Tag Archives: quick recipe

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/

Roasted Beet Hummus With Walnuts and Goat Cheese

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An old Ukranian proverb forewarns, “A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.”  As a big beet fan, I’d like to think that a tale that begins with a beet will end with deliciousness.

My cooking style has changed considerably since my baby boy arrived in November.  Meals are simple, quick, freezable, and lunch-packable.  Sundays are filled with food prep to make the work-and-baby-filled weeks a little easier.  This Sunday I prepped muesli for breakfasts, grains, tofu, and greens for lunches, and snacks for the whole week.  As a nursing mom, I need to make sure I’m eating small, healthy snacks in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon and hummus is a clear winner.  Hummus is packed with protein and fiber, easy to make, and endlessly versatile (spread on crackers or in a sandwich, use as a dip with carrot sticks or sugar snap peas or put a dollop on a grain salad).  Sometimes I get stuck in a rut with a basic hummus recipe but last month’s Cooking Light magazine inspired me to get a little crazy with my hummus and the results were great. Continue reading

Winter Salad With Roasted Citrus and Avocado

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Happy New Year!  I just got done filing almost a year’s worth of paperwork (ahem…I sheepishly admit that last year’s resolution to stay on top of my filing didn’t stick for more than a couple of months….sigh…what do you do?).  I feel accomplished and proud for the moment.  That feeling will last only briefly, until the baby cries, , my hair stays wet, the laundry that needs folding piles up at the end of the bed, and I realize that I haven’t eaten in six hours.  As I stand over the counter scraping avocado out of the shell with a cracker while bouncing just so to quiet the little one, I’m sure the elation of my paperwork success will feel like a distant memory.  But hey, I’ll take it while I can get it. Continue reading

Turkey Posole With Toasted Guajillo Pepper Salsa

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Ummm….hi.  It’s been a while.  A looong while.  In August I thought I was going to get back in the swing of blogging and it just never happened.  It’s not that I haven’t been cooking…but while I was pregnant my priorities shifted.  First, the focus shifted to just getting food in my mouth, not pausing to take a photo and write a recipe.  As I neared the end of my pregnancy, my focus shifted to making large batches of soups, stews, and easy-to-freeze dishes like manicotti to get me through the early weeks of motherhood.  We were also in the midst of frantically working on a major home project…the baby’s room.  What started with a simple home improvement project (putting down new flooring and painting the walls) ended up turning into a major project, replacing windows, tearing the room down to the studs, and working on the roof.

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My work life became very busy as I worked toward having a couple of months off of leave.  And when it came down to it, my blog fell by the wayside.  After all, the most important thing I had to cook was this little guy.  River Wilder Nelson was born four weeks ago and my life has become consumed with feeding, diapering, and staring at my sweet baby.  Can you blame me?

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I’m just now getting my bearings enough to consider blogging again.  Let’s hope this time it sticks…

As a way to cope with all of the busyness and life changes, I have become a very practical cook in recent months.  This recipe I’m about to share is about as practical as it gets.  It is my take on one of Cooking Light’s most popular dishes, Toasted Guajillo and Pork Posole.  It’s a great way to use up Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and can easily be adapted if you have leftover pork or chicken.  It’s a refreshing change after eating turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes until they come out of your ears.  Not to mention, it’s very budget friendly and healthy to boot.

I flavor my posole with toasted guajillo salsa, which has been a staple in my house for the last several months.  It is SO good.  We use it as a flavor booster in soups, as a salsa with chips, on top of tacos and enchiladas, and with my baked eggs with kale and mushroom skillet on weekend mornings.  It freezes well so I make a double batch.  I’m even thinking about giving it away at Christmas with a jar of tomatillo salsa (red and green for Christmas!).  So I highly recommend you make a batch and use some of it in this posole.  If you aren’t into making some of this salsa, see my note at the bottom of the recipe for another way to use chiles in this recipe.

Treat this like chili when thinking choosing your toppings.  I like radishes, cilantro, sour cream, and avocado on mine.  Crumbled tortilla chips are also a nice addition.  Whatever you like!  I hope you enjoy.  It’s good to be back!

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Turkey Posole With Guajillo Peppers; adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 pound leftover turkey, chicken, or pork, cut or torn in 1/2 inch pieces
  • 3 tbsp toasted guajillo chili salsa (recipe here) or see note below
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 (29-ounce) can hominy, rinsed and drained

Instructions

  1. Add oil to dutch oven/large soup pot and heat over medium-high heat. Add garlic and onion to pot and stir frequently for five minutes, until onions and garlic are softened and lightly browned.
  2. Add half of the broth, cumin, cloves, salt, and pepper.
  3. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender, pour contents into a blender and blend until smooth, then pour back into the pot.
  4. Add remaining chicken stock and water.
  5. Add guajillo chili salsa and 1 tablespoon adobo sauce; reserve the chipotle chiles from can and remaining sauce for another use (I freeze mine in small quantities).
  6. Stir in hominy and turkey, chicken, or pork.
  7. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
  8. *Note: If you don't feel up for making a batch of guajillo chili salsa, you can use the following method:  put 3 chiles on a baking sheet, bake at 400° for 4 minutes or until dark. Cool; remove stems and seeds.  Place in a blender with 1 cup of liquid from soup pot and puree.  Add to soup.
http://dinnerwithaura.com/turkey-posole-with-guajillo-peppers/

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad With Feta and Arugula

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Happy Labor Day Weekend!  It’s been a while, folks.  And I’m sorry for that.  But let me explain.  In the last three months we have bought a house, sold a house, become a married couple, gone to Alaska on a honeymoon, and started to tackle a lifetime of projects on the 1870 farmhouse we moved to.  And through it all, my belly has grown bigger and bigger (and along with it my emotions) as we prepare for the arrival of our first little one at the beginning of November.  If I tried to take on anything else, I think you could just assume I’ve gone clinically insane.

And through it all, meals must be made and eaten, day in and day out.  In fact, I’ve eaten a lot more and a lot more frequently as the months of pregnancy pass.  But have I been stopping to snap photos, write recipes, and post about it?  Not so much.  When you have to eat every couple of hours, planning for, preparing, and packing food can start to feel like a chore rather than a passion.

Every once in a while though, I come across a dish that just hits all the cravings just right.  This dish is one of them.  Juicy watermelon, tangy feta, cooling cucumber, and peppery arugula drizzled with lime, honey, and vinegar.  Sounds weird, right?  Trust me on this one, take hold of the last bits of summer, and enjoy this salad.

If you are looking for last minute inspiration for salads to add to your Labor Day picnics, check out Cooking Light Magazine’s List of Great Summer Salads.  In addition to their own version of watermelon and cucumber salad, you’ll find 35 other beautiful, simple salads to fill your picnic table and lighten your barbecue.

Ahhhh…it’s good to be back.

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Watermelon and Cucumber Salad With Feta and Arugula

Ingredients

  • 1/3 small seedless watermelon (about 6-8 cups), cut into ½ to 1 inch cubes
  • 2 small Kirby, English, or other small cucumber with tender skin
  • A few handfuls of arugula
  • ¼ cup of basil, rolled up and sliced into skinny shreds
  • A few pinches of coarse sea salt
  • Juice of one lime
  • 8 ounces of feta cheese, divided
  • 2 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • 1 tsp honey (optional)

Instructions

  1. Add cubed watermelon to a large bowl and gently mix in all ingredients through lime juice. Gently toss with half of the feta and crumble the rest on top.
  2. If adding white balsamic vinegar and honey, mix the two together with a fork or tiny whisk before drizzling on salad.
  3. Serve immediately! This salad, like many salads, do not hold up well overnight in the fridge.
http://dinnerwithaura.com/watermelon-and-cucumber-salad-with-feta-and-arugula/

 

Fresh Strawberry Shortcakes With Whipped Yogurt Cream

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Happy Mother’s Day!  This year has special meaning to me, as it is the first year that I am a mother!  So yes, there you have it.  Just one of the many reasons I’ve been a little quiet on my blog lately.  We have a LOT of amazing stuff going on. 2014 is THE year, I tell you. In the next month and a half we are buying a farm house on two and a half acres, selling our beautiful old city house, getting married, and going on a honeymoon to Alaska.  The cream on top of it all was finding out I was pregnant!  So yes, we are going to have a little shortcake come November.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Asian Lettuce Cups With Spicy Dipping Sauce

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I really grappled with what I should title this post.  Why, you ask?  Well….this dish is based on tofu.  Now, I know a good number of people.  And if there is one thing I know, it’s that they probably don’t all agree on the topic of tofu.  Some eat tofu, some eat it if they have to, some would never let it pass their lips, and some tried it and don’t like it.  It’s a pretty polarizing ingredient to be sure so I hesitate to call it out from the get-go, afraid it will turn off the fussy eaters among us.

Continue reading

Huevos Rancheros With Tomatillo Sauce

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Order up! Many years ago, when I was in college, I worked at a vegetarian restaurant called Gaia Cafe. The restaurant is still open after almost 30 years, and the menu has changed very little over the years. When you have a good thing, why change it? It’s one of my favorite places for breakfast or lunch, with a cozy, eccentric vibe and self serve, fair trade, and strongly brewed coffee so you never have to wait for your server to deliver your morning buzz. If I didn’t cook all the time at home, I’d be a regular at Gaia–I sure do miss my almost daily meals there from my four years of serving. Continue reading

Butternut Squash, Black Bean and Charred Red Onion Tacos

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I’ve always envied those that are able to do what they love for their livelihood.  Although there are certainly downsides to it (as most authors, musicians, and artists know), there is great appeal to this lifestyle.  My sweetie is able to do what he loves, playing music and building instruments, and usually makes ends meet with the modest income that comes in.  It may not be all roses all the time, but there is something to be said about being able to have the time to spend on developing specialized skills and enjoying one’s passion.

Over the last few weeks Drew has been working long hours in the woodshop building a gourd banjo.  As a luthier (a beautiful way to say “builder of stringed instruments”) and newly learned clawhammer banjo player, he was intrigued when he heard Bob Lucas play a gourd banjo at a symposium called Common Ground on the Hill earlier this summer.  A couple of months later, he began to study plans of existing gourd banjos and set about building one himself.  After hours (and hours..and hours) of reading, planning and ordering supplies, and just a few weeks after the inaugural cutting of one large gourd, shipped from California, he sits playing his beautiful gourd banjo in the kitchen.

I am amazed that building a gourd banjo went from an idea of his to now, a few weeks later, a reality.  I do not have the skills required to build a musical instrument or the passion to do so myself but I most certainly am in awe of this beautiful instrument created by his hands.

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I do like my job and find excitement and satisfaction from it at times.  But as grateful for it as I am (and grateful for steady employment that affords us a comfortable home and meets all of our basic needs) I cannot honestly say it is my life’s passion.  Luckily, I get to spend time with my true passion from time to time and sometimes I even get to share it with others.  Tonight I volunteer taught a cooking class at Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (a wonderful cancer and grief support clubhouse) and I got that feeling that I think Drew must feel when he is working on building a banjo or a guitar.  I felt like I was doing something that I could do forever.  I was completely relaxed, had fun, and felt so passionate about sharing my love for cooking with a great group of women.

Because I cook so much (daily), I sometimes take for granted the skills that I’ve acquired in the kitchen.  I’m just a simple home cook when it comes down to it but I am surprised when I show a class how to do something and they are excited and delighted by it.  Tonight I showed the women how to make a Mexican meal using butternut squash and black beans.  We made butternut squash and black bean chili and these butternut squash, black bean, and charred onion tacos.  At various points in the class I became animated and excited to show random little tips as they popped into my head.  How to slice an avocado in its peel.  How to peel and cut a butternut squash.  That you can eat the skin of a delicata squash.  That you can boil apple cider down into a glaze.  That you can warm and char a tortilla directly on the flame of a gas stove.  That you don’t have to measure everything exactly.  That a little chocolate in chili adds depth and richness.  Usually these little joys of the kitchen stay with me.  I am usually pretty quiet in the kitchen at home, choosing silence over music, focusing on the meditative act of chopping vegetables and washing dishes.  I usually take the little aha moments with cooking for granted or I assume that they will not delight anyone other than myself.  It was brilliant fun tonight to not only share my love for cooking but to have fourteen women clap, smile, and say mmmmmm along with me while I cooked, learned (yup–still learning!), and dished up samples of our fall fiesta.

I do hope you try these tacos.  They are a unique way to use my favorite fall vegetable, butternut squash.  They are filling and hearty, aromatic and flavorful.  It’s really a compliment when someone who loves meat tacos deems these an A++ (thanks, hon!).  Needless to say, if I ever have a restaurant, these are making the menu.

And whatever your passion, I hope you get to spend a few moments with it today.

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Butternut Squash Tacos with Charred Red Onion and Black Beans (and a bunch of yummy toppings!)

Tacos:

  • 1 small butternut squash
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup black beans, dried and cooked, or canned is fine too—be sure to drain well
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 12 corn tortillas

For topping:

  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, washed and stems removed
  • ½ cup queso fresco (Mexican crumbling cheese)
  • ½ cup lowfat sour cream
  • 1 scallion (green onion), thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
  • Sriracha (garlic-chili hot sauce, a.k.a. “Rooster Sauce”)
  1.  Preheat oven to 375°.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with 1 teaspoon oil.
  2. Prepare the squash:  Cut the bottom off of the butternut squash to create a flat surface and stand squash on its end.  Cut the squash down the middle, lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard (or…as reader Natashia suggests, you can clean and roast them, spreading out on a baking sheet as if you were roasting pumpkin seeds–takes about 20 minutes).  Peel the outside of the squash with a knife, taking care to always have a flat surface for stability.  Slice the squash into ½ inch slices.  Cut the slices into ½ inch diameter matchsticks, about 5 inches long.
  3. Place the squash sticks onto the oiled baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Don’t crowd the pan—use two pans if needed.  Bake for about 15-20 minutes.  Poke with a  fork to test for doneness—the fork should easily pierce the squash and the squash should still hold its shape.  Remove from the oven when done.
  4. In the meantime, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil on medium high in a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet and add the onions and garlic along with a sprinkle of salt.  Cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions have browned and softened slightly.  Add the beans to the pan along with the cumin and stir for a moment until heated through.
  5. Heat a small skillet over high heat and add tortillas to the pan, one at a time, turning until they are heated and a little crisp.  Once all tortillas are heated, add a few sticks of squash to each, a large spoonful of the onion and bean mixture, and any toppings you like (from the toppings listed above).  Squeeze a wedge of lime over each and serve with Sriracha or another hot sauce on the side.

Makes 12 tacos