Basic Granola

Surprisingly, I have never made my own granola before. There are SO many great brands out there these days that I really like (Early Bird made in Brooklyn, NY is my jam!), so I never really had the urge to try it until recently. I had literally all of the ingredients in my pantry, so I decided to give it a try, and I am so happy that I did! So happy in fact, that since last Wednesday I’ve made it 3 times! Here are my top 3 reasons to make your own granola:

  1. You can control exactly how much sugar and fat to put in. And as much as I love other brands, sometimes I wish it wasn’t as sweet, or as coconutty (I know that’s not a real word), or didn’t have walnuts (don’t like them)…the list goes on.
  2. It makes your house/apartment smell AMAZING
  3. You can add anything extra to this recipe and empty out your pantry!
  4. Bonus reason- it makes a fun holiday gift! Put some in a small mason jar and tie a bow around it! Its healthy, yummy, easy, different, more yummy…

I made my granola with shredded coconut, golden raisins, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds, but you can add any combination of nuts and seeds and dried fruit that you want. Just make sure that they are RAW! If the nuts or seeds are already roasted, they will burn in the oven and your granola will become bitter. You can also play around with the ratio of sweeteners or types of sweeteners that you use. The first time I used more molasses than the second time- I decided I wanted a more mild flavor- but you can switch the ratios around, or use less, or add maple syrup instead of honey or molasses. Basically, you can’t really screw this up UNLESS, you don’t pay attention while its in the oven, and don’t use raw ingredients. So, here is my recipe. Enjoy!

Basic Granola

Yield: 2 Qts | Bake Time: 45 mins | Oven Temp: 300 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups rolled oats (Gluten Free if you have a gluten sensitivity)
  • 1/2 Cup shredded coconut, UNSWEETENED
  • 1/2 Cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 Cup sunflower seeds, raw
  • 1/3 Cup sliced almonds, raw
  • 1/3 Cup pumpkin seeds, raw
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 Cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 Cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl (everything up to the coconut oil) and toss them together with your hands. img_1722-1
  3. In a microwave safe bowl, combine the coconut oil, honey and molasses, and heat in microwave until the coconut oil has melted- do it in 15 second increments. If you don’t have a microwave, you can do this in a small saucepan on the stove- just be very careful that it doesn’t burn. You really are just melting the coconut oil and making the honey and molasses less sticky and easier to mix with the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the vanilla to the oil and honey mixture once it is out of the microwave, stir, and pour into the oat mixture.
  5. Mix with a spatula until all of the oats are coated.
  6. Spread out onto the lined baking sheet, and place in the center of your oven in the middle rack.
  7. Here is the most important step- STIR granola with spatula every 15-20 minutes. This is super important so the edges don’t burn. You don’t have to go crazy with this, just push the edges towards the middle with your spatula, and the middle towards the edges, and pop right back into the oven.
  8. You will know that it is done by the change in color, the raisins will puff up to the size of grapes, and the smell! Don’t neglect your sense of smell to tell you when something is ready to come out of the oven! Try to pay attention to that! Here’s a before and after shot of the granola:img_1734
  9. When it comes out, mix it one last time and let cool before putting it into a jar. It will last probably up to two weeks in a sealed container- but I’m sure you will eat it all way before then! Hence, why I’ve made it 3 times in less than a week… I have issues!

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NOT Avocado Toast

Get ready, cause I’m about to blow your mind…I don’t like avocado! <GASP!!!> I know, what is wrong with me?! It’s a texture thing. But, I think even if I did like avocado, I would be a little sick of the avocado toast craze by now. So, I’d like to introduce you to farmer cheese. (Even Cyrus wants to try some!)

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Farmer cheese is basically a very dry cottage cheese with most of the whey (liquid part) pressed out of it. Its texture is very similar to ricotta. I know that a lot of people HATE cottage cheese (even more than I dislike avocado), but again I think it’s a texture thing, and I urge you to try it! Friendship Dairies is probably the most common brand that you can find in most grocery stores. The cheese comes in a small block like cream cheese. But, if you live in NYC, you have to try Ben’s farmer cheese! You can buy it at Citarella’s, Murray’s Cheese, or Fairway. It comes in a pint container, and is just amazing! (Ben’s is also famous in NYC for their cream cheese.) Farmer cheese is low-fat, has low levels of lactose (so those who have difficulty digesting dairy would most likely have no problem with it), has descent levels of protein, and is super mild and versatile. It’s most common usage is for fillings in Eastern European dishes such as blintzes, but here I’ve used it as a spread on toasted bread that you can top with a wide array of vegetables, fruit, seeds, etc.

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You can top this with anything you want, or eat it plain, with salt and pepper and olive oil, honey, whatever! But, I’m going to show you two options that I made with vegetables that I had in my kitchen- roasted fennel and acorn squash. I’ll start by explaining how to cook acorn squash- its super easy! Just cut it in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, slice it, toss it with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast it in a 375 degree oven with the skin on.

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Roast the squash on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (easier cleanup) for about 20-25 minutes until the squash is soft. Let it cool and just peel off the skin with your fingers- it will come off very easily! Spread the farmer cheese on toasted bread (pumpernickel, whole grain, rye, sourdough), top with the slices of squash, and finish with salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) to add some crunch, extra protein, omega-3 fats, and magnesium! The second topping is roasted fennel.

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To prep the fennel, cut the top of the fennel bulb off and save some of the fronds (green parts that look like dill) for garnish. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise, cut out the core, and slice into 1/4 inch slices. As with the acorn squash, toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper, 2 or 3 thyme sprigs if you have them, and a clove of crushed garlic. Spread the fennel out on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Roasted fennel has a much milder flavor than raw fennel- it is sweeter and the anise flavor is much less pronounced. After it cools, spread it on the toast and top with fresh cracked black pepper and fennel fronds.

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And voila, NOT avocado toast! Eat this before or after a workout, for breakfast, or as a side with your favorite soup. Enjoy!

 

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

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I LOVE GLUTEN! Seriously, a life without bread, pasta and cookies (made with wheat flour!) would be a very sad one for me. But, my sister is both gluten and dairy-intolerant, so I want to learn and explore gluten-free baking a bit more. Side note: Making something gluten-free doesn’t suddenly make it healthy! I see this misunderstanding a lot, so I just want to put that out there! I have a lot of thoughts on this topic, but I’ll save it for another time- this is about banana bread (muffins)!

Banana bread is delicious, easy to make, and you most likely have all of the ingredients in your pantry and fridge already. Traditional banana bread however, is not the most healthy option. It generally contains a lot of fat and sugar, that I’ve found is not necessary for it to taste delicious! So, I took this gluten-free challenge as a way to bake with whole grains, unrefined sugars and healthy fats (a little butter never hurt anyone) and turn traditional banana bread into a great pre-workout snack or something you could bring on a bike ride for mid-ride fuel.

I adapted this recipe from a few different ones that I found, and decided to use rolled oats, almond flour and millet flour for the dry ingredients. This is not a vegan recipe, so I used eggs, a little butter (my sister can tolerate butter, just not other dairy…who knows!?) and coconut oil for the fats. I used organic cane sugar and maple syrup as the sweet components, along with the bananas of course! And added coconut for flavor and texture along with golden raisins. Here are some of the ingredients/brands that I used:

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The first time I tried this recipe, I made it as a loaf, and it was a little too crumbly. I adjusted a few things, so I think this recipe would work as a loaf too, but I like the muffins because they are easy to carry with you as a grab-and-go snack or like I mentioned before, to put in your jersey pocket for a bike ride. Also, its built-in portion control!

Gluten Free Banana Muffins

Yield: 24 muffins | Bake Time: 20-25 mins | Oven Temp: 350 degrees

Ingredients:

  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup organic dark brown cane sugar, packed down
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (grind fresh if possible)
  • 1 1/4 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/4 cups millet flour
  • 1 1/4 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. I use a convection oven on convection bake, so if you are using a standard oven, your bake time might be slightly longer.
  2. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray. I didn’t use muffin liners, because I think they’re annoying, and not necessary if you grease the tin well, but you can use them if you’d like!  (My muffin tins make 12 muffins each, so you can use 2 tins or make this in two batches.)
  3. Mash bananas with a fork- should be chunky so you have big pieces in the muffins. Melt the butter and coconut oil on stove top or in a microwave. Do not let it simmer! Coconut oil has a low smoke point and will burn very quickly! Set aside and let cool.
  4. Add butter and coconut oil to bananas along with all of the other wet ingredients- everything through the almond milk. Stir with whisk.
  5. Add all remaining ingredients, and stir until combined.
  6. Use and ice cream scooper or 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour mixture into muffin tins. This guarantees even sizing and keeps the edges of the tin much neater.
  7. Place the tins on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
  8. Cool on baking rack, and enjoy!

**If you want to make a loaf- banana bread instead of muffins- this amount will fill one standard 9x5in loaf pan. Adjust cooking time to 45-50mins.

***Also, this is not a vegan recipe, but you could make it vegan by replacing the egg with flax egg, and using all coconut oil instead of butter.

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