Homemade Bumble Bars Recipe

Ah, Bumble Bars

Gluten-free, organic, and so delicious.  I was introduced to Bumble Bars by a dear friend of mine, who is big-into healthy eating (even moreso than I am).  At first, I wasn’t sure whether I liked them that much–but when I saw them at the store, I thought I’d try one again….and the next time….and, well.  I really love Bumble Bars.

They are, however, rather small, and rather expensive, and worst of all?  Only obtainable at stores that are an hour or more from my home!

So I decided to try making my own.  The first batch was okay, but wasn’t quite right.  This simple recipe, however, is spot-on awesomeness:  

Mix up the following in a medium bowl with a rubber spatula:

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup flaxseeds
  • 3 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. corn syrup (Gasp! I had this on hand from making holiday candy–shhh!) or brown rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans, almonds, cashews, or another nut you like
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon sugar (or 1/2 heaping tsp. cinnamon.  I didn’t have plain cinnamon on hand! )
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Generously butter a square glass baking dish, spoon the sticky mix in and smooth it down as best as you can.

Bake in a 175 degree oven for 1.5  hrs.  It will still be sticky when it comes out.

You can eat it just like this, or you can improve it by flipping the whole thing over in the dish while it’s still warm (Yes, this is tricky.  Using two spatulas would be a good plan.).  Gravity works the honey/syrup down to the bottom as this bakes, and so if you don’t flip it, the top will be more dry/firm, and the bottom will be more sticky and moist.

Either way?  Amazing sticky goodness.  I would have posted a better picture of the finished product, but I ate most of it already. 🙂

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Egg Ideas for Easter, Ostara & Spring

Next week it will officially be Springtime!  In our house, we celebrate Ostara, or the Vernal Equinox–most commonly known as the First Day of Spring.  In Greek myth, this is the day where the Goddess Persephone returns from her six-month stay in the Underworld to rejoin her mother, Demeter–and her joy brings forth the crops and bounty of the Earth.  Springtime–and Easter–are traditional celebrations of fertility, and so the egg is an obvious symbol.  Sprouted seeds are another symbol that we tend to include–especially since we’ve started keeping a vegetable garden.

There’s lots of things that you can color eggs with besides conventional (chemical!) store-bought dyes.  Also, you can celebrate with egg symbols without actually using or eating eggs.  Here are a few ideas I’ve tried:

Natural Egg Dye:

Other natural egg dyes need different instructions and different amounts of time for each color you want to use, but I think that’s a lot of hassle.  Instead, this technique will take a bit longer, but it’s the same for each color.  You can use brown or white eggs, but make sure they’re raw.  They will cook and color at the same time.  If you use eggs that are several days old, they will be easier to peel later.

Gather up several pots and probably two dozen eggs, white vinegar–and the following, to give a good variety of color:

  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage (sky blue)
  • Large handful yellow onion skins (red-orange)
  • 2 Tbsp. turmeric (bright yellow)
  • 1/8 cup liquid chlorophyll (green–omit vinegar!)
  • 1 cup blueberries (pale blue)
  • 1 cup grape juice concentrate (grey-purple)
  • Large handful red onion skins (brown)

Fill a pan with about 4 cups of water, 2 Tablespoons of vinegar, and one of the color ingredients above.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.  THEN, add the raw eggs (up to six at a time) and simmer on low for another 30 minutes.  Dyed and cooked in one step!  You can use all four burners and do four colors at once.

***ETA:  I had originally listed red onion skins for green–but I cannot get that result to duplicate, for some reason.  They turned out a deep brown instead.  So I’m using liquid chlorophyll for green, since I have that on hand.

Also, the eggs dyed with yellow onion skin look really dark because i forgot about them..!  If you leave them in the dye-pot in the fridge overnight, they will turn bright red 😉  Sorry for any confusion!!***

After you’ve done your backyard egg hunt, make deviled eggs–but hold the Miracle Whip!

Deviled Eggs:

  • Dill pickle relish
  • Hummus (Garlic, plain or red pepper–your choice)
  • Paprika–just for topping
  • Hard-boiled eggs, of course

Peel your hard-boiled eggs, cut them in half lengthwise, and put the yolks into a big bowl.  Mash them up with about an equal amount of hummus, and relish added to taste (every good chef knows that tasting is more important than measuring!).  Then scoop the mixture into each egg-white half, and sprinkle with paprika.  Done!

Now, here’s one more recipe that isn’t natural or healthy, but it’s fun–especially for kids who like to help with baking!

Pink cream cheese cookies:

  • 1 box strawberry cake mix
  • 1 package cream cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 egg
  • Fun colored sugar, sprinkles, etc.

Preheat oven to 350.  Put all ingredients into a big mixing bowl, and invite your kiddo to squoosh everything together with his or her bare, clean hands!  Once the mix looks uniform, drop it by teaspoonfuls onto a baking stone or parchment-lined cookie sheet.  You can shape/flatten them to be more cookie-like, if you want.  Then add sprinkles or colored sugar.  Bake for 13-15 minutes.

These are yummy, and so easy and fun to make.

Egg Candles:

I’m not as clever as some mamas who make their own egg-shaped candles–I just buy them at Hobby Lobby (gasp!).

Egg candles are one of our family rituals every year, however.  I get an egg-shaped candle for each of us, and we all take toothpicks and carve symbols that represent things we’d like to see grow and blossom in ourselves during the year ahead.  Sometimes we use runes, others we just write words, or make pretty patterns.  Even my two-year old does this with us.  When we’re done, we talk a bit about what we’ve carved into our candle and why, and then we arrange them into a circle on a heat-proof platter, light them, and let then burn themselves out.  The colored wax makes pretty patterns on the plate, and sometimes we save the whole thing.

Someday, I will re-use that wax to make more candles.  Y’know, if I ever get into candle-making. =)

Painted Wooden/Plaster Eggs:

Again, more evidence of my love of Hobby Lobby.  When I was vegan, I used to buy wooden and plaster eggs and paints for my kids, worried that they would miss the actual eggs and egg-dying come Spring-time (they never cared!).  I would get the plaster ones that are molded into designs, making it easier for the younger ones to paint.  The wooden ones are more durable, but you have to have a steady hand to paint patterns on them–or else a taste for abstract art 😉  These hide just as well for egg hunts, or are a fun craft project when included in an Easter basket.

Seed Intentions:

Get some dried butter beans, limas, or other large, light-colored bean.  Pick out a few for each person in the family.  With a permanent marker, draw things on the beans that symbolize your intentions for yourself in the coming year–hearts, peace signs, stars, spirals, whatever speaks to you.  Then plant the beans and watch your intentions grow!

A fun way to do these is to plant them inside of old egg shells, if you’ve got at least half of the shell intact.  If you plan ahead, you can save eggshells for this project as you do your cooking and baking over several days or weeks (wash and dry them if you plan to add them to your garden outdoors, to prevent soil contamination).  Take an ice pick or other sharp object and pierce a hole in the bottom of each shell-half for drainage, then fill the shells with a small amount of potting soil.  If you want to re-plant your beans in the garden, you can plant them right in the egg shell.

I like this activity because it combines the actual growth of new life within the seedling and the egg imagery–but in this case the egg is fulfilling the death/rebirth part of the life cycle, nourishing life in a different way.

Natural Grass Easter Basket:

Instead of using gross plastic “grass” in your kids’ baskets, why not sprout a basket full of real, lush grass?  If you have a kitty, he or she will enjoy nibbling on it after you’re done with it!  This project takes about a week, and might be tricky to pull off if you want it to be a surprise, since my kids invariably find things like this that I try to hide while they’re in-the-making.

The tricky part:  Get a basket, and find a dish or pan that fits inside really well (those tinfoil baking pans work well).

Next, soak a handful or two of wheat berries in room-temperature water overnight.  (You can get these in a health food store, or probably in the grocery’s bulk section).

Then add about an inch of potting soil in the bottom of your dish or pan, and spread the wheat berries over top of it in a uniform layer (just about obscuring the soil).  Lightly cover this with more soil, thoroughly water, and place the dish or pan in a sunny windowsill.  Keep the soil moist, and in a week you’ll have a living carpet of green!  Your kitty will thank you.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Gluten-free Crock-pot Cornbread Stuffing (Vegan-Adaptable)

Gluten-free, vegan-adaptable crock-pot cornbread stuffing–that’s yummy enough to serve to your meat-, dairy-, and gluten-eating friends.  Really.

This recipe is the culmination of my search for yummy stuffing (like Stove-Top, but even better!) that is gluten-free, so my husband could enjoy it too.  He’s newly gluten-free, and we’re finding that a lot of the gluten-free items out there–especially store-bought gluten-free bread–are expensive…kinda spongy, stiff, and gross.  Anyway, it’s a bummer to have one member of the family relegated to an “equal-but-not-really” dish of his own while the rest of us eat something different.
Also, as a vegetarian of over 16 years (several of those were vegan), I’m always sensitive to those who wish to avoid dairy (and meat!), so I included that in my searching as well.  The recipe is rather labor-intensive in that you’ve got to bake your own breads, but you can start the day prior, and then just throw it all together very quickly.  OR – you could totally buy a loaf of GF-bread in the store and then cube it and toast it under the broiler.  Then you’d only need to bake the GF-cornbread.

UPDATE for 2012 – Bob’s Red Mill makes a cornbread mix that is so tasty – better than the from-scratch cornbread recipe below.  If you can find that, buy that instead 😉

I can personally attest that your meat- and wheat-loving guests will devour this, ask for the recipe, and be shocked when they realize it’s gluten-free and vegan. 🙂

THE RECIPE (really three recipes–two bread loaves, plus the stuffing):

First, make up a loaf of cornbread:

I’m sure you can use another cornbread recipe if you’ve got one that’s already tried and true–but this is what I used.

Gluten-Free Vegan Cornbread

1 cup white rice flour OR Pamela’s Gluten-Free Bread Mix (the orange bag–i used the latter)
3/4 cup stone ground cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar (if making cornbread to eat by itself, add another tsp of sugar)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt

margarine to coat the baking pan (i used Smart Balance)

2 beaten eggs (or Ener-G egg replacer to equal two eggs)
1 cup milk (or soymilk, or coconut milk)
1/4 cup melted margarine

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt) together in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
Generously grease the sides and bottom of an 8-9 inch round baking pan or dish with margarine.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs or egg replacer, milk, and 1/4 cup margarine. Add this mix to the dry mixture and stir just until moistened. Pour batter into the baking pan or dish and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

We’ll only be using about 1/2 to 2/3 of this loaf, so you can enjoy part of it now, while you’re working. 🙂
While this loaf cools, we can get started on the next loaf…

Here’s the link to the regular gluten-free bread recipe I used:

http://www.pamelasproducts.com/recipe/Bread_by_Hand_with_Yeast/246.aspx

This recipe is directly from the Pamela’s website, and yes, I use their mix regularly.  If you’re wanting to sub your own bread recipe here, note that the loaf this recipe makes is precisely the size of a regular 9″ loaf pan.  Also notice that even though this is a bread recipe, that it calls for Pamela’s Baking and Pancake mix–i.e. the yellow bag, not the orange.

The only difference that you should make to this recipe is to IGNORE the part where it says to add the yeast to the dry mix.  Just trust me.  I’ve followed their instructions to a T and made a yukky, flat, dense little loaf.  Instead, measure out the 1 cup of HOT water as per the instructions, and put the yeast into that–then let it sit for 5 minutes to activate the yeast (you know, like a normal bread recipe). When it’s time to add the wet ingredients to the dry mix, just add the eggs, melted butter and yeasted water separately.

If you’re wanting this to be vegan, you would just use Ener-G egg replacer (or flax “eggs”) in lieu of the eggs–but in this case, I would measure to be sure I had approximately 1-1/2 total cups of liquid, since Ener-G is typically smaller in volume as compared to eggs.  After the five minutes had passed for the yeast to activate, then I would pour the melted butter and egg replacer in with the yeasted water to measure the total amount of liquid before combining with the dry ingredients.

Savvy?  Okay, moving on. 🙂

Once this bread is out of the oven and cooling, you can get started on veggie-prep and rounding up the rest of the stuffing ingredients:

First, get out your crock pot.  If it’s a 6 quart, great.  If it’s a 4 quart, it will still work fine–but you’ll need to get out a large mixing bowl as well, because you need room to toss the ingredients together very well before cooking:

1 onion, finely diced (size depends on how much you like onion–i used a medium one)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 ribs of celery, finely diced (or minced, if you’ve got picky eaters)
5-6 fresh*sage leaves, minced (i used variegated sage, from my greenhouse)
1/4 cup fresh* parsley, finely chopped (again, from my greenhouse)
*don’t sub dried herbs, it just won’t taste the same!  Or do–but you’ve been warned.

Prep all veggies and herbs and place into the mixing bowl or large crock pot.

If your loaf of regular bread is cool enough, slice it now. Place 3/4ths of the sliced loaf on a baking sheet, and toast them in a 300 degree oven.  This will take a while, but a slow toasting at a low temperature works better to dry out the bread–which is what we’re going for–so it can absorb flavor better.  You can check on the toast periodically by simply reaching (carefully) into the oven and pressing on a slice.  If it still feels very soft and squishy, it’s not toasty enough.  Oh, and do enjoy the extra few slices of bread.  I put butter and jam on mine. 🙂

Now, add to the mixing bowl or crock pot, along with the veggies and herbs:

1 Tbsp olive oil, margarine or butter (i would melt the margarine or butter before adding it)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (or you can sub 1-1/2 tsp fresh, if you have it)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground marjoram
1/2 tsp savory
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1-1/2 cups vegetable broth, plus a bit more just in case.

Mix all these ingredients together very well, EXCEPT the broth.

Once your bread slices are done toasting, cut them up into 1-inch cubes and add to the mixing bowl or crock pot. Then take the cornbread, and crumble the rest of it by hand (approximately 1/2 to 2/3 of the loaf) into the mixing bowl or crock pot.

Now pour the vegetable broth over the bread, herbs and veggies, and toss VERY well!  If it looks a bit dry, add about 1/4 cup more broth.

Transfer mixture to crock pot, cover, and cook on high for approximately two hours.

Enjoy!