Raspberry Oatmeal Bars

Raspberry Oatmeal BarsBelly Up To The Bar
I am probably the least OCD person you could meet…and all you have to do is look at my office for proof. I am very much a visual learner. So, if I can’t see it, I forget about it. This means I have stacks of important stuff in various piles on my desk. I also have some similar stacks at home. It drives my very tidy husband bananas. If there is one area where I am a bit compulsive though, it would be school lunches.

I make my kids lunch every morning because the thought of them buying what passes for lunch at school makes me cringe. The good news is they would prefer to not buy their lunch. So, that battle is avoided. I have a strict formula. And, if I run out of one of the components, and am forced to send them without it, I develop a tick. I got issues, man.

The formula goes something like this:
There will always be a main component in either the form of a protein-filled sandwich or leftovers from last night’s dinner. (My daughter is the queen of leftovers.) There will always be a bottle of water and fresh fruit. A snack item is essential in the form of some pretzels, crackers or maybe some nuts. And, last but not least, lunch must always have a little something sweet at the end.

That last component serves two purposes. First, it’s a nice to get a little treat during the day. And second, I can use it as an excuse to randomly make yummy things. Why, as a mature adult, would I need an excuse you may ask? Because I can enjoy the occasional cookie—but my husband has no self-control. When it comes to home-baked goodness, he will eat them by the dozen. If I tell him that they are for lunches though, he is able to stifle his inner cookie monster. (Most of the time…sometimes I gotta sacrifice a handful to the cookie gods because, and I quote, “he is concerned that I may be poisoning the children and would sacrifice himself for their health and welfare”. Way to take one for the team, babe.)

I made these Raspberry Oatmeal Bars over the weekend “to put in the kid’s lunches”. The flavors really remind me of fall. The brightness of the raspberry jam will make you smile and I think we could all use a few more smiles these days…

Raspberry Oatmeal Bars
Makes 16 to 24 bars (depending on how you cut them) Read more…

Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins

Pumpkin Spice Maple MuffinsSpice Girl
You start to get a whiff of it in the air right around August 20th and then the scent keeps getting stronger as August gives way to September. By the second week of September not only do you smell it but you see it popping up all over. And sometimes, in very strange places.

Then, it’s the first day of fall and you just can’t escape it. It’s everywhere! And, just when you think you’ve conquered your demons and can live a life free from craving that scent, that flavor, it’s spicy sweet claws grab a hold of you drag you back in. Pumpkin Spice is back. Can nobody save us?

I’ve been trying to put off the inevitable for a while now if only to enjoy Fall’s favorite pumpkin spice flavor in fall. Two days in to the new season…and I caved. It was the ultimate peer pressure. My inbox has been overflowing with newsletters and recipe suggestions like enterprising pushers all devoted to pumpkins and winter squashes of all shapes and forms. (Try us, they said. Just one little taste couldn’t hurt. Yeah, right.)

There was a maple pumpkin walnut cheesecake, and a pumpkin soup with apples and ancho chile, pumpkin ravioli, savory pumpkin tarts, pumpkin with lentils, stuffed pumpkin, chicken and pumpkin with dumplings (be still my heart), and on and on.

Amidst the bevy of sweet and savory possibilities sweetened with maple syrup or spiced with cayenne, I came across this very easy recipe for Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins. What I like most is the use of whole wheat flour, which gives the muffins a hearty nuttiness—as opposed to some of the sweeter versions out there. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out, though, that a lovely cream cheese frosting would make these muffins otherworldly.

If you are one of the stalwart few who thus far have not succumbed to the frenzy that is pumpkin and it’s spices, I applaud your resolute determination in the face of mouthwatering scents and rampant marketing. And, I encourage you to continue on where I failed. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, eating a muffin.

Pumpkin Spice Maple Muffins
Adapted from the New York Times
Yields one dozen muffins

The turmeric gives these muffins a deep orange color. Browning the butter beforehand provides a vaguely nutty, deeply caramelized flavor that makes for a delicious muffin. For a gluten-free version of this recipe, just substitute the flour with an equal amount of Cup4Cup Multipurpose Flour. Read more…

Berrylicious Sweet Rolls

Berrylicious Sweet RollsLabor Day Labors
Not sure if you noticed, but it was kinda hot over the Labor Day Weekend. With temperatures as high as they were, everything we had on our schedule got canceled. And, no one wanted to even think about going outside so we just laid around like slugs. Thank goodness it was the opening weekend for College Football.

The good news is that temperatures are coming down into normal territory. This is good for obvious reasons but also for one not too obvious. If I am not stuck inside bored out of my mind, I won’t find myself eating as much and I ate way too much this last weekend.

Because my daughter and I had cabin fever, we passed the time cooking. We made pasta salad, potato salad, and BBQ chicken. We also made an attempt at French Macarons. (We did okay for a first attempt but they weren’t too pretty…)

Amidst all of the dishes we whipped up, I did manage to make a new recipe for Berrylicious Sweet Rolls that I had been meaning to try out. You know, for the kids.

These rolls are a nice diversion from the usual cinnamon rolls, though nothing could replace cinnamon rolls on my list of awesome tastiness. Instead of cinnamon and sugar, the filling is made by mixing the frozen berries of your choice with sugar and some cornstarch. Personally, I am a fan of the frozen Marion berries we carry from Willamette Valley Fruit but you can use any good quality frozen berries.

These Berrylicious Sweet Rolls are not as sweet as you would think. But, they are definitely worth the work for a Sunday morning treat.

Be careful when baking them. Mine turned out darker than I intended because the original recipe called for too much baking time…or maybe it was just that hot in my kitchen…

Berrylicious Sweet Rolls
Yields 16 rolls
Start these the night before for a fantastic morning treat. Set them to rise in the fridge overnight, and just pop them in a preheated oven in the morning. (See instructions below.) Read more…

Quick and Easy Fruit Cobbler

Quick and Easy Fruit CobblerGobbler of Cobbler
The fourth of July is upon us. So, let the BBQ planning begin. I gotta be honest though, there isn’t going to be much to plan. I’m going low key.

See, we just got back from a crazy (yet fun) experience back East and I just don’t have the mental capacity to put together a big party. I know we will be grilling and we will most likely watch the parade downtown. But beyond that? Not a whole lot going on…

There are some things that you must have on the Fourth. Potato Salad is one. The grilled meat of your choice is second and without fail there has to be some sort of dessert. For most that would be a pie—because nothing says Happy Fourth of July more than a pie. I like a good pie as much as the next guy, but just thinking about rolling out the dough makes me tired.

I’m going the lazy route and making a Quick and Easy Fruit Cobbler. Nothing could be easier. You find your favorite fruit. You toss it with some sugar, a little thickener, throw some biscuits on top and Ta-da! Yummy, tasty dessert that took no time to make. Top it with some vanilla ice cream while it’s still warm and you’ve reached nirvana.

Peach Cobbler is probably the most common. And when peaches are in season, like right now, it can be fantastic. However, the berries that are currently available are also at peak season. And, when you run across a flat of plump sweet blackberries or a few quarts of blueberries, you have the makings of something pretty spectacular. Even better, you don’t have to choose. Mix your berries together to get a little bit of the goodness from each. Or get really wacky and throw some peaches in, too. There are no rules!

Whatever your plans for the Fourth of July holiday, I hope you get to spend some quality time with family and friends…and some cobbler.

Quick and Easy Fruit Cobbler
Both tapioca flour and Instant ClearJel are good choices for thickening. They keep the fruit’s juice clear and the fruit flavor true. The resulting color and flavor is spectacular. Read more…

Cracker Jack Ice Cream Cake

Cracker Jack Ice Cream CakeTake Me Out To The Ball Game
I recently came across a photo of a Cracker Jack Ice Cream Cake when I was looking through a magazine about great American cakes. And, it blew my mind. It combines a number of things that I love all in one: cake, ice cream, and baseball.

If you have been reading this blog with any regularity you will know of my love for baseball—and nothing says baseball more than Cracker Jacks…well, maybe hot dogs and beer. But, you get the idea.

Full disclosure, I am a fan of peanuts in my ice cream as well as caramel but I have never even considered putting cracker jacks on my ice cream. Mind blown.

This Cracker Jack Ice Cream Cake is fairly easy to make, especially if you use a springform pan, But, it does require freeze time. So, be sure to plan ahead if you are making this for a special occasion…but who really needs a special occasion?

Cracker Jack Ice Cream Cake
Yields 8-10 servings Read more…