October 12, 2009

The Refrigerator Is The Centre Of The Universe…… (And Some Delicious Granola Squares)

This post was written only because a very good friend who blogs at When My Soup Came Alive is celebrating her 3rd blog anniversary. Sra, being the "hatke" person she is, decided to celebrate this with a difference in the "Write Taste".
As she explains it, "This event is not about cooking or recipes, it’s about food, and quality writing. What I want you to do is share your favourite pieces of food writing with the rest of the world through this event."

Easy enough to do, I thought. I love food and read quite a bit so this one shouldn't be difficult and lots of fun.
Not so, since I just couldn't seem to think of anything to write about! The part of my brain which should help here seemed to have gone into hibernation so no thoughts were leading me towards a "Eureka" moment.

I was complaining about my lack of inspiration to my husband when something he said reminded me of a book called "Uh-oh – Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door" by Robert Fulghum.

Even though the name of the book might suggest it, Robert Fulghum is not a food writer. What he does is write about routine everyday life in a manner that most people can relate to, and food creeps into his thoughts and writing occasionally as a matter of course.
According to himself, he is a philosopher who thinks a lot about ordinary things. He has been a working cowboy, folksinger, IBM salesman, professional artist, parish minister, bartender, teacher and a father!

Having done all that, it's not surprising that he has a somewhat interesting take on life. I have some of his books, love reading them and plan to acquire the ones I don't have. If you haven't read him yet, please do so.
For the purpose of this post, I shall stick to some of his writing that mentions food.

In the above mentioned book, somewhere in the beginning he mentions that a refrigerator is like the centre of one's local universe.
He explains this further by saying that inside the refrigerator is the food that is essential to life and on the outside are the events that summarize household events such as grocery lists, urgent bills, reminders, family schedules, instructions, pictures, etc. stuck to the door with heavy duty fridge magnets.

That makes sense if you use your refrigerator door for such stuff. What if you’re like me who doesn't?
Well, according to Robert Fulghum, I'm a nice person who carried neatness in the kitchen one step further than required by the "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval", so I need to lighten up and get the stuff up on my refrigerator door!!!

So, what do you normally do at 2:00 in the morning?
I'm guessing that, like me, you're usually fast asleep. For Mr. Fulghum, that's snacking time. Apparently, that's when he has eaten some of the best meals in his life because he's alone and there's no one standing around asking him, "You're not really going to eat THAT, are you?"
He assures us that he certainly will, because he can't get a meal like that midnight one in a French restaurant, but he's seldom eaten better!!

I haven't had midnight snacks since I was in college, as I'm rarely awake around midnight these days. In those days my choice of a midnight snack would mostly revolve around what I could sandwich between 2 slices of bread.
When I crave a snack, I tend to look for savoury stuff (preferably carb-rich) while my husband prefers something sweet and our daughter is somewhere in between depending on her mood.

And here's Mr. Fulghum's take on recipes in cookbooks, and I'm quoting him as he says it best (Mr. Fulghum says he's fine with his material being passed on, as long as he is credited).

"The recipes in the cookbooks and the meals we really eat are not the same thing. Just as a map and the highway it describes are not the same things.
The map does not tell of the sun, roadwork, grumpy companions, or the games played with children in a car.
And the cookbook does not speak of the pleasures of winging it alone in the kitchen in the dead of the night. Eating without rules!
Maps and cookbooks help --- they are one way of describing reality. Manuals have their uses… but they should not be confused with the living."

Let me finish up this post with some food. I know granola is usually considered breakfast food, but not for us. Granola, for us, usually is good as a crunchy topping or for snacking. So these granola squares are an excellent mid-morning or evening snack (even though its on the sweet side) which is chock full of nuts, seeds and fibre. These chewy and slightly crunchy squares are healthy, quite filling, and not particularly difficult to make.

As the original recipe says, you can experiment and vary the ingredients as long as the ratio of ingredients is maintained.
Here is my variation of that recipe, using whatever ingredients I had on hand. Instead of oats, or muesli grains I used a readymade unsweetened muesli (oats, wheat flakes and rice flakes) which I needed to use up.


2 cups oats or mixed muesli grains

1/2 cup oat bran

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

1/4 cup melon seeds

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup chopped peanuts

1/4 cup sesame seeds

1/3 cup dried chopped cranberries

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dried chopped prunes

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup brown sugar or demerara sugar

1 1/2 tbsp sunflower/ rice bran oil blend

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt


Roast the oats and nuts and seeds in a moderate oven (350 degrees F) for about 10 minutes, or until they have crisped up and a pleasant aroma is coming from the nuts. Check them and move the mix about to prevent burning.
I prefer to do this in a pan on the stove top, separately for each ingredient. It doesn't take much more time and each ingredient is roasted just right this way.
Keep aside.

Warm the oil, sugar and the honey, in a saucepan over a low heat until everything is melted. Add all the other ingredients, including the salt, vanilla extract and dried fruitd and stir everything together, including the salt and dried chopped fruits.

Press the mixture into a greased oven-proof tray (I used an 11" by 7" tray which is all I have). Otherwise line your tin with foil, and lightly grease the foil. Press the mixture into this. The advantage of this is that once the bars have cooled, removing from the pan is much easier.
Don't over-press the mix. It needs to stick together but if you over-do it, it will become hard when baked.

Bake at 160C for about 25 - 30 minutes, till the top looks nice and brown. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes and cut into squares (or bars) with a sharp greased knife. Let them cool completely.
This recipe makes about 15 squares.

This post is my contribution to Sra's blogoversary event. If you would like to contribute, you have till the 15th of this month to do so.

These granola squares are being sent over to HoTM where the theme this month is "Nuts, Seeds And Seed-Like Things".
The Heart of the Matter is one of my favourite events as it promotes heart healthy eating. If you would like to join us there, you have till the 31st of this month.


♥♥♥Ria♥♥♥ said...

Okay, I have to say that your pics are just too good! Loved the first one!

It looks very easy to make, guess it's time that I put the bran we bought together to use! :)

Wish I could get cranberries here :)

Cham said...

I do remember waking up when I was pregnant for midnight snack! The last pict is just awesome! Great entry!

sra said...

My friend, thank you for the entry, the eloquence and the ecipe! (Well, it had to end with a third 'e' word, didn't it?) The extract is very nice, not something we didn't know but reiteration, worded so well, is always welcome. Thanks for the introduction to Robert Fulghum. The photo is grand!

Palidor said...

I think granola is a great snack anytime of the day. Your bars look wonderful with all those delicious fruits, nuts, and seeds in them.

Very interesting about what Mr. Fulghum said. I also don't keep anything on my fridge or get up to snack in the night, so you're not alone! ;-)

Srivalli said...

So how neat!...beautiful prose and wonderful picture. aparna off late your pictures are become too much of a temptation!..not that there weren't before, but you get the draft!..:))

Lauren said...

These look delicious, and almost GF - Sounds perfect to me!!

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I love your homemade granola bars, such a great idea!

Shwetha said...

Great post! I enjoyed reading it!
The granola bar looks super nutritious. Thanks for sharing!

Indhu said...

I checked out this book from my local library as soon as I read your post... will read and let you know... love granola in any form for any meal of the day :)

Karine said...

Your granola bars sounds delicious and healthy! thanks for sharing:)

Divya Kudua said...

Great read Aparna..love the way you write:)

jayasree said...

Post made a good read. The extract from the book is too good.

Granolas are tempting me..

Sunshinemom said...

Looks absolutely delish! That is a lovely picture!

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my kitchen said...

Healthy & Delicious Granola squares.Looks perfect.Do visit my blog when u find time

Curry Leaf said...

Yum,lovely and great.I too prefer low fat -cornsyrupless and low butter version of granola.
Psst:I am like Fulgham and am up at 2 am craving a snack,which is mostly sweet and if you check my fridge (TG my daughter never does) then you can see that cadbury's milk choc is disappearing like anything.

DO check the HOTM rules,I am not sure whether you can submit to another event along with HOTM.
Also Waiting for a lovely bread from you on WBD.

Ivy said...

They looks perfect, healthy and certainly delicious.

Shri said...

Enjoyed reading your post, as always Aparna and the squares look delicious!

Christina and Jacob said...

These squares look so great. I was looking for something that would use the golden raisins and dates I have around. I think I found it!

Kate said...

Homemade granola sounds great and your bars look wonderful! Thank you for sharing.

MeetaK said...

simply lovely writing aparna and those granola squares really look sensational!

Mandira said...

The granola squares look great.. I can eat it for midnight craving and for a great breakfast too!

Madhuli said...

Hey Aparna the photos are awesome. I have submitted my entry for High tea treats yesterday. I am not sure you got it ..so leaving a comment for the same.

Cakelaw said...

What an interesting sounding book - I must look out for it. I do stick my bills to my fridge so I remember to pay them - it's not tidy, but it works! Your granola squares look delish - much healthier than my frequent midnight snack of lollies.

Mansi said...

I was looking for a really tried-and-tested granola bars recipe and here it is! perfect for my snack urges. Thanks gal!:)

btw, hope you can find some time to make some goodies for my Sweet celebration event