Honey Walnut Granola

Most days I don't put much thought into snack-time. My son doesn't really care much for fancy dips or sauces, and he isn't picky, so I pull out some yogurt, a jar of homemade applesauce, or slice up a red bell pepper and call it good. Like my son, my snack-time favorites are usually pretty simple. A handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, a spoonful of peanut butter, or some lightly salted almonds (which the dentist has officially banned me from forever.)

My husband on the other hand is very set in his ways when it comes to snacking and his tastes are nothing like mine (which was only reaffirmed during our recent trip to Arkansas.) His ultimate snack includes something sweet, crunchy, and salty— which would explain why he's huge fan of the trail mix I had been making before I broke another tooth. 

As you can tell, our snacking habits don't exactly line up, which means when we travel I have to pack separate snacks for everyone. It's a bit of a hassle, but it looks like we've finally found a snack we can all agree on. While we were shopping for vacation snacks my husband saw me looking over various healthy(ish) options (because a girl can't live off of yogurt alone) and noticed I had tossed some granola in the cart. He questioned whether one bag was enough for the entire week. Which only left me confused, it takes me weeks to finish off a bag.

Then he said the magic words... words I never thought I would hear from my non-hippy food eating, meat and potatoes loving husband. He said "well I'd like some to, you know." No husband, I did not know because you always make fun of my part-time vegetarian, healthy eating, hippy ways (he calls pretty much everything I eat hippy food.)

I've loved this man for over half my life and he still manages to surprise me sometimes.

So a second bag was added to the already overflowing cart. After he and my son finished off both bags in a matter of days he turned to me and asked me if I would make some more when we got home (because it was kinda silly to spend $10 on two bags of granola.) 

In that, at least, we are in full agreement. 

When we got home I pulled out the last of the honey my aunt and uncle gave me at Christmas and got to work. I managed to learn something new while fiddling around in the kitchen— egg whites are the key to making clumpy granola. The protein helps bind everything together. If you don't eat eggs or are allergic to them, feel free to leave them out. You'll still have tasty, albeit somewhat less clumpy granola, it will be ready in under an hour, and it will be better than anything you'll find in the store.

Honey Walnut Granola

Honey Walnut Granola
makes 8 - 10 servings

Ingredients

½ cup honey
½ cup dark brown sugar, packed
½ cup unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
6 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 large egg whites

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 325˚F. In a saucepan, set over medium heat, combine honey, brown sugar, unsalted butter, and vanilla extract. Cook until the butter has melted, then pour over oats. Add walnuts, cinnamon, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl use a whisk to beat egg whites until foamy, then add add them to the granola mixture. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then spread mixture in a single thin layer, making sure to press it flat with a spatula. 
  • Bake for 40 minutes, rotating the pan once halfway through. When the granola has finished baking, allow it to cool to room temperature before breaking into chunks.

Notes

Store finished granola in an air-tight container. It will remain fresh for at least two weeks, although ours never stays around that long.

If you want to add to this recipe, keep in mind that nuts and seeds should be added before baking and things like dried fruit or chocolate should be added once the granola is completely cool.

To make this snack easily portable, take a Wide-Mouth Pint Size Canning Jar, fill it half way with granola, and drop a cup of yogurt on top. Greek yogurt containers from Chobani or Oikos won't fit, but most of the smaller yogurt containers will work just fine. You can seal the jar with a Plastic Storage Caps to make things easy or use the two-piece lid and ring that come with the jar. 

Honey Walnut Granola - Mason Jar Snacks

Minion Munch

The new Minion Movie is here, is anyone else as excited as me? We're huge fans (which probably comes as no surprise since you know I have a cute little boy running around.) I knew my son would want to watch Despicable Me before we head out to see the latest movie with grandma, so I decided to have a snack on hand that even the pickiest of minions would approve of. If it looks somewhat familiar that's because it's based on the extremely popular Muddy Buddies (aka Puppy Chow) recipe you'll find on some boxes of Chex cereal. No matter what you call it, it's the perfect base for Minion Munch. Make sure you whip up a batch before you head out to see the movie, it only takes a few minutes.

If you're planning a Minion or Despicable Me party check back next month for more great ideas. I'll be sharing all my party tips as I plan my son's 4th birthday party.

Minion Munch

Minion Munch
makes 14 or more one cup servings

Ingredients

9 cups Chex cereal (any variety)
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
½ cup creamy peanut butter
¼ cup butter, salted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar (or more as necessary)
1 cup yellow and blue m&ms
2 cups banana chips
2 cups pretzels

Directions

  • Measure out 9 cups of Chex cereal and set aside.
  • In a microwave safe bowl add chocolate chips, peanut butter, salted butter, and vanilla extract. Heat on high for 1 minute, stir well, then heat for an additional 30 - 60 seconds or until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture over the cereal and stir until completely coated.
  • Allow to cool slightly before splitting into two 1 gallon bags or one 2 gallon bag. Add powdered sugar, seal the bag, and shake until well coated. 
  • Now add your mix-ins, we used yellow and blue m&ms, banana chips, and pretzels.
  • Place in refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until chocolate has cooled. Add additional powdered sugar if the mix has a muddy look to it, then serve. Enjoy!

Notes

I picked the blue and yellow m&ms out of 2 medium bags of m&ms and had more than I needed for this recipe. A large bag will give you slightly under 1 cup. You can also purchase individual colors in the bulk bins at some supermarkets, but you'll pay a premium (my store charges $9.99 per pound.)

You can easily make this recipe gluten free. I used corn Chex cereal and gluten free pretzels for our latest batch. 

Store in an airtight container for up to a week, adding additional powdered sugar as necessary.

 

Ruby Red Smoothie

My habit of skipping breakfast has been years in the making. Even when I was younger I'd rush off to school having eaten nothing, only to be starving before the first bell rang. This habit didn't change much as I got older, although I did wise up and start carrying granola bars in my backpack after one of my classmates commented on the fact that the jolt cola I was chugging down like my life depended on it was doing nothing to quiet my grumbling stomach. By college my classes had fewer than 15 people in them, so the whole room knew I'd rolled out of bed just in time to drive to class.

Now that I have a child of my own my eating habits have changed for the better. I've been trying to lead by example (and so far it's working.) If he sees me eating a healthy breakfast, then he's more inclined to eat breakfast as well. And if breakfast happens to include something brightly colored with a fun straw, it doesn't really matter than I've hidden beets and spinach in it, it looks like fun therefore it gets consumed quickly.

If you're not entirely sold on the idea of beets, try adding a little bit more each time you make your smoothie. After a few days you won't even notice that you've been slipping something healthy into your drink. I'll admit, it took me a little while to adjust to their earthy taste, I've never been a fan of beets, but I've been drinking these several times a week for months now and have really come to enjoy them. Hopefully you will too, but if not feel free to leave me a comment below. I love to hear feedback, both good and bad.

Ruby Red Smoothie

Ruby Red Smoothie
makes 1 serving

Ingredients

1 handful fresh spinach
4 - 6 beet slices, frozen (see notes)
4 - 6 whole strawberries, frozen
1 over ripe banana

Directions

  • Combine all of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Notes

I've been buying bags of frozen beets from Whole Foods, they run about $2 for 10 ounces of non-gmo beets. I find that I'm more likely to add them to my smoothie if I don't have to worry about slicing them up myself. 

Cranberry Walnut Trail Mix

The last few weeks have been hectic as I rush around trying to pack up my life for five weeks on the road. I love to travel, but there is an insane amount of work that needs to be done before I leave if I want to enjoy some down time and disconnect from my digital life. I haven't taken a real vacation since Christmas, so I could really use a few days to recharge my creative batteries.

To keep everything somewhat organized I've made lists. I've even made lists of my lists and for the next three weeks I'll be slowly ticking off items so I can enjoy my vacation without any worries. First up I decided to tackle a problem that has been nagging me... what I'm going to eat while I'm traveling. 

It used to be I would stop for road trip treats at the gas station and call it a day, but now that my son has joined me on my travels I've been packing a cooler with healthy snacks. Neither of us really needs that family-sized bag of twizzlers, no matter how good they taste.

I didn't want to spend a lot of time cooking, so I decided trail mix was the way to go. I picked up jumbo bags of walnuts, peanuts, and cranberries, as well as a small package of m&ms, then made enough to last a few weeks. That's one item I can successfully check off my list.

In a fit of genius I mixed up a second batch to leave with my husband (we're leaving him at home this time.) I know that if I don't leave him something healthy while I'm gone he'll revert to his college days and chow down on chicken circles and frozen burritos the second I walk out the door. At least this way I know he's eating something nutritious, in addition to every bit of junk food I don't allow in the house, but I'm not going to think about that (much) it is his vacation too.

Cranberry Walnut Trail Mix

Cranberry Walnut Trail Mix
makes 12 servings

Ingredients

2 cups English Walnuts, unsalted
2 cups peanuts, lightly salted
1 cup sweetened cranberries, dried
1 cup m&ms or other chocolate candy

Directions

  • In a large bowl combine all ingredients. Mix until evenly distributed, then portion out into half cup servings.

Notes

If you're having trouble finding unsalted nuts try looking in the baking aisle near the chocolate chips.