Cherry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Sweet and chewy, these cherry chocolate chip granola bars make the perfect snack for any deploying soldier!

Cherry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars by JavaCupcake.com

This weekend is going to be pretty hard for me.  There are a lot of things happening that are out of my control… things I do not want to do, but have to.  Things that will change my life forever.  It’s hard for me to handle… not being in control of the things in my life.

See… my husband is leaving for Afghanistan this weekend.  His third deployment.  His third time putting his life on the line for a country he loves.  For me… it’s my third time having to watch the love of my life walk away… possibly forever… shattering my heart into a million pieces.

I was trying to explain to someone the other day what it felt like this week leading up to his deployment and said this…  My heart is breaking into a million pieces and it’s happening slow motion. I can see everything playing out in front of me… my husband packing, getting ready, my love preparing to leave me…  but there is nothing I can do to stop it.

So, I do what I can.  I do the things I can control.  And in my world, that’s baking.

I’m putting together two dozen care packages for my husband and his soldiers to bring with them on the plane ride to Afghanistan.  I can control that.   Right?

Pre-Deployment Goodie Bags by JavaCupcake.com

In the care packages I’m including a bottle of water,  my Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies, Espresso Brownies (a recipe I adapted from CakeSpy’s book The Secret Lives of Baked Goods), Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bars and these Cherry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars!

The recipe I used for the granola bars  is originally from the Fearless Homemaker… but I mixed it up a bit and added dark chocolate cherry muesli and chopped dried cherries to the mix! YUM.

The outside of each bag had the soldier’s name on it and an inspirational tag I made with a small note from my family to each soldier.  The quote I used on the tags came from General Normal Schwarzkopf…

True courage is being afraid and going ahead and doing your job anyhow.  That’s what courage is.

I wanted to let them know that it was okay to be afraid, but that they are strong enough to push through the fear, do their job and come home safely to their friends and family.

Pre-Deployment Goodie Bag Tags by JavaCupcake.comFREE PRINTABLE:  Click HERE to download a blank copy of the name tags I used.  Click HERE to download a generic version of the “You Will Be Missed” tags I used.

These bags were super easy to put together.  I used brown paper lunch sacks, red and white curling ribbon, red and blue card stock, a hole punch, scissors and glue sticks.

Assembly was super easy too…

  1. Print enough tags for each soldier.   Use Photoshop to add names to each tag or hand write them on.
  2. Glue the tags to card stock and cut out along the edges.
  3. Fill each bag with goodies.
  4. Fold over the tops of each bag and punch two holes in the top.   Punch a hole on the end of each tag.
  5. Push a red and white ribbon through the holes and tie in a knot.  String the tags onto one of the ends of the ribbon and tie securely.
  6. Curl the ends of the ribbon.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars by JavaCupcake.com

So… this will be my husband’s 3rd deployment.  One might think it’s easier each time to say goodbye.

It’s not.

It’s harder.

A lot harder.

Maybe I should apply that quote to my life as well.  *sigh*

So… I bake.  I create.  I put my love into making care packages for these soldiers.  Because that’s the one thing… the only thing… I have control over in this process.

To my husband… I love you.  Please, come home to me.

Deployment 2013-69

Cherry Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
 
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Serves: 15-24 bars - depending on the size you cut them
Ingredients
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup dark chocolate cherry muesli (I used a German brand, but any kind will work)
  • 1 cup crispy rice cereal
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 80g dried cherries, chopped
  • ¼ cup mini chocolate chips, for garnish
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅔ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Spray a deep cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a very large bowl, mix together the quick oats, muelsi, crispy rice cereal, chopped cherries and semi-sweet chocolate chips.
  3. In a medium pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter.
  4. Add the honey and brown sugar and whisk until smooth. Bring to a slow bubble for about 2 minutes or until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and let stand for 1-2 minutes to cool slightly.
  5. Slowly pour the warm mixture over the oat mixture in four parts. Fold/stir with a wooden spoon or spatula after each addition until none of the mixture is dry. Do this part slowly to ensure that all the oats are completely covered.
  6. Press the mixture into your prepared cookie sheet. Using a large piece of wax paper, press the mixture firmly into the pan, making sure it reaches the edges and corner. Use a lot of pressure to make sure you really push it into the pan. NOTE: If you don't push hard enough, your bars will crumble when you cut them. So, don't be afraid to use a lot of pressure!
  7. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips evenly across the top and press into the bars.
  8. Allow to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before cutting into bars.
  9. Store in zip lock bags or a container with a lid at room temperature.

Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche

This rich, thick, delicious and easy Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche makes the best filling for cakes, cupcakes or even topped on ice cream!

Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche by JavaCupcake.com

This week my friend Jason of Coffee Cup News asked if I’d be interested in submitting coffee related recipes to his blog every month or so!  And well… since I love Jason’s blog (I’ve been a loyal following since the beginning) I jumped at the chance to contribute!

Jason wanted original content for his blog… which well uhm… .might be hard cause I use coffee a lot in my baking.  I mean, every chocolate cupcake I make has coffee in it.  I’ve even already made a cupcake with coffee in the cake AND the frosting… my Mocha Mocha Cupcakes.  And really… what kind of a blogger would I be if I called myself  “JAVA” Cupcake and never used coffee!  So… I’m on a quest to come up with a new coffee cupcake for my first post on Coffee Cup News.

Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche by JavaCupcake.com

When I first began brainstorming ideas, I thought about some of my favorite coffee drinks I like to get when I go to Starbucks.  Let me be more specific…. when I go to Starbucks in the USA.  European Starbucks offer completely different flavors and I just haven’t jumped on that bandwagon yet.  Yeah – I’m a Seattle Starbucks Snob.  lol  One of my favorites at Starbucks is anything with caramel in it.  Caramel Macchiato, Caramel Frappucino, Caramel Mocha… seriously, anything with caramel in it is YUM.  And then that got me to thinking about how I could incorporate caramel into a cupcake, uniquely.

Dulce de leche! PERFECT!  I’ve never made it before and I’ve read on so many other blogs how simple it is to make.  So yes…. I’ll make dulce de leche and fill my cupcakes with it and then of course drizzle it on top!

And let me tell you… there is nothing simpler than making this sweet, caramely goodness.  You need only three things and time.  Simple. Easy. Delicious.

Enjoy!

Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche by JavaCupcake.com

5 from 1 reviews
Crock-Pot Dulce de Leche
 
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Ingredients
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • Crockpot
  • Foil or heat proof plate
  • Water
Instructions
  1. Remove the paper from the can of milk.
  2. Plate a piece of foil or a heat proof plate on the bottom of the crockpot to protect it from rust building up on the can during cooking.
  3. Set the can of milk on the plate or foil and cover completely with water then attach crockpot lid.
  4. Depending on how much time you have... you can cook the dulce de leche in one of two ways...
  5. On HIGH: Cook for 4-6 hours. 5 hours seems to make a good consistency, but go 6 if you want it thicker.
  6. On LOW: Cook 8 hours.
  7. CAUTION: Make sure that the can remains covered AT ALL TIMES. Allowing the water to boil off could cause the can to explode.
  8. Allow can to come to room temperature before opening.
  9. Store in air tight container up to a week in the refrigerator.

Easy Homemade Refried Beans

So, this recipe is not what I’d typically post about on my blog… but I’ve made these beans a dozen times over the last 3 months and they are one of my most favorite creations, EVER! I am actually eating these beans now for a late afternoon lunch.

This recipe is really quite easy to make… and you’ll never want to go back to making canned refried beans again.  Seriously… they are THAT GOOD.

The next time you have taco night at your house… make these beans too!

(PS… Sorry for the crappy camera phone picture!! lol)

5 from 1 reviews
Easy Homemade Refried Beans
 
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Serves: About 3 cups of beans
Ingredients
  • 4-6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 15oz cans pinto beans (I used reduced sodium)
  • ½ large onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp diced green chilies (I used canned)
  • ½ cup diced canned tomatoes (any flavor variety you like)
  • 1 large clove of garlic, thru the press or minced
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
  • pinch of chili powder (or to taste if you like it spicy)
  • ½-3/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. Drain and rinse the pinto beans. Set aside.
  2. In a large pan on high heat, melt the butter with the olive oil.
  3. Add the diced onions and sauté until they begin to soften.
  4. Add in the green chilies, tomatoes and garlic and continue to cook until heated through (about 3-4 minutes).
  5. Add the prepped pinto beans salt/pepper, red pepper flakes, chili powder.and water. Stir together and cook until bubbling. NOTE: Start with ½ cup of water. If the beans seem too thick, add more.
  6. With a potato masher, must the beans until no more remain whole.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the beans are the consistency you desire.
  8. To serve: Top with melted cheese and a side of tortilla chips!
Notes
If you wanted to make these lower in fat, omit the butter and oil and spray pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Also, the measurements for all the ingredients are approximate. I make these a little different every time. If you wanted them spicy, add more heat! If you don't like tomatoes, don't add them! Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless!

Strawberry M&M Rice Krispy Treats

A few days ago, I had an appearance on the morning show on AFN Bavaria radio so I made a batch of Rice Krispy treats to share with everyone in the studio!  I also brought a plate to my husband’s office.

They were gone in 5 minutes.

Seriously, go buy yourself a bag of Strawberry marshmallows, a bag of M&M’s and make these.  Simple, quick, easy and SO GOOD!

5 from 1 reviews
Strawberry M&M Rice Krispy Treats
 
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A fun twist on the traditional krispy treat! This pink, strawberry and chocolate Rice Kripsy treat is sure to please everyone!
Serves: 16 squares
Ingredients
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 10oz bag of Strawberry jumbo marshmallows
  • 6 cups Rice Krispy cereal
  • 1 bag of pastel M&Ms
  • butter - to grease pan
  • wax paper
Instructions
  1. Generously grease a 13x9x2in pan.
  2. In a large bowl, measure Rice Krispy cereal. Mix in all but ½ cup of M&M's. Set aside.
  3. In a large heavy pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.
  4. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until melted. Remove from heat.
  5. Add the cereal and M&M's to the pot and mix with a large wooden spoon until completely incorporated into the marshmallow mix.
  6. Press mixture into greased pan using a piece of buttered wax paper and top with remaining M&Ms.
  7. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Banana bites

After making my Chocolate & Banana cupcakes, I had some extra peanut butter buttercream, banana slices, and melted chocolate.  So, I decided to make a little treat for the family!

 

Banana Bites! 
Sliced bananas
Peanut butter buttercream
Melted Chocolate

  1. Squeeze a dollop of buttercream on a banana slice.
  2. Add a dot of chocolate on top.
  3. Pop in your mouth and enjoy!