I Love Surprises….and Homemade Granola

I was having a rough morning today.  For some reason I couldn’t sleep last night and I only got about five and a half hours of sleep.  I know many of you can survive off of five hours of sleep, but it’s not a pretty picture when I don’t get enough sleep.  I’m grumpy and irritable.  (I know all you new moms out there are thinking….”Just wait until you have a baby, Kristen.”  Well, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there….and no I’m not pregnant.)  And all I can think about is when I can take a nap because my eyelids feel like they weigh 50 pounds each.

I had to get up early this morning to interview one of the participants in my research project and then I was going to meet a friend and her daughter for coffee.  I was struggling to stay awake after my interview, but was looking forward to my coffee date.  Unfortunately they got stuck at the post office (what a nightmare that always is) and couldn’t make it to coffee.  Boo.  Then I tried to run an errand, but since my brain wasn’t functioning properly I miscalculated the day and the store was closed.  Boo again.

I was feeling discouraged and just wanted to go home, but decided to swing by the post office in hopes that the package from my mom had arrived.  Well to my surprise, not only had the package from my mom arrived, but also something from Vitacost (my new favorite website) and Crate and Barrel—SCORE!!  I was so excited to get home and open my packages that all of a sudden I didn’t feel tired—funny how that happens, huh?

There are many things that I LOVE about living abroad, and I feel so blessed to have already had so many experiences living and traveling abroad.  But as a foodie, living abroad is sometimes hard in the sense that I can’t always get everything I want.  Wherever I’ve lived, my parents always bring a whole suitcase full of food when they come to visit and I always bring a whole suitcase of food back with me after a trip to the States!

One of my friends asked me when I was home in March what I missed most from the States while living abroad.  That was easy—grocery stores!  Well, besides my family and friends of course :).  You see, I LOVE going to the grocery store—especially ones I’ve never been to before—and perusing all of the aisles.  When I was home in March, my Dad and I stopped at a Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Lunardi’s (their local store) on the way home from the airport!  It’s always so exciting for me to see all of the new products that have come out in the 3+ years we have been living in Japan.  It’s even more exciting to see many of the products that my “briends” (blog + friends = briends) write about and/or review on their blogs.

Do you know how many times I have gotten so excited about a recipe only to find out that I don’t have all of the ingredients?  And not only that, neither does the commissary, which means I have to order anything I don’t have.  And by “order” I mean put in an order with my mom who proceeds to check all of her local stores for the ingredients and then sends them to me.  Isn’t she the greatest?  Well, mom, you’re off the hook.  Enter in Vitacost.  They have almost all of the ingredients I often request, or have always wanted to try, at great prices.  Not only that, they ship to APO addresses…AND my stuff got here in less than a week!  (That might not seem like a big deal to you if you don’t live abroad, but trust me, it’s HUGE!!)

So do you want to see everything I got in my surprise packages today?

Look at all of those awesome goodies! I may or may not have proceeded to eat a spoonful of that PB....amazing!

My mom told me she put a “surprise” in the package that would make me laugh.  Did you see it?

New Kids on the Block.....YESSSS!!! (I love that my mom wrote "LOL" too.)

Hahahahaha. I was cracking up at this!  Who didn’t love NKOTB?!?!  I had their lunch box with matching thermos (do you remember those?), nightgown, and possibly NKOTB sheets too (although maybe those were California Raisins or Cabbage Patch Kids—ha).  Anyway, I thought this CD was hilarious and quite a blast from the past!

If you've never tried these sweet and salty almonds from Trader Joe's, you're missing out. Unfortunately I can't enjoy them until August...lucky for Giff!

Chocolate chips made without any processed sugars....only evaporated cane juice!

As if getting all of these goodies in the mail were not exciting enough, I got a surprise phone call from my friend Katie just as I was finishing to unpack everything.  One of the best things about living abroad is the friendships that you make.  Because we are so far away from everyone back home, our friends really become like our families here.  We have been really blessed to meet so many amazing people while living here in Okinawa and we will never forget the friends that we have made here.  Unfortunately, being in the military means that we also have to say goodbye to these friends that become family.  And I’m just going to tell it like it is—it sucks!  Katie (and her husband Marc) left in February and I’m still so sad about it.  I love Katie to death and I was SO SO SO excited to get a surprise phone call from her today.  She made my day and cheered me up so much that I didn’t even need a nap!

Tailgating before a World Cup game 🙂

Are you still here after all of that rambling?  Sorry about that.  Now it’s time for a recipe.  Today is actually a bonus day because you get not one, not two, but three recipes for homemade granola!

I love granola, but the kind that you buy at the store is either laden with fat and/or sugar, or super expensive.  Granola is actually super easy to make and much healthier/cost effective when made at home.

I have really been loving on some granola lately—especially for a late night snack—because it satisfies my sweet tooth.  Here are three granola recipes that I have been enjoying a lot of lately.  If you have any great homemade granola recipes please share :).

Coconut Almond Butter Granola

*Recipe adapted from Peanut Butter Fingers

This is probably my favorite of the three granolas I have been making lately.  I love that it gets crunchy and clumps of it stick together.  It can be made with any kind of nut butter.  I’ve tried sunflower butter and peanut butter too—yum!  WARNING: Highly addictive :). 

This granola was so good that I ate it all before I remembered to take a picture...oopsie! This picture is from the recipe source.


  • 4 tbsp. almond butter
  • 4 tbsp. honey
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp flax seed (ground or whole)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 c. oats


  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees and spray cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  • Combine almond butter and honey in a bowl and microwave until almond butter is slightly melted (about 30 seconds).
  • Stir almond butter and honey together.
  • Add cinnamon and vanilla to almond butter mixture.
  • Stir chia seeds, flax seed, coconut, and oats into almond butter mixture, completely coating oats in the mixture.
  • Spread oats onto cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes before tossing oats and baking for another 4 minutes until granola is slightly brown.
  • Let cool until granola is crunchy and enjoy!

Whole Lotta Nuts Granola

*Recipe adapted from Emeril Lagasse

I love the flavor of this granola–it’s sort of sweet and salty (from the nuts)–though it did not clump like the other one.  The texture of the nuts and seeds is excellent.  However, a word to the wise, I do NOT recommend using pine nuts—I did not like the flavor they gave it and I ended up picking them all out!  I added dried blueberries and golden raisins after it cooled…yummy!

Despite what the bag says....this isn't Almond Butter Granola...that granola is long gone 🙂


  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/4 cup hulled green pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds or pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup crushed pecans or walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds (ground or whole)
  • 1/2 cup raisins, or chopped dates
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or blueberries, or combination


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl stir together oats, almonds, coconut, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pecans, cinnamon, salt, chia and flax seeds. In a small saucepan, melt butter with honey over low heat, stirring. Add vanilla and pour butter mixture over oat mixture and stir until combined well.

On a large baking sheet, spread the granola evenly in a thin layer. Bake, stirring every 5 minutes to keep from sticking or burning, until golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. (Do not overbake; the granola will crisp more when cooled.) Cool the granola on the pan on top of the stove and stir in dried fruits. Granola may be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Serve at room temperature in a bowl with milk or as a snack.

Fruit-Juice Infused Granola

*Recipe from Discovery Health

This used to be my favorite granola until I started trying all of these other ones.  I love the flavor the fruit juices give to the granola, but my husband thinks it is kind of bland.  It also doesn’t get as crunchy as the almond butter granola, but it’s still delicious.


Sorry for the dark photo...this is from my old camera!


4 cups whole oats (use old fashioned, not instant)

2 cups puffed or cluster-type cereal (I use Kashi Go Lean)

¼ cup flax seeds

½ cup toasted almond slivers

Handful of unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup organic pineapple juice

½ cup organic apple juice

½ cup organic prune juice

Juice from ½ orange

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Pinch of nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice and cardamom

Zest from one lemon or orange

2 teaspoons coconut oil

¼ cup honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

Mister w/ olive oil

Handful each; dried blueberries, cranberries, currants, green raisins

OPTIONAL: add salted peanuts for a salty mix


Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine the juices, spices and coconut oil in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer until reduced by half.  This should take about 20 minutes.  While this simmers, combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl.

Remove juice mixture from heat and allow to cook for 3-5 minutes.  Add honey and vanilla. Toss sweetened warm juice mixture with the oats mixture.

Mist 2 cookie sheets with olive oil. Spread mixture onto cookie sheets in a thin, even layer.

For variety, try adding salted peanuts to one pan.

Bake at 325° for 20-30 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden and crunchy.

Cool slightly, then stir in dried fruit. Store granola in an airtight container like a zip lock bag or large ball jar.

Whew that monster of a post is over!  I hope you made it to the end J.  The granola recipes are awesome so I hope you enjoy them as much as I do! 

Thanks to Chelsey, I have started eating granola sometimes as a late-night snack with are with milk, cut up apples, and raisins.

Question: Do you like surprises?  Have you been surprised lately or planned a good surprise for someone?



Filed under Breakfast, Snacks

6 responses to “I Love Surprises….and Homemade Granola

  1. i super duper extra love surprised xo

    eric’s mom and my mom both make awesome granola, but i’ve never made any myself. i’ll have to try 🙂

  2. Katie

    Awwww! I miss you, too! AND I loved our talk, too:) I miss your granola as well and am really glad you posted this. That first one looks amazing!!!!

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