Sunday, July 27, 2014

Daily grind: Oat breakfast bars

It's true that much of the dark-roast beverages I post on here look much like this:

Yes, that's a Milk Stout from Left Hand, at Left Hand! Ah, memories... 

However, I'm convinced that is because every time I take a photo, what I've just put down is this:

Strong brew. It's what's for breakfast.

Call it an addiction, call it what you like, but as for me, I call it an alarm clock. You may also know this as "coffee".

Recently, I've started stopping at Dunn Bros. every so often, and I've developed a thing now of maybe sometimes needing a little snack to go with my daily grind.

Like, you know, a granola bar. But with chocolate. And without that rice puff stuff.

They happen to make and sell some homemade bars of awesome that really fit this bill, and it's getting to be a bit of a problem because I kind of want them all the time.

So, I thought I'd make them.

It turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. I knew it had oats. Pretty sure on the peanut butter. But what the heck is the rest of that stuff?

I found a lot of recipes on the Internets, which were helpful, particularly one from Messy Baker. It's definitely a recipe you can make your own!

However, the key was in the grind. By grinding some of the oats and all of the flax seed, I managed to find the texture I was going for -- thick and chewy with a hint of chocolate.

I used a small coffee grinder and it worked perfectly. I only did the oats and the flax seed for a few seconds each.

Fyi, if you normally use your coffee grinder for spices, you can clean it by grinding a teaspoon of rice in there between grains, spices, etc. Works a treat.

So there you go -- breakfast bars for your daily grind!

Oat breakfast bars
Makes 8 bars

All you need:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/2 cup old fashioned oats, ground lightly
1/2 cup flax seed, ground
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

All you have to do:

Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Mix ingredients together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Spoon ingredients on one side of the lined pan. Then, using your hands, pat the mixture down, using the rim to help form the bars.

When I did this, I used a regular cookie sheet, and the mixture filled a little less than half the pan. You want the bars about 1/2 an inch thick. 

Chill the bars for about an hour, then cut and wrap bars with plastic wrap. Store in fridge for about a week if they last that long!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Curry risotto with chicken, zucchini and peppers

We tried to go to our favorite Indian restaurant this week but it turned out they were closed on Tuesdays. We substituted with Jimmy Johns, which, while good, is not the same. Not even remotely the same, no matter how good the salt and vinegar chips are.

Suffice to say, the craving for curry was not satisfied. Over the past week, I'd pored over a few recipes for risotto, chicken curry, seasoned basmati rice, etc., and then the other night, I decided to throw caution to the wind.

Thus, curry risotto.

I used chicken we grilled earlier in the week, and bought coconut milk, limes and arborio rice on a whim. I'm versed in coconut milk thanks to this wonderfully refreshing concoction from Smitten Kitchen, and have decided the A Taste of Thai brand is where it's at. The ingredient list is super short, always a good sign.

After that, it was a matter of vegetables, and we had a half a dark red pepper and a zucchini left. We've been trying to hit the farmer's market most weekends, and one of the vendors has these deep red beauties, which seduce me every time. Juicy, sweet -- it's a vegetable version of plums. But I digress...

One surprising ingredient was a touch of sugar. I tasted what I thought was the final product, but the curry flavor wasn't quite what I expected. I realized what was missing was a sweet note. The sugar did the trick. I actually used Splenda, so a sugar substitute is just fine.

Sadly, we didn't have any leftovers. Which is unfortunate, because I'm positive this must taste delicious cold as well. Ah well. More risotto in our future, clearly.

Here's the recipe -- we didn't pair this with anything, just forks and ravenous appetites!

Curry risotto with chicken, zucchini and peppers

All you need:

3 c. water
1 T. Better Than Boullion chicken base
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine, preferably Chardonnay
1/2 zucchini, chopped
1 1/2 c. cooked cubed chicken
1/2 large red pepper, chopped
1 1/2 to 2 t. curry powder
pinch cayenne pepper
1/2 c. light coconut milk
juice of 1/2 a lime
zest of 1/2 a lime
1 T. minced fresh basil or 1 t. dried basil
1/2 t. salt
pinch black pepper
1 t. sugar or sugar substitute

All you have to do:

Heat water to boiling, and add chicken base. Alternatively, heat 3 cups of ready-made chicken broth in the microwave.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet on medium-heat. You'll want plenty of room for all the ingredients. Add minced garlic and saute a few minutes. Add rice and stir to coat, then let heat for at least five minutes or so. Rice is ready when the grains are translucent and display a white dot in the middle.

Add white wine, and let cook down, stirring occasionally. Add 3/4 cup of the broth, and let the rice absorb the liquid. The risotto is ready when a wooden spoon drawn across the bottom of the pan creates a visible streak.

Here is the risotto right after adding the liquid.
It looks like far too much, but it will absorb into the rice and vegetables.

Once the first addition of broth is absorbed, add the chopped zucchini and 3/4 cup of the broth. Let absorb, stirring occasionally. Then add the chicken and another 3/4 cup of broth, letting it absorb again. Stir mix, making sure all the rice is below the liquid. Then add the red peppers and the remaining broth.

Here is the risotto with the liquid beginning to be absorbed.

Once all the broth is absorbed, turn down the heat to low. Add cayenne and curry powder and stir. Add coconut milk and stir. Add in lime juice and zest, salt, pepper and the fresh basil, and taste. Then add sugar to taste.

Turn off heat and let curry risotto sit for a few minutes to cool down and let the flavors meld. Serve garnished with additional snipped fresh basil. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Gardening: Just add rain

Perhaps you remember,  months ago, when we started plants indoors.

And then, when we planted things outdoors and they actually grew(!) in the soil and didn't immediately die. Well. Most of them, anyway.

And then, after it warmed up a bit, we had rain. For days. And a smidgen of sun. Then more rain. Then, we had even more rain, even though we were pretty well set on the rain deal.

What I'm trying to say is, we have the most impressive crop of weeds I've ever seen. Granted, the veggies are bringing their A game, but I'm telling you, it's a battle out there. The peas are killing it, and the onions are even growing larger than golf balls, which has been as far as we've gotten in the past. Our tomatoes are fighting with blight at the moment, but we are working on it. More on them later. In the meantime...

... there's enough roughage to sink a tank. Suffice to say, we're all set with kale. Every two weeks I've been picking the leaves, cutting out the tough stems, washing them twice to get off the buggies, then preparing them for the freezer. I blanch the leaves in boiling water for about three minutes, then putting them right into a big bowl of ice water for another few minutes. Then I put the leaves on clean towels to dry, then place them into plastic zip-top freezer bags and press to get out the air. I'm hoping this works.

We have high hopes for the Brussels sprouts. They have teeny tiny sprouts growing, so we just have to wait.

These leeks are our newest experiment. Sadly, the seedlings did not make it, so these guys are plants we bought at the farmer's market. Sometimes, the plants just work better than the seeds.

That was not the case with the beets, however. This big guy is the star of the show. We're hoping there's a lot of beet under these leaves! Roasted beets are one of my favorites.

So, if we're not in the house making jewelry, we're weeding. Forever. Or eating up some of our bounty. Or cutting up others' bounty from a recent trade. I sense a rhubarb pie in my future...