Pantry Clean Out Granola 


A few weeks ago I decided to repurpose some of my oatmeal / oatmeal toppings into granola.  I almost always have oatmeal, dried fruit, and a variety of nuts in the pantry.  Because it has been so hot out, a bowl of oatmeal isn’t really that appealing.  But granola?  Absolutely.  I love it as a snack because it’s so filling and packed with nutrients.  I also like that once you have a basic formula down you can customize it and make it with anything on hand.  It’s also vegan, if that is important to you.

The basic formula is oats, nuts and/or seeds, shredded coconut (but you could leave this out!), a binder made of olive oil and maple syrup, some kind of seasoning, and dried fruit.  It then gets baked at a low temperature, cooled, and then broken up into pieces.  I love that this recipe is kind of basic because I always have this stuff on hand.  I always rule out granola recipes with weird binders like brown rice syrup because I don’t like buying speciality ingredients that are kind of uni-taskers.  I also avoid granola recipes that are overly sweet.  This one really isn’t!  The only sugar is natural – from the maple syrup and dried fruit (and honestly that may have added sugar — so if this is a concern, read the label before buying).  It could even go savory by changing out the spices.

I like my granola to be full of little clusters, and I finally realized that the way to achieve this is to really pack it into the sheet pan and not spread it out at all, and then avoid stirring it until it is completely cooled.

I have adapted my recipe from one from Carla Lalli Music’s.  It is so good that I’ve been making it at least once a week and eating it dry, as cereal, or as a yogurt topping.  I’ve adapted the recipe by cutting it in half (because it’s just a more manageable amount and I’m really just making this for Rob and myself) and adding ground flax seeds.  I like this addition because I found that it helps bind the granola.
Recipe 

Ingredients

1.5 cups rolled oats
1 cup of seeds and nuts
1/2 cup shredded coconut
2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds  (almond flour would work, too)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp sea salt
3/4 tsp cardamom or cinnamon
3/4 cup dried fruit
Method

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Start by mixing together the oats, nuts, coconut, flax seed, salt and cardamom.  Don’t mix in the fruit yet.  It is going to get mixed in after it comes out of the oven.  I made this mistake the first time I made this granola and had to painstakingly rake golden raisons out of my mixture.  They look sooooo similar to walnuts.  Don’t do this to yourself.  Add the olive oil and maple syrup and stir until everything is well-coated.

Pack the mixture into a sheet tray, only use about half the pan, don’t spread it out.  Pull the granola out of the oven when your kitchen starts to smell like toasted nuts and everything is sort of golden brown – about 25-30 minutes.  The cooking time really depends on your oven.  I would play around with lower/longer cooking.

Once the granola is out of the oven, sprinkle the dried nuts overtop and press them in.  Do not stir our break up the granola until it is completely cool.  Resist picking out little clusters and snacking on them because it will be like molten hot and really not enjoyable.


So clustery! 
So far my favorite combos are golden raison / walnut, cashew / cranberry, and pecan / dried blueberry.  I have also just done a mix of everything.  I really like flavoring it with cardamom, but cinnamon would be fine, too.   Let me know if you make this or if you have any interesting flavor ideas!

Granola Bars

 

Granola Bars

I’m trying to cut back on individually packaged foods, and the two last hold outs for me are yogurt and granola bars.  While I don’t think these are perfect, I do think I’m off to a pretty good start with the granola bars.  I did some research and I think it culminated in something that is definitely a granola bar.  Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

2 cups quick oats (not instant oats)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon flakey sea salt
Zest of 1 medium orange
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup

 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8 x 8” baking dish with parchment and spray with cooking spray.  I used a 6.5 X 8.5” pyrex refrigerator dish because that was the closest thing I had, just do your best.

Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and stir to combine with a wooden spoon.  Add the honey and maple syrup and stir until mixture is all coated.  Transfer into the prepared baking dish and press firmly into the pan until it is well packed.


Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour before cutting into bars.  If you don’t wait, it will all crumble apart.  If it does all crumble apart, don’t worry, now it’s just regular granola, which is pretty great.

This recipe can be easily adapted to suit different tastes / to use up what you have in the cabinet.  I already had most of the ingredients on hand which is why I went for cranberry-orange.  The nuts, dried fruit, and other flavorings are totally flexible.

If anyone has any great granola bar tips or recipes please send them my way!

Chicken Soup

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Every one I know seems to be under the weather right now, making it the perfect time to make a pot of chicken soup.  The beginning of fall signals the beginning of soup season in my kitchen.  A big batch of soup is easy to make and lasts all week.  This chicken soup recipe is great because feels light, but is very filling.  Soup is also very customizable and adaptable.  Some variations I’ve tried are leaving out the noodles or potatoes to cut carbs, and swapping the chicken stock for veggie stock and omitting the chicken to make it vegetarian.

I take a few short cuts to make this recipe easy.  First I pre-chip mirepoix and freeze it in advance.  Whenever I want soup, I just take some out of the freezer.  This really cuts down on the labor.  You can also purchase pre-chopped mirepoix, but it’s usually a little pricy.  I also use store bought chicken stock (I like to have a few boxes on hand in the pantry).  I have never made my own stock, but maybe someday I will.  I use a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.  I have poached chicken breasts before for this recipe and it works really well, but rotisserie chicken is usually more cost-effective and makes for easier prep.  This recipe makes a lot of soup, which I like because it can be frozen for later or shared. Packing up some of this soup into a beautiful Weck Jar and picking up a baguette from a local bakery would be a great gesture to a sick friend.  
Chicken Soup

2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil, or 1 tablespoon of each
2 trimmed leeks (I like the package you can get at Trader Joe’s), sliced
1 bunch of fresh thyme
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery
2 quarts chicken stock
4 small or 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in one-inch pieces
1/2 lb small noodles
1 rotisserie chicken or poached chicken breast, shredded
Salt and Pepper

Start by chopping and prepping all the ingredients so when it’s time to cook everything is ready.  Add the butter or olive oil to a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the mirepoix (onion, celery, and carrot) and leeks to the pot and cook until soft.  Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Once the onions are translucent and the carrots and celery give a little, add the stock, potatoes and noodles.  Bring everything to a boil and then turn the heat down and simmer until the potatoes are cooked (usually takes at least 25 minutes).  Add the shredded chicken and season with additional salt, pepper and thyme.  Let the soup cool and transfer it to containers to refrigerate or freeze.  When reheating a portion of soup, I like to add 1/2 cup of water because the stock tends to get absorbed by the chicken, noodles and vegetables.