Thursday, October 21, 2010

Craving Ellie in My Belly: Chicken Pot Pies

Forgive the poor lighting--our dining room is dark!
The husband is pretty easy to please.  He's almost always willing to try my latest concoctions (although he refuses to try the green monster), but there are a few dishes he always gets excited about:
  1. burgers
  2. pizza
  3. pot pies
When I saw that this week's Craving Ellie In My Belly recipe was chicken pot pies, I knew I had to try it out.  I've made many pot pies in my lifetime, searching for the perfect one.  Would this be it?

Here's the rundown:
Prep time: 20 minutes (those veggies don't chop themselves, unfortunately)
Cook time: 25 minutes
Bake time: 30 minutes

Substitutions: We swapped out potatoes and green beans for broccoli and carrots. Shocking--the husband loves potatoes, but says he would prefer other veggies in his pot pie. I'm obviously not going to fight him on this one, since potatoes don't even really count as a vegetable. We love green beans, but haven't had them in a pot pie before--so thought we'd go with a safe standby--broccoli--which was also much cheaper at the store. :)

*Rich and creamy
*1 dish meal--meat, carbs, veggies in one!
*Inexpensive/everyday ingredients
*Versatile--easy to change to your preferences
*Kid friendly
     --I wouldn't serve this to company because it isn't exciting and is kind of messy (unless you serve it in individual dishes)

*Time consuming
*Lacked "crust"
(the husband said it didn't fully seem like a potpie without it--but he is a carb snob)

My thoughts overall?  Not the best pot pie I've ever had (Cooking Light has some good ones) but a good starting point.  I liked that it wasn't a canned soup base, but was still creamy.  I know phyllo dough is a calorie-conscious option, but the husband really prefers more of a crust (whether pie or biscuit) on the top.  I'd also add a little more seasoning to the dish.

When we need some comfort food, this recipe will be in the running.  Great choice--and thanks for hosting, Shandy of Pastry Heaven!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuffed Turkey Burgers

We all have a perfectionist inside of us.

Before all of you laid-back people start to disagree with me, I want you to think for a minute: there is some aspect of your life in which you demand perfection.

Maybe you insist on making the bed because your spouse doesn't tuck in the sheets right.  Perhaps you dry clean everything because even after years of practicing, your ironing is sub-par.  Maybe some of you set your alarm earlier than necessary because you need to make your make-up and/or hair just right.

Some of us are more in-tune with our inner type A personality--and I happen to be one of them.  The husband--not so much.

Today, we both realized his "baby" that he won't trust to anyone:


As I begin to get out the ingredients for today's burgers, I notice he's hovering more than usual.   "Do you need something?"


"Okay, well I need to get started on the burgers."

I chop the peppers, grate the cheese...and see he's still standing there.  Hmm.  This is unusual.  Then, it hits me.

"Would you like to make the burgers?"

He smiles and nods, sheepishly.  The inner control freak is screaming inside of me, "I need to make these burgers! It's my blog!"  But...the key to marriage is compromise, and let's face it--the husband doesn't make requests too often.

I concede.

I will now chronicle his steps in the kitchen to create Ellie Krieger's stuffed turkey burgers.

**Note: I'm not a completely insensitive wife.  Every time a recipe requires grilling, I happily allow him to do it.  In our house, he's King of the Grill, and I like it that way.  So of course he was going to cook the burgers--I mean, I'm not trying to strip his manhood away or anything.

Step 1: Chop peppers, grate cheese, and form 8 patties.

Step 2: Top 4 patties with cheese and peppers; top with a "clean" piece.  Seal two patties together and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

**Note: we added our favorite seasoning for burgers: Susie Q's Santa Maria seasoning.  It's basically a slightly fancier garlic salt.

Step 3: Grill to perfection.

I don't know your take on turkey burgers, but here's mine in a nutshell:
Turkey burgers are nowhere as amazing as beef burgers.

There, I said it.  I know, I know--red meat is so much higher in fat and cholesterol, and I generally try to limit my intake...but so far, turkey burgers have been a sad substitute for the 'real thing.'

Until today.

I officially have faith in Ellie Krieger after today's meal.  I'm sure there will be ups and downs, as with any relationship--but today's burgers were so good that I now eagerly anticipate the next month of cooking with her recipes.  Because yes, as previously mentioned--I am type A and already have my next 4 weeks of meals planned out.

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

*quick and easy
*kid friendly--I think
*satisfying and low-calorie
*the anal burger-person in your life will probably volunteer to make dinner

*Husband says using previously frozen ground turkey would be tough to work with--so make sure you use fresh.  (Not a huge "con" in my book...but worth noting)

Go buy fresh ground turkey today--you won't be disappointed!

Here's the recipe, which is from The Food You Crave: Luscious Recipes for a Healthy Life

Nutritional Info: (per burger patty)
Calories: 256
Total Fat: 7g
Cholesterol 56g
Sodium 630mg
Protein 43mg
Carbohydrates 5g
Fiber 0g

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Greek Style Stuffed Peppers

My mother raised me right.   I have a vivid memory from high school where I was at a friend's house and had to shove dinner down my throat.  The main course?  Stuffed bell peppers.  I didn't like bell peppers, and I certainly didn't like the meatloaf-resembling filling.  It was awful, but I did it--because I was polite.

When the husband chose this recipe for dinner, I have to admit I was a little nervous.  Stuffed bell peppers?  I haven't eaten them in 10 years, but I'm still apprehensive.  However, I do like bell peppers now (love them!) and liked the idea of another well balanced (veggie, whole grain, meat) main course.

We really enjoyed these!  We'll definitely make them again in the future. 

Here's the rundown:
*Time: 1 hr 15 minutes total (15 mins prep)

*can be prepared ahead of time or in the crock pot
*includes whole grains and veggies (bulgur, spinach, bell peppers)
*inexpensive ingredients
*pantry ingredients
*reheats pretty well

*long bake time
*(probably not) kid friendly

  • filling is slightly bland.  I tried another batch with added garlic and garlic powder and it was much better
  • I made half in the oven and half in the crock pot (low for 4 hours)--both methods worked!
    • The crock pot version was a little watery
    • The oven version tasted better to me, but the husband liked how soft the bell pepper was in the crock pot version.
  • This recipe makes a ton!  (We used an extra bell pepper and still had leftover filling!)
    • I froze some of the filling to see how that works.
Nutritional Info:
Calories: 210
Carbohydrates: 19g
Total 6g
Saturated Fat: 2.5g
Protein: 21g
Fiber: 6g

Monday, October 11, 2010

Blueberry-Oatmeal Muffins

Forgive the squatty muffin--I made them smaller than called for
in the recipe.
Two Random Facts About Me:
1) I'm a freak about dairy product's expiration dates.

2) I can't let food go to waste.

I opened my fridge and noticed I still had quite a bit of buttermilk left to use--by tomorrow.  Since buttermilk is already pretty nasty, the last thing I want to do is forget about it until it's almost cottage cheese--and then try to get rid of the guilt I feel after throwing away a dollar's worth of buttermilk.

So, I ask the husband if he'd like to take some baked goods into work in the morning.  He says yes: blueberry muffins.

Blueberry muffins? Gross.

Yes, I said gross.  I don't know why, but I do not like blueberries.  I especially dislike them in my muffins. 

In some ways, I welcomed the husband's suggestion.  I don't like blueberry muffins--which means I won't eat them. Brilliant!  (Whenever I make baked goods for the husband, I always end up eating more than he does.  Unless it's bread.)  The problem was, I planned to send them into work--and I always want to taste food before I give it to others.

It was a risk...but I decided to take it.

  Cooking Light's Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

I can't tell you they tasted good, because I didn't try them.  I can tell you that the batter (pre-blueberries) was delicious.

Would I make these again?  Only if the husband requests them, of course.  They're a more "healthy" tasting muffin, which is fine--but some palates prefer the cupcakes that are disguised as muffins. :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes

My husband thinks he has the best wife in the world.

Of course this isn't true.  I have my fair share of flaws that surface daily--so how did I fool him?

Pancakes.  From scratch.

The husband is a carb-lover.  He admits that, if he needed to, he could survive on bread and water alone.  Although not a big eater, he can single-handedly polish off the complimentary bread basket at any dining establishment.  It's not uncommon that, at the end of the meal, the portion that receives the highest praise is the ______________________ (insert bread product here).

When he was training for his marathon a few years ago, I knew he needed to eat substantially more than he had been.  After his long runs with the Fleet Feet training group, he was spent: nutritionally and physically.

Before you go and commend me for being such a thoughtful wife, I must admit that there was an ulterior motive here.  A bit of background: the husband is thin.  Like, we weigh the same amount and he's 6 inches taller than me.  And the thing is--he can eat an exorbitant quantity of food without gaining weight.

Exhibit A: in high school, his efforts to gain weight included drinking cream instead of milk.  Gross.

Exhibit B: before he met me, he ate a #2 at Wendy's for lunch every day.  Later on, he would meet his friends at their favorite bar for bar food and drinks.  Did he gain weight during this time?  Nope.

Exhibit C: while we were engaged, he lived with my parents.  In my family, we have a problem with food: we always make way too much.  My mom also interprets someone with a clean plate as someone who is still hungry--so, when my fiance finished his plate, she would pile on some more.  After 5 months: no weight gained.

Why is this relevant?  Well, as I previously mentioned, the husband was training for a marathon.  Before this, he worked out once a week: Monday night basketball.  He was going from a sedentary lifestyle to one where he ran 15 - 40 miles per week.

So what was the problem?  I'm all for exercise.  My fear? He would lose weight.

I had to take matters into my own hands--so, I did what any wife would have done: I decided to make carbohydrate-rich food that I knew he wouldn't be able to resist.  While the husband typically has excellent portion control, he cannot resist bread products.  I mean, I limit him to 4  biscuits per meal.

Pancakes seemed like a for sure bet.  I wasn't disappointed--while Cooking Light recommends 2 pancakes as a serving, he polished off 5.  Five pancakes, or 2.5 servings.  Success!

Here's the best part: not only did he maintain his weight throughout marathon training--but he thinks that I'm the most stellar wife because I don't take magic pancake powder from a box and add water.  Because he sees measuring spoons and buttermilk out on the counter, he thinks it takes an extreme amount of effort to put these pancakes on the table.

It doesn't.  Let me share the secret with you, so that you too may be dubbed "the best wife ever.

Steps to making the carb-lover in your house happy:
1) Combine oatmeal, vanilla, and buttermilk--let it stand for 10 minutes to soften the oats.

2) Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3) Add egg and oil to buttermilk mixture; mix into dry ingredients.

4) Scoop onto hot griddle/skillet, and cook until golden brown.

And if you want to be like the Williams family over here--top your pancakes with some peanut butter.  They say you're supposed to have a mixture of protein, carbs, and fat after a run, right?  We're just following the rules.

*Quick and easy!
*Hearty and filling
*Pantry ingredients (except buttermilk--but I always keep that on hand for buttermilk biscuits, of course)

*oats soak for 10 minutes--hard to wait when you're hungry after a run!
*slightly different flavor than "regular" pancakes--not a bad thing, but just a heads up.

Oatmeal-Buttermilk Pancakes
The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook

Prep: 13 minutes
Cook: 3 minutes per batch

1 1/4 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Combine buttermilk, oats, and vanilla; let stand 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir in oil and egg.

2. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife.  Combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.  Add oat mixture to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.

3. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet.  Turn pancakes when tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 2 pancakes)

Nutritional Information:
Calories: 287 (22% from fat); Fat: &g (sag 2.1g, mono 1.7g, poly 2.2g); Protein: 10.1g; Carb: 45g; Fiber: 2.1g; Chol: 55mg; Iron 2.5 mg; Sodium: 509 mg; Calc: 116mg

Friday, October 8, 2010

Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Couscous

I love one-dish meals.  Protein, whole grain, and vegetables in one meal?  Sign me up.  Well-rounded meal on the table in 20 minutes?  Definitely.

This dish didn't sound overly exciting to me, but I figured I'd try it.  Let's face it--while I like veggies, sometimes there isn't much time to get dinner on the table, and side dishes fall by the wayside.  The opportunity to make a balanced meal in a short amount of time is definitely appealing--I mean, you get 8 grams of fiber in this dish--that's 33% of what you need in a day.  Bonus!

The recipe is an easy one:

Prep ingredients

Cook chicken

Cook spinach
**Note: I would skip this step in the future.  As previously mentioned, I prefer raw spinach to cooked spinach--but thought I'd follow the recipe for the first time.

Prepare sauce

While the sauce was simmering, I quickly cooked my couscous.

Start to Finish: 20 minutes
*quick and easy--virtually no prep
*one dish meal--bonus!
*very flavorful
*inexpensive ingredients
*easy to find ingredients
*uses pantry staples--should be able to whip this meal up at the last minute, without a trip to the store
*reheats beautifully--I liked it better the next day, but that could have been because I knew it was good and wasn't nervous about eating it!

*none really--it isn't the most exciting of dinners, but it's a great, easy meal for those nights when you just need to get something on the table!

Will I make this again?  Sure.  It wasn't a "wow" meal, but it gets the job done!

Balsamic Chicken with Baby Spinach and Couscous
Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-sodium canned chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous, cooked


Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear. Remove the chicken and set aside. To the same pan, add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Lower the heat to medium and add the balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Place the couscous in a serving bowl. Top with the spinach, chicken and balsamic-tomato sauce.

Nutrition Facts
Nutritional Analysis per serving
Calories: 353
Total Fat: 6 g
Protein: 34 g
Carbohydrates: 42 g
Fiber: 8 g

Monday, October 4, 2010

On the menu...

Upcoming recipes from Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave:

*Balsamic Chicken with Spinach
*Greek Style Stuffed Peppers
*Stuffed Turkey Burgers
*Fettuccine with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth

I love curry.  

I used to be afraid of it--in AP Econ my senior year, a guy brought curry for his lunch every day and ate it in class (and consequently, caused us all to smell like it)--and after that year, I vowed I'd never eat it. Ever.  

Despite my convictions, desperate times call for desperate measures, and when I was in Germany and couldn't handle eating one more sausage, some friends and I tried Thai food--and I've never looked back since.   Curry + coconut milk = bliss, so any recipe that calls for that combo is a winner.

(if you also love curry sauces, try out Trader Joe's Yellow curry and Red curry sauce in a bottle.  They are almost as good as my favorite Thai restaurant--seriously--and only a few bucks)

Back to dinner.  It's recommended that we have 2 servings of fish per week in our diet--fish is full of protein, low calorie/low fat, and some even have heart-healthy fatty acids.  As someone who is a natural rule follower, I desperately want to incorporate more fish into our eating routine--but this is problematic in a number of ways.

     1) Fish is expensive. 
     2) I don't make fish very often and don't have many recipes in my repertoire
     3) I LOVE fish, but I think it's difficult to do well.  Some fish (salmon) has a fishy taste that doesn't go well with all seasoning, and other fish (halibut) doesn't have much flavor, so you need to season without overwhelming the fish. 

As a frugal perfectionist, fish presents challenges.

However, I'm trying to branch out.  Now that I have plenty of time to plan meals and grocery shop, I'm becoming quite the bargain hunter.  Alaskan cod was on sale for $4 a pound this week at Tom Thumb (Safeway/Vons for you Californians) and I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to change up our diet for a relatively small amount of money.  I'd already flagged Ellie's halibut recipe, so I figured I'd go with it--they're both firm white fish, so the difference in the final product should be minimal. 

For more on fish substitutions, see Cooking Light's guide.

The recipe is a relatively easy one--according to Ellie, it's 10 minutes of prep and 17 minutes of cooking.

I got out all of my ingredients:

Started the brown rice (and steamed broccoli at the same time--how handy!)

Weighed my spinach
*Note: she says it's about 5 cups lightly packed--but since I have a handy-dandy food scale, I thought I'd be sure.  **RULE FOLLOWER**

Chopped my shallots
         *Note: if you haven't tried shallots, DO IT.  I'm not a huge fan of onion (I'm not alone! Neither is Tracey) but shallots are wonderful.  They're basically a cross between garlic and onion (sweeter, milder, and more garlicky than a regular onion) and are worth the few extra minutes you'll spend hunting in the produce section.
         *Note: you can chop by hand, of course--but I am a huge crybaby when it comes to chopping any form of onion--so I let my fabulous mini food processor do it for me.

Heated my canola oil, and started cooking!

It's really a simple recipe: cook shallots, add curry paste, dump in liquid, and simmer.

**While simmering, I finished prep work (chop cilantro, slice scallions) and set the table.  Hooray for recipes where I'm not fussing over the stove!

Now, perhaps it's because I'm adapting to a new stove-top(electric instead of gas), but this took substantially longer to simmer down to 2 cups than the 5 minutes that she suggested in the recipe.  It could be me (turning down the heat too low?), it could be the stove top (it's super old and yucky)...or, perhaps she and I have a different definition of simmer.  Regardless, it took 15 minutes before I finally threw in the towel and said "close enough!"  I measured twice (remember: I play by the rules and wanted EXACTLY 2 cups!) and was still over...but the husband needed to eat so he could get to basketball on time.

Still not 2 cups?  Back into the pan...

Anyway, once you're past the whole "simmer down the sauce" thing, the recipe is, once again, a breeze.  Place the fish fillets in the pan, make sure they're covered in the broth, cover, and cook for appx. 7 mins. 

**These 7 minutes were particularly handy--I sliced strawberries, prepped the bowls, and started cleaning up the mess I'd made.

Prep the bowl: 1/2 cup rice, a handful of spinach, and the fish on top

Dumped the lime juice, scallions, and cilantro in the broth, and ladled it over the fish.

**Note: the recipe calls for steamed spinach.  I steamed some over my rice cooker and left some raw to compare.  I don't *love* steamed spinach and preferred the raw.

Time from start to finish: 40 minutes
And here's the verdict:

*husband: "It's good, babe!"
*me: "sigh".

As I said before, I LOVE curry.  Love.  Here's the problem--I went in to this meal HOPING it would taste like the curry I'd get from a restaurant--but of course, be much better for me.  This recipe was fine--it wasn't gross, and the leftovers will surely be eaten (and not only because I'm too cheap to throw them away)...but I'd had such high hopes.  My main problem with this recipe?  It tasted healthy.  I want to eat healthy food that tastes just as good as the full-fat version.  In some ways, I don't mind that it doesn't taste as good as the original...but when it comes to curry, it needs to wow me. 

The husband told me later that if he had gone into the meal blindly, he wouldn't have known it was a curry dish--which sums up exactly why I was disappointed.  We were both expecting a creamy, heartier sauce; when she calls it "coconut curry broth", she isn't kidding. It tastes like broth.

Thoughts for the future:
*add more curry paste AND add some curry powder
*simmer that stupid broth until it's exactly 2 cups (or maybe even less for a stronger flavor)
*full fat coconut milk? (gulp)
         -- I support low fat products wholeheartedly, but when I looked at the ingredients list on light coconut milk, guess what I saw?
         Water, coconut milk, guar gum
The first ingredient is WATER???  No wonder it lacks some flavor.  We need to adjust the water:coconut milk ratio here, people.

So here are the pros and cons.

*healthy: fish, veggies, whole grains and low-ca (418 cal total)l in one bowl
*easy--lots of down time where you can finish getting the rest of dinner ready
*fancy-ish--a nice change from the usual chicken
*minimal clean up--1 pan and the rice bowl.  YES!!!
*relatively fast--especially if your sauce simmers down quickly (I blame this stovetop--I HATE it)
     --35 minutes total
*reheats well


*not so sure that it'd be well accepted by everyone (kids, non-fish eaters, those who fear curry)

So I'll be honest--my confidence in Ellie is wavering already.  I've only loved 1 of her recipes out of the 4 I've tried...we'll see how the next dinner goes.

Thai-Style Halibut with Coconut-Curry Broth

2006, Ellie Krieger, All rights reserved

Prep Time:
10 min
Cook Time:17 min

Serves:4 servings
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons red curry paste*, or 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus 1/4 teaspoon, plus more for seasoning
  • 4 (6-ounce) pieces halibut fillet, skin removed
  • Steamed spinach**
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 scallions, green part only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, for serving


*Available in the Asian section of most supermarkets
**Steam or microwave 5 cups of washed baby spinach for 2 minutes

In a large saute pan, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken broth, coconut milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer until reduced to 2 cups, about 5 minutes.

Season the halibut with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Arrange the fish in the pan and gently shake the pan so the fish is coated with the sauce. Cover and cook until the fish flakes easily with a fork, about 7 minutes.

Arrange a pile of steamed spinach in the bottom of 4 soup plates. Top with the fish fillets. Stir the cilantro, scallions, and lime juice into the sauce and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Ladle the sauce over the fish and serve with rice.

Nutrition Facts

Nutritional Analysis per Serving
Calories 418
Total fat 8.7 grams
Saturated fat 3 grams
Protein 43 grams
Carbohydrates 41 grams
Fiber 2 grams
Sodium 600 milligrams

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Energy Bars

As I mentioned in my first post, I'm new to the blog world--both as a writer and reader.  This summer, I searched for blogs about healthy eating and discovered Craving Ellie in my Belly.  Each group, a group of bloggers try and blog about a specific recipe from one of Ellie Krieger's cookbooks.  Since I've recently been trying to put her cookbook to use, this seemed like a good fit.

First recipe: Energy Bars

This recipe intrigued me immediately.  As a teacher, I'm constantly looking for healthy, filling snacks that I can grab on the go, since I seldom have time to sit down and eat my lunch.  I enjoy granola bars, but seldom eat them because I'm cheap and I figure they're full of preservatives.  I was excited to try these out!

First, I assembled all of my ingredients.  I subbed out the raisins and used dried cranberries instead.

The recipe is quite simple: you dump all of the ingredients in the food processors except the egg and maple syrup.  Pulse until everything is finely chopped.

Yikes--I haven't even added my dried fruit yet, and look how full my food processor is!  We'll see how this goes...

Whew! It fits--barely!
 Add the eggs and maple syrup; pulse until combined.

My food processor was a little too small, so I transferred it to a bowl and finished 'mixing' by hand.  

I thought I'd experiment a little, so I added 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips to half of the batter.I figure it's only a teaspoon of chocolate per bar, so it doesn't add that many calories.  I also figured it was the only way I'd get the husband to try them--he's definitely not a fan of dried fruit.

 Spread into a 13 x 9 and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 

   **This was no easy task!  I should have sprayed my rubber scraper/spatula with cooking spray first. 

The consensus--they're good!  I might use fewer dates/apricots next time and more cherries (or our favorite--cherry-flavored cranberries) for a little stronger cherry flavor.  We definitely enjoyed the ones with chocolate chips a little more than those without (no surprise there). 

*Uses pantry ingredients
*Quick and easy

*a little "healthy" for some tastes (example: the husband and my picky nephew)

Perhaps adding a little more maple syrup or larger chocolate chips would cause these to appeal to more palates? 

Overall--worth making again, but I'll definitely do some tweaking in the future.