No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites

The healthy recipes just keep getting better and better!  This week I’ve got a fabulous, super-quick recipe for no-bake energy bites…that taste like a cross between peanut butter cookie dough and no-bake cookies.  Can you say YUM??  They are full of good stuff that won’t send you on a sugar-high but instead provide a source of natural, tasty energy.  All you need is one bowl and handful of ingredients–get busy!

Recipe adapted from fooddoodles.com

No-Bake Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites
 
Ingredients
  • ½ c. All-Natural, Smooth Peanut Butter (or any nut butter you prefer)
  • ⅓ c. Honey
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • ¾ t. Fine Sea Salt
  • 1 c. Rolled Oats
  • ½ c. Wheat Germ
  • ½ c. White Whole Wheat Flour
  • Oats, Peanut Halves, etc for topping
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl stir together peanut butter, honey, vanilla and salt until smooth. Add oats, wheat germ and white whole wheat flour and stir until thoroughly mixed together. Form into 1" balls and roll in oats or top with peanut half. Store in the refrigerator in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 2 dozen.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

Thought I’d share some St. Patrick’s Day cupcakes with you all!  I do believe the the rainbow with the pot o’ gold Rolos is my favorite–so cute. Which one do you love??

Shamrocks and Leprechaun Hats by Hoosier Homemade

Green Velvet by Love from the Oven

Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream by Susi’s Kochen and Backen Adventures

Pot of Gold Cupcakes by Confessions of a Cookbook Queen

Mint Chocolate Cupcakes by Fab Foods

Airhead Rainbows and Rolo Pot of Gold Cupcakes by The Fickle Pickle

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Bakery Review – TwentyOne Cakes in Nixa, MO

Cupcake places are popping up everywhere!  It’s madness I tell you!  Delicious, sweet (slightly sickening) madness!  Believe it or not, after Jeremy and I stopped at Stacey’s Sweets in Ozark, we hightailed it to Nixa to try ANOTHER new cupcake joint.  I have to be honest…this place was good but after trying several different kinds of cupcakes and a brownie at Stacey’s Sweets, I probably was a little sugared out at this point.  TwentyOne Cakes is in a house turned bakery right on Highway 14.  It’s a very straightforward, unassuming place.  I was surprised to walk in and see the cupcakes were actually mini cupcakes which I was VERY thankful for after gorging ourselves on EIGHT regular size ones not even an hour earlier.  There were also a couple of different kinds of cake pops, a HUGE peanut butter chocolate chip cookie and I believe there was a cake also that you could get by the slice.

My only criticism of this bakery was the lack of just a basic cupcake.  Most of the flavors were somewhat unique and different if not what some might consider “odd” and I really like to try at least a couple basic cupcakes when I go somewhere new.  Then again I might have just come on the wrong day.  I did however think her cakes were nice and moist (which is impressive for minis!) and the buttercreams were quite delicious.  And I wasn’t a fan of the cookie; it wasn’t quite as soft and chewy as I prefer.  But hey, that’s just me.  Overall, a delicious experience!  Here’s what we ended up choosing:

Maple Bacon

German Chocolate

Strawberry

Red Hot

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie

If you are in Nixa, check this place out for a sweet fix!  And if you’ve been there, let me know what you think!

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Thin Mint Brownies with Bailey’s Buttercream

I am proud to say that my husband is now a chocolate and mint convert–all because of these brownies.  He said he wasn’t going to try them but then he saw them…and then he tasted them…and then he couldn’t keep his hands out of them.  Hah!  And I have to admit, they are GOOD.  I mean, I love anything mint and chocolate but these are one of the best renditions of that combo I’ve ever had…if I do say so myself.  The mint flavor from the Thin Mint cookies and Andes mints is not overwhelming and somewhat subtle and then the Bailey’s buttercream…oh my word, don’t even get me started.  It took so much restraint to keep from eating this frosting by the spoonful.

Now when I say Bailey’s, let me clarify.  When I went to purchase my bottle of Bailey’s I could not believe that is was nearly $20!!!  And all I needed was two-thirds of a cup!!  Ummmmmm, no, not happening.  So I thought hey, what about Irish cream flavored coffee creamer?  Yes!  Perfect.  Well, much to my surprise and delight I discovered that Bailey’s had their own brand of coffee creamer–for two bucks!   Score!  I knew I had some whiskey at home that I could throw in and I’d be good to go.

Perfect for St. Patty’s day!  You’ll love them–promise.

Thin Mint Brownies with Bailey's Buttercream
 
Ingredients
Thin Mint Brownies
  • 2 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 c. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ⅔ c. Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • ½ c. (1 stick) Unsalted Butter
  • 1 T. Instant Coffee Granules
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • ⅔ c. Bailey's Irish Cream Creamer
  • 1 T. Whiskey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 Box Thin Mint Cookies (3 c. crushed cookies)
  • 1, 8.5 oz. Bag Andes Mints
Bailey's Buttercream
  • 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 5 T. Bailey's Irish Cream Creamer
  • 2 t. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 T. Whiskey
Instructions
For the Brownies
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt until combined. Set aside.
  3. Place chocolate, butter and instant coffee granules into a medium size bowl and melt in mircowave at 20 second intervals, stirring between each, until completely smooth. Set aside to cool a bit.
  4. Once the chocolate mixture is warm (NOT hot) add eggs, one at a time, whisking to incorporate. Add sugar, vanilla, Bailey's creamer and whiskey and whisk until combined.
  5. Add the chocolate mixture to the flour mixture, folding with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the crushed Thin Mint cookies.
  6. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. While the brownies are baking, chop up ⅔ (about 30 squares) of the Andes mint squares. As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, sprinkle with the chopped Andes. Put back in oven for about 25-30 seconds, remove and spread melted Andes over the brownies. Let the brownies cool completely and frost.
For the Bailey's Buttercream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Beat in two cups of the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, on low, beating thoroughly after each addition. Add 3 tablespoons of the Bailey's Irish Cream creamer and beat thoroughly. Beat in the remaining powdered sugar, one cup at a time, on low until thoroughly combined. Add vanilla, whiskey and remaining 2 tablespoons Bailey's creamer until completely incorporated. Chop remaining Andes mints, frost brownies and sprinkle with chopped mints.
Notes
Serves 18.

 

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No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Crisp Treats

Ladies and gentleman, I may have discovered my most absolutely, favorite, healthy dessert recipe to date!  To say these “rice krispie” bars are good is an understatement…they are amazing.  Quite truthfully, if given the choice between these bars and oh say a cupcake, I’d choose the bars!  Yes, that’s how good they are!

I found this recipe over at ohsheglows.com and just the words “no-bake” and “almond butter” drew me in immediately.  I think one thing that made a difference for my bars was the particular kind of brown rice cereal that I bought at our local health food store.  It’s made by Enjoy Life Foods and it was so crunchy and delicious in these.  I was a little skeptical about the bars holding together without any marshmallow like a typical rice krispie treat but the almond butter and honey works perfectly as a binder.  I did leave them in the fridge, just to be on the safe side and I actually liked them cold the best.

Do yourself a favor and try these immediately!

No-Bake Almond Butter Rice Krisp Treats
 
Ingredients
  • ½ c. Almond Butter (or any all-natural nut butter you prefer)
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 T. Unsalted Butter
  • ½ t. Fine Sea Salt
  • 3.5 c. Brown Rice Crisp Cereal
  • ⅛-1/4 c. Dark or Bittersweet Chocolate Chips, melted (for drizzle)
Instructions
  1. Prepare an 8x8 baking dish by spraying it with cooking spray.
  2. In a large pot over low-medium heat, add the honey, butter, almond butter and salt. Stir well until combined and heated through. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir in the brown rice crisp cereal until thoroughly coated.
  3. Scoop into pan and spread evenly. Place in freezer to set for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from freezer and drizzle with the melted chocolate. Place in freezer to harden the chocolate, about 5 minutes. Slice into squares and serve or store in fridge until ready to serve.

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St. Patrick’s Day Desserts

I have very fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day as a child.  Especially if the day happened to fall on a schoolday.  We didn’t get just any old lunch for that day…no, we got a lunch filled with GREEN.  Yes, everything was covered in mold!!!!  Ok, not really, that’s actually not true.  My mom never fed us mold.  Not knowingly at least.  Anyway…I distinctly remember cottage cheese tinted with green food dye and shamrock sugar cookies with green frosting.  So healthy, right?  Oh who cares, we loved it and looked forward to it every year!

So, in honor of that fun tradition we had as kids, I found some green desserts for St. Patrick’s Day!  Typically, when you think green and dessert, the first thing that comes to mind is mint.  And I LOVE mint and chocolate combinations.  But I’m sure not everyone is as fond of the flavor as I am so I found a couple more green ideas–pistachio and green tea!  Green tea (or matcha) sounds a little strange but it is actually DELICIOUS in desserts.  And these flavors lend themselves to the possibility of a bit more, shall we say, natural, green color.

Check ’em out!

Mint

Mint Brownies

Mint Oreo Truffles

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Grasshopper Cheesecake

Pistachio

Pistachio Bundt Cake

Cranberry Pistachio Cookies

Frozen Pistachio Pie

Pistachio Layer Cake

Green Tea

Green Tea Pound Cake

Green Tea Truffles

Green Tea White Chocolate Cookies

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McDonald’s Mash-Ups

McDonald's Hotcakes with Berries from their Fruit n' Yogurt Parfait, topped with their Granola and Syrup.

Ok who hasn’t at least once dipped their fries from their favorite fast food joint into some soft-serve ice cream?? That’s right, no one!  My favorite part about going to Wendy’s when I was a kid was dipping those hot, salty, crisp french fries into a cold, chocolate Frosty…no wonder I was a fat kid!  I also loved dipping my chicken nuggets from McDonald’s into honey–it’s good people, trust me!  Needless to say I got a total kick out of this food writer’s experimentation with some shall we say, unique dessert creations at McDonald’s.  Click here to see a slideshow with all six sweet monstrosities from the home of the golden arches.

What is YOUR favorite dessert mash-up from a fast food joint??

 

 

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Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake

I struggle with some recipes…in particular, bread puddings and crockpot cakes.  Why??  Because they are so darn hard to photograph!  It’s a crying shame that a couple of the most delicious types of desserts (especially bread pudding) just look plain ugly in photos.  Delicious?  Yes.  Photogenic??  No.  So hopefully I can convince you to make this crockpot cake based on my simple review of this recipe!

To say this cake is AWESOME is an understatement…it’s actually FREAKIN AWESOME.  I was making a dessert for a family get-together and was a little stumped because I knew everyone wanted something majorly chocolate but I didn’t want to just do a chocolate layer cake or cupcakes.  And then out of nowhere I remembered this Rocky Road Crockpot cake that one of my former co-worker’s had brought to work for a party and how absolutely, incredibly amazing it was.  So I thought why not swap out the nuts for cookies and voila!  Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake!  If you like chocolate, cake, gooey marshmallows, chocolate chip cookies and Oreos, you may like and possibly even love this dessert.  Oh and do I even have to mention the vanilla ice cream??  That’s kind of a no-brainer.

Enjoy!

Adapted from Southern Living Rocky Road Chocolate Cake

Cookie Monster Crockpot Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 1 (18.25 oz) Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 (3.4 oz) Package Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix
  • 3 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 c. Sour Cream
  • ⅓ c. Butter, melted
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 3¼ c. Milk, divided
  • 1 (3.4 oz) Package Chocolate Cook-and-Serve Pudding Mix
  • 2 c. Oreo Cookie Pieces
  • 2 c. Chocolate Chip Cookie Pieces (I used Keebler Elf Soft and Chewy)
  • 1 c. Bittersweet or Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 2 c. Miniature Marshmallows
  • Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)
Instructions
  1. Lightly grease a 4-qt slow cooker or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cake mix, next 5 ingredients and 1¼ c. milk at medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Pour batter into slow cooker.
  3. Cook remaining 2 cups milk in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, 5-8 minutes or until bubbles appear (do not boil); remove from heat.
  4. Sprinkle cook-and-serve pudding mix over batter. Slowly pour hot milk over pudding. Place a towel over the slow cooker and place lid on top (this prevents condensation from dripping into the cake). Cook on LOW for 3½ hours. Meanwhile, mix chocolate chip cookies, Oreos, mini marshmallows and chocolate chips together in a large bowl.
  5. Turn off slow cooker or onto low if yours has that setting. Sprinkle with the cookie, marshmallow and chocolate chip mixture and let stand 15 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly melted. Spoon into dessert dishes and serve with ice cream, if desired.
Notes
Serves 8-10.

 

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Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins

I have to say that this whole new world of baking without flour is really quite exciting to me.  I never knew that there were so many options!  I wanted to do another gluten-free recipe and also wanted some kind of muffin and was so excited when I stumbled upon this recipe from So Good and Tasty for Cherry Almond Meal Muffins.  I only modified it a bit by subbing blueberries for the cherries and throwing in some applesauce and additional spices and extracts.  And wow, this muffin is delicious!  I absolutely love the taste of texture from the almond meal and can honestly say I think I like it better than flour!  Jeremy also loved them which was the real test to me..he could hardly wait for them to cool off before trying one!  We ate them warmed up for just a few seconds with a teensy bit of unsalted butter and a drizzle of honey (not needed but oh so good)…mmmmmm!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Blueberry Almond Meal Muffins
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Almond Meal
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • ¼ t. Cinnamon
  • 2 Eggs
  • ¼ c. Honey
  • ¼ c. Olive or Safflower Oil
  • 1 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¼ c. Unsweetened Applesauce (I used all-natural, chunky applesauce)
  • 1 c. Fresh Blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular size muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  3. In a separate, large bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add in the honey, oil, vanilla and applesauce and stir to combine.
  4. Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Carefully fold in the blueberries.
  5. Pour batter into the muffin tin, filling to the top if you want a nice muffin dome. Bake for 25 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in muffin tins for about 5 minutes then remove and place on wire rack until completely cool.
Notes
Makes 8 muffins.

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Bakery Review – My Daddy’s Cheesecake in Cape Girardeau

As I mentioned last week in my B&B Weekend post, we stopped in at a bakery called My Daddy’s Cheesecake while were out and about exploring Cape Girardeau and hitting up antique shops.  I did NOT expect the town to have a bakery, let alone one that offered all that this one did!  The building was very straightforward, nothing kitschy or frilly about it and kind of reminded me a of a Panera Bread or McCallister’s restaurant.  They did, in fact, have quite a menu of food other than dessert but that was NOT what I was there for–I had come to get a sugar high!

First of all, let’s just start with the selection.  They had not one, not two, not three, but FOUR bakery cases jam-packed with so many different, mouth-watering treats that I was immediately overwhelmed and thought “Holy crap, how am I going to decide!”.  We’re talking one whole case with only cheesecake (of course!), another with cupcakes, gooey butter cake slices, chocolate covered strawberries, cannoli, etc, another with muffins, cinnamon rolls, Italian pastries and yet another case pretty much devoted entirely to cookies…you name it, I’m pretty sure they had it!

So after a little (ok, a LOT of) deliberation, we made our choices!  So, here they are, in no particular order.  Ok, that’s a lie.  They are definitely in order, from least favorite to most favorite.  These are my selections, although Jeremy and I agreed on our top three.  Yay!   Ok, here we go!  (First, a picture of the spread!  I’m sure people thought we were absolute pigs!!)

First up in sixth place the Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookie.  I chose this cookie because not only were there only two left (from a massive tray of them) the girl that was helping raved on and on about them.  I was excited.  And then I was sad.  These cookies were, in a word, horrible.  It was dry, crunchy and tasteless and I wanted so badly to spit it out but didn’t have a napkin.  I knew I should have gone with my gut and got the white chocolate macadamia nut cookie and I was *this close* to going back up to the counter and asking for a trade-in or something.  But I didn’t.  So here is the red velvet cookie, dead last.  Sigh.

Fifth, the baklava.  I love baklava.  LOVE.  But this just didn’t hit the spot for me.  It was ok, but a little dry and lacking some serious honey/gooey factor that is a necessary component of great baklava.  Not bad, just not outstanding.

Fourth, the Chocolate Raspberry Swirled Cheesecake.  It was decent but to be honest both the cheesecakes to me were more thick (solid?) and like a very firm ganache consistency than they were creamy.  The texture was just a bit off for me.

Third, the Amaretto Cheesecake.  Again, texture weird, but the Amaretto flavor redeemed it slightly for me–that was YUMMY.

Second, the Chocolate Ganache Cupcake.  I have to say this was a very good cupcake.  The cake was tender and fluffy, the chocolate frosting was delicious and the chocolate shavings on top were so yummy.  Only complaint was the massive tunnel of chocolate ganache inside the cupcake that had completely hardened.  A little awkward trying to cut into the cupcake but we managed!

And, drum roll please, first place goes to…the Cannoli!  Woo hoo!  This thing was deeeeeelicious.  I couldn’t stop eating it.  And I didn’t.  And I did not care.

So the desserts were a little less than stellar and seemed to be more style than substance but I’d really like to go back and try some other things, since they have such a variety!   And I heard people raving about the cinnamon rolls which were so huge and nearly sold out…I KNEW I should have tried one!  Oh well, next time.

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Dessert Prints

I’ve been meaning to incorporate some fun dessert prints into my kitchen decor for quite awhile now.  So, I finally got online the other night to do some research.  Here are some of my favorites from Etsy.

(Click on each photo to see the seller’s info.)

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Amaretti Cookies

I bet you thought I had forgot about my New Year’s resolution to make one International dessert a month but guess what??  I did not forget!  As a matter of fact I made Brazo de Mercedes in January but things, shall we say, didn’t work out quite as I had planned.  So we’ll come back to that another day.  I’m still a little emotional about it.

I decided on Italian for February because, quite frankly, I REALLY wanted to make Amaretti cookies.  The first time I had ever had them was when Jeremy and I visited Missouri Baking Company in St. Louis and I fell in love with the morsels of chewy almond goodness.  I seriously think I have some kind of problem when it comes to almond-flavored things…meaning I have NO CONTROL over my hand and mouth.  As I made the almond paste for this, my food processor had hardly had the chance to cool off before I starting shoving bites of the sweet almond mixture in my mouth.  It was like an almond paste induced feeding frenzy.  And then I remembered, “Wait!  This has to go in a recipe!!”.  Oh…yeah…the cookies.  Almost forgot about them.  Ahem.

I managed to gather myself and actually make the cookies.   Go me.  I wasn’t sure what recipe to use but I settled on this one from Smitten Kitchen.  Her recipes always look so amazing and this is the first one I’ve actually made (I think).  They turned out amazing…little crisp around the edges, majorly chewy and completely delicious.  I did discover that the longer they sat, the softer they became which is usually totally opposite of how it is with baked goods of any kind.  I made them on a Friday evening and by Monday they were still delicious.  After Monday….well, I don’t know, because we ate them all!!

If you’re an almond lover such as myself, you MUST try these cookies immediately.

Amaretti Cookies
 
Ingredients
Chewy Amaretti Cookies
  • 1, 7 oz. (3/4 c.) Tube Pure Almond Paste (Found in the baking aisle or you can make your own..which is what I did. See recipe below.)
  • 1 c. Granulated Sugar
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 2 Large Egg Whites, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes
Almond Paste
  • ¼ c. Granulated Sugar
  • 6 T. Powdered Sugar
  • ¾ c. Almonds (original recipe calls for blanched but I just use raw, whole almonds)
  • 2 T. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1¼ t. Pure Almond Extract
Instructions
For the Almond Paste
  1. Process almonds, powder sugar and granulated sugar in a food processor until the nuts are very finely ground. Add corn syrup and almond extract and process until the mixture is thoroughly blended and moist enough to hold together when pressed in your hand. Form into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and an air-tight container until ready to use.
For the Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Pulse the almond paste, sugar and salt in a food processor until broken up, then add egg white and puree until smooth. Using a 2 t. measuring spoon, drop batter onto pans, about 2 inches apart. They will spread quite a bit so make sure there is plenty of room between the cookies. I got 8 on the pan.
  3. Bake in the very center of the oven for 8 minutes, rotate pan and then bake for another 7 minutes. Let cool completely before removing from parchment paper. Store in an air-tight container.
Notes
Makes 25 cookies. TIP: To easily remove cookies from the parchment paper, gently push up on the cookie with your finger from underneath the parchment paper. It should peel away easily.

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Soft Baked Cinnamon Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bars

Have you ever wanted a nice warm bowl of oatmeal in the morning but just didn’t have the time to actually make AND eat it??  Yeah, been there.  Our mornings are fairly rushed around here and we hardly ever have a sit down breakfast, except for the occasional big splurge breakfast on a lazy Saturday morning.  And those are few and far between.  What a shame.

So, if you’re like us and just want something to grab on your way to work, these baked oatmeal bars are what you need!  It’s all of the ingredients in a hearty, filling bowl of oatmeal put them into one neat little bar.  Besides heart-healthy oats, they’re sweetened with honey and have wheat germ and wheat bran for added fiber and protein.  They’d even be great for an afternoon snack when vending machines are practically screaming your name.  Delicious, nutritious, yummy and most importantly, travel-ready!

Soft Baked Cinnamon Apple Pecan Oatmeal Bars
 
Ingredients
  • 3½ c. Thick Rolled Oats
  • ¼ c. Wheat Germ
  • ¼ c. Wheat Bran
  • 2 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ t. Nutmeg
  • ¼ t. Cloves
  • 2 t. Baking Powder
  • 1 t. Sea Salt
  • 2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
  • ½ c. Honey
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ¾ c. Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 2 T. Safflower Oil
  • 1 c. Skim Milk
  • ¾ c. Chopped, Dried Apples (or raisins, cherries, etc)
  • ⅓ c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the oats, wheat germ, wheat bran, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl stir together the eggs, honey, vanilla, applesauce, oil and milk. Add wet mixture to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add chopped apples and pecans.
  3. Bake for 30 minutes.
Notes
Makes about 18 bars. Tip: Feel free to substitute any kind of add-in for the dried apples and pecans...whatever nut, fruit, chocolate chip, etc you may like.

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Art and Romance of Chocolate

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of helping my friend Robyn, of Red’s Cupcakes, hand out her amazing Chocolate Espresso cupcakes to hundreds of chocolate loving people at the Art and Romance of Chocolate event in downtown Springfield, MO.  The event proceeds went to the Friends of the Springfield Art Museum and there were judging in certain categories.  You can see the list of participants and who won what, here.

It was a fun event for a great cause and I was honored to be part of it.  I did manage to make it around to all the vendors before the event started and snap some pictures with my phone (sorry for the poor pic quality!) of their amazing creations.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what everything was (except Red’s Cupcakes–first photo!) so just enjoy the pictures and give it your best guess! 😉

 

 

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Hummingbird Cake

My resolution to bake classic cakes has so far been a success, starting with this Coconut Cake and now the Hummingbird Cake.  If you’ve never heard of the Hummingbird Cake before, it goes all the way back to, well, it’s hard to tell where or when exactly it came on the scene.  The first published recipe for the cake showed up in the February 1978 issue of Southern Living magazine and was submitted by a woman named Mrs. L.H. Wiggins but it’s roots trace from the deep south aaaaaallll the way to Jamaica!  How crazy is that?  You can read more of the history and details here.

I used a recipe from myrecipes.com that was a little of a modernized version of the cake with the addition of white chocolate to the cake and the frosting and a touch of almond extract.  I was tempted at first to leave the white chocolate out of the cake but I’m so glad I didn’t–I LOVED getting little bits of white chocolate in every other bite.  This cake is very, VERY dense, almost like banana bread and the flavors of the almond extract, cinnamon and banana are incredibly delicious.  I can’t believe I waited so long to make this cake!

Hummingbird Cake
 
Ingredients
Cake
  • 3 c. All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • 1 t. Salt
  • 2 c. Granulated Sugar
  • 1 t. Ground Cinnamon
  • 3 Large Eggs, beaten
  • 1 c. Vegetable Oil
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 t. Almond Extract
  • 1, 8 oz. Can Crushed Pineapple, undrained
  • 1 c. Chopped, Toasted Pecans, divided
  • 2 c. Chopped Bananas (about 3 medium-large bananas)
  • 4 oz. White Chocolate, finely chopped
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1½ c. White Chocolate Chips, melted and cooled
  • 1½ (8 oz.) Packages Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 T. Butter, softened
  • 4 c. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla
  • ½ c. Chopped Toasted Pecans (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3, 9-inch round pans and then line with parchment paper (optional).
For the Cake
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; add eggs and oil, stirring until dry ingredients are moistened (do not overbeat). Stir in vanilla and almond extract, pineapple, pecans, bananas and white chocolate.
  2. Divide batter evenly among the three pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; remove from pans and cool completely on wire racks.
For the White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. Combine cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until creamy. Add melted chocolate and vanilla, beating well. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating at low speed until blended. Beat at medium speed until mixture reaches desired spreading consistency (do not overbeat).
To Assemble the Cake
  1. Spread cream cheese frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake; sprinkle ½ cup of chopped pecans on top. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
Notes
Serves 16.

 

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Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

A friend and I had been chatting about how much we love to cook and, like myself, she is into very healthy and nutritious cooking (I said COOKING..not BAKING).  We’d often find ourselves at an event where we both brought homemade dishes and we’d be asking each other for the recipes at the end of the night, so we decided what better way to share our love of cooking and yummy recipes than start a gourmet cooking club??  So, our first official cooking club get together was this past January and it was SO fun!  The food was all delicious and it gave me the opportunity to try out a new healthy dessert recipe–Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies!

My inspiration for these cookies was based off of one of my FAVORITE “healthy” indulgences from Trader Joe’s…cayenne covered dried mango dipped in dark, bittersweet chocolate.  It is one of the best things to ever cross my lips and sadly, since we have no Trader Joe’s here in Springfield, MO, I’m not sure I’ll ever get it again!  But I loved the combination so much I thought I’d try it in these cookies.  Now the cookies themselves were absolutely WONDERFUL.  They were soooo soft and tender and the heat from the red pepper combined with the bittersweet chocolate was out of this world!  The only thing I didn’t like about this recipe was…the mango!  It was such a bummer, but it just didn’t work for this cookie, in my opinion.  So, I’d omit it for sure in the future and went ahead and wrote the recipe without it.  But I’m not too upset about it–I still discovered an amazing, nutritious cookie recipe!

Recipe adapted from injennieskitchen.com

Spicy Whole Wheat Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Ingredients
  • 2 c. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
  • ½ t. Baking Soda
  • ½ t. Sea Salt
  • 1 t. Cayenne or Ground Red Pepper
  • ¼ c. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, softened
  • ¼ c. Pure Pumpkin Puree
  • ¾ c. Sugar in the Raw
  • 1 T. Molasses
  • 2 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 T. Pure Vanilla Extract
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips (I used Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet)
Instructions
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda salt and pepper. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, molasses and pumpkin on medium-high speed until light and fluffy about 5-7 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. Wrap dough in a large piece of plastic wrap, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate overnight (I refrigerated mine for about 24 hours).
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. gently form dough into 1½-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 16 minutes, rotating pans once and switching racks halfway through. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.
Notes
Makes about 25 cookies.

 

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Weekend Getaway B&B

The Bellevue Bed & Breakfast

Jeremy and I decided to take a last minute trip this past weekend and stay in a new (to us) B&B called The Bellevue.  He found this absolutely beautiful historic home in Cape Girardeau, right on the Mississippi River, in the heart of the downtown area.  We left Friday night, stayed in Poplar Bluff and got up early the next morning to hit the road so we could arrive to Cape Girardeau in time for all the shops to open.  We spend Saturday visiting antique shops, seeing historical sites, had an amazing dinner at a place called Bella Italia and relaxed the rest of the evening in our amazing bedroom.

Front door with beautiful stained glass transom above.
The men's parlor.
Beautiful windows and draperies in the women's parlor.
Love the chandelier and seating in the women's parlor.
Pretty mirror in our bedroom.
Cove bedroom upstairs.
Homemade pecan pie tassies and chocolate covered cherries in our bedroom.

The next morning we were treated to one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.  It was 3-courses and started with the cutest mini bundt shaped blueberry muffin.  It was an amazingly moist cake bursting with blueberries and a hint of cinnamon and had a homemade blueberry sauce spooned over it.  Second course was thinly sliced sweet strawberries, drenched in an amaretto infused Chantilly creme topped with homemade whipped cream–DIVINE.  Finally, we were treated to enormous omelettes stuffed with cheese and, to our surprise, vegetarian “ham”, all smothered in a rich hollandaise sauce!  I was super excited to find out the “meat” inside the omelette was actually a vegetable based, high-protein, low-carb substitute.  It was delicious!

Strawberries in Amaretto Chantilly Creme.
The spacious dining room.
The china--too pretty to eat off of!
We came through the back entrance and this was the first thing I saw--LOVE.
Fun sitting area in the dining room.

After stuffing ourselves at breakfast, we hit the road to head back home and stopped at a place called Big Spring and another place Jeremy and I had both been to as young children, Alley Spring.  It was so neat to go somewhere that we both vaguely remembered from our childhood and make our own memories together as adults.

Big Spring. Pictures can't even begin to show how amazingly clear and blue the water was.
Big Spring.
Alley Spring Mill.
Alley Spring.
Alley Spring...beautiful water.
Bridge over the water at Alley Spring.

Oh and how could I forget!  Much to my surprise and extreme delight, there was a BAKERY in Cape Girardeau.  Here’s a sneak peak picture–I’ll give my full review next week!

My Daddy's Cheesecake Bakery.

It was so much fun I really did NOT want to come home–a  fabulous weekend and great early Valentine’s Day getaway!

Me and Jeremy at Alley Spring.

 

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Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake Shake

I know the big thing around Valentine’s Day is chocolate dipped strawberries, which are great, but I’ve gotta admit I’m more of a chocolate covered cherry kinda girl.  And I know I can’t be the only one!  So my love of chocolate and cherries inspired me to create this super simply shake but not just any shake…a CAKE shake.  Yep, there is one big ‘ole slice of chocolate cake with vanilla frosting mixed right into this creamy concoction.  I picked my slice of cake up in the Wal-mart bakery case (don’t judge) but if I’d been thinking, I would have gotten one of the mega-huge chocolate cupcakes that Walgreens now sells.  But the shake still worked out alright. Actually, better than alright–it was, in fact, AWESOME.  I topped mine with homemade whipped cream, melted chocolate and festive sprinkles–so cute!

Share one of these with your sweetie tomorrow!  Or don’t share….it’s makes enough for two. 😉

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cake Shake
 
Ingredients
  • One Big Slice of Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Frosting or Two Regular Cupcakes (or chocolate frosting/white cake/etc..whatever you prefer)
  • 20 Maraschino Cherries, chopped
  • 1 Pint or 4 BIG scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • 14-1/2 c. Heavy Whipping Cream (depends on how thick you want it...I used ½ a cup)
  • ¼ t. Pure Vanilla
  • 1 T. Maraschino Cherry Juice
  • ½ c. Dark Chocolate Chips, melted
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients in the blender (reserving a tablespoon or two of the melted chocolate for decoration) and blend until the shake has reached your desired consistency. Top with your choice of sprinkles, chocolate, whipped cream, etc.
Notes
Serves 2.

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