Friday, July 1, 2011


While up in Lancaster, NH last weekend, we went to a great Farmer's Market. I didn't expect too much for such a small town, but their market really blew Nashua's Farmer's Market out of the water (sorry Nash, but you guys only have 7 or 8 stands and this one had well over a dozen). 

The market had a wide variety of goods for sale: fresh produce, eggs, meat, cheeses, lots of fresh bread and other bakery items, sheep's wool, sweaters, wood crafts, plants, etc. We were drawn to one of the bakeries that was offering samples, and ended up buying several of their homemade granola bars. They were really good and we snacked on them for the rest of the weekend.

I decided that I wanted to make my own granola bars, using these as inspiration, but leaving out the butter and  extra sugar. So I set out to make them...

Before we get any further, let me just say that this was not a total success. What I made turned out to be delicious granola, but the bar part didn't exactly happen. So if you want to make granola bars, you're going to need to do some tweaking.

...back to the granola.  I started by spraying a loaf pan with cooking spray and then dusting the bottom with coconut.

In addition to oats, I used the ingredients that were most appealing to me (and those that happened to be in my kitchen) but you can really use whatever you want.

Then I mixed in some wet stuff - vanilla, fig preserves, and agave syrup. 

And then I pressed it all into the loaf pan. I think if I had stopped there I might have been able to form these into bars (although I'll have to try again and let you know).

Instead I decided that it was a good idea to bake it. For 30 minutes at 325 degrees. (I removed the saran wrap first).

Needless to say, when it came out of the oven, it wasn't sticking together because the "wet" ingredients had dried up. So instead of granola bars I got...granola.

Homemade Granola
About 5 servings

  • 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup organic oats
  • 1/4 cup craisins
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic dried apple slices, chopped
  • 1/4 cup organic almond slices
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp organic fig preserves
  • 1 1/2 tbsp organic agave syrup
  • cooking spray
  1. Coat the inside of a loaf pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle coconut flakes on the bottom of pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine oats, craisins, apricots, apples and almonds. Stir to combine.
  3. Add vanilla, fig and agave syrup to the bowl and stir until wet ingredients are evenly distributed.
  4. Transfer to loaf pan and press down to compact. 
  5. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or until desired doneness.

I used as many organic ingredients as possible in this granola. I also used agave syrup instead of honey or molasses because agave has a low glycemic index, which means your blood sugar doesn't spike like it does with many other sweeteners. Agave syrup is also sweeter than honey and sugar, so you can use less of it.

Even though I didn't get my bars, I was not disappointed with the taste.  Really good on its own, or in a container of Greek yogurt...which I'm having at my desk right now.

I'd like to have some with milk, and also try topping a smoothie with some of this.

Just a few more hours of work until a long weekend! What are your plans for the 4th of July?
Tonight I'm having a girls night with Whitney and Steph, and then Pat and I are going camping for the rest of the weekend (not sure where yet, I haven't been given any details).

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grilling Season

Its finally grilling season! Well, I suppose it has been for a bit now, but last night our grill made its season debut. We have a big Weber grill that was passed down to us from Pat's dad. He used it for about 16 years and then gave it to us when he bought a new one. He took really good care of it, so its still in great condition! Last year I bought Pat a new cover for it since the old one was ripped, and a few weeks ago I bought him some new grates. We talked about getting a new one this year, but weren't sure if we'd be moving in the fall, so decided to stick with this one until we knew where we'd be settled.

Dinner last night was delicious, but I suppose I should start with breakfast and work my way up to dinner. Since I work from home on Wednesdays I have a little more time to make breakfast. I decided that a big pancake breakfast was in order!

I used my favorite multi-grain pancake mix:

Usually I swap out the oil in recipes for applesauce or pumpkin (depending on the recipe) but after seeing the very sad state my bananas were in, I decided to use mashed banana instead.

I also added some mashed bananas into the pancakes as I cooked them. Banana pancakes are my favorite! I have a terrible sweet tooth and loooove chocolate, but hate chocolate chips in my pancakes. Not sure why, but I prefer plain or with fruit.

I topped my pile of pancakes with some organic raspberries and drizzled with some organic agave syrup.

It was so hot yesterday that I went to the gym to run inside. I ran one mile to warm up and then did speed intervals (alternating 1/4 mile fast and 1/4 mile at 6.0). When I was 2.5 miles into my run, one of the trainers at the gym came over and asked me if I wanted to join an impromptu abs class he was having. I thought it was a little weird, but decided that I'm in no position to turn down an abs workout, so I got off the treadmill and joined four other people on a mat (the five of us were lined up like sardines) and did the seven minute abs class. I kept thinking about that hitchhiker from There's Something About Mary who wanted to invent the "Seven Minute Abs" video. After the brief class I went back to the treadmill and ran another 1.5 miles of speed intervals for a total of 4 miles. Then I went home and met up with Pat and we walked back to the gym to do back and bis strength training. I've been really bad about fitting in my strength training so I'm hoping to get back into it.
*Note - my abs don't feel sore at all today, so I don't think the Seven-Minute-Abs idea is all that great.

And finally, back to grilling! Last night we grilled up lots of vegetables and some steak for dinner.

The asparagus was cooked in a little bit of olive oil and lots of red pepper flakes, the peppers and onions were cooked in a little bit of olive oil and some fresh ground pepper, and the steak was covered in salt, pepper and garlic powder. So easy and so good!

Pat also came up with a great idea for grilling slices of vidalia onions. Usually when you grill them, the rings end up separating. If you want to keep them intact, simply insert a toothpick into the side and they'll stay together!

Dinner is served:

How do you like your pancakes?

What is your favorite thing to grill in the summer?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Salads and Berry Shortcake

For my sister's last night in town we had a girls night at my mom's house. We'd originally planned to go out to dinner, but all I wanted was something light after eating way too much pizza, ice cream and gingerbread at Santa's Village over the weekend.

Laura and I walked to the nearby farm for salad fixings while my mom went to the grocery store for some other provisions. When we got home we washed all of the fruits and veggies and set up an assembly line for making our individual salads (I vetoed making a large salad that we'd serve ourselves from because I think half the fun of a big salad is making it...and I might be a bit of a control freak and like to make my own).

My salad - lettuce, arugula, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, avocado, cucumber and almond slices. Drizzled with some dark balsamic vinegar and some white balsamic vinegar.

My mom's salad - same as mine, without the almonds.

Laura's salad - left out the blueberries and almonds and made a dressing using dark balsamic vinegar, olive oil, grainy mustard, and minced garlic.

We shared a bottle of Gravina Botromagno - an Italian white wine. The wine was light and fruity - it accompanied the salads very nicely.

For dessert we made berry shortcakes. I picked up a recipe from the Farmer's Market in Nashua a couple weeks ago, so I used that as the starting point for the shortcakes - but changed a few things to make it a lot healthier. I warned my mom and Laura that the shortcakes may flop, and if they did we could just eat berries for dessert.

The recipe advised that the berries would be juicier is you crush a few before sugaring and let them sit for an hour before using. I took about a cup of strawberries (stems removed and sliced in half) and mashed them in a bowl with a fork. I added some blueberry honey (about 1 tbsp) to the mashed strawberries and let them sit for a little under 2 hours.

To make the shortcake, I preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl.

Stir in applesauce with a rubber spatula.

Stir in egg white and milk.

Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and separate the dough into five evenly-sized rounds. 

Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

To serve the dessert I sliced the shortcakes in half and added the strawberries marinated in honey, then a layer of strawberries and blueberries, and a dollop of yogurt on top.

Healthified Berry Shortcake
Recipe adapted from Old-Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake Recipe at Nashua Farmer's Market
Serves 5

For the filling - 
  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, divided
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
For the shortcake -
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 egg white
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  1. Mash 1 cup strawberries in a bowl with a fork. Add honey and stir to combine. Set aside for 1 hour. Wash and prepare remaining strawberries and blueberries and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  3. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add applesauce and incorporate using a rubber spatula. Stir in egg white and milk.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and separate the dough into five evenly-sized rounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.
  5. Slice the shortcakes in half and add the strawberries marinated in honey, then a layer of strawberries and blueberries, and a dollop of yogurt on top.

I liked these shortcakes - they weren't light and flaky like your typical shortcake, but that's because there wasn't any butter (or any fat at all). They were a little bit heavy, but soaked up the honey-infused strawberry juice quite well. My mom suggested that using buttermilk might improve this recipe (you can make your own buttermilk by adding a little bit of vinegar to regular milk). Overall, I think this was a good alternative to traditional shortcake and would definitely make it again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Santa's Village

Is it really Monday? So soon? I spent the weekend reliving my childhood way up in the mountains of New Santa's Village.

The drive up was beautiful. It was pretty overcast but as we got into the mountains the clouds cleared up and we were able to see all of the lush green landscape (which Kristi especially appreciated since there's much less green in New Mexico, where she's from).

I've gone to Santa's Village every summer since I was a baby (aside from missing a couple years during college). Going to the village is a great excuse to celebrate Christmas in the summer, and even though its aimed at kids, I still  have a blast when I go. My great aunt and uncle started the village back in the 1950s, and its still run by my family today. When my dad was young he spent summers up in New Hampshire with his aunts and uncles and cousins, and he wanted us to have the same experience, so its a very special place to me!

We planned months ahead to find a weekend that all three of us "kids" could go with our dad. Pat and Jim's girlfriend Kristi came, it was both of their first times there. We spent a lot of time visiting with family, including my great aunt Cecil, who started the village. She is 92 and sharp as a tack. She was joking and making wisecracks all weekend, it was so much fun to see her!

The village has changed a lot since I was little - every year they add at least one ride. My favorites have always been the antique cars, bumper cars, log flume, and the roller coaster. We spent half of Saturday at the village, walking around, going on rides, eating our favorite foods, and acting like kids!

Nick's Pizza Emporium has the best pizza!

The Reindeer Shoe Store and Blacksmith Shop makes "reindeer" shoe rings for you.

At the Sugar N Spice Bakeshop you can decorate your own gingerbread cookies.

Mine was a hula girl wearing a grass skirt (I am seriously lacking any artistic skills):

Jim and Kristi going down the giant nutcracker slide:

There's real reindeer to visit and feed!

I love being up in the Lancaster, NH area. Life seems less complicated up there. People are nicer, things move a little slower, and the white mountains surround you. They even have flower pots in place of parking meters in "downtown" Lancaster!

It seems like the weekend went by in a blink but I'm so glad that we went. It was wonderful to see some great aunts, an uncle, and cousins that we don't get to see nearly enough. And wonderful to be back at Santa's Village!

Do you have any places that you went in your childhood that still hold a special place in your heart?