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Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

Despite the fact that a large portion of my time (and energy) is dedicated to the art of food, I’m not always a good eater.  And although I’m dedicated to putting a healthy and well balanced meal on the table every evening (except for days when I fry something, or when we order Chinese because my head hurts), I don’t always carry that policy through for the other meals of the day.  The thing is that unless I’m eating breakfast and lunch at home, I usually forget to consider them.  I don’t consider them at the grocery store, I don’t consider them the night before, and I absolutely don’t consider them as I’m running out the door in the morning, heavily processed low fat granola bar in hand.

I know, it’s awful.  Two bad-for-me-granola-bars does not a healthy lunch make.  The thing is, I pretty much always hate sandwiches and buying snacks means cutting other grocery bill corners, and I’d rather eat local organic kale for dinner one night, you know?  Unfortunately (for the kale), Dan does not share my opinion, and has loudly expressed that it is his job to take care of me and that I’m making it very hard for him by not eating properly.  And because it’s a recession and I don’t want him to lose his job, I’ve decided to try harder.  I’m a great employer, obviously.

And I really have been trying harder.  Making exciting bread so that sandwiches are delicious and not boring.  Making flatbread and hummus to snack on throughout the day.  Remembering to grab a ramp biscuit out of the freezer before I start getting dressed in the morning.  Baby steps to maturity, you could say.  Today, I took it up a notch by trying to replicate my favorite (but oh so expensive) granola bar, the Kashi Dark Chocolate Coconut.  It’s exactly what it sounds like, and heavenly.  They are delicious, fairly good for you, easy, and I know I’ll go out of my way to grab one tomorrow morning.

Dark Chocolate Coconut Granola Bars

2 cups oats

1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup coconut

1/4 cup wheat germ

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup brown sugar

Pinch of salt

2 cups dark chocolate

4 tbsp coconut, for topping

Spread oats, walnuts, and 1/4 cup coconut on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

While that is in the oven, melt brown sugar and honey on the stove.  When the sugar is melted, throw in salt and set aside.

Mix together, honey mixture, oat mixture, and wheat germ in a large bowl.  Line a baking pan with parchment or aluminum foil and spread the granola out.  I like the granola pretty thin, but you can make it as thick as you’d like.

Bake at 300 for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp.

Once the granola has cooled, melt the chocolate in a double boiler.  Break the granola apart into rectangles or chunks, and dip each piece in the chocolate.  Sprinkle with coconut and set aside so the chocolate can set.

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Sweet Potato & Rainbow Chard Gratin

This weekend, my husband was offered a job.  A really great job at a firm in Baltimore that he respects and admires, that he’s insanely excited about.  Some things (like lodging) are still a little up in the air, but, as Dan described it to my mother, we’re getting things on track.  We’re recovering.

You may ask, what are we recovering from?  Well, to be honest, living in DC was never part of the plan.  In fact, living in Maryland after I graduated was never really the plan.  Before Dan and I started dating, my plan revolved around one thing and one thing only- the Peace Corps.  I spent years tailoring my resume to fit their needs and the fall of my senior year of college I was accepted and placed, heading to the Spanish speaking Caribbean.  And then the medical screening began.

When I was in college I caught mono (from my roommate, thankyouverymuch), which morphed into shingles (I know, right?) and then, finally, an eye condition called keratitis.  Which, it turns out, the Peace Corps has a problem with.  First, they just medically deferred me.  I was crushed, but planned to work for the year long deferment and then leave.  Start my life as planned.  Soon thereafter Dan and I started dating.  When we got serious (immediately) the conversation kept circling back to what we were going to do while I was abroad.  Would we break up?  Would we do the long distance thing, me teaching AIDS education on an island far away and him eating hot pockets in Pennsylvania?  None of it made sense.  Until we decided to go together, to live my dream together.

We started planning our wedding then, all the while fighting my deferment.  My year came and passed and the Peace Corps returned my phone calls less frequently and with more cryptic responses.  Eventually they came out and said it- I was too high risk.  Even though my eyes were in remission, the threat of a relapse while I was living in a developing country was too much for the Peace Corps to agree to, so I was out.  We were out.  It’s been a long process putting the pieces back together, figuring out what our next steps were and recovering.   This website is a byproduct of the journey, one of the only things about the experience that doesn’t bring me to tears.  I was devastated when my plan came crashing down around me, and for the first time we have a definite plan outside just being together.  We’re moving to Baltimore, we’re starting over, we’re getting back on track.  And I appreciate having you along for the ride.

This whole process of apartment and job searching, moving cities, has left me feeling really emotional and nostalgic.  Living in DC was always supposed to be a stop in the road, and now it feels like it was.  The destination has changed, but with it new and exciting things have come into our lives.  For instance, I know now that I harbor a deep love of rainbow chard.  Especially when you pair it with cheese and potatoes.  I’m taking this as a good sign.

Sweet Potato & Rainbow Chard Gratin

2 cups fresh rainbow chard, chopped

1/2 sweet potato

1/2 cup milk

1 garlic clove

1 cup shredded white cheddar cheese

1/2 cup feta cheese

Peel and slice your potato.  In your ramekins (or in one larger serving dish) layer potato, chard, and cheddar.  You should have 1/2 cup chard left over.  End with a layer of cheese.

Pour the milk into the dishes, pouring along the edges so as not to disturb the cheesy layers.

Cook in a 325 oven for 45 minutes.

Pull the ramekins out and add the remaining chard.  Sprinkle feta on top and cook for another 45 minutes.  Serve.

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Ramp & Cheddar Biscuits

The smell that always makes me breathe deep, wrap my arms around myself, and sigh in delight is, oddly enough, the smell of freshly mowed wild onions.  Nothing smells more like spring, not the Bradford Pears or the warm air.  It’s the tart, stinky smell that makes it seem like the world has come alive again.  So it is no wonder, knowing that stinky onions equate spring for me, that I love ramps so much.

Ramps are a member of the onion family, a long leafy green attached to a small bulb.  They grow wildly and are most easily found in the woods (if you know where to look) or at your local farmers market.  While there are many things to do with the bulbs (pickle them, saute them, etc) I threw mine in the freezer for future use and focused on the greens.  Like most pungent flavors, I find that ramps pair nicely with cheese, and in the form of a bread.  I’ve had ramp scones and ramp muffins, ramp cornbread and ramp sourdough, but I think that these ramp biscuits have been my favorite variant yet.

I served them with a fig jam (which by the way was amazing and got me so jazzed for figs to be in season that I cried a little in anticipation of the summer months) which was the perfect pairing.  The sweet jam played off the ramps in a fun way, and it all felt very spring.  I suggest you make them.  Go forth to your local farmers markets, pick up some ramps, and make biscuits!  Lots and lots of biscuits!

Ramp & Cheddar Biscuits

1 1/4 cups self rising flour

3/4 cup pastry flour (or cake flour)

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

4 tbsp cold butter

2 tbsp melted butter (for glazing)

1 1/4 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup all purpose flour (for shaping the biscuits, not to go into the mix)

1/2 cup fresh ramp leaves, diced

1/2 cup white cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 475(f).  Whisk together the dry ingredients, the cheese, and the ramps.  Use fingers to incorporate cold butter.  With the butter, you really just have to knead it with your fingers until the mixture has a course texture, like corn meal.  Pour in cream.  Stir (preferably with a wooden spoon) until dough forms.  It’s okay if the dough is a little sticky, you’ll work it out on the countertop.

Sprinkle the all purpose flour onto the countertop and scoop your dough onto it.  Use your hands to flatten it out.  I like to flatten it a little, flip it, and flatten it some more.  This method ensures that one side doesn’t get over worked, which is important.  If your dough (and this goes for any dough, really) ever gets too sticky and unmanageable, pop it into the fridge for twenty minutes or so.  The stickiness is really coming from the butter getting too warm, so cooling it off will allow it to firm up a bit.  Using a biscuit cutter (or whatever you have laying around), cut the dough into circular shapes.  Place on ungreased baking pan.

Now, I put aside the measuring cup that I used to hold the heavy cream and melt the butter for glazing in that.  It just gives it an extra creaminess.  Using a baking brush, brush melted butter on top of the biscuits.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.

Makes 6 biscuits

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