coconut curry pepita granola

This stuff is the ultimate sweet-salty-spicy-crunchy combination, the kind of snack that leaves you crazy addicted after one bite. So, sorry in advance if you eat the whole batch in one day… I warned you!

The ingredients complement each other perfectly: spicy curry and cinnamon, sweet maple syrup, a good dose of sea salt and toasty coconut, all caramelized around the crunchy roasted pepitas and rice puffs.

Also it’s gluten free, vegan, refined sugar free and so delicious that you won’t even notice.

I tried three different batches, playing with the ingredients each time until I tasted that perfect balance of sweet, salty and spicy. The original recipe was more of a pepita brittle rather than granola, with lots of the gooey stuff and fewer seeds. I’m sure that is delicious but I wanted a more snack-acceptable treat, so I added some oats and rice puffs to make it granola-y.

This is perfect for jarring up and gift-giving, as I did for Christmas, or just leaving in a bowl on the counter for whenever you need a zesty bite to wake your taste buds. Just beware, one bite will turn in to seven… or 25.

coconut curry pepita granola, adapted from here

  • 1 1/2 cups raw unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
  • 1/2 cup oats (use gluten-free oats if desired)
  • 1/2 cup real maple syrup
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 T curry powder
  • 1/2 t Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 T sea salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (sweetened or not—it’s up to you)

*for a lower sugar version you can replace 1/4 cup of the maple syrup with unsweetened applesauce (I haven’t tried this but it should be fine), and use unsweetened coconut.

Heat oven to 350º F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Measure pepitas, rice puffs and oats into a large bowl and set aside. Place curry powder in a small saucepan and heat over low flame until it is lightly toasted and fragrant. Then add maple syrup, coconut oil, salt and cinnamon, whisk to combine and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat.

Pour maple mixture over pepitas and rice puffs, stirring to mix. Spread coated granola evenly over the surface of the parchment-lined cookie sheets in a thin layer. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Remove from oven and stir shredded coconut into mixture, then bake for another 10-15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until seeds are toasty and granola is golden. Keep a close eye on it this time as the seeds and coconut can burn quickly. Then remove from oven.

Place baking sheet on a wire cooling rack and let cool completely. The seed mixture will harden as it cools. Some areas will be very toasty and crisp, while other areas will be gooey and caramel-like :] When cooled, break granola into chunks. Serve when warm and delicious or store in an air-tight container and eat within 2 weeks (..as if it will take that long)!

^ this was my first batch, which was close to the original recipe with mostly pepitas and I added a few almonds.

mid-baking, adding the coconut.

Enjoy!

-mich Continue reading

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Seeded Butternut Squash Braid

This bread was so good we made it twice within 3 days and gobbled up every last crumb.

My sister Tara is a bread baker wannabe and her first attempt over our Thanksgiving break was good but not what she wanted. The whole wheat dough was wet and didn’t exactly rise. So when our other sister brought home this recipe for a butternut squash braid [Tara’s pretty obsessed with squash :], she decided to go for round II.

It smelled delicious, looked incredible, definitely doubled—maybe tripled—in size, and tasted… divine. Perfection, with the exception of being slightly undercooked and doughy, which didn’t bother our family of dough-lovers. We ripped off wads of it like challah and let it melt in our mouths, sinking into a ball of dough in the pit of our stomachs that stayed there all night. Quite filling, but it was impossible to have just one piece!

So after the successful test run my sisters decided to make it again for Christmas dinner. We let it bake all the way through this time, the crust turning a shiny golden brown. The inside texture was airy and soft—the way it’s meant to be—but we actually preferred the dense, doughy loaf :]

Moral of the story: we’re not master bread bakers, so this loaf should be fairly simple and  fool-proof for beginners if you follow the directions. The butternut gives it a richness and makes it soft and moist, and the texture reminds me of challah. This is definitely a keeper in the bread recipe files!

Seeded Butternut Squash Braid, from taste of home

Prep time: 45 min + rising, Bake: 20 min. Yields 18 servings.

  • 2-3/4 cups uncooked cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm milk (110° to 115°)
  • 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/2 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels (we didn’t use)
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened (we used Earth Balance)
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Topping:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 cup pepitas or sunflower kernels

Place squash in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain and mash squash (you will need 2 cups); cool to 110°-115°.

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk and water. In a largebowl, combine the pepitas, butter, egg, brown sugar, salt, cooked squash, yeast mixture and 2 cups flour; beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide into thirds. Shape each into a 26-in. rope; braid ropes. Transfer to a greased baking sheet; form into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Cover with a clean kitchen towel; let rise in a warm place
until doubled, about 45 minutes.

For topping, beat egg and water; brush over braid. Sprinkle with pepitas. Bake at 350° for 18-23 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan to wire rack. Yield: 1 loaf (18 slices). Per slice: 192 calories, 7 g fat, 31 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 7 g protein.

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chili on a chilly night

Simple solution to a chilly-November-home-alone kind of night: go to Trader Joe’s, pick up some veggies and beans, make chili, cuddle up on the couch in your pj’s and a blanket and let the Christmas movie marathoning begin! This was me on the night I returned to my apartment after Thanksgiving break. I had this chili on my list of recipes to make for a while and mmmm… why did I wait this long to try it?! So simple, hearty, flavorful, just the right amount of heat (as in pretty spicy if you don’t like spice), and did I mention delicious?!

Don’t make the mistake I did and put this on your list of recipes to try, only to actually cook it a year later. Do it now!

turkey & kale chili, from here

  • olive oil
  • 1 pound 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 1/2 T cumin
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels (I like super sweet white corn)
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken or turkey broth
  • 1 small bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed and roughly chopped Continue reading

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds: sweet-spicy-savory

This should have been posted ummmmm just about one month ago, when the Halloween pumpkins were plentiful. My bad. I took pictures and everything, but somehow it slipped my mind until we were roasting squash seeds over the Thanksgiving break and someone asked if I had any good recipes.

Well of course I do! After my roommates and I carved our pumpkins (or rather I just cut the top off mine to get the seeds out), I was put in charge of the roasting. I decided to try out two recipes: spicy tamari and a sweet—spicy—savory combo. The tamari seeds were tasty with a savory-sweet soy-honey flavor, but seemed to char quickly yet were still sticky and soft. meh. The other recipe however, a unique combination of brown sugar/honey, rosemary, salt, cinnamon, cayenne and black peppers, was an explosion of crispy, crunchy, salty, sweet, buttery flavor. Way too addicting. My family can vouch for this. Melissa made them while we were cooking dinner and we munched by the handful, then ate some with dinner over a green salad and on top of Tara’s gingered apple-carrot-squash soup. They added a nice crunch and intense flavor to everything!

This will definitely be my go-to pumpkin seed roasting recipe for the rest of my life unless I find something better which is unlikely. A touch of rich brown sugar and butter, savory rosemary and sea salt, and spicy cinnamon, cayenne and black pepper—there couldn’t be a better combination in my opinion. Enjoy!

sweet-spicy-savory pumpkin seeds, from here

  • approximately 2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 3 T earth balance / butter
  • 3 T brown sugar or honey
  • 1 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1 T chopped fresh rosemary or 1 t dried
  • 1/4 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter and then stir in the brown sugar, salt, rosemary, cinnamon, cayenne  and black pepper. Stir for 2 – 3 minutes until the sugar has mostly melted. Remove from heat and stir in the pumpkin seeds. Spread on a well-greased cookie sheet. Don’t worry if it seems liquidy. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, stirring 2 – 3 times during baking (important!). Keep a close eye on them as they can burn really fast. (You can also bake these at a lower temp like 300, for a longer time like 1 hour.) Let cool, scrape off the pan, and store in an air-tight container if you don’t eat them all first :]

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Thankful for this

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving!

It was hard to come back to school knowing I only have a week left of classes. Sitting on the cozy couch with my puppies and baking Christmas cookies for the next month instead of going back to work was ooh so tempting….

But we did in fact begin the cookie baking while everyone was home—starting off with mom’s famous peanut butter balls. They’re usually the first to be made, and always the first to go.. sadly. Which is why we almost always end up making another batch closer to Christmas! (hey, we give plates upon plates of cookies away, and there would be some major disappointment if someone received a plate with missing peanut butter balls.)

Thanksgiving day was beautiful at home in Maryland—definitely not as cold as I was anticipating! We met up with mom’s neighborhood walking group along with some of my friends on a beautiful quiet country road for a nice Thanksgiving morning, pre-turkey run/walk. What a refreshing morning it was, and twenty-something people came out!

After that dad put us to work in the yard gathering leaves, chopping wood, and all the winter-preparation work he hasn’t been able to do. Then it was time to relax and cook the feast! We had possibly our smallest Thanksgiving ever, with just the sisters, mom, dad, Jeremy, and our two non-related family members, Melissa and Steve! Steve surprised us all with his gorgeous wild-rice and mushroom stuffed squash picked from his farm, and Melissa made a delicious side of sautéed kale, green beans and mushrooms. Tara wanted to try out her bread-making skills with a whole wheat country loaf. It turned out a little flat but almost had the consistency of ciabatta—I loved it! Mom brined and cooked the turkey and whipped up some mashed white + sweet potatoes and everyone’s favorite cornbread-cranberry-sausage herbed stuffing (which there were not enough leftovers of!). It was a fantastic meal and I was just perfectly stuffed, therefore had room to enjoy my vegan frozen pumpkin mousse pie! Yum. Writing about this makes me want to eat it allll over again.

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pumpkin spice and everything nice

Is there such thing as too much pumpkin spice at this time of year?

I don’t think so. But just to warn you, I may be about to go [a bit] overboard with this delicious combination…

First on the list is this spiced up pumpkin bread (above) which is originally vegan (I used a real egg however), whole grain, fat free and contains just ½ cup of sugar! It’s so moist and soft—almost scoopable—and is perfect warmed up for breakfast with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Needless to say it was devoured.

Next I tried out pumpkin beer bread, which does not contain actual pumpkin but rather pumpkin ale (aka the best kind of beer) and pie spices. I always loved when mom made beer bread at home…. so I have no idea why I’ve never tried to bake it considering how simple the recipe is!

The dry ingredients (above). I used whole wheat pastry flour and lots of cinnamon :]

Then pour the beer in and watch the bubbles take over!

Now the ultimate fall breakfast: pumpkin pie french toast. I spotted the idea here, but didn’t really feel the need to follow the recipe. Just whisk some milk, egg, pumpkin puree, vanilla and spices, dip your bread and throw it on the skillet! Then of course drown in maple syrup :]

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healthy comfort meals for fall

This fall weather has me craving warm, comforting dishes, as you saw when I posted this kale sauté. Trying out new dishes only has me craving more, so I wanted to share a few ideas I’ve tried for quick, warm meals. I made polenta for the first time about a week ago and have fallen in love. It’s so comforting and tastes great with everything! Just add some cooked veggies or top with stew or chili for a wonderful cozy meal…..

The basic polenta recipe I’ve been using and find to work well is this:

½ cup polenta / yellow corn grits

2 cups vegetable broth

¼ t salt

1 T olive oil

Bring vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a pot. Add oil. Lower heat to simmer. Add the polenta in a slow steady stream, stirring constantly with a whisk. Whisk for about 5 minutes, until polenta is thickened. Keeping heat low, cover and let cook for 20 more minutes or so, stirring occasionally.

*I halved the recipe I found, so feel free to use 1 cup polenta and double the other ingredients for a larger batch.

Now you’ve got soft, creamy polenta to use as a base for anything! The vegetable broth is definitely what makes it so flavorful. I have yet to let the polenta firm up and bake or sauté it, but I can imagine it’s just as yummy.

Here (above) I had a hearty brunch of polenta, eggs scrambled with peppers, onions and kale, pico de gallo and feta cheese. I know it’s hard to see the polenta with all the yummy stuff on top!

And here I made a super simple lentil chili which I served over leftover polenta. I used this WholeFoods recipe for the chili and added some leafy kale. Continue reading