Dragonfly Home Recipes

Recipes, Photography, Musings

Month: November 2015

Cranberry Almond Bars

Bright, tart cranberries are simmered with maple syrup and honey, then given some extra zing with a splash of lime juice.  The result is a thick, intensely flavorful filling that jazzes up a base of ground oats, almonds, and whole wheat flour.  These cranberry almond bars are delicious and nutritious, and they are perfect for breakfast, dessert, a snack, or a treat to pack in the kids’ lunchboxes.

I must admit that until recently, I have kind of under-appreciated cranberries.  But it is cranberry season, and it seems cranberries are everywhere! I have made these almond bars in the past, and used strawberry jam for the filling (also very good), basing the recipe on one I found in the September 2015 issue of Real Simple magazine.  However, now that it is November, I wanted to make these bars with something seasonal, so pumpkin and cranberries came to mind.  I’m still working on the pumpkin angle–I haven’t hit upon the right proportion of ingredients yet–but the cranberry filling? Amazing! It is so good, that I am thinking of tripling the recipe and using it as cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving dinner.

cranberry filling 3I now fully appreciate the powerful flavor of cranberries, not to mention their gorgeous, ruby-red color and their health benefits (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients).  For me, sweetening the berries with things like maple syrup and honey, rather than sugar, makes the filling even more appealing.  Talk about rich, flavorful, and natural!  The filling recipe below is one I put together from researching different recipes for cranberry sauce.  Lots of the recipes called for orange juice or orange zest, but I added a splash of lime to mine, because that’s what I had on hand, and it works great. cranberry bars outside cranberry bars 7The filling thickens as it simmers, and thickens even more as it cools.  The base and the topping of these bars is nutritious, with ground almonds, oats, and whole wheat flour making up most of it, providing lots of protein, iron, and fiber.  All in all, these bars have it all:  great taste, great texture, and lots of health benefits.

With Thanksgiving, my husband’s birthday, and my daughter’s birthday approaching, all within the same week, things are ramping up into high gear around here.  I have so many things on my mind, it feels like the thoughts are swirling around like the leaves that blow all over our yard.  And these thoughts are trivial compared to what has been going on in the larger world lately.  So what do we do with the scattering thoughts and the chaos?  We gather.  We feel for those who are affected by violence around the world, and we gather around a table and give thanks for what we have.  We scatter, and then we gather.

My family went to a special park this past weekend, and I took some pictures of moments I wanted to hold onto.  The beautiful river, the clear water carrying leaves downstream, and the old roots of a tree near the riverbank.  The water moves, and the roots anchor.  We scatter, and then we gather, and often food is in the center of the gathering, connecting us.  If you are gathering for Thanksgiving this upcoming week, Happy Thanksgiving in advance!  And have a wonderful weekend too.water and roots Huron Rivercranberry bar ingredientscranberry filling 1cranberry bars, uncutcranberry bars on porch 3I look forward to the weekly blog gathering of inspirational bloggers at Angie’s Fiesta Friday co-hosted this week by Loretta @ Safari of the Mind and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

Cranberry Almond Bars

  • Servings: 12 bars
  • Time: about 25 minutes for preparation, about 40 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

For the filling:

  • 1 cup of cranberries (frozen or refrigerated is ok. If frozen, run cold water over them first)
  • 1/4 cup of maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1 lime

For the base and topping:

  • 1 cup of old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup of raw almonds
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon of salt

Directions:

For the filling:

Measure the cranberries, maple syrup, and honey into a small saucepan.  Bring just to a boil, and stir until the cranberries pop.  Then turn the heat down to medium-low to low, and gently simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce begins to thicken. Allow the sauce to cool, and as it cools, it will thicken more.  Add a splash of lime juice, to your taste.

For the base and topping: 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line an 8 inch square baking dish with 2 crisscrossed pieces of parchment paper, leaving an overhang of paper on all sides, and pressing the paper down inside the dish.

In a blender or food processor, pulse or puree the oats, flour, and almonds until finely ground.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add the butter, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a fork or pastry cutter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs and everything is combined.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the crumble mixture (for the topping).  Press the remaining crumble mixture into the baking pan, using a straight-sided glass or measuring cup to pack it down evenly.

Spread the cranberry filling over the bottom crust, distributing it evenly.  Scatter the reserved 1/2 cup of crumble mixture evenly over the top.  Bake until golden brown and set in the middle, 35 to 45 minutes.

Let it cool completely.  Then, holding the overhanging parchment paper, transfer it to a cutting board and cut with a sharp knife into 12 bars.  Enjoy!

Oatmeal Gingerbread

Ginger, molasses, cinnamon, and cloves give this bread a deep, rich, classic gingerbread flavor.  The addition of whirred oats to the flour increases the nutritional benefits, as well as making each slice hearty and substantial.  Serve it with your favorite hot drink, and possibly some whipped cream or vanilla ice cream , and it is the perfect snack or dessert. (It works for breakfast too!)

Below, I am sharing another recipe based on one I found in Susan Wittig Albert’s fascinating book, “China Bayles’ Book of Days: 365 Celebrations of the Mystery, Myth, and Magic of Herbs from the World of Pecan Springs.”  The recipe is for a form of traditional Scottish oatmeal gingerbread.  I substitute blackstrap molasses for the treacle and bake it in a standard-sized loaf pan instead of a 7-inch square baking pan, but other than that, I stick pretty close to the recipe in the book.  And my gingerbread has come out delicious every time.  ginger oat bread with pansies 7I love the fact that this gingerbread tastes sweet and full of richly spiced flavor, yet has good nutrition in it too.  The molasses and oats contribute all kinds of good things, including iron, magnesium, manganese, not to mention fiber and protein from the oats.  When I cut a slice of this bread, it is dense and substantial.  I feel like I am doing something good for both my taste buds and my body.  And my soul too, because gingerbread is a delicious solution (however temporary) to a soul’s longing for comfort.  The smell of gingerbread baking is the iconic cozy smell, and it brings back all kinds of memories for me, of wandering through my mother’s kitchen after spending time outside in the cold.

gingerbread and teaThis is the perfect time of year to make gingerbread.  (Actually, any time between now and spring is a good time.)  When the wind is gusting right through our coats and the leaves are swirling around, we need something warm and comforting.  As I am writing this post, the wind is blowing so hard that it is rattling the windows and making the house creak.  We lose electricity quite frequently out here where I live, among so many trees, so I am hoping to get this post done before we lose power.  And hopefully, we won’t lose power.  All this dramatic weather is enough to make one feel kind of moody, wistful, nostalgic, and excited, all at the same time.  It’s a good time to indulge in the more complicated aspects of our personalities.  Maybe that’s why the multi-layered spicy taste of the gingerbread is so appealing.

gingerbread with pansies 4There is something cleansing about going out in the crazy, windy weather, especially if there is something warm waiting on the other side of the door.  This quote by L.M. Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables series (one of my favorite sets of books when I was a girl), says it perfectly:  “It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines.  Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

I hope you all have a great weekend, and that the wind blows the fogs out of your souls as well.  And that you have a hot drink and a warm piece of gingerbread waiting when you come in!  This recipe will be shared at Angie’s festive Fiesta Friday, co-hosted this week by Judi@Cooking With Aunt Juju and Stef@The Kiwi Fruitbutter meltinggirl holding gingerbreadgingerbread with whiteNovember skywind in the oaks

Oatmeal Gingerbread

  • Servings: 8-12 pieces
  • Time: about 20 minutes for preparation and about 45 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

  • 1/2  cup of unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of molasses (I prefer blackstrap molasses)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1/2 cup of whirred oats (make this by whirring 1/2 cup of uncooked, old fashioned rolled oats in your blender)
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease a standard-sized loaf pan with butter. (You can also use a 7 inch square baking pan).  In a medium saucepan, heat the butter, granulated sugar, and molasses over medium to low heat until the butter is just melted.  Stir to combine.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and baking soda.  Add the whirred oats, brown sugar, and spices.  Stir to combine.  Add the melted butter mixture and the milk, then stir in the beaten egg.  Stir until all combined.  Pour into the greased pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, and then cool completely on a wire rack.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream if desired.  Enjoy!

 

Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Potatoes

Fresh rosemary and parsley, plus minced garlic, give these potato wedges delicious flavor.  Roasted with olive oil, they become tender on the inside, and slightly crispy on the outside.  With only a few minutes of prep time, you can take potatoes to the next level and create a savory, aromatic side dish people will ask for again and again.

Rosemary is such a fascinating herb to me.  Not only does it have an unforgettable and deeply lovely scent–it’s also hardy, easy to grow, and can live through the winter indoors in a pot placed in a sunny spot.  Once the weather turns cold, I like to keep as many herbs as I can (or as many that will survive) in pots throughout the house.  They smell good and are so nice to have close-by for cooking and baking.  Rosemary is commonly known as the herb of remembrance.  Apparently it has natural preservatives and enhances the brain’s memory function.  Also, according to many sources, rosemary historically symbolizes remembrance–remembrance of friendship, of marriage vows, and of people we have lost.  Sprigs of rosemary have been used as decorations at wedding ceremonies to encourage love and fidelity, and they have been placed at the gravesides of loved ones as tokens of loving memories.

rosemary potatoes rawThe recipe I am sharing below is based on one I found in a very fun book:  “China Bayles’ Book of Days: 365 Celebrations of The Mystery, Myth, and Magic of Herbs from the World of Pecan Springs,” by Susan Wittig Albert.  I made a few minor changes, but I find that this recipe calls for just the right amount of herbs and spices for my and my family’s tastes, and the potatoes turn out great! I can’t wait to make them again!

rosemary potato wedgeThis book also has lots of information about using herbs, including recipes, remedies, gardening tips, and the folklore behind many of the herbs we use today.   I thoroughly enjoy continuously learning about the history and uses of herbs–the evolving knowledge brings new layers of meaning to cooking and gardening.  Since my husband and I learned that rosemary symbolizes remembering marriage (we read this a few years ago in a different book), we have kept a rosemary plant growing either in or outside of our house as a symbol of tending to our marriage.  Now that I have learned that rosemary also is a symbol of remembrance of those we have lost, I will use it as a way to cherish the memory of my dear father as well.  rosemary potatoes on whiteAs we try to make sense of our world and put our feelings into some kind of expression, herbs can help.  As Shakespeare’s Ophelia says to Hamlet:  “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray you, love, remember….”

potatoes and herbsWe are now a little over halfway between the beginning of fall and the beginning of winter.  The colors outside are more muted, but no less beautiful.  A lot of the leaves are on the ground now, and the ones left on the trees are mostly rust or a faded gold color.  The stars and the moon seem extra-bright lately, though maybe that’s because it is dark more now.  This is one of the best times of the year for cooking and baking, and I look forward to sharing some more recipes with you soon.  I hope you all have a great weekend!  I think I will take a tray of these tasty potatoes over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday ink-up, co-hosted this week by Jhuls@The Not So Creative Cook and Kaila@GF Life 24/7.November backyard viewfall grasses in the sun

Rosemary-Garlic Roasted Potatoes

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: approximately 10 minutes preparation, about 35 minutes for baking
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Ingredients:

  • 4-5 medium-sized red potatoes (or about 8  small ones), washed and cut into eighths
  • 1-2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 3 sprigs of rosemary, chopped
  • 2 teaspoon of parsley, chopped

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Wash and cut the potatoes into eighths.  Wash and chop the herbs, and mince the garlic.  In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, rosemary, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper. Toss the potatoes wedges in the bowl with the olive oil-herb mixture.  Make sure all the pieces are coated with oil–it will make it less likely that they will stick to the baking sheet.  Place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake in your 400-degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until just crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside.  About 20 minutes into the baking time, use a spatula to toss and flip the potatoes so they bake somewhat evenly.  If they stick a little, just use the spatula to unstick them and move them around.  If you don’t want to clean up a messy baking sheet, you can also coat the baking sheet with aluminum foil. Once they are done, you may add more salt and pepper, if you like. Enjoy!