Gingerbread Granola

Granola gets amped up for the holidays with traditional gingerbread touches. Molasses gives the oats and toasty pecans a beautiful color and rich flavor. The addicting blend of spices mirrors the taste of a warm, thick slice of gingerbread.

 Hunger has virtually nothing to do with my uncontrolled consumption of this granola. I can’t keep my hand out of the jar or stop myself from pouring a bowl with almond milk for an “anytime” snack.

I keep imagining it on top of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt, mixed into waffle or pancake batter, or topped with a dollop of lemon curd.

This recipe is a simple way to infuse the flavors of a holiday staple into a pantry staple.  I may never go back to regular granola…

Adapted from a recipe by Alton Brown.  I love the dry, crispy texture of this granola and it still manages to clump together. So tasty on top of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt.

Gingerbread Granola
Author: Emily C. Gardner
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 1 hour 15 mins
Total time: 1 hour 25 mins
This recipe is a simple way to infuse the flavors of a holiday staple into a pantry staple. I may never go back to regular granola. Adapted from Alton Brown.
Ingredients
  • 4 cups old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk together molasses, oil, and salt. Combine both mixtures. Work the liquid mixture into the oat mixture until everything is moistened.
  4. Pour onto sheet pan. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color. Remove from oven and let the granola come to room temperature in the pan.
  5. Add mix-ins* if desired and store in an airtight container.
  6. *Suggested mix-ins: golden raisins, yogurt chips, Craisins, white chocolate chips

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

In addition to November 1st, when Starbucks rolls out the red cups, one of my favorite events on the food calendar is when Trader Joe’s goes pumpkin.

Pumpkin products crop up in every section of the store.  Pumpkin Spice Cake. Pumpkin Spiced Coffee.  Pumpkin Cream Cheese.  Pumpkin Spiced Chai.  Pumpkin Ice Cream. Pumpkin Bread Mix.  Pumpkin Butter.  Pumpkin Soup.  Pumpkin Spiced Granola.  They even sell Pumpkin Tree Bunches.

Trader Joe’s in October and November is truly pumpkin heaven.

Plus, TJ’s keeps adding to their pumpkin arsenal.  On my mom’s recommendation, I picked up a container of Pumpkin Greek Yogurt.  Oh boy, is it good!  The texture is thick and creamy like you would expect out of a high quality greek yogurt and the pumpkin flavor is strong, with a perfect balance of autumnal spices.

Since the nearest Trader Joe’s is 32 miles away, I wanted to replicate it at home.  And I thought I could do it for less calories.  Turned out to be an easy project. Simply mix your favorite greek yogurt with pumpkin puree, spices and sweetener of choice.

The recipe reflects my choice to make individual servings, but the ingredients are easily multiplied to create a bigger batch.

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt

My absolute favorite greek yogurt is Chobani.  I used 0% Vanilla Chobani, but you can use plain, or whatever brand or fat content you like.  This yogurt is delicious by itself, as a vehicle for granola, and would be a delicious dip for gingersnaps or graham crackers. Try sprinkling it with Gingerbread Granola for the perfect Autumn breakfast or snack!

Pumpkin Greek Yogurt
Author: Emily C. Gardner
The amounts listed are for an individual serving. Increase proportions to make a large batch. 150 calories per individual serving.
Ingredients
  • 3/4 cup (6 oz) 0% Chobani greek yogurt (plain or vanilla)
  • 1/4 cup (2 oz) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Smidgen (see pic above for visual) ground ginger
  • Smidgen ground nutmeg
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients until well combined.

Sugar Crusted Pecans

There’s really too much to say about how good these Sugar Crusted Pecans taste.

A low, slow bake in the oven makes the nuts toasty underneath their sweet, sugary coating.  Using egg white to bind the pecans and sugar together creates the crispy texture I find so addicting.

If there are any pecans that survive my constant grazing, I use them to top salads or oatmeal.

Aside from the pecans, the ingredients are kitchen staples.  Plus, a simple “Rule of One” makes the recipe easy to remember: all the ingredients have an amount of one – 1 pound, 1 cup, 1 tablespoon, etc.

Sugar-Crusted Pecans

  • 1 lb pecan halves
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk egg white and water until it becomes frothy.

Add pecans and stir until all nuts are moistened with the egg white mixture.

Sprinkle sugar and salt over nuts and stir to coat.

Pour nuts onto prepared jelly roll pan, spreading them into an even layer.

Bake for 45 minutes, stirring often to avoid burning.

Cool in pan.  Store in an airtight container. (I usually keep mine in the freezer)

Banana Cream Smoothie

Living right across the street from a state-of-the-art gym has increased my workout regularity, so, I’ve been on the lookout for good “recovery” foods.  Normally my recovery habits include chocolate and bread.  My much more workout savvy husband finally convinced me those weren’t the best foods to replenish the nutrients I loose running and such. Foiled.  He suggested an electrolyte drink like Accelerade (gag!) and/or starchy fruit.

Since I despise Accelerade, I compromised and settled on a meal replacement shake mix.  I’m cheap, thus, given the option between Slim Fast and generic, I went with generic.  Not a bad choice if I do say so myself.  The French Vanilla (Kroger) variety tastes exactly like cake batter!  I had been mixing it with almond milk, which was quite satisfying, but had a banana lying around and decided I might get “recovery” brownie points if I included a fruit in my shake.  Plus, I just purchased a food processor and wanted to give it a whirl…

I’m not normally a pureed banana fan.  In fact, it’s only been in the last few years that I would classify myself as a banana fan at all.  Something about a malleable, potentially mushy, substance was always off-putting to me.  (What’s with me and my weird food texture aversions? Refer to carrot confession…)  With the help of copious amounts of peanut butter, I began to build a tolerance, then a liking, for the ubiquitous yellow fruit.

My jogging scenery: sun setting behind the Spokane River along the Centennial Trail.

After my 4+ mile jog along the Centennial  Trail yesterday evening, I broke out the Cuisinart and downed the results.  Three ingredients and a minute of prep yielded a frothy, stick to the side of the cup concoction that I would be happy to recover with anytime.  It tastes like a banana cream pie in smoothie form.  All for 250 calories.  Score!

Banana Cream Smoothie

1 cup Unsweetened Almond Milk (I used Almond Breeze)

1 medium (6″-7″) banana

1 scoop vanilla shake mix (French Vanilla Kroger brand or Slim Fast)

Peel banana and place in blender or food processor.  Add almond milk and shake mix.  Blend until smooth.  Pour into glass (chilled would be lovely) and enjoy!

Yield: 1 smoothie, 250 calories

Adding a tablespoon of peanut butter to this smoothie would be utterly delicious.  Regular peanut butter would make the smoothie 345 calories, Better N’ Peanut Butter would make it 300.

Greek Yogurt Ranch Dip

At the risk of sounding a tad bit crazy, I have to admit that I’ve always found raw carrots difficult to eat.  All those orange fibers don’t seem to go down without a fight.  No matter how much I chew or how small the carrot is to begin with, swallowing is quite the challenge.

After some trial and error, I discovered that a little lubrication helps the consumption process.  My favorite carrot combination is ranch dressing, but sometimes I feel bad about eating those healthy veggies slathered in preservative-heavy bottled dressing (especially since I go with the processed light version).

Yesterday, a perfect storm of circumstances led me to create a better version of my go-to snack.  Our belongings are still in transit which means no kitchen supplies except two knives, two forks, and paper plates.  We subsist on food out or food we can whip up with minimal gear required.  On a recent grocery store trip, a two-pound bag of baby carrots found its way into our Fred Meyer cart, along with Greek yogurt (on sale!) and a packet of ranch dressing mix.

A quick stir (with a knife, of course) and short stay in the fridge later, there was a thick, creamy, ranch dressing substitute waiting to guide those carrots down my gullet.

Plus, greek yogurt has more protein compared to salad dressing or sour cream*

Ranch Greek Yogurt Dip

  • 1 (16 oz) container 0% plain greek yogurt (Chobani is my favorite)
  • 1 – 2 (1 oz) packets of ranch dressing mix

Mix contents of dressing packets into greek yogurt until evenly dispersed.  Dip away!  Flavors will be more pronounced over time.  I used two packets of dressing mix because greek yogurt is a strong base flavor, but one is totally sufficient.

This dip would be a great substitute for mayonnaise on a sandwich.  It would also make a killer alternative to the mayo/sour cream in this Parmesan Crusted Chicken recipe floating around Pinterest.

* Per 2 tablespoons: light ranch dressing – 0g protein, light sour cream – 2 g protein, greek yogurt – 3g protein