A friend of mine recently posted a bit of a rant on Facebook about food blogs that make you scroll through 6,000 pictures and an 800 word banal anecdote before you can actually get to the recipe. I get it. Certainly, recipes are the main reason people visit food blogs…at least, I assume so. That’s the reason I visit food blogs, anyway. We’re not here for the story of how your dog is so adorable and that somehow relates to this casserole, or how you spilled all your Worcestershire and were forced to make this sauce with soy sauce instead. (“But it turned out AMAZING!”)
The truth is, though, as a food blogger, sometimes it’s a bit of a stretch to come up with anything meaningful to say about, say, a salad that just came together on a weeknight and was good enough to share. Cause that’s kind of the whole story. And people end up trying way too hard, when maybe the recipe can speak for itself.
Sorta the case with this Vanilla Chai Granola. All I’ve really got to say is: it’s tasty, easy, and goes great with some Siggi’s vanilla yogurt and some strawberries in a breakfast parfait. Other than that, I could see it as a unique topping for a fruit crumble or a simple start to the day with a splash of milk.
So since I’m not talking your ear off about the recipe…can you forgive a couple extra pictures? 😉
Vanilla Chai Granola
- 2 1/2 c. old-fashioned oats (gluten free, if necessary)
- 2/3 c. pecan pieces
- 1/3 c. slivered almonds
- 1/4 c. canola oil
- 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 2 tsp. vanilla
- 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/8 tsp. ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp. ground coriander
- pinch salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees and spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir together oats, pecans, and almonds.
- In a medium bowl, combine canola oil, maple syrup, brown sugar, and vanilla.
- In a small bowl, combine cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and salt.
- Pour oil mixture over oat mixture and stir to coat, then do the same with the spice mixture over all.
- Spread in a layer on the baking sheet and bake about 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Aww, I totally missed it. May was National Strawberry Month, and I really meant to squeeze this recipe in before May ended three days ago. Then again, I’m not actually in the country, so I think I kind of get a pass on being up to speed on the whole “National (insert item here) Month” idea (though June is National Dairy Month, which I can totally get behind–and also, weirdly, National Potty Training Awareness Month? I’m as aware as I want to be on that subject…)
Plus, it seems to me like the entire summer should be called National Strawberry Season. Strawberries are one of those foods that just scream summer. When I think of strawberries and summer, I think of a refreshing poolside snack, sweet strawberry ice cream, and the edible red stripes on the American flag of a Fourth of July dessert. And now, after this recipe, I think…applesauce! Incorporating strawberries into applesauce is a great way to use up those last loner berries you got on mega summer sale that have faded from their grocery store beauty contest-best and are a wee bit too mushy to be featured in your attractive strawberry dessert. After all, in applesauce, everything is supposed to be mushy and mixed! It’s like the meatloaf of snacks.
So if you’d love a new spin on a healthy, whole foods classic or your kids are home for the summer and you need something a little different than the granola bars on repeat at snack time, give this easy strawberry applesauce a try! (And don’t think too hard about that whole “meatloaf of snacks” comment…I promise, it’s really tasty. 😉)
P.S. For more strawberry fun, read my 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Strawberries post!
- 10 apples (Granny Smith are always good for applesauce), peeled, cored, and chopped
- 1 c. water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 c. strawberries, hulled and chopped
- 1/3-1/2 c. sugar (white or brown)
- In a large pot, bring apples, water, and cinnamon stick to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Mash until chunky.
- Add strawberries and cook another 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick. Using an immersion blender, puree until the mixture reaches a consistency you like. Remove from heat and stir in sugar to taste.
- Serve warm or chill until ready to serve.
We need to talk about beans. If I’ve never mentioned it before, allow me to say right now, standing tall with my hand over my heart, that I believe beans may be the perfect food. I say this not only because it will earn me points with other nutrition professionals (though they are pretty unanimously also in love with beans, as far as I’ve seen), but because beans are…
– High in fiber
– Low in fat
– Plant-based protein
– High in iron
– Gluten-free (for those who need it)
– Super versatile
And, if you ask me, they taste pretty darn good, too. So I generally try to include them in my diet on a frequent basis. Casseroles, soups, tacos, salads, and even certain pasta dishes are great food items to drop some beans into. And I do mean that literally, not euphemistically.
Lately I’ve been on a homemade hummus kick, but since I balk at buying any actual tahini (have you ever bought tahini? You have to buy like gallon at a time and it’s hella expensive!) I’ve been experimenting with recipes that don’t call for it, like this garlicky version with plenty of my dear wonderfood, beans! With two full cans of cannellini or Great Northern beans, this recipe makes a big batch, perfect for sneaking off into a closet with the bowl clutched to your bosom so no one else can eat it. I mean, for parties. PARTIES is what I meant to say.
Seriously, though, this white bean hummus is my new favorite snack/appetizer/side. Even though I’ve scoffed in the past about how hummus and pita chips is everyone’s go-to, last-minute, classier-than-chips potluck contribution, the deliciousness of this version kicks it up into “bring this any time” territory. Mild white beans mixed with punchy garlic, lemon juice, cumin, pepper, and parsley creates the perfect edible yin and yang.
And finally, because beans didn’t have their own theme song, here is Brak from the ’90s Cartoon Network show Space Ghost to sing you a very special tune about them:
White Bean Hummus
- 2 Tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 c. olive oil
- 2 15-oz. cans Great Northern or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley (or 2 tsp. dried)
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. white or black pepper
- pinch cayenne pepper
- In a small saucepan, cook garlic in olive oil over medium heat until garlic begins to brown. Remove from heat. With a slotted spoon, scoop garlic into the bowl of a food processor.
- To the food processor bowl, add drained beans, lemon juice, cumin, parsley, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process until smooth.
- Carefully pour in reserved olive oil while the machine is running and process until well incorporated.
- Serve immediately or store refrigerated in an airtight container. Enjoy with pita chips or fresh veggies!
January in Phoenix brings many things: the Phoenix Open, the famous Barrett Jackson car auction, citrus fruits up the wazoo, and of course, snowbirds…
But let’s get back to the citrus (because it’s not even February and I’ve already had enough of snowbirds).
As I always say, whenever this time of year comes around, Arizonans will do almost anything to offload their overabundant citrus fruits. Neighbors don’t want them, schools have had enough of them, and the food banks refuse them, because even the poor and needy will balk at lemons, oranges, and grapefruit breakfast, lunch, and dinner after awhile. We get to the point where we start looking around for a Citrus Drop-off Safe Haven, like they do for babies.
So yesterday when the guy who takes care of our lawn all too eagerly handed me a shopping bag brimming with oranges, I knew I’d have to form a plan. Thankfully, the stars aligned and a way to use up my newly acquired citrus gift presented itself almost immediately: our church’s annual picnic. With my “G” last name, the church bulletin assigned me and the other A-L’s to bring a side dish to go along with the hot dog lunch being served at the picnic. I *could* have been a lame-o and simply dropped off the Little Orphan Oranges on the buffet table in the hopes that the good people of the church would find them all their forever families, but I decided to be a bit more responsible and make them into an actual side dish.
This fresh and different stacked orange salad is the result. Sprinkled with almonds and coconut and drizzled with a sweet vanilla syrup, it’s a hybrid side dish/snack/dessert that disappeared fast from the sea of chips and same ol’ veggie trays at the church picnic. And since it came together quickly, easily, and attractively with minimal ingredients, I know I’ll make it again–especially when I have oranges to use up.
Oranges with Vanilla Syrup
- 7 medium oranges, peeled
- 1/2 c. white sugar
- 1/2 c. water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 c. slivered almonds
- 1/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut
- Slice peeled oranges into equal pieces and arrange on a platter.
- In a small saucepan, bring sugar, water, and vanilla extract to a boil over medium-low, stirring constantly. Simmer 5 minutes, then let cool.
- Sprinkle orange slices with almonds and coconut, then drizzle with the cooled syrup. (If you have extra syrup, save for another use--I'm sure it would taste great in coffee!)
Some restaurant meals are nothing short of mythical in their unattainability. You eat them and think, “This is why I eat at restaurants. Because I could never make these delicious truffle oil-infused french fries/bacon-wrapped seared scallops/whole grain pancakes with farro and spelt” at home. (That or “I could never take myself seriously buying ingredients like truffle oil.”) It’s part of why I’m willing to pay good money to eat out. Cause, folks, I enjoy interesting foods, but ain’t buyin’ no truffle oil at my local Fry’s Food and Drug…or farro and spelt. Or sparrow and felt. (P.S. Just so you know, another term for spelt is “dinkel wheat.” Take that, fancy foodies.) Plus, I don’t know how to wrap scallops with bacon, nor am I sure that I could get through doing so without eating all the bacon.
Sometimes, though, you eat a really exceptional restaurant meal and you think, “Huh, I bet I could make this at home without much difficulty.” Like this Mediterranean-inspired rice with almonds and golden raisins. This side dish has always been a favorite of our family’s at a local Middle Eastern restaurant called Flaming Kabob…a place which, I should mention because it’s bizarre and hilarious, was originally a 50s-themed 5 & Diner and the interior of which has never been altered one iota since the change of ownership.
Anyway, despite its atypical appearance for a Middle Eastern restaurant (and the fact that we’ve never seen the place more than about 25% full, even on a Friday night) their food rocks, and after our last “Combo for Two” that fed our family of five with leftovers, my husband asked if I could try making the rice they serve with their chicken shawarma.
Well, sure! Why not? It didn’t seem like it could be that hard, since I didn’t taste anything super fancy in it and the ingredients seemed pretty straightforward. Rice. Almonds. Golden Raisins. Doesn’t sound too convoluted. And it isn’t! There really isn’t anything unexpected in this recipe, except for the lovely combination of flavors that gives it sweetness, crunch, and just the right savory versatility to accompany a variety of Middle Eastern (or other) dishes. For beef kofta, chicken shawarma, or even any plain dinner meat that needs some livening up, it’ll be my new go-to for a snazzy but simple side dish.
Restaurant meals, beware! I’m coming for you! (As long as you don’t involve truffle oil.)
Rice with Almonds and Golden Raisins
(Adapted from Allrecipes.com)
1 Tbsp. butter
1/3 c. diced onion
1 c. jasmine rice
1 3/4 c. chicken broth (or vegetable, to make vegan)
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/3 c. golden raisins
salt and pepper, to taste
- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sauté onion until tender, 4-5 minutes. Add pinch cinnamon and stir.
- Add rice, chicken broth, almonds, and golden raisins. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper to taste.