Tuesday, November 14, 2017

From Breakfast to Dinner in One Post!

Greetings, CT Readers! Hoping November is treating you well. Here in NJ, we are in the midst of an early cold snap (with temps in the 20-30s), much to my dismay. You may recall that I am not winter’s biggest fan but later this week it should get back into the 50s (more normal for this time of year) before the already-hyped “first winter storm” of the season that may blow into the Northeast right around Thanksgiving. Ugh.

I’ve got a couple of recipes for you today: a great granola recipe for breakfast or snacks, and a super easy three-ingredient pasta-sausage dinner.

First, let’s talk about granola. This could be an entire blog post on its own. A few months back I was looking to add some crunch to my morning cereal routine. I am not a sweet cereal person and gravitate toward the healthier section of the cereal aisle but not something that’s 100% cardboard.  I began searching for “low calorie” granola recipes on the web. There must be a zillion granola recipes out there! Culling through the various offerings (no sugar, no nuts, no gluten, vegan), I began my tests. The good news is that granola can be tailored to your own likes and dislikes. The bad news is that it takes alot of trial and error to find that one perfect recipe. And really there is no one perfect recipe because everybody likes something a little different in their granola. But making your own is so easy and requires no special skill or tools, that it really doesn’t pay to buy it.

I won’t bore you with the many recipes I went through. I’ll just cut to the chase and present the recipe that, for me, constitutes the best granola recipe. It’s got that all-important crunch factor, whole grain oats, nuts and seeds for texture, and a bit of sweetness. Of course, you can taper the recipe to your needs/wants.

I add about four tablespoons to one half-cup of my usually boring (but healthy) box cereal and it really jazzes up my breakfast. I also use it as a topping to plain yogurt, and could definitely see it sprinkled over ice cream or over a luxe coconut or vanilla pudding. Hmmmmm, that last one about the pudding just came to me as I was writing; I may have to try that!
maple syrup drizzle

The recipe from Elizabeth Rider, a blogger and health counselor who focuses on healthy eating follows. 

 Prep Time: 10 min Total Time: 20 min 
Serves 4-6 
Use raw, organic ingredients whenever possible. These measurements are flexible; don’t worry too much about being exact. 

2 cups raw, whole rolled oats (aka old fashion oats), preferably organic 
½ cup raw nuts, chopped 
¼ cup raw seeds (sunflower or pumpkin seeds are great) 
½ cup unsweetened dried fruit, chopped (optional) 
2-3 tablespoons grade-b maple syrup or raw honey (or a combo of both) 
2 tbsp virgin coconut oil or other healthy cooking oil 
½ tsp vanilla extract or almond extract 
1 large pinch fine sea salt 
1 t cinnamon
1/4 cup flaked coconut 

Recipe: Preheat the oven to 300º F. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and use your clean hands to mix well and toss to coat; it will be sticky and messy but that’s the fun part.* The coconut oil might be liquid or solid depending on the temperature of the room you are in (it has a melting point of about 75ºF.) Your hands will warm it up and melt it into the mixture if it’s solid, just be sure to mix it all through the other ingredients so there aren’t any chunks of oil left. 

Spread the mixture in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, until very lightly toasted. (To make this recipe completely raw-friendly, dehydrate the mixture 5-6 hours at 115ºF in a food dehydrator instead.) Cool before serving or storing. This granola can be kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. I keep mine in a mason jar in the refrigerator at home and in a BPA-free plastic bag when traveling.

*Cook’s Tour note: I always use gloves when mixing food. The directions above are taken directly from the original recipe’s author.
Ready for milk!

On to dinner! The original recipe comes from Proud Italian Cook and is so easy, the author doesn’t even include measurements (I’ve included approximate measurements in my version)! If you are looking for a quick, weeknight dinner, this is it. She used Italian pork sausage with fennel, but since we almost always have Italian chicken sausage in the freezer, I used that. We really enjoyed it the first night but when we were planning to use the leftovers another night, I felt it needed a little “bulking up.” So my recipe includes the addition of pasta shells. You could also throw in some cannellini beans. Technically, my adapted recipe is four ingredients (or five with Parmigiano Reggiano grated over the finished dish) but when the outcome is this delicious, who's counting?!

Let me know what you think about both of these recipes (leave comments below).

I’ll be off-line for a bit while we do some traveling, but I’ll be back soon! Wishing you and yours a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Sausage, Brussels Sprouts, and Pasta with Balsamic Glaze (adapted from Proud Italian Cook)

Serves 2 (with leftovers) or 4 (with no leftovers)

About 1 pound Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half lengthwise
Extra virgin olive oil 
salt and freshly ground pepper
4-5 links Italian chicken sausage
about one pound pasta shells
Good quality balsamic glaze
Freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Trim sprouts and slice in half lengthwise
  3. Toss sprouts with about 1-2 TB olive oil, salt, pepper
  4. Place on rimmed baking sheet, cut-side down and roast until tender & golden but not overcooked or too deep a caramelization (about 20-30 minutes). Test to be sure they are done.
  5. In the meantime, remove sausage from casing, place in a skillet on stove and crumble into bite-size pieces.
  6. Cook sausage until completely done, remove and drain on paper towel.
  7. Cook pasta according to manufacturer’s directions and drain.
  8. In a large bowl, combine roasted sprouts with the sausage and pasta.
  9. Just before serving, lightly drizzle with balsamic glaze and grate cheese over top.

If so inclined, a crisp Sicilian Grillo white goes very nicely with this dish. We discovered Grillo during our trip to Sicily in 2016 and when we returned I found this really nice version here in the states.

Eat well, stay warm, be happy!

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