The Flour Bakery’s Granola Bars

I got a new cookbook with this recipe, and since I’ve been in granola-bar mode, I thought I’d give it a whirl. I’m totally impressed with the result. The 
ingredients sound like a health food shop on their own, but incredibly, their sum is so, so delicious, and no one flavor overwhelms the taste at all. In fact, my kids inhaled these like any other cookie/bar I’ve made, so I am really happy. I thought for sure they’d turn their noses up at the seeds, but they didn’t. It’s a treat, but has lots of good stuff, too; a happy medium, and perfect for a lunch box.

The recipe’s a little on the cumbersome side, in terms of time, but definitely worth trying. You need a couple of hours (not consistent work, of course), and you probably can’t count on them for the same day unless you start cooking early in the day. The author says the bar tastes better after 2-3 days, but at our house, I don’t think they’ll last that long. Incidentally, the Flour Bakery is located in (just outside?) Boston.

Granola Bars with Cranberry Jam and Seeds

1 c. dried apples
1 c. dried cranberries
1 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. water

1 c. walnut halves [I prefer pecans]
1 3/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. old-fashioned (not quick) oats
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
2/3 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 t. kosher salt
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into 8 pieces
6 T. honey
3 T. flaxseeds
3 T. sunflower seeds
3 T. millet

In a medium saucepan, combine the apples, cranberries, apricots, granulated sugar, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and let sit for about 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse 8-10 times or until a chunky jam forms. (The jam can be made and refrigerated for 5 days or frozen for up to a month.)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, or until fragrant. Transfer to a plate and let cool, but leave the oven on at 350.

Line a 9×13 pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine the nuts, flour, oats, sugar, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and butter, and pulse about 15 times or until the mixture is combined. Turn the mixture out into a bowl and drizzle the honey on top. Work in the honey until the mixture comes together, then spread 2/3 of the mixture in the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until light brown. Work the millet, flaxseeds, and sunflower seeds into the remaining 1/3 oat mixture. Cover it with plastic and refrigerate.

After the crust has baked, remove it from the oven and spread the jam evenly on top. Then, crumble the seed/oat mixture on top, breaking it with your fingers. Return the pan to the oven to bake for an additional 50-60 minutes. Let cool on a rack for 2-3 hours before cutting.

The bars can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a week.

The recipe yield says 12, but those would be huge! We’re going to get about 20 or more out of it.

Creamy Polenta

We have had polenta a couple of times, and I can’t believe how much everyone enjoys it at our house. Plus, it’s extremely easy, and it goes with many dishes as a great side. Here’s a recipe I tried last night, and afterwards, we sat and licked the pan–it’s another winner from Great Food Fast.

Creamy Polenta

4 c. water
1 1/2  t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
3/4 c. polenta (or coarse cornmeal–you can find this in bulk bins at grocery stores, or in packages like Bob’s Red Mill in the grains section)
1/4 c. grated parmesan or sharp cheddar cheese (I ended up adding more like 1/2 c.)

Bring the water, salt and pepper to boil in a medium saucepan. Slowly add the polenta into the water, whisking constantly. Turn the heat down, but maintain a simmer, and allow the polenta to cook for 10-15 minutes, whisking frequently to prevent clumps. When thick and creamy, remove from heat and stir in cheese. Serve immediately.

Note: You can serve polenta with or as an accompaniment to many different sauces, from tomato sauces to mushroom sauces. I paired Ali’s Balsamic Barbeque Chicken with it, and thought it was great. This is definitely a versatile, easy side!

Spanish Rice

This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking, and it’s great. I should make it more than I do, because it’s that great. Really.

Spanish Rice

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine in an ovenproof skillet or dutch-oven over medium heat until the onions are golden (5 minutes):

2 slices bacon (or more, if you’re me)
1/2 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. chopped green peppers
1 clove garlic, minced

Then add,
1 c. long-grain white rice

Stir until well-coated. Add:
1 3/4 c. chicken stock
1 c. chopped drained canned tomatoes
1/2 t. sweet or hot paprika
1/4 t. black pepper

Bring to a boil. Stir once, cover, and bake until the stock is absorved and the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Uncover and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve.

Ham and Egg Fried Rice

This recipe is another of my favorites from Everyday Food. It comes together quickly and is really great. We usually eat it as a main, and have broccoli or stir-fried vegetables on the side. And, thanks to a great tip from Amy, I mostly use turkey ham as a substitute for the ham in it. If you’ve never heard of it before, it’s sold in small-ish quantities, comes as a steak (no bones), and is usually sold by the hams. The benefits are that it’s small, affordable, and it’s turkey. Another tip: instead of placing on egg on top, you can scoot the vegetables and rice to the side of the skillet, scramble the eggs in the middle of the skillet, and then mix back together. For some reason, the scrambled eggs are much more appealing to the crowd here. Last tip: definitely use fresh ginger–it really makes a difference.

Ham & Egg Fried Rice

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 thick slice ham (8 ounces), cut into 1/4-by-1-inch strips
  • 1 bunch scallions, white and green parts separated and cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled fresh ginger
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 1/4 cups cooked white rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 large eggs
  1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high. Add ham, scallion whites, garlic, and ginger; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 2 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add rice, scallion greens, vinegar, and soy sauce. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Divide fried rice among four serving bowls.
  3. Wipe out skillet with a paper towel. Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium. Gently crack eggs into skillet; season with salt, and cook until whites are set, 2 to 4 minutes. Top each bowl of rice with a fried egg.

Note: Instead of peeling ginger root with a knife, scrape off the peel using the edge of a spoon. This way, more ginger goes into your fried rice and less into the garbage.