oats n' notes

Food & lifestyle from the the granola factory bakery

Category Archives: Food and Living

Granola Croutons


by Suzanne Virgilio

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE salads. Salads are the opening number to a dinner that introduces the season to be celebrated. I suppose one reason salads are so popular is that it allows us to eat something delicious and nutritious. What could be better? When it comes to making salads, in my world, the crunchier the better! I’m a huge fan of croutons, nuts & smoky flavors; so I thought, why not develop a crouton that incorporates all my favor things? Not only delicious, but also good for you! I hope you enjoy this blog offering; even if your salad is your meal, you are eating well!

Savory & Sweet Granola Croutons

Oven 350

Bake 10-15 minutes, until golden

Makes about a dozen 2-inch croutons


  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • ½ cup Extra Virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Granola Factory Honey Pecan Granola
  • ¼ cup oat flour
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 Tbsp quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp. ground flax seed
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • ½ tsp kosher salt



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • In a liquid measuring cup combine the olive oil, egg white & honey. Combine well with a fork. Set aside
  • In a medium bowl combine the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Give the liquid mixture a good stir again and pour over the granola mixture. Use a rubber spatula to combine.
  • Line a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.
  • Spread the granola mixture onto the pan using an offset spatula. Spread to an even thickness (or thinness).
  • Bake in 350 degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes until golden. Croutons will spread together and become one sheet.
  • Allow crouton to cool completely. Mixture will harden.
  • Once cooled break into crouton size pieces. Store in airtight zip lock until ready to use. Can be made 1 day in advance


When the air becomes crisp and the leave begin to change colors, I crave this delicious reflection of the season’s offerings. Combine your favorite greens and garnish with your favorite apple slices, dried cranberries & shaved Parmesan Reggiano. The following vinaigrette completes a perfect fall or winter salad.


Maple Vinaigrette

Makes approximately 1 cup

Store in refrigerator until serving

Allow to come to room temp. before serving


  • 1/4-cup pure maple syrup
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup Canola oil
  • 1 Tbsp coarse grain Dijon mustard
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 crushed clove of garlic


  • Combine the first 5 ingredients in a liquid measuring cup or small jar.
  • Whisk mixture with a wire whisk or fork to combine.
  • Add 1 crushed clove of garlic and allow it to macerate in vinaigrette. Remove clove of garlic before serving


Protein Smoothie bowl topped with Granola, Fruit, and Nuts


by Dea Castrejon

This last weekend, my husband participated in a relay marathon with some coworkers.  He happened to be running the first leg of the race, so the plan was for me to drop him off at the start line and pick him up at the end of his running stint.  It was also planned that the group of guys would be meeting at the finish line for “high-fives,” pictures, etc.

Anyway, I knew that it would be important to properly replenish the fluids and nutrients that my husband lost during the race, so being the wonderful wife that I am (at least I hope so!), I prepared my husband a “backyard bowl.”  I stole this term from the Santa Barbara eatery, ironically known as Backyard Bowls.  These bowls are typically filled with some sort of smoothie and then topped with an array of healthy supplements, such as seeds, fruit, or nuts.  Doesn’t this sound awesome!?!

This turned out to be the perfect treat, and it took little to no time to prepare!  Here is my rendition of a backyard bowl, but go crazy and mix it up with your favorite ingredients!



*makes two large backyard bowls

1 banana

handful (about 1-2 cups) frozen strawberries

handful (about 1-2 cups) frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1 orange, juiced

1 scoop protein powder (I use a plant based protein)

1/2-1 cup almond milk (or milk of choice)




1/2 cup Organic Honey Pecan granola

1 tablespoon dried cranberries

1 tablespoon raw pecans

1 tablespoon pistachios

1 teaspoon chia seeds

1 tablespoon chocolate chips

1/2 nectarine, thinly sliced

1 kiwi, sliced

Blend smoothie ingredients together and pour into 2 bowls.
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Distribute topping evenly over the smoothie.  This is about as easy as it gets!  Grab a spoon and replenish!
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Quinoa Salad with Organic Honey Pecan Granola


by Dea Castrejon

When we decided to start this blog series, “30 Ways in 30 Days,” it was much easier to come up with sweet ideas/recipes for granola.  This was expected.  The savory dishes, or recipes that didn’t revolve around baking something (although there is nothing wrong with that!), were a little more difficult or imaginative.

Well, one day when I was browsing pinterest for recipes, I came across this simple and healthy quinoa salad that caught my eye.  I couldn’t imagine that some of our Organic Honey Pecan Variety wouldn’t add the perfect salty and sweet crunch to this salad.  Besides a few additions or substitutions, this salad is a replica from the great blog, iFOODreal.

Granola, Avocado, Blueberry, Toasted Pecan, and Quinoa salad

*makes about 3 cups of cooked quinoa plus your additions

1 cup uncooked quinoa

2 cups water

1 1/2 cups Organic Honey Pecan Granola

1 cup toasted pecans

3/4 cup blueberries

1 avocado

Honey Lime Basil Dressing

1 1/2 tablespoons basil, chopped

1/2 lime, juiced

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

To start, bring 2 cups of water to boil in a pot.  Add 1 cup of quinoa, and simmer until thoroughly cooked (about 15 minutes).  Pour cooked quinoa into a mixing bowl and allow to cool.





While waiting, let’s make the dressing.  In a small ramekin, combine all ingredients in no particular order and mix together.



Next, let’s preheat the oven to 350ºF to toast the pecans unless you prefer to buy them already roasted.  Place in oven for only 5-10 minutes or until they are slightly darkened.


Finally, wash blueberries and set aside.  Cut up your avocado and put aside, as well.



Once your quinoa has cooled, mix all your ingredients together in a bowl including the dressing.  How easy and delicious right?  Serve and enjoy!

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*Recipe obtained by http://ifoodreal.com/blueberry-avocado-and-toasted-pecans-quinoa-salad/.

Cherry Almond Granola Energy Balls



by Dea Castrejon

Okay, I am going to preface this post as follows: these granola energy balls may not be the prettiest looking things, but they are so GOOD!

Now that that’s out, let me preface a little more.  Lately, it seems as though I have been “on the run,” sometimes, quite literally.  Aside from my early morning quiet time, my life has seemed to speed up this summer.  After getting home from work, I try to squeeze in a quick run/workout.  From there, it is usually off to the grocery store for a couple of items for dinner or off to an intramural volleyball game with my husband’s corporate work league (important stuff, huh?!).  We come home and it is dinner time, then time to clean up the mess I made to cook dinner, maybe do a load of laundry, and then finally cuddle up on the couch to watch a show with the hubby (which really means “knock out” on the couch after a measly 5-10 minutes).

Now, I know many of you have much more time demanding lives, but nonetheless, my daily schedule feels pretty full.  And, the only thing worse for me than having a full day is doing it on an empty stomach.

If y’all are anything like me, a growling stomach and low blood sugar gives me the shakes and makes me soooo cranky! I’m telling you, after making these granola energy balls, I have found my healthy solution to grab n’ go energy for my busy days.

Here is how it’s done:


Cherry Almond Granola Energy Balls

* Makes 12 balls              

1 cup Granola Factory Cherry Almond (with quinoa!) Granola

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup chia seeds

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1/3 cup honey

1/2 cup peanut butter

Pour all ingredients into a mixing bowl.  Use a spoon (or just dig in with your hands) to incorporate all the ingredients together.  Grab about 2 tablespoons of mixture and roll into a compact ball.  Continue until you have rolled the whole batch.  Either refrigerate or freeze (I like them better this way) the balls for 30 minutes before eating.  How easy, right?

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Although you can throw together a variety of ingredients to make these energy balls (and I encourage you to do so), I wanted to give you some of my favorite nutritional benefits for my chosen ingredients:

1) GF Cherry Almond Granola: 7 grams of protein per 1/4 cup

2) Pumpkin seeds: anti-inflammatory benefits, rich in magnesium (responsible for creation of ATP= energy)

3) Chia Seeds: high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids, rich in calcium for bone health

4) Dark Chocolate Chips: high in fiber and antioxidants, and because they taste delicious!

5) Honey: rich in phytonutrients that boost immunity, aids in sleep, natural sweetener

6) Peanut Butter: rich in Vitamin E and Potassium, monounsaturated fat for a healthy heart

Okay, I am done blabbing on these pizzazz boosting, granola infused treats, but really, I hope the next time you find your schedule jam packed, you will pop one of these nourishing, energy pick-me-ups!



Jicama, Grapefruit & Avocado Salad topped with Granola and Whipped Mascarpone



by Dea Castrejon 

Have you ever been thoroughly blown away by a new dish ordered at a restaurant?  As a foodie family, we are always trying new restaurants, waiting for those one-of-a-kind dishes to “wow” us.

Well, one of my favorite restaurant dish discoveries, to date, has been the Opaque Salad at the Pecan Grill in Lubbock, Texas.  This salad is so simple, so elegant, and it is constructed flawlessly!  Per the menu’s description: “Texas pink grapefruit, asian pear and avocado salad, constructed with whipped pecan praline mascarpone.”  Gosh, I love this salad, and it is so pretty!

Typically, when I find my favorite fares, I want to recreate them, so I can enjoy them whenever I want.  Not to toot my own horn, but I think my recreated recipe stands on par with the Opaque Salad served at the Pecan Grill.


Opaque Salad…the Granola Factory way

*Makes 1 salad

1 asian pear (substitute 1/2 jicama in the summertime), peeled and cubed

1/2 grapefruit, peeled and sectioned

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons mascarpone

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, reduced

2 tablespoons Granola Factory Organic Honey Pecan

Okay, this is pretty straightforward.

Step One: peel fruit skin off of asian pear or jicama (jicama is used below).  Cut into sugar-cube like squares.  Set aside.


Step Two: repeat process with grapefruit.  Peel skin completely off.  Remove grapefruit from inner casing and section off into small pieces.

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Step Three: Cut avocado in half. Thinly slice, and when ready to serve, use a spoon to carefully scoop out the slices.

Step Four: pour balsamic vinegar in a small frying pan and turn on stovetop to  medium/high heat.  Stir often until vinegar thickens (5-7 minutes).  Turn on low, and get ready to serve.


Step Five: Plate your dish.  I like putting the asian pear in the middle, sided by the avocado and grapefruit.  Top with a dollop of mascarpone, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with organic honey pecan granola. Enjoy!

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This salad has become a staple in my household.  With only 6 ingredients,  this recipe is fresh, vibrant, and enticing.  These three fruits blend ideally: creamy notes of avocado, juicy bursts of grapefruit, and the slightly sweet and crisp texture of the asian pear/jicama.  On top of this (literally), the creamy, rich mascarpone, couples with the sweet zing of balsamic reduction, while the roasted pecans and speckled granola flakes enhances the all around complex flavor of this delightfully refreshing salad.  Ditch the oven on hot summer days, and enjoy this salad that is sure to please!


Savor The Season: August and Everything After



For our menu & recipes, see links at the end of the article.

By Suzanne Virgilio

There is nothing better than enjoying food and drink with friends during the month of August. The mid-summer nights are perfect for entertaining in the yard and setting a long communal table for dinner. That was the plan for our first ever “Savor The Season” event We would invite 25 of our good friends, set a table in the grass and light the fire to make paella.

Let me start by saying that our family loves to cook and entertain. Cooking great food for ourselves is always nice, but seeing others enjoy our recipes is what makes entertaining worth the effort. And when you are hosting a dinner party for 25 guests, there is a lot of effort that goes into it.

Gathering recipes for a menu, grocery shopping, prepping the food, setting tables and stocking the bar. Fortunately, we have son our Calvin and our baker and friend Dea to help with the cooking. Calvin’s wife, Lisa, would take care of decorating and setting up the outdoor ambiance.

Since we’d be cooking paella, I wanted the menu to stick with Mediterranean theme. I decided that a crostini with goat cheese, figs, Serrano ham and mint would be a tapas style dish that could be prepped ahead and served quickly. We also made two other appetizers, a salmon and dill ceviche, and warm brie with roasted red peppers, pine nuts, olives and golden raisins. For the salad, I made a Spanish mixed green salad with toasted almonds and a citrus vinaigrette. For dessert, we would finish the evening with a light and simple recipe for a salted caramel panna cotta.


This was going to be a lot of work, of course, but cooking to us never feels like work. As soon as we start mincing our aromatics and sautéing them in olive oil, the work ends and the enjoyment begins. We’ll of course be tired by the end of cooking everything, but that is when the party starts and the wine is corked. And all of the sudden, we get our second wind when guests arrive. It’s now Saturday evening, and the sun is shining, the fire is lit and the table is set. We’ve been blessed with a perfect mid-summer night for entertaining, and we’re going to savor every last bit of it before it ends.


The Menu & Recipes:

Crostini with Goat cheese,  Serrano Ham, Figs & Mint

Salmon and Dill Ceviche

Warm Brie with Pine Nuts, Olives & Golden Raisins

Spanish Mixed Green Salad with Toasted Almonds and Citrus Vinaigrette

Seafood Paella

Salted Caramel Panna Cotta