No Bake Granola Bars

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Like a lot of moms, I love the idea of feeding my children preservative free, healthy foods all the time.  The key word there is idea.  Convenience often trumps that desire.  One of Bug’s (and mine!) favorite snack is a granola bar… “granilla bar” if you ask him.  We have a shelf in our pantry that has been deemed the ‘snack shelf’ and it is stocked with store bought granola bars, raisins and Craisins.  We do at least try to buy the ‘healthier’ of the granola bars available (my new favorites are Quaker Real Medleys), but there still has to be not-so-good stuff going into them just to preserve their shelf life.

So, I sought out an easy-to-make, homemade granola bar recipe.  Turns out, you don’t really need a recipe for granola bars.  You just need a combination of oats, fruits, nuts, seeds and something sticky and slightly sweet to make it gel together.  I used the base recipe from the Minimalist Baker, and then added whatever I thought looked yummy.  And yummy they were!

Keep in mind that making granola bars is not necessarily something that will save you money.  But it is something that you can feel really good about feeding your kids… and yourself.

Here’s what you need: (adapted from The Minimalist Baker)
Yield: 8-16 bars depending on thickness

  • 1 cup packed pitted dates
  • 1/4 honey (you can sub maple syrup or agave)
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter (you can sub almond butter, or probably any other nut butter)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds (you can use whole ones and loosely chop them)
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, loosely chopped
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (mostly so I could tell Bug there was chocolate in them!)

This is totally optional, but I toasted the oats and flax seeds on 350′ for about 10 minutes.

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Throw the dates in a food processor and process until it forms a dough like consistency.  Mine turned into a ball.  Put everything except for the peanut butter and honey into a large mixing bowl.

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In a small saucepan on low heat, stir together peanut butter and honey until it is warm and melty.  Add peanut butter mixture to the dry ingredients and mix it all together.  You could use a spoon, but I totally used my (very clean) hands.

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Line an 8×8 or other small pan with plastic wrap or parchment paper.  Put granola mixture in pan and press down firmly until uniformly flattened.  Cover with plastic wrap, put in the fridge for 20 minutes.  Cut into desired size bars and voila!  You have super delicious granola bars!

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These will keep for a few days in an airtight container on your counter, or for up to a week in the fridge.  They will keep for a few months if you freeze them.  We froze ours and actually ate them right out of the freezer.  We thought they tasted better that way!  They only needed to thaw for a few minutes.

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Holiday Cookie Series: Orange Almond Lace Cookies

I first made these cookies like 5 years ago.  Ever since then, my coworkers have asked me to make them again every single year.  And every year I oblige.  Because they are different.  And delicious.  And easy.  And festive.  I’m not quite sure how they’re festive, but they are.  Just trust me on this.

Here’s what you need: (adapted from epicurious.com)

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped almonds (I use a food processor)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (or the zest from 1 orange)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Preheat your oven to 325 and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (a must!!).  Melt the butter over medium-low in a saucepan.  Once melted, remove from heat and add everything but the egg, mixing with a spoon until just incorporated.  Add the egg and mix well.

Add batter by the spoonful onto parchment paper lined baking sheets, leaving 3 inches or so in between each cookie.  These babies spread out quite a bit.  Bake for 13-17 minutes.  You want them to be browned… but once they start to brown, they’ll burn pretty quickly, so keep an eye on them.  Transfer paper to wire racks and let cool completely.

See, wasn’t that easy?  These cookies will last for a week in an airtight container with wax paper in between each layer at room temperature.

4th of July Cherry Blueberry Cobbler

I was so going to post this Tuesday.  I forgot.  And then, I was going to post it yesterday morning.  Forgot again.  Whoopsies.  It’s way too late now (obvi), but here is a fun, easy, festive & super delicious 4th of July dessert… Cherry Blueberry Cobbler.  I like it because it’s a little different than the usual layered puddings and red, white & blue cupcakes that you see around Independence Day.  I found this recipe on The Pioneer Woman in 2010.  I ended up not making it until 2011.  I am writing about it 2012.  Maybe you can make it in 2013??  It will be the cobbler recipe that transcends internet time.

Here’s what you need: (Adapted from The Pioneer Woman’s Blackberry Cobbler #1)

  • 1 stick butter – melted
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar… divided into 1 cup & 1/4 cup
  • 1 cup self rising flour
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup cherries – diced

Preheat your oven to 350.  Rub some butter in your baking dish… you can really use anything to bake this bad boy.

 Put the flour & 1 cup of the sugar into a medium mixing bowl.  Whisk in the milk, mixing well.

Whisk in the butter.  Again, mix well.

Pour batter into the buttered baking dish.  (Pour batter buttered baking dish… say that 5 times fast.  You totally stopped reading and tried it, didn’t you?!)

Sprinkle fruit evenly over batter.

Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over the top.

Bake for 1 hour.  If desired, take it out at 50 minutes and sprinkle with another tablespoon of sugar… then (obviously) replace and bake for the final 10 minutes.  I would hope that you desire to do this.

I like this recipe because you can easily adapt it to fit whatever your fruit preferences are, or whatever holiday you are celebrating for that matter.  I also like it because it is scrumptious.

HAPPY 4TH OF JOOO-LY!  Or 5th of July.  Whatever.  (Really, though, I hope you had a fantastic 4th!)

Homemade Citrus Rosemary Butter

1.  See that pretty red mixer below?  I got her for my birthday.  I love her.  I am a lucky, lucky girl.  I haven’t named her yet.  Any suggestions?

2.  Did you know that it is stupidly easy to make butter at home?  Right now, you’re probably all like, “Yes, Casey, I did know how easy it is to make butter.  You’re a baker.  How did you not know this?”  Apparently I’ve been hiding under a you-only-get-butter-at-the-store rock for thirty years, because I seriously thought butter was difficult to make.  Turns out you don’t even need a butter churn.

3.  Although butter is easy to make all by yourself, it is not actually cost-effective.  It is less expensive to buy butter at the store… plus, it lasts longer.  It is, however, a fun experiment and something I suggest that you try at least once.

You really only need one ingredient to make butter – heavy cream.  I wanted to make my butter a little fancier.  So, here’s what I used:

  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Ctirus Spice from the Spice & Tea Exchange
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

Put all of the ingredients in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  COVER WITH A TOWEL.  Trust me on this one… it gets messy.

Mix on medium-high to high for 2-3 minutes… peeking in from time to time.  The fat separates from the liquid pretty quickly, so just watch it.

Once the fat is separated from the liquid, strain it.  The liquid that remains is technically buttermilk, though it isn’t think like regular buttermilk that you buy at the store, so I’m not sure how well you could substitute it in baking.  And anyways, this particular buttermilk is full of the essence of rosemary & citrus & is rather salty, so it would probably be best utilized in bread.

Once you have strained the liquid, rinse your hands in cold water.  Run the butter under cold water, squeezing it into a ball and squeezing the excess moisture out of it.  Once the water runs clear, you’re all done.  Slight problem with this step for me… in Florida in the summer, our water is neverreally cold.  Made it a little melty.

The butter was, in short, delicious.  I sauteed some shrimp in it.  I coated corn on the cob with it.  I used it to brown some tortillas in a pan.  Awesome.

Oh… and as far as yield is concerned… a pint of cream will get you just about 2 sticks (aka 16 tablespoons/1 cup/8 ounces).  It will last in the freezer for a couple of months, or in the fridge for only about 5 days.

You can totally get creative with this.  I’m thinking maybe a cinnamon & sugar butter to use with grits & toast.  What do you think?

Have you ever made your own butter?

Martha Project 6: One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes

This might be kind of cheating on the “project,” because not only am I not going to do the whole step-by-step picture tutorial thing for these cupcakes, but I also did not make the cupcakes as stated in Martha’s book.  *GASP*  I have good reasons:

1.  Bug helped me make the cupcakes.  Baking + Toddler = Super Fun.  Also, Baking + Toddler = no way in hell are pictures possible.

2.  The recipe calls for Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  I mess this frosting up every. single. time.  It takes a long time and therefore I get peeved because it takes me 30 minutes to realized it’s not working.  I think this is due to me not having a) patience and b) a stand mixer.  Also, I don’t love Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  It’s too, ummm, buttery for me.  Not enough sweet.  And, these cupcakes screamed sweet.

Review on the cupcakes?  They’re good.  Very easy to make… hence the one bowl.  I’ve learned that pretty much all of the cupcakes I make from this book are a little on the dry side, so I’ve started really underbaking them, which helped make these nice & moist.  I highly recommend using my buttercream recipe… it was a good match.  The Martha recipe calls for gumdrops to be put on top, but I wasn’t feeling that, so I left them out.

So, here’s the boring written out recipe with no pictures for Martha Project #6 – One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes with Casey’s regular ol’ supersweet buttercream frosting – page 152.

Here’s what you need: (Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes)
Makes 20 regular-sized cupcakes.
For the cupcakes:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 warm water

For the frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter – room temperature
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar (best if it’s sifted)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons heavy cream (milk will work fine, too)

Preheat your oven to 350 and line standard muffin tins with paper liners.  In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder & salt and mix on medium with an electric mixer.

Reduce speed to low and add eggs, buttermilk, oil, vanilla and water, beating until smooth.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Ready for this?  Batter’s done.  I told you it was easy.  Pour batter into cups, filling each cup 2/3 of the way… I like to put about 3 tablespoons in each cup.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating tins halfway, until a skewer or toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.

Cool on wire racks, in tins, for 10 minutes and then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

For the icing: in a medium bowl, cream butter on medium for a couple of minutes… until nice & smooth.  Add powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time until desired consistency.  Add salt & vanilla.  Slowly add cream.  If it’s too thin, add more sugar.  If it’s too stiff, add more cream.  Easy peasy.

Fill a pastry bag and pipe away… I used some kind of star tip to make the starbursts pictured, but I didn’t write down which one it was.  Whoops!

Cupcakes will last 1 day, frosted, at room temperature or refrigerated for up to 3 days in an airtight container.  Cupcakes can be frozen by themselves (no frosting) for up to 2 months.

 

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Orzo & Veggies

This is a colorful, easy & healthy recipe.  Not much of an explanation needed.  I would normally use a whole wheat orzo, but I couldn’t find any this time around.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup diced fresh red bell pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked orzo (follow package directions)
  • 1/2 a lemon (or a tablespoon or two lemon juice)

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add rosemary and saute for a couple of minutes to release the aroma.  Add corn, peas, peppers, salt & pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes, until peppers are translucent… you want the veggies to be tender, but not mushy.

Put orzo in a mixing bowl and add the veggies.  Squeeze juice from half a lemon (or pour in a tablespoon or two lemon juice) and mix well.  Serve as is or with diced chicken.  Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

When I first made this I thought it might work out as something Eli could eat with his fingers, but I was wrong.  Too slippery & small.  So, we’re spoon feeding this to him at the moment.  He’s generally pretty good with his own spoon, but he can’t seem to get this stuff in his mouth without dropping it all in his lap.  Too slippery I guess.  He is a big fan of this meal, though!

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Succotash

Do you like lima beans?  I do!  Hubby doesn’t!  I’m not sure if Bug does… he actually hasn’t tried this recipe yet.  I got this from Cooking for Baby.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 cup frozen lima beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth

Melt butter in a saute pan over medium heat.  Throw in corn, beans, salt & paprika and saute for 3-4 minutes.

Pour in chicken broth and cover… cook for 10 minutes or until veggies are good and tender.

When it’s all done, put it in a food processor/blender/whatever and mix to a consistency your baby can handle… or just mash with a fork.  Serve and/or store.  This would make a great finger food if your lima beans are small enough.  The beans I used were huge and would most certainly choke my kid, so I mashed ‘em pretty good.

Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Roasted Asparagus Tips

We all know that it’s not always eat to get your kids to eat their veggies.  I am here to solve that problem.  My kid won’t eat his veggies either.

Actually, that’s not completely true.  Bug does pretty well with his veggies… and he especially like these asparagus tips.  I think he really just likes that he can pick them up.  (We still usually feed him his dinner… he eats table foods the rest of the day.)  I like this super easy asparagus recipe because I can make it for the whole family.  Oh, and because it’s healthy.

 

You really don’t need a whole lot:

  • Asparagus
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper & whatever other seasonings you want

Preheat your oven to 400.  Rinse & dry the asparagus and cut off the woody ends.

Lay out the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil… you really don’t need much.  Then, sprinkle with salt, pepper & other seasonings.  I just used Italian seasoning.

Throw the pan in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Well, maybe you shouldn’t throw the pan… maybe you should gently place it in the oven.  Once it cools, cut into whatever size pieces your baby can handle.  You could easily put the roasted asparagus into a food processor with a little water for a healthy puree.

Enjoy!

Stuff I Feed My Kid: Quesadillas

Now that Bug is a big 1 years old (grammatically incorrect… I know), he is eating a lot more ‘table food.’  (I, personally, think that ‘table food’ is a strange phrase.  Is it called that because it is meant to be eaten primarily off of the table?  Shouldn’t it just be called ‘real people food’ or ‘big boy food’ or ‘adult food?’… but I digress).  One thing I make that is easy, yummy for the whole family and nutritious is quesadillas.  Which spell check doesn’t recognize.

Anywho… here’s how you make quesadillas for da baby.

What you need (makes 2 quesadillas):

  • 4 6″ whole wheat tortillas (totally cool with spell check, in case you were wondering)
  • Shredded cheese of your choosing – I like the Mexican blend… about a cup
  • Finely chopped mushrooms… about a cup
  • 3 or 4 stalks of green onion… finely chopped
  • Finely chopped baby spinach… 1-2 cups
  • 1/2 cup mashed up cooked black beans & finely diced chicken (this is another recipe in and of itself… I just diced up some cooked chicken and mixed it with mashed up black beans and chopped cilantro. Yum)
  • Olive oil

Mix together mushrooms and green onions in a bowl and add a little salt & pepper (if you wish).

Pour a little olive oil (2 teaspoons) in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add mushrooms & green onions and heat until the mushrooms look, well, cooked… about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add spinach and cook until wilted… only about a minute or so.  Put mixture into a dish and set aside.  Wipe out the pan with a towel.

Pour another teaspoon of olive oil in the pan, again over medium heat.  Place a tortilla in the pan and layer: 1/4 cup cheese, 1/2 of the veggie mix, 1/2 of the black bean mix, 1/4 cup cheese.

Top with another tortilla and turn over after a minute or two… remove quesadilla from pan once all the cheese in melted & the tortillas are browned.

Cut into bite size pieces for the little one.  Just make sure it cools down before you feed it to them!  Bug only eats about half a quesadilla… and he loves them with some sour cream to dip them into.  See?  Easy-peasy!  And, a great thing about quesadillas are they can be ‘stuffed’ with just about anything.  I made some for hubby & I the other night with red & green bell peppers, spinach and chicken with a little paprika thrown in for good measure.  Delicious.  Make these soon… and enjoy!