Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Contributed by Kathleen Pierce
Original Source: Lauren's Latest

If you're an avid Pinterest-er like me, you've noticed that if you try to pin a pin you've already pinned before, you get a little message that says, "Pssst! It looks like you have already pinned this." So glad they added that because I am a grievous multi-pinner. Like the pin for these No-Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bars? I pinned it 4 or 5 times.

So I figured I ought to try it. I did, and I love it!

Here is the original recipe:

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. honey
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
2 c. quick cooking oats (not rolled oats)
1 c. crispy rice cereal
1/2 t. vanilla
2 T. mini chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, combine oats and rice cereal.
2. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring butter, honey, and brown sugar to a bubbly boil.
3. Reduce heat and cook for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
5. Pour hot liquid over oat mixture and mix together.
6. Spread on a lightly greased 12x8x1 pan. (If your pan isn't small enough, pack mixture to one side.)
7. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and press down lightly. (See #8 in the notes below pressing.)
8. Cool to room temperature for about two hours and cut into bars.

1. The original author noted that you should not use rolled oats (in the original, she even punctuates this instruction with a !). I'm a rebel. I don't do quick oats or whatever you call them, so I used rolled oats. And guess what? They turned out just fine.

2. This recipe needs a whole lot more to healthify them. Add whatever you have: coconut, chia seeds, millet, nuts.

3. I hesitated about putting rice cereal in them because the Kelloggs brand is what comes to mind when we think Snap! Crackle! Pop!, and Kelloggs is notorious for their GMO-laden boxes of cereal. So I bought a brown rice brand called Erewhon. Really, you have to add the crispy cereal; it really adds a lot to the texture of the granola bar.

4. I have doubled the recipe each time I have made this because, A) I have 4 kids and B) I wanted to use an entire large jelly roll pan instead of smooshing it over to the side.

5. I found the recipe to be a tad too sweet, so I reduced the (organic) brown sugar to 1/2 c. for a double which is, obviously, 1/4 for a single.

6. I mentioned I'm a rebel. This is especially so when it comes to chocolate. I don't just want chocolate sprinkled OVER the bars. I want chocolate IN the bars. So I added a 1/2 cup (1/4 c. single) mini chips to the oats and cereal. Naturally, they melt when you pour the hot liquid over it...which is perfect!

7. And what is this about 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips to sprinkle on top? On top of one BAR?? Or what? I sprinkle the chips very liberally by the handful.

8. A note about pressing the mixture onto your pan: Spread it all out and take a piece of waxed paper. Press down hard all around, making sure to get all of the edges. Then sprinkle the chocolate chips on and press once again, though maybe not so vigorously the second time. You want to embed the chips into the bars, but you don't want to ruin the integrity of the chips. :-)

9. You can store these in the fridge too - they're just as good.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Contributed by Kathleen Pierce
Original Source: Creative Simple Life

Chocolate Avocado Mousse

3 medium ripe avocados
1 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4-1/2 c. honey
2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
1 T. milk (optional for thinner consistency)

How I did it (along with how I might do it better next time):
1. I felt just like someone from Food Network Star cutting the avocados open and removing the pits by embedding a knife in them and giving them a twist. (I don't DO avocado, you see, so this was my first experience with the mushy vegetable (?) fruit (?), and I learned the nifty pit removal technique from Bobby Flay.) Scrape all the pulp into a food processor.

2. Dump in all the other ingredients. Be sure to use at least a tablespoon of vanilla. Whip it good.

3. So I ended up using a bit more than 1/2 c. of honey. I wanted to make sure it was sweet enough that the children would actually eat it. I think next time I will try cutting the cocoa powder in half and adding some melted dark chocolate. You can't go wrong with melted dark chocolate. Especially Lindt melted dark chocolate.

4. I also added a bit more than 1 T. milk.

5. I chilled the mousse overnight. The next day it did not have the nice whipped texture it had after swirling around in the food processor for awhile. So I added a bit more milk and used a handmixer to re-whip it.

6. Then of course I served it with whipped cream. It was homemade at least. Well, homemade in that I whipped up some heavy whipping cream. It was grass-fed, organic whipping cream. OK. Enough rationalizing. Someday perhaps I'll try the whipped coconut milk recipe I keep seeing on Pinterest. Until then, grass-fed, organic, semi-homemade whipped cream it is.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Homemade Lotion

Contributed by Kathleen.
Original Source: The Whole New Mom

Do you know how many chemicals are in the lotion or body cream you are currently using? Just take a look at the looong ingredients list! Some culprits: anything that ends with "paraben", fragrances, colors, propylene glycol...just to name a few. It's hard to get away from all of the chemicals and toxins that bombard us everyday, and to purchase the brands that make pure products can get very expensive.

Here is a lotion that is effective both on the skin and on the wallet. It is so easy too!

1/4 c. coconut oil
1/8 c. shea butter
1/8 c. cocoa butter
1 T. aloe vera juice
1 T. jojoba, almond, or other oil
5-10 drops essential oil (noted as optional, but necessary in my book! :-)) (I used 7 drops Wild Orange, 2 drops Lavender, and 1 drop Frankincense)

Over low heat, melt the coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter. Remove from heat and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir well. Then pour into jar. Will take some time for the concoction to "set" into a smooth lotion.

A few notes:
1. The ingredients are easier to find than you would expect. I got the coconut oil at my local grocery store. The shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe vera juice, and jojoba oil I used are all available on Amazon. You can purchase essential oils here.

2. A couple of the items might seem expensive to purchase up front, but when you consider that you use such a small amount to make a jar and 1/2 of lotion, it is a lot cheaper even than buying chemical-laden lotion off the shelf at Wally World.

3. The perfect jar for storing your lotion is the smallest canning jar. These are abundantly available at the moment since it is spring and canning season is coming up. But off season, some grocery stores will still carry, or you can find them on Amazon as well.

4. This lotion can take awhile to set, especially in warm temperatures. If you get frustrated waiting, just stick it in the fridge. It'll set pretty quickly. Better yet, just stick it in the fridge; then you don't have to wait until frustration sets in.

5. Don't make a quadruple batch thinking you'd like to stock your own shelves. Make a single batch and try to use it in a month or so. Since there are no chemicals in this cream, it will not keep for a hundred years like your last bottle of Jergens.

6. This lotion is a tad bit greasy when you first apply it, but the greasy feeling goes away in less than a minute.