Gingerbread Granola

I have been at Camphill for just over a week now (though it has been such a FULL week, it feels more like a month), and have spent very little of it cooking. Besides my daily oatmeal stirring and “bread and spreads” supper preparation, I pretty well only venture into the kitchen to wash dishes. I have been remarkably content with this arrangement — hard not to be when a warm, hearty, delicious lunch awaits me every day when I come home for lunch. (It is amazing how quickly it already does feels like home!)

Nonetheless, I did find myself hankering to spend a little quality time with the oven, while everyone else in the home was hankering for granola, normally provided every week by the bakery — along with fresh baked bread, pizza, and cookies — currently under renovation. Decided to try my hand at making a batch of granola, and was lucky enough to come across a great recipe for gingerbread granola. Much thanks to Cookie and Kate for providing the perfect starting point!

Gingerbread Granola
(Makes about 6 cups)

4 cups oats
1 1/2 cups choped raw nuts (I used walnuts)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/2 cup oil
2-3 tablespoons, each, molasses and maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together oats, nuts, and spices, then stir in oil, sweeteners, and vanilla. Spread onto a pan in an even layer and bake at 350°F until golden, about 21-23 minutes, stirring halfway through baking time. (I baked it at 325° for probably closer to 30-40 min, stirring ever 5-10 minutes or so, because I was a bit nervous about the molasses burning. Worked well, but the higher temp is probably fine as well, as long as aware and paying attention.) Will still be a bit moist when finished, will continue to dry and crisp as it cools. Yum!

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Captains’ Cheesy Squash

I was blessed this year to get to spend Thanksgiving cooking and devouring a traditional feast with some of my favorite relatives… it’s been a while since I celebrated with family. And, to my surprise, I left the table pleasantly stuffed. My younger brother made an amazing batch of mashed potatoes, and there were plenty of rich veggie dishes… including this savory squash casserole, satisfying and delicious beyond my wildest dreams!

When I was charged with bringing a vegetarian entree, my mind immediately turned to the indulgently creamy squash casserole served at the Welcome Table (a pay-what-you-can-if-you-can meal) my final week at The Lords Acre. As it turned out, I didn’t receive the recipe in time, so I came up with a variation of my own, leaning heavily on a recipe from Diethood. With such few, simple ingredients and steps, it almost felt like cheating! I was a little uncertain how it would turn out, but I needn’t have feared. Words fall short of how amazing this combination is. In fact, I think I like this even better than the original cheesy casserole that inspired it! My brother proposed it become an annual family tradition, and insisted I give the casserole a cheesy name.

And so, without further ado, from a humble kitchen in Brewster, MA, I present a casserole worthy of the captains who quartered here. Happy Thanksgiving!

Captains’ Cheesy Squash
2 butternut squash
4 tablespoons butter (half stick)
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
About 3/4 pound grated cheddar cheese (or cheese of your choice)
A few teaspoons Italian seasoning
A few handfuls of potato chips, crushed (I used local Cape Cod waffle-style chips, the first potato chips I am an addicted fan of!)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut squash in half and scoop out seeds, then place face-down on baking sheet with a little water and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until fork-tender but not mushy. Cut into cubes, removing skin (it should come away easily) and place in a layer along the bottom of a greased 9×11″ deep baking pan. Sauté garlic in half of the butter for a couple minutes until soft and fragrant. Sprinkle half of the cheese over the squash, then drizzle with the butter and garlic mixture. Cover with the remaining squash. Top with cheese, drizzle with the remaining butter, then sprinkle Italian seasoning and potato chip crumbs over the top. Bake at 350°F for 15-25 minutes, until melted, warmed through, and slightly browned. Yum!

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Skillet-Steamed Beets & Greens

I know I’ve said it countless times already, but I was reminded yet again of how sometimes the simplest preparations are the most amazing. In particular, for whatever reason, I tend to shrink away steamed vegetables. Steaming somehow doesn’t have the same subtle allure of simmering, or the sizzle of sautéing. Perhaps, also, I am scarred by too many mushy, unappealing, bitter pots of steamed zucchini in my childhood. But then, every so often, I come across a pan of steamed veggies that blows my expectations out of the water and finds me drinking the juices straight out of the pan. Like the beets my older brother contributed to tonight’s meal, straight out of the genius of his own mind, which I have’t been able to stop thinking about since. Of all the classic, elegant, zany, international, and novel ways I have cooked beets and chard, this may well upstage them all.

Skillet-Steamed Beets & Greens
About 1 tablespoon each of butter and coconut oil (or all coconut oil if you prefer)
3 beets, peeled and sliced, along with coarsely chopped stems and leaves
1 bunch chard, coarsely chopped
About 1/4 cup water

Place butter and/or coconut oil at the bottom of pan, then top with beets and greens, pour water over the pan, and cover. Cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes, until beets are fork-tender, flipping around the vegetables after about 10 minutes to ensure more even cooking. Yep, that’s all there is to it. Doesn’t need salt or fancy spices. Doesn’t get much simpler, hands-off, and scrumptious than this! Wow!

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