Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark

This Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark is a healthier take on spooky treats! {Brittany's Pantry}Zombies are not my jam.

When it comes to holidays, Halloween and all things spooky and ghoulish are my least favorite to celebrate. I have never really been into the decorations and the costumes and mannequins with fake blood. Its entertaining, but you won’t find me hosting a costume party or visiting a haunted house anytime soon. Go ahead and call me a party pooper, but you know those people you see that are really into Halloween? Well I am just…not. Please tell me I am not alone in this…

That said, if it involves food, you can count me in as an avid supporter! ¬†ūüôā ¬†My kids are obvious fans of any event that gets them closer to candy and like most households at this time of year, we have a huge glass pumpkin filled with festive colored, individually wrapped sweet treats on our entry table. We live in the middle of nowhere and thus, will receive no trick or treaters, but the bowl of candy sits like a sugared little sentry, hospitable and ready for visitors.

This Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark is a healthier take on spooky treats! {Brittany's Pantry}This year, as part of a never-ending effort to be just a smidgen healthier than we were the day before, I decided to make family treats that were a bit less junkfood laden, yet festive enough to satisfy the most ardent of Halloween enthusiasts. I was going for a green and orange theme, so pistachios would be an awesome substitute for the pepitas (pumpkin seeds) in this recipe. The dried fruit and nuts can be found at Nuts.com and the site even has a special page for healthy snacks! You can find that by clicking here, and while you are browsing, jot down ideas for your own family!

As for my own kids, they were thrilled to see the candied eyeballs staring up at them from their chocolate. One piece is a nice little treat and SO much better for them than, say, a fun-sized candy bar. This plate is also fun to set out for guests this time of year. It screams Halloween! No fake blood required. ūüôā
This Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark is a healthier take on spooky treats! {Brittany's Pantry}This Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark is a healthier take on spooky treats! {Brittany's Pantry}This Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark is a healthier take on spooky treats! {Brittany's Pantry}Fruit & Nut Halloween Bark
This keeps for a week, in the fridge, in an airtight container. That is, if you can keep your hands off! I even tucked one piece each in my kids lunches as a special treat!

1 bag, good quality dark or bittersweet chocolate chips, such as Ghirardelli
pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or chopped pistachios
whole almonds, roughly chopped
dried apricots, chopped
dried mango, chopped
candy eyes

In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring between each, until JUST MELTED! Don’t overheat! Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan. When chocolate is melted, pour in the middle of the sheet pan and spread gently and slowly to a rectangle about the size of an 8X11 sheet of paper. This makes the chocolate thin enough that it won’t be too sweet, but thick enough not to fall apart! Sprinkle with however much of the dried fruit and nuts you prefer. Its totally a matter of taste. Place a few candied eyes around the chocolate! Chill, uncovered in the fridge until firm. Because the chocolate is good, and without the stabilizers that cheaper chocolate can have in them, it will melt if handled too much! Cut with a sharp knife into irregular shapes and keep it stored in the fridge to prevent meltdown disasters! Enjoy!

Maple-Almond Granola

This Maple Almond Granola is crunchy and toasty and incredibly easy! {Brittany's Pantry}As I type this post, I am sitting at my dining room table and gazing out the window.  Now that hurricane Joaquin is gone and the rain has stayed away from South Carolina for a week, we have dried out a bit and the leaves are starting to turn.  I could sit here and stare at the trees all day, provided there were plenty of snacks within arms reach.  There is quite a nip in the air (a bit odd for this time of year in the South), but this Minnesota gal is thrilled.  My friends, it actually feels like fall here right now and I am positively giddy.

While some people crave cozy casseroles, hearty soups, and pumpkin spice lattes at this time of year, I have been craving granola.

Is that weird?

I’m not sure why, but every time I have seen it in the store, I commence to drooling. ¬†Its embarrassing really. ¬†I see those toasted oats and nuts studded with colorful dried fruits and it sets my stomach to growling. ¬†I refuse to buy it because I can make it so easily, but I haven’t had time. ¬†This past weekend I was sure to MAKE time, and after a lot of experimentation, I made exactly the kind of granola I have been yearning for.This Maple Almond Granola is crunchy and toasty and incredibly easy! {Brittany's Pantry}This version is crispy, but not so crunchy that it will shake loose a filling. ¬†Its spiced, but just enough to add a fantastic warmth to the food, not enough to overwhelm. ¬†And the maple? ¬†Gaaaah. ¬†Its lovely. ¬†When you bake this it will smell like your house has been invaded by a stack of syrup drowned pancakes, but the end result is much more subtle.

I took to Instagram on Saturday to share my success with the world.
Maple-Almond-GranolaAfter this picture was taken I added a banana.  Stupendous is the only word I can use to describe it. Absolutely stupendous.

If you have never made granola at home before, I highly recommend giving it a try. ¬†It is ridiculously easy and you can customize it to your own tastes. ¬†In addition, it is just fun to share with people. ¬†Throw it in a jar with a ribbon around the top and VOILA! ¬†Instant gift. ¬†It would be a fantastic thing to bring to the host or hostess of a party this holiday season instead of the usual bottle of wine. ¬†Personally, I would rather have granola under the tree than a reindeer sweater so consider sending some to long lost relatives. ¬†It travels well and smells so good, it will make the security dogs at the post office go berserk! ūüôā Because nothing says ‘I love you’ like crunchy, nutty, cinnamon-y food. ¬†Right? ¬†I thought so.
This Maple Almond Granola is crunchy and toasty and incredibly easy! {Brittany's Pantry}Maple-Almond Granola
Several weeks ago we made homemade almond milk here at our house. ¬†We had quite a bit of ground almonds leftover after draining off the ‘milk’ so we dried them out in the oven and stored them in the freezer until we could decided what to do with them. ¬†They were PERFECT in this granola, so keep that in mind if ¬†you make your own almond milk!

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
In a large bowl, add:
2 c rolled oats
1 c ground almonds or almond flour
1 c sliced almonds
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 c brown sugar

Mix all ingredients together until thoroughly blended.
In a glass measuring cup, combine:
1/4 c coconut, canola, or grapeseed oil
1/3 c pure (real) maple syrup
1/2 tsp maple extract

Mix and pour over oat mixture.  Combine well, making sure the moisture is evenly distributed.  This will take a bit.  Dump onto a dry, unlined sheet pan and spread out into an even layer.  Toast in the oven for 15 minutes, stir well, toast for another 15 minutes, stir, and toast final 15 minutes.  The granola should be dry and crunchy and slightly browned.  Remove and let it cool on the pan.  It will continue to crisp a bit as it cools.  Once cool, feel free to add the dried fruits of your choice.  Cranberries are especially fantastic with this.  Store in an airtight container.

Hot German Potato Salad

Easy Hot German Potato Salad via Brittany's Pantry makes Oktoberfest especially delicious!Oktoberfest may be almost over, but there is still a week or two to sneak some german inspired dishes into your menus!

But this isn’t just any german dish. This is a family recipe that has been enjoyed for generations. As a kid, my parents made this throughout the colder months of fall and winter (and spring…) and to be honest, I never appreciated it then. I didn’t used to be a fan of tangy, vinegary recipes. Thankfully, I grew out of that and as an adult, I am trying to make up for lost time. Better late than never right? I am very grateful that my kids inherited my love of food!

I actually have significant german ancestry, as does my husband, and while I have ever been very motivated to celebrate Oktoberfest anytime before, I wanted to put together a menu and do something special this year. Unfortunately, our plans for this past weekend were cancelled due to weather (two weeks of rain+hurricane Joaquin=our current situation here in Columbia, SC) but just before our power went out, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I made Sauerbraten with big fat noodles and huge piles of these potatoes on the side. Rest assured, there was also beer.

It is hard to convey the sheer abundance of flavors in this warm salad. It bursts with creamy, salty, tangy, and sour with just a bit of sweet. It goes wonderfully with anything roasted, stays warm for quite awhile when covered well, and reheats great. There aren’t too many ingredients, and once the potatoes are boiled, it comes together quite quickly. At its base, it is just a simple dish. Handed down through the family, I will continue to make it for my own, paying homage to our heritage is small, tasty ways.
Easy Hot German Potato Salad via Brittany's Pantry makes Oktoberfest especially delicious!Easy Hot German Potato Salad via Brittany's Pantry makes Oktoberfest especially delicious!Hot German Potato Salad
Grilled brats, simmered in beer and onions, are so good with this it may render you speechless with joy.

9 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
1/2 lb bacon, diced
1 small onion, minced
2 T flour
2 T sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp celery seed
2/3 c water
1/3 c white vinegar

Cook potatoes until just tender. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet, fry and brown the bacon pieces until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off all but 2 T of the bacon grease. Add the onions to the skillet and sauté over medium heat until translucent, but not fried. Add the flour and whisk or stir until combined and smooth, continuing to cook until the flour flavor is gone, about one minute. Add the sugar, salt, celery seed and stir. Pour in the water and vinegar and stir or whisk until smooth and thick. Turn off the heat and add the potatoes and bacon, gently string to coat the potatoes well. Taste for seasoning as it may need salt. Serve immediately or cover and keep warm. Enjoy!