Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chocolate Granola Bars

So how do no bake granola bars sneak their way onto a baking blog?
They taste delicious, that's how!
And...it was a busy week, so that's all I made!



In the spring and summer, actually regardless of the season, if it's not raining, we spend a lot of time at the park, beach, or playground. Our girls have a ridiculous amount of energy, so not only do they need to get outside and burn it off, I also need them to burn it off for my own sanity!
That and we live in Vancouver, a city full of beautiful parks and beaches - so why wouldn't we want to be outside?!

When we hit the great outdoors, I always pack a bag of snacks which usually consists of; muffins, cheese, pickles, cucumbers, grapes, goldfish etc.  I don't bring things like cookies or sweet treats, because even though I have a baking blog, we don't really eat that many sweets.
Quite often when I do bake cookies, cakes or cupcakes, it's mostly as and activity to do with the girls, and because I enjoy it.
I usually cut the recipe in half, that way we have just enough for dessert...For ONE day.


I'm not sure why, but I've been craving granola bars for quite some time.
I never buy granola bars from the store, because we really don't need them. I told myself that if I made my own, they would be healthier than store bought ones. And by healthier, I mean at least I would know what was in them.
I also thought it would be a nice treat to add to our snack bag.
So once again, the great recipe hunt started.

These granola bars from Simple Bites are full of so much goodness! Cinnamon, chocolate, seeds, oats, and more!
I should've cut this recipe in half because, YUM!
My mom used to make puffed wheat squares, and these granola bars totally reminded me of them. SO good!



The recipe called for brown rice syrup, but when I went shopping for the ingredients I couldn't find it.
Google told me that maple syrup or honey would be a good substitute for brown rice syrup, so maple syrup is what I used.
On a side note,  I also couldn't find mini chocolate chips...I understood not finding the syrup, but mini chocolate chips? Come on!



Believe it or not, Google may have lied to me...the only problem I had with these bars is that they didn't really hold together and make actual bars. My guess is that the syrup wasn't thick enough to bind them together and maybe honey would've been a better choice. They looked nothing like the ones from the recipe. But don't worry, we made do!


We got a few bars out it, but mostly just bite sized pieces and a granola "crumble". We didn't mind because the little bite sized pieces were full of oats, chocolate, puffed wheat, sunflower seeds and raisins (my girls love raisins - or raspberries as Lauren calls them). They were super flavorful thanks to the cinnamon and chocolate chips that melted throughout. I also liked that they were soft and chewy.

The granola "crumble"

With the really crumbly bits. we sprinkled it over some yogurt...no point letting it go it waste right?

And the girls enjoyed their granola bars while doing some reading.



Chocolate Granola Bars:
(Recipe adapted from Simplebites.net)

Ingredients:

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp sugar or Splenda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats
3 cups puffed cereal
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup raisins
1 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Lightly oil a 9x13 baking pan.

In a medium, saucepan. combine the oil, syrup, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla and salt.
Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil and the sugar is dissolved.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, puffed cereal, seeds, raisins and chocolate chips.

Pour syrup over cereal mixture and stir with wooden spoon to combine well.

Press the mixture into the oiled pan and refrigerate for about an hour.

Cut down the center lengthwise and then into bars.
Serve, or store in an airtight container.

Refrigerate for up to 10 days or freeze.


Oh, and in case you were wondering, they never made it into our park snack bag!


Update:
I remade these granola bars the other day, again with maple syrup, and they turned out great. They stuck together and made actual bars! The only thing I did differently was add more oats and puffed cereal - about an 1/8 - 1/4 cup of both.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Zucchini Loaf

One of my favorite vegetables is zucchini.
I know...zucchini is kind of a weird favorite since it's pretty tasteless and bland. That being said, celery is another one of my favorites.
So what does that say about me? Actually, don't answer that.

What I like about zucchini is the texture and how versatile it is. You can add it to a stir-fry or pasta sauce, bake in the oven, grill it on the BBQ and so much more. If you have a spiral slicer, you can make zucchini noodles which are yummy! And since this is a baking blog, I can't forget about making muffins, cookies and loaves!

Earlier this week I remembered that I had two small zucchinis in the fridge. I wanted to do something with them before they went bad, so I decided to make a zucchini loaf. I was originally going to make a plain one, but after doing some late night research, I decided to make a chocolate loaf instead. A chocolaty treat never hurt anyone, right?

I found this recipe on Skinnytaste and used it as a guide to make my loaf.
The changes I made are in the recipe posted below.


When the loaf was baked, Lauren saw it and got excited. She didn't know what it was, but she knew it was chocolate and had chocolate chips in it.
I was undecided about whether or not I should tell her it had zucchini in it - Lauren hates zucchini.
She will pick out every last piece of it when we have it for supper, which is totally fine with me. We're all about letting out kids decide what they like or don't like. We encourage them to try new things, but never force it on them.


Plus, I've noticed she has some of the same weird food/eating quirks I have.
If I know something I don't like is in what I'm eating, I can't and won't eat it. Even if I can't see it or taste it, I won't touch it.
Because of that I felt like I needed to come clean to her and I ended up telling her what was in it, not just the zucchini, but all the yummy ingredients like applesauce and eggs etc. It's not overly surprising, but she really didn't care...at all!
Her response was, "Whaaaaaat??!!" and then she ran away.


The loaf was pretty good. It was quick and easy to make, had a decent texture - it was fairly moist, not too dry and it was very flavorful.
It was a little too chocolaty for Dave - I didn't know there was such a thing! But Lauren on the other hand tried it and loved it. Olivia ate some, but could take it or leave it.
The only problem I had with it, was that after a day or so the middle got really soggy and pasty. It seemed under cooked, which it wasn't.
Honestly, it kind of  grossed me out when I took a bite. I think it was maybe from too much moisture from the zucchini.
Another one of my weird quirks is that if I eat something and have a bad experience with it, (taste/texture/don't feel well after I eat it), chances are I won't try it again. So, if  I make it again, I'll be sure to dry out the zucchini a bit before adding it.


Chocolate, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Loaf:
(Recipe adapted from skinnytaste.com)
Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup Splenda
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
2 cups grated zucchini 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325°F.
Spray two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pans with cooking spray*.

Whisk  flour cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate in another large bowl until blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

*I used one 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan as well as a large muffin pan. The recipe made 1 loaf and 4 large muffins.


Lauren also informed me that she now loves zucchini, or cococchini as she calls it. We'll see what she has to say next time we have it for dinner. When it's not hidden in a chocolate loaf!

Serving board by Joseph Réal Design










Sunday, June 7, 2015

Kids in the Kitchen: Mini Cakes

If you've read any of my posts or even just looked at my blog, I think it's pretty obvious that I love to bake. I look for any possible reason to bake cakes, cookies or any other treat.
Last week I actually had a reason...my mother-in-law and sister-in-law were coming to visit us.

My original plan was to make a fancy 2 tiered fondant covered cake. I thought it would not only be good practice, but it would look impressive. But then reality set in...I just didn't have the time to make it. And we also didn't need that much cake kicking around.

A few weeks ago I heard that Canadian Tire had a bunch of Cake Boss stuff on clearance. With my love for baking stuff and Canadian Tire, we obviously had to check it out.
When we got there, the section was pretty picked through. But sitting on the shelf staring at me, was something I'd been wanting for the last little while - a mini cake pan!


It wasn't the exact pan I'd been looking at, but it was close enough considering it was on clearance for $2.77!

I found a new recipe for a vanilla and chocolate marble cake that I wanted to try, but like I mentioned before, time wasn't on my side - our house was a bit of a mess total disaster and I still had a lot of cleaning to do. So I let Miss Betty Crocker do the work. In about 3 minutes, I had a rainbow bits cake whipped up and in the oven.

When the cakes were baked and cooled, I asked Lauren to pick two colors for icing. She chose blue and dark blue...we settled on blue and pink buttercream.
Once that was done, I got the girls ready, filled the piping bags, and let them have at the cakes.






They had some serious fun piping the icing onto the cakes and did a really good job too.


Lauren was so focused on icing her cakes that I hardly recognized her as my kid - she's almost three, and has the attention span to prove it.


Everything was going well, and then this happened...

That sweet, innocent little face cannot be trusted!




That pretty much told me that they were done decorating their cakes.
The final products were pretty great...





Olivia just couldn't wait...


And the proud little decorators!


Ta-Da!!



And the cakes were a big hit. Gram and Auntie Kim loved them!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Repost - Easter Treats Part Two: Bunny Cake

For some reason this post I did in May got deleted...weird.
So here it is...again!

I know I've said this before, but I think this is my favorite cake so far!


I made this cake for my very last Wilton cake decorating class back in March. 
My class ended a couple weeks before Easter, but since we were learning to do the basketweave technique, an Easter basket kind of seemed like the obvious choice and I figured the girls would like an Easter Bunny cake...and they did!


The cake was a double layer 6 inch cake filled with pastry cream* and covered in grey and green buttercream - see recipe below.
The bunny (made by Dave!) and the carrots were made from homemade marshmallow fondant, and the violets and pansies on top of the cake were royal icing.

And of course, the cake is sitting on my handmade Joseph Réal Design cake stand/turntable.


Cake decorating tips:
Basketweave - Wilton number 47
Grass - Wilton number 233

*This is my go to pastry cream recipe. I'm sure there are a million other recipes out there, but this one is easy and tastes pretty good. When I make a 6 inch cake, I make half of the recipe.

Buttercream icing:

Ingredients:

1 cup salted** butter - softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups icing sugar
2-4 tbsp cream
A couple pinches of salt

Directions:

With an electric mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla.

Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry.

Dissolve salt in cream and stir.

Slowly add cream and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy and you've reached the desired consistency.

**I like to use salted butter and bit of salt because it helps cut a bit of the sweetness.