Homemade Granola for a Bake Sale

pints of granola at bake sale

My mom was something of a reluctant hippie. Free love wasn’t her thing, recreational drugs didn’t float her boat and she missed Woodstock by a hair. Ticket in hand, she came down with the flu two hours before her ride was coming to pick her up. However her brown hair was kept long and straight, she religiously dabbed patchouli oil on her pulse points and, in 1970, she married my dad in a handmade dress on a hilltop overlooking San Francisco.

16 cups of rolled oats

My dad embraced the sixties counter-culture with a bit more passion. He dropped in and out of college, played folk music in smoky coffeehouses, conscientiously objected to the Vietnam War and, on occasion, lived in his Volkswagon (it had a giant God’s Eye painted on the back).

measuring out the nuts

During their Santa Cruz years, they kept chickens in their backyard and watched their pennies (my mom can still recite her weekly grocery list from those days and knows exactly how much a pound of chuck steak cost in 1973). She briefly ran a toy store called Joyful, Joyful and sometimes cooked for a local Headstart program, making lunch from scratch for over 100 kids and adults with little or no help. My dad went to school, kept playing music and repaired cars on the side.

oats, sesame seeds, almonds, pepitas & sunflower seeds

During most of these early years, they always a jar of nutty, homemade, wheat-germ fortified granola on the countertop. It was cheap and easy to make, and even a small bowl had the power to keep you full for hours. The original recipe was cribbed from a friend, who made it in industrial sized batches and sold it around the Bay Area.

finished granola

I offer these details as my granola credentials. I come from people who know and enjoy their granola (or GORP, as the original recipe was called). I’ve made many a batch in the last 10+ years and have learned a number of things from the repetition.

I like a two to one oat to nut/seed ration the best. Additional oil is unnecessary (although I still recommend greasing your measuring cup before pouring brown rice syrup or honey into it). Toasting the sesame seeds a little before adding them to the mix ensures that you won’t end up with an occasional mouthful of bitter. Always wait to add dried fruit until the toasting process is complete. And most importantly, it’s okay to adapt a recipe to your audience.

a triple batch of granola

These days, I make a fairly plain batch. Sometimes I flavor it with cinnamon, sometimes with vanilla. I always leave the dried fruit out (Scott is not a fan). It’s a whole lot easier for me to add a palmful of dried blueberries or raisins to my serving than it is for him to pick them out after the fact (and far less wasteful). And best of all, it stores beautifully in a jar on the countertop.

The reason for the large batch you see above was that I made a dozen pint jars of granola for the Great American Bake Sale a couple of weeks ago (that’s the picture you see up at the top of the post). I don’t know if they all sold, but soon after I dropped them off, I heard a woman say, “I just want to grab one of those jars and pour it straight into my mouth.” I do love those overheard endorsements!

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Of Cozies and Classes

jar cozies + dish rag

Last Saturday, another batch of jar cozies appeared in my mail box. These guys are from Marci in Wisconsin and I’m absolutely smitten with them. I particularly love that she made one that is just a band, because it slides right around my beloved pint and a half jar. She also included a handmade dishrag that I will be pressing into service later tonight. Thanks Marci!

And now, some news about my canning classes. If you’ve tried to register for one of canning classes on the Foster’s Homewares website in the last few days, you may have noticed that their site is currently down. Sadly, the store is having some troubles. The owners are trying to find a way to stay in business, but the future is murky. Happily, some friends have already volunteered an alternate location, so the classes will go on with their topics, dates and times intact.

As soon as I know more, I will announce whether the classes will indeed be moving and where the new location will be. You can continue to sign up for my classes, just drop me an email at foodinjarsATgmail.com. Unfortunately, the class scheduled for this Saturday, May 1st is canceled. If you were signed up for this class, please get in contact so we can make arrangements to get you into a different class.

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April Can Jam: Rosemary Rhubarb Jam

rhubarb/sugar/rosemary

Despite having known about the April Can Jam challenge for more than a month (I helped pick the topic, after all), I still waited until the VERY last minute to make my jam. What can I say, I’m motivated by deadlines (although I do sometimes wonder what it would be like to have a bit of daylight with which to take my photos).

rhubarb stalks

Happily, all the time I invested in delaying the actual making paid off, because when I finally went to the kitchen, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. Rhubarb. Rosemary. Sugar. A bit of lemon. Oh yes.

I’ve been smitten with the flavor of rosemary since I was in high school. We had several large bushes in our front yard and I would often grasp one of the fragrant fronds as I walked down the driveway on my way out of the house, to carry the scent with me. I’ve often wished that I had followed the lead of our neighbor, who would snip an armful to float in her bathwater.

squeezing lemon

I know that a lot of people struggled with this particular challenge, because it was at once very specific and yet totally open. However, I’ve loved seeing all the ways that people have applied herbs to their pickles and preserves. I do hope this will lead to further herbal experimentation (pure thoughts, kids) as we move into the heart of the canning season.

jarred jam

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Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It Winner!

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

We’ve got a winner in the Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It giveaway! The lucky recipient of the book will be commenter #328, Avalee. She writes a luscious blog called The Wooden Spoon that features some lovely, light-filled photos and a variety of appealing-sounding recipes.

Thanks to all who entered the giveaway. I loved reading all your stories and am delighted by how many of you are diving into making things from scratch. Thanks also to Snubbr, for sponsoring this giveaway.

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Keeping Those Jars Cozy + Cold Brew Coffee

jar cozy!

For years now, I’ve been in the habit of using jars as to-go containers. On days when I make a smoothie for breakfast, I tote it to work in one of my precious 24 ouncers (please Jarden Home Brands, bring back the 1 1/2 pint wide mouth jar). I frequently eat a yogurt, granola and jam concoction out of a wide mouth pint. And when I don’t have a traditional travel mug handy, I pour my coffee into a jar.

jar cozy in hand

During warmer months, I’m strictly an iced coffee girl (see below!). I use the cold brew method, which results in a smooth, nuanced cup. However, in the winter I like my coffee toasty. And while the jar can handle the heat, my fingers can’t always. Enter the jar cozy!

A couple of weeks ago, I put the call out on the Food in Jars Facebook page (come hang out, there’s so much good jar chatter happening!) for jar cozies and got a number of enthusiastic responses. And happy day, the first one arrived today from Leah in Minnesota. I may have to brew up some hot coffee tomorrow morning, just to make use of it. Thanks Leah!

cold brew coffee - full coffee grinder

As far as the cold brew coffee goes, here’s my super simple approach. Fill a cheapo coffee grinder nearly to the top with beans (I’m working on the dredges of a couple different varieties, so there’s both medium and dark roasts in the hopper. Obviously, I’m no purist).

cold brew coffee - 6-8 ounces of ground coffee

Using a wide mouth funnel, knock the grounds into a quart jar. I typically use just shy of a cup of coffee grounds. Fill the jar to the top with filtered water. Tightly screw on a lid (do not use one of the white plastic ones in this situation) and give it a good shake, in order to fully saturate the coffee.

cold brew coffee - filled with water

Let the jar sit for 8-10 hours (overnight works pretty darn well here). In the morning, line a drip funnel (something like this) with a paper filter and set it over another jar or a pitcher with a quart capacity. Pour the coffee into the filter and let it drip through (this will take a little more time than it does when the water is hot).

The resulting coffee has a ton of flavor and makes this caffeine addict very, very happy. I pour mine into a pint jar, leaving enough room for a generous splash of milk and head off to work.

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Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

One of the things that I’ve found most delightful about the growing hand-made, do-it-yourself trend has been the number of downright lovely books that have accompanied it. My favorite, which hit stores about this time last year, is Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

This is a fantastic book for the folks who really want to begin to break away from the grocery store, but need a little bit of help making the transition. I’m particularly partial to the Rosemary and Olive Oil cracker recipe Karen included (Erin blogged about it here, if you want to see pictures and peek at the recipe).

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

Karen’s instructions are crystal clear and the book is full of great projects for anyone who wants to expand their kitchen ambitions.

Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It

This post was originally a giveaway, but I’ve edited it to remove the giveaway language because I wanted to simply have a page dedicated to Karen’s lovely book.