Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

So I love anything with chocolate chips if I haven't mentioned it before...I'm sure I have since I'm a true chocolate lover.  I can't believe I haven't posted these on here yet, but here is a staple I have around here.  I make up a batch of these awesome chocolate chip granola bars every week.  They make a great on the go breakfast, or an easy snack or lunch...you know...whenever you don't have time or feel like putting something together.  I pretty much have a little square of these granola bars every day for breakfast with a chocolate protein shake (that I make with just a tad of milk and blend up with ice so it's like a frappacino...and some days I'll add a tsp of instant coffee...LOVE IT!).  I have to have a little bit of chocolate every day...before these, I used to eat chocolate bars, but these satisfy my chocolate cravings while being a lot healthier.  They also keep me feeling satisfied for longer periods of time than if I were to eat something else like a bowl of cereal. 
Anyways, here is what I can't live without...

Chocolate Chip and Roasted Almond Granola Bars
1 cup peanut butter (I just guess..I probably do a bit more..so decide if you like your granola bars more moist and chewy or more dry and crumbly when adding PB)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup Honey (or corn syrup if you don't have honey)
2 tsp vanilla

3 cups oats
1 cup cereal (honey nut cheerios, chex, honey bunches of oats, rice krispies...whatever you want)
3/4 cup wheat germ (better to have, but sometimes I'll leave it out if I'm making them gluten free for my sister)
4 tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
3/4 cup toasted almonds (optional)
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9x13 inch baking pan.  (i line mine with foil because it's easier to take the bars out and cut them up.)

Mix first 5 ingredients together.  Then add the oats, wheat germ and ground flax (optional).  Stir in chocolate chips, almonds and cereal.

Spread mixture into baking pan and bake for 20 minutes.  the let cool.


You can switch these up to make whatever kind of granola bars you like...add dried fruit, different nuts, whatever!

I found the basic recipe for this a long time ago on allrecipes.com.  I don't have the link anymore but ground flax seed and the amount of PB and addition of almonds are my changes.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup PB and they were so crumbly it was hard to eat them.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Double Chocolate Brownies with Caramel Frosting

I saw these brownies on Todaysmama by Leigh Anne Wilkes and they just sounded amazing and the picture looked really yummy, I had to give these a try! She got the recipe from the new Southern Living Cookbook

Double Chocolate Brownie with Caramel Frosting

2 (1-oz.) unsweetened chocolate baking squares

2 (1-oz.) semisweet chocolate baking squares

1 C butter, softened

2 C sugar

4 large eggs

1 C all purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla

3/4 C chopped, toasted pecans, divided (I didn’t use)

3/4 C semisweet chocolate chips, divided

Caramel Frosting

Microwave chocolate squares in a small bowl at medium heat until melted. Stir chocolate until smooth.

Beat butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Add flour and salt, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in vanilla, 1/2 C pecans, and 1/2 C chocolate chips. Spread batter into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 C pecans and 1/4 C chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Frost evenly with Caramel Frosting.

Caramel Frosting

3/4 C butter

2 C sugar

1/2 C buttermilk

12 large marshmallows

1 Tbsp light corn syrup

1/2 tsp baking soda

Melt butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar and remaining ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 25-30 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 234 degrees (soft boil stage) Remove from heat. Beat at high speed for 5-7 minutes or until frosting thickens and begins to lose its gloss.

To avoid a trip to the store, I made a few changes, I substituted the unsweeted chocolate baking squares with 1 TBSP melted butter and 3 TBSP cocoa powder. I melted 2 TBSP of semi-sweet chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet baking squares. In the caramel frosting, I didn't have buttermilk but made a substitute by mixing 1/2 TBSP of lemon juice with 1/2 cup of milk and letting it sit for 5 minutes.

I didn't have a candy thermometer, but the caramel frosting only took about 10 minutes to get to the soft boil stage. It all worked out well. These are good, but VERY sweet, more so than I anticipated...notice how much sugar is in these? 4 cups total! These are yummy but I think I'll be sticking with another awesome brownie recipe...it's easy and they are the best brownies ever...MMMMM...Brownies. They are always a winner. They are the best and don't need frosting if you make them, they are perfect and can stand on their own. But it's always fun to try something new :)

Haha...I tried to take a nice picture of mine like the one above that inspired me....but...didn't work so well...guess I should add wax paper to my list.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Be Grateful

A Thankful Heart by MORGAN WEISTLING

I was just reading an article on Prevention Magazine's website about healthy life lessons to teach your children and the last one, number 13 really stood out to me, it's about being grateful.

"If the days of your preschooler parroting back "thank-you" are long over, consider resurrecting the practice.

Research suggests that grateful people have more energy and optimism, are less bothered by life's hassles, are more resilient in the face of stress, have better health, and suffer less depression than the rest of us, says psychologist Joan Borysenko, PhD. "People who practice gratitude—and yes, it is something one can learn and improve—are also more compassionate, more likely to help others, less materialistic, and more satisfied with life."

If you have young kids, giving thanks together before bedtime or around the dinner table can help develop a healthy and loving attitude toward life. For older kids, let them learn from your habits: Make thanking others an everyday practice for you, and they’ll follow suit. Tell people what a good job they do, how kind they are, or how fabulous they look—as long as it's absolutely true."

-13 Healthy Life Lessons to Teach Your Kids By the editors of Prevention.com

Isn't it crazy how much control we really have over how we choose to look at life and how that has such an impact on how life affects us? Creating an attitude of gratitude might take practice, but it seems like a rather simple thing to do most of the time. I've heard people in the past preach about the impact having a gratitude journal can be in your life. Even if you tend to look at things negatively and have a difficult time seeing the positives and being grateful, if you can think of at least ONE thing to be grateful for, that's a start...and it can even be something small like, it's a nice day out today...or junior had a long nap today....or jr didn't have a tantrum today...I'm alive....
If we can instill this attitude of gratitude into our children, think of what a gift that is to them just based on the statement made above. For more ideas on how to raise grateful children, check out this article I wrote a while back on the subject.

How to Raise Grateful Kids

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Containing the Mess

So after unpacking my tempura paint for the no mess finger paint bag,
I thought J should have a chance to paint with real paints other than watercolors. I normally love watercolors for her because it's so easy to clean up but I ended up having some stuff handy to prevent a big mess. I used and old plastic plate with sections on it (the kind for picky eaters so the food doesn't touch) and this plastic lid that went with a disposable lasagna dish we received from one of the many kind people who brought us meals after the birth of our new little guy. I put a small cup of water in one section of the plate, then paint in the others and put her paper inside the plastic lid. It worked out great...no mess at all. I got to work in some bonus learning time too because I only gave her the primary colors, plus white and black...so when she started asking for other colors like green, orange and pink, I got to show her how red and white make pink, yellow and blue make green, etc. So we were both happy, she got to expand her knowledge of art mediums and I didn't have a big mess to clean up and I got to recycle the crappy old plastic plate I just knew I'd find a use for as well as the plastic lid since we couldn't save the foil bottom part that had ripped.