When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homemade granola and a healthy breakfast parfait

Breakfast is such an important meal of the day for everyone, and in our house we like to choose foods that are nutritious and satisfying to start our day off right.   We try to avoid overly processed boxed cereals, and opt instead for things like whole grain toast with natural nut butters and fresh fruit, oatmeal with apples, cinnamon and chopped nuts, or hearty homemade oatmeal or almond flour pancakes.  Yesterday, however, I think I found a way to be able to include cold cereal in our breakfast rotation and feel good about it; I made a super-delicious homemade granola using a recipe from The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook by Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, and the whole family was instantly smitten.

I just recently discovered The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook after hearing my ND rave about it, and I know now why she loves it so much.  (Thanks for the recommendation, Anita!)  The book celebrates eating in a way that is both healing for the body and pleasing to the tastebuds, and it is loaded with delicious whole foods recipes that are gluten, dairy, and egg-free, as well as many pages of useful information about the health benefits of a whole foods diet, tips for eating organic, how to stock a pantry, food sensitivities, and much more.  I love that the authors encourage their readers to make small changes, one step at a time, to improve their overall health -- I, too, believe that philosophy leads to success.  You can learn more about this cookbook and find more excellent recipes on Ali and Tom's The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen blog.

Homemade Cinnamon Spiced Granola

3 cups rolled oats (I use Bob's Red Mill pure oats, which are certified wheat-free)
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 F.  Place the rolled oats, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, coconut, spices, and salt in a large bowl.  Stir until well mixed.

Add the maple syrup, melted coconut oil, and vanilla to the oat mixture.  Stir with a large wooden spoon until all ingredients are well combined.

Spread granola mixture onto a large baking sheet and place in the oven.  Bake for 40 minutes, turning mixture with a spatula every 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool completely. (If you wish, you can stir in dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, apples and/or cherries at this point.  I prefer fresh fruit to dried, so I left the dried fruit out.)  Store in a tightly sealed glass jar.  Makes approximately 5 cups.

This granola was easy and fun to make (Will really enjoyed helping!), and once it's prepared, it's perfect for a quick, healthy breakfast in a bowl with some fresh fruit and organic milk or almond milk added to it.  Mmmm!

If you prefer something a little more fun and fancy in the morning, you can do what I did and use this granola to make a breakfast parfait.  Because I have a sensitivity to dairy, I created my parfait using cashew cream instead of plain yogourt.  (*See instructions below for how to make your own cashew cream.)  For fruit, I used PC Organics frozen Power Fruit Blend, which contains dark sweet cherries, blueberries, and blackberries (but any fresh fruit when it's in season will be delicious, too!)  Simply layer the fruit, then a dollop of cashew cream, then some homemade granola in a glass, and repeat until the glass is full.  I haven't eaten anything like this since I found out I could no longer consume dairy, and let me tell you, this parfait was gloriously good!

*You can make cashew cream very easily by blending 1/2 cup of raw cashews with 1/4 cup of cold water in a high speed blender. I soaked my cashews in cold water in the fridge overnight to make them softer and easier to blend. Strain and rinse cashews before placing in your blender, and then add fresh water. I used half of the cashew cream in this parfait, and saved the other half in the fridge for another day.)

Choosing nourishing whole foods for the entire family for breakfast is a great way to get off to a good start in the morning.  With a little bit of advance planning and prep work, it's easy to send everyone out the door feeling energetic and ready to face the day with a smile.

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