Granola Bars

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I decided to be selfish this weekend.  Usually, I love to bake things for other people.  I bring treats into work and they disappear before 2nd period.  I bring treats to my classes and my students remember that I can be cool on occasion.  I bring treats to friends and make more friends.  But this week I decided to make something only I would get to eat: granola bars.

Now, I’ve made granola before, so if you’ve been reading me stuff for awhile, you know that I’m a little bit obsessed with the stuff.  I recently became addicted to Kind bars, but part of me understands that that is because they are really candy bars in disguise.  So, turning to Serious Eats, I found a recipe that claimed to be healthy and went for it.  The healthy part was also appealing after spending my evening last night with some other teachers eating fried chicken and Portuguese egg tarts (thanks Tim!) – I needed to counteract that somehow.

So without further ado, your first step is to generously grease a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.  I know what you’re thinking – Meg, how is generous use of butter healthy?  Let’s just assume it is and move on.

 

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Next, mix together the oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, whole wheat flour, cranberries, and almonds in a large bowl.

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Two confessions: the first is I didn’t have enough brown sugar so an “unpacked” 1/2 cup looked like this:

 

 

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Second, I never toast nuts when recipes tell me to.  I pretend it’s because I like how the nuts taste raw (which I do), but it’s more because I’m too afraid to burn them.  And I’ve never had a situation where I didn’t toast the nuts and people found my baked good inedible.  So I think that’s fine.

Next, in a separate medium bowl, whisk together the honey, egg whites, oil, applesauce (or mashed banana if that’s what you prefer), and vanilla extract.  You’ll need to gain a little momentum with the whisk before you really get the honey going, but it does become pretty liquidy after a bit.

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I happened to be finishing one container of honey and moving on to a second for this project.  Want to know what is infuriating? Trying to get the last couple drops of honey out of one of those little bears.  It just doesn’t work.  You would think someone would have thought of that before creating a bear with that many crevices – very impractical.

Anyways, you then create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the honey mixture.

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Using your hands, work together the dry and liquid ingredients until they form a loose ball.  This is very messy, but smells very good and tastes very good when you lick your fingers.

Flip the mixture into the baking dish and push it into a rectangle with about a half inch border around the outside.

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Bake at 350°F for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the outsides of the bars begin to brown.

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Then, allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before cutting into bars.  I was able to get 20 squares out of it.

 

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Then, allow to cool completely on a wire rack before storing in an airtight container. 

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They end up being almost cookie-like in texture (probably because of the flour and eggs), but I’m still calling them a granola bar.  You could also very easily substitute in different nuts or fruits based on what you like without any terrible consequences – I just happen to like almonds and cranberries (And craisins were on sale…).  I can’t think of a reason they wouldn’t keep for a good long time in an airtight container – all that could happen is they get a little stale, which is fine since granola bars are supposed to be crunchy anyways.

Enjoy!

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Granola Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup unpacked light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Generously grease a 9×13 inch glass pan.
  2. Mix together oats, brown sugar, wheat germ, cinnamon, flour, cranberries and almonds in a large bowl.
  3. Whisk together honey, egg whites, oil, applesauce and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
  4. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients.  Work into a loose ball using your hands.
  5. Turn out onto the baking dish and press into a rectangle, leaving a 1/2 inch border around the outside.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until edges get brown.
  7. Allow to cool in pan 5 minutes before cutting into 20 bars and removing to wire rack to cool completely.

 

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

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Want to know what happens when you have 6 snow days in a month and a half?  You lose all track of time.  Literally.  This past weekend was supposed to be a long weekend from school for Presidents’ Day.  We were going to have Friday through Tuesday off.  However, we had 4 snow days in January/early February, so the school decided to take away 2 of those days (Friday and Tuesday) because we didn’t have enough days built into the end of the year.  So in honor of having school on Valentine’s Day after all, I decided to make heart-shaped cookies for my students.

Then Mother Nature decided that we did indeed deserve a break.  And we had snow days on Thursday and Friday.  So we ended up with the long weekend anyways.  And there’s more snow in the forecast for tomorrow, meaning it could be an even longer weekend.  And also meaning I probably will be in school straight through next September.

But with all of this losing vacation days and getting snow days, you can see how I could lose track of when in the week it was.  And thus the Monday post.  I apologize to all of you who were anxiously awaiting my post yesterday, only to go to bed sad and start their week without visions of baked goods dancing in their heads as they moved towards Monday morning.  Hopefully you’ll forgive me.

Anyways, these chocolate cookies have been sitting in tupperware containers in my kitchen since Wednesday.  They are crunchy by nature, so even if we have a snow day AGAIN tomorrow, I’m confident my kids will still appreciate them when they do finally get to school.  I only wish I had thought ahead and made four leaf clovers instead.

And, if you didn’t know by now that I was a little crazy, here’s some more proof:

 

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I decided to give my eggs a little stability and decrease the chance of them rolling off the counter by creating butter nests.  Yet another use of butter!

So first step: cream together the sugar and butter.  There is no requirement on using a stand mixer for this, I just like mine.

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Then, add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, continuously beating until well combined.

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Next, add the cocoa powder and flour.  At this point, I switched to a dough hook, mostly because I didn’t totally know how to make a full batch of cookie dough in a stand mixer (I usually make frosting, which requires the paddle attachment), but a dough hook sounded promising.

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Make sure to scrape down the sides while you’re doing this and the bottom as well – I had some sneaky flour hiding under the rest of the dough.

I made these as a cookie press cookie.  There is a heart template, so I couldn’t really resist.  It looked like this when it was inside the tube:

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Amazing that can turn into a heart, right?  So you should fill your cookie press, if you have it, with the dough.  I’ve found that if you don’t fill it all the way up, the press works a little better.

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Put the press on an ungreased cookie sheet and press away!  You can fit lots of cookies on a single sheet.

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Bake the cookies at 375°F for 8 minutes.  Make sure to rotate the cookie sheet halfway through the baking time.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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This recipe makes a lot of cookies.  I’m talking 12 dozen.  That’s a dozen dozens of cookies.  Which was good for me because I have 125 students, but if you don’t have that many people to help you eat the cookies, you may want to reduce the ingredients.  Before I knew about the snow days, they looked great all plated and ready to bring to school:

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But, alas, it was not meant to be, and they were banished to tupperware for the weekend.  If there weren’t 125 of them, I think that adding some frosting and sprinkles would definitely benefit the cookie.  They are a dark chocolate, not very sweet, which I liked, but if your audience is of the younger variety, a little more sweet would not be a bad thing.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups salted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. While continuously beating, add vanilla extract and eggs, one at a time.
  3. Add flour and cocoa powder, mixing until well combined.
  4. Fill cookie press and press onto ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Bake at 375°F for 8 minutes, rotating pan halfway through bake time.  Allow to cool on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Frost and decorate as desired.

Magic Bars

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I had a really hard time deciding what to bake this weekend.  I was home in Massachusetts with my parents, who are currently in the the process of selling the house I grew up in, and when I have the whole kitchen at my disposal I always feel like I need to make something extra special.  Also, when I bake at their house, I know that I won’t have to bring the treats home with me, so there is little danger that I will eat them all.  This also makes me want to bake more extravagant things.

However, at the same time, I was running into the problem of not wanting to spend my whole weekend baking when I only see my parents once every couple of months.  So I finally settled on something that is both extravagant and fast: Magic Bars.

For those of you reading from my Yale past, these are the same magic bars they served in the dining hall – you know, the ones that people would horde in napkins to smuggle back to their rooms and save for late night studying.  They’re also called seven layer bars due to the seven different layers of deliciousness that go into them.

First step, melt the butter.  I need to find a butter cup like the one my mom has – it’s my favorite way to melt butter. (I’m sure not many people have a favorite way to melt butter, now that I think about it.)

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Then, mix the butter with the graham cracker crumbs in a bowl with a fork.  If you’re lazy like me, you can use the pre-crushed graham crackers.

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Press the graham cracker into the bottom of a greased 13×9 inch pan.  You probably don’t actually have to grease the pan with the amount of butter that goes in, but better safe than stuck in the pan forever.

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Next, sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top of the crust.

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Then sprinkle the butterscotch chips on next.  You can substitute peanut butter chips here and end up with an equally delicious result.

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Then, sprinkle the coconut on top of the chips.  Remember to always pack coconut when you’re measuring it.  At least, that’s what I do since my mom is a coconut addict.

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Then, add the chopped nuts.  I used walnuts, but you could also use pecans or some combination of nuts if you like that better.

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Finally, drizzle the can of sweetened condensed milk over you other layers to cement it all together.

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Now, those of you that are counting layers are having a moment of panic.  Wait! Meg! You said SEVEN layer bars!  I only count six!  That, my friends, is because you are forgetting the butter.

 

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When you use a whole stick of butter and it doesn’t totally fit in the butter cup, that warrants being considered a layer of its own.

Anyways, bake the bars at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes, or until milk is bubbling and edges are slightly browned.

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Allow to cool in the pan completely before cutting into bars.

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Magic bars can be stored covered at room temperature.  If you want to try something a little different, though, I did discover in college that if you keep them in the fridge they turn into a really awesome texture as well.  Definitely worth a try.

Enjoy!

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Magic Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Directions:

  1. Combine melted butter and graham cracker crumbs with a fork.
  2. Press crumb mixture into the bottom of a greased 13×9 inch pan.
  3. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of crust.
  4. Sprinkle butterscotch chips evenly on top.
  5. Sprinkle coconut for the next layer.
  6. Add the chopped nuts.
  7. Drizzle condensed milk over the top of the layers.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes or until bubbling and lightly browned.
  9. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars.

Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies

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Good things happen when I finish all of my grading and lesson planning before 2 on a Sunday.  Good things in the form of baking adventures that I can pursue leisurely for hours on end.  Good things in the form of FINALLY breaking in my yellow stand mixer.  Isn’t it beautiful?

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Anyways, this weekend’s adventure was Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies.  For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been dying to try my hand at Kenji’s perfect chocolate chip cookie on Serious Eats.  However, that project actually is a little too long for a casual Sunday afternoon.  And it requires baking by weight, which I’m yet to try.  But with Super Bowl being today, I still felt the need to make a form of chocolate chip cookies (They seem like an American dessert to me).  So I went the salty-and-sweet route of last week and added potato chips, as per this other Serious Eats recipe. The result? Amazing.  Look for them in the staff room tomorrow if it doesn’t snow too much.

First up, whisk together the flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set it aside.  Serious Eats calls for salt as well, but I never bake with salt.

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Now comes the tricky part.  I’ll admit, when I saw that I was going to brown butter, I got really nervous.  It is a skill I have never really tried before.  I knew that if you wait even a second too long, the butter burns and is ruined.  And I also knew that I did not have enough butter to make that mistake.  So I put it in a pan over medium heat and swirled it every so often by the handle.

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Then I got scared.  I turned the oven off and pulled the pot to the side.  Melted butter is almost brown butter, right?  I tried to justify not continuing. But in the interest of learning, I decided to continue.  I put it back over slightly lower heat (I have a gas stovetop that tends to run a little hot) and switched to the stir-with-a-spoon method.

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I alternated this with the hold-the-pan-a-little-above-the-flame-like-a-marshmallow method.  At the slightest hint of brown in my butter, I took it off the heat and put it into the bowl of my mixer.  In the end, I decided better slightly brown than fully black, and went from there.

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Once you’re past that hurdle, the rest is smooth sailing.  Add the brown sugar and regular sugar to the bowl and mix at low speed until smooth.  Sorry I’m not sorry for the gratuitous action shots of my mixer.  I love it.

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With the mixer still going, add the egg and yolk, vanilla, and whole milk.  Continue mixing on low speed until well combined.

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Side note: I now have a full bottle of whole milk minus two tablespoons and nothing to do with it.  I think the only solution to this problem is making ice cream.  Are there any others I’m overlooking?

Regardless, your next step is to add the flour mixture from the beginning.  Mix this on low speed until just combined.

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Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the chocolate chips.  I just used a full 12oz bag.  I also know what you’re thinking: Wait! Meg! What about the chocolate chunks?  My answer: 2/$5 on chips at A&P.  Also with the sheer volume of chocolate going into this, I think the smaller chips actually are the way to go.

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Now, here I ran into another unexpected hurdle.  The dough was not a texture of cookie dough I was at all used to for a drop cookie.  I’m assuming that’s because I don’t usually melt butter before I use it in drop cookies, but it was strange.  The chocolate chips would not mix into the dough.  I had all of these spare chips in the bottom that didn’t want to combine.

So rather than dropping the dough by the spoonful onto the baking sheet, I used my hands to form flattened disks that mildly resembled the break and bake cookies you can buy pre made at the store.  I took about a spoonful, rolled it together, and flattened it on top on the sheet.

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I also decided to make the cookies bigger than usual for no other reason than all of my small spoons were in the dishwasher.  You should be able to fit about a dozen on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Put a handful of kettle-cooked chips in a bag and crush them up.  If you have the option to use Cape Cod chips, I’m about 100% sure that those would be ideal.  They apparently don’t sell them this far south of Massachusetts, though, so I was stuck with Lay’s version.

 

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Add a pinch of the crushed chips to the top of each cookie and push them into the dough to make them stick.

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Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool about 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cookies should be eaten within 3 days so that the chips on top don’t get stale.  If they’re eaten sooner I don’t think that would be a problem either.  Time for some football!

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Chip Potato Chip Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1 cup crushed kettle-cooked potato chips

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour and baking soda in a medium bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirling or stirring occasionally until butter begins to brown.  Make sure to monitor closely – butter burns before you know it.
  3. Add browned butter, brown sugar, and sugar to bowl of stand mixer and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until smooth.
  4. Add egg and egg yolk, vanilla, and milk, continuing to mix until combined.
  5. Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined, being careful not to over mix.
  6. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in chocolate chips.
  7. Scoop dough by the rounded spoonful onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Form the dough into flattened disks and press crushed chips onto the top of each cookie.
  8. Bake at 325°F for 15 minutes or until golden brown around edges.  Allow to cool 10 minutes on sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.