February 17, 2011

Scoopfuls of Simple Pleasure

I’m never alone. I wasn’t alone on Valentine’s. And I ain’t gonna be alone on Chap Goh Meh (宵節), a.k.a. Chinese Valentine’s. (The latter is the 15th day of Chinese New Year, which marks the end of the two-week-long celebration.)

In the office, sitting on my desk, was and has always been this bag of familiarity—a bag of loose, coarse flecks. It goes through the thick and thin with me. It never leaves my side. It cheers me up when I’m down. It fills my tummy when I’m hungry. It’s there, by the keyboard, looking at me closely while I type away at the speed of light.

Meet Mr. Oats—a lifelong, loyal companion of mine. (Lifelong? Yes, I have faith in our relationship.) And he’s of rolled oats—not your average quick oats.

One of the many things that glue us together is our love of life’s simplest pleasures. A minimalist that he’s always been, Mr. Oats can be a romantic, too. At times, he’d dress himself up and surprise me in this lovely costume:

Homemade Granola

Which is basically made of rolled oats, almonds, dried fruit, the seeds of certain grains, natural sweeteners, spices, and a touch of oil and sea salt. It calls for no fuss and is straightforward. It’s deliciously simple and healthy and sustainably filling. Nothing beats a bowl of homemade granola, drenched in cold milk, for breakfast to kick-start my every day. And you know, for someone like me, who’s more of a snacker than an eater, homemade granola makes an impeccable treat to munch on. I can nibble away sans the milk, and it’s just as good and satisfying. It reminds me so much of my American mom’s homemade granola, too.

Fresh homemade granola cooling on the baking sheets, in my American mom's kitchen in Minnesota, U.S.

Then there was also once in which he turned up in this costume instead:

Homemade Chocolate-and-Peanut Granola

Awww … How sweet!

After blending myself in the American culture for close to three years, I’m officially part of the ever-growing chocolate-and-peanut-butter cult. And here he is—in this bowl of homemade chocolate-and-peanut granola—who’d have thought of this variation!

With just a few simple tweaks, you’ve got yourself America’s most beloved flavor combo in a bowl! Sometimes, I love serving this kind of granola with a tide of marshmallows floating atop the cold milk, amid this rubble of goodness. It conjures up the scene whereby a bunch of college students encircling a campfire, on a frigid wintery night in northern Minnesota, patiently waiting for their s’mores to get all toasty and gooey. Mmm ...

I know, I can get all mushy easily. That was why Mr. Oats put himself in the position to serve me these mildly sweetened, spicy, and nutty granolas. He’s here for good to expel the melancholy in me. He knows a simple pleasure like homemade granola is sufficient to put a smile on my face.

There, scoopfuls of life’s purest pleasure, reduced to its simplest form. Just me, my nubbly sweetheart, and his granola.

See, didn’t I tell you we’re simple folks to please?

Homemade Granola

Andy’s Fairfield Granola
Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Website, Nigella.com

Yield: About 2.5 Liters

175 g applesauce
* I always use homemade applesauce, which is ridiculously easy to make. I’ll share the recipe for that in the near future. *
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
120 g brown-rice syrup or rice-malt syrup or golden syrup
4 Tbsp runny honey e.g. clover honey
100 g light brown sugar
250 g whole almonds—with the skins on
1 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp neutrally flavored oil e.g. sunflower, canola or corn oil

450 g rolled oats
120 g sunflower seeds
120 g white sesame seeds

300 g raisins

  1. Whisk together (A).
  2. Then, in a very large mixing bowl, toss together (B) with (A) mixture real well. Although a couple of large, rigid wooden spoons will do the job, I prefer to use my hands here. It’s such a sensual thing to do. Hmmm …
  3. Spread the mixture out on large baking sheet(s). Don’t crowd the sheet(s), or the mixture won’t get all dried and toasted while it bakes in the oven. Bake at 170°C for about 40 minutes. Halfway through baking, redistribute the mixture evenly to prevent overbrowning and/or burning in any one place.
  4. Once it’s baked and fully toasted, remove the granola from the oven and let cool completely in its baking sheet(s). Toss in the raisins once the granola is cooled, and store airtight.

Homemade Chocolate-and-Peanut Granola

For chocolate-and-peanut granola:
  • Use 300 g skinned raw peanuts in place of the almonds.
  • Stir in 25~30 g best-quality cocoa powder to (B) mixture, and before adding in (A) mixture, give them (the dry ingredients) a good raking so that the cocoa powder is dispersed throughout the mixture.
  • For this version, Nigella omits the raisins, but I, on the other hand, replace them with coarsely chopped prunes, because I believe chocolate and prunes go well together. She did suggest that dried cherries would be a great inclusion in this version, since cherries and chocolate do in fact complement each other.

Homemade Granola


KitchenArtistry said...

Beautiful photo... we'd love to feature it on kitchenartistry.com

Charissa said...

Ooh, I love granola! These look so amazing...the idea of chocolate in granola is just stellar! I totally believe in chocolate!

Christina of Form V Artisan said...

I love Malaysia!!
Beef Rendang, Chicken & Rice, Nasi Lemak....mmmm... I miss it.

Jo said...

Hi PL, happy Chap Goh Mei! Looks like I have to get me a Mr Oats as well. Haha .. love your posting and you had me cracking at my desk this morning.

edith said...

I remembered once a friend of mine called this bird food.

Seeing yours with chocolate, I am sure it is far from it.

Chunky Cooky said...

wow u actually turn simple oats into a piece of art ! Amazing !

Su-yin said...

I love homemade granola. I use apple juice to make mine (instead of applesauce), and it's just so much nicer than the storebought versions! Especially as you get to choose what you put into it, hehe. :)

j3ss kitch3n said...

had never made this before looks really delish!

Honey Bee Sweets said...

Oh man, here am i eating my plain oats with milk and i saw your all so yummy, delicious looking, toppings full of toasted oats! Guess i should be a little more diligent and make some wholesome granolas like yours. : P BTW, hope you are feeling much better now yah?Hey, hope you will find your one true Mr Right soon, heehee! (forget about Mr Oats by then...or maybe not, lol! ) Happy 元宵節 my friend!!

wendyywy @ Table for 2..... or more said...

Was this the one u gave me?
It was a bit too "spiced" for me, as you know, I'm not that much of a spice fan. But I did finish it up.

You won't be along tonight, catch u online, if u want, kakaka!

The Sweetylicious said...

it look so delicious and is so healthy (: (:

Meldylocks and Her Three Bears said...

Eh, you make that plastic bowl with purple flowers look so nice!! ...and you also make me wanna "convert" to rolled oats...

Pei-Lin said...

@KitchenArtistry: Thank you so much for the invite! I'll submit my work to the site the soonest I can here. =)

@Charissa: Yea, I never thought of adding chocolaty stuff to my granola till I bumped into this recipe! Nice! Adds a little bit of guilt to the supposedly healthy stuff called granola. Hehe ... Thank you so much for the kind words and popping by. =)

@Christina: Haha! Glad that you like and miss what we get to offer over here! Thank you so much! On behalf of all Malaysians, terima kasih (thank you)! Thank you for stopping by, too. =)

@Jo: Happy Belated Chap Goh Meh, too! Haha! Mr. Rolled Oats never leaves me, seriously. I love him. Thank you so much for the encouraging words. I'll catch up with you later. =)

Pei-Lin said...

@Edith: LOL! Bird food!!?? That's an insult! LOL! Happy Belated Chap Goh Meh!

@Chunky Cooky: Thank you so much for the encouraging words! Thank you!

@Su-yin: Apple juice? Oh, now that's illuminating. I'll go search for your granola recipe on your site later ... Yep, homemade granola beats all store bought, hands down! One of the major reasons is the same as yours, too. Hehe ... =)

@Jess H., The Sweetylicious: Thank you!

@Bee Bee: OK. Now that I know we are both bread and oats people. LOL! Have recovered, I think, but am still very sleep deprived. *Sigh* Hmmm ... Let time tell, and I believe in yuanfen. LOL! But Mr. Oats is still gonna be with me through and through!!! Hahaha! Happy Belated Chap Goh Meh to you and family, too! Thank you so much for being supportive all along. I do wanna see you again someday!

@Wendy: Yup, the latter one. I know, not all Chinese are spice lovers, including my own dad. I kena caught already. Four some more ... ZzZzZz ...

@Melody: HELLO!!! Long time no see you! Haha! Free one from buying toothpaste, I think ... LOL! Rolled oats is and tastes much better than quick oats, IMO. =)

noobcook said...

It's been so long since I ate such wholesome and delicious breakfast - I just skip it everyday. Your photos are gorgeous and inspiring.

lena said...

not only mr oats is romantic , he is healthy, gives us energy and i always get his uncle, 'mr quaker' to meet my emergency hungry stomach! with mr oats around i think you dont need to throw oranges into the river! hahaha!

pigpigscorner said...

Choc and peanuts, my favourite combo too! I want some bananas in mine pls =)

Pei-Lin said...

Sorry for the late replies, folks!

@Wiffy: Oh, I'm a breakfast person, no way I can skip my breakfasts. Try not to skip, though, as it's not good for you. Thank you so much for the encouraging words!

@Lena: Haha! Hmmm ... I'm not concerned about brands. I'm more into organic rolled oats and oat groats. Hehehe ... Hmmm ... I didn't throw any tangerines into the river, though, this year. Haha! I'm not concerned about that lar ... =P

@Anne: Oh! Banana! Didn't think of that!

Ellie (Almost Bourdain) said...

Beautiful photos Pei Lin. Love the simplicity of granola. A good start for the day.

Pei-Lin said...

Thank you, Ellie!

Blessed Homemaker said...

I've shortlisted the same recipe but still havent found time to try making it.

As always, love your beautiful pictures!

Pei-Lin said...

Thank you, Blessed Homemaker! Hope you'll get around to make some granola with this recipe. It's good! Hope to see yours someday. =)

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