The game of life can be tough. From the moment we open our eyes in the morning till we drop to bed at night we’re constantly on the go. We run out of the door already late, because dear offspring couldn’t find his algebra notebook. Half asleep, we turn to Starbucks to get some shot in the arm, make appointment for a chipped tooth while waiting in the drive-through line, and then burn our tongue with hot pick me up while parking at the office. Breakfast is hasty spoonfuls of yogurt gulped down at a red light. Lunch? Cereal bar and a banana around three pm while answering emails. And pretty soon a dreaded stop-and-go commute from work back home, pondering how to get dinner on the table, take care of homework, laundry, and dishes, and still manage to go to bed at a reasonable hour. Only to do it all over again the next morning.
I don’t work well when I’m hungry. My men could tell you stories about this trait of mine – about the unnecessary arguments, yell fests, and even guilty tears related to those darn sugar drops. It usually happens when I’m too busy, and it starts innocently enough: I just might start to feel a little cranky at first, my answers become tiny bit snappier… but when I don’t recognize I’m overdue for a feed and don’t remedy the situation quickly enough, it all goes downhill pretty fast. I know I’m not the only one suffering from this; after all, there is even this new term “hangry”, labeling that miserable state when hunger and anger intersect… but I could definitely be a model for it.
That was at least partially why I tried my hand at these bars. I try to keep some snack food and water with me at all times to prevent hunger induced relational disasters, but cereal bars carried around in your purse dry out pretty quickly I found, not to mention they’re not exactly easy on the budget! It was my first experiment with homemade cereal bars ever, but it certainly won’t be the last. I like that I can control the amount of sugar, and vary the ingredients according to what I have on hand. They’re extremely easy and fast to make and don’t even require turning your oven on!
Please be kind to yourself and eat when you need to. No matter how busy you are, it’s still much easier to find time to eat, than have to apologize over and over for you’ve said and done when you were hungry 🙂
Homemade KIND Cereal Bars
(adapted from http://www.eat-yourself-skinny.com)
- ½ cup unsalted roasted almonds, whole
- ½ cup unsalted roasted peanuts, whole
- ½ cup roasted walnuts/pecans, chopped
- 1/3 cup puffed rice cereal
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- ¼ cup brown rice syrup (I used maple syrup instead)
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ½ cup dark chocolate, roughly chopped
- Line an 8-inch square springform pan with parchment paper; set aside.
- To make the bars, mix nuts, flaxseed, an puffed rice in a greased bowl; set aside.
- In a small saucepan, mix together brown rice syrup (maple syrup), honey, vanilla, and salt. Bring to a boil, and cook for about 2 minutes, whisking constantly.
- Pour the hot mixture over the ingredients in your bowl and stir to combine. Transfer the mixture into the pan and press evenly, making sure there are no gaps. (The recipe says there is enough for a 8-inch pan, but I didn’t find this to be true – I was able to only fill about 2/3 of the pan if I wanted the bars to be high enough).
- Place a sheet of parchment on top, and press the mixture firmly. Set the pan aside and let the mixture cool for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the rim of the pan, transfer the cereal block onto a cutting board, and cut it into uniform pieces with a sharp knife. (Serrated knife worked best for me.) Let the bars cool completely.
- For the chocolate drizzle, melt the chocolate over a water bath and drizzle over the bars. Keep the remaining bars in the refrigerator or freezer to keep them fresh.
“Oh, did you know moose are some of the animals most likely to escape from cages or zoos? Their snouts are incredibly flexible and capable – almost as good instruments as an elephant’s trunk, perfectly capable of manipulating doorknobs!” informed me my son, lured into the kitchen by the smell of toasted hazelnuts, when I told him what I was making. I have no clue how he jumped so quickly from the idea of airy sweet pudding to the largest member of the deer family, but now that I know, I’m sure I’ll be peeking over my shoulder fully expecting some runaway moose skewer me onto its antlers whenever I’ll find myself in a zoo. Because I can’t seem to remember that I need to buy toilet paper at the store, nor that I shouldn’t still be stuffing my face after 6 p.m., but a piece of useless information such as this will undoubtedly stick with me forever.
And do you know what else is as good an escapist as moose? Mousse! I can’t keep it in the house. It just seems to disappear, usually in conjunction with two slightly guilty (but satisfied) teenagers. It catches a lift on spoons, cowers in bowls, or sneaks into cakes in lieu of a filling, gradually leaving nothing but a contented silence behind. This, of course is at least partially my fault – while the light whipped crème is a delight all in itself, I cannot resist taking it one step further and merging it with layers of moist rum-scented chocolate cake into something entirely new and delicious. Throw in some toasted hazelnuts, and mousse finds a new contender for kitchen escape artistry!
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Cake
(adapted from Nick Malgieri’s: Chocolate)
- 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
- ¾ cup sugar, divided
- pinch salt
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup ground hazelnuts
- ½ cup cake flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill 1 for 1 all-purpose gluten-free flour mix)
- 3 tablespoons dark cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/3 cup each sugar, water, and rum
Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse:
- 16 oz. (454 g) good quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 ¼ cup (310 ml) heavy cream
- 1 stick (8 tablespoons, 4 oz., 114 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3 tablespoons rum
- 4 egg whites, room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and roughly chopped (see Note)
- To make the cake, butter a 10 inch (25 cm) springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C).
- Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until thick and light yellow in color. In a separate bowl, whip the egg whites with salt and cream of tartar until opaque, then gradually add in the remaining sugar and continue whipping until stiff peaks form. Fold yolks into whites, and then add in the ground nuts. Combine flour, cocoa, and baking powder, sift the mixture over the batter, and fold it in. Pour batter into the springform pan, and bake for about 30 minutes, until the cake springs back, and the cake tester comes out clean. Unmold and let cool.
- For the rum syrup, boil water with sugar. Cool and pour in the rum. Set aside.
- For the mousse filling, place the chocolate into a glass bowl. Bring the cream to a boil, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Let the chocolate mixture cool to room temp. Beat the softened butter until fluffy, then add in the cooled chocolate and rum. Heat egg whites and sugar, whisking constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, and then whip the egg whites using an electric mixer until cooled. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate, and add in the chopped hazelnuts.
- To assemble, slice cake into three layers. Place one layer back into the washed springform pan and moisten it with the syrup. Spread with 1/3 of the mousse. Continue layering moistened cake layers and filling, ending with the mousse. Place the cake into the fridge to set the mousse.
- Unmold the cake onto a serving plate, decorate with hazelnuts and/or shaved chocolate, and serve.
Best way to skin the hazelnuts is to cook them in some water with baking soda for couple of minutes, until the water turns black from the skins. The skins should then slip off easily (much easier method than rubbing the toasted hazelnuts in a dish towel!)
I made the cake in an 8-inch (20 cm) springform pan, and sliced it just in two layers. I had quite a lot of filling leftover, but I wanted the cake to be higher, and it worked quite well this way.