Monday, January 26, 2015

Easy Homemade Granola

Granola is one of those foods that is assumed to be healthy.  However the granola of the past has transformed into today's high sugar, high calorie junk food that disguises itself as healthy by it's name .  Depending on the brand, granola falls into the same category as Vitamin Water, fat-free foods and baked chips.  Their names imply healthy, but they are anything but.    

Cascadian Farms granola is one of the better cereal options. Their cereals do not contain high fructose corn syrup or trans fats.  They are organic which means no GMOs, no use of toxic pesticides and artificial ingredients. However, some Cascadian Farms granola is higher in sugar than I like.  For the little effort that goes into making your own Granola, why not give it a try?  The cost and effort is minimal, you can control the amount and type of sugar and the flavor options are endless.

Here is my recipe for Maple Cinnamon Pecan Granola
Other flavors you can try: 
* Cranberry Chocolate
* Cinnamon Raisin
* Harvest Pumpkin Seed ( fall spices like cinnamon, clove, ginger and pumpkin seeds)
* use honey in place of maple syrup

16.5 cups of Old Fashioned Oats ( I used Publix Greenwise Organic Oats which equalled about 2 1/2 containers)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons organic cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup organic cane sugar 
1 cup chopped pecans

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.  In a glass measuring cup mix coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla and sugar.  Stir until well combined.  Pour mixture over the oats.  With gloved hands, toss until oil mixture is well coated over all the oats.  Place in the oven at 300 degrees for 15 minutes.  Stir, then bake for another 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack.  It will harden as it cools.  Evenly toss the pecans in the granola.  Once completely cooled.  Place in an airtight container for storage.  Will keep for months. But it won't last that long. 

Mix oats and spices

Measure coconut oil, maple syrup and sugar
My helper's mouth is watering.
Mixing ingredients together
Remove from oven and cool

Toss in pecans or nut of choice
Use parchment to help you pour into storage container

Mikey likes it!


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cookie Revolution Crumbled

It has been awhile. My apologies.  I thought I would up-date you on the results of the Baking Committee.  My first week baking didn't go off with a bang.  My cookies came out delicious but unfortunately they were competing against GIANT sized store bought cookies with lots of bright colored candies in them.  The bake sale happens during lunch and the kids are allowed to go to the bake sale cart and choose their item.  I had Archer scout out how many kids chose Mommy's cookie.  His reply:  " No one at my table had your cookie, Mom."  (he sighed)  "They chose the one's with the yucky M & N's".  "Does that mean we get to keep the rest?"  Oh how he knows how to mend a broken heart. 
Week 2, I pulled out a recipe for a double chocolate muffins, made with organic cocoa, coconut oil and mini chocolate chips. They are moist, the right amount of sweet and very chocolate-y!

I thought this might attract a few more kids but that week a fellow committee member provided her baked goods courtesy of Publix bakery.  They were purple and orange colored cupcakes.  My expensive organic goods were dead in the water.  I was starting to feel like this was a waste of time, money and effort.  The worst part was, imagining all those organic goods being tossed in the trash!  

Well by week 3 something happened. I am not sure if someone who was not in grade school tried my treats or perhaps other parents were voicing concerns over their child having a healthier option at the bake sale but a survey went out.  They asked committee members how the bake sale could be changed to provide healthy options, that were more reasonably sized for kids.  (!!!)  My hope was restored!  I spent some time carefully drafting my reply.  I including my thoughts about providing actually home-baked goods. As this would reduce the amount of chemicals and sugars our kids would be getting.  Baking from home also naturally provides a more modest sized treat vs. one's provided by the store. I also added that since homemade goods cost more in time and money, that perhaps they could reward home-bakers with more volunteer hours. (Perhaps this may entice some to dust off their aprons?) 
A few changes were made.  The following week we were asked to provide only homemade goods!  Well I guess this blew some flour in the wrong direction because all those Publix BOGO buyers were in up-roar.  I guess members of the baking committee didn't like being asked to bake. I get it.  Baking takes time and if you are a working parent then time is precious.  Sometimes you have to pick and choose where your time will go.
So a compromise was made.  The non-bakers were allowed to provide their packaged goods but portion control was asked to be kept in mind.  Also more hours were allotted for those who provided home baked goods.  
After spending a decent amount of money, time and effort into providing baked goods for my son's lunch bake sales, I learned a valuable lesson.  You can't just provide kids (or adults) a healthy food (healthcare, supplement...) choices and expect them to choose it when they have not been educated about their choices.  
I take for granted that my children would choose an apple any-day over a donut. I take for granted that when we eat other places outside the home my son whispers in my ear, "is that organic?".  To some, this may sound like I am raising a brood of food snobs.  To us, it is about educating our children about the foods they put into their body and what affects it will have; not only for that day but in their future. 

After 2 months of baking for the baking committee I earned enough hours to commit to some other volunteer projects.  I did bake two homemade breads for the Pastor appreciation breakfast, in hopes that the adults may at least try that whole wheat cinnamon raisin bread before filling their plate with donut holes.  

This bread smells and tastes amazing!

Here is my recipes for one of them:  Banana Nut Bread

Made using coconut oil.
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1/4 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 organic sugar
1/4 cup whole milk plain yogurt or sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened or melted
3  bananas, very ripe*, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts/pecans, chopped 
Preheat oven to 350. Grease loaf pan with butter or line with parchment paper.  (sorry coconut oil won't work) Place flour, spices, salt and baking soda together in a large mixing bowl and toss with a whisk until well mixed. In another mixing bowl, beat the coconut oil, bananas, yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla on medium speed, until soft;  about 3 minutes. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until all is combined.  Toss in chopped nuts and fold in with spatula until well dispersed.  Pour into prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 45 min-1 hour.  Begin checking at around 35 min as some batches will bake quicker than others based on the sugar content of the bananas.  
To check for done-ness, a toothpick should be inserted in middle of the loaf and it will come out clean without batter.  Cool slightly then overturn onto cooling rack. Slice when cooled and enjoy.  Freezes and defrosts very well.
*  The perfect bananas for this loaf are ones that have reached maximum ripeness and then placed in the freezer.  Defrost before using, by placing them on a plate on the kitchen counter overnight.  Once soggy, store in fridge for up to 1 day until ready to use.
Melting Hardened coconut oil
If your coconut oil is in a solid state that means it is being stored at a temperature below 76 degrees.  No worries.  Measure out what you need and place in a glass measuring cup.  If your oven has a "KEEP WARM" setting, turn that on. If not turn the oven on for a few minutes at the lowest temperature, then shut off the oven. Place glass measuring cup with solid coconut oil in the heated oven for around 5-10min to soften.  This will allow the oil to incorporate better into the other ingredients. 

Banana bread with coconut oil