Archive | May, 2013

No Bake Granola Bars

31 May

In addition to cleaning out the refrigerator before our trip to Boston, I set about making some healthy snacks to munch on during the 8-hour trip north. Obvious choices included vegetables and fruits (and the leftover quiche), but I wanted something a bit more interesting and, let’s be honest, I needed something sweet.

IMG_2659[1]I’m trying this new thing where I actually use the foodstuffs in my pantry and freezer, as opposed to just stock-piling them like I’m preparing for an apocalypse. My eyes flitted from the almonds to the raisins, oats, and (oh, yes!) chocolate chips when I realized I had a good idea going.

IMG_2644[1]I sealed the deal when I spotted some leftover shredded coconut from I don’t know when and decided to make an ‘everything and the kitchen sink’ version of granola bars. To make it even easier (because granola bars are so difficult), I made them no bake so all I had to do was pop them in the fridge after mixing everything together.

IMG_2645[1]The beauty of homemade granola bars is that you can customize them exactly how you like them. It’s so much better than standing at the grocery store and thinking to yourself, “those would be so good if only they didn’t have (blank)” or “I would buy those in a heartbeat if they only included (blank)”. In the land of individuality and customizing things for each consumer (because we’re all special little snowflakes), the granola bar is one of the best ways to express your epicurean individuality.

IMG_2646[1]The verdict on these babies? So ridiculously good, I couldn’t even stop eating them if I tried (and I didn’t really try, to be honest).

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I’ve posted the recipe for this particular granola bar because I think it is super duper scrumptious, but I think that as long as you’ve got the oats as a foundation and the honey as a sweetener and adhesive, you can let your imagination run totally wild and throw in whatever strikes your fancy (read: whatever you have in your cupboard and need to use before it goes bad).

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No Bake Granola Bars

Makes 10 granola bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned/rolled oats
  • 2 oz. almonds, chopped (about 25 almonds)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 2 Tablespooons chia seeds ( these also act as a good adhesive!)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (in liquid form – just stick it in the microwave for 10 seconds if it’s solid)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup honey (depending on how sweet you’d like them – if you’re adding chocolate chips, I’d lean towards the 1/4 cup end)
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (heated so you can drizzle it in)

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Directions:

  1. Mix oats, chopped almonds, raisins, coconut, and chia seeds in a large bowl until well combined. Note: If you want the chocolate chips to be solid, add them in last, after the coconut oil and peanut butter have cooled so they don’t melt. If you mix them while the liquids are hot, the chocolate chips will melt so the whole bar will have a hint of chocolate.
  2. Add coconut oil, honey, and peanut butter until the mixture holds together (if you can form it into a ball and it stays, the mixture is ready). If you are waiting to add the chocolate chips, do so now when the mixture is cool.
  3. In an 8×8″ square pan lined with wax paper, press the mixture into the pan so it covers the bottom and the top is level.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator for one hour (the coconut oil will solidify and the peanut butter and honey will thicken up so they will hold together quite nicely).
  5. When ready to serve, cut into 10 servings and dig in. It is best to keep these in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them, but they warm up to room temperature quickly.

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Secret Ingredient All-Purpose Crust

29 May

The night before we were set to leave for Boston, Stef and I needed to do a bit of fridge clean-out. Namely, he had a lot of veggies that he had yet to use and we were desperate to find a way to use a whole bag of spinach, a container of mushrooms, and a nearly-full carton of eggs.

IMG_2666[1]What started out as frittata quickly morphed into something a bit more adventurous. I was desperate for the crisp crust (read: carbs) of a quiche and had just enough time to prepare it while Stef was out on his run.

IMG_2667[1]Much to my chagrin, there was no butter to be found in the bachelor pad that he calls home. I was ready to resign myself to a crust-less quiche, when the stubborn, bull-headed Sara made an appearance. Normally she only rears her ugly head when giving someone the silent treatment or doing something just because a person said “I bet you can’t…”,  it is thanks to this annoying determination that I can present a quiche the crust firmly on.

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The secret to this crisp crust does not rely on butter nor shortening for its flakiness, but uses olive oil to get an all-purpose crust that can be used for virtually anything that requires a crust.

IMG_2669[1]My view towards olive oil is similar to the way the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding sees Windex: it is the cure for everything and there is no situation where olive oil cannot be used. It is with this mindset that this no-butter quiche was born. It won’t replace the delicious buttery flavor of a normal crust recipe, but it’s perfect for vegans or when there’s no butter to be found.

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“Secret Ingredient” All-Purpose Crust

Makes 1 crust for 9″ pie pan, easily doubled

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (a gluten-free flour like spelt could easily be substituted)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 ice water (the colder the better!)

Directions

  1. Mix flour and salt in bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat oil and ice water water with whisk or fork. The idea is that using ice water will thicken the olive oil to achieve a similar consistency to butter or similar shortenings.
  3. Pour olive oil mixture into flour and mix with fork until dough forms.
  4. Roll out to desired thickness and press into 9″ pie pan.
  5. Fill and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until done.

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Boston Bound

25 May

Stefano and I are Boston-bound for the long weekend! Wishing everybody a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and I’ll check in with you next week!

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Oklahoma

21 May

Stopping in quickly today to express my deepest condolences to those who have been affected by the storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma and Kansas. It is crazy to think that one moment everything is normal and the next moment people have lost their homes, stores, and even lives. I am sending my thoughts and prayers towards those who are in harm’s way, as well as the rescue workers who are doing their best to save as many lives as they can.

If you wish to help by donating money, here are some aid organizations that were curated by Ree, who lives in Oklahoma.

Salvation Army
Supporters are encouraged to give online at http://www.SalvationArmyUSA.org or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY (1-800-725-2769). You can also text the word “STORM” to 80888 to make a $10 donation through your mobile phone; to confirm your gift, respond with the word “Yes.”

Samaritan’s Purse
Samaritan’s Purse has deployed a team to Moore, Oklahoma and will respond to the current needs in any way they can.

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma
The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, in partnership with Oklahoma Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, is asking that the public support all rescue, recovery and disaster relief efforts with donations of cash to your favorite responding charity. Financial donations will allow disaster relief agencies to purchase whatever items are deemed necessary without resulting in the additional burden of securing warehouse space and volunteers to work donated product. To make a tax deductible donation to the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, go to http://www.regionalfoodbank.org or call 604-7111 or text FOOD to 32333 to give $10 to relief efforts.

Feeding America
Feeding America will deliver truckloads of food, water and supplies to impacted areas through its network of more than 200 food banks and 61,000 agencies. The organization’s food banks will also set up additional dropoff sites.

American Red Cross
People who wish to make a donation can support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps provide food, shelter and emotional support to those affected by disasters like the recent tornadoes in Oklahoma and Texas as well as disasters big and small throughout the United States by visiting redcross.org, dialing 1-800-REDCROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Mother Nature is a powerful and mysterious force, but it makes me sad that nature taking its course means that people will lose their loved ones and homes. I am keeping the people of Oklahoma and Kansas in my thoughts today.

Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Arugula

20 May

I am a person of routine. From my brand loyalties to my beauty regime, I like the same things over and over and over again. The same love for the familiar extends to my meal choices.

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The greens base for my lunch salads has been Romaine for a solid six months now and I’ve been perfectly okay with it. In fact, it didn’t even occur to me to change things up.

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Last Thursday, while perusing Trader Joe’s and rocking out to the Shakira radio on my Pandora (my hips don’t lie), I spotted a big sign advertising the big bags of peppery arugula and stopped in my tracks. Glancing from the package of Romaine hearts in my hand to the weed-y arugula, I contemplated a break in routine.

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Feeling rather daring, I tossed the lettuce aside and reached for the rocket, as if I were making a big decision and not simply deciding what I’d be bringing for lunch this week. Still, it felt almost naughty to break up the monotony and since then I have been finding excuses to put arugula on everything, including grilled cheese.

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Now normally the only thing I like my grilled cheese is cheese, cheese, and more cheese. I make an exception for butter’s guest appearance but the real star of the show is the warm, melted creaminess of hot cheese on crisp bread. It just screams comfort and I was making a calculated risk by adding any semblance of health to the mix.

Still, the peppery greens were calling to me from the fridge and I am glad I didn’t resist because the spiciness of the arugula really balances out the creaminess of the cheese while adding a nice satisfying crunch to go along with the bread. The colors don’t look bad either.

If you’re wary of adding salad to your sandwich, have no fear – this recipe has more than enough cheese to make clear what the main attraction is. A combination of parmesan, mozzarella, and sharp cheddar blend in a complex medley of saltiness and richness to make this a truly sophisticated grilled cheese.

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Grilled Cheese with Tomato and Arugula

Makes 1 sandwich

Ingredients:

  • 1 small Roma tomato, sliced
  • A small handful of arugula
  • 2 slices bread of choice
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, softened enough to be easily spreadable
  • 1 oz. of each sharp cheddar, grated parmesan, and shredded mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Spread the butter on one side of each bread slice.
  2. Heat a large skillet over low-medium heat.
  3. Put 2 bread slices in the skillet, buttered-side down.
  4. Layer half of the cheddar, Parmesan, and mozzarella cheese on each piece of bread.
  5. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese melts and the bread is golden (not burnt!)
  6. After cheese is melted, remove from skillet and place on plate then top with arugula and sliced tomato.
  7. Close sandwich and cut diagonally.

Including instructions for a grilled cheese seems a little silly, but the art of the grilled cheese does take some work – it’s a delicate balance to make sure the cheese is melted without burning the bread. In my experience, it is absolutely necessary to spread butter liberally on each side of the toast to keep it golden and crispy.

If you’re a grilled cheese purist, do me a favor and go on a limb like I did with my salad – change is good for the soul.

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