Homemade Fruit & Nut Bars

If you aren’t familiar with Larabars, they are fairly healthy, low processed, fruit and nut bars (with other added flavors or ingredients depending on the flavor of the bar). They are quite good and make great snacks, meals on the go and even dessert.

Anytime we find a product we like that is good for us, my wife will try making it at home. Often it can be less expensive. And with as few ingredients as can be found in Larabars, they are fairly easy to duplicate and adjust to desired tastes. (My wife’s peanut butter varieties are much better than Larabar’s). The key for most Larabars are dates. And a good blender. We use a Blendtec because that’s what we have (and because it’s awesome).

Here’s the recipe from my wife for the cashew cookie flavor: “I don’t measure anything. Normal recipe is to blend some cashews and a few almonds into small pieces. Dump out of blender. Blend some dates until in a paste. Dump into bowl with nuts and stir. Press into load pan refrigerate and cut into bars.”

Homemade Pizza

Cheese Pizza

Originally uploaded by jamieraecline

Here’s a picture of the pizza we made using the recipe below.  It’s actually a pepperoni pizza, the picture was taken and uploaded by a friend.  We still like her :).

Homemade Pizza

Why order greasy pizza from a chain for your Super Bowl party when you can get professional quality pizza for less than half the cost by making it yourself?

My wife has been working on finding a great pizza recipe to make at home and she’s found it.  You can find it below.

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (doh!)
  • mix together and let rest for about 5 minutes
  • 3 cups regular flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (for a slightly “better for you” pizza)
  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cup cold water (remember, you can always add water, but you can’t take it out)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • add to the yeast mixture and mix together (with mixer or by hand)
  • cover and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour
  • separate into 3 or 4 equal pieces (we do 4 because it makes the pizzas more managable)
  • roll (or toss if you’ve got the skills) into the pizza shape (frankly, whatever shape you want)
  • place on parchment paper that has cornmeal sprinkled on it
  • add your favorite toppings
  • slide parchment paper onto a preheated pan or a pizza stone and place in a 500 degree oven for 8-10 minutes
  • If you aren’t using fresh mozzarella, I mean the real stuff, then add your cheese halfway through baking or it will likely burn.

If you don’t have access to high quality ingredients, you can usually get decent pepperoni at the best price at the deli.  For other easy to find ingredients, I also recommend Dei Fratelli pizza sauce, a good deli sliced ham, the 1 lb roll of Italian sausage (Bob Evans’ brand isn’t bad), Roma tomatoes, fresh baby spinach, pinapple chunks (fresh or canned), grilled chicken, freshly cooked bacon, white sauce, and to give your pizza a more robust flavor, a sprinkling of pizza seasoning (can be found at your local grocery store).

Nothing New Under the Sun

It can be very hard to not get in a rut with the meals we eat, especially when schedules become hectic.  Sometimes we even forget completely about meals we used to eat all the time or ones we tried and liked and said we’d have to make again.

So I enjoy stealing reciepes.  When we go out to eat, we try new dishes (my philosophy is why buy the meals we can make at home) and if we like it, we figure out how we can make them at home.  We often end up changing some of the ingredients, but who cares, it’s something new.  Well, not exactly, but at least we haven’t eaten it every other day for the past 2 months.

Sweet Rice

When you have a rice cooker, rice is the easiest side dish to experiment with.  To that end, I came up with a nice little addition to our repertoire of rice sides (by repertoire, I mean two other kinds, plain and Apricot).

I make this by guesstimation when cooking three cups of rice so just play around with it because rice is cheap.  Also, part of the timing for when to put each ingredient in is dependent on doing the work after starting the rice to cook.  So I started the rice, then chopped the carrot and put it in, then cut up the apple and put it in.  (If you don’t have a rice cooker, I can’t help you if you aren’t experienced in cooking rice on the stove top because I am terrible at it.)

  • Start your rice cooking.
  • Add in one medium carrot sliced into uniform pieces. (About 1/4″ thick, if you want thicker carrots, put it in before you start cooking the rice, if you want thinner or smaller pieces of carrot, put it in when you put in the raisins.  Also, wash and/or scrub the carrot, but do not peel it.  The best flavor is in the part that most people peel off.  No wonder so many people don’t like carrots.)
  • Cube two small or one large apple and add it in (I prefer Gala apples and I leave the peel on.  If you use an apple with a tougher peel, you might want to peel your apples first.)
  • Add in about 1/4 cup of raisins.
  • Stir in about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon (adjust to taste).
  • Continue to cook until the rice is done.

This dish is fantastically sweet and soft without being mushy.  It goes great with fish, chicken, and even sandwhiches.

Rye Bread

We found a great recipe for rye bread at King Arthur Flour’s website.  It’s a bread recipe meant specifically for sandwiches and it turned out just as great as they said it would.  It’s a little more difficult than some other recipes, so if you’ve never made bread before, don’t start with this one, try the Multi-Grain Honey Wheat Bread and pay attention to the tips found on their recipe.

We used a rye flour instead of pumpernickel (because it was all we could find around here).   When we saw that the rye bread called for pumpernickel flour and we couldn’t find rye flour in the recipe, we were wondering what the deal was.  We’ve heard of rye bread, and pumpernickel bread, and never paid that much attention.  Turns out that they are basically the same thing in that they both derive from the rye berry.  The pumpernickel flour (or meal) is usually coarsely ground using the whole grain, whereas rye flour is only made from the endosperm.  So in the tradition of healthy whole grains, follow King Arthur Flour’s recipe and use pumpernickel flour.  (After some checking, the rye flour we have is made from the whole grain.  So I guess you can’t just go by the name on the box so check the ingredients.  I suppose ours is called rye flour because it is finely ground.)   We also found it to be a little strong on the pickle flavor (pickle juice is one of the ingredients if you haven’t yet checked out the recipe).  I’ll hold judgement until we try it with pumpernickel flour and I imagine that the bread is even better than we made it.  As it was, it came out quite nicely.  After discovering our flour used the whole grain, I believe we’ll try cutting back on the pickle juice a little bit.  But it’s still good as is.

Sugar Sugar!

We know and understand that alot of people don’t really believe that sugar is that big of a problem for young kids.  However, every time we allow our little ones to indulge in dessert, we are reminded with ever strengthening results of the toll it takes on their little selves.

The past few days the girls have been allowed to have a couple oreo cookies.  Nothing extreme, even in this household of strict dietary controls.  Today they have been completely different children.  Normally they are obedient (in as much as we enforce the rules we set), caring, patient, and mild mannered.  Not today.  Today they have been throwing fits and tantrums, not wanting to be near us and wanting us to hold them (sometimes at the same time), and generally being bi-polar.  We’ve seen this before, it always comes sometime after the sugar intake.  It will pass as we restrict sugar from the diet again.  But it strikes us how drastically their behavior is modified by eating a little bit of a certain kind of food.