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Homemade Maple Granola

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For the past 13 months, my migraine attacks have been so frequent and so long-lasting, that I am beginning to fear they have become chronic. When this seemingly never-ending round began in April 2017, I thought it was due to stress from my car’s dying on the road and being irreparable. Though I got another car within 10 days, the migraine didn’t stop. “Reduce your stress,” said my doctor at every single now-monthly visit, until I was virtually living like a hermit with no apparent reduction in migraine pain or frequency. Several months ago, I began going through every single item in my kitchen, vowing to eliminate any food additives or artificial sweeteners that might be lurking in my meals. I went through my cookbooks and vowed to make everything from scratch. Everything. From scratch. So I would know every single ingredient that was going into my body. Unfortunately, every time I thought I’d found the offending trigger, and had a half-day’s respite, the migraine would return with furious anger.

In the meantime, however, I found lots of ways to enjoy food prepared as simply as possible, with very few sauces or condiments (unless I make them myself). One of my most exciting discoveries was that I could make my own granola. I love it over yogurt, as muesli (I eat mine with cold water, a hold-over from my years as a vegetarian and/or vegan back in the days when such conveniences as soy-milk were unheard of), or straight from my hand into my mouth. Most of the commercial brands are high-fat or, if low-fat, covered with honey. (I’m allergic to bees, and the last time I had some honey in baked goods, I ended up in the ER.)

I’m a big fan of Deb Perelman, of Smitten Kitchen fame, and earlier this year, I treated myself to both her cookbooks. It was in her 2012 The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook that I found her recipe for Big Cluster Maple Granola (pp. 26-27), which you can also find online at Serious Eats.

Deb’s version is very fine, although the egg whites she uses for “clustering” made me a big nervous. I used her recipe as is the first time, and then, when it didn’t cluster despite the addition of the egg whites, I went off on my own and tinkered away, burning quite a few batches in the process.

I’ve finally mastered my own low-fat, vegan granola, and I cannot keep it in the house. And that was before I finally pronounced the recipe an actual success, wrote it down on the pages of Deb’s cookbook, and offered my guy a taste. I may have to start making more than one batch a week of this very fine granola.


Ingredients *
4 C old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked (I use a generic brand)
1 C pumpkin seeds (kernels, shelled, no salt)
1 C flax seeds (whole)
⅔ – 1 C maple syrup (I started with the ⅔,  and finally settled on 1 C because of the extra ingredients
2 T olive oil (extra virgin, and be sure to taste it first: you want a slightly sweet taste, not a bitter one)
1 t Vietnamese cinnamon, ground (any kind of cinnamon will do, but Vietnamese has the best taste)
½ t sea salt (coarse or fine: both work)

Dried Fruit
½ C each dried blueberries, dried cherries, dried cranberries (or any mixture you wish)

Pre-heat oven to 300º F.

Combine all ingredients except the dried fruit in a large bowl and stir well until all the dry ingredients seem evenly coated with the liquid ingredients. Spread it on a large cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. (This will work fine without parchment paper, but if you don’t have any parchment baking paper, do not use waxed paper instead: it will smoke — if it doesn’t catch fire — and will taint the granola.)


Bake for 20 minutes. **

Using a large spatula, carefully turn over the granola in sections: it browns on the underside and on the very edges. Rotate the pan to ensure even toasting.

Bake 15-20 minutes more.

If it looks like it needs a bit more browning, rotate the pan, turn the oven off, and “bake” for 5-7 more minutes, checking the granola every minute. It goes from it could be just a little browner to burnt, blackened, and ruined faster than you can imagine, so keep an eye on it.

When it looks light to medium brown, remove from oven. Set aside while you pour dried fruit into a heat-proof bowl. Mix the fruit slightly.

You do not have to wait for the granola to cool completely before mixing it with the dried fruit. In fact, I prefer mixing the warm-to-hot granola in with the dried fruit and letting the two parts mingle their flavors. You do what you prefer.

Lifting the ends of the parchment paper by both sides, slowly lift all the granola off the cookie sheet and pour it directly into the bowl of dried fruit. If you’re not using parchment sheet, you may have to spoon the granola into the bowl: the small seeds and toasty oatmeal scatter easily.

With a large mixing spoon, carefully stir until the dried fruit seems evenly distributed among the granola.

Serving Suggestions
Eat straight from the bowl (I mean, from the storage jar), serve mixed with yogurt, sprinkled over ice cream, or with milk (soy milk, almond milk, cold water, juice) as muesli for breakfast.

Storage
Store in an air-tight storage jar. Deb Perelman says hers lasts up to 2 weeks on the counter in the air-tight jars, but I’ve never had any granola left after a week.

And if you have any questions or suggestions, please do let me know.

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* I use Gerbs seeds and dried fruit because, although the dried fruit has a bit of sugar, it’s not very sweet, and all their products are non-GMO, vegan, and kosher. I get everything else at the grocery, and I use generic when I can find it.


** I’m high-altitude, about 8500 feet in the Rockies, so you may have to adjust your own baking time. Perelman’s original recommendation is 45-55 minutes at 300º F, turning/rotating etc. about half-way through.

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To Make Cynics of Us All: Devil, the Horror Film

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#NoSpoilers

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There is a long history of stories about humans being influenced or tempted to commit evil by some outside being rather than by their own nature. In Christian translations of Genesis chapter 3, a serpent in the Garden of Eden tells the first woman, Eve, that she will not die if she eats the forbidden fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Her mate, Adam, joins her in eating the fruit, and they do not, in fact, die after eating the fruit: they are only expelled from the Garden of Eden, which stands as a metaphor for their previous innocence of their own disobedient nature. Despite the fact that the serpent told Adam and Eve the truth, the serpent has long been associated with the evil and with the Devil if only because he revealed the evil that already existed in mankind.

In Christian tradition, the Devil is supposedly the absolute incarnation of evil and is completely separate from God, who is ostensibly all powerful, all knowledgeable, and all good. In most stories that follow the Christian tradition, then, meeting the Devil becomes an encounter with evil. Such a meeting may provide the protagonists with an opportunity to learn that all humans contain both good and evil (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” 1835), to do evil themselves (Washington Irving’s “The Devil and Tom Walker,” 1824, which itself was based on 16th century German legends of Faust) or to resist doing evil, perhaps by outwitting the Devil himself (Stephen Vincent Benét’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” 1936).     

Devil, a 2010 American horror film, is based on a story by M. Night Shyamalan, originally written as a “nod to Agatha Christie’s” mystery novel And Then There Were None, where a group of people, each of whom is guilty of something in his past, is trapped in an isolated area and mysteriously dies one at a time. The film’s director John Erick Dowdle changed the original story by adding something he called a “Devil’s Meeting,” which he claims is a based in a legend of the Devil coming to earth to “test evildoers by tormenting them.

I’m not exactly sure why the Devil would “test” evildoers, and I can’t find any outside corroboration for any tales or legends of such devilish tests. Instead, I’d imagine that the Devil would be happy to have humans doing bad things. In The Book of Job, “the adversary” or “the opponent” (ha satan), which is not capitalized, is considered to be merely the opposite side of an argument. In Job, the adversary tests a man who has never encountered adversity in order to test the man’s absolute faith in God. The adversary does not test a man who is already defying God by going against His commandments and committing evil. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the idea of the Devil’s “testing evildoers by tormenting them” makes little theological or philosophical sense, the horror film Devil is actually an intriguing and unsettling suspense film.

Chris Messina (L) and Matt Craven (R ) in Devil © Universal Pictures

After a jumper plunges to his death from an office building, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) comes to investigate, only to be plunged into another mystery when an elevator stops, trapping 5 people inside. The trapped people include a young woman (Bojana Novakovic) who plans to leave her rich husband and take all his money,

Bojana Novakovic, Devil © Universal Pictures

an older woman (Jenny O’Hara) who is a thief,

Jenny O’Hara, Devil © Universal Pictures

a temporary security guard (Bokeem Woodbine) with a history of violence,

Bokeem Woodbine, Devil © Universal Pictures

a mechanic (Logan Marshall-Green) who intentionally did not sign himself in at the security desk,

Logan Marshall Green, Devil © Universal Pictures

and a sleazy salesman (Geoffrey Arend).

Geoffrey Arend, Devil © Universal Pictures

When the occupants begin to die, police and others begin to suspect a murderer is trapped in the elevator, targeting the other passengers.

Jacob Vargas and Chris Messina, Devil © Universal Pictures

While one of the buildings security guards (Jacob Vargas) is filling Detective Bowden’s ear with ghost stories that his family told him, based on the guard’s belief that he saw something in the elevator on the surveillance video,

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Bowden (with the microphone, below) is desperately trying to determine why someone might want to kill the others passengers trapped in the elevator.

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Some critics and viewers complained that Devil was too short, was while others complained that the story was somewhat convoluted, by which I  think they mean how some of the characters’ stories were ultimately related to those of others. The film does have some minor elements of the supernatural, but they aren’t as important or scary as the psychological aspects of guilt, good, and evil, which involve everyone in the story, even the detectives who are there to save the trapped elevator occupants.

The film is better than its ostensible supernatural elements, which are so sparse, it’s almost like they were put in more by accident than deliberation. Devil is available for rent or purchase on Amazon, on YouTube, on iTunes, and more.

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Game of Drones: Game of Thrones, Bore-i-fied

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Spoilers
Don’t Listen to These Podcasts

Till You’ve Seen the Shows

I tried to find a photo of someone sleeping on HBO’s wildly popular series Game of Thrones, but wasn’t successful. The closest I could find was a photo of a character dead, and even when it was the murdered Jon Snow, his eyes were open.

That seems appropriate if you’re a fan like I am, lying awake counting down the days between seasons. That stretch can be unbearably long — longer than summer or winter in the series itself — and it’s going to be longer this year since season 7 will air later in 2017 than it has in previous years:  the show-runners wanted to film the series in winter, now that Winter Is Here, but what grief for fans, eh?

Fortunately, Drew Ackerman, aka Scooter, aka @DearestScooter on the Twitter, has just the thing for all us deprived GoT fans. In an off-shoot to his wildly popular SleepWithMePodcast, which is designed to “bore you to slumber” — if you can stop laughing — with its “ingeniously” imaginative stories and meandering introductions, Drew has given us Game of Drones. And these podcasts are wonderful, I gotta tellya, even if they are designed to put you to sleep. You’re gonna love them. I’ve listed each Game of Drones extended episode below, preceded by my brief overview of the GoT season, in case you forgot what happened, and I apologize in advance for not being nearly as ingeniously funny as Dearest Scooter.

Season One

Based on the fantasy novel  A Game of Thrones, Book 1 of the best-selling series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin, season 1 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is set in the fictional land of Westeros, composed mainly of The 7 Kingdoms, where royal claimants and usurpers fight for the right to sit on the Iron Throne. Season One concentrates on three major families: the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens. Their stories become interwoven with their claims to the throne, and their loyalty to their ruler.

Game of Drones, Season 1
10 hours

Season Two

Based roughly on A Clash of Kings, Book 2 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire, HBO’s critically acclaimed and award-winning Game of Thrones continues its exploration of power, politics, family obligations, love, and betrayal, in the second season. As the battle for the Iron Throne of the Seven Kingdoms of the civilized world erupts once more, everyone now knows that “Winter is coming. The surviving members of the three major families — Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen — continue the quest for survival and power, this time amidst rebellions, uprisings, and war. They are joined and betrayed by members of various other Houses.

Game of Drones, Season 2
10+ hours

Season Three

Based in part on the first half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 of George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, the third season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, created and written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the stories of the inhabitants of Westeros and the Lands beyond continue. Love, power, and betrayal are its major themes as the War of the Five Kings intensifies. The third season of Game of Thrones gets viewers more intimately involved with the peripheral characters, bringing them to the forefront. Though there are multiple, ultimately converging storylines, the excellent writing and powerful acting keep the viewers engaged without confusing them. Even the scene transitions flawlessly guide viewers from one character — or group of characters — to another, and back again. The acting is riveting, with some previously minor characters taking center stage, and some previously “evil” characters gaining the sympathy of the audience.

Game of Drones, Season 3
11+ hours

Season Four

Season 4 of HBO’s award-winning series Game of Thrones is based principally on the second half of A Storm of Swords, Book 3 in George R. R. Martin’s acclaimed fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. Season 4 also includes material from Book 4, A Feast for Crows, and Book 5, A Dance with DragonsIn Season 4, the writers of Game of Thrones continues to explore its themes of love, betrayal, and power, on the familial and national level. The storyline is expanded to explore themes of loyalty, hubris,  spirituality, religious beliefs, religious intolerance, as well as the morality of violence. The principal families — Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, and Tyrell — remain, and their stories are deftly interwoven with those of new characters.

Game of Drones, Season 4
10 hours

Season Five

Season 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones, is adapted primarily Books 4 and 5 in George R. R. Martin’s best-selling fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire. Along with Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons — the writers returned to Book 3, A Storm of Swords, for additional content. They also had access to material from Martin’s as-yet unpublished Book 6, The Winds of Winter. Season 5 of the dramatic adaptation won a record number of Emmy Awards for a series in a single year: 12 awards out of 24 nominations, including Outstanding Drama Series. Created and (mostly) written by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, the show’s writing, acting, and design are all brilliant, and Game of Thrones deserves every award it’s won.

Game of Thrones Season 5 unites many of the storylines that have been converging during the previous 4 seasons. The major families who started the drama — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined with the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons. The only remaining Baratheon, Stannis, is still waging war against the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Season 5 also takes one of Season 4’s major themes — religious intolerance — and puts it in the forefront of the drama. Although family loyalty still determines most of the characters’ actions, the quest for power is intimately intertwined with any family obligations.

Game of Drones, Season 5
12+ hours

Season Six

Season 6 of HBO’s Game of Thrones is based on the as yet uncompleted Book 6 in Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter, and includes a “significant amount of material” from the Books 4 and 5 — A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. The author provided a detailed outline to show creators Benioff and Weiss. The sixth season proved to have more weaknesses than the previous ones, and it may have been due to the fact that the show-runners were working from an outline, no matter how detailed, rather than culling the story from completed books. Still, this season had some of the most powerful moments of the entire series, some of which Martin will be hard-pressed to reproduce on the printed page.

The battle for the Iron Throne gets vicious as the major families  — the Lannisters, the Starks, and the Targaryens — are joined by other families — the Tyrells, the Martells, and the Boltons — the latter of whom either want to rule the Seven Kingdoms themselves or who want revenge for wrongs inflicted by the three primary families.

Game of Drones, Season 6
11+ hours
(no extensive recap of the entire season yet
individual episodes listed below)

s6 e1

Red Woman and Mood Rings: #382

s6 e2

Home: #385

s6 e3


Oathbreaker: #388

s6 e4


Book of the Stranger: #391

s6 e5


The Door: #394

s6 e6

Blood of My Blood: #397

s6 e7


The Broken Man: #400

s6 e8


No One: #403

s6 e9


Battle of the Bastards: #406

s6 e10


Winds of Winter: #409

brief s6 recap


In Case You Were Worried About Tommen: #410
1+ hour

Want more Game of Thrones, even when you’re sleeping?

You might as well subscribe, my Lovelies, because Game of Drones is droning across the “deep, dark night” especially for you.

——-

all photos courtesy of HBO Game of Thrones.
Games of Drones
images from SleepWithMePodcast

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