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Alright, who out there, like me, has to make lunch for at least one kid to take to school everyday? Are you always looking out for something different? I swear Punky eats pretty much the same thing everyday. It doesn’t seem to bug her much, and it does make things easier for me in the mornings. Still, I like to make different things to put in when I can. Like many kids, Punky likes granola bars. But since our school is nut-free I can’t send most of them. And most of the bars that are nut-free are also covered in chocolate and full of squicky little marshmallows or candy or something. They’re really only one step away from being a candy bar (Yeah, Quaker I’m looking at you. Wholesome goodness my ass.)

Anyway.

So I am always on the lookout for a home made granola bar recipe – one without nuts. There are lots out there, but many use peanut butter as a binder and are so full of nuts that substituting everything out is beyond my comfort zone. But a couple of weeks ago I came across this recipe. No peanut butter, and only 2 kinds of nuts! This I felt I could make substitutions for and still have it come out recognizable as a granola bar. Check it out:

Nut Free Granola Bars

It worked!

I’m not going to reprint the whole recipe here, especially since Pioneer Woman has made such a lovely photo tutorial for you. But here’s what I did differently:

I cut the salt down to 1/2 tsp (if that). I didn’t think it needed the whole amount.
I added a big 1/2 tsp of cinnamon – more or less. I didn’t really measure.
I subbed apple sauce for the apple juice – worked fine.
This is Canada – I used maple syrup not molasses.
As a sub for the nuts I went really basic and used raisins and sunflower seeds. I didn’t really measure these either, but the amounts given for the nuts seemed skimpy for such a big pan of bars. Next time I’d put in even more.

These are the crunchy kind of granola bar. I think if you wanted chewy you could maybe bake them a bit less or cut back on some of the dry stuff. Also, if you need a gluten free bar you could do a gluten free cereal, and I’m sure there’s a good sub for the wheat germ – I think I’d just run some oatmeal through the food processor until it was sort of powdery like wheat germ and use that. Easy, and no hard to find ingredients. I’m not well versed on gluten free ingredients though – maybe someone has a better idea?

These were a hit with all of the kids and adults who tried them. It makes a big tray, I shared.

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Well, let’s see.

There were berries.

Strawberries

Now, there is jam.

Jam

There was a request.  Now there is a halter top – that fits.

Punky halter

There were scraps of yarn.

Scraps wanting to be socks

Now there is sock.  Yes, only one, the other is coming.  It’s a cuff.  We’ll get there.

Super Magical Scrap Sock of Wonder

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Are you in a rush and wishing for a quick, comforting meal before braving the Christmas crowds/driving your kids to the next thing/attempting to clean up your house?Are you looking at your Christmas list, staring at the name of that impossible to buy for person, wishing for a genius idea?

I have a solution to both dilemmas.

Soup.

Soup is comforting, warm, filling and often quite healthy.  It can take all day to make, which on a slow Sunday can be fine.  This soup, however takes less than an hour, is hearty and filling, and doesn’t contain anything wacky – you may have what you need to make it already.  Take a look.

Corn Chowder

2 Tbsp butter or olive oil

1 onion, finley dicecd

2 celery stalks, finely diced

2 carrots finely diced

1 tsp flour

3 cups milk (whole, 1%, whatever you have.  Throw in some cream if you have that.)

2 large potatoes

1 cup chicken broth.  Or vegetable broth if you want to make it vegetarian.  Or water if you’ve no broth.

Thyme or Herbs de Provence

1 bay leaf

2 cobs corn, roasted, or an equivalent amount of frozen corn, either roasted or straight from the freezer

Salt and pepper

Bit of grated cheese

  • In your favorite soup pot, melt the butter.
  • Add the veggies and sweat them (meaning don’t let them brown) for a few minutes.
  • Sprinkle the flour over the veg (to avoid lumps).  Cook and stir for 1 minute.
  • Slowly add the milk while stirring.
  • Chop one of the potatoes and toss it in the soup.  Grate the other potato directly into the soup.  No, you don’t have to peel them.
  • Add the broth, herbs, corn and salt and pepper.
  • SIMMER until the potatoes are cooked through.  You really don’t want to boil this or it can curdle.
  • Remove the bay leaf.
  • Serve hot with some good bread or crackers and a sprinkle of cheese on top if you like.

Corn Chowder

Now, you’re thinking, that’s great, I’ve got dinner figured out – what about that gift idea?  Think of this – what’s better than making a big pot of soup for dinner?  Having someone else make it of course!  Make up a batch of this or your favourite soup, slap it into one of those festive plastic containers you can get now, stick a label on it and slap it in the freezer.  Pick up a box of fancy crackers and voila!  An awesome present for your super busy friend, your favourite student, your brother who can’t cook, ANYONE!  I’m a stay at home mom, I do have time to cook, but I would love to get this gift – because everybody likes a break from cooking.    This recipe makes a decent potful, but if you make a double batch you’d have enough for your dinner and some to freeze.  Dinner and a gift all in one – genius I tell you.

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Wow, I am on a roll with getting things made this week!  It’s making me really happy to be able to cross stuff off my list.  Today I finished up the gift for Punky’s teacher, and for my family’s gift exchange.  Actually, not only the gift, but the wrapping too!

popcorn seasonings

I mixed up jar-sized batches of popcorn seasoning mixes from recipes that I found on line.  All of the recipes I found seem to only make enough for one or two batches of popcorn.  Much easier to make up a big batch and have it in a handy shaker I think.  I chose three different flavours and went to work mixing up dry spices.  Even if you think of yourself as not crafty/not artsy/not able to cook you can do this.  You’re just dumping dry spices into a bowl, mixing them together and then transferring them into a jar.  It took me a few minutes to figure out how much I would have to make to fill two jars of each flavour, but the actual mixing and packaging probably took all of ten minutes.  Easy fast and fun, just what holiday gifts should be!  Of course, you know my obsession with good packaging – I had to make up some fun labels to go on the jars.  No fancy sticker sheets required (sorry Staples) for the labels – regular paper and a decent glue stick work great.

Now, for the wrapping.  Yesterday I went over to Len’s Mill, our local fabric/yarn/never know what else shop.  It’s a good place to go for fabric of the type I was looking for, which would be cute and cheap.  I didn’t feel the need to spend a ton on gift bag fabric.  Len’s carries some of the fancy brands, but if you walk past those shelves you’ll find more shelves piled high with less expensive fabrics.  Some are good quality, some not so much.  It’s always a mess, but fun to dig through.  A small amount of poking rewarded me with this fun green print – looks kind of like candies, right?

Elf bags

All four bags took me about half an hour to make.  I had a half metre of fabric, so I just folded it in half lengthwise,and then cut a 10 inch wide piece for each bag.  The last bag is a bit bigger as there were about 13 inches left after three 10 inch cuts.  It’s a gift bag – who cares?  I have a little tutorial here if you want instructions to make your own super quick bags. I love projects like this where you use up very bit of the supply you bought for it, I have enough craft stash!

Finally, a continuation of yesterday’s purple theme.

Pajama pants for RedBear

Remember RedBear?  Well, his sweater was a big hit.  Punky hasn’t requested any clothes for him this year, but I think she’ll like that he has pants that match hers. On his part, RedBear was very patient with me as I had to try his pants on him a couple of times to make sure I wasn’t messing them up too badly.  Unlike his best friend RedBear has limitless patience.

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Is it strange that the two things I have made in the last 24 hours are both the same colour, but otherwise completely unrelated?

Item #1: sauerkraut made with purple cabbage.  A Christmas present for our mothers.  Yes, I know it’s called red cabbage.  Clearly it isn’t.

Recipe here if you’d like to try it.  It has to ferment for about 3 weeks.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Home made sauerkraut

Item #2: Pajama pants for Punky.  I bought the fabric in the states on the way home from Rhinebeck.  It isn’t red either.

I made purple stuff today!

The bright purple is making me happy – it’s pretty grey here today otherwise.

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Go.  Make THESE.  Now.  Yummy.

Nuts ready to go

Syrup

Boiling

Candied nuts - finished

Why are you still here reading this?  Don’t you have nuts to candy?  There’s not much time left you know.

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1.   Pumpkins carved: check.

Punky pumpkin 2010

Punky pumpkin  2010

Demon pumpkin

Flaming eyeball

Fang

Seeds roasted: check.

Roasted pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seed brittle made: check.

Pumpkin seed brittle

Shingle hung out: check.

Dr. Joey's

Favorite skully hung: check.

My favorite skelly

Proper gloomy weather: check.

Halloween sky

Dragon released: check.

Release the Dragon!

Happy Halloween!

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