Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola

I never really got aboard the “WOOO QUINOA!!” train.

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I’m Italian. I eat pasta and bread like there’s an imminent flour shortage. And I don’t mean whole wheat or omega-3 fanciness. Nope. Plain ‘ol standard pasta. I know brown rice and whole wheat flour are probably a teensy bit better for me, but I enjoy the good stuff. Still, I attempted to replace a pasta/cous cous side dish with some quinoa. Eh. I’m just not that excited to eat it. And if you know me, I like to get excited to eat! So, I wanted to try to use quinoa in a different way. BAM – lets mix it with some oats and sugar and bake it! YES! now I can get excited to eat quinoa!

If you have seen my other granola recipe, you know how much I get excited about granola.

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Quinoa gives the granola some extra crunch and adds a little nuttiness. Who doesn’t want a little more nuttiness in their day? 🙂

Quinoa also adds extra protein to the granola. Quinoa is a complete protein; it contains all 9 essential amino acids that our bodies can’t make and we must get from food. So, eat up!

***Also, if you don’t want/have quinoa – you can still make this granola! Replace it with an equal amount of your favorite granola add-in: another nut, seed (sunflower, pumpkin etc..) or shredded coconut! (just replace it with something that can be baked (ie – not chocolate)

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Mixed Quinoa! You can use any kind of quinoa in this recipe. Fun Fact: Quinoa is a seed of the Goosefoot plant.

The other star of this granola? Pure maple syrup.

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No, that’s not Crown Royal. It is a Crown Royal bottle FILLED WITH MAPLE SYRUP!

I’m a really lucky girl. My Taller half’s Uncle gives these as Christmas gifts every year. Amazing, right?! Look at all that pure, rich, made with love maple syrup! I added the pecans there for a relative size comparison. So much delicious MAPLE SYRUP.

I understand that not everyone has a vat of maple syrup, so you can replace this with honey or agave. The taste will be slightly different, but equally delicious!

So now that I am sufficiently excited to eat – let’s make some granola.

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Making homemade granola is easy!

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If your quinoa is not pre-rinsed – give it a quick rinse in some cold water. Don’t worry about drying it off – the quinoa can be wet.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a large bowl. Then in a small saucepan melt the butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, oil, water and stir until well combined. Then add in the vanilla. Pour over dry ingredients and mix until all the dry ingredients are well coated.

Spread out on a large baking sheet lined with nonstick aluminum foil or parchment paper.

Bake at 320F for 25 minutes – stirring once at about 15 minutes. And DONE!

20140223-152328.jpgDon’t even get me started on how much more cost effective AND nutritious it is to make your own granola instead of buying it.

20140223-152233.jpgPlus, it tastes WAY better when it is homemade. Seriously.

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BONUS: Baking this will also make your house smell delicious. Start snacking!

20140228-192800.jpgRecipe: Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola

Yield: 4 cups

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Dry Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats (use gluten-free oats to make gluten-free)
  • 1 cup of pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed (don’t worry about drying it, it can be wet)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1.5 tablespoons butter (or replace with equal amounts of oil to make vegan)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or canola, or coconut)
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of real maple syrup* (you can replace with honey or agave)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F and place oven rack so it is in the top third of the oven. Line baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Rinse quinoa in cold water
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to make sure all ingredients are mixed well
  4. Add Wet ingredients except vanilla to medium saucepan and melt on low heat while stirring. *To easily measure maple syrup, spray measuring cup with non-stick cooking spray (such as Pam), before measuring. After wet ingredients are melted and well combined, remove from heat and add vanilla
  5. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together using a rubber spatula – until all the dry ingredients are coated by the sugar/oil/butter mixture
  6. Spread granola out into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 320 F for 15 minutes. Remove and stir granola
  7. Bake at 320 F for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy!

Adapted from my Maple almond cinnamon granola

Granola can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to two weeks (good luck getting it to last that long!)

**If you don’t want/have quinoa – you can still make this granola! Replace it with an equal amount of your favorite granola add-in – such as another nut, seed (sunflower, pumpkin etc..) or shredded coconut! (just replace it with something that can be baked (ie – not chocolate or dried fruit)

Easy S’mores Cookie Bars

Happy Valentine’s Day! Time to mix it up with a sweet treat!

20140213-073459.jpgI LOVE s’mores. They’re gooey and chocolatey.  The flavor combination of marshmallow, chocolate and graham is one my favorites.  I’ll eat anything s’mores – s’mores ice cream, s’mores cake, s’mores candy, s’mores cereal (remember Smorz?!)… you get the idea.  There is just something about toasty marshmallows, melty chocolate and graham cracker that just make the perfect dessert for me. MMMmmm! My mouth is watering just thinking about these cookie bars!

20140210-194227.jpgThese bars are made with Biscoff spread, aka cookie butter.  If you have never tried Biscoff, it is a creamy spread made from Belgian Biscoff cookies – which are shortbread cookies that have a hint of graham taste mixed with a little cinnamon.  I know this sounds weird, a creamy spread made from cookies, but it’s not.  It’s the most delicious thing that comes in a jar, which is why I had to make some treats with it.  1. To make a DELICIOUS dessert 2. To use it up so I wouldn’t keep eating it straight out the jar with a spoon.  ACK!  I usually have pretty good self control, but this is my kryptonite.  Seriously.

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And if you’re wondering, yes, I ate this whole spoonful after I took the photo.

These bars are so great not only because they’re SO moist, chewy, toasty marshmallow-y and chocolatey, but because they’re super simple to put together! No mixer is needed!  AND, unlike standard S’mores, no individual serving assembly required – No fighting over the fire to roast your marshmallows and no sticky fingers.  You’re welcome.

Definitely Delicious in a DASH!

20140210-194300.jpg1. Combine all the wet ingredients and then stir in the Biscoff spread (Cookie Butter) 2. Add in the dry ingredients and 3. Fold in until well combined 4. Add in the chocolate chips and marshmallows 5. Toss it all in a baking dish lined with parchment paper 6. Smoosh it down and throw a few more marshmallows on top.  Then pop it in the oven – and you are 25 minutes away from Heaven.

Make this for your sweety for Valentines Day. Or better yet, Treat Yo Self!

20140213-071432.jpgMy taller half loves cheesecake – so I made him some special cheesecake bars for Valentine’s Day (stay tuned for the recipe!), but I’ll be making THESE for myself. Who says you can’t have a whole 8×8 pan of cookie bars for yourself?

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Stretchy, toasty marshmallow, and melty chocolate with a chewy, moist graham center.  Yep. make these for yourself.

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Happy Valentine’s Day, YOU. Wonderful, Beautiful YOU.

Recipe: Easy S’mores Cookie Bars20140213-073459.jpg

Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Biscoff spread (or Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup of mini marshmallows + an extra handful for the top

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper or spray with nonstick spray
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients –  flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside
  3. In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined and then add the eggs and the vanilla. Stir in the Biscoff spread. Stir until mixture is well combined
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Do not over mix – I usually fold with a rubber spatula to ensure that I don’t overmix.  The batter will be very thick.
  5. Fold in the chocolate chips and marshmallows and “dump” the batter into a prepared baking dish.  Then press down the batter so that it is even throughout the baking dish and top with reserved marshmallows.  Gently press down the marshmallows.
  6. Bake for about 25-35 minutes. The bars will appear very soft and look under done but they will firm up as they cool. Allow the bars to cool completely- about 3 hours – before cutting into squares. *I know this is TORTUROUS but if you don’t wait, they will be too mushy and fall apart and you’ll need a spoon.  Totally feel free to eat them with a spoon 🙂

Cookie bars stay fresh for a week when stored in a sealed container at room temperature.

Enjoy!

Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke Dip

What are you eating on Super Bowl Sunday?  My answer is (usually) a lot.

20140131-194900.jpgLet’s get a little more specific. How about something warm, cheesy and spicy and still have some healthy stuff in it?  Then you will LOVE this Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke dip!

20140131-194828.jpgI’m not the biggest football fan, but I do LOVE an excuse to eat snacks and hang out with friends! Bring on the football!

20140131-194847.jpgThis recipe is a spinoff of your typical spinach artichoke dip, but it has a few extras in it that really make it special.  Lets go over the major players in our game:

  1. Spinach
  2. Broccoli
  3. Canned artichoke hearts
  4. Cream cheese (sounds unusual, but totally delicious)
  5. Greek yogurt (adds that extra creaminess!)
  6. Mozzarella
  7. Parmesan
  8. Garlic (because everything is better with it)

It is easy to assemble (all in one bowl), pop it in the oven and you have your warm and creamy dip in 25 minutes!  I know cream cheese sounds a little unusual but you won’t taste any cream cheese flavor (I promise!); it will just add creaminess.

20140131-231211.jpgThis dip will fit nicely in an 8×8 or 9×9 but I got a really awesome Le Creuset stoneware dish (1.75 qt) for Christmas that I really really really wanted to bake something in. It’s a really pretty blue color so it looks nice (it really does!) and it is heavy so it keeps food hot longer.   It’s amazing and I love it! – thanks Ro and Nancy! 

20140131-194934.jpgSprinkling some extra cheese on top – Mmmmm melty cheese!

20140131-194945.jpgDid I mention I snuck extra veggies in this dip? You get spinach, artichoke AND broccoli!

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What a beaut, right? Most of my kitchen stuff is hand-me-down or picked up at garage sales – so I really wanted to flaunt my fancy new baking dish! 🙂

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But most importantly is the warm, cheesy, creamy and veggie-filled dip that was made in the pretty dish!  Just another delicious way to get more vegetables in your diet!

Happy Snacking!

Recipe: Spinach and Broccoli Artichoke Dip

Yield: About 3 and 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 8oz of cream cheese, softened*
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2%)
  • 1 can (14 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • 1 package (10oz) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 cup of broccoli, chopped small
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced (optional)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan- reserve a handful to melt on top
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided –  ¼ cup reserved to sprinkle and melt on top
  • salt, to taste
  • sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a large bowl stir the softened cream cheese and Greek yogurt together until smooth.  Then add in the remaining ingredients and mix together. Spoon into 8×8 or 9 inch pie plate or oven safe dish. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly browned.
  3. Remove and sprinkle the reserved cheese on top and bake for another 2-3 minutes just until cheese is melted.

Serve warm with pita chips, pretzels, crackers or veggies.

*If you want to soften the cream cheese quickly, place the fully unwrapped cream cheese in a microwave safe dish and microwave it for ~15 seconds.