Olive oil granola – a must make!

It’s raining outside when the trusty weather app shows “cloudy” only, but I don’t mind. I get to hear the rain fall and the drip, drip, drip of the storm drain outside the patio door. I’m sitting here in my flannel shirt staying nice and cozy as the smell of my olive oil granola (recipe below!) fills the entire apartment.

recipe, olive oil granola
My second batch in two weeks.

Addicted? Perhaps, but its a good kind of addicted. Mixed with this new Turkish yogurt I found at the store and I barely have any control to stop. The main German grocery store by my house used to carry a Greek yogurt. At 10% fat, it was nice and thick. We used it for everything and replaced sour cream with it.

And then, the store just stopped selling it. Something I find they do often – sell a product and then never restock it. But in it’s place appeared this Turkish yogurt; which, upon researching, aka googling, it’s on par with Greek yogurt, so I grabbed the 3.5% fat to see how it was.

Verdict: delicious, better, but runny. Like sour cream runny.

So, I bought the 10% fat and I will never ever go back to plain Greek yogurt again. I’m a convert! Turkish all the way. It’s thick yummy goodness surpasses anything we’ve ever tasted, and I realize I just wrote several paragraphs about yogurt, but I can’t help it. Its that superior to anything in the states and even here…and if I’m honest, is the main reason why I’m making a second batch of olive oil granola.
greek yogurt

Over the weekend, we attended a bizarre where over 50 vendors from all over Europe come together to sell their products..at grossly discounted prices. This is a “can’t miss opportunity,” so we drove the two hours to get to it. I needed to replenish my olive oil and typically get it from an Italian olive grove company, but they weren’t there! Much to my sadness.

I found another Italian family selling their’s and I hate to admit it, but it’s even better than the other company! So fresh and delicious. The smell alone…I don’t think Americans know what truly fresh olive oil smells like, and friends, it’s amazing! I almost didn’t want to use it on my granola, like I need to savor it, but I know it’ll make it taste all the better.

recipe, olive oil granolaSo, what is this recipe I keep going on about and why in the world would I put olive oil on it? Because it’s nothing without it! That’s why!! Just make it and I promise you’ll flip as I have. Promise.

OLIVE OIL GRANOLA

3c oats
1 1/2c your favorite nuts (I love peanuts, cashews, and pecans in mine!)
1c pumpkin seeds (or your favorite)
1c coconut chips
3/4c maple syrup OR honey OR half of each
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
1tsp kosher salt
1/2tsp ground cinnamon
1/2tsp cardamom OR nutmeg
*3/4c dried fruits, ie. craisins, raisins, apricots ect

Preheat oven to 300*F (149*C)
In large bowl, combine ALL ingredients except dried fruit.
Spread mixture evenly on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.
**Transfer to a large bowl or storage container and add dried fruit, stirring to combine.

Serve with yogurt, ricotta, berries or as “cereal” with milk. Gobble up!!

Notes:
*dried fruit can be added before baking, however, they will harden and become difficult to chew. Adding at the end makes them the easiest to enjoy.
**best to transfer to glass bowl immediately after removing from oven. If let cool, the granola will become painfully stuck to the pan. you.will.regret.this!! If you happen to forget, pop it back in a warm oven for 5-10 minutes to soften the honey and to retain your sanity.

recipe, olive oil granolaMake this and tell me how you liked it. I love how this can be customized to your taste preferences, so, have some fun with it and report back to me what you used!!

I’m off to enjoy my delicious bowl of granola and yogurt!
recipe, olive oil granola

Meal planning for the overwhelmed

meal planning tips

I was the overwhelmed. Technically, I’m still the overwhelmed, but I found after meal planning/prepping/doing for the past five weeks that it’s actually quite simple.

That’s what everyone says, right?

“it’s a breeze! just do this and that, and you’re all set!”

But, in reality, its far from simple, because that person who’s sayings it’s a no-brainer has been doing it for years. And the person who can’t get over the overwhelming feeling of where to start finds the “expert’s” advice far from helpful.

That, I think, is what makes meal planning so complicated. It has to be tailored to the individual doing it. Though there are thousands of methods, ideas, and plans to follow, (I really like Lindsay’s meal-prep posts), if they’re not foods you’d typically eat, you’ll fail every.single.time.

That’s how I felt.

I’ve wanted to do weekly meal plans since getting married, last year, and have attempted it several times. I even went so far as to interview a seasoned monthly meal planner for the Arizona Farm Bureau, just to get ideas for myself! Yet, despite that, I still couldn’t overcome the loss of where to begin, making each and every weekday and night miserable as I agonized over what to make.

Maybe you’ve gone through the same things?

So, after much stress – typically brought on by myself – I decided to take action! Here’s what I learned, plus how I overcame it all to “successfully” (I use that term loosely) meal plan.

The first week WILL BE STRESSFUL!

It didn’t matter that I had the entire week planned out from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two daily snacks, including the grocery lists and recipes, I still felt way over my head. On Sunday, I cooked non-stop for six hours straight, running back and forth from stove, to fridge, to chopping, to washing the mounds of dishes. It felt endless and too much to ever want to do it again, but I was determined to prove myself. To whom? – No idea, but I was too deep in it to quit.

Come Monday, as I was sipping my morning coffee, the realization set in. I didn’t have to cook… for the whole week!! I practically did a dance right then and there. I didn’t have to think, stress, or worry over what to make for dinner. It was already sitting in the fridge ready to eat. I thought if all it took was six terribly stressful hours of cooking on Sunday, it was well worth it to have the whole week of freedom.

But here’s the thing.

The second week: NOT as stressful!

I will give this caveat: I followed a pre-set meal plan for three weeks in a row. Was it the exact same foods each week? – Yes. Did they lay out what to eat, cook, and provide the grocery list and recipes? – Yes! Is that considered “cheating” in the meal planning world? – Heck to the no, no!

I think for someone who IS overwhelmed, its the absolute perfect solution to overcome the stress of meal planning. Simply because it gives you a starting point. It did take me a long time to find the right pre-set meal plan, but after diligently searching, I found one that fit our lifestyle.

By the third week, I was on cruise control. What took six hours the first week, took less than three. Even my husband commented on how cool, calm, and collected I was while preparing everything. It wasn’t lost on me either. I was loving knowing it didn’t stress me out like before.

Though I don’t follow that specific meal plan any longer, I have used what I learned going forward with our weekly meals, and find it so much easier now. Life has gotten SO much easier now.

So, if you’re anything like me, someone who has always wanted to meal plan but couldn’t get past the crippling feelings of being overwhelmed, then here are some useful tips for you!

  • Find a pre-set meal plan. ie. Let someone else do the grunt work for you. (this may take a bit of time, but give yourself a solid hour to search through varying plans to find the right one)
  • Commit to at least two weeks of meals. I say this because that first week is rough, but I promise it gets 1,000x easier as the weeks go on.
  • Know the first week will be crazy and stressful, but press through! Chant “just keep swimming” if you need to make it through.
  • If doing it all on Sunday is too much, break it up into two days. Just make sure you have Monday’s and Tuesday’s meals ready.
  • Believe and know it WILL get easier! By the third week you will see it is considerably easier guaranteed!

If you’re a new or seasoned meal planner, let’s hear your methods!
How do you meal plan and what got you started wanting to meal plan?