Pecans are a tree nut member of the hickory family and have a rich, buttery flavor. They are native to North America & Mexico and are one of the few major tree nuts that grow naturally in North America. Once collected, the shell of each pecan is removed. This shelling process reduces a pecans weight by about half.
At The Granola Factory, we use roasted pecans that are locally roasted by Queens Nutritional Products in Allentown, Pa. For our granola, we use pecans in two flavors: All-Natural Honey Pecan and Organic Grains & Honey. In our All-Natural Honey Pecan granola, we use chopped, roasted, salted pecans. This results in bigger pecan chunks throughout. For our Organic Grains & Honey granola, we use unsalted pecan pieces, giving it a less salty taste and smaller pecans in each bite. The buttery taste of pecans pairs perfectly with the buttery flavor of our granola.
Pecans have many health benefits and contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals. They are high in healthy fats and help to lower cholesterol. The fiber found in pecans promotes digestive health and the natural antioxidants pecans have play a role in heart health and disease prevention. Another benefit of eating pecans is that they contain phosphorous, which is important for healthy bones and teeth.
First, lets start with what exactly an oat is. An oat is composed of three parts: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran. The germ is packed with nutrients, the endosperm is full of carbohydrates and protein, and the bran contains fiber.
The method to making rolled oats involves the whole, dehusked oat groat (grain kernel) being steamed and rolled into flakes. This process stabilizes healthy oils in the oats, which keeps them fresh longer.
Oats are mainly grown in North America and Europe. At The Granola Factory, we use oats that are delivered fresh from St. Ansgar, Iowa. The midwest is the biggest grower of grains and a huge supplier of oats. Our oats are shipped to Lancaster County and delivered straight to our bakery.
When it comes to oats, there are numerous health benefits and reasons why they would be a great addition to any diet. Oats are a good source of thiamine (vitamin B1), iron, fiber, protein, and antioxidants. Oats can lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease thanks to the high amounts of beta-glucans.
Why choose granola over processed cereals? The whole grains used in granola really make a difference when it comes to nutrition. The grains used in processed cereals are ground into flour and known as refined grains. This process removes the dietary fiber, iron, and vitamins. Refined grains can lead to weight gain, inflammation, and blood sugar imbalances. Whole grains are always a better option when it comes to health!
In my experience as a college athlete and years dedicated to nutrition and fitness, I have learned that by making simple adjustments to WHAT and WHEN you eat around your workout, you will see noticeable changes in your energy levels and body.
It is two weeks into the New Year and hopefully you are still following the resolutions you set for yourself. Your resolution may be to eat healthily, lose weight and become physically active. These are all noble resolutions, and balancing all three together will give you the best opportunity for meeting your goals.
The most common mistake people make when attempting to lose weight and workout is to eat less than usual and then head to the gym or park for an intense workout without the proper nutrition. This strategy may net you some short term results, but will quickly lead to a feeling of being burnt out. This feeling leads to a failed resolution and a return to the lifestyle you previously lived. Changing your body needs to be viewed as a marathon, not a sprint, so easing into a renewed active lifestyle and making small adjustments along the way is key.
The car comparison
If you think of your body as a high-powered sports car (because that’s the kind of car I would want to be associated with), it needs to be fueled with premium gas and on a more regular basis than a typical car. To draw a comparison, food is the fuel that provides energy for your body to sustain activity. If you fuel your body with high-quality foods, it will result in the ability to workout longer and more efficiently.
A brief lesson in calories
The energy provided by food is measured in calories. We’ve all heard of calories and need to realize that they are nothing to be afraid of. The key is to eat the right number of calories in a day to match your new or revamped active lifestyle. To keep things simple, there are three nutrients that provide calories in food; proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
Each nutrient provides a different function when digested by your body. So, eating foods high in a certain nutrient around your workouts will provide the proper fuel your body needs to work out and recover effectively. What you eat is important, but from my experience, when you eat is just as significant.
Before your workout
Load up on carbohydrates
It is essential to eat roughly 30-45 minutes before you work out. By the time you begin your workout, your body will feel nourished and your “gas tank” will be on full. Of the three calorie sources, carbohydrates provide the best energy source before a workout. If you typically do not eat before working out, try making this recipe and you will see a noticeable difference in your sustainable energy levels!
Cherry Almond Granola Bars
To take granola and mold it into a granola bar, you’ll need to heat honey and almond butter and mix them together until emulsified.
1 bag (11 oz.) Cherry Almond Quinoa Granola
3/4 cup salted/roasted almonds, chopped
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped tart cherries
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup almond butter
Combine the first ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix together. Next, add the honey and butter in a measuring glass and microwave for one minute. Stir the honey and almond butter until they have come together and emulsified into one mixture. Pour the honey/almond butter mixture into the bowl and combine all ingredients well.
Once ingredients are combined, oil a 8″x8″ pan and spray with oil. Scoop the granola bar mix into the pan and push it firm into the pan. Refrigerate for an hour and then cut into small servings. Keep bars in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.
Add all the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well.
Pour the honey/amond butter blend over the dry ingredients and mix together.
Mix the honey/almond butter blend with the dry ingredients until it all comes together and ready to be formed in a pan.
After you workout
Choose a meal high in protein but also containing carbohydrates
Post-work out nutrition is of utmost importance for muscle growth and recovery. Your muscles are primed to be repaired after putting them through a demanding workout, and protein is exactly what they need! If you are interested in learning more about the science of protein, click here.
Many foods and combinations are great for post workouts. For example, something as simple as a glass of chocolate milk can have the same effect as a high priced protein shake. Many athletes and bodybuilders are already in on this delightful secret.
Take a look for yourself…
My go to post workout meal is Greek yogurt and granola. This combination is loaded with protein and just the right amount of carbs to replenish worn out muscles. A typical serving of Greek yogurt has 15 to 20 grams of protein and 5 to 8 grams of carbohydrates according to Kurtis Hiatt from U.S. News & Health.
Greek yogurt and granola is an excellent combination for a post workout snack. Try a couple of these for yourself:
It’s June, which is one of my favorite months of the year. Flowers are blooming, and blueberries and soft-shell crabs are plentiful in grocery stores. But June is also when farms are harvesting winter wheat, the most popular variety of wheat grown in America. So given this fun fact, I thought it would be the perfect month to focus on some great recipes that incorporate whole wheat.
I’ve wanted to write about whole wheat for a while now. Since the New Year, my wife and I have been trying to substitute nutrient-rich whole wheat flour for white flour. To our surprise, it hasn’t been as difficult as expected. We’ve actually come to prefer the taste of whole wheat flour in certain foods over white flour.
Whole Wheat Flour vs. White Flour
Whole wheat flour is very different in taste and nutritional value when compared to white flour. As a quick science lesson, there are three components to any grain: the bran, germ and endosperm. While the bran and germ pack most of the nutritional value, they are also the parts that give any grain a more distinct flavor and shorter shelf life. Hence, the invention of refined grains such as white flour. White flour will last a lot longer in your pantry, and won’t overpower the pastry you’re baking with a “wheaty” taste.
Though I prefer white flour in many recipes, it adds very little nutritional value to your diet. Whole Grains, such as wheat, are packed with fiber. Fiber is one of the most vital nutrients for our digestive systems. High-fiber foods digest in your body at a slower-pace, which keeps blood sugar low and leaves you feeling fuller longer. As an example, I eat our cherry almond quinoa granola every morning. It is packed with whole grain oats and protein-rich ingredients such as quinoa and almonds. After eating the granola with milk, I usually don’t get hungry until mid afternoon.
So now that we’ve gotten the science and nutritional aspects out of the way, let’s get back to the flavor benefits. Whole wheat flour is much more flavorful than white flour. This is how wheat flour was milled since its beginnings. As processed foods became popular in grocery stores, white flour became the norm and our paletes have adapted to its taste over time.
Whole Wheat Pizza with sharp cheddar, ricotta, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, sliced granny smith apples and caramelized onions.
Making the Switch
If there are three foods I love to eat on a monthly, if not weekly basis, it’s pizza, pasta and cookies. Yes I know, very typical of an American man. But all three commonly use white flour. So these were the three foods Lisa and I tried switching to whole wheat flour. The results? All three, in certain circumstances, taste BETTER with wheat flour.
Pizza and Pasta: I have a favorite pizza recipe from Nancy Silverton’s “Mozza” cookbook. The pizza dough recipe is the best I’ve come across and bakes great in a regular home oven. I adapted her recipe to use whole wheat flour instead of white flour. The dough had amazing flavor and texture.
Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta with Seared Scallops and a Basil Pesto Cream Sauce
For the pasta recipe, I also adapted a recipe from her cookbook. Both recipes worked perfectly with whole wheat flour.
If there is one ingredient that didn’t pair well our pizza and pasta, it’s tomato. Yes, I realize tomato is to pizza what peanut butter is to jelly. But the disagreement between these two ingredients forces you to get creative with your pizza and incorporate more healthful ingredients, such as sautéed mushrooms and Granny-Smith apples.
Cookies: Lisa’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is simple and delicious. We switched out the white flour for whole wheat and there was very little difference in flavor. Given the minor subtleties in flavor, what reason do we have to use white flour over whole wheat going forward?
By making traditional chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour you’ll add more fiber to your cookies and won’t notice any difference in flavor.
The Cost-Benefit Analysis
Yes, whole grains such as whole wheat flour are more expensive than refined white flour, but when it comes to food, you often get what you pay for. Whole wheat flour will cost you more, but it will keep you feeling full longer and digest easier in your body. And if you get the chance to try one of these recipes, you’ll realize that not only are you paying for more healthful flour, but also for more flavorful food.
This pizza is awesome. I could stop writing and leave you with those four word, but I’ll elaborate. The dough has fantastic flavor and is light and fluffy. The sweetness of the caramelized onions and apples pare well with the sharpness of the cheddar and creaminess of the ricotta. After making this pie, you will begin may rethink the importance of tomato on pizza. I know that my wife, Lisa, now actually prefers this combo over the classic Margherita pie.
The first time you try shaping the dough it will be difficult. It still isn’t easy for me, and it’s given me appreciation for the skill that pizza makers have when it comes to their quickness in making perfectly-round pizzas. If you’d like a video tutorial on shaping the dough, check out this clip on YouTube. It’s slightly different from the technique I explain, but the fundamentals are the same.
Preheat the oven and the pizza stone to 500 degrees fahreneit, or as hot as your oven will go, for at least one hour.
Prep Ingredients Ahead of Time
Caramelized Onions: heat tablespoon of olive oil a sautee pan over medium heat. Add sliced onions, stirring every few minutes to prevent burning. After 25 minutes of cooking time, add the sugar, give the onions a stir and cook for a few more minutes until the onions are caramelized. Season with salt and pepper.
Mushrooms & Apples: Remove the onions from the pans into a small bowl. Add another tablespoon of olive and heat the pan to medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sautee for 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms are soft and wilted. Then, add the sliced granny smith apples and sautee for another 3-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove the mixture to another small bowl.
Get your Pizza Station Ready
Create a pizza station that includes bowls full of olive oil, kosher salt, shredded cheddar, ricotta, onions, and the mushroom/apple mixture.
Have a small bow of flour ready for dusting your countertop
Have a small bowl of semolina flour ready for dusting your pizza peel.
Shaping the dough
When your dough is ready generously flour your work surface and place one round of dough in the center of the floured surface. Dust the dough lightly with flour.
Using your fingertips as if you were tapping piano keys, gently tap on the center of the dough to flatten it slightly, leaving a 1-inch rim untouched.
Pick up the dough, ball both of your fists, and with your fists facing your body, pace the top edge of the dough on your fists so the round stretches downward against the backs of your hands, away from them.
Move the circle of dough around your fists like the hands of a clock so the dough continues to stretch downward into a circle.
When the dough has stretched to about 10 inches diameter, lay it down on the flour-dusted surface.
Adding the toppings
Brush the rim of the dough with olive oil and sprinkle kosher salt over the surface of the dough.
Layer the dough with the cheddar, dollops of the ricotta, the onions, mushrooms and apples, making sure to leave a 1-inch rim with no topping around the edge.
Dust a pizza peel with semolina and slide the pizza peel under the pizza with one decisive push. You are less likely to tear or misshape the dough with one good push of the peel than several tentative pushes. Reshape the pizza on the peel if it has lost its shape. Shake the peel gently to determine whether the dough will release easily in the oven. If it is sticking to the peel, carefully lift one side of the dogh and throw some more semolina under it. Do this from a few different angles until there is semolina under the entire crust.
Open the oven door and slide the dough onto the preheated pizza stone. Again moving decisively, pull the peel toward you to leave the pizza on the stone.
Bake the pizza 10 to 12 minutes, cooking times vary depending on the power of your oven.
While the pizza Is in the oven, clear a space on a clean, dry cutting board to put the baked pizza on.
When the pizza is done, slide the peel under the crust and use tongs to help pull the pizza onto the peel. Then slide it onto the cutting board and top it with grated parmigiano, and a drizzle of olive oil.
Allow the pizza to cool for a few minutes and then cut it into 4 to 6 slices for serving.
Basil Pesto is a great ingredient to have on hand during the summer. Its easy to make in large quantities and freeze in ice cube trays so that it’s ready when you need it. One of my favorite recipes using basil pesto is a creamy pasta sauce. I add a bit of lemon zest to this sauce which compliments the fresh basil and cuts the richness of the cream. And if you’re feeling like making this meal an special treat, I suggest searing some large sea scallops and topping them on the pasta.
1/4 cup basil pesto, more or less depending on our taste (see recipe)
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced.
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
3 tablespoons butter
Zest of one lemon
Prep scallops by patting them dry and seasoning with salt and pepper
Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large saucepan and heat to medium. Add the shallots and cook sweat them for 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Then, add the garlic and sautee for another minute or two.
Add the heavy cream and turn the heat to medium high. Season with salt, black and red pepper (optional). Bring the cream to a boil and then turn the heat down slightly.
Once the cream has thickened to the point where it coats the back of the spoon, turn off the heat and add the pesto, stirring as you add it. You want the sauce to have a light green color and be able to taste the basil. If sauce has gotten to thick, add a few table spoons of the pasta cooking water to thin it out. Season with more salt and pepper if needed.
Searing the scallops
While the cream is thickening, prepare a medium non-stick pan with a tablespoon of olive oil place the pan over high heat. Get the pan really hot but not smoking, and then add the scallops. Be sure to give each scallop space from the other scallops on the pan. Depending on how large your pan is, you may need to do this in two increments.
Sear the scallops on one side for 4-5 minutes and then turn to sear on the other side. After turning the scallops, let them sear for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the 1 tablespoon of butter and let it melt in the pan. Once melted, tilt the pan to form a pool of butter. Begin spooning the butter over top of the scallops to give them a "butter bath."
Once you've bathed the scallops in butter, turn the heat off and cover the pan with foil until ready for serving.
Pepping to serve the pasta
Now that you have your sauce ready, slowly add the pasta to the sauce pan, tossing the pasta as you go to coat it evenly with the sauce. Add a tablespoon of the pasta water to the pan, which will make the noodles slip through the sauce easier.
Once all the pasta has been added to the sauce, add 2 tablespoons of butter and the lemon zest to the pan, and toss once more to coat the pasta. The pasta should now be coated with the sauce and have a glossy appearance thanks to the butter.
Use tongs to portion the pasta into serving bowls. Top the pasta with 3 scallops and grated parmigiano.
This pasta recipe is adapted from Nancy Silverton’s “Mozza” cookbook. It’s easy to make and the pasta holds its shape after boiling and adding it to the sauce. If you’ve never had homemade pasta you are in for a treat. The flavor compared to dried boxed pasta is night and day. You could enjoy these noodles with nothing more than olive oil, fresh herbs and a dash of sea salt, but I recommend you pair them with our recipe for seared scallops and a basil pesto cream sauce.
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour plus more for dusting
12 extra-large egg yolks whisked together in a medium bowl
Kitchen Aid Mixer
Kitchen Aid Pasta Maker Gears
Put the flour in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and begin to run the machine at low speed. With the mixer running, add the egg yolks gradually, mixing until the dough comes together. Turn off the mixer and dust a flat work surface with flour. Turn the dough out onto the dusted surface, form it into a ball, and gently knead it for 20 to 25 minutes, until the ball begins to feel elastic and the surface of the dough feels smooth and silky. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate to rest for at least 45 minutes and up to overnight before sheeting it (any longer and the dough will begin to discolor).
This is my favorite pizza dough recipe. It is from Nancy Silverton’s “Mozza” cookbook. The first time you make this dough, be sure to read the recipe ahead of time thoroughly and take note of the quantities and times for each phase of the process. The total time you’ll need from start to being ready to bake is approximately 4 hours. So be sure to start making the dough early in the afternoon so you’re ready to bake by dinnertime!
1 1/2 mild-flavored honey, such as clover or wildflower
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Make the sponge: put 15 ounces of water and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer and let it sit for a few minutes to dissolve the yeast. Add 13 ounces of the wheat flour, along with the rye flour and wheat germ. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Wrap the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside at room temperature (68 to 70 degrees) for 1 1/2 hours.
Uncover the bowl and add the remaining 8 ounces of water, 13 ounces of wheat flour and the honey. Fit the mixer with a dough hook, place the bowl on the mixer stand, and mix the dough on low speed for 2 minutes. Add the salt and mix on medium speed for 6 to 8 minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Note: the dough will not pull so much that it completely cleans the bowl, but if the dough is too sticky and is not pulling away fro the sides at all, throw a small handful of flour into the bowl to make it less sticky.
While the dough is mixing, lightly grease with olive oil a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size. Turn the dough out of the mixer into the oiled bowl. Wrap the bowl as before. Set the dough aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.
Dust your work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured work surface. Acting as if the round has four sides, fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Turn the dough again and return it, folded side down, to the bowl. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and set it aside for 45 minutes.
Dust your work surface again lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Divide the dough into six equal segments, each weighing approximately 7 ounces. Gently tuck the edges of each round of dough under itself. Cover the dough rounds with a clean dishtowel and let them rest for 5 minutes.
Lightly flour your hands and use both hands to gather each round of dough into a taut ball. Dust a baking sheet generously with flour and place the dough rounds on the baking sheet. Cover the baking sheet with the dishtowel and set them again at room temperature for 1 hour to proof the dough.
As I mentioned in my last January Savor The Season, I am a recently retired high school culinary teacher. Can you believe that I have had the pleasure of teaching almost every adolescent in the school district during those 35 years! I was blessed with learning about their family customs and ethnic food traditions
Traditional cookie shapes
Large cookie for eggs
Because I was beginning my own family, it became fun to adopt many of these traditional foods and start our own family traditions. It all began right before Easter when Joseph, a 7th grader, brought me a beautiful big cookie wrapped in cellophane with a seasonal bow. He said it was something his family made every Easter and he wanted to share it with me. It was a buttery cookie wrapped around painted hard-boiled eggs. Of course, I sampled some of the treasure with a hot cup of coffee.
As I was a newlywed I unselfishly took the rest home for my husband. He proceeded to devour the remaining cookie and asked me, “What was that crunchy stuff around the egg?” Needless to say, he was surprised to find out that he ate the egg shell.
I think it is important to mention that my husband is of Italian/Russian decent. His father who was of Italian heritage passed away when my husband was young, so he was raised with the Russian holiday traditions and therefore NO Italian Easter cookies for him!
Fast forward 33 years later—I now have three sons and one beautiful daughter-in law. I’m happy to say our family celebrates many traditions, and of course, all of them include food. Just to name a few: the seven fish dinner on Christmas Eve, Saint Patrick’s day with scones and Irish soda bread, Faschnaut day with homemade doughnuts. And on Easter we celebrate the Russian traditions with Uncle George’s paska (Easter Bread) and Saint Nicolas Church’s homemade pierogies. The pierogies are delicious and made by hand by the church parishioners (see photos below). You name a holiday and we’ll cook some food to celebrate it!
I hope throughout the years of teaching I’ve inspired my students to start their own family traditions. I always told them “you have no control over the family you were born into but you DO have control over the family that you one day create.” So, start you own family traditions, celebrate your culture and cook up some great memories!