Monday, September 16, 2013

Real Food: Granola

I recently stalled on my weight loss journey. I had lost about 8 pounds since I started back up in July, but then hit a bit of a plateau. I think my problem was a combination of factors. I do Weight Watchers, which is incredibly effective (and promotes healthy, slow, and steady weight loss) when it is used correctly. With an influx of birthdays and a week-long family visit, I was, however, being a bit lax with my splurges and assuming my 49 extra weekly points were covering those splurges. As a result, my weight maintained for about a week, climbed a fraction the next, another fraction the next, and another fraction the next still. Before I knew it, I was up three pounds and had only lost 5 since starting. Talk about counter-productive. So, last week, I talked with my leader, and she suggested (besides the obvious strategy of tracking everything) eating more points at breakfast, lunch, and midday, and fewer in the evening. And wouldn't you know: after a week of diligently tracking and following her advice, I lost that weight I had gained, and now I'm back to being down 8 pounds! Now, I just have to keep the momentum going. I found that eating healthful and hearty breakfasts and lunches did help me, if only because it kept me from getting too peckish around 3:30-5, which is a dangerous time of the day for me, usually. For some reason, it also kept me from craving sweets at night. The only time I had sweets was in the middle of the week when we went to get frozen yogurt, which compared to the splurges of weeks past, is just a blip on the radar.

This all got me thinking about the 100 Days of Real Food blog. I have been following this blog for awhile, and I thought that maybe for my next round of grocery shopping, I would pull my recipes solely from that blog. I am going to have to explain how we shop in another post because it works really well for us.

 I found their meal plans (if you "like" them on Facebook, you can gain accessibility to their 5 or so meal plans) and decided that the Summer and Late Spring plans were the best ones to start with, for variety and for our personal tastes. Everyone should check out their blog. I have to admit, I don't see us going 100% "real" (in terms of all organic) yet for financial reasons, but I did the best I could when shopping for the ingredients for this plan, bought organic when it wasn't too expensive, and think it might have a real impact on my weight loss. It also didn't seem to break the bank any more than a normal shopping trip...maybe a tiny bit more because I had to buy some staples like whole wheat flour, but not much. I have calculated the "points plus" on these recipes and all of them are reasonable. And, none of them have added refined sugar, white flour, or any bad, processed ingredients...that's the whole point of the blog. Seriously. Go read it if you're at all interested in this type of eating.

That being said, I want to share my experiences with cooking some of these recipes. I'm busy in the kitchen today, making four different recipes to prepare for my busy week.

First up: the 100 Days of Real Food Granola. Yum!!!! Granola can be delicious and healthy, but so many pre-made versions have lots of empty calories from added sugar. This granola is made with nothing more than  honey to sweeten it. I used a local honey, but Trader Joe's sells a honey that is recommended by these ladies. I bought it for when I run out of mine (I got mine at a crafts fair and decided TJ's would suffice for the rest of the recipes).  This granola takes only a tiny amount of hands-on time. You can find the recipe here. I made some small changes in that I didn't buy tons of cashews or pecans, so I lowered the proportions of those and upped the amount of sunflower seeds. You could probably add anything to this and it'd turn out well...personal preferences!

You take the oats, nuts, and spices from the recipe and mix them up first.

Then, you melt the butter and honey together on the stove, and when it is melted, add the vanilla and salt. *Don't worry, this recipe makes 3 pounds, so the 6 tbs of butter are spread out over many, many portions.*

Then, you mix together the luscious meltiness with the dry ingredients, using a rubber spatula.

Finally, you spread the mixture on parchment paper-lined sheet pans and bake at 250 degrees for 75 minutes.

You let the granola cool and then break it apart (if needed) to store in airtight containers.There's an option for bars on this recipe using steel-cut oats. I calculated that a 1-oz serving of this granola, using the ingredients that I did (1/2 cups each of cashews and pecans, 1 cup sunflower seeds, no pumpkin seeds) is only 3 points plus. That's the perfect amount for a snack, or for topping greek yogurt, though if you're just eating this alone, I'd probably recommend almost doubling that for 6 ppts.

 I'm off to enjoy some now, before I get back into the kitchen to finish my work!

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