Chewy Granola Bars

 

Many moons ago, my friend, Tiffany, gave me this recipe.  I went through a season of making them a couple of times a month…and then we greatly reduced our grocery budget.  (Sigh.)  Fortunately, there is now a bulk foods store nearby that sells most of these ingredients well below grocery store prices.  Yay for us!

These bars will not taste at all like the chewy granola bars that you can buy.  They are heartier and less artificial in taste and texture.  A pan of these can last our hungry family for several days–unlike a pan of brownies.  The ingredients are super flexible and easily altered to accommodate preferences and pantry supplies.  For instance, the ones I’m making this morning have almonds and flax seeds instead of sunflower seeds and wheat germ.  As long as you get a reasonably-right combination of wet and dry ingredients, your chance of success is fairly solid.

1/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. peanut butter
3/4 c. honey
2 T. hot water
2 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1 T. sesame seeds
1 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. shredded coconut

Mix thoroughly and press into buttered 9×13″ baking dish.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, or until top is golden brown.  Cool 10 minutes before cutting into bars.  Allow to cool completely before storing.

Tightly wrapped, these store very well for a week.  Or, feel free to tuck them into the freezer for anther day.

 

Advertisements

3-Hour French Bread

IMG_6955

I don’t know where this recipe originated, but it was passed along to me by my friend, Tiffany.  My son and I were able to have some delightful first, second and third experiences with this tasty bread during a recent visit with Tif and her family.  Let’s just say that we enjoyed it…a lot.  So, we brought home the recipe.

Tiffany and I met in college some twenty years ago.  We have a lot of similar interests–baking, gardening, reading and loving on our families.  She and I do some of the same weird things–homeschool, drive really old vehicles whose “check engine” lights are almost always on and re-use storage bags and parchment paper.  We appreciate one another’s differences, too.  We don’t see eye-to-eye on everything, and we’re okay with that.  Really, Tif’s greatest flaw is that she thinks Double-Stuf Oreos are disgusting.  Obviously, she’s wrong…but I can overlook that.

One of the things that I love most about Tiffany is that I can count on her to tell me the truth in love.  For the better part of a year, I went through a rough patch of adulthood.  I’m not sure exactly what all was the problem, but I felt a desperation and an isolation that was mostly new to me.  I felt out of control and lost and so very, very lonely.  It was awful.  My perspective was so emotion-driven that it was skewed.  I knew that it was skewed, but I had a hard time keeping myself together.

My friend heard my heart.  She did not trivialize my pain.  She did not condescend to my choices.  She just repeatedly pointed me to Christ.  She reminded me that my standard can be found in Him and that He is a safe place for my aching heart.  She encouraged me to set aside time to just praise Him–to bask in His love and goodness.  I knew all of these things already, but my soul was struggling to act on these truths.  She was one of the friends whose loving counsel provided me with both motivation and accountability.  I needed both.

Friends, love one another.  Whether it’s an encouraging email, a listening ear or a warm loaf of bread, love the folks around you.  There’s no time like the present.

So, back to the bread…

This is super easy to make and yields consistent results.  And, any leftovers make killer French toast.

3-4 c. flour
2 t. salt
2 t. yeast
1 t. sugar
1 1/2 c. water

Mix 3 c. flour with remaining ingredients.  Knead, adding in approximately 1 c. more of flour.

Cover and let rise in oiled bowl for 1 1/2 hours.

Make two long loaves.  Let rise 1 hour on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.

After rising time, make four evenly-placed horizontal slashes on top of loaves.  I’ve found that a serrated knife works well for this.

In preheated 450-degree oven, bake for 20-25 minutes, or until internal temperature is between 190 and 210 degrees.  (To create a traditional French bread crust, preheat an oven-safe pan on the lowest rack.  After placing the unbaked bread in the oven, throw a 1/2-cup of water in the hot dish and quickly close the door.)

Brush with butter while still warm, if desired.  (And why wouldn’t you desire it?)

Glazed Pears

I have watched television chefs make one version or another of glazed pears for years.  I don’t know why, but they’ve never really piqued my interest.  Last spring, though, I watched Jacques Pepin make some apricot-glazed pears, and they grabbed my attention.  (I don’t know.  Maybe it was his French accent?)

Anywho, I decided to make a simpler version, sans apricot preserves, and they were a huge hit for my hungry crew…and so simple to make!

This could certainly be prepared with fresh pears and a honey or maple syrup glaze, but I opted for a simpler route this time.

2 T. butter
1 (15-oz.) can pears in light syrup
1 cinnamon stick

Melt butter in saute pan.

Add pears and about 2/3 of the juice, along with cinnamon stick, to melted butter.

Drink remaining pear juice before the kids come in and start fighting over it.  (Learn from my mistakes, people.)

Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, gently stirring and basting, until liquid is reduced to syrup consistency.

Eat these sweet gems plain, over ice cream, on pancakes and waffles or with a biscuit.  Delightful.

 

Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

I was recently reminded about this delightful treat by a friend.  This cake is so moist that it doesn’t need icing.  You can even dress it up a bit by sprinkling powdered sugar on top.  However, if you insist on making one, a cream cheese version would be lovely.

2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3/4 c. cocoa powder
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2  t. salt
3eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. oil
3 c. grated zucchini

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 9×13″ pan.

Blend eggs, vanilla and oil, whisking well.

Combine all dry ingredients and add to egg mixture.

Stir in zucchini and combine well without over-beating.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.

Corn and Zucchini Medley

Yum, yum and YUM!

2-4 sliced bacon, sliced
2 c. diced zucchini
2 c. corn
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. shredded cheese
pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in large skillet until cooked.  Drain and set aside, reserving  1 T. of drippings.

In reserved drippings, saute zucchini, corn and onion until tender-crisp.  Add garlic and saute for additional minute.  Season with pepper, if desired.  Top with bacon and cheese.

Better-with-Bacon Summer Squash

Summer squash is often the gift that keeps on giving in our neck of the woods.  And, even though I have dozens of tried-and-true recipes on-hand, I find myself looking for new ways to prepare it.  This is especially true because one of my kiddos pretty much loathes the stuff.  She will eat it when it’s served, but only because she’s hungry.

Since so many things are better with bacon, we’ve added it to our summer squash this year in the hopes of finding another recipe that we can all get excited about.  Even if it doesn’t pass muster with her, I look forward to having this with some fresh corn on the cob and thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes.

You can use any type of summer squash in this recipe:  zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan or even 8-ball zucchini.  It really doesn’t matter.  This can even be served with rice or over pasta if you want to bulk it up a bit.

4-6 strips bacon, diced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and carefully drain grease, keeping 2-3 tablespoons in skillet.

In the bacon drippings, saute summer squash and onion for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Add minced garlic and stir for 1-2 more minutes until garlic is cooked.

Sprinkle with cheese if you want (and why wouldn’t you?).