Thursday, October 6, 2016

Healthy Banana Bread Chocolate Chip Oat Breakfast Bars

1.  That title is a mouthful!

2.  I can't believe I haven't blogged on this blog in a year.  That's ridiculous.

3.  I didn't eat these as breakfast...  These were a dessert.  They are that good.  Below is the recipe as I made it (I followed it pretty exactly, just used butter instead of coconut oil).  Here is the link to the original.  I am not concerned with the gluten-free aspect, so that isn't a focus in my ingredients.  But this very easily is gluten-free.  My thing is trying to cut back on refined sugars.  So this really hit the spot and was amazing.

2 1/4 cups oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medium, ripe bananas, peeled
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

1/2 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x9 inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray.

To make oat flour: Place oats into blender or food processor and blend for 1-2 minutes until oatmeal resembles flour. You may need to stop blender and stir oats a couple of times to ensure that all oats have been blended. Transfer oat flour medium bowl; whisk in baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon; set aside.

Place bananas, vanilla, applesauce, and honey into blender; blend 1-2 minutes or until smooth and creamy. Add to oat flour mixture and mix until just combined.

Gently fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly with rubber spatula. Bake for 15 minutes or until knife inserted into center comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Cool 10-15 minutes on wire rack.

Prepare drizzle by adding 2 tablespoons of chocolate chips and butter in microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high 30 seconds; stir well to combine then drizzle over the top of bars. Cut bars into 16 squares and enjoy!  (My drizzle wasn't super drizzly, so I may have burned my chocolate a little or maybe the butter isn't as great for this as the coconut oil...  So I put mine in a little snack-size ziploc and cut off a corner and squeezed it out over the bars.  Still tasty!)

Anyway, this woman who came up with this recipe is awesome beyond words in my book.  I have some nephews who have quite a few food allergies to contend with... I sent this link to my sister-in-law, because I am pretty sure this is something the boys can have, and it is seriously so good.  In fact, I need to make another batch :).

Now if only all healthy desserts could be this good!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Angel Kisses (or Meringue Cookies)

Motherhood is teaching me a lot of things.  It's helping me improve myself (even if it is a slow and sometimes painful process!).  See, in recent weeks and months, I've learned the hard way that 2 year olds are great at repeating what they hear.  Even when it's not nice.  I'm grateful we don't choose to use swear words in our home, because they would have already come out of our little girl's mouth by this point.  But even so, sometimes we as parents say things we shouldn't (like we call something stupid).  Or just the way we say something isn't the best -- for example, when she earns a time out and I'm at my wits' end and I grumpily say "Go to your room!"  She has taken on that tone herself and likes to try to send us to our room when she isn't getting her way.  Sigh.  And so, I'm trying to do better.  Because, even though my saying "I don't care" isn't always done in a negative context, that's how she always uses it.  And it's not the nicest sounding thing coming from a 2 year old.  Which makes me think it's not the nicest sounding thing coming from her mommy, either.  We also want her to learn that there are appropriate ways to express our feelings, such as saying "I'm frustrated" instead of screaming and yelling and throwing.


We did a Family Home Evening lesson on the words we say and how we say them.  We used a Conference talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland called "The Tongue of Angels" (which you can find by following that link).  It is an amazing talk in so many ways.  I loved revisiting it and having new application for it now that I am a mother.  If you're interested in the lesson I put together, just continue reading after the recipe.  We like to have a treat as part of Family Home Evening, and it occurred to me that meringue cookies have also been called Angel Kisses.  How perfect!!  So I did a search on pinterest and found one I liked.  Let me say that I am not an idea person.  I wish I was super-creative and crafty and such.  Alas, I am not.  So having all of these come together in my mind and work so well together, I know beyond a doubt it was inspiration from the Lord.  I know He knows me and cares about me.  He also cares about my sweet babies.  I want our home to be a sanctuary -- a place where the Spirit can dwell.  A place that is safe from the awful things of the world.  In order to create that, I know the words we speak must be peaceful.  Kind.  Loving.  I am always trying to improve myself, and this is an area I need to work on.  I'm grateful that the Lord knows my heart and answers prayers, both spoken and unspoken.  I'm grateful He helped me put together a short lesson to help our family learn how to communicate more kindly, more gently, and more lovingly.

So here is the recipe for the treat :).  These things are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, by the way.  My lame amateur pictures don't do the cookies justice.

 The original recipe can be found here.  I pretty much followed it completely, except I used a silicone baking mat.

4 egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Beat egg whites in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until frothy. (If using a freestanding mixer, use wire whisk attachment.) Add cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. Increase speed to medium-high. Add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Beat in extract. Gently stir in chips, if desired.

Drop by rounded measuring teaspoonfuls about 1 inch apart onto 2 large foil-lined baking sheets sprayed with no stick cooking spray.  (I used a silicone baking mat with cooking spray just in case ;).)

Bake both sheets of meringues at the same time 45 minutes. Turn oven off. Let meringues stand in oven 1 hour or until completely cooled.  (Mine peeled off these silicone mats super easily!)

So, for the lesson, as I mentioned before, we used Elder Holland's talk.  I only quoted one part from it for the lesson (a 2 year old's attention span is very small...).  "So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be “perfect” men and women in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today.... please know that your Father in Heaven loves you and so does His Only Begotten Son. When They speak to you—and They will—it will not be in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but it will be with a voice still and small, a voice tender and kind. It will be with the tongue of angels."  We also used a scripture from the Book of James:  “For in many things we offend all... if any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2) since that is one of the scripture references in the talk.

Then we had a little lesson in which I had written words and phrases on little strips of paper.  We helped our 2 year old decide whether those were "happy" or "sad" words or phrases and she got to tape them up on the wall under the appropriate face.
I used more "happy" than "sad" because I think we should focus more on the good.  They are still hanging on our wall so we can refer to them from time to time.
I included phrases that our 2 year old has heard us use that have obviously made her happy, because she repeats them to us inquiringly sometimes so that we'll affirm them.  These include "special girl" and "best friend."  I am grateful that, in spite of some of our hard times, she still knows that she is my "special girl" and my "best friend."  She loves to hear me tell her that it's true.  And I'll tell her forever.  Because it's true :). 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Patacones (or Tostones)

The other day, I had my sister come over so I could make these and teach her how.  So I figured I'd document and share with the facebook world :).  Because, frankly, they are too good not to share!

We grew up calling them patacones.  They are also called tostones in some countries.  But we stick with patacones.

First thing you need to know is that you need to buy those banana-looking things that aren't bananas (they are plantains).  And you need to know what color to buy (so they aren't too ripe for this recipe).
So you want it to be about like this.  A little bit more yellowish is fine.  But not much more.  The riper they get, the sweeter they get -- and then you would want to use them for a different recipe :).  Which I don't like nearly as much!  The below picture shows that this one was even a little more yellow on another side of this!
There will be some angled "protuberances" (for lack of a better term) along these plantains.  You'll want to slice through the skin as pictured above on all of those..  Try not to slice too deeply, but it won't hurt anything if you do slice into the meat.  These do not peel like bananas, especially at this point in ripeness -- or lack thereof!
Once you've sliced down all of them, you can pretty easily peel off each section like above.
Slice the plantain into about 1-inch sections.  (those pictured above are actually bigger than they should be).  You'll want to have a skillet on the stove with about 1/2 an inch of oil for frying heating.  Then you'll place the plantains into the hot oil, flat side down.  (You may have to work in batches, depending on how many you are making.)
Let them fry for 3 to 4 minutes (or until golden on that end).  Then turn with a fork or tongs to the other flat end.  (With the non-flat end pieces, I just lay them down, as pictured below.)
Allow to fry for another 3 to 4 minutes or until golden.  Then remove to cutting board or plate (I prefer a cutting board, and you'll soon see why!)
With the bottom or a glass, flatten the plantain chunks.  (This is why you want the pieces to be about 1-inch...  They flatten easier because they got all cooked in the oil!  You can tell a couple of mine were just too big and didn't cook in the middle!  Still worked out, but not as nice.)
Return the squashed plantains to the oil and cook 2-3 minutes on each side.

Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain off excess oil and salt according to your preference.  Then enjoy them!

We don't fry much in our household, but these are just so yum, and every once in a while, I get a hankering for them.  So I make them :)!  And you should too!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Macaroni & Cheese

Once again, I'm working on updating my foodie blog :).

I love cheese.  Like really love it.  Ergo, almost any kind of macaroni and cheese is on my "favorite foods" list.  Not the healthiest of choices.  But what can I say?  I like the good, but not-so-good-for-you stuff.

This is my mom's recipe.  Not that she made it up.  Just that this is the recipe she has made since I can remember.  Sometimes she substitutes the cheese for whatever cheese she happens to have in the fridge.  That's never as wonderful.  So here is the original recipe.  Because it's just too good not to share :).

Macaroni & Cheese

1 1/2 cups macaroni
3 cups shredded cheese (mixture of Monterey Jack, mild Cheddar, and Parmesan -- light on the Parmesan)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 onion, chopped (or 2 tablespoons freeze-dried or dehydrated onion)
1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup milk

Boil macaroni according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.

In a saucepan, make white sauce by melting butter over medium heat and adding onion and garlic.  Cook until onion is clear.  Add flour, whisking while adding (it will still be lumpy due to garlic and onion).  Stir until combined.  Add milk and combine.  Bring to a boil.  Boil 1 minute, then mix in cheese almost all of the cheese (reserve about 1/4 cup for sprinkling later) until melted.

Pour cooled/drained macaroni into cheese sauce and mix well.  Pour into greased 2-quart casserole dish and bake covered for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

Remove from oven, sprinkle with reserved cheese and bake uncovered another 5 to 10 minutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Can't-Eat-Just-One Cinnamon Rolls

I love baked goods.  And I love cinnamon rolls.  And I love the Taste of Home magazine.  I put more recipes into my "recipe binder" from a Taste of Home that I happen upon than from anywhere else.  It's probably a tad dangerous for me to come across one.  Because guaranteed I'm going to find about 10 recipes I want to try.

Well, as luck would have it, someone gave me the February/March 2015 Taste of Home to flip through and keep.  Oh my goodness.  And so then I had to make these cinnamon rolls. 

1 package (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup water (110 degrees)
1 cup 2% milk
1/3 cup instant vanilla pudding (approx half of a 3.4 ounce box)
1 egg
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted (I omitted this)
Frosting:  (I made mine more of a glaze and added about 1/2 tablespoon milk -- I also cut this in half)
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon water

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in warm water.  In a bowl, beat milk and pudding mix on low speed 1 minute.  Let stand 1 minute.  Add egg, butter, salt, yeast mixture and 2 cups flour; beat on medium until smooth.  Stir in enough flour to form a soft dough (I used all 3 1/2 cups).

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

For filing, in a bowl, mix sugar and cinnamon.  Punch down dough; divide in half.  Roll each into an 18x10 inch rectangle.  Brush each with 2 tablespoons butter; sprinkle with half of the sugar mixture.  Roll up, starting with a long side; pinch seam to seal.  Cut each into 12 slices.

Place in a greased 13x9 inch baking pan.  Cover; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes (mine took 20) or until golden brown.  In a bowl, beat frosting ingredients until creamy.  Spread over warm rolls.

Notes:  In addition to what I already noted in the recipe above...  I chose not to cut each half into 12.  I ended up with a total of 16 and I assume they were just bigger than what they otherwise would have been.

Verdict:  They are yummy.  We ate half the pan in less than a day.  And then had to give some away for fear that I would eat the rest (seriously don't need that!).  However, I have another recipe for cinnamon rolls that are overnight cinnamon rolls.  Which means I can do all the the work the night before and then just bake them in the morning.  So I will probably keep using that recipe, because it's amazing too and I like splitting it up.  But these are delicious, and I would otherwise keep making them.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Chicken Pillows

I recently wanted to find a somewhat "girlie" lunch to make for a couple friends who came over for a play date.  And I wanted to use what was in my house, so as not to have to make a special trip to the store!  Well, I hit upon a recipe shared by my dear friend Stacy many moons ago:  Chicken Pillows. 

True, when I made these for the fabulous ladies who came to luncheon with me (sounds so proper, doesn't it ;)), I didn't have all the ingredients called for.  But I made substitutions, and it worked out marvelously well.  Even the two toddlers who ate with us gobbled them down! 

But then, a couple nights ago, I made them the almost real way. (Almost, because I still used breadcrumbs in place of crushed up stiffing mix).  Once again, my toddler devoured her portion.  And it made plenty for me and hubby to enjoy as well :) (and after leftovers!). 

This recipe is originally from  I will share it below as written, with my changes in the parentheses.

2-3 cooked chicken breasts, diced or shredded (or two cans of chicken if you're pinched for time)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
6 to 8 regular crescent rolls
stuffing mix, slightly ground up (I use plain breadcrumbs)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 cup milk

Combine chicken, cream cheese and seasonings.  Add a spoonful of mixture to center of crescent roll.  Wrap up dough and pinch the edges.  Dip in melted butter and then roll in stuffing mix (breadcrumbs).  Bake at 325 for 25 to 30 minutes.  Serve with mushroom sauce (combine soup and milk in saucepan and simmer over low heat until smooth and creamy).

I'm not sure why I haven't made this recipe more often.  I included it in our family cookbook we made for our 2008 Family Reunion, because when I'd had them at Stacy's, they were so delicious!  And then I never got around to making them.  Well, no longer to be true!  These are pretty quick and easy, especially if you already have some chicken to use.  The first time I made these, for the lunch, I subbed shredded cheddar for the cream cheese and puff pastry for the crescent rolls (it's what I had on hand) and used canned chicken and my friends said it was enjoyable.  So I think you can take some liberties with this and still come up with a great meal!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Green Smoothie

Some of you may be aware that I've been on a green smoothie kick as of late.  The truth is:  I'm a terrible vegetable-eater.  I like my food to taste delicious, and veggies that aren't totally dressed up (which sometimes takes some creativity and effort) just don't appeal to me. 

But I like V-8 juice. 

And I like smoothies.

So clearly, getting my veggies in a liquid manner seems to work for me.  And so I've been doing the green smoothie thing. 

Today, I also decided to work on getting rid of some of the (copious amounts of) pureed squash we have hanging around our house.  I'm not complaining about this, as I love having all this stuff at my fingertips for making breads and pies, etc.  It's just that I recognize I need to actually use it ;).  We got squash from our own garden last summer, and we also got a 20-pound winter squash from my in-laws.  Ergo, we have lots of pureed squash in our freezers.

So today I decided to pinterest some pumpkin smoothie recipes.  And lo and behold, I found one that was a green smoothie as well!  So I had to try it.  Even if it isn't fall ;).  I found the original recipe here.  But below is how I adapted it to my personal tastes (and what I had on hand).

2/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
sprinkle of cloves
sprinkle of nutmeg
1 ripe banana
3 small handfuls fresh baby spinach (probably about 3 cups, loosely packed)
1 tablespoon honey (ours was raw, since we got it from Jeremy's brother who has bee hives)

Add ingredients to blender (I suggest putting everything in but spinach and banana.  Then add the spinach on top and then the banana to weigh it down).  Blend on high (or smoothie setting) a couple minutes until well-blended and smooth.

This wasn't as sweet as some of the green smoothies I've made (like I said, my vegetables have to taste good...).  That's why I added honey initially, because the banana wasn't sweet enough for me.  But once I added the honey, I really liked it -- even though it still wasn't as sweet as other smoothies I've made which have more fruits.  And Lynnaea liked it a lot too.  She came back for more 3 times!  So I say it's a win :). 

Also, the recipe above makes about 3 cups, so cut it back as needed.  I just wanted to make sure there was plenty to go around ;). 

So yep, I used up some squash...  Got in some spinach...  It's all good :)!