Thursday, September 3, 2015

Monster Trail Mix Granola Bars for The Leftovers Club

The beginning of September means Labor Day and back to school! This month's Leftover's Club swap had a back to school theme. My partner for this month, Francesca from My Pixie Steps, has a new blog and is also new to The Leftovers Club. Welcome Francesca! Francesca's blog is all about her journey towards eating healthy and she has shared several great looking healthy recipes on her blog so far. You should go check it out!

 
 
On her blog, Francesca mentions she has kids so I wanted to make a healthy, back to school treat that her whole family could enjoy. Homemade trail mix is healthy and can be easily customized to suit your tastes. I used homemade trail mix to make these Monster Cookie Granola Bars using a variety of dried fruits and nuts (almonds, cashews, dried cranberries, blueberries and dark chocolate) sweetened with honey and peanut butter. I meant to throw some flax seed in there, but forgot! At the last minute I decided to decorate the top with a few mini M&M's. I know, not very healthy, but hey you have to indulge a little bit sometime, right?
 
This recipe is super fast and easy to make (no bake), even the kids can make it on their own. I hope you give it a try!
 
If you'd like to join the The Leftovers Club, like Francesca did, and swap yummy goodies with fellow bloggers, please sign up over at Food Ramblings. Elizabeth does a great job of organizing the swap every month. I guarantee you'll have a lot of fun!
 
 



Monster Trail Mix Granola Bars
Makes 10 bars

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted, roasted cashews
2/3 cup whole, raw almonds
1 1/2 cups organic old fashioned oats
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
1/4 cup mini M&M's for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Line an 8x8 baking pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper. Set aside.

Coarsely chop the cashews, almonds and cranberries. Place them in a large bowl with the oats, dried blueberries and chopped dark chocolate chunks.

Place the peanut butter in a small microwaveable bowl. Heat for 35-40 seconds or until melted. Remove from the microwave and add the honey and sea salt. Stir well to combine. Allow to cool for a bit until room temp but still loose. If the peanut butter is too hot, it will melt the chocolate.

Pour the peanut butter/honey mixture over the granola mixture and stir well to combine.

Dump the mixture into the prepared baking pan and press into an even layer. I wet my hands a little bit to make this part easier. Press well to  compact the bars then sprinkle the mini M&M's on top and gently press those into the top to help them adhere. Cover and refrigerate a few hours or overnight to harden.

Remove from the baking pan using the foil and cut into bars. Enjoy!

Store tightly covered at room temp for up to 5 days or store in the refrigerator (preferred).


Sunday, August 23, 2015

SUMMER CANTALOUPE AND LIME POPSICLES

         SUMMER CANTALOUPE AND LIME POPSICLE'S 





It's HOT!!!! I know we Californians complaining about the heat is funny to you guys in the Midwest or East coast, but really... its HOT!  We haven't had a summer like this in years.  It's humid and a hot 90 degrees in Southern California. We are used to our nice, warm 75 degree perfect beach weather.  Well, apparently mother nature had another plan for us this summer. So what are we to do? Well, make popsicles to cool us down of course!  Faye gave me a great gift this year for my birthday, an old fashioned, but updated, popsicle making kit!  Well let's just say that with this unbearable heat, that popsicle kit and I have become good friends this summer.  
 
My mom always made us homemade popsicles growing up so I'm just going back to my roots. The recipe possibilities are endless! But I am going to start you off with a simple and delicious one!  Cantaloupe is really cheap right now at the stores. I picked up this one for $.50 the other day and with those .50,  I made 12 delicious popsicles.  A cool treat for under $1.00, honestly who can beat that?  
 
Ok... back to the Cantaloupe and Lime Popsicles.. these are so good. They are sweet and tangy,  a perfect combination of summer flavors. They have the perfect consistency when you remove them from the Popsicle mold. Nice and solid, so very easy to eat.  I really hope you give these popsicles a try and cool down your summer a bit.
 
 
Fresh Cantaloupe and Lime Popsicles
Makes 12 regular size popsicles


Ingredients: 
1 large cantaloupe
1 lime
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water + an additional 1/4 cup
12 Popsicle sticks
1 Popsicle mold
** See note below if you do not have a mold


 
Directions:
Combine 2/3 sugar and 2/3 water in a small sauce pan.  Add the juice of 1 lime and then 1/2 of the juiced lime. Cook at medium-high heat, stirring so that the sugar doesn't stick to the bottom. About 5 minutes until sugar has dissolved.  Cool until warm to touch. 
 




















 
Cut and seed the cantaloupe.  Put the chopped cantaloupe into a blender and discard the rind.

Add the cooled lime sugar into the blender along with 1/4 cup of water.


Blend on high for about 2 minutes until smooth.
 


Pour cantaloupe mixture into Popsicle mold.  Add popsicle stick and freeze for about 5 hours. Overnight is the best.

Enjoy!!



NOTE: If you do not have a popsicle mold, you can still enjoy this delicious summer treat! Check out these instructions for making popsicles without a mold on Modern Parents Messy Kids

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Blueberry Peach Cobbler Donuts/Fritters

Who doesn't want donuts for breakfast? But, I have to admit, sometimes you just don't want to make the effort to get dressed and drive to the donut shop. Well, the good news is you don't have too! You can make amazing donuts at home in your pj's!
 
I've already posted the recipe for these amazing baked donuts made with homemade blueberry jam swirled in (click here). Soooo good! But the recipe I am sharing today is for fried donuts. Yum...fried.
 
A little more work, but definitely worth the effort.



Blueberry Peach Cobbler Donuts/Fritters
Makes about 9-10 donuts or 12-14 small fritters
Adapted from How Sweet Eats

Donut Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1/2 cup diced peaches (small dice), placed on a paper towel lined plate to remove excess moisture

Glaze Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
splash of vanilla extract

Directions:

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Whisk  to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the egg, milk and vanilla extract. Set aside.

Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. The mixture should look like small crumbs.

Add the egg/milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir lightly just until almost combined. Add the blueberries and peaches and fold with a rubber spatula to combine.

Place the mixture on a floured surface and roll/pat the dough until about 1/2" thick. Cut into donut shapes using a biscuit or donut cutter. If using a biscuit cutter, cut holes in the center of each donut with a knife or a frosting piping tip like I did. An alternative option is to make fritters by just scooping the dough using a small scoop instead of rolling it out.

Heat oil in a large pot or deep fryer. I used my heavy Dutch oven with about 5" of oil. Oil temp should be about 375f.

Fry donuts 2 at a time until golden brown and cooked though, approx. 1 1/2 minutes each side, flipping when the first side is done. If making fritters, fry 3-4 fritters at a time.

Cooking time will vary. Checking for doneness after the first donut/fritter will give you a better gauge of the cooking time needed. Be sure to maintain 375f frying temp to prevent overbrowning and/or undercooking the donuts.

Drain donuts/fritters on a paper towel lined wire cooling rack.

Dust with powdered sugar or make the glaze and drizzle over the donuts/fritters when donuts are only slightly warm. If your donuts are too hot, the glaze will melt off. 



To make the glaze: Combine the glaze ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Adjust to desired consistency. The glaze should be thick but able to be drizzled with a fork or spoon. Add a little more liquid, a little at a time, if needed being careful not to add too much.

Enjoy!

These donuts are best enjoyed immediately after they are made.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dairy Free Dark Chocolate, Cherry & Pecan Magic Cookie Bars for The Leftovers Club

For this month's Leftovers Club, our theme was chocolate! Now, don't get me wrong, chocolate has to be one of my all-time favorite things in life, but coming up with a dairy-free chocolate recipe for my partner, Ginger from Stark Raving Delicious, was a little challenging. Plus chocolate can be hard to mail in the Summer!
 
I knew I wanted to make some type of cookie bar, easy to make, easy to ship, easy-peasy, right? And what cookie bar is more classic than the iconic Magic Cookie Bar? The challenge was making a dairy free version. Everyone knows that one of the main ingredients in Magic Cookie Bars is sweetened condensed milk. It's the "magic" that holds all of the ingredients together and creates the cohesive bar.
 
So how to make dairy-free sweetened condensed milk? Well, it turned out to be easier than I thought. Just use dairy free milk! I cooked almond milk and sugar until it was reduced down to a syrup like consistency. Done deal!
 
One of the other issues with Magic Cookie Bars that I wanted to address was that they can often be too sweet. To remedy that, I used dark chocolate (dairy free of course), coconut for texture, pecans for crunch, dried cherries for tartness and Maria Cookies, which aren't too sweet, for the crust. Sounded like the perfect balance to me!
 
I hope Ginger and her family enjoys my custom version of "Magic" Cookie Bars!
 
Ginger wins hands down for cutest packaging. Check out what she sent to me and get the recipe on her blog.
 
 
.....if you're interested in swapping homemade baked goods with a great bunch for fellow bloggers, why not join The Leftover's Club! Sign up on Food Ramblings
 
 
 
 
 
 
Dark Chocolate, Cherry & Pecan Magic Cookie Bars
Makes 12 bars
 
Ingredients:
3 cups Almond Milk
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 package of Maria Cookies (approx. 2 1/2 cups) or sub graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup melted Earth Balance
2 cups Dairy Free Dark Chocolate Chips
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 1/4 cups toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries coarsely chopped
 
 
Directions:
 
Create the sweetened condensed milk
 
Place the almond milk and granulated sugar in a saucepan. Cook or medium heat stirring constantly until the liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup and is a syrup like consistency. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temp.
 
 
 
Line a 9"x9" baking pan with nonstick foil or line with regular foil sprayed with nonstick spray.
 
When the sweetened condensed almond milk is cool, preheat the oven to 350f
 
Make the crust
 
Place the Maria Cookies in a food processer and process until crumbs. Place the cookie crumbs in a bowl, drizzle the melted Earth Balance over the crumbs and combine with a fork. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
 
Assemble 
 
Sprinkle the chocolate chips evenly over the crust. Then sprinkle the coconut over the chocolate chips.
 
Pour the sweetened condensed almond milk over the coconut/chocolate.
 
Sprinkle the pecans and chopped cherries on top.
 
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until mixture is set and crust is golden brown.
 
Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before removing from the pan and cutting into bars.
 
Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.
 
 
 


Thursday, July 9, 2015

LEMON SUGAR COOKIES



In honor of National Sugar Cookie Day, I am sharing the recipe for some of my favorite sugar cookies, LEMON SUGAR COOKIES!
 
To me, anything that has sugar, butter and lemon is a hit so I took a basic sugar cookie recipe and made them extra yummy by adding lemon juice, lemon zest and increasing the baking powder.   
 
The reason I love these cookies so much is that even though they are a "sugar" cookie, they do not taste overly sweet. They have a nice buttery, lemon favor and are perfect for any occasion, with or with out frosting.
 
In honor of National Sugar Cookie Day, you  must give these YUMMY cookies a try!  

Happy Cooking Everyone!
 
 
Lemon Sugar Cookies
MAKES ABOUT 3 DOZEN MEDIUM SIZE COOKIES

Cookie Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 cup softened butter (sweet cream)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Icing Ingredients:
2 cups powdered sugar
6-8 tablespoons milk
3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract



Directions:

Whisk flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add the lemon zest to the bowl and press/squeeze the zest between your fingers to release the oils from the zest into the flour.


























In the bowl of your stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), cream the butter and sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy.




Add egg, vanilla and lemon juice and mix at low speed until combined, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 


Gradually add the flour mixture at low speed until combined, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. 




Remove the dough from the bowl, shape into a disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least one hour. 
Place dough on a well floured surface and roll out into 1/4" thickness.  Do not be skimpy with the flour, you will need plenty in order to be able to remove the cookies once they are cut.



Cut into shapes using your favorite cookie cutters.





Place approx. 3" apart on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.


 



Remove to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. While cookies are cooling, make the icing.





Mix all of the icing ingredients together in a bowl adding milk one teaspoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency. The icing should be thick, but spreadable.























Frost and decorate cookies as desired. Allow frosting to harden before serving/storing.





Store at room temperature in an air tight container for up to 3 days.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

4th of July Blueberry and Raspberry Pop Tarts for The Leftover's Club


Who doesn't want to eat pie for breakfast, right? And these homemade pop tarts (aka hand pies) are a good excuse!
 
 
 
This month's Leftovers Club swap was a 4th of July theme so I knew I wanted to make something with berries since we're at the height of berry season. For the "blue" in my Red, White & Blue treat, Blueberries was pretty much a no brainer, but for the "red" I decided to go with raspberries for a more tart option.
 
The dough is a little unique in that it is made using sour cream which gives the flavor a slight tang.
 
To further embrace the patriotic theme, I tried to cut cute little stars into the top by hand, but I will be the first to admit that I am not the most artistic person in the world, so my stars came out a bit distorted and I quit after 3 tries. Sorry for the deformed stars, Hetal!
 
 
I opted to leave the glaze off of the tarts since I was shipping them in the mail and didn't want them to get soggy. I highly recommend that you make a simple powdered sugar glaze and drizzle it over the top for a little added sweetness. After all, what's a pop tart without the glaze?
 
So let me tell you a little bit about my partner for this month's swap. Her name is Hetal, and her blog Pretty Polymath, has a lot of amazing recipes (including these cute little meringue cookies she sent to me). Plus she is a contestant on this season of Master Chef! How exciting is that? Go Hetal! I'm rooting for you, girl! I have always wanted to compete on Master Chef so you're my inspiration...
 
I hope Hetal enjoys my 4th of July inspired Pop Tarts as much as I enjoyed making them for her!
 
If you'd like to join in the of the fun of The Leftovers Club, sign up here! New members are always welcome!!
 
 

Blueberry and Raspberry Hand Pies
Makes 8 pies

Note:
If you decide to make both fillings, you will have some leftover. Either make more crust or just make one of the fillings.

Plan ahead, the dough should be refrigerated overnight if possible or at least for a few hours so it is well chilled.


Ingredients

Crust Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup of very cold unsalted butter cut into tablespoon size pieces
1/2 cup very cold sour cream

Filling Ingredients

Blueberry Filling
1 cup fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch

Raspberry Filling
6 oz fresh raspberries
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Directions:

Make the pie crust

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the butter and cut into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter until most of the butter is the size of peas. Stir in the sour cream with a rubber spatula just until combined. There may be some residual flour left at the bottom but that will get mixed in when you form the ball of dough.

Using your hands, quickly form the dough into a ball then turn out onto a lightly floured surface, then roll into an 8"x10" rectangle. Fold the long ends over like a letter, then repeat the rolling and folding process one more time. During this process you make need to use a bench scraper to scrape the dough from the surface and add more flour as needed to prevent sticking. Once you have done the folding and rolling process twice. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Overnight preferred.

Make the fillings

Place all of the Blueberry Filling ingredients in a medium sized sauce pan and cook over medium low heat until thickened. This happens pretty quickly, but be sure to allow some time for some of the blueberries to break down. Your filling should be pretty thick (like the consistency of thick jam). If it seems too thick before the berries start to break down, add a little more water and cook just a little longer. Place the mixture in a bowl and allow to cool.

Clean out the sauce pan and make the raspberry filling. Combine the water and cornstarch in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Place the raspberries and sugar in the saucepan, then add the cornstarch water mixture and cook over low heat until the mixture comes to a boil, stir a few times then remove from heat and place the mixture in a bowl to cool.

After the dough has chilled several hours (or overnight) and your fillings have cooled, assemble the hand pies.

Preheat oven to 425F

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 14"x14" square. Cut into 16 squares. Place on a baking sheet and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This will allow the dough to relax and get chilled again.



After 20 minutes, remove from fridge and brush the edges of 8 of the squares with egg wash, then place a tablespoon or more of filling in the center of 8 of the squares. Top with the remaining 8 squares of dough then crimp the edges with a fork. Brush with egg wash then sprinkle with turbinado sugar and cut a few small slits into the top. If you are using a small cookie cutter to cut a design in the tops, do this before you place the dough on top and do not cut any vent holes.



Place on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheet for about a minute then remove to a cooling rack.





Drizzle with powdered sugar glaze before serving if desired.

Enjoy!

Adapted from King Arthur Flour and My San Francisco Kitchen

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

LiveBakeLove Wine Tasting in Napa... "It's Not About the Wine"

LiveBakeLove hit the road this weekend for a wine tasting trip in the beautiful Napa valley to celebrate a milestone birthday for my sister, Freda. I won't say which milestone it was, but she looks fabulous so who cares, right?

 
 
Knowing we would be out for several hours consuming copious amounts of wine, Freda had the great idea to pack a picnic lunch to enjoy under the trees at Rutherford Hill and boy did we bring her vision to life!



This wasn't your "throw some food in a basket and call it a picnic" type of lunch. Oh no, we had individual kraft paper lunch boxes with wooden utensils and doilies. Not to mention cute min kraft bags with dessert!

While the setting was gorgeous, the picnic table was equally as impressive...

 
 
On the menu: Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Rustic Potato Salad, Charred Corn & Avocado Salad, Brie, Manchego & Crackers, 3 different types of wine along with the most delicious fresh mint Iced Tea I have ever tasted courtesy of Freda's friend, Diva. Seriously, it blows mine out of the water. I'm still dreaming about that tea and wondering what Diva's secret is...


The chilled Chardonnay and Rose were the perfect compliment to the fried chicken and the bite of the Devil's Peak topped it all off. 
 
The entire lunch was amazing, the setting was simply beautiful and the company was even better. What more can you ask for?
 
After a peaceful and relaxing lunch under the trees at Rutherfold Hill, it was time for a little "effervescence" in the form of sparking wine so we headed to Mumm Napa!



We were all looking forward to tasting Santana DVX Sparking Wine, however the favorite of the day turned out to be to be the DVX.




 
 
Last stop was Chimney Rock, where the power of persuasion (aka Freda's friend, Veronica) got us this cozy little spot on the back patio and a free tasting for everyone in our group...score!!

 
The Elevage Blanc 2012 was the hand's down favorite here. Probably the most buttery white wine I have ever tasted, it was aptly described as "liquid cream" (inside joke, you had to be there)....


 
Later in the afternoon, on the ride home, we enjoyed Italian Salami Sandwiches on the most delicious baguettes and German Chocolate Whoopie Pies.


 You can find the recipe for Freda's Italian Salami Baguette Sandwiches below. So simple, but perfect for a picnic lunch, especially with wine!
 
So, with all of the incredible food and wine we consumed, why is the title of this blog post called "It's Not About the Wine"? Well...because it's not. While the food and wine may have been phenomenal, the day was more about spending time with someone in my life who is more amazing than anything man-made, she was made by God and she's my sister, Freda.
 
I really can't describe how truly wonderful my sister is. She has been there for me in countless ways throughout my life, especially in adulthood. She gives genuinely without expecting anything in return and loves freely and unconditionally. If you're in need of help, she's the first one there. She really would do anything for the people she loves and I'm happy that she has surrounded herself by people who love and appreciate her in return. Life is too short not to.
 
I am so thankful my sister is at such a happy place in her life.
 
Cheers to birthdays, memorable times spent with family & friends and to life well lived!


 
 
 ** Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated in any way, however if Rutherford Hill, Mumm Napa or Chimney Rock want to send me some wine, I would glady accept! **
 
 
Freda's Italian Baguette Picnic Sandwiches
 
Ingredients:
Good quality mini baguettes, preferably from a bakery
Good quality Italian Salami
Your Choice of Hard Cheese, sliced thinly
Butter Lettuce
Pesto
 
Directions:
Slice each baguette in half
Spread pesto on top and bottom
Layer Salami (approx. 6-7 slices per sandwich),Cheese and Butter Lettuce
Wrap in parchment or wax paper and tie with twine
 
Enjoy!