Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Recipe: Granola Protein Bars!!

Another useful post!  I am on a roll.  I've been meaning to post this one for a long time.  The story: a while back, I was told about protein bars, how they can be a lifesaver when you're just really hungry.  They may not be the tastiest things, but they do the job, in a set portion for a set number of calories.  I certainly do get those crazy hunger pangs, when I know I need to eat something of substance before I go insane (and/or before I go out the door).  It has to be easy and usually portable, and I'm sorry -- an apple usually will not do the trick.  When in superhungry mode, apples last approximately 9 minutes, am I right?

Anyway, enter the Costco packs of Clif bars (disgusting, do not attempt!!) and the okay-tasting Nature Valley Protein Bars.  (The kind I was eating disappeared from Costco, and, hmm, it does not appear on the Nature Valley website.  It had peanuts, chocolate, and "Protein" written on the pack . . .)  I was eating those NVPBs for a while, but they were so sickly sweet and I knew I could do better.

So I modified an old Weight Watchers cookie recipe!  I had always made this recipe as a pan of cut granola bars rather than individual cookies, but I wanted them to have more protein.  I also cut down the butter and sugar, wanting my pick-me-up to be more like, say, lightly sweetened oatmeal rather than a crazy candy explosion.  How will I ever lessen my craving for sweets if my tried-and-true snack is super sweet?  So, here is the recipe I came up with!

Homemade Granola Protein Bars

DRY INGREDIENTS
1.5 cups rolled oats
0.5 cup wheat flour
0.5 cup wheat germ
0.5 cup chickpea flour (besan to you Indian-food chefs)
****Let me interject and say that you can vary the amounts of these grains in proportion to each other.  Like switch it to, say, 1 cup of chickpea flour and 1 cup of oats.  If you do add more chickpea flour, you'll get more protein, but you will taste it -- this is OK by me but may be objectionable to some.****

0.25 cup raisins
0.25 cup chocolate chips
2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds (raw, no salt)
2 Tbsp. dried apricots, chopped to raisin-size
1 tsp. baking powder
0.25 tsp. salt

Combine the above!

WET INGREDIENTS (in a SEPARATE BOWL)
0.5 stick softened butter (30 seconds on 30 percent power in microwave!)
0.5 cup almond butter or peanut butter (**Note: if you've increased the chickpea flour, peanut butter is better at masking that taste, but in the "normal" recipe, almond butter just tastes better!)
0.25 cup brown sugar
1 egg
0.25 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat these together (by hand is fine), then put the dry mix into the wet mix and stir to combine.  Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and even it out (should be about a quarter-inch thick).  Bake at 375 for about 25 minutes.  (If you like cookie-like softness, you may want less time, but I like these as crunchy bars.  I watch and make sure the sides have pulled away and have browned, and the top is starting to brown -- then take them out.)

Let cool slightly, then cut into bars (one big cut down the middle of the long way, then cuts down the short way about every inch and a half) before they harden completely.  Makes about 18-20 bars if you cut them this way, but feel free to cut them however you want! (Last time I made them, I used a scone pan, so they came out as tiny right-angle triangles . . . so cute!! It was actually the first time I've ever used that pan.)

I store my bars in a plastic container and keep them on top of the fridge for those crazy-hunger moments.  They are TASTY and they really do work to sustain me till my next meal!  In my ongoing weight loss struggle, I've noticed that I do tend to lose more weight when snacking on these, so now I am really trying to always keep them on hand.  If anyone out there makes this recipe, do come back and comment and tell me how it went for you!

Afterword: We still have a box of Clif bars lying around.  The other day, not having made my next batch of bars yet, I ate one in desperation.  It was GROSSER THAN GROSS.  I mean, they were always gross, but having backed away from the whole packaged granola bar "thing", they were extra nasty.  All I could taste was the date paste or whatever it is they use to sweeten them/hold them together/???  It was supposed to be peanut butter, but no, it was icky fermented-fruity-sweet . . . wait, I just looked on a wrapper . . . brown rice syrup.  And about 10 other kinds of sugar, and yes, date paste.  I wonder how my bars freeze?  I never want to run out! :)

Recipe: Really Good Banana Bread

And now for a useful blog post!  The following recipe will make a loaf of banana bread that you won't be able to stop eating!  OK, I was able to stop today because I had a piece right after lunch, and I overcooked it a teeny bit, but the other times I've made it . . . let's just say that between the 3 people in this household, the loaf barely lasted 8 hours.  Ahem.

This version is modified from my Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.  I made it this way once because I didn't have any all-purpose flour . . . and I've never looked back!!

(Note: when mixing, you can definitely do it by hand, but I just found out today that an electric hand mixer/beater will give you a nice, fluffy-soft, cakey texture!  Whatever floats your boat.  I first fell for this loaf after mixing by hand, so there you go.)

0.5 cup butter (1 stick), softened (useful tip: 30 seconds on 30 percent power in the microwave softens refrigerated butter perfectly)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup bread flour
1 cup Hodgson Mill Insta-Bake mix (a whole wheat-y, natural version of Bisquik)
1 tsp. baking soda
0.5 tsp. baking powder
0.5 tsp salt
3 Tbsp milk
0.5 tsp. vanilla
(you can add 0.5 cup of nuts, but I never do . . . chocolate chips, however . . .)

Beat oil and sugar together.  Add eggs and banana pulp and beat well.  Add dry ingredients, milk, and vanilla.  Mix well [and stir in nuts].  Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9x5x3).  Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Do a toothpick test and add time if neeed. (Will bake slower in a glass pan.)  Cool well.

[Original recipe wants you to cool it overnight, but who can resist fresh, warm banana bread??  Original recipe also states, "Good with cream cheese for tea sandwiches," which sounds really good to me.  Hmm, do I have any cream cheese?]

One final note: I know that the baking mix already has baking powder, etc. in it -- but I think those extra goodies just made this loaf even better!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How to Get Rid of Sugar Ants

Got sugar ants in your kitchen?  You know, the tiny, tiny kind that appear on your counter intermittently during the spring and summer?  Well, my old Master Gardener training taught me that a Borax-and-sugar syrup placed on little pieces of card for "traps" was the best way to beat them, but that never worked very well for me. (The store-bought traps worked even worse.)

BUT, I inadvertently found something even better!  Ants love almond butter!

My "recipe": almond butter + Borax + a bit of water + bit of sugar thrown in for good measure = bye bye sugar ants! (Mix it in a throwaway tub with a throwaway stick of some sort and place it on bits of card, plastic, etc. near where you've seen them, which in my case was around the sink.  Ratio should be more on the tasty sugar and almond, less on the Borax.  Nobody's lured toward Borax.)

The backstory: I had made my own almond butter the other day (bulk salted almonds + food processor = almond butter . . . not as good as Trader Joe's but a couple bucks cheaper), and left the almond-butter-coated processor blade in my sink.  I know, I'm not a perfect housekeeper so it took me a while to get to it, but when I did I found WAY MORE ANTS than I thought were even in my kitchen all hurriedly carting it off and generally in a state of ant excitement!  So I knew.  If they wanted almond butter, I'd give them almond butter -- with a flavor TO DIE FOR, muua ha haaa!

They flocked to one of my dollops of poisoned nut butter like . . . ants . . . to . . . a dollop of poisoned nut butter!  Over the next couple days I watched them (because you let them cart it off to the rest of their friends so they all eat it and expire) as the dollop got chipped away at and eroded at the edges . . . fascinating.  Then they stopped coming!  And I haven't seen them for 3-4 days and counting.  Hooray!

A. told me I should do a blog post on it to let the world know.  So now you know!