Back To Basics: Granola, Sweet Potato Fries, and Baked Apple Recipes

I openly admit that I am not a cook, nor a baker; I quickly become overwhelmed by the simplest of recipes. Over the years, as a singleton, a newlywed and a new mother, I attempted (and failed) to make nice with the kitchen. No matter how hard I tried, my time in the kitchen often resulted with me a blubbering mess.
Thankfully, the division of labor in my partnership was in my favor, with a husband who loves (LOVES!) to cook and bake. And he’s a genius at it, as I’m equally genius at cleaning up after his amazing meals, doing laundry, washing the floors…

But now it’s a new year, with new goals, one of which is to contribute in the kitchen. As a celiac, with two celiac daughters, it’s equally important that we eat nutrient dense foods. This will be my main motivation to gain confidence in the kitchen.

I recently found inspiration in the recipes of the fabulously talented Ariane Resnick. Initially known for her brand of snack foods, Rawk-n-Roll Cuisine, Resnick expanded her love of cooking local, whole and organic food to the role of personal chef, and has cooked for an impressive roster of clients such as Gwyneth Paltrow and media mogul Clive Ng. She also recently appeared on the Food Network’s “Chopped.” But it’s her pure love of making (and eating) healthy food fun that makes her method easily accessible.

Resnick came to cooking rather organically (no pun intended) and “credits her mother, who was a holistic– and prolific– home cook who ran a co-op out of their family home throughout Ariane’s childhood.” I felt an immediate affiliation with Ariane when I read that she grew up in a house “without commercial food, where wheat berries were ground weekly into flour for bread that was seemingly always fresh out of the oven.” I was the kid at the lunch table with whom nobody ever wanted to trade food. Never. My mom (I now thank her) packed me turkey and sprout sandwiches on pita, carrot sticks and an apple. I remember begging my classmate, Julie, to let me taste a couple of potato chips – a totally foreign food to me. Julie, thankfully, obliged on several occasions, because I think she felt sorry for me.

Looking back I’m grateful that my parents raised me on wholesome food. I was allowed “treats” on special occasions, the occasional fast food hamburger, and it instilled me a healthy perspective and pure enjoyment of food. As an adult, I’ve found a healthy balance between indulging my daily dose of dark chocolate with consuming copious amounts of kale and green tea.

Like so many parents, I’m often exhausted and have little to no energy by 3 pm. It’s all too easy to grab convenience-type items – especially for busy parents on the go. But according to Ariane, it can be both fun and feasible to get back to (healthy) basics in the kitchen. “The easiest way to transition your diet to a healthier one is one small item at a time. Exchange one snack of packaged food for something homemade, eat one less meal at a restaurant or choose a better restaurant if eating out; make vegetables the centerpiece of one meal, switch white rice to brown rice or quinoa for one meal, etc. Rather than trying to overhaul everything, then feeling like you’ve failed when you can’t stick with all the changes set yourself up for success by knowing you have all the time in the world to migrate to a better way of life. One little change at a time is success!”

When packing lunches and making snacks for little ones there’s the double whammy of presenting something that is both appealing and healthy. Ariane appreciates that most parents (and caregivers) don’t have endless hours to prepare healthy food, but she offers up several simple and sure-to-please recipes on her website, ArianeCooks.

Ariane advocates eating local, organic and non-processed when possible, however, this can be a challenge for families on a budget. Her suggestion? “

If you are fortunate enough to live in an area with farmers markets, they typically cost less than grocery stores and the food is as fresh as can be. If not, see if there is a CSA in your area that offers produce for delivery; it will also be fresher and tastier than from the grocery store. As far as meat goes, if grass fed feels difficult for your budget choose a less expensive cut that will go further than steaks or chops, such as a roast you can make multiple days worth of stew out of.”

“While organic products are always a better choice than conventional, pre-packaged food can never match the quality or nutritional content of homemade. My suggestion for families to become less dependent upon packaged snacks is to make large batches of simple snacks, such as granola, and pre-portion them at the time for later use.”

Below, Ariane shares three of her favorite, tried & true, easy-to-make recipes:

Baked Apples


“These couldn’t be any easier to make, but taste like so much more than the straight forward fruit they are.”

Ingredients:

4 apples, cored
2 tbls coconut sugar (OR other sugar if there are nut allergies)
Process:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After coring apples, place in baking dish. Sprinkle with coconut sugar, then add enough water to the pan to cover the bottom 1/2 inch up.
Bake until soft, about 40-45 minutes, and serve warm.

Homemade Granola

Homemade Granola

“Granola lasts for months in the fridge (or weeks in the cupboard) and is loved by nearly everyone. It can be served hot with milk fresh from the oven, or is a great on-the-go snack.”

Ingredients:

2 cups oats
 and 2 cups dried fruit (one or many)
2 cups nuts (one or many)
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
Process: 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Melt honey or maple syrup on the stove with oil or butter, then stir in salt and cinnamon.
Pour all other ingredients into a mixing bowl and add melted mixture. Stir well.
Bake on a cookie sheet for 15-20 minutes or until oats are golden, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

“These can be a snack, a side dish, or even a main course if topped with chili and cheese. They are far healthier than regular french fries.”

Ingredients:

2 large or 3 small sweet potatoes
3-4 tbls neutral oil such as grapeseed or avocado
Salt to taste
Process:
 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Slice sweet potatoes into wedges or shoestrings.
Place on cookie sheet drizzled with oil. Salt, and drizzle remaining oil. 
Roast until golden, 30-40 minutes.

Photos via (1, 2, 3)