Thursday, September 30, 2010

Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

I love fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. (Oh, who am I kidding? I love just about any fresh-baked dessert!) But, I must admit, I really don't like to bake cookies. I hate having to stand around and wait for each individual tray to bake and in the process, giving up an hour or two of my time to get them all done. That's why I absolutely LOVE bar cookies. The entire batch gets done all at the same time. I just set the timer and pull them out of the oven when they're done. No standing around necessary!

I saw this recipe over at Food Allergy Mama a while back and just knew I had to make them. Quick and easy -- they turned out great. The oatmeal makes them nice and chewy. Yum!


Chocolate Chip Oat Bars

1/3 cup shortening
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1-1/4 cup quick cooking oats (not instant)
1 cup MSPI-friendly chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch pan with foil and coat with baking spray.

In a mixer, combine the shortening, brown sugar, vanilla and applesauce. In a separate medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt with a wire whisk. Add to shortening mixture. Stir in oats and chips. Spread mixture into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Cool slightly and cut into bars.

Tip: Don't have applesauce on hand? Use one egg instead.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lasagna

Fall is here! I love fall ... the cooler weather, the hay rack rides, trips to the pumpkin patch and apple orchard, campfires, Halloween, the colorful leaves and the comfort food! It's time for soups, stews and casseroles, and the king of casseroles (at least in my book) is lasagna.

I've avoided making lasagna for a very long time, since I figured, "What's the point? I can't have the best part: cheese!" However, my friend Tina changed that for me. When Caroline was born, Tina brought me a lasagna that replaced the ricotta cheese filling with ... chick peas! I know, it sounds a little strange, but it really works. You gotta give it a shot!

Anyway, I came up with this recipe, taking what Tina made and adding a white sauce, which is the way my mom always made lasagna. (The white sauce on top also helps disguise the lack of cheese.) Feel free to adapt the recipe to your personal taste. Don't like spinach? Leave it out. Want vegetarian? Leave out the meat and add sauteed veggies. Can't have eggs? Leave them out -- the bean mixture just may not firm up as well.

There's a lot of steps that goes into making this lasagna, but don't let that scare you away. It isn't difficult to make!


Lasagna

1 lb. ground beef, turkey or bulk Italian sausage
2 jars MSPI-friendly pasta sauce
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cans white beans (such as chick peas, cannellini or great northern)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 10 oz. packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
salt
pepper
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4 cup flour
2 cups rice milk

Cook meat in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until no longer pink; drain. Mix in pasta sauce and set aside.

Meanwhile, cook and drain noodles according to package directions. Arrange noodles in a single layer on a clean dish towel and set aside.

Drain and rinse beans and place in a blender or food processor. Add eggs, oregano and salt and pepper, to taste. Blend until mixture is smooth, adding a little bit of water if necessary. Set aside.

Prepare white sauce by heating oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in rice milk. Boil one minute, stirring constantly. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. (If you like, add a pinch of nutmeg. It goes well with the spinach.)

To assemble the lasagna, spread 1 cup pasta sauce in a 9x13 baking dish that's been coated with cooking spray. Top with four noodles. Spread with half the bean mixture. Sprinkle with half the spinach. Then one-third of the remaining pasta sauce. Top with four more noodles. Repeat. Top the last of the noodles with the remaining pasta sauce and then pour the white sauce on top of the red sauce.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes longer or until hot and bubbly. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting. (It's tempting but don't skip this step, the standing will help the lasagna hold together.)

Tip: The bean mixture will firm up in the baking process, however, if it seems too thin after you blend it, you can thicken it slightly with a tablespoon or two of MSPI-friendly bread crumbs.