Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Lizbar's (aka Homemade Power Bars)

Ben takes the GRE today.  I am so excited, anxious, proud and nervous for him - all rolled up in one crazy little bundle.  I am both eager and on edge.  And I'm not even taking the damn thing.  I don't even know how he is managing.   Actually, he's probably managing a lot better.  He's a little less excitable than I am, and on top of that, he has more than prepared.

I am very proud of him and how he came at studying for the test.  It has been a long time in the making.  He has been extremely dedicated, carting his studying material (including the 5 pound book of questions!  Which, title aside, actually weighs closer to 6 pounds) to each of our last 3 vacations.  Making time to study while I go play with our nephew or nap in a hammock.  Spending many weekend afternoons tucked away in the spare bedroom or studying in the car while I drove.  He has been beyond committed, and I find myself constantly impressed and beaming with pride.

If I were a fiance that was a little more on top of her stuff, this is the exact snack that I would have made for Ben to eat right before the test.  Overloaded with nuts, whole grains (yay for oats!) and just enough espresso powder to give you a little jolt, I imagine they are great kick-butt-on-standardized-tests food.  Unfortunately, I am not the fiance that's on top of her stuff, so luckily for me, they also work great as pre-gym snacks as well.  So that is what Ben is getting for finishing his test - a large batch of Lizbar's, made with love, to help him ease his way back into the gym rat he misses being.

So, today I sit at my desk in Rockford, anxiously tapping my foot, knowing that this is something completely out of my control.  And it will drive me nuts until I get that long awaited call this afternoon to tell me he is done and that he did great.

Lizbar's (aka Homemade Power Bars)
Adapted from 101 cookbooks

These are also fabulous for those afternoons that at 2 PM you can't imagine staring at a computer anymore.  They are lightly sweet, have just the right small bit of caffeine and, if you add chocolate, just about perfect for giving your behind the little swift kick it needs to get you through the day.

The recipe is very adaptable.  Add whatever nuts you want or have on hand.  Throw some seeds in there too, if you'd like.  Add some dried fruit if you get the feeling.  And, really, you can't go wrong with a few mini chocolate chips sprinkled on top.

Lastly, I usually use my 9x13 pan for this.  It makes thinner bars, similar in size and thickness to a Clifbar.  If you like yours thicker (think size and thickness of a Quaker Chewy bar), go for a 9x9.

Coconut oil, for greasing
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. chopped almonds
2/3 c. unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/4 c. rolled oats
1 1/2 c. unsweetened crisp brown rice cereal
1 c. brown rice syrup
1/4 c. natural cane sugar (sugar in the raw)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp espresso powder
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 c. mini chocolate chips

Preheat your over to 350.  Generously grease a 9x13 pan with coconut oil and set aside.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss walnuts, almonds and coconut.  Toast in the over for 5-7 minutes, until coconut is golden.  Toss a few times to avoid the nuts and coconut burning.

In large bowl, combine toasted nuts, coconut, oats and cereal.  Mix well.  It is easier to evenly distribute the ingredients now, then it will be after pouring the syrup over them.

On the stove, in a large saucepan over medium heat, combine the wet ingredients (brown rice syrup - vanilla).  I find it easiest to handle/measure/pour the brown rice syrup if I heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave first.  Bring mixture to a slow boil, stirring constantly.  Continue to cook, while stirring, another 4-5 minutes, until the syrup thickens slightly.  Remove from heat and pour over nut/oat mixture.  Stir (slow and gentle!), until syrup covers the nuts and oats completely.

Pour into prepared pan and lightly push down.  Wait a few minutes for mixture to cool, then sprinkle chocolate chips on top and lightly push into bars.  Let cool to room temperature (a few hours).  Flip out onto cutting board and cut into 16-24 bars.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Coconut Quinoa Granola

I wanted to thank you guys for letting me enter wedding mode last post.  But I feel I should warn you, it was only the tip of the iceberg.  And now the ice has broken and something I tried to keep away from this space has come into it anyways.  And let's face it, it won't go away.  Besides, the way I was keeping it out of this space was by physically not being in this space as well, which was not as much fun for me.  So, now the two world's shall collide.  Wedding planning and food.  Registries and recipes.  Guest lists and granola.

I am nothing if not a master of smooth lead in's...

I am a firm believer that something made from scratch in your own kitchen is certainly better for you than the store bought equivalent.  Homemade chocolate chip cookies must be better for you than Oreo's and are certainly better for me than the bag of Twizzlers pull and peel's that I have hidden in my desk at work.  Yes, you need butter to make your cookies taste good, but at least there is not Red 40 added to it.  And I figure that counts for something.

The jury is still out on if this theory holds any truth or not, but I would venture to say that when it comes to the case of granola, homemade just has to be better for you.  Or at least that is what I'm telling myself as a repeatedly chomp on handfuls of this stuff.  Yes, there is oil and sugar and what not.  But I put it in there, so it must be better... Thank heavens I don't have to worry about a wedding dress fitting for at least a few more weeks.

And with that, we have come full circle.  Now it is time for me to peace out, for today?  Today is cake tasting day!!

Coconut Quinoa Granola
Adapted from Sweat Pea's Kitchen

This is a quick, easy recipe and was immediately inducted into the big green cookbook.  The great thing with most granola recipes is that it is a rough guideline.  Use whatever dried fruit you have on hand - blueberries, tart cherries (a personal favorite).  Use whatever nuts as well.  Just go with what you are feeling.

3 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 c. quinoa (uncooked)
1/4 c. wheat germ
1/4 c. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 c. chopped almonds
1/2 c. shredded, unsweetened coconut
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. golden raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine first 9 ingredients (through salt).  Spread evenly over baking sheet.  In small bowl, melt coconut oil.  Whisk in honey and vanilla extract until smooth.  Pour over oat and nut mixture.  Toss until oats are coated, then spread flat on baking sheet.  Bake at 300 for 30-40 minutes, until granola is a light golden brown.  Toss at least 4 times, to ensure granola does not get burned in spots.

Once golden brown, remove granola from oven and add cranberries and raisins.  Toss to combine.  Let cool.  To store, keep in airtight containers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This Thing is Actually Happening

Some blogs do favorites list.  If only I was coordinated and clever enough to pull that off.  Instead, today I am offering you a things I have cooked, but not taken pictures of, but loved anyways list.  The name is a little long, and I am working on it, but some of these are just too fantastic to not share immediately and insist that you make.  Also, I need an excuse to do a little bragging.  Because, you see, these wonderfully beautiful things are going out in the mail this week.  And I am thrilled, excited, anxious and overall exuberant that they are done, complete, beautiful and well, they exist.  Which must mean that this wedding thing is actually happening.  


Anyways, about those Save the Dates.  I can't thank Ben's family enough.  We went through several, multiple, way too many, ideas of what the save the dates would look like.  There were many emails, phone calls and Skypes.  I worried too much, which could be the sub-title for this wedding (and probably my life in general).  I sketched things, and let me tell you, there's a reason I'm an engineer, and not someone who gets paid for being creative.

Luckily for us, Ben's sister is one of those beautiful creative people.  She had a gorgeous vision from the start and I really should know better by now to just listen to her.  She water colored our names and the date, as well as the Arizona.  The rest was put in digitally on the computer by her and Ben's mom.  Fonts were argued (nicely) over.  A legitimate website was bought and created.  Then they were shipped off to the printer and back to them for cutting and pasting on magnets.  Ben's mom stamped a return address and hand addressed all the envelopes.  I continue to thank her daily for it.

And I can't get over how fantastic they look.  There's one on my fridge at home and one on my wall at work (pictured above!)  And now, whenever I need a good shock, I just need to look over to my right and "Ekk!"  There it is.

Liz & Ben
March 8, 2014

And then I get to say things like, "holy crap.  This thing is actually happening".

Anyways, that list we were talking about...

David Lebovitz's Gianduja Gelato:
Please make this immediately, before you decide it is too cold to eat ice cream (yet another reason to move to Arizona... it's never too cold there!)  It is incredibly time consuming and oh-so-very worth it.  As any Nutella lover will let you know, hazelnut and chocolate were meant to be.  Don't get in there way, just do it.

Kim Boyce's Oatmeal Pancakes:

Slow Chicken Curry from Everyday Paleo:
So ridiculously simple.  No browning of meat before hand, really no prep besides some chopping.  And you'll come home to the smell of comfort (can curry be comforting?) and a large pot of filling dinner.  I haven't really bought into the whole idea of a Paleo diet, but I sure as hell will support an easy dinner thats beyond delicious!

Smitten Kitchen's Tomato Glazed Meatloaves with Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes:

Many salad dressings from this cute, little book:
I got the book for free, but really for $6 (aka, 2 coffees) it's probably a worthy addition to your life.

Apple Turnovers from Cook's Illustrated:

Leek and Bacon Tart from Irish Food and Cooking:
I picked this book up on a whim in a second hand bookstore in North Carolina.  Ben and I were meeting there (it was the halfway point between us at one short point in our long distance journey) and he was still driving.  While I was waiting on him, I found this great bookstore and picked up some used cookbooks.  Thus began a somewhat tradition.

Kung Pao Chicken from Quick and Easy Chinese (and at least 12 other recipes from the same book):
Also, if you have the means, by a cast iron wok.  It is in every sense of the idea, totally and completely worth it.  And this book.  Just don't tell your fiance that oyster sauce is made from fermented oysters.  He'll get in his head and make his tummy hurt.  Just tell him it's all mental, cause it is...

Iced Coffee Concentrate from Bon Appetit:
I would not have made it through this summer without this.  I just wish it didn't take a whole day to make!  If anyone has good shortcuts, please let me know.