Blueberry Granola and Cinnamon Vanilla Yogurt Parfaits

Blueberry Granola and Cinnamon Yogurt Parfaits Yogurt and Granola Parfaits
This is a very simple snack that you can make ahead of time and have it ready to pull out of the fridge at any time during the week!  I had some blueberries in the freezer that needed to be used and so I created a soft granola that could be good cut into bars, or crumbled up like I did here, to add to yogurt, cereal, ice cream, whatever!  I love these little jam jar parfaits – I used the small 4 oz. size for Olive and used the bigger 6 oz. size for us big kids.  Layered with plain, rich Greek yogurt that I mixed with some cinnamon and vanilla bean paste – these are ready for my fridge and ready for a week of snack time, pregnancy cravings or a quick breakfast!

Sweetening plain yogurt with cinnamon and vanilla bean paste (which is slightly sweet) adds enough sweetness without adding several teaspoons of honey or sugar, like we all feel compelled to do with plain yogurt.  You’re getting plenty of sugar from granola (never let anyone tell you granola is a diet food) and so there’s no need to add even more by buying a pre-sweetened yogurt (which can have over 20 grams of sugar in each serving!) This recipe makes a really large batch of granola that’ll last you a while and I hope you enjoy the smell of your entire house while you make it!

blueberry granola parfaits

Blueberry Granola Parfaits
makes about 3 cups of granola

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup steel cut oats
1 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 TBS cinnamon
1 TBS vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup honey
1 stick melted butter
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dried currants, raisins, whatever you like

In a large mixing bowl, combine the rolled oats, flour, brown sugar, baking soda and cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, combine the steel cut oats and 1 cup boiling water and let them soak for 20 minutes.  Drain and add to the other oat mixture.  If you don’t want to do this, simply add 2 more cups of regular rolled oats.  I liked the steel cut chewiness, but I’ve done this recipe with all rolled oats before and it works fine either way!

Add to the oat mixture the vanilla bean paste (can sub regular vanilla extract), melted butter and honey and stir well to combine everything.  Gently fold in the blueberries, currants and pecans (or any trifecta you desire).  Spread mixture out on a greased, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Take it out and let it cool and then break it all up and spread it out on the sheet again and let it bake at 250 for about 30 more minutes until it’s all golden brown.  If you want to make granola bars, increase your first bake time to 30 minutes and let it cool completely before cutting into bars.  While it’s cooling and still hot, I’d spread some white chocolate chips over the top and let them melt and then spread them all over for a topping for your granola bars, if you’re gonna swing that way.

Cinnamon Yogurt

1 cup Greek yogurt, plain
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together and whip up until fully blended.  Layer in cute little jars with the granola and top with fresh berries for the snack pictured here!  Garnishing with mint adds a wonderful flavor addition and brightens everything up.

*this can easily be made gluten-free by substituting the flour for coconut flour and insuring that your oats are gluten free.  Check the box – a lot of brands are, nowadays!

Cinnamon Yogurt and Blueberry Granola Parfaits

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Summer Grilling: Romesco Sauce!

summer meal - romesco sauce
Ah, summer.  It’s upon us!  And even though I’m hoping no grilling will get done this weekend due to rain (please, oh please) we have fired up the grill several times already and hope to continue as the months continue to provide us with warm nights and light well into the 9 o’clock hour.  We had a truly noteworthy grilling session last weekend where the star of the show was that tasty little dollop of red pepper puree on the side of the asparagus called Romesco.

romesco sauce
Romesco is a blend of roasted red bell peppers, hazelnuts, almonds, garlic and roasted tomatoes.  I can’t explain how magical it all is when blended up together, but it is incredible as a topping for a grilled flank steak, a dip for asparagus, or even a spread for the grilled bread I’m hoping you’ll still try! We topped baked potatoes with our leftover romesco sauce this week and I just KNOW it would be fabulous on top of a simple omelet.  I love a sauce that can be so versatile because it won’t just sit in your fridge, unused.  There are literally endless options for this tasty sauce and I hope you will make this for your next summer meal!

grilled asparagus with romesco sauce

Romesco Sauce*
makes about 3 cups

4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
4 red bell peppers
6-8 cloves of garlic, still in their skins
3/4 cup olive oil, plus oil for roasting vegetables and toasting nuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup almonds
1 cup day-old bread, cubed and toasted with olive oil
red wine vinegar
2 tsp Piment d’Esplette (or dried chili flakes)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 300F.  Season the tomatoes and peppers with 2 tablespoons of  olive oil, salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet. Bake the cloves of garlic along with the tomatoes and the peppers, until the garlic is soft, (remove them when they are to let the tomatoes and peppers finish) the tomatoes have begun to caramelize and the peppers are tender and beginning to blister, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven, cover the peppers with foil and set aside for 10 minutes, then peel the skin and remove the seeds and veins from the peppers.

In a small skillet set over medium heat, toast the almonds and hazelnuts with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil and salt.  

Remove the garlic cloves from their skins. In a food processor, combine the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, toasted nuts and bread. Add the Piment d’Esplette or chili flakes.  Slowly drizzle in the remaining ¾ cup of olive oil until the mixture forms a smooth paste. Season with red wine vinegar, salt and pepper until it’s to your liking.  We added about 2-3 tablespoons of vinegar and added about 2 tsp of kosher salt and some pepper.  Puree until very smooth, but the sauce will remain slightly chunky.  

Serve with grilled vegetables, meats, baked potatoes, bread, etc, etc, etc!

*we combined two recipes from Tasting Table to make our own version.

 

 

 

 

The Best Peach Cobbler: Food is Healing

Peach Cobbler over Vanilla Ice Cream
I grew up in Eastern New Mexico.  Which is basically West Texas.  Which is basically the South.  Basically.  And in the South, when someone is ailing, grieving, winging it as a single parent for a week with a house full of kids, or whatever – we bring food.  The more comforting the dish, the better.

Enter: homemade peach cobbler.  The BEST peach cobbler you’ll likely ever have.

My Aunt Mary could have been my grandmother.  The oldest in a family of eight children, Aunt Mary has acted like our grandmother as far back as I can remember.  She picked me up from school, she made a few dresses for me, she always gave away the best homemade treats at Halloween and she stood in place of my own ailing grandmother when I got married.  Did the same for both my brothers’ weddings, too.  Aunt Mary also brings food.  I would guess it is her first thought when she hears of someone’s suffering.

A few years ago my dad’s 20 year-old carpentry business and production shop burned to the ground in one night.  I remember us all sitting around the dining room table a couple days later, feeling numb and really not knowing what to say or do next.  It was as if a close family member had passed away.  Aunt Mary walked in holding this still-warm peach cobbler and a pint of vanilla ice cream.  We made a bowl and after the first bite,  I felt a little bit of weight released from my shoulders as my heart sank into those amazing flavors.  It was the food-equivalent of a hug.  It could have been the emotions of the day or the fact that we all love Aunt Mary so much, but I think it was the best peach cobbler, or any cobbler, I’d ever had in my life.

When my grandpa passed away a couple weeks ago, we were sitting around the house the afternoon after his funeral and Aunt Mary called.  She said, “I was just sitting here and realized that I NEVER brought over any food!”  I smiled and said quietly to myself, “please let it be peach-” at the same time she said, “I JUST made a peach cobbler. Can I drop by?”

And the same comfort washed over us, again.  This time my uncle had the first taste and in his quiet demeanor, he just nodded and said, “That IS the best cobbler I’ve ever had.”  And he’s a farmer.  He knows his cobbler.  I sat Aunt Mary down before she could leave and told her that this time, she HAD to tell me the recipe.  So, from memory she just told me how she did it.  I love recipes like that.  She even apologized and blushed a little when she told me how much sugar. 🙂

So I want to give this comforting recipe to you.  So you can give it to someone else.  Food, sometimes, is so much more than nourishment, calories, ingredients, fast or fancy restaurants.  It can be those words you don’t know how to say or that comfort you wish you could provide but  just don’t know how.

Classic Peach Cobbler

Peach Cobbler

serves 8-10

1 stick unsalted butter
2 – 28 oz cans of sliced peaches (don’t drain.  And the ounces may vary.  Aunt Mary just said, “Not the soup-can size – the bigger one! So I guessed.)
3 cups sugar (I know.  You might eat this once a year.  It’s okay.)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt (she told me 1/8 tsp salt, but kosher is bigger so I always double the amount if I’m using it)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 400F.  In a 9×13 pan, melt the stick of butter in the oven.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, add the peaches with their syrup, two cups of sugar and let it start bubbling.  Meanwhile, mix flour and the remaining cup of sugar, baking powder and salt together in a bowl and then add the milk.

Pour the batter on top of the melted butter.  Then pour the peach mixture over the batter.  Bake about 40 minutes until the batter is a rich brown.  I’d really advise letting this cool down considerably before eating.  You’ll think there’s waaaaaay too much syrup, but it thickens upon cooling and you have this glorious syrup to pour over your ice cream. Worth it.

Peach Cobbler

Chicken Avocado Taquitos with Red Pepper Soup

chicken taquitos with green chili
These recipes jumped off the screen last Monday when I was looking for something quick, nutritious and slightly comforting to make for my family.  Both recipes come from the great world of Pinterest and they paired together like old friends.  The first was baked chicken taquitos and I improvised from the original recipe a bit and added avocado (because it improves nearly everything) and green chili powder instead of cayenne.  Both additions worked well and I’ll definitely make this recipe again!

The second recipe comes from a dear friend and fellow food blogger, Becky McGrew of Apronclad.com!  She made this roasted red pepper soup a while back and I have kept it in the back of my head as yet another wonderful soup to introduce new flavors to our little two-year old, Olive.  The soup made a wonderful dip for the taquitos and was obviously wonderful on its own as a starter/side dish for the meal.  It has some Italian herbs in it, which are awesome, but I think next time to match up a little better with the Mexican theme, I think I’d omit the basil and thyme and add in Mexican oregano and cilantro to finish.  Whatever you do, just make this soup.  It’s outstanding!  I didn’t mess with the recipe at all, so just go on over to Becky’s blog and get the recipe there, plus very nice step-by-step instructions!

chicken taquitos

Baked Chicken Avocado Taquitos*

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch thickness
½ teaspoon garlic salt
1 teaspoon green chili powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cumin
8 6-inch flour tortillas
1 cup shredded mexican blend or cheddar cheese
1 large, ripe avocado
Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil and spray heavily with cooking spray.

In a small bowl whisk together garlic salt, green chili powder, onion powder and cumin. Rub seasoning into both sides of chicken breasts. Spray a large pan or skillet with cooking spray and cook chicken over medium heat about 8-10 minutes or until cooked through. Chop chicken up into small cubes. Divide chicken evenly among all tortillas, spreading the chicken into a strip down the middle of each tortilla. Top chicken with about 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and a few pieces of avocado. Tightly roll each tortilla into a taquito. Place end side down on prepared baking sheet. Spray taquitos heavily with cooking spray. Bake 10-15 minutes until tortilla edges begin to brown/blacken and cheese is melty. We dipped ours into the soup and also our favorite – Mexican crema!  Seriously, so much more flavor than sour cream!

*adapted from Creme de la Crumb

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters

Zucchini Basil Soup
I’m happy to have resurrected this soup!  Matt and I made it a long time ago when we were still doing the 800 sq ft apartment thing and then again when a friend of ours invited her dad over and we needed to fix low sodium, low fat recipes since he had recently had heart surgery.   Matt’s father also has heart troubles, so it’s always refreshing to find healthy recipes to share that taste as decadent as a full-fat option.  This soup is so perfect for the coming zucchini-overload we all will have soon (as it’s the only vegetable that seems to have no trouble in our awful climate) and basil, the herb that’s also hard to kill.  It’s got all the depth of flavor of a soup that has been slowly cooked with butter and cream only – it has neither!  It isn’t even made with stock – just water!  So the sodium is only what you add for taste.  I bet in one batch, I added a little over a teaspoon of salt.  And it serves six!  Can you tell I’m excited about this soup?!
zucchini basil soup and stuffing fritters
One other merit of soups from a mother of a toddler’s perspective, is that they are a perfect way to get more variety of vegetables and flavors into our newly opinionated children.  Olive has eaten zucchini, pesto, fresh basil from the garden, etc, before, but suddenly, she’s on a suspicious, won’t-try-anything-green bender.  Drives me batty because I KNOW she would like most things if she’d just try them.  Sound familiar?  What does NOT work is forcing, tricking, cajoling, pleading, prodding or manipulating your kids to eat.  They can smell your tricks a mile away and they’ve come prepared with an iron will.  This is pretty natural and resistance is futile.  But soups.  Olive has willingly eaten this soup twice in the past 4 days.  It’s green!  It’s got darker green chunks in it!  Why will she try it?  My guess is texture.  No chunks – pureed and easy to sip from a cup so she has full control.  When Olive doesn’t want to try something, I ask her to just smell it.  If she smells it, 99% of the time she’ll try a bite.  And I’ve learned to be happy with One Happy Bite, as much as it flies against my need to control the situation.

So.  If you have a child who is resisting new textures/colors/flavors, try soups.  I know it seems like a regression back to the baby food days, but if that’s what it takes to keep the flavors and colors changing on your child’s plate, I say it’s worth it.  Children get used to variety if variety is the norm.

Without further babbling, here’s the recipe!  Also, I paired the soup with a not-so-saintly fritter made from leftover Stove Top Stuffing.  No kidding.  They were FABULOUS as a little crispy soup-companion!  I topped them with herbed goat cheese and they tasted downright fancy.  Happy Meatless Monday!

Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters
Zucchini Basil Soup with Stove Top Fritters*

serves 4-6

2 lbs zucchini, peeled, trimmed and cut crosswise into 2″ pieces
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cups of water
1/3 cup packed basil leaves

Cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a 3-4 quart stock pot until the onion starts to soften.  Add chopped zucchini and about a teaspoon of kosher salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring.  Cover with the water and let it come to a boil and cook for 15 minutes, until the zucchini is soft and easily pierced with a fork.

Add the basil and puree in two batches in a blender (watch out blending hot liquids and make sure it has a vent or you’ve got your hand firmly on that lid!) or, blend directly in the pot with an immersion blender, which is what I do.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with fritters, toast, or as a starter for your three-course fancy-schmancy dinner! 🙂

*taken from Epicurious.com

Stuffing Fritters
Stove-Top Stuffing Fritters

2 cups leftover cornbread stuffing
1/4 cup water
1 large egg
olive oil for frying

In a medium bowl, combine the stuffing, water and egg and if the mixture won’t come together after a bit of stirring, add a little more water until you can form the stuffing into small patties.  I used a medium sized cookie scoop and it worked well.  Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil (or any vegetable oil) over medium-high heat and fry the fritters about 3-5 minutes per side until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels and keep the cooked fritters in a 250 degree oven until the rest are done and you’re ready to serve.  This will keep them crispy and warm!

 

Cooking Basics: Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto Ingredients
This is an important recipe to have memorized.  If you know the basic formula, you can make a pesto with just about any green/oil/nut/hard cheese.  It’s a great way to dress up a simple pasta salad, a plain filet of fish, or even boiled potatoes for a spin on potato salad.  When it’s a pasta-only kinda day around here, pesto somehow makes me feel better about not trying harder to dish out variety.  I think, “At least Olive is eating something green and different on top of her pasta.”  While that may be the dinner equivalent to justifying nutella as a “healthy” snack, I’m sticking with calling pesto healthy.  In moderation.  The stuff is mostly olive oil.  But I think if it’s used as a garnish, it’s just fine  and a little goes a long way, anyway!
Pesto

So here is your Cooking Basic for the week –

Basil Pesto
makes about a cup and a half

3 cups packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Put everything except the oil in a food processor and turn it on.  While it’s whirring around, gradually drizzle in the olive oil through the open chute of the processor lid.  Let it process for about 30 seconds and then open and taste for salt and pepper.  I end up putting about a teaspoon of kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper to mine.  Pesto will keep on the counter for about a week or in the fridge for 2-3 weeks.  The top of the pesto will turn brown, but it can simply be scraped off before use.  Pressing a sheet of plastic wrap on its surface helps with the oxidization, too.

Basil Pesto Tortellini

Life Happens – Fire Up the Grill

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The past few weeks have been a game of “just make it through this day.”  My grandpa was very ill and had cancer surgery, then spent the next two weeks rapidly going downhill till his body finally gave up the fight last Friday.  We were in and out of the ICU waiting room for a couple weeks, then there all day Friday, then I went to my hometown of Portales, NM for a couple days this week for the funeral, then Matt left for two and half days on a business trip.  In the midst of those three weeks, Olive was sick for two of them, I was sick for one week, we had crazy awful dirt storms and everything around the house just started taking a back seat to our little survival game.  In hindsight, it went about as well as it could and my family grew closer than ever before.  Needless to say, I didn’t blog much and while I really don’t want to neglect my regular posts, sometimes life just takes over.

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So last Saturday, the day after my grandpa passed away and we were in the short calm of the storm, we decided to have a “normal” dinner at home and thought it sounded super relaxing to just grill almost every part of the meal and eat outside.
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Matt made a pot of BBQ baked beans from Rancho Gordo (we are part of a Bean of the Month club.  No joke) And they were smoky and full of good texture and went perfectly with all the grilled components of the meal.  We grilled a sirloin tri-tip steak and made a really unique green chili and tomato salsa with worchestershire sauce for the salt and it was perfect with the BBQ flavors and our grilled bread.  Yes, grilled bread – it was awesome.  Kind of a hillbilly bruschetta, if you will.

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photo 5
 I’d highly recommend this grilled bread.   We took a loaf of sourdough bread, cut it in half, spread vegetable oil and kosher salt on the cut sides and let it grill till crispy.  THEN we mixed a clove of smashed garlic in with a half stick of butter and seasoned it with salt and spread that on slices of the grilled bread.  I swear to you, you will never want another bread for an outdoor BBQ as long as you live!

This whole meal was so therapeutic.  The weather was good, we all sat outside and enjoyed the smell of the grill, the breeze was actually gentle instead of tornado-like, and even the kid was transfixed by her surroundings long enough to just SIT and eat.  I think everyone needs to take a break from time to time.  A break from all the performing we find ourselves doing.  I feel like I perform with my photography, with this blog, with just about everything that is broadcast on social media.  And maybe in times where we find it very hard to STOP performing for everyone, life throws us an unavoidable circumstance that forces us to simplify and slow down.  Only God could restore my energy at a time like this.  Only God could bring families closer out of death.  And only God would design food to be so comforting and satisfying that one meal would have the ability to inflate my entire family’s sails just a little bit more than before the meal began.

There will be a steadier stream of posts coming, now.  I THINK most of the drama is at a standstill for now.  Thank you for being patient!