I love to cook but struggle with being inventive in the kitchen. I follow recipes closely without venturing far from the exact measurements laid out within a cook book.
I think one of the reasons why I tend to get bored with food that I make is that I get stuck in a rut of cooking with the same flavors over and over again.
I met Caroline a few years ago and after spending some time with her I learned that she loves to cook. She, and her husband Chad, both have a love for food and it’s truly enjoyable to watch them enthusiastically share how they cooked something. From what brine Chad used for the pork to why Caroline uses a mason jar to create her salad dressing. I thought it would be fun to ask Caroline to create a few recipes for me to share with you on the blog, and this is the very first one!
Hi everyone! I’m Caroline – a wife and mama of two sweet (and hungry!) little boys. I met Kate almost three years ago at church, and we became fast friends. Food has always been an important part of my life. I grew up with a mom who was always in the kitchen, and as one of five children, we were always clamoring to be in there with her. To me, food has the ability to remind of us of special people, places and memories in a way nothing else does.
I’ve been cooking for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of being eight or nine and cutting the recipes out of The Mini Page and hounding my mom to pick up the ingredients on her weekly grocery run. Please tell me someone else remembers The Mini Page – the childhood “newspaper” insert that went into your parents’ paper? Oh man, that was my best life!
So as someone who loves to cook – and eat! – I was honored Kate would ask me to share a few of my favorite recipes with you. My first thought was, “Yay, so fun!” and the second was, “Shoot, that means I actually have to measure my ingredients!” I’m one of those “throw it in and make it work (Tim Gunn voice)” type home cooks, which is one of the reasons why I absolutely love this Sweet Vanilla & Thyme Granola recipe.
It is so easy to throw together, lasts for weeks and is wonderful to share with others. I often make a big batch of it for new moms, and include it when I drop off dinner. It’s a nice special treat just for mama to enjoy for breakfast! It’s also super easy to customize. You can play around with the dry ingredients by changing up the types of nuts or dried fruits, or even the sweetener by using maple syrup instead of honey.
I absolutely love using fresh herbs in sweet applications, and thyme has a beautifully subtle – but distinct – taste that works well in granola. This recipe easy doubles – or you can cut it in half if your self-control is anything like mine. Best of all, your house will smell amazing while it bakes!
Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Sweet Vanilla & Thyme Granola
4 cups rolled, old-fashioned oats (not quick or steel cut)
1 ¼ cups pecans
¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/8 cup coconut sugar (also known as palm sugar – you can substitute with brown sugar but I absolutely love the taste of coconut sugar in this and highly recommend it)
1 cup dried blueberries (or craisins, golden raisins or dried cherries!)
1 ½ teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (removed from stem)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup honey
1/3 cup melted coconut oil
- Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- In a large bowl, combine oats, pecans, coconut flakes, coconut sugar, dried blueberries, thyme and cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, combine melted coconut oil, vanilla and honey. (Note: If you’ve never used coconut oil before, it solidifies at room temperature – so microwave it in 15-second increments until its in liquid form.)
- Pour liquid mixture into your dry ingredients and stir well to combine.
- Line one extra-large (or two normal size) baking sheets with parchment paper and spread granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake at 250 for 45 minutes to 1 hour, shaking baking sheets every 15 minutes so that the granola browns evenly. If using two trays, rotate top and bottom trays halfway through cooking.
- Leave on counter to cool (if you can help yourself.) It hardens as it cools down. Store in airtight containers like mason jars and it lasts for at least two-three weeks!
- Enjoy over yogurt. Eat it like cereal with a little milk over it. Shovel it in by the handful. Throw some on a salad. The options are endless!
My house truly did smell wonderful while this baked. And she’s right that it’s good on it’s own and is just so pretty to package up and give as a gift!