Cranberry Almond Granola

In the winter, when the snow is high and spirits are low, we head to the mountains to heal. We leave our lives behindour responsibilities, our technology, our connection to the rest of the worldin search of a lungful of fresh, pine-scented air. The long, curved mountain roads guide us towards the peaks, leading us to our home for the weekend.

When the sun stretches toward the heavens, we strap skis to our feet and fly across the landscape until our legs grow unsteady; when the sun falls below the sky, we rest near the fireplace, laughing, holding this feeling of family close. Our fears, our worries, our stubborn doubts fade and we remember, once again, how to become whole.


Packed along with the winter gear, I brought a batch of granola to share among ourselves. The hearty grains were the start we needed in the dawn of the morning hours. During our stay, clouds hung heavy over the sky, releasing large, white flakes by the hour, enclosing the mountain with an opaque fog. The light, however, had a quality of warmth and wildness unknown to me in the Midwest. I could not resist the moment and pulled out my camera to capture the breakfast, the rough wood floor, and the trees blanketed in white.

The mountains teach lessons that cannot be learned from books; the mountains teach lessons that are learned directly through thin, crisp air, tired legs, and eyes full of wonder.


In other (exciting!) news, I am so honored to announce that Pastry Affair has been nominated for Saveur Magazine's 2015 food blog awards in the Best Baking & Desserts Category! It is your endless support that has brought me here, and I want to take a moment to say thank you. It means everything. I feel privileged to be listed among such talented company. 

To vote, head over to Saveur's website, take a moment to register, and select your favorites

Cranberry Almond Granola is textured and hearty, made for early mornings and days that are demanding. Almond butter is sweetened with honey and spices to give the base a full, natural flavor. Coarsely chopped almonds and dried cranberries are thrown in to add character. Serve with a thick yogurt or drown in a swirl of your favorite milk. 

Two Years Ago: Pita Bread, Homemade Pita Chips, and Almond Joy Candy Bars
Three Years Ago: Coconut Pineapple Banana Bread, Sundried Tomato Basil & Brie Spread, Strawberry Balsamic Jam, and Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars
Four Years Ago: Cereal & Milk Bars, Vanilla Almond Cupcakes, Banana Pudding, and Devil's Food Cake

Cranberry Almond Granola

Yields 5-6 cups

3 cups (270 grams) old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup (85 grams) quinoa, uncooked
1 cup (140 grams) whole almonds, chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon chia seeds (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 cup (78 ml) coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup (80 grams) almond butter
1/2 cup (170 grams) honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg white (optional)*
3/4 cup (120 grams) dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, quinoa, chopped almonds, chia seeds, cinnamon, and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, salt, and egg white until uniform. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and stir until evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If the egg white was omitted, stir halfway through baking; if it was added, do not stir the granola and leave it to set while baking. Cool completely before storing. Stir in dried cranberries.

*The egg white binds the granola together for a chunkier texture, allowing you to break it apart into small or large pieces of your choosing. If you prefer a looser granola, omit this ingredient.

Coconut Almond Quinoa

A new year brings a fresh outlook and a clean slate. The last few years I have wavered in my thoughts toward resolutions. I have made them (and kept them), made them (and ignored them), and refused to make them in the first place. Last year, while buried deeply in work and stress, the prospect of trying to improve anything about myselfwhen I could hardly stay afloat to begin withseemed almost laughable. As we enter into 2015, I feel quite similar to last year: too tired to think up a list of resolutions. I know that I should be thinking positively, taking time to imagine a better self, but I'm writing this after an eleven hour work day and, with a pile of work to still sift through before bed, I'm struggling. 

Instead of putting even more pressure on myself by resolving to cook healthy meals or to take advantage of the gym membership I have been paying for (but not using) the last three months, I am going to switch it up and resolve to teach myself a few new tricks.

While baking comes quite naturally to me, cooking is entirely something else. Seasoning dishes, cooking meat, or dreaming up new dishes are not tasks I feel comfortable with (nor am I good at any of them). For this reason, I want to learn to truss and roast a proper chicken. I intend to go back to old episodes of Julia Child's The French Chef and let her show me the way.

I have never made a batch of perfect macarons on my own. After buying four pounds of almond flour, this will change.

As I have said a dozen times before (and I will say a dozen times more), I adore reading. Earlier this year, without space for a bookcase, I bought a Kindle to encourage myself to delve into the books again. While I didn't think I would enjoy a digital reader, I surprised myself by loving everything about it. This year I want to make time to read more books, even if it is just setting aside a few minutes before bed. 

And, as always, find the inspiration to keep baking.

For the past few years, I make a sweetened quinoa for breakfast each morning, finding it a filling and satisfying way to begin the day. With a new year upon us, I thought a new recipe of an old favorite seemed suitable. The quinoa cooks in coconut milk, becoming creamy and subtly flavored. When cooked, almond butter is added for a nutty undertone and maple syrup is swirled for sweetness. A topping of chopped almonds and toasted coconut complete the ensemble. Best of all, this makes a large batch, which can be heated for breakfast throughout the week.

One Year Ago: Almond Date Banana Smoothie
Two Years Ago: Candy Cane Cupcakes, Chocolate (Dairy-Free) Ice Cream, Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal, and Raspberry White Chocolate Scones
Three Years Ago: Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Green Tea Coconut Ice Cream, and Chocolate Lavender Cupcakes
Four Years Ago: Peppermint Ice Cream, Banana Cinnamon Muffins, Vanilla Pear Milk, and Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cupcakes

Coconut Almond Quinoa

Yields 3-4 servings

14 ounces (414 ml) full-fat or light canned coconut milk
1 cup (170 grams) quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons almond butter
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup (adjust to personal sweetness)
Chopped almonds
Toasted coconut flakes
Splash of soy or almond milk

In a large saucepan, stir together quinoa and coconut milk. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to low, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until tender and liquid is absorbed. Stir in almond butter and maple syrup, adjusting for personal sweetness. 

Divide evenly between 3-4 bowls and top with chopped almonds and toasted coconut flakes. Add a splash of soy or almond milk. 

To store, quinoa can be kept in the refrigerator for several days. Reheat in the microwave, add a splash of milk, and it can be made as a quick weekday breakfast.

Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble

Around each March, when I feel as if winter will never end and the snow will never melt, I throw a package or two of berries into my basket at the market. It's an impulse buythe berries may be brightly colored, but the flavor is so faint and lacking I often feel as if I shouldn't have bothered in the first place. Yet, year after year, the berries are there, a reminder that summer is a few months away, even if the weather outdoors does not reflect it. The berries carry memories of happy moments, long afternoons, and picnics out on the porch.

And now, finally, my basket is overflowing with berries of all kinds. 

The last few days have been cold and windy. I've stayed indoors, buried in books, and enjoying the heat from the oven, a rarity in these summer months. To take advantage, I've taken out the mixing bowls and have been working on whipping up a few desserts here and there.

Lately, I've had a tendency to go a little overboard when buying berries and this week was no exception. I like to throw a handful blueberries in my breakfast each morning. I enjoy eating blackberries slowly, with a side of chocolate. But when these habits aren't enough to to make the berries disappear, I gather the rest together, cover them with a crunchy topping, and bake them up until the juices begin to sizzle.

Crumbles are one of my favorite ways to enjoy fruit. While any fruit could really be used, berries are the most reminiscent of summer to me. While I prefer to eat mine cold and plain, straight from the refrigerator, crumbles are just as nice served warm with a topping of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. With the holiday weekend coming up, the natural color scheme of this particular version seems like an apt way to celebrate. 

Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble is a wonderful way to use up summer berries. Whether fresh or frozen, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries come together with a crumble topping to create a simple dessert. With the red and blue berries, this dessert can make a great addition to your Independence Day celebrations.

One Year Ago: Dill Dinner RollsSparkling Lemon Drop, and Berry Cheesecake Tarts
Two Years Ago: Multigrain BreadBlueberry Lemon Crumble, and Vanilla Cupcakes
Three Years Ago: Baby Sugar CookiesStrawberry Smoothie, and Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade
Four Years Ago: Strawberry Panna CottaTapioca Pudding, and Blueberry & Raspberry Tartlets

Mixed Berry Quinoa Crumble

Yields 6-8 servings

24 ounces (680 grams) fresh or frozen berries
1/3 cup (75 grams) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/4 cup (50 grams) brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (85 grams) quinoa, uncooked
1/2 cup (45 grams) old fashioned oats
1/4 cup (25 grams) sliced or chopped almonds
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the berries, sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and lemon juice until evenly coated. Transfer the berries to a deep pie pan. Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the quinoa, oats, almonds, and salt until evenly mixed. Using your fingers, tear off small pieces of dough and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the berries.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the top is browned and the berries have released their juices. Allow to cool before serving. When serving, top with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or leave it plain. To store, cover and keep refrigerated.