Monday, August 30, 2010

Whole Grain Granola Bars

If you're looking for a hearty, healthy granola bar then look no further.
Though I had to be all "Melanie" about it and mess with the original recipe, these are still "yum!"
If you're looking for a candy-bar-esque granola bar this probably definitely isn't your thing.
In fact, because I went all creative with the recipe it turned out a little dry for my taste. I added half peanut butter in place of half the honey--I think that could be the biggest source of the problem. That, and I didn't have wheat germ on hand so I used ground flax seed and possibly the grinding resulted in soaking up what moisture there would have been. All that to say, I'll need to give these a second change...with more a legalistic approach to the original recipe. I guess I'm not always perfect in the kitchen after all. ;)

Granola Bar Recipe adapted from

2 cups rolled oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup wheat germ (I used flax seed, ground)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup raisins or other mix-ins (optional)
¾ teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey (I used 1/4 cup honey and 1/4 cup peanut butter, melted)
1 egg, beaten
½ cup canola oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 baking dish.

In a large bowl mix together oats, brown sugar, flax seed, cinnamon, flour, raisins (or other mix-ins, if using), and salt. Make a well in the center and add the honey, peanut butter, beaten egg, oil, and vanilla extract. Mix well. Pat the mixture evenly into the baking dish.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the edges are beginning to turn golden. Cool for 5 minutes and then cut into bars and remove from dish WHILE STILL WARM. Well unless you want to chip it out and use the crumbled pieces for ice cream topping. In that case, just let it cool as long as you wish.

Some substitutions: Olive or peanut or coconut oil rather than canola oil. Regular flour for the whole wheat. Omitting the flax seed or substituting with wheat germ. Add any dried fruit, coconut shavings, sunflower seeds, nuts or even chocolate chips.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fruit Pizza

also known as "gigantic sugar cookie with cream cheese frosting and fruit ornamentation."

We were having one of our teen's families over to dinner after church. It was going to be casual--burgers, salad, potato wedges (though I had to do homemade burger patties, and homemade buns, and homemade potato wedges). I asked our guest of honor for suggestions for dessert. She immediately came up with "fruit pizza!" I didn't have much a fruit collection on hand, so initially I shied away from the idea. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was the perfect suggestion--mostly because I had never made a fruit pizza before and because, let's face it, this blog needs some serious attention. 

That last reason was my driving force behind taking every ounce of creative control with this pizza. I didn't want to buy a sugar cookie dough for the base--at least not on my first try. That would be cheating.  I found a variety of recipes smattering the internet so I took the parts and pieces of the ones I liked and came up with my personal version. 

The results were great!  Perfect texture and taste to the cookie "crust." The "frosting" was just the right amount of tang and sweetness. And the fruit was a lovely topping. (Though I really wish strawberries hadn't of been $2.50 a pound or I would have wanted those as a feature topper!) 

adapted from various recipes.
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1-1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

1 (8oz) package cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 (8oz) package whipped topping (slightly less than a full pkg is fine)

Fruit pieces of your choice:
bananas (*dip in lemon juice to keep them from darkening)

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Mix in egg thoroughly. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Stir into creamed mixture just until combined. Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased pizza pan or a small cookie sheet/jelly roll pan (10x13" approx.) Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. 

If dessert will not be eaten in the next few hours, cover the baked cookie and do not top. When ready to complete dessert, beat together cream cheese and sugar in a large bowl. Add in vanilla. Gently incorporate whipped topping.  Spread over the cookie base. Cut into slices before topping with fruit slices of your choice! 

helpful hints:
1. Chill the dough before spreading or add light sprinkles of flour to help with the spreading process
2. Use waxed paper to spread the majority of the dough then use floured fingers to press in appropriately.
3. Cut the crust with the cream cheese frosting before adding fruit.
4. Use a rolling pizza cutter!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Cup Ice Cream

I have been putting off posting this beautiful recipe because it lacked a photo. 
But I can't keep it from you any longer. 
July was National Ice Cream month, but there is NO limiting the gloriousness of ice cream to one month. 
Share the love! 
And enjoy a cup or two of this peanut butter ice cream today!

1 cup creamy peanut butter (not natural)
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups whole (or 2%) milk
2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chopped chocolate peanut butter cup candies

In  medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer or whisk (or a stand mixer's whisk) to combine the peanut butter and sugar until smooth. Add the milk and mix on low speed until the sugar in dissolved, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25-36 minutes. Five minutes before mixing is completed, add the chopped candy through the top and let mix in completely. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Vanilla Ice Cream

My one word of advice to myself:
don't skimp on quality ingredients.
When you have so few components and the main flavor is vanilla then by all means use REAL vanilla extract. 
And maybe splurge for a whole vanilla bean. 
But that's for another recipe. 

This perfectly simple vanilla ice cream recipe comes to me from the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker recipe booklet. 
Not too shabby, Mr. Cuisinart. 
I love the consistency of this ice cream, 
the clean flavor, 
the blank canvas--begging to be painted with any and all toppings (or none at all!)

Recipe adapted from Cuisinart Recipe Booklet
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract

In a medium mixing bowl, use a hand mixer on low speed to combine the milk and sugar until the sugar is dissolved--about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla. Turn the machine on; pour the mixture into the freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened--about 20 to 25 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. 

No Bake Cookies

No Bake Cookies: Revisited.
I can't believe I don't make these little gems more often. 
They are incredibly simple. so fast. so delicious. 
Assuming, of course, that you love chocolate and peanut butter. 
Which I do. 

I had to do some editing to this recipe from the original format. 
First, I doubled the ingredients--because who just wants one dozen cookies?!
I had to do some tweaking in order to keep a good consistency. 
And I couldn't believe how poorly the ingredients were arranged. 
They were not anywhere close to the order they were used.
Not cool, Mel, not cool. 
So try these out today. 
You won't be sorry.

Original Post: March 2009

I wanted to bake something for Kevin.  No Bakes came to mind.  I found this recipe that I learned in my high school cooking class.  I compared it with a couple other versions of the cookie and decided to go for it.  The cookies come together even faster than I imagined.  Surprisingly enough, I think this was my first time making No Bakes.  This recipe is amazing and extraordinarily easy!!

½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup sugar
½ cup milk
3-4 Tbsp cocoa powder
½ cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 ½ to 3 cups oats
2-4 Tbsp flour

Melt butter in medium sized sauce pan over medium heat.  Add sugar, milk, and cocoa and bring to a boil.  Stir continuously while boiling for 1 minute.  Remove from heat. Add peanut butter and vanilla and stir thoroughly to incorporate. Mix in oats in three additions. Sprinkle in flour, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. (Mixture should be thick but able to spread once dropped on the waxed paper.) Clump onto waxed paper-lined cookie sheet. (I found a cookie scoop [aka mini ice cream scoop] to be extremely helpful.)  Allow to cool.  Enjoy!

yields: 24-26 cookies 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homemade Popcorn

I love me some popcorn. Always have, always will. I think I'll blame my love for popcorn on my dad. He has popped a bag of Act II almost every night for as long as I can remember. I know it's a healthy snack--if done right. And "butter lovers" probably isn't the best option. I've opted for the "light" version of the microwave variety for quite some time. 

Why haven't you tried making your own popcorn, you ask? Well, I must admit, I was under the impression that homemade popcorn was way too much work. After all, I'm a child of the "instant gratification culture" of the US. I want popcorn and I want it now. 

But NO MORE!  Making my own popcorn on the stove top is amazing. I added NO extra butter and I loved it.  The frugal side of me loved the 32oz for $1.49. Probably 10% of the cost of the microwave popcorn. I didn't even mind washing the pot afterwards. 

3 Tbsp oil (I used canola)
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2 cup popping corn
extra salt, optional
melted butter, optional

Add the oil, salt, and popping corn to the bottom of a heavy bottom 5 quart pot. Turn heat to medium. Cover with a lid, leaving a small opening for steam to escape. Shake pot once or twice during cooking. Allow kernels to begin to pop--about 5 minutes. Wait until popping has almost ceased and remove pan from heat. Transfer popcorn to a large serving bowl and add salt and butter according to your preference. (It's amazing with extra sea salt--low sodium--and no butter. Seriously. I'm a "butter lovers" fan, but it was great as-is.)  

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

To Make and Bake::Link Love 2.4

How lame am I?
I almost feel like a homemaker hypocrite.
For emphasizing all the homemade goodness, but then going out and buying a HUGE box of ActII Butter Microwave Popcorn from Sam's Club?
And enjoying every last kernel.
Ok, so I could possibly blame it on my upbringing.
I was conditioned to love the stuff.
But I think I need to try my hand at the Homemade Popcorn.
And with such simple steps, how could I go wrong?
I guess I just dread the clean up.
No throw away bags.

And if I'm really going to do the homemade thing right,
then why not make Homemade Brown Sugar.
Sounds insane, doesn't it.
But it really looks super simple.
Maybe one day, I'll be inspired.
And feel really good about myself after officially channeling Suzie Homemaker.

I have never made scones.
I need to make scones.
And what better way to make your first scones than as Chocolate Chip Scones?

Speaking of chocolate, Smitten Kitchen's Everyday Chocolate Cake is just beckoning me to back it and eat it and love it.

Rice Krispie Treats--goooood.
Peanut Butter Cups--goooooooood.
Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats? YES please!

And in case you're wondering if I'm a peanut butter chocolate lover poser,
then have a look at this beautiful collection by Joy the Baker.