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.

 

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Fresh Cranberry Scones

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I really enjoy fresh cranberries, but they’re tough to find outside of the holiday season.  I will often buy a bag or two for the freezer when they’re available.  These scones are a refreshing treat—and especially tasty with a hot cup of tea.

2 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
2 t. baking powder
½ t. salt
½ t. ground cloves (or the zest of one lemon)
¼ c. cold butter, grated
1 c. whipping cream
¾ c. fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
2 t. milk
2 T. sugar

Combine first 5 ingredients.

Add butter, mixing until crumbly.

Add whipping cream and cranberries, stirring just until moistened.

Turn dough out onto lightly-floured surface; knead 5 or 6 times—basically until mixture holds together well and can be shaped into 8” circle.

Cut disc into 8 wedges and place on lightly-greased baking sheet.  Prick wedges 3-4 times each with fork.  Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 425 for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

These are especially good warm.  They freeze well when wrapped tightly.

 

Doughnut Traditions

It seems that almost all of our family’s special occasions are somehow punctuated by the food we share.  It’s not that we don’t enjoy spending time together or that we don’t value the reason for the holiday; it’s just that the love of good food runs deeply in our family.  I have a nine-year-old nephew who puts every family get-together in the context of the food that is served.  He remembers a beautiful, spontaneous, autumn outing on Summit Lake as “that day when Aunt Trista fixed that chili that I wouldn’t eat” and a certain birthday celebration as his introduction to peanut butter “scream” cake (also known as peanut butter sheet cake).  He gets his love of food honest.

When I was a little girl, I remember family members making a big deal about my maternal grandma’s from-scratch walnut fudge, her crunchy peanut brittle and her fluffy white clouds of divinity.  That stuff was all right for the grown-ups, but I was mesmerized by her cocoa brownie cubes that had been individually rolled in powdered sugar and piled high on a cake stand and her buttery, gooey caramels that had been individually wrapped in wax paper.  In later years, I remember helping my mom to make some of these same sweet treats, and I still continue to make some of them for my little family today.  I have learned to appreciate the focus it takes to get that peanut brittle to just the right temperature and the patience it takes to cut and wrap all of those caramels.  Not to mention the expense of all of that butter!

The memories I associate with my paternal grandmother’s holiday food center more on the savory—namely her turkey & noodles with mashed potatoes.  For a number of years, I completely skipped over the roasted turkey, stuffing (especially if it had oysters in it!!) and cranberry sauce in favor of Grandma’s perfect turkey & noodles.  I still can’t get mine to taste like hers!  Even when I make noodles from scratch, there’s still something not quite right about the consistency.  She was a self-described “pincher and dumper” when it came to measuring, yet her food always turned out heavenly!

My mom has continued the tradition of good food for our family.  Whether it’s angel food birthday cakes topped with whipped cream and toffee bits, Polish mistakes served piping hot at Christmastime, oven-baked porcupines for family dinners or ginger ale with cranberry-juice ice cubes, Mom makes sure that we are fed well and that get-togethers are festive occasions.

One of my favorite food traditions involves making tender cake doughnuts on Thanksgiving morning.  I guess I was probably 8 or 9 when this tradition began with my mom and siblings.  I remember that Dad would often go hunting on Thanksgiving morning and would come home to enjoy the sweet treats Mom left for him under the cake dome.  When I got married and discovered that getting together on Thanksgiving Day was especially important to the Hill side of the family, my mom graciously suggested that we move our family dinner back a couple of days to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  What a blessing that was to us!  Our crew makes every effort to wake up at Mom’s on that Saturday morning to continue the doughnut-making tradition.  Oftentimes, my brother and my nephews are there to join us when we pull out my mom’s worn Betty Crocker cookbook and turn to the batter-splattered doughnut recipe.  We put in an old Kenny Rogers Christmas CD and make a lot of noise–as well as a lot of mess–in our breakfast production.  We also make a lot of memories.  And, of course, those memories are what are truly the sweetest.

This article was originally published in HER magazine.

 

Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast

This is a delicious and simple special-occasion breakfast that is quick to put together for company.  You can certainly substitute raspberry preserves if you’d like.  If you’re having a large, brunch-type gather, these rich, filling “sandwiches” can easily be halved.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 T. powdered sugar
2 T. strawberry preserves
8 slices sturdy bread
2 eggs
½ c. half-and-half or whole milk
2 T. sugar
4 T. butter

Combine cream cheese and powdered sugar in a small bowl; mix well. Stir in preserves.

Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over 4 slices of bread; top with remaining slices to form sandwiches.

Whisk together eggs, half-and-half and sugar in a medium bowl; set aside.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Dip each sandwich into egg mixture, completely covering both sides.

Cook sandwiches 1-2 minutes per side or until golden.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

Making Yogurt in a Slow Cooker

I was teaching an Eat Cheap! class to a group of women today, and the topic of making yogurt came up.  I had just tried this slow cooker technique last week (and am getting ready to make another batch tomorrow), so I was able to speak to the accuracy and ease of this particular recipe.  It makes just over a half gallon of plain yogurt, which is a great substitution for sour cream.  It can also be mixed with all kinds of fruit, nuts and honey for a yummy breakfast or snack.  I used whole milk for the base and plain Greek yogurt for the starter, but it looks like it’s fairly flexible.

Enjoy!

http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com/2008/10/you-can-make-yogurt-in-your-crockpot.html

Strawberry-Cream Cheese Spread

This is a special treat for us when spread on bagels, waffles, French toast or graham crackers.  It also makes a fun fruit dip.

Combine:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

¼ cup strawberry preserves

If you want less sugar, use ¾ c. smashed, fresh, super sweet (like ripe, local) strawberries.  You can even sweeten with a little bit of honey if you want.

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

I got this recipe from my friend, Cyndee, last year.  With a hot cup of coffee, it is such a treat for breakfast!

The finished product freezes very nicely.

 

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs

1/2 tsp baking soda

2 1/2 cup flour

1 c buttermilk

 

Mix all together and add:

 

1 cup fine chopped rhubarb.

 

Put in 9×13 baking dish.

 

Sprinkle with following topping:

 

1/4 c brown sugar

1/4 c sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

 

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.