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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Fall Food

Fall is my favorite time to cook.  We have an abundance of high-quality, low-cost ingredients on-hand and I feel good about spending the time to actually putter around in the kitchen with them.  During the summer months, when our gardens are at peak production, we eat well…but without much time invested.  We harvest what’s ready and slice it, grill it, roast it or steam it and that’s pretty much the extent of things.  There’s very little baking, very little time actually spent making something out of all of those amazing ingredients.

Once most of the harvest has been frozen or shelved, though, things are different.  I can feel good about spending time on actual recipes, dishes that have multiple steps–making sauces, layering flavors, taking the extra time that has eluded me since April or May.  Plus, the temperatures are cooler and the heat from the oven doesn’t seem quite so insidious.  Instead, it beckons me with aromatic memories of crusty breads, hearty meatloaves, tender briskets and caramelized vegetables.  Sigh.

Today has been such a morning.  I’ve been turning out food left and right:  maple-glazed butternut squash, chili-rubbed sweet potato fries, sausage fajitas, oatmeal-jam bars, chunky applesauce.  Almost all of these things have major components that we raised right here on our little hobby farm, and it just feels really good.  Whether the food is staying here or being taken to folks with new babies, I feel like it has been a labor love.  Truly.

I confess that I did not feel so warm-and-fuzzy six weeks ago when I was sweaty and exhausted and sore and dirty almost all of the time.  There were many nights that I wished a pizza fairy would delivered a highly-processed-hot-and-ready pizza pie directly to my tailgate so that I could wolf it down without having to even leave the garden.  And, from past experience, I can tell you that I will not feel quite so rosy about our homegrown fare once March rolls around and we are down to the ever-present frozen corn, canned green beans and stewed tomatoes.  But, even then, it feels good to not have to think about what’s for supper.  It feels good to live well within our means.  Even then, when we sit down to vegetable soup or green beans, sausage and potatoes for the fourth time that month, I am thankful.  Ever-conscious of having so much more than so many others.  Ever-grateful for the land, the energy and the opportunity to grow good food for my family and friends.

Now, though, we feast with friends and we feast with family, sharing the beautiful, flavorful bounty of another abundant season.  Thank You, Lord.

Pork & Beans

One of the fantastic things about living with my family is that they’re funny.  Plus, I’m funny, so we laugh a lot.  The following story is from a couple of years ago, and I ran across it this morning.  I hope it makes you smile.

For years, I have offered to pack my husband’s lunch for him. He has access to a refrigerator, microwave and break room where he can eat. He has repeatedly declined my offers. He prefers to eat peanuts or potato sticks or weird random things he finds on clearance at the grocery store. He will even occasionally go to a deli and order two slices of bologna and buy a bag of hamburger buns for his lunch. Because he wastes virtually nothing, he brings the leftover buns home or goes back and orders two slices of ham the next day and the next day and so on. This money does not come out of our grocery budget, but out of his own personal “fun money”. (What is wrong with this man?!)

As I prepare supper tonight, he acknowledges (for reasons better left unshared) that he had beans for lunch. I ask him where he ate, thinking it VERY strange that he spent money at a restaurant that would serve baked beans on his lunch hour. HE ATE THEM OUT OF CAN, PEOPLE!!! He bought an el cheap-o can of pork & beans and ATE THEM COLD OUT OF A CAN FOR HIS LUNCH!!

After staring at him in slack-jawed wonder for a moment, I said, “Do you understand that this hurts my heart–that you would rather eat cold pork & beans out of a can than have me pack a lunch for you?”

My husband replied, “I’m sorry.”

I said, “I don’t think you are.”

He said, “I’m sorry that your heart hurts. (pause) But I’m not sorry I ate the cold pork & beans.”

Our ten-year-old son exploded into laughter in the background while I silently apologized to his future wife. I tried. Really I did.

 

Cheesy Chicken Bundles

I simply must share this recipe with you.  I found it while looking through some recipes, and it piqued my interest.  I had been searching for a new non-casserole, non-soup freezer meal that could be adapted for my power cooking classes.  I gave this a whirl, and it was an instant success.  Once we tried, it I realized that I had made it years ago and wrote it off because it was a hassle.  Obviously, my definition of “hassle” has changed considerably.  Plus, I now know that making a double batch yields twice as much for only one mess.

Anyway, I tweaked a couple of things, and it has worked beautifully for both my power cooking classes and my family.  I rarely buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts, but I confess that I’ve been buying them monthly in order to put these on the menu.  Boneless, skinless chicken thighs would also work nicely.  I hope your family enjoys them as much as mine.

1 c. bread crumbs
½ c. cheese, grated (Swiss is my fave.)
½ c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 ½ t. seasoned salt
6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
½ c. butter, melted

Slice chicken breasts in half lengthwise as though you were going to butterfly them.  The goal is to have a thinner piece of meat with which to work.

Combine bread crumbs, cheeses and seasoned salt in bowl.  Melt butter in separate bowl.

Dip chicken pieces in melted butter, then in cheese-crumb mixture.Tuck sides of chicken under to form individual bundles.

To freeze, wrap each bundle in plastic wrap and then place in freezer bag.

To serve, make sure chicken pieces are thawed.  Place bundles in large, shallow baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 30-40 minutes, or until topping is crispy and chicken is done.

NOTE:  If you use smaller pieces of chicken, you will have less baking time than if you use larger pieces.  If you think your pieces look smallish, start with a baking time of 25 minutes; you can always add more if needed.

Emily’s Tetrazzini

Though traditionally prepared with turkey, tetrazzini can also be prepared with chicken.  This is especially handy for my friend, Emily, because she and her husband grow both of them on their small farm–along with a lot of other tasty meal components.

Regardless of what kind of farming a body does, it’s hard work.  The hours are exhausting, and the to do list is pretty much never-ending.  On top of that, farmers have to often wrestle with the weather, outsmart a variety of pests and predators and contend with broken-down equipment.

Always broken-down equipment.

For a number of years now, I have watched Emily, and her husband, Kyle, take these struggles in stride while trying to make a living, to build a strong marriage and to raise their precious children.  I am impressed with their commitment to farming.  More importantly, I am impressed with their commitment to one another and to their children.  It’s easy to let the important things slide–date nights, family birthdays, small celebrations, even meal times around the table.  There’s the battle of the tyranny of the urgent raging inside every one of us, but I wonder if it rages more feverishly inside of a farmer.  It takes a good bit of wisdom, a little bit of maturity and even a touch of humility for most farmers to live according to their true priorities.

Anyway, I’m proud of my friends for who they are and what they’ve chosen.  Plus, I love this tetrazzini recipe that Emily shared with me a couple of weeks ago.  She and I are often swapping recipes and sharing what we’ve learned in the kitchen.  We both like to eat, and one of the ways we love on our loved ones is by feeding them foods we hope they will enjoy.

I share this recipe with you and encourage you to tune out the to do list and join your family around the table each evening.  If this is new to you, it might take a week or two for your crew to adapt to the new normal…but they will adapt.  And, it will be a worthwhile endeavor on your part–one you will not regret.

1 box (1 lb.) of uncooked pasta of your choice
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. flour
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried parsley
3 c. chicken/turkey broth (homemade or store-bought)
2 c. milk
1 2/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese
3-4 c. cooked, chopped turkey or chicken
3/4 c. chopped mushrooms (Emily says these are optional, but I think they’re very NOT optional.)

Topping:
2 T. butter, melted
1 c. bread crumbs or crushed crackers
1/3 c. grated Parmesan cheese.

Mix together.

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease 9×13” baking dish.

Prepare pasta according to package directions but reduce cooking time by 2-3 minutes.  Drain and place in prepared baking dish.

Add the cooked, cubed turkey/chicken (and mushrooms, if adding); gently mix in with the pasta.

In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat.  Once melted, add the minced garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the flour and whisk together.  Cook for about 1 minute, or until bubbly.  Gradually stir in the turkey/chicken stock and milk. Increase heat to medium and heat/stir until the mixture begins to bubble.

Remove from heat and add in the freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Add parsley.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (if using homemade, unsalted stock, you will probably need about 2 tsp. of salt).

Pour the sauce over the noodles and turkey/chicken.

Spread the crumb topping evenly over the noodle-meat-sauce mixture.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until hot and bubbly.

NOTE:  This can easily be made the day before, wrapped tightly and tucked into the fridge until serving time.  You will probably need to double the baking time if starting cold from the refrigerator.  Or, you can wrap it up tightly and stick into the freezer for another time.  Just be sure to thaw before baking.

Quick & Crispy Chicken (And I do mean QUICK!)

These only take about 15 minutes to put together, then you can work on some rice or potatoes and veggies as sides while they’re baking.  You’ll have a homemade meal on the table in less time than it takes for your kids to do their homework!  This is also a good recipe to enlist your children’s help, which will eventually make supper prep even quicker!  You can cut these chicken breasts into strips to make homemade chicken tenders if you want.  Just reduce the baking time accordingly.

If you’re wanting to plan ahead, you can also bread a whole bunch of chicken and freeze some for later.  I would lay the chicken out in one layer on a cookie sheet in the freezer and freeze until solid, then gently put into a freezer bag.  Or, you can layer the chicken in a smaller container, making sure to put wax paper between the layers.

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 c. mayo
2 T. yellow mustard
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
1 c. crushed cornflakes (Make sure you get your measurement after you’ve crushed them!)
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. onion (or garlic) powder

Rinse chicken and pat dry.  Combine mayo and mustard; brush mixture onto chicken.

Combine cereal crumbs, cheese and seasonings; roll chicken to coat.  Place in a greased baking dish and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes until juices run clear.

Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend

My kitchen smells really good right now, and I feel compelled to tell you why.

My daughter just made a pumpkin pie spice blend, and the fragrance is lovely.  Although I am not typically an all-day coffee drinker, I’ve spontaneously brewed a few cups just so that I can sprinkle some of this seasoning blend over the grounds before the coffee brews.  I even have cream from some raw milk to make afternoon lattes.  Mmmm.

Here it is if you’d like to try making your own.

1/4 c. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg (or 4 tsp. ground nutmeg)
4 tsp. ground ginger
1 T. ground allspice
2 tsp. ground cloves

Mix well and store in airtight container for use in pies, breads, baked apples, muffins and heavenly cups of coffee.