Strawberry “Nutri-grain” Snack Bars.

I was traveling for work this week. That meant four nights in a hotel, with – dun dun DUN – no access to a kitchen! And as nice as it is to have the hotel make you breakfast every morning, I am now sick to death of *other people’s* food. I want Kelly food again! After all, who is Kelly if she isn’t in the Kitchen? So to celebrate being home again, I made these snack bars. Snacks might be the worst part of travel food – the standard options are almost always processed, over-salted, and packed with sugar. Gross. These are the opposite of the airport convenience store snacks I ate this week. Strawberry Nurtri-grain-esque snack bars – yay, I’m home!

Strawberry "Nutri-grain" Snack Bars | KellyintheKitchen | 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 2 tbsp butter, melted (or coconut oil), 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 1/4 cups almond meal, 1 tbsp coconut flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 10 medium-sized strawberries, 1 tbsp honey, pinch salt

INGREDIENTS

for crust:
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup peanut butter
2 tbsp butter, melted (or go for coconut oil if you want)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups almond meal
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 tsp salt

for filling*:
10 medium-sized strawberries, washed, dried, stems removed
1 tbsp honey
pinch salt
*if you don’t want to make the filling, just skip this step and use use 1/2 cup pre-made jam.

DIRECTIONS

First, make the crust. Combine maple syrup, honey, peanut butter, butter, and vanilla extract. Stir in almond meal and salt until dough comes together. Refrigerate 1 hour.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Use a food processor to totally blitz the strawberries and honey. Transfer the puree to a pan, add salt, and heat over medium low. Bring to a low bubble and stir occasionally. Cook about 15 minutes, until reduced and thickened. You should end up with about 1/2 cup of cooked filling. Put it in the fridge to cool down.

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Preheat oven to 350 F. Then take the chilled dough out of the fridge and split it into quarters. Put one quarter on a sheet of parchment paper and put the rest back in the fridge. Roll the dough out between two pieces of parchment paper, into a long rectangle. Trim the sides so that it’s actually a rectangle and not a free-form wavy-edge shape. Then spread one quarter of the strawberry filling over half of the rectangle.

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Use the parchment paper to gently fold the non-filling half over the filling half, creating a long seam. Cut into bars and use your fingers to pinch the sides closed, so the filling doesn’t leak out (mine did leak out a bit and it really wasn’t a big deal). Carefully move the bars to a baking sheet and put them in the fridge to keep cool while you repeat the process with the rest of the dough.

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Bake for about 10 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the edges are darkened.

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That’s it! These are good right out of the oven, but they’re also super good at room temperature. Make sure to cool them completely before storing in a sealed container; they’re best when eaten within 2-3 days.

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Toasted Marshmallow Coffee Brownies.

My many experiments in non-traditional baking have had mixed results—sometimes they turn out delicious, sometimes they are horrible failures, and sometimes they’re surprisingly, differently good. Because I’m lucky enough not to have any food allergies (*knocks on wood*), I’ve tried a lot of different methods, including gluten-free, grain-free, low-sugar, low-carb, and always with as little processed foods as possible. I feel experienced enough now to say that most of these substitution-based recipes are only better than the original if you have no other options (or are totally delusional). It’s the hard truth about healthy desserts.

The results definitely range though, depending on the baked good, and I think cookie recipes are the worst offenders. No matter what healthier option you try to sub in or out, there is no cookie better than the one on the back of the Toll House bag (that recipe is nearly perfect, by the way – if you use a little less flour than called for, and a little more vanilla and brown sugar, you’ll have the ABSOLUTE perfect chocolate chip cookie).

Meanwhile, I’ve found that brownies are the most flexible when it comes to subbing. For whatever reason, they can take a replacement here and there and still turn out totally delicious. That’s what we have here – a gluten-free, grain-free, soft and chewy chocolatey brownie recipe, with a little something special on top. I’d put these crumbly goodies up against any other brownie recipe I’ve made! What a wonderful taste test that would be…

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INGREDIENTS

6 tbsp butter
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup hot coffee
splash of vanilla
1/2 packed brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 packed tbsp coconut flour
3 tbsp potato starch (I haven’t tried it, but corn starch should work here, too)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
about 14 jumbo marshmallows

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a double-boiler, melt the butter and chocolate chips together until smooth. Remove from heat and let cool slightly before stirring in one egg at a time, followed by coffee, vanilla, and brown sugar.

Sift together cocoa powder, coconut flour, potato starch, baking soda, and salt. Stir dry ingredients into batter and pour into greased 8×8 baking dish.

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Dot the surface of the batter with marshmallows. Love those cute & fluffy little pillows.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the center is set. If you stick a toothpick into the center, it doesn’t need to come out totally clean, but it shouldn’t be wet. Be conscious of the marshmallows burning; I ended up tenting a sheet of foil over the pan to slow the browning partway through the bake time. When the brownies are baked, remove them from the oven.

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As they cool, the brownies and marshmallows will deflate and fall a little bit. Good, the more condensed the better! If you’re planning to cut the brownies into nice neat squares, you may want to adjust your expectations, because these are gooey and crumbly. You’ll want to cool them at least an hour, if not more, and potentially give them some fridge time to firm up if you need them to really hold together. If you don’t mind a crumbly brownie, then ignore me and eat them whenever you want. They’re dang delicious!

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Blueberry Almond Crisp in a Skillet.

I was up in the suburbs for some errands and visiting my family on Saturday, and it was the year’s first really gorgeous day of spring in Chicago. My mom and I did yoga outside while our nearly-two-year-old black lab did her best to interrupt us. It’s hard to be graceful in an inversion or a balancing pose when a 70-pound dog is sitting under you. Later, I decided I needed to make a blueberry crisp for dessert, since we had a huge bag of them in the freezer. Blueberries are definitely not my favorite fruit, and recipes like this are really the only ways I enjoy them. And how could you not? The blueberries bubble into a tart and juicy sauce and the topping is golden and buttery and good. Compared to your average fruit crisp, I’ve reduced the added sugars a wee bit, but feel free to add more. And if you like a lot of topping on your fruit crisps–as in, you want the fruit to be fully, thoroughly covered in the good stuff–you could add another 1/2 cup or so of almonds and another tablespoon or two of butter. I was trying to be well-behaved here, but my usual approach to topping a fruit crisp is the more, the merrier. Same goes for all that sun today – bring on the warm weather!

Blueberry Almond Crisp | KellyintheKitchen

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup almonds
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter, cubed
splash of vanilla
4 cups frozen blueberries
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp corn starch

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor, blitz almonds, brown sugar, and salt until the almonds are ground to about the size of small pebbles, crumbly but not powdery. Add the butter and vanilla and blitz again, until the butter is broken up into the almonds and no big hunks of butter remain. Set aside (or, if it’s gonna be a while, keep it in the fridge so the butter doesn’t melt).

Grease a cast iron skillet (or pie dish) and pour in the blueberries. Squeeze over the lemon juice and then toss with the sugar and corn starch.

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Sprinkle the topping over the blueberries, starting at the edges and working your way inward. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the fruit is bubbly and the top is golden brown. If your topping starts to brown too quickly (mine did), just lay a sheet of tinfoil over the pan. Don’t tuck the foil over the pan, but just lightly tent it.

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When the crisp is done, take it out of the oven and let it cool until it’s out of the “molten” stage. I love to eat blueberry crisp hot with a scoop of ice cream, but it’s good at room temperature, too. Whatever floats your boat. Yum.

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Balsamic Chicken with Sauteed Vegetables and Lentils.

Can we talk about lentils? Why don’t we eat more lentils in this life we lead? I realize I’m speaking for you, readers, when really I should just speak for myself…maybe you eat a lot of lentils already, or maybe you’re allergic to lentils and I’m being insensitive to your needs. Sorry. But everyone else, why aren’t lentils a bigger part of our lives?! They are cheap, good for you, SO easy to make, and incredibly versatile. They can be the star of a dish, the sidekick, or the background canvas for another ingredient’s greatness. And let me repeat how cheap they are. Most stores in my neighborhood sell a pound bag of lentils for less than a dollar, and since they do plump when you cook ’em, you end up with a LOT of lentils for very little money. They are also a great high-protein substitute for rice if that’s your thang, and since you prepare them basically the same way you prepare rice, it’s not hard to learn to make lentils. Also they taste great. Are you convinced? Good. Make this. IMG_1270 INGREDIENTS

for chicken:
3 small chicken breasts
fav all-purpose spice rub (there are 2 kinds of people: those who know that Back-of-the-Yards rub from the Spice House is the best seasoning ever, and those who haven’t tried it yet)
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar
butter

for lentils:
1/2 lb lentils
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups water
pinch of parsley
pinch of rosemary
pinch of thyme

for veggies:
1/4 onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups spinach leaves, chopped
salt and pepper
lemon juice (optional)

DIRECTIONS

IMG_1281 I believe marinades are an art, not a science. With that in mind, have a bowl or plastic bag handy and rub the chicken breasts with some spice rub and salt and pepper. Put the chicken in the bowl or bag and pour in a few teaspoons of balsamic vinegar. Let this concoction marinate in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or as long as overnight.

The lentils take a little while, so get them going next. Sort through and pick out any stones or weird looking ones, and rinse the remaining beauties. In a small pot, combine lentils, chicken stock, water, parsley, rosemary, and thyme. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer and cover. Cook until tender, and drain any remaining liquid. Set the lentils aside.

When you’re almost ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 350 F.

To cook the chicken, heat a skillet or other stove-to-oven-safe pan over medium high heat. Add some butter to the pan and let it melt, and then add the chicken breasts. I like to move each one around a little bit in the butter so that I know they’ve all had their turn in the good stuff. Make sure the chicken breasts are not touching or crowded too closely (we don’t want them to steam or braise).

When one side of the chicken has browned nicely, flip the chicken over and get some color on the second side. Once you’ve got some good color on both sides, turn off the heat and finish cooking the chicken all the way through in the oven. It’s done when the center is white, not pink, and the juices run clear. Remove from the pan and set chicken aside.

But don’t do anything to that wonderful pan! It has awesome flavor in it from the chicken. So put the pan back on the stove and turn the heat to medium low. It should still be a pretty hot pan, so add the onions, carrots, and garlic, and stir around to pick up the beautiful browned bits of flavor. Cook until softened and add the spinach, cooking just until wilted. Squeeze over a bit of lemon juice if you like.

Then add the lentils into the pan and stir to create a beautiful mottled mosaic of colorful veggies. Taste for salt and pepper, and then top with your chicken breasts for a gorgeous, rustic meal!

IMG_1284 This lasted me a few days of lunches at work, and man was it good. Lentils are just awesome. IMG_1236