Welcome! :-) Whatever brought you here today wasn't an accident, and I'm so glad you stopped by. I'm always glad to have folks drop in my kitchen for a visit and hope you'll feel right at home. We always have an ample supply of fresh lemonade, sweet tea, and a pot of coffee brewing along with a sideboard full of baked treats for you to enJOY while you're here. Relax and take your time as we visit and catch up on the latest news. Don't forget to email and let me know what's going on in your world, as well. And, come back soon!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

After School Snacks and Lunch Box Packs

Are you ready to send your kids back to school? Do you dread second-guessing their appetites and filling their lunch boxes or providing afternoon treats every day? Whether you plan to pack a brown bag lunch, give your kids after-school treats, or send them off each morning with a nutritious breakfast in their tummies, today's recipes will satisfy each category.

In the midst of the morning rush, it's easy to fall into a breakfast or lunch-making rut, consistently filling cereal bowls or lil ones' sacks with the same items each week. Wouldn't it be great to break the boring lunch box routine and serve up something fun this year? As they head back to school, try adding something new to their lunch boxes — or keep your "surprise" tucked away for after-school snacks — because change is good, right? In addition to the recipes I'll share with you today, check out these links with healthy recipes and suggestions for a successful start to the school year: http://busycooks.about.com/od/fallrecipesandmenus/tp/backtoschool.htm

Today, I will begin with a new recipe that I tried (thanks to my Savannah daughter :-) just a couple of weeks ago. It was so good, I've made and given away two or three batches since then. The recipe for Granola Chews can be found on the back of the Kroger Low Fat Granola Cereal box. I bought the version with raisins, but if you don't like them, they also have one without raisins. The full name of the cereal on the front of the box is: Kroger Low Fat Granola Crispy Whole Grain Cereal with Raisins. WHEW! With a name like that, you can count on this cereal being PACKED FULL of nutrition, and it is. Just check the Nutrition Facts on the side---lots of good stuff like: 100% Vitamin B6; 100% Folate; 100% Vitamin B12... and etc. You can read it for yourself :-). This is a cookie you could have along with a glass of milk for breakfast. If you don't live near a Kroger store, I suggest trying whatever your grocery store brand of granola cereal might be. Wal-Mart also has its own brand of granola.

I also "tweaked: :-) the recipe just a little bit by using the Kroger 100% Natural Cereal--Oats & Honey version instead of the Low Fat Granola to coat the dough balls before baking them. So, it's up to you how you bake these. You can go by the recipe and roll them in the original cereal that's called for in the recipe (same as what's in the cookie dough), or you can purchase the extra box of 100% Natural Cereal (which is very yummy with almonds) and use it only for your coating. Either way, these cookies are the YUMMIEST!

One other note about my recipe "tweaks."  The first couple of batches I baked without changing the recipe, and they were really good, but not as chewy as I wanted them to be. I have some dental work (bridge/crowns) that I didn't want chipped or broken, so I decided to soften the cookies up a little bit and make them chewier and less crunchy. In addition to the brown sugar, I added 1/2 cup granulated sugar. I also didn't bake them quite as long as before, taking them out just when the edges browned, but the centers were still a little soft. I left them on the cookie sheet only long enough for them to firm up enough to transfer to the counter to cool. These revisions made just the cookie I was looking for.

Let's get cookin'!

(original recipe)
this is the Kroger version (back of the box):

(same as the back of the box, with a few "tweaks")

Plus the salt that I forgot to include in the "ingredients" photo :-).

And, as I've already said, it's "optional" as a coating for the cookie dough balls, but I also failed to photograph the 14 oz. box of Kroger 100% Natural Cereal -- Oats & Honey. OOPS! :-)

First, let's preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Then, in a large bowl,
stir together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

A whisk works well to blend this mixture together...

It should be well mixed and without any sugar lumps visible. It should look something like this:

Stir in remaining ingredients EXCEPT CEREAL. Begin with melted butter.

Then, add well beaten eggs (the recipe didn't say to beat them, but I used a fork and did it anyway).

Add vanilla, and mix with a spatula until all ingredients are well combined.

It should look like this when you start adding the 3 c. of cereal:

One reason I love making these cookies is I never use a mixer! One bowl, one spatula is all you need.

Once the dough is well mixed, begin forming 1 to 2 inch (your preference) size balls and rolling them in either the remaining Low Fat Granola, or use Kroger 100% Natural Cereal Oats & Honey to coat the outside of each dough ball.

just keep rolling them around until all sides are well coated
before placing them on ungreased cookie sheets...

I can fit twenty cookies on my large cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown. (Adjust time according to taste. I preferred to bake mine about 12 minutes, remove them from the oven, and allow them to remain on the cookie sheet for just a minute to firm up enough to transfer to the counter and finish cooling.)

I must have made my cookies larger than 1-inch size, because I ended up with a few less than the predicted 5 dozen yield, but they were very large, chewy cookies.
You should have plenty to fill your cookie jar and lots left over to share with the neighbors!
Don't forget to copy and paste the complete recipe below to your word processor so you can save it in your recipe file or print it for later use.
Check out the additional recipe suggestions following the Granola Chews recipe. I included one especially for the teachers to share with their morning coffee.
1 3/4 c. flour
1 3/4 c. brown sugar, packed, plus 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. baking soda
1 c. butter or margarine, soft
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
4 1/2 - 5 c. Kroger Low Fat Granola Cereal w/ Raisins

OPTIONAL: 1 - 14 oz. box Kroger 100% Natural Cereal -- Oats & Honey

In a large bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

Stir in remaining ingredients EXCEPT CEREAL.
Mix until smooth.
Stir in 3 cups of Low Fat Granola Cereal (with/or without raisins).
Form dough into 1-inch balls and roll in remaining cereal or in Kroger 100% Natural Cereal (Oats & Honey), whichever you prefer to use.
Place 2" apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake for 10-14 minutes or until golden brown. (Adjust time according to taste. I preferred to bake mine about 12 minutes, remove them from the oven, and allow them to remain on the cookie sheet for just a minute to firm up enough to transfer to the counter and finish cooling. I must have made my cookies larger than 1-inch size, too, because I ended up with less than the predicted 5 dozen yield, but they were very large, chewy cookies. EnJOY!

Here are more suggestions for kid-friendly and nutritious after school snacks to get your year off to a good start:

Apple Cheddar Quesadillas
Serves 6
2 crisp apples, Gala or Fuji work well
6 whole wheat tortillas
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
Thinly slice the apples into 1/4" thick slices. Sprinkle cheese over one tortilla. Place apple slices, barely overlapping, on top of cheese. Next, sprinkle more cheese on top of the apples and top with another tortilla. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Place the tortilla on microwave–safe plate. Follow the steps above and heat on “high” until the cheese is melted – approximately 2 minutes. Let it rest for one minute before slicing into wedges. Repeat with remaining tortillas, apples and cheese.

Fun Fruit Kabobs
Serves 4
1 apple
1 banana
1/3 cup red seedless grapes
1/3 cup green seedless grapes
2/3 cup pineapple chunks
1 cup vanilla yogurt
¼ cup dried coconut, shredded
1/3 cup granola
Wooden skewers
(Can use other fruit such as melon, strawberries, mango, kiwi etc.)
Wash all the fruit and cut into large chunks. Put the fruit on a large plate or bowl. Spread the coconut and/or granola onto large plates. Slide pieces of fruit onto a wooden skewer. Fill the skewer with whatever fruits you enjoy. Hold your kabob at the ends. Roll in the yogurt so the fruit gets covered. Finally, roll in the coconut or granola.


AND, lest our teachers feel left out, I don't want to close today's blog without including a delicious treat for them, as well. This would be a great item to share in the teacher's breakroom. This could also be a great breakfast treat for parents who need something extra special to go with their morning coffee. I made this for the first time just yesterday, but after tasting it, I've decided it will go into my file of recipe favorites. I "tweaked" the recipe just a little, so hence the title:

I should note that this loaf began about twice this size, but didn't get photographed until Ken, Jacob, and I ate about half of it. :-)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I changed this to 1 cup all purpose, 1/2 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup wheat bran)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder (plus, I added 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt)
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
3 or 4 medium bananas, mashed (I used 4 medium/large bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

For the Streusel Topping:
1½ cups chopped walnuts
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons COLD butter, cut in very small pieces

For the Rum Glaze:
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
2 tablespoons water
¼ cup light brown sugar (I used DARK brown)
¼ cup rum

(NOTE: I doubled the glaze recipe, because I wanted plenty to soak into both loaves of bread. I was glad I doubled it, because I don't think it would have been enough otherwise. If you choose to double, then use 1/2 C butter, 4 Tbsp. water, 1/2 C brown sugar, and 1/2 C rum.)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two medium-sized loaf pans.
2. Place ingredients for streusel topping in a medium bowl and combine with fingers to create a crumbly topping with the butter evenly distributed. Set aside.
3. Whisk the flour(s), baking soda, and baking powder in a small bowl to combine. Set aside.
4. On medium speed, beat the sugar and vegetable oil to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each until combined. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla extract; beat to combine. Alternatively, add the flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat just until the flour is incorporated and finish mixing the last portion of flour with a spatula.
5. Spread batter into the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the batter. Bake until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out almost clean, about 60 minutes.
6. To make the rum glaze, combine the butter, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat and stir in the rum. Set aside and cover to keep warm.
7. Remove the bread from the loaf pans and cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then, using a skewer or meat fork poke holes all over the top of the loaf. Spoon about half of the rum glaze all over the loaves. Let them sit for about 5 minutes to soak, and then spoon the remaining glaze over them, a little at a time, until it is all absorbed into the bread. Cool completely before covering with plastic wrap. This is better served the second or third day after it sits and absorbs the glaze. Store at room temperature. This would make a great "Teacher Appreciation" gift!

Whether you're a teacher, a parent or a student, I pray this will be a BLESSED year ahead for you!

Happy new school year!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Simply Sugar & Gluten-free Cookbook WINNER

Okay, so I'm a day behind in posting the WINNER of the cookbook drawing. I had my twin granddaughters here from Sunday evening through late yesterday afternoon. We got so busy baking cupcakes, doing make-up, along with pedicures and manicures, that I forgot to post the results of the contest yesterday. I'm very happy to announce that the WINNNER is Jennifer McGee Taylor of Boulder, CO. Congratulations, Jennifer! Please send me your postal address so I can get the cookbook in the mail to you ASAP. To everyone else, many THANKS to you for reading the post and for leaving your comments. Please come back often and see what's cookin' here at A Pinch of This... A Smidgen of That!