Being a food blogger means often being challenged to try new things. I actually really enjoy it - it's all too easy to get stuck in a rut, and I know that I learn a lot from it. Sometimes I find it's a nice variation from the norm, but other times it really does change the way I cook, or totally alters my routine for the better.
This food challenge was definitely the latter. Alpro asked me to take part in their #MakeOverYourMorning campaign, to create delicious smoothie bowls and other concoctions with their tasty yogurts, which are incidentally all dairy free. They sent me a pack of their big yogurt pots - Coconut, Almond and Natural - and I got to thinking about what I could come up with.
For the last year or so, I've been having smoothies for breakfast most days. After experimenting with loads of options at the start, now I always have the same - 20g oats, 200ml Alpro almond milk, an apple and a handful of raspberries. Maybe a dash of cinnamon and vanilla if I'm feeling fancy. It's nice. Getting a bit boring, perhaps, but nice. So it was about time I mixed it up, and I didn't want to just make my usual smoothies with yogurts instead - that's not really a challenge, is it? So I got to thinking about other breakfasts I enjoy, and thought of those little granola pots you can get in Pret and Starbucks and M&S. You know - a layer of fruit compote, a thick layer of yogurt and then a smattering of granola on top. Tasty! Super high in sugar, usually, but YUM.
To cut a long story short, or at least shorter than it could have been (I can tell a seriously long story), I decided to create my own. It quickly became apparent that smoothie bowls weren't going to be super practical for me to eat at work, so instead I had smoothie JARS. Hope that's ok. I know the whole Kilner jar thing is super trendy, but it's also practical! I could load it up at home and then eat it at my desk. No early starts for me, no sir. I'm not sure if these count as smoothies at all, but does it matter when a breakfast is tasty, healthy and nutritious? I don't think so.
I used a few different combos throughout the week I was trialling this, but the gist was fruit + yogurt + granola. My favourite combination was frozen cherries blended with the Alpro almond yogurt, topped with crunchy granola. So tasty, like a bakewell yogurt. And, as I was saying earlier, this really has altered my routine. I'm still cooking up a batch of granola every few days and making up our breakfast jars with Alpro every day.
Here's my granola recipe, which I adapted from Simply Nigella. You can add anything you like to the oats, and you can up the honey and oil too if you want - the Nigella recipe specifies 175ml of each, and she uses maple syrup and a whole host of different seeds (she got a bit of stick for that) - but firstly that seemed expensive, and secondly the syrup/honey and oil seemed too high to me. And I was right - this is perfect. I quite like that it isn't super sweet as the fruit I have it with is sweet enough, and it doesn't make me feel like my teeth are about to fall out right after I've brushed them. And it's so easy to make. About 10 minutes of work, an hour of cooking and then you have a tasty breakfast that you can feel smug about all week because you MADE it.
Simple Granola (adapted from Simply Nigella)
Makes about 12 portions
300g porridge oats
60ml sunflower oil
2 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp chia seeds
100g pumpkin seeds
100g chopped walnuts
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat the oven to 150c / gas mark 2
2. In a big bowl add the oats, spices and salt and stir together until the oats seem well coated.
3. Add the seeds and nuts, then stir the lot together.
4. Pour in the honey then the oil and - you guessed it - stir together. Make sure everything seems well covered.
5. Cover two baking trays with baking parchment, and dollop the mixture onto them (half on each). Spread the granola mixture over the tray until it's pretty evenly covered.
6. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes, then take out, flip it over to the best of your ability, and cook for another 30 minutes.
7. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight box or jar. It should keep well for about a week and a half.
8. To serve, add a couple of big handfuls over half an Alpro Big Pot and your favourite fruit.
The chia seeds, pumpkin seeds and walnuts are optional - it's perfectly nice without, or with any other nuts or seeds you might prefer.