The Best Granola

I’ve posted this recipe for homemade granola before, but it’s just so good I had to share it again! We’ve updated our original recipe since going gluten-free and are very grateful for Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Old-Fashioned Oats.  With our without gluten, this granola is simply delicious.

Maple Vanilla Granola

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 Tbs vanilla extract

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl mix the oats, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon.

In another small bowl, mix the oil, maple syrup, honey and vanilla.  Pour the honey mixture over the oat mixture and mix with your hands until well combined.  This is messy!

Spread the granola on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Cool completely and crumble granola into big chunks and small bits.  Store in an airtight container.

Don’t just take my word for it – make this granola for yourselves and let me know what you think! But, with thumbs up from all four Littles and Husband, the title of  Best Granola is secure at The Schell Cafe.

Penn Cove Mussels

Guess what’s in the bowl?

More importantly, guess what was in the bowl?

Before Husband and I devoured them, a steamy pile of Penn Cove mussels graced our sea side supper tonight. What you see up there, my friends, is just a bowl of shells.

Speaking of Schells, la famille spent the day chasing whales in Puget Sound. The scenery through the San Juan Islands was truly breathtaking and even Littlest spied spectacular wildlife. We saw minke whales, harbor seals, porpoises, and a majestic Bald Eagle soaring close to its nesting eaglet.

Back on land, and nearing supper time we were hankering for more surf. We stopped by Penn Cove and picked up 2 lbs of fresh mussels. Located in Coupeville, WA, Penn Cove is a gorgeous body of water made famous for its abundance of outstanding mussels. They did not disappoint!

Mussels require little effort for tasty results. There are infinite ways to dress up the shellfish, but I like them in a simple wine and garlic sauce. Most likely because the first bowl of mussels I ever tasted was presented in a delicious wine sauce with ample bread for mopping. I was fifteen years old and traveling to France for the first time. I had no idea what mussels, or moules, were at the time, but I’ve been a fan since that very first bite.

I’ve made mussels twice since we’ve been on Whidbey Island and both times I varied up the sauce depending on the ingredients I had on hand. For example, the first night I had a full bottle of Washington white wine so I used two cups to steam the mussels. For some reason, the second time I only had a scant quarter cup of wine!??! So, I took the cooks liberty of drinking the wine and used water with a generous amount of Old Bay Seasoning to steam the mussels. Both evenings produced a delicious bowl of steamy mussels.

I’ve tweeted with my pals @WholeFoodsATX to see if they source Penn Cove mussels. My fingers are crossed and I’ll keep you posted. You must try these sweet and simple mussels. Here’s a recipe I loosely followed from a post several years ago.

Penn Cove Mussels

2 lbs mussels, de-bearded and rinsed

2-3 TBS extra virgin olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, minced (I use about 6 cloves, but we really like garlic!)

2-3 TBS shallots, minced (I didn’t measure, but feel certain I used more!)

2 TBS Old Bay Seasoning (optional)

2 cups white wine, or water

2 TBS butter

fresh herbs, I like parsley, chives or tarragon

Salt & pepper

Rinse the mussels in cold water. De-beard if necessary. Discard mussels that are opened. Sometimes fresh mussels will slightly open, if you have one of these gently tap and the mussel should close. If not, toss.

Heat the olive oil in a big pot with a fitted lid. Add the garlic and shallots and saute until soft. Add Old Bay Seasoning, if using, and wine (or water). Stir to combine and bring to a boil.

Add mussels to boiling liquid, cover and steam for about 6 minutes. Mussels will open when fully cooked.

Remove pot from heat, stir in butter, herbs and seasonings. Pour into a big bowl and serve with wine and crusty bread!

Salmon 101

Raise your hand if the fish counter intimidates you? At least once a week I find myself standing in front of the massive fish selection at Whole Foods challenged. Farmed? Wild? King? Alaskan? Atlantic? Pacific? Coho? And that’s just the salmon. Daunted by the unfamiliar, I ask the monger for the freshest catch for the best price and continue on my way.

The Schell Cafe is on-location this week in the Pacific Northwest. Early yesterday morning I strolled Pike Place Market in awe of the bounty. At one of the fish stalls I decided to put an end to my lack of salmon know-how and asked the monger for a quick course in salmon.

There are two types of salmon, Atlantic and Pacific. Atlantic salmon is usually farmed. Salmon from the Pacific is most often wild, but can also be farmed. What does farmed mean? Exactly what it sounds like, fish are bred and raised in cages or large net pens to meet the growing demand for seafood. Fish farms produce almost 20 percent of worldwide seafood. Most fish farms are located in Asia, primarily China and the majority of salmon farms are in Norway and Chile. Thirty percent of all seafood in the United States comes from fish farms. The debate over farmed fish is heated with primary concerns for environmental impact at the forefront. The more I learn, the more I appreciate the nutritional and environmental benefits of wild salmon.

In addition to my crash course at the market, I bought a local cookbook Pure Flavor written by the owner of Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. Read how author Kurt Beecher Dammeier explains salmon.

There are five kinds (species) of Pacific salmon:

Chinook, also called king salmon, the largest and fattiest fish, has firm, red fish

Chum, also called keta or dog salmon, is a lower-fat fish with firm, pale flesh and a very mild flavor.

Coho, or silver salmon, is a small fish with medium-red, less fatty flesh

Pink, or humpback, is the leanest salmon.  It has soft, pink flesh.

Sockeye, also called red or blueback, has deep red meat, a firm texture, and the second highest fat content. It has the highest levels of omega-3s of all the types of salmon.

After exploring the city, we left Seattle behind and are currently tucked away in a small corner of Puget Sound. Husband brought along his fishing paraphernalia in hopes of scoring the biggest catch this week. He was sorely disappointed to find that the salmon season doesn’t officially open until the 16th. So, I’m headed to the local fish stand to see what wild, freshly caught salmon I can find.

In the meantime the Littles just brought in a feisty Dungeness crab they found on the beach. It’s almost time for lunch and if I can get my wits about me, perhaps I’ll boil my first live crab.

Stay tuned as our adventures continue…

Pace of Provence: A Cookbook Giveaway!

When my savvy and stylish friends at  Go To Girls asked if I would share my favorite cookbook I didn’t have to think twice about my recommendation. First you need to know that I read cookbooks like most people read novels and I collect them with a passion. So it’s not lightly that I offer up my recommendation of Pace of Provence.

I’m honored to be a guest blogger at Go To Girls today. Click over to read more about Pace of Provence and your chance to win a copy of my favorite cookbook!

A big thank you goes to Yolande Matoré Hoisington for donating a copy of her cookbook for our giveaway today. I can’t wait to see who will win.

To enter the cookbook giveaway simply subscribe to Go To Girls and The Schell Cafe. Leave a comment telling us you subscribe to both sites and you’ll be entered. It’s as simple as that!  The lucky winner will be announced on Monday.

Bonne Chance!!

Bison Chili

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Oh give me a home, where the buffalo roam…

I couldn’t resist.  And, now you’ll be singing Home on the Range all day too.  Sorry.

One of my New Year’s Hopefuls (I don’t do resolutions) is to buy a side of beef.  Is that normal?  I would love to have an assortment of cuts of local, grass-fed beef stashed away in the deep freezer.  Only we don’t own a deep freezer which is a technicality of sorts.  I actually thought about giving this (the side of beef not the appliance) to Husband for Valentine’s Day, but I’m not sure I can pull it off by then.  In the meantime, I’ve stocked up on various cuts of bison from Thunder Heart Bison which I gratefully find at our Farmer’s Market.

If you haven’t stumbled upon all the reasons you should love bison, you should know that it has more protein, iron and good omegas than beef or chicken.  Plus, it has fewer calories and less fat.  It’s delicious and if you are a hearty meat eater, you should really add bison to your rotation.

This is a super easy recipe. Measuring out the spices is the hardest part!  You’ll love the flavor and your heart will thank you.

Bison Chili

1 lb ground bison

1 cup onion, chopped

1 cup bell pepper, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 Tbs chili powder

1 Tbs ground coffee

2 tsp cocoa powder (I use Scharffen Berger)

2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/4 tsp allspice

2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes + their juices

2 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce

2 (15 oz) cans beans, rinsed and drained (I used one can of kidney beans and one great northern)

1 – 2 cups water

1 (7 oz) can diced green chilis

In a small bowl, mix together all the spices.

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In a large pot, brown the bison until nice a crumbly.

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When the bison is browned add the onion, bell peppers and garlic.  Continue to saute until the veggies are soft.

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Add the spices and stir for a minute or two until all the meat and veggies are covered.  Then add the rest of the ingredients.

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Stir until well combined and simmer for an hour.

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Ask a hungry eight year old to taste the chili for you.  Ask the same hungry eight year old to please save some chili for the rest of his family.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Homemade Croutons

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What do you do with the heel at the ends of the bread loaf?  Honestly? Do you reach right past secretly hoping someone else will use it? Do you try to conceal it from your children by placing it out of sight on the bottom of the sandwich?  Or do you simply toss it?

I don’t know about your household, but around The Schell Cafe no one will voluntarily eat the heel of the bread.  Husband will on occasion, but only as an act of frugality not because the heel is his chosen choice of bread slices.

Rather than torture the Littles by making them eat the heels, I’ve started making homemade croutons.  Which, as it turns out, is a double bonus as they started liking salads when I began garnishing their greens with homemade croutons.

You can get as fancy as you want making croutons.  It’s a great way to use flavored olive oils or tasty combinations of herbs and spices.  If I have just a tiny bit of chives or other herbs leftover, I toss ’em in.  Once you’ve made  your own croutons a few times you’ll start noticing all kinds of extras lying around the kitchen that will serve as great flavor boosters.

Homemade Croutons

Heels of bread loaf or slightly stale slices (anything destined for the trash!)

olive oil

salt

herbs or seasonings to your liking

First, cube the heels of the bread loaves.

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Next, toss the cubed bread with a splash of olive oil and desired herbs or seasonings.  I just used coarse sea salt for this batch of croutons.

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Spread the oil bathed croutons on a foil-lined baking sheet.  I use my toaster oven.  No sense heating up the kitchen for such a small task.

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Bake at 200 for twenty or thirty minutes, until the bread is dried and crunchy!  Store in a baggie or tupperware container for up to a week.

You can also put the croutons in a small food processor and pulse to make bread crumbs. I do this to make the Littles breaded chicken tenders…but I’ll save that for a Kids Cook posting soon.

*** Gluten Free Update: We now use the heels of our Udi’s bread for croutons and breadcrumbs! Freeze until you are ready to make.

Hominy! Santa Fe Chicken Stew

I must say you all had creative guesses for the what’s in my blue colander quiz.  Truth be told, if my photography had been better I think you all would have guessed hominy as my secret ingredient.  I’m working on the photography around here.  Patience, friends.  I’m self taught.

Hominy is really just dried, hulled corn kernels.  To remove the germ and hard hull of the corn a soaking process must occur.  The soaking solution varies by culture and region.  In central Texas we typically find hominy that has been soaked in lime water which is the Mexican tradition.

Mia was the first to make this soup.  She passed along the recipe with such enthusiasm that I had to try it again.  We noshed on this soup all weekend and each time we ladled up a bowl we tried something different.  We all liked sliced avocados atop the soup.  The Littles garnished with cheese, of course.  Husband and I added healthy doses of Cholula.  And at some point during the weekend, I cleared a bowl that clearly showed signs crushed Fritos had been added to the soup. No one fessed up to this, however.

For such a simple and inexpensive way to feed the family, this soup should be added to your week night rotation.

Santa Fe Chicken Stew

1 bunch of green onions, chopped

2 tsp. olive oil

2 cups shredded chicken

1 can navy beans, drained

1 can Mexican style stewed tomatoes, undrained

2 1/2 cans of chicken broth

1 can hominy, drained

1 can chopped green chilies, undrained

2 tsp. chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Saute the green onions in olive oil for 2 minutes in a large pot.  Add chicken, beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, hominy, green chilies, chili powder and cumin.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.  Stir in cilantro before serving.