Monday, March 19, 2012

Home-made Granola

I'm a cold cereal lover, but there just isn't much choice in cereal available here at a price I can afford.  So, there's corn flakes and there's corn flakes....about three brands of them sometimes!  So, without Wheaties, Frosted Mini Wheats, and Raisin Bran, what do we do for breakfast?

We can buy oatmeal here, so we have that once or twice a week.  One day a week we do eggs.  Once a week we eat fonio (I'll do a blog on that later).  On Saturdays John always makes pancakes.  And on Sunday we'll often have something like coffee cake or sticky buns....that kind of depends on my energy level on Saturday!  But one of my favorite breakfasts is yogurt with granola on it.  

Sometimes in the stores here I can find Muesli Croustillant - Chocolat Noir.  Yep, you read that right.  Muesli with dark chocolate in.  See, the French have figured out that chocolate is a breakfast food.  I can't argue with that!  So when one day I went to the store and there was no more Muesli with chocolate chunks in it, I didn't know what I would do.  This cereal was actually quite reasonably priced, but alas.....who knew when the next shipment would be.  It was time to dust off the old granola recipe that I haven't used for about four years.

First off, what's the difference between granola and muesli.  Granola is mixed with oil and honey and toasted in the oven.  Purchased granola can be very high in calories, depending on how much oil and sweetener is in it.  Muesli is more just dried cereals and grains mixed together.  What I make is definitely granola, but I put in the least amount of oil possible.  The end result is granola that is quite loose and not in big chunks.

My recipe is from the More with Less Cookbook.  This book uses basic ingredients and shows us how to "eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources".  The recipe is on p. 89 if you have the book and want to use the recipe there.

It calls for 7 cups of dry ingredients with at least 2-3 cups of that being oats.  So I put in my granola:
oatmeal (imported)
cornmeal (local ingredient)
coconut ("local" ingredient....probably comes from Benin)
milk powder (imported)
crushed cornflakes (imported)
sesame seeds (local ingredient)
peanuts (local ingredient)
fonio (local ingredient)
millet (local ingredient)
wheat germ (brought from US)
flax seed (brought from US)

Then you combine separately to make 1 cup of liquids:
1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 Tablespoons water (imported from Nigeria)
1/2 cup oil (imported)
the rest honey (local ingredient)


You then pour the liquid into the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir until it is evenly coated.  Then you spread it on cookie sheets (I use two really large sheets) and put it in a 300 degree oven.  My oven has a tendency to get hotter and hotter, so I have to stir it about every 8 minutes. I also switch the pan from the bottom rack to the top and the top to the bottom.  I take it out when it's no longer moist and is just starting to look brown.  More with Less says to let it bake 30-60 minutes, but I find that 30 minutes is plenty of time in my oven.


Then the piece de resistance....the chocolate.  I chop up a dark chocolate candy bar and stir it into the granola.  Half of the granola I stir raisins into (I think they're really currants) for John as he's not find of the chocolate idea. (I cut up the cereal boxes to use as my labels.)  Ummmm, yum.....perfect on top of yogurt.  I don't put sugar or vanilla into my yogurt as I find it sweet enough with the granola.

I also found a recipe in my bread machine cookbook that calls for granola.  I made this bread with my home-made granola (the raisin version) and it was delicious!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Visiting Friends

Last week we went up to the town where we used to live.  Our main goal was to visit our friends.  We also knew that the harvest there was non-existent, so we wanted to help them out a bit financially (though what we gave them is nothing compared to what they need!).

We left home around 7:00 and got to the ferry before 8:00.  It was still nice and cool then and some women were down by the river washing their pans, clothes, and bodies....and then taking water back home with them.  Some of the water they take is probably for washing things at home, but doubtless much of it is for drinking.

Our first stop was in the village of D.  There are actually two hamlets where Christians live, so we stopped to visit this family.  The husband (in the pink shirt) has been quite sick since December with pneumonia.  He showed us his x-rays and there was a definite improvement, though since we're not medical it was hard to tell what we were looking at.  He still gets winded easily and is fatigued much of the time.  Not being well-nourished is probably adding to the length of his recovery time.  The two little girls in the picture are twins...Hassana and Husseina.  The last time I saw them, they were new-borns!  By the way, twins are always named the same thing.  They are either Hawa (girl) and Adamu (boy) or Adama (girl).  Those names mean Adam and Eve.  Hassan is a boy, Hassana a girl and their twin is always Husseini (boy) or Husseina (girl).  I've also heard Mecca and Medina for twin girls.


From there we went on to our former town.  As we drove through town, we ran into our friend I. and another friend M. who I hadn't seen for ages.  It was exciting to find out her oldest son is now a doctor. 
  
Our first visit was to my friend, H.  H is one of the most generous people I know.  She used to bring me peanuts or sesame seeds at the end of every harvest.  I don't think she ever asked me for anything.  Her husband is a fisherman, but she said now he has a garden and leaves the fishing up to the boys.  She was preparing some of the produce to take to the market to sell the next day.  This picture cracks me up because she thought I wasn't dressed up enough for the picture, so she put her shawl over both of our heads. I'm not sure who the two men are!  One was her uncle, I think, and the other lives on their compound.  She also wanted me to take a picture of her son (I think that's who he is!). We also took a few minutes to go next door and visit this three-day old baby.  He hadn't even received his name as that would be done on the 8th day.


Our next stop was out to the gardens to visit our friend, A.  He works so hard, and on that day, anyway, his only helpers were his children and some nieces and nephews.  He does have a pump that he pumps water from the reservoir up to his garden.  But he still has to carry the water to the end of the garden in water cans.  We are helping him with funds to build a holding tank to store water so he can move it more easily the length of the garden.  

Even though A's garden is doing quite well, considering what he has to work with, he said it's hard to sell the produce in the market.  This is a food-shortage year and every spare coin goes to buy millet, the staple food.  Vegetables are, unfortunately, considered a luxury.  In a good year when people get enough millet from their own fields, then they can enjoy buying some veggies.


One of these girls is his daughter who broke her arm last summer.  She was taken to the capital city to have her elbow re-broken and re-set.  She was in the hospital for months.  Sadly, she has very little range of motion in her arm.  It's pretty much stuck in a 90 degree angle.

From there we drove over to the other side of the reservoir to a secluded place to eat our picnic lunch.  Then we went to my friend H's house.  Her daughter, A. was home and it was fun to see her. She is 16, almost 17, and has become quite the young lady.  We had hoped to see her brother, but he wasn't home.  Thankfully we did get to see him for just a minute on our way out of town.  We also found out that M., her daughter who lives in Ghana, had a baby after about six years of marriage and no children.  M. was Suzanne's best friend and Suzanne has been praying for years for her to have a baby.  See Suzanne's blog here for a good write-up of this story. 


Our next stop was to my friend, M.'s house. I know all these initials are confusing!  Her son, S., who was Daniel's best friend, teaches school in the bush.  But he was home because he'd had chicken pox.  Apparently it's been going around up there!  Her husband and co-wife were also home, so we had a good visit with all of them.


Then it was on to John's friend, H's house.  I also am friends with his wives, F. and B., so it was nice to see all of them.  John was able to explain to him about what his studies will entail.  He's a good networking contact because he knows everybody and is well-respected.


By then it was around 3:30 and time to head for home.  On the way back we stopped in the village of D. again, this time in the other hamlet, to visit the believers there.

It was a good day, and we were looking forward to getting home and heating up left-overs in the microwave for our supper.  Except the power was off and we couldn't nuke them.  Thankfully our neighbors have a generator and let us use their microwave!  We were happy we made the trip even though it was a long day.  We were also glad it wasn't terribly hot that day, either.


A shower sure felt good, too, after having been outside all day, used the bathroom, shaken numerous hands, etc., etc. and never had a chance to wash our hands with soap and water.  Thankfully we had hand sanitizer along with us!

Monday, March 05, 2012

My "New" Living Room

When John and I got married and returned to Niger we bought a set of used furniture on the street.  It lasted pretty well, but with the advent of children, combined with the dry climate, it was starting to get pretty wobbly.  So we replaced it with a new, custom-ordered set.  Unfortunately the guy mis-understood our directions and we ended up with very short and uncomfortable seats.  But we lived with it for at least 10 years.  When we left for our two-year home assignment we sold it.

So when we got back this time, we were using borrowed furniture.  We again had a living room suite built and had cushions made.  The carpenter never called me to tell me the job was done and I was going to call him to check on it, but then Suzanne was sick and I went to the US.  So it wasn't until I got back that I finally checked on it.  Finally, three months later we got our furniture!

It is a lot more comfortable than our old set, but still not exactly really amazingly comfortable.  I chose a light green for the cushions.  Green is a cool, calming color which is nice when you live in a hot climate.  I also got dark green for the curtains.

I made the curtains with tabs instead of rings.  It took quite a while to make all the tabs and I broke at least two needles making these curtains.  Thankfully my neighbor had a spare needle and then one day while cleaning out my sewing drawer I discovered that I had more needles!

So this is our living room during the day and our living room at night. John has a pile of stuff there that he was taking with him the next morning....it's not a normal part of the living room. In one of them you can see some cardboard boxes....stuff I was collecting for somebody.  Again, it's not a normal part of the decor!

 This is a long, narrow room....it is also connected to the dining room.  There are six doors in the entire room, making arranging furniture challenging.  But we like our little house and are pleased with the new look.