New Granola Recipe (with coconut oil and no sugar)

granola

While I love this granola recipe that I shared a while back, I decided I should try making some granola without sugar.  And you know what?  I don’t really miss the sugar.

My “recipe” for this granola is very flexible, but it has turned out deliciously every time.

Homemade Granola (no sugar)

Ingredients:

about 4-5 cups quick or regular oats (I like to use about 1/2 of each. You can also substitute other rolled grains.)
about 2 cups total of any of the following: unsweetened flaked coconut, ground flax seeds, sesame seeds, raw sunflower seeds, chopped nuts, and/or wheat germ
about 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
about 1/3 cup honey
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
dried fruit (blueberries, cranberries, raisins) – to be added after baking.

Directions:

1. Combine all dry ingredients and mix in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine melted coconut oil and honey.  Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients.  Stir to combine.

2. Spread onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300ºF for about 30-40 minutes total, stirring every 10 minutes.  The granola will still be soft when it is warm, but will crisp as it cools.  It should be slightly brown.

3. After the granola cools, store it in an air-tight container. (I like to use a glass jar.)

Add dried fruit to your bowl when eating the granola, if desired.

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Current Favorite Healthy Snack: Smoothies

smoothie foodsYum! Breakfast foods!

I didn’t used to be a smoothie person.  When I started making my own delicious smoothies I suddenly became a smoothie person.  It was like one switch turned off my smoothie aversion and another switch turned on my smoothie obsession.  In one instant I went from never thinking about smoothies to trying to put anything in a smoothie.  At least they’re good for me. ;) :)

My basic smoothie contains:

Greek or plain yogurt -usually, because it’s cheapest. If I have fruit yogurt I use it.
Pineapple
Strawberries
Banana (These 3 fruits I have on hand most often)
Ice

When I have them, I add/substitute:

kiwi
Mango
spinach

smoothie 3

I use a Magic Bullet blender which I got at Costco.  I know it can not compare to the Vitamix, but for its price it is fantastic!  I love it for smoothies and chopping especially.

smoothie 1 smoothie 2

What are your favorite foods to put in smoothies?

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My Garden: First Year

I grew up in a big-time gardening family.  My parents gardened for necessity: the cheapest way to bring your large family high quality produce is to grow it yourself.  They still keep a big garden and are my go-to people for each and every gardening question I have. (Their garden is about 1/4 acre – bigger than my entire property.  My sister shared some pictures of it back in 2008 – it usually looks about the same.  As you can tell, they are hard workers.) My parents are always very generous with their garden produce, and I currently have a large bag of asparagus in my fridge from them.  We have eaten lots of tomatoes, peppers, berries, sweet potatoes, melons, kale, and more from their garden since we have been married.

One of my biggest excitements about buying our home at the end of last summer was the possibility of having our own garden.  When you were raised on produce from the garden, store-bought foods (example: tomatoes) just don’t satisfy.

garden 2

I was blessed to have one of my brothers help me start my garden out back a few weeks ago.  He moved recently as well and just started a new garden of his own.  He gave me some tips and tricks and did the heavy lifting, too!

I bought four 8-foot long “landscaping timbers” at Menards for $4 each.  My brother screwed them together with some really long deck screws.  So my garden is 8′x8.’ It already seems too small, so I’m planning to expand next year.  For this year, it’s a nice starter. :) I filled the garden with a variety of soils from Menards – regular top soil, peat moss, mushroom compost, and a manure and compost mixture.  It is so easy to work with and will hopefully yield great results.

I planted some red beats, snap peas, green onions (they aren’t up yet, so keep your fingers crossed!), tomato, eggplant, and a variety of peppers.  I also planted some herbs in my front flower garden.  They have not come up yet either, but I’m hoping for the best. :)

garden 4 garden 3

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The Best Homemade Guacamole: And it’s Simple!

avocado

Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to eat at a Mexican restaurant with a man who doesn’t like guacamole?  Or how sad it is when all the popular people are posting Instagram pics with their avocado or guacamole and you live with a man who doesn’t like those things?

It is the struggle.

But no, seriously, my husband always told me he didn’t like guacamole.  And to be honest, a lot of guacamoles out there are pretty bad, so I don’t really blame him.  I have come up with a cure for his guacamole distaste, though: a guacamole so simple that I can whip it up on a whim yet delicious enough that I don’t have to worry about leftovers turning brown (leftovers: there will be none).

The Best Homemade Guacamole

(These portions are per avocado – multiply them by the amount of avocados you want to use.)

Ingredients:

the flesh of one avocado, smashed
2-3 teaspoons Kraft shredded Parmesan cheese
several shakes of granulated garlic
salt, to taste

That’s it.  That’s IT.  Combine all of these ingredients and gobble it up – on chips, on bread, in tacos, in burritos, on enchiladas, on a spoon.

homemade guacamole

One night when I made this, I told my husband,
“I don’t mind that avocados are fatty, because they have a good kind of fat.”
His response was,
“You’re a good kind of fat.”

Well, he appreciates me, it seems. :)

All this talk of my husband makes me want to share a picture of us having fun in Florida.  This picture is from March:

Florida

We’re so cute, I know it.

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New Favorite: Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

homemade mozzarella 2

Cheese has always been a mystery to me.  A delicious mystery, but a mystery none the less.  Even now that I have made it I don’t quite understand how it works, I just know that it does.

It was really tricky for me to understand how to make mozzarella cheese.  Different blogs have different information, and sometimes what they say is scary.

“You can’t make mozzarella with homogenized milk” – uh oh, counts me out!
“You can’t make mozzarella with pasteurized milk” – uh oh, there goes my chances.
“You can’t make mozzarella without a double boiler” – I’m out. Completely.
“You can’t make mozzarella if your name is Bonnie” – well, that last one I never read anywhere, but it seemed like my chances of making good mozzarella were slim to none anyway.

I am now here to solve the mystery for you, and share with you about my new-found addiction to cheese-making.

I partially followed two mozzarella-making tutorials: Here and Here.

Homemade Mozzarella
Yield: slightly over 1 pound mozzarella

Ingredients & Tools

1/2 Fromase rennet tablet, dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water (I got mine from Amazon: Here.)
1 gallon whole milk (I have only used store generic milk, nothing special.)
1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid, dissolved in 1/2 cup cold water (I used this one)
Strainer and large bowl
large pot
sea salt
sharp knife
instant thermometer (I just have this cheap one)
slotted spoon (I like this one!)

homemade mozzarella6

Directions:

1. Pour the citric acid/water and gallon of milk into your large pot.  Heat it slowly until it reaches 95ºF.  Remove from heat.

homemade mozzarella 4

2.  Add the rennet/water and stir slowly in the same direction for about 30 seconds.  You will definitely see curds starting to form by this point, if you didn’t see any during step 1.  Let set for 5 minutes.

If it looks like this, you know you’re on the right track:

homemade mozzarella 5

3. While I don’t have a picture of this step, it is really simple.  Take a sharp knife and cut the curds into squares. (This does not have to be precise!  Simply make about 3 cuts one direction and about 3 more perpendicular to them.)

4.  Now it’s time to scoop out the curds and drain them.  With your slotted spoon, scoop out a spoonful of curds and let them drain.  Place them in the strainer over the bowl to continue draining the whey.  Repeat until all the curds are removed from the whey.

5.  After draining a while, the curds should form into a ball with your hands pretty easily.  You can squeeze them to remove more whey.  Place the curds in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 1 minute.  Remove the bowl from the microwave and drain the excess whey.

6. Knead the curds (looks and feels like cheese now!) in sea salt.  I don’t measure the salt, but cheese needs to be salty.  Use probably 1-2 teaspoons of ground sea salt for this batch.  Fold it under itself almost like kneading bread.  You will probably need to microwave this for an additional 30 seconds to get all the salt worked in and make it into a smooth cheese ball.  You can also make cheese sticks, or make a “rope” and tie off sections with string to make little mozzarella balls.

homemade mozzarella 6

7. Cool in the fridge and enjoy!

homemade mozzarella smaller

I know that lots of clever people use all the whey from making cheese for other purposes, but I have not yet tried anything.  If you are a seasoned cheese maker, what do you do with the whey?  Teach me your secrets!

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Blogging Again! (For Real!)

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I am finally making a plan for some real blogging again, since I realize I haven’t updated my blog since before Christmas. (What??!)

So much has happened in the last few months, but I won’t get into that too much.  I will just start where I am and go from here. :)  I do have blogging plans, so that is at least one step in the right direction.

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Cloves Sugar Cookies

1

I know, I know.  It’s not time for Christmas baking yet.  But making cut-out cookies is so fun, I really think you can safely get away with doing it more than just at Christmas time.  And Christmas cookies are not any less delicious in November.

My favorite sugar cookie recipe is from an old cookbook, copyright 1903, that my mom found second hand quite some time ago – Household Discoveries by Sidney Morse.  We gave them the name of “Cloves Cookies” and make them many ways – with or without frosting, plain circles, or cut-out.  Several years ago, my sister shared the recipe here.

Cloves Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (use 4 – 4 1/2 if you’re making cut-out cookies)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Directions:

1. Cream butter and sugar together.  Add eggs, flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves and stir until well mixed.

If making round cookies, form 1-inch balls, place onto greased cookie sheets, press down with your fingers, and bake at 375°F for 10-13 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

~

If making cut out cookies, refrigeration is not necessary, although it can be helpful.

Roll out 1/3-1/2 of the dough at a time on a floured surface.  Don’t roll it too thin or too thick – just about 1/4 inch thick, or as desired.  Cut cookies.  Place onto greased baking sheets, and bake at 375°F for 10-13 minutes.  Remember that little cookies may have to be removed from the oven sooner than large cookies.  Cool on wire racks.

If you put frosting on these cookies, I recommend butter frosting!  This is another recipe from my mom, but I don’t know where it originated.

butter frosting_smallerJust whip it up either by hand or with an electric mixer, color it if desired, and have fun decorating!

2We certainly did.

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