Saturday, August 29, 2009

Homemade Yogurt and Granola

Though the economists tell us that we're on our way out of the recession that has been plaguing us, it seems like it's always a good time to save a little money. When saving money can mean eating better - if with a bit more work, I'm all for it. It's been great making my own bread and the pennies saved have definitely added up. So, I thought I'd venutre into other suprisingly easily homemade staples - yogurt and granola.

Homemade Yogurt
from Mirelle Gulliano's FWDGF

2 c milk (2% is my preference)
1-2 Tbs plain, good quality yogurt

Place milk in saucepan and heat until slightly foaming around the edges and steaming. Allow to cool to between 110-115 F (or when you can leave your finger in the mixture comfortably for 20 seconds). Take small amount of milk and mix into a seperate bowl with the plain yogurt. Add yogurt mixture to milk in thirds, making sure to mix thuroughly after each addition. Cover milk mixture tightly with a clean cloth. If you have a gas stove, allow it to sit in a warm place near the pilot light for 6-8 hours. If you have an electric stove, boil some water and place it in a pan in the oven, then set the milk in the oven for 6-8 hours. Once set, refrigerate for an additional 8 hours. Then enjoy!

French Chocolate Granola

3 cups rolled oats
½ cup raw almonds, chopped
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
6 Tbsp. mild honey
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
½ cup, or more, finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 300°F.In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, coconut, sugar, and salt. Stir well to blend.In a small saucepan, warm the honey and oil over low heat, whisking occasionally – watch out! the oil will want to splash - until the honey is loose. Pour over the dry ingredients, and stir to combine well.

Spread the mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden. Set a timer to go off halfway through the baking time, so that you can give the granola a good stir; this helps it to cook evenly. When it’s ready, remove the pan from the oven, stir well – this will keep it from cooling into a hard, solid sheet – and cool completely.

When cool, transfer the granola to a large bowl, storage jar, or zipper-lock plastic bag. Add the chocolate, and stir (or shake, if using a jar or bag) to mix. Store in an airtight container.

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel

Falafel is one of my favorite street foods. I still have dreams sometimes about the particularly delicious spinach falafel I had in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Alexandria, Egypt. There seem to be limitless variations each bringing something new and delicious to the classic chic pea-based falafel. I also happen to love sweet potatoes, and when I came across a recipie that included both (and also did NOT include deep frying) I couldn't pass up trying it out for myself.

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel

2 medium sweet potatoes (orange inside), around 700g or 1 1/2 pounds in total
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 small cloves of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 big handfuls of fresh cilantro/coriander, chopped
Juice of half a lemon
a scant cup (120g) gram /chickpea flour (can't find any? buy some dry chic peas and grind them in your food processor)
a splash of olive oil
a sprinkling of sesame seeds
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F degrees (220C) and roast the sweet potatoes whole until just tender - 45 minutes to 1 hour. Turn off the oven, leave the potatoes to cool, then peel.

Put the sweet potatoes, cumin, garlic, ground and fresh coriander, lemon juice and gram/chickpea flour into a large bowl. Season well, and mash until smooth with no large chunks. Stick in the fridge to firm up for an hour, or the freezer for 20-30 minutes. When you take it out, your mix should be sticky rather than really wet. You can add a tablespoon or so more of chickpea flour if necessary (the water content of sweet potatoes varies enormously).

Reheat the oven to 400F/200C. Using a couple of soup spoons (put a well-heaped spoonful of mix in one spoon and use the concave side of the other to shape the sides) or a falafel scoop if you have one, make the mixture into falafelly looking things and put them on an oiled tray. Sprinkle sesame seeds on top and bake in the oven for around 15 minutes, until the bases are golden brown.

Makes about 18 falafel, enough for 4 - 6. I enjoyed it on it's own but was especially tasty with a tzadziki sauce or a yogurt garlic sauce (yogurt, garlic and salt and pepper mixed to taste) with some toasty warm pita and sprouts.