Food

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

1

Posted on Sep 3, 2014 in Food

I’m not a very good baker.

There is something very scientific about baking. It’s about chemical reactions and precise measurements, and that’s just not the way my brain works. In fact, when I first started recipe development, it took me a good year to get used to actually measuring ingredients so I could make note of amounts.

While baking does have a creative aspect to it, I find cooking to be a much more artistic way of expressing myself with food. That’s why you don’t see a whole lot of baking recipes around here. And when I do post a baking recipe, I’ve tested it approximately 5,000 times to make sure all the measurements are right. I’m just not very confident when it comes to the oven.

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

That’s one of the reasons that no-bake cookies are one of my favorite cookies on the planet. No needing to worry about if you put in too much baking soda or not enough flour. No-bakes pretty much turn out perfectly every single time. And, considering we’re going through a heatwave right now and baking heats up our house better than our furnace does, I’m a big fan of not turning on the oven.

The traditional no-bake cookie is a chocolate-oat-peanut butter combo that is hard to improve upon, but I went a little bit rogue with this version and used coconut, peanut butter, and this awesome protein-packed granola from Nature Valley™.

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

I’m a big believer that there is plenty of room in a healthy lifestyle to eat a treat every now and again, but I also believe that if you have the opportunity to make something a little bit better for you—you might as well take every chance you can get. I liked the idea that with these cookies, not only are you getting a delicious after-dinner treat, but you’re also getting a boost of protein and healthy fiber from the granola. 1/2 cup Nature Valley™ Protein Granola provides 10 grams of protein and 22-26 grams of whole grain per serving.  Considering the recommended daily allowance of whole grain is 48 grams—you can be well on your way to meeting that goal just with one serving of this granola for breakfast!

We’ve been eating this granola on top of some massive yogurt bowls (usually with coconut milk yogurt, fresh peaches, and chia seeds). And I also may have snuck a bowl or two to eat as a midnight snack. I really like the fact that it’s a quick and easy way to get some protein—without having to cook up a steak at 3am. My only wish is that the granola itself was a bit lower in sugar. I’d much prefer to be able to have a less sweet granola, and then add my own sweetener (like honey or maple syrup) when I use it so I can control the sweetness. That isn’t a problem when you’re making cookies, though!

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

I’m not the only one that thought of cooking with granola. Nature Valley™ has a great section of recipes that all focus on cooking with granola. Many of them are using granola in ways I never thought of (like Granola Crusted Salmon).

Enjoy!

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Coconut Granola No Bake Cookies

These easy no bake cookies are packed full of coconut, peanut butter flavor and have an added crunch of granola!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 4 cups Nature Valley™ Protein Granola
  • 2 cups unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan over high heat, mix together the sugar, coconut milk, and coconut oil. Bring to a rolling boil, and let boil for 90 seconds. Add in the vanilla, salt, and peanut butter. Stir until well-mixed. Remove from heat.
  2. Fold in the granola and coconut and stir until well incorporated.
  3. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto waxed paper and let cool and solidify before storing. To speed up setting up, place in fridge or freezer.
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Cuban Slaw

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Posted on Aug 29, 2014 in Food

Cuban Slaw

Cuban Slaw

Do you share recipes in your family? I come from a pretty large family (I have three older siblings, and we are all married and have kids), and we’re all big fans of cooking and eating. And whenever we land on a delicious recipe, it normally ends up spreading through the family like wildfire. There are so many dishes in my recipe binder that come from my sisters’ and my Mama’s kitchens (and quite a few from my grandmother who passed away a few years ago).

The sharing of family recipes is how I came into this Cuban Slaw recipe. It originally comes from the kitchen of my sister-in-law, who is a spectacular vegetarian cook (and has the most incredible cookbook collection I’ve ever seen). And she passed it along to my Mama, who told me it was an absolute must try. Slaw recipes tend to be ho-hum, but there is something really incredible about this combination. It’s such a simple recipe, but the flavor is anything but simple.

Cuban Slaw

This slaw works as a side dish, but it really shines when you use it like a condiment. We ate it on top of chipotle-lime chicken thighs, and then the next night on top of burgers. I’d also imagine it would make one heck of a delicious filling for fish tacos (make some and then invite me over, k?). And the next time I make pulled barbecue, I’m going to whip up a batch of this slaw to go on top of the sandwiches.

Cuban Slaw

Of course, I couldn’t exactly follow the recipe from my sister-in-law’s kitchen. I’ve never met a recipe I could follow to a “T”. I did some tweaking to suit our tastes—adding a touch of sweetness to the dressing in the form of honey, and subbing out the white vinegar the recipe calls for for unfiltered apple cider vinegar (which is so delicious and so super-duper good for you). The original recipe also calls for 1-2 jalapeños, and I found that even one seeded jalapeño was a bit too spicy for our mild-loving taste buds. But that’s because we’re totally wimps when it comes to spiciness! I imagine for most folks, 1-2 peppers would be the perfect amount of kick.

I love that this recipe is both oil- and mayo-free. So often slaw is drowning in oily dressing, but this vinegar-based dressing is light and healthy—it really let’s the flavor of the veggies shine through. And it keeps this side dish a light option for the late, crazy hot days of summer.

Cuban Slaw

You could definitely spend some time doctoring up this recipe more, but I recommend trying it straight-up first—you’ll be surprised by how intense and layered the flavors of this slaw are. Just make sure you don’t ignore the chilling time, it’s really important to get the flavors to meld!

I love simple recipes that don’t taste simple. Enjoy!

Cuban Slaw

Total Time: 3 hours, 10 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Cuban Slaw

This super healthy, bright and colorful slaw is both oil- and mayo-free! But it's packed with layered, intense flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 large head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, finely minced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
  • 1/4 cup finely minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Toss together the cabbage, jalapeño, carrots and cilantro in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the salt, oregano, vinegar and maple syrup. Pour dressing over cabbage mixture, toss to coat.
  3. Chill for at least three hours before serving, preferably overnight.
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Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips with Blue Diamond Almonds

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Posted on Aug 26, 2014 in Food

Super Easy Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips (Baked!)

There are no less than three really delicious fried chicken places within a 10 minute drive of my house. I’m not talking KFC here (trust me, there is absolutely no one who lives in Kentuckiana that actually thinks KFC is good fried chicken). I’m talking restaurants that pan-fry their chicken in a giant, old, well-seasoned cast-iron skillets and serve it up family style with giant bowls of mashed potatoes, Southern-style green beans and chicken ‘n’ dumplins. And probably with some biscuits on the side. And you wash it all down with a big glass of tea that’s so sweet it’ll rot your teeth.

It’s the kind of restaurant that you only go to once a year because you feel so uncomfortably full after you’re done eating that it takes a whole 365 days to recover and want to sign up to do it all over again. It’s masochism, really.

This is not that fried chicken.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

I think I’ve only made traditional pan-fried chicken at home once, and while it was delicious, it was also time-consuming, messy, and, honestly, kinda annoying to sit there and baby sit pieces of chicken while they bathed in oil. I much prefer doing a bake-fried method when I’m craving fried chicken. Not only is it 100% easier, but it’s also, obviously, a much healthier option for everyday eating. My family’s standard baked-fried chicken recipe uses whole grain cereal to get its crunchy texture—and it’s awesome. It’s a tried and true method that has been gracing our dinner table since I was a kid.

But I have a second, equally awesome method for making crispy, flavorful “fried” chicken in the oven, and that’s the heart-healthy almond.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

The great thing about crusting your chicken in almonds is that you aren’t just adding something for texture (which, is awesome, because almonds are crunchy by nature and keep that crunch in the oven) or flavor (the almonds toast in the oven, which adds a beautiful slow-roasted flavor to the chicken), but because it adds a ton of nutrition to the chicken, too! You’re getting healthy fats, lean protein, good-for-you fiber, and a ton of vitamins and minerals added to the “batter” of your chicken. It’s like making chicken plus!

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Using flavored almonds also makes seasoning the chicken a snap. I chose to use one of Blue Diamond Almond’s new honey flavors—Honey Roasted Chipotle. It gave the chicken a slightly sweet, smoky pepper flavor that was out-of-this-world! And no need to pull out all the spices and herbs in your pantry—the flavor is built right in. That’s a heck of a lot easier than KFC’s 11 herbs and spices. Serve the strips up with a honey mustard sauce for dipping, and a nice cold beer, and you’ve got a no-fuss, super delicious weeknight dinner.

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

If the honey-chipotle flavor is a little bit too adventurous to serve to your kids, you can easily make these kid-friendly by subbing in all-natural, raw almonds for the flavored ones, plus adding in salt and black pepper to taste. The plain almonds still add tons of flavor and crunch to the strips, without any “weird” flavors that kiddos might reject.

Enjoy!

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Honey Chipotle Almond-Crusted Chicken Strips

This heart-healthy version of fried chicken is baked at home in your oven. By using crushed-up almonds to coat the chicken, you get a healthy, crunchy, flavorful chicken strip without any frying!

Ingredients

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup honey-chipotle flavored almonds
  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1" strips

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Using either a food processor, or a zip-top bag and a mallet, mash the almonds until crushed into fine crumbs. Mix with panko, and place in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  3. Whisk together the egg and water, place in another shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  4. Whisk together the flour, salt and pepper, place in another shallow dish or plate. Set aside.
  5. Dredge each chicken piece in the flour mixture, knocking off excess flour, followed by the egg mixture. Finally, press the chicken into the almond mixture, making sure to coat all sides. Place chicken on prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining pieces.
  6. Spray the tops of the chicken lightly with cooking spray, and bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken is golden brown, and reaches an internal temperature of 160°F.
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Shrimp and Pineapple Packets with Coconut-Cilantro Rice

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Posted on Aug 20, 2014 in Food

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

I’m not sure I could get through summer without my grill. I mean, I’m sure I’d figure out a way, but it’s definitely not something I want to do. We grill out nearly every single dinner in the summertime, and because of this frequency, we long ago stepped away from the grilling comfort zone of burgers and brats. To me, the grill is just another weapon in my kitchen arsenal, and I use it for way more than just grilling up some burgers. I make pizza on the grill. I roast veggies. Heck, I even make dessert on the grill! I think the grill is way more versatile than a lot of folks give it credit for.

When the fine folks at Reynolds asked me to throw a party on the grill, I knew my party food was going to break out of the box—no burgers or hot dogs here!

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

One of my favorite ways to grill up dinner is to cook food en papillote, which is just a fancy French way of saying to cook things up in cute little parchment paper packets. I love them so much because they are fast, really healthy (because you’re steaming the food), and there is virtually no clean up! Just toss the parchment when you’re done. These are perfect for summer entertaining. You get to spend more time hanging out with your guests instead of scrubbing pots and pans while everyone else has all the fun.

And the resulting food from parchment packets is always so incredibly tasty! This cooking method creates a delicious sauce from the juices of whatever you’re cooking—perfect for drizzling on top of your food when you serve. Typically, fish or seafood is the food you see most cooked en papillote, but you could cook virtually anything this way.

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

We always have a roll of parchment paper kicking around the kitchen. I usually try to shy away from disposable items in the kitchen, but to me, parchment is an indispensable kitchen tool. You can use it to make baking sheets non-stick. Roll it into a cone and use it to pipe on frosting. Wrap up baked goods with some and tie it with some baker’s twine for a pretty gift (I swear I won a cookie contest one time not just because my cookies were delicious, but because I wrapped them up all pretty in parchment and twine—presentation is everything).

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

This particular use of parchment paper is quite possibly one of my favorite meals I’ve ever posted on this blog (and that’s saying a lot considering there are 300+ recipes here!). We liked it so much we ate it twice within one week. The base is a creamy rice made with coconut milk, lime juice and a heavy hand of cilantro. I know there are a lot of cilantro haters out there (I’ve heard it’s a genetic thing—to some people, cilantro tastes soapy—crazy!), so you can easily leave it out and still have a super delicious dinner.

The juice from the pineapple, plus the honey-garlic marinade on the shrimp leaves you with this beautiful, sweet and tangy sauce when you open up the packet. Drizzle it on top of the rice, shrimp and pineapple—promise me you won’t throw it out!

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

If you’ve never made parchment packets before, the method is super easy (and, well, adorable). First up, you just cut a big ole heart out of the parchment paper. Do it second grade style by folding the parchment in half and drawing half a heart. Then you place your ingredients on one side, fold the heart closed, and the twist the two layers together, starting at the top of the heart and making your way down to the tail. Twist the tail tight, and you’ve got a nice little parchment packet.

Shrimp-Pineapple Packets with Cilantro-Coconut Rice

Enjoy!

Shrimp and Pineapple Packets with Creamy Coconut-Cilantro Rice

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

Shrimp and Pineapple Packets with Creamy Coconut-Cilantro Rice

Break outside the grilling box with these sweet and savory shrimp packets. Who needs burgers and hot dogs when you can grill up a meal like this?

Ingredients

    For the rice:
  • 2 cups lite coconut milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups rice
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • For the packets:
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound large raw shrimp
  • 8 thick-cut slices fresh pineapple (about one pineapple)

Instructions

  1. Begin rice by bringing the coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat in a saucepan.
  2. Add in the rice, reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered, stirring frequently, until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.
  3. Once the rice is tender, stir in the lime juice and zest and cilantro.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat the grill over medium-high heat.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Toss with the shrimp until well-coated.
  6. To assemble the packets, place two slices of pineapple on one side of each of four pieces of heart-shaped parchment paper. Divide the shrimp evenly on top of each of the packets. Drizzle with the remaining garlic-oil mixture.
  7. Seal the packets by folding the heart in half and twisting the edges closed. Place packets on preheated grill for 4-5 minutes, or until the shrimp is opaque and the pineapple is warm.
  8. To serve, layer the pineapple, shrimp and sauce over top of the rice. Use caution when opening the packets—the steam is hot!
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Cauliflower “Potato” Salad

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Posted on Aug 14, 2014 in Food

cauliflower potato salad

Cauliflower is one of my absolute favorite veggies. And this is a super fun way to use it! I love a good potato salad for summer (and it’s hard to beat freshly-dug new potatoes in a potato salad), but this cauliflower version is a great way to get all that potato salad flavor without a ton of starchy carbs. You’d think that this would taste “cauliflower-y” but the flavorful mix-ins and creamy dressing mask any cauliflower flavor—it just tastes like potato salad!

cauliflower potato salad

Typical potato salad has a super thick and heavy dressing made with a ton of mayo, but I made this dressing out of half protein-packed, low calorie Greek yogurt and half mayo. You still get all the creamy flavor of mayo, but using the Greek yogurt really helps to lighten up this side dish.

cauliflower potato salad

The key to making this salad is to not overcook your cauliflower. Just like potatoes, overcooked cauliflower becomes a starchy, mushy mess. You want the cauliflower to just be fork tender—no crunch, but not so tender that it falls apart when you stir it up with the dressing. It took about 12 minutes to get there steaming it.

Enjoy!

Cauliflower “Potato” Salad

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

This veggie-rific variation on the classic summer side dish will surprise even the biggest cauliflower hater!

Ingredients

  • 1 large head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 6 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
  • 2 large stalks celery, diced
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped dill pickle (or dill pickle relish)
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon mustard
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Steam cauliflower until fork tender—about 12 minutes. Remove cauliflower from steamer and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well, and combine in a large mixing bowl with the eggs, celery, red onion and dill pickle.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, mustard, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over cauliflower mix, and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least an hour before serving.
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Cauliflower "Potato" Salad

What’s your favorite way to eat cauliflower?

How to Make Sun Tea

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Posted on Aug 13, 2014 in Food

sun tea

Growing up, I didn’t realize a lot of the food traditions we had in my family were regionalisms. It wasn’t until I married a cute boy from the Great White North that I started to realize that the things that I thought were standards in the kitchen, weren’t really all that common for everyone. It’s been a fun journey to introduce Craig to regional foodstuffs that I grew up with (he’s totally a pork tenderloin sandwich fan, now) and vice versa.

I remember early on in our marriage, it had to have been the first nice day of spring right after we were married, I said something like, “Oooh! Today is a good day for sun tea.” To which he replied by looking at me like I had two heads. Apparently, sun tea wasn’t a thing he did growing up in Northwestern Ontario.

sun tea

But here in the Midwest? You’d be hard-pressed to find a house that doesn’t have a jar of sun tea steeping out on the porch on nice summer days. Logically, I understand that tea steeped by sitting in the sun is no different from tea you make with boiling water from a kettle, but I swear it tastes different. I swear you can taste the sunshine. And, hey, anytime I don’t have to heat up the kitchen, I’m a fan.

Some folks will steer you away from sun tea because of a bacterial risk. And while, yes, it’s true that the water never gets hot enough in the sun to kill any bacteria hanging out in the water, jar or the tea bags—that kind of thing has never been a concern to me. And, while I understand this is purely anecdotal, I can tell you that I’ve been drinking sun tea every summer for my entire time here on this planet (okay, maybe not that first year), and I’ve never gotten sick off of it. And you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has. Don’t fear the tea, friends.

Sun tea

If you’ve never made sun tea before, it’s incredibly simple. All you need is a clear jar, some water and tea. This time of year, in our area, you can pick up specific sun tea jars at pretty much every retail outlet on the planet (literally, you can find them at gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies). As any good Midwestern girl does, I’ve had my fair share of sun tea jars in my life, and I have managed to break every single one of them. One day, I’ll probably invest in a really nice, sturdy, heavy-duty jar for sun tea, but for now, I just use a half-gallon Mason jar. And it works wonders.

I like my tea just a touch sweet, so I mix up a simple syrup before steeping. Into my half-gallon jar goes 1/3 cup of sugar. If you’re a Southerner, you’ll probably need half to a full cup of sugar to get the standard, teeth-rotting, Southern sweet tea. If you aren’t into sweetened tea, just skip this step completely.

jar sugar

And then I pour in about a cup of piping hot water from the tap. Our tap gets hot enough to dissolve sugar, but if yours doesn’t, you could just put in some boiling water. Stir to dissolve.

sun tea jar

Then, I get to unwrapping tea bags. I use six tea bags for my half-gallon jar. And I like this Newman’s Own black tea, but you can use whatever you like. I actually really like making sun green tea, too, because the water never gets hot enough to bring out that bitter quality that green tea sometimes has.

tea bags

Gather up all the tea bags by the tag, and stick them into the jar, making sure to hold onto the tags so they don’t slip in.

sun tea

And then head over to the faucet, and fill the jar up the rest of the way with cold water. Screw on the lid (making sure the tags of the tea bags are on the outside of the lid), and put it in a sunny spot outside. I like the railing of our back deck. Partially because it’s nice and sunny, but also partially because I can see it right outside the door in my kitchen when I walk by. I’ve been known to forget about a jar or two of sun tea in my life.

sun tea

Depending on the heat of the day, the strength of the sun and how strong you like your tea, it could be as ready in as little as an hour, but I usually give it more like two or three out in the sunshine. It’s ready when it looks like…tea!

sun tea

Pour it over ice in a Mason jar (seriously, that’s the only proper way to drink sun tea—out of a canning jar) and enjoy! If you have some fresh mint kicking around, put a few of those leaves in there for a really nice, refreshing summer drink.

sun tea

Once my tea is done steeping, I do store it in the fridge—it will go bad if you let it sit out on the counter. Plus, that way it’s super cold and ready for enjoying anytime! I especially recommend it after you’ve spent all day working in the garden. Nothing tastes better.

How to Make Sun Tea

Is sun tea a “thing” where you live? Do you have any food regionalisms that you love?