Friday, October 2, 2015

Blueberry Coconut Almond Granola

My journey towards creating the perfect granola recipe began at the beginning of the year when four pounds of old fashioned rolled oats were delivered to my house.  My parent's kitchen was on the verge of being renovated and needed to be completely cleared out.  I was the recipient of pretty much all of the food products that their kitchen had contained.  While I was appreciative, I was overwhelmed with the overflowing bags of food filling my kitchen (on top of what we already had!).  I was determined to use up everything that they gave us and I did just that, beginning with the oats.

Since I had oodles of oats, I decided I would try my hand at making granola.  I had only attempted making my own granola once in the past.  While it was well received, it wasn't my favorite.  This time around, I set out to make my perfect granola.  I made several recipes but eventually came up with my own.  My recipe calls for dried blueberries which is kind of funny because I am not a big fan of blueberries!  Sure I love them in pies and other baked goods but you will rarely see me eating them fresh.  After trying various dried fruits in this granola, I decided that dried blueberries were the best candidate.  Go figure! 

There are many reasons to make your own granola.  First of all, it is cheaper, secondly, it is EASY to make, thirdly, you can control the ingredients that go into it (which is important in the age of GMO's, processed sugars, etc.), and most importantly, it tastes SO much better than store bought.  So the next time you reach for a bag of granola off of the store shelf, hit the bulk food section instead, and make your own.  You won't be disappointed!

Blueberry Coconut Almond Granola

3 cups of old fashioned organic rolled oats
1 cup of shredded unsweetened organic coconut
1 cup of raw slivered organic almonds
1 cup of dried organic blueberries
1 tsp. of ground cinnamon (Ceylon is the best in my opinion!)
1/2 tsp. of Himalayan salt
1/4 cup of raw organic unprocessed coconut oil
1/3 cup of local honey
1/3 cup of 100% pure maple syrup
1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract


Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl, mix together the oats, coconut, almonds, blueberries, and cinnamon.  In a sauce pan on low heat, combine the salt, coconut oil, honey, and maple syrup.  When the coconut oil has melted, remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla extract, and stir until mixture is well combined.  Pour the liquid mixture into the large bowl and stir until the everything is evenly coated.  Dump the contents of the bowl onto the parchment lined baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.  Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  Watch it closely towards the end so that it ends up golden but not burned!  This granola takes the full 55 minutes in my gas oven but all ovens are different.  Once the granola is nice and golden, take out of the oven and let it cool for an hour or two.  When dried it should be hard and crunchy (if not, you know that your granola needs more time in the oven next time you make it).  Store in a sealed container for up to two weeks!

Serve over Greek yogurt, ice cream, or just eat it by the handfuls like we often do! Enjoy!

Photo by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe by Becky Loves Cooking

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Ezogelin - Turkish Red Lentil Soup

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time but every time I make this soup, I fail to document it.  Sigh.  Life takes over, what can I say?

A friend from college and owner of luxury travel agency, Destination Affairs, had been on a recent trip to Dubai.  She sent me this beautiful array of spices that she had picked up from the Souk market there.  I was out of my mind with excitement!  A cook's dream!  Opening that box was like opening a present on Christmas morning.  The excitement was truly the same.  I have to admit that I was hesitant to use them at first because I viewed them as gold. I did not want to use them hastily.  Instead, I wanted to find the perfect recipes to highlight their flavors.  These are truly some of the best spices I have ever used.  The cumin seed was so tasty that you could eat it straight (which I did) and the sumac had the most beautiful deep purplish burgundy color. I wanted to cherish them but then let's face it, spices do not get better with age.  I dove right in!

While on the hunt for different red lentil soup recipes, I came across a soup by the name of Ezogelin.  There is a sad story about a woman (Ezo) who was unlucky in marriage, that is associated with this soup but don't let that deter you from trying it!  It is honestly the perfect soup for a cold winter night (perfect timing, no? lol).  

*Google "Ezogelin" or "the Ezo Bride" to read the story if you are curious about the story behind the soup! 

Ezogelin (Turkish Red Lentil Soup)

2-3 Tbsp. of extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
4-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. of smoked hot paprika
1 tsp. of cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. of crushed red pepper 
1/4 tsp. of cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. of tomato paste
1 tomato, chopped
1 Tbsp. of dried spearmint
1 cup of red lentils, picked over and rinsed

1/4 cup of Basmati rice, rinsed
1/4 cup of quinoa (or bulgar wheat), rinsed
8 cups of water
1 Tbsp. of sumac, more for garnish

juice of one lemon
Himalayan salt 
fresh ground black pepper
fresh mint, chopped for garnish
crumbled feta cheese for serving

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and celery with a pinch of salt, and cook until they start to brown.   Add the garlic, cumin seeds, paprika, crushed red pepper, cayenne, tomato, tomato paste, and cook for around 5 minutes or so.
Add in the lentils, rice, quinoa, and stir to coat in the tomato spice mixture.  Pour in the water, add the dried mint, cover, and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for 35-40 minutes until the grains and lentils are cooked through.
Add the sumac, lemon juice, and season to taste. Simmer for 10 more minutes.
Serve in large bowls sprinkled with chopped fresh mint leaves, crumbled feta cheese, and an additional pinch of sumac.

Pictures by Becky Loves Cooking
Recipe adapted from Cook Eat Live Vegetarian