Friday, August 22, 2014

Almond-Apricot Bars

The first day of school is always a mixed bag of emotions for me. As the reality of summer being over, and the quiet in the house sets in, a part of me gets a little sad and lonely. But at the same time, another part of me begins to do an internal happy dance when I’m able to get things cleaned up and back on track with schedules and routines. The wet suits and towels bunched up at the bottom of backpacks are now replaced with books and binders filled with homework.

The Cowie Clan had a terrific summer, but a side effect of this fun was a temporary absence from the blogosphere. Despite any blogging regularity, I tried not to have any guilt. Summer should be a time to take a break and have fun with family and friends, right?

Now that the kids are back in school, I’ve had a couple of minutes to catch my breath, get things in order and return to the kitchen…and it feels good!  I made these Almond-Apricot Bars as a healthy after school snack or a grab-n-go breakfast option. These bars also fit well with this month’s Recipe Redux “Bars & Bites” theme. And because each and every ingredient in the bars is healthy, you will feel warm and fuzzy sending these bars in your kid’s lunch box!

You might be saying to yourself, “millet resembles bird seed”! But listen, it is a grain definitely worth trying. Millet is gluten-free, a good source of fiber and plant protein, and is high in essential minerals copper, phosphorus, manganese and magnesium. Just like with many other grains, toasting brings out the nutty flavor. Typically millet is cooked, but for these bars I added raw millet to up the texture and crunch.
until next time...
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Almond-Apricot Bars (recipe inspired from Aug '14 issue of Cooking Light)

Ingredients
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 6 dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup dried figs
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut (ours from Greene's Country Store, Lake St. Louis)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. honey (ours from Bekemeier's)
  • dash salt
  • 3 Tbsp. millet
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine almonds, water, apricots, raisins, figs, coconut, honey and salt to food processor. Process until thoroughly combined.
  2. Meanwhile, add millet to a small skillet. Over medium heat, lightly toast millet, about 4 minutes. Keep a close eye, so that it doesn't burn.
  3. Line a 8-inch baking pan with waxed paper, press mixture into pan. Sprinkle toasted millet on top.
  4. Refrigerate to allow mixture to set, cut into squares and serve.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Perfect Match: Lemon-Thyme Whipped Ricotta Dip with Summer Veggies

We’re all busy…always on the go, never having enough time in the day to get it all done. But let’s be honest. Each of us has our complete an utter, just-for-the-heck-of-it, total time wasters that we enjoy. And we should.

Mine happens to be watching the “Bachelor” and the “Bachelorette”. Nothing at all productive comes out of watching this show. But week after week, my hubby and I are glued to the television, anticipating what will come next, anxious to see who will receive “the final rose”.

Thankfully we have a few friends that are brave enough to admit that they too waste a couple of hours of their lives each Monday night watching this show. Over the course of time, we’ve each tiptoed out of the “reality show closet” to confess that we are also Bachelorette and Bachelor fans. Now that we've admitted our obsession, we get together each season to watch the finale.

This past Monday happened to be our turn to host the Bachelorette “The Final Rose” watching party. I made this Lemon-Thyme Whipped Ricotta Dip as one of the apps for the eve. Blending fresh herbs, lemon juice and lemon zest with ricotta results in a light, airy, and ultra healthy dip.

With a dip this smooth and sexy, you might just be tempted to leave your basic boring mayo-based dip forever!

Question: What complete and utter time-waster do you enjoy?
until next time...
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Lemon-Thyme Whipped Ricotta Dip (adapted from Eating Well Magazine, July 2014 issue)

Ingredients
  • 15 ounce container part-skim ricotta
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme (I used lemon thyme from my garden)
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh chives, snipped (also from my garden)
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
Cooking Directions
  1. Combine ricotta, thyme, chives, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper in food processor, pulsing about 1 minute.
  2. Transfer to a serving bowl, smooth top with back of a spoon. Drizzle oil and garnish with thyme.
  3. Serve with fresh, local (preferably organic) vegetables that are in season. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dreamy Creamy Peach Pops

It’s summer. It’s hot. It’s a perfect time for frozen pops!

This past week, the Cowie Clan enjoyed visiting family on the sunny coast of South Carolina. During our stay, we packed in lots of good times. 

We took several bike rides on the paths that wind through the Southern scenery; 
we walked on the beach in search of seashells 
and we took a boat ride through the inter-coastal waters in search of dolphin and other sea creatures. 

We checked out a couple of local eateries in the area, 
Java Burrito - LOVE!
but mostly we enjoyed hanging out at home, barbecuing and cooking our own creations.

For dessert one of the evenings I made fruit popsicles using fresh local peaches. Most popsicles found in the market are not worth buying, let alone eating, loaded with artificial colors and sugar (and by that I mean high-fructose corn syrup). These Creamy Dreamy Peach Pops are made with real fruit, fruit juice, yogurt and milk making them a nutritious and refreshing dessert or snack.

The Peach Pops are layered goodness- one layer is sweet and citrusy with the addition of orange juice, the other tangy and creamy with the addition of almond milk and Greek yogurt.  I used home-made vanilla extract in the creamy layer to go along with this month’s “Spirited” Recipe Redux theme. Vanilla extract is super simple to make and gets better with age (recipe here). 

For more healthy pop options, check out the June 2014 issue of Cooking Light. I'm wanna try the Cucumber-Chili-Lime Ice Pops using a few cukes from my garden!
until next time...
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Dreamy Creamy Peach Pops

Ingredients
  • 2 cups Peaches
  • 1/2 cup Orange Juice
  • 1 cup Almond Milk (or any type milk)
  • 3 ounces Plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Cooking Directions
  1. Peel and chop peaches.
  2. Blend together 2/3 cup peaches and orange juice. Fill popsicle molds halfway and freeze for at least an hour. For a fun effect, tilt mold sideways while freezing.
  3. Blend together remaining peaches, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract. Fill the pop molds with the milk mixture. Insert the sticks. Freeze until solid, about 5 hours.
  4. Remove from freezer, let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before removing from molds.
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