Peanut Butter Crunch Bars

Snack Time
In my quest for the perfect granola bar, I had a few failures. My first attempt for chewy peanut butter granola bars was a melty, gooey mess. However, they turned into a delicious, crunchy, peanut butter candy bar. I store these in the freezer for a sweet treat! Best of all, with only a little honey as a sweetener, these are almost healthy.

Ingredients
1/2 Cup Peanut butter
1/3 Cup Honey
1/4 Cup Coconut oil
1 Cup Oats
3/4 Cup Shredded coconut
1/2 Cup Rice crispies

Melt the peanut butter, honey, and coconut oil in a medium sauce pan until fully combined. Remove from the heat. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Press into a parchment lined 9×9-inch baking pan and refrigerate for two hours. Cut into 12 bars, individually wrap with parchment paper or plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator or freezer.

Spiced Apple Granola Bars

Granola Bars
I love granola in all of its forms. I could probably live on the stuff if given the opportunity. I’m sure you could understand my disappointment when I realized corn (in all of ITS forms) was one of the foods making me sick. Just about every granola product in the grocery store contains some form of corn syrup. Every time I picked up a box of granola bars for Boyfriend, I struggled with my desire to sneak just one. The occasional failure quickly reminded me that my body was not impressed with my lack of willpower. There was only one solution: figure out how to make my own.

My first attempt at granola bars was a complete failure, although what began as a granola bar failure turned out to be a candy bar success. (Peanut Butter Crunch Bars will be posted tomorrow!) The second attempt was far more fruitful. I mixed these up in just a few minutes, popped them into the oven while I got ready to go to the gym, and pulled them out right before I left. They were cooled and ready to cut when I got home…and I immediately ate 3! At least I worked out today. That balances out my granola bar indulgence, right?

See the notes below the recipe for alternative flavors.

Ingredients
1 Cup Apple butter*
1 1/2 Cup Rolled or quick oats
1/2 Cup Pecans, coarsely chopped
1/4 Cup Golden raisins

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Line a 9×9 baking pan with parchment paper and lightly grease the bottom. Dump the mixture into the center of the pan; use a rubber spatula to firmly press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool completely. Use the parchment paper to remove the granola from the pan. Cut into 12 bars. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

*If you do not have apple butter on hand, substitute 1 Cup applesauce**, 2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp nutmeg. Any other fruit butter (including pumpkin butter) may also be substituted.
**Canned pumpkin may be used in place of the applesauce if substituting.

This recipe was loosely adapted from Pumpkin Granola Bars on Girl Makes Food!

Farm Fresh: Vegetable and Beef Stir-Fry in Peanut Sauce

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I made this for Boyfriend to take for lunch, hence the sad tupperware.

I’ve been out of college for just over a year, but I still remember the days of monotonous dining hall food quite clearly. I have to admit that Bates College is better than most, but the same recipes week after week and month after month do get boring and old. Many of the students created a variety of concoctions to combat the boredom and the college eventually took notice, creating a ‘Bates Chef’ competition so the students could show off their creations and compete for the top prize. I had plenty of my own creations (chocolate crescents, garden pesto pizza, Chana Masala chicken wraps, etc.), but my favorite by far was the winner of ‘Bates Chef’ during my senior year. My friend and fellow psychology aficionado, Mikey Pasek, created a recipe for Peanut Sauce Tofu.

Garden Fresh Vegetables

Ultimately, his recipe inspired this one over a year later. Our CSA this week included beets, lettuce, carrots, summer squash, snap peas, potatoes, dill, and small cloves of garlic. I’ve been struggling to use all of the produce some weeks, but I hate throwing it away, so I’m trying to be much better about squeezing veggies into our meals whenever possible, and what better way to use a lot of vegetables than in a stir-fry? I would usually toss in a bit of sesame oil and teriyaki sauce into my stir-fry, but I was out. As much as Boyfriend tries to put up with my healthy cooking, I knew he wouldn’t go for straight up vegetables over rice so I needed another sauce, and that is where Mikey’s peanut sauce came to mind!

Sauteed Veggies

Ingredients
1 Cup Creamy peanut butter
1/3Cup Soy sauce
3/4 Cup Hot water
1 Tbsp Brown sugar
2 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
Pinch Curry powder
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Sesame oil or butter
1 Cup Squash, cut into 1×1/2″ pieces
6 Small to medium carrots, cut in half
1 Cup Sugar snap peas, trimmed
1/2 lb Thinly sliced beef, optional
2 Cup Cooked Jasmine rice, prepared according to package directions
Toasted sesame seeds, optional
Minced chives, optional

In a small sauce pan, combine peanut butter, soy sauce, water, sugar, red pepper flakes, and curry powder over medium-low heat. Stir until fully combined and creamy; cover and set aside.

In a large skillet, add 1 Tbsp of the sesame oil and heat the pan over medium heat. Add the squash spread in a single layer, cooking over medium heat; turn it after 4 minutes. As soon as the squash is started, add the remaining sesame oil and the beef to a medium skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until fully browned. When the squash is turned, add the carrots and continue cooking the vegetables for 4 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Add the snap peas and cook for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat.

Add the beef and sauce to to the pan of vegetables and stir to combine. Serve over rice and garnish with sesame seeds and chives if desired.

Farm Fresh: Swiss Chard Chips

Swiss Chard Chips

I’m a week behind on these Farm Fresh posts. Hopefully you’ll forgive me because we’re in the middle of moving and things are a bit chaotic around here. We got a ton of Swiss chard the first week of our CSA, and the second week brought more of the same. Although I love pesto, I already had 44 servings safely stored in my freezer, so I needed another way to use it all. I’ve been reading about kale chips for months, and I had a hunch that just about any leafy green (like Swiss chard) could be substituted successfully. As it turns out, my hunch was right on target!

Our week 2 CSA: summer squash, new potatoes, radishes, cilantro, garlic scapes, chives, Swiss chard, and lettuce.

Our week 2 CSA: summer squash, new potatoes, radishes, cilantro, garlic scapes, chives, Swiss chard, and lettuce.

I feel almost guilty for eating the whole pan in less than 10 minutes. Then I remembered that I wasn’t eating calorie laden potato chips. These little green chips are sinfully delicious and heavenly healthy. I like a bit of spice with my chips. Let me know in the comments how you like yours.

Ingredients
8-10 Swiss chard leaves
Nonstick cooking spray
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp smoked paprika

Preheat the oven to 275° F.

Thoroughly clean and dry the Swiss chard leaves. Trim the stems and cut into 2″ pieces.

Lightly spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the leaves out on a cookie sheet and toss with olive oil to coat. Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, chili powder, and paprika.

Bake for 20 minutes. Gently turn the leaves over and continue cooking for 20 more minutes until crisp. Allow them to cool for 10 minutes…if you can.

Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites (PB and Nutella flavors)

Photo from www.texanerin.com

This photo by Erin of texanerin.com was all but irresistible!

I found an amazing recipe on Pinterest about two months ago for Grain-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (flour, oil, and refined sugar free). These awesome cookies use chickpeas, and since I think chickpeas are pretty cool little beans, this recipe was definitely pin-worthy…but since I don’t bake often they fell off of my radar. Then, about a month later, friend after friend shared these on facebook and I figured it was time to take the plunge.

The original recipe calls for natural peanut butter, but Boyfriend is allergic so I made my own cashew butter to use instead because I had a ton of cashews in the pantry. I hear it’s cheaper to make your own too (BONUS!). For instructions for making your own peanut or cashew butter, Erin over at Texan Erin Baking has a great tutorial here.

Cookies

When I made them the first time, I was instantly in love…warm, gooey, chocolatey…heaven. They’re not perfectly healthy, but they sure beat my old Tollhouse recipe and I think they might be even more delicious! After one successful attempt, I started wondering about all of the ways that this recipe could be modified and remembered Nutella. I’m still working on an oatmeal chocolate chip variety, a cranberry white chocolate variety, and a cocoa peanut butter chip (Reese’s) variety. Both the original and Nutella versions are below. Scroll to the bottom for the Nutella version.

Cookie Close-up

The original recipe had lots of hints and tips, including the following (plus a few of my own):

  • Chickpea flour won’t work
  • This will burn out less powerful blenders (I’ve done it successfully, but it requires lots of scraping and it’s definitely at the upper limit of my blender’s capabilities)
  • Do not add eggs, dairy, or flour to this recipe; it will not work
  • These are best eaten warm; to reheat them, put them into the microwave on high for 10 seconds.
  • These can be made dairy free by using vegan chocolate chips and homemade Nutella (store bought contains milk)
  • They can be made grain free by substituting the baking powder with 1 part cream of tartar + 1 part baking soda + 2 parts arrowroot
  • These can be made ahead, rolled into balls, and frozen for a quick treat later. Just place the desired number onto a cookie sheet and bake as described

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cups(230 grams) cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter, cashew butter, or almond butter
1/4 Cup honey or agave syrup (or 30 drops Stevia)
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt if your peanut butter doesn’t have salt in it
1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse the food processor a few times. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

With wet hands, form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape.

Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients
1 1/4 Cups(230 grams) cooked chickpeas, well-rinsed and patted dry with a paper towel
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp natural peanut butter
3/4 Cup Nutella (to make your own, go here)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 Cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Combine all ingredients, except chocolate chips, in a food processor and process until very smooth. Scrape the top and sides and process again until fully combined. Add the chocolate chips and pulse the food processor a few times. The mixture will be very thick and sticky. Refrigerate the dough for 10-20 minutes until firm.

With wet hands, form the dough into 1½” balls. Place balls of dough onto a Silpat or parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes.

These cookies will not rise and will generally hold their round shape.

Honey Vanilla Almond Butter

Almond Butter 1

Yesterday, I decided to make a recipe that I found on Pinterest a while ago. I’d forgotten all about it until it popped up on my facebook feed over and over and over again these past two weeks. The recipe was for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites (no flour, oil, or sugar added). *I’ll be posting that one in a day or so.* The recipe calls for natural peanut butter, but with Boyfriend’s peanut allergy, that makes me nervous. He can handle some peanut products (generally the heavily processed ones) like Reese’s and processed creamy peanut butter, but other things like whole peanuts or chunky peanut butter send him into anaphylaxis. Not wanting to kill him (yet), I decided to make some homemade cashew butter to use instead, and my obsession with nut butters began.

Can you call it an obsession after only two days? Actually, I’m not really sure. After making the first batch of cashew butter and adding it directly to the cookie dough bites, I decided that I wanted to make a batch just to have for spreading on things, so I pulled out the blender again last night and got to it. When I put the remaining cashews back into cabinet, I realized that I had almonds just sitting there begging to be useful. I couldn’t just close the door and forget about them! So, when I got home from running errands today, I decided that it was time to try my hand at almond butter…Honey Vanilla Almond Butter, to be exact.

Creamy, sweet, and slightly salty, it is delicious on its own or spread on just about anything. (Yes, I admit it, I scraped the blender jar clean and ate it straight from a spoon.)

Almond Butter 2

Ingredients
1 Cup unsalted roasted almonds (slightly heaping)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 Tbsp honey (to taste)
1/8 tsp salt (omit if using salted almonds)
Canola oil (as needed for blending)

Add almonds to a food processor or blender. Blend on the slowest speed until finely chopped (almond meal). Add the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the honey. Continue to blend until the almonds become smooth and creamy. Taste the almond butter and add another tablespoon of honey if necessary.

If you cannot get the almonds to the creamy stage, add 1 teaspoon of canola oil at a time. Mine were old and a bit dry, so I had to add 2 teaspoons of oil so the blender could finish the job. Once the almonds are completely creamed, add the salt and blend for a few seconds more until fully incorporated.

Store your almond butter in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least 2 weeks.

Microwave Pear Crisp in a Mug

Fresh, ripe, juicy pears are one of my favorite foods. To eat such a pear any way but fresh with the juice running down my chin and through my fingers is almost sacrilegious. However, I came across this wonderful recipe for pear crisp in a mug and decided it was worth sacrificing one juicy pear to try it.

Making Pear Crisp

Ingredients:
1 pear, sliced thin
1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
2 tsp brown sugar, divided
1 Tbsp oat flour
2 Tbsp rolled oats
1/2 tsp butter, melted (for dairy free, substitute canola or coconut oil)

In a small bowl, toss together pear slices, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar; pour into a microwave-safe ramekin or large coffee mug.

In a separate bowl, mix together the oat flour, oats, oil, and remaining brown sugar and cinnamon. Pour this over the pear slices.

Microwave on HIGH for 1 to 1:30 minutes.

Adapted from Microwave Pear Crisp by Act like a Woman, Eat like a Man.

Homemade Brownies (that taste like a mix!)

Brownies

I feel compelled to admit that I hate homemade brownies. I am usually at the front of the line when I hear the words “homemade” and “baked goods” together, but you couldn’t pay me to eat a homemade brownie! Those who grew up with homemade brownies don’t know any better; they have no idea what they’re missing. We who grew up with boxed mixes know better. We know the deep chocolatey flavor, the rich fudgy texture, the firm chewy edges. We know what a brownie can be, and poor homemade just can’t hold a candle to its deliciously sophisticated boxed cousin.

When I get together with my closest friends, I often make brownies. They’ve become accustomed to eating slightly scalding, but deliciously gooey, cupcake brownies or the even more popular “pile-o-brownie” (too impatient to let them cool, we scoop them out of the pan in scrumptious piles of molten brownie fudge). This wondrous delight comes from a boxed mix…Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Fudge Brownies with Hershey’s Fudge and Melt-away Chips.

Once I decided to start eliminating processed foods from my life, my wondrous brownie mix was one of the first to go. Farewell my fudgy chocolate friend; I shall miss you. Then I realized that I wouldn’t be the only one losing out. How could I tell my friends that their favorite brownie goodness was gone forever? Well, frankly, I couldn’t. The only solution was to find a recipe for homemade brownies that could match everything I loved about that wonderful mix.

I searched and searched until I found several brownie recipes, like this one on Fake-It Frugal, claiming to replicate boxed mix brownies, so I decided to try them. The first step was to create my own fudge, which I did here in a dark chocolate variety. Then I started trying out the recipes. The first was a complete and total failure. The batter was more like oily cookie dough and the brownies were as hard as rocks when they finished baking. Fake-It Frugal’s mix came second, and it was almost perfect. You’d never know by tasting it that it wasn’t from a mix.

Hang out nights are saved!!!

And so, dear reader, if you are in love with boxed mixes like me but not with all of the additives, this will save your brownie-loving soul.

Ingredients:
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Flour
1/3 Cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
**Prior to adding the wet ingredients, you can store your mix for quick baking later in a zip-loc bag or canning jar.
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Vanilla
3 Tbsp Fudge sauce

Dry Ingredients Close-up

Batter and Tin

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.** Whisk to combine. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, vanilla, and fudge and stir until just moistened; do not overmix. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 9 x 9 pan.

Adapted from Fake Betty Crocker Brownie Mix.

Vegetable Laksa (Thai Coconut Curry Noodles)

I consider myself a relatively adventurous eater (thanks Mom!). Growing up, I had to take at least one bite of everything, every single time it was put in front of me. I didn’t have to like it, and I definitely didn’t have to eat it if I hated it, but I had to try everything. To this day, I will try almost anything that’s put in front of me, although I’ve learned through trial and error that some things are never going to taste good (mayonnaise, pickled eggs).

Despite my adventurous palate, I rarely go seeking out new things to try. I’ll taste them if put in front of me, but left to my own devices I’ll happily eat the same things over and over. My definition of “the same things” changed radically when my college thesis advisor took all of her advisees out to an Indian restaurant. I ordered Chicken Tikka, moderately hot, and instantly fell in love. I can’t believe it took me 30 years to find Indian food! All things Indian and curry are now part of my regular rotation. In my search for new dishes, I came across this delightful (and delightfully easy!) soup. It’s hard to believe that it’s gluten and dairy free, relatively healthy, and amazingly flavorful!

Laksa is a spicy coconut-based soup originating from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

Laksa is a spicy coconut-based soup originating from Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

I absolutely loved this dish, but Boyfriend only gave it 2 stars. He had a cold at the time and couldn’t taste anything though, so I may try it again and ask for a new rating.

**To make this vegetarian, omit the chicken broth and use 2 cups of boiling water.

Ingredients:
2/3 package Rice noodles (about 4.5 oz)
2 Tbsp peanut oil (other vegetable oil may be substituted)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into thin strips (optional)
2oz Thai red curry paste (store bought or homemade)
1 can Coconut milk
1 Cup chicken broth
1 Cup boiling water
2-3 Cups mixed vegetables, cut into thin strips (I used carrots, zucchini, and red/green bell pepper)
handful fresh basil leaves

Chicken Sautee

Raw Vegetables

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Soften noodles as directed on package. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. If you are using chicken, add it to the oil and cook until it is just browned. Add curry paste and stir fry for 30 seconds. Quickly add coconut milk, chicken broth, and boiling water. Bring to a boil and add vegetables. Simmer for 2 minutes or until vegetables are cooked to your liking.

To serve, add noodles to each serving bowl. Pour soup and vegetables over noodles and top with basil leaves.

NOTES: I love garlic and heat, so I added a minced garlic clove and a bit of ground red pepper to mine. This would also be wonderful made with shrimp instead of chicken.

STORAGE: If you have leftovers, place the noodles in a container, lay a wet paper towel over the top, and cover with a lid. Moisten the paper towel when it dries out (once every 1-2 days). Store the soup in a separate container.

REHEATING: Put soup in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Add the noodles and heat for 30-45 seconds more.

Adapted from Veggie Laksa by Zen Family Habits.

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

I absolutely love to eat curry. I don’t love the amount of time that it takes to make. Some recipes take up to 2 hours including the prep, marinade time, and cooking. I have to admit that it’s well worth the effort, but sometimes I don’t have a lot of time to cook and I want something delicious that comes together quickly.

I’ve been collecting curry recipes on Pinterest, and I look through them occasionally to see what I’d like to make. In a recent search for something I could cook with the limited ingredients I had hanging around the house, I found this one. I have never seen a curry recipe with apples before, so the idea intrigued me.

Although I finally got around to grocery shopping today, I decided to stick with my dinner plans and make this with some Jasmine rice. Boyfriend gave this recipe 3 forks because the chicken was a bit dry and not as flavorful as it could have been. Next time, I think I’ll just barely brown the chicken instead of trying to thoroughly brown it on all sides before simmering.

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Sauteing onion, apple, raisins, garlic, and ginger

Curried chicken with  apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried chicken with apples, raisins, onion, and spices simmering in coconut milk and chicken broth

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Curried Chicken with Apples and Raisins

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 apple, peeled and cored, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, chopped
1/2 Cup chicken broth
1/4 Cup light coconut milk
1/2 Cup of frozen pea
plain yogurt
naan/rice (optional for serving)

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Add onion and cook until it begins to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, apple, raisins, and ginger and cook for 2-3 minutes. Stir in curry powder and cinnamon (optional). Push the apple mixture to one side of the pan, add more oil if needed, then brown the chicken on all sides (chicken will not be fully cooked).

Stir chicken and other ingredients together then add broth and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, add peas, then cover and cook for 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

Top with yogurt and serve with rice or naan.

Adapted from the Mommy games.