Monday, January 30, 2012

Low-Fat Granola Bars & Poached Pears!

Here we are again!

Sadly I did not get around to doing the coffee shop review like I had planned this weekend. Instead I made granola bars and poached pears!

The granola bars were because my boyfriend and I seem to go through about 2 boxes of these a week and I'm looking for a healthy (and cheap!) alternative!

This recipe was taken from the Cookin' Canuck and her pics are awesome! I apologize for the 'ruggedness' of my pics but I kind of forgot I was planning to blog all this until I was almost finished!

My only complaint about these granola bars is that the texture came out kind of gummy, and I'm wondering if I did something wrong! Maybe I didn't bake them long enough? Or I should have toasted the granola longer? Does anyone have any recommendations to fix this??

The taste is also not very sweet, since it has no added sugar. All the sweetness comes from the banana, cranberries and the sugar-free apple sauce. I shouldn't really be surprised since I was looking for a healthy recipe, but the Cookn' Canuck recommends adding a couple tablespoons of maple syrup or honey, and I think this might be a good idea. I also substituted walnuts for the pecans, as that's what I had on hand. As it is, it kind of has the taste and consistency of bread. Not horrible, but kind of straaaange for a granola bar.
(*Note- these taste better the more I eat them! Maybe they're like one of those cakes that has to sit so that all the flavors meld into each other... definitely tastes better after a day. Also, my boyfriend likes them and he's very picky. And DON'T add to yogurt, tastes way better on their own.)

Low Fat Granola Bars with Bananas, Cranberries & Pecans
Yield: Makes approximately 24 bars.
From the kitchen of Cookin Canuck.

  • 3 1/2 cup oats
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 3 large, ripe bananas
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seed (or flax meal)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 9- by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment paper, with about 1 inch of parchment paper overlapping the sides.
  3. Spread out the oats and chopped pecans on a baking sheet. Place in the oven until they are lightly toasted, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with the back of a fork. Stir in applesauce until combined.
  5. Transfer the oats and pecans to a large bowl and stir in dried cranberries, ground flax seed (flax meal), cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  6. Stir the banana mixture into the oat mixture until well combined and starting to clump together. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and press down evenly.
  7. Bake until the bars are golden brown and starting to separate from sides of the pan, about 30 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
  8. Use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Let cool to room temperature, then cut into bars.
  9. Before I put it in the oven!

  10. Serve or store in an airtight container.
After I put it in the oven!

As for the Poached Pears, I made this for a movie night with my friends and it was a smash! This is a combination of two poached pear recipes I got from working as a pastry cook! It's very easy and relatively painless to do! After making the pears, I served them warm with a couple scoops of vanilla ice-cream and some caramel sauce! A-Maz-Ing! I have also tried this with Basil Ice-cream and Cardamom Ice cream and it's verrry lovely! The caramel really pulls everything together and if you want you could also add some crumbled Sandies (or Sable as we called them in the kitchen), graham crackers, or nuts for some added texture!

Poached Pears:

-4 Cinnamon Sticks
-4 Bay Leaves
-4-5 Boshc Pears (Anjou will also work)
-Equal parts sweet, white wine & water (I used Moscatto as that's what I had on hand, but I highly recommend Riesling!) I ended up using 3 cups of each, totalling 6 cups of liquid, but it should be enough liquid to cover your pears!
-3/4 cup of honey
-1/2 tsp of Vanilla or 1 Vanilla Bean
-Zest of 1 Lime
-Zest of 1 Lemon

-Peel the pears and put everything in a large pot.
-Bring to a boil and then bring down to a simmer.
-Simmer until the pears are slightly translucent and a knife will go easily into the pear.
-When the pears are done (about 45mins), scoop out the pears and let them cool. They will continue to cook slightly due to residual heat in the pears so be sure to remove them from the liquid or the cooking process will continue even after you have turned off the heat!
-Strain out the spices and zest and continue to boil the liquid in a clean pot. Simmer this down until it resembles an amber, sticky syrup.
-After the pears have cooled you can split the pears down the center using a paring knife and scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon-baller. I also like to carve out the stem, using a knife in a small 'V' incision.
-Store the pairs in the syrup and serve warm.

Alternate recipe for syrup:
-After you have made the syrup, you could also mix this into 2 pints of heavy cream.
-Put the Cream/Syrup mixture into the fridge to cool and once it has chilled whip the cream for soft, pear flavored whipped cream (aka Chantilly Cream)
-Serve chilled whipped cream with warm pears on a bed of crumbled Sable cookies.

Simmering Pears! Oh My!
Remove Pears & Let Cool.
Reduced Syrup and Pears
Pears with Seeds & Stems Removed.
Pears in Syrup- YUM!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chinese New Year!

Yesterday, my office/day job had a Chinese New Years party! (Year of the Dragon- wootwoot!) Somehow I only found out about this the day before the party so I was scrambling to figure out a dessert to make that night! I finally settled on making a Thai dessert one of my old roommates introduced me to (sorry- I know it's not Chinese, but so easy and yummy!) called Coconut Sticky Rice with Mango. I was originally planning to make it all pretty by molding it into balls that I put into cupcake wrappers and then lay two tiny matchsticks of mango on top, buuuut I didn't have the time/energy to do all this, so I ended up serving it potluck style in a big bowl. I think people were afraid to try it because it looks like a savory dish but it's actually a dessert. I shudda stuck with my original plan and made it pretty... presentation is everything! Sigh. Personally, I think it's as addictive as crack! If you're brave enough to step outside your comfort zone and try this, I think you'll agree with me, but don't be fooled by it's wholesome and simple ingredients, this is practically diabetes on a spoon! So good, yet so bad! Just the way I like it!

I got the recipe from, by Sass Smith:


-First, I quadrupled the recipe and I used Jasmine Rice instead of the more traditional Sticky Rice, but the recipe below should make about 3 servings. Follow the link above for all the nutritional info.
-Also, I think I undercooked the rice slightly, I recommend adding water if the rice dries out too soon.
-If you're wondering, it kind of tastes like rice pudding times AWESOME!!

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice or 1/2 cup jasmine rice or 1/2 cup other sweet Asian rice
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk (you can use the light kind if you want, it just makes it a little less rich)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 mango , sliced


  1. 1
    Rice: Cook rice according to package directions, but substitute coconut milk for half of the water, and add half the sugar.
  2. 2
    It should be fairly dry when you finish cooking it, without any liquid visible in the pot.
  3. 3
    Sauce: In a medium saucepan, boil the rest of the coconut milk with the second half of the sugar.
  4. 4
    Keep this at a full boil until the rice is cooked, or until it reaches a thick, syrupy consistency.
  5. 5
    Presentation: Arrange the cooked coconut rice in a bowl or plate with the mango slices in some kind of pretty formation and dribble a bit of the sauce over the whole thing

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Review of Failure

Well, I've been feeling a little blegh lately. I think I've got a case of the Winter Blues. Not to mention, feeling a little discouraged by my lack of sales... is it the season, as so many of my friends suggest, just a slow time for retail everywhere? Is it my costs are too high or my lack of selling history? Is it my designs?? Part of me is afraid to fail (of course) but part of me is also afraid to succeed! I have to admit that there are things I could be doing to help my sales, but I just can't seem to make myself DO them! I have that restless feeling where I know I have things to do, but I have no desire to do them. Partly because I'm afraid of what would happen if it works... it would mean that my business will go from dream to reality (not usually a bad thing), but it also means added responsibilities, being held accountable to others, and  stepping into the unknown. I'm feeling a bit like a failure right now, disappointed in myself, and completely unmotivated.

I miss my other passions in life, mainly cooking and coffee. And I reaaaally miss Summer! I briefly had another blog once upon a time that was dedicated to adventures, getting out of debt, and reviewing NY coffee shops. But I have since abandoned it and I miss that too. Is it possible to have too many passions in life? At one point I was upset at having gained 20 pounds in 2 years! (I blame my boyfriend) and I was determined to loose it. I actually managed to loose about 19 before the holidays hit but I've gained 7 back! I've been trying to loose it again, but so far it's been a half-hearted effort where I see-saw between loosing and gaining the same 2 pounds. Just plain old UN-MOTIVATED!

The good news is I've been spending more time with my friends and I've started reading again! I've also started cooking again (not good for my weight loss lemme tell ya!). I feel like I've been doing good things for my soul. So why do I feel like such a failure?!

Well, they say it's not the failures that define you, but how you deal with them. Just pick yourself back up and keep going! And that's what I plan to do. With a few minor changes...

I've decided to incorporate my coffee shop reviews into the Defiant Designs blog and whatever else tickles my fancy! Stay tuned for a new review and in the meantime I've got some basil ice-cream at home begging to be spun! Look out world!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Perfect Day

I have recently been given the task of describing my perfect day in every detail, in the hopes that it might one day come true... This is my happy place:

This is a photo by Petrina Tenslay that I took from one of my all time favoritist blogs, Desire to Inspire!

I live someplace where it's almost always warm and sunny. Someplace close to the beach, where I can see and feel patches of sand between the grass as soon as I step out my front door and huge trees spread their shade. I wake up early enough to see the sun rise and I bike down to the beach where I can have a morning run or swim. I own a midsize cafe/lounge on the boardwalk with the main eating area is outside with big wooden picnic tables in the sand for family style dining, a sheer silk tent blocks the worst of the wind & sun, and shoes are optional. I am the owner and the pastry chef. The cafe has a huge, shiny espresso machine and overalls are the standard uniform for myself and the employees. I serve down-south bar-b-que pulled pork sandwiches, super sweet iced-tea, and boutique pastries and ice cream. In front there's a do-it-yourself cotton candy machine with more custom flavors like champagne grapefruit, rose raspberry, and mint strawberry. There are no standard flavors, everything is unique and the milkshakes are to die for. Music plays full blast throughout the cafe. Inside there are books and games everywhere for people to enjoy. The walls are mostly windows which are usually open to the breeze and filled with boxes of herbs, tomatoes grow up the walls outside the building. There's an outside shower for people to rinse off sand from the beech and a water spigot for rinsing off feet or getting water for your dog. After spending the day baking and cooking, strings of tiny lights are hung up outside and turned on for people to use. The building is made from stucco but has a tin roof and wooden floors with huge Oriental rugs lie everywhere and big wicker fans slowly spinning on the ceiling. The outside will be painted bright blue, purple, green or whatever color happens to fit my mood at the time, but it will always be bright and outstanding. The inside of the cafe will open directly out to the beach and the outside dining area. There's also a huge fireplace for winter marshmallow roasting. Students come in to study, couples on dates, and families come in from the beach for a cool drink. My friends drop in throughout the day for a bite to eat or a chat. We have local live musicians or live poetry readings most nights and after enjoying a glass of wine and a board-game with my boyfriend, we walk my bike home and enjoy the stars. My customers are my friends, my staff is my family, and everyone knows each other. My children will grow up in this cafe. Learning the satisfaction that comes from making something with their hands. There may even be weekly classes on anything from painting, cooking, guitar, or how to make a play-list. Art from local artists will hang on the walls and I will have pumpkin carving contests and open mic nights.

This is my Cloud9...