Wednesday, March 28, 2012

S'mores Granola Bars

If you followed my trial of Raspberry Granola Bars you know that I left that experiment happy but unsatisfied.  Looking for more of a chewy chocolate chip version this time, I ended on this recipe from Simple Organized Living after quite the search.  I changed a few things to use up what I already had in the pantry: I added those dry marshmallow bits that come in hot chocolate mixes (bulk from Yoder’s), traded the flax seed for a little unsweetened coconut, and used all honey in place of the corn syrup.

Ready for a school lunch!
You will need
½ cup honey ($5.97 per 32oz, $5.97/32oz = $.19 x 4oz = $.76)

½ cup brown sugar ($.99 per 16oz, $.99/2.35 cups = $.42 x .5 cup = $.21)

½ cup homemade peanut butter ($.26 per oz, $.26 x 4oz = $1.04)

2 cups organic rolled oats ($1.49 per lb, $1.49/16oz = $.09 x 8oz = $.75)

2 cups Rice Krispies ($3.55 per 9oz, $3.55/8.75 cups = $.41 x 2 cups = $.81)

2 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut ($3.49 per 12 oz, $3.49/4.13cups = $.85 x .125 cup = $.11)

2 Tbsp wheat germ ($2.79 per 16oz, $2.79/3.5 cups = $.79 x .125 cup = $.09)

1 cup chocolate chips ($8.69 per lb, $8.69 x .43lb = $3.74)

½ cup marshmallow bits ($3.29 per lb, $3.29/16oz = $.21 x .5oz = $.10)
Honey mixture with homemade peanut butter ready to stir in
Dry ingredients ready to mix

Mix the honey and brown sugar over medium heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved.  Remove from heat.  Add the peanut butter to the honey mixture, stir until incorporated.  In a large bowl combine the oats, Rice Krispies, coconut, and wheat germ.  Pour the honey mixture over the dry ingredients; stir to combine.  Add in the chocolate chips and marshmallow bits; mix with your hands or a rubber spatula until incorporated.  Fold into a greased 9 x 13 pan, patting down with your hands or rubber spatula until even.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.
Patted down and cooling

These are really good!  I've made them twice now, and they were really different-

The first batch I used the homemade peanut butter, old overly thick honey, and whole foods bulk chocolate chips.  The peanut butter was fine, the honey made my syrup way too thick, and the chips had a gross metallic taste. Even so, they were gone within a week.  The first batch I also waited a little while to add the honey  after seeing what a mess the chocolate became for Andrea at Simple Organized Living.  This was a mistake.  Instead of the chocolate becoming messy, it was difficult for the chips to stick to the rest of the mass, hence the uneven distribution in the picture.

The second batch had one issue- I didn't have enough peanut butter, but decided to continue, anyway.  They tasted much sweeter and chewier.  I also added the honey mixture right away, which melted my Tollhouse Chocolate Chunks a bit, but it didn't get too messy.  This batch seems to be disappearing even faster than the first batch!  Spencer loves these in his school lunch, it's a big treat for him.  I like that I can give him a tiny square instead of a whole bar (not to mention the lack of wrappers).

One thing I especially like about this recipe is that it's so versatile.  If you'd rather have an almond and cranberry bar, mix that in, instead.  If you have some leftover oat bran from making granola, or anything random in your pantry that you don't have a use for- candy, nuts, dried cherries, etc,throw it in!

Honey basically never goes bad, but it certainly gets stickier.

Try It

$7.61 for 26oz (about 17 bars), or $.29/oz.

Buy It

$3.15 for 6.7oz (8 bars) Quaker Brand Chewy S’mores Bars, or $.47/oz.


I will definitely continue to Try It.  They are tasty, chewy, healthier than the Quaker Brand, and fun to make. 

NEXT WEEK: Easter surprise, if I get my act together...

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Exfoliating Body Scrub

Even though I generally like to use a sisal bath scrubber when I’m in the shower, there is definitely a place for a good exfoliating scrub.  I use one sparingly, but I like to use it when my hands are feeling particularly rough, or after a wax.  The last time I bought a scrub I thought the price was outrageous.  I bought it anyway, and it did last a long time, though it separated every time so it got thinner and oilier with every use.

Setting out to make one, I wanted a recipe that was simple, and a scrub that was coarse.  I also wanted it to be a sugar based scrub, as I’ve never liked the idea of rubbing salt into my skin when I never know if I’ve got a cut on my hand, and my skin is naturally dry.  With all that in mind, I found a very simple recipe on ehow, which I cut in half.

You will need

¾ cup turbinado sugar ($2.39 per lb, $2.39 x .375lb = $.89)

¼ cup coarse sea salt ($2.15 per 22oz, $2.15/43.37Tbsp = $.05 x 4 Tbsp = $.20)

¼ cup coconut oil ($9.99 per 14 fl oz, $9.99/14oz = $.71 x 2oz = $1.43)
sugar and salt mixed together.  Isn't it pretty?
If you've never worked with coconut oil before, it is solid at room temperature.

Mix together the salt and sugar.  Add in the coconut oil, and mix with your hands to combine. 

I microwaved the coconut oil for 15 seconds before getting it out of the jar to soften it enough to measure properly.  When it was mixed, I gave my hands a good scrubbing, washed them, and put the mixture in an old salsa jar.

It smelled so good I wanted to eat it!
I really like it.  It’s very coarse, so if you’d rather, switch to a finer grit- like regular salt and granulated sugar.  It has just the right amount of coconut fragrance, and my hands feel great.  This small jar will last me a very long time!

Try It

$2.52 for 10oz, or $.25/oz.

Buy It

$12.99 for 9oz of Hugo Naturals Brown Sugar and Kumquat, or $1.06/oz.


It was much cheaper than store bought and could easily be modified for your preferences.  It only took five minutes to make, and I loved the way my hands smelled and felt when I used it.  Definitely Try It.

NEXT WEEK: S'mores Granola Bars!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Peanut Butter

I am a pretty diehard fan of Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter.  It doesn’t matter to me that Cook’s Illustrated gave it terrible ratings; I think it’s delicious, I appreciate it coming in a glass jar (if for no other reason than when you stir it, it doesn’t make that nails-on-a-chalkboard sound when the knife scrapes the sides), and I have wonderful nostalgic memories of eating it at my dad’s house on Stoned Wheat Thins as a kid.

It sounds nice to buy it in bulk, but it really irks me that none of the bulk options are salted.  I’ve also been warned that the bulk dispensers are very rarely cleaned, which grosses me out a little (not a lot).  Anyway- I have a food processor, so I thought I’d give salted peanut butter a go.

You will need

Salted Roasted Peanuts (about 2 cups) ($3.99 per lb, $3.99 x .64lb = $2.55)

Put your peanuts in the food processor and watch them turn from nuts to paste to butter.  If it’s too thick, you can add some peanut oil to thin it.
It starts out like this...

then turns to crumbs...

then into paste...

and finally peanut butter.

I didn’t thin it, and it was a little pasty.  According to the bin at Whole Foods these peanuts already had some soybean oil on them anyway.  Spencer had a great time watching it go around and around in the food processor, and really liked tasting the peanut butter, but I was unimpressed. 
Scooping it into the mason jar
Try It

$2.55 for about 1 ¼ cups, or $.26/fl oz

Buy It

$4.15 for 1 ¾ cups, or $.29/fl oz


Yes, it’s cheaper to make it.  Yes, I’m sure there are cheaper peanuts out there to make it with, too.  I still prefer Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, so for me, I’ll Buy It.  It was worth a shot, though.  (Update: Spencer loves the stuff so much that I have to say I'll Try It for him from now on!)
He was way more excited than I was.
 NEXT WEEK: Exfoliating Body Scrub!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chocolate Syrup

Being pregnant, I want ice cream ALL THE TIME.  I’ve been pretty good about not keeping any in the house; instead, I’ve been drinking blended chocolate milk- fill a cup with ice, then fill it with milk, and toss it in the blender with chocolate syrup to taste.  It’s not ice cream, but it is delicious.  It also means I’ve been burning though our Hershey’s bottle that used to sit in the fridge for months untouched.  Now that the bottle is almost out, I thought I’d try my hand at making it.  I found an oh-so-easy recipe on Allrecipes.  Added bonus- I FINALLY finished my container of Hershey’s Cocoa.  It had apparently expired in (cough) 2008, but it tasted fine to me.

You will need

1 ½ cups water (free)

1 ½ cups sugar ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/ 80oz = $.04 x 11.25oz = $.45)

1 cup cocoa powder ($3.00 for 8 oz, $3.00 x 2.8125 cups = $1.07)

¼ tsp salt ($.47 per 26 oz, $.47/ 30.69 tsp = $.02 x .25tsp = about $.01)

1 tsp homemade vanilla ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 4.92 ml = $.05)
I bet you have all these things in your cabinet.
 Throw everything except the vanilla in a small saucepan over low to medium-low heat, and whisk constantly till it simmers.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Put it in a container and store in the fridge overnight. 
The original recipe says that the cook time is 5 minutes, and that it’ll start to thicken and simmer.  My cook time was more like 15 minutes because I kept creeping the heat up to get it to simmer.  It probably thickened a little, but all the comments said it will thicken in the fridge.  
At first it has a gritty sludge on top
After a while it gets these pretty swirls
And FINALLY it starts to simmer.
After enjoying my almost-nightly blended goodness, I tasted both my syrup and Hershey’s straight up.  They were pretty similar.  The homemade was slightly less sweet and more intensely cocoa-y, which I liked.  The blended chocolate tasted exactly the same, but I also go a little lighter than most in that.
One of my two jars of syrup with my delicious frozen goodness.  Mmmm.

Try It

$1.58 for about a pint, or $.09/oz.

Buy It

$2.65 for 24 oz, or $.11/oz.


Try It.  Even with the extra time it took on the stove, it was an easy project with only 5 ingredients that you probably already have.  If you’re not into spooning out your syrup, just retain your Hershey’s squeeze bottle after it’s empty and refill it.  

NEXT WEEK: Peanut Butter!