Chewy Chocolate Chip & Dried Cranberry Granola Bars

Chewy Chocolate Chip & Dried Cranberry Granola Bars

Yesterday, for the first time in (many) weeks, I actually felt like spending time in the kitchen. I took advantage of that to make these granola bars. While I definitely don’t make all of their snacks from scratch, I don’t like to rely too much on store-bought snacks for the kids—they’re pricy, and all too often full of a ton of crap that I’d rather them not eat too much of. And it had definitely been too long since I made anything for them.

Chewy Chocolate Chip & Dried Cranberry Granola Bars

I love that these are relatively healthy, use ingredients that I pretty much always have in the house, and are easy to make. They also freeze well, so you can make a big batch and have them for a while.

You can find the recipe for these HERE. I doubled the recipe and mixed in a 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips and 2/3 cup dried cranberries, which was plenty—I’d probably cut down on them next time.

Chewy Chocolate Chip & Dried Cranberry Granola Bars

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Black Bean Brownies

I love baking rich and decadent treats (obviously), but those are usually reserved for either special occasions, once-in-a-while treats, or when we have guests over. For every-day-of-the-weeks treats I prefer something that still tastes rich and decadent, but is healthier and (a lot) lower in calories.

I’ve been seeing a lot of recipes lately for brownies made with pureed black beans, and have been meaning to make one of them, but I never got around to it. When Katie posted her recipe for black bean brownies on her blog Chocolate-Covered Katie yesterday, I decided it was time to give them a try. I’ve been reading her blog for ages, but haven’t made anything yet (I’m really good at collecting lots of recipes, not quite as good at actually making all of them!).

I am so glad I made these! The batter seriously takes just minutes to make (always a good thing!) in the food processor, and the end result was fabulous – so fudgy and chocolatey!

You can frind the recipe for these brownies HERE.

 

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam/Strawberry-Vanilla Jam Shortbread Bars

A Few weeks ago I had a huge container of strawberries that I needed to use up. Chaim suggested another batch of ice pops, but since I’m always looking to try new recipes I wanted to go with something else. I remembered seeing a recipe for Strawberry-Vanilla Jam on one of my favorite blogs, Love and Olive Oil. I decided that would be a perfect-I’d make a big batch of jam, and use it in a dessert for a party we had coming up.

I’d never had homemade jam before, and this was delicious! So much fresher tasting than store-bought! I wasn’t planning on canning any of it (I’ve never canned before and I’m a little nervous about trying it), so I needed to use it up fairly quickly. I used most of it in these shortbread bars, and ate the rest on bread. And, um, some by the spoonful. It was that good.

I went with shortbread bars, rather that some sort of crumble bars, since I love shortbread, and knew that the sweet, buttery cookie would combine wonderfully with the jam. And it did-these were a big hit!

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam

1 quart strawberries

2 cups granulated sugar, divided

2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste

Juice of one lemon

1. Wash, hull, and roughly chop the strawberries. Toss with 1 cup of the sugar and the vanilla bean paste in a large bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 to 3 hours or up to 72 hours.

2. Pour the berries and all the liquid from the bowl into a large saucepan along with the remaining sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the jam reaches 220°F, stirring regularly. Add the lemon juice during the last 5 minutes of cooking. (You can test the gel of the jam by placing a spoonful on a chilled plate. Place in the freezer for 1 to 2 minutes, then check for doneness. If you want a firmer gel, cook for a few minutes longer.)

3. Transfer to jars, and keep refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.

Makes 3 half-pint jars

If you would like to can the jam, you can find the directions here

*Adapted from Love and Olive Oil

Strawberry-Vanilla Jam Shortbread Bars

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup almond flour or very finely ground almonds

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups Strawberr-Vanilla Jam

1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray a 9×13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the butter and both sugars; beat until creamy. Add the vanilla and salt and beat until well combined. beat the almond flour and the all-purpose flour into the butter mixture on low speed, just until a smooth dough forms.

3. Divide the dough in half. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Press the other half of the dough into the bottom of the prepared pan to form the bottom crust.

4. Bake the crust until it is just beginning to turn light brown around the edges, about 20 minutes. remove the pan from the oven. Place the jam into a bow and stir very well until it is nice and smooth (I left a few small chunks). Gently spread the jam over the partially baked crust. Crumble the refrigerated dough over the jam to form a topping.

5. Return the pan to the oven and continue baking until the topping is firm and crisp and golden in color, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let it cool completely 

Makes 15 large or 30 small bars

*Adapted from RecipeGirl

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Energy Bars

I go running a few evening a week while my husband and kids have dinner. On those days I need eat something in the late afternoon to both fuel my workout and to tide me over until I eat my later than usual dinner.

Playing outside with Tova after a run.

These energy bars work perfectly for me. I eat one with a cup of milk about an hour before I work out. My kids also love these for a snack (or even a quick breakfast on crazy mornings). And since they are so easy to make, I don’t mind throwing a batch together every week or two. I leave a few out on the counter in a container, and the rest I individually wrap and throw in the freezer. I take one out a couple of hours before I’m going to eat it, and I’ve found that I actually prefer the texture of the bars after they’ve been frozen — they’re more chewy.

Note: The first time I made these I followed the recipe exactly, and they were great. The second time I made them I was out of light brown sugar, so I substituted dark brown sugar. I also used 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips in the batter and didn’t bother drizzling any chocolate on top. I liked them even better that way, so that is how I always make them now.

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Energy Bars

Non-stick cooking spray

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup creamy or chunky peanut butter

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups barley flakes or rolled oats

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup dry-roasted peanuts

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13- X 9- inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cinnamon. In a large bowl, beat brown sugar and peanut butter until well combined. Beat in the eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture. Add the barley flaked (or rolled oats), cranberries, peanuts, and 3/4 cup chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

3. Spread evenly in the prepared pan (I find the best way to do that is to pat it down with wet hands). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch. Cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

4. In a small bowl set on a pan of simmering water, melt the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips, stirring until smooth. With a fork, drizzle chocolate over bars; refrigerate until set. Cut into 24 bars.

Per bar: Calories 176; Fat 8.2g (sat 2.3g, mono 3.7, poly 1.8); Cholesterol 16mg; Protein 4g; Carbohydrate 24g; Sugars 16g; Fiber 2g; Iron 1mg; Sodium 62mg; Calcium 18mg.

*Adapted from Health Magazine

 

Semisweet, Butterscotch and White Chocolate Chip Bars

So many times, while I’m out shopping, I throw something or another into my cart just so I have it on hand in case I want to make something with it one day. And all too often whatever it is that I buy languishes in the pantry until I eventually throw it out because I can’t even remember when I bought it (I’ve found stuff that expired years ago in there!).

Several months ago, I came home with a package of butterscotch chips, and I was determined to find something to use them in sometime in the near future. While flipping through a cookbook the other day, I came across a recipe for butterscotch and white chocolate chip cookies. (Perfect! Now I can use the butterscotch chips AND the white chocolate chips that have been in the freezer for… a while.) However, I didn’t really have the time this week to spend time baking batches of cookies, so I thought, why not use the same two chips to make bar cookies? This way I could bake it all at once, and not have to baby-sit the oven. And then while I was measuring out the chips, I thought that maybe I’d add some semisweet mini-chips into the mix, too (um… yes, the mini-chips were another “in case I need them one day” purchase). And I’m glad I added them in – the three flavors of chips balanced each other perfectly.

These were good. Really good.

Semisweet, Butterscotch and White Chocolate Chip Bars

2 3/4 cups (11 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup (1 1/3 sticks, 5 1/4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted

2 1/4 cups (18 ounces) brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 10 x 15-inch jelly roll pan, a 14-inch deep dish pizza pan, or similar sized pan.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In another large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar, stirring until smooth. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the flour mixture, then the chips. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

4. Bake the bars for 24 to 26 minutes, until their top is shiny and golden. Don’t overbake or the bars will be dry; a cake tester inserted in the center will not come out clean. Remove the bars from the oven and cool to room temperature before cutting.

Makes 35 bars

*Adapted from King Arthur Flour