Avoiding the oven
If I lived anywhere else in the country, I might be able to say that this post was inspired by unbearably hot weather. But I live in the Pacific Northwest, land of June gloom/Junuary and summers that don’t start until after the 4th of July. Even now, we’re regularly maxing out at 75 degrees. And on those days, the tall trees around our house keep it cool enough to keep me wearing sweaters and the occasional wooly hat.
Of course, I’ve never really been one to shy away from using the oven on a hot day. I’d rather suffer the heat than an unfulfilled chocolate chip cookie craving. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen–just make sure you come back when the timer goes off!
But I don’t like using the oven for fussy things that require lots of attention, no matter what the weather is like. I don’t know if it’s that I’m too lazy or too distractable, but I’ve burned enough batches of granola and kale chips that I’d pretty much given up on making either. Thankfully, I’ve recently discovered that it’s possible to make them both (better!) without using the oven.
I toast nuts and seeds pretty regularly on the stovetop, where I can better monitor their progress and enjoy how wonderful they smell. And I was wistfully thinking about homemade granola the other day when it hit me–why not make that in my cast iron skillet, too? I was far from the first granola lover to think this way, and google turned up lots of helpful results. I’ve been mostly following this recipe from Dinner with Julie, but I triple it to better match the size of my skillet and our appetites. It’s a great way to use up those odds and ends of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit that accumulate in our pantry.
Kale chips, on the other hand, are apparently best made in the dehydrator. Not only do they retain more of their nutrients due to the lower heat, but more importantly, they are impossible to burn this way. I think they keep their crunch longer, too. I like to make several batches in a row and store them in mason jars for easy snacking later. It’s hard to believe that people pay so much for little prepackaged bags of these chips because they are so simple to make. Just tear the kale into bite-sized pieces, toss them with olive oil and salt, and dehydrate until they are crunchy and delicious! You can play around with seasonings, too. I like to add a generous dusting of nutritional yeast, and I’m working on a salt and vinegar version.
Oooh, and one last tip for those of you who really do live in places where it’s too hot to use the oven. Sometimes I like to freeze unbaked muffin batter in those silicone baking cups so that I can bake them one at a time in the toaster oven. It’s a great way to enjoy baked goods without the heat–or the temptation to eat the whole batch!