Archive for July, 2009

Chewy Granola Bars

July 23, 2009

Chewy Cherry Almond Granola BarsI’ve been wanting to make my own snack bars for a very long time and only recently got around to it. I like the Kashi TLC Chewy Granola bars. My favorites are the Honey Almond Flax, and the Peanut – Peanut Butter, but the Cherry Dark Chocolate are excellent as well. The trouble is that they aren’t inexpensive. I kept thinking I should be able to come up with something similar and less expensive.

These bars are my first attempt. Both my husband and I like these bars better than the Kashi Bars even though they’re substantially different. I haven’t run the numbers but my gut feeling is that they’re not any less expensive. Still they’re an excellent snack, and they store well. I cut these up into bars and then individually wrapped them and stored them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When I need to take a snack with me I can just pop one in my purse and by them time I need to eat it, the bar has come to room temperature and is perfect for a pick me up. If you’re going to share them with a crowd, or you’re going to eat them more quickly you could skip the wrapping and refrigerating.

This is a variation on the recipe for Big Sur Power Bars from 101 Cookbooks, and the Power Bar recipe on page 47 in Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Super Natural Cooking. In both of those recipes Heidi emphasizes using crisp brown rice cereal. I really like this choice, but despite her wise words I’m tempted to try some of the Kashi cereal next time  in an effort to increase the amount of protein in the bars. The following recipe is how I made them. Please refer to 101 Cookbooks, or Super Natural Cooking for original recipes by Heidi Swanson.

Chewy Cherry Almond  Granola Bars

1 T. butter

1 1/4 c. rolled oats

1 1/4 c. almonds, toasted and chopped

1/2 c. ground flax seed

1 1/2 c. unsweetened brown rice cereal

1 c. dried cherries, chopped

2/3 c. unsweetened coconut

1 c. brown rice syrup

1/4. c. sucanat

1 t. pure vanilla extract

1/4 t. almond extract

1/2 t. kosher salt

Grease a 9×13 inch pan with the 1 T. butter.

In a large bowl mix together the oats, nuts, cereal, flax seed, coconut, and cherries. Set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the rice syrup, sucanat, vanilla and almond extracts. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly. The mixture will come to a boil and thicken slightly. This takes about 4 minutes.

Pour this mixture over the cereal and nut mixture and combine until the syrup is evenly distributed.

Spread into the buttered pan and cool completely. After the bars have cooled completely turn them out onto a large cutting board and cut into bars. Wrap each bar individually in waxed paper and store either at room temperature or in the refrigerator depending on how fast you and yours will be eating them.

My son the baker!

July 20, 2009
A freshly baked loaf!

A freshly baked loaf!

My son isn’t really a baker. He’s really a college student working a summer job and living on his own for the very first time. His current living situation is temporary so he’s not set up to bake, and yet he managed to make bread.

Our kids were raised on fresh baked bread from our bread machine. We knew it would be tough for them when they went off to college and had eat to other bread. It wasn’t long after our daughter went to college before she ‘needed’ a bread machine, and our son was on his own for about two months before he dove in making his own bread. Prior to that he was getting a pretty steady supply of baked bread from home.

He called a little over a week ago and said he wanted to make his own bread. I helped as much as I could over the phone and referred him to the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Banter blog where I knew PJ Hamel had recently written about helping her son bake his first bread. Click here to read PJ’s post and to get the recipe that was used to make the bread.

Our son managed to make the bread without measuring cups, or measuring spoons, and he used an empty juice can to measure liquids. I think there was a lot of eyeballing and guesstimating going on, and he still ended up with wonderful bread. He also didn’t have a baking sheet, or parchment paper, so he baked it in an oven proof skillet. Where there is a will there is a way!

When we went to see him this past weekend, he asked us to call when we were about 30 minutes away so he could treat us to hot fresh bread out of the oven. It was a real treat and I couldn’t be any prouder!

The recipe is super simple and made enough dough to keep him and others supplied with bread all week long. If you’re timid about making bread this a good way to try it out.

Blueberry Gelato!!

July 15, 2009

Blueberry GelatoI’m so excited to share this with you.  The picture doesn’t do this justice. It is so good. I love gelato and no one in my area makes it. The first time I had gelato was in Germany in 1979. It was years before I had it again but I never forgot that first taste. When my daughter lived in Arizona we found an awesome gelato shop there, but she no longer lives there so I have no where to get my once or twice a year gelato fix.

My husband recently received an ice cream maker attachment for our Kitchen Aid stand mixer. We have one of the big hand crank ice cream makers, but we rarely use it. It has to be quite the occasion to justify that much manual labor, and all of the fuss with ice and salt. He has made two batches of ice cream already with his new toy. One batch of vanilla and one batch of Heath Bar Crunch. They were both great!!

Now that he’s broken it in I figured it was my turn to have a go at a frozen treat, so I’ve been searching for a gelato recipe. I really wanted to find a recipe without eggs. I’ve ordered some books from Amazon, but they haven’t arrived yet, so in the meantime I searched the Internet. I finally found this recipe and figured I couldn’t go wrong. Especially when the grocery store had the blueberries on sale buy one get one free!

This gelato really hit the spot. The fruit taste is very intense and the texture was very pleasing. I will definitely make this again, but can’t wait to explore more recipes over time.

Update: The gelato texture suffers when completely frozen after being in the freezer overnight. To revive the gelato microwave it on high for 30 seconds and mash it with a spoon. Give it a few more seconds in the microwave if needed or let it sit for a few more minutes and mush it around some more. It’s almost as good as it was fresh out of the ice cream freezer.

Blueberry Gelato (Adapted from this recipe.)

2 pints of fresh blueberries

the juice of 1 lemon

1 c. of whole milk

3/4 c. sugar.

Puree the blueberries and the lemon juice with an immersion blender or in a regular blender. Cover and thoroughly chill in the refrigerator

Combine sugar and milk and heat over medium low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cover and chill this in the refrigerator.

Before adding to the ice cream maker, whisk together the milk mixture and the pureed blueberries. Process according to the directions for your ice cream maker. In our ice cream maker it took about 12 minutes.

Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

July 10, 2009
Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

Let me say this up front. While this jam is wonderful, please don’t make it the way I did. It was dangerous and there are much easier ways to make jam than this.

We have our very own prolific rhubarb and raspberry plants in our backyard. The raspberries are about to start ripening and we still have a few in our freezer from last year, so I decided to get busy and make some rhubarb raspberry jam. A personal favorite. I’ve done this before, but haven’t ever written down a recipe. I’m sure I used amounts of fruit based on what was available, and I’ve always used Sure Jell Light. The stuff in the pink box. The jam always turned out great, so why I wanted to tempt fate and try something different is beyond me.

It occurred to me that there are natural occurring pectins and that I don’t have to rely on a box to make jam. Apples and gooseberries both have a lot of pectin in them and they’re readily available to me. I decided it would be fun to add a little apple and use that as my pectin. Apparently I need to do more research on how to properly use natural pectin. For some reason I thought that the mixture needed to reach 220 degrees to become jam. I cooked it and cooked it some more and mine never reached 220. This went on for longer than I care to admit. The cook top was covered with splattered jam, as was the microwave above the stove, the coffee pot to the right of the stove, the knife block to the left of the stove, the  knives in the knife block, the floor in front of the stove, my shirt, and the counter tops on either side of the stove. It’s a wonder that my feet didn’t get burned because I didn’t foresee the splattering and was wearing sandals. Thank goodness I have good reflexes!

The up side of this saga is that the jam did set, and despite being cooked for an unreasonable amount of time, it tastes great.

Here is the recipe that you shouldn’t follow. I only offer it as a guideline for what not to do, and for my own personal reference in case I should ever temporarily lose my mind and want to try this again. Please get a box of Sure Jell or Sure Jell Light and follow the directions carefully. Or, refer to a reputable jam making source. Please note that I don’t process my jam. I put aside one jar to use right away and the rest gets put into freezer containers for future use.

Rhubarb Raspberry Jam

1 Granny Smith apple


2 c. raspberries

5 1/2 c. sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

2/3 c. water

pinch of salt

Peel the apple and dice it finely. Add rhubarb to the apple to equal 3 lbs. Place the apple, rhubarb, raspberries and water in a large pan and cook it over medium heat until the rhubarb is tender. This takes about 15 minutes.

When the rhubarb is tender add the sugar, lemon juice and salt.

I cooked this over medium heat for a very long time trying to get it to 220, which didn’t happen. I would recommend cooking it until it passes the wrinkle test. Place a saucer in the freezer for a few minutes. Put a dollop of jam on the frozen saucer and return it to the freezer for a few minutes. Push on an edge and if it wrinkles up call it done.

Place in prepared freezer containers. Cool completely and freeze.

Here are a few links with better information about making your own jam.

Brownies for the Bikers

July 5, 2009
There are brownies at the end of this race!

There are brownies at the end of this race!

My daughter and her bike racing team recently got to race in our city! It was an exciting day for me because it was the first time I had seen her race. She invited her teammates over for a dip in the pool and a picnic in the gazebo after the race, which was an opportunity for me to make my go to brownies, and a big bowl of potato salad to contribute to their outing.

All that was left was the empty pan!

All that was left was the empty pan!

The thing with these brownies is that there are never any left for photo taking which is why I have yet to post them on my blog. They’re super easy to make and clearly loved by all. The recipe originally came to me on the back of a bag of King Arthur Flour. The things I like about them are that they use cocoa instead of melted chocolate. They’re always moist, and they have a shiny crackly top due to the method of incorporating the sugar. The recipe is posted on the King Arthur website where you can also see a photo taken before the brownies from their test kitchen were all consumed. I don’t think they’ll mind if I post the recipe below since they have printed the recipe in so many different places. But do visit their website for all kinds of wonderful recipes, and to shop for an outstanding selection of baking products and tools.

A 'pack' finish!

A 'pack' finish!

Back to the race. My daughter placed 5th in her division, which is a very big deal. She’s brand new to bike racing and this is the first time she’s finished with ‘the pack’. She was absolutely tickled. One of her teammates placed first in the same division, and another teammate placed second in the men’s division. All in all a very good day for the team!

A word on potato salad. Garrison Keillor recently wrote a column in which he mentioned the demise of potato salad in this country, and that if you’re taking potato salad to a gathering, learn how to make it yourself! I’m not the biggest potato salad fan on the globe, but even so I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Keillor. There are countless outstanding potato salads. There is no excuse for buying that horridly colored stuff, much less eating it. (Do they really sell potato salad at the convenience store!?)

My husband is a big fan of the classic Hellman’s recipe so that is what I usually make. I use the light mayo, the one with the bright blue lid, as opposed to the full fat with the navy blue lid. But, I must say it’s also worthwhile to find a potato salad that you like that uses new red potatoes and has a nice light oil based dressing. No doubt anyone reading this blog takes the time to make their own potato salad, and doesn’t touch the funky store bought stuff, but if you’re one of those who does buy it or eat it, try a homemade version. It’s easy to make, cheap, and the difference in taste is unbelievable. (To be truthful I can’t vouch for the taste difference. The funky looking stuff that can be purchased has never made it onto my plate, much less past my lips, but I think you can trust me on this issue.)

I hope you all had a wonderful Fourth of July!

Best Ever Fudge Brownies from King Arthur Flour


1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan
2) In a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl, or in a saucepan set over low heat, melt the butter, then add the sugar and stir to combine. Return the mixture to the heat (or microwave) briefly, just until it’s hot (about 110°F to 120°F), but not bubbling; it’ll become shiny looking as you stir it. Heating this mixture a second time will dissolve more of the sugar, which will yield a shiny top crust on your brownies.
3) While the sugar heats a second time, crack the 4 eggs into a bowl, and beat them with the cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso powder, and vanilla till smooth.
4) Add the hot butter/sugar mixture, stirring until smooth.
5) Add the flour and chips, again stirring until smooth. Note: If you want the chips to remain intact in the baked brownies, rather than melting in, let the batter cool in the bowl for about 20 minutes before stirring in the chips.
6) Spoon the batter into a lightly greased 9″ x 13″ pan.
7) Bake the brownies for about 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it. The brownies should feel set on the edges, and the center should look very moist, but not uncooked. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack before cutting and serving.