Wednesday, June 30, 2010

We've made a lot of changes in our diet lately. Between reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, watching FOOD, Inc., reading Anti Cancer, Righteous Porkchop, and wanting to lose extra weight and be more healthy -- wow! If you're interested and want to know more about these books or have already read them and want to share tips/tricks/or stories, email me!

One of the bigger changes has been to make as much as we can on our own. To that end, granola bars are such a great snack to have on hand and I'm loving being the one in control of what goes into them. They're also really easy to make.

I've tried 3 different recipes now (Kitchen Stewardship, Sisters Cafe, and my wonderful friend Heidi's).

This morning I decided to compare all three and see if I couldn't figure out the "science" behind what is required to make a granola bar. Here's what I came up with. Armed with these things, I think I'll be able to make any number of granola bar recipes, changing it up however I feel.

(for a regular size batch)

- 2 cups of oats. Maybe a 1/2 cup more in a doubled batch. Quick vs. rolled is really a matter of preference. I have yet to decide my preference...
- 1 C flour, whole wheat or all-purpose. No flour? Use an extra 1/2 C oats and 1/2 C rice krispies. Not as healthy, but really yummy. Using all-purpose but still wanting to be healthy? Add 1/2 C wheat germ. My double batch recipe calls for 1 cup flour, but another regular batch recipe I have ALSO calls for 1 cup I'm doing a regular batch and will use 1/2 cup flour unless it looks like it needs more.
- 1/2 tsp baking soda. Two of the recipes actually leave this out, but I think it helps the bars stay together better and be softer and chewier. Scientifically, I know that cream of tartar makes cookies softer and chewier and is an ingredient in baking powder. So maybe this is similar? As for why it helps them stay together better? Maybe something to do with the poofing/rising while they bake and then when they cool and fall they stick together better? Ideas anyone?
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 - 1/2 C Butter or oil, interchangeable in this recipe. That's not always the case with baking.
- 3/4 to 1 C sweetener, to taste.
1/2 C brown sugar + 1/4 - 1/2 C honey
1/2 C honey (as a general rule, if you want to use all honey and no sugar in a recipe that calls for only sugar, use half the amount called for. So 1 Cup sugar = 1/2 C honey)
- 1/2 tsp of extract of choice, or even a mixture of two. If you like almonds, try 1/4 tsp almond extract and 1/4 tsp vanilla. You can add up to 2 tsp extract in a batch if you feel like the flavor's not strong enough.
- Add an egg or two if it seems too dry. You're only likely to need this if you use all oil instead of butter.
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon is a really yummy addition.
- You can add 1/4 - 1/3 C powdered milk for added calcium.

- add by the 1/2 C
- if using peanut butter, cut the oil/butter to 1/4 - 1/3 C
- There are so many possibilities for add-ins. Try any of these: coconut, mini chocolate chips, dried cranberries (practically any dried fruit), nuts, or sunflower seeds.
- You can adjust the add-ins to taste if you really like a particular flavor, but be careful you don't add so much that it interferes with the oats and the "chewiness" factor.

Use your hands and jam it all into the pan. This keeps your bars from falling apart.

Use a lightly greased 9 x 13" pan. If you double the recipe, you can use the same size pan. Just two tips with a doubled batch:
- adjust your baking time, more on the 20 minute side
- cut them thinner and the top (looking into the pan) becomes the side of each granola bar. Make sense?

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, checking at 12 minutes. You want it to be a little golden.

Cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.
Cool COMPLETELY in pan before removing and storing or serving.

They freeze well if wrapped individually.

Today I'm going to try two batches:
- peanut butter chocolate chip (an old favorite)
- and almond coconut with 1/4 tsp almond extract and 1/4 tsp vanilla (I think almond extract is pretty strong and add a little at a time tasting as I go. You may prefer to go all the way up to the 2 tsps with almond and vanilla. Last time I did that, I tasted a "tinglyness" in the bars directly from the almond extract. Weird huh?)

I'm also going to use oil instead of butter. Much cheaper. I've tried both and can't really tell a difference.

So today my recipes will look like this:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 - 1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C honey
1/3 - 1/2 C oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/2 C coconut
1/2 C sliced almonds

Mix dry ingredients in one bowl, wet in another. Combine. Spread in greased pan. Bake at 350 for 12-20 minutes. Cut. Cool completely. Remove from pan and store.

And then in the 2nd batch I'll do all vanilla extract, 1/2 C peanut butter (adjusting the oil as needed), and 1/2 C mini chocolate chips.

If you find a combination you love, let me know!'s 13,000.

Monday, June 28, 2010

People talk about how wonderful it is to have a girl first because they're like second mommas, so helpful with the other kids. Well, having never had a boy first...obviously...and having never had a boy PERIOD...I can only go by what I see in other families and from my childhood. It's very true. I'm sure it's not always true, but it's probably more often true than not.

Autumn is such a good helper with her sisters and around the house. And she loves them to pieces. She is tender hearted. Quick to feel the smallest slight from her sisters (whom she loves dearly), but also so quick to forgive with a smile and a hug.

She loves life. She is excited about everything that comes her way. She loves to dance. She loves to tell people how much she's looking forward to playing the cello this fall.

She loves school and lately, she loves to write stories! This has been a joy for me to watch. Earlier in the school year we worked on creative writing for a time, but it was a bust. She just wasn't ready for it at the time. And I learned after the fact, just how important it is to FILL a kid's mind with stories and information and give them TIME before expecting them to be ready to CREATE their own stories. So...we left the creative writing alone. And she went back to it on her own, when she was ready!

Right now she's working on a story called "The Enchanted Garden". She has informed me that it will be fourteen chapters long, just like Harry Potter. Every page has green ivy drawn around it too. Oh how I love this girl.

I promise she wanted her picture taken here and that she's even happy. Her mouth is just full.

Autumn and Heidi made a store in the playroom. You can probably read the prices if you click on the picture to expand it. But each price tag has a price (imagine that) and a description of the item!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Heidi lost another tooth! That brings the count up to FOUR. And it's one of the top ones, which really surprised me. Autumn didn't lose those till just this year. If I didn't know better, I'd say Heidi was trying to catch up with her. :)

Heidi's reading and writing skills (and interest in them!) just TOOK OFF during the last month of school. Since then, I find sheets of her writing everywhere and am enjoying her enthusiasm over these newest skills. And once again, I'm reminded of just what a funny language English is. Kids are so smart and realize just how they say things as they're in the early writing stages. And when I read my kindergartner's handwriting, I have to laugh at just how right they are. She currently spells "tree" as "chree". Try to say tree without thinking about it and you'll see what I mean. Or listen to someone else say it without any prompting. Like I said, English is a funny language.

A page of her birthday list:

Translated, that says, "Tinkerbell and the Lost Treasure".

Watching The Little Mermaid together. Becca loves her sisters and I love to watch them playing with her. Heidi is especially patient with Becca and loves sitting with her and playing with her.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed to admit this, but I'm not -- and I just have to say...

Today was my first time driving the LA freeways since we moved here in August!

And I'm alive still and so is everyone else that went with me. And I drove in the day, and the night. And it wasn't as bad as I was expecting. But I should probably get a massage to loosen up some knots. And I should do this more often to avoid the knots.

It's so weird too that I managed to live 20 miles from LA for 10 months and not need to go on the freeway as the driver. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a "nervous Nellie" but going from 3, possibly 4-lane freeway driving to SEVEN lane freeways...I wasn't feeling antsy to go anywhere via freeway right away. I'm a go-getter and when I move to a new place I'm all over figuring out the best ways to get around and what's where. So...this is really outside of the norm for me. But GO ME! I'm still happy about it and looking forward to becoming more familiar with the freeways around here. (Just not during rush hour...anything but that...please?!)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

After a few LOST conversations with friends I decided maybe I'd pass on the whole LOST post by Eric. It seems like there are five different versions of what happened and each group is happy with their own version. So...on to other things...

Tonight I'm on a baking craze. Granola and banana bread in the oven. A whole chicken boiling on the stove. Granola bars waiting on the counter. Parts of an icebox cheesecake chilling in the fridge. Wow! It seems like it's been forever since I've wanted to do that much all at once. It's fun that it sounds like so much, typed out. But in reality, I'm watching TV and getting up every once in awhile to stir the granola. That's it. So cool!

And that's it for tonight.

Gradually I'll get back into a blogging groove.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Let's not

Last night I dreamed that I had triplet girls. Hahaha!



And pregnant?

That's just funny.

It was such a funny dream though, looking back on it. I didn't know I was having triplets and here they came, one - two - three. And then I put them in a stroller - SITTING UP. And it was perfectly normal, as tends to happen in dreams. They were still newborns, but somehow this worked. And then I looked at them and thought, "I don't think I'm going to have enough milk for 3 babies! Certainly not enough ARMS!" and realized they were definitely going to need formula supplements.

And I also thought to myself, "Well, I guess Heavenly Father knew I was only willing to be pregnant one more time (where did that come from??). Guess he had to find a way to get the rest of our family to us..."



This morning I laughed as I thought about the dream because I remembered a time, a LONG time ago when my sisters and I were making cookies in the kitchen and Rae started into this goofy story about how I was going to have triplet girls...



I think that should be a sign that I should NEVER get pregnant again. :D