Easy Vegan Pumpkin Spice Granola

maple-leaves-mixed-fall-colors-background-david-gn

Fall officially started two days ago.  Temperatures in most of the United States (not here in Southern California, of course) have begun dropping and falling leaves are all over the ground with colors ranging from light green to yellow, orange, red and brown.  But to a very large, very loyal, bordering on fanatical. portion of society, MOST importantly it’s #PumpkinSpice everything season.

In keeping with the season, and my requirement that as many of the recipes I share be quick, easy & don’t require ingredients I can’t find at my local grocery stores, enjoy this granola recipe, found on Blissful Basil, that also fulfills a category I don’t usually include: it’s vegan!

Vegan Pumpkin Spice Granola ClustersSuper-Clustery-Pumpkin-Spice-Granola-1691

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats*
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 3/4 cup raw shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/2 cup raw pecan halves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup creamy unsalted almond butter
  • 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  1. Preheat oven to 275F. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Add the rolled oats, coconut flakes, pepitas, and pecans to a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.
  3. In a medium saucepan, whisk together the maple syrup, almond butter, coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, and sea salt over low heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until smooth and glossy. Pour over the oat mixture and stir very thoroughly to combine (you want every last bit of the dry mixture to be evenly coated).
  4. Turn the mixture out onto the lined baking tray and use a fork to gently nudge it across the pan, spreading it into an even layer that’s just shy of 1/2 inch thick. It’s okay if there are gaps or holes between clumps of granola.
  5. Bake for 38 to 48 minutes, or until the top is light golden-brown, the granola near the edges of the pan is just beginning to turn deep golden-brown, and the granola feels dry and firm but not yet crisp to the touch. (Note: I recommend keeping a watchful eye on it and checking it a few times as it bakes. Granola doesn’t become crisp and crunchy until it’s had a chance to cool, so rely on look and scent more than touch or you’ll end up with burnt granola.)
  6. Once the granola is ready, remove the pan from the oven and place it on an oven-safe cooling rack to allow air to circulate beneath and around the pan to efficiently cool and crisp the granola.
  7. Allow the granola to cool completely on the pan until it’s not even the slightest bit warm to the touch. If you start moving it around or try to break it into clusters while it’s still warm, it will crumble. I recommend a minimum 45 minutes of cool time at room temperature, but try to hold out for 1 hour if you can.
  8. Once the granola is completely cool, break it into pieces of desired size and store in large airtight glass jars to maintain its crunch.

This granola can be enjoyed many ways:

  • Crumble over plain or vanilla yogurt
  • Drop chunks over ice cream (my guilty pleasure)
  • Pile in a bowl, top with berries and/or some bananas and milk for breakfast; or
  • Eat the clusters straight from the jar

You can’t go wrong, no matter how you enjoy these.  #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Cantaloupe, Prosciutto & Arugula Salad

Cantalope-Salad-7576_0

It’s been TOO DAMN HOT to cook this week.  When not wearing out my #DoorDash app, I’ve been looking for as many cold dinner solutions as possible.  I found one I love on Emeril Lagasse’s website: www.emerils.com.

It’s quick & easy to throw together and pairs well with pre-cooked, chilled jumbo shrimp or  maybe a sandwich made from a leftover store-bought rotisserie chicken or deli turkey breast.  Add a glass of perfectly chilled Sauvignon Blanc with melon undertones, like the 2014 Westerly Sauvignon Blanc has, and you have a terrific weeknight meal!

Cantaloupe, Prosciutto, & Arugula Salad

  • 1/4 cup champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil or vegetable-olive oil blend
  • 1 tablespoon minced mixed fresh herbs (such as basil, chives, and parsley)
  • 8 ounces fresh arugula, rinsed and spun dry
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1 cantaloupe, halved, seeded, peeled, and cut into thin wedges
  • 6 to 8 thin slices prosciutto, torn into bite-size pieces

In a mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, shallot, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper and whisk to combine. While continuously whisking, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until completely incorporated. Whisk in the herbs, and set aside while you prepare the salad.

In a large bowl, combine the arugula and red onion. Drizzle in 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette to taste, if desired, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Toss gently to combine.

Arrange the cantaloupe wedges on a large serving plate, top with the arugula salad and the prosciutto. Serve immediately.

**Tip:  Any unused vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to flipflopwineglass2 days.

A nice big pile of this salad and cold glass of Westerly Sauvignon Blanc in my sassy Lolita wine glass is sure to make me feel instantly cooler! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Chicken with Peaches & Ginger

chicken-peaches-gingerI hate the fuzz on fresh peaches but, on a whim, I grabbed a half dozen at the store this week because they smelled so damn good.  Women’s Day Magazine had a recipe that satisfied my criteria for weeknight meals: simple ingredients and under 30 minutes to prepare!  I’m not a fan of couscous, so I mad one minor change to the recipe and substituted quinoa.

Chicken with Peaches & Ginger

  • 1 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
  • (6-oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Medium  Fresh (peeled & sliced) or 12 oz. frozen peaches (no need to defrost)
  • 1 TBSP packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • Fresh chopped basil or parsley, for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Season the chicken with 1⁄2 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook on one side until golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
  2. Flip, cook for 1 minute, then scatter the peaches, sugar, thyme, and ginger over and around the chicken.
  3. Add the white wine, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the peaches are warm and starting to break down at the edges, 6 to 7 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package directions. Serve the chicken, peaches and sauce over the quinoa and sprinkle with basil or parsley, if desired.

PER SERVING

  • 449 CAL
  • 8 G FAT (1.5 G SAT FAT)
  • 124 MG CHOL
  • 324 MG SOD
  • 44 G PRO
  • 47 G CAR
  • 3 G FIBER

Wine pairing suggestions:

WesterlySauvBlanc14
2014 Westerly Wines

 

Trinitas2014SauvBlanc
2014 Trinitas Cellars

 

alphaomegasauvblanc15
2015 Alpha Omega
ghostblockmorganleesauvblanc15
2015 Ghost Block

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

It’s finally cool enough in California, at least once the sun goes down, to justify getting the stock pot out to make a hearty soup that can serve as dinner with a big salad & crusty bread that can then live on as a couple of workday lunches too!  Great for the wallet AND the waistline!  This soup is so rich, and has such depth of flavor, that it seems like a cheat meal, which is a plus during the non-stop holiday feast season.

Tart & Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1  –  2 to 2+1/2 lb Butternut Squash (Peeled/Seeded/Chopped into about 1″ Cubes)
  • 1  –  Large Granny Smith Apple (Cut into about 1″ Pieces – seeds/core/stem removed)
  • 3  –  Large Ribs Celery Chopped
  • 3  –  Carrots (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 1  –  Medium Yellow Onion (Peeled/Chopped into about 1″ Pieces)
  • 4  –  TBLS Butter
  • 1  –  32 oz Container Organic Chicken Stock
  • 1+1/2 Cups Water
  • Freshly Grated Sea Salt (To Taste)
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper (To Taste)
  • Freshly Ground Nutmeg (1/4 tsp)
  • Cinnamon (1/2 to 1 tsp)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Pinch to 1/8th tsp)
  • Chopped Parsley (if desired)

Melt the butter in a medium stockpot and add the onions, carrot and celery.  Sauté over low heat about 10 minutes.  When onions just start to brown, add the squash, apple, salt, pepper, chicken stock and water.  Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring just to a boil.  When bubbles appear at the edges of the pan, reduce heat to low.  Cover pan tightly and simmer soup for 45 minutes until squash is completely softened.

Remove soup from heat and either process soup until smooth using your blender (I use my Vitamix) and returning to the pan after processed or an immersion blender as shown in the video.

Once soup is smooth, add the Nutmeg, Cinnamon and Cayenne.  Adjust spices to taste.

I came across a video that uses the same technique I use to make my soup, with slightly different measurements, and it’s much prettier, so I’ll give the standard #ShoutOut and #HighFive to Simply Recipes for producing a great (and quick) video that I can also use to demonstrate how to assemble my soup!

I’ve already been remiss at keeping up with my blog, so not having to produce a video is a definite bonus! #ThisGirlLovesToEat

Eat All You Want & Don’t Gain! Really!

fruitsEveryone who follows this blog regularly knows that #ThisGirlLovesToEat.  Anything that lets me eat unregulated amounts of food that I like, except kale #IHateKale, without bursting out of my jeans is something that is going to catch my attention. Sounds unlikely?  I know, I doubt it too, but I’m willing to be a guinea pig!

According to scientists, you can eat as much of these 14 foods and not gain any weight due to their high water and low-starch fiber content while containing very few calories.

These foods are not high in muscle building (and fat burning) protein, but they are filled with vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.

Celery:celery

  • 95% Water
  • Contains potassium, folate, fiber, and 30% of your daily requirement of vitamin K
  • Has about 6 calories per serving
  • Eat when fresh – celery loses most of it’s nutritional benefits after 5-7 days

Kale:

  • One of the few foods that contains an Omega 3 Fatty Acid
  • 1 Cup has about 33 calories
  • High in vitamins and folate

Blueberries:three-blueberries

  • Champion in the Antioxidant world – has more than any other fruit
  • 1 cup has about 85 calories
  • 1 cup has 14% of the recommended daily requirement of fiber

Cucumbers:

  • 96% Water
  • 16 calories per serving
  • Seeds and skin contain most of the Fiber and Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene) which is good for your eyes

Tomatoes:tomatoes

  • Contain lycopene, a carotenoid, which helps fight against chronic diseases
  • High in vitamins A, C, and B2, as well as folate, chromium, potassium, and fiber
  • 1 medium-sized tomato has about 25 calories

Grapefruit:

  • High in fiber, which stabilizes blood sugar helps you feel fuller for longer
  • 1/2 a grapefruit has about 50 calories
  • High in Vitamin C and folate
  • Grapefruit has been found to help in weight loss, lowering cholesterol, and improving digestion

Broccoli:Broccoli

  • Contains an anticarcinogen known as sulforaphane
  • Most nutritious when eaten raw or steamed
  • Contains vitamins A, C, E, and K
  • 1 serving contains 20% of your daily fiber requirement
  • 1 serving has about 31 calories

Cantaloupe:cantaloupeandhoneydow

  • Contains beta carotene, a form of vitamin A that promotes healthy eyes
  • Contains potassium
  • Contains more than 100% of your daily recommended value of vitamins A and C
  • 90% Water
  • 1 serving has about 55 calories

Cauliflower:

  • Contains antioxidants and phytochemicals to help fight off chronic disease
  • An excellent source of folate, fiber, and vitamins C and K
  • Has about 25 calories per serving

Blackberries:The blackberry

  • Blackberries can help your brain to stay alert
  • Rich in vitamin C as well as antioxidants known as bioflavonoids
  • Can aid with digestion
  • Tightens tissue, leading to younger-looking skin
  • 1 serving has about 62 calories

Lettuce:

  • Whether Romaine, Green Leaf, Red Leaf, Romain, etc.: 96% Water
  • Folate, iron, and vitamins A and C
  • 1 serving has 10 to 20 calories

Oranges:

  • High in Vitamin C which is crucial in collagen production: oranges help keep skin free of damage and looking good
  • Medium orange has about 80 calories
  • You need to eat the white stuff under an orange’s skin (pith) it contains a lot of fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Strawberries:strawberries-on-white-plate

  • Fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free (healthy for the heart)
  • More vitamin C in one serving of strawberries than there is in one orange
  • Tons of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant
  • A good source of potassium and fiber
  • 1 Cup of strawberries has about 50 calories

Honeydew Melons:

  • Only slightly more calories per serving than cantaloupe (64)
  • Contains over half of the recommended daily value of vitamin C
  • Contains over half of the recommended daily value of copper, which is crucial for healthy skin

If you are interested in more scientific details, you can read the original article on INSIDER.

If you’re interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to like:  health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, gadget reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a community page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

home-artichokeI love living in Southern California where there is the availability of local fruits and vegetables in the stores, as well as what is trucked and flown in from around the country and from other parts of the world, pretty much year-round.  It really makes cooking and eating fun! #ThisGirlLovesToEat 

One of the few things that I do have to be patient for are artichokes.  Nowhere grows them as big and meaty as we do in California.  In fact, 99.99% of all commercially grown artichokes are grown in California. 

CAF_fest_logo-2017Since I happen to love them, it’s a pretty good thing that Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom named artichokes the Official State Vegetable of California on April 10, 2013.  Artichokes from California are so fabulous that they’ve had their own festival for the past 56 years: Castroville Artichoke Food & Wine Festival.

Some people dip their leaves in mayonnaise (which makes me want to gag), others in various aiolis, dips or other concoctions, but I’ve been a ridiculous creature of habit for as long as I can remember, eating my artichokes one way and one way only: dipping each succulent leaf into a bowl of melted butter.  Occasionally I may deviate in the preparation of the steam that surrounds my artichoke, adding some white wine, maybe some garlic or some lemon to the water, but I never deviate on my buttery leaf bath.  Until now.

This long forgotten recipe I’d clipped from the May 2007 edition of Cooking Light Magazine convinced me to change my ways (at least temporarily).

artichokes-dip-ck-1622453-x

Artichokes With Roasted Garlic Wine Dip

  • 2 whole garlic heads
  • 4 medium artichokes (about 3 1/2 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup organic vegetable broth (such as Swanson Certified Organic)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Chopped fresh parsley
  1. Preheat Oven to 400° F.
  2. Remove white papery skin from garlic heads (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap each head separately in foil. Bake at 400° F for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.
  3. Cut off stems of artichokes, and remove bottom leaves. Trim about 1/2 inch from tops of artichokes. Place artichokes, stem ends down, in a large Dutch oven filled two-thirds with water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes or until a leaf near the center of each artichoke pulls out easily. Remove artichokes from pan.
  4. Combine half of garlic pulp and wine in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Add broth; cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 8 minutes). Remove from heat; stir in butter and salt. Pour mixture into a blender; add remaining half of garlic pulp. Remove center piece of blender lid (to allow steam to escape); secure blender lid on blender. Place a clean towel over opening in blender lid (to avoid splatters). Blend until smooth. Sprinkle dip with parsley, if desired. Serve dip with warm artichokes.

If you’re interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to like:  health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, gadget reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a community page on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood

Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

I wanted to make something healthy for an impromptu, no occasion, mid-week family gathering but didn’t want to spend all day in the kitchen prepping.  I thought about a simple ground sirloin meatloaf and a salad, but meatloaf, even with ground sirloin, screams, “Boring!”.

Having just gone to the grocery store yesterday, I was SO not in the mood to go again today.  Thankfully a dive into the freezer led to a discovery of 2 pounds of frozen ground chicken breast and 3 pounds of handmade gourmet chicken sausage I’d had to freeze due to family drama derailing a dinner a couple of weeks ago!  A quick check of the pantry confirmed that I still had a jar of the amazing Gia Russa Hot Sicilian Marinara I’d come across at World Market, I always have pasta, Parmesan & mozzarella and the makings for a green salad, so dinner is handled!  Whew…

chixparmml3

Spicy Chicken Parmesan Meatloaf

  • 1 TBLS Olive Oil or butter
  • 2 pounds ground chicken breast
  • 3 chicken “Italian” sausages
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 – 14.5 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained (these are a bit spicy, you can use diced tomatoes instead)
  • 3/4 cup seasoned Panko crumbs
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1+1/2 cups marinara sauce (I use a spicy sauce)
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

First Prepare the Sausages:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F
  2. Place the sausages into a rimmed baking pan.
  3. Cook for 30-45 minutes (depending on how big the sausages are) until casings begin to brown.
  4. Remove sausages from the oven and set aside to cool.
  5. Reduce oven temperature to 350°F
  6. In the bowl of your stand mixer, with the paddle or dough hook attachment, combine the ground chicken, eggs, Panko, tomatoes, garlic, 1/4 Cup of the marinara sauce, and Parmesan cheese.
  7. Using a sharp / serrated knife, slice the sausage links into rounds.
  8. There isn’t much fat in the ground chicken breast, so, using about a tablespoon of le-creuset-heritage-covered-square-cherry-red-baking-disholive oil or butter, grease the bottom and sides of your chosen baking dish. NOTE:  I use a Le Cruset® square 3 QT Covered Baking Dish so I can keep it warm out of the oven and at the table.
  9. Take approximately 1/4 cup of the marinara sauce and spread it along the bottom of the pan then layer 1/2 of your sausage slices on top of the sauce.
  10. Mound 1/2 of your ground chicken mixture into the pan then layer the rest of your chixparmml1slices on top of that. (This is why I use the larger, square shaped pan.
  11. Mound the rest of the ground chicken mixture on top of the second layer of sausage slices then, using your hands (or a pair of rubber spatulas) shape the meat in from the sides to form a loaf mounding up towards the middle.
  12. Top the meatloaf with the rest of the marinara sauce allowing it to spill down the sides.  NOTE:  You can prepare up to this point, cover and store in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.  If you are going to do that, allow to sit on the counter while you are waiting for the oven to preheat.chixparmml2
  13. Bake for 60-65 minutes or until chicken is cooked (insert instant read thermometer into the center of loaf should read 165°F).
  14. When done remove and add the mozzarella cheese on top.
  15. If you have extra marinara sauce, put into a small saucepan and warm to serve alongside slices if desired.
  16. Return the meatloaf to the oven until the cheese is melted.
  17. Remove from the oven and let the meatloaf rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.
  • Prepare some wide egg noodles, fettuccini, angel hair, spaghetti, or spaghettini.
  • Drain.
  • Toss warm pasta with some butter or olive oil and grated parmesan cheese.
  • Pile some pasta in the center of the plate, then lay a thick slice of the meatloaf atop the pasta.
  • If you have warmed some of the extra sauce, ladle a bit of it on top of the meat and grate a bit more fresh Parmesan (or shake some out of the green can) cheese on top.
  • Toss a crisp green salad and dinner is served. #ThisGirlLovesToEat

The meatloaf came out moist and didn’t end up needing the extra sauce.  When I reheated the extra slices in the microwave the next day I added the sauce.

If you are interested in the things I may not devote an entire blog post to like:  health articles, my favorite recipes, fun drinks, food facts, nutritional information, restaurant reviews, photos and other things that make my mouth water, I have a community page on Facebook you can visit: https://www.facebook.com/ThisGirlLovesHerFood