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Deliciously Organic: March 2010

Deliciously Organic

A blog devoted entirely to simple, wholesome, organic cooking.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Sautéed Baby Artichokes with Garlic and Lemon

On Saturday I attended the food blog forum in LA to pick up new ideas about blog writing and meet more people within the food-blogging community.  The sessions were incredibly helpful and it was a blast meeting up with new friends.  There were 6 sessions throughout the day and my personal favorite was Diane and Todd's session about food photography.  They are such a warm-hearted couple who gave a wealth of information and tips.  A large portion of their session focused on lighting, which I've come to learn is the most important element of photography.  We also had the opportuntiy to hear Jaden discuss authenticity and diversity when creating/writing a blog.  Then the very talented duo, Adam and Matt, hosted a session about food styling and food photography.  Adam said that every time he plates food (even if it's for his own dinner at home) he gets excited.  I love that!

It was so great to catch up with new friends and meet several other LA area bloggers. Being in a room with such creative thinkers was incredibly energizing.  It reminded me of the my early days at music school - you could literally feel the excitement and creativity twirling in the air. 

Sweet friends - Rachel and Jen

When I arrived back at home I was thrilled to see fresh baby artichokes in our weekly produce box.  We've received dozens of these little gems the over last few weeks and my family loves them sauteed with a little olive oil, garlic, and fresh lemon.  Of course, a bowl-full of artichokes and sunlight streaming into the kitchen was a great excuse to pull out my camera and practice some of the tips I learned this weekend.


Sautéed Baby Artichokes with Garlic and Lemon
Serves 4

10 baby artichokes
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
Sea salt

Fill a large bowl with cold water and squeeze juice from 1/2  a lemon into the water.  Cut baby artichokes in half length-wise and then cut off the top third.  Pull off outer petals of artichokes until the leaves are half green and half yellow.  Place cut artichokes in lemon water.

Bring a sauce pan of water to boil.  Place artichokes in boiling water and simmer 7-10 minutes, or until you can easily pierce them with a knife. 

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Place artichokes cut-side down in oil and cook for 2 minutes.  Add sliced garlic to pan and move artichokes around so the garlic is cooking in the oil.  Sauté 1 minute or until garlic and artichokes are lightly brown. Transfer artichokes and garlic to serving dish.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt and lemon juice.  Serve immediately.

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Friday, March 26, 2010

Kamut Pound Cake with Almond-Apricot Preserves

It's very rare for me to make a recipe twice, but this dessert is always such a hit and so easy to make, that I make it often when friends stop by.  I served this a few weeks ago to some new friends who came over for dinner and the next morning Brett stopped my husband at work and said, "I can't even remember what the name of that dessert was, but I've been dreaming of it ever since."  That comment solidified it for me - I had to share the recipe with you.

I really enjoy humble, homemade desserts.  I like to serve foods that aren't too fussy or intimidating and I think this dessert fits perfectly.  It's a big slice of toasted pound cake with crispy edges topped with a large spoonful of apricot preserves spiked with almond extract, and a little whipped cream and crunchy almonds on top.  Not fussy, not complicated, just simple sweet flavors that wash down nicely with a glass of milk.

Kamut Pound Cake with Almond-Apricot Preserves
Kamut Pound Cake is adapted from Pure Dessert written by Alice Medrich
Serves 8

3 tablespoons milk, room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup kamut flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
13 tablespoons butter, softened

Apricot-Almond Preserves:
1 1/2 cup apricot preserves
2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup cream, whipped
1/2 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to middle position.  Line the bottom of a loaf pan with unbleached parchment paper. 

Whisk the milk, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Set aside.  Sift whole wheat pastry flour, kamut flour, baking powder and sea salt over a into the bowl of a standing mixer.  (You will have about a tablespoon of bran left in the sifter.  You can either put that bran back into your bag of flour or discard.)  Add whole cane sugar to bowl and stir to combine.  Cut the butter into tablespoons and place in bowl with flour mixture along with half of the egg mixture.  Turn mixer on low (using paddle attachment) and mix  until moistened, then turn speed up to medium and beat for one minute.  Turn mixer off, scrape the sides of the bowl and then add remaining egg mixture.  Turn mixer to medium and beat for 20 seconds.  Turn mixer off and remove bowl from mixer.  Using a spatula, give the batter a few stirs, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.  Pour the batter into the pan and using a spatula, smooth the surface.  Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Remove the cake from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the outer edges of the cake and then invert the cake onto a cooling rack.  Cool an additional 30 minutes before slicing. 

Stir together preserves and almond extract in a small bowl.  Preheat the oven broiler on high.  Slice cake into 8 thick pieces and place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Put baking sheet into oven and toast cake for 1-2 minutes, watching carefully so the cake doesn't burn.  Remove from oven.

To serve:  Place one slice of cake on a plate.  Spread roughly 2 tablespoons of apricot mixture on top of cake.  Top with a large spoonful of whipped cream and sprinkle a few almonds on top.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Roasted Parsnips

Last night I watched the first episode of "Food Revolution" and it really struck a chord with me.  I was teary-eyed during most of the show and actually had to walk away from it for a little while to take a breath.  I knew the show was about Jamie Oliver going into a town and helping change their eating habits, but seeing how most American children eat on a daily basis was very difficult to watch.  I'm so thankful Jamie is willing to go against the mainstream and help people make a change. 

Whether you've been reading for a while or it's your first time here, I want you to know you're the complete reason I write this blog.  I truly want to help you succeed in the kitchen and enable you to feed your family healthy, delicious, homemade meals.  Seven years ago, I was a normal "supermarket shopper," looking for convenience, good taste, and price.  I didn't understand people who only ate organic foods or ground their own wheat, so if you're just starting out, I really do understand.  I understand this can all seem overwhelming and some days you'll want to throw in the towel, but I assure you that making even small changes can have a huge impact on your health and well being.

As many of you know, I have a cookbook coming out this fall.  The true motive behind writing the book was to enable more people to cook organic meals their whole family will love.  I really don't care how many books I sell or how many "hits" I get a day on my blog.  As long as I'm helping and teaching you to cook healthy meals at home, I've succeeded.  If you need more guidance or help, please feel free to email me and I'd love to give you more advice or point you to helpful sources so you can continue on your journey to healthy eating.

I've had many friends tell me they don't enjoy eating vegetables and I've found one of the most simple ways to add more veggies to your diet is roasting them in the oven.  It's simple and the high heat brings out the sweetness in any vegetable (in fact, many vegetables I don't enjoy raw or sauteed are fantastic when roasted).  I've received tons of parsnips in my produce box lately and we all loved them tossed with coconut oil, salt and pepper and roasted until golden brown and slighlty crispy.

Congratulations to ZarpandiT!  You're the winner of the Le Creuset baking dishes!  Please send me your information to: DeliciouslyOrganic [at] yahoo [dot] com.  I'm hoping you'll use them to create your own Food Revolution.

Roasted Parsnips
Serves 4-6

6 large parsnips, washed, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tablespoon coconut oil (click here to read more about this oil)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and adjust oven rack to middle position.  Toss parsnips with coconut oil and season generously with sea salt and pepper.  Pour out onto an oiled baking dish in a single layer.  Roast for 15 minutes and then stir parsnips.  Roast for another 10 minutes until golden brown.  Serve immediately. 

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Chocolate Pudding Cakes and Give-Away

I love magazines. I love the excitement of seeing them in the mailbox, ripping open the plastic to view the new cover photo, and of course, the smell.  My favorite one to smell is the "InStyle" magazine.  I've always wondered why a company hasn't come out with a perfume that smells like "InStyle" - the combination of all of the perfume samples combined with the ink is so wonderful.  I subscribe to several food magazines each month and pore over them looking for new recipes and ideas to use in the kitchen.  I was going through my stack of magazines the other day and came across a few of my favorite issues I've collected.  I like to pick up these favorite issues, thumb through them once in a while, and dream of all of the recipes and crafts I'm going to do. 

One of my favorites is a Martha Stewart Living magazine from June 2008. The cover has a honey-glazed beehive cake with marzipan bees. I've looked at that recipe so many times and have made a mental note to buy the beehive cake pan, but I've never actually done so - not quite sure why. I've even seen the cake pan at Williams Sonoma but passed it up thinking "I'll do it later." There's another magazine from 2008 that includes instructions for homemade luminaries, a bandana-patterned fruit tart, and you gotta love the hand-stitched drink covers so the pesky mosquitoes don't get into your drink. One of these days I'm going to have that perfect outdoor party with handmade everything.

I also have a Donna Hay magazine (issue39) that I longingly gaze through every-so-often. The cover says "Take it Slow". I think that's why I like the issue so much. There's a recipe for homemade s‘mores - homemade all the way down to the graham crackers - that everyone gathers to eat on the beach in the winter. Sometimes I wonder why I don't make all these recipes, but then I realize that I enjoy looking and simply fanaticizing about what it would be like to cook up Clam Chowder over the fire on the beach followed by those gooey homemade s'mores. For one thing, there's no clean-up if I simply leaf through the pictures and imagine all the tranquil fun.

I also have recipes in piles from 10+ years ago I'm still planning to try someday.  One of them is a lemon sussex pudding featuring an entire lemon baked inside the middle of a cake.  I'll get to that one day, but so far I haven't found the right afternoon to experiment with a cake and a whole lemon.  There's also a craft project to make a darling umbrella stand using a galvanized bucket and some paint.  So cute, but quite impractical for where I live now.   Besides, all my friends know I'm not very crafty; even the kids know they come to my house for the good food, but down the street, my friend Jenn has all the great crafts.

I love a simple, homey self-saucing chocolate pudding.  I've made many different variations over the years, but I found another version in one of my "old favorite" magazines from the wicker basket and I thought I'd give it a shot.  Of course, as with most recipes, I modified the process so it would fit my desire for whole, unrefined ingredients.  I've also been playing a bit with gluten-free grains so I made this one gluten-free just for the fun of it.

I'm having a give-away this week for a pair of Le Creuset stoneware baking dishes!  One is a 10.5" x 7" and the other is 7"x 5" in a beautiful blue caribbean color.  The good people at the CSN stores are hosting this give-away.  They sell everything from cookware to yoga gear to barstools - love a site like that!  To enter the give-away please leave a comment between today and Monday, March 22nd and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday.  Good luck!

Individual Chocolate Pudding Cakes
If you don't have any gluten-free flours on hand you can simply substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour for the rice, sorghum and tapioca flours. 
Serves 4

1/2 cup brewed herbal coffee
1/2 cup water
2/3 cup cacao powder 
1/3 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (to read about this sugar click here)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat, divided
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sorghum flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour (or starch)
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 large egg yolk

Preheat oven to 400°F and adjust oven rack to lower-middle position. Lightly oil 4 (8-ounce) ramekins or ovenproof bowls and set them on a baking sheet. Stir together herbal coffee and water and set aside. In a medium bowl combine 1/3 cup whole cane sugar and maple syrup until sugar is moist.  Stir in 1/3 cup cocoa, and 1/3 cup whole cane sugar breaking up any large clumps with fingers; set aside.

Melt butter, remaining 1/3 cup cocoa, and chocolate in a double boiler and whisk until smooth. Whisk rice flour, sorghum flour, tapioca flour, and baking powder in small bowl to combine; set aside. Whisk remaining 2/3 cup whole cane sugar, vanilla, milk, sea salt, and egg yolk in medium bowl until combined. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is evenly moistened.

2. Divide batter evenly among ramekins and level with back of spoon.  Sprinkle about 3 tablespoons cocoa/sugar mixture over batter in each ramekin. Pour 4 tablespoons coffee mixture over cocoa/sugar mixture in each ramekin. Bake for 20 minutes until puffed. (Do not overbake.) Cool puddings for about 15 minutes before serving (cakes will fall).

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday

Monday, March 15, 2010

Acronyms and Wild Rice Thai Salad

Military life is a very interesting thing.  On one hand you have the constant moving, deployments, and long hours.  On the other hand are the wonderful friends you make because of different extreme situations that bond you together like nothing else can.  One little quirk about the military that I still can't get over (even after 12 years of marriage), is the constant use of acronyms.  When we were newly married, I was completely lost when my husband and his friends would start talking, I couldn't interpret anything they were saying.  If you come across a group of pilots on a Friday night, good luck trying to understand what they're talking about.  Half of what they say is in code!  The other half is clearly bragging about their exploits in the "wild blue yonder," but that's a different story...

It's been several years since we've lived on a military base, but we're now in GQ (that's government quarters for the uninitiated).  Occasionally, I feel like a seasoned military wife, but yesterday I started laughing at the many acronyms I still don't know.  You see, they have an acronym for everything.  For example, it's not a "business trip" it's a TDY (temporary duty) and we don't "move" we PCS (permanent change of station).   So, there I was, driving around the other day trying to find the doctor's office.  I was foolishly looking for a sign saying something like "clinic" or "doctor's office" or even "medical."  I drove to the building where I thought the clinic was hiding, but the sign outside the building said, "AMDC."  Boldly, I assumed this meant "doctor" and marched right in.  Surprisingly, I had the right building, but I still don't know what the acronym for the building means! 

Another interesting aspect of life involves identity.  For an appointment anywhere on base, they always ask for "my" social security number.  The funny thing is, they aren't really asking for my number, but rather my husband's.  I'm what they call a "dependent."  He's my "sponsor."  His number is the key that unlocks all sorts of wonderful things like specialist referrals, blood tests, and even career counseling.  Call me old fashioned (or a hopeless romantic), but in some ways it's nice that we have the same identity because we  share everything: a life, love, kids, a home...but every once in a while I wish they would actually want my information when they ask for it.  Not that it would solve anything, but it might make me giggle a bit that I could actually give out my own personal information.

Last weekend when I had the opportunity to go out-of-town and be in the "civilian" world with actual signs that I can interpret, I saw a chef do a demonstration for Wild Rice Thai Salad.  The recipe wasn't passed out, there were hundreds of people in the room, and I can't even tell you the name of the chef (I apologize for that), but I quickly took notes so I could re-create it at home.  I love the mix of the marinated mushrooms, hearty wild rice, vegetables and herbs.  Almost every gathering on base requires me to bring a dish to share (I'm surprised they haven't come up with an acronym for that request) and being that this is my new favorite, I'll be taking it to many potlucks this spring.

Wild Rice Thai Salad (aka WRTS)
This salad tastes better the longer it sits.  If you have the time I recommend letting the salad sit at least 2 hours before serving. 
Serves 8

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons fermented soy sauce (I prefer this brand)
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chili sauce

5 ounces button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 cups wild rice, cooked according to directions on package
3 green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
handfull of basil, chopped
10 leaves of fresh mint, chopped

Blend lime juice, olive oil, sesame oil, honey, soy sauce, ginger, garlic and chili sauce in a blender until well combined.  Put sliced mushrooms in a medium bowl and pour half of salad dressing over the top and toss.  Let the mushrooms marinate in the dressing for 10 minutes. 

Place prepared wild rice, green onion, and bell pepper in a large mixing bowl.  Add marinated mushrooms, basil and mint and toss until salad is thoroughly coated in dressing.  Serve at room temperature. 

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesdays

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Weekend Away and Rice Pudding

I'm home from a long weekend get-away, the air has cooled, and the Santa Anna winds are ripping through the flat landscape today.  The heat is turned on in the house and I have a pot of rice pudding gurgling on the stove. 

Last week I was searching for inspiration and over the weekend I found plenty.  I had the opportunity to attend Helen's photography class and make some new friends who are also fellow bloggers. I then traveled to Las Vegas to spend some time with my Mom.  Few things are more inspiring than stimulating conversation with interesting new friends around a well-prepared table.

My Mom attended the Catersource convention in Las Vegas and was also a featured speaker.  Since I'm only a few hours away I thought it would be perfect to drive up and spend some time with her.  We attended several seminars and demos taught by caterers and also chefs.  Chef Carla Hall (from Top Chef) did a fabulous cooking demo and I laughed the entire way through.  Not only can Carla cook, but she has the most wonderful sense of humor.  Even though I'm not in the catering business, it was a blast being there and I even picked a few ideas for my own cooking. 

Early Monday morning, my Mom gave her speech and, wow, was I impressed.  She captivated the 500+ audience for 90 educational minutes and I was completely blown away.  What a thrill to see her in action! 

I'm home now and back to cooking, washing dishes, taking care of the kids and spending time with Pete.  It's great to get away and be able to come home and appreciate even the simple things once more. 

Brown Rice Pudding
I served this with cherries tossed with a bit of almond extract which made a lovely compliment.
Serves 6

1 cup brown rice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups water
4 cups whole milk
1 cup cream

3/4 cup maple syrup
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon almond extract

Melt butter over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot.  Pour in rice and sauté for 3-4 minutes until rice begins to turn milky-white.  Stir in water, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover pot with lid and continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the water is almost fully absorbed. 

Stir in milk, cream, and maple syrup.  Cut vanilla bean in half, scrape seeds out, and place seeds and bean in pot with rice.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and maintain a simmer.  Cook uncovered, for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens and a spoon is just able to stand up in the pudding.

Remove from heat and remove vanilla bean and stir in almond extract.  Pour rice into a large serving dish or individual dishes and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Cool and serve at room temperature or chilled. 

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding Inspiration and a Gooey Butter Cake

I’ll admit I’ve felt a bit uninspired for several weeks.  I think the newness of moving has worn off and the reality of living in the desert has set in.  Before, when I needed some inspiration I would sit on my couch and look out among the huge pine trees, watching the squirrels chase one another and leap from limb to limb. In the spring, the cardinals would build their nests and in the summer, the monarch butterflies would come through in droves.  We spent many a morning on the back deck listening to the trees sway and discovering which new flowers were blooming.  Our home is still there, waiting in the woods, near the white sand beaches and the beautiful bay, waiting for us to return some day.  I’m waiting too, but right now when I look out my window, the view is very bleak.  All I can see is brown: brown dirt, brown sand, brown houses, all of it . . . brown.

There are little sacrifices to pay for being in the military and lately this has been one for me. Yes, it could always be worse; I’m the first to admit that.  I’m trying to find beauty in the brownness, but I’m presently having a difficult time.

Fortunately, this weekend I’m traveling for a few days and hopefully the colorful change of scenery will inspire my writing once again. I think we all go through times of drought; this is definitely a dry time for me (even though it’s been a rainy winter in the desert).  I told a few friends I was having a hard time finding inspiration.  They all empathized . . . they live out here in the brownness too. . . they understand.  While it’s completely bleak for me, it’s a great place for my husband to fly.  He was busy this week taking students up in his jet doing tower fly-bys at 600 miles an hour only 100 ft above the ground. (I'm still in awe that he can even do such a maneuver!)

In the midst of my drought I’ve been reading through many cooking blogs and came across this cake from Smitten Kitchen. I substituted whole wheat flour and organic whole cane sugar for the white flour and sugar and came up with a pretty darn good adaptation. It’s a humble cake, one you’d serve if a good friend was stopping by to chat.  It’s chewy on the outside and gooey in the middle with rich molasses flavors from the whole cane sugar.  After pulling it out of the oven tonight I told my husband how I was feeling uninspired then looked over and realized for the first time this cake is really brown. We both had a good laugh. So I guess the desert inspired me after all.

Gooey Butter Cake
This cake is best served warm. 
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 16-20.
3 tablespoons whole milk, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
4 tablespoons organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (for more info click here)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour, freshly ground preferred

7 tablespoons maple syrup
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups organic whole cane sugar or sucanat
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Stir milk with 2 tablespoons warm water in a small bowl. Add yeast and whisk gently until it dissolves. Set aside.  Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, whole cane sugar and salt for about 1 minute on medium speed.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn mixer to low, and beat in the egg and vanilla.  With mixer on low, alternately add flour and milk mixture until just combined.  Turn speed up to medium and beat for 3-4 minutes until dough comes together and pulls from the side of the bowl. 

Pour dough into a buttered 13x9 inch pan.  Spread dough (I used a greased off-set spatula) evenly along the bottom of the pan.  (it will seem like such a small amount of dough for such a large pan, but it will work!) Cover dish with a clean tea towel, put in a warm place, and allow to rise until doubled, 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust rack to middle position. Pour maple syrup in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until simmering.  Continue to simmer until it reaches 240 degrees.  Take off of heat and measure out 3 tablespoons of remaining syrup into a small bowl.  Whisk in 2 tablespoon of warm water and the vanilla.  (if you wait to do this step, the maple syrup will harden.  If this happens you can melt it again over low heat on the stove.) Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, whole cane sugar and salt until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and beat in the egg. Alternately add flour and maple mixture, scraping down sides of bowl between each addition until throughly combined.

Spoon topping in small dollops over risen cake and use an offset spatula to gently spread it in an even layer. Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes before serving.

*I have yet to figure out a way to make this with soaked grains.  When I do, I'll make sure and post it for those who prefer soaking. 

Monday, March 1, 2010

Granola Bars

I've started at least 5 posts this weekend without completing a single one.  At first, I thought I'd apologize for not having much to say, but I came across this passage while reading My Life in France:

I don't believe in twisting yourself into knots of excuses and explanations over the food you make.  When one's hostess starts in with self-deprecations such as, "Oh, I don't know how to cook..." or "Poor little me..." or "This may taste awful..." it is so dreadful to have to reassure her that everything is delicious and fine, whether it is or not.  Besides such admissions only draw attention to one's shortcomings (or self-perceived shortcomings), and make the other person think, "Yes, you're right, this really is an awful meal!"...Usually one's cooking is better than one thinks it is.  And if the food is truly vile...then the cook must simply grit her teeth and bear it with a smile - and learn from her mistakes."

How true is this?  How many times have we made excuses for our cooking or heard others make excuses?  Isn't it completely awkward for both parties?  I've done this so many times - usually I say, "Oh, and the crust is whole wheat, in case you notice it tastes more 'wheaty' than you're accustomed to."  Why do I do this?  I'm actually a very confident cook, but when I serve my food to people who I know mainly eat processed foods, I feel like I need to give an explanation.  I've also been on the receiving end where a friend apologizes for her food (honestly, if someone makes me mac and cheese from a box I'm happy because I didn't have to make it myself....not that I advocate eating from a box). 

I completely agree with Julia Child and think we could all use a little kick in the pants and a reminder that if we're in the kitchen at all, cooking for just ourselves, a group of friends, or our family, that alone is cause for celebration and something to be proud of! 

So in keeping with the spirit of "no excuses," I'm excited to share a new granola bar recipe I whipped up this weekend.  My offering: toasted oats, crisp almonds, sweet shredded coconut, and dried fruit drizzled with whole cane sugar and maple syrup then baked until crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.  It's a snack you can take with you just about anywhere.  I know you'll love it!

By the way congrats to KJB!  You're the winner of the chef's torch!  Please email me your information at deliciouslyorganic [at] yahoo [dot] com. 

Granola Bars
I've included two variations for this recipe.  The first is a "regular" method and the second is a soaked method.  If you'd like to read more about soaking click here and here.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa
Yields 12-16 bars

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup finely shredded coconut
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup organic whole cane sugar or sucanat (to read more click here)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup dried cranberries
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped (unsulphered preferred)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter an 11 x 7 baking dish and line it with parchment paper.

Put the oatmeal, almonds and coconut on a sheet pan and bake for 10 minutes, until lightly browned.  Pour oatmeal mixture into a large bowl and add the cranberries and apricots.  Put the butter, maple sugar, organic whole can sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat.  Stir together until sugar has dissolved and then pour over the oatmeal mixture.  Stir until syrup coats mixture.  Pour into the baking dish and press the mixture with the back of a spoon evenly in the pan.  Bake for 25 minutes, until light golden brown.  Cool for 2-3 hours before cutting into squares.

Soaked Method:  The night before pour almonds in a large bowl and cover with water.  Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and stir.  Pour oats into another large bowl and cover with water.  Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and stir.  Leave both bowls at room temperature overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 170 degrees.  Strain almonds and oats (oats will be a very wet so press gently in the colander to release as much moisture as possible).  Spread almonds on sheet pan and the oats on an separate sheet pan.  Bake in oven for 12 hours, or until crispy. 

Pour oats into a large mixing bowl and crumble with your hands if they are clumped together.  Add almonds, apricots, and cranberries. Pour coconut into a large skillet and toast until golden over low heat.  Add to almond mixture.

Place the butter, maple sugar, organic whole can sugar, vanilla and salt in a small saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Stir together until sugar has dissolved and then pour over the oatmeal mixture. Stir until syrup coats mixture. Pour into the baking dish and press the mixture with the back of a spoon evenly in the pan.  Bake in oven for 4-5 hours, until golden brown.  Cool completely before cutting.

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