Eating with the Armstrongs

The coming of fall has been a dream! A few things I’ve enjoyed lately…

My birthday was really special this year. I felt so loved by friends and family and specifically enjoyed a delicious Italian dinner at Frankie Marcello’s with my husband (get the chicken piccata!), tea with my girl friends at the English Tea Room  (the Earl Grey Supreme is divine) in Covington, dinner and drinks with Matthew and my parents at Galatoire’s Bistro (you’ve got to try the banana bread pudding!), and gifts galore!

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The pumpkin latte with house-made maple whipped cream at Magpie Cafe. Need I say more?

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The grand opening of Trader Joe’s. I won’t mention how many times I’ve been so far. But some of my TJ faves so far include: 21 Seasoning Salute (a salt-free blend of yes, 21 different spices, perfect for chicken, fish, burgers, eggs, etc..), Pumpkin Spice Rooibos Tea, Tuscan White Bean Hummus, Gorgonzola Crackers, and Coconut Bonbons, and my husband’s fave Cookie Butter (dangerous).

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Rollerblading with my puppy, Boone. Maybe the most fun and scariest form of exercise ever. I’m bringing rollerblading back!

My fall herb garden. I transferred most of my herbs from my larger garden into pots so that in the unlikely chance that it freezes this winter I can bring them inside. I love having fresh herbs right outside of my house to use in my cooking. I’m growing: rosemary & thyme, arugula, cilantro, chives & dill, sage & parsley, and not pictured, basil, oregano, mint, lavender and patchouli.

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Besides all these delights, lately we’ve enjoyed:

California Chicken Rice Bowls: this is a flavorful and delicious meal. I made it for a friend who recently had a baby, and they loved it! Also great with quinoa instead of rice. I topped it with feta cheese rather than blue cheese and skipped the walnuts.

Butternut Squash Pasta: husband approved! The sauce has a unique sweetness that changes things up a bit from your normal pasta sauce. I added a whole can of tomato paste as well as a de-seeded roasted red pepper to the blender when blending the sauce. I enjoyed the added savory and tomato flavor to offset the sweetness of the butternut squash. The recipe makes a ton, so I’m going to use the leftover sauce for pizza sauce later this week.

Lebanese Style Stuffed Eggplant: It may sound out of the box, but these stuffed eggplants are absolutely divine. The flavor profile is actually not as unusual as you might think. I used cous-cous instead of rice. Try it!

Balsamic Pot Roast: we enjoyed this out of the ordinary take on pot roast. Pot roast is a great dinner for a cold night after a busy day, as the slow cooker does all the work!

Homemade Granola: served as cereal with milk or a topping for Greek yogurt with maple syrup and fruit, this is one of our go to breakfasts. It is simple to make and much cheaper than buying from the grocery. Plus you can control the sugar content. I like to make a batch on Sunday afternoon and enjoy throughout the week.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake: an easy but impressive looking dessert. Perfect with vanilla bean ice cream or homemade whipped cream.

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Homemade Granola

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Oh hey! It is December. I love December. Christmas is on it’s way and we get to drink things like peppermint hot chocolate and caramel apple cider. Supposedly cold weather and warm clothing are a part of December as well, but not here in South Louisiana. I guess we are getting ready for a tropical Christmas.

I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking about making some homemade gifts this year, with Pinterest overtaking the world of creativity, there is an abundance of ideas from beeswax candles to adorably packaged baked goods to coffee sets.

To add to your idea list, I give you: homemade granola. Delicious, healthy, easily packaged, pretty to present, and enjoyed by most if not all. My mom has always made the most fabulous granola. This recipe is a bit hers, a bit mine, and a bit of gathered inspiration. Granola can be enjoyed many ways: with cold milk, scooped onto creamy yogurt & berries, as a frozen yogurt topping, or baked into cookies. I hope you try it and you like it!

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Homemade Granola

makes about 12 cups

adapted from Joy the Baker

1 to 1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

8 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 heaping cup coarsely chopped banana chips (optional, only if you REALLY like them)

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup olive oil

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

1/3 cup honey

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

To Make:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, toss together coconut, nuts, banana chips (if using), rolled oats, cinnamon, and salt.

In a medium saucepan over low heat, stir together the oil, maple syrup, and honey.  Stir until melted together.  Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  Stir together.

Add the wet ingredients, all at once, to the rolled oat mixture.  Toss to coat, insuring that all of the dry ingredients are coated in the maple syrup mixture.  Divide the mixture between the two prepared baking pans.  Spread into an even layer.

Bake granola for 45 minutes, removing the pans every 15 minutes to stir.  Once mixture is evenly browned and toasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

When, done, the granola should be a nice golden color. It will darken after you take it out of the oven. Granola lasts several weeks! Enjoy!