Apple pie granola (~8 half-cup servings)

This coming Monday night, I'm incredibly excited to be attending my very first food swap! If you're in the Triangle, come on down to Ponysaurus at 7:00 for this event, hosted by Bull City Food Swap. I've been wanting to participate in a community food swap for years now, so naturally, I was thrilled to learn about this local event.

If I care about you in any way, shape, or form, you've probably been given my granola at some point in the last couple years. Granola is one of my favorite things to make, mainly because the recipe is so flexible. I make so many different varieties, from peanut butter and Almond Joy to cranberry-almond and strawberry-walnut. On Monday, I'll be giving away bags of mocha almond granola and apple pie granola. I'm particularly proud of the apple pie variety, so I decided to share the recipe here!

Click here for a printable version.

You will need:

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (Tip: It mixes in easier if it's at room temperature.)
  • a splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp apple pie spice (My homemade version contains cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cardamom.)
  • a pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apples

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or spritz it with non-stick spray and set aside.
  2. Pour the oats and pecans into a large mixing bowl. Pour the maple syrup and vanilla extract  over the oats and nuts; mix with a rubber scraper or wooden spoon. Once the oats and pecans are evenly coated, sprinkle the apple pie spice and salt into the bowl and mix once again.
  3. Spread the granola mixture out on the baking sheet, making sure it's in a nice even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring once or twice. You'll know it's done when your kitchen smells toasty-cozy and the oats are golden.
  4. Once the granola has cooled, toss it with the raisins and apples. Store the granola in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Serve with milk, on top of yogurt (pictured above), on top of ice cream, or just as a crunchy snack.

Using maple syrup instead of corn syrup or maple-flavored table syrup makes this recipe more expensive, yes, but I can't emphasize how much of a difference the real stuff makes. I love that this recipe doesn't use any oil and doesn't add sugar besides the syrup and fruit. I hope this granola will make me some new local food friends on Monday night!

Chocolate-marbled banana bread

Oh. Hello there.

Certain words, when incorporated into food descriptions, make any dish immediately sound  appetizing. Stuffed. Toasted. Encrusted. Another favorite is marbled. "Chocolate-marbled banana bread" sounds a gazillion times more drool-worthy than just "chocolate banana bread." Of course, adding chocolate enhances the bread, too!

This is a great weekend recipe, and by that I mean it's a great one to bake when you've got a little extra time on your hands and don't mind dirtying a few dishes (or every single bowl in the kitchen, if you bake the way I do.) It's chewy, sweet (although not overly so), and comforting, and the marbled look gives it that little extra something special. Oh, and it's vegan! (Thanks, PPK!)

You will need:

  • 1 cup mashed very-ripe bananas (1-2 bananas, depending on size)
  • 3/4 cup sugar (coconut sugar works well, if you're into that sort of thing)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/3 cup almond or soy milk
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • a handful of vegan chocolate chips (optional)
  • 6 Tbsp boiling water, divided

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F and prep a loaf pan with non-stick spray or a little oil. Set aside.
  2. Using a fork, mash the bananas in a large bowl until they're pretty smooth. (I'd echo Isa's advice and say it's worthwhile to measure out a cup afterwards to make sure you have the right amount.) Add the sugar, vanilla, oil, and milk to the same bowl; mix with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated.
  3. Next, add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the same bowl, and mix gently only until everything is just incorporated. (I think I over-mixed here, as my loaf didn't look as fluffy as Isa's version! It still tastes amazing though, so don't worry too much.)
  4. Measure out one cup of this batter and move it to a different bowl. Keep this to the side for now. (This will become the chocolate part.)
  5. Use a mug and a fork to stir 3 Tbsp of the boiling water into the cocoa powder until it's dissolved. Pour the cocoa mixture into the one cup of banana batter, tossing in a handful of chocolate chips if desired. (Um, yes.) Mix the chocolatiness (yes, it's a word) into the one cup of batter until it's smooth and beautifully brown.
  6. Add the remaining 3 Tbsp of boiling water to the original (plain) banana batter; mix until it's relatively smooth.
  7. Scoop alternating 1/2 cups of the plain banana batter and the chocolate-banana batter into the greased loaf ban. Don't worry about it looking pretty just yet! After all the batter is in the pan, swirl a butter knife in a random pattern through the pan, creating a marbled effect.
  8. Bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool before slicing and serving.

And that's it! It's not a difficult recipe, but it does involve quite a few steps. As I said, my loaf came out more dense than Isa's, judging by her picture, and I think that's down to slightly over-mixing and maybe using a bigger pan than she used. But nonetheless, it turned out delicious, and Bryan and I have each had at least two pieces per day so far! (P.S. How amazing would this be with peanut butter chips mixed into the chocolate batter?)

***Update (8/8/14):

I made this a second time and added 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder, which made a more classic, top-rounded loaf. I also discovered this recipe makes enough batter for three mini loaves -- perfect for thank-you gifts or just-because-I-freaking-felt-like-it presents. The second time around, I used Trader Joe's gluten-free baking mix instead of all-purpose flour, since I'm planning to give one of these to a friend who's nice enough to take our butts back and forth to the airport later in the week. (Can't wait to be back in PA for a couple days! Boehringer's is tops on my list of food priorities!)

Veganized baked oatmeal (6 servings)

bakedoatmeal.jpg

Every once in a while, it's nice to make breakfast a treat instead of just a utility. It's worth a few extra steps to make it something special, especially when guests are involved. This past weekend, two of our friends from Baltimore stayed overnight, and on Saturday morning, I made baked oatmeal from Faith Durand's Not Your Mother's Casseroles. This is an easy-to-prepare, comforting breakfast that can be changed and tweaked to suit individual preferences.

You will need:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups soy or almond milk (you might want to decrease the sugar if you use a sweetened variety)
  • 1 cup dried fruit (I used cranberries and raisins)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped nuts (I used sliced almonds)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla, maple, or almond extract (opt.)

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber mixer. Pour mixture into the baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Serve the oatmeal hot with maple syrup, extra brown sugar, and/or extra milk, if desired.

Oh my goodness, this was so good. It reminded me of various oatmeal concoctions I've had back home in Lancaster County, only it was less sweet. And it smells so delicious as it's baking! It's a convenient recipe to make for guests, as you can mix everything up in one bowl, stick it in the oven, and then spend time chatting, making coffee, or doing dishes until it's ready. It also heats up well in the microwave the next day, if you happen to have leftovers!

Overnight oatmeal (~4 servings)

For the first 26 years of my life, I thought I hated oatmeal.  With its slimy texture and grayish cast, it reminded me of something a person should build bricks walls with rather than eat.  Oatmeal seemed like a dish that should appeal to the very, very young and the very, very old but no one in between.  In short, oatmeal was not for me.
But then, several months ago, I began reading about the weight loss benefits of oatmeal; it keeps a person full longer than most breakfast items do, and it supposedly can help lower cholesterol, too.  I knew Bryan liked it, so I figured that if I made some and didn't like it, he could finish it for me.  Then I stumbled on this recipe for Overnight Oatmeal, and I couldn't say no.  What follows is the best method I've found after experimenting with it for a while.

You will need:
  • 2 cups rolled oats (not instant)
  • 2 cups Vanilla soy milk
  • a generous sprinkling of cinnamon
  • a generous pinch of salt

Steps:
  1. Pour everything into a sealing container and stir, shake, or mix it up.  (I put it all in a Ziploc medium-sized "Twist n' Loc" container, twist the lid tightly, and shake it.)
  2. Refrigerate the oatmeal overnight.
  3. The next morning, scoop out however much you want into a bowl and microwave it for one minute.  Stir it, add whatever toppings you wish, and microwave it another 30 seconds to one minute.  Enjoy!

It really doesn't get easier than that.  Bryan admits it's even easier than the "instant" kind he used to make from a packet, since you don't have to wait for water to boil.  I like to top mine with a handful of thawed berries from the freezer and a tablespoon or two of maple syrup.  Toasted, sliced almonds are nice, too, as are raisins.  Of course, you can use dairy milk instead of soy milk, but I like the texture of the soy milk better, plus I enjoy the idea of starting off my day dairy-free, since I'm less likely to trigger my IBS symptoms that way.

It's to the point now where I find myself craving oatmeal!  I would have laughed at myself for saying that a few months ago!

Strawberry bread

One of my pet peeves is vegetarian cook books that bulk up their content with tons of recipes for desserts.  Honestly, have you ever seen ground beef sorbet or pork loin cupcakes?  Do we really need non-meat alternatives for dessert?  Anyway, in that spirit, I don't want to overload this blog with dessert recipes, but sometimes I come across a recipe that I just need to share.  I was looking for a way to use up the glut of strawberries I foolishly bought, and this turned out to be a great solution.  The recipe comes from JoyOfBaking.com, and I changed very little about it.  All I really did was leave out the walnuts because I wasn't in the mood for them.

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 3 eggs

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

  • 1/4 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh strawberries

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and make sure the oven rack is in the middle.  Grease and flour the bottom and sides of a loaf pan.  (Mine is an odd size -- 8.5 by 4.5 by 3 or something like that.  Better than greasing and flouring the pan, use Baker's Joy spray.   I love this stuff.)

  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the butter in a large bowl until it's fluffy (about a minute).  Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each is added.  Beat in the vanilla extract.

  4. In a separate, smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in thirds and the yogurt in two parts, starting and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix only until combined; otherwise, your batter will get tough.

  5. Gently fold in the chopped strawberries with a spatula/rubber scraper.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about an hour, or until the bread is golden brown and a cake tester stuck in the middle comes out clean.  Place the pan on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread to serve.

I like this recipe because the bread isn't overly sweet, and I think it would work well with other types of fruit, too.  I'd like to try it with peaches before the summer's over, and I might try it with apples in the fall.  I think if your fruit is particularly sweet or ripe, you could probably even cut the sugar down to 1/2 cup.  Just make sure you mix the fruit into the batter evenly, or you'll end up with most of it on the bottom like I did.  I kept half the loaf in the fridge for Bryan and me to enjoy this week and froze the other half for later.  It's great warmed up with butter on top, but it's wonderful by itself too.  I like it for breakfast!