Vanilla Almond Granola.

Slightly sweet, crunchy granola with hints of vanilla, almond, and cinnamon flavor!  Surprisingly easy and much more affordable than the store-bought variety.

IMG_1167

School is back in session and this teacher has been going 100 miles a minute! But seriously. The beginning of the school year is always so hectic. Awesome and exciting, too, but also very hectic.

IMG_1179

Know what’s great on hectic mornings?

Vanilla Almond Granola. Homemade, of course! I can’t believe I’ve never made this stuff before. It’s so much cheaper than buying it pre-made and it’s absolutely delicious! The addition of a tiiiny bit of almond extract is brilliant–it brings out the almond flavor just the right amount without being overpowering.

IMG_1173

I love sprinkling this it on plain Greek yogurt. It makes for a quick, healthy breakfast with virtually no prep-time required.

IMG_1176

The granola adds a necessary crunch, texture, and touch of sweetness to the otherwise tart yogurt. Something about the contrast between the creamy yogurt and slightly crunchy granola just works, ya know? Sprinkle some ripe berries on top and you’ve got yourself a filling meal loaded with all kinds of yummyness.

IMG_1180

I know you don’t need another reason to make this super easy recipe, but here’s one more anyway: your house will smell AMAZING for hours after you make this. Cinnamon and vanilla always seem to exude the most awesomely sweet, warm aroma when baked.

Plus, all you need are two mixing bowls to make it!

IMG_1161

One small note about this recipe: yes, it calls for coconut oil, but you won’t taste it. I promise. My husband hates coconut and he had no idea I used coconut oil in the granola. If you’re allergic or still don’t believe me, feel free to substitute some vegetable oil.

IMG_1162

Do you like granola? What’s your favorite variety? Let me know in the comment section!

Vanilla Almond Granola

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 3/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil (or vegetable/canola oil)
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1). Preheat the oven to 300F. Line a large baking sheet with either parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2). In a large bowl, combine the oats, almonds, cinnamon, and salt.

3). In a medium bowl, whisk the syrup, oil, almond extract and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour over the oats and toss well.

4). Spread the granola on the pan in one even layer. Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes (<–very important!!). Let the granola cool before consuming.

Servings: about 13 servings of 1/4 cup each. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 171 Carbs: 20g Fat: 9g Protein: 4g Fiber: 2g Sugar: 9g
Recipe: http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/06/17/vanilla-almond-granola/

Homemade Sausage Balls (No Bisquick!)

IMG_20140201_164055552_HDR

Sausage balls are a super easy appetizer that everyone loves…especially my husband! They’re a Christmas tradition in his family, and I must admit they are really tasty! What’s not to love: sausage + cheese is a tasty combination. Not healthy, but tasty. : )  They really are usually a Christmas-only indulgence, but I wanted to make some for a party a few weeks ago. I found the traditional recipe but did not want to go buy Bisquick, so I went on a hunt for a completely made from scratch recipe. As it turns out, it is SUPER easy to substitute Bisquick! This made me very happy because I now did not have to purchase another ingredient, and we could eliminate another processed food from our kitchen. Win-win!

IMG_20140201_164035454_HDRTo substitute bisquick, all you need is flour, baking powder, and salt. Do you have those 3 ingredients in your kitchen? I bet you do! It’s actually more cost-effective to mix them up yourself than to buy them already combined, plus there’s no added MSG or hydrogenated oil. Once you have that mixed up, you add the cheese, sausage, onion, and butter until really well combined. Form the mixture into little balls, bake them, and enjoy!  These will definitely be a crowd pleaser!

Homemade Sausage Balls (No Bisquick!)

Ingredients:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 16 ounces bulk breakfast sausage
  • ½ large yellow onion, grated
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1). Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

2). In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cayenne pepper and black pepper. Add the cheese and toss to make sure it is evenly coated in flour. Add sausage, onion, and melted butter. Use your hands to mix until thoroughly combined.

3). Roll mixture into 1 inch balls and place them on the parchment paper, about 1/2 inch apart. Bake for 25 minutes at 400F. Enjoy!

Servings: 45 balls. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 63 Carbs: 3g Fat: 4g Protein: 3g Points+:2

Recipe adapted from: http://www.marthastewart.com/326848/sausage-cheddar-balls 

Classic Guacamole.

Oh, guacamole. It’s great as an appetizer by itself, perfect on tacos or other Mexican fare, and even delicious on a salad. I LOVE a good guacamole, and it’s so good for you!

IMG_20140201_135818953_HDR

Making homemade guacamole is easy: chop, mash, mix, season. Finding the right recipe, however, can be a challenge. Some are too tomato-y, some are too spicy, and some just have no flavor at all. The recipe I’m about to share with you came from Alton Brown, and (not surprisingly) was just right! It has nice thick chunks of avocado and tomato while still being creamy. I opted not to make mine spicy because I prefer it that way, so I omitted the jalapeño, but you can definitely add it if you like your guac with a kick! 

IMG_20140201_135811534_HDR (1)

Want to know a way to avoid your guacamole from turning brown if you decide to make it for a party ahead of time? Press the guacamole into a bowl, making sure there are no air holes. Then, using a measuring cup, carefully pour cold water over it until there is about an inch of water over the guacamole. Before serving, simply pour out the water and give it a stir! Just make sure to use a measuring cup to gently pour the water in the bowl. Don’t use the sink. Trust me. : )  

Now go grab a few ripe avocados and get mashing!

Classic Guacamole

Ingredients:

  • 3 hass avocados, seeded and chopped
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • Optional (I omitted): 1/2 jalapeño, seeded and diced

1). In a large bowl place the avocado pulp, lime juice, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper. Use a potato masher and mash to your preferred texture.

2). Fold in the onion, tomatoes, cilantro, garlic (and jalapeño, if using). Taste and season accordingly. Allow it to sit at room temperature for 1 hour for the flavors to combine before serving. 

Yield: About 4 cups, or 16 servings of  1/4 cup (4 tbsp) each.

Nutritional Information per 4 tbsp: Calories: 64 Fat: 5g  Carbs: 4g Protein: 1g Fiber: 3g WWPoints+: 2

Recipe adapted from: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/guacamole-recipe.html 

 

 

No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls

I stumbled upon this recipe a few weeks prior and immediately jumped up and made them. I already had every ingredient sitting in my pantry, and it only requires one bowl for mixing it all together. Literally, within 5 minutes they were ready to go!

IMG_20130804_203058

These energy bites are no-bake, which is helpful if you’re limited on time (or trying to avoid heating up your house with the oven). These are great on-the-go snacks or a delightful sweet treat that’s not too indulgent. I was especially pleased that there’s so much ground flax seed in this recipe. Flax seed is full of Omega-3’s which are so important and good for you!

These may not be the best pictures but they certainly were delicious! These are gluten free and can be dairy free depending on what chocolate chips you buy. I think this would also be a great treat that kids could enjoy as well!

IMG_20130804_203042

Just take a look at the ingredients list. You more than likely have everything you need to whip up a batch right now. Go make them!

No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

1) Combine all ingredients together in a bowl.

2) Roll into balls and refrigerate.

Servings: 26. Serving size: 1 ball. Nutritional Information per serving: Calories: 84 Carbs: 10g Fat: 5g Protein: 2g Sugar: 6g Fiber: 1g

WW PointsPlus: 3

Recipe via Pinterest, but no link to original source.

Crispy Parmesan Edamame

Crispy, salty, crunchy parmesan-crusted edamame!

IMG_20130413_192037

The next time you consider reaching for a bag of chips or popcorn to satisfy a salty craving you have, consider making this easy snack (or side dish) instead! There are over 10 grams of protein in a serving which will keep you full for longer than those other snacks will.

Have you ever had edamame? It is a nutritional powerhouse! Here’s what WebMD has to say about it:

“Here’s what you’ll find in a half-cup serving of shelled edamame:

  • 120 calories
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 2.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams polyunsaturated fat (0.3 grams plant omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 0.5 gram monounsaturated fat
  • 11 grams protein
  • 13 grams carbohydrate
  • 15 mg sodium
  • 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C
  • 10% Daily Value for iron
  • 8% Daily Value for vitamin A
  • 4% Daily Value for calcium

As you can see, that little serving of edamame gives you a bunch of fiber: 9 grams, about the same amount you’ll find in 4 slices of whole-wheat bread or 4 cups of steamed zucchini. It has almost as much protein as it does carbohydrate. It contains around 10% of the Daily Value for two key antioxidants; vitamins C and A. And for a plant food, it’s quite high in iron; it has about as much as a 4-ounce roasted chicken breast.”

Not too shabby, huh?

Prepared this way, edamame is delicious and quite addicting! Even the pickiest of eaters will definitely enjoy this treat. You can easily make this vegan by omitting the cheese. It is still delicious without the cheese too!

Crispy Parmesan Edamame

Ingredients:

  • 1 12 oz bag frozen shelled edamame (preferably thawed, but if not, increase baking time to 25 minutes)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

1). Preheat the oven to 400F.

2). Mix the edamame with a tablespoon of oil in a 9×13 baking dish. Spread into a single layer and sprinkle parmesan, salt, and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes (or 25 minutes if still partially frozen).

IMG_20130413_192017

Servings: 4. Nutritional Information per Serving: Calories: 141 Fat: 8.5g Protein: 10.3 g Fiber: 2.9g  Carbs: 7.7g Sodium: 149 mg

Recipe adapted from allrecipes. com