Saturday, December 15, 2012

All Natural Homemade Granola

This granola is SO YUMMY AND SO EASY TO MAKE! It has become an absolute staple in our house. Pete just dominates a bowl of greek yogurt if I top it with some of this crunchy granola. In fact, I don't think I could ever even get him to eat a plain bowl of nonfat, unsweetened, greek yogurt at all if it weren't for this granola.
This recipe makes enough to fill 3 large mason jars. The first time I made it, I thought 'Oh my this is way too much, I need to give away a jar or two. We will never finish all of this.' But we wound up going through all 3 of them in just a month!
It is super nutritious- packed full of fiber, vitamins, and protein ...and flavor! Flavor is an important part of nutritious food too -if it doesn't taste good, people won't eat it; if people won't eat it, what good is it! This granola shows that nuts, seeds, and whole grains are not just bird food anymore :) They're definitely nutrition worth eating.

I originally got this recipe from one of my dear friends- and college roommate- Dana. She got the recipe from her neighbor, but Dana tweaked it a bit to make it her own. Now that I've been making it for awhile, I've tweaked it a bit. That's the best kind of recipe; one that's been passed around and versatile enough to be tweaked to your own liking. Feel free to make changes to this granola to make it your own. Share any changes with me...I would have fun with your ideas to mix it up a bit next time I make it :)

This is ironic timing to share the recipe because I first tried this granola when Dana gave me a big mason jar full of this yummy granola for Christmas a few years ago. I think I just might fill a few jars to give away this Christmas as well. Tie a ribbon around the lid with a little handwritten tag and it makes a great gift for teachers, neighbors, co-workers, acquaintances, ...even a possible stocking stuffer?

RECIPE (about 12 cups or fills 3 Large Mason Jars plus a little extra) :

  • 5 cups Rolled Oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Shredded Coconut
  • 1 cup Ground Flaxseed (or Wheat Germ)
  • 1 cup Sunflower Seeds, shelled
  • 2 cups Cashews, halved
  • 1/2 cup Canola Oil
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 1/3 cup Water (or 1/3 cup Maple Syrup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I like to use craisins. Dana used orange scented golden raisins from Sprouts Market and they were super awesome in this granola)
This makes A LOT, so before you start making this, make sure you have two jelly roll pans, OR a HUGE baking dish with like 5 inch tall walls like the one I have pictured here. I actually think two pans would be better because it will toast more evenly. I have to stir my granola often in the deep dish pan that I use. 
Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a bowl, mix together the oil, honey, water, salt, and vanilla. (The original recipe from Dana's neighbor gave the option of 1/3 cup water OR 1/3 cup maple syrup. I opt for the water in order to cut down on the sugar, but you can try it either way and see which you like best)
**Helpful tip: warm the honey slightly and it will combine easier with the other ingredients. 

Then, into your honey mixture dump the: oats, coconut, flaxseed (or wheat germ), sunflower seeds, and cashews. Stir well and make sure it is all mixed together and coated completely with the liquid/honey mixture. 

Spread your raw granola mixture evenly in your baking pan/pans, and bake for about 40 minutes or so (stirring every 10 minutes) until it is all golden brown. It will not be all crisp and crunchy until you pull it out of the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. So don't worry if it's golden brown but feels slightly soft -you can continue to bake it longer if you want, but as soon as it turns toasty brown colored just pull it and let it cool to a crisp.
However, BEFORE it cools, add in the one cup of dried fruit. Stir into the hot granola.

Allow to cool, and store in an airtight container. I love using the old fashioned mason jars.

We enjoy this granola in a yummy yogurt parfait with fresh strawberries during the summer. I use plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, with NO sweetener. All you need is the natural sweetness from the fruit and the granola and you'd never know that it's plain yogurt!
Good strawberries are hard to find at this time of year, so you can use any fruit that's in season, OR don't forget about frozen fruit! Just because it's frozen doesn't mean it's any less good for you... just make sure you choose frozen fruit with no sugar added.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Holiday Treats!

Christmas season is in full swing -that means parties, and parties mean FOOD! We are in the heart of potlucks and parties with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, church groups, etc. If you need some quick ideas for holiday treats and desserts... or especially if you are invited to a cookie exchange... here are some quick ideas: 

The Sweet 'n Salty, Nutty 'n Chewy...

Rich, Chewy Molasses Cookies:

Santa's request at our house every Christmas Eve...drumroll... 

Delightfully addicting, Christmas snowy, MUDDY BUDDIES:

World's BEST Cinnamon-Sugary Snickerdoodles:

Nutty, Chocolately, Buttery, Coconut MAGIC COOKIE BARS

Perfect Lemon Squares

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Oven-Roasted Parmesan Tomatoes

I needed a veggie side to go with our parmesan tilapia dinner, and I had some extra tomatoes in the fridge, so these delicious little treats were born :)

They are roast-y on the outside and juicy on the inside. They have a delicious golden parmesan crust and a little sprinkle of basil adds a big complimentary punch of flavor. Absolutely beautiful.

Tomatoes are even better for you when they are cooked anyway! A lot of people are worried about losing nutrients when they cook their fruits and veggies, but tomatoes are actually more powerful for you when they are cooked. That's why it's commonly recommended to include red pasta sauce into your weekly menu rotation, or canned tomatoes, tomato soup, ...any form of cooked tomatoe... like these warm little roasted tomatoes! :)
One of the great nutritional components of tomatoes is 'lycopene', and it is lycopene that is activated when heated/processed/cooked. In fact, the lycopene in a tomato is roughly 4 times more bioavailable when it is cooked (i.e. pasta sauce) rather than when eaten raw (i.e. in a salad). Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant and is believed to possibly help prevent cancer -especially prostate cancer. It is found in several fruits and veggies (mostly red-orange colored ones) but is most well known in tomatoes since they contain such high levels of lycopene. Lycopene is also fat-soluble, which means the more olive oil you eat with it, the better it is absorbed into your body :)
So let's start oilin' and cookin' our tomatoes!...

Ingredient List:
  • Tomatoes (I used Romas, but I suppose you can use any firm ones that you like or that you already have on hand)
  • Olive Oil
  • Basil (I used crushed dried Basil, but you could use fresh as well)
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Black Pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Slice the tomatoes into about 1 inch slices. (To use the ends, slice just a tiny tip off each end of the tomato to give them a footprint to stand on and the open slice on top; see picture below)

Line a baking sheet with foil and drizzle with olive oil. Lay the tomato slices on the olive oil, and drizzle the tops of the tomato slices with olive oil as well, and a good sprinkling of basil.

Now top each tomato slice with a hearty pinch of Parmesan, and a little dash of black pepper.

Roast the tomatoes at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes so that the tomatoes get roasty and heated through, and the cheese melts on top. Then finish them off under the broiler for just a few minutes to give the cheese a golden, bubbly crust on top.

They are so simple yet so divine! Look at that beautiful roasted skin, the warm juicy inside, and the bubbly basily cheese :)

I served mine alongside parmesan tilapia and creamy risotto: