No Bake Nutella Fruit & Nut Bars

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Are you ready for a snack, or are you ready for a snack?

Today we are going to get real serious about our snacking choices.  And by getting serious, I mean we are going to be using some Nutella. Nutella is amazing, and it is partially responsible for why I went all the way up to French IV in high school.  French culture day always meant eating lots of Nutella.  For educational purposes, of course.

I am currently working on my thesis (masters degree, I see you!), looking at issues with depression & alcohol, but what I would really like to write it on is the power of Nutella.  I am pretty sure just eating Nutella will be associated with lower levels of sadness.  New therapy treatment: instead of actually having to show up to work, I will just leave an open jar of Nutella and a spoon on my chair. Chocolate hazelnut therapy.

But if you really need some happiness, I suggest taking some Nutella and using it to make some no-bake bars.  I love lots and lots of stuff in my bars, so I packed these bars to the brim.  Filled with lots of chewy, sweet fruit and crunchy nuts, these bars make a great snack.  I used dried cherries and cashews, but the sky is the limit here.  I upped the Nutella & honey in this too, so they get nice a gooey. Mmmm.

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NO BAKE NUTELLA FRUIT AND NUT BARS
Adapted from White on Rice Couple

INGREDIENTS

3 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup Nutella
Large pinch of salt
1/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups dried fruit
1 1/2 cups nuts
1 cup chocolate chips, optional

DIRECTIONS

Line an 8 inch by 8 inch pan with foil and grease.

In a saucepan combine butter, honey, Nutella, salt, and brown sugar.  Whisk together over medium heat until combined.  Remove from heat.  Stir in dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate chips.  Spread mixture into pan.  Chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Fruitcake

Today at the apex of the holiday season, I bring you a controversial dessert.  Most people will happily accept a box of cookies, a slice of pie, or a loaf of bread, but a gift of a fruitcake may earn you a different reaction.  I am a firm believer in the delciousness of fruitcake, when it is done right.  A moist cake with dried fruit and nuts?  Yes, please.  This version really does prove that homemade is better.  If you don’t like those store-bought cakes, you may be won over with this recipe.  The smell alone may be enough to convert some alleged fruitcake haters.  This is not a quick recipe, and it may have the longest list of ingredients of any recipe so far on my blog.

I hope you all are having a great Christmas holiday break and will continue to do so.  Tonight we will have our traditional Christmas Eve dinner of ham, Singapore noodles, and dumplings. I ready for some merriment, and I am excited to bring over some new recipes.  Perhaps the gift I should have gotten all my family (and myself) is a pair of pants one size larger.  I love the gluttony of the holidays, don’t you?
If you are still wary and cannot make the full fruitcake plunge, feel free to try Fruitcake Cookies I posted for last Christmas (told you I like holiday fruitcake).  But I warn you, once you eat one fruitcake cookie, you are going to want another.
Merry Christmas!

 

FRUITCAKE
Adapted from Alton Brown
INGREDIENTS

1 cup golden raisins
1 cup currants
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1 cup dried candied cherries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
Zest of one lemon
Zest of one orange
1 cup golden rum
1 cup sugar
5 ounces butter
1 cup unfiltered apple juice
4 whole cloves
6 all spice berries
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted

DIRECTIONS

In a large bowl combine raisins, currants, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, apricots, lemon zest, orange zest, and golden rum.  Stir together and let macerate overnight, covered.

Transfer fruit mixture to a large stock pot.  Add sugar, butter, and apple juice.  Grind the whole cloves and all spice berries.  Stir in ground cloves, ground all spice, cinnamon, and ginger.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool, at least 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°F.  Grease a bundt pan.

In a large bowl stir together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.  Stir into cooled mixture.  Stir in eggs one at a time.  Fold in chopped pecans.  Pour mixture into bundt pan.  Bake for 55-65 minutes. A cake tester or toothpick should come out clean in the center of the cake.  Run a sharp knife around the sides.  Cool completely.  Remove cake from cake pan.

*This recipe is easily doubled.  You can freeze a second bundt cake so that you can have fruitcake even when it’s not Christmas!

Fig and Plum Tarts

Well, I am all moved in to my new place.  After three days of what felt like nonstop lifting and assembling, everything is now in place.  My new kitchen is now ready for chopping, baking, and sautéing.
After moving everything in, my cupboards were pretty bare, so I made my first grocery store trip.  I am happy to report that I love my new grocery store.  My first trip had a little adventure when I dropped/smashed two jars of sweet pickles on the ground.  The con- I cut my fingers.  The pro- my shoes smell like sweet pickles now.
All sweet pickle business aside, my new grocery store had some great finds, especially for produce.  I found some sweet plums and fresh black mission figs.  This tart is a great combination of these fresh summer foods with a good mix of sweet and salty.  I used some of my fresh figs to make fig jam but feel free to use any fig spread you can find.  Quick, go forth and discover some fabulous fruit before the season is over.  Then make a tart.  Or eat a plum with every dinner like I am.  Or both.
FIG AND PLUM TARTS
From Cinnamon Freud
INGREDIENTS
12 sheets phyllo dough
1/4-1/2 cup melted butter, for brushing
3 ounces blue cheese crumbles
1 cup fig jam, recipe below
2-3 plums, sliced
Salt
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
On a cutting board lay out a sheet of phyllo dough.  Brush with melted butter.  Layer a second piece of phyllo dough on top.  Repeat with phyllo dough until you have a 6 layer stack of phyllo dough.  Cut into 8 rectangles and carefully transfer to baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining phyllo dough.
Place approximately 1 tablespoon of fig jam on top of the phyllo dough.  Spread slightly with the back of a spoon.  Sprinkle blue cheese crumbles on top.  Place a layer of plum slices on top of each tart.  Sprinkle lightly with salt.  Sprinkle hazelnuts on top.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, until plums are soft and tarts are golden brown.  Drizzle with honey if desired
Makes 16 small tarts.
HOMEMADE FIG JAM
Slightly Adapted from Cooking Light
INGREDIENTS
1 pound figs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional
DIRECTIONS
Chop your figs very finely or run through a food processor.  In a saucepan combine figs, sugar, water, and lemon zest.  Let sit for 2 hours.
Bring the fig mixture to a boil over medium high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until jam reaches desired thickness.  Transfer to a glass container.  Let cool at room temperature and then chill overnight.

Strawberry and Chicken Poppy Seed Salad

It is official: I am no longer a working girl.  Well, at least for the next few weeks anyway. This past Friday was my last day working as a front desk worker at urology practice.  I got to work with some fun people who I’m going to miss, and I’ve learned also learned a little bit about urology, medical insurance, and the working world.
One thing I learned about being a working girl is that some days you just come home plum tired and burnt out.  And on those nights you are just not into making dinner for yourself.   Those nights are the nights when you constantly ask yourself “How many more days until the weekend?”.  Those are the nights when you should make this salad.  While some chopping is involved, this salad is simple, fresh, and filling. The faster you eat dinner, the fast you get to go to bed and get some sleep, right?
Before we get to the recipe, I have an announcement: Cinnamon Freud is now on FacebookPintrest, and Instagram!  For those of you who are so inclined to learn more about my food centric life musings, hit me up there!
STRAWBERRY AND CHICKEN POPPY SEED SALAD
Inspired by Panera Bread
Vinaigrette adapted from How Sweet It Is
INGREDIENTS

For the Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:
4 strawberries, hulled and chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Pinch of salt

For the Salad:
4 cups spinach
8 ounces cooked chicken, sliced
1 cup chopped pineapple
8 strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/4 cup toasted pecans

DIRECTIONS

For the Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette:
In a large measuring glass, combine strawberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and honey.  Using an immersion blender or a food processor, process until is reaches the desired consistency, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in a pinch of salt and poppy seeds.  Chill in fridge for at least 20 minutes until ready to use.
For the Salad:
In a large bowl combine spinach, chicken, pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and pecans.  Pour strawberry poppy seed vinaigrette over top.  Toss.
Serves 2 as a main dish.

Baked Oatmeal

Throw out your preconceived notions about oatmeal.  This baked oatmeal is the antithesis of the instant oatmeal packets which always turn out mushy, flavorless, and boring.  It uses steel cuts oats, which are very different from traditional oatmeal.  Steel cut oats are chewier, nuttier, and I love them.  Baking them up with some fruits creates a warm, substantial breakfast that gives you the energy to make it through to lunch.  No watery oats here!

The possibilities of flavor combinations are endless once you have the method of baking steel cut oats- I have made many versions of this oatmeal.  My personal favorites have been apple, pear, and peanut butter banana (almost like a dessert oatmeal).  Make this on Sunday morning for breakfast then enjoy the leftovers for the rest of the week.  Or eat it for a heart warming, comforting dinner like I do

PS- Can you see a sassy food blogger reflected in my utensil? How did she get there?

BAKED OATMEAL
INGREDIENTS
1 cup steel cut oats
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 apples, chopped*
1 cup milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For serving: peanut butter, cream cheese, maple syrup
DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a baking dish (about 2 quarts).

In a large bowl, combine steel cut oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pecans. Stir in chopped apples. In a large measuring cup, whisk milk, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla extract together. Pour oat mixture into prepared baking dish. Spread in an even layer. Pour liquid mixture over top. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until oatmeal is set and top is golden brown. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes. Serve with peanut butter, cream cheese, or maple syrup if desired.

Serves 4.

*For the fruit you can also replace apples with 2 pears, 2 bananas, 2 cups blueberries.  Or you can mix and match with blueberry banana, apple and pear, and more.

Fruit and Nut Rice



The hustle and bustle of the holidays is now over.  Instead of indulging in cookies and sweets, people are trying to squeeze in gym work outs and vegetables.  Everyone is back to work with no vacation in sight.  Let’s be honest: January just is not as much fun as December.  The everyday blues are beginning to sink in during my semester off from school.  The hustle bustle of work, dinner, sleep, work, dinner, sleep is exhausting and tiresome.

This was an easy, healthy dinner that reminded me of the fun holiday food I ate last month. It is easy enough to make on a weeknight after work and doesn’t break any New Year’s resolutions. This rice is a fun way to shake up your dinner plans during the lull of January.  It will at least keep you occupied until Valentine’s Day.

FRUIT AND NUT RICE
Adapted from Heat Oven to 350
Originally Pressure Perfect by Loma Sass
INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups dried brown rice
Olive oil
25 grapes, sliced in half
3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
8 figs, coarsely chopped
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/5 teaspoon ground allspice
Salt and pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cook rice according to instructions.  Set aside.Toss grapes with about 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil.  Spread on baking sheet.  Roast for 20 minutes.  Set aside.  Toast walnuts in oven for 5 minutes, watching carefully.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Combine rice, grapes, walnuts, dried apricots, and figs.  Stir in cinnamon and allspice.  Season with salt and peeper to taste.

Serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side dish.