Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great Grains Granola Bars!

I'm always on the quest for things I can make the kids for snack for their lunch boxes.  You must understand that this comes with tremendous pressure to put in there what's "normal" food, like their friends eat.  I get repeated requests for string cheese (nope, too much packaging and growth hormones in the milk), rice crispie treats (I don't really even think I need to explain this one, but processed cereal and high fructose marshmallows), crackers and cheese packets (that don't contain real cheese, too much packaging, let's just not even go there), etc, etc, the list goes on and on.  So, I decided after Little Red's 24th request this month for something "normal" in his lunchbox for snack (is there something wrong with baby carrots now?), I decided to set about trying to perfect a good and mostly healthy granola bar for them.  I had to come up with one that is peanut and tree nut free because, though they aren't allergic,  they have nut allergies in their school.  I think I did pretty well with this one...

Great Grains Granola Bars
Makes 24 bars

2 cups whole oats
3/4 cups wheat germ or ground flax seeds (or a bit of each, which is what I did)
3/4 c sunflower seeds
1 cup peanuts (or chopped pumpkin seeds if you can't use nuts, I increased the sunflower seeds to 1 cup and chopped 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds as a replacement)
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c honey, maple syrup or agave
4 T butter or coconut oil
2 t vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp kosher salt (like table salt, not coarse grind)
8 ounces of dried fruit (I used cranberries, raisins and dried apples combined)

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees
2.  Line a 13X9 inch pan with waxed or parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
3.   If using, crush peanuts in ziploc bag with rolling pin or other heavy item.
4.   Mix the oats, wheat germ and/or flax, sunflower seeds, and peanuts if using on a cookie sheet and place in the oven.

5.   Toast them in the oven for about 10-12 minutes.
6.   In a medium saucepan mix the brown sugar, honey, butter or coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

7.   Cook over medium heat until butter and honey melt and the whole mixture is bubbly.  This will be the "glue".
8.   After removing your oats from the oven put them in a large bowl, then add your "glue" and the dried fruit.

9.    Mix all the ingredients well.  You want everything to be well coated with the "glue".
10.  Dump all into the prepared 13x9 pan and using another sheet of waxed or parchment paper, press the mixture into the pan (I like to use a pot holder on top of the waxed paper as the mixture is quite hot yet).  You want to really press it into the pan or when you cut them into bars they will fall apart.

11.  Cool completely in the pan, the remove, peel off the waxed paper and cut into bars.
12.  Wrap the bars in either plastic wrap or waxed paper and then you'll have individual granola bars ready to go.
Lots of good for you things along with a bit of sugar.  They are chewy and pretty good.  And, most important of all for the boys, they passed as "normal" food.  Phew!  We've got a winner!

Enjoy some oat-y goodness, ~Peacemom

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring is Springing!

Hello All!

Ahhhh, spring is springing up here in our parts.  Though we've still snow on the ground, there is definitely signs of springs eminent arrival.  There is melting, the sun has tilted and days have become longer, the chickens are itching to get out of their coop in the earlier daylight, the garden beds are almost uncovered, seeds are ordered.  One of my very favorite harbingers of spring is definitely the return of the birds from their winter vacation.  We've had sitings of gold finches, robins, morning doves, sparrows, red winged black birds, many types of woodpeckers and several different hawks.

This was the lovely bare ground we had showing on Sunday when I started the post.  I went outside to take these pictures and the router for our internet decided to reset itself. It took 2 days for the tech support people to solve our problem, and in that interim, we are currently having 12+ inches of snow predicted to fall today.  We're at about 6 inches currently, and they are wanting snow until about midnight.  Sigh.  So. Very. Tired. Of. Winter. This year, ready for it to be gone and us onto green pastures.
Well, in order to cheer myself up, I'm gonna continue posting the pictures that showed us closer to spring. I need it for my mental health as we're all snowed in today.  The boys are home from school on a snow day and Music Man is taking the day to work from home.  It makes the stress level much better in that we don't have to worry about him driving in this or getting out of our very vertical driveway.  But, to be honest, it increases the stress level because the kids playroom is in the same space as his home office and so it's never quiet for him when they are home.  Ah...the challenges of living in a small home very close together with two loud boys.

When I went out to check on the chickens, I found two eggs.  We routinely get only two eggs each day, even with the increased sunlight.  This beauty is one of my layers, her name is Rosie.  She's Little Red's chicken, an Auracona. A real beauty, isn't she?  She's also the one who will chat the whole time she's out there with us, giving us the scoop on the soap opera in the coop.  She's very talkative and will make her little moaning chits over and over while she's emphatically conveying her world to you.  It's really quite endearing and I love her, she's the one who will let us pick her up without a fuss and pet her.  She's a sweetie chickie pie.

This is not Rosie's egg, hers are blue-green.  This is our Black Sexlink's egg, she is a black beauty names Irish.  She is the other consistent layer in the bunch.  I'm not sure what's to do about the other 5 girls that aren't currently laying, and haven't since they started to molt last September. It's costing me about $50 in organic feed each month for me to get about 50 eggs....hmmmmm...currently that's $1.00 per egg. Now, I don't care how good they are, no chicken egg is worth that investment.  Going to have to do something about that soon.  We may be culling a few.  I'll give them a little more time to get back on the spring laying schedule, but if they don't start to do more then eat all that feed and pick each other's feathers out, they will be on the fast track to the stew pot. Sorry, I know it's harsh, but honestly, I'm not keeping pets here.  They need to earn their keep around these parts.

The white lilac bush is budding already.  We had a bit of a stretch of warm weather for a few days and it seems to have jump started the process.  I know we're currently getting buried under 12+ inches of snow, but hopefully it will melt fast and we'll start to see some of the spring flowers peek through that snow. I'm needing the joy and cheer of crocus', tulips and purple hyacinths.
Look at all that bare ground!  This was the field in the back of our property a mere two days ago...just waiting for the loveliness of spring to continue and green up those fields.  Right now, outside of the lovely shade of blue of our skies, our surroundings are quite monochromatic.  And it's getting a bit depressing to say the least.
And here are two of the garden beds...almost uncovered!  The ones in back of me while I took this picture are actually under much deeper snow as it had drifted on that particular part of the field.  I can just taste the tomatoes that will be coming up soon!

The little goldfinch in the sage is just waiting for spring as well.  We're all ready, aren't we?  It's time for the grass to show it's green, the leaves to present their colors and some warmer sunshine!

I'll leave you with Snowball, our proud and handsome rooster.  Warm spring wishes and garden dreams to you all, ~Peacemom

Friday, March 1, 2013

What Do Your Leftovers Look Like?

I had a moment to smile this morning as I opened the fridge and this happy sight met me back.  This is the current leftovers on the shelf.  I was happily struck with something rather important.

I have worked very hard to change the way our family eats.  Back when I was couponing a few years ago, that same door opening would have been greeted me with a much different view.  There would have been jars of Ragu spaghetti sauce and jelly loaded with sugar because that's what I could have gotten for nearly free.  Food containing lots of preservatives and more sugar and salt then anyone could possibly want in their body.  I started reading about how bad all of that mass produced food is for the planet and our bodies and decided I wanted to go another way.  To keep myself and my boys as healthy as possible, some changes were going to have to be made. 

This shelf also greets me with leftovers that were nearly free as well.  And so much better for our bodies.  This shelf contains strawberry jam with strawberries I picked from a local CSA and made into jam using almost no sugar.  The flavor is unlike anything you will find in the grocery store.  It tastes like fresh berries spread on toast.  The tomato sauce is from a mix of tomatoes I grew in our garden, costing me only the price of the plants.  Some of these plants were even free as my friend overgrew and gave them to me.  The yellow wax beans I grew in the garden, again costing me the price of seeds.  Behind the jam is a bag of freezer cucumbers, which I grew myself along with the onions that were included in the recipe.  The little jar of wild Maine blueberry preserves in the front was not canned by me, but by Music Man's aunt, who has a business home canning her local products and selling them.  Yes, indeed, this is the sight I much prefer to greet me when I open that door.  Now, we're not perfect, and I'm not an all or nothing girl.  We do still have Cheez-its in the house because I can't get Music Man to give them up, and there's plenty of things like the almond milk you can also see in this picture, but so much less then there used to be for certain.

The shelves in the basement that store the food look a whole lot different now as well.  When couponing, they would have held boxes upon boxes of processed cereal, crackers, rice mixes, pasta salad boxes, peanut butter made with sugar and salt, jelly with too much sugar, and more ingredients that I couldn't pronounce then I even want to think about now.  Now, those same shelves contain rows of home grown and canned tomatoes, sauce, jams, beans, corn, apples, apple sauce, peaches, chicken and vegetable stock and salsas. 

That is a much more comforting sight then ever.  I grew it.  I canned it.  I can feed my family no matter what.   That coupled with the fact that our internal organs are no longer steeped in chemicals, high fructose corn syrup, sugar and salt makes all the difference in the world to me.  And I know we are healthier for it.

This weekend, I will be sitting down to plan what is going in the garden this year.  And what will be sitting on those same shelves in those same jars in the autumn and winter. Lots of work?  Yes.  Genuine life?  Most certainly.  Healthier?  You bet. 

Spring is springing soon, what's going in your garden?  What's your favorite food to put by in the fall? 

I'd love to hear your plans for full shelves come autumn,  ~Peacemom