One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

I think I’ve teased this recipe enough with various photos on social media and now it’s time to actually reveal what’s become essentially its own food group in our household. I’ve been tinkering with the ingredients and baking time and I can safely say that we’re addicted. It hasn’t come to marking how much is left in the mason jar before I leave the apartment, but we’re getting there.

Yup, it tastes that good. Lightly sweet, plenty of crunch, lovely toasted coconut and flaked almonds. Excellent sprinkled over yogurt with a handful of blueberries or some pieces of fresh pineapple. What’s even better: all the ingredients can hang out in the pantry, no special trip to the grocery store required, and it only takes one bowl. So even when we’re reaching critically low levels we’re really only about 30 minutes away from a fresh batch.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

One-Bowl Coconut Almond Granola (yield 2 1/2 cups)

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
2 tablespoons lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raw sliced almonds
1/3 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup dried apricots, sliced

Instructions:
Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, vanilla protein powder, brown sugar, ginger cinnamon, and salt. (If you’re not into protein powder you can leave it out – just keep an eye on your baking times – or sub in whole wheat flour.)

Pour the olive oil, maple syrup, and vanilla extract onto the dry ingredients and stir until the oats are evenly coated and the granola is well mixed.

Spread the granola mixture in an even layer on the prepared rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir to break up the clusters and sprinkle the almonds evenly over the granola. Bake for another 8 minutes, again stirring before adding the flaked coconut. Bake for a final 6-8 minutes until the granola is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, the slide the parchment paper and granola onto a wire rack and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before adding the dried apricot pieces.

Allow the entire mixture to cool completely before storing or serving. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Serve with vanilla greek yogurt and fresh fruit.

Adapted from Small Batch Granola by Joy the Baker.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Absolutely. I used a medium mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, a rubber spatula, rimmed baking sheet, and a wire cooling rack. Parchment paper will prevent the granola from browning too quickly and helps with the cooling process.

The Verdict:
Our granola consumption has gone up 1000% since I started making my own. It’s just the right amount of sweetly spicy, the oats and almonds give it enough satisfying heft, and the apricots are pleasantly chewy. We often bring along a small container to jazz up a cup of yogurt, and it makes a parfait or dish of ice cream feel like a treat. I also love that the basic oat mixture is endlessly adaptable to what’s in the pantry, so expect more variations down the road.

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

One Bowl Coconut Almond Granola | Image: Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Cocktails and Cookies”

The Set-up: Ina and her friends are shaking up cocktails and baking up cookies today.

The Menu: Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup, Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers, Blood Orange Cosmopolitans, Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits

0:44 – We’re chilling with Rob Marshall and John DeLuca again (remember them from this episode?)

1:17 – While the guys are out on the beach walking their dog Gilly, Ina is whipping up some Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup.

2:23 – Ina prepped the ricotta ahead of time since it needs a little while to strain, but we get a re-cap of the process.

3:08 – She’s really not messing around with this breakfast, the ricotta gets a topping of maple syrup toasted almonds, fresh berries, and a slice of brioche.

4:31 – While Ina plates the ricotta she clues us in on how cool and successful Rob and John are – their movies include Chicago, Nine, and Into the Woods.

5:44 – Breakfast is served while they scheme their plans for the rest of the day – one of which involves a wicker picnic hamper full of boozy cocktail ingredients. Well played, guys.

8:12 – Time for the cookie part of the show and it turns out that the “cookies” are actually special Whole Wheat & Peanut Butter Dog Biscuits for Gilly. One lucky dog to be sure.

9:25 – Aaannd, here’s why I love Ina. Her favorite descriptor for a messy plate is a ‘dog’s breakfast’ and now she jokes they’re “finally making [one].”

10:40 – Ina takes even dog biscuits seriously and these were overwhelmingly selected by dogs the clear winner in a blind taste test vs. boxed cookies. I guess I should make some for Maddie soon…?

11:37 – Uh-oh, the guys’ dough looks better than Ina’s and she’s getting competitive. Do not try to joke her down on her own show!

12:49 – A pause in the action for a moment to clean up, and I suspect they may have taken a nip of the cocktails already because this is an epic mess and they’re giggling like 14 year old girls. Yeah, I’m jealous too.

13:11 – Seriously, they’re sword-fighting with the rolling pins now. Who else thinks a food fight is about to break out?

14:06 Ina is too crafty, she’s cutting the dough out in bone shapes, egg washing them, and sprinkling the tops with oatmeal.

18:22 – Onward to cookies for human beings in the form of Jalapeno Cheddar Crackers and they actually are almost the same process as the biscuits.

19:50 – Ina explains to Rob and John that jalapeño peppers are very hot, especially if you leave in the seeds and ribs/membranes.

20:43 – John reveals an aptitude for rolling dough into logs and it’s jokingly suggested that he may have been a bread baker in an earlier career.

21:15 – A little Knife Skills 101: saw the blade back and forth to let the edge do the work, rather than just pressing straight down.

22:57 – Prepare yourself for the most adorable taste test ever as Gilly gets a first bite of her dog cookies.

23:14 – Now there are treats for the humans as the crackers come out of the oven They really do look crunchy and golden, mmmm.

26:26 – The booze hamper has been unpacked and Step 1 of Blood Orange Cosmopolitans is to “measure 2 cups of vodka, and you’re done!”

27:43 – Followed by another cup of Cointreau, and after that just 2 cups of blood orange juice and 1/2 cup lime juice. Which means someone is going to nap under a table later.

28:35 – Next Rob whips out the most massive cocktail shaker I’ve ever seen, which Ina immediately claims as the perfect size for the number of cocktails she needs. I bet that thing holds 2 liters, easily.

29:49 – The blood orange cosmos are a gorgeous color, like a Lilly Pulitzer pink went clubbing in neon. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere….

Final Thoughts:
Maddie rarely benefits from my cooking efforts, perhaps a little love of the home-baked variety is in order?

I love the idea of making a pitcher of drinks ahead of time just shake with ice and no need to measure them out one at a time. Brilliant!

Don’t try to tell me that there was no off-camera sampling of those cosmos.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
I’ve made a savory version of Ina’s homemade ricotta cheese before, but I was intrigued by the idea of having a sweeter Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup version for a morning meal. I also couldn’t resist the lure of almonds candied with maple syrup, especially maple syrup crafted by Merle Maple Farms (a company that's been run by family members on my mom's side for more than a century) and so here we are.

Ricotta Cooking – This seems intimidating until you’ve done it a time or two. I’d recommend using a larger pot than you think you’ll need. The milk/cream mixture needs room to bubble up, giving it space to do so means it won’t be all over your stove. Second, milk goes from zero to sixty when it’s coming to a boil, so watch like a hawk as soon as you see the first small bubbles form. Third, after the vinegar is added the mixture does look pretty terrifying, but trust the process – it works!

Ricotta Straining – I’d highly recommend setting-up the cheese cloth, sieve, and straining bowl before you start. Again, use a larger set than you think you’ll need – it’s far better to have extra space.

Maple Syrup & Almonds – As with the boiling milk, the almonds bear watching while they’re toasting in the pan. Mine turned golden brown after about 3 minutes. Something else to note: the maple syrup bubbles up quite a bit when it hits the hot pan (I used the Grade A Medium Amber in case you're curious), not to overflowing but more than I expected!

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, especially because this recipe comes together in stages. For the ricotta I used a large sauce pan (4 quart), large fine-mesh sieve, liquid measuring cup, rubber spatula, large bowl, and cheese cloth. To make the toppings and finish seasoning the ricotta I used a small sauté pan, large bowl, measuring spoons, a small cutting board and a paring knife.

The Verdict:
For me, Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup walks that line between sweet but not too sweet perfectly. The honey and vanilla push the ricotta toward mascarpone in flavor – slightly sweet, but still a hint of mild, creamy cheese – an excellent back drop for bright berries. The true revelation though: those toasty, nutty, rich maple almonds. OMG. Borderline an ice cream topping, but in small doses they’re the perfect note of indulgence. I naturally gravitate toward anything you’d typically put syrup on, but if you’re more of an omelet person like Mike, I’d skip this one.

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Breakfast Ricotta with Berries & Maple Syrup | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

When I’m on my way out the door and need a quick, easy snack – preferably a snack that’s healthy and delicious – I often reach for a granola bar. I’ve been buying them for years and it seems silly now, but it never really occurred to me that I could make them myself, until I came across a recipe for homemade breakfast bars in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Lightbulb moment ensued.

I’m pretty particular and I often have something very specific in mind, so the concept of having exactly what I wanted was pretty appealing. (If you've ever had the "pleasure" of perusing my Christmas list this comes as no surprise.) I started experimenting with flavor and ingredient combinations and came up with Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars. My version mixes the traditional whole grains, dried fruit, and nuts with almond butter and whey powder to amp up the protein. The best part: they’re crazy delicious, like I could seriously eat a whole pan by myself, which probably defeats the purpose.

Definitely mix up a batch – it will take all of 15 minutes – and you'll see what I mean about these sweet, salty, fruity bars.

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars (yield: 8 bars)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries aka Craisins
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds
1 1/4 cups Quaker Old-fashioned Oats
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vanilla whey protein powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 teaspoon ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon almond butter
1/4 cup, plus 1 tablespoon honey
1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
Non-stick spray

Instructions:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spray the interior of an 8x8x2 inch pan or 9 inch pie plate with non-stick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Chop the dried apricots to 1/4 inch pieces and stir together with the cranberries, almonds, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, whey protein powder, kosher salt, and ginger in a medium bowl.

In a separate smaller mixing bowl, combine the olive oil, almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract until evenly combined. Note: measuring olive oil first will make it easier to remove the almond butter and honey from the cup.

Pour the almond butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until all the fruit, nuts, and oats are evenly coated. The granola mixture will be stiff, but should stick together. Add a touch more honey if the granola is too crumbly.

Spread the batter into the prepared baking pan and use a rubber spatula press the mixture into the pan in an even layer, don’t neglect the corners!

Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until the edges begin to brown and the top turns lightly golden. Cool the bars completely in the pan before turning out onto a cutting board. Slice the baked bars into squares.

Wrap the bars individually in plastic, or store in an airtight container with a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between the layers.

Adapted and rewritten from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook Almond Date Breakfast Bars (similar here and reprinted here).

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Yes, indeed! I used a 9” pie plate, one medium mixing bowl, one small mixing bowl, a small cutting board, a rubber spatula, chef’s knife, and measuring cup and spoons. Parchment paper will also be very helpful.

The Verdict:
I tested an early version on some friends before I had the texture quite right, and even with a slightly unruly crumble to contend with the flavors came through as a winner. The mildly bitter almond acidity is balanced against the tang of the almonds and cranberries, and mellowed by the honey. The slightly salty finish adds just the right note and keeps these from being too sweet.

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Cranberry Apricot Almond Granola Bars | Image: Laura Messersmith