Summertime Granola: Citrus Zest, Coconut Flakes and a pat of Butter

June 15, 2013 § 4 Comments

Southwest summertime mornings begin with a heavy mugginess and cicada songs.  By midday, streets and trees are empty.  Kids swim and eat popsicles; reptiles, birds and ground animals sleep in the shade of mesquite trees and behind/under big rocks.  By evening, we all venture out again: The birds take dust baths, the tortoises dye their faces maroon with prickly pear fruit and the people… we can be found moving slow or sitting in chairs with big floppy hats, ice cold beer or lemonade in hand.

We’re in the thick of summer down here in Tucson.  And in my long absence from recipe updating, I’ve been puttering around the kitchen, attempting to throw together simple, low-key meals that not only require a short-blast of oven/stove time, but also taste a little spring-like (think: fresh herbs, tropical fruits, citrus).  This recipe channels the tropical/citrus flavor profile with sweetened, thick coconut flakes and plenty of citrus zest.  While I’ve posted a couple granola recipes on this blog (lest we forget the clumpy granola addiction of 2010) — this one shies away from nut butters and embraces a sweeter, lighter ingredient list.  Below is my favorite summertime version, but as always, feel free to add/subtract to your liking.


4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup large coconut flakes, sweetened
1/2 cup cashews, raw
1/2 cup pistachios, shelled & raw
1/2 cup walnuts, halved & raw
1/4 cup pepitas
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

zest from 1 orange
2 tablespoons butter, salted
1/3 cup agave nectar


1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and toss.

2. In a small sauce pan, melt butter and agave.  Remove from heat.  Add orange zest and stir.  Pour liquids onto dry ingredients and toss until incorporated.

3. Spread oats onto a large baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake 15-20 minutes, tossing half-way.  Remove from oven when golden brown; the granola may still be damp to the touch.  Let cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

DIET NOTES: gluten-free*
*GF oats required



Coffee Fix: Fancy-Cowboy Style

December 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m not one of those “coffee is the nectar of the gods” sorts.  I don’t live for the “buzz.”  In fact, I admonish black cups that yield overly-jittery mornings that linger past lunch.  But a morning without coffee (or, I’ll be generous, without tea) becomes unmarked, lost in a haze of more and less important “to-dos” of the day.  A morning coffee isn’t nourishing in the way an omelet with red peppers is nourishing. In fact, if you look at the world through the lens of life-sustaining foods, no five-calorie drink realistically makes the cut.  If wouldn’t kill you to delay coffee drinking for a few hours; if you put off peeing or taking some important pills, the results could be disastrous.  In short, a cup of coffee is a comparatively superfluous delight.
Drinking coffee signals: I want the house to smell good.
It says: This is just for me.
It always says: Shut up and don’t nag.
And even in a travel cup it says: Baby, sip me slowly.  

Exhibit A: Tea steeping

Enter: The French Press.  I love coffee shops, but I love protecting my already-deflated wallet more.  A french press is a relatively inexpensive start-up purchase, it uses no electricity, the coffee grounds can be composted and the gizmo itself is versatile–I use my french press to steep loose-leaf tea, too (see Exhibit A and B). Making coffee at home is easy-peasy and takes fewer than ten minutes.

Exhibit B: Making chai tea

A note about coffee grounds: The best coffee, I think, is prepared with beans that are ground the day-of.  But if you don’t have a bean grinder, not to worry: You can still have a great cup of coffee so long as you use beans that have been ground relatively recently (ideally the last couple of weeks; short shelf-life).  If you like coffee from a particular cafe, buy a bag of their coffee beans and ask them to grind the beans for you.  Keep in mind: French press coffee requires the beans to be ground slightly coarser than that of a drip-coffee machine, so be sure to mention you have a french press at home.  Alternatively, most grocery stores have a coffee grinder in the coffee section–if you purchase your coffee there, grind it yourself and choose the setting.

What you need for one cuppa coffee:
8oz. water
2 tablespoons coffee grounds


1.  Heat one cup of water on the stove.  Meanwhile, measure two (heaping) tablespoons of coffee grounds into the bottom of the french press. When water comes to a boil, remove from heat.  When the water ceases to bubble, pour into the french press.  Stir with a spoon and then put the lid on top to keep the water warm.  Set timer for 4 minutes.

2.  Press the “plunger” down to the bottom of the glass jar to trap the grounds.  Pour coffee into a cup and drink black or with preferred additions (sweetener; cream).  In summer, add ice cubes.

Farmer Cheese Frittata

October 21, 2011 § 1 Comment

For the last two months I’ve been collecting eggs from (very vocal) chickens roosting up the road, and harvesting baskets of veggies from the gardens surrounding my house. With these ingredients at my disposal, frittatas are a farmhouse standby.

Frittatas are exceptionally versatile (ie. chuck in whatever you have in the garden and it’ll taste terrific) and they’re minimal-fuss.  At the farm, we start our frittatas on the stove, sauteing whatever veggies we have handy, and once we add the eggs and cheese, we pop our cast iron into a preheated oven and let it do the rest of the work.

Frittatas are hearty, delicious hot, room temperature and cold, and are out-of-this-world-good when drizzled with a little salsa.  Below I’ve shared my favorite recipe, but I’ve left some wiggle room for you to add whatever vegetables are in season in your neck-of-the-woods.  (If Delacata or Butternut squash are popping up in your gardens or hitting the farm stand, give those a try!)

1 small onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 cup roasted vegetables (eggplant, bell pepper, red onion, zucchini, winter squash, etc.)
4 eggs
1/4 cup pesto
1/3 cup farmer cheese
1/4 cup sharp cheddar/parmesan reggiano, shredded
pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a cast iron pan (or alternative cooking/baking, oven-safe receptacle) heat olive oil or butter on medium-heat.  Add onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, until wilted and beginning to carmaelize.  Add roasted vegetables and cook until heated through, another minute or two.

2.  Meanwhile, whisk eggs, pepper and pesto.  Remove cast iron from heat, add egg mixture and dollop with farmer cheese.  Sprinkle with cheddar or Parmesan and finish cooking in the oven.  Bake until set, between 15 and 20 minutes.  In the last minute of cooking, place under the broiler for 30-45 seconds to lightly brown the top of the cheese.

3.  Let sit for at least five minutes before serving.  Serve hot, warm or cold.  Top with salsa or avocados and fresh tomato wedges.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe and gluten free.

Dried Fruit Trio Granola Bars

May 30, 2011 § 4 Comments

When it comes to grab-and-go snacks, I’m positively addicted to salted peanuts & brazil nuts plus a few banana chips.  But after overdosing on a shockingly large freezer bag of the above blend on a recent road trip, I’ve decided to cool off on the ‘nana-crunch snack attacks and instead, create a fantastic bar that offers additional nutritional benefits.

Through my recipe tweaking I’ve learned the following: Substituting OJ for water does not yield good results.  Honey can be used as a substitute for agave nectar; however, the agave makes a sweeter bar, which is a good thing in my book, and better chew.  Have fun fiddling with the dried fruits. Everyone agrees, the dates are a MUST.  Dried figs are also exceptionally good.  I’ve tried a couple different kinds of nuts, but pecans (shelled from my aunt and uncle’s tree!) were the clear favorite.

1 + 1/4 cups dried fruit (favorites: dried peach, date and orange-hinted cranberries)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 + 1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup buckwheat groats
2 tablespoons flax meal
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons teff flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/3 cup agave nectar


1.  Preheat oven to 325 on convection (or 350 in a standard oven.)  Grease a 9 x 13″ baking pan.

2.  Chop dried fruit and pecans.  Set aside.  In a separate bowl, begin adding dry ingredients.  (HELPFUL HINT: While doling out teff flour, sprinkle some of the measured amount directly onto the dried fruit and nuts and toss with hands.  This will prevent the dates, peaches and cranberries from clumping and sticking into a large mass.)

3. Once all the dry ingredients are assembled, set aside.  In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients.  Combine with dry and stir until completely incorporated and all oats are coated.  Spread in greased baking pan.  (HELPFUL HINT: Dab the tips of fingers with water and press oats into pan; this will prevent stickage.) 

4.  Bake until golden and slightly browned on surface, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before slicing and removing.

These granola bars stay chewy on the counter for several days, but also freeze and thaw very well.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free

Oaty, Banana-Hunk Muffins with Buttermilk

May 6, 2011 § Leave a comment

You may raise an eyebrow, or roll an eyeball, when you see another gluten-free recipe coming from this bread-loving-carb-queen.  I’ve been hesitant to write personal jibber-jabber, but I think I’ll address one bit of drama, to answer any Qs from the eyeball/brow-crowd:

About a year ago, when I studied in Xela, Guatemala, I got some stomach parasites (or as my teacher Lesvia took to calling them, my “mascotas y bebes” — my pets and babies — leaving a smattering of eavesdropping students with the impression that I was pregnant and had lots of stray dogs).  Upon my return to the States, I took a rainbow of different medicines to try to get my stomach back in order.  The long in short: I’m still popping antibiotic pills, but heavens I do feel much better.  To help my stomach get “back on its feet,” my doc told me I might want to try to cut out gluten as well as sugar alcohols (found in boatloads of chocolate – sniff!).  While I’m not feeling tip-top, I’m on the mend, I think, and getting stronger.  I have rekindled my enthusiasm for baking (and eating!) and I’m mindful, perhaps borderline obsessive, about taking care of myself.  This past year I spent a lot of months sipping soda under a blanket on the sofa and now, I like to think I’m making up for lost time.

So, for a while, you might see a new type of recipe — many recipes without gluten, but ones that also show off some kick-tush grains that are equally, if not more tasty than their gluten-toting counterparts.  This muffin recipe has been tested by many (who didn’t know they were eating a muffin with an array of odd-ball flours).  The verdict: They’re wholesome, slightly sweet and, incredibly, wonderfully fluffy with great flavor.  My friend Regina (I’m not speaking of myself in the 3rd) says they’re enjoyed best with an afternoon coffee, sipped and chewed in the sun.

3/4 cup buttermilk (low fat is fine)
1 cup rolled oats

1 large banana, mashed (about 2/3 cup)
1/3 cup agave nectar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup olive oil

1/3 cup millet flour
1/3 cup oat flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup teff flour

2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, nutmeg, all spice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin tin.

2. Mix oats and buttermilk and set aside for a few minutes while preparing the rest of the liquid ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mash banana, mix with beaten eggs, vanilla and olive oil. Combine with oats and stir until combined.

3.  In a separate bowl, prepare dry ingredients.  Toss with a fork.  Slowly mix into liquids and stir until just incorporated.  Scoop into muffin tins 3/4 of the way (they’ll rise slightly) and bake until the knife comes out clean (between 16-20 minutes).  Note: If reserving some batter to bake the following day, like most muffin batters, the consistency will thicken.  Reconstitute with two to three tablespoons of buttermilk (or another milk you have handy) before baking.

4.  Once baked, leave muffins in tin for 5-7 minutes.  With a dull knife, scrape along edges and carefully remove from the pan.  They freeze and thaw wonderfully.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free

Banana Yogurt Muffins with a Whole-Lotta Chocolate

February 5, 2011 § 2 Comments

There’s no sense in beating around the bush: While these muffins are chalk full of chocolate, in my book, this is a “slimmed-down” breakfast.  That’s not exactly a caveat, but as I am a muffin fanatic, and I don’t shy away from the decadent stuff, I think a mere acknowledgment is merited for this recipe.

The base of these little bites are a blend of white whole-wheat flour and oat bran.  While these muffins have no oil or butter, I added plain, whole-milk yogurt & mashed bananas to the mix to keep these muffins from turning into dense-as-brick hockey pucks.  (Note: I have not tried this recipe using lower-fat yogurts.  While I always encourage experimenting, whether in cooking or in the more-exact chemistry of baked goods, I imagine that a non-fat plain yogurt would certainly affect the texture of these muffins as the yogurt is the only fat source on the ingredient list.)

I’ve dabbled with the sugar ratio — if you’d like, add a bit more (1/2 a cup) but I found that the bananas (and chocolate!) added plenty of sweetness on their own, so I’ve settled on a mere 1/3 of a cup for the whole batch.

One thing to note: If you make these muffins in batches (one batch tonight, one batch tomorrow) and wind up refrigerating part of the dough, before baking the chilled dough, add a little bit of almond milk (1-3 tablespoons) so that the batter becomes more liquidy and is reconstituted back to its original texture.  While these breakfast treats are best the day-of, they’re still quite moist the second day and make great snack leftovers.  If you still have a muffin stockpile after that, I recommend freezing them and thawing them (they freeze and thaw wonderfully) before serving.

1 cup white whole-wheat flour
1 cup oat bran
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 (heaping) teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup chocolate chips/shavings

1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt
1 cup mashed, overly ripe banana (about 2 large bananas, preferably ripe to the point of squishy-ness and blackened skins)
2 tablespoons almond milk
1 teaspoon vanilla


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease muffin tins and set aside.

2.  Mix dry ingredients, including sugar, with a fork.  Add chocolate chips to the dry ingredients (by tossing chips/chocolate shavings in the flour mixture, chips will not sink to the bottom of each muffin).

3.  In a separate bowl, mash banana.  Add yogurt, almond milk and vanilla.  Stir well.  Add to dry ingredients and stir, just until incorporated.

4.  Fill 4/5 of each muffin (nearly to the top) with batter – they won’t rise a terrific amount.  Bake until slightly golden around the edges and when the center bounces back a bit, with the touch of an index finger (or when the knife comes out clean).  About 18-22 minutes, but keep an eye out — cooking times will vary depending on the size of the muffin tin.

Sweet & Salty: A New Granola Favorite

December 28, 2010 § 1 Comment

For the past two weeks, I’ve slept through every sunrise, although I’ve been up late enough to nearly greet it.  Every so often, I love puttering around my family’s house, late at night, while the rest of the world sleeps.  I wear giant, green slippers and shuffle in and out of the empty rooms with a few soft lamps aglow.  I read door-stopper books, watch addicting TV mini-series that take place in the 12th century or eat midnight bowls of minestrone soup.  But as with all new habits that go against an old grain, the charm of 3-o’clock mornings is starting to fade.  Tomorrow I’ll be breaking the cycle and, because I’ll likely be a zombie, I figured I’d entice myself into the early hours with my favorite breakfast.

For the past four weeks I’ve been tweaking an old, favorite clumpy granola recipe.  Instead of aiming for just clumps, I wanted to create a granola with great crunch, too, and lots of texture.  I also wanted a bowl of granola that had a hint of salt (tipping my hat to Molly‘s grey sea salt chocolate chip cookies); my first trial was salty-overload, but now I’ve settled upon a half-teaspoon (per batch) and the granola tastes great.  Be warned though; this recipe is addictive.  I want to give a bit of inspirational credit: For the past couple of years I’ve amassed dozens, if not hundreds of granola recipes, but this November I came across a new granola recipe, by Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini.  I’ve been fiddling with her proportions of oats, nuts, coconut flakes and other add-in’s to create my own favorite blend, but I’ve stuck with her basic liquid ratio: six tablespoons of sweetener to two tablespoons oil.  Each granola trial, stemming from that basic proportion, has been wonderful; this is my favorite combination of ingredients below:

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup buckwheat groats
1/2 cup coconut flakes, unsweetened
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped

6 tablespoons honey, high quality (this imparts the most flavor)
1 tablespoon pumpkin butter, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
few pinches of favorite spices (cardamom, cinnamon, all spice, cloves, nutmeg, etc.)
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

2. Mix dry oats, groats, coconut, seeds and nuts in a bowl and set a side.

3. In a small sauce pan, heat honey, pumpkin butter and olive oil until liquidy.  Add spice and salt and stir until incorporated.  Remove from heat and add vanilla.

4. Pour onto dry ingredients and stir until thoroughly coated.

5. Layer on a sheet pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Let cool for 2 hours, out of the oven or in the warm oven (once turned off) with the door ajar.  Break apart and store in an air-tight container.

Diet Notes: gluten-free

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