Archive for January, 2012

This is a favorite cookie from my childhood, one that I enjoy as much today as I did when Mom made them for our family. I love the peanut butter with the crunch of the corn flakes – it’s breakfast without the bowl and milk! 

I ate these as a kid and I’ve made them for my kids. They’re simple to make, don’t require baking, and they’re delish! I love introducing people to this cookie – without fail, they are quickly gobbled up and people want to know how to make them. Click for recipe.

These cookies travel well and hold up nicely in the heat, so they’ve become a “go-to” recipe when I need something to take along. I shared them with my team when we helped build a house in the 96 degree heat last summer, and while they got a bit warm, they didn’t melt or fall apart.

The Recipe Guardians

This recipe is a family classic, and so important to us that it’s kept on our frig and guarded by my guys — The Chunky Monkey and The Pretty One. You can see it’s a well-loved recipe by the peanut butter speckles on the recipe card! 

Normally I make these with regular corn flakes. The cheapest generic brand doesn’t hold up the best, so keep that in mind when buying your ingredients. I have friends who make them with Special K, and I used Honey Bunches of Oats this last time because I had a lot in the house. They were good, with the honey adding a slight sweetness and the bunches adding a bit of extra crunch. I liked them, but will probably use regular corn flakes in the next batch because they’re a little less sweet. You can use regular or crunchy peanut butter, whichever you have on hand.

I hope you enjoy these! If you make a variation of this cookie, I hope you’ll share how you do it.

Here’s a quick dish I threw together last night. I wanted sweet potatoes but I don’t like plain sweet potatoes all that much. I considered a mashed sweet potato, then decided to try something new. As much as I hate to admit good things come out of those frozen meals, one of my favorite things from the frozen diet dinners is a sweet potato and apple mixture with craisins. It’s slightly sweet, the apples and craisins hide the sweet potatoes just enough for me to eat them, and it’s a good flavor alongside turkey, ham, pork or whatever that frozen stuff is next to it. 

You’ll be surprised how easy this is! It’s a very versatile dish. There are no exact measurements to it, so don’t stress about that. Instead, follow the guidelines in the recipe and adjust for what you have available and what you like. It can be scaled up or down by changing the amount of sweet potatoes and apples. It’s fairly healthy as I made it, but you can make it healthier by reducing the sugar and the butter, although I really didn’t use too much. Click for recipe.

This dish put out a wonderful smell while it was baking, the type that is particularly enjoyable on a cold evening. I’m sure I’ll make this again, and will probably make a few adjustments. For instance, I’ll probably throw some chopped pecans on top during the final baking period. I think the contrast of the crunchy nuts with the smooth sweet potatoes would make this even better. Adding craisins to the mix could add some good flavor as well. I may add a dash of salt or a bit of pepper, depending on what I serve it with. I’ll kick up the spice a bit if I’m eating it with something that’s not very spicy; and on the flip side of that, I’ll keep it somewhat sweet if I’m serving it with something that’s highly seasoned.  

I’m already looking forward to the next time!

Far be it for me to follow a recipe exactly as the directions and ingredients specify. After all, I know best, right? There are times when that’s worked for me and times when it hasn’t.

In general, cooking allows more deviation from the recipe than baking does. Baking requires more of a chemical reaction, and therefore the amounts and ratios of ingredients are important. I’ve learned that if I follow the “important” parts of the recipe as written (i.e., amounts of baking soda/powder, eggs and oils, liquid to solid ratios) the rest of my changes will probably work out.

Ready for the oven!

With that in mind, there’s no need to avoid recipes that have an element you don’t care for. If you don’t like a spice or herb in a recipe, switch it out for something you do like. If you don’t like nuts, leave them out. Or, in my case because I love them, add some in!

Today I tried a Banana Coconut Cupcake recipe I found on Sarah’s Place. The recipe calls these cupcakes, but they are more like a muffin and don’t need any frosting.

My adaptation has a couple of tweaks – one on purpose, and one because I apparently can’t read.  I substituted some whole wheat flour for regular white flour in an attempt to rationalize eating these during the final weeks before my black belt test. And I added all the coconut into the batter, even though I wasn’t supposed to. Oops!  So…success or disaster? It was a success! Click for my adapted recipe.

These didn’t require as much baking time as the recipe called for, but that could just be my oven, so be sure to keep an eye on them. Even with the whole wheat flour they baked up nice and light. No spices are needed – the banana and coconut flavor are quite nice by themselves. If I made any addition to this recipe, it might be some slivered almonds.

If you’re a new cook/baker, you’ll probably be more inclined to follow recipes as written.  But as you gain experience, venture out little by little. Add spices or ingredients you think would work well with the flavors. Tinker with a recipe you enjoy until it’s even better! Eventually you’ll have made changes that make a recipe “yours,” the ones that will become your go-to recipes when you need to cook or bake for friends or family. You’ll have successes and maybe a couple of disasters along the way, but the successes will be worth those few failures!

I first had this at a progressive dinner party for our youth group’s Christmas celebration. It was love at first taste! I instantly fell for the contrast of sweet & salty flavors and creamy & crunchy textures.

This can be served as either a salad or a dessert. It’s sweet enough for a dessert, but is also a nice cooling food if you’re serving something spicy. It makes a good compliment to a simple cook-out menu such as brats & burgers, and is a good buffet item. The slightly salty pretzel crust, sweet cream cheese middle, and fruity topping might seem like an odd combination, but it works! Click for recipe.

I’ve only made this with strawberry jello and strawberries, but one recipe I found calls for strawberry-banana jello. I’ve been wondering about making it with chopped frozen peaches and peach jello instead of all the strawberries. I’ll have to try that variation one of these days – I think it sounds like a good summer treat!

I made this last weekend for a family dinner and was surprised that only my daughter and I liked it. The Cutie Patooties and The Pretty One didn’t want anything to do with it, unless you count TPO scraping the jello layer off the top and eating only that! Once Tish and I got over the surprise of being the only ones who would eat it, we quickly decided that was good news for us — because we had it all to ourselves!

I have a couple of friends who don’t like chocolate. Weird, right? But I’m not sure which part is weirder – the fact that some people don’t like chocolate or that I can be friends with them!

Anyway, I was heading to a Christmas party where one of the hosts doesn’t eat chocolate. I was bringing a chocolate dessert for myself (well, I sorta shared it), and decided to bring this as well. It’s a simple recipe with great flavor, and despite its lack of chocolate I really enjoy it. It’s got a creamy lemon filling and a nice little crunch layer on top from the coconut. It’s quick to throw together and easy to take along!

Try it and let me know what you think!

Coconut Lemon Crescent Bars

from Pillsbury Best of the Bake-Off Cookbook, 1996

Stuff you need:
1 (8 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
2 eggs, slightly beaten

Now what?
Heat oven to 375F. Unroll dough into 2 long rectangles. Place in ungreased 13×9-inch pan; press over bottom and 1/2 inch up sides to form crust. Frimly press perforations to seal. Bake at 375F for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in medium bowl, combine all other ingredients; mix well. Pour over partially baked crust. Return to oven; bake an additional 12 to 17 minutes or until light golden brown. [Ovens vary so use the time indicated as a guide. I baked mine a few minutes longer than the recipe called for – until the center didn’t wobble too much when I shook the pan.] Cool completely. Cut into bars.

Yield: 36 servings (1 bar per serving)
Nutrition Per Serving: Calories 70; Protein 1 g; Carbohydrate 9g: Fat 3g: Sodium 80 mg

My Christmas Day Honey Oatmeal Bread was delicious! After I sent a loaf home with The Pretty One I was left with half a loaf. I rarely eat sandwiches but wasn’t going to waste all that goodness. So what to do with my leftovers? If you’re lucky enough to have any, I’ve got a couple of ideas you might enjoy.

I’ve always loved French Toast and I thought the slightly sweet, dense bread would make a delicious breakfast. I like incorporating Wheat Germ in my French Toast or pancakes for the added health benefits, as well as the nutty flavor. When it’s sprinkled on, as opposed to mixed in, it toasts up nicely during the cooking process. So for the French Toast, I mixed up my eggs and cinnamon, dipped my bread, sprinkled some wheat germ on it, then put it on a hot griddle. (Click for recipe.)

Honey Oatmeal Wheat Germ French Toast hides under peanut butter & fresh fruit.

When it was perfectly toasted, I spread it with peanut butter, my favorite French Toast topping. I like how the saltiness of the peanut butter complements the sweetness of the cinnamon. Most of the time I eat pb&j on my French Toast, but having just purchased a variety of fresh fruit, I was excited to use that. I made a layered delight of French Toast, peanut butter, sliced banana, fresh strawberries, pomegranate seeds, and chia seeds (oops – not in the photo!). Was it good? Oh, yeah! Will I make it again? Definitely!!

Ha! Should have taken a picture before I ate half the croutons!

 After making French Toast I still had part of a loaf left. I like big, fat croutons on my salads, but those are hard to come by in the stores. Besides, homemade is better, right? I cut the bread into chunks, tossed it with a little oil, sprinkled on some sea salt, and popped them into the oven. Oh, the smell! I couldn’t wait to put those on my spinach salad!

The combination of the sweet bread and light sprinkling of sea salt was delicious! In fact, I liked it so much I kept eating the croutons straight out of the pan. Looks like I need to make some more bread so I can have more croutons! Maybe I’ll try some rye bread next.