Saturday, May 4, 2013

Peanut Butter and Honey Granola Bars

Happy Saturday everyone! This morning was a huge success for me. I had been searching and searching the web for a quick and easy recipe for homemade granola bars that didn't use any ingredients that were too extravagant, that would be shelf stable, and looked/sounded yummy. I found what I was looking for yesterday! A special thanks goes out to Jaclyn over at Cooking Classy for her recipe that she calls Microwave Peanut Butter Granola Bars.

I regret to inform everyone that I didn't take pictures during the process of putting these together... I'm still getting new to the idea of blogging, and I told hubs afterwards, 'dang, I should have taken pictures!'.  I'll try to do better next time so you can see my step-by-step process of my cooking/crafting/diy adventures. But for now, the picture of my finished product will have to suffice:

What's left after the taste test

Yes, I know, this doesn't look like a full pan's worth. It's not. I was so excited to try them, I cut them up and devoured one right away. So did the hubs. We were so pleased with the outcome, we took several bars next door to my mom's house where our two boys had stayed the night- everyone tried one except for the pickiest of the picky eaters- my ten year old. Big brother couldn't believe they were homemade, and everyone loved them and asked me to make them again... and often!

The original recipe didn't call for the chocolate chips- that was my own idea, but I can't try to claim I'm that genius- I saw plenty of other recipes that call for chocolate or other flavored chips, dried fruit, or peanut butter drizzled over the top. I just thought that a few chips would add a little extra 'sweet' to these bars that already looked delicious. You can leave them plain, add chips, add dried fruit, add nuts, add whatever suits your fancy! I had thought about adding some sunflower seed nuts to this first batch, but decided to keep the creativity to a minimum for my first go-round. Always a good idea with new recipes, in my opinion. That way, if you decide you don't like the recipe, you haven't wasted a perfectly good extra ingredient. Of course, nothing would have been wasted had I added anything else to these- I could tell before I tasted them that I'd love them.

One great thing about granola bars is the health benefit- you get the fiber you need to start your day, and the peanut butter gives it that protein so you don't have a sugar-crash mid-morning. They're also super easy when you're in a rush in the morning and don't have time to sit down to eat a bowl of oatmeal or the hearty bacon and eggs meal that everyone loves so much but never has time for. And of course, the cost factor is big in my book- everyone can stand to save some money here and there, regardless of your financial situation, but for those of us whose finances are a bit tighter, this is one of those small miracles that can make a big difference! Several bucks to grab a breakfast on the go at the local Quik Trip wasn't a big deal a year or two ago, but these days, I really notice how that $3 here, $4 there really add up. These wonderful bars are a great alternative.

The two ingredients that give the bars their fiberific bulk are quick oats and puffed rice cereal. Most people will go for the Quaker oats, but I can assure you, you can't tell a difference between name brand and store brand with this recipe. I used the quick oats I bought at Aldi. And for the puffed rice, Jaclyn's recipe (and many other recipes) call for Rice Krispies cereal... I was headed to WalMart this morning with the plan of purchasing Malt O Meal's version... but when I arrived at the cereal aisle, I was pleasantly surprised to see this:

Right next to the Malt O Meal brand cereals, hiding there on the top shelf, was exactly what I needed. Alf's Natural Nutrition Puffed Brown Rice Cereal. Nuthin' but whole brown rice in this bag! No extra ingredients I couldn't pronounce, no preservatives, no sugar, nothing to make my bars less nutritious. Just brown rice It's only a six ounce bag, but six ounces of puffed rice can go a long way, people. The picture is the bag AFTER I used almost two cups in this recipe! And to top it all off, drum roll please.... it was $1! One dollar even, versus the cost of the bag of Malt O Meal, which was over $4... granted, it was a bigger bag, but I only needed enough for my breakfast bars, and there was no one in the family eats this type of cereal as plain cereal, so the Malt O Meal bag would have been $4+ of  overkill. I had to explain this to the hubs, too, as I've gotten him accustomed to looking at the cost broken down to the serving size or ounce to find the best deal.

So that's the bulk of the bars... what's the glue? Peanut butter, honey, and a little bit of brown sugar. There's also an eighth of a teaspoon of salt and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract to add a little more flavor, although I couldn't really taste the vanilla over the peanut butter and honey. That's it. That's all there is to these bars! Mix up your cereals in a mixing bowl- I tossed mine by hand rather than dirty up a spoon for dry ingredients- mix the peanut butter, honey, brown sugar in a microwave safe bowl, nuke for a minute, stir, nuke for another minute, add the vanilla and stir again. Pour the mixture over the dried cereal and stir until the peanut butter mixture has coated all of the cereal, then press into an 8x8 pan lined with aluminum foil.

Jaclyn mentions to put the pan in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes or chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. I simply stuck the pan in the freezer while I cleaned up the kitchen (the dishes from this recipe, plus a few leftover dirty dishes from other people). By the time the dishwasher was full and counters were wiped down, the hubs came in to ask how long they had to cook. I responded by pulling the pan out of the freezer, pulling the foil out of the pan, and whipping out the knife to dig in. Needless to say, he was excited! I didn't keep track of the time, but it didn't take fifteen minutes for me to clean, and they were set up just fine for cutting and eating devouring.

Since I sat down to write this blog, the hubster has reminded me twice to make more of these yummy bars so he can take some to work with him on Monday... I guess he isn't planning on these lasting until then! Be sure to use your imagination... hubs wants some with nutella in place of the peanut butter, some with a variety of dried fruits, and some with the chocolate but with pretzel pieces added into the mix... oh, and I can't forget the almond bark drizzled over the top!

For the full recipe, hop on over to Jaclyn's post and be sure to give credit where credit is due! I hope you enjoy these as much as I do, and don't forget to live better today than you did yesterday!!

Friday, May 3, 2013

May Seedlings and Snow

So, for the few of my readers who read my initial post so long ago, I'm going to try the whole blogging thing again. What can I say? Life got away from me and I just hadn't attempted to tackle the blog in a while. I've got all kinds of things to write about, I just used the excuse that I had other things to get done to avoid writing my blog. I'm a little ADD like that- I start something, get distracted, start something else, and so on and so on...

But this time, I've got some pictures that are my current pride, and a couple of pictures that are 'history in the making' from what others are saying. I realize that snow in May is something us here in the KC Metro area couldn't have imagined before yesterday, but it hit us! Luckily for those of us planting gardens, it doesn't look as though the snow and cold weather will last too awful long, but it was enough to prevent me from getting my seedlings planted in the garden that's all dug up, tilled, and even has compost added (thanks to the City of Olathe for the wonderful free compost!), all ready for growing some yummilicious veggies.

My current project for the day is some homemade Amish White Bread for tomorrow's sloppy joe dinner and some Rye Flatbread for lunchtime sandwiches for me and the hubs, but it's not the first time I've tackled homemade bread. I've made flatbread on one other occasion, and I've made loaves of white and wheat bread on a number of occasions over the past six months of my stay-at-home mom time. Btw, this is my first try at adding links into the blog- yay for me! Oh, and if you can't tell, these are not my recipes. I steal recipes. Well, more appropriately, I use other people's recipes. And I'm more than happy to share the recipes that work for me, and of course, give credit where credit is due.

I'll talk more about my homemade breads later, but let me get this train of thought back on track. Seedlings and snow!

This was the first picture I took of yesterday's snow on our back patio. No, we're not sloppy people, the wind blew that chair over, and I wasn't brave enough to step outside to set it back upright until today! We were lucky enough to only get a dusting, and it was already melted by about noon today.

I decided to take another picture so you could see more of the yard- our neighbor has a small garden started in his half of the yard (we're in a duplex, if you didn't already know or hadn't caught on to that from my non-existing hints). The white square is the blanket covering his baby seedlings that have started sprouting. I hadn't decided to transplant anything to my garden yet- when we heard we were expecting freezing temperatures and possibly snow, I decided to wait a bit longer before taking my babies outside. They are still cluttering up my kitchen.

These are my babies!

My pictures include beefsteak and cherry tomatoes, jalapeno, serrano, and green bell peppers, and sweet yellow onions in the flats/cardboard box bottoms on the table, and radishes, basil, thyme and dill in the containers. I also have started parsley, cilantro, green onions, carrots, and oregano, but they hadn't germinated by the time I took this pictures yesterday. As of today, though, my green onions, parsley, and cilantro are started to germinate! Whoo-hoo!!! There are teeny-tiny sprouts starting. 

I started the tomatoes, peppers and onions in a couple seed starting kits I had purchased at WalMart all the way back in March, thinking I'd be putting them in a garden at the end of April. By early April, they were already getting a bit big for the starter tray, so I made these oh-so-simple newspaper pots that I transplanted them into. They've grown quite a bit since then too! Believe it or not, the bottom leaves were barely above the potting soil when I transplanted them. 

When I made my newspaper pots, I decided to take some advice I had seen on numerous different resources and blogs online- I put a tiny bit of epsom salt and some crushed up eggshells I had been saving for this exact purpose in the bottom of the pot on a thin layer of soil. I then added a bit more soil, stirred it up a little, added the seedling, and finished filling to just below the leaves with more potting soil. The epsom salt and eggshells are supposed to help make the plants grow stronger and produce more fruit. The calcium from the eggshells will help keep the tomato peel strong, so you hopefully won't be harvesting any split tomatoes! Fingers crossed!

If you're interested in how to make these newspaper pots, visit How To Plant Seeds. This site shows the basic gist of it... but I used an empty tin can (from canned veggies) and half of a newspaper page for the large size pots that I made. Seasoning containers to make newspaper pots will be my choice instead of starter kits next year!

So these are my baby seedlings I'll be transplanting to the garden in about a week or so, pot and all. I have other seeds I'll be sowing directly into the garden- we've always had luck with green beans, cucumbers and zucchini squash, and I'm also trying okra for the first time. If you visit my page, please leave a comment to let me know you were here and how you found me. Since I'm brand new to the blogging world and have lots to learn about advertising my page, I need all the help I can get!

Thanks for bearing with me on my second blogging experience, and don't forget- live better today than you did yesterday!