Thursday, July 21, 2016

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars

“Time is the missing ingredient in our recipes.

Most of us are moving too fast for slow cooking”. 

Slow down.

That’s my new mantra for 2016 (even though it's half over!)

Slow down. Take it easy. The trendy…"slow food" is ringing in my head. We are all moving way to fast. Take it from someone who had a year that forced her to slow down. I know I’ve been neglecting the blog a bit, but I can’t apologize. I’m simply enjoying every day. After a year of chemo, surgery and radiation, I’m finally starting to truly feel like my old self again. My energy, which was at its all-time lowest last fall, has finally started to creep back up and I’m able to push myself harder than I have in over a year.

I have some neuropathy in my feet and hands and the medication that I’m on is making every joint in my body ache. I feel like I’m 100 years old when I wake up, but I slowly push myself and get going. I really have no room to complain. My tumor is gone and I finished my last treatment on June 15th! What a year it’s been. My hair is growing back, no more head coverings! I had a nice buzz cut that has now turned into a short hair style and my curls are coming back with a vengeance!

I also had a life changing event recently when I resigned from my job with the same company of 33 years. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made, but I needed more time. I needed time to cook and bake and craft and read and enjoy life! To be more connected to everything. I'm not retiring. I'm working for a dear friends company and in doing so, cutting back on the hours I work. So while cancer took many things away from me, it also freed my soul and spirit and made me take a step back and really take a good hard look at my life.

While I laid on the couch for quite a few months over the fall and winter, I daydreamed about my little garden, what I would plant, the new design of my raised bed, how to keep the critters out, what flowers I would plant in the yard. Last year my poor garden was neglected. We only managed to keep a few tomato plants going. I had to let it go. It was the first year time in almost 30 years that I didn’t have my veggie garden. Now my garden is booming. I’m so happy to have dirt under my nails again and to be outside working until dusk (when the weather permits, I am in New England after all).

My hubby built new raised beds for me and filled them with some beautiful soil and compost. We have planted all our veggies and flowers and worked on little projects here and there. I'm taking things at a pace I can handle. Not the pace I usually pushed myself to before.

So, I offer no apologies for my tardiness. I’m relishing in it in fact. The way I feel about just about everything has changed. So, when I’m here I’m here which might just be a little more often now. When I have something good to share, you guys will be the first to know. When I’m not here, please know that I’m digging in the dirt, or sitting under the gazebo reading a book, or picking veggies and dreaming up recipes to share with you all.

As always I want to share something delicious with you. I made these Chocolate Oatmeal Bars many months ago. Almost forgot about them until I came across the photos I took of them. These were so delicious and devoured quickly by my men. I really should have double the recipe. I will next time.

Take it slow friends.

Fudge filled oatmeal bars 1

Chocolate Oatmeal Bars
For Crust and Topping:
1 1/3 cups oatmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter- melted

For Filling:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a 8x8-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Overhang the edges of the foil to lift the bars easier from the pan when finished cooking.

Combine flour, oats, 1 cup of light brown sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, add 10 1/2 tablespoons melted butter and stir to combine. Press half of mixture firmly into the pan and bake about 8 minutes, cool.

To make the filling, melt the butter and chocolate chips together and stir until it’s smooth.
Whisk together flour, sugar and salt in a bowl. Whisk eggs into cooled chocolate mixture, and then stir in flour mixture. Pour chocolate filling over cooled crust and top with remaining oatmeal mixture.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Pretzel Toffee

Pretzel Toffee

Oh. My. Word.

This pretzel toffee is some seriously addictive stuff. It is so amazingly delicious. Thank goodness I had a house full of boys present when I made this cause I don't believe I could have trusted myself alone in the house with a batch of this stuff.

The toffee doesn't come out hard as a rock either. I've had some toffees that almost crack your teeth. This recipe does not do that.

Not only is it good, it's really easy to make. You have to invest 10 minutes in stirring the toffee mixture but after that it's just pouring it on the pretzels and then covering it with chocolate chips.

A few notes while making this:

  • Don't worry if your toffee mixture looks like it's separating. I cooked it 10 minutes and then whisked furiously the last 30 seconds before I poured it over the pretzels. If the butter pools a bit don't worry about that either.
  • I bought the Snyder Pretzel Snaps and filled half a sheet pan up with them. The Snaps work really well because all the toffee gets trapped in the grids of the pretzel. Heaven!
  • You can use dark of milk chocolate chips. Either one will work. I used dark when I made this batch.
  • Put your finished product in the fridge to firm up, then just break it into pieces to serve.
  • If you want to watch a video on how to make the toffee check out Jen's video from Jen's Favorite Cookies. The original recipe is from her site. Click here.

Pretzel Toffee 1

Pretzel Toffee
Original recipe from Jen's Favorite Cookies
Printable Recipe
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 cups pretzel pieces (I used Synder’s Pretzel Snaps* see note)
1 cup chocolate chips

In a heavy saucepan, melt butter. Add sugar, and stir to dissolve. Continue cooking and stirring over medium high heat until it is the color of a brown paper bag, about 7-10 minutes. (The mixture may separate and look clumped or curdled, and this is fine. The color is a more important indicator than the texture.)

Prepare a sheet pan (I recommend a quarter sheet pan) by lining with parchment paper or a silicone liner, or by generously buttering. Cover pan in a single layer of pretzels. Pour cooked candy onto pretzels as soon as it reaches the desired color.

Immediately top with chocolate chips. Let chips melt for a few minutes, then use a knife to spread like frosting. Let candy cool by chilling in fridge for about an hour. Use a large knife to break into pieces.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

*Note - I bought the Snyder Pretzel Snaps and filled half a sheet pan up with them. The snaps work really well because all the toffee gets trapped in the grids of the pretzel.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sausage and Barley Soup

German Sausage and Barley Soup

It was snowing here in Rhode Island Monday! Yes, you read that right, it's was snowing in April.

I love the snow, I really do love it but it's spring and this is crazy!

Nothing quite hits the spot like a big bowl of soup when it's cold and snowy.

If you haven't cooked barley before please note that it's very starchy and you shouldn't cook it in the soup or you will end up with a really thick, gooey soup. I always cook it separate and add it in later. It's one of my favorite things to add to soup!

This is one of those throw a little of this and that in and make a soup you like soups.

I really love these kind of soups. Perfect for a day when you need a belly warmer.

German Sausage and Barley Soup 2

Sausage and Barley Soup
recipe from Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary
6 slices of bacon, cut into big chunks
14 oz. Polish Kielbasa sausage, sliced
3 tablespoons of butter, if necessary
1 cup (2 leeks) chopped leeks (white and light green parts only)
3 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 pound fingerling potatoes, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup pearl barley
½ tsp paprika
8 to 10 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley to garnish

In a large dutch oven, over medium high heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove and reserve it. Boil the barley in another pot with some salt. Cook until tender. This will take about 30 - 40 minutes to become tender.

Add 3 tablespoons of butter to the dutch oven, lower the heat to medium and sauté the leeks, carrots and celery until tender. Add in the garlic, the Italian seasoning, paprika, and salt and pepper. Add the chicken broth and potatoes and bring the soup to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat to low, add in the sliced sausage, bacon and barley, cover and simmer for 35 to 45 minutes.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Carrot Cake Breakfast Bread

Carrot cake bread 1

It's snowing here in Rhode Island as I type this. Snow on the first day of Spring. I was up with the chickens and I have to say, for someone like me that loves the white stuff, it made me smile first thing this morning.

Because Easter is just around the corner I'm bringing you another carrot recipe. This one for Carrot Cake Breakfast Bread.

I over anticipated how many carrots I needed for my Carrot Cake and bought 2 huge bags. I needed to use them up, so I found another recipe that used carrots.

This bread was fantastic. Not to carrot cakey, not too sweet. In face I used Truvia Baking Blend instead of sugar to make it a tad bit healthier. It was perfect.

Now you know what to do with all those carrots that the Easter bunny couldn't eat.

Happy Spring everyone!

Carrot cake bread

Carrot Cake Breakfast Bread
recipe from The Seasoned Mom
¾ cup grated carrot (about 2 medium carrots)
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ cup sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoons baking soda
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup golden raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine grated carrots, oil, applesauce, egg and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.

Beat sugars into the mix until creamed. Add flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Mix until blended. Stir in nuts and raisins if using. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until bread is brown and springs back when gently pressed in the middle.

Remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Carrot Cake Bars

Carrot Cake Bars 3

You know I'm back when I have my Easter menu done in February. Yes, I was done with the menu and began testing out recipes in February this year. Back to my usual OCD self and it feels great!! So I tested out a few desserts because you don't want to serve your guests something that could potentially be a flop right? Well this one did not flop!

Do I have an Easter dessert for you!

I'm not sure why but Easter always meant carrot cake or coconut cake for me (in the shape of a lamb of course!) I'm sure the carrot cake thing somehow refers back to the Easter bunny and I'm sure there is some story to go along with it, but I'm too lazy to look!

So I wanted to make a carrot cake for Easter but then I found these Carrot Cake Bars and they seemed easier than making the traditional carrot cake so I made a little trial run a few weeks ago.

I don't think I'll ever make another traditional carrot cake again. This sheet cake (cause that's what it really is), is so easy to throw together and bakes up in under an half hour. What I love about it is you get the perfect ratio of cake to frosting. So delicious!

You can add in some raisins if you'd like. I think a half cup would work. I omitted them though.

Carrot Cake Bars 2

Carrot Cake Bars
Original recipe from Mom on Timeout
1¼ cups unsweetened applesauce
2 cups sugar
3 eggs

2 cups flour
1 teaspoons baking soda
1½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 cups grated carrots (about 3 medium carrots)
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 - 8oz can Dole crushed pineapple - DO NOT drain {use the pineapple in JUICE not syrup}

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 stick butter (softened)
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine #1 ingredients. Add #2 ingredients. Stir in #3 ingredients. Pour into a lightly greased or parchment lined 10x15-inch jelly roll pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely!

For the frosting:
Beat the butter and cream cheese until nice and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and powdered sugar and beat until nice and smooth. Spread on top of the cooled cake bars. Store leftovers in an airtight container, in the refrigerator, for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms 3

Yes it's another mushroom dish from me. Sorry mushroom haters!

This is a quick and easy side dish. It would go great with a nice juicy steak. I haven't had a nice juicy steak in a very long time. I need to remedy that soon. I think my Roasted Parmesan Onions and these mushrooms would be perfect accompaniments!

I tweaked the original recipe a bit. I doubled it for one. One little package of mushrooms just will not cut it at my house. Even thought my picky youngest won't eat mushrooms, the rest of us love them, so doubling it was necessary.

I used baby bella mushrooms. The original recipe called for white button mushrooms. You can certainly use whatever you prefer.

A crusty piece of bread would be wonderful served with these mushrooms. You could sop up all that garlicky goodness. I honestly could have eaten the whole pan by myself but I was nice and shared.

Creamy Garlic Mushrooms 2

Creamy Garlic Mushroom
adapted from a recipe at Lovefoodies
Two - 8-10 oz packages of baby bella mushrooms (try and choose mushroom a bit on the smaller size)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of Cream Cheese (you can also use low fat variety)
sprinkling of parsley
salt & pepper
2 teaspoon of olive oil

Heat a pan with the oil and add the mushrooms on medium heat. Stir and toss until soft and a little liquid is released from the mushrooms. If the mushrooms do not release any liquid, add a couple of tablespoons of milk or broth. (Sometimes, depending on the season, mushrooms can vary in juiciness!)Add in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add the cream cheese. See note* Season with salt and pepper and a sprinkling of parsley.

Note: To avoid the cream cheese from splitting, you should make sure the heat is not too hot, if you are not sure, remove the pan from the heat whilst you add the cream cheese, combine well, then return to a gentle heat until the sauce is bubbling gently and heated through completely. As you will know, any cream products have a tendency to split or curdle if you add them to any high temperatures, so do not turn the heat up!!

Serve straight from the pan, or you can transfer to an oven dish and place in the oven (covered) to keep warm until you are ready to serve.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Thin, Chewy and Buttery Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal cookies thin buttery 1

I'm feeling so good lately! I finished with radiation, had my oncology check up....everything is good! I still have to have my Herceptin treatments every three weeks, but it's totally a piece of cake compared to chemo.

Feeling well, back in my kitchen cooking and baking up a storm every week. Life is truly good and now that my taste buds have returned I can enjoy a cookie or two now and then and my most favorite cookie has always been oatmeal.

I suppose that everyone who likes oatmeal cookies has a favorite. Thick, thin, with raisins, without raisins, chocolate chips, no chips. I personally don't think there is much you can do to a cookie that won't make me like it. I mean cookies. Come on.

I found these little beauties will I was browsing around Pinterest.

Thin. Chewy. Buttery.

I'm in.

Cookie Perfection.

As always, don't over bake these or they will come out crumbly and we all know no one likes a crumbly cookie.

Thanks to Ann at Thibeault's Table for this recipe. Ann makes gorgeous maple cutting boards! Check it out if you are in the market for a handcrafted beauty of a cutting board.

Oatmeal cookies thin buttery

Thin, Chewy and Buttery Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from The Toronto Star via Thibeault's Table
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 Teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Preheat oven to 350 Cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg and beat until smooth. Add vanilla Combined flour, soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir into butter mixture. Add rolled oats. Roll into small balls (golf ball size) and flatten with glass dipped in sugar. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are golden. Cookie should not get brown. Cool on wire rack.