The Great 8: Valentine’s Day Recipes

Ready for Valentine’s day?
Or Galentine’s day! This year, my girlfriends and I are getting together for a potluck.  I plan on making some pizza and some goodies from the list below. So, if you’re getting together with your sweetie, friends, or it’s just you and and a glass bottle of wine, here’s a list of some of my favorite delicious in a dash recipes you can easily whip up this weekend.  Share your love with food!

Looking for a breakfast treat?

Peanut butter banana oatmeal muffins

Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins.jpgOr how about some homemade granola? My Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola is crunchy and makes a great topping for yogurt, oatmeal or just for great snacking.  It’s much healthier and tastier than anything you get in the store. (cheaper, too!)

Maple Pecan Quinoa GranolaEasy and Delicious Meals:

Tasty Vegetarian: Easy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash SoupEasy Thai Coconut Butternut Squash Soup.jpg

A hearty sausage and pepper pasta – a perfect winter meal.  Especially enjoyed when eaten after shoveling feet of snow after successive Nor’easters.

20140318-081953.jpgDelicious Desserts:

No-Bake Butterscotch Oatmeal bars.  No oven needed – whip these up in no time at all!

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For the peanut butter lover:  The best peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, EVER

Super chewy and never flat.  You can make a few cookies and freeze the extra dough for later.

The Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies.jpgFor the chocolate addicts in your life: Chewy Triple Chocolate Cookies.  These are for chocolate lovers and must be accompanied by a big glass of milk.

Triple Chocolate cookie stackFinally, the top thing I am making this Valentine’s day is a favorite of my taller half – Pomegranate Strawberry Cheesecake bars.  They are made with pomegranate Greek yogurt – so no need to spend your time getting those pesky seeds out of the fruit.  (You can also sub strawberry yogurt if you can’t find pomegranate)Pomegranate Strawberry Cheesecake bars.jpgForget about the cards and the mediocre boxed candy.  Share your love with delicious food!  ❤

 

 

Chocolate Coconut Granola

Need an excuse to eat chocolate for breakfast?

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I usually don’t. But if you have judgey roommates, spouses, coworkers, pets or parents… here’s a DELICIOUS, healthy, more sensible (and socially acceptable) way to enjoy chocolate for breakfast. CHOCOLATE COCONUT GRANOLA! Crunchy, nutty, rich and chocolatey. Easy to prep and only 25 minutes to bake. Get ready for your new favorite granola.

20140429-224418.jpgAs I have mentioned before, I LOVE eating sweet stuff for breakfast. I also really like granola. Really.

What better way to cure those midweek “I don’t want to get out of bed” blues than by starting your day off with some morning chocolate! Chocolate is a great motivator. 🙂 Also, your kitchen will smell like chocolate cake while baking this. I’m getting hungry just thinking about that smell.

Of course, granola is not just for breakfast. This crunchy, chocolatey treat makes a great topping for yogurt, ice cream or just by itself. While photographing this, I ate HANDFULS. That tends to get problematic when your subject amount keeps disappearing. Whoops.

20140430-013742.jpgYou might be saying: “How the heck is this stuff healthy??” To make this granola, I used my maple almond cinnamon granola recipe as a base.   This Chocolate Coconut Granola has a very similar sugar and fat content as the base recipe.  How? I removed a little bit of the butter/oil fat and sugar to make up for the addition of some chocolate chips that really bring home the chocolate taste. I also added some flaxseed meal which adds some extra fiber and some healthy Omega-3s. You can totally omit this ingredient if you don’t have it. It won’t change the flavor with or without it. You’ll just be missing an extra “healthy” boost!

So, go ahead. Have it for breakfast. You know you want to.

20140429-224328.jpgAnother great thing about this granola: It’s adaptable. All you need are old fashioned oats and unsweetened cocoa powder. Other than that – you can do equal substitution of many ingredients. Don’t have almonds? That’s ok, substitute another type of raw nut. Don’t have nuts? Allergic to nuts? Sub in more oats. Allergic to coconut? (sorry Alana!) No worries, sub in more nuts or oats. Want to use coconut oil? Sure. Or flaxseed, double paleo, super slick, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free, caveman oil? No problem. Want to use butter? YES – go right ahead. Want to add dried fruit instead of chocolate chips? Wait, WHAT? Sure, you can. But you’re missing the point. Want to stick to the recipe? That’s cool too.

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Since I’ve posted variations of this recipe two other times, I’m not going to bore you with the details. I’ll save you the reading time. If you need more photo explanation – head on over to my first or second granola posts for more detailed process/prep pictures.

I will stress, you want to mix in the cocoa powder with all your wet ingredients until smooth. It will look like a thin, chocolate ganache – and it will taste so rich and chocolatey. Mmmm – go ahead and give it a taste.

20140429-225752.jpgGo. Make some. Make your house smell like chocolate cake that you can eat for breakfast!

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Chocolate Coconut Granola.jpgRecipe: Chocolate Coconut Granola

Yield: About 4.5 cups

Time: 30-35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup of raw nuts, coarsely chopped (I used raw almonds)*
  • ½ cup of sweetened shredded coconut*
  • ¼ cup of flaxseed meal (optional and can omit without substitution)
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil*
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 and ½ tablespoons of water
  • ¼ cup of dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (dark or semisweet)**

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F. Place oven rack on top 1/3 in the oven. Prepare a large baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick aluminum foil and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the first set of ingredients (oats through the salt) and stir.
  3. In a small saucepan, add the oil, honey,*** water, brown sugar and cocoa powder. Whisk while gently heating on very low heat for about 1 minute. Then turn off heat and continue to mix until everything is smooth and well combined. Do not overheat – this mixture will burn easily. You can also mix this without heat, but I find warming the mixture makes it easier to get everything well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour liquid over oat mixture and stir until the oat mixture is well coated. Stir in chocolate chips and spread into a single layer on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake at 320 for 25 minutes – stirring once half way. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in a airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

* See the above text about substitutions

**Chocolate Chips are heat resistant and don’t melt, but they do get soft. If you don’t want soft chips or are using baking chocolate, be sure to add this AFTER baking the granola.

*** Be sure to add the oil first, then use the same tablespoon to measure honey, the honey will slide right out because the oil created a nonstick surface!

Recipe adapted from my Maple Almond Cinnamon Granola

20140429-224439.jpgOops. I spilled again. I guess I’m just going to have to eat to clean up this mess.

Want more granola?!

Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola

Maple Pecan Quinoa Granola.jpgMaple Almond Cinnamon Granola

Maple Almond Cinnamon Granola

 

 

 

 

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)

Maple Almond Cinnamon Granola

Warning. I’m about to share something with you that is very addicting and very easy to make. Maybe I should change the title of my blog to “Foods I’m obsessed with and eat a lot”. This is a recipe that fits under my “obsession” category.

Maple Almond Cinnamon Granola.Image

This granola is AMAZINGLY delicious! Homemade granola is healthier than store bought stuff (you can reduce the sugar/fat), and also soooo much more cost effective. I eat this granola very often, almost too much, which is why I reduced the amount of oil from the original recipe. I usually eat it twice a day. I eat it for breakfast with my oatmeal or top plain cheerios with it. I combine it with plain Greek yogurt for lunch and sometimes I just snack on it. My boyfriend, who was never really interested in granola before I started baking this, LOVES this stuff. Careful, I told you it was addicting!

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There are so many good bits in this granola. One, it has almonds that get toasted in the oven as you bake it. Two, have you ever had toasted coconut before?!! No?? It’s incredibly delicious. Toasty, crunchy and sweet. Three, it has cinnamon. Mmmm cinnamon. AND FOUR – yes, there is more, it has real maple syrup in it. Sweet, rich, maple syrup.

This is one toasty, crunchy, coconut-y, healthy, maple-y, cinnamon-y granola. And it takes under 40 minutes to make from start to finish.

granola chicken bowl 4

So, how do you make this granola in a DASH?

First combine the oats (old fashioned – not quick oats), coconut and almonds in a large bowl (use a large one, stirring this can make a hot mess).

Now for the almonds, you want raw almonds, not roasted or salted. If you use salted almonds, your granola will be too salty, and roasted are already done, so they will burn. You can use slivered almonds, but I don’t usually have those in my house. I just buy whole raw almonds, and put ½ cup in a bag and smash them using a jar or heavy can.

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This is also a good way to safely get out some aggression too. Had a bad day? Crush those almonds! You’re on your way to making some delicious, crunchy, mapley granola! That’s got to make your day better!

Also, whole raw almonds are the most versatile – if I want them roasted and salted, I can do that. Whenever raw almonds go on sale, I stock up!

Next add the salt and cinnamon. I usually use a HEAPING teaspoon of cinnamon. If you LOVE cinnamon as much as I do, feel free to use a HEAPING teaspoon (or more!). If you’re not the biggest fan of cinnamon, you can totally use less. Stir everything well.

** Make sure you stir all the ingredients before adding the salt and cinnamon. If you add these and the coconut is on top, a lot of salt and cinnamon could stick to the coconut and not get evenly distributed. I’ve made this mistake before, the granola comes out a little sub par.

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Now, time to combine the wet ingredients. In a small or medium saucepan, add the brown sugar, butter, water, oil and maple syrup, stir this while on low to medium heat until melted and just combined. ** Tip: Add in the order of the list so that the maple syrup is measured using the same tbsp. and added after the oil, so the maple syrup easily slides out of the tablespoon (because it is lubricated with the oil). Don’t overcook this part. Your sugar could lump up. Shut off the stove and add the vanilla and stir. YUM. Your house will now smell like butter and vanilla.

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Now pour the melted wet ingredients all over the oat mixture and combine with a rubber spatula. (this stuff is very sticky, so rubber spatulas are easier to clean).

Make sure you get all the oats and almonds nicely coated with this sugary stuff. I usually have to stir for a minute or so and scrape up the bottom a few times with my rubber spatula to get some sugar/butter/water/oil mixture off that has stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

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After everything is coated with the warm sugar/butter/water/oil, pour onto a baking sheet that has non-stick aluminum foil on it. I like to use Reynolds non-stick aluminum foil **Another cost effective tip – save the aluminum foil after you are done and reuse it the next few times you make granola.

Spread the granola into one even layer on the foil-lined baking sheet and place in the oven. You want to stir it once during the cooking process, so I usually stir after 15 minutes in the oven Usually my granola takes about 25 minutes to get to the golden brown color I like. But depending on your oven, and your tastes in golden brownness, you might want to bake it for 30 minutes. Just be sure not to go high on the temperature, because you don’t want to caramelize the sugars – which will BURN your granola : ( I’ve done this once by accident by baking at 350. Do NOT bake at 350.

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Around the 15 minute mark during baking, your house will start to smell like cinnamon rolls. That’s right. You’re making granola, but your house will smell like buttery, melty, cinnamon rolls. If you’re like me, and love cinnamon, you will probably start to salivate and want to bathe in this smell. I’m not kidding here, your kitchen will smell SO GOOD. You’re welcome.

granola bowl and plate

Let the granola cool, about 10-20 minutes, and enjoy!

Recipe

Maple Almond Cinnamon Granola

Makes 4 cupsMaple Almond Cinnamon Granola

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw almonds (I just smash raw almonds with a can or heavy pan)
  • 1/2 cup whole raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients

  • 1.5 tablespoons of unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons of real maple syrup
  • ¼ cup of dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 320 degrees F and place oven rack towards the top third of the oven

2. Line baking sheet with non-stick aluminum foil or parchment paper

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. Add in the order of the list so that the maple syrup is measured using the same tbsp. and added after the oil, so the maple syrup easily slides out of the tablespoon (because it is lubricated with the oil).

5. On low heat slowly melt the butter and sugar and stir/whisk (I use a fork) to incorporate all the ingredients.

6. Once the ingredients are melted and combined, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.

7. Pour the warm mixture over the dry ingredients and stir together using a rubber spatula – till all the oats and almonds are covered by the sugar/oil/butter mixture

8. Spread granola out into a single layer on the prepared baking sheet

9. Bake at 320 F for 15 minutes. Remove and stir granola

10. Bake at 320 F for an additional 10-15 minutes.

11. Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy!

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

: )

Recipe source: Adapted from Joy the Baker