Butterfly Grahams

It’s been cool and rainy here in LA, which is totally making me want to bake. Okay, yeah. I pretty much always want to bake, but this weather makes me want to bake even more. So yesterday I decided it was finally time to try this graham cracker recipe I’ve been pushing off for weeks now. I’m not a big fan of making cutout crackers/cookies, because it’s so much more time-consuming than a simple drop cookie, so I rarely make them.

But these were worth it. They taste like boxed graham crackers, except a million times better. And they made the house smell amazing. And butterfly graham crackers are just so much cuter than boring old rectangles. Am I right?

You can find the recipe HERE.

Note: I made the process of making this a bit longer by refrigerating them in between rolling them out and cutting them into shapes, and again between shaping them and baking them. I do that with all the cutout cookies I make (on the rare occasion that I actually make them) because it helps them keep their shapes much better.

Honey-Vanilla Granola

Over the summer I often eat parfaits for breakfast. I layer plain yogurt with whatever berries I have in the house and a crumbled up granola bar. The other day I had a “duh!” moment, and realized that, hey, parfaits do not need to be limited to spring/summer fruit! Why not make a parfait with one of the lovely pears sitting in the bowl on the counter? So I did. And with homemade granola to boot.

I’m not sure why it never occurred to me to make my own granola before, but I’m glad I finally did. This stuff is addictingly good, and so easy to make!

Honey-Vanilla Granola Clusters

2 large egg whites, at room temperature

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup mild clover honey

1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1) position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

2) In a large bowl, whisk together the egg whites, brown sugar, honey, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add oats and stir to coat evenly. Spread mixture onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer.

3) Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden and fragrant, stirring once or twice and rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack, and allow the granola to cool. Break the granola into clusters and store in an airtight container.

 Makes about 4 cups

*Adapted from Pure Vanilla, by Shauna Sever

Soft Pretzel Twists

I wasn’t originally planning on blogging about these. I made them the other night to have alongside soup for dinner, and when I pulled them out of the oven I snapped a quick picture (am I the only one who compulsively takes insane amounts of pictures of food??). When I posted the picture on my personal Facebook page, I got several requests for the recipe, so I figured I may as well write a quick post about them!

It took me just a few minutes to make the dough in the late afternoon, and then I boiled and baked them just before we ate so they’d be nice and hot when I served them. I definitely see myself making these often — they were soft and chewy, the kids loved them, and they were so much better than the frozen ones I used to buy years ago!

Soft Pretzel Twists

3/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus up to an additional 1/2 cup for kneading)

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons margarine, melted

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

2 tablespoons coarse sea salt

1) Combine water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle yeast on top and let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

2) Add the flour, salt and melted margarine and knead, using the dough hook, for 5 minutes. Add more flour if necessary, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

3) Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl, turning the dough to coat, and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour.

4) Preheat oven to 450°F.

5) Once the dough has risen, separate it into 4 to 8 sections (4 for larger pretzels, 8 for smaller pretzels). Using your hands, floured if necessary, roll each section into a 24-inch (for large pretzels) or 12-inch (for smaller pretzels) strand, and shape into a pretzel knot. Transfer each pretzel to a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment and sprayed with cooking spray.

6) Bring the water and baking soda to a boil, and drop in the pretzels, one at a time, boiling for around 30 seconds each. Remove with a slotted spatula and transfer to a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with the sea salt.

7) Bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

Makes 4 large or 8 small pretzels

Note: Don’t do what I did and bake the pretzels on parchment paper. Even though it was sprayed with cooking spray, the pretzels still stuck to the parchment. Bake them directly on a sprayed baking sheet.

* Adapted from Peas and Thank You, by Sarah Matheny

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