Tag Archives: cheap

March “Make-It-From-Scratch” Madness: Almond Cranberry Granola Bars

11 Mar

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Hi everyone! After a week’s vacation (to lovely Las Vegas, Nevada — post pending! It involves Celine Dion, drinks on the 64th floor, and taking a cab through the In-N-Out burger drive-through. This one’s gonna be epic, kids.), I’m back and ready to mangia with you! Here’s to my March Blogging Resolution: To recreate my favorite goodies and childhood dishes from scratch, with a healthy twist.

Today’s nominee? Granola Bars! I love a good, chewy, nutty granola bar as much as the next semi-healthy home cook. They’re great for mid-afternoon snacks to stave off my “hangry” episodes. (“Hangry” = hungry + angry. It ain’t pretty, folks.)

But I’ve noticed that a lot of commercial granola bars have … a LOT of sugar. Like, 20% of your daily value — whoa! And while I’m not jumping on the “Oh my gosh, not sugar: Isn’t it POISON???” bandwagon / train / other vehicle of transportation, I’m still aiming cut my consumption of the sweet stuff.

… which is why, on Pinterest and elsewhere, I’ve been hunting for homemade granola bar recipes. Why not try it? The worst that could happen might be … some really sticky granola. Oh well. There are worse tragedies in the world. (Like if Cool Ranch Doritos didn’t exist. Or lemons. *Shudder*)

These Almond Cranberry Granola Bars get their sweetness from honey, while the dried cranberries and chopped almonds add substance and a fruity tang. Yum! Enjoy them as much as I did — THT and I consumed that entire plate within about 48 hours.

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Almond Cranberry Granola Bars — adapted from Andie Mitchel’s recipe at www.canyoustayfordinner.com. (Check out her blog — so inspiring and delicious!)

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups old-fashioned oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup chopped or sliced almonds
  • 1 cup Rice Krispies or brown rice cereal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped (you can also blend raisins and cranberries.)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (kosher or table are both fine)

Here’s what you do:

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a 13″×9″ baking pan with foil and spray liberally with Pam or other cooking spray.
  • Toss the oats on a baking sheet and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until browned. Remove the oats and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Stir in almonds, Rice Krispies & dried fruit. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.

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  • Combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla extract and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, then pour over the toasted oatmeal mixture. Mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.

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  • Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Press the mixture firmly and evenly into the pan; you may need to wet your fingers slightly with water. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the bars appear to be golden brown. Cool for about 2 hours before cutting into individual bars.

Mmm! So chewy and good! Enjoy these bad boys, as hopefully the first of several March “Make-It-From-Scratch” Madness recipes and dishes. Have all y’all ever made your own granola or granola bars? How’d they turn out?

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Kitchen Tips and Budget Eats: Making a Menu and Using a Grocery List

6 Oct

Image sourced from themetapicture.com

This weekend, I — like many of you — will be heading to that mecca of munchies, that forum of food, that headquarters of hunger-quenching, the grocery store. (Did you like that one? I did, too. Hehe.) And while I love to head to my local Giant Grocery to stock my kitchen, pantry and fridge, I don’t love a recent trend: the steady, upward crawl of grocery prices.

Have you noticed this, too? Due to circumstances like the recent Midwestern drought, increased costs of shipping and/or production, and that pesky little inflation thing, food costs are continuing to rise in the U.S. (Granted, they’re still often lower than costs elsewhere in the world — Europe, I’m looking at you — but for us American consumers, it’s still noticeable.) Less rain = fewer harvested veggies = animal feed becomes more expensive = meat & dairy, inevitably, become more expensive. All this adds up to a bigger and bigger impact on your wallet every time you step through that produce section or frozen foods aisle.

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Pinterest Challenge: Banana Chips

20 Aug

Alright, my cutie Pinning patooties – it’s time for another Pinterest Challenge! (Thanks again to John & Sherry at Young House Love for inspiring this series of posts – y’all are the best, even if I wish John would write a post about cooking!) After last time’s slightly-dry-but-rather-attractive Cinnamon Braid coffee cake, I thought I’d branch out a bit and try my hand at something I’d never, ever made before. You know, something exotic, like curry. Or Twinkies.

Image sourced from simplymathbakery.com. Yep, people do this. Check out Joy the Baker for an amazing-looking recipe.

And what did I find? Homemade banana chips. Here’s the original pin, posted by a high school friend of mine from an original Nuts.com image.

How good do those look?

I know, I know – “But Galley Kitchen Gal. Why bother spending potential hours of your life concocting something that you can buy in a gas station convenience store for, like, 99 cents? Isn’t there some quote from Thoreau about the value of your time and what you spend it doing? I bet he never tried to dry bananas in his cabin in the woods. Plus, dried mangoes are WAY better.”

Or maybe that’s just my internal monologue. Eh, at least she’s well-read.

Anyhoo; the little buggers just looked so darn tasty, I had to give ‘em a try.

The directions, according to the pin’s description, are pretty simple:

  • Slice a banana.

  • Dip each slice into lemon juice.
  • Spray a cookie sheet, and lay out the banana slices.

  • Bake for 2 hours at 200 degrees; then, flip the slices and bake another 1.5-2 hours.
  • Allow the chips to cool and harden; then, nosh upon their tropical goodness.

Sounds easy enough, right? After following the recipe (almost) to a T, here was my end result:

Here, chippy chippy chippy

My verdict? 2.5 out of 5 Pinterest Ps.

Check out those sick MS Paint skills. Boomskies.

Why? First – and perhaps I simply cut some too-skinny slices – the chips were a little too thin, resulting in them almost over-browning during the second half of the cooking process. Secondly, they still were a bit too chewy, even after cooling completely. It felt a bit like I was chewing some strange banana-flavored caramel, which – while tasty-ish – didn’t seem like the original objective. However, I also overzealously sprayed my cookie sheet with Pam (as my little sister would say, “Um, aggressive…”), so that could just be the cooking spray talking. Er, tasting?

Here, you can see their slightly … space-dried nature.

If I made ‘em again, I’d change the following things:

  1. Cut the slices a bit thicker; maybe ¼ an inch?
  2. VERY lightly spray the pan
  3. Make sure my oven rack is centered; I placed the baking sheet on a lower rack, and that could have influenced how they turned out.

Oh well. Off to keep pinning and patrolling the Interwebs for pretty images with matching recipes. What Pinterest successes (or miserable failures) have you all experienced lately? Any fun new pins to share?

If you’d like to follow my Pinterest food board, “Nosh,” there’s a link on the sidebar that you can click. Check it out!

Salad Noms: Homemade Croutons

23 Jun

Chatham Village croutons, those little nuggets of crunchy goodness, are delicious (like, crack-in-crouton-form delicious), delightful, and … de-expensive. Last time I checked, those bad boys were selling for more than $7 on Amazon (yes, apparently you can buy groceries on Amazon. Thank you, Google, for that fun fact). As much as I love me some crunchy crouton goodness, buying them from the grocery store feels silly and impractical (budget-wise) when I can, just as easily, make them myself.

So, I did! And you will, too. Here’s what you need for Herby Croutons:

  • 4-6 slices of day-old bread (brand, type, grain = all up to you. I used a loaf of Pepperidge Farm “Light Style” wheat)
  • Olive Oil
  • Cooking spray
  • Dried herbs (I used basil, thyme, and parsley)
  • Garlic salt
  • Black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the slices of bread into cubes, about 1/2″ x 1/2″. Size and shape are really up to you.

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    Stack ’em and use a good knife for easy chopping.

  2. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray (I use Giant brand Canola Oil spray), and arrange the cubes on the cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake them for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

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    All lined up for their glamor shot, pre-tanning session.

  3. When they’re done and slightly cooled, toss them in a mixing bowl with a drizzle or two of Olive Oil. Meanwhile, mix together the garlic salt, pepper, and a smattering of dried herbs to your liking. (The herbs should equal about 2 teaspoons in total.) I used my mortar and pestle to crush the dried herbs, which releases their essential oils.

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    Just before I crushed ’em to bits.

  4. Toss everything together in your mixing bowl until the croutons are well coated with your herby-herb mixture.
  5. Enjoy! With the herb combination I used, these croutons are especially good on Caesar or chopped salads.
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What a bunch of cuties. All for approximately 50 cents.

Do you guys like adding croutons to salad, or are you strict anti-carb adherents? Have you made your own before, and what did you use to season them? How about the bread?