“Granola” Bars

In my hunt to find acceptable healthy snacks, I stumbled across this recipe. It appears to be a granola bar, but in fact, it’s just nuts and fruit all stuck together with coconut oil and almond butter. So really, you needn’t feel too badly about eating this one. And, I was pleased at how full I felt after eating one of these delicious snacks. Definitely a winner. Remember, nuts and coconut oil are healthy fats that your body needs to keep cell walls healthy and working!

*Excuse the half eaten picture. It was just too good to sit there on it’s own without a bite.

Ingredients

1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup flaxseed meal (or almond meal)
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dried apples (chopped) or other dried fruit
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 tsp honey
2 tsp vanilla extract

Equipment

Large Bowl
Microwave-Safe Bowl
Rectangular Baking Pan
Parchment Paper (recommended)
Food Processor (recommended)

Start by chopping the almonds and walnuts. It’s easiest to chop them in a food processor, but you could crush them or chop them with a knife if you don’t have a food processor handy. This is an unusual situation where you want to end up with different sizes. Some should be almost whole, and some should be almost dust.

Add the nuts to a large bowl with the flaxseed meal, coconut, and salt. Chop the apples into small pieces and add them to the bowl as well.

Mix all the dry ingredients to get them evenly distributed.

Put the almond butter, coconut oil, and honey into a microwave-safe bowl and heat them for 30 seconds to a minute, until the everything has become more liquid and can be mixed together easily. Add the vanilla extract to the bowl and mix the wet ingredients together.

Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl, and mix everything together so that the dry ingredients are evenly coated with the wet ingredients.

Add the mixture to a rectangular baking dish lined with parchment paper (if you don’t have parchment paper, grease the baking dish very well before adding the mixture to it.) Press the mixture into the dish as tightly as you can. If you have a second baking dish of the same size, you can put it on top of the mixture and press down on it to help you get everything packed tightly. It is very important to pack everything tightly, or the bars will fall apart. Go ahead and pre-cut the bars now. This will make them easier to cut later.

Put the bars into the refrigerator for at least an hour. When they’ve cooled down, remove the whole mass of bars from the pan and cut them along the pre-cut lines.

Notes from the Author:

  • I like dried apples a lot, so I used them. You could substitute any dried fruit that you like. Just make sure that the pieces aren’t too big.
  • I pulsed the almonds and walnuts a total of about 20 times in my food processor. Some were dust and some were almost whole.
  • I stored these by wrapping each one in foil and putting them in a plastic bag in the fridge. They keep their bar shape at room temperature, but will start to soften if they get hot. I wanted to guard against that by having them cold to start.
  • When I say “press the mixture into the dish as tightly as you can,” I mean go nuts. I put a second pan on top of the mixture and used most of my weight to push down on it to really pack everything tight. The tighter you can pack it, the better the bars will hold their shape.
  • Pre-cutting the bars in the baking pan helps keep them from cracking when you do the final cut after they’ve cooled in the fridge.
  • A standard baking dish is about 9×13 inches. That’s probably too big for this recipe – the bars will be too thin. The one I used is about 8×10. If you’ve got one that’s 9×9, that should work too. If not, you could multiply all the quantities by about 1.5 and use a 9×13 inch pan.

Favorite Roasted Chicken

 

It seems like a big production, doesn’t it? To roast a chicken? I usually think it is, and then I remember how simple popping a whole chicken in the oven really is. The prep is significantly less complicated than most weeknight dinners. And roasting a chicken makes your house smell DIVINE, so there’s that plus too.

Here’s my favorite way to prep a whole chicken. I think I saw it on some cooking thing with Jamie Oliver, way back when, long before I met Andrew. It was so simple, even the non-cooking younger version of myself was able to pull it off (and remember it many years later).

One more plus of roasting a chicken – making your own healthy bone marrow broth!! Post later to come!

So, get a good high quality roasting chicken (around 4-5 lbs).

Rub the outside down with lots of salt.

Take the insides out. Don’t worry, this used to freak me out. Usually the insides are all nicely in a bag inside the chicken so you don’t have to dig around for a heart or something gross. And, even if you do, it honestly is not that bad.

Boil a lemon. Yes, boil water and drop a lemon in. Let it boil while you do the next steps.

Mash together a few tbsps of soft butter, fresh rosemary, lemon zest, garlic, and salt. It doesn’t really matter how much of anything. That’s the great part of making a chicken.

Slide your fingers in under the skin of the bird. Push the butter mixture around, under the skin. Just as much as you can.

Now using tongs, take the boiled lemon out and stab it a few times with a fork or a knife. Put inside the bird. Throw some garlic and onions in there too, if you can. Don’t bother peeling those. It doesn’t matter. This is just for flavor.

Put the chicken in the roasting pan. This is not science. Every single time I do this, I put the bird in upside down. Really. I dont mean to, I just have some kind of mental block about how to do it. You know what? It still comes out just fine. Even cooked upside down.

Toss some rosemary springs on the bird.

Cook on 350 for about an hour.

Meanwhile, chop up some root veggies. We usually do some kind of combo of carrots, potatoes, parsnips, turnips, onions, butternut squash or pumpkin. Really whatever you have is good, as long as it’s a root veggie.

Toss those with some olive oil and salt.

After the chicken as been cooking for around an hour, add the veggies to the pan with the chicken. Have extra veggies? Put them in a baking dish and cook along side the chicken.

Periodically check on the chicken, using a baster or a spoon, and cover the chicken and veggies with the cooking liquid.

Once the breast meat reads 190 on a thermometer, or the juices are clear when poked, the bird is done.

Let it sit for 10 minutes before you cut into it. Which is the perfect time to make the gravy.

Don’t skip and not make the gravy. You’ll be sad. The gravy is super easy and pretty much the best part.

Take your roasting pan, and put it on two burners on the stove. Set to medium. Add a hearty amount of chicken broth and several shakes of salt, enough broth to fill and coat the pan. Using a wooden spoon, scrap off the bits from the pan and let it simmer for a little while. Then add a good splash of white wine, let simmer. When it browns and thickens up, add a splash of half and half. Mix around, let cook for just a minute longer (enough to warm the cream) and voila! Done.

Make you own Black Beans

 

 

Not so much a recipe, more of a great money saving tip. For the price of 2 cans of black beans, you can buy dried and cook them yourself – I was able to make the equivalent of 8 cans of beans. Measure them in 2 cup baggies (same as a can) and freeze – voila! Plus you can cook them however you like and don’t have to worry about the messy BPA debates with canned goods. The liquid leftover from cooking the beans is also a great addition to soup.

This is my favorite tutorial on how to cook dried beans:

http://www.frugallivingnw.com/frugal-homemaking/cooking-dried-beans-vs-buying-canned-beans/

BUT, if you are like me and forget to soak yours overnight, here is an easy way to bypass soaking …

http://www.ehow.com/how_5270209_use-dry-beans-soaking-overnight.html