Category Archives: Grains

Homemade Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

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Your (soon to be) favorite granola bar.

When I was pregnant and shortly after I had my son fifteen months ago, I received a great deal of advice.  Some of the advice was game changing, like the advice to get an Ergobaby carrier so I could “wear him down” to sleep while still getting some things done.  Some of the advice clearly works for some babies but not mine…like the advice to put River in his crib and allow him to soothe himself to sleep.  Let me just say that after many, many, many attempts and variations, he wants nothing to do with that business (and who would, when they can fall asleep with their head on mama’s warm chest, listening to the thump thump of her heart?).  And some of the advice was just plain weird, like the time I was told by a well-meaning stranger at a concert that I should take a washcloth and rub vigorously to “toughen up my nipples” before I had my son.  Seriously.  A stranger told me that.  I can’t make this stuff up.

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Two pieces of advice that have been truly invaluable during this time have been 1) to take care of myself and 2) to embrace routine.  Both are often easier said than done but over time I have found some great ways to streamline my day and make sure my basic needs are met so I can be a good caregiver and worker.  As a food lover and still-nursing and pumping mom, that means making sure that I have snacks and lunches prepped and packed for the week every Sunday.  I’m all about making one big batch of snacks and lunches to last through the weekdays.  Freezable dishes?  Even better.  This recipe for granola bars provides me with a healthy snack that is easy to make ahead of time, easy to pack, provides a great boost of energy, and is freezable.  A super food.

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Roasted oats and nuts added to the dried fruit.

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Adding the brown rice syrup, honey, and peanut butter.

When I started out on my task of creating a granola bar recipe, several recipes I encountered online required baking the bars.  I found that it was very difficult to get a consistent end result that was not dry or too chewy.  After much tweaking and taste testing, this granola bar recipe is the result of my efforts.  It requires roasting the grains and nuts ahead of time to add flavor without drying or hardening the bar.  After the grains and nuts are roasted, it only takes a few moments to stir the dry and wet ingredients and to pat them in the pan to set.  Easy.  Delicious.  Cheaper than a Kind bar.  My favorite granola bar yet.  I hope you love it too.

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Combining the wet and dry ingredients until everything is evenly coated.

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Use a flat bottomed bowl or measuring cup to tamp down the mixture.

Have a sweet tooth?  These granola bars are naturally sweet from the brown rice syrup and touch of honey.  Still hankering?  To turn this into more of a dessert granola bar, add a handful of dark chocolate chips to the mix.  You won’t regret it!

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With dark chocolate chips added.

Homemade Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

Ingredients

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup puffed millet (optional – you can use another cup of rolled oats if you don’t have puffed millet)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 2.5 cups dried fruits such as raisins, cranberries, etc.
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I like to use crunchy)
  • 2/3 cup brown rice syrup (I buy at iHerb.com)

Instructions

  1. Put the oats, millet, almonds, and pumpkin seeds on a large sheet pan. Spread to distribute evenly. Roast at 350 degrees for 13-15 minutes until crispy but not browned.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the honey, peanut butter, and brown rice syrup on low in a saucepan. Heat just enough to easily be able to mix the peanut butter with the sweetener.
  3. Put the dried fruit into a large bowl. Add the roasted grains and nuts and mix. Pour the liquid mixture onto the dry mixture and stir well to combine.
  4. Pour the mixture onto a sheet pan or a 9x13 baking pan lined with parchment paper. Press the mixture into the pan hard enough to ensure the mixture will adhere and be able to be cut into bars. I recommend using a flat bottomed measuring cup or bowl to press the mixture into the pan!
  5. Place the pan into the fridge to cool off for an hour.
  6. Cut the bars into squares or rectangles.
  7. These also freeze very well so you may freeze any extras you have.
  8. Makes about 24 bars.
http://dinnerwithaura.com/homemade-fruit-and-nut-granola-bars/

Pumpkinseed, Date, and Tahini Bars

DSC_0807 It’s been quite a while so this is going to be a looooong post….about pumpkinseed, date, and tahini bars.  About Transitions lenses.  About motherhood.  Let’s start with transitions.

Transitions…I’ve had a few.

Three years ago I lived by myself in a historic home in downtown Grand Rapids.  I worked from home and spackled, sanded, and painted my house in the evenings.  I took my dog for a walk nearly every night and would stop to watch live music downtown.  I did yoga four to five times per week – once I even did thirty classes in thirty days for a challenge.  I posted on this blog every week.  Yup.  Every week.

That feels like a lifetime ago.  In what feels like the blink of an eye, my whole world has forever changed.  I recently did five yoga classes…in seven weeks.  It was a small victory. Parenting, nursing, and working full time doing research for a footwear company has changed the every moment and the every day.  For one, I’ve had a real reality check in the kitchen.  Like packing my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks for the entire work week on Sundays so I can eat well throughout the week.  Like steaming, baking, and pureeing everything I can think of so my little one can enjoy healthy and diverse solid foods and learn to love food like I do (puh-lease do not turn out to be a picky eater…I will crumble).  Like burning the rice syrup while making these granola bars because he crawled out of the room (how did he get so fast???).  Like nearly burning the granola bars because I left them in for two extra minutes.

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Now put away your tiny violin.  I’m not telling you a sob story.  Most of everything has been so positive.  My son brings more happiness to me than I could have ever imagined.  I get to see the world from his perspective and finally have someone else in the house who completely gets my humor (he giggles when I pretend to smell his feet and say peeeeeuw!).  And like everything else, this stage is a transition, a phase that won’t last forever.  So I’ll just do my best, and keep on trucking.

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But I digress.  I wanted to talk about Transitions for another reason.  The good folks at Transition Lenses asked me to try out a pair of glasses.  Don’t mind if I do, I said, I’ll try anything once.  I have to admit that the first image that crossed my mind was Cindy Knoebel.  Seventh grade.  Small glasses not much larger than swim goggles.  Looking like she wore her sunglasses inside for ten minutes after first hour started.  It didn’t really seem like my thing.  Now, keep in mind that I was not exactly hip.  I wore ugly-with-a-capital-U non-Transition lenses.  Non-shading and non-transitioning from ugly.  And keep in mind that Cindy Knoebel turned out to be prom queen and married the prom king.  Maybe she was onto something.  Anyhow, I gave them a shot and I have to say…I was pleasantly surprised.  The tinting changes much more quickly than in the past.  I was asked to choose from several shading options.  And was able to add all the fancy stuff like anti-glare and a blue-screen filter to protect my eyes from the many hours in front of the computer screens at work.  I also ran into two very cool people at an outdoor music festival this weekend wearing Transition lenses.  Seems like it may be the cool people wearing them after all.

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Well finally, let’s get back to what this blog is all about.  Food.  These granola bars from Cooking Light are my snacks for the week.  On principle, I don’t buy snack bars because I know I can make them myself (but never do).  They were so easy to make (they require about 10 minutes of dedicated attention), very easily adaptable, and very healthy to boot.  I made this version, adding almonds, chia seeds, and some dried cherries to it.  Let me know if you try these…and especially let me know if you come up with fun adaptations for the recipe!

For this and many other DIY healthy snack bar ideas, head to Cooking Light’s DIY Snack Bar slideshow.

Pumpkinseed, Date, and Tahini Bars

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 1/3 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups puffed barley cereal (I couldn't find any so used puffed millet)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2/3 cup prechopped dates
  • 1/3 cup toasted pumpkinseed kernels
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 tablespoons toasted uncooked quinoa (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine tahini, syrup, olive oil, vanilla, and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until bubbly. Alternatively, you can heat this on the stove but you must stir constantly and watch carefully so as not to burn the brown rice syrup mixture.
  2. Combine cereal, oats, dates, and pumpkinseed kernels in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour tahini mixture over barley mixture; toss well to coat.
  4. Press into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with quinoa (if using), pressing to adhere.
  5. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until set. Cool completely in dish.
http://dinnerwithaura.com/pumpkinseed-date-and-tahini-bars/

 

Collard Green Wrap With Carrot-Ginger Hummus and Rainbow Veggies

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I’ve been making collard burritos for some time now.  They have never made it to my blog.  Maybe it’s because I think of them as my go-to quick meal that I eat when I don’t have time to play around with making things pretty.  They are usually filled with a hodgepodge of quinoa, beans, and some random veggies.  Nothing fancy.  Maybe it’s because if I’m eating a collard burrito it means it is late and I don’t have daylight to photograph my creation for the blog.  Winters are hard for food bloggers.  There are nights that I prep my dish the night before, then race home, fly into the kitchen, and make a mess of everything, just so I can get the last ten minutes of daylight to capture my creation.

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Baked Oatmeal With Walnuts and Blueberries….AND an Announcement!!

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Hi!  Great news!  My sweetie and I are getting hitched!  Just thought I’d let you know.  I feel so fortunate.  Drew is a gentle, kind soul.  A hard worker.  A true friend.  An artist.  And he brought baked oatmeal into my life.  What more could you ask for?

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Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Wheat Berries, Spinach, and Cranberries

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Christmas is closer than you think. That’s the message behind several of the ads that have been airing from the company I work for as a consumer insights specialist. The ads are really cute and funny and a reminder that we’d better hurry up and get ready for the holidays because they are right around the corner.

I need little reminding about the passage of time. All I need to do is look at our kitty, who suddenly became a teenaged kitty and I’m immediately aware of how quickly time passes.

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Six Bean Soup With Butternut Squash and Farro

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Soup season has arrived, folks.  You’ll be seeing many soups posted on this blog over the next several months, a testimony to my efforts to survive another cold and dark Michigan winter.  The leaves on the trees are nearly gone (please hang on while I wipe the tear that is rolling down my cheek…sniffle), the lawn furniture looks eerily out of place and begs to be put away, Halloween is over and talk of the holidays creeps into conversation.  We’ve already got a game plan for Thanksgiving dinner (my first time hosting!) and my mind is focused on developing recipes for healthy Thanksgiving sides for my next cooking class.  The sun sets at around five o’clock and I’m still considering bucking the trend and ignoring daylight savings time (who’s with me?).  The space heater is fully broken in and we are ready to hunker down under afghans for the next five months.  For those of you who do not live in a similar climate, this is serious stuff, folks.  A true test of resilience or sisu, as my mom would say.  Sisu is the Finnish word for strength in the face of adversity…my mom would say, “you’ve got sisu, girl!”

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Wild Rice and Winter Squash Salad and How To Harvest Wild Rice

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It is fall in my neck of the woods and I am so very happy about it!  I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible.  That means a walk in the woods at the Blandford Nature Center today.  Being outside in the woods with sunshine filtering through the orange and yellow leaves was so good for my soul. Continue reading

Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp

Ah…it’s autumn in Michigan. My favorite time of year. The air is crisp, everyone begins cramming in the last of outdoor fun, the incredible aroma of Michigan apples fills the farmer’s market, and pears spill out over the patio from the pear tree in the corner of our yard.

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I was never a fan of pears when I was a kid. As time has gone on and my tastebuds have matured, I’ve come to accept pears in my life. I’m not saying I’ve outright embraced them but they have a toe in the door nowadays, and that’s saying a lot for me.

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What brought about this change? The pear tree in my back yard. When hundreds of pears began to fall that first fall after I bought my house, I was determined to learn to love them. I felt so lucky to have a fruit-bearing tree at my house in the heart of the city.

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I really enjoy the pear tree’s beautiful white blossoms in the spring and eagerly anticipate the fruit ripening in the fall. I particularly enjoy them with some aged white cheddar cheese on a fruit and cheese platter. Last year I enjoyed a pear crisp with cardamom. This year I decided to update that, bringing in my favorite fall fruit, the apple, along with some dried cranberries, to create a truly fall dessert.

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There is nothing I enjoy more than a crisp baking in the oven as the leaves are painted red and down vests, sweaters, scarves, and fashion boots appear in place of shorts and sundresses. Crisps are easy and make the best of the season’s fruits. Cut up some fruits, pop this in the oven, and enjoy steaming up the windows of your kitchen for the first time this year.

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Pear-Apple-Cranberry Crisp:

4 tablespoons butter + some for greasing the pan
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup unbleached flour
pinch of salt
1.5 lbs pears, cored and sliced
1.5 lbs apples, cored and sliced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Heat the oven to 400°. Grease an 8 or 9″ pan with a little bit of butter. Cream the butter, oil and sugar together, using a mixer or fork. Stir in the nuts, seeds, lemon juice, oats, flour, and salt, until combined and crumbly. You can make the topping ahead of time, if you like.

Put the pears, apples, and cranberries in the prepared dish, sprinkle with cardamom, and toss to coat. Crumble the topping over all. Bake until the filling is bubbly and the crust is starting to brown, 30-40 minutes. Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you have it!

If you have a pear tree as I do, you have hundreds of pears and are surely looking for ideas on what to use them in. Here are some recipes from Cooking Light to try if you fancy something different than my pear crisp recipe below:

Pear Muffins: http://www.cookinglight.com/food/quick-healthy/healthy-muffin-recipes-00412000070942/page22.html

Pear-Cranberry Pie with Oatmeal Streusel:
http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pear-cranberry-pie-with-oatmeal-streusel-10000001673034/

Cold Oats with Dried Fruit and Nuts

‘He looked at his watch, astonished how the months had fallen out of it.”  –The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx

This summer has flown by in a happy, hectic whirl.  Amidst the excitement and busy-ness, there have been a few constants.  Warm, heavy evenings interrupted only by the crack of the bat and the roar of a crowd while listening to the Detroit Tigers on the radio.  Letting the dog out, then in, then out again.  The slow summer rhythm of the neighborhood, with neighbors spilling out on porches and long, spontaneous chats while walking the pup.  Drew’s wet waders slung over the white pipe railing of the back porch to dry, oozing tales of trout or simple tales of a good wade down a stream (“That’s why they call it fishing, not catching,” he reminds me).   The communion of friends sharing meals and stories under the twinkle fairy lights on our back patio.  Saturday mornings bumping into friends and talking with our farmers at the market.  The sweetness of a good night kiss shared.  Cold oatmeal for breakfast.

We have eaten cold oatmeal nearly every morning over the last four months.  And yet, each day I wake up looking forward to it in its many variations.  Soon the warm months will have moved on and we’ll be switching back to oatmeal in other forms, oat bran, cooked rolled oats, baked oats, oatmeal griddle cakes.

Cold oats can, and have, been enjoyed in our household in every which way.  On a Saturday morning in summertime, in a patch of sunlight on the back stoop, glasses still on, hair wild, eyelids heavy, one hand thumbing through a cooking magazine.  On a Tuesday morning, racing to get out the door to work, spoon in one hand, blow dryer in the other.  At the desk at work, typing with one hand, eating a greatly anticipated breakfast with the other.  At the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula at a campground, coffee bubbling in the percolator on the camp stove, a morning fire in the fire pit, reading the What’s U.P.? paper, a hodgepodge of odd news and Upper Peninsula real estate.  On a Sunday, listening to our BBC radio drama, The Archers, and drinking our pour-over coffees.

Cold oatmeal (aka Muesli) has been a constant in these moments over the warm spring and summer months.  It has been both a breakfast made for the simplicity and the quickness of it, and a breakfast made for the enjoyment of it.  Some of the best meals are the simplest and this is an excellent example.

Because oatmeal is such a constant in my life, it has become the unsung hero of my mornings.  I have not thought to post about cold oats until this post came about, opting to write about more savory, later-in-the-day meals instead.  But how could I not share this beloved meal with you?

Cold oatmeal can be made in a huge variety of ways, whatever suits your tastes or pantry at the moment.  The formula I usually follow is oats, almond milk, dried fruit, nuts, maple syrup.  Occasionally if the fruit is good I’ll stir in some fresh peaches, blueberries, raspberries, figs, or plums but usually I enjoy dried fruit, soaked in the oat mixture over night.

One of the best things about this breakfast is that it is a huge time saver.  The night before, you simply put old-fashioned rolled oats into a jar or bowl, cover with just under twice as much plant-based or animal-based milk, any additions you want, and place back in the fridge overnight.  In the morning, you don’t need to lift a finger (or turn on the stove if the day is a hot one) to enjoy a filling and satisfying breakfast.  Convinced?  Follow the easiest-recipe-in-the-world below and you’ll be singing its praises too.

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Cold Oats With Dried Fruit and Nuts

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 and 3/4 cup almond milk, soy milk, or cow’s milk
  • 3-4 dates, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup, optional (some folks are happy with the sweetness of the fruit without additional sweetener)
  1.  Mix all ingredients into a jar or bowl.
  2. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  3. Grab a spoon, stumble to the fridge, grab cold oats, and dig in.

Serves 2

Variations:

  • Substitute raisins, cranberries, dried plums, dried cherries, or any other favorite dried fruit.
  • Add fresh fruits when in season.  Blueberries, peaches, nectarines, prune plums, raspberries, blackberries…all are good options.
  • Cook up some apples with cinnamon and stir into the mix.
  • Substitute yogurt for some or all of the milk.
  • Experiment with raw pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, or any other nuts you love.

 

Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Bean, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing

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Wow wow wow….this summer is flying by!  July is drawing to a close and I have barely caught my breath.  But it’s been such a good summer…I dare say the it may be best I’ve had.  I’ve gone for many summer walks, the temperatures have been wonderful other than one intense week of 90’s, my pears are growing like crazy on the tree in my yard, we’ve gone trout fishing (catch and release) in some gorgeous Michigan rivers, and we have had some wonderful dinners with friends.  It’s pretty magical to sit outside on the patio until the sky is dark and the fireflies come out.

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It has been a summer of music!  We’ve taken the ferry to Manitowac, WI for Acoustic Fest (photos above!) and enjoyed Buttermilk Jamboree, NorEaster Festival, and Roots on the River.  I have met so many incredible people at these festivals and feel so invigorated by these new friendships.

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My work has begun to feel more routine and I really enjoy getting to know my coworkers.  I’ve flown around on the corporate plane doing research in stores in Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio and feel like I’m making a difference for a company I believe in.  Yes, things are turning up.

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I’m really excited to share the good news that Grand Rapids Magazine plans to publish an article about me in their October issue this year.  I’ve been interviewed for content and in two days a great local photographer is going to do a photo shoot with me!  I can’t tell you how excited I am!  I’ve never had a photo shoot before!  Wish me luck!

Tosebo Montage

A couple of weeks ago, I whipped up this quinoa salad after having one at our friend’s camp, the Tosebo Camp For Boys, over the fourth of July weekend.  The salad is very healthy and has the perfect combination of textures and flavors; crunchy, soft, sweet, and spicy.  It was the perfect meal for hot days when I stayed far, far away from the stove.  This is a great dish for potlucks, one dish dinners, and lunch and is easily adaptable to your taste preferences.  Enjoy!

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Quinoa Salad with Corn, Black Beans, Avocado, and a Chipotle-Lime Dressing; Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup multi-colored quinoa (red, black, white)–or any color
  • 2 cups water
  • 1.5 cups black beans (I cook my own but you can use canned)
  • 1.5 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
  • 1/2 roasted red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green onion, chopped (or you may use red onion, finely diced)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 chipotle in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/2 avocado, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Put quinoa and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Immediately turn down to a low simmer and cover.  Simmer the quinoa in the water until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  I’d check it as it cooks–sometimes I feel that the water absorbs better than other times and I’ve burnt it from time to time!
  2. Mix the quinoa, black beans, corn, red pepper, onion, and cilantro in a large bowl.
  3. Mix the oil, lime juice, chipotle, adobo sauce, cumin, agave nectar, and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss.  Serve topped with more cilantro and cubed avocado.