April 2011


I am not a morning person.

Anyone that knows me/loves me/has met me once can attest to this.  There is just something about starting my day before the sun comes up that feels unnatural.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of being a morning person: the productivity, quiet time, and energy these elusive “morning people” describe definitely entice me to change my ways; but alas, I have tried everything from espresso to exercise and nothing seems to help.

Today, however, I found the panacea for my unrelenting sleepiness: malted milk cookie dough in the fridge.  Groggily waking up, remembering the cookie dough you made the night before, and that said cookie dough serving as your motivation to crawl out of bed is perhaps not the healthiest of actions, but for a glimpse into the pre-8 a.m. world, I’ll take it.

After scooping out a tiny {to medium to large to…well, lets jut go with tiny} bit of my edible enticement, I sat down on the couch and glanced over to blinds covering darkness.  For it being a few minutes before 6:00, I was oddly {almost freakishly} energized and instead of crawling back into bed, I decided to just go with it.

Fast forward a few hours and I had read several chapters in my newest Kindle acquistion, organized some stuff for school, and mopped my kitchen floor.  With a few minutes to spare before class, I saw my sister’s overflowing laundry basket in the corner of the den and decided to fold her clean towels.  While this may seem like a sweet gesture to some, my sister has distinctly perfective standards for how her towels are to be folded {seriously, her next step will be to use a ruler}.  I, au contraire, am lucky to get my towels folded at all before they are haphazardly shoved into the cabinet.  Shaking my favored ways, I smoothed each warm towel carefully and folded it into neat thirds.  They looked good {even great} to me, but I was certain my folding abilities had fallen below the bar. 

That’s when I remembered the cookie dough again.

Before heading out the door, I scrawled a note for her to find while I was gone, prompting her to partake in the yumminess as well.  In my reasoning, mediocre towels + delicious cookie dough = acceptable towels.  I hope she will agree.

Here are the cookies. {and the recipe from The Pioneer Woman}.  Bryan and I ate supper at our favorite Mexican place last night, and as usual, I wanted something sweet to complete the meal.  This recipe from Ree’s homepage has been alluring me for weeks, so I mixed them up with the intention of baking a few and freezing the rest. Or not…

Messing up the kitchen after hours is apparently becoming my thing… {but you knew that already}

I know what you’re thinking: too many cookies, not enough milk.  But having too many warm straight-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies is like having too much sunshine or too many days at the beach.  The milk is just a formality anyway, I like my chocolate chip cookies with diet coke {my stomach is now growling with irony}

This is where my good inention came into fruition.  I divided the rest of the cookie dough, weighed it out {this was uncharacteristically OCD of me, don’t do this}, and prepped it for the freezer.  Except it made a pit stop in the fridge… and ended up being eaten and baked into a few more random batches.  So, sadly none made the journey to preservation, which is such a shame right now since I am seriously craving one of these as I type…

Good morning, clean towels. {and junky chair covered in schoolwork}

Life Rule #964: Do someone’s laundry and they will love you forever.

Life Rule #2: Mess up your sister’s laundry and she will detest you for life.

Round two. yumyumyum.

Make these. Your Wednesday night will thank you. But make sure to have them out of the oven by 8:00 so you won’t miss a minute of Modern Family.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the towels were recieved with surprisingly tolerant arms: “Thank you so much for folding my towels. I only had to redo, like, two of them!”

… {exasperation}

Next time I’ll try tiramisu.

Ah, Spring Break. So glad we could meet again. It has been too long since I have experienced the rest and relaxation you bring. Thank you for giving me plenty of excuses to cook, paint, and read exorbitant novels. I needed it.

I think it goes without saying that Spring Break is one of the most looked-forward-too “holidays” in the life of a student.  Since this was my last spring break practically ever {do you hear me sobbing?} I decided to take full advantage and fill my ten lovely days with the things and people I love the most.  I painted and re-finished an ancient dresser {can’t wait to share that soon!}, went to Houston for a few days with my mom and Laura, and messed up my mother’s kitchen on a daily basis.  I had fun.

When I got home Friday afternoon, I was so excited to see these little cuties sitting in my mom’s kitchen.

Lucy, Caroline {the “baby” McCormick sister}, and Virginia made a detour by our house on the way to their pledge class beach trip. Always looking for an excuse ransack the kitchen, I decided to whip up a healthy snack for them to take on their trip. I was pretty sure they could use some oats and fruit in their Spring Break food pyramid of Skittles and Swedish Fish.

Caroline was super appreciative of my edible contribution. After all, sailing all week and covering yourself in bronze-inducing baby oil is hard work. They needed energy.

Homemade granola bars are one of my favorite things to make. I love the freshness of seeing it all come together and knowing my food didn’t sit on a shelf for months before becoming my breakfast. I also love that this is one of those “throw in anything in the pantry that looks good recipes”: you can make it as healthy or as decadent {butterscotch chips, anyone?} as you’re in the mood for.

The ingredient line-up for this recipe is short and sweet.  Perfect for hypothetical {or not so hypothetical} situations where you find yourself itching to do a little midnight baking in a tiny town with no grocery stores open past 9 p.m. {trust me, Walmart is a luxury, people}

Measure your almonds, coconut, and oats onto a baking sheet.  {no need to grease!}  Stir everything together and pop the pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

While things are getting toasty in the oven, keep your wooden spoon handy to stir the granola every few minutes or so.  After the granola is nice and brown, let it cool for a few minutes on the pan then pour it into your mother’s favorite mixing monstrosity acquired during the Tupperwear party craze of 1995 {or just a nice plain mixing bowl if you don’t have a 3 gallon miniature swimming pool hidden in your cabinet}

While the granola cools, make the sweet “glue” that holds these bars together.  Mix the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla and salt together in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture is boiling.  Stir the bubbling mixture constantly for 1 minute then remove from the heat.

Pour the mixture over the granola and stir.  If that little honey river smells a little too, well honey-ish, for your liking right now, don’t fret!  I am not a big fan of a straight honey taste either, and was relieved that the potency I tasted here really dissipated in the “finished product”.

Add some cranberries.  Add some apricots.

Yummy.  Makes me want to go hiking… or not. {Just ask Bryan about the granola-laced Appalachian Trail trip of 2008}

Grab your parchment lined pan.

Pour the whole nutty fruity delicious mess into your prepared pan and press it flat with wet fingers.

Ready for the oven.  Bake at 300 for about 50 minutes.  Now quickly wash your mother’s “That’s a Bowl” {yes, that monstrosity has on official name, straight from the catalog} before she realizes you have “borrowed it” {if this thing ends up at my apartment, I have no idea by what means it arrived}

Cool for a few hours to let the conglomeration finish “firming up” and then cut into bars!  {if you get a little over-zealous and try to get this out of the pan before it is is completely cool, there is a great likelihood your bars will crumble back into their original “granola, sans bars” state…. after a few shrieks, crumble the rest of it, fill a ziploc, and eat with vanilla yogurt! Mmm}

Hoping you all had a lovely spring break- here’s to starting a warmer, slower, and healthier new season!

Homemade Granola Bars

- 2½ cups old-fashioned oats
– 1 cup sliced almonds
– 1 cup shredded coconut
– 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
– 2/3 cup honey
– 1/4 cup light brown sugar
– 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
– 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
– 3/4 cup dried cranberries
– 3/4 cup dried apricots

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray an 8×12 baking dish liberally with cooking spray and line with parchment paper.  Combine the oats, almonds, and coconut and spread evenly on a large sheet pan.  Bake the mixture for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.  When the mixture is lightly brown, remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer everything to a large mixing bowl.  Once this step is completed, turn the oven temperature down to 300°.

To make the “glue” that holds these bars together, combine the butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture starts to boil {be patient- this takes a little while!}.  Continue to cook the boiling mixture for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove the hot liquid from the stove and pour over the oatmeal mixture.  Add the cranberries and apricots and stir well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan.  With wet fingers, press the mixture into an even layer.  Bake for 50 minutes until the bars are a lovely golden color.  Cool the bars in the pan for 4 to 5 hours until completely cooled.  Before serving, use the parchment to lift the bars from the pan and cut into squares.

{makes 12 to 16 granola bars}

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