Homemade Granola Bars

I’ve had this recipe bookmarked for awhile. I really like the idea of making my own granola bars. I’ve been on a muesli kick for awhile now, and decided it was time to make some granola. I usually keep granola bars in my purse when I have to go to the hospital for doctor appointments and tests, since I’m usually sitting around forever, waiting. I’m in love with the white chocolate macadamia Luna bars. These homemade bars are a much healthier option. I suppose I could have added some melted chocolate to these, but they are so good on their own. They remind me of the Two Moms in the Raw bars they sell at Starbucks and Nordstrom’s snack bar, I love the gojiberry one. Have you ever had one of these bars? They are delicious, and I’m so glad my granola bars taste very similar to them.

I’m glad to have another product that I can now make myself so I don’t have to buy a prepacked version. Can you tell I’m obsessed about controlling what goes in my food? When you have abdominal issues, this becomes a must.

Another plus is how easy these are to make. I haven’t had much energy the past couple weeks, but these came together rather quickly. These bars were plenty sweet for me, since I don’t eat much sugar, but if you like things sweet I’d stir in more (up to 1/4 c brown sugar). I sprinkled brown sugar on top to give the tops of the bars a bit of a sweet, sugar crunch.

Granola Bars
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Yield: about 16 bars

2 c rolled oats
½ c chopped almonds
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c uncooked quinoa
½ c shredded coconut (I used ¼ c dried coconut)
2 Tbl ground flaxseed meal
2/3 cup honey, agave or combo of both
1 ½ tsp vanilla
2-3 Tbl flaxseed oil
pinch kosher salt
¼-½ tsp cinnamon
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ c chopped dried fruit, or a mix of your favorite dried fruit (I chopped up dried apricots, and tossed in dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds)
~2 Tbl brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 350F.

Toss the oatmeal, nuts, quinoa, coconut, and flaxseed meal together on a 9 x 13” baking sheet or dish (I used a 9 x 13”cake pan). Bake 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted and lightly browned.

Reduce oven to 300F.

While oats are toasting, combine honey, vanilla, flaxseed oil, salt and spices in the bottom of a large bowl. Whisk to combine. Pour in toasted oats and stir with a spatula to moisten. Stir in dried fruit.

Line your baking sheet or dish with parchment paper or grease with nonstick spray (I used the same cake pan and lined it with parchment paper; one less dish to dirty).

Pour the oat and fruit mixture into prepared baking dish and press down firmly to pack down the mixture as much as possible. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top.

Bake at 300F ~30 minutes until mixture is golden brown. Allow to cool a few hours before cutting into bars or squares. Store in airtight container at room temperature. Or freeze. I wrapped mine in cling wrap, popped them in a freezer bag and froze the bars so we could grab them as needed, they don’t take long to thaw.

Source: adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Spinach and Lentil Soup

Lately I’ve been making a lot of soups/stews because they’re quick, easy, and we can eat leftovers another night, thus saving me a day in the kitchen. I have been looking through a lot of cookbooks, magazines, blogs, etc looking for soup recipes that look interesting. I read good reviews about Jamie Oliver’s book Jamie’s Diet Revolutionand decided to buy it. It’s really good. He gives great tips and the recipes are basic enough that you can adapt them to your own personal tastes; I love recipes that are adaptable to what you have in your kitchen. I’ve only had time to try a few recipes and thus far they have been great. However, this one really stood out as being extra delicious. I saw that it served 6-8 and decided not to halve the recipe because I planned on freezing some of it to have on a night that I didn’t feel like cooking. But once I made it, Mr.Surly ate so much of it that there wasn’t enough left over to save. I added some of my favorite spices to the recipe to liven it up a bit. We really liked the cumin flavor. I can’t wait to try more of the recipes in this book.

Lentil and Spinach Soup
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Serves 6

2 carrots, sliced (I used about 1 c sliced baby carrots)
2 celery stalks, sliced (I used about 1 c )
2 medium onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used 4 cloves because I love garlic)
1 ¾ quarts vegetable broth (I only had 1 qt veggie broth, so I used that plus 3 c water)
Thumb sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced (I grated mine with a microplane)
½ to 1 fresh red chile, sliced (I used a Serrano pepper)
10 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 c red lentils (I used green lentils)
7 c (7 oz) spinach (I used a 10 oz bag of fresh organic spinach)
cumin, to taste
curry, to taste
ancho chile powder, to taste
turmeric, to taste
Sea salt
Olive oil

Add about 2 Tbl olive oil to a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add broth and water cover and simmer while you chop up the ginger, chile, and tomatoes.

Add the ginger, chile, lentils, to pot. Cover and cook until lentils are soft. I was in no hurry to eat, so I simmered on med low heat for about an hour. If you crank the heat up, it could be done sooner.

Taste the soup and season with salt, pepper, and any spices of your choice. I felt it needed some flavor, so I added a couple palm-fulls of cumin, curry, a bit of cayenne, turmeric, and some ancho chili powder.

When ready to serve, if desired, add a dollop of yogurt (I used greek yogurt). I had some chives that needed to be used up, so I chopped those up and sprinkled them on top for garnish.

Source: Adapted from Jamie’s Food Revolution by Jamie Oliver

Pork and Sauerkraut

Everyone, I’m sure has their own New Year’s traditions. Southerners eat black-eyed peas (which resemble coins), Italians eat lentils (which, again, look like coins), some eat fish (fish swim forward, therefore, by eating fish you can move forward in the new year), greens (kale, cabbage, collard greens, because green=money) and of course pork (since pigs root around and push their snouts forward). Growing up in my family, my grandmother, who is of German descent, believed firmly in eating pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day. Grammy’s secret to making sauerkraut more palatable was to sprinkle brown sugar over it. Any New Year’s that I stopped by for a visit this dish is what she would have in the oven. As kids, my sister, brother, and I were never really excited to eat sauerkraut. It smelled so bad, kinda like sweaty feet. But my sweet Grammy would make all of us eat at least one bite of sauerkraut (which was usually mixed in with mashed potatoes) to give us luck in the coming year. As I got older and my tastebuds changed, I began to warm up to sauerkraut, happily eating it on New Years. Sadly, to this day, neither of my siblings upholds the tradition of pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s. I have been faithful to this tradition, though. Even in college, I would make pork and sauerkraut on New Year’s day for myself and any friends who wanted to join me. Grammy would be so pleased when I would call to wish her a happy New Year and to let her know that I was being a good German girl by eating my pork and sauerkraut.

Now, it’s my turn to make sure that my boyfriend, who isn’t a fan of sauerkraut, eats at least one bite on New Year’s for good luck. Usually, I’m the one who ends up eating the sauerkraut leftovers, but this year that all changed. My boyfriend actually willingly ate 2 servings of sauerkraut, and even ate most of the leftovers. I was shocked and happy. I tweaked my methods slightly this year and came up with how I will probably prepare my sauerkraut next year. Also, I noticed that this year my kitchen didn’t reek of cabbage, nor did the refrigerator. I’m not sure what my luck was, but I’m going to guess it was from the apple and apple juice I added this year.

Pork and Sauerkraut
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Serves 4

4 boneless pork chops
1 bag sauerkraut
1 apple, cored and sliced (I used a gala)
Brown sugar, to taste
Cinnamon, to taste
Apple juice or apple cider

Season both sides of each pork chop with salt and pepper. Sear in skillet over med-high heat until each side is lightly browned.*

Put some sauerkraut in the bottom of a baking dish, and sprinkle with brown sugar, then assemble the pork chops in dish. I laid the apple slices around the pork and sprinkled them with cinnamon and brown sugar. Then top the pork chops with the rest of the sauerkraut, and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Pour some apple juice or cider over everything (I didn’t measure, but I think I used about 1/3 c). Cover with foil and bake in oven at 350F until the pork is cooked through. My pork chops were thick so this took about 45 minutes.

When I check the pork for doneness (after about 30 min), I also test the sauerkraut to make sure it’s no longer sour, but nicely sweetened. If it still tastes sour I just sprinkle more brown sugar over it.

I baked the pork uncovered for the last 5-10 minutes to reduce the apple juice a bit. Serve and enjoy a New Year filled with luck.

*Note: sometimes I don’t sear the pork, I just put it into the dish and let it bake. It’s up to you and if you want to dirty another dish