Monday, May 31, 2010

Going Granola

This may be the closest I ever come to being a hippie.

My mother in law and sister in law have always made their own granola and it has inspired me. I've tinkered around with various recipes.....they're all good, but I'm interested in using as little sugar & oil and a lot of the recipes still have more than I care to use. The end result always suffers if I don't use as much as recipes call for when it comes to sweetness and fat. Plus, the fat helps it bind more.

One of the most fun ways to try granola is in a crockpot. I tried this recipe last year and I burned it. But I have not given up in succeeding at it, so I may try again. However, if I'm going to be needing to stir it the way I do regular granola, why would I prolong that to 3-4 hours when I could get it over with in 45 minutes?

Granola is VERY EASY to make....if you can watch it closely. All you do is throw together ingredients, spread them onto a pan, throw them in the oven...and then watch, and watch, and watch the oven. Every 10 minutes or so, you need to stir the mixture around or flip it & then throw it back in and watch it some more. You almost don't even need a recipe. You can add and subtract nuts/seeds as you see fit according to your preference. And if you want to give some away at Christmas, I've noticed that adding the pumpkin seeds and cranberries makes it particularly festive. Just a recession thought.....

If you like dried fruit in yours like I do, I've learned my lesson----don't throw it in until halfway into the baking process. I've noticed it has a tendency to burn pretty quickly...maybe that's just my ineptitude though...

Since I'm not as organized as I'd like, I could not find my mother in law's recipe (though I've made it in the past), so I threw this together and I think it's a decent mix of balanced natural fats and sugars:


2 cups old-fashioned oats (not quick-cooking)
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup dried coconut (BIG flakes)
1/2 cup-1 cup raw almonds
1 cup raw walnuts or pecans (I used walnuts, but think pecans would be better)
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup flax seeds (don't use ground flax like I did)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon (optional, but I like it)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil (at least it's "heart-healthy")
1/2 cup maple syrup (why use sugar when you can use agave or maple syrup?)
1 cup craisins or cranberries, raisins, or dried --OPTIONAL*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together (except for the dried fruit).

Spread mixture onto a large baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes---being VERY CAREFUL to inspect every so often and turn/flip mixture so that it bakes evenly and does not burn. It is very easy to burn granola.

*It's probably best to add the dried fruit in about 30 minutes into the baking process (just my opinion). My cranberries got a little darker than I had intended since I added them right at the beginning.
Makes about 6 cups of granola. Also, freezes very well!

Next time, I'm going to add more almonds and try an almond flavoring. AND, I recently read a recipe that included adding Grape Nuts cereal to the mixture after the baking process. What a neat idea--it would give it some really good crunch and you could just add milk for an easy, healthy breakfast!

What do we do with granola?
Oh, we add it to the top of pancakes and waffles after we smear them with peanut butter and applesauce. Or we make parfaits....mixed berries and possibly bananas and fresh pineapple with low-fat yogurt and granola layered together. It's a quick and special kind of breakfast--a really easy way to impress overnight guests (as if they need impressing--they'd probably be impressed you washed the sheets--if you have little ones).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Maple Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Whole Wheat Cookies

I realize these are not the most attractive cookies, but they are really, really good! I can't remember where I got this recipe, but it was someplace that adapted it from

Finally, cookies made without butter, but with natural sweeteners and whole grain. The peanut butter flavor is light, not overwhelming. And they aren't cloyingly sweet--I think salt really brings out the flavor.

Apparently the cookies will stay soft several days later (if you still have them by then). My barometer (husband) probably grabbed 5-6 after they cooled coming out of the oven.


1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder (I used aluminum-free)
¾ cup maple syrup (or agave nectar)
½ cup unsweetened natural peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl, combine maple syrup (I used the maple syrup, not the agave syrup this time), peanut butter, and vanilla extract. Beat in the egg. Then, stir in the flour mixture until well combined.

Stir in chocolate chips. Shape the mixture into balls, about ¾” in size, then place on the greased baking sheet. Press them down with a fork, first in one direction, then the other. (I didn't do this step and that is probably why my cookies look like weird blobs.)

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden.

Yield: About two dozen cookies

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Don't Look Sideways at These Sides-Vegetable Adventures

It's often difficult to find supporting actors (your side dishes) to the leads (your meats & proteins) that don't include cheese. Not that I have an issue with cheese--in fact, this household happens to believe that cheese deserves its own food group. However, we have just gotten back from a vacation and we need a break from rich food. I'm always looking for new ways to cook vegetables.

Here are three side dishes that don't make you feel like you are eating vegetables just to meet your daily quota.


1 head of cauliflower, rinsed well and broken up into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. truffle-infused olive oil
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 chopped parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss the cauliflower with the garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and black pepper. Spread florets evenly on the baking sheet and roast for approximately 30 minutes or until the cauliflower begins to brown, stirring halfway through.

Add olives and continue to roast for 10 more minutes, or until the cauliflower is golden and the olives begin to shrivel.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with chopped parsley (if using) and serve immediately.

Makes approximately 4 side servings.

Note: This was very good! I suspect that some chopped hazelnuts or pine nuts thrown in with the olives at the last 10 minutes of roasting would elevate this dish to even greater heights.


1/3 cup diced onion (approximately)
2 medium sized yellow summer squash
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
salt, to taste
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Spray a medium sized frying pan with olive oil spray. Over medium heat, saute the onion until it becomes clearer--aproximately 3-5 minutes (being careful to watch that it doesn't brown).

Using a juliene peeler (click here to see what one looks like--this is the very one I have), carefully julienne the squash--taking care not to cut yourself. You may need to discard a lot of the middle portion of the seeded part of the squash.

Add the squash and red pepper to the sauteed onions and toss gently. Add the salt and crushed red pepper. Saute for a few minutes until the red pepper has softened and the onions start to turn a bit brown. At this point, take the squash off the heat as you want it to still have a bit of give to it when bitten into.

Serve while dish is warm. Makes approximately 4 side servings.

Note: This dish turned out wonderfully sweet & spicy--very spicy. Adjust pepper to your taste if you do not care for a lot of heat in your food.

GREEK-STYLE LIMA BEANS (adapted from Gourmet Magazine)

1 (10-ounce) package frozen baby lima beans
1 cup water
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
Crushed black pepper, to taste

Cook lima beans, water, 1 tablespoons oil, 1 tablespoon parsley, garlic, and salt in a 2-quart heavy saucepan, tightly covered, over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, 17 to 20 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.

Serve sprinkled with remaining tablespoon parsley and drizzled with remaining tablespoon oil.

(Note: I skipped the extra olive oil drizzle in the picture above. These are absolutely delicious!)

All in all, we decided to make a meal out of these three with a veggie meat roast. These side dishes are another reason I don't believe you have to eat boring as a vegetarian. Hope you all enjoy them too.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Momma's Got A Brand New Toy! And It's No Lemon.

As much as I hate to add ONE MORE kitchen tool to my arsenal....I could not resist. If you are looking for a good and cheap juicer, this is it! If you were to ask what the most used ingredient in our house is, I'd have to say citrus: lemons & limes especially. Citrus juice adds terrific flavor to food (especially in salad dressing), has vitamin C, and is virtually calorie-free (and fat free).

Up until now, this was my favorite juicer (as introduced by my mother and as adored by my friend, Nancy, on her blog). But, lately, with carpal tunnel type pain acting up in my hands, I needed something that didn't require squeezing. All you do with this one is turn the dial on the right hand side downwards with slight pressure, and presto!: instant juice.

I have been unhappy with the Kitchenaid citrus attacher (don't get one unless you want citrus juice to run down your arms while you hold a lemon to get squeezed). So when I spotted this sunny, happy, yellow-fella, I had to bring it home (never mind the whole reason I was at the store was to find a bathing suit--ugh, but who wants to shop for that?!).

I'd always seen this kind of juicer in magazines and on cooking shows and I have got to tell you, folks, this one is worth the $12. I am so happy with it that I just had to post about it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vegetarian Enchiladas (can also be Vegan)

Our house has a new staple!

Now THIS is what I consider vegetarian food. Not a plate full of vegetables as some people think vegetarians eat. This is a recipe that can be easily made vegan by substituting non-dairy "cheese" for regular cheese, as is called for below. I made them with vegan cheese inside, and a dairy Mexican blend on top. Delicious.

I LOVE this recipe. My husband (who is my recipe barometer) said, "Yum baby, these are really, really good!" And that's AFTER he knew there was tofu in them. I'm thinking that this phrase might make a good epitaph one day.


1 pkg. tortillas (I used a 12-count multi-grain)
1 can black beans
1 bag frozen corn (if you use canned corn, be sure to drain it first)
6 green onions, diced
1 pkg. of tofu, crumbled
½ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ tsp. cumin
¼ tsp. oregano
1 small can sliced black olives
1 ½ bags of 3 cheese blend or Mexican blend cheese
1 bottle Santa Fe sauce or Enchilada sauce
Salsa, optional
Sour cream or tofutti sour cream (vegan), optional topping
Guacomole, optional
Mix all ingredients with ½ bottle of Santa Fe sauce or salsa.

Oil or spray bottom and sides of baking pan, and add a small amount of sauce to bottom of pan.

Heat tortillas and spoon in mixture-- then roll and place in baking pan.

Cover with remaining sauce and cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until heated through.

These are the first ever enchiladas I've had that weren't greasy. However, they will need a some toppings and therefore the sour cream and salsa are really good on them.
This recipe made three 8X8 pans for me...4 enchiladas in two of the pans and 3 enchiladas in the last pan (only because the company didn't count well & there were obviously 11 tortillas in the package instead of 10). These enchiladas freeze well.
If you use a larger pan to include them all, you will be able to feed about about 6-7 people if you include a side of Mexican rice and a salad.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Under Skilled Supervision: Coconut Cupcakes

Yes, I am FULLY aware that this recipe is nowhere near nutritious--but I promise to return with a healthier recipe or two in a month or so. As with everything in life, moderation is key. And without splurges, we all become cranky misers.

It was my daughter's 1st birthday and I had been thinking about having these cupcakes. Both my mother in law & I (separately) thought to use this recipe. It's one of the most requested & commented upon recipes from Ina Garten. Here is a link to her original recipe & user comments.

I have a confession though....besides frosting, adding toppings, and fooling with the liners, I hardly did anything but watch my pregnant sister in law make these. I wanted to make sure she felt truly included (ha!). I have excellent supervision skills, though, and feel that in itself is enough to warrant a post. Also, I spent an entire day looking for those cute little liners & ended up in the ghetto....I have to use the picture somewhere! For the record, I have, indeed made them in the past.

A few changes we made from the original recipe were to 1) toast the sweetened coconut that went on top 2) use unsweetened, but FROZEN fresh coconut inside the cupcakes, and 3) use yogurt-covered blueberries for the top (to make them look like eggs since birds were our theme)


3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
5 extra-large eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
14 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

For the frosting:
1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 pounds confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In 3 parts, alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk to the batter, beginning and ending with the dry. Mix until just combined. Fold in 7 ounces of coconut.

Line a muffin pan with paper liners. Fill each liner to the top with batter. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a baking rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, on low speed, cream together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond extracts. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until smooth.

Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

In case anyone is wondering, they were DELICIOUS!!!!! The cream cheese frosting & almond flavoring makes them the best coconut cupcakes I've ever had. The birthday girl couldn't stop cramming them into her mouth either.