Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Chewy Toasty Granola Bars

I was never good at following directions. Just ask my parents!

I clearly remember the time I asked my folks if I could ride a friend's moped. Shortly after being told "no" I left my house to--you guessed it--ride the moped (I was young, people!). Lo and behold my parents came walking around the corner and busted me on the moped. (I ended up grounded for 2 weeks, but that's another story).

Luckily I have gained a bit more sense, and now harbor a less rebellious rejection of protocol.
When it comes to cooking, it is often pure laziness, and a bit of a can-do attitude, that prevents me from following, or often even reading, the directions.

Recently I tried to make granola bars, hoping to whip up a cheap, healthy snack for my family's lunches. Did you pick up the word "tried"? Yeah. Tried and failed. Why? Because I scanned a recipe originally from Kitchen Stewardship, and shared with me by my friend Rebecca at Cakewalk. The title "Soaked Granola Bars" led me to think that the oats should be soaked. And soak them I did.

But as I mentioned, I didn't read the recipe. Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, I know, what can I expect? If you don't read the directions how can you even think about following them. But since I knew I wouldn't follow them, I didn't even bother to read them. Well, Otehlia, there's a technique to soaking and drying grains. It makes a difference if you do it right or not. This is why I don't make my own granola bars for crying out loud! (My mental feed after the granola bar fail.)

At any rate, I soaked the oats, then semi-dried them, hoping for a "chewy" granola bar. And unless chewy and mushy are the same, which they are not, these were not chewy. At before you say, well, maybe they weren't that bad, let me tell you that they were. My husband returned home from work with the granola bar uneaten. That's a complete and utter fail.

Back to the drawing, uh..cutting, board. Oh, I see, you soak them with a certain amount of water, for a certain length of time, and dry them completely. Well, that 's not going to happen because guess what--I want granola bars now! Finally after talking to Rebecca (during which time I certainly could have soaked and dried the oats), we decided that since rolled oats are already processed, there probably is no real benefit to soaking them. So I remade the granola bars, this time just using plain old rolled oats. Amazing! The bars turned out perfect. A bit chewy with a hint of crunch from the toasted oats. Some seeds, dried cherries and apples completed the snack--all in under an hour.
If you want perfectly chewy, toasty granola bars, for a fraction of the cost of boxed, just follow these directions--or don't.

Chewy, Toasty Granola Bars

4. 5 cups oats
1/2 cup each oil and butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp flax
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup almonds, sliced or chopped
1/4 cup wheat germ (optional)
1 cup ww flour (could use spelt, etc)
1/2 cup oat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup each dried cherries, apples, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Spread oats on a large cookie sheet and toast in oven, stirring once, for about 10-15 minutes.
3. On separate sheet toast almonds, sesame seeds, wheat germ and flax, just until fragrant, about 5-8 minutes. Don't burn!
4. Reduce heat to 300.
5. Meanwhile heat oil, butter, honey, vanilla and sugar in sauce pan on stove until melted.
6. Pour toasted oats in a bowl, and add flours, seeds, salt, baking powder.
7. Pour sugar/oil mixture over flour mix and stir well to coat. taste to make sure it's good:)
8. Add dried fruit and stir again.
9. Press into jelly roll sheet or 9 x 13 pan and bake about 20-25 min, until golden.
10. Let cool, then cut in squares, and wrap tightly to store. Store in fridge.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Black-Bottom Lime Mousse Tart with Raspberries

I've been waiting to share some great news. It's like being pregnant--I just want to make sure the baby is healthy before telling everyone.

No, I'm not pregnant! I said it's like being pregnant.

I am the new monthly recipe columnist for Madison Magazine! My first article will appear in the April issue and you better believe I'll be shamelessly flaunting that baby like a proud mama.

The magazine's photographer came over the other day to take a head shot and wanted "something I'd cooked" in the background. Oh, boy. That was cause for major planning. Something beautiful. Something that can keep for a bit at room temperature. Something delicious that I could share.

I decided on a black-bottom lime mousse tart. With ganache. And raspberries. And raspberry sauce. I figured if the food looked great no one would notice my fine lines. Or the fact that the apron I tried to sew the night before the shoot wasn't hemmed. And had really messy stitching.

I worked hard on that mousse tart, carefully mixing, pouring and chilling the ingredients. I topped it with only the finest organic fruit. I painstakingly decorating the tart (it turned out much better than the apron!), and I proudly displayed it for all (well, me, the photographer and my son) to see. And I took my favorite picture ever. I hope you enjoy the creation of this column as much as I do!

Black Bottom Lime Mousse with Raspberries

Black Bottom:

2 cups Trader Joe's chocolate cat cookies
1/4 cup toasted coconut flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp butter

Pulverize dry ingredients in food processor til very fine. Drizzle in butter. Press into springform pan and chill til set.


8 oz chocolate chips (semi-sweet chocolate or mix of semi-sweet and dark)

¾ cup cream

Bring cream to boil, remove from heat. Add in chips and stir until blended.

Pour over chilled crust and chill again until set.

Mousse Filling:

¾ cup key lime juice (can sub lemon, which I did here, but key lime is better)

one envelope powdered gelatin

4 eggs, separated

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 cup heavy cream

Raspberry Sauce:

14 oz bag frozen berries

2 tsp lemon juice

¼ cup sugar

1 tsp cornstarch

1 tsp vanilla

1 tbsp Grand Marneir

Heat berries gently until they release juices. Strain.

Heat again to gentle simmer and add all ingredients except cornstarch. Take a small amount of suace and dissolve cornstarch. Add to reset of sauce and stir, simmering for about 5 min until thickened.

Bloom gelatin in ¼ cup of key lime juice.

Whip 1 cup of heavy cream to soft peak on medium speed and store in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the mousse. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, over medium heat, whisk yolks, ½ cup sugar and ½ cup key lime juice until thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and whisk in bloomed gelatin until dissolved.

Transfer lime juice mixture to a bowl and chill to room temperature. While the key lime mixture is chilling. Whip whites in a clean dry bowl with a clean dry whip. Whip on medium speed until whites achieve soft peaks, being careful not to over whip the whites.

Gently fold egg whites into whipped cream. Then fold whites/cream mixture into key lime mixture being careful to not deflate the whites and cream.

Pour onto crust (I used springform pan) and chill to set.

Garnish with softly whipped cream (optional) and grated lime zest, and raspberries.

Top with raspberry sauce.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Peanut Butter Cream Pie

It's not always easy for me to go with the flow.

Dancing is where I feel least confined to an expected outcome (read: my own highly self-critical expectations), though I was even challenged in that area recently. I totally did not go with the flow during a performance, felt horrible about the outcome and spent the next few days beating myself up.

As a parent I often feel confined to schedules and routines. And as a chef, I get frustrated when a dish doesn't come out right. Usually it's not the taste that fails me, but the presentation of the final product. It falls, it burns, it flops.

A cake fail? That challenges my critical self to a level that is not pretty.

I've experienced a few cake fails. I tried to make the Impossible Cake (the name alone should have given me a clue); it imploded in goo. I have covered cracked cheesecake in a beautiful layer of glaze, hoping that no-one noticed that my cutting lines followed the gaping fissures. And just last night, I made a cream pie that turned out more like a soup than pie.

My son had a craving for peanut butter, banana, chocolate and caramel. What could I do, let a perfectly good craving go to waste? A friend of mine shared a recipe for Mikey's creamy peanut butter pie. It was first published by food blogger Jennie in honor of her husband Mikey Perillo who passed away last August. Peanut butter cream pie? That could become my new favorite, too, and it sounded amazingly easy! Even my son can make it with minimal help, I thought.

We followed the directions, and the crust and filling looked perfect. Fluffy filling on a cookie crumb crust. A nice layer of chocolate separating the two.

But alas, after chilling it for a few hours, the filling was still pourable. We dived in anyway, and the crumb crust spilled like dust across the plates. A heaping mound of delicious goop, and finely ground crumbs. In that moment, I realized that I could get frustrated and wonder endlessly what I did wrong--was it that we used a food processor, rather than a blender? Was the cream cheese too soft? Should I have whipped the cream more? Or...

I could go with the flow. I remembered to feel grateful that I had time with my son to cook, and I stuck the cake in the freezer. Lo and behold, a (not really) beautiful, slice-able, delicious, creamy, frozen peanut butter pie.

Forget the dishes, it's time to go play in the snow.

LinkCreamy Peanut Butter Pie

Serves 10 to 12

8 ounces chocolate cookies

4 tablespoons butter, melted

4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup chopped peanuts (I omitted)

1 cup heavy cream

8 ounces cream cheese

1 cup creamy-style peanut butter

1 cup confectioner's sugar

1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Add the cookies to the bowl of a food processor and pulse into fine crumbs. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl, and stir with a fork to mix well. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Pour over bottom of cookie crust and spread to the edges using an off-set spatula. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over the melted chocolate. Place pan in the refrigerator while you prepare the filling.

Pour the heavy cream into a bowl and beat using a stand mixer or hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and store in refrigerator until ready to use. Place the cream cheese and peanut butter in a deep bowl. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and gradually beat in the confectioner's sugar. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract and lemon juice. Increase speed to medium and beat until all the ingredients are combined and filling is smooth.

Stir in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (helps lighten the batter, making it easier to fold in the remaining whipped cream). Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Pour the filling into the prepared springform pan. Drizzle the melted chocolate on top, if using, and refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.