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Chewy Granola Bars

This ones been in the works for a while, and my family has suffered through many test batches in the past couple of months. I wanted something sweetened with honey– no corn syrup or refined sugars, hearty– because a granola bar full of puffed rice is sad, and not too crumbly– which ended up being the hardest requirement to fill! This recipe filled all of those. The recipe may seem a little complex with all of the variation and suggestions, but it really is simple and comes together in a matter of minutes. And in the end, you have 18 filling, scrumptions, granola bars. It’s worth the effort. I made a peanut butter version first, then tried coconut. Both were delicious, though I liked the coconut best.

I adapted the recipe to include a step in which you toast the oats. This prevents a raw oat flavor that I find unappealing, and gave a better texture in the end. If you are in a rush and need to make these quickly, that step can easily be skipped.

Chewy Granola Bars

3/4  c. softened butter*

1 c. honey

1 tsp. vanilla

4- 1/2 c. rolled oats

1 c. fresh whole wheat flour

1/4 cup flax seed meal(just grind flax seed in coffee grinder of small blender)

1 tsp. baking soda

1 c. add-ins(depending on what flavor you’re going for, use any combination of sliced almonds, chopped peanuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, sunflower seeds, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350. Spread oats on a rimmed cookie sheet and toast in oven, stirring every 5-10 minutes for approzimately 20 min. Remove from oven, and reduce oven temp. to 325.

In a large bowl, stir together butter, honey, and vanilla until smooth.

Add in the remaining ingredients, making sure that oats are cooled if using chocolate chips. Stir well and dump into a lightly greased 9×13 pan. firmly press mixture so that it is even and smooth on top.

Bake for 20-25 min. or until golden on edges. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Then using a knife, “score” bars into 18 rectangles, cutting about halfway through. Later, when completely cooled, cut the rest of the way through and store in individual bagies or an airtight container.

*If you would like to make a peanut butter version, reduce butter to 1/4 c. and use 1/2 cup peanut butter.

For a coconut version, try using 3/4 c. organic virgin coconut oil(available at The Granary) in place of the 3/4 c. butter.

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Italian Dressing Mix

Confession, when serving salad I usually just drizzle on haphazard amounts of red wine vinegar, olive oil, and if I’m feeling fancy, some ume plum vinegar(a new favorite), and I do like it that way, but my family seems to appreciate it when I put atleast a little bit of effort into a dressing. That’s where this recipe comes in. I can make a double batch of this dressing mix, store it in a jar in the pantry(for forever, practically) and just add some oil and vinegar when I need to use it. And, it taste every bit as good(I say better– much less chemical) as a bottled Italian dressing.

All credit for this recipe goes to Laura at Heavenly Homemakers.

Italian Dressing Mix 

All of the following ingredients are available at The Granary:

1 1/2 t. garlic powder
1 T. onion powder
2 t. oregano
1 T. dried parsley
2 t. sea salt
1 t. pepper
1/4 t. thyme
1/2 t. dried celery flakes

Combine all ingredients in a container with an airtight lid. I double the recipe and store in a jelly jar.

To make Italian salad dressing:  Mix 2 T dry mix with 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 t. water and 1/2 cup olive oil.

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Apple Cinnamon Muffins

I don’t make muffins often, almost never, since I got the crazy idea that I should be able to make a decent 100 percent whole wheat muffin. That idea lasted long enough for me to experiment a few times and produce the worst muffins I have ever tasted. How I wish this post was to announce a triumph! Alas, it’s not. I’ve temporarily given up on the idea of a perfectly healthy muffin(who am I kidding anyways?) and compromised with 50/50. Half fresh whole wheat flour, and half unbleached all-purpose.

Voila! I’m inspired to make muffins again, and while I may eventually try to up the amount of whole wheat flour, I’ve decided it certainly is not worth discouraging myself from baking, something I have loved since I was 4 years old,  over 1 cup of white flour! Greatly encouraging to me, as I struggled with this was a delightful book, Good to the Grain. Gorgeous, gorgeous recipes, using whole grain flours mixed with white for flavor and texture, not just health. It seems simple, probably this has occurred to many already, but the idea was inspiring to me. I am freshly determined to bake for the joy of it, free to enjoy it as a nourishing art, not confined to dense muffins.

Now, let’s make some muffins shall we…

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

original recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Preheat oven to 450. Sift together:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour(mill it yourself, or get it fresh from The Granary!)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

Cream in a bowl:

1 stick butter

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

Add:

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat and add:

1 cup buttermilk, or yogurt( soured milk worked for me!)

Fold in dry ingredients and:

2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped small.

Fill 12-18 greased muffin cups depending on desired size. For extra prettiness sprinkle brown sugar on tops of muffins.  Bake muffins for 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 400 and bake 5-8 minutes longer. Done when golden on edges and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

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Real Cheese Dip

I love cheese dip. Who doesn’t? But I don’t love Velveeta. Well, I at least don’t like the idea of it. Finding this recipe online was a revelation to me. Yes, you can make a creamy cheese dip out of real cheese. The basic idea is to create a thickener out of cornstarch or arrowroot powder which will thicken the milk and bind the cheese to keep it from separating. Like a cheese sauce.

I dedicate this to anyone who has ever tried microwaving cheddar cheese and salsa and ended up with a gooey glopey mess.

Real Cheese Dip

1 Tablespoon arrowroot powder, available at The Granary (cornstarch can be used, but doesn’t give quite as fine a result)

1 egg yolk

1 Tablespoon milk

1 cup milk

1 cup cream(I always use half ‘n half since that’s what I keep on hand)

8 oz. cheddar cheese, grated

salt

Rotel tomatoes, salsa, or chipotle sauce to taste

Begin by stirring first three ingredients together in small bowl until smooth to create thickener. Set aside

Carefully heat milk and cream in saucepan over medium low heat until warm, add thickener. Stir until thickened, add grated cheese, and continue to stir until smooth.

Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and your choice of Rotel tomatoes, salsa or chipotle sauce. Serve with corn chips.

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I mixed up this honey mustard dressing yesterday to top off a salad of mixed greens, bacon, hard boiled egg, and bbq chicken. It tastes divine. So good I might try marinading chicken in it next time, though it worked splendidly on the salad.

Honey Mustard Dressing 

from Tammy’s Recipes

1/2 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon salt
dash of black pepper

Place all ingredients in a mason jar with tight lid, or small blender and mix until well blended.

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Rich Whole Wheat Crackers

Store bought crackers are expensive, especially those tasty wheat ones that make all the claims about being natural and good for you. I set out on an adventure to find an easy and healthy cracker recipe that would produce flavorful, tender, crisp crackers. Not an easy task. My first try wasn’t exactly a failure, but they weren’t as tasty as these.

This recipe had a distinctive cheese flavor to it, though it doesn’t have any cheese in it. Must be the yogurt. As much as I like them plain, these are just pleading for variation as well. The parmesan variation was well received, while the black pepper and onion powder flavor was not. Have fun experimenting!

A few tips to make them more like “real crackers”. Roll them out thinly. This isn’t hard to do, and if you make them a little pudgier, they will stay soft and not get crisp.  Try baking them a little longer than you think you should. Stop before they are dark, but golden it good. Also, look on the underside to see if it has some color. Try baking them in the upper half of your oven. That gave me the best results.

 

Rich Whole Wheat Crackers

adapted from the Nourishing Gourmet

Mix in a large bowl: 1 cup yogurt

                                         1 cup softened butter

                                         3 1/2 cups hard white wheat flour

                                          2 tsp. salt

If dough if too stiff to stir, slowly add a tablespoon or two of water until it can be stirred well.

Now, if desired, cover dough with plastic wrap and allow to sit on counter overnight(this is considered “soaking” and is done by some to reduce phytic acid present in flour). Or, proceed with next steps.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Divide dough into 4 parts and roll out, one at a time on lightly floured surface. Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into squares or desired shapes and prick surface with fork. Lay out on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 8 minutes. If they aren’t done keep checking them every two minutes or so. Top and bottom should be golden. Cool on a cooling rack.

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My mom grew up eating Mexican Sundaes and has passed her love for them on to us. Simply vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and spanish peanuts, think homemade peanut buster parfait(DQ, anyone?). The real magic is in the homemade chocolate sauce– it’s incredibly easy. Try it!

Spanish peanuts(available at The Granary) are deliciously sweet and nutty.

Chocolate Sauce

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup whole milk

1-2 Tablespoons sugar

1 Tablespoon butter

4 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine the cream, milk, sugar and butter in a heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring to a rolling boil. Remove from heat immediately. Add the chocolate, let stand for one minute, then whisk until smooth. Add vanilla.

The bittersweet chocolate from The Granary is divine and works beautifully in this sauce, but it will be very, very, VERY rich. For a tamer sauce, try the semisweet.

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