Super powers.

My in-laws are in California for an extended vacation, and last weekend we followed them to Lake Tahoe for the weekend. They, of course, have the luxury of being on permanent vacation, so they’re there for the rest of the week, at which point they’ll make their way back to San Francisco for their final weekend with us.

That said, Tahoe was pretty awesome. Despite living 4-5 hours away from the area, we hadn’t been out that way yet, so we were looking forward to our trip not only for spending time with the family, but also to check out a new area that we are sure to revisit.

We did a couple of hikes while we were there (one through Big Meadow and another along Echo Lake, which is part of the Pacific Crest Trail), and these bars would have been perfect to have with us, but sadly I didn’t make them until this week. I’m sure they’ll be put to good use this weekend when we’re out wandering around the city, so we’ll see how filling they are.

Regardless, I like the name of them, “super-power bars”, aptly named because of all the super-nutritous ingredients. Speaking of which, I should warn you that they are loaded with all sorts of weird stuff that you likely don’t have on hand (at least I didn’t). Quinoa flakes, Incan berries, wheat germ, and chia seeds are all a little hard to find depending on where you live, but I was able to locate them all in one place (for the SF-ers, that was Rainbow). I’d suggest buying enough of the ingredients for multiple batches, so these ingredients don’t go to waste.

Incan Super-Power Bars
adapted from Food & Wine, September 2011; makes 2 dozen bars

time commitment: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (including lots of down time)

printable version

ingredients
2 c quinoa flakes (7 ounces)
1 c sliced almonds (3 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c raw roasted sunflower seeds (2 1/2 ounces)
1/2 c toasted wheat germ (2 ounces)
2 T chia seeds
3/4 c golden berries, also known as Incan berries and dried cape gooseberries (4 ounces), coarsely chopped
3/4 c raisins
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 c plus 2 T light brown sugar
1/2 c plus 2 T agave syrup
1 1/2 t pure vanilla extract
1/2 t sea salt

instructions
Preheat the oven to 350 F. On a sturdy rimmed baking sheet, toss the quinoa with the almonds and toast for 15 minutes, until golden and fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds, golden berries and raisins.
In a medium saucepan, combine the 4 tablespoons of butter with the brown sugar and agave syrup and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the sugar is just dissolved, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and salt. Pour the mixture into the large bowl and stir until the dry ingredients are evenly coated.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray (or butter). Scrape the mixture onto the baking sheet and form into a 7-by-12-inch rectangle, pressing lightly to compact it; use a straight edge to evenly press the sides. Bake the bar for 10 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool slightly, then refrigerate until firm, 20 minutes.
Invert the bar onto a work surface and peel off the paper. Cut the bar into twelve 1-inch-wide strips, then cut each strip in half to form twenty-four 1-by-3 1/2-inch bars.

Makin’ Whoopie

On occasion, and contrary to what I said the other day about moderation, I like to use a stupendous amount of butter. Yeah, that’s right. Stupendous.

Like 4 sticks in 1 recipe. Sure, that’s breakfast for Paula Deen, but over here those four sticks usually last a month or more.

It’s all a ploy to make new friends – that’s all. You won’t catch me making these sorta treats just for the two of us (okay, maybe, but not on the regular), but by golly I’ll fatten up new-found friends any day of the week. They rarely complain. And! I still get to eat some too, so I’m happy (but not “fat and happy” as the saying goes).

And so, these sorta treats come along to days at the bay when we’re shucking oysters and drinking Vino Verde, or Moscofilero, or Blue Moons with orange juice drizzled in (yeah, it sounded strange to me too – but it’s tasty).

They go nicely with other things too – like milk, or water, or coffee, or just plain ol’ saliva! And when I eat them, I get a slight twinge of nostalgia; I think of those oatmeal cream pies (with carrots!) from gramma’s house – soft, oaty, creamy, and yeah – buttery, for sure.

And like I said before – these carrot cake whoopie pies are good for making new friends too. I even traded one in for a barbeque sauce-laden rib that Chris was swooning over. Spreading the love is what these things are all about – yourself, friends, or strangers – pick one, or pick ’em all.

Carrot Cake Whoopie Pies
adapted from Tasting Table, who adapted from Claire Twestern of Talula’s Garden; makes 18-24

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes active time, plus 6 hours inactive time dedicated to letting the dough chill

printable version

ingredients
Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 c light brown sugar
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ t vanilla extract
2 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
¼ t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
½ t freshly grated nutmeg
½ T crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 c old-fashioned oats
1½ c of peeled and grated carrots (from about 2 to 3 medium carrots)
1 c raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes and drained

Cream Cheese Icing
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1¼ c powdered sugar
2 T honey
12 oz cream cheese, softened

instructions
Make the cookies: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until lightened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add the eggs one at a time, beating the yolk of the first egg until it’s incorporated before adding the second egg. Stir in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet, then gently stir in the oats, carrots and raisins. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Scoop rounded tablespoons of the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan and bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly browned and set. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan for a couple of minutes, then carefully move cookies to a wire rack to cool.

Make the icing: In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly beat in the honey and cream cheese until incorporated. Spoon the frosting into a piping bag (or fashion one out of a plastic bag and cut a hole in the corner) and pipe the frosting onto half of the cookies; place the other cookies on top to create sandwiches.