Perfecting Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

I consider myself to be a pretty good cook.  I’m not bragging.  I’m simply stating that I really enjoy cooking, I can throw together meals and snacks quite efficiently, and when people eat my food, they often say, “Yum, this is good.”

But for the life of me, I can’t make a No-Bake Cookie.  It’s the recipe most ten year olds can make and the cookie even those who hate cooking can create without issue.  But me?  I can’t get a No-Bake Cookie to turn out no matter what I try.  I’ve turned that job over to our 16 year old because he has the method down pat and makes perfect No-Bake Cookies nine times out of ten (even though I think he’s really only made them six times in his life but who’s counting?).

So would you believe that last week, while I was making a batch of Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola - I turned out a perfect batch of No-Bake Cookies?!  Yes.  I cannot make them when I try, but when I’m trying to make something different, I actually master the blasted cookie.  So let’s review:

1.  I stink at making No-Bake Cookies.  I have attempted making them at least 14 times in my life and have had success…never.

2.  Asa is great at making No-Bake Cookies.  The job is his.

3.  A few weeks ago, Asa was making No-Bake Cookies but they got crumbly so we turned the mixture into Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola.  That was his one time out of ten (or six or whatever) that he didn’t get them perfect. 

4.  The granola was delicious, I reduced the sugar and posted the recipe because everyone needed to have access to it.

5.  I then tried making the granola again, and turned out the best No-Bake Cookies ever.

Unbelievable.  You’ve got to love the lame irony.  But hey, we’re talking about peanut butter, chocolate, oats, butter, and vanilla – all favorite ingredients of mine.  I’m not whining too loudly.

So just in case you want to make Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola, but end up with No-Bake Cookies, I will share with you how I solved my “problem.”  I added a few extra oats to soak up the liquid (which did not help the mixture turn into granola – just really oaty cookies).  Then I spread the mixture on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and baked it at 250° for one hour, stirring occasionally.  The granola got nice and crispy (and made my house smell amazing).

I will now go edit the Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola recipe page to share these suggestions in case you too accidentally find yourself with No-Bake Cookies.  If only all mistakes in the kitchen were this delicious.  :)

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How are you at making No Bake Cookies?  I think I might be the only person on the planet who can’t make them.  ;)

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Pineapple Mango Smoothies (No Sugar Added – Dairy Free Option)

High Five Recipes 2

We were on our way home from Kansas City after a weekend event our boys had participated in.  The event had been awesome, our boys had done great, and we were all flying high.  Except for Asa (our 15 year old) and me.  It appeared that the two of us were coming down with the flu.  Our throats hurt, our chests burned, and we both began to get feverish.  Our eyes were red and achy.  Our heads pounded.

(Great story so far, eh?)

We were both a little bit hungry, although nothing really sounded good to eat.  We had packed food, but all of it seemed too difficult to eat.  Funny how the normally simple act of chewing takes so much energy when you’re sick.  All I could think of was, “I just want a smoothie.”  (Well, and “I just want my bed.” But out on the interstate, a few hours from home, that was not an option.)

Matt, bless his heart, was determined to find his feverish bride a smoothie.  We finally managed to find a place that had some decent options (without too many funky, sugary ingredients).  I chose a pineapple mango variety and aside from the fact that it was cold and made my chills just a little bit more miserable – I had never enjoyed a smoothie more.  It was so refreshing.  It was just what Asa and I needed.  We slept the rest of the way home.

Asa and I are all better now.  In fact, this all happened a couple of months ago.  But ever since, I’ve been craving a Pineapple Mango Smoothie.  I typically make my smoothies with berries – which we love.  But the refreshment that comes from pineapple, mango, and orange juice all blended up in a glass?  I knew I needed to recreate this treasure.

It’s not hard to make – you just need five simple ingredients.  Add a little maple syrup or stevia if it’s not sweet enough for you.  We think it’s sweet enough as is.  Coconut milk makes it taste great and offers a dairy free option if you need it.  We like it with plain, whole milk yogurt.  I think I may make these every single day this summer.

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Pineapple Mango Smoothie

1 1/2 cups frozen mango chunks
1 1/2 cups frozen pineapple chunks
1 cup orange juice
2 cups plain yogurt or coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor together.  Blend until smooth.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Pineapple Mango Smoothie

What’s your favorite fruit smoothie combination?  For the record, I don’t recommend getting the flu before trying this.  It’s much more fun to eat when you can hold your head up off the pillow.

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Cranberry White Chocolate Breakfast Cookies

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Just in case you’ve never tried this before.  Just in case you hadn’t thought of this idea.  Just in case you want a breakfast or snack that will make you pass out cold on the floor because it is so delicious.

I thought you should know that the Giant Breakfast Cookie recipe made with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips are really, really wonderful.  I used about a half cup of each (instead of raisins or chocolate chips) when mixing up the dough.  I almost sort of felt guilty eating these and serving them for breakfast.  But then I got over it and helped myself to a second one.

Yum.

Where do I get white chocolate chips?  I found some at Vitacost that aren’t necessarily as good for you as green beans, but aren’t as horrible as those that have hydrogenated oils.  We won’t eat these every day for breakfast, but when we do, I will enjoy myself very much.

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What other tasty combinations have you figured out to add to the Giant Breakfast Cookie recipe?

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Homemade Sweet Potato Fries

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It really pays to listen to your friends.  (Not all of them though, because if they’re encouraging you to do things that aren’t good for you, maybe you should consider getting new friends.)

Well where did that piece of parenting advice come from?

Anyway, I happen to have good friends, so I feel that it is okay to listen to them.  It just so happens that I had two friends in one week tell me that I was missing out by not adding sweet potatoes to my menus more often.  When the first friend said it, I kind of nodded and smiled.  But when a second friend mentioned it a few days later, I sort of wondered if God was trying to tell me something.

Okay, I’m pretty sure He is working in bigger ways in my life than sweet potato consumption encouragement.  But still.  I figured there might be something to this sweet potato thing since it came up twice in one week with two different people at two separate times.  (Am I making too much of this?  I mean, should I just get around to sharing the recipe already?)

Why have I not been eating or feeding my family sweet potatoes very often, as in, pretty much never?  It’s very simple really.  As a child, the only way I had been served sweet potatoes was in a casserole with brown sugar and marshmallows at Thanksgiving and I didn’t like it one bit.  If I’m going to eat something sweet, I want it to be a dessert – not as a side dish with my turkey.  But that’s just me.  I’m the one who needs chocolate with my sugar.  What can I say?

But, per my friends’ suggestions, I decided to try making sweet potato fries.  They looked and smelled great.  I ate one.  Hmmm, it was okay, I guess.  But I kept thinking about marshmallows, and couldn’t get past it.

By the way, I don’t like marshmallows.

But I’m a big girl, and all grown up, so I made myself eat a second sweet potato fry.  And then a third.  Oh wait.  They suddenly began to taste good to me.  Then, before I knew it, I had to tell myself to stop eating the sweet potato fries and save some for my family.  (I didn’t feel bad though, because usually it’s the other way around and I’m the one asking my family to save me some food before they inhale all of it.)

So it turns out that while I think my friends may have helped me become an addict in this regard, it does pay to give in to sweet potato peer pressure.

How to Make Sweet Potato Fries:

Scrub and cut sweet potatoes into wedges or fries – as thin as you like.  Toss them in olive oil or coconut oil (about 1 Tablespoon per sweet potato).  Place them in a single layer on a baking pan.  Sprinkle on sea salt and bake in a 400° oven for 30-40 minutes.

or

Deep fry the cut sweet potatoes in a fryer (we have this one, which works great) for 3-4 minutes, remove, salt, and eat.

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What is your relationship with sweet potatoes?  How do you like them cooked?  And while it’s completely irrelevant, I am curious.  Do you like marshmallows?

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

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I’m guessing that many of the greatest recipe ”inventions” have happened by accident.  Asa (our 15 year old) really didn’t mean to create this wonderful Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola.  His real intent was to make No-Bake Cookies for a mission trip fund-raising meal last Sunday.  But somehow the liquid ingredients got slightly overcooked, the oats made the mixture way too dry, and no way no how was a cookie going to be formed once it was all said and done.  I told him to press his mixture into a 9×13 inch pan and that we’d try cutting them into bars later.  While that was a brilliant idea, it didn’t work any better than forming the mixture into cookies.  We ended up with peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles instead.  Peanut butter chocolate oat crumbles that tasted really, really good.  :)

And so – we all just grabbed a bowl and a spoon and had at it.  (While planning a different dessert to take to the fund-raising meal.)

I’m calling this “granola” because that’s what it looks and feels like.  But I do have a hard time calling this a healthy breakfast or snack.  While it is made with real food ingredients, it is still more dessert-like, for sure.  In an effort to make this a little less sugary, and a bit more diverse for “stir-in” options, I’ve tweaked the ingredients from the original cookie recipe Asa used.  I’m pretty sure it will still taste awesome with less sugar than originally called for in the cookie recipe!

By the way – depending on how you make this, it can be completely dairy free if you wish.  :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Granola

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup milk or coconut milk
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (we use homemade peanut butter)
1 cup sucanat or 1/2 cup honey
4 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes (optional)

Put butter, milk, peanut butter, sucanat, and cocoa into a medium sized saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until butter is melted and mixture is smooth.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Allow the mixture to boil for one minute.  Remove from heat.  Add vanila, oats, and coconut flakes.  If the mixture is too liquidy add a few more oats or coconut flakes until you reach desired consistency.

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Or shucks.  If you “mess up” this recipe and the mixture turns out to be nice and smooth instead of crumbly – go ahead and spoon it onto wax paper and make No-Bake Cookies.  ;)

 UPDATE:  If you do find your mixture too wet:  Add a few extra oats to soak up the liquid.  Then put it on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and baked it at 250° for one hour, stirring occasionally. The granola should get nice and crispy!

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Easy Cream Cheese Fruit Dip

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I’ve probably already written this sentence a time or three, but here it is again:  Cream cheese makes everything better!

Or was I talking about butter when I said that?  Actually, maybe it was cream?  Well, the same is true for cream cheese, butter, and cream.  (Although I will draw the line at adding any of the above to my lettuce salad.)

This recipe includes both cream and cream cheese.  And homemade vanilla.  (Or store bought vanilla, but homemade is so YUM.)  And then there is just a bit of maple syrup to make it sweet.  Last but not least – you’ll add a shot of lemon or lime juice.  Here are the specifics:

Easy Fruit Dip

1/2 cup cream (heavy whipping cream)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice (fresh or bottled)

Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.  In a separate bowl, cream together the cream cheese, maple syrup, vanilla, and lemon or lime juice.  Fold cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream.  Chill until ready to serve, or serve right away.

Tastes great with strawberries, grapes, and apples.  Makes about two cups of dip.

Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
Have to eat dairy free?  This wasn’t a winner of a post for you then, was it?!  I’ll try to make it up to you next time.  :)  Everyone else – multiple choice question:

Everything is better with:
a) butter
b) cream cheese
c) cream
d) all of the above

I’d love to hear your opinion on this one!

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Breakfast Pizza {Real Food Dollar Menu}

Our boys discovered that you can use my Whole Wheat Pizza Crust to make an awesome Breakfast Pizza. They also discovered that if you work ahead in your math book, you will finish ahead of schedule. On the contrary, if you avoid doing math some days, you will have to do double the lessons on the days you’d really rather go outside and play with your brothers on the trampoline.

But back to the pizza.

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Make it just like you would a regular homemade pizza, using this crust recipe.  Top it with salsa, scrambled eggs, cheese, and any other toppings of choice - like veggies and meat.  Homemade Turkey Sausage is great on this pizza!

Bake it as directed.  Serve with fruit.

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Without adding meat, I found that it cost about $4.52 to make this meal, which filled my family of six.  That’s about 75¢ per person, for a meal that actually sticks with them for several hours!

Easy, delicious, filling, versatile, inexpensive, and healthy.  What more could you want?  (Except maybe to be finished with math lessons for the year.)

*I calculated my cost based on the food sources and prices I have available to me. Most of the ingredients I use are organic. Your cost may be slightly more or less depending on where you find your ingredients.

Looking for more meals on our Real Food Dollar Menu? Here are the recipes I’ve shared so far:

Stay tuned for many more recipes and ideas for our Real Food Dollar Menu!

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Simple Almond Flour Muffins

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This was my first time to “play” with almond flour.  Wow, is it awesome to work with!

I had ordered a package from Vitacost to experiement with.  It is not an inexpensive ingredient by any means.  But I know that using alternative flours occasionally to give my family variety is a healthy choice.  Plus, I’d heard that almond flour is awesome.  It is so true!

These simple muffins went together quickly, and the end result was amazing!  The muffins taste like a cupcake – super light, sweet, and airy.

You can make your own almond flour if you prefer.  Simply grind almonds in your food processor until a fine flour has formed.  Just be sure you don’t grind them too long, or you’ll end up with almond butter!

Simple Almond Flour Muffins

2 cups almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together almond flour, baking powder, and sea salt.  Add eggs, melted butter, honey, water, and vanilla and whisk until smooth.  Spoon batter into 12-15 paper-lined muffin cups.  Bake in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.

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Have you done much baking with almond flour?  What are your favorite recipes using this fun ingredient?

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Breakfast Cake Muffins

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One reader, Kim, left a comment months ago sharing that she’d made my Breakfast Cake recipe into muffins instead of baking the batter into a cake.  It sounded so good that I decided to try it right away!

And then I forgot.  For months.

I think it’s actually been well over a year since she left that comment.  That’s practically like trying the idea right away, right?  Yeah, well…

Turns out these are an easy, yummy, freezable, on-the-go breakfast muffin that is hearty enough to keep us satisfied until lunchtime.  Thanks for the idea, Kim!  Next time you share a great idea like this one, I’ll try to get around to trying it before thirteen months go by.  Sheesh.

Breakfast Cake Muffins

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups whole rolled oats
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, melted
¾ cup buttermilk or milk
¾ cup honey or 1 cup sucanat
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips, raisins, or other dried fruit  (We like Enjoy Life Soy Free Chocolate Chips)

Stir together flour, oats, salt and baking soda. Add butter, buttermilk, honey, eggs, and vanilla. Fold in chocolate chips, raisins, or other dried fruit.

Spoon batter into 18 paper lined muffin tins.  Bake in a 400° oven for 20-25 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.

Give these a try.  Don’t wait a year like I did.  :)

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Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins


Have a recipe you’d like me to try and make over?
Submit your recipes on this Real Food Recipe Makeover Submission Page.

This recipe looked too good to pass up – and it was super easy to makeover with healthier ingredients.  We all loved the results.  (Except for Malachi, who didn’t try them because he doesn’t like peanut butter.  He’s missing out!)

It probably goes without saying that these muffins taste awesome with a glass of milk.  They are easy to make ahead of time and serve the following day.  (Although they really do taste best right out of the oven.  Doesn’t everything?!)  These muffins freeze well.  They make a great snack.  I love recipes like this!  It doesn’t get any easier!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 Tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup natural peanut butter (I use homemade peanut butter)
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground flour made from hard white wheat)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2/3 cup sucanat
2 eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips
In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and the peanut butter.  Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and sucanat.  Add melted butter and peanut butter, eggs, and milk.  Stir until well combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
Scoop batter into 18-24 paper lined muffin cups.  Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown.
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Are you a chocolate/peanut butter fan?

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