Chocolate Almond Granola

One of my favorite snacks these days is Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond Granola. It’s chocolatey, it’s crunchy, it satisfies my breakfast and mid-afternoon snacking needs – it’s really a great product. What’s even better about it is how simple the ingredients list is. Just about everything can be found in the grocery store, and I decided that instead of buying this cereal over and over again, I’m just going to make it. It’s too simple not to.

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Enter my riff on Trader Joe’s chocolate almond granola. My version contains old-fashioned oats, almond slivers, cocoa powder, honey, and canola oil, and chocolate shavings. The only item that I cannot procure easily that’s within the Trader Joe’s version is barley malt syrup – but that’s okay. Honey does a decent job of gluing it all together.

Aside from the taste of honey, this is a pretty close replica in terms of taste. However, I still have to figure out how to replicate granola that will actually clump together. That remains an untested challenge. I suspect a lower temperature and quick-cooking oats will help with the agglutination.

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Chocolate Almond Granola
Makes approximately 4 cups of granola

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Chocolate shavings, as desired

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with greased parchment paper or a silicone sheet.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together oats, almonds, and salt.
Mix honey and oil in a small bowl and whisk in cocoa powder until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract. Pour over dry ingredients and toss to coat.
Spread granola onto prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until granola is no longer sticky, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool. When granola is just barely warm, grate a chocolate bar over the granola.

Sticky Blackberry Barbecued Pork Ribs


It’s summertime, and all manners of berries and stone fruit are flooding the supermarket shelves. Growing up I was never very fond of berries. Living in tropical Singapore, the only berries that made it to local grocery stores were usually sour and very expensive, and I never developed a taste for them. Come New York City, however, they were usually cheap and abundant (and so full of fiber and antioxidants!) that I never fail to keep some berries around in the summertime.

These blackberry ribs are kind of genius. The blackberry glaze imparts sticky sweetness along with some heat from the red pepper flakes and paprika, while the slow cooking ensures that the ribs are juicy and tender. The recipe is easy enough to do; it just takes a little bit of planning and preparation before you can actually sink your teeth into them. I didn’t have a food processor to chop up the berries, so I mashed it up with a fork as best as I can and ended up with a slightly chunky glaze.

Sticky Blackberry Barbequed Pork Ribs
From The Wall Street Journal
Serves 4

Ingredients

2 racks baby back pork ribs (about 2-2½ pounds each)

2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons black pepper

1 tablespoon hot smoked paprika

1¼ cups honey

¾ pound (about 2½ cups) blackberries

½ cup blackberry preserves

¼ cup maple syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon (or whiskey)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons red-pepper flakes

What To Do

1. Flip one rib rack over and insert the tip of a butter knife under tough membrane that covers back of rack. Wiggle knife to loosen membrane. Grab membrane with a paper towel and pull it off. Repeat with remaining rack.

2. At least 1 hour before cooking, mix 1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper and smoked paprika in a small bowl. Season ribs very generously on all sides with spice mixture. Let ribs come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

3. Meanwhile, set up a grill to cook with indirect heat: For a charcoal grill, light charcoal using a chimney starter. When coals have started to ash over on top, pour them all onto one side of lower grate. This creates a hot zone and a cooler zone. If using a gas grill, light burners on one side of grill, leaving others off to create a hot zone and a cooler zone. Or preheat an oven to 350 degrees to cook ribs indoors.

4. Place ribs meaty-side up on cooler side of the grill and close lid. (Make sure vents are partly open.) Or put ribs in a roasting pan and place in oven. Cook ribs 1 hour. If using a charcoal grill, light more charcoal briquettes in chimney starter and pour on top of coals to replenish the fire. Flip ribs meaty-side down. Cook until tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

5. Meanwhile, make blackberry glaze: In a blender, purée honey, blackberries, preserves, maple syrup, bourbon, vinegar, red-pepper flakes and remaining salt and pepper. Scrape into a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until reduced and syrupy.

6. Flip ribs meaty-side up, brush generously with glaze and close the lid. Cook 1 minute. Brush meaty side with glaze again. Move ribs to hot side of grill and flip over. Brush underside of racks with glaze. Close lid. Cook 1 minute or until glazed and caramelized on both sides. If cooking inside, brush ribs with glaze and place under broiler until glazed and caramelized, 1-2 minutes. Season generously with salt and let rest 10 minutes before serving.

Greek Yogurt Key Lime Pie

I’m so pleased that I found a key lime pie recipe that doesn’t involve excessive amounts of condensed milk. In fact, this one is primarily made out of Greek yogurt, a protein-packed powerhouse. I had a tub of Greek yogurt sitting in the fridge, and as I perused the weekly circulars, I saw that limes were going on sale at 5 for $1. (This is how I generally decide what to make. a) what I have in the pantry; b) what I can buy cheaply.) I put two and two together, and brainwave – I shall make a key lime pie! I did some digging around, and found this recipe from Obama Foodorama, a blog dedicated to the food initiatives of the White House. No surprises that they found a way to make a healthier key lime pie!

I didn’t actually use key limes, but regular limes worked fantastic too. I really enjoyed the simplicity of the recipe. A lot of key lime pies require some kind of artificial or unhealthful ingredient, like gelatin, sweetened condensed milk or key lime-flavored yogurt – but the stiffer texture of Greek yogurt was sufficient to hold the filling together. I also invented a crust made out of an unconventional ingredient – not graham crackers, but bran flakes. I know, bran flakes in your pie crust might sound a little suspect, but with the addition of butter and sugar and a quick bake in the oven, it came out caramelized with a nice toothsome chew. You’re not going to mistake it for a graham cracker crust, but it held its own against the smooth tangy creaminess of the pie filling.

Try this recipe. You won’t regret it. (And at 139 calories for 1/12th of a 9-inch pie, you can have your pie and eat it too!)

Greek Yogurt Key Lime Pie
Adapted from Obama Foodorama
Makes 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups bran flakes crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1½ cups Greek yogurt
4 large egg yolks
½ cup key lime juice or regular lime juice, fresh-squeezed if possible
2 Tablespoons honey
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Method
For the Crust:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Stir bran flakes crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl until combined. Then press mixture evenly into bottom and up the sides of a 9″ pie plate.

3. Bake crust 10 minutes, then remove from oven to cool.

For the Filling:
1. Whisk together yogurt, egg yolks, honey, and sugar; add juice and whisk until well combined.

2. Pour filling into crust, and bake for 20 minutes in 350°F oven (mixture will not be firm).

3. Cool and refrigerate overnight. (I highly recommend waiting overnight; it still tastes good if you wait only 4 hours but slices are not going to hold up.)

Strawberry Toast + Oatnut Bread

It’s summertime, and berries are at their peak. Sweet, succulent and juicy, strawberries are a fantastic way to cool you down and satisfy your sweet tooth. I was grocery shopping, and I was lured by the strong scent of the strawberries. Nothing beats the smell of ripe strawberries; which incidentally, taste nothing like strawberry-flavored candy. Growing up, berries weren’t something I ate with any frequency because they don’t do well in tropical Singapore. I was probably quite surprised when I had my first strawberry, wincing at its tartness and its complete departure from strawberry-flavored things.

I came up with the idea for this meal by cobbling together what I had in my fridge: strawberries that needed to be eaten, a large tub of Greek yogurt, and oatnut bread that I made a couple of days ago. You could use whipped cream cheese or whipped cream on your toast, but Greek yogurt offers the same creaminess and tang with much less fat and a lot more protein. This dish is basically a healthier version of the strawberry shortcake.

This bread was made with white whole wheat flour, oats, and walnuts. It’s a firm and hearty loaf that will stand up to spreads and drippy fillings, so it would be good for a sandwich. The original recipe called said vital wheat gluten was optional, but I didn’t have it. Whole wheat flour can be a little tricky in yeast breads, but don’t be discouraged. It might not taste or feel like the soft, fluffy prepackaged loaves you get in the supermarket, but it also doesn’t have a ton of unpronounceable additives.


Strawberry Toast

Makes a slice

1 slice of bread
2 strawberries, sliced
1 tbsp of Greek yogurt

Toast bread, if desired. Spread Greek yogurt on bread. Layer strawberries. Eat!

Oatnut White Whole Wheat Bread
Adapted from Baking Bites
Makes 1 9×5 loaf

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F), divided
3-4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (whole rolled oats, chopped)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup walnuts, finely chopped

In a large bowl, combine the yeast (about 1/4 oz.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, vital wheat gluten (if using) and honey, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead, adding flour a tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
While the bread is going through its final rise, preheat oven to 375F.
Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
Cool loaf outside of pan on a wire rack completely before slicing.

Notes: I ended up using about 2.5 cups of flour total.