Why buy what you can make?

24 Aug

I love granola bars. Not gonna lie. I love the convenience of them. I like the tasty ones with a little bit of chocolate and almonds and fruit. But if you look at the box of some of them, you’ll cringe. Trust me.

I look at blogs with granola bar recipes and I think “I could do that.” But I don’t. I’m scared. I’m afraid it won’t be tasty or it won’t work. I’m also lazy. Yes. Lazy.

So today on my day off, I looked over some recipes and decided I could totally create my own. And by combining a variety of recipes, I did indeed do just that.

Granola Bars

6 dried prunes

6 dried apricots

1/2 cup dried “fruit” (I used a combo of dried blueberries and cranberries but you could use raisins, cherries, etc.)

1/2 cup almonds

2 cups oatmeal (not instant)

1/2 cup wheat germ

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

2 tbsp molasses

2 tbsp maple syrup

dash of salt

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 pack of this lovely little pack I bought at Whole Foods which contains cocoa nibs, coconut and raisins, it’s by TerrAmazon… it’s become my crack. I imagine you could use chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cocoa nibs or just coconut. Essentially something to add some more crunch/sweetness

I mixed the oats and wheat germ on a baking sheet and toasted it in the oven on 350 degrees for about 5 minutes, just until it became nutty and fragrant. In a large bowl I then added that to my other dry ingredients (the flour, salt, cinnamon and cocoa nib mixture.

In the food processor, I processed the dried fruits just until they became kind of gummy and slightly unified. I think added the almonds and processed until they were roughly chopped and integrated. I then added my liquid ingredients to the food processor (egg, applesauce, molasses and maple syrup and finally the vanilla. I used my hands to incorporate the liquid with the dry ingredients until I got a thick, sticky “batter.” I spread this on a cookie sheet lined with tin foil. I baked them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes until the edges became slightly crisp. Once the bars cooled, I cut them into about 18 bars.

And guess what. I liked them! They were just sweet enough from the fruit, molasses, etc. and I didn’t even have to add any actual sugar.

Yay experimental success!


S’mores please :-)

8 Aug

So tomorrow is my brother’s 22nd birthday. Equally as important it is one of my good friend’s birthdays as well.

I’ve been on such a sugar kick lately (not super unusual, but it’s been bad). I’ve been buying chocolate, ice cream, whipped cream, cookies, etc. like it’s going out of style. Anyway, birthdays. Focus.

So what do we do for birthdays? We bake. But not birthday cakes, especially not the icky kind with frosting (I’m not speaking from personal preference, I like frosting, but my friend, the one with the birthday, not so much on the frosting). I’ve been toying with ideas on what to make… and then, I had that little light bulb pop over my head like in the cartoons.
She and I both have a slight, okay, huge obsession with Edy’s S’mores flavored ice cream. It only comes out in the summer but it’s delicious. Chocolate ice cream with chunks of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. It doesn’t get any more s’morey than that unless you’re sitting at a campfire. I perused some blogs and found lots of recipes for s’more cookies, s’more cakes, etc. I found this idea on Picky Palates website and decided it was a winner…

And simple. Double winner.

S’more Bite Sized Brownies

1 box of chocolate brownie mix, or a brownie recipe of your choice (I used the family sized Pillsbury box)

miniature marshmallows, approximately 48 or 12 large marshmallows quartered

4 sheets of graham cracker, each divided into 12 parts

2 Hershey bars

I mixed my brownie mix as directed on the box and divided it equally into my mini-muffin pans. I filled 48 and had a little extra batter leftover that may have ended up in my mouth instead of being baked… or it just disappeared into thin air. You could make them in a brownie pan or regular muffin tins. Then, I added a mini marshmallow, half a square of Hershey chocolate and a chunk of graham cracker to the top of the muffin. I baked them (in the mini-muffin pans) for about 6 minutes at 350 degrees. You have to watch them toward the end. The marshmallow will get bubbly and brown (yum, toasted marshmallows!). The second batch was finished up by around 5 minutes.

The brownies are so moist and soft and just slightly undercooked (the way I love them) and the chocolate and marshmallow spread so cutely over the brownie and graham cracker.

Now I have 48 46 delicious s’mores brownies to celebrate said birthday with 🙂

What does my brother get for his birthday? Well, um, if he ever drags his 6’5″ self up here I’ll let you know.

Bacon makes everything better…

4 Aug

Today I was making jello, couldn’t tell you why I was craving it. Cherry, of course. Mixed it all up, poured it into containers, open the cupboard above my counter. The peanut butter attacked me. Clearly it was pissed I was eating cherry jello instead of it in all its creamy glory. Needless to say it landed smack in the middle of my jello. This caused a chain reaction of things falling, jello flying everywhere, basically causing a hot mess.

So, now my carpet’s red. It looks like I murdered someone and left a trail. Seriously? I just got the blue food coloring that my jack russell used to paint the carpet with a few months ago. Mom thinks it’s patriotic. I do not find the humor in this.

I went out for cleaning supplies on my way to the gym. Here I sit scrubbing my carpet and every time I just get a towel full of red and a slightly pink carpet. I’m rebelling and leaving it until tomorrow. Maybe it’ll be easier? I know logically that if the stain sets it probably won’t be. Whatever. I’m not getting my deposit back after 3 years and 2 dogs anyway. Sigh. Epic fail.

Good thing I had some of my peanut butter bacon chocolate chip cookie dough left. It did the trick I’d say. Look at the bacon pieces in these babies.

Peanut Butter Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped, cooked bacon

1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate M&Ms because they were sitting on my counter and I love the extra crunch they give to cookies)

Cream the butter, peanut butter and sugars together until light and whipped looking. Add the egg and vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients and slowly add those to the wet mixture until combined. I baked them at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes; I like my cookies soft. Bacon + chocolate + peanut butter = bliss. They will be devoured tonight.

And then I’ll have bacon and a peanut butter sandwich for breakfast since I now have an abundance of these things in my fridge and cupboard. Hopefully the peanut butter won’t be all suicidal tomorrow. Sigh, again. But on the bright side that little piece of bacon was begging me to just devour it.

If only these guys were carpet cleaners as well…

Oh well. I’ll settle for deliciousness in my tummy.

Mmm Malbec.

31 Jul

So tonight we hit Whole Foods for wine tasting. Best decisions ever. They had such good food tonight (salmon, fruit salsa) and a couple of whites that weren’t bad and a red even I liked. I proceeded to go to Trader Joe for some groceries (and I needed a cheap bottle of red wine to make sangria for a wedding shower tomorrow) and I found a rose Malbec. I have been looking for one since the delicious one I had at Barrio at the beginning of the summer. So, here I sit on a Friday night baking banana bread and drinking rose Malbec. I’m content. There’s a new Say Yes to the Dress on tonight (I love watching these girls complain about how mommy won’t buy them a $10,000 dress) and DC Cupcakes which I am officially addicted to and may have to drive to Baltimore/DC just to sample one of these delicious looking cupcakes. But that’s a whole other story. Oh and now there’s a new Say Yes to the Dress series. I really like Randy so I can’t imagine another one that doesn’t involve him as a consultant, but I’m willing to give it a try.

I make a lot of banana bread. My dad loves it. It’s easy to take to the office and cut up for people. I love it. I always have bananas that go bad. I have discovered that Meijer discounts bananas that are about to go bad. I basically always have banana bread ready bananas on hand. I’m prepared at all times. I’ve tried about 15 different recipes in the last two years. I always find a new one on the internet and give it a shot. I’ve made them with sour cream, buttermilk, cream cheese… loads of stuff. I’ve always been a fan of the Betty Crocker “lighter” recipe because I’m all about being a little healthier when possible. I try reducing the sugar, using honey, Splenda, blah-blah-blah. But, I’ve been on this maple syrup kick. I found a bottle shoved in the back of my fridge that my mom and I bought last year. I had completely forgotten about it. Still delicious and now I’ve been using it practically every day on pancakes, waffles… I contemplated using it on toast yesterday I’ve been eating so much of it. I poured some on blueberries last night. It’s getting bad. I may be addicted. So, I cut the sugar in half of a recipe I found and added three tablespoons of maple syrup. It’s in the oven. So far, it smells amazing. Oh and I added some cinnamon. I feel like bananas, cinnamon and maple syrup are a fairly logical combination, no?

Banana Bread

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1/3 cup fat-free cream cheese

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup (the real stuff)

2 ripe bananas

2 egg whites

1/4 cup light sour cream

1 cup whole-wheat flour + 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

*and you could add chocolate or nuts or raisins or anything else you desire in your banana bread

I creamed the cream cheese and sugars together until they were fluffy before adding the sour cream, maple syrup and applesauce. I then added the egg whites and bananas which I mashed with a fork. In a separate bowl, I combined all of the dry ingredients and then slowly incorporated them into the wet mixture. Mix until just moistened. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes.

And it’s delicious. Next time I’m adding dark chocolate chips… or the dark chocolate M&Ms that have been sitting on my counter since I made cookies last week… or I could just finish those tonight. Mmmmm. Okay. Think healthy thoughts. Says the girl with the glass of wine and huge chunk of banana bread in her hand.

Just have a big double shot…

29 Jul

So tonight as I’m coming home from the gym, I realize, as per usual, there is no parking on my side of the building. Sigh. I love my apartment complex but that is my one complaint: not enough parking! I think it’s mostly that I come home late sometimes and mostly my complex is full of families and older couples who are going to bed as I’m, say, heading to the gym. But anyway, long story short, I had to park on the other side of the building and went in through an entrance I don’t usually use. There was a guy, looked about my age, sitting on the steps. He was lighting up a cigarette and asked me how I was doing. We engaged in some friendly chatting and when he realized I had just come from the gym, he said, “oh honey. You go in a fix yourself a nice big double shot of something and pass the hell out.” What does that mean?!?! I mean, I think after I responded “I’m good,” I may have made a comment about being exhausted now… and I guess he put together the sweaty clothes and empty water bottle and iPod in my hand… but seriously? Does anyone take shots of alcohol after working out?

Okay. Stupid question. Nevertheless, it cracked me up. He was friendly though. Maybe more friendly 20-somethings will move in around here for me to be friends with.

So after my snickerdoodle adventure with maple syrup, I’ve been trying to think of other things I could put maple syrup in… muffins… cakes… breads… more cookies… Tomorrow on my day off I’m going to do some experimenting. I’m too tired tonight, and I’m sure after that double shot of whatever, I’ll be even more exhausted 😉

And P.S. I Love You is on Lifetime. I love Gerard Butler and this movie is one of my few chick-flick guilty pleasures. Love an accent, especially Irish, and a genuine, sappy love story that does not leave me angry a la Nicholas Sparks.

Unicorns, I love them…

27 Jul

I saw Despicable Me a few weeks ago and I want to go see it again so badly. That rarely happens to me; I never really care to go back to the theater to see a movie again… but lately, Toy Story 3, Inception, Despicable Me, that’s been the case. Maybe tonight I’ll hit the dollar theater and see something I’ve been secretly wanting to see. I love Russell Crowe and Robin Hood is finally down at that theater. And somewhere in the girly part of my brain I secretly want to see Letters to Juliet. I know, I know. Cheesy and it’s probably terrible, but I’d like to see it nevertheless. It has to be better than Dear John was, right?

Last night I opened my windows and turned off my a/c. It was glorious. It’s been so hot and humid that I haven’t been able to stomach turning off the a/c (even though I much prefer natural air). But, last night as I was coming home from teaching, driving with the windows down, I thought maybe it finally cooled down just enough for me to enjoy the breeze through my windows. And I slept better last night than I have in weeks. Glorious. I also woke up taking up my entire king sized bed. I had managed to sleep diagonally with my legs and arms sprawled out. Again, glorious.

I went running again this morning. This is the third morning in a row I’ve gotten a good run in before noon. It makes me feel so much better through the day and I’m so proud of my accomplishments. I go in and out of “being a runner.” I’ll run for months and then fall off for a year. This time my goal is to keep it up through the fall and winter. I thoroughly enjoy it once I get my body to a point that I can go long distances and vary my pace, etc. It’s getting to that point that is hard (as it is with anything). Once I fall off, I have a hard time getting back into a groove. So this time I have vowed not to fall off.

I deleted my Facebook account and have also vowed not to text anymore. I realized over the last few months how heavily my life depending on communicating with people in non-verbal ways. I guess this blog is non-verbal communication… I’m going to allow it though since it’s not really communication directed at someone specific. It’s more for me (and I guess anyone else who stumbles upon it… maybe no one else is reading this? who knows.). I’ve been using email a lot more recently but for some reason I put so much more into an email than I ever did a Facebook message or a text. I guess email became more of the replacement for snail mail. It’s easier to type at length than in a text and it doesn’t come with all the drama of Facebook. So, in addition to running more, I’m vowing to place more importance on meaningful conversation. More verbal talks and more face-to-face time. I know that with some people that will be harder. Schedules are different and a great deal of my friends are in different places now. Since I’m only investing in relationships that I think are worth it, I think it’ll work. And hopefully in the process it will build stronger and better relationships.

I made cookies for my students last night… they were delicious. They ate all three dozen… my 19 students ate three dozen cookies. It made me feel good 🙂

Maple Syrup Snickerdoodles

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup salted butter
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 tblsp real maple syrup
  • 1 egg

I creamed the butter, applesauce and sugar together before adding the maple syrup and egg. In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. Then, slowly combine the wet and dry ingredients while constantly mixing on a low speed. I rolled the cookies into about 1 inch balls and placed them an inch apart on the cookie sheet. I baked them in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 7 minutes. They’ll puff up and start to crack on top. They were delicious. I love maple syrup… and apparently so do my students.
Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of them before my students devoured them. Guess that means I’ll have to make more.

Stand still, look pretty

26 Jul

I get some of my best thinking in when I road trip. This week, after two trips to Marietta, I got a lot of thinking in. I lot of stressing and dwelling as well. I also listened to The Wreckers and belted their tunes while I drove.

On Friday, my mom and I had dinner. It was just the two of us, something we don’t do very often anymore. My mom is my best friend. It took me about 23 years to figure that out. It took me the better part of that time to also discover that my mom is always right. She’s very observant and is a good judge of character. She knows which of my friends are worth sticking around for. She’s good with reading boys and she knows what makes me happy. She always keeps these opinions to herself until exactly the right moment. How are moms so good at that? Are all moms good at that? Or is mine a rare type? On Friday when we were discussing some very serious things, she told me that before her mom got Alzheimer’s disease she said some things that weighed very heavily on her mind. My grandma told her how jealous she was of her relationship with me. She wished that she had had a better relationship with my mom, her daughter. A relationship like the one I have with my mom. My mom told me how blessed she had been to be able to thoroughly enjoy her time with me. We fight all the time, generally over silly things. She’s still my best friend and I tell her everything, even the things I probably shouldn’t. Being with her this week was something that I needed more than anything right now. It was also the hardest week of my life.

My dad is developing Alzheimer’s. Things are rough right now. To watch my mom go through this may be the hardest thing I ever do. It makes stressing out about teaching and getting exams graded seem insanely petty. My dad is depressed and there are very few things he seems to be excited about anymore. I’m trying to do what I can to make him happy… fortunately, like many guys I know, it’s easy to get to him through his stomach. He’s not picky so it’s even easier to do.

Strawberry-Banana Muffins (modified from Sunny Anderson’s recipe, Foodnetwork… I’m a little obssessed with her. She’s fun to watch)

  • 1 cup strawberries, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 lemon, zested

In a small bowl, mix together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the mashed banana, eggs, applesauce, sugars, strawberries, and lemon zest. Combine the dry and wet ingredients but be careful not to over mix. Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups (I used mini-muffin cups). Bake at 350 degrees until a toothpick comes cleanly out of the center (about 30 minutes with regular muffin size, 20 with mini-muffins).

I added a little crumble to the top (equal parts brown sugar and oatmeal and enough margarine to make it crumbly, like a strudel topping) before I baked them just to give them another texture. You could also add nuts or even another berry to the batter if you wanted (make walnuts or raspberries).

My dad loves banana bread but I didn’t have enough bananas to make it, so I played around with some muffin recipes. I really enjoyed these and I think he did too. And, since I replaced the oil and butter with applesauce, they’re healthier and they were light and not dry at all.