I’m a food fan in general (obviously), but there are a few foods out there that I border on obsessed with. Like eggs. And Sriracha. And cheesecake.
Also high up on that list: cherries. Cherries and I go way back to the days of picking from a big cherry tree we had in our orchard growing up. I’d wrap a white t-shirt around my head (because dark hair + Midwestern summer sun = overheating), climb the low branches of the tree, and pick bucket after bucket of bright red, shiny, juicy tart cherries.
My fingers would be stained red and my arms would ache by the time the tree was fully picked. And even though they were tart cherries that weren’t meant for fresh eating, more than one of them would end up my mouth. I loved them!
Back then, my parents would turn our bounty of cherries into preserves and pies, but now, I like to use my tart cherry stash in ways that are a little more nourishing to the body. Tart cherries (like all red/purple fruits and vegetables) are overflowing with antioxidants that are super wonderful for you. The more red and purple fruits and veggies you can eat, the better!
The cherry tree from my childhood died about five years ago, and we just recently replaced it with a new one, but it isn’t quite fruiting yet. So to get my cherry fix, last summer, we took a family trip to Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is right on the shores of Lake Michigan and is known for its amazing tart cherries. We spent a weekend drinking good beer, splashing in the chilly waters of Lake Michigan, and picking cherries! We picked a couple of bushels of tart cherries and drove them all the way back to Indiana with us. That’s how much I love cherries—I literally transported them across three state lines!
We froze those cherries, and I’ve been rationing them out since August. With the exception of one quart we put away to brew beer with, we’re on our last bag of Wisconsin cherries, and I’m a little heartbroken about it. It’s been a good run, because the vast majority of those cherries have made their way into amazingly beautiful, super tasty smoothies—both of the drinkable variety and the scoopable variety.
If you haven’t jumped on the smoothie bowl trend yet, let me tell you why it’s awesome. First of all, instead of thinning out the smoothie so you can drink it, you make it nice and thick—almost like really soft soft-serve ice cream. It’s like having dessert for breakfast! And the second, and most important reason to try smoothies in a bowl—the toppings! You’re never going to get awesome chunks of soft-baked chocolate granola through a straw, but you can load them up on a spoon. And the only thing that makes a cherry smoothie even better is chocolate granola!
Sometimes I make my own granola, but more often than not, I like to buy it from companies I trust—I can just never get the texture I like quite right at home (I’ve always said I’m a cook not a baker). I’m a chewy, soft-baked granola kinda gal. I mean, the crunchy stuff is fine, but I basically want broken up soft granola bars on my smoothie bowls. I’ve never been able to replicate that at home, and I honestly haven’t had much motivation to, because my friends at Van’s Foods have their very own soft-baked granola clusters that are out. of. this. world. They are soft, chewy, cluster-y (?) and packed full of flavor.
And, of course, like all Van’s products, they are made with ingredients you can be proud to feed your family. No artificial flavors or colors. No high fructose corn syrup. Just. Real. Food. Van’s Soft-Baked Whole Grain Granola Clusters come in four different flavors (the Double Chocolate is my favorite, but the Banana Nut is also killer) and all of them are gluten-free. They are awesome on top of yogurt or smoothie bowls, but because they are clusters, they are also a great nutrient-dense whole grain snack on their own!
If you want to get your hands on your own bag of Van’s Soft-Baked Whole Grain Granola Clusters, I’ve got awesome news: they are giving away a Van’s prize pack to one lucky Wholefully reader. The winner will get $20 worth of coupons for FREE Van’s granola and snack items, a Van’s water bottle, and a Van’s tote bag. To get signed up, all you have to do is enter using the giveaway widget below.
If you don’t happen to have a tart cherry stockpile that you drove 500 miles to pick, most grocery stores sell them in their frozen fruit section next to the frozen desserts. Make sure to grab ones that are unsweetened so you can control the sweetness at home. Enjoy!