Faux KIND bars

I have a love/hate relationship with granola bars. They are delicious and easy to eat on the go, but they are loaded with calories, sugar and usually have little protein. I just don’t feel like they have a lot of bang for my buck, calorie wise. But they are sooo tasty.

And a lot of them are loaded with crap and additives, that is why I really like KIND brand granola bars. Unfortunately, they are a little pricey. So, I was ecstatic when I saw Minimalist Baker posted a recipe that looked like a KIND bar. MB kept it simple, using only five ingredients. I added a few more ingredients for fun.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup packed dates, pitted( I used medjool)
  • 1/4 cup honey( or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 cup natural nut butter of choice(I used almond)
  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats(not instant or quick oats)
  • 1 cup roasted unsalted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut(toasted preferably)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch of salt(optional)

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Preheat oven to 350F.

Process dates in a food processor until small bits remain.

Spread almonds, oats and coconut on a baking sheet. You might need two baking sheets. Toast in the oven for about 15 minutes until slightly golden brown and the almonds are giving off a nutty flavor. This step is optional but really enhances the flavor of your granola bars.

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Place oats, almonds, coconut, dates, and cinnamon in a bowl. Mix to combine.

Warm honey, vanilla and almond butter for 20 seconds at a time until it can be stirred and combined.

Pour mixture over oat mixture and mix.

Once thoroughly combined, transfer to a parchment lined 9×13 baking dish. Press down until uniformly flattened. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for a minimum of 20 minutes to harden.

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Remove bars form pan and cut into bars(mine made 12 bars). Sore in an airtight container for a few days. I individually wrapped mine and stored them in the freezer and they stayed fresh for about a month.

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Doing a taste test at work with the almond coconut KIND bar and a homemade faux KIND bar, the faux KIND bar won the contest. Oh, and its way cheaper to make these yourself than to buy them already packaged, but I’m sure you could have guessed that!

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DIY Greek yogurt

If you like Greek yogurt, read this post.

If you don’t want to be ruined on store-bought Greek yogurt, don’t read this post.

Warning: Once you realize how easy, inexpensive and way more delicious this yogurt is, you will be ruined on store-bought yogurt.

I had been wanting to make my own yogurt for quite some time and had researched a lot of recipes on different techniques. I think I settled on the most simple one. And no, you don’t need one of those fancy yogurt making machines that they sell for hundreds of dollars at the store. I simply used a pot, an inexpensive candy thermometer, my crock pot, cheesecloth, a strainer and a bowl. Most people probably own all of those things. I’ve already made it twice with great results and plan on making another batch this weekend.

Add 2 quarts(or however much you want) of milk to a sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the temperature reaches 180F. What kind of milk? I have only used cows milk, but you can use any fat percentage that you want. The higher the fat percentage the thicker and creamier the yogurt with turn out. I have tried with a lower fat percentage and a higher fat percentage, both turned out great.

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Once at 180F take the pot off the burner and let milk come down to a temperature between 110-120F. It is important to get the temperature in that range so that the bacterial cultures can work their magic. If the temperature is too high, they will be killed, if it is too low, they won’t incubate properly.

If you are using a pan with a tight fitting lid, you can move on to the next step. If not, I recommend using the ceramic liner part of your crockpot for the next step. Pour the milk into the inner part of your crock pot. Leave the outside metal part in your cupboard.

At this point, take a couple of spoon fulls of store-bought plain Greek yogurt. I have used Fage and Chobani. They are two of the more pure brands on the market. Under ingredients, you want the bacteria listed but not much other junk. No gelatin or pectin or fruit or fake sugar. Stir the store bought yogurt into your milk. The yogurt is the starter to make more yogurt.

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Next, preheat your oven to any temperature for one minute. Shut off your oven. Wrap your covered pot full of warm milk and a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a large beach or old bath towel. Put in your turned off oven for 8-12 hours. By turning on your oven for one minute and then shutting it off, it helps to take the chill out of the air and keep your yogurt in the temperature range that you want for the bacteria to work it’s magic. A lot of sites recommend turning on the light in your oven for a little extra heat. My oven is so old that it doesn’t have a light in it and I had no trouble making the yogurt without a light. It’s probably also a good reminder that you have something in your oven so you don’t absent mindedly turn it on and start the towel on fire.

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After 8-12 hours, your milk should look much more like yogurt than milk. Much like this:

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If you stir it all up at this point, you have runny yogurt. Which if fine, if you like that sort of thing. Congratulations. Put it in the fridge and you are done.

If you are like me and like a thicker and creamier yogurt, you will want to do this next step. Use a fine mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheese cloth set up above a larger bowl. Pour your yogurt mixture into strainer and let the excess liquid strain into the bowl below it. The excess liquid is known as whey. Some people save it and use it. I pour it down the drain. Place straining contraption in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours.

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When you come back, you will have a fair amount of whey in the bowl and a much thicker yogurt on top. Whisk or stir the yogurt a little to smooth it out. Move the yogurt to storage containers and refrigerate. The yogurt lasts for about a week.

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Your yogurt will taste like a tart, unflavored yogurt. You can add a tablespoon of vanilla(to a 2 quart batch) to make a nicely flavored vanilla yogurt. You can also add in sweetener at this point, if that if your type of thing. I have added vanilla and it tastes great.

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How much cheaper is this than store-bought? Well, you can make two batches like this out of a gallon of milk and one small container of store-bought Greek yogurt(about $4 total). It will make the equivalent of about 4 large containers of store-bought Chobani or Fage (about $5 each x 4= $20). I would say that is a pretty significant savings over time.

Since there is a lot of downtime on this recipe, this is the time frame that I like to do it in: I will heat the milk and let it incubate the 8-12 hours over night. A great time as I know I won’t need to use my oven again. When I get up in the morning, I strain the yogurt and leave it straining while I am at work. You can do it all during the day, but I don’t like having my oven tied up all day and unable to use it.

Two weeks, one post

This summer is going way too fast, but it sure has been a lot of fun!

Last weekend, I had a girls weekend at a friend’s lake house and they surprised me with a mini bachelorette party. We had a lot of fun, took in a lot if good food, drink and time in the water. I love to build a nice fire.

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While having our coffee out on the dock Sunday morning, two trumpeter swans swam right past us.

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This week I made my second batch of homemade Greek yogurt. This batch turned out even better than my first batch. I really need to blog that recipe. While I was making the yogurt, I also started the base for some homemade ice cream.

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I took a night off from the kitchen to celebrate National margarita day with my friend Katie.

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Thursday night I spent making really good banana bread and the homemade ice cream.

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My parents came into town on Friday and we introduced them to ice cream at Margie’s Candies after dinner. We all left with full and happy bellies. Saturday morning we participated in the Big 10 5k. After last years sweat fest, this years cooler temperatures were much appreciated.

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We spent our afternoon making important decisions on our wedding food menu by trying lots of food. It was all really delicious.
I spent Sunday creating a meal plan for the week with the goal of having to buy as few groceries as possible and use up what we have. I am a visual person, so I had to map it all out in writing.

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Being that my parents brought me a bunch of tomatoes from their garden, I knew that BLTs were in my near future. I spent $8.37 on groceries for the week(most of that was on bacon) plus leftovers we had from buying groceries this week and we should have stuff for more than enough meals this week.
Today’s lunch for me was a mustard, feta and veggie open faced sandwich, chips and fruit.

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Supper was an AMAZING BLT, pretzels, fruit and super 7 salad. This meal made me incredibly happy.

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I’ve also been enjoying the fresh flowers my parents brought to us out of their yard.

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And I spent time at my garden multiple days this week. I’ve started getting cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, pulled the last of my radishes, gotten a few carrots and am continuing to get kale. I’m getting really anxious for my full-size tomatoes to ripen after indulging in my parents home grown tomatoes.
Fresh food in the summer makes me incredibly happy!

Honey roasted peanut butter

Ohhh my goodness. Pure goodness.

It’s no secret that Brian loves sweet. We had been buying jars of natural peanut butter for him to keep at work, so I wouldn’t have to pack a little bit for him with an apple. Well, some of the “natural” versions aren’t so natural and having to stir your own pb at work can be a little obnoxious. So, I decided that I was going to make a batch to send with him. When I got to the nut aisle, the honey roasted peanuts caught my eye. A sweeter version of peanut butter for Brian?

My head started spinning with thoughts like: Blending those up would be too intense. Too sweet. Or would it? Could I do part roasted peanuts and part honey roasted?

Yes! Yes, that would work.

So I bought jars of roasted peanuts and honey roasted peanuts, excited to experiment.

I started out with 2/3 honey roasted and 1/3 roasted figuring that I could always add more unsweetened nuts to the mix to damper down the sweet if needed.

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Oh, but I did not need to. The saltiness of the roasted peanuts perfectly complimented the sweet of the honey roasted.  This right here is magic. Perfection. Pure goodness.

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So smooth and creamy.

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I couldn’t stop dipping my fingers in for tastes. I was happy for it to head to work with Brian, because I could have eaten the entire container of it in no time.

Fests, food, fun and crafts

This was one jam-packed weekend full of pure goodness.

After work on Friday, I headed straight to Maifest(my favorite summer fest) where Brian and I were able to meet up with several friends from different circles. It was one big fun time filled with German food and beer.

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I spent some time at the garden on Saturday. We are continuing to get strawberries and kale. Everything else is growing nicely with all the recent rain. This picture makes it look like my garden is full of weeds, but those are just onions growing in the spaces between the other plants. I really tried to maximize my space this year.

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I made a big pitcher of iced tea to sip on all of Saturday afternoon and evening. Brian and worked hard on finishing up some details for the wedding and getting the Save the Dates ready to send out.

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Our hard work was rewarded with some teriyaki chicken with pineapple and cilantro rice(so good!) and a batch of flourless almond butter cookies. They looked a little wonky when I took them out of the oven, but they still tasted pretty good.

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Sunday was another fun-filled day. My friend, Katie had a trunk show at her condo showing off some of her crafting talents. She makes adorable hand-made cards and invitations at a great price. Check out some of her great designs:

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Are you dying to get your hands on some of these? Thowing a party and need top-notch invites? Check out more designs on her Pinterest page: Katie*did Cards. Or email her at katiedidcards@hotmail.com

Afterwards a few of us fun-loving girls headed over to Falafill to get our fill(so delicious):

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With a full belly and good night’s sleep, the Save the Dates went out in the mail this morning! Yay!

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