Homemade Pumpkin Granola Bars {Guest Post}

Today I’m participating in the Ultimate Blog Swap. You’ll find me posting over at Whole Foods on a Budget, telling some of my story about entering the “whole foods” (not the food store chain) lifestyle. It wasn’t a graceful (or entirely willing) transition…

At the same time, I’m pleased to welcome the talented Danielle from Mostly Food and Crafts to Serendipity ScrapNook. I’m excited about this recipe because it’s a chance to make a recognizable snack safely gluten free (Be sure to start with GF ingredients to end up with a GF product.  In this recipe the only thing you need to be careful of is the oats. All other ingredients are naturally GF.)

My Name is Danielle and I blog at Mostly Food and Crafts I blog about cooking and crafting with and for my two kids. We love finding recipes and projects that we can do together. Today I am going to share a quick recipe that my kids really enjoyed.  The recipe is for Pumpkin Granola Bars, I chose to share this recipe because I wanted to show you how easy is can be to make healthy treats for your kids.  And not only are these healthier than the bars you find in the stores but they taste better too.  They are so easy to make and you can customize them to your or your kids taste preferences.  

 I participate in a fun group called the Secret Recipe Club – and this is how I discovered this tasty treat. My kids actually asked me to double the recipe next time I make them – I guess that’s better than a two thumbs up – right?  Enjoy!!


What you need:

2 1/4 cup oats
1 tsp of cinnamon
1/2 tsp of allspice
1/4 tsp of ground cloves
1/4 tsp of salt
3/4 cup of light brown sugar
3/4 cup of pumpkin puree
1/4 cup of honey
1 tsp of vanilla extract
What you do:
Preheat oven to 350.
Spray 8×8 or 9×9 pan with cooking spray.

While the oven preheats, combine the oats, spices and salt together in a bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin, honey and vanilla til smooth. Mix your wet and dry ingredients together until all of the oats are moist.

Evenly press the mixture in to the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
Let them cool before cutting them with a sharp knife.

(Click through for a “bonus” craft project from Danielle: Clay Pot Critters.)

Leftovers Belong!

You know the other thing I never see on food blogs?

Left-over meals.

As in, What do I do with this leftover tomato-turkey soup that no one will touch?

Well, I re-purposed it in a tex-mex chili, using up the last of the turkey I had to cook because the freezer died.

And the chili was great.

But I haven’t figured out how to post that recipe:

Saute one large chopped onion. Add grated garlic, and finish sauteing.

Stir in one quart chopped turkey, along with 1T cocoa powder, 1T cumin and 1T Chili powder. and a 7oz. can of green chilies.

Stir a bit to toast and highlight the flavors.

Add 2 quarts leftover savory tomato soup (?!), a few ladles of diced tomatoes in juice (eyeball your favorite ratio) and salt to taste.

Simmer 30 minutes, then add cooked (e.g. canned. In my case, again, leftover) beans and simmer till warm and/or folks is ready to eat.

One reasonable question is how I made the savory tomato soup in the first place. (I remember using Garam Masala seasoning). But that is a bit of a moot question, since no one liked it. (Even Jay didn’t take seconds, so it had to have had issues.)

But the chili tasted great, and I canned the leftovers for quick meals in the future.

Only trouble (and I can live with it) is the recipe’s not exactly what you can call “reproduceable.”

And it seems (from my brief acquaintance) that’s the goal of food blogs.

Well, maybe I’ll start a new trend.

Salmon Noodle Casserole

Made this for lunch today.

It was not on the Menu.

All the left-overs were either eaten, left at a friend’s house earlier in the week, or left out (*sniff*) because they weren’t in a see-through container. So for lunch I had to make something from scratch.

Back in the summer when we got our massive amount of salmon from Chitna I learned how to can fish.

I was impressed at how well it went, and hope to can a higher percentage this year. Everything we like best– like this dish– is ready to put together so fast with the canned stuff.

And the best part is any bones left in the fillets are mushified by the canning process. (Not so with the commercially canned stuff, or maybe they just start with bones that are too big.)

This is my GF version of the tuna noodle casserole I had growing up, so if you don’t have a pantry full of salmon you can use a couple cans of tuna, or any other cooked meat you’re wanting to use up.

  1. Start by heating your noodle water (I always forget to start here and lunch takes that much longer. Planned right this all sorta finishes at once.)
  2. Make your cream-of sauce
  3. Add 5 or six cups GF pasta to the water whenever it’s hot & follow directions/your preferences to tell when it’s done (I do about a cup dry per person, since I don’t like left-over GF pasta)
  4. Mix the cooked noodles with your meat (I use a 1 pint jar salmon or two cans of tuna), one cup of the sauce (save the rest for another recipe)
  5. Stir in 2 cups shredded cheese

Yes, this is just glorified macaroni & cheese.  And it’s one I feel much better about serving my kids than the dayglo orange variety.

And no complaints from their end either.

“You can serve this is me *any* time, Mom,” Natasha gushed. “Even breakfast.”

“Me too!” Elisha agreed.

So I’m pleased to confirm another winner.


Gluten Free Stopgaps: options to replace glutened recipe elements

More foods are gluten-free than contain gluten.

But most foods we eat on a regular basis are either based on gluten-containing foods (spaghetti and meatballs), made from recipes that have gluten-containing ingredients (cream-of mushroom soup in green bean casserole) or both (Soft tacos: the shells are made with wheat, and most taco seasoning contains flour as a thickener).

Eventually I hope you make peace with your kitchen and discover the joy of learning new recipes, but I understand that can be too much to ask for  in the  beginning.

At this point in your journey the most manageable thing may be learning how to make your familiar recipes without gluten.

Here are a few ideas that may help with that.

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Gluten Free Pancakes

We had a power-outage last night.  Lasted something like four hours. [Okay, I checked with Jay and he says it was more like 2.5 hours. {shrug} still the longest one we’ve had. I think.]  So we got to see how prepared we were/n’t for emergencies.

We have our woodstove, so heat wasn’t a problem, and our kitchen stove is propane, so we have the cook-top at least (the oven requires electricity).

With everyone clambering for food, I decided (feeling clever) to make pancakes for dinner.

But then was thwarted by not being able to find my scale

It was in a back corner.  Someone else must have put it away.  (Silly person.)

And while that should scare me into transitioning my recipes into dry measures (cups), I think I’m just motivated to buy extra batteries for my scale. You see, having learned the variation possible in each batch of flour (the 70/30 version at least) I prefer the consistency of weights.

So we had pancakes for breakfast instead. I took pictures 😉

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Starting Gluten Free — Sandwich Bread Recipe

If you learned you needed to drop gluten, chances are you froze.

You are a capable, resourceful person and have mastered many challenges in your not-too-long life. And there’s a part of your mind saying No big deal. We can do this.

Then there’s the other part.

The tired part that probably is the reason you even considered taking on this extra burden (and it is a burden) of learning-under-pressure.

When I began, I felt like I was one ripple from drowning (of course, that was about the same time I discovered depression), but that’s all I’ll say about that for now.

At this minute everything seems huge and you just want something to feel normal.    

Well, as long as you don’t expect it to be *the same* I do want to offer you a recipe that will at least give you something useable to replace sandwich bread in your life. Then you might be able to feel a little more normal. If you’re a sandwich family.

Just make sure the fillings you choose are gluten free. Some sandwich meats have gluten-laced “natural flavors” added, so check your labels!

This is the way I make Amy Green’s Perfect Bread, once or twice a week.

Continue reading

The Twisting Track of my Mind.

So, it’s funny to me how my mind really compartmentalizes.

I can be really tired (or excited) in one area, and it can affect any other area.

And I can think of something else and completely shift my focus, and I forget what was weighing on me before.

For example:

Last couple of days I’ve been working out the next month’s menu

Somebody remind me to tell you about menu-planning for the month, rather than the week. Would you believe it’s easier?! (Maybe not faster, though.)

Then today I let a corner of my mind loose in The Novel, and 30-minutes on the treadmill flew by in a storm of delightful speculation and investigation.  I came back to the house more energized than when I left (which is good, because my body’s not used to the renewed demands yet.

So I was all keen to shift off the menu and work on the novel for a while.

Then I saw the time, realized the lights would be going out soon in the rabbit/hen house, and I had to decide if I wanted to bring my angora doe back to in finish plucking her

I got her back plucked clean Saturday night; need to finish the rest.

No, it doesn’t hurt, she sits quietly in my lap the whole time.

But I decided I wanted to write *something* so I framed a thinking-outloud email about the story ideas, to untangle them, then another to a local group that’s doing a “wool expo” in April.  Asked if they’d consider rolling angoras into the event {grin}.

Then, as I considered what I next wanted to put up here at the scrapbook (more M-B? GF cooking?  Lotso links to my fav recipes or foods of my own?) I got an email from a friend who is in the process of switching over to GF for her whole family.

And I thought of the other folks in recent months who have announced (or whispered) to me that they are embarking on the scary unknown path of Gluten Free and with each story I remembered my strong overwhelm, and I wished I could bring them home and cook them a simple dinner and tell them it doesn’t have to be scary (forever).

So, in dearth of clambering requests for more M-B talk, I’ll shift gears for a while.  We’ll squeeze into my little kitchen, and I’ll show you what I know, and how I made it not-scary for me.

Gluten Free Flour Mixes

I have two flour  mixes I use for all my baking.

Flour Mix A is my interpretation of Amy’s (at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free) bean-based flour mix.  All of the components are “ready” (from bags) in my pantry, so it’s by fall-back, especially when we haven’t ground grains in a while.

  • 22 oz. sorghum flour
  • 28 oz. garfava flour
  • 17 oz. potato starch
  • 8 oz. tapioca starch

Amy says this can be used 1-to-1 to replace standard flour in traditional recipes.  When working recipes by weight I use 5-5.5 oz per cup called for.


Flour Mix B is the simplest I’ve yet tried, and my favorite as long as I have a stock of ground grains (Yes, I know you’re *supposed* to grind your grain right before you use it, but our mill is hand-crank, and I will happily accept my husband’s labor of love filling all the flour containers in the place every couple months).  This idea/ratio came from Gluten Free Girl‘s Muffin Recipe post.  GFG is also the site that introduced me to the (nearly failproof) system of weighing ingredients rather than scooping out cups.

Weights allow me the latitude of substitution and experimentation so important to me as I find what I (and my family) enjoy most.

  • 70% (by weight) ground whole grains – Any combination
  • 30% (by weight) starches – Any combination
  • Isn’t that awesome?! So simple.  Easiest way to do it is with grams and start with either 700 or 1400g of grains than add 300 or 600g of the starches.

    For this one, also, I use 5-5.5 oz for each cup of wheat flour called for in a standard recipe.  Yup. By weight these mixes are completely interchangeable. I use both for anything, except when I know I’m going to want a finger in the batter, then I’ll just use the 70/30 mix, because the flavor of un-cooked bean flour is beyond nasty.

With either mix, combine components and whisk together thoroughly.

Over the next couple weeks I hope to write out my most commonly used recipes.

a) Because I’m always talking about them when I meet (or discover) people who also live gluten-free.
b) Because I’ve had some very frustrating moments when I knew *exactly* what I wanted to make, but had misplaced the recipe

Lately I’ve been getting (outwardly) organized.  As in, stuff I would have labeled *extreme* in my former life.  Working a schedule, menu planning for a month (would you believe it’s actually easier than for a week or two?), avoiding foods on personal evidence and a guess.

“Dedication, to the uninitiated, looks like obsession.”

But it’s been completely defensive.  And so with this.  I find this method (blog-keeping) to be the best way to keep from misplacing something.  SO.  Maybe one or two more M-B posts and then we’ll do my GF *bests* for a while.  Till then check the recipes category for what’s already up and if you need something in a hurry.

Quick and Easy Food (Gluten Free)

To begin with, I have to say pretty much anything you *know* how to make is going to be faster than even a “quick” new recipe.  The trick is deciding what you’re willing to learn to make it a quick meal time after next.

Just about the easiest quickmeal:

  • Broiled chicken thighs.

Starting with fresh boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I get mine at Sam’s Club– a huge flat and cook them all in a day or two; freezing the extras after they’re cooked), lay out as many will fit flat in a glass baking dish.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and any other favorite seasonings (I mix garlic powder, chili powder and onion powder with a little ground ginger and sprinkle it on top of the s & p) ETA: my current mix is at the bottom of this post.

Put this under the broiler for 15-20 minutes (it shouldn’t look pink any more.  If it’s scorched your heat was too intense or your pan too close) then turn over, season the new side-up and repeat.  A thermometer in the thickest part of the meat should read at least 165°.

While that’s cooking you can throw together a salad.

  • My favorite:

Baby spinach + chopped fruit of choice (I usually do canned pears) + nuts of choice (I chop crunchy walnuts).  I used to add crumbled feta before I gave up dairy.  All very good.

  • Another fun salad:

Chopped celery, walnuts, apple* (with the skin still on) and romaine (that would be all ingredients chopped/cut/torn to the preferred size) tossed with sweet/savory dressing:

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ Tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

If you’re not avoiding dairy, nachos are always fast:

Spread chips on a cookie sheet, cover with shredded cheese, sprinkle with a spice mixture like I mentioned for the chicken thighs earlier.  Put them under the broiler for 1-2 minutes (depends on how hot/close your heat source is) and lunch is ready.

Precooked meat, canned beans (drained and risced), and various nacho-y veggies all combine well with this option.

  • A box of gluten-free cereal has been our saving grace more than once.
  • Fresh or dried fruits, though I usually try to combine them with a protein like nuts, cheese or a roll of sandwich meat.
  • Hot cereal: GF oatmeal, cream of rice or “mighty tasty” with jam, maple syrup, or frozen fruit and nuts
  • “Puffy pancake” (AKA: dutch baby) –family-meal sized:

Heat oven to 400°. In each of two 9×13 baking pans melt 2 oz (1/4 cup) butter or coconut oil– by putting them in the warming oven.  While that’s going on combine:

12 eggs
3 cups milk (I use homemade nutmilk when avoiding dairy)
15 oz GF flour blend
1½ teaspoon gaur gum or xanthan gum

Divide between the greased pans once the oil is liquid.

Cook in the 400° oven for 20 minutes.  Without opening the oven, reduce heat to 350° and cook 15-20 minutes more.  Pancake is done when it puffs up and the center no longer looks shiny.  If your baking pan is clear, you’ll also be able to see the edges are golden and crispy.

This is a good example of my flexible definition of “fast”. It doesn’t require a lot of thought or coordination, and it’s ready in less than an hour.  That’s a pretty functional definition of my sort of quick.

Hope that’s useful to somebody.  I’ll think about it some more and keep making lists as I think of things.

*To keep apples or pears from turning brown, keep a bowl of water next to the cutting board.  Before you begin chopping add a tablespoon of lemon juice to the water. (If you don’t like the taste you can buy vitamin-C/citric acid powder from the store and add a teaspoon per gallon of water.)  Put your fruit into the water as you cut it, and the browning will be seriously curtailed.

Bonus idea: make a full-sized batch of my white chili recipe and freeze the (cooled) leftovers flat in ziplock freezer bags.  Even if you forget to take it out ahead of time, you should be able to thaw it fairly quick in a sink of cool water, then all it needs it heating up.

Just remember to *label* anything you put in the freezer: Date and contents. You’ll remind yourself to use the older stuff first, and won’t forget what it is.

Gluten Free and Dairy Free

So now I’m trying another layer of cooking-challenge.

Not to make my life more complicated.  Please don’t even joke about that.

I have reason to believe it will improve my health.  So I’m making trial of it.

Back a year and a half ago, when I dove into GF cooking in earnest, I was told to cut dairy as well, but both beginnings was to much of a burden. Now that I’ve (somewhat) mastered cooking gluten free, I feel I have the margin to add dairy free.

My blog-hunt has been for recipes that avoid milk without going “all the way” vegan by cutting all the eggs, which we have a bunch of and I want to include.

Here’s what I’ve got so far