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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Healthy Pumpkin Pie

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Happy Diwali!  Sorry for the Monday morning rather than Sunday afternoon post – but I don’t have school today so for me its like a Sunday.  And I don’t have school Thursday.  And I don’t have school Friday.  And I don’t have school next Monday.  Life of a school teacher in November.

But anyways, that means good things for the blog, because I’ll have lots of time to experiment!  And this week was definitely an experiment.  My boyfriend, who we already know has much healthier tendencies than I do, came to me with the request of trying to make a pumpkin pie that was healthy.  Now, I’ve never actually made pumpkin pie before, or pie crust from scratch, but I did go to that technique class last week so I pretended to be an authority on the subject.  Also, I probably should make healthy recipes on occasion because either way I will end up eating too much of what I make.

So he found a recipe for nonfat (as in no fat at all – amazing, right?) whole wheat pie crust and low calorie pumpkin pie filling, and we gave it a shot.

First, use a food processor to pulse together the banana and whole wheat flour until there are no chunks of banana left and it feels a little like Floam.  I only have a mini chopper (looking at you, Santa), so I did it in two batches.  The banana should be cold before you do this (it’s replacing your cold butter), and be careful not to over process.  This crust does have a tendency to get tough, and I probably got a little carried away with my pulsing.

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Once combined, turn out onto a clean surface (I use my handy-dandy pastry mat) and add the truvia and cinnamon.

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Add warm water by the teaspoon and pull it together into a ball.  I added about 4 teaspoons, but it will depend on your flour.  Whole wheat flour soaks up liquid like nothing else you’ve worked with, so it usually needs more than a recipe calls for.  Again, the texture you are going for is simply not crumbling into pieces.

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Once combined, wrap it in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer while you prepare the filling.  Side note – this dough is delicious.  It tastes like cinnamon banana goodness.  Entirely possible that you might want to just eat it at this stage and say screw the pie.  But for the sake of baking, we continued.

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For the filling, combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, stevia, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  Whisk together until smooth.  This is where the I’ve-never-made-pumpkin-pie uncertainty came in for me.  I knew the final product was not a liquid pie, but I had a liquid filling.  Don’t worry, it does set in the oven while baking.  You have not ruined it already.

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Back to that no fat pie crust.  Take it out of the freezer and put it on your pastry mat.  You actually probably won’t need any additional flour to prevent sticking – the only problem I had with mine was that I let it get a little too cold, as I got a legitimate arm workout trying to roll it out.  Anyways, roll it to the 9″ pie markings on your mat, or, if you don’t have a pastry mat, roll it so that it’s big enough to drape over your pie pan.

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Feel free to cut the edges to make them clean and just eat them.  Or, if you’re a perfectionist, you can play Frankenstein and push them into the crevices that don’t quite reach the 9″ mark.

Now, for those of you who think I’ve lost my affinity for butter, turning to healthy recipes and such, do not despair – I did have one non-negotiable step in here.  I refuse to use cooking spray when making a pie crust.  It doesn’t work the same way.  So make sure you grease your pie plate liberally with real, old fashioned butter.

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Drape the pie crust over your pie plate and push it into the corners.  Cover with aluminum foil and put some kind of weight (pie weights, beans, rice…) in the middle to hold its shape.  Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.

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Remove from oven and remove tin foil.  Bake again for about 5 more minutes.  You want the crust to be mostly baked, but not completely, so that the pumpkin filling doesn’t just turn it all into a pumpkin soup.  However, don’t bake it too much because then you’ll have a rock pie.

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Add the filling to the pie and bake for an additional 45 minutes at 350°F, or until the middle doesn’t jiggle when you move the pan.  If you are worried about the edges of the crust, you can make a tin foil ring to put around the outside, which I didn’t do, but I probably should have.  Take it out and let it cool on a wire rack to room temperature.   Trust me on this one, warm pumpkin pie tastes funky.  You actually should let it cool and that maybe even chill it more in the fridge before serving.

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Now, this experiment was definitely not a bust in the sense of the chocolate biscuits.  The pie, for what it was (a healthy recipe with a nonfat crust) satisfied that pumpkin flavor you might be craving.  However, unless your family REALLY is committed to having a healthy Thanksgiving, I probably wouldn’t serve it for the main dessert.  The crust is not flaky, due to the lack of butter, and the sweet factor isn’t totally there.  For me, a buttery, flaky crust is super essential to the pie experience.

But, if you are looking for a healthy pumpkin pie as a casual treat to have around or as an alternative to your main dessert course for those guests who insist they are on a diet but need pie, this would work.  I know my attitude after Thanksgiving dinner is “I’ve already eaten 3 days worth of calories, may as well keep it going”, but there may be people out there who can get to the dessert table and would appreciate the healthier choice.  This pie will satisfy those people.

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If you have any recommendations to improve the crust, PLEASE share them in the comments.  The filling was pretty good as is, but regular sugar instead of stevia would also work well I think.  Next week, expect something back on that full fat kick (and probably getting away from pumpkin), but for those of you trying to stay healthy through the holiday season, this one was for you.

Enjoy!

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Healthy Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 banana, cold
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 packages (1 tablespoon) truvia
  • 1-4 teaspoons of warm water

Filling

  • 1 can pure pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon stevia

Directions:

  1. Prepare the crust: Pulse together banana and whole wheat flour in food processor until no chunks of banana remain.  Turn onto pastry mat and add truvia and cinnamon.  Add warm water by the teaspoon (about 4) until dough is no longer crumbly.  Wrap and chill.
  2. Add all of the filling ingredients to a bowl and whisk until smooth.
  3. Remove pie crust from freezer and roll out thin to fit over 9″ pie plate.  Drape over greased pie plate and push into corners.
  4. Cover with aluminum foil and pie weights.  Bake at 350°F for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove aluminum foil and weights and bake for an additional 5 minutes.
  6. Add filling to crust and bake for 45 minutes or until center is set.  Remove and allow to cool to room temperature on a wire rack.
  7. Chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Pumpkin Bread

 

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I love the Fall.  I say that about every season, but Fall has the best smells.  And after baking this pumpkin bread, I’ve been leaving my apartment just so I can walk back in and smell the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.

I don’t know how I got all the way to the 20th of October without making something with pumpkin in it.  I’ve been drinking pumpkin coffee for weeks.  I think I got caught up in the apples and forgot about pumpkins entirely.  Fortunately, I still have another October weekend left, so you can expect another pumpkin recipe before the month is done.

Also, I don’t think the can for pureed pumpkin has changed since it was created.  Except maybe the addition of Spanish.  That may be new.

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Anyways, this pumpkin bread was adapted from a Cooking Light recipe, which claims it only has about 150 calories per slice.  I know last week’s healthy adventure wasn’t my best, but this is a recipe I’ve made before so I knew it would be good.

And it is delicious.  Moist,  pumpkin-y, cinnamon-y, clove-y.  Everything Fall should be in a bread.  So let’s get to it.

First up, whisk together the sugar, pumpkin, canola oil, applesauce, and egg whites in a large bowl.  For egg whites, I use the crack-the-egg-and-transfer-the-yolk-back-and-forth-between-shells-until-it’s-just-yolk method.  That’s the technical name, as opposed to the crack-the-egg-in-your-hand-and-let-everything-but-the-yolk-run-through-your-fingers method.

 

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In a separate small bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and baking soda.  I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but rather than sifting flour I’ve always used the technique I learned in 7th grade Home Ec. of scooping and dumping the flour back into the canister a couple times to add some air.  No idea if that’s a common thing, but it does prevent the flour from packing into the measuring cups, so that’s just what I do.

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Then, add the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk together until just moist.  I usually take this to mean until I can’t see anymore streaks of dry stuff.

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Now this is where I chose to experiment this week.  Usually, this recipe is made with chocolate chips.  And I love chocolate, but using chocolate chips in a recipe means that I then have chocolate chips in my cabinet, which means chocolate chips become a nightly snack.  So when I was browsing the baking aisle (I can spend far too much time in that particular aisle of a grocery store), I came across baking raisins.

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I was unaware that there were a specific variety of raisins made for baking.  But they promised to remain moist (not that I’ve ever had a problem with raisins staying moist while baking) and I was intrigued.  They also came in a convenient 1 cup package.  I was sold.  Plus, raisins taste like Fall, too, if combined with the other yummy spices.  Basically, they were raisins that were still a little juicy instead of dry.  Kind of like when you get a package of olives on an airplane and they seem a little slimy but delicious.

So I added the package of raisins to the mix and stirred until combined.

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Spread the mixture in a 9×5 loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.  I spray pretty liberally, since I have an irrational fear of things getting stuck in pans and not looking pretty when done.  This fear is magnified by a million when it comes to cakes, but quick breads are usually fine.

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Bake at 350° for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out without batter.  Not necessarily dry – but the batter shouldn’t be liquidy.  Allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing.

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Once you take it out of the pan, you can cut it as soon as you want.  Warm pumpkin bread is just as good as room temperature pumpkin bread.  I’m also in the habit of cutting loafs in half first because the middle pieces are the best and I want them first.

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True to their promise, the raisins stayed extra juicy.  And the bread was extra good.  If you want to actually have 150 calorie slices, you have to make the loaf 16 slices.  This is doable if you’re as OCD as I am about cutting baked goods, but no one is going to judge you if you only get 4 slices instead.

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Keep the bread covered with plastic wrap at room temperature.  Throughout the week, it will get a little dryer, but it probably won’t last long enough for that to be a real problem.  You could also freeze it if you were so inclined, but I’m just planning on having pumpkin bread for breakfast for week.  Or a couple days at least.

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup raisins (baking raisins if you are so inclined, or chocolate chips)

Directions:

  1. Whisk together sugar, pumpkin, canola oil, applesauce, and egg whites in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  3. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix until moist.
  4. Add raisins and mix until combined.
  5. Spread in 9×5 loaf pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 350°F for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean.
  6. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack.  Remove from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.
  7. Cut into 16 slices and serve.

 

Chocolate Biscuits

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My boyfriend was visiting for the weekend again this weekend, and earlier this week he sent me a link for a whole wheat biscuit recipe he wanted to try, asking if it would work for my blog.  I love biscuits, but I also love sweets, so we compromised and made them into chocolate biscuits.  Unlike my other recipes, these are actually pretty good for you (no butter!), but probably not in the quantity we decided to eat them.

Anyways, after looking at a couple recipes online, I came up with how to modify the healthy biscuit recipe to make them chocolate.  If I had had more time, I probably would have adjusted a few things, but they work as is if you aren’t looking for something super sweet.

First, add the dry ingredients (whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa powder) to a large bowl and mix them together.

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Then, add the yogurt (we used plain Chobani) and milk.  When you make biscuits, you should be using the well technique, adding the yogurt first and then the milk in small portions, but I forgot that and it still worked.  However, a step you don’t want to forget is handling the dough as little as possible – the more you mix it the denser they will be, and biscuits are not something you want to be particularly dense.

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At this point, we tasted the batter and decided it wasn’t chocolatey enough, so I added another tablespoon of cocoa powder.  However, if I were to do it again, I probably would have added sugar instead, since that would have brought out the chocolate flavor better.

 

Once the dough comes together into a ball, turn it out onto a floured mat to roll about 3/4 inch thick.  Andy recommended (after I had already used the flour) to flour with cocoa powder, which would prevent the white spots on the final biscuits.

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If you don’t have a biscuit cutter (like me), you can use a floured wine glass (which I definitely had) instead.  You should be able to get around 10 biscuits out of the recipe.

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Put the biscuits on a greased baking sheet and bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on them though, it’s very easy to forget and over cook them, at which point they end up dry and hard, not yummy and moist.  (I may have made that mistake…)

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Fortunately, this mistake is very easily remedied by adding honey.  This also solves the not-super-sweet issue.  At first I wasn’t sold on the biscuits, but once you add some honey, they didn’t last long.  Like maybe 3 hours.  Between the two of us.  Oh well.  They were healthy, right?

If you decide to give these a try and play around with any ratios, let me know.  I’d love to make them again, but they could use a little bit of adjustment to become a true dessert.  Not that they didn’t do their job as is.

Enjoy!

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Chocolate Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 tablespoons cocoa powder (including the one I added after tasting the batter)
  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt (might be good to try a flavored one here)
  • 1/2 cup skim milk

Directions:

  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar and cocoa powder.
  2. Add yogurt and milk, mixing until it just comes together into a ball.  Don’t over mix!
  3. Turn out onto floured mat and roll about 3/4 inch thick.
  4. Cut into circles using a biscuit cutter or wine glass dipped in flour.
  5. Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 425°F for 15 minutes.
  6. Serve with generous amounts of honey.