The UnGlam Fam

I now blog at www.constantcircus.wordpress.com!


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Cereal Snack Bars Without Tears.

American parents of elementary school-aged children will know the play on words in the title — “Handwriting without tears” is the name of the workbook that kids use to hone their printing and cursive skills. These workbooks were designed by a teacher who had kids in her class that refused to write because they found the pencil hold too cumbersome. Or something. So she devised these lined workbooks and suddenly the kids stopped weeping.

I wouldn’t exactly say I devised these snack bars, but they are so simple and versatile that there were definitely no tears involved in getting these together. They are inspired by a lot of recipes for “cereal snack bars” Mr. Google threw at me, but I didn’t copy any one recipe’s ingredients or measurements.

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I’ve heard that there are two types of cooks — those that go by the book, collect ingredients before they get down to the recipe, and those that loosely follow the basic constructs of food behaviour, fly by the seat of their pants in the kitchen. I started being the former but have gradually migrated to the other side. These cereal bars are the perfect example — I didn’t have peanut butter so I made some cashew butter of my own to substitute; figs for dates, puffed rice for crispy rice cereal. I had ingredients that were waiting to be used so I eyeballed the rest and ended up with super-easy, beginner no-bake snack bars packed with taste and nutrition. I’m going to provide approximations of amounts that I used, but these seem pretty no-fail, so if you try them, just go with your tastes and you should be fine.

Easy, No-bake Cereal Bars

Yield: About 20 bite-sized squares or 10 large bars

3/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup plain puffed rice
1/4 cup honey bunches of oats (or any other slightly sweetened breakfast cereal)
1/4 cup cashew butter/paste (homemade or store-bought)
1/4 cup honey (I used buckwheat)
4-5 dried figlets (figlets are smaller than regular figs, and sweeter)
1/4 cup walnuts
handful almonds (whole or crushed, your choice)

  • Lightly toast oats and puffed rice in the oven. Transfer to a mixing bowl when cool. Add breakfast cereal. Set aside.

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  • Pulse walnuts, figlets and almonds in a blender until coarsely ground. Add to cereal mixture.
  • On a low flame mix honey and cashew paste and stir until it becomes a thick, pourable liquid.
  • Pour liquid into dry mix and lightly toss with a spatula to coat all dry ingredients.
  • Line a shallow baking dish with cling film or parchment paper and press down the bar mixture with hands into a uniform layer about 3/4inch thick.
  • Cover the surface of the dish with cling wrap and refrigerate for a few hours.

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  • Cut into bars when cold. Store in the fridge on parchment sheets to prevent sticking to each other.

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These bars are light, moist, lightly sweet and delicious! I just ate an oh-so-yummy square with my evening tea, and I can see how it’s such a convenient grab-and-go breakfast for those rushed mornings.

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Give them a try. They’re fun to make and brag-worthy. Just like you. πŸ˜‰


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Spicy Raspberry-Apple Chutney

Another food post! What’s going on with me?! I do find though that even when I’m too overwhelmed to write about anything else, food always seems to come to the rescue.

Unlike blueberries, I’m not a raspberry fan. Yes, their colour is pretty, and yes, raspberry jam isn’t the worst thing on toast, but the fruit itself doesn’t excite me at all. I don’t know, but the only kind of raspberries I’ve experienced have been squishy and soggy and begging for some blue growth on them. So when I found myself with a pint box of them from the grocery chain store, I could think of no better use for them than in some sort of chutney. Googling recipes didn’t find me anything simple (my pantry staples don’t include fancy cider vinegars or pine nuts), so I improvised my own. I have to say, I may not be ready to compete on Chopped yet, but I quite fancy my own ingenuity on some days! πŸ™‚

ImageYou’ll need:

1 tbsp minced shallots (white onion, or use vidalia if you like)
1 pint fresh (ha!) raspberries
1/2 apple, peeled, cored and diced (whichever kind you like; I used red delish)
1 tsp minced jalapeno (optionally, deseeded)
1 tbsp brown sugar
a pinch salt

On medium heat, saute onion in a bit of oil until translucent. Add everything else and simmer on low until mixture thickens, about 10 mins.

ImageTake mixture off heat and blend with a hand blender into a somewhat smooth but chunky chutney. Serve warm with hot roti or cold on toast. It’s a winner either way.

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Checkerboard cookies!

I recently bought the cutest cookie cutters at Williams Sonoma, beach themed, and have been dying to use them. What better occasion than our nephew’s upcoming birthday? So today I started prep by making two batches of cookie dough, one white one chocolate. While they were sitting chilling in the fridge, I remembered how much my own kids love the checkerboard cookies that I buy at Whole Foods sometimes. Only I don’t buy them very often since they are about $8.99/lb. Pretty steep for some sugar dough, don’t you think? Well, I do, but I buy them anyway for an after-school surprise treat.

Anyway, while the building blocks were sitting there I figured why not try a possible blunder? I had nothing to lose except for the time that I’d already lost.

A couple of YouTube videos later, this is what I had:

The white dough is a vanilla-lemon flavor, and the chocolate is just pure decadence. They baked without spreading. The cookies are a trifle under-sweet since their original avatar was supposed to be frosted, but they are a perfect teatime snack. They used quite a bit of butter, as butter cookies are wont to, so I wouldn’t make a habit of it, but for an occasional splurge, they’re fantastic.

And so pretty to boot! Lesson of the day: Whims sometimes do pay off.


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A Labor Day with friends, and a recipe.

Sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll make the kind of friends that remind you of drunken days of college. Not literally maybe, but they’re are the pals at whose house you don’t mind dropping by unannounced, who will help you tide over difficult times without any expectation of reciprocation, and who won’t hesitate to drop your kid home at midnight if the sleepover thing doesn’t work out. If you’re score supremely in the luck department, you will also live in the same city as them and hang out all the time, sometimes to the exclusivity of everyone else.

We spent this Labor Day with one of our “those pals”, and enjoyed every minute of it. Nothing was planned, but we somehow ended up meeting, cooking, gossiping and playing (the kids) with them every day of the long weekend. Food and drink flowed freely, with enough music to dance it all off. The kids trashed the basement, and stayed up entirely too late, but we figured sleep can be caught up on easier than memories.

The hubby contributed today’s recipe to the festivities. I’ve made this in the past as well but I tend to marinate the paneer and the veggies while he prefers to bake them slathered only in some oil and spices. We don’t have a barbecue, but if you grill this you can achieve a whole ‘nother level of yum. A quick broil at the end achieves the same result but without the smokiness of the char.

Paneer Shashlik for the Soul

You’ll need:

250g paneer or firm tofu
1 cup cubed red onion
1/2 cup cubed green pepper (or colored pepper medley)
1/2 cup white button mushroom (the smaller the better)
1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 cup spice mixture (salt, red pepper, black pepper, cumin powder, coriander powder)
juice of half lemon to garnish
7-8 long bamboo skewers or 10-12 sandwich toothpicks for bite-sized snack
2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with aluminium foil.
  • Toss all veggies and paneer in oil and sprinkle spice mixture. Toss to coat.
  • Spear veggies alternating colors onto the skewers.
  • Bake in oven for about 40 mins, rotating the skewers occasionally, until paneer is slightly golden and veggies are wilted.
  • Finish off with final broil for 2 mins or throw on the grill for char marks.
  • Splash lemon juice before serving hot.


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Blueberry Love: Crumb Bars

Blueberry Crumb BarsI’m a blueberry fan. There are a myriad of berries out there, and all of them they say score one up over some other traditional fruits like banana (too sweet), apple (dirty dozen if you’re not into buying organic), avocado (not unfattening),etc. Berries are safe. For the most part, if you consume them in season, they probably satisfy all criteria of being a Superfood.

For us urbane urbans, picking our own berries is basically as hunter-gatherer as you’ll ever get. Especially because the strawberry plant we plant in our backyards yields approximately one berry a season, which we jealously guard from rabbits or deer or even squirrels only to wince and pucker our lips at the sourness of the first bite. A long sentence to say simply: Leave the berries to the professionals.

Anyway, once you’ve picked your own blueberries on the farm, it’s hard to go back to the store variety. There is no comparison on size, color, firmness or taste. I’ve realized this and that’s why I only buy my berries at the farmer’s, if I can, or consume them in another form a.k.a. a dessert.

As far as desserts go, if you ain’t into chocolate, you gotta be into crumbles. Really, what else is there? I used my recent 2 pints of blueberries for this incredible crumble recipe I found at smitten Kitchen’s blog – http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/07/blueberry-crumb-bars/.

I did adapt it a bit to my taste as I didn’t want to use an egg (I hate the eggy smell of some desserts and try to avoid using it unless necessary). I also try to substitute a bit of brown sugar in any sweet recipe because I adore the caramel-ness it lends to the all-white. Finally, I halved her recipe; mine yielded roughly 16 2×2″ squares, more than enough for a small family (or failing that, an individual).

You’ll need:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1.5 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup or 1 stick cold butter
1 tsp cold milk
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch

  1. Preheat oven to 375. Grease an 8×8″ baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix white sugar, flour and baking powder. Cut butter into small squares and add to bowl. Add milk. Work the mixture into a crumbly dough-like consistency.
  3. Pat half the dough mixture into the greased pan like a graham cracker crust.
  4. In another bowl, toss together blueberries, brown sugar and cornstarch.
  5. Pour berry mixture onto the crust and top with remaining flour mixture.
  6. Bake until the top browns, about 40 mins.
  7. Cool completely before cutting into “bars”.
  8. Serve warm with ice cream or eat as is. Like me.

 


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Oh, summer.

You’re busy without doing much, and you’re almost over. I’m not complaining. The kids love school and, increasingly, so do I.

Did I write about my homemade popsicle mania from a few weeks ago? No? Well, like any flash fad I would not, could not, wait to make my own popsicles at home. R likes to eat them so much and I had grand plans of serving fruit pops for breakfast, yogurt pops for dessert at lunch, mango sorbet kulfi ice cream pops after dinner, etc., you get the idea.

So we started at the start bought these adorable popsicle molds. In case there is any confusion, they are cute upside down monsters! What fun!

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Our first project was lemonade popsicles. I even added some color to the lemonade to make them more interesting. What a hit! Me and R loved them. Devoured all four super quick. Beginner’s luck has a way of making you believe the best in yourself.

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Then someone told me about coconut milk and how its creamy consistency makes for delectable pops without all the added guilt of rich dairy. So the next project became coco milk choco pops made with rich dark chocolate, adequate-but-not-excessive sugar and naive hope. The product was as dreamy as its name the first time, when I followed all advice to use only the cream of the milk. The next batch, made with overconfidence and all parts of the milk came out so meh that R only agreed to reluctantly eat it when the store-bought, good ones with the artificial sugar/color/stuff were all gone.

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Lately it’s felt like too much work to think up (or Google!) recipes when the intended audience clearly favors the less time consuming choice. I also realized that for all their cuteness, the molds deliver a slightly unfortunate pop shape. So the beloved pop molds with so much promise are resting in the drawer awaiting their time to be in favor again.


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Very Veggie Croissant Sandwich.

Are you one of those people who always have food on their mind? Are you on a diet or hoping to incorporate healthier recipes on your menu? Maybe you are also lazy? Well, hello there, twin. I knew you were out there! Don’t I have the perfect recipe for you here today.

Every day at lunchtime I forage around the kitchen to come up with produce suitable to be used in some way so that the resulting dish may be called “healthy” — if not hardcore, at least mostly so. (Btw, in my book a bunless burger is definitely hardcore. Why would you call that concoction a burger? It’s a patty, pure and simple, so you had a patty for lunch, NOT a burger. The lettuce it was wrapped in doesn’t count.)

Anyhow, so today I had some veggies on hand (my first crop of homegrown green beans!) along with a big box of croissants the hubby picked up over the weekend. Voila! This croissant sandwich is a recipe for keeps. I’m not kidding. I may have to contact the Food Network to feature this on their 15 minute meals or something. I’ll be off to practice my dialogue delivery after writing this post, thank you very much. πŸ™‚

Veggie Croissant Sandwich

(Filling is enough for about 5 croissants, but can be eaten as accompanying salad)

1 fat croissant, toasted (Don’t skip this. Toasted is essential to success.)
1 small red onion, sliced
1/2 tsp grated garlic
1 celery stem, diced
3-4 green beans, diced
handful baby spinach, julienned (about 1/4 cup)
15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tbsp tzatziki, optional*
salt, pepper, crushed red pepper, lemon juice to taste

*Note: I used a dollop of tzatziki to kind of hold the filling together and give it a creamy bite, almost like mayo. TheΒ  fact that I’m addicted to a particular brand from Whole Foods probably has nothing to do with anything.

  • In a tsp of olive oil saute garlic and onion until translucent. Add other veggies and beans and saute until tender but not mushy, about 3 mins. Season and let cool.
  • Slice the croissant laterally and toast. (A bit less toasted than the picture will do.)

  • Slather the bottom slice with tzatziki, spread the bean mixture generously and top with shredded cabbage or lettuce for added crunch.
  • Replace top hat.
  • Consume (preferably without a kid hanging off your neck. Ha, good luck with that.)

Veggie croissant sandwich

Now that you’ve created the best healthy croissant sandwich, please don’t go and ruin it by opening a packet of chips or a can of Pepsi. Not that I thought about doing that or anything. Ahem.