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.

 

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Wholesome Granola Bars

This week I had to head out of town for a business trip. When I travel, I’m often thrown off balance by the pre-selected conference meals provided as I can’t always follow my regular routine. Meal times are usually less than ideal and the meal selection is often standard fare and can be limited in variety.  

So, before leaving for my trip this week, I made sure to pack quite a few of these Wholesome Granola Bars.  It’s always good to travel with a stash of wholesome snacks when you’re away from the comforts of home.   

On Thursday, these babies really came in handy. We had eaten an early lunch and our dinner was scheduled for 6:30 pm.  Just before heading out to an evening meeting, I shared a few of the bars with my colleagues and they were thrilled to have a healthy snack on hand to tide them over until dinner.  The best part… This flavorful, grainy bar provided a healthy choice over other tempting  fast food favorites.  The whole grains in the recipe deliver long lasting energy that really helps when you need a little something to give you a boost. Make sure to individually wrap the bars to lock in moisture and freshness.


Wholesome Granola Bars

3 1/4 cups old fashioned oats

3/4 cup crispy rice cereal

2/3 cup whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

2/3 cup honey

1/3 cup canola oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly spray a 13×9″ baking pan with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.  Stir in the honey, oil, and vanilla; mix thoroughly until all ingredients are combined.  Evenly press mixture into prepared pan.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.



Nutella Granola Bars

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Last weekend, we visited campus to attend the swim team’s final home meet for the season. Before leaving for our trip, I went through my treasured recipes to prepare a few baked favorites for all three children. M’s favorite is a no-brainier… She loves Old Fashioned Baked Oatmeal. I usually make her a 9×13″ pan, cut into squares and packaged in an airtight container. I’m told she usually skips the dorm breakfast and opts for a big bowl of plain yogurt paired with a crumbled square of my baked oatmeal.
P is more of a junk food kinda kid. He loves plain ole’ chocolate chip cookies. I usually make Chocolate Chip Cake Mix Cookies. I’m told he shares them with floor mates and friends so I usually try to make a rather large batch for sharing. Who can resist a batch of freshly baked cookies?
K is a mix between the two when it comes to choosing a favorite baked item. Her care package contained a batch of Nutella Granola bars. For this easy bar, all of the ingredients are combined and pressed into a 13×9″ baking dish. They are then sliced and wrapped individually for freshness and portability. The bars are full of good hearty carbs and are sweetened by combining Nutella with peanut butter and honey. This is a great no-bake recipe that can be prepared in a jiffy. Make sure to individually wrap the bars to keep them fresh and pliable.

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Nutella Granola Bars 

2 cups old fashioned oats

3/4 cup lightly salted dry roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup wheat germ
3/4 cup sunflower kernels
1/2 cup honey or light corn syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 400°. In a jelly roll pan, pour oats, peanuts, wheat germ and sunflower kernels. Mix thoroughly and bake for 8-12 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Transfer to a large bowl.
In a small saucepan, combine honey, brown sugar and butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil; cook 2 minutes longer. Remove from heat; stir in peanut butter and Nutella until blended.
Add the warm honey mixture to the dry, toasted ingredients and toss to coat. Press into a greased 13×9″ pan. Cool. Cut into bars. Wrap individually with plastic wrap. Store in an air-tight container.

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Rita’s Oat and Raisin Breakfast Cereal

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I bumped into an old friend the other day. She and I used to work together. Our paths would often cross as we headed in and out of the office. Most of our work was done in the field so we weren’t able to see one another on a regular basis. Whenever we had the opportunity to stop and catch up for a bit, she would always share her latest recipe find. The recipes that she enjoyed most, were those that were simple, healthy, and inexpensive.
Well, I have since moved up in rank and our paths really don’t cross any longer. But to my delight, she sent an email the other day, with an invitation to lunch. I was thrilled to hear from her so we met for a quick bite to eat at a local restaurant. The minutes passed as we shared stories of kids, husbands, work, and the daily grind. It was so great to see her. Without fail, she slipped me a piece of paper as we parted ways. On it was printed her latest recipe find. She calls it Peanut Butter Granola but after making it this morning, I’m calling it Rita’s Oat and Raisin Breakfast Cereal. The texture is softer and less crunchy as compared to a traditional granola. My daughter, M ate it as a breakfast cereal this morning and raved about the texture and taste. I hope you enjoy it…Thanks, Rita!

Rita’s Oat and Raisin Breakfast Cereal

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins
2 1/2 cup rice cereal
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup natural peanut butter

Stir together in a mixing bowl, whole oats, rice cereal, and raisins. In a saucepan, bring to a boil the apple juice and brown sugar. Remove from the stove and suit in vanilla and peanut butter. When peanut butter has dissolved, pour over cereal mixture in the bowl and stir until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture onto a jelly roll pan and bake at 300 degrees for 10 minutes. Cool completely and store in an air-tight container.

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Granola Topped Apple Morning Muffins

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Recently, I combined three of my favorite recipes to make these delicious muffins. It seems I have been making granola and applesauce quite regularly these past few months. Often, I have a little bit of each left after making lunches for the week. About a month ago, I decided to put the scraps to use by incorporating them into a muffin recipe. I folded the chunky homemade applesauce into a basic muffin recipe and sprinkled granola over the top of each muffin. My granola recipe has a bit of maple syrup in it so it adds another layer of flavor to the crunchy topped muffins. (Substitute your own favorites, if you would like.)
These muffins look and smell delicious as they come out of the oven. It’s hard to resist brewing a hot cup of coffee and sitting down with one of these gems in the early morning hours, as a new day begins.

Granola Topped Apple Morning Muffins

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups applesauce
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup chopped pecans, optional
Granola for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Stir in applesauce. Combine the flour, baking soda and spices; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in nuts.
Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Sprinkle granola over individual muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. This makes about 2 dozen regular-sized muffins.

Here is the link for the chunky applesauce and granola topping

Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

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We spent a beautiful afternoon at the local apple orchard last weekend. I had my mind set on making several batches of homemade applesauce while the fruit is in abundance and is reasonably priced.
When we first moved to our current home, J and I planted several apple trees on the back portion of our property. That was 13 years ago and we have not been able to harvest one single apple since then. We planted them in an open area beyond our woods which must be the perfect spot for all of the local deer to munch on whatever fruit begin to grow on the miniature trees.
In our area there are several great orchards so taking a trip to purchase bulk fruit and vegetables isn’t too much trouble. We picked up lots of apples, sweet potatoes, cider, fresh apple donuts, and chestnuts.
I’ve been making this particular applesauce recipe for years and years. The addition of vanilla makes a world of difference, adding an extra layer of flavor. If you own an apple peeler/corer, it will make this recipe super quick and easy to assemble.

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Chunky Homemade Applesauce with Simple Granola Topping

8 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a large pot, combine apples, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes; while stirring occasionally.
Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Mash apples to desired consistency. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Simple Granola Topping

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins or dried fruit, if desired

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures and pour onto parchment lines sheet pan. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally to achieve an even color. Add raisins or dried fruit if desired.

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Easy No-Bake Granola Bites

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Making your own granola bars at home can certainly be more nutritious for your family and is definitely a money saving idea. A box of granola bars can range in price from a moderate $2 up to as much as $7, which is really quite expensive. Often, one can only guess at the ingredients that are included in the nutrition facts label. Ingredient names that I can’t recognize or pronounce are always a red flag for me.
While this recipe isn’t the most nutritious of the bunch in my recipe box, it certainly is easy to make and I like the fact that it’s a no-bake recipe that can be made during the late summer months when the air conditioner shouldn’t have to compete with a hot oven. I often add nuts, seeds and dried berries for added texture, nutrition, and flavor. I wrap the cooled and cut bars in plastic wrap so that they stay fresh and are easily packed for travel. This is a great “kids in the kitchen” recipe.

Easy No- Bake Granola Bites

2 1/2 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light (reduced sugar) corn syrup or honey
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips

Spray a 13×9″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Combine the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl; set aside. Bring the brown sugar and syrup (or honey) to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter and vanilla until blended. Pour peanut butter mixture over cereal mixture, stirring until coated; let stand 10 minutes to cool slightly. Stir in the chocolate chips. Press mixture into prepared pan; cool completely. Cut into bars. Wrap individually in plastic wrap to preserve freshness.