Crunchy Quinoa Granola

I went a little granola crazy this weekend. The hubs and I decided to do snacks and foodie items for Christmas this year, so I made two batches of granola. It went fast.

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Wholesome Crunchy Gift Giving

The first was adapted from this recipe by Joy the Baker.  I also got the mason jar idea from her. Genius.

Not gonna lie, I wasn’t sure about the goji berries, but they were awesome! 

The second was something  I sort of made up on the fly because I was running out of oats. And it was absolutely amazing.  It was also super festive because I used red quinoa, cherries and pistachios. Did I mention that it was delicious?

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Totally festive, crunchy, protein packed granola. No big deal.

This is a super savory granola, but if you want to sweeten it up, feel free to add more agave nectar. I don’t think it needs it…

The quinoa and cocoa nibs give this an awesome crunch and the coconut oil gives a super savory, rich flavor. I think this is my new favorite granola!

Look at this recipe as more of a guideline than something set in stone.

Crunchy Quinoa Granola

Ingredients

4 cups rolled oats.

2 cups red quinoa, uncooked–be sure to rinse and drain it!

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

3/4 cup cocoa nibs

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut-I like the flakes because it adds some awesome texture

1 cup pistachios, coarsely chopped (I chopped mine a little too much, you’ll want big chunks for that beautiful green color!)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 pinch smoked salt

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup agave nectar

1 tsp. Vanilla

1 1/2 cups dried cherries

What to do:

Preheat oven to 325.

Line two baking pans with parchment paper.

Combine all dry ingredients except the cherries in a large bowl, give it a good toss to make sure it’s well mixed.

Heat coconut oil and agave nectar in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally until combined. 

Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.

Add to dry ingredients and mix well, ensuring the mixture is well coated.

Pour granola onto baking sheets, making sure to spread evenly.

Place in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown, pulling out twice to toss mixture (so it doesn’t burn).

Let cool completely and add dried cherries. Granola will last several weeks in an airtight container. Serve over milk, yogurt or by the handful.

Enjoy!

Happy Wednesday!


June Foodie Penpals!!!

I am a day late on posting this, the last week has been nuts! Big Oops on my part!

I sent a package to Jenni from Saint Louis over at J. Ferris Wheel Of… you can see what I sent her by clicking here.

This month I received a lovely care package from Denise in Ohio… she rocks!!! Huge thank-you Denise, I’m enjoying all of your goodies!

A Box of Yum!

Here’s the low down on what I got from Denise:

  • Two bags of specialty popcorn (Coconut Curry and Parmesan Garlic) locally grown and made in her home state of Ohio.
  • A Jar of Pumpkin Butter
  • Candied Ginger
  • Baked/Dried Apples (organic)
  • Two Raw Nut snacks
  • An All Natural Fruit Strip

The Raw Nut bars were pretty good, packed with protein, they were good for a quick pick-me-up between breakfast and lunch. I really liked the chocolate cashew combination!

I haven’t broken into the pumpkin butter…I’m waiting until Ben makes some bread.. I hope this happens this week! Fruit butters of any kind are always a win!

The ginger and apples are being saved for baking/a rainy day/granola making. I’ll probably break them open this weekend for some experimentation.

I am pretty sure my husband ate the fruit snack. And I am sure he enjoyed every last bite. If not, it’s an unsolved mystery where this tasty little treat disappeared to.

The popcorn. Oh my goodness! This popcorn is delicious! Ben devoured most of the bag of coconut curry on the sly before I could get to it, but the parmesan garlic is being savored. Wowowowow!

This photo gives more information on the shop the popcorn is from as well as their other flavors.  Check them out!

So many choices!

Another huge thank you to Denise, everything has been wonderful!  

In case you’re interested in becoming a Foodie Penpal, here are some details. To sign up, visit this page! You must sign up by the 4th of the month.

 
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

***If you’re in Europe, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!

 

Happy Monday!


Of Lunch and Lettuce

Something amazing happened on Monday.

Ben and I harvested lettuce from our garden. It was the first time this season and I couldn’t have been more excited. We had red oak and pirate’s butter lettuce-both were delicious (especially when mixed with spinach and sunflower seeds, topped with maple mustard, tarragon vinegar and olive oil).

Our lettuce patch as of Memorial Day… it’s since doubled in size!

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to use fresh ingredients, especially when grown by your own hand. I admit that in this case, it’s mostly Ben… but I get such pride when I see baby basil plants poking through the dirt or beans popping up and knowing that I helped the growing process and I love learning more each and every day.

The greens were a perfect addition to my favorite kind of lunch. It consisted of salad, salmon, dilly scrambled eggs, grilled scallions(also from the garden) and green olives. Ben and I picked off of one plate. and just enjoyed the different flavor combinations and the first tastes of the season… all these things that don’t necessarily go together, but combined..they just work.

I’m loving all those greens!

This was perfect. I’m so looking forward to more salads and more fresh ingredients that we grow in our garden. I can’t think of a better way to nourish both body and soul.


May Foodie Penpal Reveal Day!

Holy Cow! How is it already May 31?!  This month has flown by and I have been aching to tell you about my foodie penpal experience and the day is finally here! Ah!
 
Before we start, a quick reminder that the Cheechako Taco giveaway ends today, please comment on the post in order to enter the drawing. I’ll announce the winner tonight! Click here to read/sign up.
 
Thank you to Nicole over at the Revved Runner for her awesome package! You totally nailed it: Pickles. Pretzels. Nuts. Chocolate. AMAZING!
 
I sent a package to Lauri P. out in Texas and am happy to report she was a fan of all of her Upstate NY/VT goodies!
 

I could barely contain my excitement.

First, Nicole sent this awesome card. The best part? You can use it again! I love perforated lines and postcards, especially in combination with recycling! Genius.

This doubles as a postcard!

 
When I opened the box, I couldn’t figure out why one side felt so much heavier. There was a large item wrapped in a plastic bag (I love that she did this, because that is totally how I package things, too!). When I removed the plastic, I got a huge grin on my face. It was a large jar of German pickles. I’m usually a dill girl, but these had the right kind of sweetness and still had a little bit of crunch. Major props, Nicole!
 
The box also contained a bag of Annie’s Organic Pretzel Bunnies. I love fun shaped foods…almost as much as I love pretzels.
 
Next, a Texas Staple-Cinnamon Honey Spread. Yum! I haven’t had a chance to crack this open yet, but I am thinking it will be divine on some homemade biscuits or popovers. I can’t wait! I love trying regional foods, so I am psyched about this spread.
 
The next few items were new to me. Sweet lord, what have I been missing?
 
Laura’s Wholesome Junk Food: These beauties come in bite form. Two bites are the perfect amount if you are looking for a little sweet…or a quick refuel after a workout. There was a whole lot of chocolatey-oaty goodness in this container.
 
Gone Nuts: This little package didn’t stand a chance in our house. It was a raw cashew almond blend with white and regular chocolate. Holy cow they were delicious! The package was instantly devoured and now I am obsessed…and trying to track down some more! If you haven’t had these, try them. Immediately!
 

So much flavor in one little box!

 Another HUGE Thank you to Nicole! I’ve enjoyed getting to know you through email and your blog…and you did an amazing job choosing all of my foodie goodies!
 
In case you’re interested in becoming a Foodie Penpal, here are some details. To sign up, visit this page!
 
-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal! 
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month. 
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. 

***If you’re in Europe, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at rocksalt@thisisrocksalt.com to get involved!


To Plan, or Not to Plan?

I had a major garden score today. Completely unplanned! I took my empty coffee bag to Starbucks so they could recycle it (and so I could get my free cup of coffee for doing so!) and noticed that they didn’t have any of the small bags of used coffee grounds. So, I asked if they had any on hand. I ended up leaving with a garbage bag full of coffee grounds! Pretty exciting stuff…Farmer Ben is going to be ecstatic…and my car is going to smell like burnt coffee. I can’t decide if this is a positive or a negative.

Sidenote: I’ve realized that I am more awkward now than I was at sixteen. Scary.

In other news, big shout-out to Steph for sending me this very cool site/blog: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/ 

I highly recommend checking it out. In short, it’s a blog that chronicles a family’s journey of cutting out processed foods, then going further and doing so on a budget. It also has a lot of great recipes, resources, guidelines and best practices.

I’ve said before, you have to read those labels, buy local, in season, and grow your own food, etc., etc., etc.! It’s definitely for your health!

Anyway, check this out if you are interested in making the change and wondering where to start. Thanks again, Steph!

Another cool health plan is The Daniel Plan. Here is the website: http://danielplan.com/ 

It’s a similar concept with a biblical base and more of a community/group-based site. It also focuses on fitness and scripture. Again, give them a visit to check them out. 

Neither of these are your typical “diets.” They are more of a lifestyle change, focusing on real food and health- NOT the next big weight-loss craze.  

I believe that anyone doing this will discover that real food just tastes better. No question.

I’m also still an avid myfitnesspal user-Find me (username: nre820)!-but if any of you are interested in having a partner/support group on a food-based journey, I am totally down! I also happen to be married to a guy with a pretty  awesome wealth of knowledge on the topic of food! And gardening! And eating local! You can also check out my list of “current web obsessions” for some pretty awesome food blogs that focus on real ingredients (namely, 101cookbooks).

Alright, time to step off the soapbox. 

I just witnessed a torrential downpour. Literally 63.5 seconds ago. Now, the sun is shining. Oh April, you kill me.

Lastly, mad shout-out to Liz for being awesome and making some major tracks on the Couch to 5k program.  And to Kristy for killing the Plattsburgh Half-Marathon. And to James for his awesome job on the Chattahoochee Half Iron Tri.

The end. More coming soon.


This is Why…Part Deux

Dear Friends, 

Monsanto=Bad News Bears.

 They are the gangsters of the agricultural world, trying to stomp out local farming…and sneaking GMOs into everything. 

…even though their own people in charge eat organic. There is probably something wrong when the people in charge of a company won’t eat their own product.

Please take a moment of  your time to sign this petition: Tell Obama to cease FDA ties with Monsanto.

Then, pass it on. Please.

Thanks!

Noelle


This Is Why…

Hello, hello, hellooooo!

As you can probably tell, I am feeling much better. I am finally getting over whatever it was I had, thanks in part to lots of tea and tissues, homemade soup, my wonderful husband and a ridiculous amount of sleep. One more day and I think I will be completely healthy again.

I am excited to bring you new posts, as briefly detailed in my last entry…and more! Again, I apologize for the lack of writing on my part, having been out of work for a few days last week things have been ridiculous.

Anyway… I saw this article yesterday. I think it pretty clearly outlines yet another reason why I try to avoid fast food, processed food or factory produced meats.  In case you missed my post on this the first time around, here is the link.

Basically, McDonald’s said that they would stop using ammonia treated beef (or as my friend BG put it, “Ghostbusters’ slime”)… my question? Why the heck were they using ammonia treated beef in the first place?! The answer: ammonium hydroxide is used as an anti-microbial, making (very) low quality meat okay for consumption.

The chemical is also used in many every day household cleaners and to darken wood. Yum.  The FDA has determined that the use of ammonium hydroxide is safe… regardless, I don’t personally believe that eating cheeseburgers-and other foods-containing a substance used in my window cleaner is very appetizing…or healthy, for that matter.

If you read on in the first article, it also discusses other substances used in everyday processed/pre-made/frozen/fast foods. Nothing wrong with eating shellac or sand, right? Thanks, but no thanks.

In short, I’ll be sticking with my local, grass-fed meat, vegetables from our garden and homemade breads… Buy local!

Sources: 

Yahoo! The Sideshow- http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/sideshow/mcdonald-confirms-no-longer-using-pink-slime-chemicals-171209662.html

Wickipedia: Ammonium Hydroxide– http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ammonium_hydroxide

FoodInsight.Org: Questions and Answers about Ammonium Hydroxide Used In Food Production- http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Questions_and_Answers_about_Ammonium_Hydroxide_Use_in_Food_Production


Ricotta My Mind!

I made ricotta cheese. Yeah, put that in your spoon and eat it…. seriously, this stuff is delicious! I’m pleading with you to make this ASAP.

I used the Smitten Kitchen Ricotta Recipe. I love Deb because she makes you feel like you can conquer the world with whatever you’re making…granted this was a whole heck of a lot easier than I thought it was going to be, but her advice always helps. Plus, she reads every comment and is quick to answer reader questions and concerns. Super woman? I think so.

I didn’t have a thermometer so I ended up picking one up at the hardware store for about $8.00. It’s a meat thermometer but it works (side note: if you don’t have a thermometer, scroll down and read the comments section on the SK post, Deb gives a good description of what the milk should look like when at temperature).

I went with the 3 cups of whole milk, 1 cup of heavy cream combination and it did not disappoint. For the lemon juice, I just squeezed the juice from one lemon, so I may have had a little more, but it gave the cheese an awesome hint of zest. Heavenly. And none of those weird gums or stabilizers that they add to the store brand!

"The waiting is the hardest part"

This recipe yielded a little over a cup. We are using it for lasagna, but I seriously had to talk myself out of just eating it by itself. It would also be scrumptious with a  nice crusty bread.

The Finished Product

So basically… I will never buy ricotta again. Life changed.


Veggie-Tales!

I am so sick of cookies. I am tired of sweets in general. I don’t know why, but this year, I really think I overdid it. I didn’t even do as much baking as I had planned but the thought of eating one more piece of fudge, slice of cake or bite of a cookie makes me want to run screaming for the hills. Seriously… I am going to turn into a chocolate chip cookie…or a stick of butter. Basically, I’m over it.

That being said, I am probably the only person out there who chose yesterday, the day after Christmas, to do some serious baking. I know you’re judging. I am judging, too.  But I had to do it! There are some very dear friends and family members who I had promised crazy confections… and I just… didn’t get around to it until yesterday, I mean, I had time the day before Christmas, but then the cookies would have sat around for days before I mailed them out, and who wants stale cookies? I certainly don’t. Anyway, I decided to jazz them up a little bit and make them a bit healthier (and more delicious-in my opinion-look for the recipe later this week!)…So, to the recipients of my baked goods, you’re welcome.

After overdosing on sugar this month, my latest food obsession is the veggie pita. I take a whole wheat pita, slice it down the middle and stuff each side with mixed greens, sprouts, avocado, tomato, onion and Ben’s chili sauce. I forgot the chili sauce today, so I used hummus instead. I can tell that I have been going through clean food withdrawal because it feels so GOOD to be eating veggies, even if it is just the basic stuff.

Side Note: Ben usually grows everything mentioned above (minus the avocado, obviously) in our garden-we still had scallions and Swiss chard growing up until a couple of weeks ago!- but, as it is the off season, we get most of our veggies at our local co-op, which works with local farms and greenhouses. I bought our tomatoes at Price Chopper- they were hydroponically grown in Vermont (and pesticide free!), I chose these over the organically grown tomatoes from Mexico.

I don’t pretend to be an expert about food and I don’t consider myself a “health-nut”, but as a personal policy, I do try to stick with all natural ingredients and buy local whenever possible. I also try to buy farmer-owned brands (such as Cabot or Organic Valley) and stick to items with ingredients I can pronounce. If I pick up a package that has a list of 40+ ingredients, I immediately put it down. I don’t believe that our bodies were meant to have so much junk put into them.

When we buy meat, we get it directly from local farms, the farmers’ market or from our food co-op. Again, it’s not always “organic”, but it’s local, hormone-free and grass-fed, the way it should be. The same thing goes for our eggs.

As far as microwaveable foods, I don’t. We don’t even own a microwave. I prefer to cook it, chop it, slice it, steam it or boil it myself…and if I make too much I can simply freeze it and reheat it on the stove or in the oven-or give it to a friend. I also avoid chain restaurants as much as possible, just because Ben and I have both worked in the restaurant business and know how much of the chain food comes in a bag and goes in the microwave. It’s gross…and ridiculous, considering how easy most of the food is to make.

The idea of mass-produced foods (whether it be meat, cheese, bread or vegetables) kind of freaks me out…especially after some of the reading/documentary watching I’ve done. I believe that food is meant to be a personalized experience-not just eating whatever garbage is put in front of you-and that you’ll get more out of your meal if you know where it’s coming from and how it was prepared. It saddens me that so many people out there have no idea what they are putting in their bodies, day after day and even more have no idea how to cook for themselves!

I am not saying that I am perfect. I do slip up on occasion, but for the most part, I try my hardest to follow these rules. I realize that it’s not super difficult for me as I was blessed with a wonderful mother who cooked a ton of different things and made me try new foods on a weekly basis (I didn’t grow up eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Hamburger Helper, I grew up eating lentil soup, roast chicken, swiss chard, and countless other homemade things) …and I am married to a chef-slowly-turning-farmer-who-cans-freezes-everything.

Farmer Ben, hard at work.

I haven’t always been as passionate about where my food comes from… I used to stand with the many who see buying local/organic as pointless and too expensive. This simply isn’t true, you just have to do your homework. And honestly, if I spend a few cents more on my Cabot butter, I am okay with that, because I know that it is going to the farmers…or if I spend a little bit more buying the crackers with 7 ingredients instead of 47, I feel confident knowing that I am saving my body from a ton of extra junk it doesn’t need. Again, I am no expert, these are just my personal beliefs, but I like to think that I am healthier because of it.

Anyway, that is the end of my rant for the day…who would have thought that talking about vegetables could get one so worked up?!  With that in mind, I’m using this post as a public announcement. I am getting back on track-starting today! I am a big believer in the food journal. Even if you aren’t trying to get in shape, it’s really helpful to see exactly what you are eating-or not eating- and track your water intake. I know that this month I have been horrible about drinking water and I have felt it.

So, I am getting back to my food journaling ways. I recently discovered MyFitnessPal and have been using it…kind of… for the last couple of months. I really like this site because it’s very comprehensive, has a really large and pretty accurate database and has a lot of different tools that I have found very helpful. They also have a smartphone app with a really awesome barcode scanner (probably the coolest thing ever!).  Today, I am getting back into it after a brief hiatus and want to invite you to be …my fitness pal! You can find me-my username is nre820.

Alright kids, catch you later! Be on the lookout for a few life updates and some baller recipes!