Homemade Granola Bars

I’m always searching for  healthy snacks for my growing kids! Nothing with tons of sugar, but also something that is fun to eat and won’t ruin appetites for the next meal, oh, and budget friendly….. I don’t ask for very much do I??  So… I decided to use some items in my pantry to experiment with making my own  granola bars! We ALL loved them- I was shocked- this experiment worked! Happy surprise! 

Homemade Granola BarsMost granola bar ingredients call for honey as the “glue” that keeps the bars together. I have noticed that honey has the ability to make my little boy run around the house like a crazy little monkey! But, I still needed a sticky liquid.  I decided to use a combination of agave nectar(a natural sugar that is slowly metabolized) and maple syrup (because it’s sticky and I love the taste) It was just the right amount of stickiness.
gb ingredients

 If you’ve never worked with Coconut Oil, you will quickly notice that it comes in solid form and needs to be melted down to use as an oil. In this recipe, I also needed to melt the peanut butter down, so, I added all of the liquid (or soon to be liquid) ingredients together and put them in the microwave until melted.

co and pb

 I had Agave Nectar in my pantry because I had grand plans of using it instead of sugar in my coffee when I was prego and then I stopped using sugar in my coffee all together- so now I can make lots of granola bars!!

agave nectar

 I love the taste of maple syrup- especially the REAL stuff!! It’s more expensive, but tastes oh so much better than the artificial stuff! 

maple

 As usual, I had a kitchen helper! Monkey Man helped me by eating a spoonful of peanut butter! 

mm

 MMMM…… melted goodness! My mind immediately went to what else I could pour this yummy sauce on…. It’s good- very good! 

melted wet ingredients

 Oats…. I had old fashioned oats on hand- so I used that. You could use anything your heart desires and I know some recipes call for Rice Crispies to add to the texture of their bars. You are the chef!

oatmeal

Pour your lovely melty mixture over your oats and stir to combine!add wet ingredients

 

For this recipe you can use a 9×9 pan and get pretty thick bars or use a 9×13 pan and get thin bars. This time I made thick bars. Either way, I would highly recommend you line your dish with parchment or foil. You don’t need to oil your dish because the peanut butter has enough natural oil to make the bars non-stick.
9x9 af

 I poured my “batter” into my dish and popped them in the fridge for about 2 hours. They were perfectly set up! I pulled the bars out of the dish, and peeled the foil away, and went to cutting. I made some big ones and some small ones!! So rich and so good. 

granola bars 2

 My kids call them cookies and beg for them for dessert! I can’t wait to experiment with more mix-ins: raisins and nuts and pumpkin something! I hope your family loves these as much as mine did! Enjoy!

 final granola bars 2

Linda's Homemade Granola Bars
The perfect sweet and salty snack to please kids of all ages!
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Ingredients
  1. 2/3 cup coconut oil
  2. 2/3 cup peanut butter
  3. 1/3 cup maple syrup
  4. 1/3 cup Agave nectar
  5. 2- 1/2 cups Old Fashioned Oats
  6. 3/4 cup chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Prepare pan by lining 9x9 pan with foil. Combine coconut oil, peanut butter, maple syrup and agave nectar in a microwave safe dish. Microwave for one minute or until all ingredients are melted. Whisk to combine. Place oats in a large bowl. Pour liquid over oats. Pour into prepared 9x9 pan. Evenly distribute chocolate chips over the top! Push chips down slightly. Refrigerate until mixture is set. Cut into desired shape. Eat and Enjoy! Store bars in the refrigerator.
Notes
  1. The possibilities are endless! Pick your favorite toppings and have fun!
Sweets & Whimsy http://sweetsandwhimsy.com/

 

 

 

Lemon Ricotta Cake

We had some fantastic Indian days of Summer last week…. beautiful, hot sticky days- one last blast before the crisp air of Fall comes to Virginia.  So I decided to celebrate the last hoorah of hot temps with this fresh Lemon Ricotta Cake! cake2

 For some reason I love cake baked in a Bundt pan… it reminds me of my grandmother! I love to butter the Bundt pan instead of using a spray type oil. It gives the cake a beautiful golden crust! Love!

butter the bundt

 Start with the dry ingredients. Flour, baking powder and salt. 

dry ingredients

 For the wet ingredients: ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest…. My secret to a rich moist cake is usually sour cream….. I always always overbuy ricotta when making pasta dishes….anyway…I thought I’d use the ricotta  and it worked out wonderfully~

wet ingredients

 2 eggs

eggs

 1 stick butter, softened

butter

 2 cups sugar

sugar

 Pour batter into Bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until cooked through. 

batter

 Love this cake! So fresh, so moist, so good! 

bundt-cooked

 And the smell is heavenly! I wish I could capture it into a candle! Obviously Glitter Girl  and Monkey Man loved it as well!!smells so goodI thought this cake was fantastic on it’s own, but could use a little adornment! So… I created this glaze! I’ve been all about the combination of honey and lemon recently (click here….to see my honey and lemon vinaigrette) Simple ingredients like powdered sugar, honey and lemon….makes a perfect compliment to  this fresh tart cake. 

glaze ingredients

 Whisk together until your glaze is completely smooth and pourable. 

glaze

 I had some pecans laying around and I thought I’d toast and sugar them and knew they would look lovely right on top of this cake. 

sugared pecans

 Walaaa…. love this cake! And I know you will too!

cake2

 This cake would be a lovely addition to a hot cup of tea any season!  Enjoy!

Lemon Ricotta Cake
A fresh and moist cake perfect for those Indian Summer nights.
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Ingredients for the Cake
  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 1 teaspoon baking powder
  3. 1 teaspoon salt
  4. 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  5. 2 cups sugar
  6. 2 eggs
  7. 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  8. 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  9. 1 lemon, zested
Instructions
  1. Directions
  2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cake
  1. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.
  3. Grease pan with butter. Pour batter into bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cake rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.
For the Glaze
  1. 1 1/2 cps powdered sugar
  2. 1 tbsp honey
  3. 3 tbsp lemon juice
  4. Sugared Pecans
  5. pecans
  6. sugar
Sweets & Whimsy http://sweetsandwhimsy.com/

Pear and Gorgonzola Salad with Candied Walnuts

This is by far my favorite salad! At my favorite Italian restaurant, Girasole, they serve a salad very similar to this one. Girasole is one of those once “every other year” date night restaurants- it’s been awhile, and I have been missing this dish, So…. I tried my hand at this salad and my taste buds and tummy are very happy…The combination of peppery greens, tart pears, rich, tangy gorgonzola, and the sweet walnuts are amazing together. I finally created a vinaigrette that stands up to the strong flavors of this salad! I’m in love!!  pear salad with gorg and candied walnuts First, I made the candied walnuts. They take a little while to set up, so I usually make a big batch that will last awhile. They are yummy to snack on and make a fantastic topping to ice cream and pumpkin pie! This sweet component is necessary in my opinion to balance out the flavors, but you can always just toss some crunchy walnuts on your salad and call it a day.  candied walnuts Melt the butter melt butterOnce the butter is melted, add brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt.  maple caramel sauce Once mixture has come to a nice bubble (takes about 2 minutes) Add walnuts…. candied walnuts 1 Allow walnuts to swim in the sugary sweet goodness for about 5-6 minutes or until the walnuts are completely covered and mixture starts to carmelize and cling to the walnuts. Place walnuts on a piece of parchment to cool….Warning! to picky fingers: sugar will be hot! Allow to cool and continue to do it’s clingy thingy for about an hour… Some people don’t like to wait- and that’s ok too!  IMG_9419[1] Next up: the dressing. I finally found the perfect combo! honey, olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper and a sprinkle of gorgonzola! yum! I love parmesan cheese in my dressings, so I thought- why not compliment the cheese in the salad and add it to the dressing as well. I love the fact that by day 2, the gorgonzola is completely infused in the dressing and it’s liquid heaven!  dressing ingredients Next, slice your pears- I know everyone has a different slice preference when it comes to salad. So do what you and your knife please!  pear and gorg Prepare your greens. This salad is best with straight up arugula, but. since I was buying lettuce for multiple meals, I used mixed greens and was very happy with the results!  pear salad with gorg and candied walnuts Can I tell you how much Glitter Girl loves this salad? I was shocked! She had two servings for dinner and then had another helping for lunch the next day! She has excellent and expensive taste!!  She had the fantastic idea to add dried cranberries to her salad!  Tomorrow she has decided to try trading fresh mango for pear- I love her creativity! final salad with cranberries We served this salad with pepperoni foccacia- which was also very good. The kids helped me put this recipe together- very easy and perfect for a weeknight meal. pepperoni foccacia Prepared biscuits acts as the Foccacia. Fresh tomato sauce, pepperoni, and two cheeses! YUM!!  No matter the season, this salad is welcome in my home!   

Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Candied Walnuts
Serves 4
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For the salad
  1. 1 container mixed greens, washed and dried
  2. 1 container gorgonzola
  3. 2 pears, thinly sliced
  4. Candied Walnuts (recipe below)
  5. Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (recipe below)
For the Candied Walnuts
  1. 1 cup walnuts
  2. 2 tbsp butter
  3. 1 tbsp maple syrup
  4. 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  5. 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  6. pinch of salt
For the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
  1. 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  4. 1 tablespoon honey
  5. 1 lemon, juiced
  6. 1/4 cup olive oil
  7. 1/8 cup gorgonzola, crumbled
For the salad
  1. Layer ingredients in a salad bowl starting with lettuce, then gorgonzola, and pears. Top with candied walnuts and vinaigrette!
For the Candied Walnuts
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan, add brown sugar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Heat on medium- high heat until mixture is bubbly and starting to thicken. Add walnuts. Stir into sugar mixture until the nuts are thoroughly covered and the mixture starts to cling to the walnuts. Take pan off the heat. Spread the candied walnuts onto parchment paper and allow the mixture to set up. (this takes about an hour.)
For the Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
  1. Add all ingredients together in a jar and shake!! Adjust seasoning to taste!
Notes
  1. I usually make this salad serve to order. You don't want the pears and dressing to make the salad soggy. So the toppings can be to order as well. Make it your own creation!
Sweets & Whimsy http://sweetsandwhimsy.com/