About us...

The Providence Granola Project began after a late night, a few beers, and a couple of good friends asking a question: what might help newly-arrived international refugees start rebuilding their lives in Providence? The answer: artisanal granola, of course. Let’s face it, granola is just about the perfect food - wholesome, natural, mysterious, deep. And when it tastes this good, why shouldn’t it help a few people along the way? Using mostly organic ingredients, our granola is locally made in the Amos House kitchen with the help of refugees from Burundi, Myanmar, and Iraq. Visit our website at http://providencegranola.com.
Or check out our online shop for all of our Rhode Island made artisan granola products!





Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Little Sweet, A Little Tart, A lot of Love

Ah, Valentine's Day. The holiday known to be bursting with as much romance and swooning ("ah, l'amour!") as there is cynicism and angst ("what an overrated capitalistic convention!"). Wherever you are on Valentine's Day and in whatever mood, might we step back from the hype and give a nod towards all the reasons there are to celebrate and have a little fun?


We've been taken over! No, not by pirates. Although that would be romantic and adventurous in its own right (pirates looking for treasure? granola treasure? ). As some of you may heard, as of January 1, 2013, The Providence Granola Project has become a subsidiary of our new nonprofit, Beautiful Day Rhode Island. A few weeks ago, in an Avenger's like fashion, a superstar team of local businessmen, educators, innovators, and leaders swiftly assembled into an official Board of Directors and hired Keith Cooper as Executive Director of Beautiful Day. Yes, that's right! After 1.5 years of giving his time and energy relentlessly, but joyfully to leading Granola Project and building Beautiful Day, Keith is now employed. How fitting that the one hired in this story deeply appreciates and knows the value of work, and wants to pass on that same feeling and experience to others.

The wheels are turning, the juice is flowing. As we cast vision, crank out logistics, and navigate through the jungle of growing this very young non-profit, we're grateful that the Granola Project captures our hearts over and over again. Stepping into a kitchen of smiling employees who find dignity in employment and earning their own paycheck reminds us why we're doing this.

Love. We love our employees. We love what we do. We love that we can share this joy with anyone who cares to hear about it and try our granola.

Now, we don't want to be a Valentine's Day scrooge and lecture about all the ways we should think less about silly romantic notions and more about actually loving one another. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you have as much fun as we did putting together a giftbox of what might be one of our favorite combinations.

 

This charming duet comes packed with a sweet little card in a giftbox and lovely ribbon. We've got Feburary's Recipe of the Month, Cherry Chocolate, which is a delightful combination of orange peel, kirsch, Ghirardelli chocolate, and bright, tart cherries.  (This can also be ordered a la carte on our shop). And of course, you already know the deal about Amaretto Pear. 

Swoonworthy stuff and our best shot at being romantic! Give a box to your sweetheart, a good friend, or someone who can use some cheer. If you think about it, the flavor combinations are quite poetic. Sometimes love can be sweet, like chocolates and pears. Other times, it's a bit tart (cherries) and complex (kirsch, amaretto). But we think that when you put all those elements together, the experience of love is so much deeper and richer, don't you think?



Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Certified Amaretto Pera

In the last few weeks I saw Les Mis with my kids and Lincoln with my wife. The billionbucks movies on the big-big screen. But this afternoon, while I was gathering marzipan and amaretto liquor and the pears I ordered form Bella Viva Orchards, all in preparation for making Amaretto Pear Granola tomorrow (yes, you can order now, right here) it dawned on me that if I had to choose between seeing one of them again or Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, which I originally saw about a year ago, in bed, on my iphone, (and which, incidentally, also inspired my first ever granola film review, though the genre hasn't really seemed to catch on)… well, I’d go for Certified Copy. In a heartbeat. I’m tempted to watch it tonight. What time is it anyway?

So in honor of re-runs that might get better with age, I'm going to republish my own granola movie review.  Maybe it will inspire a few granola fans to check out a great film.  I’ve edited the review slightly… but here it is:
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You don’t need to tell me that it’s a bad habit. I can’t help it: I climb in bed, half-planning to go to sleep, but then plug in my earbuds, and end up watching a Netscape movie on my iphone. This week it was Kiarostami’s Certified Copy (about as awful a title as Abbas Kiarostami is a wonderful name; and bravo to Netflicks for actually making some interesting stuff available for streaming, although who are the jerks that gave it 3.5 stars?--Juliette Binoche deserves at least that just for being Juliette Binoche). This is a little film. No crashes. No gunfights. Perfect for an iphone with earbuds in bed.

 I won’t give too much away in case you watch it, but it does have a long-haired texting teenager, a mediocre bottle of wine, a golden tree before which superstitious and impatient young lovers say their vows. There is waiting and wondering, critiques and interruptions, originals and fakes, walking together and lot of lagging behind. Some memories remembered, others forgotten or lost. There are young lovers and old, believers and skeptics, and one piece of unsought but remarkably astute fatherly advice (this seemed so un-European) from a stranger. (Actually, now that I think of it, there’s some unsought motherly intuition as well—how gratifying when the wise get to share their wisdom, if only by the way they walk and hold each other up.) There’s a secret little prayer (though it’s overseen) whispered in the same church where Juliette removes her bra. (This astounded me: I know next to nothing about Kiarostami, but since when did film-makers start portraying the church as a place to ask for help and experience a little liberation! God bless him.)

In each scene, whatever’s going on in the background seems to be what matters most. The foreground—the action, the plot—keeps getting in the way. Even on a 3.5 inch screen.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bourbon Praline Pecans Recipe


(Note: I wrote this as a blog post, sent it to our email list, then forgot to post it.  Ah, the season of forgetfulness. I'm posting at this point for posterity and cooks.)

It just dawned on me that, in four years of writing a PGP blog, I have never once included a recipe. 

That's nuts! 

How can  you have any idea what we are up to without a recipe?  (Plus my friend Paul, for some reason, used to find amusement in the parentheticals of my recipe-writing style.  They are not intended to be funny.)

So here's my very own recipe for the Praline Nuts I used in (yet another) batch of Pecan Bourbon granola yesterday.  (Our granola has honey, so it's not technically vegan to purists, but for the sake of shelf life, we don't use dairy.  The nuts are vegan, but that word doesn't always sound great in recipes.  (I wonder if there would be more vegans if someone would come up with a more appetizing word for vegan.)  Let's face it, praline might be a bit better with a ton of cream and butter.  This is almost more of a candied nut.  We have other agendas here.) 

Also, in our kitchen we use standard measures but try not to depend on them.  We've marked transparent containers with lines (the "oats" line, the "almonds" line etc.) so that recipes are certain to be consistent across communication barriers.

Ingredients:

24 cups pecan halves (I used part halves, part large pieces)
16 cups walnut halves
16 cups Sucanat
3 cans (14oz each) organic coconut milk (unshaken)
1 jar (2 cups) e.v.coconut oil
2 cups bourbon (We always use Wild Turkey because this was originally a Thanksgiving recipe)
2-3 T vanilla
1 T salt

Method:

1.   Lightly toast the nuts at about 275 (on trays) until heated through and fragrant.  Mix and set aside, evenly divided in two large bowls.  (The nuts taste better toasted.  Plus sugar collects moisture, so it seems wise to remove surplus moisture from the whole process.)
2.  Put the Sucanat in a large pan with a heavy bottom.  Add salt.  Scoop out the coconut oil and add.
3.  Open the cans of coconut cream and add only the cream tops.  Depending on the type you bought or how much you agitated them, the cream will be either very thick (like shortening) or more like molasses.  But don't bother with the water at the bottom.
4.  Fill the empty jar of coconut oil to about 3/4 with bourbon and add to the sugar.
5.  Heat and stir at medium until all crystals melt, then let it boil.
6. Watch, wait, and enjoy the smell.  Stir occasionally.  It's okay to go do other things, but turn the heat down first if you're going to the basement.  (Depending on how small your pan is, you may need to keep a close eye on it.  Sucanat likes to boil up on occasion.  It seems to go through stages.  If you're working with a cook, you can debate whether it's better to add the oil in separately after the sugar crystals have melted. If you're at home you could try sipping the extra bourbon.)  Line some large trays with parchment paper to cool the nuts on later.
7. Boil to a hard-ish soft ball stage.  The sugar will darken to a molasses color and thicken.  You can test by dripping some into cold water.  If you can remove a ball from the water and roll it around between your thumb and fingers without too much give, that's ideal.  If using a candy thermometer, I would guess it's about 239 or 240.  I tend to like it harder than typical praline because we're essentially candying the nuts and want the flavor to stick to them within the demanding environment of a bowla granola.  Plus we're adding more bourbon at the end which could soften it.  Turn off the burner.
8.  Add 2-3 T of vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup bourbon.  Stir--then let it sit for about ten minutes.  (And take care whenever adding alcohol to hot sugar.  Things can get a little crazy.)  Some people add the nuts at this stage.  I prefer to let the sugar cool slightly first so that the nuts incur minimal stirring damage.
9.  Start stirring vigorously--for a minute or so--then add half the sugar to half the nuts.  Just estimate.  If you have help, you can add the other half to the other bowl of nuts and do this in tandem.  Otherwise work in stages.  Vigorously stir until the nuts/sugar combo starts to lighten in color and get a bit grainy.
10.  Quickly dump the nuts out on the lined trays.  If you do it right they will separate easily.  Cool.

This should be enough nuts for a 120 pound batch of granola.  If adding to granola, wait until right before the granola's done baking.  (Use approximately 1 cup per 3.5 lbs of granola.)  Mix it around and put it back in the oven.  That way the praline starts to melt and bonds with the surrounding granola.  Add the remaining nuts after the granola has cooled. 

If you plan to serve the nuts as a stand alone, I would consider dusting them with a tiny bit of powdered red pepper (or add a tiny bit--like a 1/3 t total--to the hot sugar right before your stir it into the nuts.)  Not so much that anyone would really notice--it just gives the nuts a little more character.

Of course, if you prefer not to make your own, we now have a completely fresh batch that you can order right here.  And if you order today, you still qualify for the $3 off LASTMINUTE coupon.  We ship priority, so it's guaranteed to arrive before New Years--maybe even by Christmas.

With lots of love from PGP,
Keith

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ten reasons why PGP should fail (and why we don't intend to).

This is from Osmar Schindler.  It ain't Santa Claus. But you gotta love the scoffers in the background.
Providence Granola had better watch out!  Why?  Well here are 10 good reasons.  (But stay tuned.  We've got 10 of our own!)

1.    Anyone heard of Kellogg's or Post?  These Goliaths of corporate cereal buy oats by the warehouse and then mix them with a lot of cheap sugar and expensive marketing.  Have you ventured through the cereal aisle?  (Those boxes can't really be laughing since they don't know we exist.  It just makes us feel small.)
2.    Start-ups fail.  Frequently.  In fact, the failure rate for startup businesses is about 25% for the first year.  Within three years, it's closer to 45%.
3.    We are not a typical cutting-edge start-up.  We're not making the granola virtual cereal Iphone app*.  We're making breakfast cereal.  The failure rate for new consumer products is about 80%;  for grocery products launched by smaller business it's a whopping 89%.
4.    We started out as 100% self (and family) financed.  We used to wonder if some starry-eyed Venture Capitalist might try to snatch us up.  Then it dawned on us:  the wealth we've set out to generate involves our mission, not our revenue. That's not the what VC's are after.
5.    Cash flow!  With 7 employees and a half-ton of granola to produce every month, navigating the interplay of supplies and orders and inventory and payroll is a growing challenge. 
6.    Our employees have significant barriers to performance.  Most are learning English. Some are not literate in their mother language.  Some are unfamiliar with math and numbers.  None of our new hires have any experience in the American job market. 
7.    We still pack and seal every bag by hand as part of our “Made in America by International Refugees” strategy to increase employment opportunities right here in Providence.  That doesn't outsource.  Eventually we'll get a packing machine, but for now labor is a big part of our costs and we're proud of that.
8.    We encourage our best, most-competent employees to move on into full time jobs--and then retrain new arrivals to take their place.
9.    We're not set up (yet!) to accommodate the niche markets of special needs such as gluten free, nut-free, vegan, or Kosher. (Ah, some day!)
10.    Economic downturn? Low interest rates?  Did you know that in the middle of this the cost of our ingredients keep going up!

But just in case you think we're going to cry, here are our 10 even better reasons for why we have every intention of sticking around.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Holiday Gift Boxes

In case you haven't heard: our Holiday Granola Gift Boxes are tied up with a bow and ready to go. 

Each box comes with two bags of granola, a special holiday card from our kitchen staff, a coupon for $20 off a 6-month granola subscription, and lots of holiday cheer!

We're offering three different variations on the boxes:

Box A comes with Holly Jolly Ginger and Originola.
Box B comes with Holly Jolly Ginger and Originola Muesli
Box C comes with Holly Jolly Ginger and Bourbon Pecan.

Within another couple days we'll also be offering Deluxe boxes that include a t-shirt of your choice.

You can order at our online store here.

If you're local, you might want to take advantage of these shipping options:

• Providence: Home/office delivery is available for locations within ~ 10 miles of downtown Providence at $5 (per location).  Request delivery with a note within check out window along with special instructions (e.g." leave at back door,"  or "leave with the office receptionist") and preferred delivery date.  We will refund the difference in shipping when we process your order. 

• RI/Southern MA:  Large orders (5+) to other locations in RI/Southern MA may also qualify for home/office delivery on a case-by-case basis.  Please feel free to make a request and we'll let you know if we can do it. We will refund the difference in shipping when we process your order.

Questions about home delivery? Please call us at 1-855-OAT-GUYS or email providencegranola@gmail.com

Pick up options. Gift boxes are also available for purchase (cash or check only) at the following locations.  We recommend reserving large orders by phone or email so that we don't run out!

• Wintertime Farmers Market (1005 Main Street, Pawtucket) 9:30am-1pm December 8, 15, 22
• Downtown Holiday Market (corner of Union and Westminster St.) 11am-4pm December 8, 15, 22
• Coastal Growers Wintertime Farmers Market (Lafayette Mill, 650 Ten Rod Road, North Kingstown) 10am-1pm December 8, 15, 22


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wild Turkey

Have I ever mentioned that I love Wild Turkey? Not that I am a connoisseur of fine bourbons, but I did once try some Red State Bourbon and it was absolutely awful--which, if nothing else, makes the case that if you want your product to speak for your cause, you had better fundamentally make it taste good.  And that suffices for political commentary on this post-election day.

I am, however, happy to report that yesterday I bought a jug of Wild Turkey and we made our first Bourbon Pecan granola of the season.  First we made a vegan praline using Sucanat and coconut cream, mixed in the toasted nuts, and dusted them with sea salt.  We then made Wild Turkey flavored granola using the nuts and Ghirardelli chocolate. History in the making.  It's already for sale on our website.  It should be at the farmers' markets on Saturday.  Granola of the Month orders should go out on Tuesday.  It's an all-purpose granola.  Celebrate or drown your sorrows.  Warm yourself during a nor'easter.  The holidays are coming.

Which reminds me... we've put together some holiday gift boxes, available for ordering now, and for real at farmers' markets on Nov. 24th on through the season.  We'll get something up on our webstore soon.  We're also offering a delivery service to those who live in the Providence area.  If you live in the Providence area and want to get a jump on holiday orders, the form is available here.  And we'd love your help:  if you know of businesses or organizations looking for a meaningful and tasty holiday gift, please feel free to print out a copy and pass it along.

I realize I have been neglecting this blog--although there is a reason.  We have started the process of turning Providence Granola over Beautiful Day, a non-profit with a mission to mobilize refugee employment.  Which, of course, means another website, another blog, and facebook page...  and a learning curve on what to post where.  So bear with me.  In the meantime, those of you who don't want to miss any updates about the non-profit should make sure you're on the Beautiful Day list.  You can sign up here.

Please do check out my recent blog post, "We Don't Live in Amarillo."  This is my first attempt at an op/ed type piece to explain more about our vision for the non-profit.  We would love to get the word out about our vision for impacting refugee employment, so please feel free to forward it to friends.  If you have ideas for places to publish, let us know.

If you haven't read the feature story about us in RIMonthly, please feel free to read it here.  I'll soon have the entire text available and with a better pdf quality as well.

Lastly--really this is first in our hearts--our prayers and concern for all who are struggling in aftermath of Sandy.  Most of us here in Providence were unscathed--but we know that if the storm had changed course by a few degrees, we would not be making granola this week.

Keith

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Et Tu Fruite? (Or is your Father?)

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the hiatus in communication.  I’ve been immersed in an attempt to get a website launched for Beautiful Day—the nonprofit we are forming to mobilize refugee employment and business incubation.  I thought we’d be up and running by now, but I think there must be some corollary of Murphy’s law that requires anything intended to be fast and instantly accessible (like a website) to require slogging through oceans of code trying to find and fix one little problem or mistake.  The process always seems to require staying up half the night.  Sometimes I dream about oceans of html and rainbow-colored php.

So no website yet, but soon!  (And almost no facebook or blog or tweets either… but soon, we hope.)  We’ll send out an email letting you know the url. 

In the meantime, we are still making granola, hiring refugees, seeing some of our employees move on into other jobs, and continuing to grow as a business.  A reporter from RI Monthly is now working on a feature article about us.  We’re training 3 new refugees to work at Farmer’s markets (including Zaid and Maitham’s wives, so say hello if you meet them. These are their first jobs ever in the United States.)  We’re starting at a new farmer’s market in Braintree on June 16.  Also, Lian Cung who we wrote about last year now has a job and his wife Ngon Thlia is working for us. 

Actually, I think Lian Cung kind of pulled a fast one on me by not telling me he found a job until the day of his granola shift… and when I expressed dismay, he turned around and offered a solution: why not hire my wife!  This is the kind of ingenuity I tend to admire in refugees.  And as solutions go it was an excellent one—she’s fast, and hard working.   She didn’t speak enough English for me to learn much about her at first—and I had trouble finding a translator—but, as usual, after a couple months, she’s finding ways to tell us about herself.  Last night I had to sub the granola shift for our manager who was out sick, and during the course of a dinner break I found out that Ngon has 8 children (ranging from age 20 to 2), worked in a large kitchen in Malaysia and knows how to make Chinese, Malay, Burmese, and Indian food.  She’s also expressed some amazement at how everything here is education—“School, school, always school!” was the way she put it.  Our Servesafe coordinator (a recent immigrant from Nigeria) agreed and went on to explain that this is part of America.  “Even when you’re 85 years old they want you to go to school.”  I can’t tell if these are intended as compliments or not (and I'm not sure this experience is very broad) but I take it as a compliment.  Ngon sounds more consistent in going to class now that she’s also working.  She’s definitely talking and laughing more.  And all this reaffirms my conviction that a real-job work experience improves the impact of education.

But I just got distracted.

Here’s what you need to know:  I personally helped make and pack our June granola last night.  We’re calling it “Et Tu Fruite?” (and immediately all our employees wanted to know what language that was!)  We decided this must be somehow better than Tutti Frutti.  There’s no betrayal suggested or intended—just a lot of wonderful premium fruit including cherries, blueberries, peaches, pears, nectarines, plums, apples. (No raisins or cranberries for a change) Plus a hint of rum.  We're certain Shakespeare would approve.  (We didn’t put in any apricots because it’s come to our attention that, for some reason, the premium CA apricots we put in the April granola lost moisture over time and became inedible.  SORRY!  We’re experimenting with a new technique of lightly coating the fruit with canola oil to prevent further mishaps.  And we did try to make this granola a bit softer.  But I’m mentioning this as a way of saying please don’t be shy about telling us if you ever notice problems with our granola—and, if you’re unhappy, we would be happy to send you a coupon for a replacement.  It’s all part of the learning curve for us.)

Two other quick things.  1) Et Tu Fruite? would make a perfect Father’s day gift—don’t you think it has a macho vibe?  Wouldn't you know, it could also be part of a subscription that keeps your dad focused on eating healthy food this summer?  (Notice, the pattern of rhetorical questions.  I think the title must be as well.)  Orders that come in today, will go out tomorrow.  2) While you’re at it, why not get Dad a t-shirt!  We still have a bunch left, and t-shirt weather is finally here.  We’re putting t-shirts on sale for the summer months at $15.  Colors and sizes are subject to supplies.

Thanks and stay tuned.
Keith

Ingredients:  Oats (org), honey (pesticide-free from Aquidneckhoney), canola oil (org), granulated cane juice, coconut (org), sesame seeds (org), barley (org), almonds, cherries, apples, peaches, blueberries, nectarines, plums, pears (some fruit contains sulphur dioxide and potassium sorbate), oat bran (org), wheat germ, pecans, sunflower seeds (org), flax seeds (org), walnuts, oat fiber, sea salt, cinnamon, almond ext., vanilla, rum, nutmeg.