Thursday, July 30, 2009

Annie's Peanut Butter Power Bars

Jump-start your day with one of these delicious bars

They are packed with protein from the peanut butter, antioxidants from the berries, B vitamins from whole wheat flour and wheat germ, and heart healthy fats from the walnuts. Although there is a fair amount of butter used in this recipe, I replaced half of the saturated fat in a typical bar with a healthier fat ~ canola oil. So you still get all that buttery flavor with a lot less fat!

The inspriration for these bars came from one of my favorite desserts that my mom makes; her Apricot Bars. They are buttery, crunchy and fruity all in one. In one word they are heavenly.
The only thing is that I end up eating way to many of them whenever she makes a batch. I think I devoured 3/4 of them in one sitting once. NOT GOOD -( 'Er well they were good, but not good for me.) I shutter to think of the calories and saturated fat that I inhaled on that fine day.

So I decided to make a healthy alternative to my Mom's bars. I can't say that they are better than my Mom's recipe, but they certainly were delicious; and healthy too. I could have gone with tub margarine in place of butter, but I think one of the best things about these bars are the buttery taste. As I said above, I did reduce the butter by half and replaced it with canola oil. I am a firm believer in all good things in moderation. (Except of course when Mom puts a plate of those Apricot Bars in front of me!)

Starting with great ingredients is the first step...

Press half of the dough into a parchment or foiled lined bake sheet and then load on the filling!

To make putting on the top layer of dough easier, roll it out in between 2 sheets of waxed paper.

Lift off the top sheet, turn over, place on top of the filling and remove the 2nd sheet of waxed paper.

When the bars are light golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift the bars out of the pan. Cut in half and then into equal size bars.

Annie's Peanut Butter Power Bars
by Mixed Salad Annie

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
1/4 cup natural cane sugar
1/4 cup packed natural brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. either almond or vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup of your favorite preserves (I used Apricot, but often use Raspberry as well)
1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (such as Sunsweet Antioxident Blend)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
In an electric mixer or large mixing bowl blend together the butter, sugars and oil until creamy.
Add the egg and extract and blend until well combined. Add the wheat germ. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the butter mixture slowly until just combined. Gently mix in the walnuts. Reserve half of the mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) and set aside.

Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 8 1/2 x 12 inch (or 9 x 11) baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Spread 1/2 of the peanut butter over the mixture evenly. Dot the preserves all over, staying within 1/2 inch from edge. Sprinkle the dried fruit evenly over the top. Dot the remaining peanut butter evenly over the top.

Place reserved mixture between two sheet of waxed paper. Roll the mixture to the size of the pan. Remove the top piece of waxed paper, carefully flip it and place on top of the prepared mixture in the pan. Remove the remaining waxed paper.

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift the bars out of the pan. Cut in half and then into equal size bars.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad

A Great Summer Salad!

Grilled Fresh Sweet Corn Is The Star Here...
Straight From Confreda Greenhouses and Farm in Cranston... Picked That Same Day!

Accompanied By Some Other Colorful and Healthy Ingredients
Perfect for a light and satisfying lunch.
Packed with nutrition and most importantly, flavor!

Topped Off With Some Tri-Color Torellini~ Makes A Great Hearty Dinner!

This recipe was inspired by my local Stop & Shop market. I often see an Edamame Salad in the prepared food case in the deli section. It caught my eye because it is so colorful. It was pretty easy to deconstruct and make my own with some special touches.

I love making salads like this in the summer. And this one is refreshing and light, yet really is packed with nutritious ingredients. Plus, who can resist fresh sweet corn in the summer? Well there's no need to resist, since it is a good choice in any healthy diet. According to the World's Healthiest Foods Website, corn is a good source of vitamin B1, vitamin B5, folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese. It is especially good for cardiovascular health due to the great source of folate it supplies. The edamame (soy beans) are also super healthy to eat. They are a great source of protein and contain loads of healthy fats. The red bell pepper contains a huge amount of vitamin C and the black beans add more protein and of course, fiber.
This salad can be served as a light lunch, a side dish with grilled chicken or fish, or served with pasta as a main course entree.

Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad
by Mixed Salad Annie~ Serves 4-6

2 corn ears, silks and outer husks removed (leave a thin layer of husks on)
8 ounces (1/2 of one pound bag) frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to instructions on bag and cooled
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small shallot, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (parsley or basil can be substituted)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat a gas grill to medium-high, light a charcoal fire or place indoor stovetop grill over medium high heat.

Place corn directly on grill and cook for around 15 minutes, rolling corn occasionally so all sides get grill marks. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Pull off charred husks and discard. Stand each ear on its wide end, and using a serrated knife, remove grilled corn kernels from cobs. Add kernels to a large bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld together. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting His Rhode Island Fix...

My brother is visiting this week from Washington State. He has been out of Rhode Island for many years but usually visits every year. One of the things that he misses most about the Ocean State (besides me :P) is the abundant seafood available and all the local faire.
So of course we had to get him his fix...
We ending up at Haborside Restaurant in East Greenwich which is right on the waterfront. They are known for there delicious baked stuffed lobsters, aka lobstermania. The stuffing was delicious! He and my mom both had the twin baked lobster special.

We started the dinner with a few appetizers. My brother was like a kid in a candy store. He couldn't decide what to get so he ordered everything. LOL. First the fried calamari, which were absolutely delicious. The crust was light and crunchy, not oily at all. They were cooked to perfection. Then a Rhode Island specialty- Stuffies! For all you out of staters, a stuffie is a Quahog (large clam) that is stuffed with a bread and seafood stuffing. You really can't find these anywhere out of New England.
These actually made my brother giddy...

The quahog is also used to make Rhode Islands famous Clear Broth Chowder (or as most Rhode Islanders would say..."chowda"). You can get red or white chowder in most places but the clear broth chowder is a true Rhode Island tradition. It was very tasty. I could especially taste the fresh herbs in it, mostly thyme I think.

I couldn't decide what to order, so I ended up with a combination plate- the Baked Seafood Platter. It had one baked stuffed sole, which was heavenly, 3 sea scallops, and one lovely baked stuffed shrimp. I really enjoyed it, but enjoyed watching my mom and brother the most.

I'll end by showing you the magnificent view from the restaurant. It was such a beautiful day and the water was so inviting. Well, got to go, my boat ride is waiting...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Day of Favorites!

It's summertime in New England and you know what that means. Or maybe you don't... But to me it means eating the regions specialties. Since Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, that means seafood! You cannot live in this area and not get clam cakes and chowder (aka, chowda) at least once in the summer on the beach. It's obligatory! So my mom and I ended up at Iggy's Doughboys and Chowder House in Warwick. It is located right in Oakland Beach where you can enjoy the beautiful ocean without traveling all the way to South County. We had clam cakes and chowder and fish & chips. It was really good, but since my mom is my spokesperson I'll let her do the talking...

One day during my vacation I brought my mom out for some of her favorite things to eat. So of course that would include lobster. We went to Chelo's on the Waterfront in East Greenwich. They just happened to have a special going on that day; twin lobsters for $29.99. Not bad! And you can see her favorite drink to the left, a dry martini, no ice with a green olive. She usually adds a little water to it to dilute it a bit. There was a live band which were pretty good and we had a great time.

Of course the other summer must have in Rhode Island is homemade ice cream. We all have our favorites, but this time we ended up at an old favorite from years ago. In fact, it had been so long since I'd been that I wasn't even sure if they were still open. But to my delight, the Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland is still churning out some of the areas best ice cream!

It is located on Diamond Hill Rd. right across from Diamond Hill Park.

My mom had her favorite; pistachio.

Isn't she cute?

Hurry Mom get it before it melts!

There's just something about ice cream that brings the kid out in all of us!

It was a warm day and we had to eat pretty quickly because the ice cream was melting all over us! By the way, I had Butter Pecan with chocolate chip topping. They were sold out of my favorite; raspberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt :( But don't worry I enjoyed mine just as much and could have gone for seconds...

I hope you enjoyed this cook free/recipe free post! And I hope you are all enjoying your favorite things this summer!!

Berry Berry Cool Pie ~ Indeed!

For a quick refreshing treat you have to try this pie!!

I have to admit that when ever I see these recipes for no-bake pies, usually using cool whip and ready crust, I just shake my head and think, why bother? I figured those recipes were for the people who don't know how to cook/bake and they are not that great anyway so why waste my time. If I'm going to make a pie, I'm going to "really" make a pie. Well, I have to say, I finally get it...
I have been so busy lately, that I haven't had time to cook much, let alone bake a pie from scratch. So when I saw this recipe and knew I had all the ingredients on hand (which is another reason why I suppose so many people make these recipes), I figured what the heck.
And to my surprise, it was delicious!!!Another confession is that I even misread the instructions where it says to "freeze" it for 5 hours. I thought it said refrigerate and that's what I did and it was still delicious! I can imagine how great it would have been frozen too...

I did change a few things in the recipe. I already had a open can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge. I used 1/3 cup in another recipe, so I used the remainder in this pie and believe me it was sweet enough so I'm glad that I used a lesser amount and I would do it again. Even my cool whip was partially used, so don't worry if you don't have a full container, it will still work with some missing!

The lemon zest and almond extract were my additions and I think they added a homemade taste to the pie, so don't leave them out if you can help it.

I hope you give this recipe a try and don't snub your nose at it like I would have done so many times. It really is, as Keebler says, "Berry Easy. Berry Cool. Berry Delicious!"

Berry Berry Cool Pie

recipe adapted from,

1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, minus 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups assorted fresh berries (I used blueberries and strawberries)
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (6 oz.) Keebler® Ready Crust ® Graham Pie Crust

1. Mix together sweetened condensed milk, almond extract, lemon zest and lemon juice in large bowl until blended. Stir in berries. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into crust.
2. Freeze (or Refrigerate) 5 hours or until set. If frozen, let stand 30 to 40 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional berries and mint leaves if desired.