Granola Bars

granola barsMy wife had a bag of granola that she was snacking on, but once she was about halfway through it was too crumbly to eat unless she made ate it with milk like a cereal. She asked me to make her some granola bars with it.

The recipe in this post is one I made a really long time ago that didn’t use pre-made granola, but I used a similar process for the bars from the pre-made granola. You’ll want to use less honey and brown sugar if you’re making them from pre-made granola – I think I used 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup butter, and 2 tbsp brown sugar for every 2 cups of granola. If this doesn’t seem like enough to keep them together, keep adding melted butter and honey a tablespoon at a time until the everything is coated. You also do not need to toast pre-made granola because it’s already been baked.

The nice thing about this recipe is that you can easily change the ingredients. I really like pineapple, but if you don’t, you could use dried apricots or cherries instead. You can also swap out some of the fruit for a different type of nut, reduce the amount of oats and add some flax seed, or use two types of nuts instead of just walnuts.

The Tastefully Simple silicone bar pan is amazing for making granola bars. I’ve made them on a sheet pan with a silpat before, which is fine, but the bar pan is an easy way to make bars all the same size. The silicone also prevents sticking. If you use a regular pan to make these, trust me, you will need to definitely use a silicone baking mat or line your pan with parchment paper. If not, you will be chiseling them out of the pan.

Ingredients

4 cups oats
2 cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup honey
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla (optional)
1 ½ tsp cinnamon (optional)
½ tsp kosher salt (use ¼ tsp if you don’t use any fruit)
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup dried pineapple, chopped into pieces similar in size to the cranberries

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350.

Mix oats and walnuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes.

Melt the butter in the microwave. Add honey and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and everything is combined. Add cinnamon and vanilla.

Mix dried fruit, oats, and walnuts in a large bowl. Pour liquid mixture over the dry mix and stir until everything is evenly coated with the liquid.

Place the bar pan on a baking sheet. Use a spoon to fill each compartment of the bar pan. (Warning – if your bar pan is not silicone, don’t attempt to use if for this recipe! You will be chiseling granola out for days. Instead, use a baking pan completely lined with parchment paper – including the sides.)

Press each bar firmly with the back of the spoon until each compartment is packed. If you have empty compartments after using all of the granola mixture, fill them abut halfway with water. (Not sure why this is necessary, but the directions for the bar pan say to do this.)

Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the bars become golden brown and the outside edges start to get crispy. Let cool for about an hour. The bars should come out of the pan pretty easily once they’re cooled. If they are too buttery, place them on a cookie rack to drain once they’re cool.

Cinnamon Rolls

IMG_4589You might’ve seen these on my Instagram a while ago. The first time I made these, I had a food blogger fail and forgot to write the recipe down. Oops! I made them again a few weeks later and remembered to write the recipe down. I forgot to take pictures of them with the icing both times. Oops again!

This recipe makes a lot of cinnamon rolls. Freeze what you won’t eat within a couple of days. According to one of my coworkers, these freeze and reheat very well.

Ingredients

2 cups milk
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
4 ½ flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 package yeast

1 stick butter
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
½ tsp vanilla
2+ tbsp heavy cream or milk

Instructions

Pour milk into a microwave safe contained. Microwave in 30 second increments until a candy thermometer reads between 105-110°. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, make sure your milk is very warm, but not boiling.

Pour the milk into a mixer bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Whisk after letting it sit for about a minute. Let it sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast looks frothy.

Add the oil, sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix. Cover and let rise for an hour. Toward the end of the hour, start the filling.

Melt the stick of butter. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon. The filling should be a little pasty, not runny. If it’s too runny, add more brown sugar. You want to be able to spread it over the dough and roll the rolls without the filling running out.

Roll the dough out into a rectangle. Spread the filling over the top and roll into a long log. Cut into individual cinnamon rolls and pack them into a greased pie dish or other baking dish. Use a baking dish that isn’t any taller than the rolls.

Cover and ler rise for about another 20-30 minutes. Bake at 350° for about 20 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.

Make the icing toward the end of the baking time. Combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream or milk. The icing should be thick, but a little runny. Pour the icing over the cinnamon rolls. Troubleshooting: Too thin/runny? Add more powdered sugar. Too thick? Add heavy cream or milk 1-2 tsp at a time until the consistency is right.

Breakfast Minis

IMG_4792This recipe uses the Tastefully Simple silicone bar pan. You can also use a regular muffin tin, but silicone muffin cups would be better because the ingredients won’t stick.

These are great to pack in your lunchbox and reheat once you get to the office!

Recipe makes about 12.

Ingredients

4-6 pieces cooked bacon, crumbled
5 eggs
3 cups hash browns
½ cup shredded cheddar
½ cup shredded mozzarella
¼ tsp salt

Instructions

Mix all of the ingredients well. Press firmly into the compartments of the bar pan. Fill the unused compartments of the bar pan with water. Bake at 375 until the hash browns are crispy on top.

The Banana Nut Bread That Almost Wasn’t

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As you might be able to tell from the uneven bake on these (top half lighter than the bottom) and the weird holes in the center of each loaf, this wasn’t my finest work. Overall it tastes pretty good. The top half tastes really good! But this recipe needs some work.

So what went wrong? I’m fairly certain I had a density problem, and I had the oven too hot (I did 375 like I do for my pumpkin bread). The centers were jiggly and the edges were way golden after baking for 15 minutes. Uh-oh. I turned down the heat and tented with aluminum foil. After it still being jiggly after an additional 10 minutes, I switched to convection mode. Normally I wouldn’t convection anything cake-like because it’ll dry it out, but I decided to try it since I actually kind of needed the center of this thing to dry out!

The ingredients list below is corrected for what I think I need to do next time. I’ll report back and post instructions once I have a chance for a do-over.

Ingredients

2 cups bread flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar  1 cup sugar
½ cup milk (I did not have this in my original attempt)
2 eggs
3 extra- or over-ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans