Granola Bars

One of our big grocery expenses is Clif Bars for Daniel. He loves them.

We have been discussing alternative options for the bars and Daniel asked if I could make something similar. Since that conversation, I have been on the hunt for a good recipe.

Over the course of the last month I tried several different recipes. One had condensed milk {low fat} as a key ingredient. Another had peanut butter and honey as the sticky component. I have been experimenting with the bases and trying different flavors. 

Then I jumped off the wagon and tried Popcorn Balls with Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Pretzels {it was a healthy snack with popcorn in lieu of oats}. Daniel was not amused {I thought they were delicious}. He emailed me to ask if I had lost my mind and why were their popcorn kernels that he might chip a tooth on in his granola bars???

I guess I got a bit distracted from the task at hand. I didn’t think it was a big deal, but when the story of the popcorn balls was shared with both my family and his mom and sister, I learned that maybe I was a little off my rocker on this one.

So yesterday I returned to my senses and went back to the recipe that Daniel liked the most. It is simple and fairly healthy {high calorie, but CalorieCount.com gave it a B-}.
They taste great and I still plan on experimenting with the flavors some… after all, if you know me, you know I don’t cook the same recipe very often.

Granola Bars {that are not Popcorn Balls}
Recipe adapted from A Recipe A Day
Ingredients
2 cups quick oats
1 cup old-fashioned oats
2 tbsp flaxseed
14 oz sweetened condensed milk {I used Eagle Brand, low fat}
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup craisins

Directions

Heat oven to 350ºF.
 

Line a 11×7-inch pan with lightly-greased parchment paper. 

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl then spread into the prepared pan, evenly pressing into the corners and out to the sides.

Bake 20-25 minutes until the edges are golden brown {use slightly less time for chewier bars and slightly more time for crunchier bars}

Let bars cool for 5 minutes in the pan before using the parchment paper to lift them from the pan. Use a sharp knife to cut into bars.

Let the bars cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Makes 8 bars. 

Chocolate Oreo Cake


Saturday we went to Chattanooga to hang out with TTU friends – can’t believe it has been almost 10 years since we were in Cookeville!

Since Jack is still little, we opted to go down just for an evening of dinner and games {everyone else met earlier in the day for lunch and bowling}. 


I hate to show up to a get together empty handed, so I raided my cupboards to see what I could whip up… 


I had a container of Hershey’s Cocoa Powder and it had a recipe for a chocolate cake on the back. I also had leftover Oreos from the Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars that I made for Valentines Day. So I decided to make a cake topped with Oreos and Cool Whip. It turned out to be incredibly moist and delicious – definitely a hit.


Chocolate Oreo Cake


Ingredients

2 cups white sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup HERSHEY®’S Cocoa Powder

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 cup hot fudge sauce*

1 cup boiling water

Oreos, 1/2 package chopped (or as many as you want).

Cool Whip


Directions

Heat oven to 350º F. 

Spray cooking spray in 9x13x2 pan.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in large bowl. 

Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes. 

Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). I found this step to be odd, but I think it made the cake incredibly moist.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Cool cake then top with oreos and finally cool whip. 

Serve with a glass of milk.

*Update: I forgot to include the secret ingredient when I first posted. Hot fudge sauce for the win.

Valentines Day and a Recipe

V-Day was pretty low key for us. On Monday I sent Daniel to pick up groceries since I was in Chattanooga most of the afternoon. At the top of my grocery list I put “Valentines Card.” I was being cheeky as I was pretty sure my sweet husband wouldn’t forget.

Later that evening, he informed me that I should provide a service for people where I make their shopping lists… for convenience I had written the items in order of where they are located in the store. I figured this would make the shopping experience less of a hassle for Daniel.


Tuesday morning I woke up and found that Daniel had left me a vase of purple tulips on the counter {one of my favorite flowers}. He also had a “card” set out for me. Evidently Walmart only had 4 options for cards left and there was a rather large line of people {presumably men?} waiting to look at said cards. Instead Daniel found a scrap of plywood and wrote me out a letter. In all honesty, it was much sweeter than some generic card.


For him, I made dinner and dessert. A deep dish pizza with homemade crust {one of our faves}.
Followed by Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars with Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert and a homemade card. There were quite a bit of leftovers so I cut them up into small pieces and sent them to work with Daniel {you can’t have that kind of chocolate goodness laying around the house}.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie n’ Oreo Fudge Brownie Bars
Recipe found at Kevin & Amanda
Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/8 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2
tsp salt
1 cup (6 oz) chocolate chips
1 pkg Double Stuffed Oreos
1 Family Size (9×13) Brownie mix
1/4 cup hot fudge topping

Directions

Preheat oven to 350º F. 

Cream butter and both sugars in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. 

Add egg and vanilla.

Mix to thoroughly combine. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt.

Slowly incorporate into the mixer until the flour is just combined. 

Stir in chocolate chips. Spread the cookie dough in the bottom of a 11×7 baking dish that’s been lined with wax paper and sprayed with cooking spray. 

Top cookie dough with a layer of Oreos. 

Mix together brownie mix {according to package directions}.

Add an optional 1/4 cup of hot fudge topping to the mix. 

Pour the brownie batter over the cookie dough and Oreos. 

Bake at 350º F for 45-55 minutes. Let cool completely* before cutting — brownies may still be gooey in the middle when still warm, but will set up perfectly once cooled. 

*I actually cut mine while warm and served with Ice Cream on top. They were messy but so good.

Comfort Food: Tuna, Pasta and Cheese Gratin

Also known as Tuna Noodle Casserole.
I am a big fan of this kind of casserole, but since I rarely cook the same thing twice, I have long since lost my favorite version of this recipe. I was really excited to come across a close enough version from Elizabeth’s Edible Experience {she adapted her version of the casserole from a William Sonoma recipe.

I don’t know what makes me love this casserole so much. I think that it reminds me of Wilderness Trek
Tuna, Pasta and Cheese Gratin
Adapted from
Elizabeth’s Edible Experience

Ingredients

  • 1lb whole wheat rigatoni pasta
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • ground nutmeg, to taste
  • 8 oz tuna, packed in sunflower oil
  • 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 2-quart baking dish.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to the package. Drain and transfer to a bowl and set aside.

In a saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and celery in olive oil. Set aside. 

Melt 4 tbs of butter. Add the flour, stirring until fully incorporated, about 3 minutes; do not allow to brown.
Slowly add the milk and cream, whisking constantly.
Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until smooth and thickened, about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Add the sauce to the macaroni and mix well.
Fold in the tuna, onions, celery and cheese.
Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Top with the bread crumbs. Finally, cut the remaining 2 tbs of butter into bits and use to dot the top of the gratin.
Bake until bubbly and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes.

Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup

Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup 
Recipe adapted from from SkinnyTaste {the SkinnyTaste version is probably a little healthier}
Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped and sauteed in 2 tsp olive oil {I skipped this step}
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups low sodium fat-free chicken broth
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup chipotle salsa
  • 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 oz V8 tomato juice {the recipe actually calls for 14.5 oz can of petite diced tomatoes, for some reason I was out of tomatoes, so I substituted V8 juice and it was great… in the future I might add tomatoes in addition to the V8}.
  • 8 oz can whole kernel corn
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp ranch dressing {I used this as a thickener, I think sour cream, cream or milk would also work}
  • shredded cheddar cheese {optional as topping}
  • sour cream {optional as topping}
Directions:
  • Put everything {except ranch dressing, cheese and sour cream} into a crock pot.
  • Cook on low heat for 4-6 hours.
  • Remove chicken and shred with two forks. 
  • Add chicken back into the soup.
  • Stir in ranch dressing and allow to cook for an additional 15 minutes to thicken your soup.
  • Serve in bowls and top with sour cream, cheese and Baked Corn Tortilla Chips.
Baked Corn Tortilla Chips
Ingredients:
  • Small Corn Tortillas
  • Salt
Directions:
  • Heat oven to 400º F.
  • Cut tortillas into fourths and place on cookie sheets so that none are touching.
  • Salt to taste.
  • Bake for 10 minutes {turning chips over halfway through} or until golden brown and crispy on edges.
  • Let chips set for 5 minutes to harden once you remove from oven.

New Years Update

I just realized that I never posted about our New Years.

The day before New Year’s Eve, Daniel’s college roommate and his family came to see us. They have a one-year-old little boy who is adorable. It was great to catch up with our old friends – staying up way too late and eating really rich chocolate mousse cheesecake while we visited.

Recipe from Blue-Eyed Bakers

New Year’s Eve we went for a walk at a local park and visited Unclaimed Baggage – our guests always seem to want to make a stop here. After lunch they headed home.


It has been a long time since Daniel and I did anything extra special for New Year’s Eve. This year we took Jack to Cracker Barrel. We have actually taken him to quite a few restaurants in his short life and normally he sleeps through the meal. Not this time. He got a little fussy and we discovered that he just wanted to sit in Daniel’s lap so that he could watch us eat. We received really great service from our waitress… I think she just made extra stops at our table to that she could talk to Jack. When we got home we stayed up to watch the ball drop.


New Year’s Day was gorgeous. We ate breakfast on our back porch and then took Jack out for his first ride on a four wheeler.


The day after New Years Jack and I headed to Nashville to spend some time with my family, including some of my extended family who had driven down from Canada and my parents. Jack is turning into quite the traveler – we had a three week span where we either had guests at our house or we were traveling to see family almost EVERY DAY.

We hope you had fun ringing in the new year.

Gingerbread Cookie Ornaments

In the last couple of years Daniel and I have started the tradition of having two Christmas trees {mostly due to having a living room and a bonus room}. Anyways, our bonus room holds our small, fake tree that we bought from Big Lots when we were first married {9 years ago}. We decorate this tree with the ornaments that we have been collecting over the years.
The second tree is a {large} real tree in our living room. We decorate this tree with white twinkle lights and homemade ornaments – usually I bake gingerbread cookies and string popcorn. This year’s tree is ginormous and seeing that I am a new mom, I decided {wisely} that I didn’t have time to string popcorn. Instead I made a white and red paper ring garland out of construction paper {pictures to come in a later post}.


Yesterday, thanks to my Moby Wrap, I was able to spend an afternoon baking cookies without Jack fussing too much. 


I tried a new recipe this year and am really pleased with the outcome.

I will write another post later this week when the tree is finished being decorated, so keep posted.

Gingerbread Cookie Ornament Recipe
Ingredients
  • 6 tbsp Crisco
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 cups flour 
  • 2 cups water

Directions
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat Crisco and sugar together in a large bowl. 
  • Stir in molasses.
  • Mix baking soda, ground cloves, ginger, cinnamon and flour together in a large bowl. 
  • Alternate adding the water and flour mixture to the shortening mixture.
  • Stir until mixed thoroughly and refrigerate 2 hours.
  • Divide dough into three equal sections and knead each section lightly
  • Use a rolling pin to roll out dough to a 1/8-inch thickness.
  • Use festive cookie cutters to cut out your ornaments.
  • Use a drinking straw or chopstick to make a hole at the top of each ornament.
  • Place cookie cutouts on cookie sheets and bake for about 20 minutes. 
  • Place cookies on cooling racks to harden.
  • Thread a 12-inch length of narrow ribbon through the hole at the top of each ornament. Knot the ends of the ribbon and hang your ornaments.

Makes about 6 dozen cookie ornaments.

    *You can paint these cookies, but I prefer the simplicity of the cutouts. They smell wonderful.