Monday, September 29, 2014

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars


Here's a totally delicious, totally easy, no-bake bar recipe from Martha Stewart (you can view the video here). To me they are more like candy than a "power bar," and I'm sure that in addition to high-protein, high-fiber ingredients they are loaded with calories!  

A couple of  notes: I had only one 4-ounce bar of bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli brand) on hand, so I added a few dark chocolate chips to the mix. I think the bars would be plenty chocolately with just the 4 ounces of chocolate. Next time I may try adding some rice crisp cereal. Lastly, if you follow a strict gluten-free diet, be sure to buy oats processed in a gluten-free facility, such as Bob's Red Mill brand. I used Quaker oats.

No-Bake Chocolate Almond Oat Bars

1) Spray an 8" square baking pan with non-stick spray. Line bottom and sides with parchment paper; set aside.

2) In a 3-quart saucepan, put 1 stick of butter, 1/3 cup honey and 1 cup natural almond butter (just nuts, no added oils). Cook over medium-low to medium heat, about 6 minutes, until smooth and butter is melted.

3) Remove pan from heat and stir in:
  • 4 to 6 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats

4) Mix well. Transfer mixture to the prepared pan, spreading evenly. Put in the refrigerator to chill until firm. Remove from pan and cut into squares or bars and enjoy!

While we're on the subject of cooking, I'd like to say how much I'm enjoying our new, 3-quart Le Creuset saucepan. We'd been wanting to replace a Calphalon pan of the same size for a couple of reasons. One is the handle, which is not at all ergonomic (what's up with that? Seems simple enough to design a pot handle that feels good in the hand and is easy to hold, rather than one that's uncomfortable and hard to grip). The other is that the Calphalon pan is tapered, rather than straight-sided. The bottom of the pot is too small for all but one of our burners, even at a 3-quart size. 

While shopping at Crate & Barrel recently (one of my favorite stores) I gravitated immediately to the cookware section to check out their options. A 3-quart saucepan by Le Creuset was actually on sale, and while I wouldn't typically spend more than $100 on one pot, I'm glad I did this time.

Made of 3-ply stainless steel, this pan has an aluminum core sandwiched between two layers of stainless, which continues throughout the pan to ensure excellent heat conduction from base to rim and prevent hot spots. The rim is rounded for drip-free pouring and the shorter extra handle opposite the long one makes it very convenient for carrying a heavy pot to the sink. Because of its excellent heat conduction, the "Care and Use" guide warns not to heat over high. We have found that water comes to a boil quickly at a "7" or "8" setting on our electric range, and holds a simmer at a lower number too -- clearly a well crafted piece of equipment. Now I'm wanting a 12" Le Creuset fry pan as well! Maybe for Christmas ...?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Home Tour 2014

My husband and I made our annual trip to my favorite home tour in a lovely historic neighborhood yesterday, and as usual it did not disappoint. We were joined by a couple of good friends this year, and we all had such fun oohing and aahing over all the details. There were six homes on the tour, including an industrial-style loft.

My favorite home on the tour, a 1944 bungalow, is one that I didn't photograph the outside of because the exterior was rather plain and uninteresting. I didn't have my hopes up for the inside, but boy was I wrong! I fell in love with the layout, the decorating and the art. Sadly, interior photos are not allowed on this tour, a rule that is strictly enforced. Sorry, I know how much better this post would be with interior shots, but I'll do my best to describe some of the highlights.

The standout feature in my favorite home (not pictured) was the master bedroom, just off the main living space, with a step up into the room and a pocket door for privacy. The first thing you see is a modern black canopy bed covered in white linens with a large, dramatic black and white photograph directly over the head of the bed. The entire space is beautifully lit to highlight the photograph by Thomas Joshua Cooper, one of the most celebrated and distinctive landscape photographers in the world today. Many other large-scale black and white photos by Cooper, framed in groups of four, are hung throughout the home. The house has great lighting as well, including a modern mercury glass ceiling fixture in the living room, and curvy, sculptural wooden veneer pendants in the bedroom and dining room.

Another home I loved is the historic bungalow below (there's my hubby on the porch). Built in 1903, this house had tons of charm with its original wood floors, original tiled fireplaces, paneled walls and intricately detailed windows. I loved this house both from an architectural and decorating perspective. Over the years, the second story had become a rental unit with an external door on the side and stairs to a separate entrance. During the course of three renovations, the stairs were removed and the home returned to a single family dwelling. The most recent renovation retained the home's original footprint.

Here is detail of the window on the upper floor. This house had a great color scheme and period light fixtures. Another unique aspect of this home was the extensive collection of antique paintings, some dating to the 1600s. Of particular interest to me was a dark powder room that I was dying to photograph. The dramatic black and white chevron wallpaper was contrasted by a huge, dark antique dresser and ornately carved mirror that had been converted to a vanity with a sit-on-top white basin. In a little alcove above the toilet hung an antique painting in an ornate gold frame with an attached picture light. While the room is not what I might choose to live with on a daily basis, I loved it for its drama, uniqueness and reflection of the owners' personality.

Here's a peek into the back yard of this home. I love the arbor and gate, and that sweet garage!

The next house is new construction, obviously. The lot had a small brick ranch on it when the owners bought the property. They tore down the house and built this home, which the tour guide book states was designed to fit into the neighborhood and its historic past. I'm not sure that was achieved, and the exterior is too symmetrical in my opinion, but the inside of this home is wonderful. It's completely modern with a grey and white color scheme throughout. Parts of it were too sterile for my taste (though I think the owners are still getting settled in). Upstairs, the master suite is amazing. The first thing you see through its doorway is a built-in beverage refrigerator and coffee station. Turn the corner and you enter a very large room with a wonderful screened-in porch off of it, fully furnished with sofas, coffee table and gas fireplace. The master bathroom is spectacular! It has heated marble floors, a gorgeous freestanding soaking tub, an enormous glass-walled, marble-tiled shower with I don't know how many shower heads and jets, a double sink vanity with low-profile rectangular basins and a separate water closet. This home was stunning and quite fun to tour. The garage, below, has a separate living space, but was not open to the tour.

The next home, a 70-year-old bungalow, was also on the tour. The front of the home was not changed when the owner remodeled, but space was added to the back half of the house and upstairs. In the master bedroom on the second floor are two doors that open and overlook a large great room and kitchen below, secured by wire railing (a little scary, but cool). A beautiful porch off the back of the second story was also a wonderful space. The lovely kitchen had marble counters, a waterfall-style marble island and high-end appliances.

So there are the descriptions of four of the six homes we toured, with photos of three of them. Every time I visit this neighborhood, I like to take photos of other charming homes we pass. Enjoy the next three houses, which were not on the tour, but I had to include them because they're so cute. Please share your thoughts of these homes and which ones you like best. Thanks for visiting!

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