Monday, September 25, 2006

Making Healthy Trails Mix Granola

If prepared properly, granola can be a great healthy food to enjoy throughout the day.
You can enjoy a bowl for breakfast, as a cereal. It can be enjoyed as a snack throughout the day. And, it is a great item to take along with you on your trail hikes. It is lightweight, easy to carry, and convenient to use. So, how do you make trail mix granola?

First of all, I say ‘prepared properly’ because many manufacturers put too much oil, sweetener, and added fillers in. Even some cookbook recipes call for too much oil. By making your own healthy version, you control what ingredients go into your mixture. That is one comforting feature of making your own trail mix granola.

Preparing your granola is best done in large batches. Granola stores easily, in airtight containers, and lasts awhile. Sometimes I store mine in gallon-size freezer bags. It works out great.

For our healthier version of trail mix granola, we substitute some fruit juice for oil. I find apple juice works best. Pear juice concentrate works just as well, however. The fruit juice adds an extra pizzazz and is a welcomed treat!

Here is what you need to make your trail mix granola:

Large skillet
Couple large baking sheets

Recipe/Ingredients: serves 10
(fractions are written out to help with software conversions)

One-quarter cup frozen apple juice concentrate
2 tablespoons butter
one-quarter cup frozen orange juice concentrate
one-half cup raisins
one-quarter cup unsweetened coconut
one-quarter cup dried apple chunks
one-quarter cup dates, chopped
one-quarter cup dried blueberries
one-quarter cup almonds, chopped
5 cups oats

Preheat oven to 350.
1) In large skillet, combine juices and butter.
2) Over medium heat, cook until butter melts. Stir.
3) Meanwhile, place oats into large bowl.
4) Pour juice/butter mixture over oats and fold in with large wooden spoon to evenly distribute. This is your oat mixture.
5) Spread oat mixture onto large nonstick baking sheet (maybe two). Or, lightly spritz nonstick baking sheets with oil.
6) Bake in 350 oven until granola is crispy. Not more than 15 minutes. Granola burns easily, so watch carefully.
7) Remove baking sheet from oven to a cooling rack.
8) Let granola cool thoroughly.
9) Remove granola from baking sheet.
10) Place granola into large bowl, and break up any large chunks. Add remaining ingredients and mix thoroughly.
11) Store in airtight container. Glass jars are great for storage.
12) Serve as a snack, mixed with yogurt, on cereal, as part of a fruit crisp, or topping for a pie. Or, simply enjoy on a hiking venture.
13) Just use your imagination! Enjoy!

Your homemade healthy trail mix granola will provide you with great taste, convenience, and variety!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Autumn Squash Delights

Autumn season is harvest time for a multitude of delicious and versatile squashes. Everyone seems to have their favorite, and it’s fun to experiment with them to find new uses.

For an alternative to pasta, try some spaghetti squash. These yellow ghords can easily be cut into quarters lengthwise and either steamed or baked. I prefer steaming for time’s sake. Once cooked, simply scoop out squash with a spoon. It will automatically separate into strands, reminiscent of spaghetti. It is great with some spaghetti sauce on top with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Or, mix with a little oil and some herbs.

Acorn squash is another delectable favorite. They are great simply cut in half and (with seeds removed) baked in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes. Poke with fork for doneness. Once done, put a dab of butter on (if desired) and sprinkle with brown sugar. My favorite is cutting the squash into cubes (it’s muscle work!) and steaming it. Once steamed, I remove the peel, discard it, and either eat the squash as is or mash with some butter and garlic. Very easy, very tasty!