Crunchy Granola Goodness

CrunchyGranolaGoodness

So Good, So Crunchy

There are a million and a half ways to do granola: soft, crunchy, chewy, even “bar” form. Don’t even get me started on all the possible flavor combinations either! I have to admit I love all things granola, but it can sometimes be expensive, or if you buy the wrong kind, like eating cardboard. The “high price, low taste” thing is really weird because it’s so easy to make! Granola is hard to mess up too. Even if the consistency isn’t exactly right, it still (usually) tastes good.

It’s also the perfect dairy and gluten free snack (yay, something I can actually eat!). It can be really difficult to find tasty cereal when you don’t eat gluten, so I usually go with granola. Since good granola can be hard to come by, I thought I’d share my version. This granola recipe is part Better Homes and Gardens, part experimentation and part “accident,” but it’s all good!

As the name suggests this recipe produces crispy, crunchy granola that goes great with milk (or if you’re me- milk alternatives). I spread my granola out on a baking sheet to keep the chunks small and “cereal-like,” but it could easily be shaped into thin bars. This recipe makes approximately 6 cups of yummy granola. Any less than that and it’d probably be gone in one sitting!

Crunchy Granola Goodness Recipe
4 c Gluten Free Oats
1 c Nuts (I used walnuts, pecans and almonds)
1/2 c Flax Seeds (or milled flax seeds)
1/2 c Agave
1/2 c Maple Syrup
1/3 c Oil (I used olive oil)
1/3 c Almond (or other nut) Butter
1-2 tbs Ground Cinnamon
1/4-1/2 c Dried Cranberries

  1. Combine all ingredients* in a large bowl and mix until all the dry ingredients are “wet.”
  2. Spread the mixture out onto two greased 15x10x1″ baking sheets. This will result in small granola clusters that are great for snaking or as a cereal substitute.
  3. Bake at 300 degrees (F) for 50 to 55 minutes. Most recommend turning the granola after about 20 minutes, but I like to just let it bake untouched.
  4. Remember to keep an eye on it towards the end and make sure it’s not burning!

*Note: If you are using something other than dried cranberries you may want to wait to add any dried fruit until you are done baking. I made the mistake of making this with raisins and they all burnt to a crisp within 5-10 minutes of baking. It was a weird batch to say the least!!

crunchy granola

The ingredients listed in this recipe are simply what I had on hand. Try adding other nuts or dried fruit. Some great additions to granola are: cashews, sunflower seeds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried blueberries or strawberries, banana chips, honey, brown rice syrup… Ok, you get it right? The possibilities are endless!

The last time I made this I crammed all the granola onto one baking sheet and made the whole batch at once. I baked it for the full 55 minutes because it was all packed together. It was still a little bit softer than I was going for, so I threw it back in the oven for another 5 minutes. The result was a giant granola bar! Since I’m not a giant myself, I broke it all up into small chunks, yum! How do you like your granola? My favorite is with almond milk!

crunchy granola with almond milk

Granola with Almond Milk

Advertisements

iPad (not so) Blogging: The Final Chapter

I’ve been writing about blogging solely on my second generation iPad. Since the iPad 2 was not designed to be used in place of a laptop or regular computer, I’ve encountered many challenges. Although these problems have been annoying, they’re nothing compared to the troubles I’ve had trying to deal with pictures on the iPad 2.

As a blogger I love to put pictures in my posts. The iPad 2 has two cameras built in, one that faces forward like a regular camera and one that faces the user (which is great for video chatting and narcissists). While the whole double camera thing is awesome, the picture quality is not. The cameras are perfect for chatting with mom from across the country, but the low resolution pictures are nowhere near blog-worthy.

Low resolution iPad camera picture iced coffee

Since I can’t use any of the pictures I take with my iPad, I use my regular camera. The iPad 2 lacks an SD card slot or USB port. To transfer photos off the camera you have to buy a special adapter cable, plug into the laptop, or get creative. With the camera connection kit, you can either plug your camera in via its usb port or you can use the SD card reader, both of which plug directly into the iPad. Since I don’t have the cable, I get around this issue by uploading the pictures from the laptop directly to my media library in WordPress.

There are other options to get your photos onto your iPad beside saving them to WordPress. Services such as Picasa and Flickr allow you to upload pictures to albums that are accessible online. Members of these sites are given the option to make the albums public or keep them private. You could also always email yourself the pictures and download the attachments on your iPad. This can get tedious if you have a lot of pictures to send as there is often a limit to how much you can attach in one email. There is now also the option to wirelessly sync your pictures through Apple’s iCloud, and move them to your computer from there.

Apple USB sync

The new iPad is also missing basic photo sorting and editing tools.* As a longtime mac user I’ve always enjoyed using iPhoto on my Apple computers. It’s a great way to sort photos into albums, crop, re-size, rotate, and even remove red eye/ blemishes. iPhoto isn’t available for the iPad, however, and the Photos application that it comes with leaves a lot to be desired. Photos for iPad is basically only good for viewing the pictures you have saved to your device. You cannot crop or even rotate the photos, and you definitely cannot sort them into folders. *(Update: Apple has since released ios 5 for the iPad. The new operating system now allows you to zoom and focus while taking photos with the camera. You can also crop and sort pictures into folders right on the iPad using the Photos app.)

To edit your photos on the iPad you will need to find something in the App store (Please see my “Update” note above). If you don’t mind advertisements, you can download Fotolr PS HD for free from the app store (they also offer a paid version without ads). This app has many basic editing tools, allows you to resize photos, and also has many other fun features to play with (like putting funny wigs on the people in your pictures).

iPad (not so) Blogging Part 2

I mentioned before that I am trying to blog using only my second generation iPad. I’ve run into quite a few blogging roadblocks by not using the iPad in conjunction with a computer. I use WordPress for my blog and I have to admit I really like their service. For the most part, using WordPress is really simple and straight forward but there have been times when I’ve wanted to pull my hair out trying to create a blog post on my little Apple device. Luckily, I’m slowly finding ways around my WordPress/ iPad compatibility challenges.

When I set up my blog I downloaded the WordPress application for my iPad. After playing with the app for a few minutes, I came to one conclusion; Thank goodness it’s free! I was really disappointed to see the lack of features in the application. Basic text editing tools such as bold and italicize are completely missing, and there is no html view to add in code. Access to your WordPress media library is also unavailable through the app. If you would like to add a picture or video into your post, you can either choose one that is saved on the iPad or use the webcam on the device. (Update: WordPress finally updated their app! They added tools that allow you to edit text and add html codes to your posts. There is still no simplified way to add captions to pictures, but the app has definitely come a long way!).

While there are many missing features in the WordPress application, it’s not a total waste. You can add multiple WordPress blogs, manage comments, and view blog statistics. It’s also great for editing posts and pages on the go. The app even includes a preview button so you can see what the changes would look like on your actual blog.

There is always the option to create and edit posts in what is called your “dashboard” online through WordPress as well. Here, you have access to everything that you would have on a regular computer. When working on posts you can use the html view to add code. You can create and edit posts right in your brower, however, the text is contained in a box that is hard to scroll through on the iPad. To make matters worse, every time you update or preview, the page reloads and the text box automatically scrolls back up to the top of the post. While this is annoying, I’ve noticed that WordPress is always making making improvements. I had issues trying to insert links, but the problem has since been fixed

As I said, I really like using WordPress for my blog. The fact that I can access all all the tools and features in my dashboard from my iPad has made things a lot easier. WordPress even allows you to turn on an iPad version of your blog that is more book-like. iPad users then have the option to flip through pages of blog posts (like a book) or choose the standard site view. I can only hope this means they will become even more iPad friendly on the blogging end of things.

iPad View

iPad (not so) Blogging

I started my blog about a month ago and I have to admit it’s been a little slow going. My snail pace, however, is definitely not for lack of ideas. I keep telling everyone that I need to find a personal-secretary-robot to type up my millions of blog post ideas, take pictures for said posts, and make crafts as I dream them up. Until then it’s just me and my iPad 2. You see, after much use my original-model Macbook was on it’s last leg. Since my husband already had a nice laptop, I decided to replace mine with the latest iPad.

There are so many things I can do with my second generation iPad. I can video chat, take (mediocre) pictures, create art, answer emails, surf the web, and SO much more. Since I no longer have my laptop, my goal has been to find a way to do all my blogging solely on my iPad. While I can do a lot with my iPad and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, I’ve run into a few obstacles that have made my blogging life a lot harder.

The two biggest challenges I’ve had so far have been managing pictures and using WordPress for my blog. To keep this post from becoming a book I will write all about my adventures dealing with photos and WordPress on the iPad separately (read about these problems here and here). Besides these two main difficulties, I’ve come across a few other obstacles as well.

Flash doesn’t work on the iPad which makes it impossible to view content on some websites. This means I often miss out on good videos and information. Since the iPad is basically a large mobile device and not a laptop equivalent, it can take a while for some websites to load. There are also sites that definitely aren’t mobile device friendly, which often means features either don’t work correctly or aren’t even available. The option to upload a picture online is the most common missing feature I’ve come across so far. The button that allows you to select a picture from the computer remains grey and un-clickable. This has been a problem on many (very) popular social networking sites.

20110710-105440.jpg

Un-clickable photo selector

One last problem I’ve had (that is probably pretty unique to me) is that our house runs on direct current (DC) electricity. Having DC power means I can’t just plug into the wall when I want to charge my iPad. I either need to buy a DC adapter or plug it into the laptop to top off the batteries. Recharging through the laptop makes the iPad pretty near impossible to use, and usually takes about 6 hours to complete. Since our house also runs on solar power, I like to charge the battery during the day. Not charging it at night, however, means I lose a whole day of blogging while the iPad gets re-juiced. I honestly can’t complain though because the battery life is pretty amazing. I can usually get two days of good use out of my iPad before the battery dies.

Overall the iPad 2 is truly an amazing device. While it may not be blogger friendly right out of the box, using it to blog is definitely not impossible. There are many accessories and applications available for purchase (and sometimes for free) that can make the iPad more like a personal computer. Since it’s my goal to blog 100% from my iPad I will be looking for ways to work around challenges and missing features. I’ve even found some already that I will share later (again, I’m trying to keep it short!), so stay tuned! Until then, whether you’re an iPad blogger or not, feel free to share your experiences or challenges related to this amazing little device!

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cornbread

After my gluten-free, dairy-free biscuits were a success, I decided to bake something else (I also desperately needed to use up some eggs!). I was in the mood for bread, but I didn’t want to use yeast, so I decided on cornbread. Once again I headed to my trusty New Cook Book by Better Homes and Gardens. I like using their recipes as a starting point since they are usually very basic. We like to eat really healthy, so I usually end up changing every recipe I come into contact with.

To make the cornbread gluten-free (GF) I substituted brown rice flour and tapioca starch for the all-purpose flour. We picked up some polenta from the awesome bulk section at our local grocery store the last time we were there. Polenta is coarser than cornmeal, and gives cornbread more texture.

I’m staying away from dairy (for now), so I substituted the milk in the recipe with almond milk. It’s thick-ish consistency makes for a good non-dairy substitute. It’s also a little sweet which means you can use less sugar in your recipe. I also replaced the regular sugar with brown sugar, but you could always use honey or agave instead.

With all the substitutions and changes, my yummy cornbread recipe turned out as follows:

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cornbread From Scratch
2/3 c brown rice or sorghum flour
1/3 c millet or quinoa flour
1/3 c tapioca flour/ starch
OR
2/3 c gluten free flour(s) of your choice* + 1/3 c starch (potato, corn, and/or tapioca)
1c corn meal, blue corn meal or polenta
1-3 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum, guar gum, or unflavored gelatin
2 eggs
1 c almond milk (or other dairy-free alternative)
1/4 c olive oil or coconut oil

  1. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry mix and add all the wet ingredients – mix well.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased baking pan.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Let cool and chow down!

*I recommend using at least two different kinds of gluten free flour in your recipe – in addition to the starch, or starch mix, of your choice. It may be a bit of a pain to keep multiple gluten free flours around, but the more variety you have, the better the taste and nutritional value! I’ve used as many as 4 different gluten free fours in the recipe and it’s always tasted great! I really like brown rice, sorghum, millet and buckwheat flours for baking. (Note: Despite it’s name, buckwheat does not actually contain gluten (or wheat) so it is safe for GF baking!)

When I took this out of the oven my husband said, “Sweet, cornbread!!”

Wait, one last thing! I didn’t have any on hand, but one 12 oz. can of sweet corn is a great addition to this recipe. You can also get away with using less sugar this way too! Green chili cornbread is also a favorite in this household. Simply add a 4 oz. can of diced green chilies with the rest of the wet mix. If you decide to add corn or green chilies (or both!), you need to compensate for the added moisture by using less milk. I recommend starting with about 1/3 or 1/2 cup of milk and adding more a tiny bit at a time until it reaches the desired consistency. You may also need to add 5 – 10 minutes to the baking time.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Biscuits

Surprisingly, not taste free!

Due to food allergies, I recently started a gluten and dairy-free diet. I’ve only been on this new diet for a few weeks, but it hasn’t been as bad as I had imagined. Although don’t get me wrong, finding foods that don’t contain wheat flour, milk, cheese, or butter (hey, all my favorite foods!) can be challenging and expensive.

All I’ve wanted to eat lately is biscuits! Biscuits, however, are made up of flour (wheat), milk, and butter (Mmmmm, gluten AND dairy). My stubbornness finally got the best of me, and I set off to try and make biscuits I could actually eat.

Whenever I’m in the mood to bake I go straight to my New Cook Book by Better Homes and Gardens. I love that all their recipes are already pretty healthy and super simple. I took a look at their Baking Powder Biscuit Recipe to see what I would need to substitute so that I could eat them (For those of you lucky enough to consume gluten and dairy, check out my note at the end of this post!).

Not satisfied with plain old biscuits, I decided to make cinnamon-sugar biscuits and biscuits with mixed-spices. Since I wasn’t sure how they would turn out, I split the recipe in half and made the two different types of biscuits in two separate bowls. I will admit it took a few times of trial and error to get these right. At first I replaced the wheat flour with just brown rice flour… that was a huge mistake! They tasted really gritty and well, like big globs of rice. Not what I was going for!

I’ve since found that these biscuits, as well as gluten free (GF) baking in general, taste a lot better with a mix of flours. Since GF flours tend to be a bit heavier than regular wheat flour, it helps to add in some type of starch (tapioca, arrowroot, corn…) to the mix to make your baked goods a little bit fluffier. The ratio of flour to starch depends on what your are baking and who you ask! I tend to favor a mixture that is at least 1/3 starch. (Note: if you have problems with sugar or are watching your sugar intake, remember that your body basically processes starch as sugar, so make sure to watch your intake or consult with a physician/ dietitian)

Gluten in flour is a natural binder and is what typically keeps baked goods from just crumbling apart. Since GF flours are obviously lacking gluten, it is sometimes necessary to add a different type of binder such as xanthan gum or unflavored gelatin to the mix. Eggs and/ or a mixture of chia seeds & water also work as binders that you can use for other recipes.

After what felt like a million batches, I finally came up with this basic recipe that is both good and really simple to make! The base of each type of biscuit is the same (Note: the following recipe will make 5 biscuits):

Gluten and Dairy-Free Biscuits:
2/3 c Brown rice flour
1/3 c tapioca flour/ starch
OR
2/3 cup Wheat-alternative flour of your choice* + 1/3 c starch of your choice
1 1/2 tsp Baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum or unflavored gelatin
2 tbs Olive Oil
3/8 c Almond (or rice) milk**

Cinnamon-Sugar

Cinnamon-Sugar

Mixed-Spices

Mixed-Spices

Cinnamon-Sugar Biscuits:
Add 1 tablespoon of sugar (I used brown sugar), honey or agave; sprinkle with cinnamon and mix together (I have to admit, these were by far the winner of the two types of biscuits, but both were really good!).

Mixed-Spice Biscuits:
Season your biscuit mix with a blend of your favorite spices. I added a pinch each of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil, parsley, carrot crumbs, pepper and salt. It’s also very good with fresh chopped green onions, red onion, and/or garlic. If you can have dairy, parmesan cheese is excellent as well!

  1. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and knead the dough.* It’s not the same sticky, messy type of kneading as bread dough, so don’t be afraid to use your hands.
  2. Shape the dough into even sized biscuits. They don’t puff up a lot, so make them about the size you want them to end up.
  3. Bake the biscuits for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees (Fahrenheit) on an ungreased baking sheet.
  4. Let cool and enjoy!!
  5. Try not to eat them all at once (optional).

*You can pretty much use any type of GF flour, but I strongly  recommend using a mix of at least 2 types of flour (in addition to the starch). This will help to keep one type of GF flour from overpowering the biscuits taste wise.

** If you use 1/2 c of milk or milk alternative (instead of 3/8 cup) you will end up with a moist dough that you can just spoon onto your baking sheet (and 6 biscuits instead of 5).

The directions in the original recipe say to mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, make a well in the middle, and add the wet ingredients (pre-mixed in another bowl). Since I like to save dishes, I just add all the ingredients together in one bowl and mix them up at the same time. I chose the knead-the-dough method and it took less than 15 minutes to whip up and shape both types of biscuits. Let me know how your biscuits turn out!

Note: for those who can eat foods containing gluten and dairy, simply replace the wheat-alternative flour with regular flour, the olive oil with butter (I like leaving the butter in chunks so it melts in while baking!), and the almond milk with regular milk…and Voilà, old-fashioned biscuits everyone will enjoy!