Posts tagged simple

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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Decadent and Simple Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

images (2)Last summer we got an ice cream maker and we perfected making frozen yogurt.  There are so many simple and delicious variations on frozen yogurt that we never got bored just making frozen yogurt.  Three of my favorites were nonfat key lime frozen yogurt, blueberry vanilla frozen yogurt and nonfat peach frozen yogurt.

This year I decided that it was time to give good old-fashioned ice cream a try.  Boy am I glad I did.  It is so simple and so delicious.  It is not exactly what I would call “healthy,” but as an occasional treat it is a wonderful indulgence.  I started with a basic recipe and then modified it a bit to make it how I wanted it. Due to the fact that it is strawberry season right now, the strawberries are amazing and brought such sweet and amazing flavor to this ice cream.   I made a double batch which should be for about 8 people, but realistically in our house it is enough for 6 people.

Here is what you need:

2.5 cups whole milk

2 cups light cream

1.5-2 cups sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)

6 tbsp. corn syrup

6 egg yolks

1 tbsp. good vanilla extract

2 quarts strawberries, pureed but leave some chunks

Here is what you do:

In a saucepan, heat the milk and the cream together leaving 1 cup of milk aside in a separate bowl.  You will temper this in later with the eggs. Heat the milk and cream until it begins to bubble around the edges.  Whisk almost constantly while it is getting to this point. DO NOT BOIL.  In a bowl, combine the 1 cup of milk, the sugar, corn syrup, egg yolks and vanilla.  Stir to combine. Once combined, slowly whisk the hot milk and cream into the bowl.  Be careful to do this slowly so do not you do not scramble the eggs.  Once all of the hot milk has been added to the bowl, return the entire mixture to the saucepan and heat until bubbles form around the edges.  Once bubbles form, heat for approximately 5 more minutes, but do not boil.  It will begin to thicken slightly.  You must stir this constantly. Once it coats the back of a spoon it is done.  Next pour the custard into a bowl and add the strawberry puree.  Stir to combine.  Cover the custard and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled.  This will take about 4 hours.  The custard must be thoroughly chilled or it will not set up in the ice cream maker.  Once chilled, add to ice cream maker according to the manufacturers instructions.

This experience showed me that making delicious old fashioned ice cream is simple and only takes a little time.  My family went crazy over this ice cream. I literally found myself taking a bite out of it every time I walked into the kitchen.  This is a treat that is totally worth it.

I would love to hear about your adventures in making homemade ice cream.  What is your favorite flavor to make?

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Pumpkin Granola Muffins

Due to the fact that we are currently home bound due to getting 40″ of snow in 24 hours two days ago, we have been doing lots of baking.  We just made these for the first time today and boy are they yummy. We LOVE anything pumpkin in our house, so we are always looking for a new recipe that includes vitamin packed pumpkin.  This recipe was adapted from one I saw from Libby’s Pumpkin website.

Here is what you need:

1 c. whole wheat flour 143809lrg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/8 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

3/4 tsp. baking powder

3/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1 c. packed brown sugar

1/4 c. canola oil

1 can pumpkin

2 eggs

1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

1/ 2 – 1 c. low-fat granola

Here is what you do:  

Preheat the oven to 350. Then beat together the sugar and the oil until well combined.  Next add the pumpkin and the two eggs to the brown sugar and oil. Beat this until very well combined. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, baking powder and baking soda.  If you have it on hand, you could use pumpkin pie spice in place of the nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice.  Add the dry mixture slowly to the wet ingredients and beat slowly to combine.  Finally stir in the chocolate chips.

Once combined, spoon batter into lightly greased mini muffin tins. Fill almost completely. Then top each muffin with about a 1/2 tsp of granola. Press the granola into the batter slightly.  Bake for about 18-20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

These muffins are a wonderful snack for both kids and adults.  They are healthy and not overly sweet, but the mini chocolate chips made my kids think they were having a dessert.  My kids loved them and begged for another one.  These types of muffins freeze really well too so they are a great snack to pack into the freezer and then throw them in a lunch box for a tasty lunchtime treat.  Hope you enjoy and happy baking!

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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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How to Get Rid of Mineral Deposits and Hard Water Stains

 

Hard water stains and mineral deposits can leave something that is actually clean, looking filthy. Look at the rack that goes under my dish rack.  I clean this at least once a week, but due to the mineral deposits from the water dripping on it, it never “looks” clean.

I have tried everything I can think of to clean it including harsh chemicals and my favorite tool the magic eraser.  Even the magic eraser did nothing to it.  Well finally I have figured out how to clean off these horrible stains.  WHITE VINEGAR!!!!  I guess I should have tried this sooner as I use it to clean everything else in my house. For some reason, I just did not think it would work. Well I was wrong.

All I did was pour some undiluted white vinegar onto the drain board and let it sit about 10 minutes. Then I scrubbed it gently with an old toothbrush and voila!  It looks like new.  This method could be used on shower doors, sinks or anywhere else that gets mineral deposits.  Put it in a spray bottle to clean the shower. It works beautifully.  Check out the pictures of my drain board.  Seeing is believing.  Good old white vinegar proves to be the champion cleaner again. Click here to see how you can use white vinegar to clean your floors.  You may never buy expensive cleaners again.

Before cleaning with white vinegar

After cleaning with white vinegar!

What other things do you use white vinegar to clean?  I would love to hear from you!

 

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Zucchini and Apple Cobbler

 

If you read the title of this recipe and thought “yuck”, you are not alone.  A couple of months ago, another blog I read posted a recipe for zucchini cobbler and I thought the same thing when I read it. You can check out that recipe here.  After reading the reviews, which were amazing, I decided I needed to give this recipe a try, but make it my own in doing so.  Boy am I glad I did because it is a wonderful dessert!

If you are like many gardeners you have had you fill of zucchini for a while and yet your zucchini plants keep on producing.  That is the problem that I have been  having.  Well problem solved. This recipe will use up a few of those zucchini and you will not even know you are eating it.  I have made this recipe a few times for family and friends and they all raved about it and swore it was not zucchini. It tastes just like apple cobbler!

Here is what you need:

2 medium or 3 small zucchini

2 granny smith apples

2 lemons

1.5 cups sugar (I used Truvia for baking)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

6 tbsp butter (cold)

3/4 c. oats ( I prefer steel cut but quick cooking would be fine)

3/4 c. whole wheat flour

Here is what you do:

First peel and dice the zucchini and apples into about a half-inch dice.  Then add the zucchini and apples to a pot and squeeze the juice from both lemons into the pot.  Cover and cook the zucchini and apple mixture for about 10-12 minutes or until they just start to get soft.  Once the zucchini and apples are soft, add 1 tsp of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. of nutmeg and 1 cup of sugar.  Reduce heat and simmer just until the sugar is melted.

In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the sugar, the brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, oats and flour. Cut the very cold butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter (or two knives) until the mixture has formed a large crumble.

Next pour the zucchini and apple mixture into a 2 quart baking dish and cover the top with the oat crumble.  Place the baking dish in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes or until the top of the cobbler is golden brown.  Serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (or both if you are me).

Hopefully if you are still reading this then I may have  convinced you to try this.  It is truly delicious and I promise that you and everyone you feed it to will not believe that you are eating zucchini!

Have you ever made any unusual desserts before just to find out it was delicious?  Does this recipe sound gross or are you willing to give it a try?  I would love to hear from you!

 

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“I Spy” Quilt for Kids

An “I Spy” quilt for baby Madison.

My sister is going to be having a baby in a couple more weeks and I wanted to make my new little niece something special.  Typically I would crochet something, but had trouble getting motivated to start a crochet project .  Then I stumbled upon this idea.  An “I Spy” quilt.  I am sure that most of you remember playing this game as a kid. You know, one person says “I spy something green” and then everyone else tries to guess what it is.  This quilt is based on that idea.  Each of the squares on the quilt is different. This makes a great gift for kids as they can enjoy snuggling with their quilt as well as playing the I spy game.  Kids quilts are a great first project for a beginner quilter. They are generally smaller and less intricate, so they can be more manageable.  Oh and I doubt you will ever hear a kid remark on an unstraight line or a missed stitch.  🙂

Here is what I did to make this quilt.  First, I bought 48 different children’s fabrics.  This is much easier than it sounds.  Ebay sells quilt squares for reasonable prices. For this type of project this was a huge time saver.  Next stitch the square together in any pattern you choose. I like the 12 different blocks of 4 squares each, but truly the possibilities are endless.  Next cut out your border and attach it.  Finally you will choose your batting (the fluffy stuff inside the quilt) and your backing. Then you are ready to “quilt” it.  I am not going to go into all the details because there are some amazing tutorials already on the web.  Here are a few.

Quilting Basics (getting started)- piecing, cutting, sewing machines

I Spy Quilt Patterns

Machine Quilting Basics

Tips and Tricks

Best Quilting Books

If you read through these links you will find all of the information necessary to make your first I Spy quilt.  It is such a great feeling to complete a project like this because not only is it challenging, but fun too.  Beware though, quilting is a little addicting.  This quilt kept me up until all hours of the night because I was so excited to work on it and get it done.  Happy quilting.

Have you ever made a quilt before?  Are you a beginning quilter, seasoned quilter or just thinking about making a quilt?  If you have never made a quilt, what has stopped you from making a quilt in the past?  I would love to hear from you!

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