Nutty Nut Bars

I’m working on a bar to replace protein bars in our lives. Sure the pre-packaged ones are easy, and some of them are pretty tasty (I’m looking at you, Think Thin line), but most of them are packed with chemicals and preservatives and other bonus features we don’t need.

These aren’t exactly high-protein, but they could be if I added more protein powder. Work in progress!

Two varieties of nut-based bar.

For a batch of bars:

2.5 oz macadamia nuts
2 oz pecans
1 oz almond flour
1 oz shredded flaked coconut (unsweetened)
1 scoop whey protein powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 oz peanut butter
3 packets Splenda
2 eggs
2 oz heavy whipping cream

Spices/flavoring: for one batch, I added 2 Tbsp of cocoa powder. For the other, I used 1 tsp allspice, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves.

Put the pecans and macadamia nuts in a food processor, and pulse a few times until you have a mix of fine nut powder and some larger nut chunks. Variety in size is good. Add the rest of the dry ingredients. Melt the peanut butter a little bit — 15 seconds in the microwave should do it. Add the eggs, peanut butter, and cream. Mix until thoroughly blended.

Parchmented pans full of raw batter.

Pour the batter into a greased non-stick or parchment paper-lined 8″ square pan. Smooth it out so the goo is nice and even all the way to the edges.

Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

I cut these into 12 pieces each, fresh out of the oven. Store in an airtight container, they’ll stay fairly moist and chewy. They actually have a more brownie-like texture than the black bean brownies I made a while back. These could be frosted using a cream cheese icing; I bet that’d be pretty darn good.

As usual when working with cocoa powder, I didn’t use enough. 2 tablespoons certainly makes everything look the right chocolatey color, but it’s not a strong enough flavor. But the cinnamon spice ones are pretty darned good, and only need a little more oomph.

As-is, here’s the approximate nutrition info:

Per bar, batch of 12 bars:
Calories: 191
Fat: 17 g
Carb: 5 g
– Dietary Fiber: 2 g
Protein: 6.5 g

Repating Tile Backgrounds

I wanted a new background for my Twitter. I’d found a site previously that let you build your own repeating pattern, and fortunately, I managed to find it again. Over at BGPatterns you can build a simple repeating background.

And if you’re me, and crazy, you’ll take their pattern, pop it into Photoshop, put four tiles together, change the colors around, and end up with a rainbow of skulls on a field of black.

A tile of rainbow skulls.

Feel free to copy and use them … if you can handle the AWESOMENESS.

Egg Whites Make Magic

Here are a couple of other recipes that got posted to Facebook, but never made it here to the old blog. They’re both based in the magic of egg whites.

Vanilla Meringues

Meringues! (low carb recipe)

These are still a work in progress. I’m having a hell of a time getting my egg whites stiff enough. Maybe I’m just a wee bit cowardly about overbeating them. I should just take some egg whites and beat them until they’re too beaten, just so I know what to look for.

Anyhoo, these are made with egg whites, Splenda, and flavoring. (I’ve done a batch with lemon juice, one with vanilla, and one with chai spices.) You can use flavored extracts, but you CAN’T use anything that’s an oil (like my peppermint extract, which includes “oil of peppermint” in the ingredients). Oil will kill the bubbles in your egg whites.

Sample recipe:

2 egg whites
8 packets Splenda
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Put it all in a glass or metal bowl, then beat with a hand mixer until the peaks are stiff. No, stiffer. Even stiffer!

Using a pastry bag and a star tip (I actually use zip-top bags with the corner cut out, and my star tip shoved into that corner), pipe onto parchment paper or non-stick foil.

Bake at 200° for 1.5 hours. Drop heat to “warm” for another 1/2 hour. Turn off oven, leave these in there for at least another 1/2 hour.

Coconut Macaroons

Coconut Macaroons! (low carb recipe)

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
7 packets of Splenda
2 egg whites*
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of cream of tartar

Mix the coconut milk, Splenda, and coconut. Let them mellow together for 1/2 hour or so.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Put egg whites and cream of tartar in a glass or metal bowl. Whip with a hand mixer to stiff peaks. Gently fold in the coconut mixture.

Put on non-stick cookie sheet, bake 12-15 minutes or until browned. Makes 12 cookies.

*I got a little milk-carton sized container of egg whites, so I wouldn’t waste yolks. I feel confident in using them, since I watched the episode of Dirty Jobs where they went to an egg farm, and I saw how such things are separated and packaged.

Low-Carb Cookie Sandwiches

Nut-based cookie sandwiches.

I can’t believe this one made it to Facebook, but not to the blog. Because they’re delicious.

Cookie Sandwiches (low carb recipe)

Cookies:
1 cup ground nuts (I threw a handful of macadamias and a handful of pecans into my food processor, then pulsed until they were finely done.)
1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup Splenda (12 packets)
1 Tbsp spices (I opted for 2 tsp. allspice and 1 tsp. cinnamon)
3 Tbsp butter, softened
2 eggs

Mix everything together, then refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Scoop out onto a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet; flatten the scoops with the bottom of a drinking glass.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 325°.

Frosting/Filling:

4 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened (1/2 stick)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup Splenda (8 packets)

Mix with a hand mixer. This is a basic cream cheese frosting. Any leftovers can be dropped in spoonfuls on a sheet of waxed paper and put into the freezer, for tasty little “cream cheese clouds”.

Makes 20 cookies or 10 cookie sandwiches.

Per sandwich:
230 calories
22 g fat
4.5 g protein
6 g carb
* 2.5 g dietary fiber

A Multitude of Medications

Well, my gastroenterologist’s office went to bat with the drug insurance company, and my Cimzia is now covered. I won’t have to pay $1500 per dose, huzzah! And I only ended up injecting 5 days late, so there shouldn’t be any issues.

I’m also able to get the prescription filled at my local pharmacy, which is SO much more convenient than mail-order. You’d think it would be the other way around, but since this is a drug that needs to be refrigerated, they send it FedEx overnight. And since it costs $1500 per dose, they require a signature. So basically for the first half of my Saturday, I would have to sit around the house, trapped until the FedEx guy came so I could sign for the stuff. Now I can just take an icepack to work, and pick the stuff up on my own terms on my way home.

I had a visit with my gastroenterologist this week — he’s moved me from “recovery” to “remission”, since my guts are working pretty well and my other stuff (rash, arthritis) are fairly mild. Now, what to do? Well, it turns out that three of the best researchers in the field of Crohn’s disease have three different opinions for patients who’ve been put into remission on the one-two punch of immunosuppressants (like the Azasan I take) and biologics (TNF-Alpha blockers like Cimzia, Humira, Enbrel). One doc says to drop the immuno, keep the biologic. One says to drop the biologic, keep the immuno. The third says to stay on both, because, “Why mess with a winning combination?”

My doctor actually watched an argument between two of these experts at a conference. I bet that was cool. So for right now, I’m staying on both the Azasan and Cimzia for six months, and we’ll see if there are any new developments or ideas at that time.

In completely different medical news, I ran out of allergy medication last week, so I said to myself, I said, “Self, you’ve taken this stuff for years. See how things go without it.”

After a week, I got more. Itchy eyes, snotty nose, constantly clearing my throat. I simply can’t deal with the various pollens, grasses, and flora that Florida has to offer. So I’m back on the Claritin (or more specifically, the Costco Claritin clone [say that 5 times fast] called AllerClear).

It feels weird to post without a picture attached, so here’s a mural that was on the wall at Logan’s Roadhouse:

Spitbottle, harmonica stein, and arthritic air guitar!

Ice Cream 3: Mean Mr. Custard

So the next ice cream step is egg yolk as an emulsifier and stabilizer. And there are two options for eggs: raw, or heated in a custard. Everything I’ve read tells me that regular raw eggs are OK for everyone except the elderly, pregnant ladies, and immune-suppressed people. I’m not elderly yet (although I plan on being a most cantankerous old broad), and I’ll never be a pregnant lady, but the meds I take for my Crohn’s disease are indeed immunosuppressants, so raw is out. I’ve heard that pasteurized in-shell eggs can be had, but I can’t find them at any of my local supermarkets. So I decided to make a custard.

Making the custard, part 1.

Here are my ingredients:

3 egg yolks
1/2 cup Splenda
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups half-and-half
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

In one bowl, I whisked the egg yolks with the Splenda. On the stove, I tossed the cream, half-and-half, vanilla and salt into a saucepan and brought it up to 150 degrees. Then I added a bit of milk at a time to the egg mixture, whisking heartily. After four ladles of milk went into the eggs, I poured it all back into the saucepan and brought it to 160 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can cook it until the custard cleanly breaks on the back of a spoon — after wiping away a stripe, the stripe stays with sharp edges.

Custard breaking on the back of the spoon.

Since you want cold ingredients going into the ice cream maker, I put the custard in the fridge overnight. Be sure to push a piece of plastic wrap down on top of the custard, or else it’ll grow a skin.

Next morning, into the machine it went. After a half-hour, it went into a plastic container and then into the freezer to firm up.

The verdict: this is the best of the ice cream experiments so far. It scooped better than the others, although it’s still a little bit hard and a little bit icy. But the ice crystals are smaller than in previous batches. I think we’re always going to be plagued with the hardness (huh huh) because we’re using Splenda instead of regular table sugar.

Vanilla ice cream with custard base.

Nutrition facts: (full batch [8 servings] / per serving)
1672 calories / 209 calories
157 g fat / 20 g fat
40 g carb / 5 g carb
27 g protein / 3.5 g protein

Since we’re near maintenance levels of carbs, 5 isn’t that bad. And most of it is from the milk half of the half-and-half. I wonder what kind of texture I’d get if I did 2 cups of cream and only one of half-and-half. Hmmm. Also, next time we’ll do something more adventurous than vanilla. Perhaps chai, or maple.

WBCOOP already?!

I’ve played in this blogger tournament at Poker Stars for the last four years. Never made “the money”, but it’s always a good quality group of players. It may not surprise you that I go by “themissy” at Poker Stars, so if anyone out there is playing, you may see me there.

They require players to post the following widget:

Online Poker

I have registered to play in the PokerStars World Blogger Championship of Online Poker! The WBCOOP is a free online Poker tournament open to all Bloggers, so register on WBCOOP to play.

Registration code: 025757

Greetings from Skullcrusher Mountain

JoCo with Paul & Storm

Last night, we attended the Jonathan Coulton concert. This was his first time playing in Florida, and I think he’ll be back. The crowd was awesome (and what a fascinating, geek-tee-shirt wearing, bearded demographic he has), even though at this particular club (The Social) there’s no seating, so we stood for ~4 hours. This morning my back hurts, but my head is happy.

My friend Sarah took a picture of me and Scott with JoCo; she was the only one with a working camera with a flash (and it was her Blackberry, at that). So that’s still forthcoming. Lesson learned — take the good camera, not just the phone! We were concerned, because some venues really crack down on any photography, but The Social merely banned “really large video cameras”. Everything else was OK.

I’ve never been to a concert this intimate — almost all of my concertgoing experiences have been in massive arenas or sports stadiums. Even when I went to see the Puppini Sisters at the House of Blues, we were up on a balcony and were separated from the performers.

I actually got to help out a little bit with bringing JoCo and his family to WDW, so I got to meet him a couple of days ago. And I have to say: nicest. Guy. Ever. At the concert, when wandering around and mingling before and after the show, he called me by name. I gotta say, that’s an awesome feeling, having someone you think is so grand know who you are.

More Snappies

I was visiting the daily Dear Abby column over on Yahoo!, and saw this frightening ad over on the right:

WTF?!

Now, I’ve seen plenty of the “Obama urges moms to go back to school” kind of ads. They’re on Web sites, on Facebook, every ding-dong place. but this was my first encounter with Obama encouraging a serial killer to get discounts on car insurance. It’s not through Geico; he’s not a caveman. SHUDDER.

Classy Classmobile

Meanwhile, I saw this truck the other day while driving around with my parents. Stay classy, dude. I bet you get ALL the chicks.