#makeaheadmeals

Pantry Clean-Out Granola

I’ve been baking my own granola for years now, usually inspired by the odds and ends I find when cleaning my pantry. It’s incredibly satisfying to empty the remnants of bags of nuts, a tub of dried mystery fruit, a jar of cinnamon, and a rubber-band wrapped package of quinoa in one fell swoop! In the process, I create a wide open pantry shelf AND breakfast of champions for weeks!

Armed with some photos I took during the recent production of 60 jars for a dear friend’s wedding, I’m finally putting this granola “recipe” on the Teaching Table blog.

As the air quotes suggest, this is barely a recipe but rather a set of suggestions and instructions for assembling goodness out of any combination of nuts & dried fruit, spice, seeds, oil & sweetener. Mix and match to create a personalized granola that suits your taste and needs (or uses what you find in the back of your pantry). You can even adjust the ratios of the dry ingredients. The amounts are relative — another vote for this solution to reduce food waste! Here’s a basic formula.

Pantry Clean-Out granola

What you need:

Ingredients for Shannon & Dylan’s Signature (vaguely Morrocan) Granola.

Ingredients for Shannon & Dylan’s Signature (vaguely Morrocan) Granola.

  • 2 ½ - 3 cups rolled (not instant nor steel cut) oats

  • ½ - 1 cup whole grains such as quinoa, millet and amaranth

  • 2 - 4 tablespoons seeds, such as sesame, chia and flax

  • 1 - 2 teaspoons of ground spice, such as ginger, cinnamon, or cardamom, or powders like cocoa and matcha tea

  • ½ - 1½ cups nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, cashews and pistachios

  • ½ cup oil (melted coconut, canola, hazelnut, pistachio, grapeseed, or olive oil)

  • ⅓ cup sweetener in syrup form, such as honey, agave or maple syrup

  • ½ cup dried fruit, such as raisins, tart cherries, apricots, figs, peaches or apples, ¼ inch dice

What you do:

Some of my favorite combinations:

All of these start with rolled oats…

  • walnuts + cinnamon + canola oil + maple syrup + dried apples

  • pistachios + almonds + cardamom + sesame seeds + coconut oil + honey + dried apricots

  • almonds + cocoa powder + nut oil (hazelnut, walnut) + agave + dried cherries

  • cashews + ginger + quinoa + coconut oil + agave + coconut flakes + dried mango

  • matcha tea powder + cashews + coconut oil + agave + golden raisins

  • walnuts + pistachios + cinnamon + quinoa + grapeseed oil + honey + raisins

What goes into your favorite mixture?

Spiced Roasted Chickpeas

These spiced chickpeas are a staple of mine for a make-ahead snack on-the-go, main dish garnish, or salad topper. You can vary the spices to your taste and to pair with just about any other flavors. You can use whole and ground spices, or a combination. One of my favorite versions uses a blend of smoked paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne that pairs nicely with Middle Eastern food, like on top of a tabouleh salad or with Indian food, adding crunch on top of a vegetable dish or dal. You can also serve them with this Shaved Brussel Sprout, Apple and Walnut Salad.

Time saver tip:  If you use a particular blend of spices often, make a batch and store it in reused spice jars. Often if I see a little bit of something left in a jar, I might add a few other spices to make a favorite blend. My funnels are re-purposed shields from my old breast pump. Great for solids! When making spice blends, I often leave off the salt so I don't end up adding extra!

Time saver tip: If you use a particular blend of spices often, make a batch and store it in reused spice jars. Often if I see a little bit of something left in a jar, I might add a few other spices to make a favorite blend. My funnels are re-purposed shields from my old breast pump. Great for solids! When making spice blends, I often leave off the salt so I don't end up adding extra!

What you need:

  • 1 ¾ cups cooked (or canned and rinsed) chickpeas*

  • 1 tablespoon oil (olive, canola oil, coconut, etc.)

  • 3 pinches sea salt or kosher salt

  • 3-4 teaspoons spices or dried herbs**

* you can make this in any quantity you desire, but I write this for 1 ¾ cups since that is what you get out of a standard can of chickpeas.

** the herbs and spices are up to you, but here are some of my favorite combinations:

  • cumin + garlic powder + smoked paprika + cayenne

  • oregano + basil + garlic powder + red pepper flakes

  • cumin + coriander + garlic powder + ginger + turmeric

  • coriander + cumin + fennel + chili powder + garlic

  • Za'atar seasoning

fullsizeoutput_1729.jpeg

Step 1:

Using a clean kitchen towel, pat the chickpeas dry. Homemade or canned work equally well (rinse canned chickpeas first.)

fullsizeoutput_172a.jpeg

Step 2:

In a bowl, mix together your selected spices.

fullsizeoutput_1728.jpeg

Step 3:

Add the olive oil to make a paste. It should pass the spoon test on left.

fullsizeoutput_172d.jpeg

Step 4:

Add the chickpeas to the bowl and toss to coat.

fullsizeoutput_172f.jpeg

Step 5:

Roast the chickpeas in one of two ways:

Spread the chickpeas in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake in oven at 425 degrees until lightly browned and toasted, about 15 minutes.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chickpeas and toast until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir or shake the pan occasionally.

Vegetarian Dolmas: Grape Leaves Stuffed with Spiced Lentils and Rice

Wrapped and rolled foods are the ultimate kids-in-the-kitchen activity. After preparing all of the components, allow kids to help combine the filling. Then enlist their support to do all of the wrapping and rolling. After a brief demonstration, some coaching and practice, you can probably even walk away and allow your little one to complete the job.  Share this instructional video provided by 6-year-old Emory with your child.

Vegetarian Dolmas: Grape Leaves Stuffed with Spiced Lentils and Rice

Dolmas or stuffed grape leaves are often made with a combination of gently spiced ground lamb and rice. We make a savory and satisfying plant-based version using french lentils. I also choose brown basmati rice for additional fiber, nutrients and texture. Omit the honey entirely or substitute agave nectar to make this recipe suitable for vegans.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen

I generally use jarred grape leaves. They work just fine but, of course, if you are on the west coast or are fortunate enough to have access to fresh grape leaves when they are in season, use them. Just soak fresh leaves in hot water while you prepare the filling.

I generally use jarred grape leaves. They work just fine but, of course, if you are on the west coast or are fortunate enough to have access to fresh grape leaves when they are in season, use them. Just soak fresh leaves in hot water while you prepare the filling.

What you need:

Grape leaves:

  • ½ pound fresh grape leaves, soaked in hot water or 1 pound jar preserved grape leaves, rinsed and drained well, picked through with broken or ripped leaves reserved for lining the bottom of the pot

Rice:

  • 2 quarts water

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • ½ cup long grain brown rice

  • ¼ teaspoon salt

  • ½ cup mint leaves, minced

  • 4 scallions, minced

  • ¼ cup pine nuts, chopped

  • ¼ cup currants

Line the bottom of the stock pot with grape leaves to prevent your dolmas from burning or browning. Use the broken or torn leaves.

Line the bottom of the stock pot with grape leaves to prevent your dolmas from burning or browning. Use the broken or torn leaves.

Lentils:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 small onion, small dice

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • ¾ cup cooked lentils (dark brown, green, or beluga)

  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • ½ teaspoon allspice

  • 1 tablespoon dried mint (or one mint tea packet)

Simmering Liquid:

  • ¼ cup lemon juice

  • ½ cup olive oil

  • 2 teaspoons honey (omit or agave for vegan)

  • 1 cup water or vegetable broth

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • freshly ground black pepper

Roll tightly, but gently, so as not to tear the leaves, pushing in the sides as you go. Walk away, and let the kids do all the rolling while you do the dishes...or take a nap.

Roll tightly, but gently, so as not to tear the leaves, pushing in the sides as you go. Walk away, and let the kids do all the rolling while you do the dishes...or take a nap.

What you do:

  1. Bring 2 quarts (8 cups) water to a boil. Add cinnamon stick, rice and ¼ teaspoon salt. Reduce to a rolling boil and cook 20 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse in cold water.

  2. Combine cooked rice with fresh mint, scallions, pine nuts, and currants.

  3. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. When it shimmers, add onion and a pinch of salt. When onion is soft, add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add lentils, nutmeg, cinnamon, cumin, oregano, allspice, and dried mint/tea. Combine with rice mixture. Allow to cool slightly.

  4. Set aside the 36 best leaves for stuffing. Line the bottom of a heavy stock pot with the remaining leaves. Stuff each with about 1 to 2 teaspoons of rice/lentil mixture. Place leaf smooth side down, with stem close to you. Trim long or thick stems. Fold stem end over rice and hold in place. Fold in sides and roll away from you. Use any broken leaves for lining the bottom of the pot. Arrange dolmas (stuffed leaves) snugly in the pot, in layers if needed.

  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, honey or agave, water or stock, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the leaves, cover with a plate to hold dolmas down.

  6. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook 1 1/2 hours, basting occasionally.

Note: Use the "pasta method" for cooking the rice used in dolmas. Rather than steaming rice with an exact ratio of water, you will boil the rice in a large pot of salted water until al denté and then drain. You could certainly use leftover rice that was made using the standard rice cooking method but the texture may be slightly mushy in the grape leaves.

Tip 1: The simmering liquid makes a delicious soup or broth after the dolmas are done simmering in it. Use it to store dolmas in the fridge up to one week, drink it or serve as soup!

Tip 2: When I don't have fresh mint available, I just increase the amount of dried mint used. Just add all of the dried mint together to the lentil mixture to sauté before adding to the rice. I've also successfully substituted chives for the scallions in a pinch.

Vegan Winter Chili

In case we weren't sure, mother nature reminded us with a swift kick that it is still winter for a couple more weeks. So warm up with a batch of hearty vegan winter chili.

This vegan chili even satisfies my carnivore husband. If you use enough of the right blend of spices, and bloom those fully in oil, your meat lovers will get the same unctuous flavor they expect from traditional chili. However, I also have a trick for making both a beef chili and meatless batch at the same time. Just cook the beef in a separate skillet with spices, while making the vegan chili in a large pot. Once all vegan ingredients are added to the pot, remove a few cupfuls and add to the beef in its separate skillet. Continue cooking both over low heat until the vegetables are cooked through.

The recipe below is for my Vegan Winter Chili. In late summer I will exchange the sweet potatoes and perhaps the carrots for bell peppers of various colors, zucchini and yellow summer squash. My summer chili also utilizes very ripe fresh tomatoes instead of or in combination with canned. Now I'm anxious for August and you can expect a Vegan Summer Chili recipe from me then.

Before the recipe, here are some tips.

Cut vegetables into a small dice to ensure quicker cooking, even distribution in each spoonful of chili, and to make them more appealing to picky eaters.

Cut vegetables into a small dice to ensure quicker cooking, even distribution in each spoonful of chili, and to make them more appealing to picky eaters.

To cut vegetables into a small dice, first cut 1/4 inch thick planks, then strips, then cubes. (see steps from left to right above)

To cut vegetables into a small dice, first cut 1/4 inch thick planks, then strips, then cubes. (see steps from left to right above)

Sauté onions until they are soft before adding garlic, then spices, followed by other ingredients. If you add garlic or spices too soon, they may burn or you risk not cooking onion thoroughly.

Sauté onions until they are soft before adding garlic, then spices, followed by other ingredients. If you add garlic or spices too soon, they may burn or you risk not cooking onion thoroughly.

"Bloom" or sauté spices in oil first to awaken their flavor compounds and infuse flavor throughout the chili through the cooking oil.

"Bloom" or sauté spices in oil first to awaken their flavor compounds and infuse flavor throughout the chili through the cooking oil.

What you need:

Note: In this recipe post, I have not provided a photo of all of the ingredients. I even hesitate to give you an ingredients list for this and other stews and soups because the quantities and specific ingredients listed below are merely suggestions. Add more of the ingredients you love, less of those you just want a taste of and add as much liquid to get the consistency you desire. Personally, I add a lot more heat than most, but this recipe as written is at a moderate heat level.

Yield: Makes about 10 cups, or 6-8 servings

The combinations and amounts of ingredients are up to you. Add other vegetables you have on hand, swap out for different varieties of beans, amp up the heat with more jalapeños or spicier pepper varieties, or tone it down. Reduce liquid for thicker chili.

The combinations and amounts of ingredients are up to you. Add other vegetables you have on hand, swap out for different varieties of beans, amp up the heat with more jalapeños or spicier pepper varieties, or tone it down. Reduce liquid for thicker chili.

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large red onion, diced

  • sea salt or kosher salt

  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chili flakes

  • ~5 cups home-cooked or canned, drained and rinsed, beans. My favorite is a combination of black beans and cranberry or pinto beans.

  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes, liquid included

  • 2 large carrots, small dice

  • 1-2 cups water

  • 1 medium sweet potato, small dice

  • 1-2 jalapeños, sliced, optional

What you do:

  1. Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add oil.

  2. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a pinch of salt.

  3. Once the onion has softened, add the garlic and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring often for about 1 minute, careful not to burn.

  4. Add the spices and a little more oil if pot is dry. Stir into a paste and cook for 30 - 60 seconds.

  5. Add the beans, tomatoes, carrots and ~1 cup of water. I usually rinse the tomato can and use this water to get all of the tomato into the chili. I learned that trick from my mom, who I've watched make Italian tomato sauce for nearly 4 decades now.

  6. Once the carrots are partially cooked (about 15 minutes), add the sweet potatoes and jalapeños, if using. Add water if needed. Cook on medium low, until carrots and sweet potatoes are tender, (about 1 hour) partially covered. You can simmer on lowest setting for an additional 2-3 hours to further reduce and develop flavors. If you need to continue simmering when chili is already fully reduced, keep on lowest setting and cover with a tight fitting lid. You can also add more water at this point if needed.

To serve, top with additional slices of fresh jalapeño, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and sliced avocado. You can set up a bar with various toppings for eaters to add, including tortilla chips, chopped red onion, cheese and yogurt/sour cream. Everyone likes to enjoy chili their own way!

To serve, top with additional slices of fresh jalapeño, cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and sliced avocado. You can set up a bar with various toppings for eaters to add, including tortilla chips, chopped red onion, cheese and yogurt/sour cream. Everyone likes to enjoy chili their own way!

Lemon Ricotta Blueberry Pancakes

IMG_7792.JPG

Our family honors Pancake Saturday. My older son has even created a song and dance to celebrate it. With a little extra time on the weekends to prepare and enjoy breakfast, and because we're all in need of a sweet treat at the end of the week, pancakes are perfect. This is also a great dish for kid kitchen assistants. My little helper measures ingredients, cracks eggs, and mixes, while repeating the mantra "we never over mix the batter." Don't over mix your pancake batter.

fullsizeoutput_1214.jpeg
IMG_5251.JPG

To save yourself even a little bit of time and a lot of mess when making weekly pancakes, mix your dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt) in a large batch and store in the pantry. If you are like me and use multiple flours (I like a blend of whole wheat all purpose, white AP and cornmeal for most of my pancakes), this will allow you to just take one canister out of the pantry instead of 3 or 4! Now you have absolutely no reason to buy that packaged stuff. PLEASE don't buy that packaged stuff anymore.

We make a variety of pancakes but a favorite go to for their classic Italian origin and to help fatten up our skinny baby is Lemon Ricotta. While visiting my sister last week, I was inspired to make these after cleaning out her fridge and finding a pound of ricotta cheese and fresh local Florida blueberries. In return, she documented the finished stack you see above. It's nice to have a professional photographer for a sister.

These lemon ricotta pancakes are fluffy and creamy all at once. I adapted the recipe from a few sources, but mostly from Cooking Classy.

Makes ~8 6-inch pancakes

What You Need:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I like a blend of 1 cup white AP and 1/2 cup whole wheat AP flour)

  • 3 tablespoons sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for brushing the pan

  • 3 eggs, room temperature

  • 3/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 cup ricotta

  • zest and juice of 1 large lemon

  • 1 pint fresh blueberries, rinse and drained

What you do:

1. Whisk together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt. Or if you have premixed your dry ingredients, measure out 1 3/4 cups dry ingredients and add to a large bowl.

2. Melt the butter. [tip: if you’ll be using a skillet to bake the pancakes, heat the skillet and melt butter in there to save yourself a dish to wash and to grease the pan).

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, ricotta, lemon zest and lemon juice. It may curdle a little bit, but that is okay. You also do not need to break up all pieces of ricotta. It's nice to bite into that creaminess in the pancakes.

4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir a few times with a spatula just to combine. Do not over mix. Fold in the milk and blueberries just until combined.

5. Reheat the skillet over medium high heat. Brush with more butter if needed. Drop 1/3 cup of batter onto the hot pan and top with additional blueberries if desired. Flip after 2-3 minutes or when you see bubbles on top and edges are lightly browned. Cook another 2-3 minutes.

IMG_5303.JPG

Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs

There's no mistake. Poached eggs are heavenly. Who doesn't love lazily rolling out of bed on a Sunday and strolling to brunch for a hash or hollandaise-smothered dish with a perfectly runny, bright yellow poached egg on top? But soft boiled eggs are so much more... practical. And I appreciate the practical. While poached eggs are cooked one at time in a carefully watched barely simmering pot of water, soft boiled eggs can be made by the dozen, left bubbling away on the stove, monitored by a timer, cooled, and stored for a week's worth of breakfasts on the go. If you're hosting brunch, this is a smarter option for advanced preparation. And those soft boiled eggs are easily transported as compared to their delicate poached cousins.

What you do:

For soft boiled perfection every time, follow these 6 simple steps. All you need to remember is 6 minutes. Do this just once a week for daily enjoyment.

IMG_4881.JPG

Peel and enjoy soft boiled eggs immediately on your favorite benedict, with a toasted bagel or over a hash like my Spicy Root Vegetable and Sausage Hash (pictured below). Store any remaining soft boiled eggs in their shells in the fridge (this makes them sturdier and prevents breaking when transporting in your lunch box). Make at least a half dozen at once so you have soft boiled eggs to add to kale salad, caesar dressing, roasted veggies, and avocado toast throughout the week.