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Recipe: Homemade Granola Bars

granola bars

granola bars I started making granola bars a couple of years ago for homemade holiday treats – everyone I give these to loves them, and I do too. Really delicious, but a very sweet candy-like bar, not an “I’m on a diet so I only eat low fat, low sugar granola bars” kind of bar.  For an occasional sweet treat, though, these meet my approval. They are made of real food! Oatmeal, coconut, nuts, dried fruit, honey and butter. All good when eaten separately, GREAT when mixed together. And they smell wonderful!

Now, granola bars are basically granola plus a binder.  And granola is whatever you want it to be.  Typically there are oats, and I have tried both the expensive brands of rolled oats like Arrowhead Mills and the cheap store brands, and in granola it really doesn’t make much difference, in my opinion.  However in oatmeal – as in the hot cereal -the pricey brands are worth it, so I save my fancy oats for oatmeal, and buy the cheap kind of old fashioned oats when I make granola.  My daughter loves oatmeal, which she called ‘oakmeal’ when she was younger. I remember once making instant brown sugar oatmeal, and her returning the bowl, saying that “These oaks aren’t very good.”  She is a bit of an oatmeal snob.

So I think any granola recipe would work, just add the binder – with one note – don’t add sugar or oil when you make the granola.  There is plenty of sweet and fat in the binder.  You could also use store-bought granola and just not worry too much about the extra sweetness. If you go that route, based on adding up the quantities in the recipe below, you would need about 4 cups of granola. If you want to add your own mix-ins, just subtract their amount from the granola. Say you wanted to add pecans – add one cup pecans so use  3 cups granola. Theoretically. I have never done it this way but it should work. If anyone tries this, come back and leave a comment telling us how it worked out.

These are a soft chewy bar, not a crunchy dry bar.

Sticky Chewy Honey Butter Homemade Granola Bars

Makes one 8″ square pan of granola bars – how many bars depends on how you cut them up :) In the pictures I am making a double batch for a bake sale, so I used a 9×13 pan and it worked out fine.

Ingredients:

Oat mixture:

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 c shredded coconut 
1 cup dried fruit
optional: up to 1 cup seeds (sesame, flax, sunflower – any that strike your fancy, or all)

Binder:

1/2 c honey 
1/2 c brown sugar 
1/2 stick butter 
1/2 t salt

 

First start the granola – it will take a while to get really toasty.  Heat the oven to 350F. Toast the oats on their own for about 15 minutes, then add the nuts and coconut, and the seeds if you are using them, and toast for another 15 minutes or so.  Set the timer to remind you to stir/check the mixture every 5 minutes.  It tastes best if you get it really golden brown and toasty, but the coconut and nuts can burn if you forget and leave it for even a few minutes.  Add the fruit after you finish toasting the oat mixture.

When the toasting is complete, put all into a large heatproof bowl.  Metal would be the safest, as we will be adding hot sugar syrup to the mixture.

nice and toasty!

nice and toasty!

 

add the dried fruit after toasting the granola

add the dried fruit after toasting the granola

 

While the granola is toasting in the oven, you can start cooking the honey butter to bind the bars together – or if you are using store bought granola just go straight to this step.

In a medium sauce pan, stir together the ingredients for the binder. Here they are again.

1/2 c honey
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 stick butter
1/2 t salt

Bring to a boil over low-medium heat, and allow to cook at a low boil, gently, for 5 minutes or so.  If it doesn’t boil long enough, the bars will still be delicious, but may fall apart a bit. We are caramelizing the sauce somewhat, I guess. I told you, these are candy-like 😉

ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

ingredients for the honey butter binding mixture

Take the honey mix off the heat and let it cool a little, 5 minutes or so.  PLEASE BE VERY CAREFUL WITH THIS STUFF – IT IS A 3RD DEGREE BURN WAITING TO HAPPEN – NO KIDS SHOULD BE UNDERFOOT WHEN YOU ARE COOKING THIS OR POURING THE SYRUP INTO THE BOWL.  OK, I’m serious, just be careful.

Pour the syrup onto the granola and turn and stir until it is well covered.

add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

add the honey butter syrup CAREFULLY to the granola in a heat proof bowl

all mixed up!

all mixed up!

Pour mixture into an 8 inch square pan, lined with plastic wrap.  In this picture I have the pan lined with foil, because I ran out of plastic wrap – oops! I do NOT recommend the foil – it is very sticky and hard to remove. Definitely run to the store and get plastic wrap before you get started. Waxed paper will not work either.

Put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top, then press down firmly until the stuff is flat and packed into the pan. Pay special attention to pressing around the edges – it will be crumbly there when you cut them up if it is not pressed down well.

press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

press the granola mixture down firmly into the pan

let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

let the granola bar mixture cool and firm up for several hours or overnight

Let the mixture cool for several hours or overnight. Cool it in the fridge if you are in a hurry.

Lift the whole slab out of the pan onto a cutting surface and remove the plastic wrap. Cut the bars with a big heavy knife in whatever shapes you like – I usually do bar shapes, but for the bake sale I did squares.

cut up the bars with a heavy knife

cut up the bars with a heavy knife

 

It is worth the trouble to wrap each bar with plastic wrap, so you can grab one and slip it in your pocket.  Much better than fast food when you are caught away from home and longing for a snack.

cooking for a cause - the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

cooking for a cause – the annual Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale

all packed up and ready for the bake sale!
all packed up and ready for the bake sale!

 

These bars went out to the Arkansas Food Blogger Bake Sale, which will be held on Saturday, May 4, 2013. Here is the official bake sale page.

The sale will be held adjacent to the Argenta Certified Arkansas Farmers’ Market
7th and Main, North Little Rock, on Saturday, May 4, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Proceeds benefit No Kid Hungry, so if you are in the central part of the state, please go there and buy generously.

Thank you!

Shared with Real Food Wednesday ,  Kelly the Kitchen Kop, what i am eating

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Recipe: Kale with Smoked Sausage

kale with smoked sausage

kale with smoked sausage

Recipe: Kale with Smoked Sausage

It’s a stretch to call this a “recipe” but nonetheless here it is.

Ingredients

Kale

Salt

Smoked sausage

Wash and coarsely chop the kale, set aside.  Slice the sausage and fry in a medium hot pan until it begins to brown. Take the sausage out of the pan and set aside. Add the kale to the pan and saute until it wilts down and gets tender. Put in a pinch of salt. Add a couple tablespoons of water if you need it, but not too much – this dish is not juicy. When kale is done to your taste then add the sausage back to the pan with the kale. Continue to stir and toss the kale and sausage around until everything is piping hot. Enjoy!

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On the menu this week: March 25, 2013

this week's veggie bags

this week’s veggie bags

On the menu this week: March 25, 2013, and Sauteed Baby Beet Greens

  • Green Onions

  • Lettuce ‘Buttercrunch’

  • Cauliflower 

  • Chard ‘Sunshine Mix’

  • Kale ‘Rainbow Lacinato’

  • Baby Beet Greens

  • New Potatoes ‘Yukon Gold’ and ‘Red Pontiac’

  • Farm fresh eggs

Sautéed Baby Beet Greens

The baby beet greens are washed and ready to use – sauté as in the recipe below or enjoy fresh in salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 t olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls (6 oz) baby beet greens (beet tops)
  • 1 t balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 t sea salt, finely ground
  • 1/2 t fresh cracked black pepper

METHOD

1 Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.

2 Add garlic and beet greens and cook for about two minutes (just until wilted), stirring to ensure even cooking.

3 Add vinegar, salt and pepper and cook for one minute more.

This recipe is from the blog The Root Cellar’s Garden

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Green Pina Colada Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day

Smoothie Madness!

spinach makes this pina colada smoothie GREEN for St. Patrick's Day

spinach makes this pina colada smoothie GREEN for St. Patrick’s Day

Delicious! This is a very rich and yummy smoothie.

Green Pina Colada Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day

1 cup frozen pinapple chunks (I had fresh pineapple that I put in the freezer, but you could freeze canned pineapple for this)

1 frozen banana

2 cups fresh spinach

1/2 can coconut milk, stirred up

1/2 c plain greek yogurt

1 t honey, if needed (I would have been happy without it, but it was yummy once I added it)

That’s it! Whiz it in the blender or food processor till smooth and eat it up.

SMOOTHIE MADNESS? See yesterday’s blueberry kale smoothie here.  What smoothie will tomorrow bring? I am thinking something with beet greens…

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Recipe: Blueberry Kale Smoothie

blueberry kale smoothie

Blueberry Kale Smoothie

There are a bunch of kids over here today, enjoying the warm spring weather of the first glorious Saturday of spring break. They are red cheeked and sweating – also dirty. I offered them a snack of a blueberry smoothie and 5 out of 6 kids accepted without hesitation – so I guess “blueberry smoothie” sounds good to kids. Four out of 5 kids then came back asking for seconds, so I take that to mean they liked it – GOOD!!! I did not tell them it had kale – just that it was a blueberry smoothie. None of them had any negative comments about taste or appearance, even though I could see a tiny green speck here and there. The blueberry is very dark, so that helps to disguise the kale bits.  This smoothie is packed with healthful fruits and veggies – both blueberries and kale are “superfoods.” I am currently on the outs with my blender, so I made this in the food processor and it was really easy.

This smoothie got us started on a smoothie kick – I posted the three best smoothies of the week as “Smoothie Madness”  – here is day 2 Green Pina Colada Smoothie for St. Patrick’s Day and day 3 Strawberry Banana and  Beet Green Smoothie. Enjoy!

Recipe:

1/2 c greek yogurt (I used plain chobani)

1 c frozen blueberries

1 banana

1/2 a small bundle of kale – about 6-7 leaves, no stem

2 t honey

1/4 c water

Dump it in, mix it till it is smooth and kale disappears. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula, blend again to incorporate, then dish out into glasses for the kiddos.

That amount made one round for 4 kids (maybe 2-2 1/2 cups total?) – I had to do a second batch to have enough for myself and the fifth kid plus seconds for those who wanted it.

Enjoy! Maybe this will even be a way for you to eat your kale!

these glasses were filled with blueberry kale smoothies before the kids gobbled them up ;)

these glasses were filled with blueberry kale smoothies before the kids gobbled them up ;)

 

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Sourdough Starter from Scratch: Capturing the Wild Yeast

 

This is the time of year when I can look forward to baking again soon.  I don’t bake much in the summer because it makes the house too hot, and I am limited to an itty bitty outdoor toaster oven.  Not so good for fussing over bread loaves.  So the cooler weather encouraged me to get a sourdough starter going, to be ready for the bread baking season to come.

Every few years I experiment with making a starter from scratch – catching the wild yeast and making it grow.  I have had some successes and some failures, but this time I have a very active culture.  Here is how I did it.

making a sourdough starter from scratch

 

To make a sourdough mother, you need:

  • Clean glass or enamel bowl
  • Clean spoon
  • Clean distowel
  • 2 cups good quality white flour (I use King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour)
  • 1 1/2 cups good water (I use well water, but you could use distilled water or purified bottled water – you don’t want to use water that has been chlorinated, like what we call “city water.”  If you wouldn’t put it in your fishtank, don’t put it in your starter.)
  • a couple of cups more flour and water on hand to feed the starter for the first week

On Day 1, you will mix your 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water in the bowl, with the spoon, and cover with the dishtowel.  Leave it out on the counter in the kitchen.  That is all.  Seems simple, but you have just laid a Cunning Trap for some wild yeast.  If there is any wild yeast floating around in your kitchen (and there probably is), it will begin to grow in your yeast trap, also known as your bread and water mixture.  It may take a couple of days to show itself, or you may get lucky, like I did this time, and you may get a yeast culture growing rapidly right away.  In the picture above, the “mother” (in sourdough circles we call it a “mother” and refer to it as a “her,” now that you are making your own, you can do the same) is only 12 hours old, but you can see the bubbling that indicates the yeast is growing, feeding and respiring.  Those bubbles are what make your bread rise.

On Day 2, you will feed “her” 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water.  As shown above, this is a simple process of dump and stir.  You won’t get her perfectly smooth, just a few swipes with a clean spoon to incorporate the flour and water is good enough; the yeast will do the rest.  If you see a clear fluid on top of the mother when you check it, that is fine, just stir it back in when you feed her.  The fluid is alcohol which is a result of the metabolism of yeast (wine or beer, anyone?) and acts as a natural preservative for your starter and adds flavor to your bread.

On Day 3, do the same.  Keep on doing this until you have reached Day 7.  At this point, you should use or discard some of the starter, and refrigerate the mother in a glass container (I am using a mason jar).

**I decided to refrigerate my starter on Day 3, due to its very active nature and the fact that it was already getting very flavorful/sour.  Use your own judgement, these are guidelines, not rules!

IF you see any kind of mold or pinkish fluid on your starter – it is no good!  Throw it out at once!  The lovely trap of flour and water is desirable to many microorganisms, but the only one that we want to catch is the wild bread yeast.  You may unwittingly catch some other kind.  Just throw it out and try again with fresh and very clean bowl, spoon, and towel.

Wild Sourdough Starter Links

Here are some good resources for reading about making a starter from scratch, but I encourage you to go ahead and try it.  You can read and read about this kind of process, and look at various methods and ingredients, but in the end, you just have to try it for yourself.

My guidelines above are based on the instructions found at “Bread the Mary Jane Way.”  I love how her site expresses the joy of making an elemental baking substance out of thin air, as it were!

My first experience with setting a Cunning Trap for the wild yeast living in my house came from the encouragement found in my dear old battered King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook.  They have quite a bit of that book online and here is the part about the starter.

There are very detailed instructions and lots of pictures here on the Wild Yeast Blog.

Soon I will tell you what to do with that starter once you have made it…

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Making Peach Jam for the freezer

Pomona’s Universal Pectin is a lovely product that allows the making of jam or jelly with any amount (even NONE)  of any sweetener you like.  It is available in the Texarkana area at Granary Street health food store, 3425 New Boston Road
Texarkana, TX (903-831-5940), at least I bought some there a while back.

The jam that I made today had:

12 cups of mashed up peaches (plus juice of one lemon)

2 cups of sugar.

The quantity of fruit used the whole box of pectin – this is not a product like SureJell, where you use the whole box at one time – but you could have made three 4cup batches of jam or jelly with  one box of pectin.

For comparison, using low sugar SureJell, the recipe would have been:

12 cups peaches

9 cups sugar.

Just for fun, I looked up the recipe with regular, full sugar SureJell (brace yourself):

12 cups peaches

15 cups sugar.

Now, it is fun to knock sugar, and my jam does taste really fresh because the fruit flavor comes through, but let’s look for a minute at the function of sugar in “preserves” – our jams and jellies.  Sugar is a powerful antimicrobial agent in our canned goods, keeping deadly bacteria at bay.  These low sugar jams do not have enough sugar to act as a preservative.   In my opinion they are not suitable for hot pack canning.  That is why I am using this for freezer jam.  Furthermore, they may not have adequate acid for safe water bath canning.  Please refer to  your local county home economist or some “real” recipe, as in the packaging of your pectin, to insure safety.

These jams and jellies will not keep in the fridge for an eternity like your jar of smucker’s grape jelly, either.  They need to be eaten up within a week of thawing or opening the jar – no problem!  On toast, on biscuits, stirred into yogurt, warmed and poured over ice cream – you will find a way.

Another function of sugar in jellying and jamming is to hold color and brighten flavor.  Over time, low sugar preserves may darken.  This is natural and is not an indicator that they are unsafe, but if you show them to your grandma, who used 15 cups of sugar in her brilliant, bright jam, she probably won’t be too impressed by your dull orange peach jam.  That’s ok, we know why it isn’t technicolor.   And while jams with no sweetener are possible, adding  just a little does improve the flavor – for an all fruit jam, use apple juice concentrate as the sweetener.  In fact, we all think another cup of sugar would have intensified the flavor of our peach jam a little, so next time I will probably adjust the quantity.

peach freezer jam

peach freezer jam in bags

So, here is the jam.  My big revolutionary idea was to pack it for the freezer in pint size freezer bags instead of jars.  I run short on jars, and I plan to just squeeze it out of the bags into a clean jar to put in the fridge when I want to eat it.  The bags fit better in the freezer and I don’t have to worry about breakage.  I think it will work!

If anyone on my Sunshine for Dinner subscription wants a 1/2 bushel of peaches, call me, 870-653-3062.  I can bring it to you for $30.00.


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Bitter Melon – Tried it, Stir-fried it . . .

Bitter Melon – Tried it, Stir-fried it . . .
Posted by Georgiaberry Mobley at 8/18/2007 4:44 PM and is filed under uncategorized

The votes are in.  Four votes were counted: one in favor, one against, two abstained and had grilled cheese.  So it’s a draw.  But this is not in doubt, the bitter melon is one strange and interesting vegetable.  It is as weird inside as it is on the outside.  I was prepared for its innards because I read about “crimson seeds”, but the sight was still shocking.  The plump lipstick red slick seeds are in a cavity filled with white moist fuzz-like fibers.  The fibers and seed coating are very sweet.  I dutifully scraped it all out, sliced the melon into thin slices, and went on to the bitterness reducing measures recommended on various websites, such as wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitter_melon and the National Bitter Melon Council <a href=”http://www.bittermelon.org.”>www.bittermelon.org.</a>  I salted the melon slices and let them drain in a colander for a couple of hours.  Then I rinsed the salt off, and parboiled the slices in several cups of water, and drained that off.  I was left with a pile of green stuff that was quite tender, but had lost its beautiful lime green brightness.  And it was very bitter.

So making this stir fry was an all day affair.  I set the pork to marinating early in the day.  Kandan had cut up a large boneless pork roast into thin slices, and I cut the slices into ribbons (which was a pleasure to do since he sharpened my favorite knife – thanks, dear) and put it in the fridge with soy sauce and a little sherry.  Since I was so pleased with my pork ribbons, I decided to cut everything up into these thin strips.  Throughout the day, when I felt like working on it, I cut up a huge pile of red bell pepper, eggplant, onion, mushrooms, and a lot of fresh ginger (about 3 T finely chopped) and garlic.  And one whole spicy pepper.  I wished for broccoli, but had none.  I don’t know how I would have make that into a ribbon anyway.  I had a hard enough time with the mushrooms!  Since many of the recipes I read had egg as an ingredient, I decided to try this.  I scrambled one egg and cooked it without stirring until almost firm, then flipped it and finished the cooking.  Then I cut that into strips, like everything else.  It added a nice golden color.

I made the sauce and had to taste the sherry to make sure it was still good and ended up tasting way too much of that.  I admit to being a little woozy as I made the sauce, but here it is:

I mixed it up in a measuring cup, starting with

-almost 1/2 cup soy sauce, then add
-enough sherry to make it measure 1/2 cup
-1 t sugar, heaping
-3 t rice wine vinegar
-2 T toasted sesame oil
-1 t red pepper flakes
-3 T cornstarch mixed with 2T water

The sauce is added at the end.

The quantity of pork was 1 pound, and the quantity of vegetables was enough to fill a large dinner plate to heaping.

Of course home stir frying is never as effective as it would be in a restaurant, our stoves just cant match the BTU’s needed.  I do my best by cranking my gas burner up to high, and heating my biggest cast iron skillet to smoking.  Use plenty of oil, and fry in small batches.  Set the cooked food aside on a platter, just keep piling the batches up on top of each other.  I think a good pair of tongs are indispensable in the kitchen, and I use these to stir the food and transfer the cooked food to the platter.

So, anyway, I cooked the pork strips in two batches, and the cut was perfect.  It cooked so fast, and was so thin that it evenly distributed the meat throughout the dish.  The ribbon may be my standard cut of stir fry meat from now on.

I did the veggies in three batches.  Err on the side of rawness, because they will get warmed again with the sauce, and you want them crispy and fresh. Then dump everything back in the pan, and pour the sauce over.  You have to stir consistently at this point, because the sauce needs to coat everything and not clump.  As soon as it is thickened and glossy, turn off the heat and serve.  We ate ours with brown rice, but any rice you like is fine.  Don’t eat the hot pepper!

Since there was violent opposition to the bitter melon from my dinner companion, I kept it to the side, and as I was plating my meal, I put the cooked melon on the rice before I spooned on the stir fry.  I found that it had a distinctive, but not unpleasing, bitter taste that didn’t overwhelm the other flavors when used in small amounts.   I wouldn’t want to have to live on bitter melon alone, but if I were transported to a culture whose cuisine had a lot of this bitter flavor, I think I would come to like it very much.

I do not intend to repeat the ribboning theme with my stir fry vegetables.  I prefer the look of the different shapes, each suiting the nature of the individual vegetable.    But with the meat it was a great discovery.

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Chiles Rellenos

Chiles Rellenos
Posted by Georgiaberry Mobley at 8/10/2007 6:04 PM and is filed under uncategorized

This recipe is from the Saveur Cooks Authentic American cookbook, by the editors of Saveur Magazine, published by Chronicle Books.  I bought this book for the pretty pictures, but it has actually been a very valuable reference book.

Here is a link to the exact recipe in my book, along with a clever slideshow of the pretty pictures.  The chiles that I made looked just like the ones in these pictures.  It was pretty amazing . . .

www.saveur.com/cooking/ethnic-specialties/making-chiles-rellenos–49568.html
The changes I will make next time I cook this dish are to put more salt in the egg batter ( the recipe calls for a pinch, but I would us 1/2 t), and I will use the sharpest cheddar cheese I can procure, not the monterey jack that is called for – it is too mild.

I used the same batter to make stuffed jalapenos (like a Jalepeno Popper), of course you don’t need to peel them first, and they have to be deep fried because they aren’t flat.  They were delicious, and the jalepeno mellows alot when cooked this way.  It is the only way that I have ever made them without the batter falling off in the hot oil.

Have fun with the Chiles Rellenos, and I am going to see if any of my other favorite recipes from my book can be found on the Saveur magazine site . . .

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