Strawberry-Coconut Granola

I’ve got a pretty robust travel tag going, and for good reason: I love, love, love to travel. And I love talking about traveling! Besides daydreaming about my next trip, planning a detailed itinerary, and overthinking my suitcase strategy, every trip I take involves lots of pre-departure food research. This New Zealand trip has been no exception! And one very important part of my food planning is deciding what travel snacks to bring.

My strategy hasn’t deviated much from the one I employed when I went to Italy a few years ago. It’s all about nutritious, protein-rich snacks to keep my tummy full. I made a Wegmans and Trader Joe’s run to stock up on pre-made snacks, and I also whipped up a batch of granola for munching. Since I knew I’d mostly be eating this by the handful (not in yogurt or with plant milk), I needed to make sure this granola had lots and lots of big ol’ clumps. I’ve seen oil-free granola recipes that use applesauce for moisture, so I decided to try something similar. But I wanted to experiment with a different, bolder pureed fruit, one that would add flavor as well as moisture. Strawberries seemed like the perfect choice, and they worked wonderfully, especially when paired with coconut. Mmm.

Strawberry-Coconut Granola

Strawberry-Coconut Granola

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup mix-ins of choice (I used chopped almonds and chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spread liberally with coconut oil.

In a food processor, blend the strawberries until they’re nearly pureed. (If you’re using frozen strawberries, they should be the texture of a slushie.) Set aside.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine, heating over low so that the oil melts. Once all three ingredients are well mixed, stir in the dried coconut. Let sit for a minute, then turn off the heat. Add the pureed strawberries and stir to combine, then set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, ground flax, and salt together, then pour in the wet ingredients. Stir to combine, then fold in any mix-ins you’re using.

Pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and spread into a thin layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so, then remove from oven and let cool completely before eating.

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Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

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I’m writing this post on Thursday night and I’m so very antsy! On Friday afternoon, S and I will be taking off for Rhode Island to meet baby Charlie. I don’t know how I’ll get through the work day tomorrow; I’m so excited! And then we’ll be in the car for eight hours or so… I wish we could fast-forward to the minute I get to wrap my arms around the teeny-tiny newest member of my family. But alas, time marches onward steadily! At least S and I will be armed with snacks galore so we don’t need to make a stop for dinner. He’s picking up fruit and a bag of Earth Balance white cheddar popcorn (SO GOOD), and I’ve made a sweet treat to keep us energized.

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

Makes eight bars

  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar (or pure maple syrup)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 cups rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats)
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Dash cloves

Preheat the oven to 350˚. Spray an 8″ x 8″ baking pan or line with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, heat the coconut sugar, coconut oil, molasses, agave nectar, and vanilla extract over low. Stir to combine as the oil melts. Once all ingredients are well mixed, turn off the heat and stir in the pumpkin puree.

In a large bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix. Pour in the wet ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula until the oats are coated and all ingredients are well mixed. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and press down evenly.

Bake for about 30 minutes until the oats begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes before slicing with a sharp knife. If you’re patient, let them cool before eating. If not, they might be a little crumbly!

Inspired by this recipe from Two Peas and Their Pod.

Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal Bars

Baked oatmeal bars strike again! I can’t help it; I just love this easy, on-the-go method of enjoying oatmeal. These bars are just sweet enough for me, but if you like a sweeter breakfast, you could substitute maple syrup for the blackstrap molasses. But then, of course, you’d lose out on the stellar benefits of my beloved blackstrap! Each bar gives you 13% of your RDV of iron, about 6 grams of protein, substantial fiber, and nearly your entire day’s requirement of vitamin A. Not a bad way to keep your tummy full on a drive up the east coast!

What are your favorite road trip snacks?

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Gingerbread Granola

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S and I were at Whole Foods the other day, trying to stay focused, stick to our shopping list, and ignore the siren’s call of the bulk aisle, when he casually asked me whether I would be making granola again anytime soon. I opted to interpret that as a thinly veiled request and decided it was the perfect opportunity to play with a granola flavor I’d wanted to try for a while: gingerbread.

This granola took two attempts to perfect. I tried to get fancy with the first batch, substituting my beloved raw buckwheat groats for some of the oats, going a bit wild with the spices, and playing fast and loose with the oven temperature. The result was a crumbly, overly ginger-y, and slightly burnt batch. Don’t get me wrong; I still nibbled the crap out of it as I prepared the second batch. And that second batch was much improved.

Gingerbread Granola

Gingerbread Granola
Serves six

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats)
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 C crystallized ginger, diced

Preheat oven to 300˚ and line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, molasses, and maple syrup or brown sugar. Stir to combine, heating over low so that the oil melts. Once all ingredients are well mixed, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon. Once the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed and coated with the wet ingredients, pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes, removing from the oven and stirring every ten minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least ten minutes before eating.

Note: If you prefer a sweeter granola, feel free to reduce the molasses by a tablespoon.

Gingerbread Granola

Second time’s the charm, I guess! (Although I have to admit that I did slightly burn this batch as well… oy.) I imagine this granola would be fantastic atop a bowl of vanilla soy yogurt—the spicy flavors would play perfectly with the sweet, cool yogurt. Sans yogurt, you’re looking at nearly 17% of your recommended daily value of calcium in a serving, along with 6 grams of protein and 19% of your recommended daily value of iron. Adding a 6-ounce carton of soy yogurt will increase your calcium intake by about 30% of your RDV, depending on the brand. Take that, Whole Foods.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola (and a brief disquisition on protein needs)

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Snickering at the “But where do you get your protein?!” question is a bit of a shibboleth in vegan circles. It’s a tired question, one that’s inspired lots of great memes. And it has a pretty simple answer: From nearly everything I eat. This quote from the American Heart Association just about sums it up:

“You don’t need to eat foods from animals to have enough protein in your diet. Plant proteins alone can provide enough of the essential and non-essential amino acids, as long as sources of dietary protein are varied and caloric intake is high enough to meet energy needs.” (1)

Bam.

Still, protein-related myths abound. There’s a notion that plant proteins are inferior to their animal-derived counterparts because they don’t provide all essential amino acids in a single source (and are thus called “incomplete” proteins). There’s a commonly held and oft-mentioned misbelief that you must consume all of your complementary proteins in a single meal to derive the full protein benefit, but that’s been disproven. Instead, as long as you eat a variety of proteins in a single day, your body can take care of combining them. (2)

So—how much protein do you need? Turns out, not as much as lots of people think. Unless you’re very active, 10-35% of your calories should come from protein. The CDC has a basic set of guidelines here, and you can get more tailored recommendations here. I’ve done a few calculations, and I should be getting between 50 and 70 grams per day. What does that mean in real-world food terms? Well, half a block of tofu has around 18 grams, half a cup of tempeh has 15 grams, and half a cup of black beans has 20 grams. And those are just the protein powerhouses! Most of the incidental foods we eat contain at least a little protein, and those grams add up. For example, bagels often contain around 10 grams of protein. A small handful of almonds gives you around 4 grams. And you could get a whole 7 grams just from eating granola. Not just any granola—Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola.

This granola.

Peanut butter granola spilling from a mason jar onto a wooden cutting board.

Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Granola

Serves 8

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup creamy unsalted natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups rolled oats (I like Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats)
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325˚ and line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, peanut butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Stir to combine, heating over low so that the oil and peanut butter soften. Once all four ingredients are well mixed, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add all the dried ingredients. Pour the peanut butter mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a large wooden spoon. Once the dry ingredients are coated with the peanut butter mixture, pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until the oats are golden, removing from the oven and stirring every ten minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least ten minutes before eating.

pbgranola3

Let’s be real—you’re probably going to eat this stuff by the handful, grabbing a clump every time you walk by the cooling baking sheet. But you could also serve it in a bowl with some cold almond milk or a dollop of soy yogurt, adding a couple extra grams of protein to your day. Yum.

pbgranola2

So, bottom line about protein? Stop worrying about it. Eat a varied, healthy diet and you’ll be just fine. And remember, protein lurks in the most unlikely places—even a bowl of sweet, salty, peanutty granola.

Sources cited:

(1) http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Vegetarian-Diets_UCM_306032_Article.jsp 
(2) http://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/everyone/basics/protein.html

Note:

I’m neither a doctor nor a dietitian; please don’t treat my posts as medical advice! Consult a medical practitioner for specific medical or nutritional recommendations.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Blueberry Pecan Granola

You know what’s surprisingly difficult to find at my local grocery stores? Quality vegan granola. They’re all too sugary or use honey or include milk chocolate. And the good ones are damn expensive! Yuck. Happily, it’s pretty easy to work up a batch of homemade, inexpensive granola to your taste; the most challenging part is deciding on which add-ins to include!

I’ve wanted to use my beloved dried wild blueberries in granola since I first conceived of my MoFo theme. This weekend, I finally did it! I created a blueberry granola lightly kissed with maple syrup and cinnamon and full of nutty crunch. It’s absolutely delicious, if I do say so myself. ;)

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Blueberry-Pecan Granola

Makes 2 1/2 cups, give or take

  • 2 C rolled oats (I use Bob’s Red Mill Rolled Oats)
  • 1/4 C ground flaxseed
  • Heaping 1/3 C raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 C chopped pecans
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t salt
  • A few dashes nutmeg
  • 1/4 C + 1 T melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 C + 1 T pure maple syrup
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • Heaping 1/3 C dried wild blueberries

Preheat oven to 350˚ and line a flat baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the oats, flax, pecans, sunflower seeds, and spices. Set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk the coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. (Warning: The resulting liquid will smell like heaven in a bowl. Resist the urge to go at it with a spoon!)

Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to coat. Pour the granola onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and add the dried blueberries, stirring to combine. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the oats are golden. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes.

(Full disclosure: I originally made this with just 1/4 C coconut oil, but it didn’t create as many granola clumps as I wanted. So I’m increasing the measurement by an additional tablespoon—if you try it, let me know how it works out!)

uncooked-blueberry-granola_9764935436_o

Check back in tomorrow to see how I used this granola—it’s gonna be good!

What’s your favorite kind of granola? How do you eat it?

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Sunday Snackin’: Medjool Date Granola

S and I didn’t enter into cohabitation lightly. We discussed what moving in together meant and we discussed how we’d make it work. Being the big nerds we are, we read books on the topic and came up with some plans in advance. For example, because we both fall on the introvert side of the spectrum, we knew we’d need to plan some alone time (or pseudo alone time) into our life together to avoid one of us (probably me) getting a little twitchy and eventually snapping. We told each other in advance that, hey, if one of us needs time alone, it’s not personal – it’s just necessary to recharge our introverted batteries.

We also build in together-but-alone time by switching off on dinner duties. While one person cooks, the other is free to go read a book or play Half-Life 2 (spoiler: it’s not me) in the other room. And I get some alone time every Sunday when S records his podcast in the bedroom – he shuts the door and I have the rest of the apartment to myself. Yesterday, I filled that hour by reading A Clash of Kings and making granola.

Top-down view of a small Ball jar filled with granola. It's sitting on a pink cloth with a spoon, and granola is strewn on the cloth around the jar and the spoon.

Ready for munchin’.

This granola was meant for the week ahead, but it’s so easy to munch a clump while walking through the kitchen that I admittedly don’t have as much as I wanted left over. But that’s okay. On Friday we’re heading to Rhode Island to hang out with my family, so I’ve got a four-day work week and don’t need full granola supplies. I will surely enjoy what remains, though – this is solid, simple, and delicious granola, a good base for any additions you might want to add. The only added fat is coconut oil, which I will exclusively use in granola in the future – it adds just the right hint of flavor without being overwhelmingly coconutty. And I’m a sucker for anything with Medjool dates – I can’t get enough of their unique caramel-y taste. The recipe is here, although I left out the chocolate chips, upped the spices, and used some agave along with the brown rice syrup when I ran out of the latter (pantry decimation, woo!). Next time I’ll add other dried fruits and perhaps some dark chocolate chips.

With any luck, I’ll have some granola left to munch during our travels on Friday. I doubt it, though. I’ll just have to make another batch next time I need some alone time. ;)

What’s your favorite granola recipe? What’s your favorite thing to do when you’ve got some alone time?