Posts Tagged ‘dried fruit’

Quite a lot has transpired since I last posted on the day I was scheduled to be induced for labor. I had a long induction, beginning September 18th and finally resulting in the birth of our daughter on September 21st. My preeclampsia worsened after giving birth, so I ended up in the hospital for an additional four days. In addition, our daughter was small at birth, so she ended up in the NICU for 11 days. We finally were all home together on October 1st, and we began settling into our new life.

Unfortunately, my father-in-law became very sick a couple weeks later, spending some time in the ICU. He eventually died on October 22nd. We were all in shock; actually, I think we still are.

Granola Bars

I really have not been doing much cooking at all since I had my baby, though I have managed to crank out the three recipes from this episode of Good Eats. Thankfully, this episode was composed of easy recipes that are not time-consuming, as I am strictly working on someone else’s unpredictable schedule now. Still, I was able to find time to whip up Alton’s granola bars. Begin by preheating your oven to 350, and spread the following ingredients on a sheet pan:  8 oz old-fashioned oats, 1.5 oz raw (unshelled) sunflower seeds, 3 oz sliced almonds, and 1.5 oz wheat germ.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ on a sheet pan.

Place the sheet pan in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, stirring the dry ingredients every five minutes. When you remove the sheet pan from the oven, decrease the oven temperature to 300.

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Old-fashioned oats, raw sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, and wheat germ after toasting.

Next it is time to prep the wet ingredients by placing 6 oz honey in a medium saucepan with 1 3/4 oz dark brown sugar, 1 oz unsalted butter, 2 t vanilla, and 1/2 t Kosher salt. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved.

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Honey, dark brown sugar, unsalted butter, vanilla, and Kosher salt.

Add the oat mix to the liquid mixture, along with 6.5 oz of chopped dried fruit (I used apricots and cranberries). Toss to mix the ingredients thoroughly.

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Oat mixture and dried fruit added to liquid ingredients.

Place the oat mixture in an oiled 9×9 pan, pressing it down with your hands.

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Granola mixture pressed into square pan.

Bake the bars at 300 degrees for 25 minutes.

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Granola mixture after baking.

Let the bars cool completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut the bars into 16 squares.

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Cooled granola bars turned onto a board.

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An Alton granola bar.

The nutrition in each granola bar is:

  • 193 calories
  • 30.5 g carbohydrates
  • 4.5 g protein
  • 6.8 g fat
  • 3.66 g fiber
  • 61.3 mg sodium

My bars crumbled a bit when I cut them, but they tasted really great. They were crunchy and chewy, and had a subtle hint of salt to compliment the sweetness of the fruit. I found myself reaching for these bars as an afternoon snack, and I ate some of the crumbly bits with yogurt for breakfast. This was my favorite recipe of this episode.

Protein Bars

If you’ve ever eaten a protein bar, you know they tend to taste less than stellar. With this recipe, Alton claims to have created the best tasting protein bar you can find anywhere. These bars start with preheating your oven to 350. While the oven heats, combine 4 oz soy protein powder, 2 1/4 oz oat bran, 2 3/4 oz whole wheat flour, 3/4 oz wheat germ, and 1/2 t Kosher salt in a bowl. I could not find soy protein powder even at my local health food store, so I finally ended up subbing whey protein powder.

Next, chop 3 oz each of raisins and dried blueberries, along with 2 1/2 oz each dried cherries and dried apricots.

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Raisins, dried blueberries, dried apricots, and dried cherries.

In a second bowl, whisk together a 12.3 oz package of silken tofu, 4 oz dark brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 C unfiltered apple juice, and 2/3 C natural peanut butter. For those who have peanut allergies, you can substitute almond or cashew butter.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, and apple juice.

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Silken tofu, dark brown sugar, eggs, apple juice, and peanut butter.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped dried fruit.

Use your hands to thoroughly mix the batter, and pour/press the finished batter into a 9×13″ pan that has been lined with oiled parchment paper.

Bake the bars at 350 for 35 minutes, or until they have an internal temperature of 205 degrees.

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Bars after baking to an internal temperature of 205.

Cool the bars completely on a wire rack before turning them out onto a board, and cut with a pizza wheel into 24 bars.

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Bars, cut into 24 pieces.

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Alton’s protein bars.

These bars can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or in the freezer for up to three months. These bars are dense and cakey, and I really like the flavor/moisture from the dried fruit. They do have a fairly strong peanut butter flavor, so I’d opt for a different nut butter if you do not care for peanut butter. While I wouldn’t say these are a treat, they are pretty tasty for what they are, and I have grabbed them for a quick snack when I haven’t had time to eat. The nutritional breakdown for these bars is:

  • 154 calories
  • 21.1 g carbohydrates
  • 8.4 g protein
  • 4.8 g fat
  • 2.1 g fiber
  • 91.9 mg sodium
  • 17.7 mg cholesterol

Brown Rice Crispy Bar

The last bar Alton tackles in this episode is his take on the classic Rice Krispies treat. For his bars, Alton brings a pot of water to a bare simmer, placing a large metal mixing bowl over the top (my mixing bowls are insulated, so I used a large pot).

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Ingredients for bars: dried fruit, mini marshmallows, honey, flax seed oil, and puffed brown rice. Not pictured: toasted slivered almonds.

To the bowl he adds 1 T honey, 3 T flax seed oil, and 7 oz miniature marshmallows. He stirs the mixture until it is melted and smooth.

Once melted, he turns the heat off, but keeps the marshmallow mixture over the warm water. To this he adds 3 oz puffed brown rice, 3 oz toasted slivered almonds (I toasted my almonds in a skillet), 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cranberries, 1 1/2 oz chopped dried cherries, and 1 oz dried blueberries.

After stirring everything together, he dumps the mixture into a 9×13″ pan (metal is best) that has been oiled with vegetable or canola oil. With oiled hands (I find that using damp hands works just as well) he presses the mixture down into the pan and allows the pan to cool completely before cutting into 24 bars.

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Bar mixture placed in oiled pan.

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Alton’s rice crispy bars.

I had really high hopes for these bars because I am a fan of Rice Krispies treats, but these were super disappointing to me. My biggest grievance with these bars was their texture, which resembled stale cereal. After reading the online reviews of this recipe, I also saw that some people complained of the flax seed flavor, but that didn’t really bother me too much. Honestly, I tried to like these, but just couldn’t get past their unappealing texture. I did, however, like the dried fruit in these, so maybe I’ll add some dried fruit when I next make Rice Krispies treats. Nutrition-wise, these bars have:

  • 93.8 calories
  • 15.1 g carbohydrates
  • 1.16 g protein
  • 3.7 g fat
  • 1 g fiber
  • 4.3 mg sodium

While I breeze through some episodes, this episode was one that took a little while for me to complete. Not only were there five recipes in this episode, but they also all contained nuts; this made for some pretty rich food, so I had to space the recipes out a little bit. First was Alton’s cashew sauce.

Cashew Sauce

This recipe is really two recipes in one:  one for cashew butter, and another for the cashew sauce that is made WITH the cashew butter. To make the cashew butter, combine 10 ounces of roasted/unsalted cashews with two heavy pinches of Kosher salt in a food processor.

Place 2 T honey in the microwave for ~15 seconds to loosen it up, and combine the honey with 1/3 C walnut oil.

With the food processor running, slowly add the oil/honey until the mixture is smooth.

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Honey/oil drizzling into cashews.

If you just want cashew butter, you can stop here.

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Cashew butter.

To continue on and make Alton’s cashew sauce, whisk 1/2 C of your cashew butter with 3/4 C coconut milk and 1/4 t cayenne pepper in a saucier over medium heat. Once smooth, use the sauce as desired.

Alton recommended serving the cashew sauce over chicken or rice. I chose to serve my cashew sauce over some sweet potato “noodles” and meatballs, along with a little bit of cilantro.

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Cashew sauce served over sweet potato noodles and meatballs.

IMG_7353First off, Alton’s cashew butter is super delicious; it’s sort of like a richer, sweeter, better peanut butter, and it is great on pretty much anything. We were also fans of the cashew sauce, which was rich, nutty, and had a perfect punch of heat from the cayenne pepper. And, if you are too lazy to make your own nut butter (it is worth it, though), you could always use purchased nut butter to make the sauce. This sauce is also super versatile, as you could use it over meat, pasta, or vegetables.

Pistachio Mixed Herb Pesto

I love pesto and it is something I make every summer. I typically make basil pesto, so I can use up the last of my fresh basil, freeze the pesto in batches, and continue to dream of summer as the weather gets colder. Sage pesto is nice to make in the fall too! Alton’s pesto recipe in this episode was a little different from the other pestos I have made in the past, as parsley was the primary herb and toasted pistachios were the nut of choice (I toasted my pistachios in a 400 degree oven for ~5 minutes).

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Ingredients for pesto: garlic, thyme, tarragon, sage, oregano, olive oil, Parmesan, parsley, and toasted pistachios.

To make Alton’s pesto, drop 1/2 to 1 clove of garlic into the lid of a running blender, chopping the garlic finely (I opted for a full clove since I like garlic). When the garlic is chopped, turn off the blender and add 2 T fresh lemon thyme (I could not find lemon thyme, so used regular thyme), 2 T fresh tarragon, 1 T fresh sage, 1 T fresh oregano, 2 C packed flat leaf parsley, 1/2 C grated Parmesan, and 3/4 C toasted pistachios.

With the blender running, drizzle in 2/3 C olive oil until emulsified.

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Pesto, after drizzling in olive oil.

Alton recommends serving his pesto on pesto or toast. I served the pesto over zucchini “noodles” with fresh Parmesan.

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Pesto over zucchini noodles.

This pesto is super flavorful, tastes like a variety of herbs, and has great color. Since everyone always thinks of basil and pine nuts/walnuts for pesto, this version really mixes things up. And, if you happen to have fresh herbs in your garden, this can also be a relatively inexpensive pesto recipe. Give this one a try for a tasty twist on pesto.

Pistachio Fruit Balls

For a sweet treat using nuts, Alton made these pistachio fruit balls.

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Ingredients for pistachio fruit balls: roasted pistachios, dates, dried apricots, orange juice, golden raisins, creme de cassis, and dried cherries.

Begin this recipe by grinding 1 C roasted pistachios in a food processor. Set the pistachios aside.

Next, in a large bowl combine 1/2 C pitted dates, 1/2 C dried apricots, 1/2 C golden raisins, and 1 C dried cherries.

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Combined dried fruit.

Run the dried fruit mixture through a meat grinder with a medium die, catching the ground fruit in a bowl.

Add half of the ground pistachios to the ground fruit, along with 1 T fresh orange juice and 2 T creme de cassis. Note:  creme de cassis is a black currant liqueur.

Using your hands, work the mixture together until thoroughly combined. Once combined, use a melon baller to form individual balls of the fruit mixture, and roll the balls in the remaining ground pistachios.

If you find that the mixture is too sticky, you can put some vegetable oil on your hands. Store the fruit balls in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Pistachio fruit balls.

The online reviews of this recipe are mixed, which I find surprising. We thought these were a really great, healthy, sweet snack. Some reviewers complained of this being a messy or difficult recipe, but I found neither to be the case at all. You could always substitute a different liqueur if you did not have creme de cassis, but I wanted to test the recipe as written. These fruit balls had just the perfect amount of sweetness, held together perfectly, and had great crunch from the pistachios. We ate these as a snack every day for a week. I liked this recipe!

Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi

When Alton made this recipe in the episode, he used mahi mahi, but I could not find mahi mahi where I live. Instead, Ted splurged and picked up a couple halibut fillets. This recipe makes enough for four servings, so I halved the recipe for us. To make the recipe for four servings, coarsely crush 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts; you can do this in the food processor or you can put them in a tea towel and whack it on the counter.

Put the macadamias in a bowl and add 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted. Stir the mixture to combine and set it aside.

Preheat your oven to 425, placing a rack in the center of the oven. While the oven preheats, line a sheet pan with foil and brush it liberally with vegetable oil. Place fish fillets (6-8 ounces each) on the foil and season them with Kosher salt and pepper.

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Fish fillets placed on lubed foil and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Stick the fish in the preheated oven for five minutes to par cook.

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Par cooking the fish.

Remove the fish from the oven and brush it with coconut milk; it should take about 2 T.

Pat the nut mixture lightly onto the fish, crumpling the foil up around the edges of the fish to keep the nut crust from sliding off.

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Nut crust patted onto fish, and foil propped up.

Stick the fish back in the oven for 5-10 more minutes, or until golden brown. My crust took the full 10 minutes to be golden.

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Fish after cooking.

Let the fish rest at room temperature for ~10 minutes before eating. Honestly, I was worried that the time needed to make my nut crust golden would render my fish overcooked, but the fish turned out to be perfectly cooked. We enjoyed this on a warm evening, with a glass of white wine and a squeeze of lemon.

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Alton’s macadamia nut crusted fish.

This is a rich fish dish that would be worthy of serving for a special occasion. The fish was moist and the nut crust was rich, crunchy, buttery, and nutty. Great recipe. Oh, and if you don’t know, keep the macadamia nuts away from your dogs, as they are toxic.

Macadamia Nut Crust

It turns out that the macadamia nut crust above can also be used as a pie crust. So, again, to make the crust, chop 5 ounces of roasted macadamia nuts (you can roast them in the oven for about 5 minutes at 400 degrees).

Combine the chopped macadamia nuts with 2 T flour, 1/2 C Panko bread crumbs, and 1/2 a stick of butter, melted.

Pat the crust mixture into a pie plate and use with any pie filling recipe. If you need to blind bake the crust for your pie recipe, bake it at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Well, I ended up making this pie crust twice. I needed to blind bake my crust because I was making a no-bake key lime pie, but it turns out that 20 minutes is way too long to blind bake this crust. Yep, my first crust was scorched.

When I made the crust the second time, I began checking it at 10 minutes and it was done in about 15.

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A slice of key lime pie with macadamia crust.

This crust added a great crunch and nutty flavor to my pie, and it was very easy to prep with no rolling/chilling of dough. The downside of this crust was that it was super crumbly, so it didn’t make for pretty slices of pie. Other than that, though, this was a buttery, nutty, crispy pie crust.