Quinoa Granola Bars with Dried Fruit & Chocolate

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Well, oopsie. It’s almost been a month since I blogged. What can I say? Summer really took over. Now, it’s coming to a close. My boys go back to school next week ( 😦 ). I’ve so enjoyed my extra time with them, where the days started and ended later, we ate our weight in ice cream, and we did what we wanted. Times are a-changin’! It’s back to the grind. It’s going to be a rude awakening next week, when I’ll be forced to wake them up. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. That “my baby is now going to Kindergarten” bridge will also have to be dealt with. I’m not emotionally prepared to deal with that at this time.

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Moving on to what makes me comfortable – food. 😀

I found a recipe for Quinoa Granola Bars and tweaked them a little.

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These were so good! The oats made them chewy and the quinoa made them crunchy. The dried fruit made them subtly sweet and the chocolate coating just made them. Chocolate coating makes almost everything. Ask anybody.

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You can leave the chocolate coating off, if needed. I can barely come up with a situation where a chocolate coating would not be needed. But, know that option exists.

Quinoa Granola Bars with Dried Fruit & Chocolate

Recipe adapted from: Superhealthykids.com

1 C uncooked quinoa

1 C oats

1/2 C coconut

1 1/2 C combination of nuts and dried fruit (I used a 1/2 each of cranberries, golden raisins, and sliced almonds)

1/4 t salt

1/2 C peanut butter

3/4 C honey

1 T  oil (I used coconut)

3 T brown sugar

1 t vanilla extract

1/2 C chocolate chips

1 t oil (I used coconut)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9X13 inch baking dish.  Spread the oats and quinoa on a cookie sheet and toast in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Pour the quinoa and oats mixture into a large bowl and add coconut, nuts, and dried fruit. Mix together. In a medium saucepan, combine salt, peanut butter, honey, oil, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat and immediately remove from heat. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Pour over oats mixture and combine until dry ingredients are evenly coated. Pour into baking dish. Press mixture down into pan. Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes.

To make the chocolate, mix the chocolate chips and oil together in a bowl. Microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring until melted. Spread over the top of the bars and let them cool/dry.

Cut and serve.

These are a teeny bit crumbly, but are delicious for snacks (after school, maybe? mid-morning? you decide). You could also individually wrap the slices and freeze and pop into a lunchbox.

Enjoy!

Kristin

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One Bowl Chocolate Cookies

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I told you I hadn’t stopped baking. And, now I’m back!! Back with a yummy recipe for some super flat (but SO flavorful) chocolate cookies. These came by way of an accident. Not so much in the sense that I was making spaghetti and “oops I made cookies instead”, which has, incidentally happened. But in the sense of, they weren’t supposed to look like this, flat as a board. But the flavor is so good! So there you go. Bake them at your own risk. As you should with all the recipes I come up with. Consider yourself adequately warned.

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One Bowl Chocolate Cookies

Recipe adapted from: food.com

12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips (separated into 2- 6oz piles)

1/4 C butter

3/4 C brown sugar

2 eggs

1/2 C flour

1/4 t baking powder

Melt 6 oz. of the chocolate in the microwave, using 30 second intervals. Stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. Be careful not to overheat the chocolate. Add butter to the chocolate and and mix well until melted. Stir together the brown sugar, eggs, flour and baking powder and mix well. Add the melted chocolate. Stir in the second 6 oz. of chocolate chips. The batter will resemble chocolate pudding. Drop by spoonful onto an ungreased (I used a Silpat) baking sheet. Bake at 350F for 12-13 minutes. Cool for 1 minute on the baking pan. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.Store in airtight container. Eat within a few days.

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I have to tell you, I had a little batter left over (and I didn’t want to bake another round on the baking sheet) and I poured it into a little ceramic dish and it baked up like a cake. And it went over really well (with myself). So, if you feel so inclined, you can actually use this batter for a cake-like variation.

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I don’t have any pictures of said “cake”, because it was my from my own private stash…the sort I eat while my children aren’t looking.

Enjoy!

Kristin

Circus Week – “Magic Bunny” VPK School Lunch

I feel like circuses have magic shows. Do they? Like, with a magician in a tux, pulling a rabbit out of a top hat?

I might be stretching it a little. I only have so many circus-themed cutters.

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I made a magical bunny shaped PB&J and added details for his ears (very instrumental to his magic show), eye, ad nose. I also packed a few banana chips, a few TJ’s organic PB sandwich crackers, two dried dates, an aprium, colby jack cheese, a Tim Tam (thank you Australia!!!), and a homemade granola bar.

And for my Smalls:

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I packed half a PB&J, trail mix, an aprium, TJ’s PB crackers, colby jack cheese, and a cotton candy Oreo. He’s got a granola bar for snack.

I made the granola bars for Teacher Appreciation Week a few weeks back. They were delicious!! I thought I’d make them again for my own family.

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They were super easy to put together…

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…and had ingredients I both had on hand and could pronounce.

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AND they are easy to individually package and freeze!

http://happymoneysaver.com/no-bake-homemade-chewy-granola-bars/

A hint – if you are out of honey, as this recipe requires a LOT, you can use corn syrup as a sub. I don’t love using that, but I do keep it on hand for some recipes.

Do it!

Kristin

Cookies for Santa (and Mrs. Claus!)

Christmas is almost here! Do you know what you’ll be putting out for Santa to enjoy? I’ve got two very easy recipe for you, should you need them (and don’t we all need extra cookies recipes in our repertoire?).

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The first cookie could not be any easier! I’m sure you’ve tried these at least once in your life. They are no-bake chocolate, oatmeal, and peanut butter cookies. The best of everything!

No-Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies

2 C sugar

4 T cocoa (using dark cocoa really changes the flavor and makes them so decadent!)

1/2 C butter (1 stick)

1/2 C milk (I used coconut milk)

1 C peanut butter

1 T vanilla

3 C oatmeal

Bring sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk to a boil. Let it boil for about 1 minute. Add peanut butter, vanilla, and oatmeal. Drop spoonfuls onto a prepared sheet pan (waxed paper or Silpat). Let them cool and harden (you can do this in the refrigerator).

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They are as equally good freshly plopped onto the pan…

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…as they are from the refrigerator or freezer.

The second cookie is not as easy, because it is a baked cookie, but is equally delicious and completely customizable.

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They are a basic brown sugar cookie with chocolate chips, M&M’s, and sprinkles. All in Christmas colors! I think Santa will be back for seconds (if you ask me, and I would know, wink wink).

Santa’s Chocolate Chip, M&M’s, and Sprinkle Cookies

Recipe adapted from: “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie”, http://www.dinnersdishesanddesserts.com

3/4 C softened butter

3/4 C brown sugar

1/4 C sugar

1 egg

2 t vanilla

1 T vanilla bean paste

2 C flour

2 t cornstarch

1 t baking soda

1/2 t salt

1 C chocolate chips

3/4 C M&M’s (I picked out the red and green ones)

1/4 C sprinkles (I used Christmas colors)

Cream butter and both sugars together, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg, vanilla, and vanilla bean paste. Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, M&M’s, and sprinkles.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes. I covered it, and left it in the fridge overnight. I had to let it thaw a bit before baking. Chilling the dough makes for a thicker cookie.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop out dough. I rolled mine into balls. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool on the sheet pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

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These were just a really fun take on the classic chocolate chip cookie, which goes over well with almost everyone I know. And to be honest, I’m not sure I want to know you if a chocolate chip cookie doesn’t go over well with you. #nooffense #moreforme

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My boys loved helping with these, especially knowing that “Santa” would be enjoying them (and indeed SHE will). They dumped in all the chocolate and sprinkles.

Enjoy! Only a few days left to get your baking on!

Kristin (aka Mrs. Claus, aka Cookie Queen)

There’s always time for cake!

There's always time for cake

Even though my busyness continues, there’s always time for cake. That’s SORT of ironic, only because making a cake is not always a fast process. You’ve often got multiple bowls going for your wet and dry ingredients, you’ve got to cool before you frost (usually). But somehow, if it is needed (isn’t it always), I always find time to make a cake. This time, I made a gluten and dairy free Chocolate Chip Zucchini loaf cake (under the guise of a “bread”). It came out great – moist, chewy, chocolately, healthy(ish).

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I love packing vegetables into food. What a great way to get a serving in your diet!

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I used three whole zucchini for this recipe. I’d never get away with roasting them and serving them at dinner. Well, Smalls might be all about it, but he’s weird. He didn’t even want this cake. Like I said, weird.

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I bet if Smalls knew it had so much zucchini in it, he’d have eaten it. He’s my savory-loving little boy!

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Here is the link:

http://www.foodfanatic.com/2013/09/gluten-free-zucchini-bread-decadently-chocolate/

We had simple salads for dinner to go with our veggie theme:

Oh Salad

And here’s today’s elephant themed lunch:

Elephant Themed Preschool Lunch

And elephant shaped PB&J (standing on his rock made out of crusts), an applesauce squeezy fruit, some corn, and some goldfish crackers. I used some elephant themed decorations I had, as well.

Have a wonderful Thursday (almost Friday, yay!),

Kristin

Anniverary Leftovers

We had a great anniversary…because we spent it together. Did we do fun stuff during the day? Ehhh, no. Our little one, Smalls, had an unusually high fever the day before and we’d been treating it. But yesterday, our anniversary, we took him to the doctor’s. It was just too high of a fever. So after two hours of waiting at our Pediatrician’s office, we left with a double ear infection diagnosis. Such a bummer. Pray for him? And to not spread sickness?

BUT…we DID go out to an early dinner without the kids. We went to a favorite of ours – Cheesecake Factory! We love that place! And guess what? They have an entire gluten free menu for my husband!

We started off with Shrimp Spring Rolls. We always used to get those when we were dating, so it was nice to have sort of a ‘throw back’. They were delicious.

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I love the dipping sauces. Once the spring rolls were gone, I used their fabulous bread, simply as a means to scrape more sauce out of the bowls, since licking them in public is frowned upon for some reason.

We shared an “adult” beverage, as well – the Pineapple Mojito! YUM!

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It was gorgeous! I’d not had that drink there before. I love how the aesthetics of it were just as beautiful as the flavor.

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And mint is one of my two favorite herbs (tied with cilantro). YUM.

I enjoyed it…

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…A LOT. 😀

I ordered the Luau Salad. I love ALL their salads, but I was feeling…tropical this time. No matter what salad I get there, I ALWAYS order a side of their house-made ranch dressing. I am sort of a ranch snob. I can pick out a store-bought bottled dressing anywhere. So. I URGE you to get their ranch. To dip your bread in, as well.

I am a pig.

Oink.

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With and without ranch. SO much better. Their ranch is a good accompaniment to any of their other dressings, as well.

Enough about their ranch, or they’re going to have to start paying me.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

Husband ordered a hamburger off of their GF menu. It was one of the best burgers he’d (and me!) ever had. It was juicy and with the addition of bacon, the cheese wasn’t really missed.

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It was nice for him to have a meal that didn’t make him wish he wasn’t dairy or gluten free.

Until dessert time…

…when I ordered the Mango Key Lime Cheesecake.

YUM YUM YUM. I am eating the leftovers as I type this now.

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It was the perfect end to a celebration of five wonderful years.

Oh! And to catch up on food from the week, since that’s what I do…

I made yummy Oat Energy Balls!

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SUCH an easy recipe. A friend of mine posted the recipe on FB and it reminded me to make them. They are so easy, delicious, and HEALTHY!

The basic recipe is:

1 C dry oatmeal

1/2 C chocolate chips (I did a little bit less)

1/2 C peanut butter (I did homemade)

1/2 C ground flax seed (Costco sells a huge bag!)

1/3 C honey

1 t vanilla

I also added about 1/3 C shredded coconut. You mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and place in the fridge for about 10 or so minutes. Then you roll them into balls and keep in the fridge for about a week.

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My husband can’t keep his hands off of them. And I’ve been putting them in Bigs’ lunchbox for snacks.

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Try them! You can almost put anything in them, as long as the protein and sticky components are there.

I also made arepas. Have you had those?

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Nothing beats an arepa straight off the flat top grill from an outside cart in Miami, but hey, we aren’t there, so I make my own. Unfortunately for my DF husband, no cheese (no GOOD cheese) is allowed on these, but they were still so good! They remind me of my in-Heaven Southern Grandma’s hoe cakes. These are the Latin version.

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I used Harina PAN cornmeal. Super easy – recipe on back. Nothing fancy.

Hmm, I think that’s it for now.

Have a wonderful Friday (FINALLY here!!),

Kristin

 

Sweetie Pie

hearts

Tomorrow is a big day in Bigs’ class – it’s his Valentine’s Day party! No matter how many old (relatively speaking) pictures I show him, he doesn’t remember Valentine’s Day last year. So this time around should be groundbreaking for him. I think he’ll really enjoy it! The parents of Bigs’ classmates have been invited to a potluck lunch in his classroom, and we are so excited! I was in charge of desserts. Obvi. It’s what I do. Plus, they may not know it, but none of the other attendees want anything I’ve cooked. Blarg.

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I made three different desserts. I love variety. I think that’s why I love buffets so much (don’t judge). I need options. Lots of options.

All the desserts I made for tomorrow are gluten free. Not only is my husband GF, but one of Bigs’ sweet classmates is. I love being able to make desserts that everyone can eat. AND that taste great!

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The first dessert I made was a Cherry Vanilla Almond Meringue Cookie.

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I doubled the recipe and it made approximately one million. The recipe called for cherry extract, but as my life typically goes, I did not have that. I did, however, have a Duncan Hines Cherry Vanilla Frosting Starter (powder intended to be mixed into vanilla frosting). It added both a lovely cherry vanilla flavor AND color. I also added Wilton pink (rosa) gel color and extra almond extract to make up for the vibrant cherry flavoring. They came out so festively pink and delicious!

http://momspark.net/holiday-dessert-cherry-almond-meringues/

The second dessert I made was a chocolate cookie I first made about a week ago – Vegan Chocolate Haystacks. SO GOOD! And easy. Two of my favorite things.

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This time, I used Hershey’s DARK chocolate cocoa and they came out richer and more chocolatey.

http://www.becauseilikechocolate.com/2013/12/vegan-chocolate-haystacks.html

And lastly, I made a GF chocolate cinnamon cookie that I’ve made half a dozen times before. They are really unbelievably good. These were the first cookie I’d eaten that really broke my own personal stigma against gluten free food.

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Chock FULL of chocolate chips, these little babies are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Yummers. This is a family favorite cookie in our house, long before my husband went GF and DF.

http://food52.com/recipes/19209-divine-gluten-free-chocolate-cookies-no-seriously

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I put the desserts in a hot pink tray that I found at the Dollar Store. I also found the little vase there as well. It says, “Love” in different fonts on it. I filled it with conversation hearts. I think it looks cute.

I meannnn, this would be a lovely addition to any Valentine’s Day table!

Even one’s own personal table for one, if that’s your case. If single, I’d DEFINITELY make sure I were eating well.

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I can’t wait to tuck into this (my portion ONLY) tomorrow!

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Happy Valentine’s Eve Eve (so lame)!

I am sadly missing out on a Mommy Night Out making chocolates due to horribly inclement weather. Such a bummer, but I’ll pinch a cookie out of the batches I made today and pretend I’m in a chocolate factory (using the depths of my imagination).

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Have a sweet night!

Kristin

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