Joan Daniels is a back-to-basics baker with a taste for simple global gastronomy. A foreign language teacher, Daniels prepares family recipes that reflect her food roots.
Joan and her husband of 50 years, Ray, have two children and four grandchildren they enjoy visiting in Chicago and Texas. Whenever the entire Daniels family vacations together, Joan says she makes her granola to serve as breakfast or a snack that sustains.
Residence: Kansas City, Kan.
Occupation: Former Sumner Academy teacher, now a community volunteer who teaches English as a Second Language classes.
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Special cooking interest: Hands-on home cooking
How did you develop your hands-on approach to life — both inside and outside the kitchen? I like to keep my hands busy. I just completed a two-year term as president of the Sunflower Knitters’ Guild. I also spin wool into yarn and am learning to weave on a rigid heddle loom.
Even though I retired from teaching French and German at Sumner Academy 12 years ago, I not only teach knitting classes, but also English as a Second Language. I remain a student, too, practicing my Spanish with friends who speak the language. As talk naturally turns to food, I recently learned how to make a Mexican Bread Pudding, which uses a brown sugar cone, raisins, peanuts and cheddar cheese. The combination of those ingredients is both intriguing and delicious. Ray and I are very excited to travel to Central America this November.
How has your mastery of other languages and travel around the world influenced your cooking at home? One of my favorite recipes is for crepes. I got that recipe from my own high school French teacher, and I used it often in the classroom when I was teaching French and German. It’s easy and versatile. In German class we used the crepe recipe and made it into Eispalatschinken, an ice cream-filled crepe.
My maternal grandparents were from Sweden and my mother, Dorothy Peterson Spangler, was a good cook, but not a terribly adventurous one when I was growing up in Salina. Ostkaka is a Swedish custard pudding that we still eat on Christmas Eve as part of our holiday tradition. And I still make fruitcake, using a recipe that is mostly fruit and nuts and not much cake. My dad owned a locker plant and butcher shop, and wheedled the recipe out of a customer in the 1950s. Many people who do not like fruitcake like this one. Making these recipes is a way of keeping tradition and a piece of my heritage alive.
Do you have an adventurous appetite when traveling abroad? Ray and I avoid shellfish and seafood when we’re traveling, but we enjoy the local foods and wine indigenous to specific areas. It is amazing to me that there are so many different incarnations across different cultures of what we might think looks like a taco. The Greek have their gyro. Or a different bread — such as Indian naan — can serve as a wrap for various toppings.
Ray’s and my interest in (enjoying) food together has really developed during our retirement. He is a wonderful bread baker, and we enjoy planning meals together.
So, why do you make your own granola? This is also an old recipe from the 1970s — based on Adelle Davis’ recipe, the woman who is credited with inventing granola. I like making my own granola instead of buying it because it tastes better, it doesn’t have any preservatives in it and it is a wonderful thing to give to others. You can easily add other ingredients, such as dried fruits or other nuts, to the mixture, as well.
For me, I like the process of preparing food. I like taking ingredients and coming up with something at the end of which I can be proud and share with others.
Cooking and baking — at its most basic level — is anti-technology and a relaxing, tactile and appealing process. Especially during this time of year, the bounty of the garden: a roasted ear of corn, sweet as candy cantaloupe, or a simple heirloom tomato are the wholesome tastes that remind us that life is, indeed, good.
Mary G. Pepitone is a freelance writer who lives in Leawood. She also writes a nationally syndicated home column. Email her at email@example.com to nominate a cook.
Makes 12 cups or 24 (1/2-cup) servings
5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups shelled sunflower seeds
1 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups wheat germ
2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup shredded or flaked coconut
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Into a large mixing bowl, stir oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ, almonds and coconut together. Set aside.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk honey and vegetable oil together until well combined. Pour honey mixture over dry ingredients and stir until evenly coated. Set aside.
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Spread 1/3 granola mixture evenly onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, or until mixture starts to turn golden. Using a spatula, turn granola pieces over and bake an additional 7 to 10 minutes, or until golden.
Pour baked granola onto another baking sheet or sheet of waxed paper to allow to cool. Continue baking process with remaining unbaked granola. Allow granola to cool completely before storing in air-tight container(s) or resealable plastic bags.
Per (1/2-cup) serving: 354 calories (56 percent from fat), 23 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), no cholesterol, 31 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams protein, 12 milligrams sodium, 5 grams dietary fiber.