Granola Bars for New Parents

by Laura

We have a lot of friends right now who are new parents or expecting and I always struggle to think of a thoughtful gift to take when the new baby arrives. I think you can't go wrong with food dropped on the doorstep. Katherine tipped me off to these granola bars from Smitten Kitchen a while back, and it has been my go-to for new parents ever since. They are delicious and can be a great snack or breakfast, they are relatively healthy and there are infinite variations depending on personal taste and what you have on hand.

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups oats

1/3 cup oats ground in food processor (can also use oat flour)

2/3 granulated sugar

3/4 tsp kosher salt

dash of cinnamon

2 cups mixed nuts (I like pecans best, but have used combinations of walnuts, pecans and cashews and all are delicious)

1/2 cup dried fruit (I have used raisins, craisins and a combination of the two. Want to try dried mango next!)

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup flax meal 

1/3 cup peanut butter (softened in microwave for 30-45 seconds)

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbsp butter, melted

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tbsp honey

1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare an 8" x 8" glass pan with parchment paper so it hangs off the sides (makes it easy to pop out after cooking!). Spray pan with non-stick spray. 

Mix together both oats, sugar, salt, nuts, fruit, coconut and flax meal in a large bowl. Note that you can use varying proportions of the fruit/nut/coconut concoction depending on your taste (e.g. leave out all the fruit, add chocolate chips, etc.). In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients and then combine with the dry ingredients. Spread the mixture into prepared pan (it comes up almost all the way to the top of the pan - don't worry!). Cook for 30 minutes or until they are golden on top and around the edges. Let cool and then cut into squares.

Taste one just to make sure they are good before delivering to friends -- it is the right thing to do!

 

 

Green Smoothie

By Katherine

For years, I've been a cereal-and-milk-for-breakfast kind of lady.  But recently, with Sean preaching about the greatness of going paleo, I decided to experiment with reducing the amount of grains I eat every day. A few days a week, I've been trading my cereal for a smoothie.  In the past, I scoffed at a smoothie breakfast - it didn't feel like real food, and I was always hungry again by 10am.  I wanted to put together a smoothie that was healthy (but didn't taste horrible), that had substantial amounts of protein and fiber, and that wasn't full of sugar.  Here is what I came up with: 

Before...

Before...

1/2 cup coconut water

1 tablespoon peanut butter

1 tablespoon ground flaxseed

2 cups kale leaves, large stems removed

2/3 cup frozen blueberries

1 small banana

1 cup ice

Add all ingredients to blender and pulverize.  Our Blendtec blender on the "smoothie" setting works great (though does make quite a racket in the early mornings when I'm making this - sorry neighbors!).   This makes about 16 oz. of smoothie, which I drink all by myself, but could be shared by two people with lesser breakfast appetites. 

After! 

After! 

 I admit, the color is a little off-putting, but you shouldn't judge a book by its cover! This smoothie fills me up and keeps me going until lunchtime, which is a pretty rare occurrence for me.  Also, it has kale, so I feel totally virtuous.  I usually eyeball the ingredient amounts, and substitute liberally based on what's around (at times, I've used grapes, skim milk, and spinach instead of the blueberries, coconut water, and kale, all with pretty good success).  Please report back if you have any killer smoothie combos!

Brown Butter Peach Muffins

By Katherine

It was my turn again last week to bring in a treat for Friday Food Day, and I found myself once again turning to muffins.  Muffins are a great option because they are perfectly portable and, with the addition of fruit and some whole grains, they aren't totally sinful.  This is my favorite time of year for fruit - apricots, and cherries, and peaches, oh my! - so I wanted to incorporate some of the seasonal bounty.  These muffins were also a good excuse to use one of my favorite new ingredients:  barley flour. It's whole grain but still light and just a bit nutty - look for it at your supermarket and start adding a bit to your favorite recipes!

 

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Brown Butter Peach Muffins

Adapted from Food Network 

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup barley flour

1 Tbs. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 large egg

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup sour cream

1 1/2 cups chopped, peeled peaches

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray your muffin tins (I got 15 muffins out of this recipe).   Melt the butter in a saucepan over low heat.  When the butter foams, start whisking. Don't walk away from the stove at this point, as the butter can burn easily!  Whisk until you see lightly browned specks at the bottom of the pan and the butter begins to smell nutty. Remove the butter from the heat and set aside.  

In a large bowl, mix together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In another, smaller bowl, whisk the egg, then add the sugars and whisk until well-combined and thick.  Continue whisking, and add the milk and brown butter. Mix in the sour cream.  Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Add the chopped peaches and stir until just combined.  

Fill each muffin tin about 2/3 with batter.  Bake for 35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool the muffins for 10 minutes in their tins, then turn them out onto a rack to cool completely.  For serving, I highly recommend gilding the lily with this cinnamon honey butter. 

Muffin + honey butter + our new patio table = not a bad way to start the weekend!

Muffin + honey butter + our new patio table = not a bad way to start the weekend!

Chocolate Croissants

By Katherine

For Christmas, Sean's Uncle Steve and Aunt Pamela sent us a box of frozen chocolate croissants from Williams-Sonoma.   They are amazing!  Here's how it works. . . the night before, you take however many croissants you would like out of the freezer. Set them up on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, cover them with another sheet of parchment, and let them rise for about 9 hours (while you get your beauty rest). 

Croissants straight out of the freezer. If you're doing this at home, be sure to let them rise seam side down, so they don't unfold while rising.

Croissants straight out of the freezer. If you're doing this at home, be sure to let them rise seam side down, so they don't unfold while rising.

When you get up the next morning, your croissants will be all puffy and ready to go in the oven.  

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Bake them at 375 for 15-20 minutes, and voila! You have beautiful, warm, golden brown croissants! 

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We recently had a friend stay overnight with us, and she had to catch an early flight in the morning.  It was so nice to be able to send her off with a warm treat. 

Breakfast is served!

Breakfast is served!

Apparently, Oprah has included these on her Favorite Things in the past, and I am not one to disagree with Oprah.  But if you're not keen on shelling out $40 for a package of croissants and dealing with receiving a box packed with dry ice, Elissa tells me that the frozen chocolate croissants from Trader Joe's are just as good.  If anyone does a side-by-side taste test, please let us know the results!

Whole Wheat Apple Muffins

By Katherine

My co-workers and I have a little tradition we call Friday Food Day. The title is pretty self-explanatory, but we basically take turns bringing in a treat each Friday. Typically, it is a breakfast item, since we have to be at work earlier than usual on Fridays, and everyone needs a little push to get the day started. However, the bounds of "breakfast" have been stretched on occasion to include red velvet cupcakes and cookies. I'm not one to turn down cream cheese frosting, no matter what time of day it is, but I generally like to fool myself into thinking that my breakfast offers some health benefits. So when my turn came around on a recent Friday, I went searching for a recipe for a somewhat wholesome muffin. I found a winner on one of my favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen.  These whole wheat apple muffins are nice and moist, with big chunks of apple and some heartiness from the whole grain flour. I used about 1 3/4 cups of peeled and chopped Braeburn apples (they were on sale), and definitely don't skip the brown sugar topping--the sweet, crunchy top is a great contrast to the more virtuous bottom.

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