Sometimes you just need to bake something. Maybe the weather is dreary, you’ve had a bad day, or, if you’re anything like me, you just need a project that has a beginning and an end and tangible (and edible!) results because no other task you’ve attempted that day has been successfully completed. You want something quick with very little prep and a short bake time so that you don’t have to wait long to enjoy the fruits of your labor. These oatmeal bars meet every one of those qualifications AND they’re delicious. They remind me a lot of the oat and honey Nature Valley bars. Drizzle on some melted chocolate chips to make them a bit fancier, but they are really good just on their own.
This recipe is from a cookbook I have baked from a lot, but it’s been a while, Rebecca Rather’s Pastry Queen. It is one of my favorite dessert cookbooks. Most of you probably scrounge around on the internet for recipes, like I do. But then you browse an old cookbook and find a real gem and you tell yourself you’ll do it more often. But you somehow find yourself going back to the computer or pinterest the next time. I urge you to go to your cookbooks! I have so many of them, some I have never even cooked from. And that’s a shame. I vow to do more cooking from physical cookbooks. You should join me. Back to the bars.
If you bake at all, then you have everything you need for these bars. They come together in a snap and bake up in a mere 20 minutes. After cooling they are very crunchy, so slicing them is really more like sawing or chopping. If you’re not so concerned with appearance you can just break them apart into pieces. Those pieces might be amazing along with a bowl of vanilla ice cream…and some hot fudge…
This is my husband’s favorite cookie. I made 200+ of them as favors for our wedding guests. After trying many recipes I found that the one on the bottom of the lid of the Quaker Oats container was my favorite. But when I saw this one in my Test Kitchen cookbook I thought I’d give it a try. You know, for research. They are quite good and may give the Quaker recipe a run for its money.
But really a fair comparison can’t be made. I’d probably have to have them side by side to decide which is better. These are puffier and more tender than the others, they are more full of oats and are flavored with nutmeg instead of cinnamon. I kind of missed the cinnamon, so I’d add some the next time. I might also add more raisins.
A dear friend gave me her copy of “Deceptively Delicious” , the cookbook by Jessica Seinfeld, when I complained about my kids not eating certain foods. Vegetables being our main problem. While perusing the cookbook I came across some really yummy looking recipes. The great thing is that almost every one sneaks veggies into foods that kids love (macaroni and cheese, spaghetti and meatballs, chicken nugget, etc .) I came across a chocolate chip cookie recipe that has an entire can of chickpeas in it. Well, we all know what I had to do that very day.
I changed a few things about the recipe, using butter instead of tub margarine, one egg and one egg white instead of two egg whites, and white whole wheat flour instead of all purpose. I also mashed up the chickpeas instead of adding them whole, just to avoid biting into a big ol’ chickpea, which didn’t sound super appealing.
The results were not bad! You can’t taste the chickpeas. Ben actually took one off of the cooling rack when he got home, ate it and declared it good before I told him they were semi-healthy. I didn’t even tell him about the chickpeas. He’s finding out now via the blog…
The cookies are cakey and bake up in mounds with very little spreading. I left some in mounds and flattened others. You can flatten them with your hand, the bottom of a glass or the back of a fork. Eaten the same day they’re baked they are really tasty. After storing them in a container for a day they stick together a bit and are very soft. BUT still quite delicious.
I used milk chocolate chips, but I think semi sweet or dark would be better. The raisins are optional, but I really liked them in these cookies. I used pecans, because that’s what I had. But, and I know this is out of character, I think walnuts would be better. I don’t think the white whole wheat flour made much of a difference in these since they’re already very hearty in texture, I used it because I had some and it made me feel like I was making these even healthier! Healthier cookies means I can eat more of them! And I feel better about giving them to the kids. Both of the big kids, almost 4 and almost 2, really liked these. So while I won’t be making these cookies every time I want chocolate chip cookies, I will be making these again.
After having a baby (2 weeks and 3 days ago) I am anxious to have a semi-predictable life again and get back to some of the things I was doing before he was born, like baking, cooking and blogging. And sleeping, that’d be nice. However, I have been consistently reminded that life with kids, and especially life with a newborn, is anything but predictable. I tried and failed to make some coffee cake muffins earlier this week. I blame sleep depravity, the speed at which I tried to put everything together, not totally thinking through my plan, and holding a screaming baby while filling muffin cups with batter and streusel! Thankfully they only looked ugly but tasted delicious!
I was frustrated with myself. But I realize my expectations for getting back to blogging were set a little high. It’s just not going to happen like it used to, at least not for now. I am no longer guaranteed a time in the afternoon where all the sweet children are tucked away in their beds and I can cook, bake, take pictures and type away. So I’m going to be a little more realistic with blogging and be happy with whatever I can manage for the next couple of months! And remember to cherish this time with the babies, like so many people who have kids that are now grown, tell me to. After all, the days are long but the years are short.
This morning I found myself up at 7am with my two older kids while the little man slept in until almost 9:30! I took advantage of the time and baked up some super simple scones. This recipe sits right next to the coffee cake recipe I attempted yesterday and is in the ATK Family Cookbook. I figured it was a sign.
It took me less than 20 minutes to mix these up and get them in the oven. They’re done baking in 15 minutes and ready to eat in 10. The ingredient list couldn’t be simpler which yields a simple and satisfying scone with nothing extra to take away from the hearty oats and rich butter.
Eat these plain, warm or at room temperature. Spread with a little extra butter and jam. Have one for breakfast, one for mid-morning snack and one in the afternoon with some tea or coffee for a little pick-me-up. The scones aren’t too sweet, which is nice. They’re almost like a biscuit, just with more texture and a bit more dense.
I am so glad I stumbled across this recipe, and thankful for the cooperative children who made this blog post possible!
Toasted Oat Scones
From ATK Family Cookbook
1 1/2 cups oats, old fashioned or quick cooking
1/2 cup half and half (plus 1 tablespoon for brushing on the scones)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar (plus extra for sprinkling on the scones)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into chunks
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Spread oats out onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment. Toast the oats for about 8 minutes, just as they begin to brown. Let cool.
Increase oven to 450°F.
In a small bowl, whisk half and half, the egg and vanilla together and set aside.
In the bowl of a food processor combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder and pulse a few times.
Add in the butter and pulse until butter is in pieces no larger than the size of a pea.
Pour flour mixture into a large bowl and fold in the milk mixture until it just comes together. Flour your hands and bring the dough together in the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured surface and pat into a round about 1 inch thick. Transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet and cut into 8 wedges.
Brush the tops with half and half, then sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
Ok, so I know it’s almost spring and dishes like apple crisp aren’t exactly spring-type desserts. It’s more appropriate for fall or winter. But I made an exception for this most spectacular apple crisp. And let’s be honest, I don’t discriminate when it comes to sweets. Any time, any type, any where. I’m game.
This apple crisp incorporates the wonderfulness of browned butter and is really rich and deep in flavor. The oat crisp is crunchy and delicious and the abundance of apples make this crisp more like a crust-less apple pie than your typical crisp.
The original recipe calls for an 8×8 pan. I used a 9×9. An 11×7 would be good. And you could probably use a 9×13, but the apples and the crisp topping layers will be thinner as you use a bigger pan. You could also bake this in individual ramekins for a little more formal dessert.
I sliced the apples very thinly (32 slices per apple to be exact) because that’s how I like them. This little gadget cores and slices apples into 8 equally sized pieces with one cut. It’s definitely a time-saver, and definitely a uni-tasker, but one of my favorite kitchen tools. Go get yourself one! It made all the apple slicing easy. But you do still have to peel them. I kind of hate peeling apples, probably because I’m not very good at it and come close to losing a fingertip every time I do it.
I assembled this one afternoon and didn’t end up baking it until the next night. So you can make this a day in advance and bake it straight from the fridge, which makes this a good dessert to serve for a dinner party because you can make it ahead and then pop it in the oven when you sit down for dinner and it’ll be ready once everyone is done eating. Serve this with warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, Blue Bell if you can get it where you live. Nothing beats Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla when you’re topping a warm fruit dessert. But any vanilla ice cream will do! Enjoy!
6 medium-sized Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
For the Topping
Combine flour, oats, brown sugar and salt in a medium sized bowl.
Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or your hands until butter is incorporated but with many pea sized pieces. Mix in the pecans. Set in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Filling
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Watch the butter closely once it has melted. It will start to foam and bubble, once it begins to brown and smell nutty, remove from the heat and let cool slightly.
In a large bowl combine apple slices, brown sugar and cinnamon and toss together. Pour the butter over and toss to coat apples.
Pour apples in baking pan, then spread topping evenly over the apples, pressing down slightly. Place on a baking sheet if you’re using a small pan to catch any drips.
Bake for 45-60 minutes, until topping is crunchy and browned and the edges are bubbling. Let cool slightly before serving.
During my first sit down with this cookbook from Baked I saw this recipe and knew I had to try it. Two (plus) years later and I’ve finally gotten around to it! I am glad I did. While these little gems were baking my house smelled incredible and I was instantly in a better mood. Baking does that to me a lot of the time, but there was something about the sweet carrot, toasting oats and coconut that was more magical than usual. We all have a special thing that makes a bad day better, and baking (and the promise of something delicious) is mine.
I put off making these most recently because of the ingredient “carrot puree” and the extra step of making it. Turns out it’s one of the easier parts of the recipe and should not deter you. It will make a mess of your microwave, so next time I might try it on the stove top. Also, don’t worry about it being super duper smooth. Mine was a little chunky and it worked out fine. I used baby carrots, about a handful, and had no issues. I pureed them in my mini food processor, and think a stick blender might be a better choice. Looking into getting one of those…
As with all scones, you don’t want to overwork the dough. And if you don’t overwork the dough, the dough will be delicate, so be careful when transferring it to the baking pan. Use a wide rigid spatula to move them so they don’t fall apart.
Scones are best the day they’re made. Day 2 or 3 is still ok, especially after a nice warm up in the microwave or quick toast in the oven and with a nice smear of softened butter. Day 4, you’re about to cross the line into hard as a rock and inedible. I kept mine in a sealed container in the fridge after the first day and we ate them in a few days with the exception of one scone who was sadly tossed out. You could easily freeze these and warm them up one at a time or warm the entire batch for company. If you do freeze them, glaze them just before serving. Enjoy!
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into chunks (or a handful, 6-8, baby carrots)
1/4 cup orange juice
2 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup carrot puree
1 egg white, beaten (for egg wash)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 cup powdered sugar
Place the carrot and the orange juice in a medium microwave safe bowl, cover and microwave for 5 minutes on high. Check that carrot is fork tender. If it’s not, microwave for 30 second intervals until it is.
Blend the carrot and orange juice until smooth and set aside.
Preheat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
Whisk together flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, salt and coconut in a large bowl.
Add the butter and use your fingertips to work it into the flour until the butter is pea sized and the mixture is coarse, not worked too much.
In another bowl, whisk the egg, buttermilk, vanilla and carrot puree. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until the dough just comes together. Turn it once in the bowl and knead gently once or twice to bring it together. Be careful not to overwork the dough!
Lightly sprinkle a clean surface with flour and turn the dough out of the bowl. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour if it looks sticky. Flatten the dough into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high.
Cut the disk like a pizza into 8 slices and transfer the scones to the parchment lined baking sheet.
Whisk egg white with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, rotate baking sheet after 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the tops are slightly browned.
Cool scones completely on a wire rack.
Sift powdered sugar (to get rid of any lumps) into a bowl, then whisk in the juices until smooth.
Drizzle the glaze over the cooled scones and allow it to set before serving.
I don’t really cook anything for Carson that has no added sugars or is made with only whole grains. I don’t get locally grown organic fruits and vegetables at the farmers market. I don’t say “no” to fast food. I’m not anti health food and I don’t roll my eyes at people who do those things. I make sure Carson gets fruits and veggies every day. I don’t let the child skip dinner and then get cookies before bed. I’m not unconcerned with healthy eating, I’m just not overly concerned with it. But, if I see something that looks easy and healthy for my kids I will try it. And that is what led me to try these cookies.
When I saw these cookies on Pinterest I thought, “What a simple recipe! This person says they’re awesome! So they must be!” A couple of mashed bananas, oats and nuts. No added sugar. No butter or shortening. I gave them a shot. These are advertised as “cookies”. Sorry. They’re not cookies. Not cookies as I know them. I like sugar and butter, and I think they have their place. And that place is in cookies. So when I ate one of these after they came out of the oven I was really disappointed. Not because they were bad, they just weren’t cookies. I don’t know why I thought they’d taste like anything other than banana, oats and nuts. Maybe because I fell victim to another Pinterest post and its false promises. If there is one thing Pinterest has taught me it is to be skeptical. And that the options for IKEA furniture are endless. I gave one of the cookies to Carson. He took one bite, took the bite out of his mouth and left it all on the table. Fail.
I packed them in a tupperware after they had cooled and stashed them in the freezer because I cannot throw food away. It almost physically hurts me to do it. The next morning I saw them in the freezer and thought I’d try one again. I took one out and microwaved it for 15 seconds. It was surprisingly tasty, and a really perfect breakfast cookie. Not too sweet. Full of hearty oats. Nuts for protein. Cranberries for tartness. A touch of cinnamon. I ate these for breakfast the rest of the week.
So these didn’t turn out to be a great toddler cookies (not for my toddler anyway) but I enjoyed them after accepting that they were not sweet dessert cookies. These are breakfast cookies, and a couple of them with a cup of coffee and some fruit made for a lovely start to the day.
Granola is one of those foods I often see on lists with titles like, “Foods you Thought Were Good for You!” And I guess it’s true that many store bought granolas are full of sugar and other not-too-healthy ingredients. But if you make your own, then you have control over what goes into it. I’m not saying this is perfect health food or that it is “good for you”. But I do know that it is delicious.
This is my favorite granola. I brought a bag of it to Christmas with my family this year and everyone loved it. I’m pretty sure it was gone in just a couple of days. You can change the nuts and fruits in this to personalize it to your taste. If you like chocolate in yours, I’d suggest dark or semi sweet chips. My favorite combination is pecans, almonds, pumpkin seeds, cranberries, cherries and blueberries.
I like to eat this granola on top of some plain yogurt. Or I’ll mix a couple spoonfuls of it in with my Kashi cereal to make things a little more interesting.
This recipe came from a Bon Appetit magazine, probably 5 or 6 years ago. Since I started making it I’ve changed some things, but one thing I haven’t changed is the special instruction to store it in the freezer. By doing this the moisture from the fruit doesn’t soften the granola. I’ve never not done this. When I’m bringing the granola somewhere I keep the granola and the fruit separate until I find a freezer. If you’re brave enough to try storing it at room temp, let me know how it goes. Enjoy!
My Favorite Granola
Adapted from Bon Appetit
3 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds
1 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
Preheat oven to 325°F.
Stir together oats, coconut, oil, sugar, honey, cinnamon, salt and nuts in a large bowl.
Spread mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, between 25 and 30 minutes. Watch carefully after 20 minutes. You do not want it to get too dark.
Remove the granola from the oven and set the pan on a rack to cool, the granola will be soft. It will harden up as it cools.
After it is cool, stir in the fruit. Store in a sealed container in the freezer.
With two kids to care for and a house to maintain, a lot of things in my life have become overlooked. Showering, changing out of my pajamas before noon, exercising, reading, spending time with adults, feeding the dog and blogging. I’ve been getting better with the kid blog after starting a photo a day project for 2013. But Hottie Biscotti has been left in the dust. Part of that is due to my time being dominated by being a mom. How some women manage to run a business, look incredible, have immaculate homes, run marathons, home school their kids, make gourmet meals for their families and care for their children is beyond me. But I’ve also been a little discouraged lately. With so many beautiful food blogs out there I find myself feeling like there’s really no point in blogging everyday food from my suburban kitchen and posting iPhone photos. I have a bad habit of comparing myself to others and really bumming myself out. And that’s no way to live.
I am always amazed and flattered when someone I don’t know (or someone I DO know!) leaves a comment on the blog, but it’s not about that. I do get excited when I have lots of hits or if someone has pinned something I made. But it’s not about that either. My recipes are rarely, if ever, original. My pictures are mostly taken on automatic mode of my fancy camera or the iPhone. I don’t have funny stories to tell or inspiring things to say. So, why should I continue to blog? When a friend or family member wants the recipe for something I can always point them in this direction. It’s the best way for me to keep track of what I’ve made, if we liked it, if there were any changes I made or would make in the future. It is my personal online cookbook. And it’s a journal of my life. I don’t keep a physical diary or journal, but when I include a little story with a recipe, like how I made something for some event when so and so was visiting I have memories attached to each post. I can’t be concerned with how my writing, photos or food compare with other things out there. If I base what I do on whether or not it’s popular or if people are impressed with it, I am putting myself up for serious disappointment. So even though I’m never going to write a Hottie Biscotti cookbook or host a cooking weekend for 5 lucky winners, I am going to keep blogging.
Now. On to the good stuff!
Every night I need something sweet. Need. A little bowl of ice cream or a handful of chocolate chips is enough, but I would take a slice of cake or pie every night if I could. Oh, and I’d eat that cake or pie with ice cream. And I might have seconds. It’s a weakness. A terribly delicious weakness. I decided that I should take some time to do some therapeutic baking last week. It had been a while. It ended up being a little stressful. At one point I was holding Betsy so that she wouldn’t cry while trying to stir my pot of browning butter so that it wouldn’t burn. Holding Betsy on my left hip, as far away as possible from the stove, reaching out with my right arm to stir the butter. After I finished the dough it sat on the counter for a good hour before I had a free moment to scoop it out onto a baking sheet. Start to finish, I was working on these for a good 5 hours. It won’t take you that long, unless you too have young children!
I found these to be really buttery and sweet. Almost too buttery, almost too sweet. But just almost. These are good, rich and decadent for sure. I would think you could scale back on the butter, 3 sticks seems like a lot to me, but browning it like this does make the butter have less mass/volume/some science term I should remember, so maybe you have to start with more in order to have enough in the final product? I’m no food scientist. I might mess around with that at some point. In the original recipe (link below) he adds dried cherries and chocolate chips. I threw a handful of cherries in when I had just a little dough left over, enough for about 5 cookies. They were quite tasty, but the cherries are sweet. Sweet cookie + sweet cherries = very sweet cookie. Tart cranberries and bittersweet dark chocolate would be good, if you choose to mix in anything. I liked them plain and simple.
Brown butter: In a medium sized saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Once butter melts completely, keep an eye on it. Do not leave the butter. If it burns you’ll have to start over. Stir gently and periodically as it goes through several stages, foaming up, then subsiding, then start to bubble. You should begin to see little brown bits start to form. Those are the tasty bits! Stir to keep those bits from burning. Things may start to happen quickly now and can go from perfectly brown to burnt in less than a minute. So just keep stirring and swirling the pan until the butter is a rich amber color. At this point, pour it into a heatproof bowl and let it cool to room temperature. Then put it in the fridge until it is just firm.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Transfer cooled butter to a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on high speed until creamy.
Beat in the sugars and mix until fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time and mix well, then mix in vanilla.
Add in dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Scoop by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 8-10 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks.
I was tempted to not even post this recipe since these bars did not photograph very well. But Ben brought some of the more attractive specimens up to work, and apparently they were devoured within an hour. Some people at work asked for the recipe, and Ben assured them I would be posting on the blog. So, despite the not so great photo, here they are. These are tasty. Pretty messy, and a little difficult to eat and cut, but oh so tasty.
This recipe is from the McCormick website, and I did use mostly McCormick spices. Here is the link. My vanilla was from Belize (thanks, Kate!) and my cinnamon was….not really sure where this container of ground cinnamon came from now that I think about it. Anyway, all the spices make this a dessert that makes your entire house smell delicious. I might have said this before, but I love fall baking. Instead of using caramels that require a lot of tedious unwrapping I used those caramel pieces that come with the wooden sticks for making caramel apples. Something I just do not get. Caramel apples. Who really eats those things? It seems like too much work.
My bars did not cut out very neatly. I might have needed to bake them a little longer. I also think it would help to press the crumb topping into the caramel layer so that the crumbs don’t fall off the bars when they’re cut. Regardless of looks though, these are quite good. Enjoy! (more…)