Food For All Ages & Stages
Like so many of my peers, I thought that being semi-retired would mean lots of lovely leisure. Hmm. Between caring for my aging mom and my growing grandson, my life is as full as ever. Indeed, I find myself too busy for sit-down meals more often than I would ever have guessed a few years ago. That’s not a bad thing, because it means that I’m enjoying the company of my family, capturing a time together that will never come again.
My mom recently observed that my grandson, now 15 months old, and her cat (a brisk 8 year old) are developmentally similar and interested in the same things: cupboard doors, open drawers, and anything shiny or easy to toss around. She mused that she, too, now has the attention span of a cockerspaniel, so that made three of them. She thinks I should write a book called The Kid, The Cat, and the GG (which is our family shorthand for great grandmother).
Pleasing All Ages
Mom also says that food has become increasingly important to her as the rest of her world has shrunk. My grandson is often indifferent to food, preferring the fascinating world of manipulable objects. They spend a lot of time sharing grapes, blueberries, and raspberries, the mastery of which now challenges both of them. They also love salmon, poached to velvety perfection in a lemon juice bath, which also makes a magnificent mess when eaten with fingers and enthusiasm. Bliss!
Start With Best Basic Granola
The rest of us are totally taken with new twists on granola bars. After spending a small fortune trying out the many new whole-foods, vegan, and organic versions, most of which were too sweet and/or gummy, I decided to make my own. I started with my favorite homemade granola, which is hearty, crisp, and very adaptable. This simple unsweetened granola is delicious for breakfast and makes a lovely topping for fruit crisps. Not surprisingly, it’s awesome in granola breakfast bars (see below), which also make a perfect fall snack. Change up the ingredients freely, trying different combinations of nut butters, nuts, and seeds. Dried fruit tends to get even drier if mixed into this toasted blend, so don’t add them until you fix breakfast.
Unsweetened Granola Mix
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1-2 cups raw almonds
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sesame seeds
1 cup raw hulled sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place each ingredient in a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted: about 20-30 minutes for oats, 12-15 minutes for larger nuts, 6-8 minutes for seeds and coconut flakes. Combine in a large bowl and toss to mix. Store in tightly sealed jars. Makes about 10 cups (all those seeds fill in between larger stuff).
Better Breakfast (and Snack) Bars
Slightly sweet, delectably rich, utterly crunchable, these wholesome and deeply satisfying breakfast bars combine homemade granola with the kind of nut butter that has just 2 ingredients; nuts and salt. Use chunky organic peanut butter, almond butter, or hazelnut butter, or make your own walnut or pecan butter for an unusual treat. (To make nut butter, toast nuts until crisp, then grind in a food processor to desired chunkiness or smoothness.) Use your favorite dried fruit, and add yummy extras like chocolate chips and coconut flakes for extra energy when hiking or biking.
Vegan Breakfast Bars
1/2-2/3 cup brown rice syrup
1 cup nut butter
2-3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups unsweetened granola (see above)
2 cups puffed rice or millet
1/4 cup flax seeds
1-2 cups optional extras
(nuts, golden raisins, chocolate chips, toasted coconut flakes)
Loosely line a large baking pan (13 x 9 inch) with parchment paper, set aside. Combine first 4 ingredients in a large saucepan over lowest heat and stir until blended. Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients; mix will be thick and sticky. Dump it on the parchment paper, wet your hands and firmly pat to flatten. Cover with waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour. When cold, cut into squares or bars, wrap in waxed paper or foil and freeze. Serves at least one.