Pumpkin Spice Granola

I have often wanted to make granola but always thought the stuff from the store is good enough, why bother. Well now I get it. Before I even tasted the granola, I was won over while the granola was baking by the heavenly smells of the pumpkin spices, roasting nuts, and oats permeating through my house. This was enough to convince me that I will never buy packaged granola again! Give it a try and feel free to substitute types of nuts/dried fruit that you prefer and spices that you prefer or that are seasonal. Thank you to Jen Jones of Sweet Green Kitchen for the recipe. I only made very minor adjustments.

Pumpkin Spice Granola

  • Servings: 5 cups of granola
  • Difficulty: easy
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Healthy and savory homemade granola with pumpkin spice.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tablespoons of safflower or canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut sugar or brown sugar (or honey, I like the flavor of honey but I have read that the delicate enzymes will be destroyed by the heat)
  • 1/2 cup of no sugar added, 100% fruit jam (apricot or strawberry is recommended)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of rolled oats (I like thick old fashioned rolled oats)
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw almonds
  • 1/4 cup chopped raw pistachios
  • 1/4 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds, shelled)
  • 1/8 cup flax seeds
  • 1/8 cup ground flax
  • 1/8 cup psyllium husk (ground)
  • 1/8 cup wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
  • 1 -2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon ginger or just 2 teaspoons cinnamon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried fruit-sweetened dried cranberries

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Line a large 12″x17″ rimmed baking pan with parchment paper (or grease the pan). Set aside.
  3. Mix the coconut oil, sugar and jam in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until well combined.  Remove from heat and add vanilla and water, stir and set aside to cool slightly.
  4. Mix all the dry ingredients (oats through salt) in a large bowl.
  5. Pour the wet ingredient mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until the dry ingredients are fully mixed with the wet. Add a little water if necessary.
  6. Press granola mixture into the pan, press mixture down so it all sticks together. Press hard (with a back of a measuring cup for example).
  7. Bake the granola in the oven for 15 minutes. Stir the granola and re-press into pan. Cook for 10 more minutes and stir again adding the chopped cranberries and re-press into pan. Place back into the oven for 15 more minutes, but make sure not to let it burn, granola can be perfect one minute and burned the next!
  8. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the pan. It may cook a little longer after you take it out. When cool store in a large airtight container. Enjoy!

Notes: updated 2/6/19

  • I don’t use coconut oil anymore. It has a great flavor but is very high in saturated fat and I haven’t seen any actual research that says it is beneficial (and may be harmful but the jury is out), so I now use safflower or canola oil, something light and with a neutral flavor. 
  • Don’t add dried fruit right away, it tends to burn (harden). I have had more success adding it in the last 15 minutes of cooking, although a lot of recipes say add it after cooking, but then it won’t stick to the granola and I like my granola chunky. I have has some success soaking the dried fruit in hot water for 15 minutes or so and draining the fruit and adding it with the rest of the ingredients.
  • I have tried both cooking the wet ingredients and not cooking them and I see the logic in cooking them, the ingredients emulsify that way, but I am not sure the end result is any different. I re-wrote the recipe to include the cooking of the wet ingredients step, but I am still on the fence about this.
  • Overall cooking granola is pretty tricky! I am finding that it can burn very quickly, so cooking it low and slow is my mantra. I have experimented with cooking it at 280 degrees, but maybe that is too conservative, seems a little raw, so I think 300 is better.

https://healthyseasonalcooking.wordpress.com

October 30, 2017, updated 2/6/19

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Granola before baking
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Granola after baking
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Finished product in my storage jar.
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Pomegranate and Grilled Haloumi Salad

It is autumn and that means pomegranate time! I love pomegranates but I hate getting the arils (seeds) out of them. I pretty much have avoided them unless I was willing to shell out the cash to buy the arils in a package. Then to be honest they are often slimy and not so great. But lo and behold I discovered recently that cutting open a pomegranate doesn’t have to look like something was butchered in my  kitchen! I can’t believe I didn’t know this until a couple of weeks ago–how did I miss this? This would have saved my children and myself a lot of anxiety every autumn when they wanted my to buy whole pomegranates and I would try my best to avoid it or get really crazy with bibs and aprons and tons of paper towels to contain the flying red juice. Sorry kids! Click here for detailed instructions on how to accomplish this feat and keep your hands their natural color.

I got this recipe idea from the wonderful chef my husband hired for my birthday recently. She made this incredible little appetizer of crostini, grilled Haloumi cheese and pomegranate seeds. The flavors were so incredible and so autumn-like! So today I was trying to come up with an interesting salad with pomegranate seeds and then I thought about the warmed Haloumi cheese and voilà, this is what I came up with. Hope you all like it as much as we did!

Pomegranate and Grilled Haloumi Salad

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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Vibrant pomegranate, fennel, tomato, baby lettuce and Haloumi salad is full of wonderful autumn flavors .

Credit: adapted from Haloumi, Pomegranate and Rocket Salad on Taste.com.au 

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 180 grams Haloumi Cheese, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 12 ounces of mixed baby lettuces
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, very thinly sliced, reserve some fronds for garnish
  • 1 pomegranate, seeded (see this page for excellent instructions)

Procedure

  1. Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl with a whisk. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking to emulsify it. Set dressing aside.
  2. Place the greens and fennel slices in a large serving bowl.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add the pine nuts to the dry pan and toast for a few minutes. Careful they burn fast! Remove pine nuts and set aside.
  4. Add a little cooking spray to pan and heat up again. Add the Haloumi slices and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until slightly browned. Remove from pan and place on top of salad.
  5. Heat up the tomato halves in the hot pan for just a couple of  minutes, adding a little salt and pepper and spread them on top of the Haloumi on the salad. Add the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and serve with the dressing on the side (or toss if you prefer).
  6. Enjoy!

Nutrition Information

https://healthyseasonalcooking.wordpress.com

October 25, 2017

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Beautiful pomegranate arils
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Slicing the fennel
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ingredients
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Cooking the Haloumi
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The finished salad

Braised Santa Fe Chicken Bowl

I braised the chicken and vegetables in a ceramic dutch oven, but the inspiration recipe cooks it in a crock pot. Either way, this is a pretty easy and healthy recipe that you can throw together the night before or in the morning and cook all day in a crock pot or for a couple of hours in a dutch oven. I made this very mild so the spice phobe will eat it and the rest of us can add chopped chili peppers at the table, but if you don’t have any spice phobes it would certainly be better with spicy peppers cooked in it!

Braised Santa Fe Chicken Bowl

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
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Healthy chicken breast braised with onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers, and corn for an easy make-ahead meal .

Credit: adapted from Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken on  www.skinnytaste.com 

Ingredients

  • 1 quart of no-salt or low-sodium chicken stock (or broth)
  • 1 small sweet onion chopped (or half a large onion)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large bell peppers (whatever color you like) chopped
  • 2 jalapeños chopped (seeded if you want less heat)
  • 2 ears of fresh corn, shucked and cut off the cob
  • 1 – 14.4 oz. can of no salt added roasted tomatoes with the liquid
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or fresh, use a few sprigs and pull the stems out before serving)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 lbs chicken breast meat, sliced in quarters (can leave whole if you are willing to cook a longer time or are putting in a crock pot all day)
  • 1 – 14.4 oz can of no salt added black beans, drained and rinsed
  • chopped romaine lettuce (about 1 cup/person)
  • *Mexican brown rice (or whatever you prefer)
  • approx. 1 cup of shredded mixed Mexican cheese blend (or cheddar) –  Optional
  • guacamole, diced tomatoes and a few pieced of chopped cilantro as a topping — optional

*Mexican Brown Rice:  Cook rice with 1/2 water and 1/2 chicken broth, 1 tsp of chili powder, 1/2 tsp cumin and a shake of oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste and cook according to rice package directions (I like to use a rice cooker).

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a large dutch oven combine chicken stock, onions, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeños, corn, tomatoes with their liquid, and spices. Mix well and then add chicken.
  3. With the lid on the dutch oven, put the chicken mixture into the the oven for an hour and stir it occasionally.
  4. After the first hour check that it has not become too dry, there still should be plenty of liquid in there. Add the black beans and cook another 30 minutes without the lid, or until the chicken is falling apart and the liquid has mostly evaporated and the dish looks more like a stew and less like a soup.
  5. Remove pot from oven and let cool for a few minutes.
  6. Serve by first layering a cup of chopped lettuce, a 1/4 – 1/2 cup rice, 1/4 to 1/2 cup  of the chicken mixture, a sprinkling of cheese, a dollop of guacamole, a sprinkling of diced tomatoes and a few sprigs of cilantro.
  7. Enjoy!

Note:  This can also be put into a tortilla and eaten like a taco; or put into corn tortillas with a spicy red Mexican sauce and melted cheese to make it enchiladas; or spread chicken mixture over tortilla chips and melt cheese over it for nachos. It would also be very nice as a vegetarian dish with extra vegetables and sub the chicken stock for vegetable stock and leave the chicken out. The possibilities are endless!

https://healthyseasonalcooking.wordpress.com

October 24, 2017

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The vegetables and broth
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The chicken mixture after cooking.
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Ready to serve!

CRAB AND SPINACH ENCHILADAS WITH TOMATILLO SAUCE

I didn’t set out to make enchiladas on a Monday night, the plan was crab cakes and salad, but when I told my son I was making crab cakes he looked at me and said “Mom, you know I don’t like crab cakes.” Well, I guess I really have been ignoring that, as I do believe that sometimes it takes ten or more times to try a food before you might like it. He actually used to like crab cakes, not sure what changed, but I decided why bother if he won’t eat it or just picks at it. So now what to do with the crab I bought earlier from Trader Joes. It was pre-packaged in the refrigerator section, so I didn’t have to use it yesterday, but I thought I would anyway, as I was now in the mood for it. I had a distant memory of crab enchiladas I made many years ago. I dug up the recipe and didn’t like how it looked (tastes change over time!). Then my husband and I both found a recipe online that looked pretty good for crab and avocado enchiladas, but it had a white sauce in and on it, which was not what I was thinking, I was thinking a green tomatillo sauce, so I created my own recipe. I was in a tremendous hurry and didn’t have a lot of confidence this would turn out to be worthy of this blog, so I didn’t take pictures. Nevertheless it was pretty tasty so I will post the recipe (best as I can remember). I will probably tweak it in the future and I will post that when/if I do. I have a feeling this would be just as good without the crab and just vegetables (adding a few more mushrooms and doubling the spinach).

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Crab and Spinach Enchiladas with Tomatillo Sauce

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
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Veggie-filled crab enchiladas with a tomatillo sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 fresh ear of corn with husk still on it
  • 1 small yellow or sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped (in addition a jalapeño would be great as well if no one you are cooking for is afraid of spicy food)
  • 3 large mushrooms, diced
  • 1- 12 oz package of fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano (or a little more of this and all spices)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 16 oz crabmeat — I used Chicken of the Sea pre-packaged lump crabmeat in the refrigerator section of Trader Joes. Fresh would be better but more time-consuming and more expensive, not to mention that crab is not currently in season here — yeah, I know this is a “seasonal” cooking blog…but I am not perfect.
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mixed Mexican cheese (1 cup for filling and ½ cup or so to top enchiladas with).
  • 8–12 tortillas — I used some corn and flour hybrid tortillas and some flour tortillas because they are easier to handle than plain corn, but enchiladas are traditionally made with corn tortillas. The corn-flour ones were pretty small so I used about 10 tortillas total.
  • 2 cups (at least) of Tomatillo Sauce –NOTE: I knew I couldn’t make the enchiladas plus a sauce from scratch on a Monday night so I bought 2 packages of “Frontera Brand Green Chile Enchilada Sauce” (see picture below). It was pretty good actually but my son found it spicy (I disagree) — Here are links for two homemade tomatillo sauces from Cooking Light that I have made previously that I think would be very good in this recipe:http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/classic-salsa-verde or http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/green-chile-sauce 
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, diced

Procedure

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees and spray a large baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Microwave the corn in the husk for a few minutes until corn is tender. Cool and then cut kernels off the cob. Set aside.
  3. Chop onion, garlic, red pepper (jalapeño if using), mushrooms, and spinach.
  4. Heat a large skillet with a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
  5. Sauté the onion, garlic and red pepper for 5 minutes in the olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook a few minutes longer until the mushroom water evaporates some. Add the chopped spinach and season with salt and pepper, oregano, chili powder and cumin. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes or until the spinach wilts.
  6. Remove the mixture from the heat and put into a large mixing bowl. Add crab and cheese and stir well.
  7. Spoon a few tablespoons of tomatillo sauce onto bottom of greased baking dish.
  8. Heat up tortillas if using corn tortillas (so they don’t crack when rolled). Flour tortillas don’t need heating.
  9. Spoon crab and vegetable mixture into tortillas. Roll them and place them seam side down in the baking dish. Repeat until all the crab mixture is used up.
  10. Pour tomatillo sauce over enchiladas until it comes at least half-way up the enchiladas. Sprinkle desired amount of cheese over the top of the enchiladas (about ½ cup). Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown a bit and sauce is bubbly.
  11. Remove from oven and top with chopped avocado, tomatoes, and jalapeno. Serve and enjoy!

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Prepped vegetables.
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Vegetable mixture before spices, crab and cheese were added.
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Thin layer of sauce on bottom of baking dish
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Spreading the crab mixture onto the tortilla
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Enchiladas ready to bake
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Lighter enchilada casserole ready to bake

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The crab and tomatillo sauce pairs nicely with a bright citrusy white wine such as a Chablis or a Sauvignon Blanc.