Baked Granola Bars with Orange Zest & Pepitas

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Since I fell in love with the Snack Bar Maker, making granola bars has becoming my Sunday afternoon baking ritual. And what I love about this master recipe is that you can change up the mix-ins in so many different ways! It’s like a new recipe each week!

There is a little bakery across the street from my office that has these great bars that they make and sell for $7.50 each (YIKES!). I’ve been trying to recreate them and I think this week I nailed it! And for much less $$$!

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Baked Granola Bars with Orange Zest & Pepitas

Makes 16

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate morsels
1/2 cup salted pepitas
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/4 cup agave nectar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon sea salt

  1. Heat the oven to 350˚F.
  2. Zest an orange to measure 2 teaspoons.  In a medium bow, combine the oats, baking soda, mini chocolate morsels, peptias and orange zest.  Add in the agave nectar, melted butter and brown sugar, stirring well to combine.
  3. Using a medium scoop, transfer the mixture into the wells of the Snack Bar Maker and press down with the Mini Nylon Serving Spatula.
  4. Bake 12 minutes or until the oats start to brown.
  5. Remove from the oven to a cooling rack and cool for 5 minutes.  Cover with the lid and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes until set.

Enjoy!

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See me make this recipe here:

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Inspiralized & Beyond Book Signing

IMG_1951About two months ago, one of my favorite food bloggers and cookbook authors posted in her Facebook group that she was planning a book signing in New York City on May 1st, the day her latest cookbook became available.  I had already pre-ordered her book and was excited to head up to the city to attend!

I asked my sister who lives in NYC to go with me so we met up for a drink at Terroir and then headed over to Maman Tribeca for the event.  When we arrived, there was Ali being so gracious greeting everyone and a HUGE spread of food from the new book!

Some of the recipes we tried were the Vegan Cheese Ball, Ricotta & Fig Golden Beet Crostini, the Zucchini Pork Dumplings and BLT Sweet Potato Sliders.  I loved all of them!  (My sis wasn’t so keen on the Cheese Ball though!)

IMG_1863Since I knew I was attending the signing, I change the shipping on my pre-ordered book to my oldest sister for her birthday.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the signing, they didn’t have books for purchase.  But Ali being on the ball, had stickers she signed and personalized for our books!  The next morning my first stop was at Barnes & Noble to pick up two copies!

I knew I’d love the book when she shared on IG some of the chapter contents.  Everything sounded delicious!  I’ve been cooking from her other two cookbooks for the last few months and have yet to try anything that I didn’t love.  She just knows how things should go together and features other things I would have never thought to try.

My favorite part of the book is “how to go beyond”.  This was the info that I’ve been searching for!  Ideas like how to use vegetable slabs to replace toast, using jicama as taco shells and using mushrooms and lentils to replace meats.

IMG_1952Last week she did a live demo of her Hoisin-Pulled Hearts of Palm with Stuffed Sweet Potatoes and Ginger-Lime Slaw.  I can’t wait to give that recipe a try!  I went to the store this morning and the recipes in the lineup this week to try out are the Chickpea “Tuna” Salad with Avocado & Sunflower Seeds, Sesame Shrimp & Green Beans with Scallion Kohlrabi Rice and the Chicken Saltimboca Skillet with Spinach & Rosemary Potatoes.

Ali has been such an inspiration to me and I’m excited to test a recipe this week… revamping an old favorite to make it healthier and GF/DF (more on that later this week!)

It was such a wonderful few days in NYC and meeting Ali was so special.  She was so kind and gracious!  She took her time to talk to everyone who came and took pictures as well.  She’s very, very inspiring!

Family

scan0215I grew up the youngest of six kids in Birmingham, MI, a suburb of Detroit.  My mom was (and still is) an amazing cook and homemaker.  She always made each meal special and each night the table was set and we had dinner as a family.

On Sundays and other special occasions, we’d have dinner in the dining room or if it was a bigger gathering, we’d be in the family at the really big table.

Candles were always lit at dinner and we used cloth napkins, a tradition Bill and I carry on no matter what night of the week. Mom always had some kind of centerpiece.  How she found the time to do it all still amazes me to this day!

She involved us in the cooking process (only if we wanted to be involved) and I never remember anyone complaining about anything she made.  Well, that’s not 100% true.  One time my sister and I begged her to make Hamburger Helper.  I don’t even want to now think about all of the processed grossness that must be in that box.  Anyway, it must have been the ads on tv with the BIG hand waving and the kids being all happy at dinner time.  Mom gave in and made it one night.  It was HORRIBLE.  I always wondered if it was really that bad or if she doctored it up somehow so she knew we wouldn’t like it and we’d never ask for it again.  I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this is what dog food tastes like?”  Needless to say, we never asked and mom never made it again.

But really, she was a genius in the kitchen.  When I said the no one ever complained?  I asked her about that once… how did she do it?  She told me that she knew what everyone enjoyed and one day each week she made something that someone would like.  She figured at least one person would be happy each day because she knew she could never please all of us all the time.  Although I suspect she pretty much did that because her cooking is fantastic.

She was ahead of her time too.  Somehow she got her hands on old tin tv dinner trays. Not the disposable ones, but real metal ones.  It seemed like we had dozens stacked in our basement, although I’m sure it wasn’t that many.  But what she would do was after dinner was over, she would portion the leftovers into the trays and make her own customized tv dinners for us.  They would always be stacked in the freezer in the basement.  When she and my father would be heading out to a dinner party or hockey game, I remember loving that before the babysitter came, we would run down and pick out our dinner.  They were all different and extremely tasty, because of course, they were homemade.

sc0007Every holiday was special and one of my favorite times of the year would be before Christmas when mom would make my grandmother’s sour cream sugar cookies and we’d get to decorate them.

We’d get home from school to the aroma of the freshly baked cookies and after dinner, she’d set us up with frosting in several colors, sprinkles and other decorations to complete the task.

Every holiday meal was an elegant affair and normally included several guests in addition to our 8.  Mom always pulled it together flawlessly and never expressed an ounce of stress. When I was a teenager she put on an Easter brunch each year for around 30 hungry hockey players and their families.  She did that party 16 years in a row and averaged over 100 guests each time.

It’s because of her and my father and their love of entertaining that inspired Bill and I to host several events each year.  One thing I am looking forward to is hosting dinner parties.  We’ve done a handful but I’d like to add more to our lineup.  They are fun, a great way to entertain without the noise and rush of being in a restaurant.  Plus, it’s a lost art that I think needs to come back into fashion.  Stay tuned for my ideas on those!