Date Bars!

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So I know you all have been just waiting for my next post! Here it is, finally! I made my first batch of date bars some time ago, back in spring I think. Possibly winter (boy does time fly!). I don’t remember where I originally got the recipe, probably another cool blog that when I find it I’ll link it up. The original recipe called for oats, and since I didn’t have any at the time, I used unsweetened coconut. Totally works!

This recipe is done using a food processor. If you don’t have one, I highly suggest getting one! So much you can do with it (like make your own nut butters!). No need for baking: if you do things right, you could have this decadent healthy-ish treat in about 15 minutes! If you are slow like me, or have little kiddos helping, could be more like 30 minutes.

So, without much more ado, here is the recipe (as I have remembered from the original with a couple of tweaks of my own):

The Crust:
2 cups whole almonds
2 cups coconut (unsweetened)
12 ish medjool pitted dates
2 tbs coconut oil
2 tbs nut butter (I like peanut). If you don’t want to use nut butter can substitute more coconut oil.
1 tsp cinnamon

The filling:
24 ish medjool pitted dates
1/4 ish cup water

Pan 9×11

Put the almonds into the food processor. Run it for a bit so it’s closer to pea size. (You can skip this step I just think it makes the ultimate blending a little easier). Add everything else for the crust. Process it all so it’s crumbly but sticks together when pressed. Press about half the mixture into the pan. (I have used a 9″ cake pan, 8 inch square, and most recently 9×11 with great success. I have also increased the recipe by half for a 9×13). Reserve the other half of the mixture in a bowl for the top. Place in the freezer while making the filling. Helps keep it from peeling up during spreading.

Next, put the dates and water in the food processor (don’t worry about having it cleaned from the crust, blends right in just fine). Blend it all to a spreadable paste (add more water if needed).  Spread onto the crust in the pan. Top with remaining crust and press.

I recommend freezing it for another 10-15 minutes for a cleaner cut before eating. For ease, I used my pizza cutter to slice it up, then used a knife for the edges. With the 9×11 pan, I sliced the pieces rather small, about 1 1/4 ” or so. Just about a perfect size! This gave me 50 pieces. Enough to freeze for a quick sweet treat!

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Bars before cutting.

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Kid approved! Complete with their night-shirts!

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As you can see, I enjoyed mine with some tea!

And that’s it! Enjoy!

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Coconut flour Chocolate Chip Cookies!

So, I’ve been on a bit of a gluten free kick lately. I have some friends who eat gluten free and have asked me to give them some good recipes. Making gluten free baked goods can be tricky. There are so many flours to choose from with different levels of absorbency. There are nut flours, bean flours, tapioca and potato starches, not to mention many gluten free mixes include xantham gum. For more on making your own gluten free flour mix visit: Gluten Free Girl http://glutenfreegirl.com/2012/07/how-to-make-a-gluten-free-all-purpose-flour-mix/; Celiac Association http://www.csaceliacs.info/gluten_free_flour_formulas.jsp; Your Homebased Mom http://www.yourhomebasedmom.com/gluten-free-flour-mix/. Be aware, if using oat flour you must make sure the oats are labeled gluten free. Many oats are processed in plants that also process wheat and so may contain gluten.

I broke down and bought some coconut flour (Let’s Do Organic, the green bag) in order to compare my own homemade flour. It had a couple of recipes on the bag, so I thought I’d give them a try. While I wasn’t crazy about the brownie recipe (came out too cake-y for my liking… I like it dense and chewy!) the chocolate chip cookie recipe was wonderful! Fresh from the oven they were just like the gluten packed version. Nice and crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. This cookie came out thin, I wanted it to be a bit thicker, but otherwise perfect. 😉  Especially with a glass of milk!

Here’s the recipe:

3/4 cup + 2 tbs brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup butter or non-dairy alternative (I used coconut oil, yum!)

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 egg or equivalent substitute

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup chocolate chips

3/4 cup nuts, chopped (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Cream the butter and sugars till fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Mix your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add to the butter mixture until smooth. Add in chocolate and nuts (if using). I wanted my cookies to be thick and my batter was soft enough I knew they would spread everywhere. Therefore into the freezer the bowl went. For about 10 minutes. It had thickened nicely. Give it a quick stir. Drop by teaspoon onto greased cookie sheets. Space about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and cool at least 2 minutes before moving them from the pan.

Ready for some pics?

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They really went flat. Glad I put it in the freezer… I shudder to think what it would have been. One giant cookie. Anyway, I think maybe if I had done 2 scoops instead of one and added extra space they might have come out thicker.

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Look at that chewy, melty goodness! And see, delicious with milk! Even almond milk is wonderful too.

How do you like your chocolate chip cookie?

What is your favorite cookie?

Enjoy!

Make your own Yogurt!

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Ever thought about making your own yogurt but believed it was too time consuming and needed special equipment? Well, I am here to reveal a nice, simple way to make your own. In a crock-pot. No special equipment needed. Well, you do need a thermometer…

So, how do we go about making this wonderful, creamy substance? Well, for starters you need, well, a starter. For a yogurt starter you can purchase a starter (I bought some from culturesforhealth.com and it’s fantastic) or purchase a plain yogurt from the store. If you want a perpetuating culture (to be able to make more than one batch) you want to make sure it has Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus listed under the live and active cultures. When I first started making yogurt, I bought a small greek yogurt from the store to use for starter. I enjoyed the texture and the fact it had 5-6 cultures.

Next you need to figure what type of milk you want to use. A higher fat content will produce a thicker, creamier texture. A skim milk will produce a thinner yogurt, you can add powdered milk or gelatin to make it thicker. Do not add extra starter to make it thicker… the cultures will run out of food before the yogurt can set up and it will be thinner instead.

For 5 cups of yogurt you need:

5 cups milk (I like using 4 cups whole milk and 1 cup cream… makes it wonderfully creamy with a light sweetness.)

Crock-pot (1.5 quart) or yogurt maker (I have one that has 7 6-oz containers, works perfectly)

3 tbs starter

Note: If you want to change the amount of yogurt made… you really only need 1-2 tsp starter per cup. The 3 tbs starter above is the maximum you want to use for 5 cups. You could actually use a minimum of 1.66 tbs starter. If you had, say a 2 qt crock pot for a total of 8 cups milk you would use a 2.66 – 5.33 tbs.

So, basically the process goes like this.

1. Heat the milk to 160 degrees F.

2. Cool the milk to 105-110 degrees F. (Too hot or cold and the cultures won’t work.)

3. Add the starter, make sure it is well mixed.

4. Incubate 6-8 hours. Longer if needed. The temp has to stay within 105F and 110F for optimal culturing.

5. Refrigerate for 6 hours before eating. (I don’t always wait to eat some, haven’t had any issues. 😉 It just helps to solidify a bit further and halt the process.

If you want to do the whole process in the crockpot it takes about 3 hours for each the heating and cooling processes so you have 6 hours before you actually add the starter. I have recently found I prefer to heat up on the stove and then cool it by alternating it between pots until it reaches the right temp. The whole heating and cooling process only takes about 30 minutes with this method. Once you have added the starter, pour into your crockpot. Wrap the whole pot in a thick towel. Leave undisturbed for at least 6 hours. You can check it at this point. Just open the lid and tip the pot. Once it leaves the side in a solid mass it’s ready (not too solid… just not runny!).

If you want, you can strain the yogurt with cheesecloth and colander or kitchen towel to make it thicker. Depending on how long you let it sit, it can be thick and creamy like greek yogurt or more like cream cheese. I like making it thick like cream cheese. 🙂

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I forgot to take the pic of it coming to temp. But here it is cooled to about 108 degrees F.

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Adding the culture. Ok, so I wasn’t being terribly exact.

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The wrapped crockpot. You can put it in your oven with the light on to help keep the temp even. I don’t do it because I would hate to turn on my oven and forget it’s in there. Knowing me, this WOULD happen!

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Ah, my yogurt maker I was given for Christmas! All it does is keep it at a constant temp. I love using the containers for a quick snack for my girls. My youngest goes through a whole container in one sitting. And manages to get it everywhere! 🙂 If you use a yogurt maker, check the temp with your thermometer to make sure it keeps it at the proper temp.

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Finished yogurt! If you don’t like it plain, add what you like to it! Berries, jam, honey, shredded coconut, nuts. Can even go savory. Add a little dill for a simple but nice dipping sauce for veggies. Make your own version of Ranch Dressing (I don’t even add oil!) just use some dill, garlic powder, ground pepper. A little salt if you like. Have fun with your yogurt!

Don’t have a yogurt maker but thinking of getting one? Check out culturesforhealth.com! (No, I don’t get paid for telling you about them, wish I did! Haha!) They have everything you could want that’s yogurt related. Starters, information, and yogurt makers. They have a maker for as low as $40. They also have a Chat Now where you can chat with someone and ask questions. They are nice and very helpful! They have other non-yogurt stuff as well of course! (Like cheese-making and sourdough paraphernalia!)

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I made some Challah last night (haven’t made any in FOREVER!) Thinking of making a braided raisin cinnamon bread soon, I’ll keep you posted. 😉 So this morning I made some french toast, topped with strained greek yogurt and berries. Yum!

How do you like your yogurt? Enjoy!