Monday, October 27, 2014

Maple Nut Granola Clusters:
From Silvana's Kitchen to Yours

"To this day, it still astonishes me that with just a little knowledge, 
we can make dishes that have the power to help the body heal itself."

These words wonderfully capture the ethos of Silvana Nardone's advocacy and leadership within the gluten-free community.  When her son, Isaiah, was diagnosed with gluten and dairy sensitivity, she, too, had to undergo a transformation of perspective that many of us know all too well.  What to buy?  What not to  buy?  What is okay and what is not….  How to make this, that, or those…..


And through her years of experience running the test kitchen for Rachael Ray, owning her own Italian bakery, developing recipes for major food magazines, and as a fiercely devoted and proud mother of two beautiful children, she is answering those questions on her blog, her first book, Cooking for Isaiah:  Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy, Delicious Meals, and now her latest offering, Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed.

When she approached me about sharing one of her new recipes on The Canary Files, I was excited and humbled.  I first became aware of Silvana through participating in challenges for the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally, and in reading her blog and learning of her journey with her son, I was immediately a fan.  I resonate on so many levels with her intention to to empower those with food constraints (and those who love them) to reclaim their lives and their health.  Through rigorous trial and error in her test kitchen (aka to me as "The school of hard knocks, fallen quick breads, and gooey-centered cupcakes"), she has garnered immense knowledge about making gluten-free and dairy-free food not only accessible, but delicious as well.  And she communicates that knowledge just as she communicates her life-changing story:  With grace, modesty, and beauty.

The recipe I chose was for "granola" nut clusters: a great snack on-the-go, a satisfying breakfast with non-dairy milk or yogurt, over ice cream for dessert, or even as a treat for Halloween that may trick the pickiest of palates into forgoing the more sugar-laden processed candies filling their bags.  Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but regardless, this is a wonderful re-creation of nut clusters that you will find super easy to make and enjoy with those you love and care for.  

Yes, you have to share.

Maple Nut Granola Clusters
Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, & Vegan
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Silvana's Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Kitchen: Timeless Favorites Transformed

Active Prep Time:  7 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  15 minutes (if soaking goji berries)
Baking Time:  75 minutes
Yield:  about 7 cups

2 c raw walnuts
2 c raw almonds
2 c raw pecans
1 c raw pumpkin seeds

3/4 c maple syrup
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c water
1/4 c goji berries (soaked for 15 minutes) or unsoaked raisins
1/2 teaspoon salt

What you'll need:  Food processor, mixing bowl, parchment paper, baking sheet

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line your baking sheet with parchment paper.
2.  In a food processor (or using a knife), process or chop the walnuts, almonds, pecans, and pumpkin seeds until you achieve a coarse texture.  This takes between 1 and 2 minutes.  Note:  I found it best to add the almonds first, pulse them to get them started, and then add the rest of the nuts/seeds, which are softer, to avoid over-processing and creating a crunchy nut butter (which would still be delicious).
3.  In your mixing bowl, combine the nut mixture with the maple syrup, applesauce, rehydrated goji berries or raisins, and salt.
4.  Spread the mixture evenly on the lined baking sheet and bake until golden and crisp - about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Note:  As there is a good amount of good fat represented in the clusters, I found it helpful to stir the mixture every 20 minutes or so to prevent over-browning on the edges.  Also note that the browning will continue slightly after you remove the clusters from the oven.
5.  The clusters will keep in an airtight container for up to 1 week.  Though that will be quite the feat once you try them.

A variety of textures: the finer to help it "stick," the coarser for "crunch."
Oven Time!
Fragrant, golden brown, and crisp.

So easy, right?  And Silvana gives the reader full reign to adapt and customize the recipe to their taste.  Vanilla bean?  Go for it.  Lemon zest?  Oh yeah.  Cinnamon?  Bring it.  Sub apple juice for water?  Aw, snap.  I personally used a combination of lemon zest, ground cardamom, fresh nutmeg, and Chinese 5-spice powder, and instead of goji berries, a mixture of dried cranberries and raisins, capturing the essence of the changing seasons wonderfully.  And while I usually have to adjust sweetness down a few notches in recipes, I didn't have to fuss with this one at all.  The maple syrup and applesauce give a coy hint of sweetness while letting the rest of the ingredients really do the talking, which I fully support.

I am so grateful to Silvana for allowing me the opportunity to contribute to the success of her new cookbook.  And if you're wondering if someone who is gluten-free and vegan will be able to take anything away from it, I will respond with a hearty and resounding "Yes."  It really is an impressive arsenal of knowledge specific to gluten and dairy free cooking, particularly when it comes to baking and the tricks and different tools she has learned along the way to achieve consistent results.  A good number of her recipes are already vegan, and as all recipes are already gluten and dairy free, in most cases all you will have to negotiate is the replacement of eggs and different choice of protein.  I have a list of recipes that I'm anxious to try, including Cherry Pie Poppers, Multigrain Lavash, and homemade versions of Condensed Milk, non-tofu Ricotta Cheese, and Parmesan Shards.  

Intrigued?  Understandable.

Full disclosure:  Silvana politely asked if I would be willing to share a recipe of my choosing from her new cookbook.  I happily agreed.  I am under no obligation to write about this cookbook nor about Silvana.  All opinions expressed here are mine, plain and simple.


Thank You, for your patience, as I've made my way back to writing and sharing here on The Canary Files.  The past few months have allowed me to see that it is not the writing itself that I must do.  More importantly, it is staying true to myself and my higher truth of bringing Light and Love to those who need it.  And in writing today's post, and feeling how naturally my fingers glided along the keyboard and made thoughts into reality, I am affirmed even more in the decisions I have had to make recently and the new direction of my path.  Please stay tuned. 

Wishing all a Happy, Safe, and Blessed Halloween. [cue spooky music]

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