winter berry smoothie

Winter Berry Smoothie | The Clever Carrot

My freezer needs a serious makeover.

I don’t know about you, but my freezer is jammed packed with stuff from a million years ago. Open at your own risk (bombs away!!)

During a recent excavation I stumbled upon a lost treasure; frozen summer berries.

Summer Berries | The Clever Carrot

Luckily for me, my kids love to pick berries. Every summer I take them to Patti’s Berries & Bunches and they clean the place out. We come home with bushels of juicy strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Whatever they don’t eat gets stashed away in the freezer and is usually forgotten about.

Until today…

Winter Berry Smoothie | The Clever Carrot

For this smoothie, I puréed handfuls of frozen berries with apple cider- that’s my secret ingredient. Apple cider sweetens the drink ever so slightly and is a nice compliment to the berries. I also left out the dairy.

I can’t even begin to tell you how energized I felt after drinking this. I was so revived and refreshed, that I proceeded to empty out the dishwasher, vacuum the stairs, and fold a mountain of laundry in record time. Then I re-organized my closet.

Summer Berries | The Clever Carrot

If your freezer looks anything like mine, I feel for you. It’s like the black hole. But who knows- maybe you’ll stumble upon a packet of frozen berries yourself. Sometimes all you need is a little smoothie to beat those winter blues.

winter berry smoothie
 
Prep time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 c. mixed berries, frozen
  • 1- 1¼ c. apple cider
  • Honey or agave syrup to taste
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine the frozen berries and apple cider.
  2. Process until smooth, adding extra juice if it seems a little too thick.
  3. Add honey or agave syrup to sweeten if necessary.

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.