Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Homemade Granola Bars - who knew?

A few weeks ago, on Pinterest, I pinned a link to homemade granola bars.  Yesterday, I finally got around to making them, and WOW!  This really worked! 

Why am I constantly amazed when things I've been buying at the store are so easy to make?  Why do I always assume it will be difficult to replicate?  Why is the sky blue?  I DON'T KNOW, but I've got to stop! 

I followed the link that led to a link that led to a link to finally arrive at Lauren's Latest for the actual instructions. Just like she says in her post, I took her recipe and tweaked it to make it my own.  I highly encourage you to do the same.

Here is the basic original recipe from Lauren:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 cups quick cooking oats {not rolled oats!}
1 cup crispy rice cereal
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons mini chocolate chips

In a large bowl, stir oats and rice cereal together. Set aside. In a small pot, melt butter, honey and brown sugar together over medium high heat until it comes to a bubble. Reduce the heat and cook 2 minutes. Pour in vanilla and stir. Pour over dry ingredients and mix well to moisten all ingredients. Pour into lightly greased small jelly roll pan {about 12x8x1} and press out to be about 3/4 inch in thickness. {If your pan isn’t small enough, pack the mixture into one side. You really want to press them down so they stick together.} Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and press down lightly. Cool on a counter top to room temperature for two hours or until the chocolate chips are set before cutting into bars. Wrap in parchment or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.

I make them exactly as written the first time, and then I started making this my own.  In the first batch, I thought the honey overwhelmed the other ingredients.  I like honey, but I didn't want honey bars, so on the next batch, I used my 1/4 cup measure and put used 1/2 honey and 1/2 corn syrup.  You could also use the entire 1/4 cup of corn syrup.  I liked the corn syrup best... it's a personal preference.  You do need the entire 1/4 cup of some sticky sweetener, that's part of what holds this stuff together.  Skimp and they will fall apart.

Also, for my second batch, I omitted the vanilla.  I couldn't taste it in the first batch, so I deemed it unnecessary.  Instead of the 1/4 cup butter, I used 1/4 cup chunky peanut butter and 2 tbsp butter.  Then I added to the cereal and oats, 1/2 cup slivered almonds, and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds and 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips.  2 tablespoons in the original recipe was not enough chocolate...again personal preference! 

I also chose to use my 9 x 9 silicone baking pan.  9 x 9 mades the bars the exact thickness I like, and the silicone is so easy to pop them out to cut.  If you don't have a silicone pan, I highly recommend one!

So, here is batch #3.... dried blueberries and coconut!

Melt 1/4 cup butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup corn syrup in sauce pan.  While the butter melts, in a bowl, combine 2 cups quick oats, 1 cup rice cereal, 1/3 cup dried blueberries and 1/3 cup flaked coconut.  NOTE:  I used whole dried blueberries, next time I will chop them up.

Pour sugar mixture over the dry ingredients and stir, stir, stir.  It takes a couple of minutes to completely coat the dry ingredients.  If you are adding chocolate, wait until you have completely coated the dry ingredients and it's cooled just a bit - 3 or 4 minutes, or the chocolate will melt.

Then pour into your pan - again my recommendation is a 9 x 9 silicone pan and pat it down FIRMLY.  If you don't do this, your bars will fall apart and you will have granola sprinkles for your yogurt or ice cream.  Then stick the pan into the refrigerator for 5 minutes.

If you are using silicone, flip your chunk-o-granola out onto a cutting board to cut into rectangles.  If you are using a metal pan, cut in the pan.  Then put the bars into an airtight bag or container and store in the fridge. 
Save the little tidbits of granola that fall off your bars for yogurt or ice cream (or bonus for the cook!).

I don't really know how long these will last in the refrigerator.  I don't think I will get to find out, they are yummy!  I'm going to make the next batch with chocolate rice cereal, chunky peanut butter, mini chocolate chips and dehydrated bananas!  The possibilities are endless!  Thanks Lauren & Pinterest.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken Salad Two Ways

I L-O-V-E chicken salad.  I might eat it every day if it were up to me.  Sadly, it's not up to me, so I don't.  But, I do make it as often as I think I can get away with, and chicken is on sale at the grocery store! 

The Chickens of Podunk are mighty glad that I go to the grocery store for my chicken! 

The secret to my chicken salad is I start with cream cheese.  I'm a big fan of cream cheese, and the chicken sticks together better too.  No falling out of the bun here!  Start with an 8oz block of softened cream cheese - I usually forget, but 30-45 seconds in the microwave will soften it right up.

Then the chicken.  DD#1 and DD#3 went garage sale-ing with me yesterday, and so while we were gone, I had chicken breasts cooking in the crock-pot on low (7-8 hours on low). When I got home yesterday, I put the chicken in the fridge to cool until today.  That make whipping this together a 10 minute dish! 

First, I put about 3" of hot, soapy water in my sink for finger rinsing.  I hate chicken grease on my fingers, and this little trick keeps my from using those greasy fingers to turn on the water and then having to clean the faucet! 

Remove the skin and the bones from the chicken breasts (rinse fingers in soapy water).  You can certainly use boneless, skinless chicken breasts instead so you can skip this step, but that is almost always alot more expensive, so I will remove the skin and bones.  Plus, the cats will love me later.

Once you have remove the skin and the bones, dice into chunks.  The size of the chunks are a personal preference... I like it chunky, so my chunks are about 1". 

Add to the softened cream cheese...(you will have to trust me here, it's under the chicken!). Then add about 1 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp seasoned salt, 1/3 cup diced celery and 1/3 cup diced onions.  I was out of celery and the last onion was sprouting (desperate need to go to grocery store) so you will not see these in my chicken salad.  I may use this as an excuse to make it again later this week!

Stir well to combine.  Now, here is where the two ways comes in.  Put 1/2 of chicken mixture into another bowl.

  To the bowl on the left, I add about 3 tbsp of hot sauce or wing sauce.  We like Frank's Redhot sauce.  Any brand will do.  Feel free to add more if you like the heat.  Stir well. 

To the bowl on the right, I add a heaping tablespoon (out of the silverware drawer, not the official measuring devise) of mayo and a couple squirts of horseradish sauce.  Then I stir with the tablespoon to combine. 

Serve on croissant rolls (our favorite) but any bread or bun will do.  I serve the buffalo chicken salad with cheddar cheese and lettuce (here again...missing the lettuce... must go to grocery store) and sometime a squirt of ranch dressing.  I serve the plain chicken salad with a slice of swiss cheese, lettuce, and sometimes a slice of tomato. 

Yummy and versatile chicken salad! 

If you have or create other versions, I would love to hear them!  I'm working on a Spicy Thai Peanut version right now and will let you know.


1 1/2 - 2 lbs cooked chicken (skin and bones removed)
8 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/3 cup dices celery
1/3 cup dices onions

Stir to combine. 

To make Buffalo Chicken Salad, add:

3 tbsp hot sauce or wing sauce

Serve on bun, croissant or bread with cheddar cheese, lettuce and a squirt of ranch dressing.

For plain Chicken Salad, add:

Heaping tbsp mayo
3 tbsp horseradish sauce

Serve on bun, croissant or bread with swiss cheese, lettuce and tomato.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sparkly Light Switch Covers

After a couple of whirl wind weeks... DD#2 graduated from high school, family down to visit and a week away from home on business, I can finally get back into a routine and get some posts up!  This project I started about 6 months ago, you know, just about Christmas time.  Isn't that when every teenage girl decides she MUST totally re-do her room?  New curtains, new mini blinds, new paint, crown molding, closet update, the whole nine yards.  And for some reason can't understand why you aren't as excited as she is, and don't even think you can pass this off as a Christmas present! Teenagers in Podunk are just like all other teenagers!

But I digress...sometimes you've just gotta wait and see how a project turns out.  I was a little sceptical when DD#2 showed this to me and declared that she wanted these for her bedroom that we were already painting an obnoxious fabulous pepto bismol pink! I didn't think they would hold up to the wear and tear of a teenager, but they have!  And now I want to share them with you.  SPARKLY light switch covers!!  

It was a little challenging to get a picture of them... they sparkle and reflect light like crazy, but if you have a daughter who's into BLING, by all means, these are amazing.  Slightly scratchy, but amazing!

We started out with the existing light switch cover - cheap, plastic and ugly.  I just wiped it clean with a damp cloth (trust me it needed done...icky) and let it dry completely.

My original thing of glitter with MUCH bigger!  Just using this one for reference.

Sorry, there are no pictures for this process... remember, I didn't really think it would work?  Well, I should have taken pictures anyway!

First I laid down some newspapers because I tend to be messy.  Then I smeared a pretty thick layer of Mod Podge over the entire surface of the switch plate.  Be sure you get it all the way over to the edges.  Then I sprinkled very liberally with glitter.  The glitter pictured is NOT the size I used... maybe 4 x that much.  Be sure you get glitter clear over to the edges (do you notice a reoccurring theme here?).  I let that set for about 30 minutes before lightly tapping the loose glitter off.  I recycled that glitter for switch plate #2.  Then I let it dry overnight.  

Once it's dry, I took it outside and sprayed it liberally with the clear polyurethane pictured.  I bought the gloss, but it comes in matte too.  Personal preference.  Then I let it dry for at least 4 hours and sprayed it again.  I did 3 coats of polyurethane and let the final coat dry overnight. 

That's it.  We hung it and have been using it for over 6 months now with no signs of wear and tear at all.   

Glitter comes in a variety of colors, and if you wanted to go crazy you could even do a design (thinking stripes or chevron would be cute).  And if you're like me, and love crafts and have girls, you probably even have all the supplies on hand, which makes it even better.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Meal Planning Monday in Podunk

Continuing what I started two weeks ago, I will again be participating in Meal Planning Monday, over at "I'm an Organizing Junkie".  You should really go visit her - TONS of menu ideas.

First, let me start by telling you about the recipe from last week that is getting added to the rotation, and the one that I'm probably never going to make again.

The clear winner was Sunday brunch with Bacon, Egg and Cheese Casserole.  I did use my own biscuit recipe, but this one is a winner.  I did not make it the night before, and next time I will as it's a little time consuming, but sooooo worth it!

The one that I will not make again was the Snickers Brownies. You will need to love crazy, ridiculously SWEET things for this recipe. We are a chocolate, caramel loving bunch here, and it was just too sweet (for us).   

This week, we have family coming to town, and DD#2 graduates from high school on Thursday.  Also, I have lots of leftovers in the fridge to use up, as well as one recipe from last week that I didn't make as we had a last minute school function to attend that included dinner. 

Sunday - Chipotle Chicken Taco Salad {P}, Chips & Salsa

Monday - Grilled Burgers, Potato Salad and Brussel Sprouts (cooked on the grill in aluminum foil)

Tuesday - Grilled BBQ Pork Steak, Mashed Potatoes and Broccoli

Wednesday - Bacon Cheeseburger Pasta, French bread

Thursday - graduation night - Carry-out Pizza, Chips & Salsa, and graduation cake

Friday - Monterey Chicken  {P}(on the grill in foil instead of oven), Hash Brown Casserole {P}, Mad Hatter Salad

Saturday - Spaghetti & Meatballs, Salad, French Bread

{P} = found it on Pinterest

This is going to be a crazy, busy, fun week in Podunk.  Hope you enjoy what's for dinner!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Give a pig a cookie

It's a tough job, being a pig in Podunk.  Lot's of sitting and thinking.

Sometimes it involves standing and sniffing the air.

Or curling up with your friend the calf and taking a nap.

But occasionally, it involves going to a petting zoo. 

The petting zoo is where we found out the pig likes cookies.  A nice lady shared her chocolate chip cookies with the pig.  When we got home I decided to bake the pig and her buddies, Chica, the calf and Rooster some cookies for being so great with the little kids.  I decided against chocolate chip - I know dogs can't have chocolate, so I reasoned livestock in general probably shouldn't either.

Time to pull out the Betty Crocker cookbook.  I'm sure when Betty was writing her recipe for Oatmeal cookies, she didn't ever envision them to be pig cookies, but the pig thinks Betty did a pretty good job. 

I made them pretty small, around an 1" in size - just one bite for a pig.  She loves them!  And them meet standards for feeding animals here in Podunk...all natural, no hormones, no antibiotics and multi-species. The calf and Rooster will eat them, but don't go crazy for them like the pig.  

One of the horses of Podunk likes them.

One took a cookie and then spit it out,

and the third one just turned up her nose at the entire idea of eating a "pig" cookie.

The pig is pretty excited that she doesn't have to share.


Egg Rolls Because I Can!

I am a huge fan of the egg roll.  Something about the crunchy outside, and the warm and slightly crunchy veggie inside, and of course, the dipping sauce.  YUM. 

Friday, on my revamped weekly menu called for Bourbon Chicken and Egg rolls.  Sometimes I buy egg rolls, but this time I had purchased the ingredients to make egg rolls.  I am trying to find any reason to use my new kitchen gadget, the Chop 'N Prep.  I love this little thing! 

I don't have an official "recipe" for egg rolls.  In my mind, it's a bit of a "wing it" sort of food.  For the purposes of this blog, I've attempted to capture the steps, and will give approximate quantities (but no promises here!). 

You will need to start with egg roll wrappers (one package). If you have never purchased them before, they can be found in the refrigerated produce section.  DD#3 went grocery shopping with me last week, and had no idea where to find them.  She could simply not believe that was where the grocery store "hid" them.  I asked her where they should be, she just shrugged, and said "well, not there."

Next, for my egg rolls, I used about 1/2 a small head of cabbage, one carrot and four mushrooms. 

Using my Chop "N Prep, I chopped them up into little pieces (no kidding, little pieces!).

And I almost forgot, half of a yellow onion.  You can add any other vegetables you want.  If you want spicy egg rolls, add a jalapeno.  If you have some vegetables you need to use, add them.  No right or wrong combination - I think the only necessity is the cabbage. 

If you don't want to chop up all this stuff, because you don't have a fun little kitchen gadget, or because you are short on time, or just because, buy a bag of coleslaw mix and add a diced onion.

Normally, I would use some ground pork or small shrimp as the meat in the egg rolls.  This time, I had a leftover grilled chicken breast.  I chopped it up and added it to the vegetables.  You can also just make these veggie.

Then I added about 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp sesame oil (I like sesame, so you might want 1tbsp), 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tbsp sugar, and a little salt.  I'm trying to cut back on salt, so just do a taste test for the salt. 

Lay out an egg roll wrapper so it looks like a diamond, and put about 1/3 cup or so in the middle of the wrapper.

Then fold the bottom point up over the mixture.

Then the right and the left sides in so it looks like a little envelope.

Wet your fingers with water, and moisten the flap (just like an envelope) and roll from the bottom to the top.

Heat at least 2" of oil (peanut is preferred, but canola is OK too) to about 300 degrees.  I don't think I every really check the temperature, instead I cut a tiny piece of egg roll wrapper off and drop it in the oil.  If is starts to fry, it's hot enough.  If the wrapper sinks to the bottom of the oil, it's not hot enough yet.  This is the medium setting on my electric stove, preheated for about 10 minutes.

Fry for about 2 minutes per side, rolling the egg roll over in the oil to get an even fry.  Good luck with this one.  Sometimes they stay rolled over, and sometimes they are stubborn.  Just trying to get an even brown.

Please don't judge the dirty stove top!
Place a couple of paper towels on a place, and CAREFULLY remove the egg roll from the HOT oil.  If your kiddos are helping make these, this is an adult step! 

I got this one a little too brown - taking pictures, I forgot to get out the paper towels!  But trust me, it was still delicious! 

Make or purchase your favorite dipping sauce.  Serve hot.  Enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

PIllow Case Dress

Pillow case dresses for little girls are all the rage this year, at least if I go by what I see on Pinterest.  I'm sure Pinterest would never lie.  I've pinned several different ones I want to make, and have successfully made two already for the grandbaby P.  P is 7 months old right now, so a dress and diaper cover for someone her size takes about a 1/2 yard of fabric.  I bought some seersucker fabric that was on sale, along with one package of double fold bias tape, and a package of jumbo rick rack.

Because there aren't many patterns for a pillow case dress, you can just make your own pattern.  Don't panic, I'll show you how.  First, get a dress that fits (sleeveless is best), or is maybe just a touch too big.  This will be your pattern.  Fold your fabric in half and lay your dress on the fabric.  If you are making a diaper cover too, be sure you lay those pieces out as well.  I found my diaper cover pattern over at "Make It and Love It".

Start with the top of the dress (the shoulders) at the top of your fabric.  This will allow you enough extra for the seam allowance at the top.  Then just cut a rectangle, the same width as the bottom of the skirt.

Next, you are going to cut out the arm holes.  Again, don't panic, you have a pattern.  Just slide the dress over so the top of the shoulder of the dress is touching the top of your fabric, and the under arm is touching the side of the fabric.  Now, carefully, without cutting your dress, cut out the arm holes.

Do that same thing to the other side.  Your pattern is cut out!  Now, the real fun begins!

Top stitch or serge the top of the dress pieces and the arm holes.

Now, lay your two pieces side by side, sided touching and pull out your jumbo rick rack (or ribbon, or whatever you are going to embellish with).  Lay this across both pieces - one long piece - and pin in place.

That is my little secret to making these match up on the dress, and trust me, I've have my share of ones not match up!  If yours don't match up in the end, don't worry, this dress is going on a moving baby, and she's not gonna care :)

Top stitch this onto your fabric, then with right sides together, sew the dress sides together, making sure the rick rack matches. 

Then, using your bias tape, pin it around your arm holes.  It's kind of like filling a taco shell, put the dress fabric in between the two layers of bias tape and pin.  Do this to both arms, then top stitch in place.  Bias tape is kind of stretchy, and will form around the curve of your arm just fine.

Fold down the top of the dress to form the casing for your ribbon, which will become your dress straps.  How far you fold it depends on the ribbon you will be using.  I folded mine down about 1 1/4".  Then stitch 1/4" from the bottom (serged) edge.  Do this to both sides. 

Now, it's time to hem your dress.  I serged the bottom of the dress.  You can zigzag the bottom too.  Then I fold the material up about 1/4 to 1/2" and topstitch in place.  I used a zigzag top stitch, but you can use a straight stitch, or a decorative stitch too.  Your sewing is complete! 

Only one final step, and that's to run the ribbon through your casing at the top of the dress.  Start at the left hand side back of the dress, coming out the back right side, then threw through the right side front of the dress, coming out the front left side.  Tie the two ends of your ribbon is a bow, leaving enough room for little arms to fit into and give a little extra for some growing room.  This dress can be a sun top with shorts next year.

Admire your work and go eat a cookie!  You deserve it.