Scrumptious Granola Clusters

We recently took a weekend visit to Northern Ohio. We wanted to spend time with family, watch our nephew play some amazing high school football, and enjoy the rolling hills and colorful treelined byways while visiting a few local Amish community shops.
When in Ohio, I try to take the opportunity to stop at Marc’s, a local discount store that can offer some amazing deals. It’s “hit or miss”, but I often stock up on coffee, staples and seasonal trinkets that are placed on entry area shelves listed at rock bottom, close-out prices. 
After carefully searching the bountiful shelves, I ended up buying a few color coordinated cutting boards, silicone trivets, and pin-striped double oven mitts to give as Christmas gift sets this holiday season. I often pair kitchen items with wholesome baked goods for a more personal holiday gift. I also bought large boxes of flavored k-cups, cereal, and oatmeal.
I purchased several boxes of this low-sugar cereal with this granola recipe in mind… Kashi Original GoLean has lots of fun shapes and textures nestled within the box.
I also use our own maple syrup to sweeten the mix and it’s sticky properties help to form the crunchy granola clusters. Pair this delicious granola with Greek yogurt and sweet crunchy apples for an awesome breakfast combination. What a way to start the day!
Scrumptious Granola Clusters
4 cups dry, sugarless breakfast cereal ( I use Kashi GoLean Original pictured above)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup dried fruit (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line a large, jellyroll pan with aluminum foil or parchment, lightly sprayed with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cereal, nuts and seeds. Stir to blend.
In a small saucepan, combine the oil, maple syrup and/or honey, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour hot mixture into dry cereal mixture. Mix well, until every oat and nut is lightly coated. Pour the granola onto your prepared pan and use a large spoon to spread it in an even layer. Bake until golden, about 18 to 20 minutes, stirring halfway. The granola will continue to crisp up as it cools.
Let the granola cool for 10 minutes before breaking it into pieces and stirring in the (optional) dried fruit. Store the granola in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 to 2 weeks, or in a sealed freezer bag in the freezer.

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Easy Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

This week, I scheduled a community meeting that was to take place at a local library. After rechecking my calendar invite, I realized that I had arrived a bit early, so I took this opportunity to stroll through a selection of cookbooks that had been carefully selected for a main aisle display. My eyes immediately fixed on an older book showcasing recipes from quaint country inns and bed & breakfast establishments. Thumbing through the pages, so many of the recipes seems quick, easy, and scrumptious. Knowing that my meeting would be starting soon, I grabbed my library card and borrowed the book entitled Best Recipes from American Country Inns and Bed & Breakfasts by Kitty and Lucian Maynard.

Returning home, later that day, I realized that I wanted to make so many of the recipes, I simply had to purchase the book. I typed the title of the cookbook into the Amazon search bar… low and behold, they had several used copies for purchase (priced very low). I bought the first and second editions and I am waiting on their arrival.

This recipe comes from the page pictured below. The only change that I made was to add a handful of chopped walnuts to the already simplistic ingredients. I am always looking for recipes that will help to use up the stash of overly ripe bananas that I have tucked in my freezer. This one fit the bill. Lots of flavor with very little fuss…

This is a great loaf to freeze or slice and package. My daughter was heading back to Chicago on the train, so I sliced her a few pieces to nibble on throughout the week.

Speckled Monkey Bars

Bananas have always been a staple ingredient for lunch bags/boxes in our household. When selecting fruit to add to my weekly shopping list, bananas always take center stage. I often choose far more than needed for a week’s worth of lunches as I love having a few extra over-ripe bananas to add to tasty quick bread and snack recipes, such as this one. These delicious bars have few ingredients and highlight some of my family’s favorite flavors. My three (not so) little monkeys have enjoyed these flavors for many years.

Speckled Money Bars

4 medium (over-ripe) bananas, mashed

2 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9” baking pan.

Mix bananas with oats and peanut butter; add vanilla and continue to mix until well blended. Carefully, spread the mixture in prepared pan making sure to evenly distribute to the corners. Top with chocolate chips and walnuts. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool before cutting into delicious squares. Wrap individually for a lunch bag treat or store in an airtight container.

Note: Lately, I’ve been using the Copper Chef brownie pan to make perfect portions while baking. Depending on your oven, you may have to reduce cooking time when using this pan. Cool completely before removing insert.

Hearty Irish Scones

I’ve been making scones since I was a little girl. My parents were born and raised in Ireland so making scones was a weekly event. During the Lenten season, scones were a definitive staple on the dining table. My father worked for Trans World Airlines so traveling back and forth to Ireland during our summer holiday was a yearly event. Watching my grandmother make bread/scones was always mesmerizing to me. She used a huge ceramic Mason Cash bowl, and mixed everything by hand. None of the ingredients were measured very carefully. She would pour leavening ingredients into the palm of her hand before throwing them into the mix. She used an old china teacup to measure flour for the mixture. The teacup would be placed back inside the bag of flour for future use. The flour that she used was of a course, whole wheat texture. The hearty aroma and flavor were like none other and can’t easily be duplicated with our traditional American flour selection. I’ve often thought of purchasing the flour from available on-line sources but I can’t justify the cost. Hence, I offer this recipe as an alternative. Is it exactly the same as the old country flavor? Well, no…. But, it’s a close second and my family enjoys the hearty flavor of these beautiful scones. Served with a heaping helping of butter and homemade jam, this recipe is a winner.

Hearty Irish Scones

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup old fashioned oats + 1/4 cup for topping

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon salt

10 Tablespoons (5/8 cups) butter or margarine

1 3/4 – 2 cups buttermilk

1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda, brown sugar and salt. Stir in oatmeal. Cut in butter with your fingers or with a pastry blender. Add raisins and mix; then add buttermilk and mix/ kneed just until dough comes together. If dough is too wet, kneed in extra flour; just until dough becomes less sticky.

Transfer dough to a floured work surface and gently shape into a 1/2-inch thick rectangle. Cut either into 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter. Transfer to baking sheet. Sprinkle tops with extra oatmeal; lightly pat oats into surface. Bake 15-18 minutes, until browned on the bottom. If desired, you can flip scones to bake 2 more minutes to further brown the bottoms. Let cool or serve warm.

Colorful Stuffed Peppers

While gathering produce during my weekly shopping trip, I noticed an abundance of beautifully colored bell peppers piled high in the sale bin as I entered the store. I realized that it had been a very long time since I had made stuffed peppers so I went through a mental checklist of all of the ingredients I would need to make the dish for our Saturday night meal. When picking peppers for this recipe, I was careful to select large, wide, flat-bottomed peppers that would sit nicely in my baking dish. As luck would have it, ground beef was also on sale, so I purchased several pounds of the 93/7% mixture. I love to stock up on versatile meat options, bring them home and divide them into meal-sized portions for the freezer. This allows me to have plenty on-hand, when needed. Here’s how I divided things up:

2 lbs kept for the stuffed peppers

2 lbs were made into hearty hamburger patties, placed in freezer safe container

2 lbs were mixed with ingredients to make 2 meatloaf bricks and wrapped in foil

2 lbs were used to make simple chili without beans, packed into freezer safe bags

(I usually add beans to the chili meat once I reheat later.)

Carefully labeling everything, I used a permanent marker to date and identify the items enclosed. I also bought several pounds of fresh, boneless, skinless chicken for other future meals. I divided each large family pack into 4 freezer bags with 4 chicken breasts in each.

I always feel so accomplished when I have a productive day assembling meals that can be cooked with very little effort during the busy week. These delicious peppers were gobbled up quickly with a few left over for weekday lunches.

I’m ready to relax and enjoy the rest of the weekend!

Colorful Stuffed Peppers

6-8 large bell peppers

2 lbs ground beef

1 tsp Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 (5.6 ounce) package Knorr seasoned rice and pasta blend (chicken or beef flavor)

1 1/2 cups of water

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove and discard the tops, seeds, and membranes of the bell peppers; set aside.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the beef until evenly browned; drain.  Mix in Italian seasoning, onion powder, garlic powder, diced tomatoes (with juice), seasoned rice package and 1 1/2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil; cover and reduce heat to a simmer for 20-25 minutes to cook rice.  Remove lid, turn off heat and let cool slightly.  Spoon equal amounts of the mixture into each hollowed pepper.

Fill a 13X9” baking dish with about 2”of water.  Arrange peppers in a baking dish with the hollowed sides facing upward.  Tightly cover dish with aluminum foil.  Bake 35-40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the peppers are slightly tender. Remove from oven, uncover and sprinkle each pepper with sharp cheddar cheese before serving.

Honey Granola Clusters

  
As the summer sun ripens a delicious array of fruits and vegetables, I make sure that nature’s bounty takes center stage at the kitchen table. Living in the Midwest, we have so few months during the course of the year where we can have locally grown foods literally sitting at our doorstep. Backyards, gardens and farms throughout the county have the opportunity to produce foods situated in patio pots, raised beds, trellising on garden fences and planted in rows along county roads.

As I was mowing the lawn last week, I spied the beginning of a few delicious looking pears that I can’t wait to harvest when they are ready. My grapes are coming along nicely. I have gathered and prepared several generous heads of romaine lettuce, lots of sweet peppers, and fresh herbs. Nothing compares to the flavors of fresh picked fruits and vegetables that accompany family meals carefully prepared from scratch.

   
   
We’ve also started raising bees as a hobby and as a source for our own golden delicious honey. Planting patio pots with wild flower seeds and leaving our land as natural as possible will provide them a source of food as well.  

   
   
This morning I made a batch of granola clusters to accompany many of the fruits that I grew or purchased from a local farm. A dollop or two of plain yogurt finishes off the dish. (The peaches aren’t quite in season yet so I suppose, there are a few things in the dish that I am hopelessly awaiting as the season continues to bring us an abundance of delicious and nutritious delicacies.)

Here’s to bright warm days and unpredictable summer rains… This is definitely one of my most favorite times of the year.
Honey Granola Clusters


1/2 cup canola oil 

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

5 cups old fashioned oats

1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, whatever you prefer)

1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries, dried apples, whatever you prefer)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or line a 11 x 17″ baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk oil, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and cinnamon until sugar is dissolved and oil is well incorporated. Add in the oats, nuts and dried fruit; mixing well.

Pour the oat mixture onto the baking sheet and spread it out into an even layer, firmly packing the oat mixture into the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating the pan half way through cooking. Remove from oven and let the granola cool at room temperature for at least one hour.

Use a small spoon to scoop up the granola off of the baking sheet using the spoon to break the granola into clusters. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

   

Make these ahead of time; cover them to store in the fridge for a few hours.

 

Glazed Almond Cutouts

  
Over the years, I have had a few favorite “go to” cutout cookie recipes.  Most have similar ingredients and use specific techniques for preparing a crispy, yet tender almond flavored disk. Recently, we purchased a 3 pound package of bees and placed them in a backyard hive. Since then, I have been testing recipes that have a very special ingredient in the mix…that ingredient is honey.   I recently made this recipe for a baby shower that my office hosted for a co-worker. While I don’t eat a lot of sweets, I’m told these crispy, tender morsels tasted divine.   

   
Glazed Almond Cutouts

2 1/4 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cups butter, softened

3/4 cups sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. In a separate bowl, beat butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Beat in yolk, then honey and extracts until smooth. Carefully beat in the flour mixture until smooth. Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate 15 to 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll out dough  to a 1/4″ thickness.  With a 2″ cookie cutter, cut shapes and place on cookie sheets. Optional: freeze for 30 minutes before placing in preheated oven. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden.

Let cookies cool on cookie sheet 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Glaze cookies and decorate cookies as desired.  The recipe that I use for the glaze can be found here.