Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Over 6 years ago I started teaching middle school science.  I accepted this new position to be closer to my then fiance, now husband, but was very nervous about teaching middle school-ers.  I had only taught high school science before that, so I was nervous how middle school kids would react to me.  Truth be told - after six years, I loved it!  While I will always have a fondness for high school students and the connections you build over four years, I have a soft spot for middle school now.   Being able to try new things, having them still think my jokes are somewhat funny, and helping them deal with the problems associated with growing up, are things I really enjoy. 

Every once in awhile a connection you make with a student sticks with you for a long time.  I was lucky enough to meet Whitley over 6 years ago when I started teaching middle school and she was one of my high school cheerleaders.  I've seen her grow from a young lady nervous to leave home to a confident young woman taking on the world at a University.  She's kind and patient (great qualities for a future teacher!) and genuinely cares about other people.  I can't wait to see what she's up to next!

Today she is coming to visit us and have dinner!  Since we moved she only lives about 20 minutes away and I want her to feel like she has a place she can go to when college just seems like too much.  I know I went home very frequently during college and not being able to all of the time would be hard.

To celebrate her coming for dinner, I made raspberry oatmeal bars!  Chewy, sweet, and crumbly these bars are great!  I am a big fan of raspberry and lemon and that combination in this dessert is a home-run!  I'm sure other jams would be great in this also.  These WILL be put in our dessert rotation! Plus they don't use very many ingredients.  Bonus!

To start, melt a stick of butter and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla. 

Then mix together your dry ingredients.  Flour, sugar, baking powder, xanthum gum, oats, salt and lemon zest.  I used a zester and took a couple swipes at the lemon.  I've been doing a little research about the xanthum gum.  It seems as though it's main job is to be a binder in dishes that don't use wheat flour.  I think if you used wheat flour in this instead of oat flour, you wouldn't need the xanthum gum.  Just a thought!

Stir in the melted butter mixture until the dough is crumbly.

Then press 1 cup of the mixture onto the bottom of an 8x8 inch glass pan that has been greased.  I used a cooking spray.

Now for the delicious raspberry filling.  Stir raspberry jam and 1 tsp. vanilla together.

Then spread the yummy goodness on top of the crust.

Top with the rest of the dough mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is slightly brown.

These are fantastic!  I haven't been able to find a lot of recipes that are easy to make like this - but this one is!  Easy, quick and delicious.  You can't go wrong!

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
As seen on the back of the Bob's Red Mill oat flour package

1/2 cup vegan butter melted
2 tsp. vanilla - divided
1 cup Oat flour
1 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp sea salt
2/3 cup raspberry jam

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees 
2.  Grease an 8x8 inch glass dish
3.  Melt butter and stir in 1 tsp. vanilla 
4.  Mix together flour, oats, sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder and lemon zest in a medium sized bowl.
5.  Add melted butter mixture and stir.  Dough will be crumbly.
6.  Press 1 cup dough onto bottom of glass pan.
7.  Mix raspberry jam and 1 tsp. vanilla together in small bowl.
8.  Spread evenly over dough.
9.  Sprinkle remaining dough on top of jam mixture.  
10.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until top is slightly brown.


*** Side note.  The next time I make this I would double the amount of jelly mixture in the center.  That would make this even juicer!

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Best Homemade Granola Bars

Happy Friday Everybody!

 We are enjoying our Friday playing "lots and lots," and taking a walk to the park.  This weekend we get to enjoy the Iowa State Fair.  Last year was my first year attending and we are looking forward to heading back this year.  Our food choices will be a little more limited this year (I'll miss you Tom Tom donuts) but I'm sure we will have a great time!  Our little 3 year old princess also gets fitted for her dance attire tomorrow.  Can you imagine how cute she'll be in her dance leotard, tights and shoes?!?!  I think I might be more excited than she is!

We also celebrated baby boys 6 month birthday yesterday!  6 months old I can hardly believe it!  He's getting into everything now.  So much scooting and inch-worming along.  He loves to watch his big sister play and eats big boy baby food now.  He's such a happy little guy!

Now onto the good stuff.  I would venture to say these are the Best Homemade Granola Bars you will EVER MAKE!  I know that is a big statement - but these are AMAZING!  Plus, they can be customized however you like them.  We enjoy ours 'free life' style, but many people I have shared the recipe with make it using 'regular' ingredients.  Whatever you decide to do .... JUST MAKE THEM!  You won't be sorry - I promise!

Healthier than boxed granola bars, these yummy, gooey treats are filling and just down right delicious.  They taste like you are eating a dessert.  Plus, they do not have a ton of ingredients in them!  Have I convinced you yet?  Try them!

Start by mixing up your dry ingredients; oats, flour, baking soda and brown sugar.  I used oat flour, but you could use regular flour and they will taste just as good!

Then add the liquids; honey, melted vegan butter (but you could use margarine or regular butter) and vanilla.

Then mix it up!

Here's where you get to be a little creative.  We like ours with chocolate chips (vegan-style) but you could use whatever you like!  My mom and dad enjoy add dried cranberries and almond slivers to theirs.  Other types of nuts would be great too.  Or white chocolate chips and cranberries.  Or marshmallows.  Oh the possibilities are endless!

It helps if you have a helper who likes to add the chocolate chips too! She started off all nice and cute using a measuring spoon .....

But then decided dumping was much more fun!

Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, let cool and enjoy!  I store mine in the refrigerator to keep them hard, but they don't last long!

The Best Homemade Granola Bars
Based on the granola bars found at the co-op in the Iowa City area

2 1/4 cups oats
1/2 cup oat flour (or regular flour, you pick!)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegan butter, melted (you can use regular butter or margarine too!)
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons brown sugar
A few handfuls vegan chocolate chips ~ optional

1.  Mix all of your dry ingredients together (oats, flour, baking soda, sugar)
2.  Melt butter
3.  Add wet ingredients (vanilla, butter, honey) to dry ingredients.
4.  Mix well
5.  Add whatever toppings you like.  I used vegan chocolate chips
6.  Grease an 8x8 glass dish and press bars into pan. (I've only ever used a glass dish and it works great!)
7.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes


Have a great weekend!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Smokey Lemon Grilled Chicken

What says summertime better than firing up the grill, watermelon, green beans and a tropical fruity drink.  This recipe encompasses the flavors and tastes of summertime!  Lemon, watermelon, grilled chicken - yum!

To start this wonderful concoction of summertime you'll need to marinade your chicken.  I used frozen chicken breast and thawed them in the microwave for 10 minutes or so.  While the chicken was working, I made the marinade.  This could not be easier!

Zest one of the lemons and add the juice of both to a small bowl. 

Next add your spices!  1 teaspoon each cumin and oregano, a dash of salt and pepper and a half cup olive oil.

Whisk together and it is done!  See, couldn't be easier!

Put your thawed chicken in a dish and poke it with a fork.  I did this to try and get the marinade into all parts of the chicken.  I'm not a fan of just having the flavor of the marinade on the skin.  I like the whole bird to have some flava'.

Next pour the marinade over top, cover and pop in the refrigerator until you are ready to grill.  I let mine sit for about 2 hours.

The hubby grilled the chicken until it was no longer pink on the inside.  We served it with watermelon and green beans.  The smokey flavor of the cumin and the brightness of the lemon combined perfectly!  The chicken was moist and flavorful.  The watermelon and green beans were great compliments!  Corn on the cob would be FANTASTIC with this, but since we are corn free - we skipped that.  I miss corn on the cob more than I thought I would, but it isn't fair to eat it in front of the little lady, and you can't quite shame eat corn on the cob in the pantry very well. Although it might be worth a shot!

Smokey Lemon Grilled Chicken
modified from:

Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons ( about 6 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon oregano flakes
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 chicken breast

1.  Zest 1 lemon into a small bowl.
2.  Add juice of 2 lemons, oregano, cumin, olive oil, salt and pepper.
3.  Whisk to combine.
4.  Pour over thawed chicken and let set for 2 or more hours.
5.  Grill and enjoy!