Granola Bread

A few weeks ago I made Granola Bread. I’d wanted to try it for a little while. The benefit of making it now was that I could use up my very toasty granola, and make more! Also, I was hopeful that something as wholesome as bread would be eaten by my coworkers, even if they might be giving up things for Lent.

I decided to make half of the recipe, mostly because I only had enough granola left for a single loaf. I also like making single loaves of bread, and therefore making half batches of some recipes, because that way I don’t have to try dividing the dough exactly in half.

This bread took regular and white whole wheat flour, oat flour (I ground some oat bran I had), powdered milk, and potato, in addition to the usual salt, yeast, and water. You mix those ingredients together in a stand mixer for quite a while (up to 20 minutes to get the proper gluten development) before adding granola. I actually mixed this for longer than 20 minutes because I couldn’t get it to windowpane at all, and wasn’t sure that it was ready. It became very sticky once I added the granola, and really thickened up, so maybe it was ready after all.

I put it in a greased tupperware and let it rest for between 90 minutes and 2 hours, folding it a few times. Again, this was a very thick dough. I formed it into a rough ball, let it rest another 30 minutes, and then formed it into a torpedo-shape. I let it rise another hour, but it didn’t really rise as much as I would have hoped, even though I had the oven running. I baked it for 13 minutes under a pot to capture steam, and another 15 minutes uncovered.

Granola Bread

Let me preface this by saying that the bread didn’t rise like I thought it should. I think my kitchen is still too cold during the winter, and I should have created a warmer space for it to rise. I was impatient. You can tell from the picture that it was really the tiniest loaf ever – more like the size of melba toasts. The taste was good. It tasted very healthy – as you’d expect from whole wheat flour and oats. I would have liked it more if I’d gotten it to rise more, since I don’t like my bread to have as dense a texture as this had. This bread would have been pretty good with cream cheese or butter (which I don’t eat), or toasted with some honey. I wasn’t happy with the way my loaf turned out, but I’ll give it another shot in the future.

Power Granola

I was briefly on a kind of granola kick last fall. I tried a few recipes (and still really want to make the cherry almond granola again, since I didn’t get much of that for myself), but I’m not convinced that I’ve got the perfect granola recipe yet.

At some point last week I really just wanted to make granola again. I’ve been eating a lot of oatmeal for breakfast lately, and I like having something portable around (like granola) in case there’s a morning where I don’t have much time. I also wanted to run the oven, but didn’t want the hassle of making cookies. I almost made the cherry almond granola, but I’d come across the Power Granola recipe earlier in the week and decided I should give it a try.

I happened to have everything around for this recipe, but I figure that not everyone will. I actually made this specifically because I had orange juice in the fridge that I wanted to use. Other ingredients include oats, ground flaxseed, walnuts, almonds, cinnamon, honey, brown sugar, a little bit of oil, vanilla, and cranberries. You could use whatever nuts or fruit you wanted or use maple syrup instead of honey (although I prefer honey). You could also substitute oat or wheat bran or ground nuts for the ground flaxseed. The flaxseed is healthy, but it really just mixes with the liquid and helps make the granola clump together.

You mix together the sugars and heat until the sugar dissolves. You add the oil and vanilla, then pour the liquid over the dry ingredients (minus fruit) and mix well. You bake at 300F for 10 minutes, then stir and bake for another 15 minutes. I honestly found this to be too short. Cool the mixture briefly, then add cranberries.

Power Granola

The granola was tasty, but way too soft for my liking. I took some to work and ate it in yogurt, but then I took the rest back home and toasted it longer (another 20 minutes, actually). I would definitely bake this at least 30-35 minutes total, but you’d have to be sure that the stuff around the edges doesn’t burn. You could also bake it at a slightly higher temperature (one review suggested 315F).

The granola was pleasantly clumpy, and tasted good. I liked the cinnamon in it. I also like how this granola is a little healthier since it has such little oil, and you really don’t miss it. I toasted it too long the second time, but I’d give it another try to get it right. I think that it’ll be a good recipe to experiment with.

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

Last night I found myself at a loss. It was a Monday night at home, and I didn’t have any blogging backlog to try to catch up on. I didn’t have any recipes I wanted to look up. I didn’t have anything new to review. It’s nice to have the free time again, but it felt strange to not have something food-related that I wanted to try to tackle.

Now it’s 4 days into the new year, and I finally made my first new recipe. Tonight I made Mushroom and Barley Risotto from Cooking Light for dinner. I cut this recipe in half, so that I could eat half tonight and have another half for lunch later this week.

This was a simple recipe, although barley takes a while to cook. Although it’s called a “risotto,” there was no stirring involved, like with a real risotto. First, you cover porcini mushrooms (which I had leftover from an earlier recipe) with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. You saute onion, add cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, and add the soaked porcini mushrooms (minus liquid) and garlic. Add barley, then deglaze with a little brandy. Add the soaking liquid, water, and a little chicken broth (although you could easily use vegetable broth), bring to a boil, and simmer covered for 55 minutes. Mine was actually done after 40. Garnish with parsley (and cheese, if you like it).

Mushroom and Barley Risotto

This was okay. The barley was nice and chewy, like barley should be. Overall it was nothing particularly special. Although this was suggested as a meatless meal, I honestly wouldn’t want to eat it without something else accompanying it (like the cubed steak I had for dinner with it tonight). The half recipe yielded a lot of food, though – my lunch leftovers will be very filling.

I wish my first recipe of the new year had been something a little more exciting, but at least it was healthy. You can make this recipe if you’d like, but I think it needs something else to make it a little more exciting.

340: Cherry, Almond, and Cinnamon Granola

I decided to make Cherry, Almond, and Cinnamon Granola for care packages I was sending this month. It sounded delicious, but should be pretty likeable since it didn’t have any ingredients that would be too unusual.

This granola took oats, cherries, almonds, and sweetened shredded coconut. You combined those, added oil and honey, sprinkle in cinnamon, and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350F. I baked it for the full 30 minutes because I was concerned that it was going to be too moist to be granola. Everything was nicely toasted then, and the granola crisped up as it cooled.

I had some later with milk. It was pretty good as a cereal. Everything in this granola blended together well; the ingredients didn’t compete with each other. That said, I could taste and enjoy all of the ingredients; they weren’t covered up by one another. It’s not a low-fat granola recipe (it’s on par with the Extreme Granola I made as far as fats-to-oats ratio), but it’s a straightforward recipe that has great results. I’ll probably make this again.

Edit: This is potentially the best granola recipe I’ve made. I prefer it if I cut the amount of oil back to 1/3 cup!

337: Southwestern Bean and Barley Soup

Southwestern Bean and Barley Soup was a part of a recipe section from Eating Well magazine on food gifts that you could make. Before I made the soup mix to give to other people, I had to try it myself.

The soup mix was simple to make. It was layers of oregano (mine was Mexican oregano), cumin, and chili powder, with layers of black beans, barley, Northern Beans, and kidney beans. You can make the soup on the stove or in a crockpot. I decided to do the crockpot variation, because it’s easiest. You toss onion (I didn’t have fresh, so I used 1 cup frozen onion), carrots, celery, soup mix, 4 cups broth (or bouillon, like I used), and 2 cups water in the (6-quart) crockpot. Cook it on low for 7-8 hours, or cook it on high for 4 like I did.

Southwestern Bean and Barley Soup

This was pretty good. The recipe suggests garnishes of lime and cilantro, but I liked it better without them. The soup was hearty. It’s definitely a good winter soup with the beans and barley. I liked it just as it was, but you could add some shredded meat to it if you wanted. It probably would be good with a little cheese on it (if you liked cheese). This was a good soup, so I gave it as gifts this year. Hopefully they all like it as much as Alex and I did.

289: Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios

I’ve been eating my last granola for a while, and while I’ve grown fond of it (it’s good as a cereal!), I decided it was time for me to try something a little different.

I’ve wanted to try Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios for a while – and honestly, it was the only granola recipe I had that I already had all the ingredients for. I’d read good reviews about it, too. I didn’t have many apricots, though, so I decided to make a third of a batch. Besides, I still need to finish my other granola.

This granola took oats, pistachios, pumpkin seeds (I substituted sunflower seeds… because they’re small?), coconut chips (not sweetened), maple syrup, olive oil, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and apricots. My pistachios and sunflower seeds were salted and roasted, so I washed them off before I added them to the other ingredients. I was also excited to use my coconut chips that I bought last month. I mixed everything but the apricots together, spread it in a pan, and baked it for 45 minutes, stirring 3 times.

Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios

This was a beautiful granola, light and toasty-colored. It was slightly clumpy, but just enough so that the oats clung to each other. It was also very sweet. I really enjoyed the pistachios in this – honestly, I loved everything in this granola (except the sunflower seeds, but they weren’t really bad in this, either). I wish I could tell you what the olive oil added to this recipe. Honestly, I haven’t eaten much of the granola yet; I’m munching on a tiny bit right now so I can write about it. Other reviews have said that the olive oil gives a nice flavor to build upon.

I’ll likely update this post once I eat a little more of it (later this week), but I can already tell you that it’s pretty good. I’ll probably tinker with this recipe a little bit to see if I can make it a little less sweet (Edit: you can omit the brown sugar with great success!), so that I don’t feel guilty eating it for breakfast often. This recipe’s definitely a keeper.

255: Barley Hoppin’ John

The recipe for Barley Hoppin’ John really appealed to me when I came across it. I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps I just felt like having comfort food. I also really like barley, so I’m happy to come across different things to put it in.

I made a few changes to this. I didn’t have celery (I haven’t used it in a recipe in months), so I added some celery seed instead for flavor. I used 14 ounces of water and 2 bouillon cubes in place of a can of broth. I only had pearl barley, which takes a long time to cook, so I soaked it all day before I cooked it; this cut the cooking time of the pearl barley in half, so that it cooked as fast as quick-cooking barley. I don’t like black-eyed peas, so I decided to use black beans instead; I generally don’t buy cans of beans, so I soaked some black beans overnight and cooked them in the crockpot most of the day, so that I could add them to the recipe at the end.

This recipe was easy to assemble. After you cook the vegetables and add the barley and liquid, it’s hands-off until it’s done. This means that you can wash up some dishes or otherwise pick up your kitchen before dinner. I value this because, while I don’t like cleaning my kitchen, it doesn’t seem as bad if I clean a little bit while I’m waiting for dinner.

Barley Hoppin’ John

While this cooked, Alex asked me if I was making Spanish Rice. I think he asked because of the smell of the onion and red bell pepper cooking. We both enjoyed this. It was definitely filling yet healthy comfort food. It wasn’t spicy – I didn’t notice the red pepper flakes in it. I really enjoyed eating the barley and the beans. I thought it was pretty satisfying to eat, although I don’t think I’d really get four servings out of it. We split it into 3 servings, but I really think that you’d want to just split this into 2 servings if you weren’t going to eat anything else with it. I’d make this again.

254: Crunchy Granola Wedges

I decided to make Crunchy Granola Wedges so that we’d start out the week with breakfast. This was very simple to put together. It was toasted oats (half of which should have been wheat flakes, but I didn’t have them), sunflower seeds, honey, and cranberries. My sunflower seeds were already roasted, so I didn’t toast them with the oats; I tried to get as much of the salt off of them as I could. I heated the honey on the stove until bubbly, added the toasted oats, sunflower seeds, and cranberries, and patted into a pie pan. After letting it cool for 30 minutes, I cut it into 8 wedges so that it could cool completely.

Crunchy Granola Wedge

The wedges had a good toasted oat flavor, but weren’t particularly crunchy aside from the sunflower seeds. I had expected them to be crunchy like granola bars or granola itself, but the wedges were chewy from the honey, and easy to pull apart. I was surprised that I liked the combination of oats and sunflower seeds, which I usually think of as a salty snack. The cranberries gave a nice tart contrast to the sweet honey and the warm toasted oats. Although this had a fair amount of honey, I was happy to find some kind of granola that didn’t take any added oil. I would make this again.

250: Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs with 251: Quinoa Salad with Peaches

For dinner one night, I made Spicy Honey-Brushed Chicken Thighs. This was a very simple and fast recipe to make. You make a spice mixture of garlic powder, chili powder, salt, cumin, paprika, and ground red pepper. Coat boneless chicken thighs with it, and broil them for 10 minutes, flipping them after 5 minutes. Mix together honey and a little cider vinegar; brush it on the chicken, broil for a minute, and then repeat on the other side.

Cooking Light magazine suggested that I make a Quinoa Salad with Peaches as a side. I don’t see the recipe on the website, so I’m listing it here.

Quinoa Salad with Peaches

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil; add 3/4 cup quinoa. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Cool quinoa slightly. Stir in 1/4 cup minced red bell pepper, 1/4 cup chopped green onions, 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 sliced ripe peach.

Spicy Honey Brushed Chicken with Quinoa Salad with Peaches

This was pretty tasty. Alex was disappointed that I saved any for a lunch the next day, because he would have liked to have eaten it right then. I really enjoyed this too. The chicken was both spicy and a little sweet, and the honey glaze gave it a nice flavor. I also think the chicken was a slight bit salty, perhaps to enhance its spiciness. The quinoa salad was pretty good. It was a little sweet from the honey and the peach. I want to say that the quinoa was nothing special (I actually overcooked it a little), but I think that’s just because I enjoyed the chicken so much more.

Definitely make this chicken. It was fast, easy, and delicious; you can short it on salt a tiny bit, though. The quinoa salad was tasty too, and I’ll probably make it again (in January when Alex demands I make this recipe again).

232: Granola

I was almost done with my granola, so I decided it would be a good time to make some more. I liked my last recipe, but wanted to try something a little healthier, with less fat.  I pulled out a couple of recipes I’d printed off and decided to make the Granola recipe from the Recipes for Health column on the NY Times website.

This granola recipe uses 1/3 cup oil for 8 cups of oats and oat bran, whereas the Extreme Granola used a half cup of butter for 4 cups of oats. That means that this granola recipe will win the nutrition contest, hands-down. The Extreme Granola also uses more sugar than this one does.

I included the ground flaxseed with the rolled oats and oat bran, but did not have coconut. I used half almonds and half pecans in this recipe (much like I did before). I used .5 teaspoons nutmeg and 2.5 teaspoons cinnamon, but omitted salt. I added dried cherries since I don’t care much for raisins. Assembly was simple.

First thing I notice as I look at the picture on the webpage is how dark the granola there is. Indeed, I didn’t see the picture until after I’d already baked my granola a while. I stirred my granola at 15 minutes and 30 minutes, and then removed the granola completely at minute 40, since I thought it looked (and smelled) dark enough.

I wasn’t too keen on this granola at first. It’s a much heavier taste than the Extreme Granola, since it has oat bran and flax seed. The large amount of cinnamon with nutmeg also gave it a heavier, fuller taste. I did a taste comparison between this granola and the Extreme Granola, and while I don’t like the large amount of fat in the Extreme Granola, it had a lighter taste since I didn’t have any of the spice and wasn’t baked as long.

That said, this healthy granola has grown on me. I do enjoy it, but I don’t think that I want to eat cinnamon granola all the time. [Edit: It’s actually pretty decent as a cereal in milk.] It’s a fine recipe – it’s just not for me. I’m still going to look for a granola recipe that has a healthier profile (like this recipe) yet tastes really good (like the Extreme Granola). I’m not sure if I’ll make this recipe again, but if I do, I will only make a half batch, and I will not bake it as long so that it’s not as dark and heavy.