Tag 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/

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!

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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.

 

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney

Well, it’s been a little while!  I’ve been busy, busy, busy.  This past weekend I had a Dinner With Aura booth at the Grand Rapids Public Library’s Green Market Expo.  It was so much fun!  I sold some granola and biscotti, raffled off Super Natural Everyday, and met so many awesome people who were interested in eating healthier.  Several folks mentioned that they were simply trying to reduce the amount of meat they ate, replacing a few meals a week with vegetarian options.  That got me so excited.  I truly believe that small changes add up.  It can be really intimidating to be expected to change everything about your eating habits.  Eating is such a personal and habitual experience so I believe that tackling one change at a time is the key to long-lasting change.  I met a lovely woman who wanted to start by eating vegan three days a week.  I’m so excited to hear how that goes for her and excited to see what new foods she will discover in the process.

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I’ve also been busy moving my honey into my house.  Having lived alone for three and a half years, this has been a big change!  We are in the process of merging our things and getting into a routine.  I’m excited to see what the future holds for us.

This weekend was so busy that I just ate really simple dishes.  I was cooking for myself this weekend so things were back to my usual one person meals, quinoa with sauteed kale, zucchini, carrots, etc.  I really don’t mind eating like that most of the time but it is fun to have someone to cook for and I tend to make more substantial meals when I’m not on my own.

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Today, I was so happy that at about 7:00 I finally had time to cook up the recipe for the Food Matters Project.  I was even more happy that it is finally spring and we have daylight at 7:00!  This dish was so easy to put together and so tasty.  All I can say is thank you for the awesome pick, Jess!  Once again, I had a hard time imagining what this salad would end up looking and tasting like.  The result was such a pleasant surprise.  It had so many flavors I love all in one bowl.  I modified the dish somewhat, adding quinoa, radishes, and peanut to the mix.  The chickpeas and quinoa provide protein and the nuts provide healthy fats.  This salad is a great main dish meal.  If you are looking for something a little different and very, very easy, try this!  You won’t be disappointed.  If you want the original recipe, head over to Jess’s site.  And to see the variations everyone came up with, head over to the FMP website.

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Chickpea and Quinoa Salad with Cashew Chutney;adapted from Mark Bittman’s The Food Matters Project

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 small dried hot red chile or ¼ tsp of red chili flakes
  • 1/3 cup cashews (raw are fine)
  • ¼ cup peanuts
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups cooked or canned chickpeas, drained
  • 1 and ½ cups quinoa
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mangoes (can also use apricots)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Olive oil as needed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 3 radishes, cut into matchsticks
  1. To make chutney:  In a small, dry skillet, combine cumin seeds, chili, cashews, and peanuts. Heat over medium heat, shaking pan frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until everything colors slightly and becomes fragrant.
  2. Transfer to blender or food processor. Add garlic and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Process, stopping machine to scrape down sides if necessary, until finely ground but not as smooth as peanut butter.
  3. To assemble salad: In a salad bowl, toss chickpeas, quinoa, and fruit with chutney. Add lime juice and a little oil if needed to help bring everything together. Stir in cilantro and radishes. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.  Enjoy!!!

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes with Michigan Maple Syrup and a Lovely Easter Weekend

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

This weekend we finally got a taste of spring for one day before it got cold again. My sweetie and I seized the opportunity to get outside after a long winter and opted to head to the Blandford Nature Center to celebrate just being outside without freezing our nose hairs off.  Michiganders are funny creatures.  You know you are in Michigan when it’s the first 40 degree day and you see a convertible with the top down.  True story.

Anyway…I want to tell you about this great place.  The Blandford Nature Center is just outside of Grand Rapids and has almost 150 acres to explore.  It is also home to an amazing environmental school that any kid would be lucky to attend.  I love the perspective they take:  Blandford Nature Center believes children and adults learn best through personal experience. Our job, and our passion, is to invite our community to get their hands dirty in nature – whether that be standing knee-high in water to learn about stream ecology or planting squash seeds to start a garden.

We walked the trails for a couple of hours, visited all of the injured animals (mostly birds–the owls were adorable!) that have found a permanent home at Blandford, and took a ton of photos.  The trails were great and I was THRILLED to be walking around outside in the sunshine.  Can you tell?

Walking through the woods--and just so happy to be outside!

Walking through the woods–and just so happy to be outside!

The best part, though, was visiting the sugar shack to watch maple sap boil down into maple syrup.

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

The sugar shack at Blandford Nature Center

 Every 6th grader at the three environmental schools in Grand Rapids gets their own tree to tap at the nature center.  What a cool learning experience.  We saw both the modern method of making maple syrup and the native way of making maple syrup.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans used wooden spiles to tap their trees.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

Native Americans boiled their sap in cauldrons over fire.

When I was a kid my family tapped all of the trees lining our property, which gave us enough maple syrup to get through the year.  Did you know it takes forty gallons of maple sap to make one gallon of maple syrup?  As you can imagine, that take a lot of time and a lot of boiling.  I very fondly remember standing outside in the snow around the barrel stove fitted with a stainless steel pan, waiting as the sap boiled down.  The aroma of the boiling sap is a scent memory I will never forget and one that I am at a loss for words to describe.  When we walked into the sugar shack and smelled that amazing aroma, I was on cloud nine, transported back to the U.P. in early spring.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

Inside the Sugar Shack watching sap boil into maple syrup.

As you can imagine, we simply had to buy a quart of this syrup after watching it being made.  We couldn’t wait to try some and decided that Easter morning we would make buckwheat blueberry pancakes and douse them in this liquid gold.  And we sure did.  It was everything a Sunday should be.  Sleeping in, eating pancakes after noon, listening to the Archers Omnibus (the longest running radio drama, aired in the U.K.–I am hooked!), and making a Ukranian egg.  Although Easter was decidedly un-Eastery I must say it was still a lovely, lovely day and truly a beautiful weekend.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday.  I grew up with this great tradition.

Psanky Easter Egg I made on Sunday. I grew up with this great tradition.

For the pancakes, I just pulled a recipe from the Food Network website.  The only difference was that I used frozen wild blueberries instead of fresh (fresh taste so icky to me out of season).

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes

Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes adapted ever so slightly from The Food Network

  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  1. In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  2. In another bowl, beat together the buttermilk, non-fat milk, honey, eggs, and oil.
  3. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, mixing only enough to combine them. Stir in 1 cup of fresh or still-frozen berries (if you are using frozen berries, thaw the other cup of berries at this time so they are thawed for serving but make sure the blueberries you add to the batter are still frozen otherwise they will turn your batter blue!).
  4. Preheat a large nonstick griddle or skillet over a medium flame. Ladle the batter onto the skillet with a 1/4-cup measure. Flip the pancake when it is golden brown on the bottom and bubbles are forming on top, about 1 1/2 minutes. Cook the other side until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes.
  5. Serve topped with more blueberries and the maple syrup, your favorite book, and your coziest PJs.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/blueberry-buckwheat-pancakes-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback