my favorite granola

My Favorite Granola / The Clever Carrot

A couple years ago, I started making granola at home. I was fed up with buying those overpriced, “healthy” bags from the store. I wanted a recipe that was satisfying yet good for you at the same time.

So, why is this one my favorite?

My Favorite Granola / The Clever Carrot

It’s all natural, not too sweet, and I love the flavor combination. To make this recipe, I combine equal amounts of organic oats and puffed rice cereal. This ratio gives it a light and crispy texture. I sweeten it with pure maple syrup and add dried cherries, hazelnuts, and unsweetened coconut flakes. Now of course you can switch up the ingredients here, but the hazelnut & coconut combo is unexpectedly delicious!

My Favorite Granola / The Clever Carrot

I make a batch of granola at least once a week as it has become a staple in our house. When friends ask for a recipe, this is the one I recommend. Need a quick gift? Pack it up in mason jars and give it away (jingle bells…jingle bells…)

If you are interested in making your own granola, below is an in-depth list of tips that you might find useful. Although I am not an expert, it sure has helped me get on my way!

My Favorite Granola / The Clever Carrot

 Granola 101

 

Ingredients:

  • The Oats- Old fashioned or instant oats? I’ve heard that you can use both, but for this recipe I like the texture of old fashioned oats. You can also use the gluten free kind. To save a couple of bucks, buy your oats in bulk.
  • The Cereal- For a light and crispy texture, add an equal amount of puffed rice cereal to the oats. Kashi or millet puffs will work too.
  • The Binder- Butter vs. oil or none at all? In my opinion, granola needs a little fat to bind everything together and to crisp up. I tend to go with oil because I always have that on hand (coconut oil is an excellent option). The choice is up to you.
  • The Sweetener- Sugar vs. syrups? Some granola recipes argue that sugar is necessary in order to brighten the flavor. I prefer maple syrup over sugar for its taste and healthiness. But in the past I’ve used sugar, maple syrup, agave, and honey interchangeably. Again, it’s up to you.
  • The Add Ins- Some great combinations include apricot & almond, apple & walnut, and raisin, banana, flax seed.  Organic dried fruit is best as the conventional kind usually contains pesticides (especially apricots & raisins).
  • The Flavorings-  Here’s where you can get creative… For the spices try cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and even curry powder. You can also experiment with different extracts such as vanilla or almond.

Procedure:

  • Granola likes space. Spread it out evenly, in one layer, on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake anywhere between 275-325 F. because…
  • Granola can burn easily. Stir it about every 10 minutes or so to promote even cooking.
  • Only add dried fruit and nuts towards the end of cooking. Add them sooner and they’ll burn (I speak from experience).
  • When the granola is done, don’t stir it. This will allow it to stick together and clump up.

Storage:

  • Package your granola when it’s completely cool so that it doesn’t steam and get soft.
  • Store in an airtight container or better yet, throw it in a Zip loc bag and FREEZE it. Who knew? This will prolong its shelf life and trust me, it works like a charm.

My Favorite Granola / The Clever Carrot

I told you the list was in-depth, right? Now go on, make some granola!

my favorite granola
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 2 c. thick rolled or old fashioned oats oats (not instant)
  • 2 c. puffed rice cereal
  • ⅓ c. pure maple syrup
  • 3 tbsp. vegetable oil or coconut oil (liquid)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • handful of dried cherries
  • handful of hazelnuts, papery skins removed
  • handful of unsweetened coconut flakes
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 300 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl combine the oats, puffed rice cereal, cinnamon, and salt.
  3. In another bowl combine the maple syrup, oil, and vanilla.
  4. Combine the 2 bowls together and mix well.
  5. Spread out the mixture evenly, in one layer, onto the baking sheet. Use a rubber spatula to guide you.
  6. Bake in the oven stirring about every 10 minutes or so to keep it from burning.
  7. Remove the papery skins from the hazelnuts and give them a rough chop.
  8. After about 30 minutes, add the cherries, hazelnuts, and unsweetened coconut flakes. If you add them earlier, they will burn.
  9. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. When your granola sounds 'crispy' it's done.
  10. Remove from the oven and let is rest for about 15 minutes. Do not stir. While resting, the granola will have a chance to stick together and clump up.
  11. When completely cool, store your granola in an airtight container or in a Zip loc bag in the freezer.
  12. Enjoy with milk or with Greek yogurt and extra maple syrup if desired.
Notes
* It is best to use the unsweetened coconut for this recipe. If you cannot find flakes, you can substitute with unsweetened coconut shreds. * Granola will last in an airtight container for about 2 weeks, and in the freezer for about 6 months.

homemade pumpkin puree

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot Last weekend I roasted a whole pumpkin.

When the seasons change from summer to fall, I instinctively want to cook with pumpkin. I crave it; I make muffins, soup, risotto and of course, pumpkin pie. To save on time I usually use organic canned pumpkin. But this year I decided to make my own purée from scratch. I enjoy doing that sort of thing.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot

I read that the Sugar Pie pumpkin is an excellent (and popular) variety to cook with. Its sweet flesh holds up nicely when roasted. But when I went searching for this pumpkin, I couldn’t find it. I was overwhelmed by a sea of unlabeled orange balls. Where was my Sugar Pie? I needed some assistance.

Me: “Excuse me, do you know what kind of pumpkins these are?”

Him: “Yeah um, they’re pumpkins, Miss.”

Me: “Oh I know, but do you know the variety?”

Him: “Yeah um, the kind you make pie with.”

Me: “Oh…”

Him: “Miss, they’re all the same…”

Halloween Pumpkin / The Clever Carrot

He knew what he was talking about, right?

When I got home, I couldn’t even cut the thing open. I sawed… I hacked…it wouldn’t budge. It was like trying to cut granite. What the heck? Everything I read online said to just cut it open with a knife. No one mentioned that I needed a chain saw.

They’re all the same…they’re all the same…they’re all the same…” Sure they are. I was so frustrated that I ended up smashing the pumpkin outside on the patio. And wouldn’t you know, it opened instantly. Success!

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot

After scooping out the seeds and stringy bits, I roasted the pumpkin for about 45 minutes. Then I puréed the flesh in my blender (I ♥ you Vitamix). Depending on your pumpkin, you might need to add a splash of water to get it moving around. I whipped the purée until it was nice and smooth.

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot

Homemade Pumpkin Puree / The Clever Carrot

Making homemade pumpkin purée is definitely worth your time especially if you cook with it often. It’s less expensive than canned and you have control over the final product. The flavor is far superior. Try making other purées such as apple, pear and butternut. You’d be surprised at how many things you can use them for once you have them on hand. Make sure to freeze any extra purée in ice cube trays to use at your convenience.

Get ready for some pumpkin recipes!

* Note: The photo of the pumpkin above is the one I used for this recipe (before I smashed it). It’s tough to get open, but the flavor is excellent.

homemade pumpkin puree
 
Author:
Serves: about 1 quart
Ingredients
  • 1x 5lb. pumpkin, such as Sugar Pie
Instructions
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top of your pumpkin. Slice it in half and then into quarters. Feel free to smash the pumpkin (not too hard) on the ground if you are having difficulty cutting it.
  3. Scoop out the seeds and stringy bits. If you are saving the seeds, rinse and pat them dry before roasting.
  4. Place your pumpkin skin side down onto a baking tray. Roast for about 45 minutes or until the flesh is nice and soft. You can insert a small knife to check if it's done.
  5. Remove from the oven to cool slightly. Scoop out the flesh into a blender or food processor.
  6. Puree the pumpkin until whipped and smooth. Depending on your pumpkin, you might need to add a splash of water to get it moving. I had to do that for my puree.
  7. Refrigerate your pumpkin puree in an airtight container until ready to use.
  8. Store any extra puree in ice cube trays to be used at your convenience.
Notes
* Use pumpkin puree for muffins, soups, risotto and of course, pumpkin pie!

grandpa’s crab sauce

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

 What did you do last Sunday?

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

We had crab sauce. Grandpa’s crab sauce.

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

It’s an epic event that takes place once a year.

So you better be there…

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

We start them young…

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Go through a lot of napkins…

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

And it’s worth every last stain.

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

Grandpa's Crab Sauce / The Clever Carrot

* Grandpa’s crab sauce dinner is an annual event you don’t want to miss. It has been a traditional family favorite for over 30 years. At one point, he used to catch the crabs himself but has since retired his crabbing gear and position as head cook. He now likes when someone else makes it so he can boss them around.  The best time to make crab sauce is June- August when blue crabs are in season.

grandpa's crab sauce
 
Make friends with your fish guy. If you ask nicely, he will clean and gut the crabs for you.
Author:
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2x 28 oz. cans of whole tomatoes
  • 12 blue claw crabs, or 24 small ones (cleaned & gutted)
  • 1 lb. linguine or tagliatelle pasta, fresh or dried
  • salt & pepper
  • crusty bread for dunking
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy bottomed pot, warm the butter and olive oil over moderate heat.
  2. Dice the onion into ¼ inch pieces and add to the pot.
  3. Saute until lightly golden but not brown, about 10-15 minutes (over browning the onions will make the flavor too strong).
  4. While you are sauteing the onions, puree the tomatoes and their juice in a blender. Doing this gives the sauce an extra silky texture.
  5. Strain the sauce to remove the seeds, which tend to be bitter. Set aside.
  6. Add the crabs to the pot. Saute until they turn red.
  7. Using tongs, remove to a bowl.
  8. Pour the pureed tomatoes into the pot and bring to a simmer.
  9. Meanwhile, gently twist the claws off of the crabs, adding everything back to the pot as you go. Don't forget to add any crab juice from the bowl as well. The idea is to have the claws and bodies separate so everyone can get a little bit of each.
  10. Simmer the crab sauce for a minimum of 3 hours and up to 6. The longer it cooks, the better the flavor will be. Be patient!
  11. When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta according to the package instructions.
  12. Serve each dish with pasta, crabs and a generous amount of sauce. Don't forget the bread.
Notes
* When blue crabs are is season, you can freeze them (uncooked) to make this sauce anytime of year. They will keep for about 3 months. * The tomato sauce (without the crabs) can be made ahead of time refrigerated or frozen.