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.