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Granola Bars

August 15, 2012

Every once in a while, a recipe comes along and changes something big in our day to day. This recipe is it for me.

Every mom knows the pull to pick up expensive, processed snacks for their little ones.  My mom mostly had fruit and graham crackers for us when I was little, and on days when my kids are begging me for snacks I think how did she do it? (This did lead to some disgusting sugar-craving fueled concoctions. A bag of frozen rasberries and a bag of coconut don’t make for a great snack, just a lifetime aversion to both. Hence why I left it out even though the recipe calls for coconut).  But I am still always filling my cart with Nutri-NOT Grain Bars and other expensive empty calories.

Enter homemade granola bars. Seriously habit forming, as nutritious as a bowl of oatmeal. What’s not to love?


These bars are so easy, and they are such a great thing to make with kids – very hands on, messy, and delicious.



This recipe is from Ina Garten, but I made a few kid friendly changes when I made it. I added apricots, cherrys and cranberries, and I used toasted pecans instead of almonds.  You can use whatever fruit and nuts you like.  I also cooked the butter and honey in the microwave instead of the stove in an easy to pour container:


It made me wonder why do it any other way, especially when it pours into the mixture so well? (Be sure it boils at some point when it is in the microwave).


For a girl who LOVES mixing ingredients together, this was a dream come true…even my son wanted in when it involved mashing something.



SOOO yummy, my husband couldn’t stop eating them. Part of the can’t get enough taste is from toasting the oats and nuts first.

Why do we buy granola bars again?

Granola Bars

(adapted from Ina Garten, printer friendly link here).


  • 2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 12-inch baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Toss the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a sheet pan and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in the wheat germ.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Place the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for a minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Add the dates, apricots, and cranberries and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet your fingers and lightly press the mixture evenly into the pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool for at least 2 to 3 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

Shrimp and Chorizo Tapas

August 7, 2012


Hello there! Been to a Spanish Tapas Restaurant lately? Me either. But I wish I could!  Between the frequent trips to the beach and visiting with friends and family, there are not a lot of fine dining trips lately.  But I do belong to a recipe share that makes the BEST food.  This is what I made.

Who knew it was SO easy to make tapas at home?

These take the AWESOME flavor from the Chorizo sausage and make it drip from every bite.  I felt like I was in Spain, or New Orleans at least.


First, round up the usual suspects:


By the way, I had the shrimp and the chorizo in my freezer! I sometimes have a hard time finding this sausage at grocery stores when I need it for a recipe, so I tend to stock up.  You slice it on the diagonal, then brown it for a few minutes on each side.  Just like recipes that start with bacon, and cook everything in the bacon grease, the spices and flavors get into the whole dish this way.

Then you slice up an onion. I halved mine and then sliced it thin, but you could keep it whole. Saute them in the drippings until they are soft.


Then you add the garlic, shrimp, and paprika. I substituted regular for the Spanish Paprika and white wine for the sherry. I turned out great.

Shrimp and Chorizo Sausage Tapas

courtesy Emeril Lagasse


  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1/4 cup Spanish olive oil
  • 1 pound chorizo, sliced on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup dry (fino) sherry
  • 1 tablespoon Spanish paprika
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled and deveined raw medium shrimp
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley leaves
  • Crusty bread, for serving


In a large skillet or cazuela, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and saute the sliced chorizo until it begins to brown around the edges, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are caramelized around the edges and softened somewhat, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of the sherry and cook for 1 minute. Add the shrimp, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until pink and cooked through, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the remaining 1/4 cup ofsherry and 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, parsley and remainder of the salt and pepper; stir to combine and remove from the heat. Serve immediately, on small plates with any accumulated cooking juices spooned over the top. Pass the bread at the table.


Love the parsley growing in the back yard, and served on crusty bread, yum!

Farfalle with Salmon, Asparagus, and Heirloom CherryTomatoes

August 4, 2012

Farfalle with Salmon, Asparagus, and Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes


This dish is great for a quick summer dinner but nice enough to bring to a party.  

I put it together on one of those nights you only had 10 minutes at the store to get something for dinner. Luckily, they had beautiful grilled salmon in the prepared food section.  It turned out SO good, I had to share it with you!

If you can’t find it prepared you can use pre-cooked chicken, or cook which ever you prefer at home first then cut up into 1 inch pieces. 

2 T. olive oil
1/4 c. shallots, chopped
2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh asparagus
1 pint cherry tomatoes (heirloom if possible, so pretty and good!)
1 lb. farfalle pasta
1/4 c. freshly grated parmesan cheese (more to taste)
2 salmon fillets,  or 2 chicken breasts, grilled or baked

Boil salted water, then add farfalle.  Cook according to package.
While it cooks, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then saute the shallots for 2 min until soft, then add garlic for 1 minute more. Add cherry tomatoes, and cook for an additional 3 minutes. 
I then added blanched asparagus, cut into thirds.  (Blanched means I boiled it for 2 minutes then put it into an ice bath, then into the saute, which is an all around great technique for any vegetable.)

Meanwhile drain farfalle, reserving 2 c. cooking water. The starch in the water will help mix with the parmesan and give it a delicious sauce.  Add the farfalle to the veggies, stir to combine, then add salmon/chicken and parmesan and stir.  Toss with 1 c. cooking water until pasta is well-coated.  Add more water if more sauce/moisture is desired.  

The flavor cold the next day is delicious.  

Pappa Al Pomodoro

July 29, 2012

Hi there! Welcome to summer in a bowl:

I made this soup last summer when my basil was growing like crazy.  It takes 1 cup + 20-30 leaves for the topping. And it’s flavors have haunted me. Whenever I have a leftover loaf of bread, I scramble to get the other ingredients together.  Those Italians know what to do with leftover bread!

In this soup, like in all cooking, quality counts! I use San Marzano tomatoes and the best organic stock I can buy if I don’t have any homemade.

You start with these aromatic flavor bases…


Add cubes of bread…

Then tomatoes, dry red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon) and basil, salt and pepper….

Then simmer on the stove.  While that is cooking, you make the BEST part. This topping:


Toasted bread crumbs with panchetta. It is heaven.  You are supposed to add 20-30 basil leaves but I didn’t want to use up my whole supply. I added a few though and wished I had more.

When it is done, use an immersion blender to create the texture you want.  If it is too think, add some water.

This soup is so good, I can’t stop eating it.  The toppings make it salty-chewy-crunchy, and the flavors in the soup make you feel like you are drinking a sun-ripened field of tomatoes and basil in Tuscany.   Buon appetito!


Pappa Al Pomodoro

from Ina Garten Back to Basics cookbook


  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (2 onions)
  • 1 cup medium-diced carrots, unpeeled (3 carrots)
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and medium-diced (1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes, crusts removed
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans good Italian plum tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

For the topping:

  • 3 cups (1-inch) diced ciabatta cubes
  • 2 ounces thickly sliced pancetta, chopped
  • 24 to 30 whole fresh basil leaves
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus more for serving
  • Salt and pepper

Spicy Chicken with Avocado Salsa

July 9, 2012


This is one of our favorite quick, healthy meals.  The combination of heat from the cayenne rub with the cool creamy citrus from the lime soaked avocados makes it a meditation in flavors and textures. 

It is super easy, and I think I got it years ago from a Martha Stewart mag, and it is worth trying at home.  I even made this for my husband’s boss one time. We always have the ingredients on hand.

If you are making it for kids, or if you don’t like heat, just cook the chicken breasts without the cayenne, or even use the packet of seasoning for Ranch Dressing as the rub.

Spicy Chicken with Avocado Salsa

2-3 chicken breasts 
Rub: 1 t. salt, 1/2 t. pepper, 1/4 t. cayenne pepper (I like it with a bit more but this is safe)
Salsa:  3 avocados, cubed, juice of 2 limes, 3 T. diced red onion or shallot, pinch of salt

Heat oven to 425.
Dry chicken with paper towel, then divide rub evenly on 2 large or 3 small pieces. 
Heat 2 T. olive oil in oven proof pan on high heat. When hot, sear chicken on each side for 3 min. 
Then place in oven for 8 min or cooked through.(Mind the hot pan handle!)

Meanwhile, toss avocado cubes, lime, onions and salt together.
Plate chicken with a mound of avocado salsa on top. 


I love the system of searing chicken breasts with a flavoring/rub/herbs, then putting it into the oven because it always gets cooked in the middle that way.  Otherwise I always feel like I am burning the outside flavors in order to cook it through.


Did you know that, according to James Beard in Beard on Food,  avocados used to be called alligator pears?  And they used to be so expensive they were a rare delicacy.  I will remember that the next time I grumble about paying $1 for each one.

And in case you haven’t heard this trick before, when you are trying to take an avocado seed out, try (carefully) hitting it with the blade of a large knife, so that the knife is lodged in the woody center, then twisting.  It comes right out very easily.  This is especially helpful when you are doing big batches of guacamole.  

Happy Healthy Eating! 

Garlic Dijion Rosemary Crusted Pork Loin

July 1, 2012

It is that time of year when we head out to picnics, summer parties, and outdoor eating. Here are some of my favorite things to make and bring.

Garlic Dijion Rosemary Crusted Pork Loin


Even though this is a fall/winter type dish, I find I make it in the summer often.  Recently I had a picnic to go to and the night before, I threw this in the oven then into the fridge.  It was so easy to grab the next day, put into a plastic bag with a baguette and some dijion mustard.  

1 pork tenderloin, 1-2 lbs.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 T. rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 c. dijion mustard
salt & pepper (about 1 t. salt, 1/2 pepper)

Toss all ingredients after pork together, then coat over tenderloin.  Cook at 425 for 20-25 min, testing for doneness as thicknesses vary. 


Speaking of picnics, has anyone seen this at a summer party?

Watermelon Baskets:  Is it summer without one of these??

If you have never made one they are very easy, just draw with a knife where you want the base and the handle to be, then cut and carve with a big spoon.  You need a big bowl to catch all the watermelon remnants, then you make a fruit salad with cubes of some of the watermelon and your favorite summer fruit like strawberries, grapes, blueberries, etc.. Then dump it back in. Mint is a nice garnish as well. 


Pomegranate Juice with Seltzer:

Super refreshing, and if you want to add tequila or vodka, be my guest! If not, it feels like a special drink even when you don’t want to drink.

Happy Summer!