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.

Honey Yeast Rolls with Brown Sugar Cinnamon Butter

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We had a big group over for Easter yesterday, so of course I cooked a lot. I’m still getting the hang of coming up with my own bread recipes, and I didn’t want to risk an experiment with a big crowd. So, I used this recipe for honey yeast rolls from Southern Living. These rolls were amazing. There were no rolls left. People were going back for second and third rounds of rolls!

I used the last bit of honey we had on the actual rolls, so I had to come up with another plan for butter. The butter recipe makes enough for 28 rolls, and you might have some left over. (A second butter recipe added below from Thanksgiving)

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Butter

Combine ingredients below with a fork. Ideally you want to let it sit for a little while so the brown sugar isn’t grainy, but I served it right away and it was fine.

2 sticks butter, softened and partially melted.
⅓ cup + 1 tbsp light brown sugar
6 shakes ground cinnamon

Brown Sugar Honey Butter

Melt 2 sticks butter in a small saucepan. Add 3 tbsp brown sugar and 3 tbsp honey. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Chill in the refrigerator to let it firm up a bit before serving (you may have to stir it because sometimes the ingredients separate when it cools).

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.

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

Mom’s Fruitcake Cookies

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We used to make fruitcake cookies every Christmas when I was little. My mom has come to visit the last several years for Christmas, and we’ve made them again every time. They’re just so good! If you hate fruitcake, don’t assume you’ll hate these. They really don’t taste like an actual fruitcake. The main similarity with actual fruitcake is the candied fruit. And I have no idea how the front and center one in the photo ended up with so much less fruit than the others. It must’ve come from the last bit of dough. Oh well!

As you’ll see below, the recipe calls for various candied fruits. I highly recommend buying the individual packages of each one and cutting them yourself instead of getting the one with chopped mixed fruit. There is usually too much citron in the mixed container. We made that mistake one year and it completely ruined the taste. If you want some citrus, add a small amount of citron or some lemon zest.

I think this recipe yields about 5 dozen, but give me a margin of error of +/- 2 dozen. Next time I make them I’ll update.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 package chopped dates (or you can get whole ones and chop them)
  • 1 package candied pineapple
  • 1 package candied red cherries
  • 1 package candied green cherries
  • 1 cup chopped pecans (optional, I don’t usually add them)

Instructions 

Preheat oven to 375°.

Cut candied cherries into quarters. (If you’re feeling lazy like I am sometimes, a rough chop is ok. Just make sure the pieces are 1/4 size or smaller.) If the pineapple pieces are larger than the quartered cherry pieces, chop into pieces similar in size to the chopped cherries. If your dates aren’t chopped, give them a rough chop. I like the dates a smaller than the cherry pieces, but that’s personal preference.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon and set aside.

Cream butter. Add sugar gradually and beat well until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.

Gradually add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Make sure the flour from each addition is incorporated before adding the next.

Stir in fruit and optional nuts.

Drop dough by the teaspoonful onto a greased cookie sheet. (Or use a cookie scoop. I seriously love this thing.)

Bake for about 12-14 minutes until lightly browned.