Oatmeal Coconut Squares with Chocolate Chips

What do you do when dinner about 30 minutes away from being done, and you have no fresh baked goods in the house for dessert?  Well, most people would just say – there is no dessert.  In my family, that doesn’t go over so well.  That is not to say that we have fresh baked goods every night for dessert – but it was a weekend, and we decided to take a vote.  What do you think won?  Of course the fresh baked goods.

I took out one of my old recipe binders, where I cut out recipes in magazines and actually put them in a photo album, with all intentions of making them.  I did this for years, until I decided – out of sight out of mind – and that’s when I started piling my recipes on the counter (and later on in the pantry) – so they were always in my face when I was looking for something to make.  I was in search of a very quick and easy recipe that my kids could make without my help – and that we had all the ingredients.  After flipping pages for almost 10 minutes, I found it – the Oatmeal Coconut Squares from Gourmet Magazine – years and years ago.  We had all the ingredients, and the recipe was so easy, I just let them loose.  They were the perfect quick and easy dessert – and I think my 6 year old did most of the work – my 9 year old supervised, which is a role she loves playing in the kitchen.  So – if you don’t feel like making dessert tonight – go and get a little person to make this for you.  You and your little person will thank me for it!

 Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (milk or semisweet)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a 9-inch square metal baking pan with a 12- to 14-inch-long sheet of foil, letting excess hang over sides, and butter foil in pan.

Toss together oats, flour, brown sugar, chips, coconut, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat together butter, egg, and vanilla with a fork in another bowl, then stir into oat mixture until incorporated. Spoon batter into baking pan, patting evenly.

Bake in middle of oven until set, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting ends of foil. Cool on a rack, then cut into 16 squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Oatmeal Coconut Squares with Chocolate Chips

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Roasted Domino Potatoes

I have been really into my mandoline lately.  I love how easily I can take a potato and turn it into wafer thin slices for roasting.  Now, nothing has come close to this recipe still, but I am having fun experimenting.  So far though, potatoes and fennel have really been dominating the mandolin – soon I will have to branch out.  Hopefully I can find a mandoline glove soon though, every time I take it out I hope that my fingers don’t get caught in the excitement.

I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit, and the potatoes just looked stunning.  There is no other way to describe it.  I couldn’t wait to get my mandoline out and try this dish.  The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe, was that you need to think about what you are going to do with the scraps of potatoes you cut off to make a perfect rectangle.  I actually just sliced them up and made a mini galette with a small baking dish, and cooked it alongside the other potatoes.  I had to leave them in the oven longer, but they were delicious as well.  Don’t worry about the shapes for that one, I called it the misfit galette.  The domino potatoes were a huge hit though with my kids – they were crunchy around the edges, and soft in the middle – just a delicious treat to go with our roasted chicken (courtesy of my husband and his BGE).  This is definitely a fun recipe if you are looking for something interesting to make for a dinner party, and very easy once you slice up the potatoes.  So, my mandoline does it again, and fortunately I spared my fingers once again – I am off to buy a glove before my luck runs out!

Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided
  • 3 1/2 pounds Idaho potatoes (4–6 large)
  • 24 (about) fresh or dried bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and fleur de sel

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°F. Brush a 13x9x2″ baking dish or cast-iron griddle with 2 tablespoons butter. Peel potatoes and trim ends (do not rinse). Trim all 4 sides of potatoes to form a rectangle. Using a mandoline, cut potatoes crosswise into 1/8″ slices, keeping slices in stacks as best you can.

Re-form slices from each potato into a stack. Place in prepared dish, fanning apart slightly like a deck of cards. Insert bay leaves between potato slices at even intervals. Season with salt and drizzle with
remaining 4 tablespoons butter.

Bake potatoes, rotating the dish halfway through cooking, until the edges are crisp and golden and the centers are tender, about 1 hour. Sprinkle with fleur de sel.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Roasted Domino Potatoes

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Gingerbread Snack Cake

My second attempt at gingerbread for the blog – this time I was actually able to post it before the holidays, but seriously, is there ever a bad time to eat gingerbread?  I really think that gingerbread is a little outdated, for no good reason.  So, even though I found this recipe in Bon Appetit, I made a little change in the title – just to get people to take a second look.  Maybe I am the only one that seems to be obsessed with snack cakes, but I have a feeling I am not – for some reason when you add the words “snack cake” to a recipe, it suddenly seems like it is just a little better for you.  It is not a full-fledged dessert – it is just a little “snack.”

This recipe is much simpler than the one I made last year - and this one is alcohol free, just in case that might be an issue.  I thought this recipe was excellent – so simple to make, and it was dark, moist and full of that wonderful gingerbread flavor.  I served it just as you see it, although it would also be delicious with some fresh whipped cream.  The best part about this recipe?  It stayed good in an air-tight container for a few days.  Another reason to call this a snack cake – because usually that is the case.  I hope everyone is getting prepared for the big holiday weekend – and if you need a last-minute “snack” to get you through – here it is – and just right for the season.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup boiling water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease and flour an 8-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour. Into a bowl sift together flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and salt. In a cup beat egg lightly and stir into flour mixture with sugar, molasses, and oil. Add boiling water in a slow stream, whisking until combined well, and pour batter into pan. Bake gingerbread in middle of oven 30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in center comes out clean.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Gingerbread Snack Cake

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Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt

Ok – still trying to play catch-up with my posts, but I am getting closer.  I am not going to take up too much time writing today, because I know you all have so much to do right now.  Since we are inching upon Hanukkah and Christmas, my post today is another gift for you.  Just another easy recipe to make gifts from the kitchen.  This time a bark, as opposed to a brittle.

So – what exactly is the difference between a bark and a brittle?  I wondered myself, so I decided to look it up – boy was that an exercise in frustration.  I just could not get a good answer.  The most logical answer would have been that a bark is made of chocolate, and a brittle made of candy – but no, not that easy.  So if anyone knows what the true answer is, I would love to know.

This Chocolate-Almond Bark with Sea Salt that I found in Bon Appetit was a little more involved than the Candy Cane Brittle, because of the candied almonds – but oh was it worth it.  The sweetness of the almonds with the richness of the chocolate, balance out with the bright sea salt was quite something.  I could have eaten the whole batch myself if it wasn’t for the fact that I was making these for other people… and I am not even a huge chocolate fan.  That definitely says something.  So – if you are still wondering what to make people this year – this is a perfect gift.  Although, you might just like it so much, you will keep it as a gift for youself…but you deserve it!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted  butter
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona almonds (not in oil)
  • 1 pound good-quality dark chocolate (62%–70%  cacao), finely chopped
  • Coarse sea salt (for  sprinkling)

Preparation

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.  Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat  until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and  brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about  5 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add butter; whisk until melted. Add  almonds; stir until well coated. Transfer to baking sheet, spreading out to  separate nuts. Let cool. Break up any large clumps of nuts. Set aside 1/4 of  nuts.

Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of  simmering water until melted. Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet, and  stir quickly to combine. Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet,  keeping nuts in a single layer. Top with the reserved nuts; sprinkle with salt.  Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment  or waxed paper.

DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 week ahead. Keep  chilled.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chocolate-Almond Bark

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Candy Cane Brittle

I am late…I am very late, and I am sorry.  This has been quite a week, one I wasn’t really expecting, but these weeks happen, and you have to prioritize.  Unfortunately my post just didn’t make it to the top.  But here I am, better late than never.  This week really ended on a high note, so even though I am emotionally drained, there is a happiness as I am typing away…one that I have been waiting for, and it is finally here.

I decided on bark (or I guess Brittle) as one of the treats I made for people this year.  I am by no means an expert at this – although after the Holiday Treats class I took on Thursday night – I am a lot closer.  When I made these, I didn’t take the time to do them right – but it was fine, they still tasted great – not just great, pretty awesome.  I avoided the whole tempering thing…which after learning more about it – I can’t wait to try it out.  It doesn’t really impact the taste, just how it looks.  You get that really nice dark shiny look to your bark, that is just beautiful.

I found this recipe hidden in Bon Appetit this month, and when I said hiding, I meant that it was not the showcase of the recipe.  The Pots de Creme were, but this is what caught my eye.  The chocolate wafer cookies definitely make these amazing.  So – my gift to you this weekend?  Here is a perfect gift you can make for people…now I am going to go relax.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound high-quality bittersweet chocolate,  chopped
  • 1 cup chopped candy canes, divided
  • 1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookies (such as  Nabisco Famous Chocolate Wafers), lightly crushed
  • 1 ounce high-quality white chocolate,  melted

Preparation

Line a large baking sheet with foil. Stir bittersweet chocolate in a medium  metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted. Stir in 3/4 cup  chopped candy and crushed cookies; spread over foil. Sprinkle 1/4 cup candy  over. Drizzle with melted white chocolate. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.  Break into shards.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Candy Cane Brittle

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Cinnamon Swirl Cookies

I love baking for so many reasons – I love the smell that fills my house, I love the feel of dough in my hands, and I love how homemade baked goods can put a smile on just about anyone’s face.  Most of all, I love that it is something my girls and I can enjoy together, and they love doing it as much as I do.  This time of year, I especially love when we get into the kitchen together.  We have been baking for the holidays now for quite a number of years – and many of the treats we make I know like the back of my hand, and it is easy for me to cook something while they are on something completely different.  Yesterday they were basically in charge of making the chocolate buttons, and they did so all by themselves.  I am so rediculously proud of them – sometimes I just have to stand there and watch them.

So what new things have I made this year?  This is one of them…I have been eyeing them in The America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies from 2010 for an entire year now.  The cream cheese dough really caught my eye.  This dough was like silk in my hands, so smooth and creamy, yet stayed together beautifully when rolling out.  I loved the idea of spraying the cinnamon sugar after spreading it on the dough – that was a great trick.  The cookies were delicious – and the kids loved them.  My cinnamon obsessed husband loved them even more.  So, this holiday season, I hope you are making lots and lots of treats – but I hope more that you are doing so with your kids.  I promise you that everything will come out just a little bit sweeter.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup super-fine sugar, plus 3 tablespoons for filling
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces and softened
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preparation

With electric mixer on low speed, combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, and butter, and mix until crumbly and slightly wet, 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese and vanilla and mix until dough just begins to form.  Finish kneading dough by hand to form large cohesive mass.  Divide into 2 disks of dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 30 minutes.

Whisk remaining sugar and cinnamon together.  Turn half the dough onto floured parchment and place another sheet on top. Roll into a 12-by-7-inch rectangle, then trim edges straight. Remove the top layer of parchment and sprinkle dough with half of the cinnamon-sugar, leaving 1/4-inch border along the edges.  Spritz the filling with water, and roll dough into a 7-inch log, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 2 hours.  Repeat with remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack to the middle position. Trim the edges of each log, then cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Transfer to parchment-lined baking sheets, and bake until edges are golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes, switching baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cinnamon Swirl Cookies

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White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies

This time of year everyone is thinking about the holidays, and for those of us that love food – the projects that will happen in the kitchen.  The choices are endless, and I even find myself overwhelmed on what to select.  I have a list of favorites, but always want to try new recipes.  That is always the struggle.  The other struggle is trying to find things that I can make easily, but that look and taste fantastic.

The other day I was talking to my boss about baking, and she went into her bag and pulled out her folder of holiday recipes.  It was hard for me to leave her office without looking through each and every recipe – but I had to be strong – I already have too many things on my list as it is!  She has some really great recipes – some were so old and used, you could tell they had weathered the test of time – with food stains that decorated the white spaces.

So in the spirit of making something new and something simple, I went ahead and tried these White Chocolate and Peppermint Brownies that were park of the America’s Test Kitchen Holiday Cookies from 2010.  They were visually appealing enough for my daughter to choose them as one of her birthday party treats, and fortunately did not take hours to make, like these.  They were fabulous, and super easy.  I loved how you just sprinkle the chocolate chips on top as soon as they get out of the oven, then a few minutes later they are soft enough to spread.  I also took one more shortcut – as I was shopping for Hello Kitty’s hair tie decorations, I found a container of already chopped peppermint candy – I couldn’t resist.

These were a huge hit with the kids, and a huge time saver for me.  These will definitely go into the “make again” category for the holidays.  Now if only I could save enough time to make some of my bosses recipes this holiday season…let’s see.

Ingredients

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) white chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup chopped peppermint candies (about 15 candies)

Preparation

Heat oven to 350° F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 crisscrossed pieces of foil, leaving an overhang on all sides; grease the foil.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate. Microwave on high in 30-second intervals, stirring between each, until melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.

Combine the sugar, baking powder, salt, eggs, and vanilla in a medium bowl until smooth.  Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth.  Stir in the flour and mix until just combined (do not overmix).

Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 22 to 27 minutes.

Remove the brownies from the oven and sprinkle with the white chocolate chips, and let sit until chips have softened but not melted, about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, smooth the chocolate evenly over the top of the brownies, then sprinkle ground peppermint candies over the chocolate.  Cool completely for about 2 hours.

Holding the paper overhang, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peppermint White Chocolate Brownies

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Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake

This time of year I always have way more on my plate than I know what to do with – and I am not just talking about food here.  There are so many places I want to get to during the holiday season, things I want to do with my kids, and an endless supply of goodies to make.  There are a few staples that I make every year – like these, and oh these – but I also try to do some new baking as well, just to see what happens.  Hopefully I will be posting some good ones over the next couple of weeks.  Just know, nothing I do during the holidays takes too much time, as I just don’t have that much time to spare.  So if you work full-time, have kids, and other priorities in your life that take you away from the kitchen…don’t worry, these posts will be just for you.

My family loves a good bundt cake – and for the most part I do too.  Lately though I have not been doing well in the bundt cake department.  The last few that I have made completely stuck to the pan, so much that it was just embarrassing.  I actually thought about it quite a bit, and decided on a different strategy the next time I tackled one.  When I saw this in last month’s Cooking Light, I decided it would be my guinea pig.  Instead of just spraying the pan and dusting with flour, I heavily greased the pan with butter – a good thick layer, and then dusted with flour.  I know I am adding to the calories here, but it was completely worth it, because the bundt cake came out beautifully, all in one piece, and with nothing stuck to the pan.  I was thrilled.  For a light recipe, this bundt cake was moist and delicious.  The filling added a nice touch – and even though I doubled the cinnamon from the original recipe (updated below), it still could have used more.  I opted to leave out the walnuts, but that would help the filling as well.  If you are looking for a cake to bring to a potluck, that will serve a lot of people – this is a keeper.  Otherwise, check back soon for other holiday treats – they might not be light on calories, but definitely light on your time.  That is what I consider a gift right now…

Ingredients

Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups diced peeled Granny Smith or other tart apple
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup walnuts (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Cake:

  • Baking spray with flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 9 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup fat-free milk
  • 3/4 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon powdered sugar

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare filling, combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 20 minutes or until liquid almost evaporates and apple is tender, stirring occasionally. Cool to room temperature. Discard cinnamon stick.

To prepare streusel, combine walnuts and next 3 ingredients (through ground cinnamon) in a food processor. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.

To prepare cake, coat a 12-cup bundt pan with baking spray. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs and egg yolk, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean; add seeds to sugar mixture. Reserve bean for another use. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine milk and yogurt in a small bowl, stirring until smooth. Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; beat just until combined.

Spoon one-third of batter into prepared pan; sprinkle batter with half apple mixture and half walnut mixture. Repeat layers, ending with remaining third of batter; smooth with a spatula. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes; remove cake from pan. Cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Apple-Cinnamon Bundt Cake

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