Juicy Cuisine and Crunchy Granola

Part I:  THE JUICE SEGMENT (feel free to skip to Part II)

We’re having some down time today at the DDD household, as today is the first-ever Family Day holiday in Ontario (I’ve always thought it only civilized to have a day off in February–the gap between New Year’s and Easter/Passover is just too long).  Everything government-related is closed, as are many retail establishments, so the streets are quiet and still.  Why, it’s the perfect atmosphere to reflect on my first entire day of WOCA (Week of Chocolate Asceticism)!

But since I know you’re likely more interested in the food than my self-imposed abstemiousness, I’ve decided not to dwell on my woe-is-me struggle to avoid chocolate during this time.  Instead, I’ll provide an update each day at the end of the post–following the main attraction (a new recipe!).  And one of the perfect ways to start off a shiny, new, “clean” week of eating is a delicious, cleansing, freshly-squeezed vegetable juice.

What? Juice?? But where, you may ask, are all the desserts?  Where are the cookies, the muffins, the pies, the cakes?  Where are the yummy, creative vegan dishes?  Where is the–CHOCOLATE?

Ah, yes.  Now, now, let’s all take a deep breath, count to ten, and focus on the mantra  kiss and make up reload the chamber try to calm down.  No, no, we haven’t abandoned chocolate indefinitely!  That sweet sepia beauty shall return; all in good time.  In the meantime, however, I have a party to attend in less than 2 weeks, which means I need to get my ass in gear (no, I mean that literally–I have no gear big enough to fit my–well, you get the idea).

Despite having a well established and famous juice-bar-turned-restaurant here in Toronto, I first tasted a freshly squeezed vegetable juice in Ithaca, New York, at the famed Moosewood restaurantThe HH and I were on our way to visit my Boston cousins for a few days, and spent an evening exploring the university town.  After reading so much about the Moosewood over the years (and coveting the Moosewood cookbooks I owned), I couldn’t wait to try their food.  The juice was merely an afterthought–”Something to drink before your meal, Ma’am?”–so I ordered without really thinking about it (I was too fixated on having been called “Ma’am,” I guess). I had a carrot, beet, and ginger mix, and was immediately enamoured! The HH, not quite so infatuated, declined to even taste it (“I can smell the beets,” he pouted.  “It smells like dirt.”).

A few years later, I learned more about fresh juices in nutrition school, and was so inspired I promptly went out and bought myself a ridiculously overpriced single-gear juicer.  Freshly squeezed, juice is a detoxifyer, immune booster, and wealth of nutrition. (If you’re interested in learning more, there’s a quick and clear description of the power of raw juices in a book my friend PR Queen lent me, called Raw Food: Life Force Energy.)

As a result of that juicy inspiration, I peeled, chopped, pushed, propelled, squeezed, filtered and poured enthusiastically for the first year or so, before I grew weary of spending 15-20 minutes just to clean the mechanical monstrosity when it took me all of one minute to actually drink the beverage it prepared.  You see, juicers tend to generate an abundance of both juice AND pulp; and the pulp has a tendency to cling obstinately inside the filter (which turns out to be a good thing for the juice per se, as you really don’t want to be lapping up strings of celery fiber from your glass).  Nonetheless, juicing can be an onerous task.

juiceglass2.jpg One of my favorite juice combinations in the morning is carrots, apple, celery, beets, ginger, parsley and dark, leafy greens (usually kale), with a clove of garlic thrown in for good measure (and the anti-microbial properties in confers).  Drink one of these concoctions first thing, and you’re basically buzzing until lunch (with complimentary protection against vampires included).

I did convince the HH to try my juice, just once.  His response–emitted along with a fine spray of the green liquid itself–was: “Aaarrggghhhecchhh!! This tastes like A FIELD OF WET GRASS.”  (Now, don’t ask me how he knows what a field of wet grass tastes like; but anyway.)

And so, rather than impose the selfsame green terror on all of you this fine winter’s day (I’ll save that for another fine winter’s day), I thought I’d start off this week with something nourishing, something sweet and crunchy, something to suit breaking the fast in the morning:  homemade granola!

Part II:  THE GRANOLA SEGMENT

Over the past few years (ever since I studied holistic nutrition) I’ve had colleagues and friends occasionally remark as I wax poetic about tofu or kale, “Now, don’t go all crunchy granola on me, Ric.”  But I’d never take offense at the comment; I could never comprehend why that phrase should be flung pejoratively. What is wrong with crunchy granola, anyway?

As far as breakfast cereals go, granola (a real, whole-foods kind, not sugar- and fat-laden varieties you find in wax-lined boxes) is one of the best.  A flavorful potpourri of whole grains with their generous mineral and fiber content, gem-like dried fruits with theIr chewy sweetness and tang (and even more of those necessary minerals), and the occasional flake of coconut or morsel of toasted nut (both providing healthy fats)–well, what’s not to love?

Although I’m not a regular consumer of cold breakfast cereals (though I do love me some baked oatmeal once in a while), granola is one cold cereal I do fancy.  I love the mix of textures from crumbly to crunchy to chewy, all bathed in opaque milky sweetness (whichever type you choose).

This recipe is loosely based on the one in Becoming Vegetarian by Melina Vesanto, and I’ve adapted it liberally.  I’ve added more of the liquids to bind the granola into clusters, and adapted the fruits to suit my tastes (also adding a bit more than the original recipe suggests).  Here’s the mix of dried cranberries, unsweetened cherries, raisins, goji berries I used this time round. The array of dark reds and brilliant coral of the gojis nestled on top the grains creates quite a tantalizing mosaic of color.

fruitsgranola.jpg

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Since these foods combined contain both fruits and vegetables, I thought they’d make the perfect submission to Sweetnicks’ weekly ARF/5-A-Day event. You can check out all the entries on Tuesdays.

WOCA Update:  The first day of my chocolate abstinence was pretty much as I expected it would be–very difficult.  One thing I’ve learned in the past (like, the 75 or so other times I’ve gone through this cycle) is that, if I truly wish to avoid eating the sweet stuff, I should allow myself as much as I like of anything else that’s whole, healthy, or naturally sweetened (such as fresh fruits)–at least for the first few days.  So today I ate more nuts than I would have liked, and snacked on more leftovers from our V-Day dinner than I would have liked (though not the pie, evidemment), but I managed to go 24 hours without consuming anything chocolate or anything containing added sweeteners; one hurdle passed!

(“We knew something was up, Mum, when you forgot to give us our Kongs this afternoon. . . hurry up and get over this, okay, Mum?”)

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Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of juicing, but I found this winter I just couldn’t keep it up (perhaps that’s why I’ve been so grumpy!). When it’s so cold I can’t stand the idea of cold juice first thing in the morning. Do you ever have this problem?

  2. Now I am so jealous of you going to the Moosewood Restaurant – I would looooove to go there! I was a little jealous of you having a juicer until you wrote about cleaning it and then I felt a little better – I sometimes wonder about getting one and am not sure I can justify the space in our little kitchen.

    You granola looks interesting – is the tahini instead of oil? I am planning to do some soon from a recipe I used to make years ago, but will be checking out other museli recipes for inspiration. I like fruit juice on my museli so I thought it made sense to talk about these together.

    I sometimes eat more fruit to avoid cake, and justify it to myself that it is better than lots of cake – so I like your idea of rewarding yourself for your chocolate abstinence with fruit.

  3. Tea,
    My juices aren’t usually that cold, as some of the produce is at room temperature, and the process of juicing seems to warm them up a bit! You could try putting out the veggies/fruits the night before you juice, and juicing them at room temperature (which, energetically, is supposed to be healthier, anyway!).

    Johanna,
    Believe me, no need to be jealous of cleaning that juicer! But it does make yummy juice :)

    Re: the granola, I think the tahini is a way to bind the ingrdients together and create those lovely, crunchy clusters that are indicative of granola. You could probably use any nut butter that you like instead.

  4. Hi Ricki!
    I’ve just “tagged” you to play a getting to know you game. Check it out on my blog post today:

    http://testdrivekitchen.blogspot.com/2008/02/tag-im-it.html

    I love that you studied holistic nutrition. That’s so cool :-)

    Karen

  5. ooh, that granola looks so hearty and delectable!! yum!!

    when there’s carob, there’s no need to feel deprived of chocolate (in my humble opinion, at least, since I’m obsessed with carob, haha).

  6. Karen,
    Thanks so much–what fun! Will take a look and participate asap! (And I loved every minute of my holistic nutrition year–sigh!)

    VeggieGirl,

    I actually thought about you as I was writing about leaving chocolate behind. I am looking forward to many happy times with carob (even if it is just a rebound affair for me!).

  7. It’s a coincidence you mention juicing because I’ve been reading a book about detoxifying the body. The author talks about natural supplements and different foods that aid in liver function. The biggest thing he keeps mentioning is daily juicing and a bi-annual juice fast. I’ve been reading a lot about this sort of thing and I’m dying to go out and buy my juicer.

    What worries me, though, is not the expensive juicer or the washing of the juicer but how expensive it’s going to be to constantly buy fresh, organic produce. It’s something I do anyway, but I use it in my cooking or eat a couple pieces of fruit a day. Added to that, daily juicing is going to get pricey. Either way, I’ve decided to give it a go. Carrot ginger sounds great to me!

  8. You’ve been to Moosewood. I am so envious!

  9. I think I could swear off chocolate if I had some delicious granola like this on hand all of the time. Good luck with the battle.

  10. Hey Ricki:

    Congrats on making it through one day sans chocolate!! I have a recipe that has Moosewood in the name…Moosewood fudge brownies…but we won’t go into any detail about those here! I do wonder though if it has a connection to the Moosewood Restaurant?

    That granola looks absolutely wonderful!

    Also, I tagged you for a short little Meme and if you would like to participate, the details are on my post entitled “123 Book Meme”

  11. Suzie,
    Yes, it is definitely pricey to buy all the fresh produce if you’re going to be juicing a lot. Luckily for me, we get a box of the stuff every week, so I tend to use the veggies that aren’t put to other use in my juices. Generally, though, because the nutrients are so intensified, you don’t need much juice to achieve a lot of nutrition. And it’s often the less expensive veggies (carrots, beets, celery) that are best in juice. If you combine veggies that naturally have a lot of water (such as lettuce or cucumber) with the others, then you extend the juice as well.

    I would definitely recommend giving it a try–ginger and beets in particular are great for the liver!

    Sally,
    It was a lovely, sweet little place, I have to admit, and I’d recommend going some time if you can. But hey, you get to live without all this snow and ice, so I’m jealous of that!! ;)

    Lisa,
    Thanks so much. The battle does continue, but I’m determined!

    Annie,
    Thanks for the words of encouragement, which are a great motivator! I can’t imagine that any recipe with the word “Moosewood” in it is NOT from the Moosewood restaurant!

    Also, thanks for the meme-tag! I promise to get to my answers in the next few days. . . just a bit mid-term crazy over here right now!

  12. Good point, although it almost isn’t a vegetable temperature thing. The mere idea of anything raw turns me off this time of year. In the winter all I want is tea and hot soup (can you tell I’m in the midst of my first cold winter in a decade?–and it’s not even that cold around here!).

    Thanks for the suggestions though, perhaps I will give it another try.

  13. Tea,

    Well, there’s nothing wrong with getting your veggies from soup, so I say if that’s what you prefer, why not? I think this winter has been awful for everyone experiencing winter this time of year. . . we’ve had more snow this winter than the last 2 combined, apparently (and can you tell that I feel exactly the same way you do about cold, ice, and snow??).

  14. Hi, I’d love to try your recipe but I was wondering if you thought it would work without the maple syrup? I need to avoid wheat and sugar, including any thing like honey, maple etc (quite tricky!!) thanks for any advice you can give me! :-)

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