Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Craziest Month of the Year and Birthday Cake

Wow, December is an insane month.  My birthday is the 3rd.  This year my mom and step dad came into town.  The night of my birthday they took me, my husband and my sister out to dinner at my favorite restaurant, Gloria's.  Hubby got me a dragonfly pendant that is gorgeous and I love it!  The next day we spent most of the day in the kitchen finishing my cake, making cupcakes, lots of frosting, turkey meatballs, red gravy, pasta and biscuits.  Pasta was the only thing that wasn't from scratch.  Fortunately, there was wine to help us out.  I was so busy that I didn't even get a picture of my cake or the cupcakes before I headed out the door to my party.  At my party there was laser tag, pool, shuffle board, air hockey, balloon sculptures, drinks and FRIENDS!  I can easily say this was the best party I've ever had!

my dragonfly and flower balloon hat at my party

After my birthday weekend my brother in law stuck around for a few days.  He and hubby love playing WoW and they spent 3 days straight playing the new update, one at the desk, one at the kitchen table.  I cooked then cleaned then cooked then cleaned (lather, rinse, repeat).  Sadly, I didn't get pics of the chocolate lava cookies I made for them.  They were incredible.  I'll have to make them again soon so I can share them with you.

Next I declared that I was on strike for 2 days.  I think I only went in my kitchen to pour myself glasses of water.

Then there were the 150 cake balls I made.  120 were for a party at a club and the rest were for hubby's work.  Hubby's coworkers also got peppermint bark, oatmeal cookies, toffee and snickerdoodles.  THEN we packed up and headed home to New Orleans for a long Christmas weekend.  INSANITY!

Don't worry, I have pics of most of it and I'll be making a post for each.

In the meantime, enjoy my half finished birthday cake.  Every year I hope someone will buy or make me a devil's food cake with cream cheese frosting.  This year I just decided to do it myself.  It was amazing, everything I hoped it would be.  I used Rose Levy Beranbaum's Devil's Food recipe and I modified a cream cheese frosting recipe I found on the back of a cake flour box.  This was the only pic I got of it .... while it was still in the "gianormous oreo cookie" phase.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cake Day!

It's a baking day!  I'll do a proper post after the weekend but .... right now my very own devil's food birthday cake is in the oven!!!  Nothing tastes quite as good as the batter to your very own birthday cake.  YUM!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pumpkin Bread (told you I'd come back to it)

Here's the pumpkin bread I leap frogged and told you I'd come back to.  AND, here's the confession about the pumpkin bread.  This is actually the 2nd time I've made it recently.  The first time it got all enjoyed away before I could photograph it so you didn't get to see it.  Please forgive me, unless you're one of the people who enjoyed it away.

The first time I made it without walnuts (because I forgot to buy them, eek.)  The second time I remembered!  Yay.  I liked it much better with the walnuts.  I tend to like a little crunch in my fruity breads.  The recipe called for pumpkin pie spice but it was EXPENSIVE.  I stood there contemplating the $6 for the tiny container and then I decided to read the ingredients.  It's all the spices that were going into it anyways so I just added an extra "pinch" of each.

Enough talk, here's some pictures.  I wish the internet had scratch and sniff or lick and taste or something fun like that.  Until then you'll just have to go with look and lust.  Enjoy.

 1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup water
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon plus a pinch cinnamon
1 teaspoon plus a pinch nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon plus a pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch ginger
1 cup toasted walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350F.  Arrange walnuts in single layer on a baking sheet and toast, turning once, for about 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Meanwhile, grease two 9x5" loaf pans with butter.

2.  Allow walnuts to cool.

3.  Mix pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, butter, water, brown sugar, white sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended.  

4.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and walnuts.  Stir dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture.  Pour into prepared pans.

5.  Bake 50 minutes to one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Desserts

Ok, I'm leapfrogging the pumpkin bread I made to tell you about Thanksgiving.  I'll come back to the pumpkin bread, I promise.

Hubby's mom has become addicted to my (Shirley's) chocolate chip cookies.  I feel safe saying that if I'd showed up to Thanksgiving dinner without them SHE would have divorced me on the spot.  I made about 4 dozen and set a dozen aside for her.  I got a good laugh every time I heard her tell someone to "try the cookies, the ones with opium in them."  Haha, like I said, she's addicted.

Hubby's aunt requested Banana Bread Pudding.  I wasn't quite sure how to handle it since I couldn't cook it on site and it's amazing served warm but only 'eh' served cold.  I baked it LATE the night before to minimize the time between baking and serving as much as possible.  I wrapped it in foil and toted it along.  Then we just covered the top with foil to warm it up in the oven for 15 minutes.  (I cheated and rewarmed the rum sauce in the microwave.)  I have to be honest and say that the reheating dried it out a little.  This is absolutely something that should be served immediately on coming out of the oven. 

Finally, I made Chocolate Almond Toffee.  Sadly (hahahaha), it didn't all fit in the box I was using to bring it to Houston so some of it is here.  It went pretty quick.  Toffee is just one of those candies that you take a bite of and then you pick up another piece and have another bite.  You continue to have "just one more bite" until it's all gone.  It's just the nature of toffee to be amazing.

Aside from the 3 dishes I brought there were 2 tables of desserts!  Everything I tried was delicious.  There were turkeys prepared 3 ways.  I had smoked turkey and I'm sold!  Lots and lots and lots of other food and everything was great.  It's a good thing there was so much food because there were a good 50 people and lots of us stuck around for a leftover dinner.

I also attained a new, beautiful, necklace.  My little cousin (well, hubby's little cousin) Lizzy will be 18 all too soon.  I met her 2 weeks before she turned 3 and now she's just under 2 weeks from 18.  Wow, I'm getting old!  ANYHOW, she and a friend have been making jewelry.  Necklaces and bracelets and now they're starting to make rings.  Lizzy brought a bunch of necklaces to see if any of the aunts or cousins wanted to buy anything.  I was glancing over them.  Some weren't my personality and others were.  She had a good variety available and all of them were pretty and well made.  Then I saw it.  A dragonfly necklace with black and grey toned beads.  Seriously, it's as if she made it for me.  When she gets her Etsy store up I'll have to let you know. 

This week I'll be making my birthday cake .... a devil's food with cream cheese frosting.  I probably should try to make a loaf of bread as well.  Not sure what kind of bread I'll make.  I'll have 4 - 6 family members in town so I feel like I should probably feed them.  People appreciate eating, right?  Hm?  Maybe I should make something else too.  I do need to find a "new" thing to make for my other blog.  Any ideas?



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Oatmeal Cookies Two Ways

My husband doesn't like raisins in food.  I'm not sure if he's broken or if this is acceptable.  Whatever the case may be I am always required to make my oatmeal cookies raisin free.  This time my sister needed to bring a large quantity of oatmeal cookies to work so we made two batches, one with chocolate chips (for the broken people) and one with raisins.  YAY RAISINS!

The recipe called for the raisins to be soaked in very hot water for 10 minutes so that they didn't steal moisture from the cookies.  I'd never really considered that would be an issue but we went with it.  Of course, being the daughter's of our mother, we added a little rum to the hot water.  Yep, we love rum.  With oatmeal, cinnamon, walnuts and rum soaked raisins (or chocolate chips .... for the broken people) these cookies were delicious.  Sis said her co-workers were asking for the recipe.

Since this is my second EXTREMELY successful cookie from Shirley O Corriher (out of the two I've tried) I'm a little inspired to work my way through the cookie section of Bake Wise.  What can I say?  She's a genius!

disclaimer:  i do not actually believe that raisin haters are broken.  they're just .... raisin haters.

Monday, November 22, 2010

For Loki and Jeff

I made THESE yesterday for some friends and two requested the recipe.  Loki, Jeff, here ya go.  I hope you enjoy them.

Cookie Bars With Jam Filling

1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup earth balance soy free natural buttery spread, cold
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup jam
heaping 1/2 cup vegan semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 375 F and line a 12x8 (or 13x9) baking dish with parchment.  Whisk flour and baking powder in a large bowl, add sugars and mix well.  Add the "butter" and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.  Stir in the oats.  Press 3/4 of the mixture evenly into bottom of baking dish.  Bake for 10 minutes.

While that bakes stir almonds into remaining mix. 

Allow bottom layer to cool a few minutes and then spread on jam.  Sprinkle on chips.  Sprinkle on remaining mix with almonds and gently press down.  Bake for an additional 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Allow to cool  in the dish then lift out parchment and cut into slices.  Enjoy.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Oh, By The Way .....

... they make really good ice cream sandwiches too!

cookies from Chocolate Chip Heaven post with Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream

Friday, November 5, 2010

Chocolate Chip Heaven

If you could all please take out your copies of Bake Wise, turn to page 375 and bask in chocolate chip heaven!  I really almost wish these cookies weren't so good because then I might not have eaten so many of them all by myself.  My middle liddle sister must have eaten at least a cup of dough (with sprinkles).

Usually I tell you what I'd like to change about a recipe.  This time I have nothing.  Shirley's extremely scientific method of baking produces absolutely perfect chocolate chip cookies (for those of us who aren't allergic to nuts.)  I enjoyed these so much that I'm making another batch tonight for a weekend trip to my in-law's.  Hopefully they'll enjoy them as much as we did!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grenadine Cake Balls

Grenadine cake balls were the third and final treat from Halloween party.  For once, I didn't include liquor.  Hubby and I thought it best to offer a virgin option for those who wanted it.

To make these chop up 10 maraschino cherries in a blender, not too fine.  Add cherries to the batter for a 6" yellow cake and bake as directed.  Once the cake cools crumble it up and then add grenadine.  I think I added about 4 teaspoons.  Form mixture into balls and freeze.  Melt chocolate or candy coating.  Dip frozen balls into coating and dry on parchment paper. 


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

S'MORES Baby! S'mores!

For the past 158 years I've been dying to make s'mores cupcakes but I was waiting for the right occasion.  Well, I finally found the occasion!  Very exciting.  These yummies were treat 2 of 3 that I brought to the party I attended on Saturday.

During those 158 years I had come across many s'mores recipes, formulas and concepts.  Even with all these options I could have gone with, I didn't.  One long night of insomnia led me to the perfect idea.  Perfect in mind head anyways, and not so bad in reality either.  The cake was chocolate, of course.  In the bottom of each cupcake was a crumbled quarter graham cracker.  Cupcakes were also coated in semi sweet ganache, sprinkled with more crumbled graham cracker and filled and topped with marshmallow frosting!

To be honest, they were a tad messy to eat but the guests at our friends' party seemed to manage just fine.  For me, a fork and a plate were the ideal method of consumption.  All the flavors blended beautifully.  The interplay of the textures was great and the smell was enticing to say the least.

What I'll do different next time (which I've accounted for in the directions below):
  • make less ganache!  I did 8 oz of chocolate and 8 oz of heavy cream and I have a BUNCH in my fridge!
  • maybe shave a little chocolate on top
  • maybe sprinkle a little graham cracker on top of the frosting
  • maybe use devil's food for the cake

You will need:
  • chocolate cake recipe or box mix
  • graham crackers
  • semi sweet chocolate (chips work)
  • heavy cream
  • powdered sugar
  • salt
  • marshmallow fluff
  • corn starch
  • butter
FIRST, make your ganache, it will need to cool.  Warm 4 ounces of heavy cream over medium heat until it steams then add 4 ounces chocolate.  Stir until completely smooth.  Pour into heat resistant bowl, stir in 1/2 teaspoon light corn syrup.  Cover with plastic wrap (I love "press and seal") and cool to room temp.

Place cupcake liners in muffin tin.  Put 1/4 crumbled graham cracker into the bottom of each liner.  If you want to crumble them all at once, that's about 2 teaspoons per cupcake.

Make your cake batter, enough for 18 cupcakes. Divide batter between liners and bake according to cake directions.

Meanwhile, make frosting.  Combine one 13 ounce jar marshmallow fluff, 18 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature), 1 1/2 cup powdered sugar (add gradually), 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon corn starch and a dash of salt.  Mix until completely combined.

When cupcakes are completely cooled inject each one with a little marshmallow frosting. You'll know it's enough when you feel the cupcake expand a little.

Spread a little ganache on top of each cupcake and then sprinkle with more crumbled graham cracker (about 1 teaspoon for each).  Top with marshallow frosting and enjoy your cupcake like a little kid who just snuck a cookie!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Black Strap Banana Cake Balls

First of all, allow me to say PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE forgive my absence.  Autumn is horrible for my allergies and I caught an actual cold on top of it.  Bleh.  I WILL be going back on local honey this weekend and visiting my allergist soon after if that doesn't fix me up.

Enough of that.  This weekend I went to an early Halloween party.  Some people in attendance had been asking me for treats so I brought a few things.  I even let one of the ladies pick a liquor for some rum balls.  Carla chose Black Strap Rum.

I put a lot of thought into what to pair with the rum and eventually decided on caramelized banana.  First I cooked  a cut up banana in a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of sugar.  While that cooled I prepared a yellow cake batter (with sour cream, yum) for a 6" cake pan.  I mashed the banana and mixed it in.  In retrospect, I could have reduced the liquid (sour cream or sugar) in the recipe a little bit because the cake was very moist and clung to the pan when I went to unmold it.  Of course, this wasn't a problem since it was all about to get smashed up for cake balls.  I also could have reduced the leavening a little bit to account for the small pan size.  I really pushed the amount of rum in these.  I managed to get 8 tablespoons of liquid into them before I thought they might not hold together anymore.  They had a nice warm bath in semi-sweet chocolate and then were left to cool.

The Black Strap Banana cake balls were met with many oooos and ahhhs.  One particular person went back for a few ;-).

Things I'll change next time:
  • use less liquid in the cake batter
  • use less leavening (if i stick with the 6" pan)
  • cut banana into coins rather than quarters, so that it cooks more evenly and mashes better
How to:
  • cook one banana (cut up) in 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons sugar, about 2 minutes per side
  • mash up banana and mix into yellow cake batter and pour into 6" pan, bake
  • allow cake to cool and then mash it up
  • add Cruzan Black Strap Rum, one teaspoon at a time until the mixture forms a nice ball that sticks together
  • form mixture into balls (I use about 1 tablespoon for each)
  • freeze on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  • melt chocolate and dip frozen balls into chocolate, return to parchment to cool
  • top as you see fit, if you like
  • ENJOY!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Raw Cashew Cream

This isn't baked so I questioned whether to put it here or on my other blog.  It's sweet and decadent and seems evil but isn't, so I decided to put it here.  I got this recipe here and I'm so glad I found it.

This cashew cream is super yummy!  Believe me.  It's also super easy to make.  The taste testing happened with some homemade crackers I made yesterday.  Tomorrow my little sister is coming over for our weekly "Faturday" dinner and I'll be serving little bowls of cashew cream plain, with cinnamon mixed in, and with nutmeg mixed in.  I'll report back and let you know how everyone likes those.

I couldn't find large medjool dates at the grocery.  I have to admit that I wasn't being a very patient shopper that day.  By the raisins I found some cut up dates in a zipper pouch and I bought those.  I estimated "3 large" dates best I could, and it worked!

 Here's the recipe:

1 cup raw cashews
3 large medjool dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of kosher salt (I used sea salt)

Place cashews in a bowl and cover with filtered water.  Place dates in a separate bowl and cover with 1 cup filtered water.  Soak both for 20 minutes.  Drain water off cashews.  Add cashews, dates (with their water), vanilla and salt to a blender.  Blend, starting on low speed then increasing, for about 2 minutes.  Refrigerate before serving.

**edit** My sister and I fixed up 2 little bowls of cashew cream.  We added nutmeg to one and cinnamon to the other.  The cashew cream with nutmeg added was good.  The cream with the cinnamon added was PHENOMENAL.  I would definitely suggest trying this, maybe with some apples.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fear and Baking in North Texas

SOOOOO, here's the thing.  I saw a contest last night that I thought I might like to enter.  I threw a couple of ideas around in my head and then decided this all sounds very daunting and scary.  Then I got online today and I had a wall post from a friend informing me of another contest.  I read over the rules and thought "this sounds like fun, I could do that" but then ... the daunting and the scary came back.

Someone I knew way back when use to say that if something happens 3 times in a day it's a sign.  Well, I don't know about that but twice in 12 hours sure felt like one.

Here are the big questions:
  1. Am I good enough?
  2. Does it really matter if I'm good enough?
  3. Whether or not I'm good enough .... am I BRAVE enough?
Hubby says "nothing to lose but a few dollars in ingredients, right?  everything to gain."  There's slightly more than that.  There's time.  There's pride.  HA!  I guess that's all really, a few dollars in ingredients, time and pride.  I think that last one is the scariest.  He even offered to be my "kitchen bitch" and my taste testing victim.

Maybe I should just dive right in.  Start baking with these contests in mind.  Start creating.  Just .... jump.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce

On Friday 2 things happened.  1) I searched and searched and searched for a bread pudding recipe I felt like making but all the ones that looked good required dark rum, and I didn't have any.  Eventually I gave up.  2) I decided that dark rum will be a staple in my house!

I've never made bread pudding before.  Infact, I think I've only had it once but I didn't want the remaining half loaf of challah to go to waste.  Because I hadn't made it before I didn't want a chocolate bread pudding.  (I know, me not wanting chocolate is insanity.)  I also didn't want something really exotic.  I just wanted a nice basic bread pudding.  I figured this would be a better test of if I even like it, and something that would be easier to compare other recipes to later.

As I said, I had given up.  There was no dessert Friday night.  Sad as that may be, I'm sure my waist line (and hips, and thighs!) appreciated it.  I started searching for something to make Saturday for sister dinner night.  I looked at tarts and pies and cookies but nothing really struck me.  At some point I picked some tart that didn't really look amazing and I was checking a grocery website to see if they carried something I would need when I noticed that they had recipes.  Right there, on the third page of their desserts section, I saw it.  Banana Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce!   That sounded perfect!

Saturday my first stop was the liquor store.  We live in what I like to call a "moist" county.  We can buy drinks at restaurants and beer and wine at the grocery or "beer and wine" stores.  There is one city that can sell liquor.  I'm not sure how they got the right to sell liquor but I'm glad they did because now I only have to drive 9 miles to the liquor store, not 25+ miles.  Anyways, I found Cruzan Black Strap Rum.  It WILL make your chest warm if you take shots, just FYI.

I failed to pick up raisins when I went shopping so I used chocolate chips instead.  I also failed to pick up pecans so I used walnuts.  I lined my loaf pan with parchment so the finished product would lift out of the pan rather than fighting to get pieces out.  Cooking the bananas made my nose very happy.  Assembling the bread pudding was more of a layering process than the 'toss it all in there' method my sister uses.  I suppose this was to keep the bananas intact.

When the deliciousness was about half done I started the Rum Sauce.  When you heat and mix butter, cream, brown sugar and rum it just can't be a bad thing!  Next time I might let it boil a smidge longer so it thickens up a bit more.  Aside from the minor matter of viscosity it was an incredible sauce.  I may or may not have eaten some of it alone with a spoon.  If I did I'm sure I'd never admit to such a thing.  ;-)  My sister decided that we needed to make some whipped cream to go with it.  (Yes, "NEEDED")

The bread pudding was definitely a success and has been added to my notebook of delicious, decadent and devilish desserts.  Hubby described it as 'a bit heavy' but happily ate his serving.  Sister and I ate until we were too stuffed to get up from the table.  All 3 of us had diets and cleanses scheduled to start on Sunday so we considered this our last hurrah, and therefor decided it was permissible to eat obscene amounts of sweets.


1/3 cup raisins or currants (or 1/2 cup chocolate chips)
2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup dark rum
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 bananas, peeled, halved crosswise and lengthwise
5 tablespoons sugar
2 cups whipping cream
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces firm white bread slices, crusts trimmed, cut into 3" strips (or challah)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) chopped toasted pecans (or walnuts)
Rum Sauce (recipe follows)

  1. Skip this step if using chocolate chips.  Combine raisins or currants and 2 T rum in a small bowl.  Let stand 20 minutes.
  2. Melt 2 T butter in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat.  Add 2 T sugar and bananas and cook until bananas are tender (about 2 minutes per side.)  Remove from skillet.
  3. Combine whipping cream, eggs, vanilla extract and remaining 1/4 C rum and 3 T sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until blended.
  4. Preheat oven to 350F.  Butter 9x5x3 loaf pan (or line with parchement paper.)
  5. Arrange 1/3 of the bread strips crosswise in the bottom of the prepared pan.  Arrange 6 banana pieces on top of bread.  Sprinkle half the raisins (or currants or chocolate chips) and half the pecans (or walnuts.)  Arrange 1/3 of the bread strips crosswise on top of bananas.  Pour half the egg mixture over.  Arrange remaining bananas on top of bread.  Sprinkle with remaining raisins (or currants or chips.)  Arrange remaining bread and pour remaining egg mixture over.  Press gently to compact.  (I have to admit to having way to much fun with that part.)  Let stand 15 minutes.  TO SIMPLIFY:  from bottom to top that goes .... bread, banana, sprinkle, bread, egg, banana, sprinkle, bread, egg.
  6. Bake until puffed and golden and knife inserted comes out clean (which won't happen if you use chocolate chips), about 45 minute.  Transfer to a rack and cool slightly.  Serve slices with rum sauce drizzled on top.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons dark rum

  1. Melt butter in medium, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add cream, brown sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  2. Remove from heat.  Stir in rum.  (Can be prepared 2 days ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.  Rewarm over low heat, stirring constantly.)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Chocolate Mousse and Whipped Creamy Goodness

Yesterday afternoon I got the itch to make the chocolate mousse recipe I've been staring at for a little over a week.  I didn't have the dark rum it called for so I had to pick from amaretto, so co or coconut rum.  I was afraid the amaretto would make it much too sweet but I've been advised that it works rather well.  The so co might be an interesting fit but I went with the coconut rum.  A stronger liquor would have been better but I am very please with how it came out.

I am very pleased with the flavor.  It IS rich.  Today I made some whipped cream with a little bit of superfine sugar to sweeten it.  This was the perfect thing to balance the richness of the mousse.  I just served hubby a little bowl and I got his thumbs up.  It's possible that this was his first encounter with chocolate mousse.  He wanted to know if it was "like pudding" until his first bite.  Now he understands that it's better!

By the way, this is my first cross-post with my other blog, 52 New Things.  Pop on over and check it out if you. 



This isn't sweets related, unless you count Kool-aid as a sweet, but I had to share.  The 'zombie virus' is for hubby's work, it's 2 packs of yellow, one pack of green and about a teaspoon of yellow food dye.  The 'red blood' is one pack of red and a little purple.  It's for home.  I obviously need help making empties so I can make more Halloween bottles!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Healthy-ish Fruit Bars


Healthy-ISH.  They still have sugar, butter and flour but if I had to put them up against regular cookie bars in a healthy contest I think they'd win.  And here's a big bonus for me ... THEY'RE SOY FREE!!!  I can't eat the fruit and cereal bars because they're packed with the stuff.  I adapted the recipe from "Fruit Newtons" on  My recipe will follow.

First I cut up about 16 ounces of fruit.  I have to say "about" because my scale went to sleep just before I was finished adding fruit to it.  This is 12 ounces of strawberries and 2 good sized dino egg pluots.  (Pluots are hybrids of plums and apricots.  There are many varieties, each with it's own specific flavor.  These are in my top 3 favorite fruits.)  All the fruit went into a pot with some sugar and water.  I let them sit for a few minutes and then the pluot skins slid right off.  Then I brought them up to a boil, turned off the heat and let them rest, covered, for an hour.

Next came the dough, which I started as soon as the fruit was set to rest, since it has to chill for an hour.  I made a couple of changes to the dough both for flavor and health.  Unless I'm cooking for vegans or someone who is very dairy intolerant I prefer to use real butter.  I'd rather have a more natural fat than something chemically contrived.  I know there are some alternatives out there that are natural and healthy but for now, I'll stick with butter.  I did snitch at the batter before I put it in the fridge and I really could have eaten the whole thing raw.
After the longest hour of fruit resting and smelling up my house with it's delicious aroma and dough sitting in my fridge taunting me it was time to move on to assembly.  I did preheat my oven 15 minutes before the hour was up.   I drained the water off the fruit and sent it for a quick twirl in the blender.  I don't have an immersion blender yet, but it's on my Christmas list.  I left a few little chunks in the fruit because I wanted to.  Haha, it felt like being defiant.

The dough needs to be rolled out, half at a time.  If there is a gene associated with being able to roll out dough and then move it gracefully, that gene is turned off in me.  I rolled out the bottom dough right on the parchment then dropped it into the dish and picked and mashed to make it fit better.  A little word on the parchment:  you just lift it out after your stuff has cooled.  No sticking to the dish, no extra fat to coat it, no mangling the first piece, nothing but nice clean cuts and pretty bottoms and sides!  I then spread the fruit over the bottom dough, rolled out the top dough .... and destroyed it.  Yep, I'm really that bad at moving rolled dough.  I pieced it together and decided to claim that I was going for this look because it gives it character, adds to the authenticity of the piece and all that good stuff.

Into the oven they went.  When the "baked goods" smell got super intense they had about 2 minutes left.  I let them cool almost all the way before I lifted out the parchment and chopped them into bars using my big kitchen knife.  The taste was great BUT check this out .... I made them yesterday.  I just had one to go with the writing of this blog and they are "next day better!"  They're moist and delicious and the fruit flavor is more intense now than it was last night.  Oh so good!

Healthy-ish Fruit Bars

  • 16 ounces of fresh fruit
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, slightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon coconut milk (or soy milk, or rice milk, or milk milk)
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick oats (I used quick oats for their size, if you want bigger bits use regular oats)
  • 1/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds, crunched up
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  1. In a saucepan, combine fruit, 1/2 cup sugar and water.  If you are using fruit with peels let it sit a few minutes then removed peels.  Bring to a boil while stirring.  Removed from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.
  2. Meanwhile, beat the butter, 1 cup sugar, egg, milk and extracts.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, salt and baking powder.  Stir in oats and almonds.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until evenly combined.  Chill dough for 1 hour.
  3. 15 minutes before the hour is up, preheat oven to 350F.
  4. Strain water off fruit and give the fruit a quick twirl in the blender.
  5. Roll out half the dough on a floured surface (or right on parchment).  You might want to flour your rolling pin as well.  Put bottom layer of dough into a 9x13" baking dish.  Spread fruit onto bottom layer.  Roll out other half of dough and lay it gracefully and beautifully on top of fruit layer.  Or do it like I did.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool, at least most of the way, and then lift out parchment and slice into bars.
  8. Enjoy!
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Thursday, September 30, 2010

My Littlest Sister Is A Bad Influence Cookies

Friday the hubby and my middle liddle sister and I (and my dog) drove to the north shore of New Orleans to visit mom and our whole family.  It's rare that mom and all her girls are in the same place at the same time so it was really exciting.  To kick off the weekend we "celebrated."  Ok, to be fair, we celebrated the whole time but that's just how we are.

After shrimp creole, ribs, bread and wine for dinner we played a game of cards.  Playing 'Phase 10' while eating popcorn and or ice cream is a family tradition.  We top of this great ritual with some sort of judgment impairing liquid, irish whiskey in this case.  After all of this my littlest sister asked for cookies.  (Doesn't she have beautiful eyes?)  In our collective weakened state this seemed like a really good idea.  She asked my middle liddle sister to make them for her.  My hubby, btw, had already snuck off to bed.

Middle liddle decided that she needed a shower.  She told us that if we collected all of the ingredients on the island she would bake for us after her shower.  Littlest and I busied ourselves with finding oatmeal and flour and chocolate chips and other flavorings that made sense.  I warmed up the eggs under luke warm water and set the butter out.  Then I stood there staring at all these things that desperately wanted to be cookies and decided that it was cruel to make them wait.  So I started measuring and pouring and mixing.  Middle liddle showed up just before they went into the oven and laughed at my impatience. 

Mom was fast asleep.  I'm surprised we didn't wake her up with all of our mixing, giggling and baking noises.  Biggest little sister was on the south shore visiting with friends she hadn't seen in months.  As the cookies were coming out of the oven (4 batches?  maybe only 3, who knows) we gobbled up nice warm cookies.  I put two on a plate and took them up to sleeping hubby.  He didn't seem too happy to see me, or them, but he must have enjoyed them because when I finally went to bed his plate was all clean and waiting for me on the nightstand.

The remaining cookies (there were plenty!) served as back up treats for the two family parties on Saturday.  There were enough left that each sister could have a care package for their respective treks home.

(These are the recipe from the Quaker oatmeal top with chocolate chips instead of raisins plus a little nutmeg and something else which I have since forgotten, ooops.)


Monday, September 27, 2010


Thursday I made Challah for a friend who was coming into town (and then didn't).  Of all the breads I've made this was hubby's favorite so I made a loaf for home too.  We had a weekend trip to New Orleans planned so I made a loaf for that too.  Yep, I made 3 loaves of Challah.  The dough rising over the bowl in the morning was quite entertaining.

After making the dough and letting it rise slowly in the fridge over night I divided it into the 3 parts and braided each one.

bread about to be braided looks like half an octopus

a little bit braided

mostly braided

all braided!

Then they got an egg wash and rose for an hour.

egg wash 1

After an hour they got another egg wash and some poppy seeds.  Then they rose for another hour before getting baked.

egg wash 2

And then they were all beautiful and ready to eat!

..... or to become french toast!