Monday, July 29, 2013

Raw, live, sprouted, gluten free granola - homemade vs store bought price comparison

Good 'n' Raw Chocolate Granola
A few weeks ago we had a family stay with us. They had a big tote box full of a wide variety of healthy cereals [which I'm sure they got all of them for free or a very reduced price due to being out of date] and among the selection was raw, sprouted buckwheat granola. I tried both kinds and REALLY liked them. YUM, YUM, YUM. Finally a granola that tastes good, is healthy for me, is not loaded down with added sugar and fat, and does not upset my stomach! I was very excited to say the least. Oh yes, and it's raw!
Nature's Path Qi'a Superfood

I knew I could make a copy of them so when I had time I did a quick internet search for 'sprouted buckwheat granola recipe' or something like that and came up with several recipes. I printed out 5 of what looked like the best choices and then came up with my own variation with what I had.

Making it was not hard at all, but it did take time and also I'm sure it was very convenient to have the proper equipment on hand ... mainly, a dehydrator. (I have a 9-tray Excalibur that someone gifted me; I am very thankful for it and it has served me well for several years.) If you do not have a dehydrator, you might be able to rig one up or use your stove if it has a low setting (to maintain the 'raw' status, it cannot be heated above 115; I heated mine at 105).

Here is the recipe I came up with; it yields about 3 pounds of granola and fills a gallon jug. 
2 1/2c hulled buckwheat groats, soaked over night and then sprouted for 8-12 hours till you just start to see the 'tail' come out
1/4c flax soaked in 1/2c water over night (keep the water)
1/4c plus 1/8c sunflower seeds, soaked and sprouted
1/4c plus 1/8c sesame seeds, soaked over night
3/4c almonds soaked over night (this caused them to just start to sprout) - slip skins, slice a little
3/4c pecan pieces, soaked over night
3/4c coconut flakes or shreds
3/4c raisins
and a paste made out of:
1c dates
1c figs
1/2c honey
1/4c coconut oil
1T cinnamon
Water as needed to ease the mixing process 

Combine all in a bowl. Mix well. Spread to about 1/4" over teflex sheets or waxed paper or parchment paper. I put about 2 1/4c per teflex sheet and filled 4 sheets. Dehydrate at 105-115 degrees for 8 hours, flip onto the tray and dehydrate another 24 hours. Store in air tight container, pref in the refrigerator if you will not be eating it within a week or so. It is RAW and perishable.

Now the big question of the day: HOW MUCH DID IT COST? I used the current Azure Standard prices for all the ingredients listed except the coconut oil which I purchase from Costco.

My granola ... VERY GOOD flavor

My 3 pounds of mostly organic, raw, sprouted, gluten free granola cost just under $12 to make; $10.50 if I would have used as many non-organic options as possible. This is about the price of 'normal' non-organic store-bought granola that is usually loaded with added sugar and does not have as high of quality of ingredients. We must consider these things when we look at the price!

How much does THEIR granola cost?
Amazon sells several different 'raw granolas' however many of them have agave listed as one of the main ingredients. I don't care if it's 'raw' or not, I do not want it in my granola! There is much information on the web on why I stay away from agave but I'll leave the digging up to you if you are interested. Just start with a google search of "raw agave bad". Because of this, I did not consider many of these raw granolas comparable to mine. Yes, I used honey, however I believe it would have been just fine without it and will leave it out next time (that knocks off about $1.35 from my cost ... wow). I will only compare mine with the ones I have listed above.

A 7.9oz bag of Nature's Path Qi'a Superfood granola goes for $9.25 on amazon (plus $4.99 s&h but we will not include that here and just assume it was the health food store price). We'll need just over 6 bags to equal 3lbs ... for a total of $44.05.

An 8oz bag of Good 'n' Raw Chocolate goes for $7.95 on their website (I could not find it anywhere else, and once again, we'll leave out shipping and handling). 6 bags of that for 3lbs total ... $47.70.

I'm paying about a fourth of the cost to make mine at home ... and it's how I want it to be. Of course there are ways I can reduce the price of mine and that is my next project: making a more frugal batch of raw sprouted granola. I am not one for sweet things and this granola turned out a little on the 'too sweet side' for my tastes. I am now in the process of making a batch of very basic granola with buckwheat, sunflower seeds, flax and sesame seeds. I'll probably add a little coconut oil and coconut flakes as well. Ok and maybe a bit of raisins.

I hope this experiment has helped someone.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Frugal Home Organization Tips

This whole home organizing spree was birthed by the fact that sometimes I just do not feel good. In times when I am not feeling the best I have found it helps A WHOLE BUNCH if things are orderly in the home. Organizing has never been my strong point; thankfully we do not have a lot of stuff but it still gets out of control and becomes an area of stress. I realized that this area of stress could be greatly eliminated if I would just figure out an organizing system that works for me. I did a little research watching some organizing videos and reading what others have done to help them. Some of their ideas were not practical for me, however some were a great blessing. I would like to share with you all what has worked well for me with the hopes of being able to give someone else ideas that might work well for them.

Everything I am sharing with you today has been in practice in my home for at least a month but most have been in practice for several months. I did not want to post ideas I am excited about but rather things that I was excited about, tried, [sometimes tweaked] and appreciate a lot. These simple things have made my life run a lot smoother; items are easy to find and easy to put back because they have a PLACE. Less stress, less time, less mess. I am thankful.

A discount store south of us will sometimes have older vegetables sold by the crate ... crate included. One time last year it was a large crate of cucumbers (probably a bushel?) for $2. This year it was acorn squash in the large crates and summer squash in the half-size crates for $5. These crates are GREAT!! They have so many uses and what's even nicer is they easily fold flat for storage and stack on top of each other when in use. Here I have my Food-Saver stuff in a smaller crate and that is sitting on a large crate that holds my juicer. The other small crate has juice jugs that we use for homemade ginger soda and beneath that is a large crate of misc. jugs and containers too nice to recycle yet. These crates fit right into my larger pantry shelf :) :)
In the pantry: double stacked vegetable crates.
My home management binder ... maybe I'll post about it some day.
Seriously, this is what it looks like under my sink all the time now ... except sometimes some cleaning supplies get put here instead of in the cleaning bucket. But really, this used to be a HUGE eye-sore and I would just hope no little child would open the door and have things falling out on them!!
One box holds misc lids, another rings of both sizes, another regular tattlers and the final one has wide-mouth tattlers.
Dollar boxes to keep the area under my sink looking good.

The linen closet used to be an unorganized mess. NO LONGER!!!! It is such a blessing to be able to go to the closet, open the door and know exactly where to find something even if you do not know exactly where it's at. For example, Corban asked for nail clippers a few months ago ... USUALLY we keep a pair or two hanging by the back door but they were not there ... I told him to look in the linen closet and figure it out. Easy - it's in the bin labelled 'nails'. Even he was excited about that.
Little things that used to all be piled in one big bin. Bins: $1 at WM

Organized bedding and a box just for light bulbs.
I really like the idea of having one of those fancy pull-out things that hold your pans or whatever but the cheapest one I could find was $79 at Lowes. No thanks! I saw one woman used an old cookie sheet on her shelf and I thought that was a great idea! It slides out easy to reach whatever is behind it.
The lids used to be scattered all over the shelf but not any more. I found a bin in another room that worked perfect for storing the lids in. It slides out easy and keeps the lids CONTAINED.
Cookie sheet slider

A bin for my pan lids!!! YAY!!! They used to fall out of the cabinet.
I purchase a lot of food in bulk. I used to have the bulk bags in different places all over the house and garage. What a mess ... each time I needed something I'd have to remember where it was or go look for it, take a bowl and scoop with me and then hope not to drop or spill anything in the process. This was a big cause of stress in my life because I cook a lot and found I was spending so much time and energy running after things that were not in easy reach. Now I have my most used items right on the counter top under the cabinets. I have it in my schedule to re-fill the bins weekly but sometimes I skip a week if it seems I can. This helps me to know what I have on hand and know when I need to order more.

D.G. half off: air tight, BPA free bins for my bulk stuff.
Each bin has a permanent scoop of the appropriate size for what is in the bin. For example, popcorn and almonds have a half cup, flax, raisins and coconut a 1/4 cup, rapadura 1/2T, oats 1c ... and so on. All of the scoops except the one for flour were purchased at the thrift store. The flour one was made by my grandpa. Permanent scoops save time!

Here is a picture of more bulk items on the top shelf with the same brand of containers but in different sizes / shapes. This has really made it so much easier to access all my baking items. The lazy susan on the bottom is cheap ... I hope to find a higher quality one but this seems to be holding out so far (though it looks like it could crash at any time!!). And as always, I appreciate having mason jars for various items too.
More of the same air-tight, BPA free containers.
I used to have my measuring items in the baking utensil drawer but it was such a mess searching for the right one and also trying to get the drawer shut after I found what I was looking for (IF I ever found it). I had the idea to move all of the measuring items into a small plastic box. This sat on my bread box on the counter for several months and was certainly a better idea than the drawer however it still was not quite what I wanted. And then I saw this idea :) little plastic hooks and key rings to hang each item. The key rings could have been quite expensive had I not found a box of 25 tagged rings at Lowes for $2.50 or so. These are the small rings with round tags that realtors or car sales people will use. Now what should I do with the tags? I was thinking of using them as labels attached to a string.
After we all got used to things flinging around when we opened this particular cabinet, this idea has proved to work VERY well for us. And as mentioned above, measuring devices were purchased at the thrift store.
Measuring spoons and cups hung on the inside cabinet.

We often have a lot of people eating supper with us. These little baskets have come in handy in two ways. 1) It's so easy to simply take the basket out of the drawer and set it on the counter for buffet-style serving. 2) Easy to clean - I take the knives out first, clean that basket, put the spoons in that basket, clean the spoon basket, and continue rotating till everything is clean (the knives end up in the last basket that was cleaned).
3 / $1 at WM
Spices are another thing I purchase in bulk. I used to have my jars sitting nicely out on the counter. I did this for many years. A few years ago I saw that a sister had put her spice containers in a drawer; they all fit nicely laid on their side. I copied this idea when we first moved into our current house. It works great!!!
A note on the baby-food jars. We got several dozen organic plum/pear puree from the thrift store for free (wow they sure were delicious! we ate them alone or used them in baked recipes). I thought it would be nice to use these jars for spices however it was difficult to get the lids off!!! I still have the ones pictured but I hope to eventually find more shorter 1/2 pint jars to replace them.
Half-pint mason jelly jars and baby-food jars for spices in a drawer.
That's it for now. I still have a few 'hot spots' I am working on; mainly the front closet. It is beyond embarrassing. Really, you might lose a child in there if you are not careful. Maybe I'll soon have an update with before and after pictures? We'll see.

Maybe you have some ideas or tips to share? What has worked for YOU? Do you have a blog post about it? Feel free to share a link in the comment section.

7-24-13 UPDATE
I just finished cleaning out the front closet and then remembered I wanted to take a 'before' and 'after' picture. Well, I forgot the 'before' so the 'after' is useless now!! There were about 25 pairs of work gloves in there!! Whew. I didn't know we had that many people living in our house! Several coats and a few sweaters. Got rid of most of them. You see, we just seem to collect coats because people give them to us. We think "Oh, this is ok. Maybe I'll wear it ..." but then we hardly do. What's the point of hanging on to it?? Might as well give it to the thrift store so someone else can use it. None of us have many shoes so that was not an issue. Corban has one pair. He did have a pair of roofing shoes but he outgrew them so they went to the thrift store. Brianna has one pair. I have 3 - my every day shoes, my therapeutic shoes for planter plantar fasciitis (which really has not flared up in a long time) and my snow boots (I wore them maybe 3 times in the last 2 years but they are kind of one of those things that you actually will appreciate when you need them). Tylor has 3 pair as well - work tennis shoes, tennis shoes and work boots.

I put all the hats, scarves and gloves into a box. I left the boys' coats in there and put mine and Brianna's coats in my closet. It looks nice and tidy and will stay that way from now on.

Clean closet. Yay! Now what's my next project? I'll have to think about it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My sourdough routine

More than a few people have asked me for this so I decided to share it here on my blog. I might include pictures some day if I have time ... but here is what I have for now.

I like to do a few different sourdough items at a time rather than doing them on different days. SO ... following is what i would do:

Ok ... you'll need to plan your sourdough baking a day or two in advanced to get the starter going and get your recipes going after that. So let's say you want to make English Muffins, a cake and some other sourdough stuff this coming wedesday morning; the first thing you need to do is take the starter out of your fridge monday night, feed it about a 1/4c of flour and a 1/4c of water (I like mine a little thicker so I might use a little more flour than water), stir real well, scrape down the sides or pour into a clean jar, cover with the plastic wrap and leave it out on the counter over night.
In the morning (tuesday) you should see marks on the side of the jar indicating that the starter rose and then fell again. Take that starter and pour it into a bowl that has at least a 6 cup capacity, preferably a little more, just in case. Add 3 cups of flour and 2 1/2 to 3 cups of water to the bowl with the starter (once again, I like mine a little thicker but you might find that you like yours thinner; you'll figure it out sooner or later). Mix really well, scrap down the sides, cover and let it sit till it has risen and fallen back down; at least 8 hours.

In the evening, at least 8 hours before you want to make your English Muffins (I go up to 24 hours), get a bowl with at least a 6 cup capacity (or more, depending on how much you make). To this bowl add: 1c of the starter, 2c of milk or water (I use water), and 4c of flour. Mix well. I like my English Muffin batter thicker so I make it to where I can still stir it but it's really hard to stir. But yet not so thick that I would have to knead it by hand. Scrape the sides, cover with plastic wrap, sit over night.  You might want to take a sharpie marker and write "EM" (for english muffin) on the top of the plastic wrap.
Now notice that you still have 3 or so cups of sourdough starter left. Take about one cup out and save it for next time. Store in the fridge as before. Really this is the first step but I put the muffin stuff first already.
Cake: Take 1cup of the remaining starter, add 2c flour and 1c liquid. Mix well. Once again, I like mine thicker, but not as thick as the English Muffins. Scrape sides, cover with plastic wrap. Sit over night. You can use the sharpie again to write "cake" on the wrap of you'd like.
And then one more thing ... you should have at least a whole cup of starter left. How about some crackers? Take one cup of starter and add 1/3c fat (I really like coconut oil but olive oil is good too ... and butter is really good) - if you use a solid fat, melt it but do heat it up too much; if it's too hot, cool it down before adding to starter. Ok, so 1c starter, 1/3c fat and about 1c flour. Mix well. You will want a ball of dough that looks like you can roll it out easily. If it seems too thin, add a little more flour. Scrape sides, cover, sit over night.
OK ... now if you have any more starter left, be creative with it. Or you could just make a larger cracker recipe or add the remaining starter to a bowl with flour and water and make pancakes the next morning out of it (you are aiming for about 2cups of finished batter, so try to mix in enough flour and water to make 2c total when combined with the remaining starter ... and a little thicker is better!). Or ... you could compost it or throw it out.

English muffins:
Preheat a cast iron skillet or other pan or electric griddle. Sprinkle dough with 2t salt and 2t baking soda. You may also add a few tablespoons of honey but i never do. Mix thoroughly with wooden spoon. Turn on to lightly floured or oiled counter top and knead for a few minutes (or knead in the bowl if your bowl is large enough) till dough is smooth. Divide into about 16 portions and lay on wax paper. Shape as best as you can into a ball and put on greased skillet/griddle. (for this part I actually use an ice-cream scoop and plop it right onto the pan; I do not care if mine are perfectly round). Flatten to about 1/2" thick. Cook till brown on both sides. After you carefully turn them over, you may cover the pan with a lid to hold in moisture. I have not tried this though. Cool on rack, slice when cool. You may store in an air-tight container or bag at room temperature or freeze.

Preheat over to 350 (preheating is a must). Grease a 9x13 cake pan.
In a separate bowl, combine 1/2c oil (if it's solid, melt first over low heat; wait to cool a bit if it's too hot), 1 1/2c sugar (that's what the recipe calls for and that's just ridiculous to me; I use 1/4c sweetener and 1t stevia), 2t vanilla extract (opt), 2 eggs (I find it cooks ok without the eggs), 1t salt and whatever else you want to make it your own.

My variations (measurements are approximate):
Chocolate or Carob cake: add 3/4c cocoa or carob powder and 1t ground coffee.
Spice cake: add 1T cinnamon, 1t ginger and a 1/2t each of cloves and nutmeg
Morning glory cake: add 1T cinnamon, and 1/4c each chopped apples, raisins, sunflower seeds, shredded coconut
Banana coconut (our favorite I think): add 2 very ripe bananas mashed, 1/2c coconut and 1T cinnamon (or 2t cinnamon and 1/2 to 1t nutmeg)

Ok, mix it all up and then add it to the bowl that has the sourdough in it. Mix well. Now here is the key part (have a rubber scraper ready): sprinkle 1 1/2t baking soda over the top, mix quickly but well, and then quickly scrape into the cake pan. The soda causes a reaction with the acid in the cake and it starts to bubble and rise. The quicker you mix it and get it into the pan, the better. It will continue to rise a bit while in the oven. Bake for 25-35 minutes or till done in the middle.
TIP: A thicker cake batter will hold its height better!! If your batter is too thin your cake will be flat. No worries though, it will still taste good. Just call it a 'bar' instead ;)

I do not frost my cakes, but sometimes I will add some cinnamon and sugar to the top.
Break the ball of dough apart a little and sprinkle on 1/4t salt, 1/4t baking soda. (I have tried doing this BEFORE letting it sit and the results seem pretty much the same and it's a little easier but the instructions I have say to do it after.) Knead to incorporate. Take about a quarter or a third of the dough and roll it out as thin as you can directly on to the greased cookie sheet. I think it helps to stretch the ball a little first with your hands before putting it on the sheet. If the dough is too sticky to roll it out, make a mental or literal note of it for next time (add more flour!) and try covering it with waxed paper or plastic wrap before rolling. The thinner it is, the quicker it will bake and the crispier it will be. The thicker it is, the longer it will bake and it will not be so crispy. Outer edges tend to cook quicker so try to roll it out as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with coarse grain salt (you can roll it in a little to help it stick) and use a pizza cutter to cut the crackers to the desired size/shape. Bake for 15 minutes or so. Check after 10 minutes; remove the outer ones that are done (if any) and bake as long as needed to finish the rest (you will have to keep removing some as it goes along). Cool on racks, store in an airtight container.
We certainly like the thinner crackers more than the thicker ones!! You can add in flavors as well ... like 1t Italian seasonings for herb crackers, 1t garlic powder for garlic crackers, or both for garlic herb crackers, you can even add in 1/4 to 1/2c parmesan cheese but I have never done this. The last time I made crackers I added in a few tablespoons of honey and some paprika. These reminded me of 'cheese-it' crackers - a childhood favorite. YUM.
Pancakes (if you did them):
Get your griddles or pans or skillet warming up. Have grease ready.
In a mixing bowl mix: 1 egg, 1/2t salt, 1t vanilla (opt), 2T honey and 2T fat (I like coconut oil or butter). If you use solid fat, gently melt so it does not get too hot.  I've experimented and left out the eggs and it still does pretty well. Add your 2 cups of starter. Mix well. Now ... split this in half. This is an important step if you want fluffy pancakes. If you do not mind them being flat, don't worry about splitting in half. Also, if you double this recipe, then you will want to split it in fourths.
 Work with ONE half or ONE fourth at a time.
To one portion add 1/2t baking soda. Whisk quickly and scoop immediately on to your greased, hot pan, griddle, whatever. I like to use a 1/4 or 1/3c measuring scoop. Once you have used up your first portion of batter, take the next one, add 1/2t baking soda, whisk quickly and use right away. The longer the batter sits with the soda in it, the flatter it will be, that's why you are splitting the batter up and adding soda to each portion when you are ready.
Cook till done, be careful when you turn it.
A thicker batter will yield a thicker pancake, a thinner batter will yield a thinner pancake.
Cooking variation: use two cast-iron skillets (8" or 10"). Heat over medium-low. Grease them. Pour half the batter into one skillet and half into the other. Your pancakes should be about 1" thick. If you are using recipe, this will produce 4 pancakes. Cook until bubbly in the center and firmed up all over, about 4-5 minutes.
Make sure the top rack of your oven is NOT in the top position. Turn on the oven broiler and transfer the skillets to the oven to finish cooking under the broiler, about 3 minutes or until top is browned and pancakes are cooked all the way through. To onto plates or cooling rack.

Another variation: use a waffle iron instead. Make a very large batch and freeze the left overs (after they are completely cool; we cool individually on a rack) to reheat in the toaster. 

Any questions? Comments? Suggestions? Corrections? Helps? Post below!