2.13.2014

Recipe. Healthy Nut Granola

This is completely unrelated to the post about my tasty granola, but I'm blown away that it's actually been since Summer 2013 that I've loved on my blog at all! It's going to get better, I promise. I'm in a new fitness groove, and much happier when I'm eating healthier (and drinking less)... which means that I have lots of reasons to devote time and energy to the kitchen again, concocting glorious eats for my lifestyle. And I'm happy to be back! 

Though I'm not one to love granola usually, my aunt was chatting about her recipe for a healthier-than-the-average granola, and it stirred my interest. After checking the ingredients out on the recipe she shared, I decided I'd give it a try... I mean, I can only take so many carrot and hummus snacks before I need to find something else to nosh on in between meals. So thank you, Aunt Diane, for the suggestion! I'm always on the prowl for new, healthy foodie finds. 

This granola is a good source of healthy fats, held together without the traditional simple syrups and oils, and is fairly easy to personalize to your taste buds; I love walnuts, don't love macadamia nuts, and have a mild obsession with pumpkin seeds, as you'll see from my choice in nut to seed to filler ratio. Other than those subjective factors, I tweaked the recipe only slightly, and modified the cooking times a bit to get it a little crispier than the allotted original time would have allowed. 

It turned out lovely, and while I enjoy grabbing a handful as I am running out the door to class as naked granola, it'd be delicious mixed in with your favorite greek yogurt, as a cereal, or I could even made into an energy bar, of sorts.

Please enjoy!

Reminder: as with anything nuts and grains-related, these fats and carbs are healthy in their recommended amounts, so I'd advise against reading "healthy" and going to town on this stuff. Small doses = happy tummies. :)

 photo EFED2B22-F751-4167-A6C9-C4725984FC51_zpsuritxvzq.jpg

Healthy Nut Granola

INGREDIENTS
2 C. whole or halved nuts of choice (I chose 3 parts walnuts to 1 part almonds)
1 C. slivered or sliced almonds (I chose sliced)
½ C. seeds of choice (I chose pumpkin, although sunflower or sesame would be tasty too)
½ C. almond meal
2 bananas
1 egg
2 tsp pure vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
Dash sea salt
(I chose to add a little dusting of cardamom and shot of agave nectar to the combination)


DIRECTIONS
  • 1
    Preheat oven to 350F
  • 2
    In a food processor (or in my case, with a rolling pin and ziplock bag), pulse the whole or halved nuts until they're to your desired size for granola. Pour the nuts into a large mixing bowl and add the slivered/sliced almonds, seeds, and almond meal. Stir them together well.
  • 3
    Add the bananas, egg, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the food processor (I used my blender) and blend together until they are all pureed. Pour the banana mixture into the nut mixture and stir together until all the solids are well-coated in the liquid.
  • 4
    Spread the mixture on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, until there is an even layer and the paper cannot be seen through the nuts. (DO NOT SKIP THE PAPER!)
  • 5
    Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top starts to crisp and turn golden, and then break apart and flip over the chunks in the oven to expose the other side. Cook for another 15 (or so) minutes, using a spatula every once and a while to push the pieces around and break up the large chunks, until the granola is mostly golden.
  • 6
    Remove from the oven and let cool.

Don't be alarmed if pieces of the granola still seem a little less crisp than desired, as the pieces will continue to harden as they're exposed to air and cooling off. This granola will last in your refrigerator for about a week!

8.10.2013

thought. it's literally been months

I've been a horrible neglecter. It's been months since I've even really looked at my blog, much less cooked, DIY-ed, or had anything insightful to add to this space. I am severely missing it. And am going to try harder to make time for this, since it is a happy place for me.

I'm onto the t-minus 6 weeks countdown until Fall quarter starts... and from there it will be a whirlwind set of quarters while I try to chip away (and kick ass) in all of my pre-reqs. Life's effectively going on hold for a little, so taking a break to get back on here every once and a while should help me keep my sanity.

I'll be back soon...

4.18.2013

recipe. spiced banana muffins

If anyone else is similar to myself, I buy bananas by the bulk to "make smoothies"... and then they're rotten before I have a chance to fully commit to that breakfast endeavor on the daily.

My solution: create a recipe that uses the overly ripe bananas to suffice my hunger pangs from a different angle.


I love to cook, and can follow someone else's recipe, but this one is entirely on me. I threw together a plethora of my favorite ingredients to create my banana muffins in a healthy-ish fashion. Obviously, it can be tweaked to be considered completely gluten-free - just omit the oats and double the flours, or use quinoa in it's place - or it can be concocted in one of those nazi-healthy manners. Think no liquor, no chocolate chips, no fun...

But since I'm not a member of the paleo bandwagon, and I will eat gluten-free but it's not my bottom-line, this lineup of goodies worked for me so I figured I'd run with it!

Now, before you get started, there are a few things that I feel need to be pointed out...
  • Because this is very mashed-banana based, the final product will look nice and moist. It is cooked and completely done, but due to the banana-powder ratio, I thought a heads-up might be nice.
  • The muffins sort of stuck to the wrappers when they came out of the over, so hitting them with a dusting of Pam spray won't hurt.
  • It's all very flexible - on the spices and liquor end - so finagle the proportions in a way that suits your palette best!
I'm styling this recipe blog a bit differently than my usual cooking posts since I ran with an open mind until the muffins were completed, so it's more of a flow chart with directions than an index-style recipe card. There are a couple of ingredients that pop up more than once, but it's mostly the spices and oats, so you should be golden in the shopping department if you've got then hanging around the house.

Bearing the aforementioned facts in mind, here's what I did with my semi-totaled bananas. :)


HAND-MASH THE FOLLOWING INGREDIENTS UNTIL YOU'VE GOT A SEMI-CHUNKY, YET BLENDED MIXTURE
6 Bananas, medium sized and over-ripe
3 Tbs. Agave Nectar
1 Packet Justin's Classic Almost Butter
(Can be found in most health food departments. Otherwise, substitute 1-2 Tbs. of your favorite almost butter in it's place)
2 Vanilla, pure and natural
1/4 C. Unsweetened Almond Milk

ADD THE FOLLOWING TO YOUR HAND-MASHED BANANA MIXTURE AND GIVE IT ANOTHER AGGRESSIVE ROUND OF STIRRING/MASHING
1/2 tsp. Cardamom
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
Spiced Rum, a nice (totally hefty) splash
Pinch of salt

IN A SEPARATE MEDIUM-SIZED BOWL, WHISK THE FOLLOWING INGREDIENTS UNTIL THOROUGHLY BLENDED
1/2 C. Brown Rice Flour
1/4 C. Sweet White Sorghum Flour
1/8 C. Coconut Flour
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 C. Raw cane sugar
1/4-1/2 C. Oats

IN A SMALL BOWL, COMBINE THE FOLLOWING GOODIES WITH A FORK UNTIL PLENTY OF AIR HAS BEEN WORKED THROUGH AND THE TOP LAYER is nice and FROTHy
1 1/2 Tbs. Coconut Oil, melted completely
4 Egg Whites
1 Egg w. yolk

FINAL STEPS...
  1. Spatula coconut oil/egg mixture into the flour until it creates a thick, even paste. Get nice and aggressive with it since coconut flour is exceptionally dense and you'll want to make sure that it is distributed evenly before adding the bananas.
  2. Add the mashed banana mixture into the paste in small portions and stir until all parts are completely blended together.
  3. Toss 1 C. Oats into the mixture. This amount can be adjusted, based on your desired thickness, but you're going to want the muffin mix to be a thick, yet semi-liquid, texture to disperse throughout the muffin tin.
  4. Cook in lined muffin pan on 400F for 25-30 minutes.

4.10.2013

recipe. czech zelnacka

Zelnacka is a paprika-spiked, sauerkraut and kielbasa soup takes me straight back to Prague. It's delicious, and can actually take credit as the food that changed my outlook on sauerkraut. Too many afternoons, once I was finished with classes and needing to plan the next day's lessons, I wandered around the corner to a wonderful little coffee shop for a maly pivo and bowl of their daily soup... which was, more often than not, zelnacka.

It's traditionally Czech in that it's hearty, and usually filled me up for the rest of the evening; quite the opposite of the lean meats, veggies, and wine that I was accustomed to back in the States. Today was windy and unappealing for any outdoor excursions, and I found myself craving this soup.

This is my first attempt at making any of the Czech foods that I experienced last year in Prague, ad I'm actually quite pleased! It's perfect for a day when you just need something warm, tasty, and filling on your stomach. Give a try and let me know your thoughts!


Zelnacka: Sausage and Sauerkraut Soup

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. Sauerkraut
4 C. water
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
2 tbs. whole wheat flour
1 white onion, diced
4 slices bacon
Kielbasa
10 white mushrooms, diced
2-3 tsp. Caraway seeds
3-4 tsp. Sweet paprika
(I added a hit of smoked Paprika for a little additional depth)
2 tsp. fat-free sour cream (optional)

DIRECTIONS
  • 1
    Saute finely diced bacon in a medium saucepan until nearly cooked.
  • 2
    Add sliced kielbasa, mushrooms, and onion; saute for about 10 minutes, or until onions start to become translucent.
  • 3
    Sprinkle with flour and combine until completely mixed into the ingredients.
  • 4
    Add sauerkraut, potatoes, caraway seeds, and paprika; stir.
    (Drain the sauerkraut of the juice by rinsing and drying, or for more flavor, just use a fork to pull it straight from the jar... it depends on your tolerance for sauerkraut to begin with)
  • 5
    Cover ingredients with water and mix in salt. Stir together and add sour cream, if desired; stir until completely dissolved.
  • 6
    Serve hot and enjoy! Add a dollop of sour cream and a dash of paprika for garnish.

2.03.2013

travels. bits of bolzano


Right before I moved home, I went to a little town called Bolzano, in northern Italy... and it totally won my heart! It was small and quaint enough to walk around the entirety of the old town in one afternoon, and with all the fest spread around town for Christmas, was completely homey-feeling despite it being a completely strange and foreign place.

Bolzano is in a German-dominated part of Italy, and has a medieval city center that made for a really interesting experience; perplexingly old mixed with today's most trendy. The streets ranged from displaying high-end boutiques, to promoting cliché tourist stores, to stowing away traditional restaurants in inconspicuous places that made you feel proud when you actually found one. It was not unnatural to spend an hour gawking at a 14th century cathedral, and then turn to find yourself staring at a mannequin flashing the latest and greatest in the window of a Gucci boutique.

For three days, I wandered around and immersed myself in the city, convinced myself to ride a very long gondola to the cute villages at the top of the surrounding Alps (twice!), and discovered a new red wine at a family owned and operated tapas restaurant... a restaurant that ended up becoming "my place" at the end of each day, and after meeting a series of Giovanni's and other incredibly nice locals that frequented Banco 11, morphed into a welcoming location to chat and drink with friends.

I've felt incredibly content since moving home at Christmas. I loved Europe and I love the Tri, despite the random inadequacies or annoyances I might whine about from time to time. It's not until I reminisce about trips, like this one to Bolzano, that I feel legitimately "homesick" for Europe again.

Bolzano was amazing. I would go back in a heartbeat, and in an attempt to one-up my last excursion, would love to plan a tour-de-Italy stemming from this wonderful place; wine tasting throughout the country, noshing on genius culinary creations, and soaking up the mind-blowing Italian culture and history. I'll cross my fingers and hope that it's in the cards before 2014 rolls around...