Fruit and Nut Granola

A Healthy Snowball

If you’ve read my other breakfast posts, you know that mornings are early and slightly chaotic around here. If you haven’t read my other breakfast posts, you should 😉 I’ll even make it easy for you and leave you links here and here for some easy and healthy breakfast prep! But, seriously, it is tough to get in a healthy breakfast when you are trying to rush out the door in the morning. However, it is so important for your blood sugar and your metabolism…there’s a reason why they (whoever “they” is) say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

A healthy breakfast is good for your body, but I’ve found, also important for my mind. If I eat a donut for breakfast (and let’s be real, who eats just ONE donut?!), it is so much easier for me to make unhealthy choices the rest of the day. I will have low energy from my donuts so I won’t want to work out, but I will still be hungry because my nutritional needs weren’t met, so I may binge eat for lunch, and so on. But if I start my day out with a satiating, nutritional breakfast, that sets me on a healthy track for the rest of the day. After my healthy breakfast (and of course coffee), I will have the energy for a morning jog, then eat a healthy snack and drink some water when I get home, and it just snowballs in a healthy way.

So here I have refined sugar free Fruit and Nut Granola which you can prep ahead of time and grab and go! I hope you can make a batch to enjoy throughout your week and start your days with a healthy snowball!

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Fruit and Nut Granola

Delicious with milk, plain Greek yogurt, or by itself! Makes about three cups.

Ingredients:

  • One cup of old fashioned oats (GF if needed)
  • 1/2 cup of almonds, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • One tbsp of chia seeds
  • One cup of dried fruit, chopped (I did half a cup of apricots, half a cup of dates)
  • 1/2 to one tsp of cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • One generous tbsp of raw honey, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • Prepare large baking sheet with baking spray
  • Combine dry ingredients except sugar on baking sheet
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, and honey
  • Pour over mixture on the baking sheet
  • Stir until everything is evenly coated
  • Spread out in a single layer on baking sheet
  • Bake for five minutes, stir, then bake for another 3-5 minutes until desired toastiness
  • While still warm, drizzle with additional honey and let cool and harden

I mean no ill will against donuts, but if I start my day with donuts I know my sugar monster will stalk me all day. Who wants a monster stalking them all day?! I hope making this granola gets your monster off your trail and sets your healthy intention for the day. Eat a healthy breakfast…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Classic Garlic Hummus

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Generational Food

Hummus has gained popularity in the last few years as a healthy, good-for-you food, and it is! But at the risk of sounding like one of *those* people… “I was into hummus before it was popular”.  Actually, though, hummus and I do go way back.

My grandmother, Elizabeth Aijian Munroe, was a first generation American whose parents fled Armenia to escape the Turks. Because of their traumatic experiences in Armenia, they wanted to raise their children as Americans not Armenians. So they spoke English in their home and did not keep many Armenian traditions…except food. While my sisters and I wish that we knew the Armenian language or some of the customs and traditions, we are all thankful we grew up with the tradition of Armenian hospitality and food.

As a child, we lived about 6 hours north of my grandparents so it was always quite the ordeal driving down to Mimi and Papa’s. Whenever we would arrive, Mimi would always, without a doubt, have out an appetizer spread which always included hummus. To be honest, I hated it as a kid. I would much rather eat the pita bread, Armenian cheese, and kalamata olives she’d set out. Now, however, I love hummus!

My Mimi and Papa were married for 64 years, and just last year, they passed on into eternity a mere 12 days apart. So now, I see hummus in a whole new light: a love of culture, food, and hosting loved ones in your home…all in one little dip. In fact, when I was making this hummus, Zemirah helped me squeeze the lemon juice and I felt a rush of emotions (and maybe my eyes watered a bit) and gratitude as I thought about the history and love in this little bean dip. I imagined my great-grandmother making hummus with my grandmother, my grandmother making hummus with my mom, my mom making hummus with me, and now, here I was, continuing on in the tradition.

This recipe is based on the one found in the cookbook, Armenian Cooking Today, which was gifted to me by my sweet mom, who was wise and kind enough to have herself and Mimi write notes in the margins. Food has such history, can tell incredibly vast, beautiful stories, and brings us all together to enjoy eating with ones we love. I hope this simple, healthy dish can bring some history and love to your table, too.

Classic Garlic Hummus

Serves 10-12. Delicious as a veggie or chip dip, or as a spread.

Ingredients:

  • One 15 oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • Water as needed
  • Optional garnishes:
    • a drizzle of olive oil
    • chopped parsley
    • a sprinkle of paprika

Directions:

  • Combine chickpeas, tahini, and olive oil in blender
  • Blend until smooth
  • Add remaining ingredients
  • Blend until smooth
  • Adjust consistency with water if needed (I like mine thicker, but not too oily and heavy, which is why I use water)
  • Best if chilled overnight before serving
  • Garnish before serving, if desired

Thank you for letting me share a little about myself and my family. I hope you keep this easy hummus on hand for a quick snack or spread, but just be warned, you might want to pop a breath mint after eating it haha! Although, garlic is nature’s antibiotic, so eat up and stay healthy! Eat all the garlic…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Roasted Chicken with Carrots

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Money, Money, Money!

A hot topic when you’re trying to eat healthier is MONEY! How do you stay within a reasonable budget and feed your family well? It is not as hard as you may think; there are tons of creative ways to save money and stretch your dollar at the store. Healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive or pretentious. We’re about to get real here and talk… budget.

One of my favorite ways to save money is to buy a whole chicken. I roast it, we have leftovers for days, then I make broth with the bones. For our family of three, we can have four meals from one six pound chicken. Guess how much I paid for my last six pound chicken? $4.74!!! It was on sale for $.79 a pound! Add a $.79 bag of carrots and some potatoes (on average 2-4 dollars per five pound bag), and you’ve got a few healthy meals for under ten dollars! *insert happy dance here*

So was my cheap chicken organic and pasture raised? Unfortunately, no. While I want to be able to buy everything grass fed/pasture raised/organic, we are simply not able to do so on our budget. My husband is an E5 in the Marine Corps, and I am currently staying at home with our daughter; right now, we have a tight budget, but I am doing the best I can to feed our family healthy, real foods.

Don’t guilt yourself if you can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods, or if you have to dig through the “reduced” bin at the store; you’re doing the best you can for your family. What do you think is healthier: a “regular” chicken from the grocery store, or a bucket of Colonel Sanders’ chicken? The answer is obvious, and, actually cheaper! (4.74 vs a 20 dollar 10 piece bucket)

The bottom line is just do what is right for your family. If you can afford grass fed beef, pasture raised chicken, and organic produce, that’s wonderful and I’m a little jealous, but you should buy it! If you can’t, get what you can afford! I shop at our base commissary, Walmart, and Aldi; I use coupons, I buy in bulk (I bought a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters yesterday for $5!), and I shamelessly dig through the “reduced” bin of frozen meat. All to save us money while still eating healthy. You know how people ask what you would do if you won a million dollars? Well, I would go to the grocery store and NOT get out my calculator! Big spender!

Okay, enough talk about budget, let’s get to the chicken. Some ideas for leftovers: shred and add sauces (like hot sauce or BBQ) to top baked potatoes or salads, make sandwiches, or chicken salad! Then be sure to save the bones for a nutritious, low sodium chicken broth for all the soups you’ll be making this fall! This chicken is simple, healthy, and cheap, and it makes the perfect centerpiece for either a weeknight or a nice Sunday meal. Add some of my Roasted Potatoes or Creamy Whole30 Mashed Potatoes for the side, and if you want more veggies other than carrots, try my Crispy Brussels Sprouts. There you have it; a simple, budget friendly, healthy, complete meal!

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Roasted Chicken with Carrots

Serves 10. 

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 pound chicken
  • One lemon, cut in half
  • One head of garlic, cut in half widthwise
  • Two stalks of celery, cut in half
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp kosher salt (I use kosher because it makes a better crust on the skin)
  • 1/4-1/2 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 6-8 large carrots, quartered lengthwise

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Set quartered carrots on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish
  • Season with a little salt and pepper
  • Remove giblets and neck from bird, if necessary
  • Dry inside and out with paper towels
  • Season liberally inside and out with salt and pepper
  • Stuff the cavity with lemon, celery, and garlic
  • Season the outside with the dried herbs
  • Tie the ends of the drumsticks together with twine and tuck the ends of the wings into the bird
  • Set on top of bed of carrots
  • Roast for 70-90 minutes, until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F
  • Baste with juices
  • Let rest for 10-15 minutes

You will feel so fancy roasting a whole chicken, and it truly is a great way to save money. Not to mention, delicious! Feed your family well, keep your budget on track…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Roasted Potatoes

This post contains an affiliate link; if you purchase using the link it is of no extra cost to you, just a small pantry fund for me!

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A Happy Accident

What is the perfect side dish for basically anything and everything? Potatoes! Even better if they’re hot, crispy, and flavorful. These are not your average, plain roasted potatoes; the crust on these bad boys is insane, and they are covered in nutritional yeast to give them a cheesy flavor.

These potatoes came about as a happy accident when I was out of some of my usual seasonings. My husband took one bite, his eyes widened, and he said, “Oh wow! Did you do something different?! These are delicious!” I pretended I didn’t notice how amazing they were, and casually answered, “oh yeah, I used nutritional yeast.” Then we dipped our little crispy potatoes in Dairy free Garlic Herb Ranch and happily gobbled them up in silence. Well, mostly silence, except for Zemirah’s (and David’s) happy hums of “mmm” with practically every bite.

A happy table makes for happy bellies and a happy evening. I hope you add these potatoes into your side dish rotation this week and have a happy table, too!

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Roasted Potatoes

Serves six to eight.

Ingredients:

  • Three large russet potatoes, cut into one inch cubes
  • Half a tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp ground mustard
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 F
  • Spray large baking sheet with cooking spray
  • Combine potatoes, olive oil, and all seasonings on baking sheet
  • Mix well until all potatoes are coated evenly
  • Roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring halfway through
  • While still hot, sprinkle potatoes with extra salt to taste

These are perfect to roast alongside my Crispy Brussels Sprouts and some chicken thighs for a quick and complete meal. I hope these crunchy roasted potatoes bring a nice change of pace to your side dishes like it did mine. Gobble them up…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bake

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Mornings around here are always “A Pinch of Crazy”. My husband and I wake up around 5:30, and I try and sneak in some Bible reading time and possibly some stretchy yoga before Zemirah wakes up. When she wakes up around 6 (6:30 if I’m lucky, 7 if I’ve won the lottery), she hits the ground running; full of energy and immediately squealing “eeeat eeeat” over and over again, as I’m shuffling around in my slippers, gulping down my coffee, and trying to get us a healthy breakfast pulled together.

Breakfast meal prep helps us make wise choices even on the early, busy mornings. A lot of times I prep mason jars full of Peanut Butter and Chocolate Overnight Oats for David to grab and go…and to eliminate cooking from my morning, as I probably should not be trusted with flames before I finish my coffee. However, if we are craving something more hearty, I like to make a big breakfast bake to last all week. It keeps well in the fridge and reheats in the microwave! You can change it up by topping it with avocado, salsa, or hot sauce.

This can be made with a variety of vegetables, but I always like to include potatoes to help fill us up, and some form of greens. It’s always good to start your day with veggies! If made in an ovenproof skillet, it is a one pan meal, which is definitely a bonus! However, I have also cooked the filling separately, then transferred it all to a 9×9 baking pan. Either way, this healthy, hearty, on-the-go breakfast is fast, easy, and has minimal clean up!

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Turkey Sausage Breakfast Bake

Serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

  • Half a pound of turkey breakfast sausage (I like Jennie-O because there is not much sugar in it)
  • Half an onion, diced
  • Two cloves of garlic, minced
  • Three medium/large red potatoes
  • One cup (packed down) of chopped spinach
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp pepper, divided
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 F
  • Grease pan heavily with cooking spray/butter/coconut oil (we all know what a pain baked eggs are to clean)
  • Cook turkey sausage, crumbling as you cook
  • When almost cooked through, add potatoes, onion, and garlic
  • Season with salt, pepper, and dried herbs
  • Cover and cook on medium-low until potatoes are soft and onions are tender, stirring occasionally
  • In a separate bowl, combine eggs and coconut milk, whisk until well combined
  • Whisk in remaining salt and pepper and chopped spinach
  • Pour over cooked sausage/potato mixture
  • Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes until the eggs are set

I hope this helps make your mornings run smoother and gets everyone off to a healthy start. Drink that second cup of coffee…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

 

 

No Bake Chocolate Date Cake

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No Oven, No Problem

This dessert is great all around: gluten free, vegan, and no added sugar, but in this sweltering August heat, “no oven” are two of my favorite words. We live in base housing here in sunny SoCal where we apparently have an “ocean breeze” (are my fellow marine wives enjoying your breeze?!) so we do not have central air conditioning, but with windows open and lots of fans, it truly is manageable. That is until it comes time to cook dinner and I turn on our gas stove…then I feel like Ma Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie, and our food is seasoned with my sweat and tears. And if any of us have a hankering for dessert, forget it. You’re either getting nice cream, or you’re getting nothing.

Of course, you all know by now that I’m a chocoholic with a major sweet tooth (or teeth), so there’s no way I can go an entire summer with only one type of dessert. If I don’t feel like sweating unnecessarily, then I can just whip up one of these! So if you’re like me and wanting a treat without the oven heat, try my No Bake Chocolate Date Cake! (Or if you don’t mind turning on the oven, try my Wholesome Chocolate Chunk Cookies, too!)

No Bake Chocolate Date Cake

Serves six to eight. Or you can hog it all to yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 8 pitted Medjool dates
  • 3 tbsp 100% cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup nut butter of choice (almond or cashew lets the chocolate flavor shine, peanut makes it more chocolate/peanut butter…which is not bad!)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup almonds (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (optional if you’re wanting extra sweet)
  • Optional toppings:
    • Shredded coconut
    • Chopped nuts
    • Chocolate chips
    • Chopped fresh fruit

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients, except toppings, in blender or food processor
  • Blend until all ingredients are combined; it should be a sticky consistency (with bits of almond if you used them), and all sort of in a ball
  • Press into pan of choice (I used a rectangular 3 cup Pyrex dish), or shape into balls or bars for individual servings
  • Top with desired toppings, pressing them down slightly into the mixture
  • Refrigerate a few hours until firm

Don’t be like Ma Ingalls, beat the heat with this no bake treat…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

Mustard Potato Salad

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It’s the middle of August, kids are going back to school, Labor Day is coming up; all of these facts can only mean one thing: summer is coming to a close. And I have the perfect side dish for you to bring to that final summer cookout! Healthy Mustard Potato Salad! Leave that supermarket potato salad that looks like yellow mush on the shelf, and bring this instead. Light yet filling, fresh, tangy, and herbaceous, it’s the side dish everyone wants. Bonus: this potato salad can easily be made Whole30 compliant if you use compliant mayo (like my Lemon Garlic Aioli) and compliant pickles!

I’ve talked about this before, but the poor potato gets a bad reputation for being unhealthy, when in fact, he (just assigned the potato a gender) is full of fiber and vitamins and minerals. You can read more details on the nutritional facts of russet potatoes in this blog post. In this potato salad I used red potatoes, which are also high in fiber, a little lower in calories, and high in potassium. However, russet potatoes would work just fine, too!

So slather on the sunscreen, slice up that watermelon, bring a big bowl of Mustard Potato Salad with you to the BBQ, and be prepared for everyone to compliment you hehe. (You would get double the amount of compliments if you also brought along my Wholesome Chocolate Chunk Cookies )

I mean, you can do whatever you want, but who doesn’t want to be crowned Queen (or King) of the Backyard BBQ?! That should be a thing.

 

Mustard Potato Salad

Serves six to eight, and could easily be doubled.

Ingredients:

  • 5 large red potatoes, cut into large chunks (I leave the skin on)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup yellow mustard
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 6-7 sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1/3 cup chopped dill pickles (either homemade or a store bought brand you like)
  • 1.5-2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder

Directions:

  • Cover potato chunks with water and boil until very soft
  • Drain and transfer to a large bowl
  • While still warm, mix with mayo and mustards
  • Add the remaining ingredients and combine well
  • Chill
  • Garnish with chopped scallions and dill

Get crowned Queen (or King) of the Backyard BBQ this weekend! Soak up your last few weeks of summer…and enjoy your pinch of crazy!

 

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