Peanut Butter Granola Bars

DSC_7759 (1600x1060)We’ve been having kitchen fun.  Snow and cold temps have returned with the latest arctic blast so we are making do with browsing recipes online.  Granola bars caught Mrs J’s attention the other day so we looked over a few recipes to get an idea of what would work and then went to the cupboard for ingredients.  We pretty much cleaned out all the odds and ends leftover from other recipes and ended up with some tasty snack bars.  Rolled oats are featured in most of the recipes we looked at, and peanut butter and honey were pretty common.  From memory, here are the ingredients we went with this morning:

1-1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup honey (plus a drizzle of maple syrup we had left from waffles)

and enough of these to make up three additional cups of filler:


dried cranberries


chopped dates

chocolate chips

toasted coconut

Melt the peanut butter in a small saucepan and add the honey and other liquids that sound good. (I had planned to add a little cherry preserve but forgot.)  I spun the dry stuff in a food processor to mix it and chop some of the larger pieces a bit then dumped it into a large mixing bowl.  Add the peanut butter mixture and mix thoroughly, then press it into a pan that you have lined with parchment paper.  Mrs J used a plastic tumbler to roll it down.  We used an 11″x7″ pan because an 8″x8″ pan looked a tad small.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours.  These are seriously good.  I wish we had some other more colorful things about to toss into the mix.  Dried cherries and blueberries?  Mini M&Ms?

Toasted Oats

Thought this was a pretty picture, unfortunately I don't have an original credit for it.

I hate oatmeal. Something about the texture just does me in. But I love oats, oat bran, granola, Cheerios, oatmeal cookies – you get the idea. I was craving granola over the weekend, but because of the sugar and fat in most granolas, I try to avoid them. Lots of calories for a very small amount of oats. Never very satisfying and too, too sweet.

Instead I did something I’d been thinking about for a while.  I toasted some oats to see if it would help satisfy my craving. The first batch I did was about 1/2 cup and it came out tasty enough that I went ahead and did 4 cups next. I keep it in a nice glass jar and have already used it in my strawberry frozen yogurt (homemade in my vitamix) and with milk and a bit of honey for breakfast this morning.

Here’s the recipe I put together:

Toasted Rolled Oats

  • 4 cups rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/4 cup of butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of salt

bowl, baking sheet

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In bowl, toss oats with melted butter, sugar and spices. Make sure oats are well coated. Spread out on baking sheet. Place in oven and turn down to 300 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes, stir, continue baking for an additional 5 minutes or until oats are a golden brown. My first batch cooked in 10 minutes, my next 20 minutes, so keep a close eye on it.

Let cool and store in an airtight container.

Mmm… Awesome Cookies

That’s the first thought I had when I bit into a cookie, just barely cool enough to sample, from the first batch out of the oven.  These started out the same way most of my cookies adventures do, with a Google ingredient search.  I was organizing a cupboard and had stuff strewn about on the counters – bags of nuts and sugars, dried fruit and chocolate blocks and chips along with the odd box of baking soda and instant pudding.  I spotted a half used bag of shredded coconut and remembered that the last time I made cookies with the stuff I liked the result.  Hoping to find that recipe I entered “coconut + cookies” into the search box, hoping to see a recipe that looked familiar.  Nope…  Nope…  Eh?  Oatmeal coconut cookies?  Lets see what that looks like.

A quick scan of the ingredient list and I was sold.  I had everything, or close enough.  The recipe mentions that it makes large cookies, and that’s a fact.  I ended up with 19 by actual count.  My cookie trays were just large enough for 8 at a time so I did a couple of batches rather than load 2 trays and go through the mid cycle swap and rotate business.  Plenty of time, the big game was on.  I used semi sweet chocolate chips in mine, and chopped pecans.  I betcha raisins would be good in these…

Highly recommended.  Enjoy!

Blueberries, Blueberries, Everywhere….

I seem to have expensive tastes these days.  Blueberries jumped in price this month and that is all I want, breakfast, lunch and dinner – blueberries in some form or another.  Mornings I either have a blueberry smoothie or blueberries on my cereal.  Lunch is blueberries in my salad or yogurt.  And dinner, well that calls for something special….blueberry crisp.  I love crisps because they are quick and easy.  You can also control the amount of fat and sugar without effecting the outcome too much, unlike with a coffee cake or pie.

When picking blueberries, if I can’t get them locally (which at this altitude, I can’t) I prefer frozen to fresh.  Fresh are usually flavorless here.  I’m spoiled of course because I spent a lot of time in New England and wild blueberry picking was a Sunday morning treat.  Nothing beats fresh from the bush wild blueberries.

And while frozen blueberries are my choice, all frozen are  not the same.  It’s more expensive (like I said above, expensive tastes) but I favor the organic wild blueberries.  They come the closest to my ideal.  They are smaller than commercially grown, bursting with sweet-tart flavor. They stand up to thawing and using in cereals and yogurt and hold up when baking.

For smoothies and such, where blueberries are in combination with other fruits I will use the generic, commercially grown berries.  It’s either that or get another job to fund my blueberry cravings.

Here’s a repeat of my favorite blueberry crisp recipe (and if you click on the link you’ll find a nice fall menu, too).

Photo credit: King Arthur

From September Thursday Night Menu 2010:

Blueberry Crisp

  • 10 oz blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup flour

8×8 glass baking dish and small mixing bowl

Place blueberries, lemon juice and ¼ cup granulated sugar in baking dish, mix well. In mixing bowl, mix butter and sugar, add flour and oats, mix until crumbly. Crumble over the blueberry mixture.  Melting the butter creates a crisper, more even topping.

Bake at 375° for 15-20 minutes until top is golden brown. Let cool.

Blackberry dump cake

We’ve done these before.  The recipe, such as it is, is simple enough: Dump some fruit into a pan, scatter a handful of rolled oats over the fruit, dump a cake mix atop that, and then dump butter on top of the mix.  Bake in a 350 oven till the top browns and the fruit bubbles up.

I went with a bag of  blackberries mixed with some Splenda for sweetener and a bit of lemon juice and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  Some recipes go with raw fruit but I opted for cooking mine down and adding some corn starch as a thickener. I was breaking in a new 8×8 pan so I used only a half box of white cake mix over the rolled oats, and used a grater to shred a stick of very cold butter right over that.  Using a 9×13 cake pan you would use the entire box of mix and two sticks of butter.

I popped it into a 350 oven and set the timer for 30 minutes, I gave it 6 or 8 minutes more before I was satisfied with the color of the top.

I was expecting the result to be more “cake-y” but the cake mix, the oats,  and the butter combined to make a very tasty, almost crunchy, topping.  It was very good with whipped cream.

Breakfast Cookies and Lemon Sour Cream Yeast Bread

Well, I experimented with more regular yeast bread this week and as my oldest son would say – epic fail.  Grrrrr!

Two tries, both ended up too dense and didn’t brown right.  The first one didn’t rise in the oven and the second one was still sticky after I kneaded it, so it probably needed more flour.  I’m not giving up,  I’m determined to figure out how to bake a decent loaf of bread that is the right texture and has flavor.

I did try two other recipes that turned out really well, one was a high fiber- high protein breakfast cookie and the other was an enriched bread recipe for lemon-sour cream bread.  Go figure – the lemon bread is a yeast bread but it has butter and eggs and therefore seems to be free of my bread jinx, it turned out beautifully.

I followed the recipe for the Lemon-Sour Cream Bread exactly, so I’m just going to post the link for it.

This bread is amazing, it has this soft, beautiful crumb on the inside due to the almond flour (which you can produce yourself by processing blanched almonds in your food processor to the consistency of flour) and a gorgeous golden, soft crust on the outside.  It makes the most incredible toast served with lemon curd.  I can’t wait to try the recipe with orange zest and orange extract instead of lemon and just almond extract with no zest.

Breakfast Cookies

These cookies have some really good stuff in them, but the recipe makes a pretty sweet cookie.  You can cut down on the brown sugar by 1/2 a cup if you want to and not really change the texture of the finished cookies.

1/2 cup softened butter (4 oz)

1 cup peanut butter  (9 1/2 oz)

1 1/2 cup brown sugar (9 1/4 oz)

2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

2 eggs

1/3 cup of milk (3 oz)

1 1/4 cup of all purpose flour or white whole wheat flour (5 1/4 oz)

1/3 cup high fiber flour (3 1/2 oz)

1/3 cup of  whole or non-fat dried milk (1 oz)

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

4 1/2 cups of add-ins (any combination of chocolate, peanut butter, white chocolate, or butterscotch chips, coconut, rolled oats, dried fruit including raisins, currents, dried apricots, dried cranberries or dried cherries, granola, or nuts)

* Note on the different flours – I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour,  which I can buy in my local grocery store.  If you’re interested in using this kind of flour but can’t find King Arthur or don’t want to order it from their website, you can probably find the Hodgson Mill brand in the organic section of your grocery store.  I also use the high fiber flour that you have to order from King Arthur, but I checked and you can substitute with Bob’s Red Mill Coconut Flour, which you can probably also find in the organic section.

Preheat the oven to 35o degrees F.

Prep 2 cookie sheets (I use parchment, but you can use a sil-pat liner or just spray with no-stick spray).

In a small bowl whisk together your flours, spices, dried milk, salt and baking powder.  Set aside.

Combine butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla in a bowl and mix on medium until light and fluffy.

Add in the eggs and liquid milk and mix on low until combined, scraping your bowl a couple of times.

With your mixer on low slowly add in your flour mixture until completely incorporated.

Stir or mix in your 4 1/2 cups of add-ins until they are well mixed in.  (I made 2 batches of cookies one with chocolate chips, peanut butter chips and rolled oats only and one with chocolate chips, rolled oats, dried cherries, currents and chopped pecans- both were really good, the ones with the fruit came out a lot chewier.)

Scoop 1/4 cup portions onto the cookie sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart,  there’s very little leavening so the cookies won’t spread far.

Press the cookie gently to flatten it a little bit.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 18-22 minutes until they are just lightly brown.  Don’t overbake or the cookies will dry out.

Cool for a couple of minutes on the cookie sheet and then finish cooling them on a wire cooling rack.

Yield 18 cookies.