Bananas, Blueberries, And Oats – A Delicious Breakfast Combo

11 Aug

I can’t help but shout my love for oats from the rooftops – whether its breakfast made in the Crock Pot or in the oven, or in cookie form with craisins and white chocolate chips or pumpkin, or in an always delicious apple crisp – I can’t get enough of this pantry staple. I eat it daily for breakfast, and am always trying to find new recipes to try starring oats too! So when I came across this Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal, I was instantly intrigued – as I love bananas and blueberries but had never thought of putting them together with my beloved oats, until now…

Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal

Prep time 15 mins
Cook time 45 mins
Total time 1 hour

Ingredients

• 1½ cups (3 med) mashed bananas
• 2 large eggs
• ¼ cup white sugar
• ¾ tsp vanilla extract
• ½ tsp salt
• ¾ tsp baking powder
• 2 cups milk
• 2½ cups old fashioned oats
• 8 ounces frozen blueberries

Instructions

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mash the bananas in a measuring cup, starting with two or three and adding more until you have 1.5 cups of banana mash.
2. Combine the banana mash in the large bowl with the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Whisk to combine. Add the milk and whisk again until smooth.
3. Stir in the dry old-fashioned oats. Lastly, stir in the frozen blueberries (keeping them frozen and stirring them in last helps prevent the entire mix from turning purple). Spray an 8×8 inch baking dish with non-stick spray and then pour in the oat mixture.
4. Bake in the preheated 375 degree oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the center is no longer wet to the touch.

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This was really a cinch to put together, and all the ingredients were items I had on hand (except the blueberries)

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I have to admit – I was rather skeptical of the unbaked version – it seemed really soupy and I had little faith that it would solidify in the oven. Luckily, I was wrong – and it set up really well in the oven

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I really enjoyed this – the texture of the baked oats mixed perfectly with the banana and blueberry flavors – and if I could change just one thing I think it would be to add some cinnamon and nutmeg to the recipe next time – but it was delicious as is too! What an easy thing to whip up on Sunday and then divide up to bring to work each day – easy, good for you, and delicious!

Crazy/Slutty/Delicious Describes These (Slightly Insane) Brownies

10 Aug

I don’t know anyone who can say no to a warm, chocolaty brownie fresh from the oven – I know I can’t say no to one (or five…). As much as I love a classic brownie, I also love to mix it up and try new versions – like the Brownie Rubble, frosted brownies from scratch, and of course the Slutty Brownie – which might be one of the more ridiculous things I have ever made – that is, until I saw THESE

Crazy Brownies

I pretty much religiously watch The Pioneer Woman on Saturday mornings on Food Network – I just love her and her family and her recipes make me drool – and last week she made these Crazy Brownies – and I am thinking that Crazy really is the right word for them! It’s a densely fudgy scratch made brownie with a layer of amazingness in the middle – in the form of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Rolos, pecans, and M&M’s. Oh, and then they are topped with powdered sugar and some more decorative M&M’s for extra added insanity. When I saw her make these, I knew they would be in my immediate future as well – or, well, some variation of them anyway.

I decided to combine the slutty brownie with the crazy brownie – making it a crazy slut? Kind of a controversial name – so I think we will just stick to “insane brownie/cookie treat” for now…

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I kept the basic formula for the slutty brownie the same – cookies on the bottom and brownies on top – but the middle is where I incorporated some of the Pioneer Woman’s “Crazy-ness” – I have packed oreos, mini peanut butter cups, and M&M’s in there – yum!

20140809_065519I used pre-made cookie dough, and then just a boxed 8×8 pan size brownie mix, and then basically whatever candy I had on hand (the best kinds, of course) to create this super slutty slightly crazy brownie

20140809_065559Slid this creation in to the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes (until the brownie portion was set and no longer jiggly) and voila!

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A cross section of the finished product – you can see the distinct cookie and brownie layers, and then that beautiful oreo in the middle! The candy is hard to see but trust me its there within that brownie layer!

20140809_125046My husband was my guinea pig (as usual!) and we both really enjoyed these – the layers weren’t too crispy and had a nice softness to them, and the candy and oreo gave each bite a different delicious surprise! These are a hit, and super easy to make, all you need to have is cookie and brownie mixes, and some kind of Oreo/candy to put in the middle (items that most of us probably have on hand anyway), so it’s a great one to get creative with and customize to your exact likings.

Oh – and don’t forget the milk to wash these down!

 

 

This Rainbow Cake Will WOW Your Party Guests (PS – It’s EASY To Make Too!)

5 Aug

 

CakeCollage

The evolution of the rainbow swirl cake

You can’t have a birthday without some kind of cake – am I right? I mean, “cake” is loosely defined sometimes, as I have had birthday cookies, birthday cookie cake, birthday pie, birthday ice cream…ok so what I am saying is that the best way to celebrate turning another year older is with sugar. Lots and lots of it. And cake is the traditional choice – and with so many ways to make it, there’s no reason why you have to stick to the same old thing year after year

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My best friend turned 28 this year – and it’s hard to believe we have been friends for over 13 years! I always like to make her a cake for her birthday, and this year she requested a “rainbow cake”. Now, there are several ways to go about this, including making a huge layer cake with 6 different colored layers. While that would have been impressive, I knew I probably didn’t have it in me – precision is so NOT my thing. So I opted for the “rainbow swirl” cake – seemed simple enough

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I started with your basic boxed white cake mix, and divided it up evenly into 6 bowls, adding food coloring to each to make purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. It took some time to get the colors right – and some arm power to mix them all up too!

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Then it was time prepare the two cake layers – which I did by taking a ¼ cup measuring cup and scooping one of each color into each cake pan. Once I had all the colors in there, I carefully swirled them together with a butter knife – being careful not to overswirl. The ready to bake and baked versions looked pretty good to me, but I couldn’t wait until birthday time to cut into them and see how the rainbow turned out!

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Here’s the birthday girl with her decorated cake – I used my favorite Crisco frosting recipe and had a little decorating help from my husband – didn’t he do a great job?

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It turned out pretty awesome – and it really wasn’t much more work than just baking a regular cake from a cake mix. You could use colored cakes in a lot of ways – check out these other “surprise” cake ideas, and bake up something colorful and fun for your next birthday celebration!

Products I Love: My Rubber Spatula

17 Jul

Every great cook/chef (and us amateur bloggers know it too!) knows that in order to be successful in the kitchen, there are certain tools that we need to have to make those cookies come out uniformly (like our trusty cookie scoops!), or to make that cake batter nice and fluffy (I rely on my trusty Oster Hand Mixer for that!), and when it comes to mixing/combining/incorporating ingredients, I use my super versatile Rubbermaid Rubber Spatula!

Spatula

From mixing up that giant bowl of chex mix, to scraping every bit of sugar into the mix for the perfect frosting – this spatula does it all! Why do I love this particular one so much? Well, it’s withstood the test of time first of all – I’ve had it for 10 years, and the main reason I love it is its thickness and its shape – the flat side is great for scraping, and the thickness means it won’t fold under pressure. Find a similar model to use and love in your kitchen here

I would love to hear what you think – do you have a favorite spatula or kitchen tool? What gadgets/products can’t you live without in the kitchen?

Products I Love: CRISCO

19 Jun

Crisco

Ok – so maybe it seems strange to devote a whole post to something like Crisco – but how can I not praise this versatile fat? It pretty much does it all – you can fry chicken with it, grease the heck out of a pan, and do some other pretty weird but helpful stuff with it too!

But I have to say, my personal favorite way to use Crisco is in FROSTING – this recipe is my Mother In Law’s, and when I first heard what was in it I was like WHAT EW! There’s CRISCO in this?! But it seriously is amazing – and delicious to boot!

 

Crisco Frosting

Ingredients
-1 Cup Crisco
-1 lb box Confectioners Sugar
-1 tablespoon clear butter flavoring
-1 tablespoon clear vanilla
-1-2 tablespoons milk

Directions
-Blend Crisco until smooth and creamy with a hand mixer
-Add sugar in batches – 1 cup at a time, and mix until smooth in between each addition
-Add vanilla and butter flavoring, and mix well
-Add a little milk as needed and mix well until it’s at the desired consistency

So the point of using the clear extracts is that it makes the frosting nice and bright white – it’s so pretty when piped onto cupcakes, and it tastes even better licked right out of the bowl!

Cupcake

My Brother and Sister in law enjoying some of my cupcakes made with their mom’s frosting (she is excited – despite her expression!)

 

….of course Crisco isn’t exactly the best choice if you’re trying to be healthy, in which case you will want to check out my healthy chocolate chip cookies, or my healthy substitutions. I usually try and be healthy when preparing meals and snacks, but sometimes there is just nothing like a pile of Crisco frosting on a cupcake. Yum! What about you – have you used a lot of Crisco in the kitchen? What’s your favorite use for it?

Baklava: Easier To Make Than I thought! Oh, And It’s Delicious Too

14 Jun

I wanted to make my husband something for his first “Father’s Day” (we have a dog and a baby due in October so I know some people wouldn’t really consider that a “Father’s Day”, but we do!), and I knew I wanted it to be something sweet. Now, he is NOT picky – he will eat almost anything I make, but I wanted to make him something he loves, something that I have never made before – and instantly it came to me – BAKLAVA! This sweet, flaky, nutty Greek dessert is something he always orders at restaurants, but I have never attempted at home

Why haven’t I attempted it at home, you might ask? Well – the honest truth is that phyllo dough scares the crap out of me. Seriously – its one of those ingredients I just stay away from at any and all costs – paper thin dough that tears easily and is a bear to work with? Pass. Serious, hard pass on that. But – once I did some research and realized that the dough would really be the ONLY hard part of making the baklava, I decided to give it a go (anything for my man!)

So Friday night, I attempted to make it. I neglected to follow the defrosting directions on the dough, and just went and opened it after letting it thaw for a mere 20 minutes on the counter – I thought “how important could that overnight fridge thaw and then 30 minute counter thaw be?” Um. As it turns out – it was VERY important. I ruined a whole package of dough (it just crumbled and flaked EVERYWHERE) – and I might have cried a little. But I persevered – left the dough in the fridge overnight and when I came back to it Saturday morning I had a MUCH easier time with it – so easy in fact that it has restored my faith in humanity. Or at least in flaky pastry anyway

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Here’s me barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen (literally – I’m 24 weeks along!) layering the dough and nuts

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Once the layers were all set, it was time to cut it into squares – and eat some of the leftover dough apparently? He said it tasted like “pie dough flavored paper”. Yuck. Luckily it will taste much different once its baked!

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Various prep stages – making the sauce while the baklava baked, and then the baked baklava gets a healthy coating of sweet honey sauce

Baklava

Ingredients

1 (16 ounce) package phyllo dough
1 pound chopped nuts
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup honey

Directions

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F(175 degrees C). Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9×13 inch pan.
-Chop nuts and toss with cinnamon. Set aside. Unroll phyllo dough. Cut whole stack in half to fit pan. Cover phyllo with a dampened cloth to keep from drying out as you work. Place two sheets of dough in pan, butter thoroughly. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered. Sprinkle 2 – 3 tablespoons of nut mixture on top. Top with two sheets of dough, butter, nuts, layering as you go. The top layer should be about 6 – 8 sheets deep.
-Using a sharp knife cut into diamond or square shapes all the way to the bottom of the pan. You may cut into 4 long rows the make diagonal cuts. Bake for about 50 minutes until baklava is golden and crisp.
-Make sauce while baklava is baking. Boil sugar and water until sugar is melted. Add vanilla and honey. Simmer for about 20 minutes.
-Remove baklava from oven and immediately spoon sauce over it. Let cool. Serve in cupcake papers. This freezes well. Leave it uncovered as it gets soggy if it is wrapped up.

So I realized as I was getting ready to make this that there are a few tiny flaws with the recipe – the first being it doesn’t tell you to melt the butter – but you will want it to melted so you can easily brush it onto the pastry with a pastry brush. Also, it doesn’t say how many layers to do of the 2 sheets of dough/butter/nuts – so I just did as many as I had chopped walnuts for (like 6 I want to say?) then topped it all with the suggested 8 layers of dough (and more butter of course!). Other than that, I followed the recipe exactly and didn’t have any problems

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The gorgeous finished product looked almost too pretty to eat (but my husband definitely didn’t agree-  he wanted to dig in!)

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He was more than ready to take a bite of this delicious looking and smelling dessert (so much so that he ate it for breakfast!)

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The results? He loved it! I tried some too (in the name of research of course!) and I loved the mix of the crisp pastry layers and the nuts and sweet honey – it turned out great, and I know for sure I will have trouble getting him to share more with me…but hey, its his father’s day gift – he can do what he wants with it!

Happy Father’s Day to all the current and soon-to-be dads out there!

Turning A Cookie Into A Pie? Don’t Mind If I Do…

27 Apr

Ok – truth time. I am basically in love with cookie cake – and we aren’t talking some fancy made from scratch cookie cake – I mean the industrial, grocery store kind – with the super sweet frosting roses and balloons – there is nothing better – and I could eat a whole one on my own, I swear. I just love cookies – what can I say? And when I saw this recipe – a giant cookie in PIE form – I just knew I had to whip one up to try

Loaded Soft and Chewy M&M Cookie Pie (Recipe courtesy of Averie Cooks

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
1 large egg
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
about 1/2 cup M&Ms, divided
about 6 mini peanut butter cups
about 6 Rolo (or other mini/bite-size candy bar)

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Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a 9-inch pie dish very well with cooking spray; set aside.
2. In a large, microwave-safe bowl melt the butter, about 1 minute on high power.
3. Wait momentarily before adding the egg so you don’t scramble it. Add the egg, sugars, vanilla, and whisk until smooth.
4. Add the flour, optional salt, and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
5. Stir in the chocolate chips.
6. Add about 1/4 cup M&Ms and stir to combine; reserve remainder.
7. Turn batter out into prepared pie dish, smoothing the top lightly with a spatula.
8. Evenly add the remaining M&Ms to the top of the batter, pushing them down slightly to anchor.
9. Evenly insert the peanut butter cups and Rolos into the batter, pushing them down so the top is almost flush with the surface of the dough.

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Ok, so only 6 rolos? But I bought a whole bag! Better add a few more…

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Caption: Cookie Pie – all ready to get baked!

10. Bake for about 24 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. If your pie has risen in the center, it will deflate as it cools. Allow pie to cool in dish for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Pie is meant to be on the soft and underbaked side in the center while edges are crisper, which is how I prefer my cookies. In general, if you prefer more well-done cookies, bake a few minutes longer. Pie will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months (color may leech from the M&Ms if you freeze it).

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This tasted great – had the basic sugar cookie type base, and all those yummy candies were just the perfect addition! It had that slightly underbaked quality which I LOVE – and while it’s no grocery store cookie cake, I must say it is awesome!

Is it a cookie? Is it a pie? I don’t really care honestly – all I care about is that it’s delicious and a winner all around!

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