Saturday, March 31

The Week-Cap - 5,4,3,2,1

I spoiled myself this week, starting with this strawberry with whipped cream and ending with a bubbly Kir Royale...all in celebration of how truly spoiled I am to have TWO whole weeks off of work. I am forever doomed to feel like I deserve the schedule of a high school student.

  • 5. Monday - One week to go. I made Turkey Sausage and Peppers for dinner which I happened to post the recipe for this week. So warm and comforting, it got the week started off right. I also posted my trip to the Farmers Market, which not only provided me with some awesome food, but also gave me some great ideas for recipes!
  • 4. Tuesday - Exhaustion. Must eat guacamole and cheesy chips. 
  • 3. Wednesday - Half way there. I posted my recipe for Strawberry Banana 'Smoothie' Bread and then realized that I should probably put the bread down and just drink a smoothie considering I ate almost the entire loaf. But then again, I'm spoiling myself, right?
  • 2. Thursday - Practically on vacation already. I decided I need to make a Blueberry Almond version of the Raisin Apple Walnut Bars I made earlier this month. Then I ate a huge plate of Cajun Fish with Rice and Spicy White Beans at Wahoo's...OMG. Please eat that.
  • 1. Friday - It actually arrived. We had an early Easter party at work complete with an Egg Hunt, so much fun that and I ate two huge chocolate chip cookies. No wonder I fell asleep as soon as I got home. Then I ate one of my new favorite soup recipes..Three Bean Stew with Pearl Barley. Amazing! A definite must share. Still exhausted but looking forward to some serious relaxing for the next two weeks. Excuse me while I do this:

Friday, March 30

Turkey Sausage and Peppers

We LOVE Italian food and one of my very favorite ingredients to use when I make it is bell peppers. They are so sweet, flavorful and add gorgeous colors to any dish. We also love sausage, but whenever I make it at home, I use the turkey version. It's healthier and not as heavy as traditional pork sausage. Chicken sausage is also a great alternative if you can find it fresh. This dish may take a little time, but it requires little work, which makes it a super easy meal that yields a lot of portions.

 Start with either a homemade marinara sauce, or a jarred one. This one comes from Smitten Kitchen and is so easy and delicious.

 Place your peppers and onions in a large pot with olive oil.
 They should start to look like this after about 20-25 minutes of cooking.
 Once the peppers and onions are ready, you can deglaze with white wine, add garlic, herbs and your choice of tomato sauce. Then, tuck the uncooked turkey sausage underneath the sauce and get ready to simmer.
 After 45 minutes to an hour on very low heat, the sauce will be slightly reduced and the sausages will be cooked through and ready to slice. I like to use scissors and tongs to do the slicing.
This smells amazing and tastes even better. Serve it over your favorite type of pasta (we like whole wheat penne) or rice, or you could even spoon in onto crispy bread and make a sub. Just be sure to top it with tons of parmesan cheese! This made two meals for husband and I, so it could easily feed 5.

Turkey Sausage and Peppers

1 Package uncooked turkey sausage (5 links)
2 green bell peppers, julienned
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C good white wine
3/4 of a jar of good marinara, or homemade marinara from smitten kitchen
about 7 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1 T olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers and stir to coat with oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they start to become tender and brown, about 20-25 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Deglaze the pot with the white wine, making sure it bubbles and reduces. Pour the marinara over the veggies and turn the heat down to simmer. Add the fresh basil and tuck each sausage link into the pot, making sure each is covered by the sauce. Place the lid to almost cover the pot and simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.

Once the sausages are cooked through, slice each into rounds using a knife or kitchen scissors. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve over your pasta of choice topped with more basil and freshly grated parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, March 28

Strawberry Banana 'Smoothie' Bread

While I have always loved the combination of Strawberries and Bananas, I never thought of baking them together into a bread. One of the lovely bakery stands at my local Farmers Market was selling a loaf of Strawberry Banana Bread this past weekend. I didn't buy it, but my friend did and as her text later in the day told me, it was soooooo good. It just so happened that I had a few bananas on my counter just begging to be mashed into something sweet and yummy. So I thought I'd take the opportunity to give this new idea a try.

 I didn't have a proper recipe, so I just adapted one I've used many times for "Healthier Banana Bread". I started with the dry ingredients.
 Then I put thawed frozen strawberries and broken up bananas into my mini prep food processor. I used frozen berries because they are guaranteed to be sweet and super soft and ripe. Also because I had already used all of my fresh strawberries to make my Fresh Strawberry Sauce last week.
 This really looks and tastes just like a smoothie. I almost drank it straight out of the bowl.
 Add the 'smoothie' to the dry ingredients and mix well to combine.
 The batter has a really pretty light pink hue to it.
This bread is so soft, sweet and delicious, and as my friend (who got the very first sample of course) said, it is much tastier and more wholesome than the market version - go figure! I may just forget to eat my bananas on purpose this week.

Strawberry Banana 'Smoothie' Bread

1 1/4 C all purpose flour
1 C whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
dash of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C white sugar
3/4 C natural, unsweetened applesauce
2 over ripe bananas
12-15 medium strawberries (thawed from frozen preferred)
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a food processor or blender, puree the strawberries and bananas until smooth, like a smoothie. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the fruit puree in the center. Add the beaten eggs, applesauce and vanilla and carefully whisk together. Stir until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Monday, March 26

A Trip to the Farmer's Market

 During the warmer months of the year, one of my favorite things to do is walk the aisles of the Farmer's Market and check out stall after stall of fantastic local goodies, and it's not just produce. From veggies to fruit, meat and fish, jam, soap, cheese and hand woven baskets, you can find some great treasures that you won't find anywhere else. I think it is extremely important to take good care of local small business owners who work hard to provide alternatives to big market chains and often sell one of a kind products. If you enjoy cooking seasonally, there is not better place to go than the Farmer's Market. It is a direct reflection of what is truly fresh and just picked.
 I love that there are never any annoying stickers on the fruit....look at how beautiful these bright red strawberries are!
 This ginger root was gigantic and now I want to figure out a reason to buy a piece that big.
 I don't even know what this vegetable is! It was labeled as Kolhrabi and the sign said to peel and cook it and that the leaves were similar to kale...I would never find this anywhere in a conventional grocery store.
 Sample, sample, sample. Another awesome part about shopping here is having the opportunity to try everything before you buy it...and the sellers are constantly encouraging you to take more. Come hungry!
 Gorgeous local flowers for a great price. $5, $6 and $7 bundles that could cost twice as much elsewhere.
My haul. Raw local honey (which is said to be great for people with allergies), Walnuts to make another batch of Raisin Apple Walnut Bars, a bag of 4 big Onions (for a dollar!), freshly squeezed Orange Juice, bright fuschia Snapdragons, and one of my favorite snacks of all time from a Mediterranean food company called Baba Foods, the Three Layer Dip. It's Olive oil, basil, sundried tomatoes and feta cheese and I can only get it at the Farmer's Market!

Do you have a local market in your neighborhood or somewhere nearby? If so, you should definitely check it out. Not only will you get some great quality foods, but you'll have a wonderful time too and I guarantee you'll discover something you didn't even know grew around the corner!


Saturday, March 24

The Week-Cap - Welcome Spring!

How do you get the rest of the honey out of a Honey Bear that has no flat top?? Well, you do this of course...and then you wait. At least it didn't take all week.

  • Monday - I posted the recipe for my adaptation of the Mini Tin Can Cake, which was Red Velvet with cream cheese frosting. And then I came home from work and made a Carrot Cake version...What??? With Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting and those three adorable little layers. Now I'm just gonna have to do another post about all the flavors you can create in under an hour...get excited!
  • Tuesday - The first day of Spring! Hooray! Except that I thought maybe I had moved to Big Bear Mountain because it was absolutely freezing the first few days of this week. Where did my flip flop weather go?? 
  • Wednesday - Oh there it is...72 degrees...ahhhhhh. Nice weather + loooong work days = homemade Mai Tais! I'm just gonna have to share this one with you, because you seriously will be the host of the century with this Mai Tai is so good and so easy to create quality cocktails at home. I also posted my recipe for Fresh Strawberry Sauce on what happened to be California Strawberry Day...I'll let you believe that I planned that one. 
  • Thursday - It's hard for me to get through a week without sushi, it just makes me so happy. I discovered a new roll at my tiny little local sushi shop...and I mean tiny, like 5 seats inside tiny. I had the Summer Vacation Roll and it was as fresh as it sounds. Tuna, Red Snapper, Salmon and Crab stuffed into a wheel of thinly sliced cucumber topped with green onions....perfection.
  • Friday - There goes those Mai Tais again. And maybe nachos. And maybe guacamole. Hey, I ran 3 miles before I ate so it all balances out, right? At least my post was the extremely delicious and extremely healthy recipe for "Grilled" Vegetable Kebabs. I think I need to juice something this weekend. Or maybe I should just bake this again and call it a serving of carrots.

Friday, March 23

"Grilled" Vegetable Kebabs

I fully intended to grill these kebabs...on a real BBQ, in my backyard. It's Springtime after all and the time change means I actually can see what I'm doing rather than trying to hold a flashlight over the flames while attempting to flip my food.

But then it got cold...and windy...and I wimped out. So, I did the the next best thing, and I'm positive you would never be able to tell that these kebabs weren't done on an open fire. This is a super easy, weather proof, 2-step process that you can do with any Veggies that you like.
I chopped up all of my chosen vegetables into big chunks and threw them in a large bowl with some olive oil, herbs, and seasonings. 
Then I strung them all along a few wooden no particular order, just whatever felt a few stragglers.
Then I started the 2-step cooking process. First, I seared them on both sides on a hot grill pan coated in vegetable oil. Next, I stuck them underneath the broiler of my oven to char up the edges and give them that "open flame" taste.
They came out perfect! Tender, flavorful and crispy on the edges. I served them with Jasmine Rice, a nice Greek salad and some hummus. Delicious and so healthy!!

Grilled Vegetable Kebabs
serves 2-3
1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
6 Cremini Mushrooms, halved
1 medium Zucchini, sliced
1 medium Onion, chopped
about 12 cherry or grape tomatoes
2-3 T Olive oil
1 tsp. paprika
1/2-1 tsp. Lawry's Seasoning Salt (depending on your taste)
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Heat a stove top grill pan brushed with about a tsp. of vegetable oil over medium high heat.

Prepare all vegetables and place in a large bowl. Top with olive oil and all herbs and seasonings. Carefully stir the veggies to coat. String each vegetable onto a skewer. Place each skewer onto the grill pan, flipping after about 3 minutes or when grill marks begin to appear. Grill another 2-3 minutes, then place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. If you are using wooden skewers, you can wrap the ends of each one with foil to prevent burning if your broiler gets too hot. Mine were just fine and didn't need this step.

Turn the broiler to high on your oven. Place the cookie sheet on a rack in the center of the oven. Watch the kebabs closely, they should be ready to flip after about 5-7 minutes, but it really depends on your desired 'charring'. Using tongs, flip the kebabs over and continue to broil until the veggies look crispy and tender.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Leftover "Grilled" veggies are great on a salad, as a pizza topping or in a hot, cheesy panini.


Wednesday, March 21

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

With the arrival of Spring, I felt it only right to do a post on one of my most favorite fruits of all time..strawberries! They really are a seasonal berry and even though you may see them in the market all year long, now is when they truly start to get succulently sweet and delicious!

Of course, strawberries are amazing all by themselves...or dipped in sugar...or chocolate...or the list could seriously go on and on into every meal of the day. But this recipe is something I love to do with the leftover berries that couldn't quite make it to tomorrow. This is a similar technique to the Fruit Compote I made for the Blueberry Buttermilk Waffles earlier this month, but I think its actually even easier!
All you need is strawberries, honey, some sort of fruit juice and maybe a dash of cinnamon if you like it.

The great thing about strawberries is that their natural pectin (you know, the stuff that makes jam thicken up when you cook it) and natural sugars help to create a thicker sauce, so you really don't need any type of thickening agent. The longer you cook this sauce down, the thicker it will get all by itself.
Hull and cut up your strawberries into chunks and put them in a small saucepan. I used about 10 average sized berries. Heat them over low to medium heat with a few tablespoons of honey and about 1/4 Cup of juice. I like to use fresh lemon juice, but I have also used orange juice and leftover apple cider which are equally delicious. You could also really spruce it up and add some freshly chopped mint for a more herbal flair. Simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes, breaking up the berries with a fork and stirring occasionally. If you like a smoother sauce, throw it in a blender and blend to your desired consistency. Serve hot or cold. The sauce will keep for about a week in a jar in the fridge.
I use this sauce/quick jam for pancakes, waffles, toast with peanut butter, ice cream and even as a topper for greek yogurt. What would you use it for?


Monday, March 19

Mini Red Velvet Cake

I can not even tell you how happy miniature things like this make me. I am such a sucker for normal size items being reduced down to mouse-size proportions. So when I found a recipe online for a Mini Birthday Cake baked in an aluminum can, I nearly fainted. The thought of creating a true layer cake perfect for just one or two people to share kind of blows my mind.

And isn't it so much cuter than a plain old cupcake or one of those 'individual cake molds'....ugh, that's so February.
To me, the best part of this recipe, slash method, has to be that you only need to make a tiny amount of batter and you most likely have all of the ingredients already. This means you could easily go from mixing to eating within an hour.
The original recipe, which I found on The Baker Chick's website, is for a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting (I made that one too). Perfectly fine as is...BUT, I've already told you how much I looooove red velvet anything (remember the brownies??), so the natural thing to do was to make it my own.
Fresh out of the Oven
I combined the recipe from the Baker Chick with a basic recipe for Red Velvet Cake. I already knew the components to balance the flavors and make it red, so it was just a matter of guessing the right amounts....and voilĂ ! A super cute singular cake was born.
Kind of looks like cranberry sauce 

Mini Tin Can Red Velvet Cake 
Adapted from The Baker Chick and me :)
1 egg white
2 T sugar
2 T unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 C minus 1 tsp. flour
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 T buttermilk (milk is fine too)
1/8 tsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. red food coloring
dash of salt
empty 15 oz aluminum can with the top lid completely removed

Preheat the oven to 350.

Make sure your tin can is completely clean and dry and use an organic brand if possible. Coat it with either butter or cooking spray and flour. Cut a small round of parchment paper and place it in the bottom of the can.

In a small bowl whisk together egg white and sugar well. Add the butter and vanilla and mix again. Add the dry ingredients, whisking softly to combine. Fold in the buttermilk, vinegar and food coloring. Pour the batter into the can and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool completely, then turn the little cake out onto a plate. Slice off the rounded top of the cake and eat it and then slice the rest into 3 pieces, the lines created by the can will help to make them straight. Frost with your favorite frosting. I like cream cheese frosting, which you can easily make a small amount of.

Just combine about 2 T unsalted, softened butter, 2 oz softened cream cheese, 1/8 C powdered sugar and a dash of vanilla. Or use store bought if that's what you have on hand.


Saturday, March 17

The Week-Cap - Green, Green, Green

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Are you sick of everything being green yet? When I almost made green velvet cupcakes yesterday, I knew things had gone too far. I mean, why mess with a good thing, right?

So let's talk about the first week I got to finally enjoy longer sunny days.

  • Monday -  After a busy weekend celebrating my Dad's birthday with some delicious food and cocktails on the beach, it was time to clean out! My breakfast Monday consisted of a Raisin Apple Walnut Bar and some super sweet strawberries. The breakfast bar was the perfect way to start my week and I look forward to coming up with all new fruit/nut combinations to put inside.
  • Tuesday - I decided to get in on the Seasonal Potluck and make something for the March ingredient, artichokes. It just so happened that I had a bunch of kale waiting to be made into something delicious, and Kale Artichoke Dip was born. Let me tell you what, this dip is absolutely fantastic! It is thick, cheesy, warm and oozing with flavor. We enjoyed it with a bag of pita chips and some Kona Fire Rock Beer, while watching the Lakers...perfect!
  • Wednesday - A great friend and I got together for Wine Wednesday and some homemade chicken caesar salad goodness. If you have a Trader Joe's in your area, they offer free wine tasting every single day on select bottles in the store. It's a great way to try something new that is also super affordable. We settled on a nice, light Pinot Noir that was only $9.99 a bottle...score!
  • Thursday - Thank goodness for late afternoon sunlight! After work I got to take a jog with my sweet puppy by the water. Something we don't get to do much in the cold winter months. This was followed by a ridiculous new dinner that I made of Roasted Vegetable Kebabs, Jasmine Rice and Greek Salad...that recipe will be here soon and I promise it won't disappoint!
  • Friday - Another fantastic end to the week at one of my favorite local spots, the SideDoor. We had a wonderful time laughing with great friends and eating amazing food! I had an absolutely wonderful cocktail followed by a beautiful charcuterie plate, fish n chips and a mini ice cream sundae to top it off. Yeah, we went all out, but that's what Fridays are for :). And if you plan on having your friends over today for a St. Patrick's Day celebration, make sure you check out the fun alternative green cocktails I posted. Have fun! And eat one of these:

Friday, March 16

Green Cocktails

Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day and whether you are staying in or going out on the town, perhaps it's time for a change of pace when it comes to your drink of choice. The first beverages that always come to my mind on this old Irish holiday are Light Beer turned Green, Guinness, and Bailey's Irish Cream.

Well, not this year! Time to switch it up with some new cocktails that fit the green theme but have different and exciting flavors.

The first drink is one that I had recently at a little beach side restaurant that is as springy as can be. It's called "Cool as a Cucumber" and it is a perfectly refreshing cocktail with a light sage hue and a crisp finish. It's basically muddled cucumbers and mint mixed with lime juice, gin and my current favorite, St. Germaine Elderflower. You may remember me mentioning the sweet, floral liqueur when I posted the recipe for Kir Royales. I'm in love with it and I seriously think you need to give it a try.
You can even buy mini's of it at BevMo!

Here, I used a few little clovers to decorate the cocktail. Festive!

The second drink includes another liqueur that has been around for literally ever but is making a big comeback. It's called Green Chartreuse and it has quite a fascinating backstory. The liqueur has been made for hundreds of years by French Monks in the mountains of France and actually gave the green color of chartreuse it's name. Also, it has over 130 different types of herbal extracts in it! See? History and Cocktails all in one're welcome!
Green Chartreuse Martini
See how everything is green?? MmmHmm.
The hints of thyme and rosemary definitely come through on the Chartreuse. Prepared as a Martini, it is quite fantastic. I would go the classic route and use a great gin, like Tanqueray and a dry vermouth, like Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth. You could always use vodka instead of gin, but that's not my style :). The usual ratio for a martini is a dash of dry vermouth swirled in the glass, 2 parts gin and 1 part Chartreuse. Garnish with a sprig of mint and you have a lovely, green cocktail without the help of food coloring!

Hopefully, these two ideas will give you something new to try this St. Patrick's Day, or any day of the year for that matter. Be creative and make what you like, it's all about the combining flavors that make your tastebuds happy!

"Cool As a Cucumber"
Adapted from The Deck Restaurant - makes 1 cocktail
2 oz Gin
1 oz St. Germaine Elderflower
1 inch piece of cucumber, chopped
4-5 mint leaves, torn
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. sugar

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the cucumber, mint, lime juice and sugar (add more or less to taste). Then add a few pieces of ice, the gin and the elderflower liqueur. Shake well and strain the mixture into a martini glass. Spoon some of the muddled goodness into the drink and top with a clover if you're lucky enough to have one :)


Wednesday, March 14

Kale Artichoke Dip

This time of year always makes me think of the color green, and not just because of St. Patrick's Day. The crisp air, the longer days and the light rain bring spring growth and the first sprouts of new grass for the season. Everything seems more vibrant and the produce finally starts to get reeeaaaallly good. So, in honor of all things green, I decided to make a delicious dip to share with my friends for St. Patrick's Day. Considering it will be raining in my neighborhood this Saturday, staying indoors with some cocktails, games and this dip sounds like the perfect way to celebrate.

Not to mention, it's artichoke month on Seasonal Potluck. If you've never heard of Seasonal Potluck, it's a fun website where you can share recipes based on a certain seasonal ingredient each month. When I saw that artichokes were the highlight for March, I instantly thought I wanted to make a new take on a classic dip that would also incorporate the green of the season.

And so, Kale Artichoke Dip was born. It's like Spinach & Artichoke dip, but thicker, greener and just plain more delicious. You can pretend it's healthier too if you want.
P.S. I found a new product at the market....jarred grilled artichokes. I got way too excited when I saw these knowing how they would elevate the flavor of my dip....and they did NOT disappoint!
Start by boiling or steaming your kale. Make sure to shock it in cold water as soon as its tender to keep the color and stop the cooking.
Heat the whipping cream and cream cheese together.
After adding all of the spices, kale and artichokes, get excited because we are going to use one of my very favorite little devices...
Um, yes, that is a mini crockpot and it's called the "Little Dipper" need one of these. You put your dip or fondue in it, plug it in and get ready to grub. You could certainly bake this dip in the oven in a heatproof dish as well, but the Little Dipper is just so much more fun when you are having guests.
Serve it hot and bubbly with tortilla chips, pita bread, or some crusty sliced baguette. Yum!

Kale Artichoke Dip
2- 3 large leaves of kale, torn or chopped
1 jar grilled artichokes hearts, chopped (if you can't find grilled, plain will do just fine)
4 oz. cream cheese or neufchatel cheese (to save a little fat and calories)
1/4 C heavy whipping cream
1 clove garlic, minced
salt & pepper, to taste
dash each of cayenne pepper, nutmeg, paprika and italian seasoning
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 C shredded parmesan cheese

In a small saucepan, boil or steam the kale. Drain and shock the kale in cold water. Once the kale is cool enough to handle, squeeze out the excess water either in your hands or in a dishtowel. In the same saucepan, heat the cream and cream cheese over low heat. Stir frequently and watch closely so it does not boil or burn. Once the two are incorporated, add all of the spices, garlic and lemon zest, followed by the artichokes and kale. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese.

Either bake in a heatproof dish in a 350 degree oven until cheese is melted and top is golden brown (maybe 15 minutes or so), or place the mixture into the Little Dipper and plug it in about 30 minutes before you want to serve it. Dip can be made up to 2 days in advance and kept in the fridge.


Monday, March 12

Raisin Apple Walnut Breakfast Bars

If you couldn't tell already, breakfast is a serious affair in my household. It's definitely the number one meal of the day, and not just because it comes first. Much to my chagrin, my husband has a tendency to skip lunch, he's just not a fan. So when it comes to what he eats first thing each morning, it has to be something that will carry him throughout the day.

These bars are that something.
If you shop at Trader Joe's (and if you have one near you, you obviously do), you may have seen something called 'Force Primeval Bars'. It's a very funky name for what are simply little individual bread bars filled with raisins, apples and walnuts. This was the goal: to recreate these bars with nothing but a list of what may or may not be in them...and find a way better name.

I based this recipe slightly off of my recipe for Whole Wheat English Muffins, meaning, its somewhat of the same technique and amounts of ingredients.

I started with all of the ingredients in one large bowl.
Combined them mostly with my hands and then kneaded the dough in the bowl for about 5 minutes. I then formed it into a ball and left it in a bit of oil to rise for about an hour.
After rising, I cut the dough in half, rolled it into two long logs and made slices to size the bars. I left the logs to rest and rise again for another half hour.
Next up, baking time. They did not take very long because they are not very thick...bonus. They came out beautiful, soft and chewy and I can't even tell you how amazing the smell in my house was.
Goal Accomplished!

Raisin Apple Walnut Bars

1 C warm water
1 package active dry yeast
2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C bread flour
1/4 C wheat germ
1/4 C wheat bran
1 T vital wheat gluten
3 T honey
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C walnuts, chopped
1/4 C raisins
1/4 C apple, peeled and cubed (such as gala or granny smith)

In a large bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Let sit and allow the yeast to foam for about 5 minutes. Add all ingredients into the water/yeast mixture. You can leave out or swap any of the last 3 items if you don't care for nuts or raisins. You can also use just wheat germ or just wheat bran if you only have one or the other(just increase to 1/2 C).

*Vital Wheat Gluten is an important part of this recipe because it helps doughs made with whole wheat flour not come out like a brick. It will lighten the mixture and give the bread a chewier, softer texture. You can find it at any natural foods store, but I bought mine in the regular old supermarket.

Using your hands, mix all ingredients together and begin to knead the dough in the bowl until it starts to become smooth and elastic. Pour a T of olive oil over the dough and turn to coat it in the bowl. Cover and leave in a warm, dry place to rise for one hour.
Cut the dough in half. On a cookie sheet, lined with parchment paper, spread a bit of flour and shape each half of the dough into a log. You want to shape it smaller than the desired size as it will rise slightly again when left to rest. Using a sharp knife, make a slice (but not all the way through) in the center of each log. Then make another slice in the center of each half you created, so you end up with 3 slices on each log and 4 bars, for a total of 8 bars. Cover and let rest and rise again for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375.

Bake the bars for 18-20 minutes. Let cool and then either break or finish cutting each bar from the log.
You can slice them in half to toast, or just eat them whole. Either way, they are packed with wholesome energy to get your morning started off right! They will stay fresher longer if you freeze them and take them out to thaw before you eat or if you refrigerate them.