Recipe | Homemade Granola

Homemade granola -simple and easy!

Homemade granola – fresh from the oven!

My very good friend Amber is an inspiration for me on so many levels – with the love she has for her family and her sweet son, with her abundant source of creativity and inventiveness, with her dedication to health and helping other people feel the very best they can feel with her personal training business Happy Human, with her honesty and compassion and being the the most amazing friend. Thank goodness for friendships that cross oceans (and email and Skype!), because I don’t think I could have left America otherwise.

When it comes to fitness or baking or knitting or cooking or crafts or gardening (or just about anything else…), I wish I could cross the ocean and plop down on her sofa for a nice conversation. I’ve been meaning to give a try at making granola for ages now, and finally gathered up most of the ingredients I could find in Amalfi this weekend. After poking around on the internet for recipes, all of which were too complicated and included ingredients nearly impossible to find on the Amalfi Coast, I had a flash. With a quick search in my email I had it – Amber’s granola recipe! I still had to make some modifications since I didn’t have maple syrup or bran, but it was easily modified and was the perfect base for inspiration. Amber brings creativity to everything she does, which is just one of the many lessons I’ve learned from her over the years.

Homemade granola ingredients nuts and raisins

What do you like to put in your granola?

Homemade Granola

Ingredients

3 cups oats (I used quick cook as they were the only kind in Amalfi – old-fashioned rolled oats would be better)

1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup molasses

1/4 cup honey

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (I used sunflower seed oil)

Few dashes of cinnamon

Tiny pinch of salt (optional)

1/2 cup raisins (or other dried fruit)

Making homemade granola

Ready to mix all the granola ingredients together

1. Mix all ingredients together except the raisins or dried fruit.

Easy homemade granola recipe

Spreading out the granola on a baking pan – ready for the oven!

2. Spread out on baking pan and bake in preheated oven at 300 F/ 150 C for about 30-35 minutes, mixing and turning over about every 10-15 minutes. You want the granola to bake evenly, but not burn. The house will smell heavenly!

Making healthy granola at home in Italy

Mixing raisins into the granola after cooling. Look at the lovely golden color!

3. Let cool and mix in raisins or dried fruit if desired. After cooling completely store in airtight container.

Note: This made one large jar of granola when finished. Since it was my first try I didn’t want to waste the precious oats (yes, they’re expensive in Amalfi!) and just made a small batch.

Ready to eat homemade granola

Looking forward to breakfast tomorrow already!

One of the best things about granola is how flexible you can be with the recipe. I happened to have some molasses sitting around that needed to be used. But if you don’t have that handy, replace it with maple syrup (like Amber makes it) or use more honey. Add more nuts like sunflower seeds, sesame seeds or cashews, add other spices that you like or leave out the cinnamon if you don’t care for it, add wheat germ or flax seeds … whatever you like! Keep a note of what worked and didn’t work so you’ll remember next time. Since I used quick cook oats, I think I’ll need to experiment a bit more to make a clumpier granola. Thanks for the inspiration, Amber!

If you have any granola making tips or favorite ingredients, I’d love to hear!

 

Recipe for Pasta e Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas)

Italian Recipe for Pasta e Ceci

What’s your favorite Italian dish? That’s one of the questions I’m asked most often when visiting family and friends back in America. When I say pasta with chickpeas, the response is usually one of surprise or interest. I’ve always loved chickpeas, but I had never enjoyed them cooked in such a simple and lovely way until I had pasta with chickpeas for the first time in Italy. This is true cucina povera, recipes made traditional by poor peasants in Italy. Many of these recipes, like pasta e ceci, are home recipes, and you’ll not likely find them on the tables of fancy restaurants. All of this makes pasta with chickpeas a perfect dish to make at home – it’s simple and the ingredients are extremely inexpensive. And it’s healthy, too!

The recipe below is from my husband’s sister in Ravello. She’s been my inspiration and shared countless recipes and cooking tips over the past years, helping to make my dive into southern Italian cooking fun … and very tasty. She’s also been my teacher lately in learning to use a pentola a pressione, or pressure cooker, which dramatically reduces the cooking time in this recipe with chickpeas. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, check out Eleonora’s recipe for Mamma’s Pasta e Ceci on Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino or Cherrye’s quick recipe for Lagane e Ceci on My Bella Vita. Happy cooking!

~ Pasta e Ceci ~

For 2 (if you’re really hungry) or 3 (if you feel like sharing)

Ingredients

150 grams dried chickpeas

5 cups water

1/8 teaspoon baking soda (optional)

1-2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

Italian flat leaf parsley

150 grams of pasta (short pasta like fusilli, penne or a mix works great)

1. Soak the chickpeas overnight in a large bowl or pot. They’ll get much bigger, so make sure there is plenty of water.

2. Drain chickpeas before beginning. Combine the chickpeas, 5 cups water and a small amount (1/8 teaspoon or less) in your pressure cooker.

Soak chickpeas overnight before cooking

3. Close pressure cooker and place over high heat. From first whistle, lower heat to minimum and cook for about an hour.

4. Open pressure cooker carefully according to its instructions. Add garlic, olive oil, salt and parsley and bring to a boil. Cook about 5 minutes, or longer if the chickpeas need to cook a little more.

Olive oil garlic parsley salt for pasta e ceci recipe

Tip: Some cooks prefer to cook the pasta in a separate pot and then join with the chickpeas, while others cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas to pull as much flavor into the pasta as possible. The amount of water used in this recipe is enough to cook the pasta directly in the chickpeas, which is my favorite way.

5. Add the pasta directly to the chickpeas and monitor the heat level to keep the mixture bubbling gently. Follow the pasta cooking time suggested on the package to cook al dente. Stir frequently, especially toward the end of the cooking time to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom. I like to use a wooden spoon to squish some of the chickpeas while stirring to create a nice creamy texture.

Tip: My favorite pasta for this recipe is called Pantacce Toscane, a flat pasta with wavy edges around the small pieces. They make me think of miniature magic flying carpets, and are truly magical in this recipe!

Pasta with Chickpeas Italian recipe

6. When pasta is cooked and the consistency has thickened, turn off heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the top and additional parsley if desired.

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I hope you’ll enjoy this traditional, simple and healthy Italian classic in your home.

Buon appetito!

Picking Mandarin Oranges in Amalfi

Harvesting Mandarin Oranges on the Amalfi Coast

When they’re ready, word begins to spread through the family. The mandarini—mandarin oranges—are ready! This is a moment I wait for eagerly each December, when the mandarins are ready to be picked in Vettica. If you’ve traveled around the Amalfi Coast, or small towns most anywhere in Italy, you’ve likely discovered that many towns have frazioni, or hamlets, that are separate from the town center but are still considered, at least administratively, part of a larger town. Amalfi has several hamlets, including the area called Vettica west town.

View of Amalfi from Vettica

The views looking back toward Amalfi are stunning from Vettica. We took a chance yesterday morning when the sun had peeked out from behind the clouds after a few rainy days to go and pick some mandarins. It was a beautiful morning to be surrounded by the delicious scent of oranges!

Picking mandarin oranges in Amalfi

There were so many! I picked and picked and picked, filling a large bag with the fresh mandarin oranges. After a little while I smelled completely like oranges! Of course, I had to eat the ones I broke by mistake while picking. Such a lovely chore!

Mandarins on the Amalfi Coast

I picked more than usual this year, because I plan to make Michelle Fabio’s mandarin jam recipe, which you can find here with the super cute title When Life Gives you Mandarins, Make Mandarin Jam. I also want to make limoncello and mandarincello this year, which are two very traditional liqueurs made on the Amalfi Coast. Yum!

Winter Lemons on the Amalfi Coast

The lemons, which you can see above growing in Vettica, are not quite ripe yet. However, this is the best time of year to pick lemons for limoncello, while they are still a bit green and the rinds have the most intense lemon flavor. I’ve got a big pile of lemons waiting for limoncello in the kitchen, which simply makes me smile. A sweet moment of winter life on the Amalfi Coast!

Granita di Limone in Amalfi

Granita di Limone Cart in Amalfi

The Amalfi Coast is famous for its wonderful lemons, and there are so many ways to enjoy them during the summer. Now in Amalfi there is a new way – a Granita di Limone – served up with a friendly smile by Andrea. While his cart says “Gelato al Limone,” what Andrea has whipped up is a very refreshing Granita di Limone, or a Lemon Ice. A granita is more the consistency of a blended ice drink, but it is served in a cup with a little spoon. Andrea’s Granita di Limone is light and not too sweet, and its intense lemon flavor is enhanced by little pieces of lemon rind. Delicious!

Andrea's Granita di Limone in Amalfi

Andrea is from Amalfi and has just started this summer to sell his Granita di Limone overlooking the beach in Amalfi. He was already attracting a lot of customers Monday evening from the tourists walking by and the locals stopping to greet him and try out his granita. I often find Granita di Limone too sweet, with too much sugar masking the tartness of the lemons. But Andrea’s was excellent, not overly sweet and lots of lemon flavor!

Lemon Ice in Amalfi

I know I’ll be stopping by here frequently this summer for something refreshing and cool on a hot afternoon. I wish Andrea a successful summer … and by the taste of his Granita di Limone … it’s going to be a busy one for him in Amalfi!

Eat your way through Calabria

Calabrian Table Tour Italy

Many of the regular readers of Ciao Amalfi will remember my friend Cherrye Moore from My Bella Vita who has contributed many guest posts about the beautiful beaches of Calabria – the region in southern Italy she calls home. If you follow her blog, you already know about Cherrye’s passion for sharing the culture, food and lifestyle of Calabria. If you’ve been thinking of visiting this beautiful region, I have a real treat for you! Cherrye has collaborated with Tania Pascuzzi from In Italy Tours, located in the gorgeous town of Tropea, to create the Calabria Table Tour: Eating Through Calabria with Tania and Cherrye.  I’m dreaming of joining them on this culinary tour through Calabria! Read more about the tour in Cherrye & Tania’s words …

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Calabrian Table Tour – October 16-23, 2011

With 500 miles of coastline, three national parks and thousands of acres of olive trees, vineyards and citrus groves, Calabria is one of the most diverse regions in the bel paese. That diversity, combined with the enduring influence of Calabria’s past conquerors, notably the Greeks, Spaniards and Arabs, is echoed in Calabria’s unique cuisine.

Join us, Cherrye Moore and Tania Pascuzzi, on our first annual tour through Calabria as we venture from table to table, introducing you to our local friends, chefs and cooks in the region.

We have handpicked our favorite towns and villages, many of which you’d never find in a guidebook, so we can offer you a comprehensive, authentic culinary experience. This Calabrian Table Tour is the first in a series of exclusive cooking, food and wine events that we will be offering twice a year.

From Italy’s largest national park in the northern Calabria to the rugged coastline of the sun-kissed south, we have spent years eating our way through Calabria … and we want to share our Calabria with you, one table at a time.

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For more information, check out the Calabrian Table Tour itinerary and read more about the lovely ladies – Cherrye Moore and Tania Pascuzzi – who have created this delicious tour through the region of southern Italy they love. If you decide to join this fabulous tour, please do let me know, because I’ll want to hear all about it!