Real food

The radish seeds I planted ten days ago have popped out of the soil in little pairs of round leaves. My reading tells me I may have been too generous with my seeds, scattering them in shallow furrows rather than spacing them apart. I expect to thin the seedlings in a day or two so they aren’t too crowded. The next few days promise to be sunny, so I hope to see a few more of my tiny crops pop up in their raised bed, too.

I’ve been on a steady reading diet of books about food. At long last, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I’m tearing through Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, by Michael Moss. I have a stack of gardening books from library, and my first issue of Urban Farm magazine arrived yesterday. My brain is swimming with conversations about what we eat and where it comes from.

All of this reading has crystallized my dissatisfaction with some of the food we eat (don’t get me started on the candy pushed at my preschooler at every turn). To be fair, our kitchen probably contains less processed food than in most houses on the block, and I’ve always been a proponent of moderation. I buy chips, but usually only if they go with a meal I’ve planned, not as an everyday snack. I don’t buy soda, water bottles, juice boxes, or any single-serve beverages unless we’re having a party (not counting the ginger beer and tonic water we keep on hand for cocktails). We rarely buy single-serve snack packages. Recently we bought a case of Pirate’s Booty at Costco for the kids to take for snack at school, but it’s just too easy for them to grab it as a default snack whenever they have the munchies.

The trouble is, some things are hard to moderate. For example, I haven’t been too picky lately about what kind of breakfast cereal I buy. My personal line in the sand stops at Red Dye Number Whatever, marshmallows, and chocolate. I like convenience as much as the next harried parent, but I’ve gotten more concerned lately as Little Five clearly prefers Golden Grahams and Cinnamon Toast Crunch over plain Cheerios, and regularly asks for (and is refused) them for lunch and after school snack. He craves sugar like nobody’s business, and wants dessert after every single meal. He doesn’t get it, but that hasn’t affected his demands. Honestly, I’m tired of the daily argument. Miss Seven, like her father, isn’t a big fan of cold cereal, but she will condescend to eat the sweetest ones. Anyway, I’m fully aware of the contradiction that while I’m busy packing their waste-free lunches, my kids are eating junky cereal for breakfast.

We had a long dinner conversation about better breakfast choices we could be making. Mr. Ten asked if there are different cereals we could buy that are healthier. This morning he learned to make his own oatmeal in the microwave and he confronted us with the ingredient label on the Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread that Miss Seven was spreading on her whole wheat mini bagel, so we had a little conversation about portion size.

Speaking of breakfast, we’ve embraced smoothies in our daily breakfast routine. It’s a good first step, but I’d like to work on finding other quick and healthy breakfast foods, since none of us finds a smoothie alone a satisfying meal. Some of us like oatmeal and other hot cereals with fruit, and some like eggs, but it seems everyone wants variety. Yesterday I baked a batch of healthy muffins (multigrain applesauce muffins, with just a splash of olive oil and honey), so that’s a good start, too. It might be as simple as refusing to buy cereal and forcing myself to bake and stock healthier choices that still taste good. I’m not putting my family on any kind of extreme diet, but we can continue our journey toward more whole foods, locally produced, prepared at home. And it’s just two more weeks until the farmer’s market opens!

Olive oil granola

I’m not going to bother you with my regular old, everyday granola recipe.  Just make this.  It’s sweet, salty and fruity all at the same time. And if, for whatever strange reason, you run out of olive oil in your pantry, you can substitute vegetable oil or melted butter, and you will still have very good granola.  But it won’t be this.

A quick Google search will reveal that every other food blog in the universe has already made a version of this granola, most of them based on the recipe given by Melissa Clark in The New York Times.  I had a perfectly yummy granola recipe, developed from several sources, so it took me a while to try this one.  So many wasted months….

My biggest change was to reduce the sweetness.  I thought about reducing the oil as well (my usual recipe only has 1/4 cup), but I was afraid to lose the fruitiness of the olive oil, so I left it alone.  Also, I like my granola in big clumps, so I’ll share my method, which has the added benefit of reducing the baking time.  As always, granola is forgiving, so substitute your favorite combination of nuts and seeds.
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups nuts (the original calls for raw pistachios, which I forgot to get, so I subbed almonds)
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), hulled (mine were already roasted and salted, so I skipped the salt later in the recipe)
1 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp kosher or sea salt (skip if your nuts or pepitas are already salted)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1/3 cup maple syrup (or try honey)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix the syrup and olive oil together in the measuring cup and pour into the bowl.  Mix well.  Spread mixture on two rimmed baking sheets lined with Silpats (parchment would probably work, too).  Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring once halfway through. baking.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the baking sheets.  Break granola into large clumps and store in an airtight container.  Serve with yogurt (Greek yogurt is my favorite) and fresh or dried fruit.  Or just eat it straight out of the container at random times during the day.
Get every last bit coated with oil and syrup.


I think I got the tip about the Silpat from my friend Sara–no more scrubbing the pans, and it’s easy to fold the mat and pour the last few bits of granola into your container.


Fresh out of the oven–but wait until it cools!


Yes, that is my empty bowl.