Nutty Quinoa Granola Bars

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Developing a new granola bar recipe is a delight. I have been making the same recipe for quite some time now and wanted to branch out a little, expand my horizons in the granola bar world! In my opinion, there are far too many processed, sugar laden, chocolate coated choices at the grocery store and I believe it is much better to make your own using wholesome ingredients.

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a granola bar recipe that used uncooked roasted quinoa and I was intrigued. Quinoa is a like a super hero in the foodie world as it is a complete protein, a good source of the B vitamins, and the iron and zinc content is unusually high for a plant food. The slightly nutty flavour and high fibre content make it quite appealing as well. I use cooked quinoa quite often but had never tried roasting the pseudograin and using it in it’s natural, uncooked form.

I have also been playing around with protein ball recipes using medjool dates as the main sweetener and binder. This got my creative juices following and made me wondering what a quinoa granola bar with medjool dates would be like? What are medjool dates you ask? Well, they are essentially the king of all dates. They have a very soft texture and a rich, almost caramel like taste, making them delicious plain and quite popular in raw and vegan recipes. Medjool dates are an excellent source of fibre and a good source of many minerals including magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. So, you can see why the thought of combining these two nutrition powerhouses got me excited!

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Okay, lets get started.

Combine 1 cup of large flake oats and ½ cup of uncooked quinoa (any colour you’d like) in a saucepan over medium heat. Roast the oats and quinoa, stirring consistently and until fragrant. When you hear a popping sound and the mixture appears slightly golden, you know it is done. Remove the pan from heat, transfer the oat/quinoa mixture to a plate and allow to cool completely. You may want to place the mixture in the fridge to speed up the cooling process.

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Next up, combine the following in a large bowl:

  • 1 cup almonds, chopped
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup hemp hearts
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed

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When the oat/quinoa mixture is completely cool, toss it in with the other dry ingredients and set aside.

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Onto the dates! Place 15 medjool dates and 2 tablespoons of warm water into a food processor. Make sure you pit the dates first to avoid your granola bars being extra crunchy and hard on the teeth. Pulse the dates until a paste forms.

In a glass measuring cup, combine the following:

  • ¾ cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • ¼ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup honey

Heat the nut butters and honey in the microwave until it is a smooth, liquid consistency. Add the nut butter mixture to the dates in the food processor and pulse until combined. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and pulse a few more rounds.

I have to mention, this mixture smells divine and tastes even better. I definitely would eat it by the spoonful, so make sure you steal a taste before adding in the dry ingredients.

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Next step is to mix the date/nut butter mixture with the dry ingredients. Stir until well combined. You will find the mixture is quite sticky, but it makes for a soft, chewy textured granola bar. If you wish to make a slightly more indulgent bar, pick your favourite dark chocolate, chop it into chunks, and add it in right at the end. You want to prevent the chocolate from melting into a sticky, gooey mess!

Pour the mixture into a 9” by 9” square pan and use the back of a spatula or spoon to press it down evenly. Place the pan in the fridge for at least 4 to 5 hours, if not overnight. Once the nutty, quinoa mixture is set, remove from the pan and cut into bars or squares.

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Next time you hit that 4pm sugar craving, reach for one of these healthy snacks instead. Believe me, you will feel like you are indulging in a sweet treat, when really you are fueling your body and mind for greatness!

So go ahead, dig in!

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Scrumptious Banana Date Nut Muffins

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This is the ultimate healthy muffin recipe and has been a staple breakfast item in my family for a long time. Now, I know what you’re thinking, healthy bran muffins are bland and dry and I would rather eat chalk for breakfast any day! Trust me, give this recipe a try and let’s see if I can change your mind.

This recipe makes a large batch, which can be frozen and simply zapped individually in the microwave for a quick and easy breakfast. Remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make it a healthy one!

Start by checking to see if you have muffin liners. I cannot tell you the number of times I go to make muffins or cupcakes and I have no liners. Save yourself some time and make sure you put them on your grocery list! If you have them, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350ºF and line muffin tins with liners.

Mix 2 cups of buttermilk with 1½ Tbsp of baking soda. Let this mixture stand while you prepare the other ingredients. As the baking soda activates, the mixture should almost double in volume, so make sure your bowl is big enough.

Next, in a medium pot, combine 1½ cups of dates with 1½ cups of boiling water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture thickens. Remove the mixture from heat and let cool slightly.

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Moving on to the dry ingredients, in a large bowl mix the following and set aside:

  • 2 cups Nutriblend flour
  • 1 ½ cups natural wheat bran
  • 1 cup All Bran cereal
  • ¾ cup large flake oats
  • ¼ cup ground flaxseed
  • ¼ cup wheat germ
  • ½ cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

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If you wish, you can use a combination of flour types such as spelt, buckwheat or whole wheat. You can also play around with the “additional fibre items” by using oat bran instead of wheat bran, replacing the oats with an extra ½ cup of flour, or combining a mixture of flaxseed, chia seeds, or hemp seeds, the sky is the limit. Experiment away!

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Next up, the bananas! I like to freeze over ripe bananas to use for baking. You will notice there is no sugar in this recipe, I use the dates and bananas as natural sweeteners and to pack in some additional vitamins and minerals. That being said, you may have to defrost the bananas if frozen and use a hand blender to mash into a smooth consistency.

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Mix ½ cup of oil, ¼ cup of molasses and 2 eggs in a separate bowl. Combine with the mashed bananas and then mix in the date mixture. Note: if the date mixture is still piping hot… chill it slightly in the fridge or freezer. Then, add in the buttermilk.

Now that you have all the wet ingredients mixed and all the dry ingredients mixed, you know what’s next, combine everything together. But, do not over mix! You will notice this as a common theme in many recipes as it is essential to maintaining a soft texture and minimizing the development of gluten in the flour. SO when a recipe instructs you to “mix until combined” we’re not joking around, muffin batter tends to lumpy… just let it be.

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Add the raisins at the last second and give it a few whirls before spooning the batter into the muffin tins. If you notice the batter is a little too dry and sticky, you may add in additional buttermilk. The batter should be fairly thick though.

Spoon the muffin batter into your prepared muffin-lined tins. I tend to fill each tin until it is heaping, as my favourite part of a muffin is the top. Let’s be honest, whoever invented muffin top pans is a genius because I always save the top for last! The recipe should make about 24 muffins, give or take a few. Once the batter is evenly distributed, bake at 350ºF for approximately 25 minutes.

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Once the muffins are cooked, remove from the muffin tins and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. I like to throw most of the batch in the freezer to seal in the freshness, but if you have a busy household, keep them on the counter for a few days or in the fridge.

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These muffins pack in a good punch of fibre, vitamins, minerals and a decent amount of protein. Try spreading natural peanut butter on a slightly warm muffin or enjoying with a few pieces of cheese or hard boiled egg. Mmm mmm good.

Happy Baking!

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Shortbread Cookies Galore!

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Who doesn’t love a good shortbread cookie? Especially when it is all dressed up in coloured icing and in the shape of an Easter egg!

Butter is the secret ingredient in these bad boys. That’s right, butter and lots of it! So maybe consider only making these cookies for special occasions because they are quite indulgent.

Since Easter is just around the corner, I decided to make egg shaped cookies, however you can choose to make tulips, hearts, shamrocks, snowmen (you get the picture, any shape you’d like) or simply add chopped chocolate and call it a day.

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The key to these Shortbread cookies is do not over mix and do not bake them for too long. As soon as the edges have a hint of golden brown, remove them from the oven and get them off that cookie sheet! That being said, here is the recipe…

Start by softening 1 ½ cups of butter in the microwave. Do not melt, just soften. Cream the butter in a large bowl using a hand held mixer or Mixmaster.

Next, add the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp salt

Mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined. Once the dough has formed, stop mixing! Remember, do not over mix!

Now, if you plan on making your cookies into cool shapes, it is best to chill the dough first. Wrap in wax paper and chill in the fridge or freezer until firm. Flatten the dough in to a round, disc shape as it will chill more evenly this way.

Once chilled, roll the dough out on a floured surface using a rolling pin. Try not to make it too thin, approximately 7.5 millimeters to be exact. Use your choice of cookie cutters and go to town!

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If your creative juices aren’t running high or if time prohibits you, skip the chilling and cookie cutting, and add chopped chocolate to the dough as soon as it is mixed. Form the dough into balls (approximately the size of a golf ball), place on a cookie sheet and flatten slightly.

Bake the cookies at 300ºF for 15 minutes or so. Once the edges start to brown slightly, remove the cookies from the oven and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

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Next up is the fun part. Using either store bought or homemade icing, decorate your cookies into masterpieces! Use swirls, dots, zigzags and squiggles to bring your cookies to life.

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Last but not least, share with your friends and family. I promise they will be impressed with your cookie making talents… add that to your resume!

Hope everyone has a wonderful long weekend.

Happy Baking!

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Granola Bars that will rock your world!

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This granola and granola bar recipe has been a staple at my house for quite some time. These granola bars are a great grab and go snack for anytime during the day or a quick breakfast while on the go. They are simply delicious and pack in a good dose of fibre, protein and various vitamins and minerals. You can also sprinkle the plain granola on yogurt, cereal or use in baked apples. Why not try them all and see what your favourtie is?

The nice thing about this recipe is you can constantly switch up the ingredients. Experiment with different nuts and seeds, dried fruit and added fibre and omega-3 sources such as ground flaxseed, hemp hearts or chia seeds. For all you chocoholics out there, dark chocolate is fantastic in this recipe and makes the granola bars slightly more indulgent!

If you’re a keener and want to make your own granola from scratch… awesome… here is the recipe. If you want to save some time, you can purchase a nut and seed granola to use, just watch the amount of sugar! Skip down to the granola recipe for directions.

For those who like knowing exactly what is in your granola bar, let’s get to it! Make sure you have plenty of time, as the granola cooks at a low temperature for approximately 2 hours to bring out all those delicious roasted flavours.

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Start by preheating your oven to 250ºF.

Next, in a large roasting pan, mix the following ingredients:

  • 6 cups large flake oats
  • 1 ½ cups sunflower seeds
  • 1 ½ cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1 ½ cup chopped almonds
  • 1 ½ cups chopped pecans
  • 1 ½ cups coconut
  • ½ cup ground flax seed
  • ½ cup natural wheat bran

Remember what I said earlier, mix it up. Use a combination of chopped walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pistachios and sesame or poppy seeds. Add in ¼ cup of hemp hearts, chai seeds or use oat bran instead of wheat bran. Trust me, experimenting with different ingredients and flavours can be very rewarding, not to mention it will keep your taste buds happy!

In a glass measuring cup, heat the following in the microwave:

  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup honey

When the oil and honey mixture is warm, remove it from the microwave and add:

  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Then, add the honey mixture to the roasting pan and mix well with the oats, nuts, seeds and other dry ingredient.

Bake at 250ºF for 2 hours stirring the mixture every 20 minutes. This helps to cook the granola evenly.

After 2 hours, remove the granola from the oven and add in the dried fruit:

  • 2 cups raisins
  • 2 cups cranberries
  • Or try dried cherries, chopped up apricots, goji berries or golden raisins

You will notice the raisins and cranberries puff up from the heat of the mixture. Perfect, you’re doing it right!

Allow the granola to cool completely in the roasting pan either on top of the stove or on a wire rack. Once it is completely cooled, store the granola in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

Now, onwards to making the granola bars.

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It is very very very important to allow the granola to cool completely before using it to make granola bars. Patients is key, otherwise your bars will be quite dry and crumbly.

That being said, measure 6 cups of granola into a large bowl. You can play around with the amount of granola and add in additional chopped nuts and seeds if you’d like. Sometimes I will use only 4 – 4 ½ cups of granola and make up the rest with chopped almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, large flakes of coconut, etc.

Next, whisk 2 eggs in a small bowl and set aside.

In a glass measuring cup, measure out 1 cup of peanut butter and ¼ cup of honey. You can use natural peanut butter or almond butter, but I recommend using at least ½ cup of regular peanut butter to give the mixture a good consistency.

Heat this mixture in the microwave until slightly boiling and hot.

Add in the eggs, making sure to stir vigorously as you do so. This will prevent the egg from cooking in chunks in your peanut butter mixture. The consistency will thicken quite a bit.

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Pour the peanut butter/egg mixture into the large bowl and mix with the granola. Option to add chunks of dark chocolate or chocolate chips once everything is mixed. Note, DO NOT add the chocolate before as it will melt when you add the hot peanut butter mixture. Unless you are going for a completely chocolaty granola bar look, then don’t do it!

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Finally, press the mixture into an ungreased 9” x 9” square pan. Be sure to pack it down nice and tight. Place the pan in the refrigerator and let set for at least 4-5 hours if not overnight. Once the granola bars are completely cooled, cut into squares and munch away!

Just a tip, when cutting the granola bars, loosen around the edges first and flip upside down on a cutting board. You may have to give it a shake, but the whole slab should drop onto the cutting board. This makes it much easier to cut into squares, rectangles, triangles, whatever shape you like.

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Make sure you store the granola bars in the fridge as they will keep much longer. Although, taking a few out in the morning for a snack later in the afternoon is completely okay.

Now, you have no excuse to buy sugar laden granola bars from the grocery store. Make your own at home and have fun combining different ingredients and flavours.

Happy Baking!

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The Perfect Brownie

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Who doesn’t love a chocolaty, gooey brownie?

This is an easy recipe that you can whip up pretty quickly. It uses your basic ingredients, butter, sugar, eggs and flour. What can make a difference is the quality of cocoa you use, the darker and richer the colour, the better. This isn’t a healthy recipe by any means, but boy oh boy does it taste good!

Brownies are quite versatile. You can bake them in a pan, top with icing or with a mixture of chopped chocolate, nuts and coconut. I like making them into cupcakes and decorating with coloured icing and sprinkles for a special occasion. You can also use this brownie recipe as a base for a non-bake cheesecake or mousse dessert… mmm my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

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Now let’s get started.

 

First, preheat your oven to 350°F and prep your pan. I normally use a 9” x 13” pan and line it with aluminum foil to make my life much easier once the brownies are cooked, and when removing them from the pan. Grease the pan lightly and set aside.

Mix the following in a glass measuring cup.

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Add 4 eggs and mix well.

Add the following to the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • ½ tsp baking powder

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Now comes the fun part. You can choose to keep it plain or add one, two, or all of the following.

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts)
  • 1 cup chopped dark chocolate
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup coconut

DO NOT OVER MIX!!! This is very important. I know the tendency is to want to mix your little heart out until everything is perfectly combined. Please try to refrain; your brownies will turn out more tender and moist.

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Pour the batter into your prepared pan. If you wish, sprinkle additional chopped chocolate, nuts or coconut on top of the batter. This makes any sweet treat look delicious and very appealing and can save you some excess sugar and fat. Or go all out and wait to ice the brownies with chocolate icing and sprinkles once the brownies are cooked. I don’t know what it is about sprinkles, but I just love em! I think it is the inner kid in me that wants to put coloured sprinkles on everything!

Pop the pan in the oven and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the pan comes out clean). Brownies are always better slightly underdone than crispy in my opinion.

If you are icing the brownies, mix the following ingredients using a hand held beater while the brownies are cooking.

  • ¼ cup butter (melted)
  • 6 Tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

You will find the mixture quite dry, that’s okay! Add an egg to make it smooth and creamy. I know what you’re thinking… raw egg? You ice the brownies while still warm, so the heat of the brownies cooks the egg slightly and thickens the icing. Beat the icing until well combined and smooth.

Once the brownies are cooked, allow them to cool in the pan on a wire rack. If icing, wait a few minutes and ice while the brownies are still warm.

Let the brownies cool completely and chill before cutting into squares.

Dig in!

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And so it begins!

So this is it, it is really happening! I have officially decided to start my own blog but the question is, where to begin?

The Scully Kitchen is almost like a sacred place and I have my mom to thank for that. I grew up helping out in the kitchen, making pancakes on a Saturday morning, oatmeal cookies on a random Tuesday afternoon or black forest cake for a special birthday occasion. Great things are created in the kitchen and it always seems friends, family and guests tend to gravitate there while visiting.

Many people ask me what the secret is, how do you make everything taste so good? In all honesty, I have no idea. It just happens. I guess over the years I have learned many tips and tricks, and when you have a passion for something, you tend to excel at it right? I think half the battle is using fresh, high quality ingredients along with discovering great recipes… or making up your own!

I love to bake, and I also love healthy food. Sometimes, the two just don’t mix but having a warm, gooey chocolate chip, skor, pecan cookie once in a while isn’t going to hurt you. It’s all about having fun in the kitchen and enjoying real food.

My goal is to share recipes, thoughts, ideas on how to perfect the nutritious granola bar for an afternoon snack, or the ideal power packed kale salad for dinner, or the ultimate carrot cake with cream cheese icing for the special someone’s birthday. I hope you enjoy all the Scully Kitchen has to offer.

Now let’s get to it!