You Need a Snack [Chewy Seed & Nut Granola Clusters]

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I really love a snack. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon, midnight. The time matters little, I’m always fixed for a bite or two. 

Having a couple of nutritious options around the house helps me make better decisions and get the most from my pecking, since it is so frequent. I spotted the recipe for these bars in the current (January 2014) Bon Appetit Magazine and was certain they would make for a killer snack on their own, with granola or milk, an afternoon coffee or on the run any time of the day. Especially if I packed them with a few extra items (cashews! flax! chia seeds!). Unfortunately, likely due to my impatience and using a different sized pan than called for, they were less bars, more clusters. And whoaaaa-so-good no matter the shape they happen to take. 

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These clusters have everything you want. Including a healthy (or not so) amount of sticky maple syrup blended with sweet, plump Mejool dates and tart cranberries, crunchy amaranth (excellent source of protein, calcium/iron/magnesium), chia seeds (fiber, Omega3s, Phosphorus, stabilizes blood sugar), flax seeds (Lignans, fiber, Omega3s), a mixture of crunchy nuts (Vitamin A+E+B, selenium, cholesterol reduction) and a couple other tasty morsels thrown in for crunch and flavour. 

If you tend to get a bit peckish or find yourself fighting through afternoon energy lulls or hunger pangs, these are the perfect snack to get you back on track while still feeling satisfied. They are just sweet enough to feel like a treat. 

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Seed and Nut Granola Clusters
Adapted from Bon Appetit
makes approx. 6 cups of clusters

If you cook these for longer and let them cool COMPLETELY, you might have better luck than I did slicing bars. I left the recipe I used as-is because I actually like them in clusters instead of bars. Either way is delicious. 

6-8 Mejool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup maple syrup
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 cup cranberries
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil/virgin coconut oil

2 tbsp chia seeds
2 tbsp amaranth
1 tbsp flax seeds (ground or otherwise)
1/2 cup raw pepitas
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup mixed nuts (I used pecans, almonds, cashews)
2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Place the chopped dates, cranberries, cinnamon stick and syrup in a small pot over medium heat until it starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to a simmer and let the mixture bubble away for 8-10 minutes. But then, you should be able to use the back of a fork or spoon to mush it all together. It should be similar in texture to applesauce with some extra liquid from the syrup seeping out. Remove from heat and let cool. 

In a large bowl, mix together all the other ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the slightly cooled syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir everything together with a spatula until all the oats/seeds/nuts are covered in the syrup. Turn 1/2 the into a large, high-sided cake pan (I used a 15” x 10” x 2” rectangular baking dish) and pack the mixture down as hard and evenly as you can. Add the rest of the oat mixture and press into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes. Remove and cool for 20 minutes. 

Break up the mixture into large clusters and place back in the pan. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes for crispy-edged clusters. 

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Little Puggish Nuts [Cocoa Hazelnut Granola with Sour Cherries]

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I’ve always thought hazelnuts to be lavish and exotic. We never really ate them or had them laying around as kids, aside from the holidays when we’d receive boxes and boxes of gold foil-wrapped Ferraro Rocher chocolates with one smooth, crunchy hazelnut entombed in milk chocolate and dipped into more chocolate studded with chopped hazelnuts. Peeling away the little crimped cup and foil always made me feel so fancy - far more so than tearing the plastic (pfft…please!) from a snickers bar. 

I find myself tucking my beloved hazelnuts into everything these days - pestos, salads, homemade nut butters, ground into smoothies or mixed with breadcrumbs for a crispy coating. When toasted lightly, their flavour is so distinct, rich and unlike any other nut available. They don’t hide behind the flavours you mix them with, they always stand out dominantly, refusing to melt into the background. I love that about them. 

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This granola, like my dear puggish hazelnuts, is bold and beautiful. It’s full of texture and flavour and comes together so brilliantly, you’d wonder why they don’t sell a pre-made version of it already (answer: because it’s never as good as homemade!). I’ve been crunching away at it for the past few days and I’m fairly certain it just kicked the fanny of my favourite almond granola. Because I wanted the flavour of the main ingredients to really shine, I didn’t add too many other flavourings. You’re welcome to play around with spices in it, but I suggest trying it on it’s own first. It’s simple and doesn’t need much fuss about it. 

Cocoa Hazelnut Granola with Sour Cherries
adapted from Food in Jars

I used coconut oil because I love it, primarily, but it’s also a very healthy oil (which is up for debate with some people, I realize, but I feel good about it), you can feel free to use whatever neutral oil (sunflower, vegetable etc) you like or have on hand.

1 cup toasted hazelnuts, rough chopped
1/2 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
3 cups rolled oats
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp flaky sea salt
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted 
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup dried sour cherries, rough chopped

 Preheat oven to 325. 

In a large bowl, mix the nuts, coconut, rolled oats and cocoa powder. Give it a good mix to make sure the cocoa powder is evenly distributed. 

Mix the honey and the melted coconut oil until well combined. Add the wet ingredients and salt to the oat mixture and mix until everything is well combined. 

Spread evenly on a foil lined baking sheet and pop into the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to make sure the edges don’t burn. When it’s golden brown and crunchy, it’s all ready. Let it cool completely (this helps those big, wonderful ‘clumps’ of granola form) and then stir in the sour cherries. Keeps for a few weeks in a sealed glass jar or ziplock bag. 

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Serve with milk or on top of yogurt, by itself or with fresh fruit.

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Farmers Feast #2 [Cherry & Red Currant Curd Granola Parfaits]

 
It’s that time again….  Farmers Feast #2 is here! And it comes bearing brilliant red berries and crispy smoked bacon. That sounds good, right? I thought so, too.

When Tara dropped off the basket this week (I wasn’t able to make it to the market last Sunday because I was shoving my face full of oysters, fish burgers and Kichesippi beer at The Whalesbone 5th Annual Oysterfest – I know, it’s a rough life. I’m super hard done by.) I first laid eyes on the pint of impossibly plump, unblemished and heart-achingly deep plummy red cherries. I don’t know if I heard anything Tara said for the first 10 seconds as my brain slowed to a hazy berry-induced coma while I fully absorbed the excitement of it all. To their right, a pint of equally stunning Red Currants, as delicate and glossy as glass beads. I knew that despite my urge to start popping them in my mouth like M&Ms, I wanted to hold out and do something extra special.



Along with the berries came some bacon, naked oats and a red wheat flour blend, humongous fava beans pods (which, to be honest, I was a little terrified of at first), some rainbow Swiss chard, delicate sugared flower petals (that are so beautiful I’m almost scared to use them!), some incredibly pungent Belarus garlic, spotty, organic brown eggs and some life-changing amber maple syrup (that I’ve been sneaking regular swigs from). 

 Since we’re mere days away from celebrating Canada’s 145 birthday (she’s a lovely old broad, ain’t she?), I thought something Red and White might be suiting for the occasion. Fluffy white clouds of billowy whipped cream layered between tangy, succulent cherries, lusciously tart red currant curd, and a crisp, salty-sweet maple bacon granola. Are you still with me? Should I send help? Quick, get the nearest person to hurl a glass of ice water in your face! That’ll shake the bacon sweats right outta you!



Though I wasn’t able to use everything offered in the basket (I wasn’t sure if you’d welcome the idea of Fava beans in your parfaits), I came pretty darn close. The list of vendors who graciously provided the contents of the Farmers Feast this week are;

Roots & Shoots Farm – rainbow chard
Garland’s Sugar Shack – amber maple syrup
Castor River Farm – flour, quick oats and smoked bacon
Corinne Mooney’s Fleurs Combestiles – sugared flowers
Acorn Creek Garden Farm – Belarus Garlic
Warner’s Farm – currants and cherries
Waratah Downs Organic Farm – fava beans
Reinink Family Farms – Organic eggs

Cherry & Red Currant Curd Granola Parfaits 
serves 4

After making and tasting the final product, I’m not 100% sold on the addition of bacon. The bacon itself was un-frigging-believable in flavour, but it didn’t add much to the final product. Try as I may, sometimes things just seem better on paper. So I’ve made adjustments if you’d like to leave it out. 

That said, the Maple-Bacon Granola on it’s own is something you MUST try. I back it 100% and have been eating it with a spoon since yesterday morning. 

Red Currant Curd
adapted from La Twisted Chef 

2 cups fresh red currants (about 1 pint) rinsed
(save a few for garnish!)
6 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces
pinch of salt

In a saucepot, add the currants (stems and all) and a splash of water. Cook until the berries have burst and released all their juices. Use the back of a wooden spoon to gently help smoosh them. 

Strain the juice into a bowl pressing on the pulp to make sure you’ve gotten all the juice. 

Stir half the currant juice (for a more tart curd, add about 3/4 of it), yolks and sugar together in the rinsed sauce pot and place over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture has thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add butter, 1 piece at a time, until incorporated. Scrap curd into a bowl and push a piece of plastic wrap right against the top of the curd (to prevent a skin forming). Refrigerate for at least an hour so it can set.


Maple-Bacon Granola
adapted from Married and Cooking

6 slices bacon (optional)

2 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecan pieces
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup bacon fat (or vegetable oil if you’re cutting out the bacon)

Preheat over to 350.

If using, place the bacon on a wire rack over a clean cookie sheet and place in the oven. Bake until crisp (about 10-15 minutes). Pour the bacon fat into a small bowl and reserve. Let bacon cool and then crumble into small pieces. Maintain the oven temperature.

Mix the oats, cinnamon and pecans and pour onto a cookie sheet. Place in the oven, stirring every so often, until oats and nuts are lightly toasted and golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and pour into a large bowl. Add the maple syrup, bacon fat (or oil), crumbled bacon and salt. Mix well and pour back onto cookie sheet. Bake for another 10-12 minutes or until oats have absorbed the oil/syrup and feel dry and crunchy to the touch. Let cool and pour into a jar.

 
For the Parfait:
1 ½ cups whipping cream
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 pint cherries, pitted and rough chopped

Pour whipping cream and maple syrup into a bowl and, using electric mixer or stand mixer, whip until stiff peaks form.

In 4 serving glasses (alternatively, 2 tall glasses), spoon a layer of whipped cream, then a layer of curd, a sprinkle of cherries, another layer of whipped cream and a thick layer of granola. Do another layer of whipped cream and curd, and then top with cherries and granola. If you’ve reserved any currants, garnish with them.

Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to set, and then dig right in there! 

 

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