Maple Coconut Quinoa Granola

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This maple coconut quinoa (yes, I said quinoa) granola is so good! The maple and coconut flavors pair really well together and the quinoa adds a great crunch.

I created this recipe out of desperation. I’ve had tummy trouble for as long as I can remember, so I’ve recently started the low FODMAP diet to see if I can pinpoint the cause. You can read more about the low FODMAP diet here if you’re interested, but in a nutshell, I have to eliminate a number of “problem” foods for several weeks and then slowly add them back to determine which foods are triggering my symptoms. That means some of my favorite foods are now off-limits (cereal with milk, apples with peanut butter, avocados, bread, ice cream (gasp!), etc).

Desperate to find a low FODMAP snack that I could enjoy (gluten-free, dairy-free, etc), I came up with this recipe, and boy am I glad that I did! I would eat this over wheat cereal any day. Even my kids and husband loved it.

Maple Coconut Quinoa Granola

My favorite way to eat this granola is sprinkled over yogurt (lactose-free for me) with some frozen raspberries. Yum!

Maple Coconut Quinoa Granola with Yogurt

Keep in mind that raisins, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pumpkin seeds are considered low FODMAP as long as they are kept in small quantities (2 tablespoons or less), so keep your portions small if you are following a low FODMAP diet.

I also recommend soaking the nuts and seeds prior to making this recipe, especially if you have trouble digesting them. The soaking/drying process will take about 24 hours, so be sure to start the day before you want to make the granola. Or you can skip the soaking process if you’re short on time.

3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup pre-soaked nut/seed mix (instructions below)
1/2 cup gluten-free oats
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Pour the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse well under cold water to remove the bitter coating. Add the rinsed quinoa, nuts/seeds, oats, shredded coconut, and salt to a large bowl and stir to combine. (Note: if you are using pre-soaked nuts/seeds (instructions below) they will be lightly salted, so you may want to reduce the amount of salt in the recipe.) Pour in the melted coconut oil and maple syrup and mix together until evenly coated.

Spread the granola out on a large cookie sheet and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, stirring a few times during baking. Remove from the oven and stir in the golden raisins, then let cool for at least 15 minutes. Store in an airtight container on the counter.

Nut/Seed Soaking Instructions:

  1. Fill a large bowl with warm water and mix in a tablespoon of salt.
  2. Add raw sunflower seeds, raw pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts and chopped almonds to the bowl (or your favorite nuts and seeds).
  3. Soak nuts in the salt water overnight for 10 – 12 hours.
  4. Preheat the oven to 125 degrees.
  5. Drain the nuts and spread onto a large baking sheet and bake in the preheated oven for about 10 hours (this will dry out the nuts and prevent them from getting moldy).
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Spinach and Bacon Frittata

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Hello, my friends! I have some good news to share today: I’m starting a new job next week! I plan on continuing to post delicious recipes for you, but you may notice a trend towards more “make ahead” and easy to prepare meals.

This frittata recipe is a perfect recipe for a busy weeknight. It’s tasty, filling, and ready in a flash. I’ve never made a frittata before, but it’s kind of a cross between a crust-less quiche and an omelet, although the flavor is more omelet-y since it doesn’t have any cream.

I adapted this from an Alton Brown recipe (I just love him), which you can find here.

6-8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped*
6 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup shredded parmesan
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon butter
2 cups of baby spinach, chopped

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, parmesan, and pepper.

Heat a 12-inch cast iron pan (or other oven-proof pan) over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan. When the butter melts, add the chopped bacon and spinach and sauté for about 2 minutes, or until the spinach is wilted.

Pour the eggs into the pan and quickly stir the eggs, bacon, and spinach together. Once combined, stop stirring, and let cook for about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the egg mixture begins to set around the edges.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler to a low setting and set the oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source.

Once the egg mixture begins to set around the edges, place the pan in the oven and broil for about 3 minutes, or until lightly browned and puffy.

Cut into wedges and serve hot with a big green salad.

*To reduce the time and mess involved in cooking bacon, place the bacon strips in a single layer on a cooling rack, and place the cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes.

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How to Eat a Pomegranate

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It’s pomegranate season and now is the time to get your pomegranate fix! These wonderful fruits contain antioxidants, potassium and fiber, so they are healthy as well as delicious. Pomegranates can be tricky to eat, so I’m going to share my method for harvesting all of those tiny seeds (a.k.a. arils). This process will take about 5 minutes – well worth the 15 minutes of complete silence that I get from my children while they enjoy the fruits of my labor!  

Choosing a Pomegranate:
Select a pomegranate that has a bright and shiny red exterior, with no cuts, bruises, or brown spots. Brown spots are usually an indication of rotten seeds on the inside, so select your pomegranate carefully. A ripe pomegranate will also feel heavy in your hand.

Removing the Pomegranate Seeds:
Slice off the stem-end (not the crown-end) of the pomegranate, just enough so that you see a few of the pomegranate seeds (about ¼ inch into the pomegranate). Use your knife to score the skin into wedges all the way around the pomegranate. Don’t cut too deep – just enough to go through the skin. 

Put a medium bowl in the sink and fill it with water. Pomegranate juice can stain, so I use a bowl of water to contain the inevitable spray of pomegranate juice while I’m prying out the seeds. Submerge the pomegranate in the water and use your hands to break the pomegranate apart into wedges. Remove all but one of the wedges from the bowl.  

While holding the pomegranate wedges under water, use your thumbs to gently pry out the pomegranate seeds, letting them fall into the bowl. Continue for the remaining pomegranate wedges. (Note: Ripe pomegranate seeds will be plump, shiny, and bright red. Discard any seeds that look cloudy or soft.) 

Drain the water and enjoy!

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Apple Pumpkin Muffins

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These Apple Pumpkin Muffins are so good! It’s like apple pie and pumpkin pie combined, but much healthier. I used 2 cups of Truvia Baking Blend, but the muffins were a bit too sweet for my taste, so I suggest using a bit less sugar (or your favorite sugar alternative). These muffins are excellent with my morning coffee or tea and are healthy enough to feel good about packing them in my children’s lunch boxes.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups Truvia Baking Blend (or your favorite sugar/sweetener)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 15oz can canned pumpkin puree
1/2 cup applesauce
2 cups, peeled and chopped apple
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or line 18 muffin cups.

Add the flours, oats, Truvia (or sugar), cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, baking soda, and salt to a large bowl, and whisk together until well combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the eggs, pumpkin, and applesauce. Add this mixture to the flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the chopped apples and walnuts. Spoon the batter evenly among the 18 muffin cups.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the tops of the muffins spring back when lightly tapped.

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Blueberry Banana Coconut Smoothie

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The weather is warming up and it’s finally berry season! I love making healthy smoothies with ripe berries for a refreshing snack or a quick breakfast. I’ve been trying to cut back on sugar, so I don’t usually add any sweetener (the fruit is usually sweet enough). You may want to add a bit of honey if you like your smoothies a bit sweeter. I also add some fresh spinach to all of my smoothies now – you won’t even know it’s there!

1 cup of crushed ice
2/3 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 banana, sliced
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
Small handful of baby spinach
1-2 tablespoons milk

Put all of the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. You can also use a stick blender to blend your smoothie together (I got one for Christmas and it makes my smoothie prep a breeze!).

Pour your smoothie into a tall glass, add a straw and enjoy the refreshing goodness.

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Chocolate Chip Walnut Scones

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Let’s face it; scones are basically giant cookies that we get to eat for breakfast, so why not add some good stuff like chocolate chips! These flaky and mildly sweet scones are wonderful with your morning coffee or tea, and a good way to sneak some chocolate in before lunch time. I adapted this recipe from Joy of Cooking. These scones freeze beautifully, so you can store the extra scones in the freezer and defrost them as needed.

1 cup unbleached flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or use all unbleached flour for a lighter texture)
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup roughly chopped walnuts
1 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk together the unbleached flour, white whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the cold butter into the flour mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the largest pieces are about the size of peas.

Stir in the chocolate chips and the walnuts. Add the heavy cream, and mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Use your hand to gently knead the dough against the sides of the bowl about 5 to 10 times.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and pat down the dough until it is about 3/4 inch thick. Cut the dough into 12 wedges (you can make them larger, if you prefer) and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake until the edges are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving.

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Chocolate Banana Bread with Walnuts

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It has been cold and wet this week so I have been in a bit of a baking frenzy. I started the week with this amazing chocolate banana bread. The chocolate adds some decadence to this moist bread and changes simple breakfast bread into a sweet treat.

1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 overripe bananas
3/4 cup unbleached flour
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour (or use all unbleached flour)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork, then stir into the butter mixture.

In a medium bowl, add the unbleached flour, white whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder. Use a whisk to stir the dry ingredients together until well combined.

Gradually mix the flour mixture into the banana mixture. Mix in the milk, and then stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts.

Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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White Chocolate and Dried Cranberry Scones

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My dad shared this delicious scone recipe with me, with the bold claim that they are the best scones ever. I love scones, so I was anxious to give this recipe a try. While maybe not the best scones I’ve ever had, they are certainly in my Top 3. The white chocolate adds little pockets of sweetness that perfectly compliment the tart dried cranberries. I modified the recipe a bit by adding some white whole wheat flour (for fiber and texture) and some chopped walnuts.

2 cups of unbleached flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (or use all unbleached flour for a lighter texture)
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus enough whole milk to make 1 cup)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.  Add the butter pieces and cut in the butter with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. If you don’t have a pastry blender, use two butter knifes to cut the butter into the flour mixture. Here’s a quick video I found that shows you how to do this:

Stir in the cranberries, walnuts, and white chocolate chips. Add the buttermilk to the bowl and stir until the mixture forms a soft dough that clings together (dough will be sticky).

Lightly flour a flat work surface (I use my countertop) and your hands.  Divide dough in half and shape each half into a ball.  Pat each ball into an 8 inch circle.  Place the circles on a lightly greased cookie sheet.  Score each circle into 8 wedges with floured knife, cutting about ¾ of the way into the dough. (Note: baking the scones together in a circle, worked fine, but the edges of the scones remained soft (like the interior of the scone), rather than developing a nice crust. Next time I make these I am going to try separating the wedges before baking.)

Bake at 425 degrees for 16-18 minutes, or until lightly browned. Let cool for about 10 minutes, while you brew a cup of tea to enjoy with your warm scone.

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Almond Butter Balls

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My kids love peanut butter and almond butter. They would eat it right out of the jar, if I let them. These no-bake balls are ready to eat in minutes and make a perfect after-school snack. The oats provide fiber and energy, and the almond butter adds protein and healthy fats. Just what tired kids (and moms!) need after a long day. This makes a small batch; just enough for a day or two.

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2 tablespoons honey (use less if your coconut is sweetened)
Coconut flakes, unsweetened cocoa, and finely chopped almonds for coating

Combine the oats, almond butter, 1/2 cup flaked coconut, and honey in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. It may take a few minutes of stirring to completely combine the ingredients.

Using your hands, press the mixture into 1-inch balls and roll them in the coating (coconut, cocoa, or almonds).

The balls can be stored at room temperature, but I prefer to store them in the fridge to help them keep their shape (less messy to eat too).

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Low Fat Bran Muffins

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I love bran muffins, but some recipes I’ve tried produce muffins that are dry and heavy, and not very appealing. This recipe, however, makes muffins that are light and tender, and so delicious that I’d choose them over a regular blueberry muffin any day. Click here to see the original recipe. This is a great recipe for those of us watching our weight, because it’s low fat and loaded with fiber. I prefer to use fresh blueberries, but I didn’t have any on hand this time, so I substituted golden raisins instead. These muffins are very perishable, so I usually freeze any muffins that won’t be consumed in a couple of days. Then I take individual muffins from the freezer and defrost them in the microwave when I’m ready to eat them. This recipe makes 12 muffins.

1 1/2 cups wheat bran (not wheat germ)
1 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries (or substitute another fruit, or 1/2 cup raisins)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease your muffin pan.

In a small bowl, mix together the wheat bran and milk, and let stand for 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together the applesauce, egg, brown sugar, and vanilla. Mix in the bran mixture.

In another bowl, use a whisk to mix together the all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir the flour mixture into the bran mixture until just blended. Fold in blueberries (or raisins, etc).

Use a spoon to fill the muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tops spring back when lightly tapped. Cool on a wire rack. Store muffins loosely covered at room temperature. Freeze any muffins that you don’t eat within 2-3 days.

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