags and containers of oats, seeds, nuts and extracts and toss them together to make a really simple, but great crunchy granola. Hey, I think this might even be called a “clean” recipe. (Just another trendy buzz word for eliminating processed foods from your diet.) Anyway, it’s not too sweet thanks to Organic Blue Agave Nectar and gets a favor burst from some Celtic Sea Salt and vanilla bean powder. It’s addictive and another one of my recipes that gives you complete freedom to customize to your own taste. I hope you are inspired by what’s in your cabinets and pantry. Go clean.

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New Year Granola

2 ½ cups rolled oats

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup chopped hazelnuts

½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

¼ cup sesame seeds

2 teaspoons vanilla bean powder

½ cup organic blue agave

¼ cup coconut oil

1-teaspoon hazelnut extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon Celtic sea salt

1 cup dried cherries

Heat oven 250F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In large bowl, toss oats, almonds, hazelnuts, coconut, sesame seeds, vanilla bean powder. In small saucepan, over low heat, warm agave and coconut oil. Remove from heat; stir in hazelnut and almond extract. Drizzle agave mixture over oat mixture, stirring until oat mixture is moistened. Spoon granola on baking sheet flattening it out into an even layer. Sprinkle with the salt. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes for even browning. Cool. Stir in dried cherries. Store in airtight container.

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Following In His Light & Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

crispy coconut oyster mushrooms go Asian

This weekend my hometown of Kennett Square, PA has closed down its main streets in anticipation of 100,000 visitors. MushroomFest2015 is in full swing celebrating its 30th year with vendors, music, food, contests and entertainment. Several months ago I was asked to be a “celebrity chef” and do a cooking demo in the culinary tent. I was flattered and replied with an enthusiastic, “yes”, but as the date drew near I grew more nervous and anxious about my ability to do such a presentation. I love this town and I love the festival which is run by volunteers, but I was so scared about falling on my face that I honestly thought about backing out.

how about that?

how about that?

Never did a cooking demonstration before and unfamiliar territory is typically frightening. How was I going to cook, on a stage, and entertain a crowd á la Food Network Star? It wasn’t something I could practice.  In addition, I had to follow the famous and charming Top Chef fan favorite Fabio Viviani. Not too much pressure. Did I really say, “yes”? Truth is I am no Food Network Star. Further, other self-doubting thoughts were taking up space in my head, but then it hit me why I said “yes”. I promised to follow in his light. Channelling my inner William and celebrating his fearlessness, I mustered up the courage to step out of my comfort zone and win over the crowd with my mastery of mushrooms.

teaching about mushroom blendability

teaching about mushroom blendability

It’s all part of the journey. Following in his light. Transforming myself. Its typical of grievers to take on some of the traits of those they have loved and lost. William has helped me conquer quite a few fears and I am ever so grateful for that. Luckily the demo went well. Surprisingly well. No fanfare. Just being myself. The crowd was engaged. They were laughing and cooking with me. It was like being in my own kitchen. Cooking what I like and loving when I cook. The audience members asked questions and they learned. They clapped and I even got a few hugs. Thank you to those who stopped by and to my son for giving me the courage. I love and miss you every single day.

He is cheering me on

He is cheering me on.

Now here is the fan favorite recipe. It is the perfect appetizer for not only the mushroom lover, but also for those who can’t eat shellfish. Mushrooms are very similar in texture to shellfish. I have had people bite into these and ask if it is an oyster or shrimp.Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or try the one I suggest here.

yup, they are mushrooms

yup, they are mushrooms

Crispy Coconut Oyster Mushrooms with Sweet Asian Chili Sauce

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup lime-flavored seltzer water

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I like Bob’s Red Mill )

1 cup fine dry breadcrumb

18 oyster mushroom caps

vegetable oil ( for frying)

salt

Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

½ cup red pepper jelly

1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar

1-teaspoon Asian fish sauce or soy sauce

In a mixing bowl, whisk flour, salt, ginger, pepper and seltzer until smooth. Combine coconut and breadcrumbs in a large zippered bag. Dip each mushroom in batter letting excess drip back into bowl. Drop mushroom into bag and gently shake to coat with coconut crumbs. (At this point the mushrooms can be placed on a rack in the refrigerator until ready to serve.) Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches in a deep skillet or Dutch oven; heat to 350°. Fry mushrooms, in batches, 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with dipping sauce.

To make the dipping sauce, in small saucepan over low heat, stir all the ingredients together until jelly is melted and blended.

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

gorgeous KSQ oyster mushrooms

Finally, here is a mushroom fun fact. Like humans, mushrooms are the only fruit/vegetable that when exposed to ultra violet light make their own Vitamin D.

Do you know TAPS & TEFF ?

toasted teff & steel cut oats

toasted teff & steel cut oats

TAPS. You know the melancholy bugle tune, but do you know the organization? Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) provides immediate and long-term support to those grieving the death of a loved one in American military service. The organization provides a “good grief” camp for surviving children, a 24 hour helpline from leading experts in the field of grief and trauma and hosts an online community of survivors that help each other. If you don’t know this charitable organization do check it out.

portrait of William by Michael Reagan

portrait of William by Michael Reagan

TAPS connected me to an artist named Michael Reagan. Michael is a Vietnam Vet and nationally known portrait artist. He has painted celebrities and presidents and to date 4,000 fallen servicemen and women. The portrait of my son was given to me and Bill as a gift….a thank you from Michael Reagan for Will’s service. In his spiritual journey as an artist Michael certainly captures Will’s likeness and the love in his eyes.

see the heart

see the heart

If you are looking for a charitable organization in 2015 take a look at TAPS and Michael Reagan’s Fallen Heroes Project. “It’s all about the love and respect; we will never forget.” Now let’s talk about another thing you might not know about, teff.

smallest grain in the world

smallest grain in the world

Recently, my friend, Maryann told me about teff and how much she liked it, so off to the store I go. Lo and behold, Bob’s Red Mill includes it in their product line and provides a complete description of what it is and how to use it on their packaging. It is another “super grain” originating in ancient Africa. It is mild and nutty in flavor and boasts lots of calcium, iron and fiber. I am delighted to discover another whole grain to add to my healthy culinary arsenal and you will be, too.

breakfast parfait

breakfast parfait

It’s winter. Brrrreak out your slow cooker and wake up to a warm and nourishing breakfast of teff and steel cut oats. Toasting the grains gives them an even nuttier flavor, but that step is totally optional. Using agave or maple syrup lets you go vegan, but honey is just as delicious and feel free to change up your spices to your liking.

toasted teff & steel cut oats

Slow Cooker Toasted Teff & Steel Cut Oats Porridge

½ cup teff, toasted*

½ cup steel cut oats, toasted**

3 cups water

1-tablespoon agave or maple syrup

½ large baking apple, peeled, chopped

6 fresh, pitted dates, chopped

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

few grinds of fresh nutmeg

pinch of coarse salt

Toppings: fresh fruit, unsweetened coconut, chopped nuts, yogurt, agave, maple syrup

Get out your slow cooker. Fill it with 2 cups of water. Place all the porridge ingredients (accept the garnishes) in a medium heat-proof bowl that will fit inside the slow cooker. Place the ingredient-filled bowl in the slow cooker creating a double-boiler effect. Add additional water, if needed, so water comes up at least half-way to side of bowl. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. Stir and serve with favorite toppings.

*to toast teff: place in a dry skillet over low heat, stirring, until fragrant or it begins to pop, about 3 to 5 minutes.

**to toast steel cut oats: place on baking sheet in 350F. oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes