Coconut Chia Quinoa Granola (Vegan)

Oh, how I love granola! It’s basically just ground up oatmeal cookies. (Let’s be honest.) I sprinkle it on cereal, oatmeal or just eat it by the handful. :-P Some of my favorite granolas are from Trader Joe’s (pumpkin and coconut cranberry), but recently I made my own “healthified” version at home. Read on for the recipe!

Vegan Chia Seed Quinoa Granola

Vegan Chia Seed Quinoa Granola

I worked off of Bran Appetit‘s cherry almond chia granola recipe, and made a few alterations. The results were oh-so-delicious! I never would have thought to try quinoa in granola, but it TOTALLY worked. I loved the extra crunch. (PS — note the snowflake PJ pants below. This pic was taken in February, not May FYI. Haha!)

Vegan Chia Seed Quinoa Granola Vegan Chia Seed Quinoa Granola The best addition was the unsweetened coconut! Since I knew I loved the Trader Joe’s cranberry coconut granola, I figured it would work well in this recipe. Success! It complemented the coconut oil perfectly!

Vegan Chia Seed Quinoa Granola

I would totally make this again! Maybe even as a gift, packaged in a cute mason jar with a ribbon. Cheap, chic and homemade!

Vegan Coconut Chia Quinoa Granola

    • 2 cups old fashioned oats
    • 1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
    • 1/3 cup chia seeds
    • 1 cup sliced almonds
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup coconut oil
    • 1/2 cup (or more, if desired) shredded unsweetened coconut (I love Bob’s Red Mill Unsweetened Flaked Coconut)

How-to:

  1. Preheat oven to 225° F.
  2. Place oats, quinoa, chia seeds, almonds, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.
  3. Toss / mix together.
  4. Pour vanilla, maple syrup and coconut oil over the granola mixture and stir to combine. Make sure that the liquid mixture has coated everything.
  5. Spread granola onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, and bake in the oven for 60-90 minutes until the granola is crunchy and lightly toasted.
  6. Remove from oven and let cool. Break apart any clumps.
  7. Mix in coconut shreds.
  8. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Trader Joe’s Milk Chocolate Jumbles

I love chocolate. I love quinoa. But TOGETHER? Hmmm. Leave it to Trader Joe’s to test the waters with this unlikely combo (successfully!). I give you: milk chocolate jumbles!

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles

These chocolatey treats are actually quite delicious! Pecans, toasted quinoa, caramel, chocolate and Himalayan pink sea salt offer the perfect balance of crunch and salty sweetness.

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles

Once you bite down, the toasted quinoa has sort of a rice krispie effect (in the best way possible!). Crunch factor = SPOT on. I don’t say this often, but you could be satisfied with just ONE of these. Win!

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles

They’re a close cousin to sea salt caramels… with a twist! I highly recommend picking up a box. For more information about the jumbles, visit this post on TJ’s website.

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles

Whole Foods Sushi Class

I learned a new skill last Friday night: sushi making! My friend and I took a class at Whole Foods Bowery, and I’ll start by saying that it was (surprisingly) easier than I imagined.

Whole Foods Sushi Class

Our instructor started off by demonstrating how to make miso soup.

Whole Foods Sushi Class

Luckily we got to sample the final product, which was probably one of the best miso soups I’ve ever had. The freshness made all the difference!

Miso Soup

On to the rolls! We made them all by ourselves (!). Before we got to work, the instructor passed out sheets of seaweed and pre-made balls of rice. Side note: I think rice is the hardest part. You need to use a specific type of grain (shorter grain), and make with more water than usual. Once it’s finished cooking, you add a vinegar mixture. Did you know that all sushi rice has vinegar in it? It’s true! “Sushi” means sour. So it all makes sense now!

Nori Roll with Tofu, Avocado and Carrot

Then we sliced the fillings into long, thin strips. Next up: the fun (scary) part: rolling! First, we assembled the rice and fillings on top of the seaweed. Our instructor said three ingredients is always a good maximum. Any more than that, and the sushi becomes very difficult to roll. The first roll was a basic nori roll (seaweed on the outside, rice on the inside). I chose tofu, avocado and carrot.

Next we made maki rolls, aka “inside out” rolls. This time I opted for crab, avocado and carrot.

Maki Roll with Crab, Avocado and Carrot

Next we learned how to make hand rolls — a slightly different process (no rolling mat required!).

Whole Foods Sushi Class

This roll turned out much better than I expected. Our instructor compared them to bouquets. My sushi “bouquet” was almost too pretty to eat! :-D But only for a few seconds. I opted for tofu, sprouts and avocado.

Hand Roll with Tofu, Avocado and Sprouts

We also learned how to make large nori rolls with quinoa. These were actually my least favorite because the quinoa was very hard to work with. It didn’t stick together as well as the rice. However I loved the concept and really did want it to work!

Below is a photo of all the sushi the instructor created during the demonstrations. Of course, his all looked perfect. ;) I have to say though, sushi was a lot easier to make than I ever anticipated. If you’re at all interested in a class, I highly recommend taking the one offered by Whole Foods. For only $35, it’s a great value. You can check out the Bowery Culinary Center’s list of upcoming classes here.

Whole Foods Sushi Class

Hawaii Trip, Part 2

I’m just getting around to part two of my Hawaii post! The second half of my trip involved lots of beach time, food and a visit to the Dole Plantation (i.e. pineapple mania!).

On the third day, we drove to Waikiki. I hung out at the beach while Val taught yoga. (PS — check out her blog Eye Chow — she documents all of her personal food and travel adventures around the world!)

Waikiki Beach

Once she got off work, we drove to the north side of Oahu. It had an entirely different feel from the rest of the island. More of a “surf town.” Definitely less touristy!

We stopped for lunch at Opal Thai Food. Words cannot describe how AMAZING this place was! Upon arrival, we were promptly seated and given menus. Then the chef/waitor came out, snatching the menus away. He asked, “do you eat Thai food? When was the last time you had Thai food?!” He continued, “Do you eat shrimp? Beef? Cillantro? Garlic?” We nodded in agreement (and disagreement on some). He took note of our requests, and walked back to the kitchen.

I felt a little nervous at that point. But once the food came out, it did not disappoint! The meal started with these delicious and oh-so-colorful lettuce wraps.

Opal Thai Food

Then came an amazing shrimp, veggie and noodle dish. Everything was bursting with flavor, and a lot lighter than I expected (not a ton of heavy oils or creamy sauces).

Opal Thai Food

Last but not least: coconut curry! A glorious flavor combination. Anything coconut and spicy are A+ in my book, so this dish was a definite winner.

Opal Thai Food

After our power lunch, we drove to Waimea Beach. According to Val, this is always a great spot to watch surfers. We hung out there for most of the afternoon. It was so nice to beat the weekend crowds!

Waimea Beach Waimea Beach Waimea Beach IMG_8784   IMG_8671

On our way back from the beach, we paid a visit to the Dole Plantation. Very cool experience! The gift shop sold pineapple everything — gummy bears, lollipops and even soft serve. I had a hard time resisting any of those things, but the soft serve sounded best. I ordered a twist with pineapple and vanilla. What a combo! Such a treat, especially after a warm day on the beach.

Dole Plantation Pineapple Soft Serve
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I also got to see what a pineapple plant looks like up-close. I don’t know about you, but this was definitely NOT what I imagined! It’s almost like a bush. Plus, they’re red. What?


Dole Plantation Hawaii

Next, we stopped at a coffee farm — Green World Coffee Farms. This was a must for me! I knew if I was going to bring home anything from Hawaii, it needed to involve coffee (and macadamia nuts!).

Green World Coffee Farms Green World Coffee Farms

Green World Coffee Farms Green World Coffee Farms

I settled on: one full-size bag of organic coffee and some chocolate covered coffee beans for my boss, as well as three mini flavored bags for myself: macadamia nut, coconut cream and Hawaiian rocky road.

Green World Coffee Farms   Green World Coffee Farms

As you can see, my favorite souvenirs are edible. I carried on this trend with a visit to Honolulu Cookie Company. They specialize in shortbread cookies, most of which are macadamia nut. Some are dipped in dark chocolate, white chocolate or coconut. They were a nice treat and also made a nice gift to bring back for my boss! I bought a variety pack, along with a few individually packaged ones. This cookie with dark chocolate was one of my favorites:

Honolulu Cookie Company

Honolulu Cookie Company Honolulu Cookie Company Honolulu Cookie Company Honolulu Cookie Company

On my last day, we ate lunch at a Guy Fieri-approved favorite: Sweet Home Waimanalo. This is one of the few restaurants serving up healthy versions of traditional Hawaiian fare.

Sweet Home Waimanalo Sweet Home Waimanalo

I ordered the “superfood salad,” a combo of local greens, local grape tomatoes, avocado, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and a raw coconut vinegar and macadamia nut oil dressing.

Sweet Home Waimanalo Superfood Salad

I also ordered a side of these colorful mashed sweet potatoes!  Has anyone else ever seen purple sweet potatoes? This was a first for me, and I can report that I am DEFINITELY a fan! Yum.

Sweet Home Waimanalo Sweet Potato Mash

Also couldn’t pass up a photo opp in front of this amazing mural on the side of the restaurant!

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After lunch, Val took me to Waimanalo Bay Beach. This was by far the most peaceful beach of all, with some of the most vibrant turquoise waters I’ve ever seen. Very beautiful! I stopped for a quick tree pose (fitting, eh?) on our walk over.

IMG_8785 Waimanalo Bay Beach Waimanalo Bay Beach IMG_8804

On my last night, I took Val’s sunset yoga class. What a cool experience! I couldn’t think of a better setting to unwind while taking in the beauty of Hawaii. If you’re ever in Oahu, I highly recommend taking the class. And if you’re on the fence, just LOOK at these photos. Now realize that these views are EVEN better in person! You can find out more on Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii‘s website.

Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii Hawaii Sunset

After class, we went to Buho Cantina — one of the few decent Mexican restaurants in Hawaii (according to Val). The portions were on the smaller side, but did not disappoint. Of course, first priority was guac.


Buho Cantina Guacamole

I also ordered the vegetarian tacos, which came on soft corn tortillas with avocado, peppers and mushrooms. Yum!

Buho Cantina Veggie Tacos

We were craving something sweet after dinner so I made Val take me to get chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. Mauna Loa is her favorite brand. I bought the dark chocolate and milk chocolate toffee versions. Wow! They were both delicious, but toffee was the CLEAR winner. I could eat those things for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Mauna Loa Chocolate Macadamias On my last morning, we stopped for breakfast before my flight home. Val took me to Leonard’s, a Hawaiian institution. They serve various Portuguese baked goods, but their real specialty is malasadas.

Leonard's Bakery Leonard's Bakery

A malasada is essentially a cross between a doughnut and a sweet roll. Best of all, they’re fried to-order right in front of you, making them FRESH, warm and gooey! I opted for the cinnamon version. It was out of this world!

Leonard's Bakery Malasada We also made an obligatory acai bowl run to Lanikai Juice. Man, do I love those things! This one was topped with banana, coconut, granola, strawberries and blueberries.

Lanikai Juice Acai Bowl Then it was off to the airport! I was so sad to leave, but amazed by much we packed in! I couldn’t have had a better tour guide to show me around. Thanks, Val! I’m already daydreaming about my next trip… :-D

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Hawaii Trip, Part 1

Aloha!! I just arrived back from a week in Hawaii visiting my friend Val. What a beautiful place! I only wish I could’ve stayed longer. I’m just finally going through all my pictures now, and already wish I could go back! From the weather to the beaches to the endless palm trees, the island of Oahu was truly an amazing place. Sadly I didn’t bring the warm weather home with me though! Haha.

My trip kicked off at JFK. I brought some handy-dandy Trader Joe’s green juice to fuel up before the flight! I flew six hours to LAX and then another six hours to Honolulu. So I left at about noon on a Saturday in New York and arrived in Hawaii at about 8pm on Saturday. The time change actually wasn’t as horrible as I feared. I pretty much just went straight to bed the first night, and adjusted throughout the week.

Green Juice Coffee in Hawaii

Maybe it sounds cheesy, but I am such a sucker for palm trees! I was overly excited to discover endless amounts of palm trees EVERYWHERE once I arrived at Val’s house. (And really everywhere else.)

Palm Trees in Hawaii

These monkeypod trees were also all over the place. They remind me of something out of a fairy tale!

Monkeypod Trees in Hawaii

On my first day, I groggily (still recovering from the six-hour time difference) walked down to the beach. There’s a stunning lookout just about 15 minutes away from Val’s house. So beautiful!

Pacific Ocean Hawaii

Diamond Head Lookout Diamond Head Beach

I came across a street named “Coconut Avenue” during my walk. LOVE. Where else in the world would you find this? I wish I lived on Coconut Ave!

Coconut Avenue

Palm Trees in Hawaii

One of my first meals was breakfast at Kokohead Cafe. I ordered a garden frittata (with coffee, of course), and I don’t completely remember what Val ordered but I think it involved pork! It was such a cute spot, like a surfer shack meets diner.

Breakfast at Kokohead Cafe Garden Frittata at Kokoheaad Cafe

Palm Tree in Hawaii

On my second day there, I hiked to the top of Diamond Head — a 200,000 year-old mountain that used to be a volcano!

Diamond Head Crater

Diamond Head State Monument

Here are some pictures I took from the top:

Top of Diamond Head View From Top of Diamond Head IMG_8443 View From Top of Diamond Head

And then back to the beach!

Diamond Head Beach

After the beach, I hit up Coffee Talk, which according to Val, is a Hawaiian institution! They serve up tons of unique drinks like Cinnamon Roll and Nutella Lattes.

Coffee Talk Hawaii Coffee Talk Hawaii

I opted for an iced almond milk latte. So refreshing!

Coffee Talk Hawaii

We finished the day at Diamond Head lookout! I’m not sure why, but the sunsets in Hawaii seem ESPECIALLY spectacular!

Sunset in Hawaii For dinner Monday night, we went to Val’s favorite Greek place, Olive Tree. Yum! I honestly forgot how much I loved Greek food until we came here. We ordered hummus and babba gannoush to share. I had never eaten baba ghanoush before (I think I was put off by the name? Haha!), but I am now a fan. I also ordered the tabbouleh salad and we shared baklava for dessert.

Olive Tree Tabbouleh Salad Tuesday was a major adventure day! We started with acai bowls from Health Bar. I NEED to try recreating this at home. The combination of everything was just on point. Acai smoothie, banana, granola, honey, strawberries… yum!!

Acai Bowl from Health Bar Anyways, so back to the adventure part. We hiked through the rain forest! One of the coolest parts was walking through this bamboo forest. I had never seen bamboo up close and it was seriously incredible! And SO tall, as you can see.

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This part was a waterfall, which was semi-walkable. I “hop-scotched” my way from rock to rock to walk around.

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I also climbed an old Banyan tree!

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After the hike, we drove to the Pali Lookout. Wow! The views from up there were almost even better than Diamond Head.

Pali Lookout Pali Lookout

We went back to the beach again later that afternoon. Honestly, the beach never got old. Never.

Beach in Hawaii Palm Trees in Hawaii IMG_8558

On Tuesday night, we ate dinner at Panya. I ordered a salmon salad packed withs strawberries, apples and ginger (and a few other things I can’t remember!).

Salad at Panya

Of course we needed some dessert to finish off the night. Ice cream was the answer! We stopped at Bubbies, and I ordered two scoops of ice cream: coconut and Oreo. Yum!

Ice Cream at Bubbies in Hawaii

That’s all for the first half of my trip. I have even more (TONS) of pictures to share…  so stay tuned for “part two” of this post!

Trader Joe’s Greens, Beans and Grains

Another week, another Trader Joe’s find! I’m ALL about the quick and easy dinner options lately. So I ventured back to the frozen aisle and found Greens, Beans and Grains. According to Trader Joe’s, this is a West African dish — similar to a peanut soup or stew — and features kale, garbanzo beans, peanuts and couscous.

Trader Joe's Greens, Beans and Grains

After a few minutes of prep work (i.e. microwave), this entree was ready to go! I mixed in some of my own kale, too.

The verdict: for a frozen meal, it’s jam-packed with flavor! This surprised and impressed me. The combination of ingredients is spot-on, with the peanuts and garbanzo beans creating just the right amount of crunch. My only complaint is the ratio of couscous to greens/beans. For me, the portion of couscous seemed excessive, and I would’ve liked more veggies. That being said, I took care of this by mixing in some of my own kale, which I highly recommend doing!

Final thoughts: skip the gross Lean Cuisines, and check out this instead. TJ’s frozen meals will exceed your expectations, I promise!

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