Saturday, February 20, 2010

Chewy Granola Bars

This is the first recipe I tried from a book that has since become a life-saver.  If you are cooking for children with any sort of food allergy, this book is a must-have!  It is called the "Kid Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook" and the nice thing about it is that it offers different recipes, then gives you the appropriate variations depending on the allergy you are working with.  Even for non-allergy kids, there are lots of great kid friendly meals, snacks, and desserts offered.   It was recommended to me by a friend who has been navigating allergies for far longer than I have.  She lent me her copy and I went out to buy my own after the first night.  These granola bars are perfect for anyone!  I found myself addicted to them and I helped my little one polish off the batch we made!  The recipe makes a nice amount of bars and they really do last for a long time.  As long as they are covered well, we can eat them well over a week.  The other nice thing about the recipe is that you can use any combination of add-ins that you have on hand.  It's a nice pantry cleaner! :)  I have made ours with dried apricots, dried cranberries, dried cherries, raisins, soy chocolate chips, etc.  If not working with an allergy, I would love to try cranberries with white chocolate chips.  I think they'd be heavenly!  As a final side note-- I tend to be hesitant to make anything with a lot of coconut because I really am not a huge fan.  The coconut is a must in this one though.  The flavor is incredible, even to a non-fan like me!

Chewy Granola Bars
1 cup butter (If going dairy-free, use soy margarine)
3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
4 cups oats
1 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped nuts
1 cup chocolate chips and your favorite dried fruits (If going dairy free, be sure to use specific soy based chocolate chips)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Grease a 12 x 9 inch cookie sheet.  In a large pan, heat the butter, sugars, and syrup until melted.  Stir in remaining ingredients until evenly combined.  Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and press down, making sure the surface is smooth and even.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.  I will cut some 'adult sized' bars and then some mini-bars for my children.  Once cut, transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Source: The Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook, by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger

Monday, February 15, 2010

A sincere apology and bribery through French Onion Soup

To begin with, I owe my followers a sincere apology for my absence over the past few months.  I promise I have a good excuse, but I'll get to that in a moment.  To make it up to my blogging friends, and to thank you for your patience, I am sharing the most incredible French Onion Soup today.  I made this as a special Valentine's Day treat as it is one of my husband's favorites.  The recipe is another winner from The Pioneer Woman, and like the rest-- this one does not disappoint.  It does take a little bit of time, but not a whole lot of energy.  The house smelled amazing and it was the perfect starter for a special meal.  As a special note, the flavor of the white wine really does come through, so make sure that you use one you wouldn't mind drinking. My only regret was that I would have loved to brown up the cheese a little bit.  It was nice and melted, but not as bubbly as I would have liked.  Unfortunately, my crocks were not broiler safe and I can't quite rationalize a kitchen torch at this time.  Maybe one day.... :)

Before I get to the recipe, I do want to share that I will be adding a new feature in coming days.  Part of my absence was due to the new diagnosis that my son is allergic to cow's milk.  Figuring this out has been a true miracle as he has been a completely different child since eliminating milk products from his diet.  His digestive system has been completely turned around and the child is now willing to eat regular meals.  He's three years old and for the first time is able to eat normal amounts of food, instead of picking as he always had before.  The poor thing looked at me the other day and said, "I'm happy because my tummy doesn't hurt anymore."  Hard to hear from your little one!  I've been doing a lot of research, trying to find foods that are made without milk products, and recipes that fit within his new dietary needs.  You wouldn't believe the items that have milk products in them-- it truly has been an education!  One thing that I have found is that it can be very difficult to find kid-friendly, dairy-free recipes.  Many of the specialty items that you can find locally are incredibly expensive and I have had to learn to make many new items from scratch to control what he does consume.  I'm hoping that if I share what I do find, and have success with, then I might be able to help someone else in a similar situation.  I've learned so much from the blogs and sites that I have found and would love to be able to pass some of that along.  Please watch for these special dairy-free features coming soon!

French Onion Soup
1 stick butter
4-5 large yellow onions, halved from root to tip and sliced thin
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups beef broth
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
French bread
Swiss (or Gruyere) cheese

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, melt butter over medium-low heat.  Add your sliced onions and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes.  Place the entire soup pot in the oven, with the lid slightly offset to allow the onions to brown.  Cook the onions in the oven for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.  Remove the pot from the oven and place it back on the burner.  Add the wine before turning the heat back on.  Stir in the wine, scraping off the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook on medium for about 5 minutes (or until the wine is able to reduce).  Add the beef and chicken broth, the Worcestershire Sauce and the minced garlic.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice the bread into thick slices.  Butter one side and broil over low heat, allowing the bread to become browned and crispy.  When the soup is finished, ladle it into an oven-safe soup crock.  Top with the bread and the cheese.  Grated works best, but you can use sliced if you have it.  Broil until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  (Please be sure to check your crocks-- mine were not safe to go above 400 degrees in the oven, and this seemed to be a common trait of the soup crocks.  I simply melted my cheese at the max temperature.)  Serve immediately out of the oven.

Source: The Pioneer Woman