Friday, February 26, 2010

Granola Bars and Salad Niçoise

first of all, here is what the coconut butter looks like. this is the only brand that i have been able to find that makes coconut butter. there are lots of different brands of coconut oil though. although very worth trying in it's own right, make sure the jar says coconut butter if that's what you are looking for.
on to the granola bars! i adapted this recipe from a one called thick chewy granola bars (originally adapted from a king arthur flour recipe). wow, what a chain of adaptations!

i have been trying up granola bar recipes for quite some time now. i have found ones that i like but never one that i love. well, i think i may have found a keeper this time. they turned out really well and the best thing about making granola bars is how much you can change them. i did maple chocolate pecan but you could add anything you have on hand that sounds good. fruit, nuts, chocolate, coconut, cereal, etc. i used maple syrup to sweeten these bars but you could use honey or agave nectar too. you could probably omit the brown rice syrup too if you want. i'll try that next time. i also want to try the nut butter next time. maybe i'll do chopped almonds, almond butter, and dark chocolate chips (i love chocolate in my granola bars). i'd also like to try using coconut oil instead of butter and doing coconut chocolate chip bars.
processing the oats to make oat flour
dry ingredients
another thing to note is that you could make these in an 8x13 pan and cut them into long, thin bars like the traditional granola bars. i thought i would like mine thicker and chewier, so i used an 8x8 pan and came out with thick squares. i haven't tried it but it think long and thin would make them crispier.

Maple Chocolate Pecan Granola Bars
(makes 20 squares)

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats
1/3 cup oat flour (1/3 cup oats, finely ground in a food processor or blender)
1/2 cup sucanat
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (or dried fruit or other flavor chips)
3/4 cup raw chopped pecans (or any kind of nut)
1/3 cup nut butter (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbs melted butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbs brown rice syrup
1 tbs water

preheat the oven to 350°F. line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang over two ends so it forms a sling. spray paper with non-stick cooking spray.

combine dry ingredients (first 7 ingredients). in a separate bowl, whisk together remaining wet ingredients (including nut butter, if using). add wet ingredients to dry and stir thoroughly until mixture is completely coated and crumbly.

pour into baking dish and press down firmly, packing mixture into pan.

bake for 30-45 minutes (it will take less time if you use an 8x13, more if you use and 8x8 and they are thicker. you want the top to be lightly golden and the edges to be a darker brown.

allow to cool on a wire rack. remove from pan using parchment paper sling and allow to cool even more until set. cut into desired shapes once completely cool. store in airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap if sharing.

while i waited for E to get back from DC for dinner, i had a wonderful snack of triscuits with roaring 40's bleu cheese and a glass of reserve merlot.
to carry on my french theme, we are having salad niçoise for dinner tonight. i wanted something light with lots of veggies. i needed to use up some green beans, cherry tomatoes, and potatoes and had a ton of lettuce. so, salad niçoise was perfect.
the first time i ever had salad niçoise was actually in paris. the summer after my freshman year in college, my AC and UB took me to france. it was such a wonderful experience and i can't say enough about how much i love france (and italy for that matter). i will always be grateful to AC and UB for taking me and their generosity throughout my life for that matter. anyway, one day while there, UB ordered a salad niçoise and i had no idea what it was. out came the beautiful plate and i have loved it ever since. what a genius idea - throwing a bunch of different vegetables, hard boiled eggs, potatoes, tuna, anchovies, capers, and black niçoise olives together with a simple vinaigrette. perfection. it is a meal that's for sure, but i never feel stuffed after, just pleasantly content.
one never quite tastes the same as they did in and outdoor cafe in paris, but alas, it's as close as i can get for the moment.
anyway, the more i thought about having salad niçoise for dinner the more i realized we really have everything needed for the salad. E had hard boiled some eggs earlier in the week, we almost always have tuna on hand (it was canned tonight instead of fresh. grilled tuna steaks would be wonderful in the summer) as well as capers. the only thing i didn't have was anchovies. i have started keeping anchovy paste on hand for dressings but no whole ones.
the salad was wonderful without them. it hit the spot. here is a recipe for salad niçoise according to the master of french cooking herself, juila child.

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