Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

Well, here we are, getting settled into our new homestead here in Alaska and life has been crazy to say the least.  We have so much work to do, spending every morning leisurely enjoying a hot breakfast of bacon, eggs and fried potatoes is nothing more than a picturesque fairytale right now.  As busy as we are, I need a few quick-fix tricks up my sleeve for breakfast and rather than falling back on store bought cold cereal, homemade granola is the ticket. Unlike the sugar-laden, empty calorie fluff from the store, (which, let’s face it, does no one any good because everyone is hungry 15 minutes later.) Hearty, homemade granola is made with healthy ingredients and will stick with you 10 times longer than that stuff with unpronounceable ingredients.
Aside from a few stove top suppers, our first experiment in cooking with my Kitchen Queen wood cook stove was some toasty, yummy homemade granola. I spent a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon attempting for the first time, to use the oven in my wood cook stove.  To be honest, there was more of a learning curve than I had expected in using said oven and after 2 hours trying to bake the stuff, we ended up toasting the granola on sheet pans on the stove top rather than baking it. It still came out great!

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Granola is one of those things that can be changed up 1,000 different ways depending on what you have on hand and what your own dietary restrictions might be. We use whole grain oats as our base then boost the nutrition value with all the yummy add-ins that take it over the top like flax, pumpkin & chia seeds and nuts.
The only downside to this recipe is that when I make it I have to make a seriously monster-sized batch because at all stages of preparing it (raw, cooking, cooked, cooling and put away in the pantry) I have greedy granola gobblers steeling it by the handful.
Hubby and kids alike can’t stay out of it.  We also love using this recipe when making trail mix by adding nuts, dried fruit and chocolate chips or candies.

For a long time my granola, while quite tasty, never held together in the big, crunchy clumps that I was looking for.  It always fell apart into individual oats, nuts and seeds which was rather disappointing.  So in order to save you from my own frustration, here are 2 simple tips for getting big clumps of crunchy granola that is the perfect breakfast cereal or trail mix base.

  1. Make sure that ALL the oat mixture is thoroughly coated with your honey/oil mixture.  (If you increase the oat/nut/seeds to more than what I have listed here, you will also need to compensate by increasing the honey mixture as well.)
  2. DON’T stir the granola while it is baking.  (This is so important.)

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Simply Perfect Crunchy Granola

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

• 6 cups whole oats
• 2 cups sliced almonds
• 1 1/2 cups pecans (chopped)
• 1/2 cup raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds
• 2 cups unsweetened coconut flakes (sweetened is also fine but an unnecessary addition of sugar)
• 1 1/2 cup raw honey or organic maple syrup
• 1/4 cup coconut sugar (or brown sugar)
• 3/4 cup coconut oil (butter is also okay but will not yield the same crunchy results) 

  • 1 Tbl cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 Tbl cardamom
  • 2 tsp Vanilla extract
    • Optional super-seed addition
    • 1/2 cup flax seeds
    • 1/2 cup chia seeds
    • 1/2 cup water

1. In a small bowl, mix the flax & chia seeds with water and allow to soak while you get the rest of your granola mixture ready. This will produce a sticky clump of seeds that you will gently break up into large chunks and fold into your oat mixture later.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together your oats, nuts & pumpkin/sunflower seeds.
3. In a sauce pan, add coconut oil, honey and coconut sugar. Stir frequently while heating until just melted & combined. Do not boil.
4. Add vanilla, maple or other extract to your honey mixture.
5. Gently add super seed mixture to your oat mixture, keeping gumball sized chunks if possible.
6. Heat your honey, sugar & oil mixture over the oat mixture and toss to coat thoroughly.
7. Spread out on sheet pans (I like to line mine with silicone baking mats or parchment paper)

8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, rotate your pans to ensure even cooking and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes.

9. Turn off the oven and let the granola continue to toast and crisp up for up to 1 additional hour. If it is browning too much, remove it from the oven and allow to cool.
(Or if you are using a wood stove with a broken temperature gauge like me… Bake for 1 hour, then pull your baking sheets out of the oven and put them on the stove top to finish crisping up.)

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I promise that you and your family will love this, especially once you fine tune your own personal adaptations to the recipe.

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Coconut, Almond & Flax Energy Bites

If you haven’t yet discovered the world of “energy bites” AKA “healthy cookie dough bites” you have been missing out.  Energy bites can be made with a variety of ingredients and fit a variety of needs.

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#1  FEED THE TINY HUMANS

Let’s face it folks, it ain’t easy keeping the tiny humans fed.  They are ALWAYS hungry or… “snacky” I should say.  (Is snacky a word?  I guess I just invented a new word.)

Snacky = the insatiable need to continually put things in your mouth.

My girls are snacky kids and I’ll admit, it isn’t always easy to find something that satisfies their hunger for longer than 20 minutes.  It is also not easy to find kid friendly snacks that are either not processed crap food (I’m looking at you cheese puffs) or foods that are disguised as being healthy and will therefore break the bank (yep, that’s you “Bunny snacks”…)

On that note, energy bites are the perfect snack to actually satisfy a hungry cookie monster.

#2  Hangry Mama

I am one of those people who tend to be queasy in the morning if I don’t get SOMETHING in my tummy when I first get up in the morning.  And I’m not very clear headed in the morning so my decision making skills are not always the best.  I tend to reach for ANY snack food within reach especially if it is carbs.  I also tend (as does my 7 year old daughter) to get a bit “hangry” when I have not eaten well.

These energy bites are the perfect quick snack to take the edge off.

#3 “On The Go Jo”

Who isn’t in some kind of rush these days?  It seems like we all, if not every day, then most days are in a rush to get out the door for one reason or another.  For our family it tends to be Church on Sunday and CC Community day (our homeschooling group) on Tuesdays.  As I’ve confessed before, I am not quite on top of my game in the mornings so I tend to realize last minute that I haven’t made enough time for breakfast.

Once again, these babies are an easy grab and go option.

However, as is usually the case, there is often one downfall to these delicious bites… when you search the interwebs for a recipe, you will be invariably bombarded with about 200 recipes which may look delicious but aren’t exactly on the healthy side, or they claim to be… but contain oats or other grains.  That may be fine and dandy for some, but if you are Paleo, Whole Food, Keto, THM or anything else that either cuts grains or separates carbs from fats, then all of these recipes are taboo.

This recipe is gluten-free, grain free, sugar free & delicious.   And that, in my book, is a beautiful thing.

As I have made it a self-sufficiency goal to reclaim my health through healthy foods and essential oils, I have learned that one facet to keeping my hypothyroidism in check, is by starting the day with a Breakfast incorporating Protein/Fat/Fiber.  These little gems are just that.  If the total amount of protein doesn’t meet your needs you can always add some Collagen to your tea or coffee and you will be good to go.

So after all that talk, the process is really very simple.

Mix Coconut oil & almond butter until fairly smooth.

Add in unsweetened coconut flakes, ground flax, cocoa nibs, vanilla, salt and pure stevia extract powder.IMG_3093

Mix well and place the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours to harden.

After a few hours the mixture will be a nice scoop-able texture.

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You can then roll into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet.  (I prefer to use non-stick silicone mats to eliminate waste and unnecessary trips to the store, but parchment paper will also work fine.)

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Return the cookie sheet to the fridge and let them harden again before putting into a bowl or dish for storage.

 

Coconut, Almond & Flax Energy Bites

  • Servings: 18-24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

3/4 cup coconut oil

*3/4 cup almond butter (other nut butters are a fine option)

1 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

**1 1/2 cup ground Golden Flax Meal

1/2 cup cocoa nibs or Lily’s brand, stevia sweetened chocolate chips

2 tsp  vanilla extract

1/2 tsp mineral salt

***1 “doonk” (1/32 tsp) pure stevia extract powder or a few drops of  liquid stevia (a “doonk” is a tiny scoop that is 1/32 of a teaspoon.)

  1. Mix coconut oil & almond butter 
  2. Add in unsweetened coconut flakes, ground flax and cocoa nibs 
  3. Add in vanilla, mineral salt and pure stevia extract powder.
  4. Mix well and place the bowl in the refrigerator to harden.
  5. Roll into balls and place on a lined cookie sheet
  6. Return the cookie sheet to the fridge and let them harden again before putting into a bowl or dish for storage.

Store in the refrigerator in order to avoid the mixture melting again.

A few notes:

*Natural peanut butter is okay too, I have just found that with a low thyroid condition, it is best to avoid over-doing it with peanuts/peanut butte

**For best results using Flax meal, grind your own Golden Flax seeds rather than buying “flax meal” as it loses it’s benefits shortly after being ground and who know how long the store bought meal has been sitting around.

***Pure stevia extract is NOT to be confused with store bought stevia blends like Truvia which are highly processed and contain fillers.  Blends such as Truvia will measure entirely differently and also have a completely different flavor as the chemical fillers leave a bitter after taste that pure stevia will not.  (I like THM brand’s pure stevia powder) – You can also add liquid stevia (but I have not tested a measurement for or a little raw honey rather than the stevia powder, just be aware that if you use honey they will no longer be sugar free or low carb.

Other notes:

You can also spread the mixture into a cake pan (well greased or preferably lined with parchment paper) and the cut into squares rather than rolling into balls.

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Zucchini and Eggs Breakfast (THM S/Whole 30/Grain Free/Paleo friendly)

I decided this morning that I just HAVE to take a few minutes and share this breakfast with you.

It just wouldn’t be fair to keep this one to myself.

As I have said before, one of the most important keys to developing a “homestead state of mind” is be reclaiming your health by the means of homeopathic remedies and nutrition.  I have also shared with you that in my own health journey with Hypothyroidism, a breakfast made up of Protein/Fat/Fiber is super beneficial.  On that note, one day I was trying to come up with a breakfast that contained those three things and this is what I came up with.

It’s totally cheating for me to even call this a “recipe.”  It is so crazy simple but SOOOO very good.  The tiny humans and even my mountain man LOVE this breakfast.  I mean really, when you tell your kids they are having vegetables at breakfast and they literally cheer… you have struck gold my friend.

So let’s break it down.

Melt butter, (ghee or bacon grease for Paleo/GAPS) in a cast iron skillet.  Saute diced onions until the edges start to brown (if your kiddos just can’t do the onions, you can omit but the flavor is really awesome so try it.  Seriously.  Keep trying.  My kiddos have come to LOVE cooked onions in their food.)  When the onions are starting to brown, add in your sliced zucchini and more fat if needed.  Season well with mineral or sea salt, fresh cracked pepper and a good amount of garlic powder.  Continue to saute the zucchini and onions until the onions are soft and brown and the zucchini are beginning to brown as well.

(When it comes to flavor, just remember, “brown food is good food.”)

You can complete this dish with either poached or fried eggs but you really want those yolks to be nice and runny.  

That’s all folks.  Super simplicity, super deliciousness.

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Sausage, Kale & Egg Muffins

IMG_2897School is almost back in session!  Summer has really been flying by this year and although we still have just over a month before we “officially” start getting back into our school routine, that month is going to be a busy one.

I have determined that in order to start off the school year smoothly I need to get back into the swing of keeping my fridge & freezer stocked early.  You see, the only way that I can survive the whirlwind of farm chores, household chores, my duties as director of our homeschooling coop & actually homeschooling my kiddos is to stock the fridge and freezer with easy (& healthy) “Go To” food so that I am not spending my entire day in the kitchen.

These bad boys are one of my favorite staples to keep on hand for breakfast.  As I learn to manage my health in a “self sufficient” way, I have found food to be one of my most important allies.  One of the best ways to boost my thyroid function is to start my day off with a breakfast that is based around protein, fat & fiber.  This style of breakfast can aid weight loss, reduce sugar cravings as well as boosting energy and focus.  So not only is it helpful to those with thyroid imbalance, it is helpful to anyone; especially those little ones who need a good jumpstart to their day before diving into school work.

To learn more about starting your day with protein, fat and fiber click HERE.

I LOVE the combination of sausage and kale.  You will see that in future posts from me I am sure.  If you don’t have kale, spinach will work fine in this recipe as well.  But I struggle growing spinach for some reason and kale grows ABUNDANTLY in my greenhouse.  It is one of my favorite greens.  It is just such a hearty plant to grow and to use in the kitchen.  It grows well almost any time of year, (it is very cold hearty) and doesn’t turn into mush after it has been cooked which is something that bothers me about spinach and swiss chard.

If you think you don’t like kale, chances are that you may have only tried it sauted on it’s own as a side dish.  If that is the case, give this superfood another chance!  Our family does not enjoy on it’s own (unless it is in the form of Kale Chips.)  But I have found that adding it to soups, stews and breakfast dishes is a fantastic way to boost the nutrition of a dish in a way that he whole family can enjoy.

So here’s how it works.

Start by browning 1 lb of sausage.

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My sweet 5 year old labeled all of our packages of meat this year as we were wrapping. Makes me smile every time!

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In the meantime, rinse your kale and pat dry.

I’ll take this moment to add a note for those of you who are new to gardening and have grown your own kale.  (If you buy your kale from the store and are squeamish, just skip this part.) 

Just as it is with cabbage and broccoli, Cabbage Loopers LOVE kale.  And although I’m sure that they would add even more protein to your dish… you probably don’t want to include them.  In order to make sure your kale is free from those little buggers, take this extra step.

Start by soaking your kale in a sink-full of water. 

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If you leave it to soak long enough, the tiny green hitchhikers will just fall off in the water.  But if you are in a hurry, just quickly turn the leaves over before you pat them dry and look for a small, brighter shade of green hiding out back there.

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It’s like looking at a Where’s Waldo book.  Do you see them?

Pick them off and throw them in your chicken bucket, the girls LOVE bugs and it gives them the protein that you are choosing to leave out. 😉

 

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Okay, now back to cooking.  After you have patted your kale dry, just strip the leaves from the stem and chop the kale finely.

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Remove the sausage from your skillet and add the kale right in.  Sprinkle with granulated garlic (seriously, start using the granulated instead of garlic powder, it makes such a difference) and throw in a decent pinch of salt.

Saute the kale while you are getting your egg mixture together.

For the egg mixture, scramble eggs and stir in cottage cheese, shredded cheese and baking powder.

Add sausage and kale and you are ready to fill your muffin tins!

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Spray your pans with cooking spray (I have recently discovered coconut oil spray and am so happy with it.)

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Fill each cup close to the top.

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-35 minutes.

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Now, these guys can be a bit tricky to remove from the pan.  Slide a butter knife around the edges of each egg muffin before lifting out.  They may not always come out pretty but let’s be honest here, the point is quick and easy fuel for our day, not to win extra points for presentation on the Next Food Network Star.

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They are always a big hit!

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I add a splash of hot sauce to mine as a finishing touch.  YUM!

Sausage, Kale & Egg Muffins

  • Servings: 18-24
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 lb breakfast sausage
  • 3 cups finely chopped kale
  • 15 whole eggs
  • 2 cups cottage cheese
  • 2 cups shredded cheese
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • granulated garlic & salt to taste

1.Brown sausage in a skillet.
2.While sausage is cooking, rinse and chop kale.
3.Remove browned sausage from pan and add kale to the same skillet. Sprinkle kale with garlic and salt. Saute until bright green and slightly soft.
4.Whisk eggs with a fork until well mixed.
5.Add cheeses and baking powder to eggs.
6.Spray muffin tin with cooking spray and fill each cup almost to the top.
7.Bake for 25-35 minutes or until set.Put your recipe here.

Additional notes:

    • This recipe makes approximately 18 egg muffins.  After you have eaten your fill the first day, line a cookie sheet with parchment, freezer paper or a silicone mat.  Place your muffins on the lined cookie sheet and put into the freezer for a few hours to “flash freeze.”  Once they are frozen you can toss them into a gallon sized zip top freezer bag without worrying about them sticking together.  When you are ready for a quick breakfast, just pull out your desired amount and reheat in the microwave or toaster oven!
    • This recipe is VERY versatile and forgiving of mistakes.  You can add more or less shredded cheese and use whatever kind of cheese you have on hand.  You can even opt out of the shredded cheese altogether and the recipe will still taste great.
    •  You can also pour the completed egg mixture into a 9 x 13 cake pan and bake as a breakfast casserole rather than using a muffin tin.

How to NOT boil an egg and get beautiful results (for Instant Pot OR Stove Top)

There aren’t many things more awkward than buying an 18 pack of store bought eggs when you have 25 chickens at home and several dozen eggs sitting on your kitchen counter.

Eggs

Why on earth would I be buying store bought eggs you ask?  Well if you have your own chickens, you already know; but if you don’t, let me clue you in.

Boiled fresh eggs DO NOT PEEL.  That stubborn egg white clings to its shell like we small town folk cling to our guns and religion.  😉

By the time you’re done clawing that egg out of the shell it is not a pretty sight.

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Not exactly Easter brunch, deviled egg material is it?

Even store bought eggs can have this issue, around the holidays when egg suppliers have a harder time keeping up with demand and the eggs on store shelves are much fresher than normal.

The only way I’ve known to combat this issue is to keep an egg carton aside for 3 weeks or so.  The longer those eggs have had to sit, the more easily it will be to separate that pesky membrane between the shell and white.  The problem is… it’s no easy task to keep aside my precious “to be boiled” egg carton.  Inevitably the hubby will sell them, or they get mixed up with other cartons and used for breakfast… it just never seems to work out.  Plus, we go through a LOT of boiled eggs.  They are a healthy, inexpensive snack for our family and having to wait around for 3 weeks to get another batch ready just isn’t always feasible.

So there I find myself, sheepishly tucking the egg carton in my shopping cart and hoping that no one notices that I am shamefully PAYING for eggs at the store.

Enter Pinterest.

I love Pinterest, seriously, there are SO many great recipes and great ideas out there right at our finger tips.  ANYWAY, I came across a Pin one day about STEAMING eggs instead of boiling them.  Say what?

It works folks.  It works REALLY well.

Now the thing to remember, as with all cooking, there can always be variables.

Altitude, the temperature of your eggs, whether they are in a single layer or double layer in your pan, all of these things might vary your results.  It is okay if something doesn’t work out perfectly the first time.  Don’t throw the idea out all together, it just means that your method needs to be adjusted next time.

It can be done on the regular ole stove top OR in everyone’s new favorite Instant Pot type pressure cooker.

Here’s how it’s done on the stove top.

  1. Place eggs in the steamer basket above a pan of water.
  2. Turn your stove to medium high heat and wait until you see condensation form the steam begin to form on the lid.  Set your timer for 25 minutes.  (This is the time that I typically use with my eggs double stacked in the steamer basket, 22 minutes seems to be just right if there is only a single layer.)
  3. When your timer goes off, immediately transfer the eggs to an cold water bath.  Cooling the eggs off quickly prevents your eggs from over cooking and causing that not so pretty green tint to the yolk.
And here’s the Instant Pot version:
  1. Pour 1 cup of water in the bottom of your pan.
  2. Place your trivet or steam rack in the bottom of the pan over the water.
  3. Add eggs on top of the trivet/steam rack and close lid.
  4. Turn your pressure relief valve to “sealing” & set manual timer for 6 minutes.
  5. When your timer goes off, use a quick release to relieve  the pressure and quickly transfer the eggs to an cold water bath.  Cooling the eggs off quickly prevents your eggs from over cooking and causing that not so pretty green tint to the yolk.
Now, when it comes to peeling the eggs, I have another fun trick that makes peeling them a breeze.  This handy little method is really the key to pulling this whole thing all together and get beautifully smooth, peeled eggs.
  1. Place boiled (or steamed in this case) eggs in a tumbler with approximately 1/2 inch of water.
  2. Seal the open end of the glass with your hand and shake vigorously back and forth for 10 seconds.
  3. Take the egg out and the skin will easily slip off.You can see how it’s done here:  The FASTEST way to peel a hard cooked egg!

 

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