Saturday, December 22, 2012

make some (sugar free, unprocessed, 100% NATURAL) granola!

delicious homemade granola stored in an airtight mason jar
I keep my granola in a 1/2 gallon airtight mason jar. It will keep this way for months, but we eat it within weeks! 

I have a bit of a pet-peeve over the highway robbery that is called (drumroll please)---the grocery store. Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with all aspects of the grocery store. I mean, I'm very thankful for the abundance of produce and bulk dry ingredients available to me at my local Whole Foods. However, I get a little irritated when I walk down the cereal aisle and see that any organic variety of granola is AT LEAST $5 a bag. And when the bag is just a mere few ounces.... yeah, highway robbery at its finest.

Some might say, "Seriously, Amanda? You think I can make granola? And if I could, how would I find the time?" 

Then I would say, "Seriously, it will take you all of 5 minutes. It's so much healthier for you if you make it yourself, and you'll save a TON of your hard earned money."

I can make about 4 "bags" of homemade granola for a whopping $3 ($0.75 per bag). If I would have purchased that at the grocery store, you're talking over $20. That's $17 savings that can be put towards household bills/child's education fund/family vacation/that-dress-I've-been-eyeing/and these shoes/okay, I'll stop....

So what goes in this healthy, all natural granola? And why is it all so good for my body?

ingredients for homemade granola
I try to keep most all of my dry ingredients stored in glass jars---keeps them fresh and organized!
  • old fashioned, rolled oats :: can help lower cholesterol, has important antioxidant effects, it's a good carb, and helps digestion! 
  • raw almonds :: helps with respiratory disorders, anemia, diabetes, constipation, psoriasis, dental care, and....makes your hair look amazing.
  • pumpkin seeds :: high in magnesium (good for your heart), stables blood sugar, high in Omega 3s, high in zinc (i.e. another great super food)
  • sunflower seeds :: high in vitamin E, lowers cholesterol, high in selenium which helps with cancer prevention
  • sesame seeds :: good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, B1, zinc and fiber
  • dried fruit :: not as healthy as fruit in it's raw form, but a great snack with a nutritional punch
  • coconut oil + flakes :: I LOVE COCONUT OIL! It's so good for you not only internally but externally as well. Coconut oil helps improve heart health, boosts your thyroid, increases metabolism, promotes weight loss and supports your immune system. If you're interested in this great superfood, read this
  • local raw honey :: boosts energy, can provide relief from seasonable allergies, rich in nutrients and vitamins
  • cinnamon :: can help lower cholesterol, help treat Type 2 Diabetes, has an anti-clotting effect, fights E. coli, stabilize blood sugar
There are so many wonderful benefits to this granola, and it's tasty to boot! Please keep in mind that this recipe is just a's just how I like to make it! The ingredient combinations with granola are endless! Just make sure you keep similar ratios between the rolled oats, nuts/seeds and fruit. Enjoy!

Homemade Granola
preheat oven to 275 degrees

mix these together in a big bowl:
4 cups - old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup - chopped almonds
1/2 cup - pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup - sunflower seeds
1 cup - dried fruit (I used cranberries)
1/4 cup - coconut flakes
1/4 cup sesame seeds

granola, nuts, seeds, oatmeal and dried fruit in mixing bowl
I just love the colorful nature of real food!

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a big bowl. The coconut flakes will actually stick to the dried cranberries, which adds a little yummy sweetness to the finished product! 

chopped almonds
Chop your own nuts for ultimate freshness!

I chop my almonds myself with a sharp knife as we like to purchase them in bulk (much cheaper). You can use pre-chopped almonds if you wish. 

Then, combine these ingredients in a small sauce pan:
1/2 cup - coconut oil
1/2 cup - water 
1/4 cup (plus a little extra if desired) - local honey
1/2 teaspoon - cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon - pure vanilla extract

melt ingredients in a saucepan
You can't have enough wooden spoons!

Do not let this boil!! Heat on low only until it's well combined.


Dump the honey/coconut mixture all over your dried ingredient mixture. Smells amazing already, right?

mix everything together!

Stir well!

Once combined, spread the granola mixture evenly onto a baking sheet. Place in oven for 45 minutes at 225, stirring every 15 minutes. Do not forget to stir, it will burn and you will be ever so disappointed! 

After the granola has finished cooking, place on a baking rack to cool for 30 mins or so. 

let granola cool after removing it from the oven
p.s. Try to resist eating all of it while it's cooling. Then again, what the heck?

Enjoy with some delicious almond milk, or make a tasty parfait with some yogurt! (Or, if you're like me, eat it straight as a snack). 

homemade granola & almond milk

Homemade Granola

4 cups - old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup - chopped almonds
1/2 cup - pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup - sunflower seeds
1 cup - dried fruit (I used cranberries)
1/4 cup - coconut flakes
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup - coconut oil
1/2 cup - water 
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup (depends on how sweet you like your granola) - local honey
1/2 teaspoon - cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon - pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. In a large bowl combine oats, almonds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, dried fruit, coconut flakes and sunflower seeds. Mix well.

In a small saucepan, combine coconut oil, water, honey, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Heat until combined but do not boil! 

Add the coconut oil and honey mixture to the dry ingredients and mix very well! After combined, place evenly on cookie sheet. Cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes then store in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

almond milk, oh, glorious almond milk...

Let me introduce you to homemade almond milk:

Let me also introduce you to this glorious pitcher that I purchased for $2 at our local thrift store! I'm in love.

I swear it's one of the easiest things you'll ever make.

It's yummy.

It's cheap.

It's so much healthier than dairy.

And it's organic.

Why do I make my own almond milk? For starters, I try to live my life as healthy as possible. To me, and everyone is different, this means choosing organic options when available, living toxin free (to the best of my ability), eating vegetarian meals 4-5 days a week and making exercise a priority. I also like to save money and to live a simple which I'm convinced, is one of the keys of happiness.

Now let's move on to the recipe...

Almond Milk

1 cup Organic Almonds (unpasturized is best, I purchase mine at our local Organic Co-op)
4 cups Water (I use filtered)
1/8 cup (or less) Local Honey (read this)

Combine almonds and 4 cups of water in a glass dish and allow to soak for 12-24 hours. Don't use a plastic dish to soak the almonds (due to toxins in the plastic) and metal can leave it with a funny taste. After the almonds have finished soaking, place the almonds and water mixture in a blender and add honey. Blend for 15 seconds on low, then 1 minute 30 seconds on high.

You now have a nice beautiful almond milk sitting in your blender. Easy, huh?

Here's a tip... you don't have to use the honey. We only do this occasionally as it adds a good bit of yummy sweetness to the milk. However, if you like the taste of almonds, then you're probably going to enjoy the succulent combination of almonds and water!

Also, unless you want pureed almonds in your milk (and some people do), then you need to strain it. I make almond milk enough that I justified spending $7.99 on a nut milk bag....and truly, I love it! If you want another alternative, just strain the milk through several layers of cheesecloth. The biggest downside to using cheesecloth is that it can only be used once or twice for straining almond milk before it has to be thrown away. The second biggest reason is, well, it just takes so blasted long to strain! :(

I save all of the remaining almond pulp in a container in the freezer and use it to make things like cookies, macaroons, granola and breads.

So what can you use your almond milk for besides thirst quenching? Pretty much everything! I use almond milk at a 1:1 ratio, interchangeably, in recipes that call for dairy. I've never had a problem using it in a dish or baked item where dairy is requested (I use it in our bread each week), and it's extremely hard to tell a difference in the taste once the item is cooked! These days, the only thing that we use dairy for is to make butter (and oh, oohhhhhhhh, homemade butter is nothing short of amazing....I feel a blog post coming on).

All in all, you will probably spend less than $1.50 on fresh, organic almond milk. Goodbye, store bought sugar filled (most likely fake) almond milk. Hello, healthiness (or should that be "happiness"?).

:: manda