Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5: National Raisin and Spice Bar Day, National Caramel Day & National Dandelion Day

National Raisin and Spice Bar Day

These will all go together well, right?
This food observance sent me into a funk.  I almost lost my mojo for this project over National Raisin and Spice Bar Day.  See, I scoured the internet for a "Raisin and Spice Bar" recipe, but I couldn't find exactly that.  I could find a recipe for Raisin Spice Bars, Oatmeal and Raisin Spice Bar Cookies, Rum Raisin Spice Bars... no "Raisin and Spice Bar."  (Yes, I was being finiky.) So I turned to the California Raisin Board and looked at their recipes - California Gold Bars, Raisin Banana Energy Bars, Raisin Almond Granola Bars....  Still no "Raisin and Spice Bar."  None of the recipes I had looked at really appealed to me - all seemed like crunchy granola bars or plump juicy cakes.  Plus, while looking at recipes, I had eaten the last of my raisins, so if I was going to make any of the recipes, I'd have to run to the store in the unpleasant weather.
My roommate caught me staring morosely into our panty and asked if I was actually making something, or if this was an "F*** it, who needs recipes day?"  When I explained my thoughts, she suggested I give up on the day, since I sounded so down.

Fresh from the oven
Well, I couldn't have that.  Somehow, I mustered up the willpower to crank out the outline of a recipe and head out the door to the store.  I picked up some raisins (along with a couple other things - funny how you go to the store for one thing and come back with four) and after a little tweaking of my original recipe outline, I came up with Christine's Chewy Raisin and Spice (With Oats and Other Healthy Stuff) Bars. 

I may need to work on that name.

Here's the recipe:

Christine's Chewy Raisin and Spice (With Oats and Other Healthy Stuff) Bars
Christine's Chewy Raisin and Spice (With Oats and
Other Healthy Stuff) Bars
1/3 cup honey
1 cup strong black tea
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/4 cup applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup oats
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp all-spice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.  Line the bottom of  a 13" x 9" baking pan with parchment paper.  In a microwave safe container, microwave the tea, the honey, and raisins for 2 minutes.  Stir and microwave for another 2 minutes if the honey is still thick.  Let the raisins, tea, and honey stand for at least 5 minutes to allow the raisins to plump up a little.  Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl together and set aside.  Measure the brown sugar into a large bowl.  Pour the tea/honey/raisins over the brown sugar.  Stir until  all the sugar has dissolved.  Add the vanilla and applesauce and stir until applesauce is spread throughout.  Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined.  Pour into prepared dish and bake for 40 minutes.  Cool completely.  Cut into bars about 1"x 2".

Some notes:  Instead of using parchment paper to line the pan, it might be easier to just grease the pan.  I used Celestial Seasonings' Nutcracker Sweet since that's currently the only black tea I have.  I also used chunky homemade applesauce, so there are chunks of apple in my bars.  I'd recommend using a smooth applesauce, but if chunky is all you have, it'll work - it'll just make cutting the bars neatly even harder than it already is. 
The verdict?  The roomie, who doesn't like raisins, declared the bars to be "tasty, aside from the raisins."   I love them- I've probably eaten two rows of the bars already.  The bars are almost-vegan (I don't think I can call them vegan since they have honey in them) and while they are not sugar-free, I think they may be fat-free.  At least, I can't see where the fat is in the recipe.  I like this recipe, but I think I may try making it again with just 1 cup of brown sugar.  The bars are a little on the sweet side, but the spices are definitely center stage in this recipe.
I need to end this part with a "Whoohoo!  I came up with another successful recipe!"

National Caramel Day

I love caramel.  I really know I shouldn't eat it, but I do.  It's gooey, sweet, and goes perfectly with so many things.  It's great in cookies, on top of ice creams, perfect for dipping apple slices into.....just plain perfect.

Sugars and Cream
So when I found out today was National Caramel Day, I knew I'd have to make something for the occasion.  (Especially since I didn't make Chocolate Caramels on March 19.)  I thought about making a caramel sauce for use as a topping but instead I opted to make plain caramels.  (Although, according to Wikipedia, I made milk caramels.)  Over medium heat in a 3-qt saucepan, I brought to a boil 1 cup of white sugar, 1/2 cup light brown sugar, 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla.  Working with boiling sugars is always something you have to be careful about - the sugar can burn you very badly, it can splatter up if you cook it over too a high a heat, and it can quickly boil up, over, and out your pot.  I highly recommend the use of a candy thermometer and making sure you have everything you need out and ready before you start cooking.  (This time, I forgot the silicone pan so I had to yell for help from my roommate because I was terrified to look away from my caramel.  Taking pictures for this made me nervous.)  If you ever make candy, you'll find yourself wondering, "Is this ever going to boil?  It's been FOREVER."  Then, in the blink of an eye, your sugar mixture will hit the appropriate temperature and you'll have to move as quickly as possible because you risk the sugar continuing to cook and the complete ruin of your candies. 

And of course, sometimes, even when you do everything just right, your candy still may be ruined due to the weather.  High humidity makes it impossible for candies like fudge and caramel to set properly.  I'm actually a little concerned that my caramel isn't going to set properly because it's drizzling right now and I don't like using air conditioners so our covered windows are open.  It's been about five hours since I poured into the silicone pan, though, and it seems to be setting well.  It's setting so well, I'm now worried that I did accidentally let the sugar get too hot and it'll be soft crack when I was aiming for firm ball consistency.

Well, I'll find out in the morning, but the caramel I licked off the spatula was mighty tasty, so I'll be eating the caramel no matter the consistency.

Hopefully this sets

National Dandelion Day

Some of you may be wondering why I included National Dandelion Day here.  Well, dandelions are edible.  In fact, there a lot of edible flowers.  I've eaten a few - mainly pansies, nasturtiums, and lavendar - in salads and cookies and used a lot to make tisanes.  And technically, broccoli is a flower, too.  If you've never eaten a flower, give it a try.  It's definitely a different experience.  Just never eat flowers unless you know they're safe to eat and you're certain no pesticides were used on them. 

I've eaten dandelions before.  When I was younger, I remember it being a trend to pluck a dandelion flower and then sticking the stalk in your mouth and sucking on it.  I would never do that now, because I'm a little wiser now and understand that eating random plants plucked in a playground is  not a smart thing to do.  Still, I have absolutely no problem buying dandelion greens from the grocery store if a recipe calls for it.  I tried eating them raw in a salad, and I find them to be too bitter to eat that way.  About's Southern Food has a recipe for cooked dandelion greens that I may have to try - I like the idea of a little spice.  And over at the Safe Lawns Blog, there's a nice collection of uses for dandelions, including dandelion wine and beer. 

Dandelion wine sounds interesting enough that I want to try it.

No comments:

Post a Comment