baked oatmeal bars

cranberry almond baked oatmeal bars

I have made these several times, experimenting with different combinations of fruit, nuts, milk types and sugar amounts.  You could skip the brown sugar altogether, using the dried fruit as the only sweetener, but I think they need at least 1/4 cup brown sugar to make them palatable.  This last time, I used 3/4 cup dried cranberries, almonds, vanilla almond milk, and about 3/8 cup brown sugar and the results were quite tasty.  They will come out chewy and dense, maybe like a cross between a muffin and a chewy granola bar?

plus homemade vanilla!

Source:  Kath Eats Real Food


60 oz vodka + 18 whole vanilla beans + 2 months in a cool dark place, shaken occasionally = homemade vanilla!
*Will experiment with whiskey and bourbon at some point

baked oatmeal bars

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, etc)
3/4 cup dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, cherries, dates, coconut, etc)
   *OR 1/2 cup dried fruit and 1/4 cup seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, etc)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4- 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups milk (cow, almond, soy, etc)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C. Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a separate smaller bowl, mix wet ingredients (milk, egg, vanilla). Add wet ingredients to dry and stir to combine. Pour into a 9 x 9 baking dish and bake for 40 minutes. Let cool and cut into bars or squares.

pre- oven
 (note:  either grease the baking pan first or line with parchment paper for ease of removal from pan)

post- oven!

trail ready!


corn, tomato, avocado and black bean salad

It's summery, it's light, it's healthy, it's delicious!  You could technically make this all year round, but right now while the corn, tomatoes and herbs are fresh and local, take advantage and enjoy this salad to it's full potential.  Makes a great BBQ side dish.

A couple tips for you...don't add the avocado until the end, after you've mixed the other ingredients together and have adjusted your spices.  It'll get mushy if you stir it around too much.

The cumin and red pepper are optional because the salad is excellent with or without them.  They'll add a little Mexican kick, so I'd advise you to start with a little and go from there.  Also, this salad tastes better once it has chilled in the fridge for awhile, giving the flavors a chance to marinate.  You can adjust the overall taste before you're ready to serve and/or add optional spices to individual servings.

corn, tomato, avocado and black bean salad

2 ears fresh sweet corn OR 1 can of corn
3 tomatoes
1 small red onion
2-3 cloves garlic
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lime
1 avocado
large handful of fresh cilantro
small handful of fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
cumin (optional)
red pepper (optional)
drizzle of olive oil

If using fresh corn, remove the husks and place the corn cobs in a large pot of cold water.  Bring the water to a boil and then immediately turn off the stove, remove the corn from the water and and allow the corn to cool in the refrigerator.  If using a can of corn, open the can, drain the water and set corn aside.

Dice the onion and tomatoes and mince the garlic.  Chop the cilantro and parsley.  When the corn has cooled, slice it from the cob by standing the cob on one end, with a cutting board underneath, and slice downwards with a knife on all sides until you've removed all or most of the kernels.  Combine the corn, tomatoes, red onion, garlic, rinsed black beans, cilantro and parsley in a bowl.  Squeeze the lime juice over the salad and add salt and pepper to taste.  Add cumin and red pepper to taste if using.  At this point you can dice your avocado and carefully scrape out the chunks with a spoon and gently stir into the salad.  Drizzle the top of the salad with a little olive oil and set in the fridge, covered, to chill until ready to serve.  Serve as a side dish or on a bed of greens.  It goes excellent with chicken, fish, or BBQ.

To dice an avocado, cut in in half lengthwise, slice into cubes with a knife, them carefully scrape out the flesh with a spoon.  Remove the seed and repeat with the other half.

Some more color for your summer table


chicken and/or tofu and soba noodles with spicy peanut sauce

I found this recipe 5 years ago on Cooking Light, and have been making it ever since, with my own adaptions, on 3 different continents in fact.  Asian flavors and classic ingredients come together to create this dish that is salty, sweet, spicy, savory, crunchy and chewy all at the same time!  It is excellent leftover, cold right out of the fridge or heated up slightly if you insist.  I have no problem finishing a batch off by myself over a few days, although I will occasionally invite others to enjoy it with me.

The changes I made to Cooking Light's version:  I prefer to saute my chicken in olive oil (as opposed to boiling it in chicken broth and letting it sit), I like more garlic than what was suggested (one clove is not enough for me), and sometimes substitute some of the chicken for tofu (don't be afraid) as well as add more veggies (broccoli, more carrots and green onions, mushrooms, depending on what I have or feel like).  You could substitute all the chicken for tofu if you wish (no explanation necessary).  If you refuse to eat tofu, well then ignore all references to it on this page and eat chicken!

1.  If you add a lot more stuff (i.e. noodles, veggies, chicken, tofu) than what the recipes calls for, make some extra sauce so you still get all the flavor that is intended.  You don't need to measure the sauce ingredients exactly, but adjust for taste and consistency.  After you mix everything together, you can always make a little more sauce and mix it in if you need to.
2.  If you're in Asia, of Asian descent, or more worldly than I was before I traveled outside the Midwest, then you've probably experienced the deliciousness of tofu, and understand that it absorbs whatever flavor it is mixed with and provides a quality, low fat, cheap, vegetable-sourced protein which comes in different forms and textures.  Extra firm tofu works best for grilling or sauteing, like you would chicken.  There's a chance it's marked on the package, but if not, then use the resources you have available (i.e. translator or common sense).  Regardless, you'll want to drain as much water out of it as possible.  You can do this by wrapping the block of tofu in a few layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and placing it between two plates.  Let it sit for 15-30 min so the water has a chance to absorb into the towels.  Then, slice it into 1/4- 1/2 inch pieces before grilling it.
3.  Soba noodles are Japanese buckwheat noodles.  You can probably find them at a large grocery store or Asian supermarket.  I was able to find them in New Zealand, Korea and Missouri, USA.  They are delicious and chewy and high in protein and they only take about 3 minutes to cook in boiling water!  However, you could substitute the soba noodles for whole wheat spaghetti.  The cook time is longer for spaghetti, so plan your steps accordingly.

chicken and/or tofu and soba noodles with spicy peanut sauce

2-3 carrots, peeled and shaved into thin strips using a vegetable peeler
1-2 tbsps olive oil
1 pound chicken breast (substitute all or part of it with extra firm tofu)
1/3 cup chicken broth (use prepared chicken broth, homemade, or dissolve one chicken bouillon cube into one cup boiling water and use what you need) *If you make extra sauce, you'll need more than 1/3 cup
1/3 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1 tablespoon peeled, chopped fresh ginger OR 3/4 tsp ground ginger (fresh is better though)
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsps honey
1-2 tsps crushed red pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups cooked soba noodles (about 10 oz uncooked noodles)
6 tbsps sliced green onions
6 tbsps dry roasted peanuts

Combine 1/3 cup broth, peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, honey, red pepper, and garlic in a bowl.  Stir with a whisk until smooth.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Season chicken breast with salt and pepper.  Cook on one side until browned, 3-4 minutes.  Flip to the other side and brown.  If chicken is not yet done in the center, lower heat and cook until done.  Set aside to cool, then slice.  *If cooking tofu also, you'll still want to start with the chicken, then de-glaze your pan with some vinegar, add more olive oil, and brown the tofu slices on both sides, then cut into strips or pieces.  See note 2 for tips.

grilled tofu

While chicken is cooking, boil the water for the soba noodles and cook according to package directions.  When they are done, drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking process.

Combine noodles, chicken, carrots and peanut sauce into a large bowl.  Toss to coat.  Sprinkle with green onions and roasted peanuts. 


homemade wheat thins

my homemade wheat thins

If you're feeling up for it, try making your own wheat thins.  They taste almost exactly like the boxed version, sans the preservatives, with the added charm of not all looking perfectly uniform (well, mine didn't).  They require more work than opening a box of Nabiscos, but if you're trying to stay away from overly processed food, this is a relatively easy compromise.  One more option for something to dip into 5-minute hummus too.  You go Susie Homemaker!

Source:  two peas & their pod

homemade wheat thins

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsps sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top
1/4 tsp paprika
4 tbsps cold butter
1/4 cup water (you might need to add a little more)
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with wax paper.

Mix flour, sugar, salt and paprika in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the bowl.  Using a pastry blender or your fingertips, mix the butter into the dry ingredients until well incorporated.  Mix water and vanilla together in a small bowl or cup and pour into the butter/flour mixture until a dough forms.  If it's too dry, add a little more water.

Divide the dough into 4 pieces.  Work with one piece at a time and keep the others covered with a towel so they don't dry out.  Lightly flour your work surface and rolling pin (or wine bottle) and roll the dough flat into a large rectangle as thin as possible, about 1/16 inch thick all the way across.  Lift up the dough and re-flour your surface as needed so the dough doesn't stick.  Use a pizza or pastry cutter to trim the edges and cut the rectangle into squares, wheat thin size, about 1 to 1/ 1/2 inches wide.  Save your edge scraps, and keep them under the towel so they don't dry out.

Transfer the squares to your baking sheets and sprinkle with salt.  Unlike cookies, they won't spread out when they bake, so you can place them close together.  Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the other pieces of dough, including your dough scraps to finish off with a final batch of crackers.

I actually used a cake pan, but it worked

Bake the crackers about 5-10 minutes, until crisp and lightly browned.  Keep a close eye on them as they can burn very quickly.  Check them at 5 minutes, and if some of the thinner ones are browning too quickly, remove them from the oven.  Remove crackers from the oven and cool on a piece of wax paper or wire rack.  Store them in an airtight container.

cute, right?

I hid many of the 'cute' ones from the above picture at the bottom. ;)


strawberry rhubarb oatmeal crisp

strawberry rhubarb oatmeal crisp

I should've posted this sooner, as the rhubarb harvest is done for the season.  I'm good at procrastinating...  However, this is one I wanted to document now to have for next spring, or just in case you can still find some rhubarb this year, OR you planned ahead and have some rhubarb in your freezer from this year!  I adapted the recipe from The Bionic Baker by using half the oat mixture recommended in order to have a higher fruit to crisp ratio. 

If you are a rhubarb virgin, give it a try.  It's that vegetable that looks like red celery.  It's very tart on it's own, but makes a harmonious mate for sweet strawberries, some extra sugar and splash of citrus.  Whatever you do, don't eat the leaves!  They are gorgeously big and green, but poisonous to humans.  Apparently not rabbits and/or deer though, who allegedly enjoyed my rhubarb leaves to the point of killing all my plants one year.  And rhubarb is supposed to be one of those very hearty, easy to grow plants that comes back every year.  Pfff.  I haven't developed my green thumb yet...

So back to the recipe... you should start the compote first, and while it's simmering, you can get the crisp part going and then set aside.  After the compote is done, stick it in the freezer to cool it off faster.  Before you assemble the actual crisp,  you'll want to preheat your oven.

If you don't want to make a crisp, the compote is delicious by itself, or served with ice cream, over your oatmeal, angel food cake, or whatever you deem a worthy canvas.

strawberry rhubarb oatmeal crisp

strawberry rhubarb compote

3 cups rhubarb, leaves removed and thinly sliced
3 cups strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped
1 1/4 cup sugar
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tbsp cornstarch

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan over low-med heat.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes, until the rhubarb has cooked down.  Cool to room temperature.

oatmeal crisp

1 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter (1 stick), cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Add butter cubes, and using your fingertips, incorporate the butter into the dry mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. 

When ready to assemble the crisp, press half the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8 baking pan.  Spread compote over the bottom layer.  Sprinkle the remaining half of the oatmeal mixture evenly over the top and lightly press down.  Bake for 30-40 minutes in a preheated 350 degree F oven until top is lightly browned and edges are bubbling.  Serve warm or cold, with or without ice cream.



Ratatouille (pronounced rat-ah-TOO-ee) sounds fancy because it's French, but is in fact nothing but a rustic stewed vegetable dish, originating in the Provence area of France.  In fact, the French word touiller means to toss food.  Typically containing tomatoes, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), and bell peppers, it's a great way to use up those summer veggies from the garden.  As with most one-pot meals that are thrown together, exact proportions are not necessary or possible sometimes.  The following recipe is a just a base to start with.  Throw in what you have and season with spices to your taste (and pretend you're Remy the rat/chef from the movie if you wish).  I used oregano and parsley and some lavender salt I had on hand, and it turned out great.  There's not much you could do to mess this up.  Serve with chicken, fish, pasta, rice, or bread and/or sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese.  This should keep in the fridge in a covered dish for at least a week or two.


2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
8 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cans tomatoes, diced (or use fresh tomatoes!)
2 eggplants, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 zucchini, chopped or sliced
1 tbsp dried oregano and/or herbes de provence (thyme, basil, rosemary, lavender, fennel....)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Saute onions until golden, add garlic and saute a minute more.  Then add tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper and zucchini.  Season with salt, pepper and herbs.  Cover pot with a lid and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, simmer slowly and stir occasionally until vegetables are tender and flavors have had a chance to meld, about 30-45 minutes.

ratatouille served with grilled chicken

peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (gluten free)

These cookies are awesome, and just HAPPEN to be gluten free because they are made with oats and contain no flour.  This recipe is closely related to the Trader Joe's version, with a couple tweaks I found on Make it Naked.  Full of fiber, protein and chocolate!, they are the perfect treat to pack for energy burning pursuits like hiking, biking, paddling, etc. (although I can tell you from experience that half of them may disappear during the car ride there.... )

peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (makes about 4 dozen)

1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup peanut butter (I used natural creamy pb)
3 cups rolled oats
6 oz chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or 180 degrees C.
Cream together butter and sugars with electric mixer.  Add eggs, vanilla, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg and mix well.  Add peanut butter and mix.  Stir in oats, chocolate chips and walnuts using a large wooden spoon until combined. 
With a teaspoon, drop a spoonful of dough for each cookie onto a greased or wax paper-covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly browned on the edges.  Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before transferring from the pan.  Then, with a spatula, scrape the cookies from the pan and let cool completely on wax paper or wire rack.