Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homemade Granola

I have been wanting to make my own granola for years, and now that I have done it, I have no idea why I ever purchased granola from the grocery store!  To be honest, my first batch was an epic fail due to the fact that I left it in the oven too long, but the second batch was absolutely delicious.  I combined oats, nuts, coconut and dried fruit to make a delicious granola that can be served by itself, with yogurt and fruit, over ice cream, with milk or whatever else your heart desires.

Fruit and Nut Granola (printable recipe)
2 c rolled oats
1 c almonds, sliced
1 c coconut, shredded
1/2 c walnuts, chopped
1/4 c wheat germ
1/4 c brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flax seeds
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c dried apricots, chopped
1 c dried cranberries
1/2 c dried figs, chopped
1/3 c honey
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Combine the oats, almonds, coconut, walnuts, wheat germ, brown sugar, flax seeds, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk the oil, honey and vanilla together in a small bowl.  Pour the liquids over the oat mixture and stir until all ingredients are evenly coated.  Transfer to a large sheet pan.  Bake, stirring occasionally, until mixture is golden brown.  This will take 20-30 minutes.  Watch closely as mixture can go from brown to burned relatively quickly (as learned in my earlier trial).
Remove the granola from the oven and add the apricots, cranberries and figs.  Let the granola cool on the sheet pan, stirring occasionally to break it up.  If you like your granola a little chewy, store in an airtight container as soon as it has cooled.  If you're a fan of crunchy granola, you might need to let it sit on the pan and dry out overnight.
Note:  If you don't like or are allergic to any of the ingredients in the recipe, just omit them.  If you omit the nuts from the recipe, add in more oats or reduce the amount of liquids (oil & honey) you use.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Peanut Butter Split Smoothies

If peanut butter was its own food group, it would be one of the largest tiers on my husband's food pyramid, probably right after chocolate.  By the spoonful, slapped between two pieces of bread, on a bagel or English muffin, in a recipe; there's really no way he doesn't eat it.

I thought I would reward my husband with a post-workout smoothie that highlighted one of his favorite foods.  I modified a recipe from the Food Network, with the result being a creamy blend of bananas and yogurt with a great peanut butter taste.

Peanut Butter Split Smoothies  (printable recipe)
adapted from an Ellie Krieger recipe


2 ripe bananas
1 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 Tbsp. peanut butter, creamy variety
2 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. wheat germ

Place all ingredients in blender.  Mix until smooth.  Pour into two glasses and enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Winter Farmer's Market

The calendar says today is the first day of spring, although I am sure there is still time for another snowstorm to hit Wisconsin before we can really call it spring in this state.  So, I suppose it really wasn't too late to visit the Winter Farmer's Market held at Wisconsin's State Fair Park yesterday.

Overall, the market wasn't as large as I had expected and the variety was a little lacking.  Three quarters of the room was made up of vendors selling meats, syrup/honey/jarred sauces, and baked goods.  I was really hoping to get more produce such as potatoes, onions and other root vegetables, but left somewhat disappointed.  There was one vendor who had nice looking onions (that sounds oddly dirty, doesn't it?), so I purchased a few, but all other vegetables looked pretty sad.  I suppose this could be due to stock running low this late in the winter.  There were also a couple of people selling homemade soups and pastas, but as someone who makes their own pasta from scratch, it didn't seem necessary to pay the price when I could make it myself.

From a few of the remaining vendors, I purchased a package of handmade whole wheat tortillas, a wonderful raw milk Gouda, unique herbal tea for calming the stomach of my over-indulging husband and some beautiful portabello and baby portabello mushrooms.

I marinated the large portabellos with a mixture of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic and herbs and grilled them with steaks for dinner.  The portabellos were so meaty and delicious, I could have eaten them as the main course.  I will be using the baby portabellos to make stuffed mushrooms for a brunch I am hosting next week.  More to come later on that.

The farmer's market had more of a craft fair/bake sale vibe than I was expecting and some of the vendors were really pushy, which turns me off pretty quickly.  One of the things I did like was that several vendors had free recipes available, so I snagged a few of those.  My goal from this point on for the year is to make at least two new recipes a month.  So, stay tuned to see my successes and failures.

Winter Farmers Market Star Rating:  3 out of 5
Grilled Portabello Star Rating:  4.5 out of 5