Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hazelnut Asian Pear Granola Bars

I'm obsessed with making granola bars.  It all started with a mini temper tantrum I had when the Kashi granola bars I had bought were gone after only two days.  And Connor doesn't even eat them, so they were polished off by only two of us.  Tim and I both like to have something quick at work between meals, and Kashi brand seemed to be the healthiest choice when it came to granola bars.  At $3.99 for a box of six, it was getting ridiculously expensive. 

And so I turned to one of my favorite healthy recipe resources, Whole Grain Gourmet.  I found a recipe for coconut almond granola bars and did my usual subsitutions and the result was something pretty delicious.  It filled a 13x9 inch pan, so as you can imagine they bars lasted much longer than the Kashi bars did.  A bonus was that Connor loved them too, so I didn't have to buy as many of his school snacks that week as I usually did.

When you are buying the ingredients for this recipe, you will probably be swearing at me in your head because they are relatively expensive.  However, I have made this recipe three times and have not had to purchase any of the ingredients again, with the exception of other dried fruits and nuts so I could make them different each time.  The initial investment is definitely worth it in the long run.  If you are a healthy cook/baker like I am, chances are you already have some of these ingredients on hand.

What's really cool about this recipe is that you can substitute any dried fruit and nuts that you like.  The first time, I used almond and apricots just as the recipe calls for, but substitued half of them for dates.  The second time I used dried blueberries and pecans.  And this morning, I tried hazelnuts and dried Asian pears, which I didn't even know existed until I bumped into them at Wegmans yesterday in the dried fruit section.  The bars are somewhere between chewy and crispy and keep really well.  And the best thing is that you know exactly what is in them- which means no preservatives or artificial anything!  We really love the sesame seed in them, but you could certainly substitute another kind of seed.  I think I may try dark chocolate chip granola bars next time!

Enjoy the recipe, and if you try an interesting variation, let me know about it!

Hazelnut Asian Pear Granola Bars (based on a recipe from Whole Grain

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup 7-grain cereal (Bob's Red Mill)
  • 1/2 cup oat bran  (I used wheat bran)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped hazelnuts
  • 1/4 cup roasted sesame seeds
  • 2/3 cup organic raw honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbsp + 1/2 tsp virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried Asian pears, diced fine
  • 1/2 cup shredded dried coconut (unsweetened)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lighly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish with 1/2 tsp coconut oil.
  3. Place oats, 7-grain cereal, wheat bran, hazelnuts, and shredded dried coconut on a large rimmed cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, stir up the mixture several times for even roasting. Mixture should take on a nice medium golden-brown tone. Do not allow it to burn(This actually only took about 10 minutes in my oven).
  4. During the last 7 minutes that the oat cereal mixture is roasting, combine the honey, 3 Tbsp coconut oil, vanilla, and salt in a large saucepan. Place over a medium-low heat for about 7 minutes. The honey should be hot enough to flow freely and combine with the oil.
  5. When you remove the cereal from the oven, reduce the heat to 300 degrees.
  6. Add the cereal mixture and sesame seeds to the honey and stir to combine. Add the minced apricots and mix well  (If you buy sesame seeds that are not already roasted, you can roast them with the cereal mixture above).
  7. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Using a flat spatula, firmly press the mixture into the dish, ensuring an even distribution and level surface.
  8. Bake for 25 minutes at 300 degrees. When you remove the dish from the oven, slice the baked cereal into the size and number of bars you would like. Be careful to not crumble the bars as you slice. If necessary lightly press down with your spatula on any bars that need reshaping after the cut. The bars will be soft and crumbly while they are hot. Allow them to cool completely before attempting to remove from pan.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Blueberry Cheesecake

Ever since my daughter Carly posted this picture of my blueberry cheesecake on facebook, I have been inundated with requests for the recipe. Or at least for a slice of it. But that sucker was gone the very next day, so you'll all have to be satisfied with the recipe! This was another instance when I left Carly completely unsettled by telling her that the dessert she was proclaiming to be "one of the best things I've ever tasted" was actually made with healthy ingredients. No matter how many times I prove it to her, she just doesn't want to admit that healthy desserts can be delicious. So after stammering a bit she says, "Now all I can think about is how much BETTER it would be be with sugar and full fat cream cheese!" Ok, Carly.
I didn't actually invent this one from scratch. I started with my recipe for agave vanilla bean cheesecake that I posted on my blog in April, 2011. With just a few changes- omitting the vanilla bean, adding lemon, and inventing a new topping, I ended up with an improved version of the original. It has a light crust made with almond flour that Carly called "unassuming." She meant it as a compliment compared with cakes or pies with a heavy, sugary crust that distracts the palate from the flavors of the actual dessert. The topping turned out surprisingly well considering that I had no idea what I was doing. I just knew that I was not satisfied with the thick, floury strawberry topping I had made with the original cheesecake last year. For the blueberry topping, I found a jar of organic all-fruit preserves that I melted on the stove and miixed with fresh blueberries. I just needed a little agave nectar to sweeten it up and it was perfect.
Looking forward to making this one again. Although I may have to make two as I have promised a slice to several people who didn't get to try it the first time!
Blueberry Agave Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups almond flour 2 Tablespoons melted butter 1 Tablespoon agave nectar Crust: Mix above ingredients together in a bowl and press into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake at 375 degrees until set and crust is a light brown. Set aside. Raise temperature of oven to 400 degrees. 3 (8 oz.)pkg. reduced fat cream cheese at room temperature (I used 2 pkg low-fat, and 1 pkg full fat) 3 eggs (preferably organic), at room temperature 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract Grated rind of one lemon 1 cup agave nectar 1/4 cup sour cream. Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, scraping bowl often. Open vanilla beans with a knife and scrape the insides into the bowl. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth, scraping bowl. Pour batter onto crust. Place in a water bath in the center of oven, then immediately turn the temperature down to 200 degrees. Bake an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, until temperature in center reaches 155 degrees. Cool completely. Blueberry Topping: Heat 2/3 cup of all fruit preserves on stove over low heat until liquified. (I used Crofter's organic wild blueberry spread). Whisk in 1-2 Tablespoons of agave nectar to taste. Toss with 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries while still warm. Spread over cooled cheesecake. Refrigerate.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mouth-Watering Dark Chocolate Truffles

I'm back! Having taken a few months off from blogging during my musical season, I've definitely been making and creating some recipes worthy of sharing. Unfortunately I don't always write the particulars down right away and then I am left with the task of remembering exact amounts of ingredients. Luckily, these truffles are super simple to remember and equally simple to make if you are willing to deal with messy hands. I find that many of my favorite recipes are made with the fewest ingredients, and these truffles are no exception. As you know by now, I have a passion for creating healthier versions of recipes and the great thing about these truffles is that they taste decadent even though they are made with evaporated skim milk instead of heavy cream. You will never know the difference. And fun part is that you can make them different every time by varying the liqueur that you use and the ingredients that you roll them in. I used black raspberry liqueur and rolled them in large flake natural coconut, chopped pecans, and Dutch cocoa so we would have three different varieties. The coconut ones were my favorite, but I am anxious to try different combinations of flavors next time. A great little "healthy" treat, as long as you are capable of stopping at one or two!

Dark Chocolate Truffles
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
1 bag Ghiradelli 60% cacao chocolate chips
1-2 tablespoons black raspberry liqueur (or other liqueur)
2 (3 1/2 oz) bars 70% cacao chocolate (I used Lindt Excellent- the BEST dark chocolate IMO)
Choice of toppings- chopped nuts, coconut, cocoa, brown rice cereal, etc.

Heat the evaportated milk until scalding but not boiling. Pour over chocolate chips in a glass bowl and let sit one minute. Whisk until melted. If chips are not melted, microwave ten seconds at a time, whisking until melted. Whisk in liqueur. Refrigerate until thickened, whisking occasionally. Roll into balls, coating hands with cocoa to prevent sticking.
Melt 70% chocolate in the top of a double boiler until smooth. Dip balls in melted chocolate, coating evenly. Roll in topping and set on parchment lined cookie sheet. Set in refrigerator. Truffles should be stored in the refrigerator until eaten or the centers will become too soft.