Oatmeal Chocolate Banana Bread Bars


So you are hungry. You have nothing yummy to eat and you don’t want to go to the store. Besides the last time you read the labels on those so called natural granola bars, it made you cry. Well, just whip up a batch of these super easy oatmeal bars and you have breakfast, lunch, or dessert!  I was really tempted to add some peanut butter, but I wanted to try them the way the recipe called at least the first time.  I did add pecans to half the pan which were not called for, and I actually like them better than the side without nuts.

These remind of something I have had before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. My childhood? Food from an era before mass production of fake processed and chemically “enhanced” foods? Perhaps. It’s just simple homemade, chewy, moist and chocolatey with a hint of  banana. So what if you are one of the few people who do not like chocolate? I will allow you to omit the sinful dark confection for something else, but you will be missing out.

So if you are reading this and wondering what’s actually in that last store bought granola bar you ate, let me show you this. This is taken from what is advertised as “healthy” and “low fat”. All I see here is a long list of ingredients and many of them I have no idea what they are or how they are made or where they actually come from and we shouldn’t be eating them. In case you are not familiar with some of these items, I have provided links below to the definition and uses. Some were quite shocking to know that they are in these granola bars, but also can be used in jet fuel, cigarettes, or in cleaning products. Makes you think!

::: CHEWY CHOCOLATE CHIP BARS :::
Ingredients:

GRANOLA (WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED OATS, BROWN SUGAR, CRISP RICE [RICE FLOUR, SUGAR, SALT, MALTED BARLEY EXTRACT],WHOLE GRAIN ROLLED WHEAT, SOYBEAN OIL, DRIED COCONUT, WHOLE WHEATFLOUR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SOY LECITHIN, CARAMEL COLOR, NONFAT DRYMILK), SEMISWEET CHOCOLATE CHIPS (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE LIQUOR, COCOABUTTER, SOY LECITHIN, VANILLA EXTRACT), CORN SYRUP, BROWN RICE CRISP (WHOLE GRAIN BROWN RICE, SUGAR, MALTED BARLEY FLOUR, SALT), INVERTSUGAR, SUGAR, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, GLYCERIN, SOYBEAN OIL. CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF SORBITOL, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SALT, WATER, SOY LECITHIN, MOLASSES, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, BHT (preservative), CITRIC ACID.

I don’t know about you, but how about we make something with far less ingredients and chemicals in it. You know they say we should be eating how our great-grandparents or grand-parents ate. Very little processed foods, homemade, organic (that was norm), whole foods and fresh ingredients. It’s really not that difficult, and this treat whips up in about 10 minutes and cooks in only 25.  Be prepared for a taste sensation – and try NOT eat the whole pan in one day.


Oatmeal Bars


Yield about 20-32 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 very ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil or softened butter
  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 – 1 cup pecan halves (optional)

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Lightly grease an 8×12″ stone baking dish and set aside.
  • In a large bowl or mixer, mash the banana.
  • Add the oil and brown sugar. Beat on medium until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together.
  • Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients mixing slowly until combined.
  • Fold in chocolate chips until evenly distributed.
  • Spread mixture evenly into pan.
  • In a pattern, carefully place pecan halves in a row on top of the mixture.
  • Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are golden.
  • Let cool before cutting into squares.
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Samosa Pot Pie

If you love indian food, then you should have eaten at least one samosa in your lifetime. I have eaten dozens of these amazing little potato filled dough triangles. They are scrumptious. They have the just the right amount of seasoning and spice, combined with potatoes and peas they are the Indian version of American Pot Pies.

The only bad things about traditional samosas is they are far too small for a main meal, and they are usually deep fried. Well, what if I told you, you can take all the same elements and turn them into a ginormous pot pie that will feed 8-10 people?  You’re welcome.

Samosa Pot Pie

This recipe was inspired by one I saw on a vegetarian website, but as always I modified it to suit my family’s taste and needs.  If you are new to trying Indian cuisine, then this is a great dish to start with. It has a small amount of curry, and is not that spicy (although you can kick it up if you like to sweat while you eat.)  You can also add other veggies to it as you like, and serve it with a mint-cilantro sauce and your favorite chutney. We used Kozlowski Farms Apricot & Mango Roasted Chipotle Sauce. This is sweet with a little kick and can also be used for dips, grilling, and marinades. My husband loved this sauce so much over half the bottle is gone. Or if you want something with a little less heat, you might want to try Kozlowski Farms Mango & Apricot Chutney. 

Apricot & Mango Chipotle Sauce

Since this is a larger size pot pie, it’s perfect for a dinner party or potluck. If you have a large family this will be plenty to fill them up. Personally I prefer to have leftovers. Since my man is vegan, it’s much easier for us to have food prepared at home for him to take to work.  You can also prepare this ahead of time and freeze it. So what are you waiting for, go get your curry on!


:::  Samosa Pot Pie :::   Serves 8-10

Crust

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs butter (or vegan margarine)
  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1½ tsp dehydrated toasted onion spice *
  • 10-15 tbs of ice water

Filling

  • 7-8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed ( I cut each potato into 6 cubes)
  • 1 Tbs. mustard powder
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ⅛ tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
  • 3 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 medium to large onion, diced
  • 2 medium carrot, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen spinach
  • 1 to 2 cups water (or vegetable broth)
  • 2 tsp  sugar

For the Crust: Preheat oven to 400°F.

  1. Using your food processor, blend flour, salt, butter and slowly add in oil until clumps form.
  2. Add ice cold water, 1 Tbs. at a time, until dough holds together.
  3. Shape into 2 balls, one slightly larger than the other. 
  4. Roll out larger ball of dough (on floured surface) first to fit bottom & sides of pan
  5. Lay crust in pan and poke fork holes on bottom. Press edges up and make sure they come all the way up to the edge of the pan. I used an 11-inch circular cake pan, so I could have a thicker filling than a regular pie tin.  If you like less filling or just want a smaller pot pie, use 2-3 less potatoes and use a traditional pie tin.

For the Filling:

  1. Stir together mustard, curry, ginger, cumin, turmeric, paprika and red pepper flakes, if using, in bowl; set aside.
  2. Cook potatoes in boiling salted water 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain, return to pot, and mash, leaving small chunks.
  3. While potatoes are cooking, heat oil in skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add onion, carrot, and garlic, and sauté 7 -10 minutes, or until carrot is tender.
  5. Move onion mixture to side of pan, and add mustard seed mixture in center. Toast 30 seconds.
  6. Stir in peas, spinach and water (or broth). Fold onion mixture into potato mixture; stir in sugar.
  7. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.

Final Assembly:

  1. Scoop filling into pie/cake pan with the bottom crust
  2. Leave edges of crust clean so you can crimp the top and bottom crusts together
  3. Roll out second ball of dough big enough to cover the top of your pot pie 
  4. Cover filling with dough
  5. Using a little water, wet the edges of the bottom crust and start crimping the two crust edges together
  6. Trim away excess dough
  7. Cut X in center to vent steam
  8. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until crust is golden.
  9. Let stand 5 minutes before serving

* Dehydrated Toasted Onion Spice is from the Savory Spice Shop located in downtown Santa Rosa, CA. I bought this spice for the first time a couple months ago and this stuff tastes great on almost everything. One of my favorites was steamed fresh green beans with toasted almond slivers, a little olive oil and a sprinkling of the toasted onion and OMG they were to die for delicious. It really makes a difference using this version versus just granulated onion.  If you don’t have a spice shop near you, you can order this one online from the Savory Spice Shop.

So Many Recipes, So Little Time

Back in January this year, my life drastically changed. The decision was made for me; I was laid off from my full time Accounting Manager position due to budgetary cutbacks.  So what’s a creative person to do with all this sudden time on their hands?  1. Organize  2.  Be the best “Soccer Mom” or in my case “Dance Mom” I can be   3. Surf the internet  4. Catch up on 4 years of TV shows I missed   5. Start watching “Downton Abbey” and  6. Go back to cooking real, fresh homemade meals, the kind that take all day to prepare and days to plan, why? Because I can.

I have always loved reading and researching recipes.  Clipping them out of a magazine, printing them from online, hand copying  family or friends ingredients and instructions, because it was just so good I had to take the time to scrawl it on some scratch paper.  What always ends up is a pile of papers, in no particular order just sitting in a binder calling me, whispering sweetly to me, “Tikaaaaa…. Tika, TIKA! Come create me.” Then my regular life takes over and I just stick to the basic meals I know.  When you only have 20-30 minutes to get some food on the table for your clan, you tend to choose what you know and what’s easy.  Let’s face it I have stuck my fair share of microwave frozen meals the speedy machine to cook up a super fast meal.

For the past few years I have started to adopt the thinking that we need to eat freshly made, unprocessed foods like our grandparents and great grandparents used to eat. While I have a huge challenge in that regard, because my husband is a vegan.  I grew up with a mother who cooked home homestyle comfort food and I still crave things like meatloaf, pot roast, roasted chicken and spaghetti & meatballs.  I do like to use some vegetarian mock meat options when cooking to substitute for the real thing. When cooked properly, they taste great and work well in most recipes. Out of respect for my husbands beliefs we eat mostly vegetarian at home, only cooking fish once in a while for my daughter and myself.  But after 4 years of dedicating a lot of time to my past employer, I realize that when I did have time to cook  (when I was not too exhausted from a 1-2 hour commute each way), I would choose one of about 10 standard meals we all liked.

  1. Spaghetti & Meatless Meatballs
  2. Taco/Burrito Night
  3. Falafels
  4. Chinese Chicken-less Salad
  5. Make your own Pizza night
  6. Stir Fry
  7. Tortilla Soup/ Chili
  8. Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes
  9. Coconut Pineapple Curry
  10. Baked Potatoes with all the fixin’s

To be honest, we really like all the choices above.  And there were days when I would have more time, or get more creative with things like Vegan Shepherds Pie,  Lasagna with Tofu Ricotta,  Enchiladas,  Roasted Vegetable Bruschetta, or Caramelized Onions & Mushrooms Tartlets.  But one can only have so much of the same thing and when your brain is drained, it is very hard to be inventive. I have already tried several new recipes since my recent friendship with unemployment began and my family and I have been loving it.

I have recently decided that I really want to start to get away from canned goods. I realized most of what I bought in cans was beans and corn.  Well, it turns out with a little foresight, homemade beans are pretty dang easy and they taste 100 times better then what comes in a can. Also YOU choose what goes in your food, no extra sodium or chemicals lining the walls of a can leaching into your food.  I really try to buy organic when possible, call me a chemical snob, but I truly think that most organic foods simply just taste better.  Here is a link on how to make your own beans from scratch.  It’s so easy a monkey could do it!  Here is a link from Simple Bites on to how to make beans from dried: http://www.simplebites.net/a-simple-guide-to-cooking-dried-beans 

This new blog is only the tip of the iceberg for me. I want to share my creativeness, ideas, fabulous finds with all of you, especially for the extremely busy, working or stay at home moms, dads, college student, who just need a little inspiration or push in the right direction.  I have so many recipes that I will try out for you and give you advice or my take on. Also when I discover a restaurant or store, I love to share the experience with my friends, especially when they go above and beyond what is expected.

I have always (seriously always – at least as long as computers have been around) wanted to have a blog. I feel that I have a lot of different skills, talents, and information to share. Some I learned on my own and some if it researched, explored or learned from a friend. If you choose to take this journey with me,  we can learn all about the so many wonderful things our modern world has to offer.

So raise a glass or high five someone in the room with you, and lets get going on my biggest adventure yet. As they say, “When one door close, another door opens!”