Posts tagged easy

Salted Caramel and Chocolate Cookie Bars

Caramelitas232

Last night as I was getting ready for bed, I heard the sound of a snow shovel banging the pavement outside my house.  My first thought was, “I hate winter! Please spring hurry up”! In my neighborhood, people are really go getters when it comes to shoveling.  The last snow flake has barely fallen before people are out there clearing the walks and driveways.  On this particular day, it had only snowed a few inches so I knew that it would not be enough to warrant my neighbor getting out his snow blower and so kindly doing his walk and mine, but that it was too much to ignore, so I would have to shovel.  I can’t really complain too much though as like I said, we have the world’s best neighbors who have been so kind as to use their snow blower to clear our sidewalk and driveway all winter long.  I could never thank them enough, so I always bake them something special just to say thank you.

Just before I got into bed I decided to peek out my window and see which of my neighbors was so motivated that they were shoveling their walk at 10:00 at night.  As I looked out the window, I was shocked (and thrilled) to see that the teenage boy who lives next to me was actually out there shoveling MY driveways. OMG what a fantastic surprise.  I quickly put on my slippers and popped out the doors to say thank you, thank you, thank you to this sweet young man.  He just smiled and said “sure no problem” as if this is something all people do.  As I laid in bed thinking about that kind kid, I knew I had to bake him something really really delicious.  Salted Caramel and Chocolate bars were the perfect thing!

Let me start by saying that I think this may be one of the most delicious and most addictive things I have ever baked.  The best part is that it is actually a really simple recipe too.  People will love you for these and think that they were much harder to make then they actually were.

Here is what you need:

1 c. flour

1.5 c. oats (old-fashioned or quick oats)

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 c. (1 and a 1/2 sticks) melted butter

3/4 c. packed brown sugar

3/4 c. chocolate chips

The caramel decision:

Next you will have a decision to make.  For the caramel sauce, you could easily melt about 30-40 caramel squares in a pan with about 1/2 c. of heavy cream. Then add about 1/2 teaspoon good sea salt once the caramel is melted and smooth.  If you are feeling a bit more adventurous you could make a salted caramel sauce. I had made this a few days ago for another recipe so I had some in my fridge already.  I think for many people making caramel might sound a bit intimidating.  Well let me tell you, if I can do it, you can do it.  The only hard part was not getting distracted and walking away.  You just need to stay with it for the entire 5 minutes or so in order to keep it from burning.  This is such a delicious sauce that I really recommend that you make it.  If you follow the recipe here for salted caramel sauce it will make some extra. You will need about half for this recipe. Put the other half in the fridge in a jar and enjoy on everything (or just by the spoonful as I do).

For the caramel sauce you will need either:

30-40 caramel squares

1/2 c. heavy cream

1/2 tsp. sea salt

OR

1 recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce ( you will only need about half for this recipe)

Here is what you do:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and melted butter.  Spread half of the mixture on the bottom of and 8×8 baking dish and bake for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove from oven and evenly pour chocolate chips and caramel sauce over the crust.  Then spread the remaining dough mixture on top.  Then return to the oven and bake for about 15-20 more minutes or until he edges are bubbly and golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before cutting and removing from the pan.

You may be thinking that this makes a pretty small batch as it is baked in an 8 x 8 pan. Well it does and at first I was tempted to double the recipe.  These are so delicious and irresistible that I was glad I did not double it.  We gave about half to the neighbor kid and then ate the rest at home. I literally could not control myself around these.  Every time I walked into the kitchen, I had just a little piece.  That little piece became half the recipe in no time.  I was glad when they were gone so I could go back to life and stop obsessing over these.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

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The Avocado Smoothie Your Kids Will Love

Avocado Smoothie

Last year, juicing was all the rage in my house. This year, we have moved in a similar but slightly different direction…smoothies!  Thanks to my friend Jen and her facebook posts about the delicious smoothies that she made with her family, we have started to make smoothies too.  Now don’t get me wrong, I still love juicing but making smoothies requires less cleaning in the end. The one thing about juicing that I hate is having to take apart and clean the juicer when we are done.

Making smoothies allows us to use most of the same ingredients, but creates a frozen concoction that my kids can’t resist.  We initially started with your typical type of smoothies. You know, bananas, yogurt, ice and orange juice.  This is delicious but not quite healthy enough if you ask me.  The cool thing about smoothies is that some frozen fruit can really hide the taste of all the healthy stuff.

There are 2 things that I always put into each smoothie.  These are wheat germ and flaxseed meal.  If you are not familiar with these two things I highly recommend that you check out these links and learn about all the awesome health benefits of wheat germ and flaxseed.   Just a word of warning though with regards to flaxseed.  It can have a mild laxative effect so you may not want to add too much at once. We add about a 1/4 of wheat germ and 2 tbsp. of flaxseed to each blender full of smoothies.

Health benefits of wheat germ

Health benefits of flaxseed meal

Now let’s move on to the recipe for what I have to call the tastiest avocado smoothie ever.  I love avocados and both of my kids did when they were toddlers, but now as preschoolers they have become much pickier eaters.  This is where the whole smoothie thing comes in.  This is a great way to sneak in the healthy stuff without getting any complaints or whining from the kids.

The ingredients are: (makes 4 smoothies)

2 bananas

1/2 ripe avocado

 6 oz. container greek yogurt (any fruit flavor you like)

1/4 c. wheat germ

2 tbsp. flaxseed meal

1.5 cups frozen mango

5-10 ice cubes depending on how thick you like it

1.5-2 c. orange juice

Blend all of these together until rich and creamy.  We swap out the type of fruit daily depending on what we have on hand.  I buy my frozen fruit at Trader Joe’s.  I think they have the best selection and the prices on frozen fruit can not be beat.

Once you try this you will be hooked and proud to give yourself and your family such a delicious snack. We make these smoothies almost everyday after school and I feel good knowing that they are getting lots of vitamins, protein from the greek yogurt, omega 3’s from the avocado and much more. Please let me know how it turns out if you try it.  Happy blending!

What’s your favorite ingredient to add to smoothies?  I would love to hear from you!

If you love avocados as much as I do, check out this recipe for Avocado Egg Salad!  This recipe was create by an awesome blogger who focuses on nutrition and fitness.  I can’t wait to try this!

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Oatmeal Apple Craisin Muffins

Wow it has been a long time since I have posted something.  I am not entirely sure where the time has gone.  All of the sudden, the summer is behind us and autumn is in full swing.  In fact, there are frost warnings tonight in my area.  Now I have to admit that I am a warm weather gal.  By the end of the winter, I am about ready to jump out of my skin after being “trapped” inside all winter long.

Now with all that being said there are a few things that I actually look forward to as the weather gets chillier and one of those is apples.  My daughters absolutely love apples. They average 2 each everyday. Let’s hope that an apple a day really does keep the doctor away.  Due to our love of apples, I buy them or pick them in large quantities. Especially if I ever want to get any to bake with or turn into applesauce.

Sunday morning my older daughter asked if we could bake something.  Inside I suggested that we make applesauce (recipe coming soon) due to having bought 10 lbs. of apples recently.  She had a blast using the apple slicer, dicer and coring machine. I have to admit that this is one of my favorite kitchen gadgets too.  If you do not already have one, I highly recommend that you pick one up.  Then Sunday afternoon, I picked up another 10 lbs. of apples. We are literally up to our elbows in apples right now.  One thing to keep in mind though is that when making applesauce, it takes a lot of apples to make a sauce.  My 10 lbs. of apples made 6 pints of sauce.

Tonight we made the rest of the applesauce and as I giving it a final stir I got to thinking that maybe I should use a bit of it to make muffins.  I love applesauce muffins. They are moist, delicious and healthy. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Here is what you need:

1 1/2 c. rolled oats

3/4 c. AP flour

3/4 c. whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/4 c. applesauce

3/4 c. sugar (I like to use the Truvia sugar blend)

1 egg white

3 tbsp. canola oil

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 tbsp. wheat germ (optional, but so tasty)

3/4 c. craisins or raisins

 

Here is what you do:

First preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  The mix all the wet ingredients together and stir just until combined.  Next slowly add the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.  Finally, stir in the craisins.  Line a muffin tin with muffin wrappers or spray with nonstick spray. Then fill each tin almost to the top. Bake for 20 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown.  These are truly delicious.  I love them smeared with a little butter but my kids like them right out of the muffin wrapper. They are a treat for the whole family.

 

What is your favorite apple recipe? Do you like to bake with them or use them in more savory dishes? I would love to hear from you!

 

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The Best Homemade Floor Cleaner Ever

A while back, I read an article about making your own homemade floor cleaner.  In our house, we have three different types of floors (hardwood, tile, linoleum). I have always had a hard time finding a cleaning solution that worked on all three…until now.  The original article I read made a similar solution in a mop bucket.  While I am much to frugal to use a Swiffer mop, I also detest mopping from buckets.  It seems counter productive to use dirty mop water to wash the floors.

The best mop ever!

Rubbermaid Reveal Mop

The solution to this was buying a Rubbermaid Reveal Mop.  This is seriously one of my favorite cleaning tools. The microfiber pads clean great and are washable. I have washed mine a million times and they still work like new. The best thing about this mop is that you can fill the solution bottle with any solution you want (unlike Swiffer)!!!! This mop costs about $20 but will pay for itself quickly if you are currently using a Swiffer. I have also seen coupons for it in the past so definitely look for coupons before you buy.

A few weeks ago, I experimented a bit with creating a homemade solution for in my mop bottle and I have perfected it.  My floors could not be shinier.  This solution works great to remove dirt and everything else that gets on the floor and leaves a great shine behind. I have had great results with it on hardwood, tile and linoleum.

Here is how you make it in the mop bottle:

5-6 drops of dish soap

1/2 c. of white vinegar

Then fill to top with very warm water.

This is so quick and easy to make and costs pennies per batch. Much better than buying liquid floor cleaner that can easily cost $5 a bottle.  I don’t think I will ever use anything else on my floors. You MUST try this. Just look at my floors!

Have you ever made your own cleaning solution? I would love to hear from you!

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Light Your Charcoal Grill with Sugar

This makes me hungry just looking at it!

There are lots of gadgets and ideas out there about how to best light the charcoal in your grill. The fact is, when you are ready to grill and the food is all set, there is nothing more frustrating than charcoal that won’t light.

Here is the quick fix if you are ever in this situation.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of sugar (just plain old sugar) on the briquettes and then light the charcoal again.  This works because when you expose sugar to high temperatures it quickly decomposes and catches on fire quickly. I really prefer this to squirting lighter fluid all over the coals that cook my food!

When you are hungry and cursing at the coals because they won’t light, this little trick will save the day.  Happy grilling!

Do you still you a charcoal grill or do you only use gas?  Do you think the food tastes different when cooked over charcoal?  I would love to hear from you!

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Nonfat Key Lime Frozen Yogurt

Key Lime Frozen Yogurt!

I know that I have posted a lot of frozen yogurt recipes recently, but how can I resist. It is just so yummy. This is the easiest frozen yogurt recipe yet and my daughter and I decided it was our favorite.  I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can’t.  I saw it a while back on a website (can’t remember which) and the recipe was so simple I remembered it after just reading it once.  That is my kind of recipe.  It is only three ingredients and took less than 5 minutes to whip up and get in the ice cream maker.

Here is what you need:

1 quart (32 oz.) of french vanilla nonfat yogurt

1/2 of a can of nonfat sweetened condensed milk

4 oz. of key lime juice

Here is what you do:

In a bowl mix the yogurt, key lime juice and sweetened condensed milk.  Once combined pour into your ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your ice cream maker.  I told you this was easy. No straining the yogurt, nothing to cook or chill.  This was so easy and so incredibly delicious.  It tasted like a frozen slice of key lime pie.  You have to try this!

What is your favorite flavor of frozen yogurt?  Have you ever tried to make your own ice cream or frozen yogurt?

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Stuffed Fresh Zucchini

Every year, I plant a few things in our garden that are fun to grow, but that we don’t really “love” to eat.  Zucchini falls into this category.  The kids love growing zucchini because of the big beautiful flowers and the beautiful zucchini that seem to appear over night.  Last year, we tried making zucchini a million different ways to use it all up and most were pretty tasty.  My favorite though is stuffed zucchini.  This is simple, delicious and makes zucchini taste amazing.  Try this and you will be a zucchini lover.  I had this for dinner last night and it was awesome.  My kids even love it! I only made one zucchini last night because my hubby was working, but you could easily double or triple this recipe.

Here is what you need:

1 large zucchini

1 c. of your favorite tomato sauce

1/8 c. fresh chopped basil

1/2 c. panko bread crumbs

1/2 c. fresh grated Romano cheese (could use Parmesan instead)

olive oil for drizzling

salt and pepper to taste

Here is what you do:

First wash and dry your zucchini. Then cut it in half lengthwise.

 

Next use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and create a little valley for your stuffing to sit in. Drizzle a little olive oil over each half. This will help to keep the stuffing moist.

Next combine the sauce, bread crumbs, basil and cheese.

You may have to adjust the amount of bread crumbs and sauce.  You want it to be very moist with sauce. Otherwise, it will dry out when you bake it.  Once the filling is well combined, spoon it into each zucchini half.  Don’t forget to add salt and pepper to taste.  The cheese can be salty so taste it first.  Drizzle each with a little more olive oil.

Cover and baked in a 375 degree over for about 20 minutes. After about 20 minutes, remove foil and sprinkle with a little bit more grated cheese.  Return to oven and bake uncovered until the cheese is melted and the zucchini is fork tender.  Voila!  Baked stuffed zucchini!

Oops, I forgot to take a picture before we started eating! It was so yummy!

Tips;

I made this version meatless, but you can add ground sausage to the stuffing mixture and it is delicious. Just cook the sausage before adding to stuffing mixture.  The nice thing about this recipe is that it is just a starting off point.  There are a million different ways to make this and flavors to use.  This recipe will make a zucchini lover out of you. Thanks for reading and happy cooking.

Do you ever make stuffed veggies? What is your favorite way to make zucchini? I would love to hear from you.  

 

 

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