Chewy Granola Bars

Seriously, click to enlarge this photo and just look at these!

As you see this post, do me a favor…. remember what your first thought was when you saw the title of Chewy Granola Bars and were getting ready to pass on by. Then bookmark the page. And make these. What I’ll do is promise you, that after you’ve sunk your teeth into the very first bite, you will never, ever…  think of granola bars… ever… in the same way again. You’ll also find that you’ll never need another granola bar in your life. These are it… period. If you didn’t have a granola bar in your life? You do now.

IMG_3008

IMG_2358This recipe is originally from King Arthur’s website. I’ve made a slightly different version of my own, which replaces the butter with canola oil and some other minor changes and all I’ve been wondering lately is… where have you been all my life?! I had no idea granola bars could taste this good. Like what, you ask? Like amazing, that’s what. Let me tell you…

They’re delicious first and foremost… brimming with densely packed crazy flavor. They’re completely and fabulously adaptable to whatever your taste buds desire. They’re chock full of protein and whole grains and completely in line with any clean eating regime you’ve got going. They’re fun to eat because they’re thick, chewy and slightly sweetened so you really feel like you’re eating something greatly substantial… both from a nutritional standpoint and from the satisfaction and sustainable energy you get from just one of these bars. You’ll want to reach for one mid-afternoon for a feel good, totally healthful snack. Or in the morning as a grab-n-go breakfast. Whenever or wherever, I can assure that you’ll fall in love with these just as I did and will have no trouble finding a place for them in your day.

IMG_2366

 

Chewy Granola Bars

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

 

3 1/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten-free, be sure to use gluten-free oats)

1 cup granulated sugar (a little more or less depending on the amount of fruit you use, if any)

2/3 cup oat flour (or 2/3 cup oats, processed till finely ground in a food processor or blender)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 cups dried fruits and nuts (see suggestions below)*

2/3 cup peanut butter or another nut butter (optional but it’s so good)

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup honey

4 tablespoons light corn syrup (or you might try replacing with maple syrup or honey)

2 tablespoon water

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9″ x 13″ x 2″ pan in one direction with parchment paper, allowing it to go up the opposing sides. Coat the parchment paper with a non-stick spray.

Stir together all the dry ingredients, including the fruit and nuts. In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, oil, liquid sweeteners and water. Toss the wet ingredients with the dry and add peanut butter (if using) until the mixture is evenly crumbly. Spread in the prepared pan, pressing them in firmly to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. (A piece of plastic wrap can help with this, as you press down on the back of it.)

Bake the bars for 30 to 35 minutes, until they’re brown around the edges — don’t be afraid to get a little color on the tops too. They’ll still seem soft and almost under baked when you press into the center of the pan but don’t worry, they’ll set completely once cool.

Cool the bars for 5 minutes in the pan on a cooling rack. Using the parchment sling, lift and remove the bars and place them on the cooling rack to continue cooling.

While the bars a still a little warm, lift and place on flat surface and using a knife (or bench knife), cut the bars into squares. To store, wrap the bars individually in plastic or stack them in an airtight container. In humid weather, it’s best to store bars in the refrigerator. They also freeze well.

*Suggestions: Dried cranberries, apricots, pecans, sunflower seeds, coconut, walnuts, sesame seeds, pepitas, dried apples or even chocolate chips.

Note: In the bars pictured, I used pecans, walnuts, almonds, unsalted peanuts, dried cranberries, dried currants and peanut butter. I just run a knife once through the nuts to make them a tad bit smaller before adding to the mix. Have fun experimenting and use whatever combo of fruits and nuts you desire. Or you can leave out the fruit altogether if preferred. If so, you may want to increase the sugar just a little. If you add a lot of fruit, decrease sugar.

 

Almost-Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake

IMG_2308

Okay. I waited for two years to post this one. The guilt pangs were holding me back. This is obviously not a daily dessert. Not even a year-round dessert in our household. But with the holidays approaching, I felt it would be negligent of me not to let you know… that this is one “bang-up” of a celebration dessert you’ve just got to have in your collection. A real party-in-your-mouth. We’re talking incredible flavor here! This is a rich one in a good way. I love to serve it at parties not only because people can’t stop raving, but it’s cheesecake after all… there’s enough to go around at even your largest of gatherings.

 

 

You can always whip this up ahead of time and let it chill in your fridge a day or two before the festivities… or even freeze ahead and pull out the night before. It all works. Such a special one.

 

Almost-Famous Pumpkin Cheesecake

Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time: 9 hr 0 min

Cook Time: 2 hr 45 min

Level: Intermediate

Serves: 12 servings

Ingredients

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 3/4 cups sugar

Salt

2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup sour cream

1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin

6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups sweetened whipped cream

1/3 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped (optional)

Directions

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush a 10-inch springform pan with some of the butter. Stir the remaining butter with the crumbs, 1/4 cup of the sugar and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, packing it tightly and evenly. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack, then wrap the outside of the springform pan with foil and place in a roasting pan.

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese with a mixer until smooth. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups sugar and beat until just light, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as needed. Beat in the sour cream, then add the pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt and the spices and beat until just combined. Pour into the cooled crust.

Pour the water into the roasting pan about halfway up the sides of the springform pan and very, very carefully transfer all to oven. Bake until the outside of the cheesecake sets but the center is still loose, about 1 hour 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the door briefly to let out some heat, then close door. Leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 more hour, then carefully remove from the roasting pan and cool on a rack. Run a knife around the edges, cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

Bring the cheesecake to room temperature 30 minutes before serving. Unlock and remove the springform ring. To finish, place a dollop of the whipped cream on each slice and sprinkle with the toasted pecans if desired.

(Adapted from Food Network Magazine)

Meatball Salad

Enjoying the peaceful autumn morning, anticipating Amy’s arrival that evening.

Like many households, it’s pretty much tradition that when the grown kids come to visit, we cook their favorite meals. So when Amy came home this past weekend… in from Chicago for a little R & R… I knew it’d be no different. Her latest food obsession? Meatball Salad. We both had our first meatball salad in Chicago one night when I was there for a visit. Neither one of us could stop raving about it and since then, have made sure to order it whenever we’ve found an opportunity.

My cooking companion, best friend and lovely daughter, Amy.

My cooking companion, best friend and lovely daughter, Amy.

We thought while Amy was here, it’d be fun to get in the kitchen and create our own version. After a quick trip to the grocery store on Saturday, we set out that evening to make what would become…  the absolute, hands down, most delicious meatball salad either of us have ever had. The salad portion Amy made, is based on a notoriously famous house salad from a restaurant in St. Louis called ‘Rich and Charlie’s’. The salad part of this is about as close as you can get to that. It’s an Italian salad that is best served with a little of the chill removed. Not exactly room temperature, but close. The flavor is enhanced this way and though I wouldn’t call it a “soggy” salad, the ingredients are a touch “heavier” and not as crisp as in some salads. Trust me, it works this way. It paired perfectly with the meatballs, which were made using the Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe I previously posted here on Mitts and Measures. I love these meatballs because they’re cooked in the sauce…not fried or baked… and are wonderfully moist, tender and just loaded with flavor. You can always make them up a day or two ahead if you want to save some time. (Just make sure to heat them before serving!)

What a fantastic combo. If you’re serving this for dinner, don’t expect much conversation at the table!

Meatball Salad

 

Rich and Charlie’s Salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 small head iceberg lettuce

1/2 head romaine lettuce

1/2 cup chopped pimentos, drained

1 cup sliced red onion

1 (8-ounce) can artichokes in brine (not marinated), drained

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

½ tsp sugar

½ to ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Salt

Freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

Break up the lettuce and tear the leaves into small to medium pieces. Place in a very large bowl. Add pimentos and onion. Crush the artichoke hearts over the bowl to break them up, then add to the bowl.

In another bowl or a salad cruet, combine oil and vinegar, sugar, and 2 tablespoons parmesan; mix or shake until incorporated.

When ready to serve, add dressing to salad to taste. Add ½ – ¾ cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper to taste, then toss well.

Per serving (based on 6): 405 calories; 40g fat; 6g saturated fat; 6mg cholesterol; 4g protein; 9g carbohydrate; 4g sugar; 3g fiber; 230mg sodium; 110mg calcium.

Adapted from a recipe attributed to Rich and Charlie’s restaurant in a cookbook compiled in 1989 by the Mothers’ Club of St. Louis University High School.

Killer Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Bars

Several years ago when I started browsing around food recipe forums and message boards on the internet, I most often returned to one particular one that I still use today. Although I have a ridiculously enormous cookbook collection, I have to say that beside the wonderful recipes I find through other food blogs, it is on this message board where I have found so many of the recipes I use over and over again today. It’s a forum where I’ve learned to know and trust the people using it because not only do I get instant reviews on a recipe, but being able to interact with the person that posted it is a huge benefit. It takes the reading, experimenting and acquiring new fantastic recipes to a whole new level. There are many food websites that allow readers to post reviews of the site’s recipes, but it’s the food forums that allow you the back and forth with the poster that makes it so enjoyable.

Pumpkin Bar 1

If you can, put a little orange zest in the icing. I usually do and think it’s prettier that way. I didn’t have oranges this time, so couldn’t. (I made these on a cloudy day and just couldn’t get the lighting right for photos!)

You can always tell the recipes that are really, really good on the message boards by the little fiery symbol next to the title. That means there’s been a ton of back and forth conversation on the recipe. It’s definitely worth a look at these to see what all the fuss is about. The recipe I’m posting here was named ‘Killer Pumpkin Bars’ by “Becky” on the board. Not only did it have the fiery symbol, this literally has to be one of the most talked about, raved over, year after year…after year… beloved recipes on the forum in its history. It truly is a killer dessert! Don’t expect these bars to be chewy and dense though. They have more of a cake-like texture. With just enough spice and just enough sweet, along with a cool, creamy frosting, it’s easy to see why they instantly become a stand-out over so many pumpkin dessert recipes you’ve seen or made during the fall and winter months. Did I mention how wonderfully moist they are and that they practically melt in your mouth as you eat them? This is a “cherished find” of a recipe in our house. A perfect fall pumpkin treat. Thanks, Becky!

Sift together your dry ingredients

Sift together your dry ingredients

Pumpkin Bar Dough

Put into the oven and bake until the center springs back a little or when a toothpick comes out clean.

Finished Baked Pumpkin Bars

Never mind my dirty apron in the photo! (Isn’t it just too cute though?!)

Cut Pumpkin Bars

Top with candy pumpkins if desired, only on the day you plan to serve them so they don’t seep into and discolor the icing.

 

Killer Pumpkin Bars

2 cups sugar

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temp.

2 cups canned pumpkin (one 15-oz. can)

4 eggs, room temp.

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. each cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, ground cloves

1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease a 15 X 10 1/2 X 1 pan. Sift flour, baking soda, spices, and salt together; set aside. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add pumpkin and eggs; beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Spread mixture into pan. Bake for about 20-25 minutes until cake springs back when touched or toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely and frost. After cutting, I top each piece with a candy corn pumpkin, but only on the same day you intend to serve or they kind of seep color into the frosting.

Icing:

3 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

1 stick butter, room temp.

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. orange zest (optional)

2 cups powdered sugar

Beat together until smooth.

Dragon’s Breath Chili

As I saw the cold, gray and dreary weather beckoning from outside my windows last weekend, I was overcome with an urgency to get a big pot of chili on the stove ASAP. I threw some presentable clothes on in the morning, hurried to the grocery store and as I was gathering up my ingredients, happened to notice that all… well okay, most… of the shoppers there, I swear… had the exact same intention as I did. Living in Wisconsin, I don’t think I was far off in that assumption. Not only was the store unusually crowded, but every time I went to grab for an ingredient, it seems I had to wait my turn. Plus, it was an ‘away’ game for the UW Madison Badgers football team that Saturday so besides the chili chilly weather, it would be the perfect meal to eat while watching the game inside.

Last year I posted a fantastic recipe for an Amazing White Chicken Chili, which, if you haven’t tried already, I implore you to do so as soon as possible. It’s for your own good. You’ll make new friends, wow your current ones and experience a newly profound love from your family for years to come. Seriously. It’s an outstanding, no-fail, easy to whip up chili that my family and I seem to appreciate more and more each time I make it. It’s out-of-this-world delicious.

But… that’s not what I made last weekend. Sometimes I do break down and make a red meat chili. (Mostly because…) Gary Relaxing

Not often, but when I do, it’s got to be this Dragon’s Breath Chili that I’ve been making for a couple of years now. It’s a slightly adapted Guy Fieri recipe and don’t let the name scare ya’…. although it sounds like it’s a spicy, hot one, it’s really not. It could be if you added in more of your own heat, but as it’s written, it has just a touch of it… and I mean a touch. It’s not the kind that stays on your tongue and tortures you for the next half hour either. Weirdly, it actually doesn’t stay on your tongue at all. It’s really great. It also has three different kinds of chunky, beefy meat in it, so it satisfies that deepest, innermost craving and desire for a cold weather chunky-beefy-meaty chili. Which is why I chose this particular one last weekend. As usual… it did not disappoint. This is some wicked good stuff. Enjoy!

 

Dragon’s Breath Chili

Prep Time: 10 min

Inactive Prep Time:2 hr 0 min

Cook Time:15 min

10 to 15 servings

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons canola oil

2 red bell peppers, diced (about 2 cups)

2 jalapenos, minced (about 2 tablespoons)

3 Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped

3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, chopped

2 yellow onions, diced (about 2 cups)

1 head garlic, minced (about 1/4 cup)

1 pound boneless chuck, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

2 pounds ground beef, coarse grind

1 pound bulk Italian sausage

2 teaspoons granulated onion

2 teaspoons granulated garlic

3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons hot paprika

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

2 cups tomato sauce

1 cup tomato paste

12 ounces lager beer

1 cup chicken stock

2 (15.5-ounce) cans pinto beans, with juice

2 (15.5-ounce) cans kidney beans, with juice

Optional Garnishes:

Green Onions, thinly sliced

Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Sour Cream (for dolloping)

Oh and can I add Fritos (to eat alongside) to this list?  ;)

Directions

In large stock pot over high heat, add butter and oil. Add bell pepper, jalapeno, chiles and onion and cook until caramelized, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and saute a minute longer. Add chuck and brown. Add ground beef and sausage to brown and stir gently, trying not to break up the ground beef too much. Cook until meat is nicely browned and cooked through, about 7 to10 minutes. Add in granulated onions, granulated garlic, chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add in tomato sauce and paste and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in beer and chicken stock. Add beans, lower heat and simmer for 2 hours.

Recipe slightly adapted from Guy Fieri, May 2008