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oats

Grace’s Coconut Oat and Nut Granola

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Granola’s great in the summer. However, there’s something about heating up the oven, stirring up a large bowl of oats.  And then letting the warm, toasty smells fill the room while baking away the morning of a cold winter day. Call it winter solace. Granola solace. Call it whatever you want to describe a moment that sometimes just can’t be summed up in words.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Coconut flakes are my new obsession, and I find them now to almost be a mandatory component of granola. I tracked through Philadelphia for nearly 2 hours – across 5 different stores – just to find them a few months ago, determined to make this Shaved Brussels Sprout Salad with Coconut Bacon. At the time, I was questioning my sanity. But after finally finding the flakes, and later obsessing over them during multiple cooking encounters, I am now questioning the sanity of the stores that are not carrying them.  Coconut flakes are worth every last step of an adventure to go find them.

For my Philly followers, check out Essene Market in Queen’s Village. For everyone else, I got tipped off along my travels that Vitacost.com is a good place to order coconut flakes.

Whatever you do, don’t succumb to buying the shreds. Unfortunately, they’re simply not the same as their larger, flakier counterpart.

Coconut Flake and Nut GranolaFeel free to play around with the nuts you use in your granola. I personally love a little variety. Pecans, walnuts & almonds are always a must for me, and various other seeds are generally just an added, crunchy health bonus.

Coconut Flake and Nut Granola

Spoon over hot or cold cereal in the morning, enjoy as is with milk, or simply pack a handful in a bag to eat on the run. Granola is a versatile, energy-packed snack, and when you make it yourself, you can ensure you’re fueling up on the good stuff. Forget chowing down on a bag of sugar and unnecessary processed ingredients. That’s no good. Plus, when you skip out on making it yourself, you miss that toasty smell from your oven like I mentioned before. Nothing beats that.

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Blackberry Oatmeal with Toasted Coconut Flakes

Blackberry Oatmeal with Toasted Coconut Flakes

This breakfast had no intention of making it to the blog. But after creating it and seeing it come to life, hitting the Internet was inevitable. I mean, gorgeous, right?! Its vibrance reminds me of the Quinoa Beet Tabbouleh I made over the summer. Colorful foods, in nature, are ones I want to eat. Kind of like colorful conversations. Those are the ones I most want to have.

Blackberry Oatmeal with Toasted Coconut Flakes

Speaking of, will you all help me get a conversation going on FFF’s Facebook page? My Internet marketing skills are failing. Oh no, the world is going to end. But really, I just get (entirely too) excited when something turns out great in the kitchen and I can share it with all of you. It’d be great to eventually build more of a community. Ya feel me? One day.

Anyway, back to this oatmeal. It’s really a simple recipe that plays off of the natural beauty of blackberries. I’ve been loving coconut flakes lately, and in their toasted form they really add a satisfying form of crunch. Toast up the walnuts too if you want for an extra cozy breakfast.

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Easy Fruit Crisp in a Jar

Fruit Crisp in a Jar

Who doesn’t love eating out of mason jars? Or drinking for that matter.

I bought a simple glass water jug with a swing-top, and find myself drinking so much more water throughout the day as a result. There’s something majestic about glass.

Spooning fruit crisp out of it feels divine.

Fruit Crisp in a Jar

Apples are quickly beginning to take over farmer’s markets, with wooden boxes that leave little room for other fruit. This past weekend, however, I managed to snag a few of the lone cartons of raspberries sitting on the table. From my freezer I grabbed some late August peaches, and went to work making this crisp.

I wanted one last taste of summer, baked to perfection.

Crisps are so simple to make, and baking them straight in a jar makes for an equally easy presentation. I love how healthy crisps feel, and how few of the ingredients really need to be measured. This compared to much of the rest of the baking world. A spoonful of cinnamon here, a dash of ginger there. It’s really up to you.

If you can’t find berries (and didn’t save any summer peaches), I’m sure apples would work well here too. Given the jar method, choose a softer apple and slice thinly. This way you ensure you’ll end up with a soft, perfect-for-ice-cream dessert. Adorable, right?

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Prevention RD’s Lightened-Up Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp

There are a few bloggers I’ve been following since the near beginning of my own blogging path. Prevention RD is one of them.

I’ve watched Nicole’s photography grow into art, her fan following progress, and her pouty dog Lily grow cuter by the minute. Her site has always been fun to follow, and a countless source of inspiration for my own recipe development.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Prevention RD turn into a published cookbook author. I can’t describe this as anything other than awesome. I love, love, love seeing fellow food bloggers use their site as a platform to kill it in arenas outside of the blogging world. Congrats girl!

Apple Crisp

Nicole’s style is what I consider comparable to Cooking Light mag.  Many of her recipes involve transforming traditional dishes into lighter and healthier versions, including classic comfort foods too. Sometimes she crafts these recipes herself, like those within her cookbook. Other times she gathers and adapts them from other blogger’s sites. Regardless, Nicole has a knack for choosing recipes that lend themselves well to a wide audience.

I remember when Nicole went through a baked doughnut phase. I don’t even like doughnuts, but I admit she nearly convinced me to go out and purchase a doughnut pan. I mean, wouldn’t you be curious to try ones with a Blueberry Lemon Glaze? Or a Whole Wheat Banana Doughnut with a Banana Chocolate Glaze? Perhaps that’s why I don’t like doughnuts. Because few places sell any variations similar to those.

Anyway, I was thrilled to receive Nicole’s cookbook, and to see her jump into print. There’s nothing like flipping through hands-on pages filled with food photo after food photo.

Currently I’m eyeing her version of Baked Falafel, but the first recipe I decided to whip up was her Lightened-Up Apple Crisp. In my own book, apple crisp is an indispensable part of fall. You simply can’t let the season pass without baking a batch. Or two. Or three. To do so would be a near atrocity.

I didn’t want to waste much time. A week into fall, apple crisp was coming from my oven. This leaves a few months left to continue making more. Thanks for the season’s first recipe, Nicole!

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Carrot Walnut Chocolate Chip Muffins

I miss baking. In high school, it was practically a nightly activity. I didn’t grow up watching much else other than Sesame Street, so TV never became habit. (We didn’t have cable till I hit 9th grade, and up until then, it wasn’t infrequent that my mom would contemplate storing the TV in the barn). Instead, baking became my evening relaxation.

It’s funny because just like TV, my mom didn’t bring us to expect dessert after dinner. But once I was old enough to navigate the kitchen, chocolate became ritual, even if it was just filling the room with its fumes. I’d regularly send my dad off to work with plates of cookies, muffins, or the occasional iced cupcake. Sometimes I’d surprise my friends at school by whipping out a bag of brownies from my backpack during our lunchtime break. Even if I had gotten sick of sweets (is that even possible?), I never tired of baking. It got to the point where I almost enrolled in culinary school, but by the time I got to making up my mind between pastry and the traditional track, I ended up opting out altogether. (According to this article, maybe I shouldn’t have.)

Whenever I get a free moment, I still often turn to baking. Play dates become bake dates with friends, and late night bike rides often end at the grocery store for a golden bag of Ghirardelli semisweet chips. More often than not, I’ll bake by myself, after dark, relaxing with the leveling off of each cup of flour. It’s my way to unwind. I can mindless follow a simple base of flour and sugar, and then choose from a list of basic add-ins to spruce things up. That’s what happened with this recipe, filled with healthy, whole wheat goodness that made this the perfect late night snack and hearty early morning breakfast.

Click here for recipe…