Browsing articles tagged with " oats"

Chewy Almond Granola Bars

Chewy Almond Granola Bars  Is January 20th too late to make a New Year’s resolution? Does it not count because technically we are almost a month into the new year? Am I in violation of some sort of unwritten resolution set of rules? Well I don’t care- I am doing it anyway. Right here and right now I’m declaring that my new year’s resolution is to eat less sugar. There I said it…and now I have to follow through with it. That’s the problem with resolutions, and the reason why I don’t usually make them. It’s easy enough to make a resolution, and to tell people about it, but actually committing to it, for a whole year- yikes!
The funny thing about this resolution is that I don’t have a what I would call a “problem” with sugar. By this I mean that I am not the type of person who scarfs down a whole box of cookies or polishes off an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s (I am more a whole bag of chips kind of girl- maybe I’ll tackle that one next year). Recently though I’ve become aware of all the hidden sugar that’s in the things I eat everyday. I’m talking about things that I wouldn’t normally think of as high sugar foods. Things like bread, yogurt, granola bars, crackers and pasta sauce. All these things have added sugar and some have quite a bit…twenty- two grams of sugar in one cup of French vanilla yogurt! I decided that if I really want to cut down on the hidden sugar in my diet I needed to make some changes. Chewy Almond Granola Bars
Some are easy- buy plain yogurt and add my own fruit with a tiny drop of honey, look for a bread and pasta sauce with lower amounts of sugar. The granola bars though, that was a bit harder. I’ve found that in general the kinds with less sugar tend to be dry and tasteless. I want a low-sugar chewy granola bar that doesn’t taste like sandpaper in my mouth and doesn’t fall apart and leave half behind in its little wrapper. Sounds simple right? Apparently not because I just can’t find them. So I made my own. Granola bars are actually quite easy to make. The best part is that you can customize them to your individual taste preferences. I’m giving you a recipe to follow, but please feel free to just use it as a guide. You can mix it up with different nuts or dried fruit, or even substitute the almond butter with peanut butter. Just remember to look for unsweetened dried fruit and unsalted, unroasted nuts. Oh, and please don’t use the almond or peanut butter that has added sugar and oil! I will never understand this- why does a ground up nut paste need oil added to it?

Here are the main ingredients that I used in my bars.

Granola bars consist of three separate parts. First you have the dry mix of oats, nuts and seeds. These are mixed together on a baking sheet and toasted in the oven.

Next you have dried fruit. I used a mix of cranberries and apricots because that’s what I like, but the possibilities are endless. Pineapple, mango, papaya, apple rings, raisins…you get the idea. Finally you have the glue that holds it all together. This is where the sugar part comes in. The original recipe that I used called for 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of turbinado sugar. At first glance this doesn’t sound too bad. I mean there’s no refined white sugar so it’s okay right? Well I am no dietician but sugar is sugar and this amount means that each granola bar contains 15 grams of the sweet stuff. That seems like a lot considering that the Nature Valley fruit and nut bars that I buy only have 13 grams per bar. I knew I could do better. I didn’t want to just cut the amount of honey in half though because I was afraid of messing with the dry versus wet ingredient ratio and ending up with crumbly bars instead of chewy ones. So I decided that the best solution was to substitute the honey for agave nectar. Yes, I know that there has been some controversy lately over this product and whether it really is a healthy alternative to sugar or instead an evil twin of high fructose corn syrup in disguise. I’m not going to get into the whole debate here because it could take all day, and besides I only know what Google tells me so you might as well look it up on your own. In the end, my take on it is that agave syrup has a much sweeter flavor than most sugars so you can use less of it which is always a good thing in my book. I ended up using 1/4 cup of agave syrup and cutting out the turbinado sugar altogether. After doing a bit of math (gulp) I figured out that my new and improved granola bar only contains 8 grams of sugar per bar. Not bad. The three parts are mixed together and pressed into a square baking dish (a straight sided one is best, but if you’re like me and only have a glass square dish with rounded corners it’s okay. You will just end up with some bars with rounded edges- no big deal). Chill the whole thing in the fridge for about half an hour and then take them out and slice into bars. Chewy Almond Granola Bars
There you have it.  A reduced sugar granola bar and my first step toward fulfilling my resolution. That wasn’t so bad- now I just have to keep it up for the next 11 months and 11 days.

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Split Pea Soup & Oat Cornmeal Bread

Split Pea Soup
Something’s not quite right this week. All I’ve managed to accomplish is one disaster after another. The week started off with two kitchen mishaps and ended with yet another broken phone. Yeah I know, there’s only ten days left till Christmas and I could start making excuses about the holidays and stress, fighting the crowds at the mall..blah,blah,blah. Except that I find the holidays far more exciting than stressful and I don’t shop at the mall (It’s called the Internet- you might have heard of it). So what could be the problem? Full moon? Nope that was last week. My body’s a bit off because I had a pesky cold for two weeks which then turned into strep throat? Nope, also last week. A grand conspiracy stirring in the universe to mess with my normally organized and peaceful existence?- that must be it.Grapefruit peels
It all started with the grapefruit. About a month ago I came across this recipe for candied grapefruit peel that I just couldn’t get out of my mind. Those sugar coated bright orange peels called out to me in a way that was impossible to resist. All sane and rational thoughts (like who would want to eat these) flew out of my head and before I knew it I was peeling, slicing and simmering a big ol’ pile of grapefruit peels. I even had the perfect packaging all planned out. A small pint sized glass jar filled with the sugary strips and adorned with a green ribbon and carefully hand lettered label. The whole thing would be just so Martha. Except it wasn’t.
After the two hours of simmering in a simple syrup the peels looked great. As instructed I set them on a rack to dry before rolling them in sugar. Well,  a few hours later they were still wet so I decided to let them dry overnight- couldn’t hurt right? Wrong..oh so wrong. The next morning they had shriveled and curled up to the point of no return. There was no way these babies were ever going to look good, even a thick sugar coating couldn’t save this disaster. I couldn’t even take a picture, it was that ugly.

It wasn’t a total loss though. I mean we did eat the grapefruit, and while the peels were simmering for two hours I made a batch of the most delicious Cranberry-Nut Mini loaves with Flax that I have ever tasted. Except that I dropped them on the floor. Let me clarify, I dropped them on the floor while they were still hot and the cute little breads just fell to pieces. Oh, and I forgot to mention that the spot where I dropped them- right next to the dog’s food bowl. I did manage to salvage some of the bigger pieces, and after dusting them off a bit (ewww!) I discovered just how amazing this bread was. Which of course made me even more upset because who wants to drop awesome bread on the floor. I will be making another batch of these breads very soon but for now you should visit this blog for the recipe and inspiring pictures.TAW52855
So what’s a girl to do to salvage this week of disasters? I decided that the solution to my woos would be a nice big pot of the ultimate comfort food- soup. Soup is a pretty hard meal to mess up (unless you drop it on the floor – come on, I know you were thinking it). I wanted something hearty and healthy that didn’t require a ton of ingredients, hours of chopping or any sort of fancy culinary skills. So I pulled out my trusty Soup Makes the Meal cookbook by Ken Haedrich and flipped through the pages until I came upon the perfect recipe. He calls it No Bones About it Split Pea Soup. I just call it Split Pea Soup. I choose a ham free recipe not because I have anything against ham, in fact I think this soup is pretty fantastic with a bit of ham sprinkled on top, but as I didn’t happen to have a ham bone lying around this seemed the way to go. This is a really simple recipe that I have adapted a bit to suit my own tastes. Feel free to play around with it and add different spices if you so desire. And if you’re one of those people who can’t imagine pea soup without the ham bone (or if you happen to have on lying around) just throw it in the pot with everything else.Oat BreadI also made a quick and hearty bread to go with my soup because soup without bread is like a fish without water. This is a pretty dense bread that is amazing when dipped in the soup and just as yummy smeared with a bit of butter. Enjoy.

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