Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Cereal Bars

My little Heidi Sage has a favorite food...well lots of favorite foods.  But one that I buy a lot of is cereal bars.  In fact, the general rule at our house is that if you go to the store, you always get some milk and cereal bars...no. matter. what.  If we're not out yet, we will be soon enough.

In an effort to feel as if I were providing her a healthier option, I decided I needed to start making them myself so I would know exactly what was going into them...and see if I could save some money.

The recipe I finally came up with was one I got from my friend Heather.  She had gotten it from allrecipes.com and had already done about a dozen trial runs tweaking the recipe each time.  I took her version and tweaked it a bit more to my kids' tastes.  Feel free to use as is...or tweak some more!  :-)

Homemade Cereal Bars
4 cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons flax seed meal
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 sticks butter (melted)
1/2 c. amber agave nectar (see picture below, could also use Honey)
1/2 c. peanut butter (or almond butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Spreadable fruit (see picture below)

Preheat oven to 325.


First thing I did was the pulse the rolled oats 2 cups at a time through my food processor.  My kids like a smoother texture.

When I was done it looked about like this.

We then added all the remaining dry ingredients:  1 c. wheat flour, 1 t. baking soda, 2 T. flax seed meal, 2 T. cinnamon, and 1/4 c. dark brown sugar.  Mix it all together good, then add all the wet ingredients, 2 sticks melted butter, 1/2 c. agave, 1 c. applesauce, 1 t. vanilla, and 1/2 c. peanut butter.

I then lined a 9x13 pan and an 8x8 pan (not pictured) with parchment paper to allow easy removal after cooking.  I took 1 3/4 cups of the dough and mashed it flat into the 9x13 pan (the 8x8 pan takes 1 c. of dough).  This is quite a thin layer.  It will puff up some during cooking, but I was trying to mimic the thinness of a store bought cereal bar.  To keep the dough from sticking to your hands, pour about a 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of cooking oil (I used canola) and coat your hands with it.

Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Remove from oven and spread a thin layer of spreadable fruit all over the hot oat mixture.

You will use another 1 3/4 cups of the dough to create the top layer for the 9x13 pan (and 1 c. for the 8x8 pan).  I took a fistful at a time, mashed it flat in my hands and then pieced it together across the top of the spreadable fruit.  Trying to mash it down on the fruit makes it spread and squish everywhere.  Place back in the over for another 20-25 minutes.

Once it is done baking, let them cool for about 15 minutes in the pan then remove and continue cooling on the counter.

Once completely cooled, use a pizza roller to cut the bars into your desired serving size.

I made both strawberry and blackberry bars.  My kids and I gobbled them up quickly and have already made more batches.

I hope you find yourself in the kitchen whipping these up soon!


Monday, June 13, 2011

Sno Cones! (Minus the Syrup)

When I think back on my childhood, one of the summer memories that jumps to the front of my mind is gathering up a couple of bucks, heading down to Main Street, and getting a Sno Cone from Ms. RuthAnn.  On one of those scorching Texas summer days, it was a sweet relief with all its cold sugary goodness.  Just thinking about it makes me want a blue coconut, strawberry one.  Mmm-mmmm...

And I would love to share that past time with my kids.  HOWEVER, when I think of getting one for my kids all I can see is a cup of colored sugar that will bring me grief for the next 4 to 6 hours as my kids bounce off of the walls in a crazed sugar-filled hysteria.  No, thank you.

But never one to deprive my kids of summer happiness, I've come up with my own solution.  This is just as tasty, just as loved, possibly cheaper, and made at home...

To make it all you need is a liter of Club Soda and a container of 100% juice frozen concentrate.  I love this Old Orchard brand.  We made the Blueberry Pomegranate last night, which my kids LOVED, and in the freezer I still have Cranberry Raspberry and Apple Passion Mango.  And for a yummy treat at breakfast offer your kids the Pineapple Orange.  Yum.

Now, the club soda is the magic ingredient here.  If you've ever frozen fruit juice you know it comes out hard as a rock.  With the carbonation in the club soda, it freezes differently.  Softer, if you will.  Possibly a bit airy.  Whatever you want to call it, it's the secret to a good homemade Sno Cone.

Slowly mix the club soda and the thawed juice concentrate.  Slowly is the key...and in a container big enough to hold both.  Otherwise you'll have a bubbly mess overflowing everywhere.  Trust me.

Next, pour it into containers that it can freeze in smaller portions.  I used a silicon muffin tin and plastic ice cube trays.  Either works fine.

After they freeze, pop out the desired amount (we used three "muffins" per drink) and pulse them through the food processor.  I believe a blender would work just as well, though you may have to add a little liquid to get it going.


Pulsing....  He can already taste it.  He's been dreaming about this ever since I put it in the freezer six hours before.

All ready for the gobbling.

...and it's gobbled.

I love these because they're yummy, cold, cheap, and NO ADDED SUGAR...just the natural sugars from the fruit juice.  Let me know if you try them...you can even post a pic on our FaceBook wall of your little ones gobbling them up!

Now, for my next experiment...frozen margaritas...

Happy cooling off,

Linking to...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Simply Entertained

You may have noticed things have been a bit slow over here.  Maybe it seems we've gotten lazy.  Maybe it seems we're dropping the ball.  The reality, however, is that we're super busy.

Deborah just started a new job, so her blog time has been minimal.  She has been working on her garden, though.  And even has some guest projects from her mother, our Grammy.  Those should be posted shortly.

Chelsea is in Europe.  She's been attending fashion shows, meeting designers, and other dreamy things.  She'll be back in the states in July, so it may be a while before we hear from her.  Hopefully, she'll have some amazing things to share with us when she gets back.  I enjoy living vicariously through her.

And I have my house on the market.  UGH!!!  Cleaning house has never been my strong suit, but it's especially hard when the expectations are for it to be spotless....while tending to three children under five.  And I have about decided my kids have it out for me.  While I'm in one room cleaning up one mess, they're usually in another room making another one.  It's a vicious cycle...and I may surely lose my mind.

The past couple of days I have dared to make a bit of a mess here and there, but only ones I could clean up very quickly should someone call for a showing.

Yesterday we painted rocks for our pumpkin patch.  Painting rocks is one of Clinton's favorite things to do.  And all was going well until Heidi Sage decided to start painting the patio furniture, the chair cushions, and the deck.  Oh well...at least she's cute...

Today we made cupcakes.  To simplify and keep it easy we used a box mix and canned frosting.  They don't taste quite the same to a distinguished palette, but the kids do not care one teeny tiny bit.  To make them extra special, I got out my super fancy Ziploc sandwich bags, filled them with icing, cut off a tiny corner, and swirled the icing.  I let the kiddos take care of the sprinkles...

Hope you're keeping busy this RIDICULOUSLY hot summer!