Maple Granola

Ben might be based out of NOLA, but that doesn’t mean I can’t whip up some ‘nola myself. (Glad I got that pun out of my system).

I’ve recently become a fan of an incredible food blog called Love and Lemons, which centers upon largely vegetarian – and vegetable-based – recipes, coupled with absolutely superb food photography. I’ve tried a handful of recipes off the blog, and my most successful endeavor thus far has been the granola. I made a few tweaks – based upon taste and absence of ingredients – and can now whip up a batch of granola in about fifteen minutes flat (baking time excluded).

Love and Lemons calls for the following:

  • 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (melted if yours is solid)
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shaved coconut
  • a little brown sugar (optional)

I kept the recipe identical, but made a few adjustments and omissions:

  • I’m not crazy about nuts in granola, so I reduced the pecans and almost to a 1/2 cup, total
  • I used a bit closer to 1/3rd of a cup of maple syrup, as opposed to 1/4 cup
  • I didn’t have coconut oil, so I substituted canola
  • I also didn’t have coconut shavings, so I omitted this part
  • I add 1 tbsp of brown sugar

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Like the recipe says, you simply mix all of the above ingredients together, and lay them out flat in a pan, sifting every few minutes. I kept it in the oven for about 35 minutes, at about 325 degrees.SONY DSC

My principal challenge isn’t so much taste as texture. I haven’t yet mastered the ability to create consistent clusters of granola, so my last few batches have been mostly separate – but still delicious – oat crumble, with occasional clumps. I’ve begun to try reducing the amount of maple syrup I initially add by about 15%, and instead drizzle it on during the baking process, and then sift, so as to create clumps in the process.

The sweetness of the granola goes well on its own, but also works insanely well as a topping for greek yogurt with fruit. Those Starbucks parfaits got nothin’ on this.

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YASS (Yet Another Successful Stew)

2014-07-26 22.42.03It’s almost cliché for me to post another stew recipe but I really can’t help it, it’s a (delicious) disease!  Any day can be a stew day, especially in New Orleans where it is hot all year round.  A good stew does not require lots of fancy meats and ingredients, just some basic ingredients that can be easily swapped for others depending on what’s in the pantry.  The protein is usually the most obvious differentiator; I’ve had great experiences with chicken, seitan, beef, sausage, and many combinations.

This particular recipe was easy to make and had a sweet/spicy thing that I really loved.  Try it out below!

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Sitting, Waiting, Watching

James Robinson writes in PandoDaily today about his fleeting love affair with fitness trackers. He notes that these one- or two- function bands are great at giving one a sense of quantified self, and perhaps some short-lived motivation, but not much more than that. In the long-run, they’re destined for the desk drawer, along with the point-and-shoot camera and standalone GPS. He observes:

A hypothetical smart watch that people actually want to buy in mass, one that could match an activity tracker’s function while performing some of the duties of the smartphone, would be perilous to these companies. It’s not hard to argue that activity trackers might soon end up as a technological relic of a pre-smart watch era.

Robinson gives voice to something I’ve felt – and I think many have felt – for a while. Fitness bands like the Jawbone, FitBit, or discontinued Nike FuelBand overwhelmingly feel like precursor devices – the technological calm before the wearable storm, the Palm Pilot before the iPhone. (In fact, even a smartwatch like the Pebble looks a little like a shrunken Palm Pilot – though it might just be that greyscale screen).

As an avid runner and technophile, I’ve found my cursor straying toward the “Buy Now” button on the FitBit Amazon page. But clearer heads – and the address confirmation page – prevail, and I inevitably realize that there’s no sense in purchasing a device I know – know – will be outdated by the time Hillary announces her candidacy.

Yet the race for control of the user’s wrist – and fitness tracking features – is nonetheless being gallantly fought by a few contenders – principally the aforementioned Jawbone, Fitbit, and Pebble. Nike’s FuelBand, another contender, unsnapped its clasps in April, as Swoosh Inc. shuttered the labs.

This raises an interesting question for fitness band makers: why stay in a business that Nike – whose pizza budget dwarfs the market cap of the other three – withdrew from? Does Nike CEO Mark Parker know something the other guys don’t? Consider Nike’s partnership with Apple’s upcoming Healthkit, which uses some of Nike’s proprietary metrics to fuel its fitness suggestions. The Nike-Apple partnership isn’t new – remember Nike+iPod? – but it is probably indicative of things to come. And Nike, which knew that it couldn’t dominate the space, likely felt that it was best to stay with the winning team, even if that meant transitioning out of hardware.

For the players left standing, it’s likely about maximizing the wrist space, and profits, before getting swallowed by Apple, Google, Facebook, or Amazon. If Fitbit or Jawbone wanted to retain their hold on the market, they would only stay committed to the idea of wearables, or quantified self, rather than the product itself. I think Tim Cook put it effectively, when he noted that Apple didn’t fear cannibalization of the Mac at the hands of the iPad, because “If we don’t do it, someone else will.”

But Jawbone and Fitbit know this, and have access to the same random assortment of hyperlinks that I do. And so their answer may simply be, “why not?” They have a lucrative lock on a growing market, and the iWatch remains merely a persistent spectre on Apple fanboy sites. If history tells us anything, it’s that when Cupertino wants us to see it, we’ll see it. And if you’re Fitbit and Jawbone, why would you try to reinvent a business in which you’re already #1? Would you really change products and strategies at a rumor of competition? It’s an open question.

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They, like us, await a more clearly defined wearable future. And until that point, I’ll be biding my time, using my left hand to hold back my right from clicking that golden yellow “Add to Cart” button. And MapMyRun and a Swiss Army watch can tide me over for another few months, right?

 

 

 

 

A Crack at Korean Fried Chicken Sauce

The other day, I took a crack at Chef John’s Korean Fried Chicken Sauce. Unlike most of my cooking attempts, I followed this one to the letter – even going so far as to have ketchup Google Expressed to my apartment (I ordered other things, as well – I’m not that lazy).

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Overall, the recipe was good, but it didn’t strike me as exceptional, largely because it didn’t really seem to have the same degree of sour-ness that a lot of Korean recipes have. Chef John does add the caveat that “everything is ‘to taste’ so adjust until you think it’s balanced between sweet, sour, and spicy,” so I likely didn’t adjust effectively enough. But no matter how I tweaked it, it still came out like ketchup and Sriracha, which is largely what it was. In retrospect, I likely should have reduced the quantity of ketchup, and added mirin or tamari sauce for a little bit more of a bite.

Or perhaps it’s because I used store-bought ketchup, rather than making my own. I guess I’ve found my project for next week.

 

Almost Gluten-Free Beef Stew (Sadly, Not Gumbo)

2014-07-20 19.44.13I guess this is what I get for trying a “Gumbo Recipe” that came with my new crockpot (really cool by the way, it has 2, 4, and 6 quart sized bowls!).  While it was quite wonderful, I don’t think I can call it Gumbo without offending my neighbors.  The name refers to my mild success with some vegan sausages that contain gluten. They were cheap, had the right texture, and the flavoring was dead on.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved the taste of this dish – it was flavorful with a nice kick and the “sausage” allowed me to halve the amount of beef I used – but I was expecting Gumbo.  The texture of the final product was quite thick, much closer to the Jambalaya recipe that I made earlier this year.  Chef John’s recipe seems like it would be much more authentic, but I’ll have to try that one out next time.  Check out the recipe below:

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Surprisingly Delicious Vegan Pepper Steak

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Vegan + Delicious = Blasphemy!  Many dishes which get around dietary restrictions swap key ingredients and leave the dish lacking in taste.  The sign of a successful replacement ingredient is approval by a third party unbound by those restrictions.  I am in no way a vegan and tend to stay away from vegetables and other green things, but my curiosity got the better of me when I saw Gardein Beefless Strips  at the grocery.

This dish was really quite tasty and it wasn’t as heavy a dish as the non-vegan version, so give it a try no matter what your diet (though not gluten-free because the beefless strips are made of wheat gluten, sometimes called Seitan).  The fake beef strips have a meaty texture and flavor, making it a magical substitution.  It was a perfect meal after seeing the wonderful film, Chef, which will make you salivate for 115 minutes.  Check out the recipe below:

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