Thursday, September 26, 2013

Banana Nut Granola Like A Warm Hug

Y'all. Does it get better than banana nut bread? Unless your answer was cheese, then no, it doesn't. I remember one afternoon when my mother was having one of those Amelia Bedelia moments and baked this amazing smelling banana bread. With salt. All salt instead of sugar. My sister and I, still grimy and sweaty right off the school bus walked into the house and went straight for a huge slice with a pat of butter and glass of milk. We both took a huge bite and simultaneously gagged for several minutes. We then spent the next 6 hours laughing, and it didn't end up being such a bad afternoon after all. Here is where banana bread grows up, starts paying taxes and tries to be a respectable and functioning adult.

Responsible yet worthy of craving by the fistful.
Inspiration for this concoction comes thanks to Pinterest and Tracy at Shutterbean.  And the almost rotten bananas in my freezer.  Don't judge.  Like my seasonal pot holders and dish rag?  Dollar General, y'all.  Let's talk ingredients.

5 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking or instant)
1 cup pecan halves
2/3 cup Craisins 
1/2 cup shelled raw hemp hearts
1/4 cup Sugar in the Raw 
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp sea salt
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup coconut oil, warmed in a bath of warm water so it's in liquid state
Additional sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Let's begin by mixing all our dry ingredients, shall we?  That would be the oats, nuts, Craisins, hemp hearts, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt.  Do this in a huge bowl.  I had a bag of Craisins in the house thanks to my sweet and beautiful soon-to-be-sister-in-law, but if you have dried cherries, they would be totally on point here.  Set aside dry ingredients.

Mash bananas with a fork and combine with maple syrup, coconut oil and vanilla extract.  It should look pretty nasty.  Not to worry.

Combine the wet with the dry.  Put in some good work and a little elbow grease here.  You want those dry ingredients to get all that moisture and flavor as evenly as possible.  Fair is fair.

Dump that stirred up goodness onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Spread into an even layer with your spatula or with your hands, if that's your thing.  Bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until golden brown.  It will get crispier as it cools, but if you're like me and like your granola extra crisp and toasty, feel free to leave it in the oven for a little while as the oven cools.  Just make sure to check on it periodically and give it a shake or stir.  I sprinkled mine with a little extra sea salt while it was cooling because I like my granola that way and it makes those unsalted pecans feel a little more at home.

Can you spot the gremlin?
Gremlins live for granola.
Once the granola has completely cooled, store it in a sealed container.  If I were you, I'd leave it on my counter and allow myself to feel at least a little smug. 

This should keep at room temperature for at least a couple weeks.
Breakfast this morning.  Best served with a drizzle of maple syrup and a satisfied smirk.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Butternut Squash Quinoa Pilaf

Oh, hey.  It's been awhile!  Here's the two second recap since we last talked.

I'm getting married next month!  To this guy:

Yeah, I'm pretty psyched.
 It's autumn!  My favorite time of year in general, as well as my favorite time of year to cook.  Delicious and hearty stuff that is full of comfort and joy.  Last night I made these crazy cheesy and creamy enchiladas I saw on Pinterest.  They looked exactly like the pin and I ate like 4 pounds of it.
But then I came to my senses tonight and remembered I am indeed getting married next month.  While the enchiladas totally hit the spot, if I continue to cook and eat items like that in the coming weeks, I'm gonna need a wheelbarrow to push in front of me as I walk down the aisle hauling all my double chins.  So I did what any self respecting Pinterest fanatic would do and made quinoa.  That's what all those skinny broads are eating, so maybe that'll help.  I had a small butternut squash that had been sitting on my counter so long it was bound to become a science experiment if I waited another week to cook it.  So therein lies the inspirational ingredient for this dish.

 I decided drinking a pumpkin ale was fitting as I scooped out the seeds with a spoon.  Gosh, that was gratifying and festive.
Butter toasted almonds are everything.  Dad taught me this.

Get festive!  If you're not sure how to start getting festive, grab a pumpkin ale and give the recipe below a go. 


1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 Tbsp butter or coconut oil
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 c. golden raisins

Other Components
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced small
1 small onion, roughly chopped
2 tsp garam masala spice (an Indian spice you can find in any grocery store.  It smells amazing.)
1 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp butter
1/3 cup almonds, chopped
2 cups rotisserie chicken meat, chopped (Optional.  I had leftovers from the enchiladas.)
Optional crumbled feta cheese & mixed greens for serving

Preheat your oven to 420 degrees.  Put your diced squash and onions into a gallon baggie with the sea salt, garam masala (don't be scurred), and coconut oil.  If your coconut oil is solid, let it sit in some warm water until it becomes liquid.  Give the bag a good shake.  Dump your mixture onto a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick something or has been lined with parchment, your best friend.  Spread it out evenly and let it roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Give it a good stir and get some of those ingredients flipped around.  Put it back in the oven for another 15 minutes until it is soft, sweet and has some caramelized pieces.  Set aside.

Rinsing quinoa bites.  I guess it's not that hard, I just always feel like it's a hassle.  But we don't want it to be bitter, so just do it.  Put your pain-in-the-rear quinoa into a large saucepan or heavy bottomed pot on medium heat with the butter or coconut oil.  Stir it around until the rinse water evaporates and it starts to smell a little nutty and toasty.  Pour in your stock, and seasonings and bring to a boil.  Just as it comes to a boil, put in your raisins (dried cranberries or cherries would be totally delicious too) and put a lid on it.  Turn it down to the lowest heat and let it simmer 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, take it off the heat and let it sit another 5.

While your quinoa is sitting, roast your almonds.  Melt 1 tsp of butter on medium high heat and keep stirring around your almonds in the butter until they are browned and your house smells amazing.  Try not to eat them all.  Give them a good chop.

Take the lid of your quinoa and fluff it with your fork.  Add in your roasted squash & onions, as well as your toasted almonds and chicken if you're using it.  Try to fold it in so you don't break up all the tender squash.  I served it over a bed of greens with feta cheese.  You could serve it over salad, eat it alone or put it in a collard leaf to make one hell of a lunch.  Look at you, festive and fancy.  Eat up.