It’s hard to believe that I’ve known Brenda and Mary of the Cakegirls for nearly a decade. They were two of my first real deal friends in Chicago, and I fell in love with them the first day we met. I’ve always admired their crazy work ethic and skills in the kitchen, and I’m not the only one…they’ve won four Food Network Challenges, have appeared on Oprah, and even had their own reality show. Last year, they shifted focus from “making cakes to making cake makers” (love that line). And they launched an online store that’s packed with everything you could ever imagine for entertaining and baking.
So when I needed to come up with some new party ideas, I knew exactly who to call. I’ve been on a granola-making kick lately. And as much as I love that little oaty wonder, it isn’t the prettiest when it comes to being served up. So I asked Brenda and Mary if they had ideas to make it more exciting. And of course they did. We used their cupcake stand to stack punchy baking cups filled with granola and berries and topped them with cool paper flags. And sparkly pom pom sticks made for some very fun fruit kabobs.
When I’m introducing people to healthier foods for the first time, I like to put a little more effort into the presentation by using bright bowls, colorful accents, and surprising details. You may have a guest that’s not big on fruit, but I guarantee they’ll give it a whirl if it’s sitting on top of a silver pom pom. I know I would.
And now, the granola! Like I said, I’ve been on a bit of a granola kick lately. It’s really been less about eating it, and more about figuring out how to get those damn chunks. Mine has always been kind of loose and dry, but after (a lot of) experimenting, I found that flax and chia were awesome binders…and letting it sit for an hour helped too. Think of this recipe as a good base – add your own nuts, seeds, and dried fruits to make it your own.
3 cups rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp ground flax meal
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp chia
Choose any of your favorites to add to this recipe: chopped almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried cherries, sunflower seeds, raisins, pistachios, walnuts, dark chocolate, pecans, dates, etc.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together ground flax meal and water, then place in the refrigerator while you mix together oats, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, maple syrup, chia, and your favorite nuts and seeds in a large bowl. Take the chilled (and thickened) flax meal and mix into oat mix. In a medium-sized, shallow baking pan, press granola into pan at desired thickness. Bake 20-25 minutes until oats are slightly browned. Let cool in pan for at least an hour before serving to make sure the granola sets.
I like using a fork to remove the granola after it has set. Start with the corner and scoop out your chunks.
When using dried fruits or dark chocolate, add after the granola has baked. I learned this the hard way. Burnt gogi berries and raisins taste pretty gross. Place your granola in a bowl and carefully toss in fruit or chocolate, being careful not to break up the chunks.
If you are more of a traditionalist or don’t like chunky granola, use the same recipe above and spread out loosely on a cookie sheet.
See other magical party ideas on thecakegirls.com