TO BAKE: CHERRY BERRY BARS

I often, especially at that hour after my students leave, but can’t yet leave school to pick up my own little loves, find myself in need of something to munch on. I’ve gone through phases of handfuls of pretzels, tupperware-d muffins, little jars of plain yogurt with granola, tins of chex mix, baggies of graham crackers, or a simple, not overly sweet cake wrapped up in a napkin and tucked in my lunch box to enjoy with a steaming mug of peppermint tea in the afternoon.

But a couple weeks ago, it was after the boys had gone to bed, and I had in my mind these date bars that are a bit of a tradition for me to bake pre-anywhere travel. It had been a long school day, I had been making lists all week of things that needed to be remembered and packed before our trip. I typically double Smitten Kitchen’s recipe to fit in my 9×9 square baking pan, and to make more of a thick breakfast bar than the single recipe makes.

As you can probably see where I’m going where this, a few things went awry in my dark of night cooking. I was doubling all the ingredients in my head (always write them down. always!). I also didn’t have exactly all of the ingredients that the recipe called for – dried cherries rather than dates, frozen fruit to make up the difference, regular granulated sugar instead of raw, ginger instead of cloves, and the use of a whole cup instead of a half measuring cup. A few changes and mistakes that led to the greatness of a crumbly but chewy, sweet but tangy, sweet but also a little salt to take the edge off, homemade granola bar. The perfect after- school, or afternoon treat to enjoy with a hot cozy drink in a mug.

Homemade Cherry-Berry Granola Bars

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For the filling:

What you need: 

5 ounces dried cherries
1 cup frozen (or fresh) mixed berries
1/2 cup water

What to do: 

+ Combine cherries, berries and water in a small saucepan.

+ Simmer over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and begun to thicken.

+ Set aside while you make the dough.

For the dough:

What you need: 

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup canola oil
1/2 cups oats, quick-cooking or old-fashioned, plus another 1/4 cup for topping
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt

What to do: 

+ Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease sides and bottom of a 9×9 baking pan.

+ In a large mixing bowl, or in a Kitchenaid mixer, combine the sugars and oil. Add the flour, 1/2 cup of the oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. The mixture will be the consistency of a cookie dough.

+ Press about 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of your baking pan. Spread your filling on top.

+ To the remaining 1/4 of the dough, add 1/4 cup of oats and mix together. Sprinkle this on top of the fruit filling and press lightly to cover.

+ Bake for 30 minutes or until light brown at the edges. Cut into squares after cooled. Store at room temperature if eating soon, refrigerator for about a week, or freezer for longer.

LITTLE THINGS THIS WEEK.

1. this oversized suitcase…

because it’s borrowed from a friend and fingers crossed, big enough for four.

2. this tiny sound machine…for the (hopefully) extra sleep everyone will get whilst room sharing on our holiday travels.

3. these sweet family stripes from a fairy godmother…

because come December you’ll find us wearing them nightly (I’ve already been cheating by wearing my leggings).

4. this pan of homemade granola bars…

for being ready to wrap up and tuck away for a long day of travel tomorrow.

5. this stack of tiny warm hand-me-down clothes…

for two little boys headed to winter!

in other news:

we’re on vacation!! i’m scurrying around cleaning and throwing things into suitcases haphazardly, consulting my packing lists and intermittent breaks for side-clenchingly funny videos that mike finds on instagram. our flight leaves for indiana at five pm tomorrow and i’m relying on a combination of preparedness by trying to think of all possible scenarios and also prayer. it’s our first flight with both (very mobile) boys, right around bedtime! 😬 i am sure we will come away from it so much wiser than we are now. we are so excited for a whole week with family! what are you up to this weekend, reader? something good, i hope.

TO BAKE: CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES.

img_2535Chocolate chip cookies are a little bit of a hobby of mine. I try recipes, decide they’re the best, then see another one I want to try, and decide its the best, and so on and so forth until eternity. I had some extra time yesterday while home with my sicky baby Ben, so of course, the urge for a cookie set in. I had, in times past, decided the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips was the best, but then I thought this was the best recipe, then I switched to this one for a little bit (lard! so good!), but yesterday, I cracked open my Betty Crocker and her Chocolate Chip cookie may be my new favorite. Soft! Crisp edges! Chewy! Crinkly! No extra steps! What’s not to love?img_2543Recipe from Betty Crocker

Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)

Instructions: 

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, beat sugars, butter, vanilla and egg in a mixer with the paddle attachment.
  3. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Gently stir in chocolate chips with a wooden spoon.
  5. On ungreased cookie sheets, drop dough by rounded tablespoon about 2 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until light brown. Cool for 1-2 minutes then move to cooling racks to cool completely.

Some notes:

  • I like to only bake a few for us to eat, and then I freeze the rest of the dough in rounded tablespoons on a cookie sheet and transfer to ziplock bag. Store in the freezer until ready to bake. Add on a minute or two of cooking time if cooking from frozen.
  • This is my favorite cookie sheet. 
  • I like to cool on foil. I think it keeps the cookies chewier than if cooled on a rack.

Do you have a favorite chocolate chip cookie? It’s almost time to look at Christmas cookies!!! I’ve already got my eye on a few that I want to try this year!

img_2560In other news – I’m still home with this sweet boy, but back to work tomorrow and Mike’s staying home with him. Soaking up these moments!