Milk Chocolate “Granola” Bars

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Yesterday while at the gym I watched an episode of Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa. She made several dishes, a couple of which inspired me to replicate later that day. As I watched her whip up her batch of granola bars, I took mental notes of items that would have to be omitted. As much as I try, the kids (teens) just don’t dig dried fruit of any kind and most nuts. Shredded coconut, nope. Dried apricots, um…no. Dried cherries, love them myself, but no go. Slivered almonds, I wish (full of calcium).

So what did I pick up at the grocery later that day? Wheat germ. At least it’s a healthy and somewhat undetectable ingredient that can be masked with some sugar and butter. Did I mention that they don’t like oats? The end result was delicious, but it would be misleading to call them granola bars, hence the quotation marks.

Milk Chocolate “Granola” Bars

Pulverizing the oats in the food processor for a couple of turns makes them less distinguishable. Additions? Only add 1/2 cup of either chopped dried fruit or nuts so that the integrity of the recipe remains.

1/2 cup dry roasted almonds

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3 Tbsp. butter

1/2 cup agave syrup

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup wheat germ

1/4 tsp. salt

1 cup milk chocolate chips

1. Prepare a square 9 by 9-inch pan by greasing sides and lining bottom with parchment paper. Lightly grease top of parchment.

2. Place almonds in a food processor and process just until almonds are chopped. Add oats and pulse a few times until cut quite a bit.

3. Place almond-oat mixture on a baking pan, spreading mixture out so that the surface is covered, and toast in a 300° oven for about 10 minutes, or until mixture becomes fragrant.

4. In the meantime, combine butter, syrup, and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla; set aside to cool a bit.

5. When almond-oat mixture is toasted, remove from oven and pour into a large mixing bowl. Stir in wheat germ and salt until well blended. Add chocolate chips and combine. Pour syrup over mixture and stir until well incorporated and chocolate has melted. Spread evenly in prepared pan and bake until set, about 20 minutes.

6. When completely cooled, place a cutting board on top of pan and invert both so that the board is on the bottom. Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Cut bars into squares and wrap individually.

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Full Arc Rainbow Sighting

Just before sunset last night, nature put on quite a show for us in the Bay Area. Wish I was better equipped to capture it in its entirety, but you get the idea. Simply spectacular!

Yogurt Cake with Wine-Poached Apricots

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When it’s apricot season the obvious preparation rules, which is no preparation at all. Such a delicious fruit deserves to be left alone on the kitchen counter until fragrantly ripe and ready to bite into. But if you find yourself with too many of this fleeting fruit, consider this recipe for poaching them in rosé wine, cardamom pods, and fresh rosemary.

I used a yogurt cake recipe I had on hand from one of my favorite Greek cookbooks. Susanna Hoffman’s The Olive and The Caper (2004. Workman Publishing Co., Inc.) is so full of great recipes, insights into Greek cuisine, and history that I often find myself still reading it long after I’ve found what I was looking for. Peppered with trivia, ancient and contemporary customs and humor, it’s the type of cookbook I would like to write someday. She’s an anthropologist, specializing in the study of disasters, so it makes sense that her book has so much tragic Greek history woven through it.

If you have any white or rosé wine lingering in the fridge, now is the time to use it up. I tend to have open bottles taking up space so for this recipe I actually used equal parts dry South African Reisling and Spanish Rosé. As long as there is some rosé in the recipe, the poaching liquid and subsequent sauce will turn a lovely blush color and look perfect with rose-tinged apricots.

Yogurt Cake with Wine-Poached Apricots

Serves 6-8 people. Feel free to use any butter cake such as pound cake that can stand up to the sweetness of the syrup and the tartness of the fruit.

2 cups rosé wine

1/4 cup water

6 cardamom pods, cracked open

1 rosemary sprig

3/4 cup sugar

3 Tbsp. honey

8 ripe apricots, halved and pitted

Yogurt cake or other plain butter cake

Freshly whipped cream or creme fraiche

1. Place wine, water, cardamom pods, rosemary, sugar, and honey in a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add apricot halves so that they are all submerged, and simmer for about 7 minutes, or until apricots are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

2. With a small spatula, gently remove the apricot halves from the syrup and place on a plate. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Continue to simmer syrup until it has reduced by 1/3 and thickened a bit, about 20 minutes. Strain syrup into another container to remove cardamom pods and rosemary; chill until ready to serve.

3. To serve, spoon syrup on plate so that it pools in the center. Be generous. Place cake on top of syrup and place apricots to the side of the cake. Serve the cake with either freshly whipped cream or creme fraiche.

Happy Birthday George and Dad

Dad and George enjoying the festivities of the 4th in Sacramento.

It’s odd that the three men in my life are all Cancers. Greg, George, and my dad share so many similarities, yet are different enough that life constantly remains interesting. Private wishes for Greg. He’s a private kind of guy. But my dad, being born on the 4th of July, has always assumed that the party was for him. And George, being born on the 9th, is a true hybrid of the two. I like to think he got the best from each one.