Monday, February 24, 2014

Chewy Granola Bars

Homemade, Chewy Granola Bars

 
Here is a recipe for the most popular granola bars in my house. It originally came from a dear friend of mine, but we've tweaked it to our tastes. It, hands down, beats anything you can get from a box...chocolate covered or not!

In a LARGE bowl, beat together:
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup butter (no substitutes)

Add:
½ t vanilla
1 egg

Blend in:
1 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
1 t cinnamon
½ t baking soda
¼ t salt

Mix in:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (Our favorite is pecans)
1 cup chocolate chips (House favorite is half milk chocolate and half white chocolate)
½ cup wheat germ
1 large handful of dried cranberries (dried cherries or dried blueberries taste great, too!)
I also added a sprinkle of wheat bran and ground flax seeds, but you could add ground chia seeds if you want

Feel free to mix up your add-ins- just keep your totals close to what the recipe calls for. If not, the bars get dry. You could add in golden raisins, dried apricots, apples, or peaches, almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds…the possibilities are endless! As a family, we rarely ever finish a box of cereal before it starts to get stale. I keep it and add it into the mix. However much I add of cereal, I decrease the oats by that same amount.

Press into greased 9x13 pan. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350 deg until golden and set. They'll be chewy on the inside and set on the outside. 

Cool, then cut. Store 'em if they last longer than 2 hours. 

On a side note, last week I had announced via this post that I have started making and selling soap. Last night as I was making my daily batch so I can get a good inventory going, my 14 year old son came up to me and said, "Mom, can I make a batch of soap with you?" My heart melted a little bit and we spent the next hour making soap, talking about life lessons, and generally enjoying each others company. If I never, ever sell one bar of soap, I will still have that memory to tuck into the corner of my heart.  


This photo has absolutely nothing to do with this post,
but it's one of my favorite photos I've ever taken.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Live.Simple.

Rerunning an oldie but a goodie from earlier this year. But with Christmas season coming up, I thought it might be a good idea to refresh everyone's memories!

 Live.Simple.

My new motto. My new viewpoint. My new everything.


It's also the name of a new adventure I'm taking: homemade soap making. The idea behind it is quite, ahem, simple. Simple ingredients. Simple scents. Simple clean. Simple to use. Simple to love.

My friend, Char of LiveLifeLoveOils, and I went to The Prairie Peddler last year to walk around in the bright October sun and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of autumn. While there, we  discovered that we shared the same desire to learn to make soap. REAL soap. LYE soap. Saponified soap. SOAP soap. Your grandmother's soap. HER grandmother's soap. The soap of generations and generations before us. I think you get the idea. 

For those of you who have never been to The Prairie Peddler, it is a festival held in a grouping of permanent, rustic structures built into the woods of the area near Mohican State Park in Ohio. The atmosphere with the brilliance of autumn's color plus the smell of woodsmoke from the vendors cooking fruit cobblers in Dutch ovens over campfires plus the dirt paths and stick built wooden cabins is truly absorbing. It almost feels as though you are walking through an 1800's village. Almost.

Our interest was piqued at a particular cabin. In this cabin, we learned that the owner of the company offered soap making classes. So, we each took a flyer with us. The seed had been planted. The following Tuesday, I called and signed us up. 7 classes. One night a week. 40 miles one way. It.was.awesome.

By the time we finished with our classes, we were certified as Apprentice Soap Makers in the Handcrafted Soapmakers Guild. We each only need a few more hours of training before we are certified as Master Soap Makers! <--that is so cool to me!

We not only learned how to make soap, but how to make soap. The chemistry behind it. The method to the madness shall we say. We were each instructed to create our own recipe. What did we want our soap to do? Oddly enough, it doesn't simply clean. I learned that true soap has characteristics: lather, scent, feel, bubbles, moisture on the skin. Beyond that, there is always the next level of clearing up skin issues such as psoriasis, eczema, acne. We're not at that level yet. But we'll get there.

Once you decide what you want your soap to do and how you want it to act, you create the recipe based on your knowledge of the ingredients. Let me tell you, there was tension that night at class: Would it work? Would it not work? Would we blow the place up? I'm kidding. Our teacher was confident it would work.

We learned that good quality ingredients produce good quality products. We learned that mistakes can be fun. We learned that we wanted to learn more. But what we really learned was that we loved doing it, our skin had never, ever felt better, and that we were extremely happy to share with our family and friends a non-toxic, natural, healthier way to clean the largest organ of your body. 

So, it is my pleasure, honor, and joy to introduce to you Live.Simple.

I've finally created an Etsy Shop from which I can sell it- take a look!


I hope you will learn to love Live.Simple. as much as I do.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Re-purpose Idea! 



I try make bread every week.  However, it's been a few weeks since the last time I made it so I think my family is overdue for a little lovin'

The recipe I use makes enough for 4 loaf pans. Or 3 loaf pans and a pizza. Or 3 loaf pans and a pan of dinner rolls. Sometimes the last 3/4 of a loaf will get stale before it gets eaten.
 
So, instead of throwing it to the chickens, birds, or compost pile, I slice it up, dry it thoroughly, and give it a whir in my food processor to make homemade breadcrumbs.  


 Sliced bread drying on a rack

   Broken into pieces to fit into my food processor

After a few pulses and before I added the herbs

 If I feel like it, I'll add a couple of shakes of Italian Blend herbs. But most of the time, it's just plain breadcrumbs. They are more coarse like a Panko crumb than the finely processed ones in the store. But my family really likes them a little coarse. It makes a great crunch on anything and everything you chose to put it on!  I have one gallon glass jars with metal lids that I keep my dry foods in.


Gallon jar that I use for breadcrumbs.


Homemade breadcrumbs- Just another way to use what I've got on hand...what do you to to 'repurpose' what you have?

*I'm fairly certain that one can make breadcrumbs out of any stale bread. It doesn't have to be homemade bread... I'm just throwing that out there*






Thursday, February 13, 2014

Spring is right around the corner

It's almost time!

 

Time for what, you ask? Time for planting. Time for growing. Time for getting my hands dirty in the good clean dirt of my garden. Time to listen to the laughter that comes from sunshine and warmer weather. Time to listen to the birds as they lift their voices in song to our God.

Last year, I was overwhelmed with life and our garden felt the neglect. Oh boy, did it ever. I actually felt the same neglect as our garden did: out of control, no tending, and barely surviving.


This year, I am taking the necessary steps to release myself from the time-sucking activities that drained me last year. I am determined to not fall into the same patterns again. It simply isn't healthy. For me, my family, or our lifestyle.

My family needs the food we grow and preserve. We rely on it. It's part of my job as a homemaker to provide it. I just ordered my seeds for the year: beets, carrots, beans, squash, rutabagas, cabbage, cucumbers.  I can't wait to get out in the sun and feel the warmth on my skin.

Gardening is like life: what you sow, you shall reap. If you allow weeds and crud to take over, the goodness and good things of your garden will be overwhelmed and lost to the shadows. Not this year. Not this time.




Image courtesy of amenic181 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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