Friday, June 1, 2012

Updates and Homemade Low-Fat Granola

    Wow! No post in a long time, huh?!  I've been okay. Honestly, I've been busy. I've probably mentioned it, but I'm studying to take the GRE. I have a Master's Degree but I didn't need to take the GRE for that program. Now I want to try to get into a PhD program that will give me a second Master's Degree in the process, but this school requires that I take the GRE first so.... I'm studying.  Mostly reviewing.

Atom isn't too thrilled about studying either...

     The funny thing is, a lot of my English vocabulary has suffered. Even though I'm a writer and I work with WORDS my vocab stinks because my brain is full of Japanese vocab. Like, I look the words up that I don't know as I'm studying and then I look them up in Japanese and sure enough, 9 times out of 10 I knew the Japanese word and meaning but didn't know the word in English. Or rather, I've forgotten the English equivalents.

Jaw Surgery Updates
   I went to see an SLP (speech language pathologist) and she was great! Very young, I think, but obviously qualified or she wouldn't be in that position. I was surprised, though. She said that my teeth are actually in alignment positions for perfect articulation, perfect chewing, and perfect swallowing. After running through some tests and drills she said that she really thinks that what I'm feeling and hearing and experiencing is the awkwardness of finally chewing, swallowing, and speaking properly. She said to give it time, practice with speaking or reading aloud, record myself for review, etc. She thinks I will adapt with time and realize I'm doing things right.

    So that was a relief, although a little frustrating because now I KNOW the problem is perceptual and not physical so I have to get used to it. That's fine though. I had to also adapt the to changes (though, subtle) in my appearance and at almost 6 months I'm still working on that.

Jake's Diet
    My beagle, Jake, is on a diet too. I've gained over 10 lbs from the medicine the doctor is treating my cyst with. But that's almost over. I know that a lot of it is water weight, and it will all "fall off" once I'm able to workout again. But it's frustrating.

This is today's Accountability Pic
(1 June 2012)

    While I was wallowing in self-pity, I realized that Jake has gained a good 25 lbs in the last 4 years. In 2008, while Nick was overseas, Jake got very sick and he almost died. After that, he started gaining weight little by little until now he's having trouble feeling comfortable, lost flexibility, lost range of motion, hip and joint problems which were inevitable because he's getting older, but the fatness isn't helping.

    So he's on a diet and exercise plan. Just because I can't do what I want or need to for my own weight doesn't mean I can't help Jake!  For accountability, I have given him his own blog and we post regular accountability pictures there and on Instagram (@smaggio) and Twitter (@Sasha_Maggio).

Granola Recipes
     Nick is still on the P90X menu plan. He starts Phase 3 next week. This third menu calls for things like Italian focaccia bread (but only 2 slices per person per week) and low-fat granola (1/2 cup per week). That seemed like a lot of spending for stuff I can make myself.

    My issue with store-bought focaccia bread is I have yet to find a whole grain version I liked. And the prices are just not appealing to me.

    When I was at the store yesterday.... I looked at the available granola and I wasn't impressed. I didn't care for the nutrient content, I didn't care for the prices, and I didn't care for the selection. So I decided I'd make it myself. I went home and created two granola recipes and both came out great!!  So I thought I'd share. Normally, I'd prefer to share on my PSM website but I'm in the process of revamping it which is taking FOREVER so I'll share it here instead.

Fruit & Nut Multigrain Granola (top half of the above picture)
  • 4 Cups Multigrain Oatmeal Cereal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Prunes (I used Plum Amazins)
  • 1/2 Cup Fancy Raisins
  • 1/4 Cup Pecans
  • 1/4 Cup Walnut Halves
  • 1/2 to 2/3 Cup Natural Sugar (depending on sweetness preference)
  • 1/2 Cup Hot Water
  • 1/4 Cup Joseph's Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
     In a large bowl combine the oatmeal, raisins, prunes, pecans, and walnuts. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Line a large baking sheet with non-stick foil, or two medium baking sheets if you don't have one big enough.

     In a medium saucepan combine the water, sugar, and syrup. Heat over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Try not to get the sugar granules on the sides of the pan; keep them in the water. When the mixture boils and the sugar has dissolved, stir in the cinnamon and vanilla. Remove from heat.

    Spoon the syrup evenly over the granola mixture in the bowl. Stir to combine and moisten the ingredients. Spread in a thin layer on the pan and stir more, if needed, to moisten any dry oats, grains, or other ingredients.

    Bake in the middle or upper-half of the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Gently stir the mixture to help release moisture trapped underneath. Bake for 20 minutes more. The cooked granola will remain slightly moist and soft when finished cooking. Remove the pan from the oven and set someplace to cool. Stir gently throughout the cooling process to allow the granola to get crunchy.

   Store in a sealed container at room temperature.

Mocha Granola (bottom half of the above picture)
  • 2 Cups Old Fashioned Oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1/2 Cup Natural Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Hot Water
  • 1 tsp. Alcohol-Free Vanilla Extract
  • 2 tsp. Instant Coffee Granules
  • 2 to 4 TBSP Joseph's Sugar-Free Maple Syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Mixed Semi-Sweet Chocolate and White Chocolate Chips
     Preheat oven to 350 and line a pan with non-stick foil. I used a disposable square cake pan, which is also an option. Place the oats in a bowl and set aside.

     In a saucepan, combine the sugar, water, coffee, and syrup. Cook, stirring gently and occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Try not to get the sugar granules on the sides of the pan. When the mixture boils and the sugar has dissolved, stir in vanilla and remove from heat.

     Spoon the syrup over the oats in the bowl. Stir to moisten the oats completely then spread in an even layer in the prepared pan. Bake in the middle or upper-half of the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Stir gently and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the oats rest in the oven for 20 minutes.

    Remove the oats from the oven. Set on the counter and let cool for 15 minutes. Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the granola and toss gently once or twice. The chocolate chips will melt a little but this allows them to form clusters and combine with the granola. Place the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes.

    Remove from the freezer, stir gently to loosen. Store in a sealed container. If you store the mocha granola at room temperature, the chocolate may melt slightly depending on your environment. If you store it in the refrigerator, the granola will be slightly chewy but very good.

I tried both granola recipes as cold cereal this morning. The mocha one was excellent!

The fruit & nut granola was a little too crunchy for me still,
but if I didn't have braces it would be perfect!

I also tried this Wallaby Organic Greek Yogurt for the first time.
I thought it was very good... and I like how Whole Foods gives a discount when you buy a "case" :-)
Now that I know I like it, I'll be back for more!!!

And fruit, naturally...
I find that if I do not eat enough fruit with enough variety, I tend to feel miserable, grumpy, sad, almost depressed. I also tend to CRAVE sugar like crazy, but that's a whole different story...
So I try to incorporate a lot of fruits and vegetables in my daily menu.

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