Author Ginger

Good morning granola bars

napping

We are not the most devoted of campers, we pretty much stick to basic car camping in campsites where there are actual bathrooms. We pick campsites for scenic views and proximity to day hikes or breweries, depending on the situation. There is a little kid in my life and these things make camping easier. We pack coolers of ingredients for full-on fancy camping meals and a set of bocce balls for afternoon entertainment. Once we get out there, camping is a pretty carefree way to spend a weekend. There is little to do besides cook up the food we’ve brought along and relax. In the evening, we build a fire and sit around it. Sometimes we play card games or watch for stars in that dark sky.

press

This fall we’ve been doing a lot of camping. Maybe it is an unconscious attempt to draw out the season as the cooler weather and shorter days set it. On every trip, I’ve been returning to the same recipe for granola bars. They are tasty and portable. I’ve packed up these bars for early morning kayak paddles, long rides in the car and hikes into the hills. And on camping trips, they are the perfect snack to tide me over between an early morning wake up and actually being alert enough to start cooking breakfast at the campsite. We tumble out of the tent, start heating up water for coffee, pull out the pan of granola bars and everyone is happy.

bars

I’ve been working to keep these bars from getting too crumbly and the best advice I have is to chop things up – the nuts, the cherries. The smaller pieces seem to stick together that much better. Of course, you can help matters out by storing them carefully. I’ve found returning them to their pan or some other container helps them keep their shape. And since these bars have become a breakfast staple, I’ve been using them to clean out the pantry, substituting different nuts, various chocolates and even some peanut butter chips I found, along with any kind of coconut flakes I can find lurking in the cupboard. Another breakfast note – I don’t like too much sweetness early in the morning, so I’ve been lighthanded with the sugar, even going with a little less than what I have listed here on a batch where I used up the rest of my sweetened coconut.

 

GOOD MORNING GRANOLA BARS

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Orangette

 

1 ½ cups (160 grams) quick-cooking oats

⅓ cup (35 grams) oat flour, or quick-cooking oats pulsed in a food processor

⅓ cup (65 grams) to ½ cup (100 grams) sugar (see above)

1 cup (110 grams) raw walnuts, chopped into rough pieces

½ cup (25 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup (85 grams) chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of similar size

¼ cup (40 grams) dried cherries, halved

½ tsp. fine salt

1/3 cup (85 grams) peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 Tbsp. (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

6 Tbsp. (120 grams) honey

1 Tbsp. water

 

Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan with a little butter or baking spray. Line pan with parchment paper so it covers the bottom and two sides of the pan with a little overhang. Lightly grease the parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, nuts, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, dried cherries and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, honey and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a prepared pan and press the mixture into the pan. A spatula works pretty well, but a damp hand or piece of plastic wrap will help as well.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bars are golden all over with some browning on the edges. Don’t be surprised to find the bars are still a little soft to the touch, they will firm up as they cool.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely or even overnight. When cool, run a knife along the around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into bars.

To store, place bars in an airtight container. Or do like I did and slide the bars and the parchment paper back into the pan for storage. I think it’s the best way to keep them from crumbling.

 

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Green bean and fresh corn stir-fry

table

It’s not everyday that I find a recipe that inspires me to make it immediately. Just like everyone else, I’ve got stacks and bookmarks and torn out magazine pages, waiting for their moment to shine. Unless that recipe is the salted Texas chocolate sheet cake from Bon Appetit, that demands immediate attention. (True story!) Anyway, there is often something keeping me from making them, some missing key ingredient or prep step that seems better suited to a weekend cooking foray. Maybe I am a collector or recipes, a hoarder even? That might be a topic for another day, but in this case, I had the perfect combination of enough of the right ingredients and some time, so I started cooking.

Without even knowing it, I started prepping for this recipe by heading out to my favorite fresh veggie place earlier in the day. Their late season corn is such a treat, and they had it sitting around by the bucket. By now, I have a pretty good idea of just how much corn I can fit in the produce drawer in my fridge, so I loaded up, knowing I would be eating fresh corn for the next few days. I don’t know how the corn and the recipe found me on the same day, but I’m not asking any questions!

I made this for a solo dinner by splitting the recipe, but whether you’re cooking for yourself or a few people, this stir-fry comes together pretty quickly and has great late summer flavors. And while I know the sambal oelek and fresh lime juice I squeezed on top of my plate might not have been exactly in keeping with the originally intended flavors of this recipe, I thought they were pretty darn good additions!

 stir-fry

Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Corn

 Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe on The New York Times

1 14 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper, preferable white pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 finely sliced scallion
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

 Cut the tofu into ¼ inch slices, then cut slices into ¼ inch matchsticks. Place on a clean towel or paper towel and allow to drain while you prep the rest of the stirfry.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and the sesame oil. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Keep these handy for when you begin cooking.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the green beans, blanching for about one minute. Remove from heat, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and tilt to distribute. Add the tofu and stir-fry for a minute or two, until it just begins to color. Drop in the ginger and jalapeno and stir-fry for a few seconds.

Pour in the remaining oil, then add the green beans, corn and scallions. Stir-fry for about one minute, then add the salt, pepper and sugar mixture and toss for good measure. Pour in the soy mixture, top with a lid and cook for about 30 seconds. Uncover, throw in the cilantro and stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so. The green beans should be crisp tender by now. Remove from heat and serve.

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Two ways with grilled bread

Try as I might, I am pretty sure there is no holding off autumn now. The changing sunrise and sunset times are a pretty strong indicator that a transition is underway. The produce that I picked up at the market last weekend had a totally different color palette than my last shopping trip a few weeks back – deep purple plums, rosy apples and golden pears. I often reach late August not quite ready to make the transition to September. It’s taken all summer to get to these long, lovely days and warm evenings lounging on the patio. I need some time to settle into the idea. Can’t we just stay in late August for a few more weeks?

tabletop

By this point in the summer, it seems like my garden is just coming into its own. Everything is growing with gusto, there are armloads of tomatoes just waiting to be picked, a row of kale practically falling all over itself and green beans are gaining such momentum that I am pretty sure that is all we will be eating for the next two weeks. It’s true, I probably brought this situation on myself with I planted four rows of beans, but I was a little excited. I had big plans for beans and I didn’t really stop to see the potential for green bean overload at the time.

peach-tabletop

Back in spring, when I would sit out in the empty garden and dream about how things would look at this time of year, I decided to create an archway over the entrance to the garden. And since gardens are lessons in patience, I decided not to “build” an arch, but to grow one out of runner beans. I staked up 6-foot high sections of netting at the front of the two raised beds that make my garden. Then I wired bamboo stakes over the pathway, connecting the two panels. From there, I planted a selection of beans, based mainly on their descriptions, which all included some wording about an 8- to 10-foot plant.

It didn’t taken them long to race up the netting and wind their way over the bamboo bridge to create my archway. It’s turned out really well, in fact. The unintended consequence has been the bumper crop of beans. I’ve been freezing a few batches of them when my harvest takes up too much room in the fridge. But mostly, we’ve been doing our best to keep up with the bounty and eating them at most every meal.

dinner

Today I am sharing a couple of late summer ideas that are starting to warm me up to the idea of my dinner spending more that a few minutes on the stove. Think of this grilled bread as a blank canvas, just awaiting your creativity. We’ve been loving a recipe for slow simmered green beans that I shared here. I completed the toasty trifecta with a couple of slivers of speck and topped it off with a slice of fresh feta. But it would also be delicious with ratatouille or some sauteed greens and a poached egg. Don’t stop with the savory options, the grilled bread is also a delicious base for the late summer fruit that is in season. Sliced fresh or lightly grilled alongside the toast, peaches, plums and pears are all going to be delicious. No need to mention the addition of ice cream – you know I already went there!

first-bite

GRILLED BREAD

Loaf of French bread, or other favorite loaf
Olive oil

Slice bread to a medium thickness. Brush both sides of the slice with olive oil. Place on a hot grill until char marks appear. Repeat on the other side. Remove from grill, top and eat immediately.

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A new kind of icebox cookie

2-mixers

My son has been asking me to let him help in the kitchen. Since he brings his toys out into the kitchen to play most evenings, he has a good view of the happenings and has zeroed in on a few tasks that interest him. Most recently, he wants to know how to use a knife. This comes after lessons with the box grater, egg cracking 101 and ice cream churning. I’ve started him out with the smallest, dullest knife that I have and Sean is under strict orders not to sharpen it. Might as well get him in there while he is interested, right? With constant supervision, he has gotten pretty good at slicing olives and cucumbers, his favorite tasks since he also gets to snack while working! Consistency will come eventually, I suppose, but for now, slice width varies widely!

coconut

One of his earliest tasks was stirring. We’ve had our fair share of spills and sloshes. But once we got past those, he has become quite a good little helper. Which brings me to the cookies I am sharing today – they are a perfect recipe to make with kids.

The summer heat is upon us – days and days of 100+ degree weather. By late afternoon, it seems like the heat has hits its high point and just maintains a searing level of intensity that can undo the deepest air conditioned shivers in two minutes flat.

distractions

These days the oven is rarely on. I can’t bear to add to the indoor temperature. We grill, we eat salads and ice cream. And when we need cookies, we gather at the counter and make these little freezer treats, then go park it somewhere cool for awhile.

If you have a small cookie scoop, you’ll want to use it for this recipe. Otherwise, you can use a spoon to shape these cookies.

2-scoops

Chocolate Freezer Macaroons

Makes about 15 cookies

⅔ cup dark cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups unsweetened coconut

Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

Stir in shredded coconut until everything is combined. Use a small cookie scoop to form cookies, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. Store in the freezer.

treats

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Quick refrigerator pickles

cucumbers

During the summer months, I don’t make many trips to the grocery store. So much of my usual wintertime shopping list is available at local farm stands or the farmers market. My standing grocery list is most likely a couple of scribbles about picking up limes and lemons, milk for coffee, a couple of whole grains or pasta and frozen treats. You’ve got to have plenty of ice cream in the summer!

setting

We are big fans of pickled things around here, so we’re never without a jar or two of some combination of vinegar and vegetable. I think they make the perfect snack when I am in need of a little something. The salty tang of a couple of pickles really hits the spot when I’m hungry. But once the pickling cucumbers and other veggies of that persuasion start showing up at the market, I take pickle production in-house. The recipes I am sharing today give you a couple of options for easy cucumber pickles that have become favorites around here.

spices

While you certainly can commit to the big batch of pickles, one of my favorite things about this recipe is that there is no cooking involved. No commitment to 20 pounds of cucumbers and no boiling caldron and steamy kitchen in the summer heat wave. Instead, we’re talking about a couple of pounds of cucumbers and a little time at the cutting board. And as the reward, the cool crisp crunch of refrigerator pickles just shouts of summertime.

spiced

These recipes are a great starting point for any kind of spice combination you can muster. Feeling spicy, throw in a few slices of jalapeno or a dried chile pepper. Is garlic your thing? You may have noticed that it’s not mine, but go ahead and throw some in! Don’t have fresh dill? Dried dill weed or dill seeds will add a similar flavor. And don’t stop there, you can mix and match flavors to come up with all kinds of options.

2-jars

Both of these recipes make enough to fill one quart jar, which makes them perfectly sharable at summertime get-togethers.  However, you can easily double them once you decide which one is your favorite! Enjoy!

SPICY REFRIGERATOR PICKLES

4 to 5 pickling cucumber
5 fresh dill sprigs
½ cup white vinegar
1 ¼ cups water
1 tablespoon pickling salt
½ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon dill seed
½ teaspoon mustard seed
½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

Scrub cucumbers and trim off ends. Cut into quarters length-wise and place in a clean 1-quart jar, along with the sprigs of dill.

Top with the vinegar and water, then measure in the spices. Cover the jar and gently shake to combine the liquids and spices. Refrigerate for at least three days before eating. Will keep well for one month.

SWEET PICKLES WITH ONIONS

1 pound pickling cucumbers
1 small onion, sliced
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon celery seed
1 cup white sugar
½ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seed

Scrub cucumbers and peel onion. Trim ends off the cucumbers and cut into ½ inch slices. Cut onion into ¼ inch slices. Layer cucumbers and onion slices in a colander with salt and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Toss gently and allow any excess liquid to drain from the colander.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining ingredients in a small pot and heat until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Pack drained cucumbers in a jar, the top with brine. Cover and refrigerate for at least three days before eating. Will keep well in the fridge for a month.

 

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Cherry picnic cake

I am calling it Summer Chop Madness, but it seems like most meals around here involve some kind of chopped salad. I’ve been busy shopping at the farmer’s market, as well as my favorite family farm and the best way to use the great selection of fresh veg is with giant salads. I should also mention the crazy heat that we’ve been sweltering in, as I am sure it has had a part in this. On a hot summer evening, a cool salad bowl is just what I want to eat. We’re not talking about a leafy green number – these salads have enough heft to carry a meal. Wedges of newly dug potatoes, handfuls of the best green beans and no end of cucumbers. But more on that later. With all of this talk of salad, I feel I am within my right to bake cake or two.

slice

I have no favorite summer fruit. I cannot be pinned down to just one top pick. I love them all in their turn – the few weeks when each one has a little window of perfection before giving way to the next one on the list. For us, cherries have been enjoying their time to shine. While I can’t get enough of a just-warm cherry clafoutis, like this one, I do have a new cherry recipe to add to the mix this year. I found this amazing recipe for a cherry picnic cake just about the time cherry season was starting. I’ve been baking it on a weekly basis ever since. And now that we are nearing the tail end of our season, I am finally getting around to sharing it with you.

pans

After my first time baking this cake, I spent several evenings standing at the kitchen sink with a dark apron and a box full of cherries to be pitted. You see, this recipe is just as happy with fresh fruit as it is with frozen. I imagine myself pulling this cake out of the oven on a grey winter day, when the smudge of a juicy cherry will make a slice of pound cake seem like the sweetest treat. And all of my cherry pitting efforts will be well rewarded in that moment.

cake-pan

But for now, I’ll be serving thick slices of this cake in the garden or packed up for a picnic. It travels so well and you know you won’t go wrong when you finish off a meal with this treat.

picnic

This cake turned out perfectly the first time I made it, so I haven’t changed a thing from the original recipe. I did make one swap, toasted walnuts for the pecans called for in the original recipe. Go with your favorite flavor on that one. And while a 6-inch cake pan may not be in your cupboard, I made do with a 6-inch soufflé dish the first time around. Since then, I added a pan to my collection. I know it is going to be well used!

CHERRY PICNIC CAKE

Recipe by Tara O’Brady via Herriott Grace

Makes 2, 6-inch round cakes

For the cake

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (256 g) cake flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/3 cups (275 g) granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling if not using the glaze

4 large eggs

Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons thick yogurt or sour cream (not nonfat)

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts

1 cup pitted dark cherries, fresh or frozen

For the glaze (optional, but recommended)

1 1/4 cups (142 g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted

1/4 cup heavy cream

A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300°F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Butter two 6-inch round cake pans and line both the bottom and sides with parchment. Butter generously.

Sift flour and salt together in a bowl, set aside.

Combine butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and cream on the medium-high setting for 8 minutes. Scrape down the bowl regularly. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla. Turn the mixer down to low, mix in the flour in two additions, alternating with the yogurt until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts with a spatula. Spread one-quarter of the batter between the prepared pans, then scatter with a few of the cherries. Continue to layer dollops of batter with cherries until finished. Smooth the tops with a spatula, then sprinkle with granulated sugar if you are not planning to glaze the cakes later.

Bake the cakes for about 60 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. They are done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes before unmolding. Return the cakes to the cool rack and allow to cool, right side up, until completely cool.

If you are making the glaze, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. The glaze should be soft enough to drizzle nicely from a spoon. If more liquid is needed, add more cream one teaspoon at a time. Spoon the glaze over both cakes and allow to set for at least one hour before cutting.

These cakes keep nicely at room temperature for a few days and will look lovely under a cake dome or loosely covered in plastic.

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Life outside the kitchen

Having a food blog, it is a fair assumption that I spend a good deal of time cooking and in the pursuit of many things related to food. It’s true. My interest in the kitchen is far more than simply getting meals put together, it colors the way I approach my eating life. Reading cookbooks, finding farms and markets to shop at and trying my fair share of new recipes all play a part in that. But my interest in food sometimes takes me far outside of the kitchen as well.  So I thought I would share a little about some of the things I do when I’m not in the kitchen.

Weekends are one of the best times to make time for cooking adventures. We are coming up fast on preserving season, in fact, I’ve already just started pitting and freezing some of the first cherries of the year. Standing at the kitchen sink with my with my favorite podcast, I can make reasonably quick progress on pitting cherries. But this doesn’t happen every weekend, sometimes we just pack up and head out of the house for the day to explore.

roadway

We’re lucky enough to live in a part of Washington state where adventures can be found in all directions. Head west 30 minutes and we’ve arrived at the Columbia Gorge with plenty of water, trains and stunning views. In the opposite direction, mountains and trees offer a distinct change of scenery and that is where we went last weekend. Out on the road, we have opportunities to find new places to eat, shop for antique treasures and props or pack a picnic to eat out of the back of the car.

stream

On our way into the mountains last weekend, we stopped at scenic overlooks and a happy little creek where I scrambled down the rocky bank to check out the water. A thicket of thimbleberries edged the creek, still in bloom. The mountain water ran cold but I waded in, despite the warning call of “Leeches!” from my traveling crew. I picked a path through the stream and on the other side, I found a little stand of columbine flowers blooming.

columbine

Generally, I pack up some food for our roadtrip adventures. Travelling with a small child keeps me mindful of necessities, such as food and proximity to the next bathroom. Sometimes our fare is as simple as some dried fruit or nuts. Now the summer weather definitely has me in a picnic state of mind. This time of year, I might pack up a baguette with some butter, a few cherries and some chocolate and call it a meal. Eaten outdoors in the sunshine, there isn’t much better!

lostine-front

On this particular day, our travels took us through a tiny town called Lostine and past the Lostine Tavern that had recently opened up. Apparently, Lostine is officially designated as a city, but with a population of 213 at the 2010 census, I am just not sure how that adds up. But no matter, the Lostine Tavern was a real treat for lunch as we made our hungry way through the hills of Oregon. Billed as a casual farm to table pub, the tavern has a growing menu of great food options with many locally sourced items. And with dessert options like strawberry and rhubarb bars, chocolate layer cake and cowboy cookies, I’m certainly stopping by again soon!

m.crow
Wherever your journeys take you this weekend, have a great one!

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Green grows the garden

It’s early evening in the garden. The sun is low on the horizon and the warmth of the day is beginning to fade. For some reason, this is the time of day when dozens of dragonflies make an appearance in the sky about my yard. I see them here every year in the summer. They dip and zoom through the air as they search for food, or whatever it is they are swarming over. This is about the time I turn on my new garden lights.

lights

There are a couple of new additions to the garden this year, plantings of zucchini, cucumber, nasturtium and cheery overhead lights. I’ve devised a plan to hang strands of lights, zigzagging back and forth across the garden on the same stakes I put up for the plants. Since we are often our relaxing in the garden in the dusky evening, I think the lights are going to be a great addition to our enjoyment of the space.

free-range-lettuce

My garden seems to be doing a very good job at reflecting life this year. Parts of it are planned and organized with neat straight rows and even spacing. I’ve been working towards the best way to create green “walls” around the garden with pole beans, towering tomatoes and colorful dahlias. It’s taken a few years, but I think I’m getting this figured out! Other plants are randomly taking over the pathways, like the lettuce stalk that went to seed last summer, tossing hundreds of seeds out amongst the gravel. Turns out that I am getting some really lovely heads of lettuce from this random seed placement. Same story with the arugula that has been growing so rapidly that I’ve resorted to sharing bags of it with friends to keep up with its growth.

greens

The lettuce and arugula have been a wonderful start to the season. Along with those volunteer crops, I have been tending to an early salad garden with generous plantings of kale, mizuna, pretty speckled lettuces and my favorite French breakfast radishes. My salad bowl is a pretty delicious place this time of year.

blossoms

I am also giving the English peas another shot this year. I swore I wasn’t going to waste precious garden space on them again after last year’s dismal showing. The plants came up only to fall to some terrible pea pestilence before any pods reached maturity. But it’s funny what a winter’s worth of grey will do to my resolve. So with a new variety of seeds and a little crop rotation, my fingers are crossed for a better outcome this year.

Where ever you are this season, I hope a little spot of green – farmer’s market, community garden, herb pot in the window or acres of vegetables – crosses your path this summer.

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Slicing into breakfast

pitted

This is a story about breakfast, but not my breakfast. This is the breakfast I have been making for my husband ever since I spotted this recipe early this year in the January issue of Bon Appétit. First, I should tell you that I don’t usually worry about making breakfast for anyone during the week. We are more of a fend-for-yourself household in the mornings. Sean has a coffee routine he follows with almost religious fervour. He doesn’t deal in big productions, simplicity is the story of his morning. I prefer to take my breakfast to work to eat when I have a little more of an appetite. And I take a big enough bowl of fruits and grains to fill me up for the morning.

mix

Enter this delicious oat bar. It is like a granola bar, only better and packed with oats, nuts and seeds. Mix and match ingredients to add in favorites or suit specific tastes. It is already gluten free, but can be vegan or nut free if needed. Bake up a loaf and prepare for a week of easy and portable breakfasts. We might not be eating breakfast together, but we have been baking this morning treat together just about every Sunday for the last several months.

melted

But don’t limit this bar to just breakfast. It packed up perfectly for winter adventures for months around here. Paired with the sweetest winter citrus, it made for a great snack out in the snow. I can’t help but think it will be equally at home packed up for a summer adventure or stashed away as a ready-made camping snack. Tuck a slice into the back pocket of a cycling jersey or feast on a quick bite after a run. And if dessert is needed, pair a slice with some ice cream or fresh fruit. There is not stopping this oat bar.

loaf
I feel like I must make mention of the dates in this recipe. Sean takes a pretty tough stance on dates, they just are not his favorite. So the first few times I made this recipe, I kept that little detail from him. Trickery in cookery? Why yes, sometimes we must all resort to it. And in this case it was a success. He now knows that there are dates in the bar, but still is a big fan. I hope you’ll give them a shot!

breakfast

Breakfast Oat Bars

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Mix and match your favorite nuts and seeds in this bar. Swap out the almonds for walnuts, cashews or other favorites. Coconut also makes a tasty addition.

6 large Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup pure maple syrup
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
2 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup almonds or other nuts
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
½ cup pepitas
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Lightly coat a glass loaf pan with oil, then line with parchment paper, leaving the edges out of the pan. (See picture above.) Heat oven to 350.

Combine dates, maple syrup and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium high and cook to soften, about 10 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and mash the dates until they combine into a thick paste. Add butter and stir to melt and combine. Set aside to cool for a minute or two.

Stir oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas and sesame seeds in a large bowl. Add the date mixture to the bowl and stir to evenly coat. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan. Tightly pack the oat mixture into the pan with a spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until dark golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to ensure the bar does not stick as it cools. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave the loaf in its pan until it is cool, even overnight.

Wrap tightly and slice when ready to use. Keeps for a week of delicious snacks.

baked

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Recipe fail

fog

I don’t often spend much time regaling you with tales of recipe missteps. It seems like there is not much of a story there, only small oven fires. Of course I do have my fair share of disappointments, recipes that leave me with a pot of something that turns into leftovers for days. I’d rather forget some of those forays. But the truth is, part of the adventure of cooking is that it leads us down some unexpected paths.

The interesting thing about working on a food blog is that I get to be pretty adventurous with my cooking. There are not many meals in constant rotation at our house. Sure, we have our favorites, but more often than not, I am trying out some new recipe in hopes that I might happen upon something pretty or tasty enough to share with you here.

My fridge door is in constant flux with my most recent obsessions. I jostle for magnets and space with my son’s artwork – recipes and paintings side by side in the kitchen. There is a little counter, just the right size to catch the clutter, including a stack of cookbooks that I have been referencing and magazines I’m still reading.

Whether it is my favorite magazine, a menu ingredient I just can’t shake or Instagram, I am always gathering ideas. Recently, a passing conversation on moonpies inspired a taste-off event – I baked up a batch to compare them to the standard convenience store staple. Goodness, they were delicious. And if you are really patient, I might even share them with you here one day.

cake

Not so long ago, there was a foot of snow outside and it was Valentine’s day. I decided that I needed to bake a cake. With the chill of winter all around me, citrus sounded so good. I wanted something easy – the kind of cake you stir together before dinner without pulling out a mixer and dirtying a stack of bowls. It smelled heavenly in the oven, filling the kitchen with citrusy wafts. And since we were celebrating, I topped it off with a swirl of cream cheese frosting. In the end, it just didn’t up being all I had hoped it would be. As pretty as it looked, I feel like I would have to tweak the recipe before I would be happy sharing it here with you.

Until then, I’ll keep cooking.

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