Olive Oil and Maple Granola {gluten-free, vegan}

Olive Oil and Maple Granola {gluten-free, vegan}

We just returned from a lovely trip to Italy.  It was somewhat last-minute and a wonderful whirlwind.  Cecil came, too, and couldn’t have been more delightful!  More on our trip later.  I’ve been tarrying over this silly granola post the entire month of March.

Much like banana bread, I’ve never met a granola I didn’t like.  So to use superlatives like “best” would certainly show uncharacteristic partiality on my part.  BUT.  If I had to pick only one…

Olive Oil + Maple Granola {gluten-free, vegan}

In this version, the more traditional ingredients like honey and a neutral-tasting oil or butter are swapped out for the dark, heady flavor of real maple syrup and the grassy notes and pleasant bitterness of olive oil.

Not only is this unexpected pairing of flavors complimentary, but it also creates a markedly unusual texture.  Whereas most granolas are pleasantly chewy – giving one the sense you’ve earned your morning nutrients through prolonged chomping – this recipe is almost brittle, crumbling to pieces in your mouth.  I tend to hover over the hot heap right out of the oven, picking out the toasty coconut shards and eating them one-by-one.

This cereal doesn’t stop at breakfast, either. We eat it all day long: soaked in milk with the addition of dried cherries (Molly’s idea), a dry handful as we dash out the door, even sprinkled over greek yogurt for dessert.  And, to bring things full circle, it makes a great snack for long-haul flights.  It’s no wonder a single batch of the stuff never lasts more than 48 hours!

OLIVE OIL & MAPLE GRANOLA
This recipe was created by Nakisia Davis, owner/founder of Early Bird Foods.  She was generous enough to share it eons ago with the good folks over at Food52 as part of their “Genius Recipes” column, a weekly post that’s been a real boon to anyone’s ongoing search for delicious food.

3 cups gluten-free old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup raw pumpkin seeds, hulled
1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
1 cup unsweetened coconut chips
1 1/4 cups raw pecans, whole or roughly chopped
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • In a large bowl mix all ingredients together, stirring until everything is evenly moistened.
  • Spread granola mixture onto lined sheet pan and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, until toasty brown, approximately 45 minutes.
  • (Try to) cool completely before serving or storing.

Yield: 7 cups.

 

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Maple-Sunbutter Cookies {gluten-free, nut-free, vegan}

Maple-Sunbutter Cookies {gluten-free,vegan}

I had a recent taste-bud epiphany.  Desperate for a snack, and having already raided my cupboards only to find stale tortilla chips, I settled upon the sad slice of cinnamon-raisin bread languishing away in the back of the freezer.

It became toast.  Because toasting improves everything.  I topped it with a few smears of sunflower seed butter.  Then, because this wasn’t interesting enough, I added a generous drizzle of maple syrup and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Strangely, the combination was good.  The flavors pushed all those savory-salty-sweet buttons like a good peanut butter cookie. Thus the idea for this recipe was born.

Winter Daybreak

MAPLE-SUNBUTTER COOKIES
I’ve tried this recipe with all sorts of gluten free flours, oils, and, at times, I have even veered from my original plan by substituting other sweeteners.  However, maple syrup was my muse, and I just kept coming back to her.

The choice of oil seemed to make less of a difference.  I give a couple of options below.  If you opt for coconut oil, be sure it is melted.  Like butter, it solidifies at cooler temps and will seize up into little chunks when it meets a cold substance (like refrigerated maple syrup!).

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup sorghum flour (or brown rice flour)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 heaping teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum

Wet Ingredients:
1/2 cup sunflower seed butter
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (I used grade A, but I bet grade B would be even better)
3 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil (melted), olive oil, or organic canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir until evenly moistened.  Allow the dough to rest a minute or two.
  • Using a tablespoon, drop the dough onto the cookie sheet and give each mound a gentle press to barely flatten into disks.
  • Bake 9-11 minutes, depending on your cookie personality: soft vs crumbly.

Yield: About 1 dozen

Early Fall Salad

Early Fall Salad {gluten-free, vegan}

Last night we brought salad to a pot-luck dinner with friends.  And don’t get me wrong, I like salads and all, but I wouldn’t say I typically sit around daydreaming about what raw veggies to mix up next. However, in the half hour I had to throw this together, I figured I could either bemoan that I didn’t get to bring dessert or go big and make a really damn good salad.

I was craving something with a hint of autumn in it: apples, roasted nuts, maple syrup, etc.

This is infinitely adaptable to one’s personal taste.  I think the caramelized nuts along with maple vinaigrette really make the dish.

EARLY FALL SALAD WITH MAPLE VINAIGRETTE
4-6 C. your preferred salad green (I used a mix of romaine, radicchio, and baby spinach)
1 medium, crisp, sweet apple like Gala or Fugi
1 small cucumber
1 C. chopped almonds or walnuts
1/3 – 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. olive oil
4-5 T. pure maple syrup
3 T. apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar
1-2 t. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper

  • Tear lettuce into bite size pieces.  Rinse and dry (a salad spinner is great here).  Mound in a large serving bowl.
  • Chop apple and cucumber into 1/2″ pieces and sprinkle atop the bed of lettuce.
  • Prepare caramelized nuts: Spread chopped nuts in a dry 8″-12″ skillet.  Sprinkle sugar on top.  Turn the stove top heat to between low and medium.  I use setting 3 or 4  on a 1-10 dial.  Take a fork and swirl the nuts in the sugar.  Don’t go anywhere.  Things can progress quickly here.  After 1-2 minutes the sugar will become wet, keep stirring.  Then the wet sugar will start turning light brown, keep stirring for just a few seconds until a nice brown color is achieved…not chocolate brown or black.  Err on the conservative side.  Quickly remove pan from heat and scrape your nuts into a glass bowl.  Let cool.  Then break up into pieces by stabbing with your fork (rather gothic sounding) and pile on top of your salad.
  • To make vinaigrette: Mix all remaining ingredients together in a small container with a lid.  Shake, shake, shake. Taste and adjust. If the flavor isn’t popping try adding a tiny squirt more of mustard and/or vinegar.  I always tend to add more maple syrup, too.
  • When ready to serve, drizzle each portion with vinaigrette.

Serves 12, approximately