Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars: A delicious blend of whole grains, nuts, and seeds I'm always looking for inventive ways to eat more whole grains, like rolled oats.  I just can't eat oatmeal everyday.  Plus, It's so convenient having something quick to grab as I run out the door in the morning--especially if I need fuel for an early morning workout.  These granola bars give me the fuel I need in a "grab-and-go" kind of way.  But if you're looking to mix it up a little, you can always break some off and mix it in Greek yogurt for a protein and fiber-packed breakfast or snack.

I pretty much bought all of these ingredients in bulk.  Purchasing in bulk is great because you can buy whatever quantity you need.  My neighborhood Whole Foods had everything I was looking for: rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, nuts, amaranth, and dates.  This recipe is fairly straightforward.  The hardest part is mixing the date syrup into all of the grains, nuts, and seeds---just because it is so sticky.  I made quite a mess since my bowl wasn't very large.  So, use a decent-sized bowl so that everything won't go flying out as you try to mix in the syrup.  Plus, you have to use all of your might to press the granola into the baking pan.  That way, your baked bars will actually stick together!

Rolled oats for homemade granola bars

Grains, nuts, and seeds for homemade granola bars

I took these out of the pan after letting them cool for about two hours while I was at the gym.  When I returned home, my house was filled with the rustic, homey smell of roasted oats and nuts.  Nothing smells more appetizing than freshly roasted nuts.

Homemade Granola Bar Recipe (Makes 12-16)

Nonstick spray or vegetable oil for coating the pan 6 large dates, pitted and chopped 1/2 cup molasses + 1/4 cup honey (may sub with 1 cup maple syrup) 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (may sub with virgin coconut oil) 2 cups old-fashioned oats 1/2 cup raw nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or cashews) 1 cup seeds (sunflower or pumpkin, or mixture of the two) 2 tablespoons amaranth (may sub with sesame seeds) 1/2 cup raisins or chocolate chips (optional) 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional) 1/2 teaspoon salt

*You can also use a muffin pan if you don't have a loaf pan.  Just line it with muffin cups and fill about halfway.  You will have to reduce the baking time.

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly coat an 8" x 4" loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper leaving an overhang so that the baked loaf can be easily removed.  Lightly coat the parchment paper with nonstick spray.
  2.  Boil dates and molasses + honey in a small pan, stirring often until dates are very soft (8-10 minutes).  Remove mixture from heat and stir in butter.  Use a fork or an immersion blender to smash the dates until smooth.

Date Syrup for Homemade Granola Bars

  1. Toss remaining ingredients into a bowl.  Mix in date syrup until all ingredients are evenly coated.  Press the mixture into the loaf pan as firmly as possible.
  2.  Bake 45-50 minutes.  Cover with foil if the loaf starts to burn.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least an hour.  Lift out loaf and slice into 1/2" slices with a serrated knife.  Keep tightly wrapped at room temperature up to five days. *For Crunchy Bars:  Bake sliced bars at 350 on a cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.

Slicing Homemade Granola Bars

Delicious Homemade Granola Bars: whole grains, nuts, and seedsSliced Homemade Granola Bars


Black and Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Squash

Healthy and Filling Whole Grain Salad: Wild Rice, Roasted Squash, Microgreens, Seeds, and Nuts I celebrated "Meatless Monday" last night with this hearty, filling salad of black and wild rice, roasted butternut squash, pomegranate seeds, parsley, scallions, pistachios, and a homemade red wine vinaigrette.  I thought about naming this salad "Crazy Salad" since it is Crazy Colorful, Crazy Vibrant, Crazy Delicious, Crazy Filling, and Crazy Healthy.

Delicious and Nutritious: Black and WIld Rice Salad with Roasted Squash and Nuts and Seeds

This salad reminds me of a fancy tabbouleh--especially since I subbed the microgreens with parsley (which worked wonderfully!) I had never cooked black rice before.  The black rice turned the water in the pot a deep aubergine color.  You can substitute the black and wild rice with just about any grain.  The total time to assemble this salad is about an hour--just depends on how long it takes the rice/whole grains to cook, and how long it takes the butternut squash to roast.  Also, I left some of the ingredients unassembled so that they will be super fresh for leftovers.

Black and Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Squash Recipe, Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups black rice 1/2 cup wild rice medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, cut into pieces 1/2 cup olive oil, divided 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 2 teaspoons honey 2 scallions, thinly sliced 1 cup pomegranate seeds 1 cup parsley 1/2 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 F.  Roast the squash with 1/4 cup olive oil on a baking sheet.

Cook black rice and wild rice in covered pot on low, with 4-5 cups water. Cook until tender, about 45 minutes.  (Taste to determine when rice is done and be sure to add water if the rice isn't cooked by the time all of water evaporates.) Drain and rinse, shaking off as much water as possible.  Spread on a rimmed baking sheet and let cool.

Roast the squash until it is browned and tender, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.

  1. Whisk red wine vinegar, honey, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil in a large bowl.  Add black rice, wild rice, squash, scallions, pomegranate seeds, parsley and pistachios.  Season with salt and pepper and toss to combine.

Cooked Black and wild Rice

Healthy, Easy, and Absolutely Delicious: Wild Rice Salad with Roasted Squash

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas: Healthy, Delicious, Start-to-Finish in 45 Minutes Chicken, Chickpeas, and Chard.  This delicious meal of chicken and chickpeas is flavorful and can be completed start to finish in 45 minutes.  The Harissa, a spicy North African red chile paste, adds a unique savory essence.  Serve with a side of lightly sauteed Chard or other leafy greens.

I made this dish to fulfill one of my new year's resolutions: Cook more meals.  I'm a serious baker--not necessarily a serious cook.  However, I think that anyone can cook--all it takes is a little effort.  So, one of my goals for January is to cook (and blog) about delicious, healthy meals.  

I was more than a little excited to use my newest toy--a round, 5.5 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven.  Finally!  Thanks Santa ;)  The enameled cast iron of a dutch oven is very forgiving.  Burn the bottom?  No big deal--a little baking soda will make the burn marks disappear.  You could also easily do this dish in any skillet, and simply transfer to an oven-safe dish if your skillet is not oven safe.

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Harissa Chickpeas Recipe, Adapted from Bon Appetit

Servings: 4 Active 20 minutes, Total time 45 minutes

Ingredients: 1 tablespoon olive oil 8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs, total 3 pounds (I used legs and breasts) 1 small onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2 tablespoons tomato paste 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed 1/4 c. harissa paste* 1/2 c. low-sodium chicken broth 1/4 c. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley lemon wedges, for serving

*Harissa may be found at Middle Eastern markets and specialty food stores. (I purchased from Whole Foods--Cava brand--near the hummus section.)

1. Preheat oven to 425 F.  Heal oil in large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Working in two batches, cook until browned, about 5 minutes per side.  Transfer to a plate.

2. Pour off all but one tablespoon drippings from pan.  Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to darken, about one minutes.  Add chickpeas, harissa, and broth; bring to a simmer.

Chickpeas with harissa paste, onions, and garlic

3. Nestle chicken, skin side up, in chickpeas.  Transfer skillet to oven.  Roast until chicken is cooked through, 20-25 minutes.  Top with parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing over.

Winter Vegetable Hash

Winter Vegetable Hash: Brussels Sprouts, Turnips, Sweet Potatoes, and Bacon Start 2014 with this simple, delicious, vegetable-ridden hash.  It uses vegetables that are still in season, so you should be able to find them fresh at your grocer.  Plus, it's loaded with proteins and veggies, and is naturally GF, paleo, etc.

This recipe is super versatile and can be served at brunch, or even at dinner.  Also, you can substitute some of the bacon (or all of it!) with andouille sausage to add an extra kick.  I only used half of the recommended bacon, and substituted andouille sausage. Next time, I will use no bacon and all Andouille Sausage!  For a vegetarian variation: substitute the bacon for vegetarian sausage.

Winter Vegetable Hash Recipe, adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients: 4 thick slices bacon (or 6 ounces Andouille Sausage) 1-2 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium-sized onion, chopped 1 medium-sized sweet potato (10 ounces) peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes 2 medium turnips (12 ounces total), peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar 1 pound small, fresh brussels sprouts, quartered 2 garlic cloves, sliced

  1. Cook bacon (or sausage/veggie sausage) in a skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon; drain, reserving 1-2 Tbsp. drippings in skillet. Coarsely chop bacon.
  2. Add olive oil to hot drippings in skillet (for about 3 tablespoons oil total--adjust to taste). Cook onion and sweet potato in hot oil and drippings over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Add turnips; cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes.
  3. Combine vinegar and 2 Tbsp. water. Add Brussels sprouts, garlic, and vinegar mixture to skillet. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in bacon; add salt and pepper to taste.


Winter Vegetable Hash: Easy, delicious, and nutritious