Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Back to school to prove to my Daddy that I ain't no fool Granola Bars

"To the uneducated, an A is just three sticks." 
Chances are someone in your life just headed back to school.  I wish I was one of those people so I had an excuse to pack these bars in my lunch everyday.  Making granola bars is fun people, really it is.  Pre-made food that comes out of a box really can't compare.  I have posted granola bars before, but this one is different...of course that is what I say about all my recipes...shh...don't tell anyone. : )  This is a great recipe to have kids help you out with.  Have them go through the pantry and pick out things they want in their granola bars.  The add ins are flexible, so let them use their could get interesting : )  I think next time I make these I will add chocolate chips and send them to my brother at boarding school.  FYI-These ship well, perfect for care packages!  Happy Baking Mon Amis!

 Honey Almond Granola Bars

2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds (or whatever nut you like)
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 cup puffed millet cereal (or any puffed cereal you like...puffed rice, kamut, wheat, etc.)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ (or ground flax seeds)
3 TBS coconut oil, butter, or oil of choice
2/3 cup honey (or maple syrup, brown rice syrup)
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup raisins (or whatever dried fruit you like)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place oats, almonds, and coconut on a sheet tray and toast 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Place the oil, honey, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining ingredients including the toasted items.  Mix together until completely incorporated.  Line and 8x8 pan with parchment.  Press mixture into pan.  Wet hands slightly and press down again.  Bake 25- 30 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely and cut into 10 bars.  You can wrap the bars individually in plastic wrap stored at room temperature and they should keep for a week or so.  Let me know if you make these and what you put in them!

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire."   
William Butler Yeats

Monday, August 29, 2011

A gluten free and dairy free Almond Joy Cake by the people, and for the people.

Dear Friends. stop

I made something weird, and it was good.  stop

I would share it with you but it is all gone.  stop

Make some today.  stop

Invite me over my batch is gone.  stop

Peace out homes stop

Okay folks, here is the DL.  I go through phases where I try to be gluten free, low gluten, dairy free, refined sugar free in my diet.  If I am not on one of these kicks I am guaranteed to have at least one friend who is...and sometimes I am moved by the spirit to bake for them.  For this reason our cupboard is filled with random flours, grains, and sugars...I swear it looks like we robbed a health food store up in here.

I keep hearing about and reading about coconut palm sugar.  So I did the natural thing that any self respecting baker would do, I asked my Mom to buy me a bag. : )  Thanks Mom : )  The information online is kind of vague about this illusive coconut palm sugar.  Some say it has a low Glycemic index of 35, others say that is bogus.  As you all well know by know I am an avid lover of all things coconut, so irregardless of what the actual truth is about this product I wanted to try it out anyways.

I found this recipe over at Elana's pantry blog, she does the whole gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free lifestyle while raising a family, writing about it, and selling cookbooks.  Good for her. : )  You go girl.  I have tried quite a few recipes from her blog, and have liked about 1/2 of them and disliked the other 1/2.  Sorry, guess it is just the glass 1/2 empty in me expressing myself.

I realize that most of you won't have these ingredients on hand, so if you don't have them...don't go out and buy them just for this...they are waaaaaaaaaaaaay too expensive.  If you are however gluten free or dairy free you might already have these on hand, and if you don't it might be worth the investment.  These bars/cake things are amazingly light, but dense...a complete contradiction in your mouth.  They are gluten free, and dairy free.  They almost have the consistency of being soaked in some kind of wonderful sauce, but they aren't!  The flavor is sweet, but not too sweet, and a nice crunchy aspect lingers in the background.  I made these for dessert on Sunday, and am currently starring at the last piece contemplating if it is worth the extra time at the gym I will have to put in to make up for it.  In the end the heart wants what the heart wants.  What the heck does that mean exactly?  You make these bars and tell me. : )

Open the windows, wave goodbye to Irene, pray for Fall to be here already, listen to this song, and make this cake.

Chocolate Almond Joy Bars
adapted slightly from Elana's Pantry

In large bowl whisk together the following until smooth:

4 eggs
3/4 cup canned coconut milk
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup coconut palm sugar

In smaller bowl combine the following and mix until smooth:

1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chocolate chips 
(dairy free gluten free kind...or regular if you want, you can also use carob chips raisins, or just omit if you want it to be completely refined sugar free)

Mix the dry into the wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.
Grease an 8x8 baking dish or a 9 inch pie pan.  Pour batter into pan.  

Sprinkle with the following:
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, cool for 1 hour.

I roughly did the nutrition calculations on this.  It makes 12 servings, each serving is 162 calories, 10g fat, 4g protein, 2g fiber.  Please keep in mind the fat is high because it is made with almond flour and coconut flour.

 If you make these bars, let me know how they turn out!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Grilled Spicy Corn, goodbye summer meals : )

First of all, I have to chuckle at my reader's responses to my last post.  I received many emails, and facebook notes affirming me in my, I guess that means my readers read the post and took it to mean I was looking for affirmation in my life.  I wasn't necessarily doing that, but being reaffirmed in my writing is always a welcome bonus!  So thank you dear readers, your comments made my heart smile.  : )

 Visiting a farm in Massachusetts

Last week we said goodbye to my littlest sister as she headed back to college, this morning we said goodbye to my middle brother as he returned to college as well, and at the end of the week we say goodbye to the youngest as he heads off to his first year of boarding school in Pennsylvania.  Suddenly the house is so much bigger, cleaner, and silent.  You know when you are watching a western movie before there is about to be a shootout and you see a tumble weed fly by and then a whistling noise?  Yes, that is what it is like in our home right now.  I am sure my parents are looking forward to finally being empty nesters, so hopefully I will move out soon and make all their dreams of having a peaceful house finally come true.  I know this relief also comes hand in hand with sadness and missing of loved ones far away.  I am not even a parent, and I feel the loss of my siblings as they head off into the world outside of our small little comfort bubble known as "Home". So for all you parents out there sending your kids out into the great unknown, I hope and pray you find peace and comfort and trust that they are in good hands, and they will be just fine. : )

As we send off people one by one we usually end with a family meal the night before their departure.  This "Last Supper" is usually a requested special meal designed by the departing individual.  The meal we made for my brother consisted of BBQ ribs, grilled spicy corn, and sweet spinach salad with cranberries and pecans...finished off with oatmeal raisin cookies, of course. : )...thank goodness someone else in the family loves raisins as much as I do! Raisin lovers unite!

I was inspired to make this corn after visiting my older sister and her husband in Massachusetts.  They showed me this technique and I was intrigued, impressed, and inspired to make and eat lots of corn.  Usually we just boil the husked corn in water and a little sugar, which is fine, but I have always preferred the caramelized taste of roasted or grilled corn. 

Grilled Spicy Corn

6 ears of corn, husk on
3 tbs softened butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chili pepper

Mix together all ingredients except corn until combined.  Pull husks away from corn without ripping off from base of corn.  Pull away all the silky strands and discard.  Rub butter/spice mixture all over corn ear, pull husk panels back up over the corn...cover as much as possible.  Tie closed with a corn husk strip from outer layer that is split.  Grill on hot grill until cooked to desired doneness.  We did ours about 20-30 minutes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Chicken Cacciatore is a friend of mine

I was traveling through new England on a long train ride this week.  Usually when I use public transportation I find myself pondering the deeper things in life.  This time around the topic on my mind was friendship.  This random deep thoughtfulness came upon me as I witnessed two things on the train.  I had just received a phone call from my Mother who told me my Grandfather was about to have unplanned surgery removing his infected gall bladder.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep and food, or something else but I was in a highly emotional state.  The last place I wanted to be was miles away from my grandfather on a train, and tears just came and wouldn't stop.  After I eventually pulled myself together my phone rang and it was my best friend.  Could she possibly had better timing? We chatted briefly about our friend's wedding we had both attended the night before, and then I told her about my grandpa.  As always, she is comforting and caring in her wise words, and I couldn't have been blessed with a better friend in my life.

My picture does not do this dish is so wonderful!

As soon as we hung up a situation started to unfold on the train.  A girl didn't have enough money for the train fare even though she thought she had when she boarded.  A random man quickly stood up and offered to pay the extra 3 dollars needed for the fare.  The girl gladly and gratefully accepted the generous gesture.  The man went on to say he is unemployed and knows everyone is going through a hard time in this economy, but unless we all stick together and help each other out we won't make it through.  Both the phone call and the ticket issue were little moments where I felt God's presence, and took comfort in them.  I then began to think about how important friendship is in one's life.  After my High School friend's wedding I was thinking about how much we had all changed as the years have gone on...thinking of how much I have changed over the years.  It is strange how much your friends affect you and your life.

Making friends has never been an easy task for me.  Growing up we home schooled and my friends were my sisters, my teddy bears, and my paper dolls...and the occasional neighborhood friend we would schedule a tea party with.  I was that geek who read all the time, cooked all the time, and had conversations with my random invisible friends.  During my one year stint at public school my only friend was a foreign exchange student who barely spoke English.  I tried to be friends with the neighborhood girls who went to school with me, but they all quickly decided to join the cheer leading squad and I got left behind...because we all know I would never get accepted on a cheer leading squad unless it was a sarcastic squad.  Yes, I ate lunch alone and read books until the bell rang. I was invisible, and my creative self was quite good at it.

I decided to go to boarding school for my last two years of high school and making friends continued to be hard for me and my invisibility seemed to remain intact.  I went to a small school with only 10 kids in my class, and 80 in the whole school.  Many days my high school seemed like a surreal experience more likened to a movie then real life.  On nice days we would have class outside in the sun, we studied Euclid and Plato, we sang Latin songs, we learned Latin things, and we learned how to waltz.  It was a classical education, and I loved it.  I grew close with my classmates, and as time went on I slowly started to find my voice.  Still, I felt scared, timid, and insignificant compared to my smarter, louder friends.  I think at the end of the day I was a leader stuck in a followers life.

I started college full of hope and promise of a better life, and courage to finally find my voice.  Praise the Lord I attended the best possible school suited for me, and somehow I finally belonged!  I found my courage and took charge.  People understood me, laughed at my jokes, appreciated my creative yet weird mind, and loved me as I was.  I thank God everyday for letting me find such a place in the world, and for helping me finally find my confidence.  With all the horrible and tragic things that happen in the world, I can't help but think that the root of all of it is people feeling unloved and insignificant.  It is amazing what a difference a few words of acknowledgment of a job well done can do, or a simple act of kindness can mean to a person in need.  Building up another person's confidence and affirming them makes all the difference in the world!  Holding the door for an elderly person, telling a random person hello, just speaking a few minutes to person who might need a friend or a helping hand.  Words and actions are truly a gift and a powerful tool that can be used for so much good.

So find someone who might need some encouragement in their lives and compliment them or thank them.  Find someone who might need some help and pitch in...even if it is just babysitting for few hours for a Mom who might need an afternoon to rest.  Show kindness, and it will be good.  Show Love, and it will be great!

diggity, come visit so I can make this for you. : ) (To all my Daytona 2004 mission trip friends..."I affirm you." : ) )

We are friends from the Jungle Book

Chicken Cacciatore 

adapted from Bobby Flay

  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 (3-pound) chicken cut into eighths
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 large yellow or red bell pepper thinly sliced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar or capers
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves, optional
  • spaghetti or rice
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven over high heat. Season the chicken pieces on both sides with salt and pepper and place in the pan, skin side down and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Turn the breasts over and cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken to a large plate.
Add the remaining oil to the pan and heat until almost smoking.

Add the onion and bell pepper to the pan and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the jalapeno, garlic and chili flakes to the pan and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the wine and cook until almost completely reduced. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Return the chicken and mushrooms to the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a large shallow bowl and tent loosely with foil.  You can either leave the chicken whole, or de-bone and skin it at this time...I usually do this so nobody eats a bone on accident.
Increase the heat to high and cook the sauce, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, stir in the vinegar and basil and pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs. Serve over pasta or rice and sprinkle with grated cheese.

Best of Friends from The Fox and The Polish!!!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce

There is a perfectly valid reason I haven't been posting this summer.  I can't cook.   Literally, I can't.  Every recipe I have tried this summer has been a pretty much major FAIL across the board.  I tell no lies.  I am stuck in a rut.  I have always understood and accepted the fact that I can bake, but this doesn't mean I can cook.  Most people think they are synonymous with each other, but no they are most definitely NOT.  I decided to revert back to my old recipes that I knew worked well and I rediscovered this one.

In other news it is back to school time.  I love back to school season.  It is so hopeful, and full of excitement for thing to come.  It is a time for learning, growing, and making friends...not to mention it brings cooler weather and more cookie sales for me. : )  My three youngest siblings are busy prepping for their return to college and then boarding school, I envy them as they ready for a new school year.  Never thought I would ever say those words, and technically I am not saying them...just typing them. : )  I do miss school though, and have often thought about becoming one of those perpetual students...but then I remember the whole "Homework" issue and quickly change my fickle mind.

Walnut-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Honey Mustard Sauce
Serves 4 adapted from Martha Stewart


2 slices whole-wheat bread, dried (or toasted)
1/3 cup walnuts...or if you don't have walnuts, pecans will work fine
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 large egg white
4 chicken breast halves, boneless and skinless (6 to 8 ounces each), pounded thin
1 tablespoon oil…grape seed, vegetable, or canola

Honey mustard dipping sauce (stir in bowl and serve with chicken)
1/2 cup sour cream, or ¼ cup sour cream and ¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, combine bread, walnuts, and Parmesan; season with salt and pepper. Process until fine breadcrumbs form. Transfer to a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat egg white until frothy. Place each chicken breast in between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound until thin...don't pound too much that they fall apart.  Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dip each breast into egg white, letting excess drip off, and then into crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. In a large nonstick ovenproof skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on each side, 1 to 3 minutes. Put skillet or additional pan in oven. Bake until chicken is golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 12 minutes.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blonde eyed girl : )

I have always taken pride in Blondies...mostly because I felt as if I had a special bond with them because my hair was some random shade of blonde.  I always was jealous of my sisters and Mom who could claim the song "Brown Eyed-girl" as a tribute to their brown eyes.  However, a cookie bar always trumps a song in my opinion, because let's face it a cookie last forever as it adds extra pounds to someones waist line or backside, and a song only lasts for about 3-4 minutes.  Yeah, let's think about that one for a minute.

I still remember the first time I ate a Blondie.  My Mom had gone on a date with my Dad when we were living in Acton, Massachusetts.  She came home from the date with this thing known as a "Blondie."  Apparently it was a brownie that was not a brownie.  Not too sure if that was the best description, but I bought it and dug right in.  I loved it, it was bliss.  However, as time went on I would often buy blondies from Bakeries I would visit and always ended up not liking them.  Too sweet, too sweet...always was the conclusion we reached.  So, as my weary body withered so did my love of blondies...ironically just as my hair naturally grew darker and darker.

I set out to make peanut butter blondies from my new favorite book, which I still recommend you to buy...Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy.  Now her peanut butter Blondie recipe is just a variation on her regular Blondie recipe...but somewhere along the line I got distracted and forgot to make them peanut butter.  At first I was sad, because I was really craving that unspeakably wonderful combination of peanut butter and chocolate...but then I tasted these bars and all my dreams of peanut butter and chocolate vanished.  Once again Alice Medrich has not failed me!  I have finally found a Blondie recipe that is not overly sweet, and doesn't make the caps on my cavities fall off.  Take that Brown eyed girls, the Blondie is back!


Adapted slightly from Alice Medrich's Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy

Line a 13x9 cake pan with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In medium saucepan melt:

2 sticks unsalted butter

Once melted remove from heat and add the following in this order stirring well after each addition:

1 1/2 cups plus 4 TBS packed brown sugar plus
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a separate bowl whisk together the following:

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Then add the dry to the wet and stir to combine.  If you want you can add 1 cup of chocolate chips, and or 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts...I added the chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pan and spread evenly.  Bake 30-35 minutes until nice and golden brown and edges are pulled away from pan.

Cool and cut into bars.  PS.  These bars would ship well because they are sturdy and chewy...that is if you want to share them with anyone.