Thursday, July 31, 2014

Moist Banana Cake

Moist Banana Cake
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 overripe mashed bananas
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease or line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch square pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, vanilla, and salt, then banana. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and cinnamon alternately with the milk until smooth.
Bake for about 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

This can be served as is, with a dusting of icing sugar, with a chocolate or peanut butter frosting, a vanilla glaze, spread with peanut butter or Nutella, topped with cinnamon streusel or chopped nuts, or served with a blob of whipped cream and fresh fruit. Serve warm or cool, for breakfast, snack, or dessert. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Raspberry Almond Overnight Oatmeal

Raspberry Almond Overnight Oatmeal
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/3 cup fresh raspberries, halved if large
1 Tablespoon ground flaxseed
3 Tablespoons whole natural almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk of choice

Mix all together in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight. In the morning it will be thickened - enjoy as is or heat it up.
Yet another variation of my overnight oatmeal recipes - I'm beginning to acquire quite the collection. If you type "overnight oatmeal" into the searchbar on the top of this blog, you will find about a dozen more recipes like this one - each with a different flavor. Choose the one that sounds the best to you to begin! This version is good cold on a hot summer morning using summer fresh raspberries. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Flammkuchen translates to tarte flambée or flamed tart/flamed cake. It is reminiscent of pizza, but it's not pizza. There are types of flammkuchen known as pizza flammkuchen, which are even more like pizza, but still, personally I think flammkuchen is better than pizza. Flammkuchen is a regional special that is essentially a bread dough rolled incredibly thin (think thinner than thin crust pizza, think lefse). It is usually rectangular, circle, or oval shaped. It is topped with toppings like a pizza and baked, preferably in a stone oven, until crispy. Flammkuchen is always served on one of those wooden baking boards, and is sometimes accompanied by a special flammkuchen cutter to separate the pieces, before enjoying as finger food. 

The traditional flammkuchen toppings are crème fraîche, onions, and diced ham. Most flammkuchens are not spread with tomato sauces like pizza, but rather a lighter topping such as crème fraîche or pesto. There is just enough sauce to coat the bread and add a little flavor. Flammkuchen isn't loaded down with globs of cheese either, but mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, or Camembert are used more sparingly. Vegetables and meats are cut into small pieces and added on. There are some signature flammkuchens such as traditional, Mediterranean, Mexican, and Artisan, but you can also usually choose your own toppings as well. There are even dessert flammkuchens which often feature fresh fruit, and a sauce of perhaps chocolate or liquor, which is then flambéed further. 

I fell in love with flammkuchen on my trip, but it's not something I can purchase around here. Even frozen flammkuchen was good, but it's not sold here. Perhaps this will be another recipe I attempt? Pictured above is the best flammkuchen I tried - a Mediterranean, and pictured below is the traditional flammkuchen. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Soft Pretzels

I never used to like soft pretzels. My experiences with them were not great. My first time tasting and making them was back in junior high cooking class, and they did not turn out well. Then I tasted the authentic kind while on vacation and fell in love with them. Now I miss them. So today I attempted making them. Amazingly, my first attempt with the first recipe I tried turned out fantastic - despite the humid weather! They rose well, and tasted great. They take a little practice to shape nicely though, but if they fall apart, they are still delicious. I'll likely be making these more often now with this foolproof recipe - the egg wash glaze, high baking temperature, and baking soda water bath are two key components to authentic (or so I've read). Let's leave cooking class to the basic biscuits, no bake cookies, and thick crust so-called pizzas. Although this recipe appears lengthy, it isn't that difficult and requires less than two hours, including rising time.
Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon granulated (white) sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
3 1/2 - 4 1/2 cups all-purpose 
2 teaspoons salt
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk
1 Tablespoon water
coarse salt

In a large bowl, stir together the water and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over top and let stand for about 10 minutes until frothy. Stir to dissolve.

Add in the butter, 2 cups of flour, and salt. Beat with an electric mixer, dough hook, or by hand until flour is absorbed. Gradually add enough remaining flour to make a smooth, soft, elastic dough, either mixing by hand or using a mixer. When dough becomes stiff, knead in remaining flour by hand. 

Form dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, and turn once to grease top. Allow dough to rise for one hour.

Punch dough down, divide into eight equal sized portions. Roll each into a rope, about 12-15 inches long, then form into a pretzel shape. 

Meanwhile, bring the water and baking soda to a boil in a large pot. Cook each pretzel in the water for exactly 30 seconds, in batches. Depending on the size of your pot, you should be able to fit 2-4 pretzels in. Remove pretzels to a rack to drain.

Preheat oven to 425F. Place pretzels on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (again, you may need to work in batches). Beat together the egg yolk and water and brush over each pretzel. Sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake for exactly 12 minutes. These are best enjoyed fresh - straight from the oven or while still warm. Alternately, they can be refreshed for a few minutes in the oven, ideally the same day. They don't really need anything, but a little butter, cheese, or sausage goes nicely. As an alternative to salt, pretzels may be sprinkled with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, or cinnamon sugar before baking. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Chewy Grain Machine Bread

I thought I would take a little break from my trip posts to feature something I have made. The first thing I have baked since my return was, of course, bread. I ran out of my stock of bread for sandwiches! This is a simple machine bread that is foolproof and really quite tasty.

Chewy Grain Machine Bread
1 cup milk
2/3 cup water
2 Tablespoons oil
2 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup grains of choice or cereal mix (one single grain such as oats or flax, or a combination will both work)
3 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order given, or according to manufacturer's instructions for whole wheat cycle. This makes one large loaf, although size setting will depend on machine. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Today I thought I would share with you today all of the food-related souvenirs I brought home from my trip. I came to the realization that most of the souvenirs I brought home were food-related, but that suits me just fine. 
Pictured here, in sort of a clockwise order are:
a gift bag, a cupcake change keeper (with key), shotglasses, dark chocolate, chocolate truffles, candies, tea cup and saucer, cookies, chocolates, bread, waffle cookies, custom-made chocolate bar (I designed it), apfelschorle, milk chocolate, printen cookies, cookie cutter, chocolate magnets, and on the bottom of everything, an apron. Not pictured here are an oven mitt and potholder and coasters that I brought home as well. Now I will explain a little about some of the items.

The cupcake ornament, chocolate truffles, and waffle cookies are all from one amazing café, where I was basically treated to as much as I wanted. These are the items that were save-able for me to take home (unlike the cake and ice cream I ate). The bag is also from this café, which I think was thrown in free since we bought so much there. The truffles are among the very best I have ever had - so creamy and tasty. I will definitely have at least a few more posts about this café later on.

The tin of printen cookies was from a printen factory we visited. They give tours of the facility, and even though the tours normally have to be booked in advance, they were nice enough to give us one - and in English too! Printen are a type of Lebkuchen cookie specific to a certain area. They are most popular at Christmas time, but sold all year round.

The custom made chocolate bar was one I designed at a chocolate museum, which is also where yesterdays best chocolate cake of my life came from. All you had to do was choose between milk, white, or dark chocolate, choose up to four of over twenty possible toppings (fruit, nuts, candy, etc.), pay, and wait a half hour. You could even watch it being made. More on this museum later.

The shotglasses, teacup, and oven mitts were gifts for my father, aunt, and mother, respectively. My father has quite an extensive shotglass collection - one from each place he (or his children) have traveled. My aunt asked me to bring her back such a gift, and my mother likes to cook and bake like me. 

The apfelschorle and bread are typical foods of the region, so of course I had to bring some home with me. And of course the chocolate is more chocolate I bought as gifts/souvenirs.

The apron is a gift I bought myself, and suits me perfectly, right down to the cute cat in the center. I seem to have inadvertently began a collection of aprons - not ones I wear, but ones I display as they are too pretty to get dirty. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Best Chocolate Cake Of My Life

Last year I posted a picture and description of what I entitled "Le Meilleur Gâteau au Chocolat de Ma Vie" while I was away on my French trip, which means "The Best Chocolate Cake of My Life". (To see this post, click {here}). Well, I might need a side-by-side comparison to confirm (I wish), but I am pretty sure this slice of chocolate cake was actually better than the first best chocolate cake of my life. It must be, because this chocolate cake was served in the café at a chocolate museum. Actually, now that I think of it, the other cake was served down the street from a chocolate museum, but this chocolate museum was much larger and much more impressive. 

This chocolate cake consists of a very thin layer of shortbread crust, a layer of a fine-crumbed chocolate cake, a layer of chocolate mousse, another cake layer, a layer of cream, another cake layer, frosted with more chocolate mousse, and decorated with swirls of different types of chocolate mousse on top. Every bite of this cake was shear heaven. It was incredibly chocolaty, yet light due to the mousse, and not too rich that I had trouble finishing it (although that is a rare occasion anyways). It was beautifully presented and had a rich and satiny texture. My mouth is watering just looking at the picture again. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Stracciatella Sundae

Right now, the most difficult part of blogging for me is not lack of material or inspiration, but deciding where to begin. I probably have at least one hundred potential posts from my trip - but which one do I start with? Should I start with what is freshest in my memory, what was the very best (how do I choose?), start with the prettiest pictures, or do some kind of order such as alphabetical? Chronological order likely makes the most sense. Therefore, today I am starting near the beginning. Not the very beginning, but early on anyways. That isn't to say I will go in order from now on though, I prefer random orders with some of my own posts thrown in between. 

This is a stacciatella ice cream sundae I got on a hot day at an ice café. The story behind it is a little funny. Of course when traveling to different places, depending on where you are going, often you are surrounded by an unfamiliar language. I had a little experience with the language, but not a lot. Luckily though, being the foodie that I am, a big part of my vocabulary consisted of food-related words, so navigating menus was not too difficult. Also helpful were my traveling companions, who were fluent in the language and happy to decipher anything I couldn't on my own. 

Stracciatella is an Italian word used on menus in many different languages, so I did know that word (I wasn't in Italy). Referring to ice cream, stracciatella means vanilla ice cream with chocolate streaks in it. So my sundae consisted of scoops of this vanilla, chocolate flake ice cream with some chocolate sauce, extra chocolate flakes, and chocolate filigree decorations on top. What I did not know when I ordered, was that the sundae also contained chocoalte liquer, poured in along with the sauce. The waitress came out to check if this was okay, or if  I was of age, but of course I didn't understand a word she was saying so my accompaniments answered for me. That was the first time I (inadvertently) ordered myself a drink at a restaurant. I must say the addition of a little bit of chocolate liquer really did add to the flavor of the chocolate sauce and paired nicely with the ice cream without being too bitter or overpowering. This was definitely one of the best ice creams I had during my trip, and really got my trip off to a great start. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back To The Grind

I am home again! It has been a little strange not to touch my blog for three weeks, but it was nice to have a vacation without having to worry about finding something to post about every day. I certainly am not lacking posts now though, I think I did enough eating and sight-seeing to have enough blog posts for a year! Of course I won't only blog about my trip now, I have missed baking as well so I will be sure to feature things I have made again soon. But I would also like to share my travel experiences that I did not get the chance to while I was away.

For today though, I would like to share a list of all the new, some of them exotic, foods I have tried during my trip - things I have never tasted before. I am sure most of them will be featured by themselves, with pictures, sometime in the near future. 

escargots, schnitzel, martini, foie gras, orange Cointreau, apfelschorle, lyoner sausage, Camembert cheese, soft pretzel buns, champagne, Saint Aubrey cheese, religieuse pastry, chocolate liquer, orangina, shupfnudeln, Rambol cheese, follkornbrot, spaghetti ice, ouzo, coconut foam, a real Black Forest cake, flammkuchen, moussaka, sauerkraut, ice chocolate, marzipantorte, fresh mozzarella, florentines, nudelauflauf, kartoffelkloesse, chocolate croissant. 

There may be more than this list of 31 that I am forgetting, but needless to say I am adventurous and love to try new foods when I can, especially if they are a regional special. Lots of cheese, good bread, drinks, and desserts. From this list, can you guess where I traveled? 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Fried Egg

Can you tell it is my last day of pre-scheduled posts, and that I will be returning tomorrow? Here's something I decided to try for breakfast one day - a fried egg. I typically have an egg for breakfast once or twice a week, but I usually stick to hard-boiled, or poached or scrambled in the microwave. One day I was in the mood for a little something different. I melted a little coconut oil in a small frying pan (coconut oil is delicious and very versatile if you have not tried it yet). Then I just cracked in an egg and watched it cook. Now I am the type of person that likes my eggs well done - as in fully cooked and not running for fear of food poisoning. I am not totally paranoid, just cautious. So I don't enjoy sunny side up or soft boiled eggs, and when I fried my egg, I fried it until it was thoroughly cooked. Obviously this picture was taken before it was completely done. I must admit though, I have begun to develop a taste for yolks that are slightly underdone. Not the kind of yolk that oozes out and runs all over the plate, but the kind that are soft with a little give, the kind that are still slightly golden yellow and not totally pale yellow. Sometimes my eggs turn out like this when I poach them in the microwave, even though I cook them for the exact same amount of time each time. I can never tell if the yolk will be soft or not, but when it is, it soaks into the bread and is actually quite delicious. next thing you know, I'll be enjoying rare steaks as well. (don't count on it).

Monday, July 21, 2014

2014 Cupcake

I can't believe I forgot to feature this! Don't you just love it when you are searching through old pictures and find these things? This should have been featured either at the beginning of the year or around graduation time.
Well, I am kind of known as the cupcake queen around here. I am pretty sure that's already a trademarked name or something, but I am known for my cupcakes. I made this cupcake for the year, and there are several pictures of me holding it. It's simply a cupcake baked in a decorative wrapper, with a vanilla buttercream swirl, colorful sprinkles, and 2014 piped in blue buttercream. We are already more than halfway through the year of 2014. How has it been so far for you? It flew by really quickly and has been quite eventful for me. What a sweet year!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Three Weeks of Posts

By this point (it was July 1st when I wrote this) I just wanted to take the time to write an article to shed light on the difficulties, frustrations, and planning that come with a three week vacation and not knowing when or how well you will be able to access the internet. It isn't easy prepping three weeks worth of posts over just a couple of days - and though my mind has endless possibilities of ideas, I don't want to bore my audience, and I also don't currently have time to be typing up page long blog write-ups, locating pictures, linking things, etc. Yes, I definitely should have started this process earlier. Luckily, I always keep my stash of ready-made posts ready to go, in case of those days when I really don't even have time to think about my blog - but I usually prepare in advance for those days anyway. However, I did not want to simply use all of those posts, because I may need them some day, and I would have to make a stash of new emergency blog posts upon my return anyway. But it was nice knowing they were there to fall back on. 

These past few days I have been typing ferociously, snapping photos, and reminiscing. It takes a lot of careful planning, but luckily this blog website makes that quite easy to do. I suppose I could have taken a blogging break, but I am determined not to stop over 1000+ days just so I can take a vacation for my own pleasure. The good thing about all these pre-prepped blog posts is that I can just sit back and relax for three weeks and not worry at all about my blog, having to bake, or having to find something to post about. And if I choose to make a new post during my vacation time because something really interesting happened, so be it.

Here I am on day 20 of 22 - let's see if I can conjure up two more blog posts to go! 
P.S. Have you noticed my blog posts have been going on at the same time everyday recently?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Mortifying Mistake - Custard

As I have mentioned before, I do feature my cooking mistakes and flops on here, because I think it is important to embrace them, learn from them, and develop some critical, think-on-your-feet, problem-solving techniques. I also strive as much as possible to turn these mistakes into something still perfectly edible, if not less than perfect, or maybe not so pretty.

This mistake comes from the first time I tried to make a custard. I had never made it before, but thought i knew enough from reading recipes. I made the one easy, common mistake - I overcooked it. Even though I knew not to do this, it is difficult when you are actually in the process of making it because custard changes so quickly. Many chefs, even those well practiced in the field, have made this mistake. I am also a food-safety enthusiast, and I did not want to serve a custard with undercooked eggs.

What ended up happening, was I cooked the custard too much and ended up essentially with scrambled eggs, even though I had followed the directions. Obviously I cannot incorporate scrambled eggs into a dessert. But I tasted them, and thanks to the addition of sugar, milk, and vanilla, they were sweet, rich and flavorful. Delicious, but too sweet to put on an egg salad sandwich. And nothing I could really save at this point or transform to serve to guests. I did end up eating the custard myself though, because it was tasty and I hate to waste food. The texture was really the problem here, and as long as you don't mind eating scrambled eggs for dessert, no problems!

I am happy to report my second of trial custard went much more smoothly (no pun intended), and luckily I did not need a third or even fourth try. I learned to use low heat, indirect heat is even better, and not to make the milk to hot before adding the egg. Temper the eggs first with a spoonful of the warm milk, then slowly stream the egg in, stirring constantly. Cook until just thickened and glossy - don't second guess it, it is probably done! 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Overnight Hot Oatmeal

This is an overnight oatmeal recipe using the {Hot Cereal Mix} that was made for {Multigrain Hot Cereal}. This is just a version that can be made the night before, like all of my overnight oatmeal recipes {there are way too many to link here, just type "overnight oatmeal" into the search bar}. This version is a bit heartier and more filling, and you can add to it as well.

Use 1/2 cup of cereal mix and put in a small bowl with a lid or a jar. Add 3/4 cup milk of any kind, some ground cinnamon or other spices, and some dried fruit or chopped nuts if you wish. Then cover it, shake it up, stick it in the refrigerator, and forget about it until morning. When you wake up, put it in the microwave for a few minutes to warm it up, then enjoy, because you have a warm, hearty breakfast that was already made for you! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Twist Cookies

These are some cookies my grandmother made. I can remember my great grandmother used to make them all the time, and then passed the recipe down to my grandmother. I have the recipe as well. The reason we don't make them so often anymore is they contain a somewhat obscure ingredient - ammonium bicarbonate, not to be confused with poisonous household ammonia. Ammonium bicarbonate is a leavening agent that was more popular before baking powder and baking soda came along. It allows baked goods to rise and gives them a bit more characteristic crunch. It is used in only small amounts in order to avoid inputting an unpleasant flavor or odor, and is most commonly seen today in cookie and biscuit recipes. Some specialty food stores and Italian shops still carry it, but it can be difficult to find.

These cookies remind me a lot of biscotti, as they are very crunchy and dry, but these are only baked once. I consider them an Italian cookie as well, since my Italian grandmother made them. They are just made for dunking. My brothers and I always preferred milk, but they are also good in tea, coffee, hot chocolate, or even a dessert wine. The most difficult part of this cookie is creating the twisted braids, so sometimes my grandmother would skip this step and just make them into long ovals. Either way, they always tasted delicious! 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

My New Favorite Foods

Awhile back, September 10th, 2011 actually, I made a list of my 50 favorite foods for my 50th post. I am not about to make a list of 1089 foods for my 1089th post. It just isn't practical, and I doubt anyone would want to read through that entire list. Although I definitely could name 1089 foods I like to eat, once I hit number 500 or so, they would no longer be my "favorites". Here is my newlist of 50 of my favorite foods. Lets see how they changed from nearly three years ago.

  • bananas, strawberries, pineapple, raspberries, blueberries
  • broccoli, spinach, zucchini, avocado, sweet potato
  • peanut butter, almonds, chickpeas, tofu, eggs
  • yogurt, almond milk, mousse, walnuts, sunflower seeds
  • chocolate, buttercream, ganache, fudge, molten chocolate cakes
  • pizza, veggie burgers, home fries, polenta, peperonata 
  • couscous, quinoa, flax, oatmeal, granola
  • salmon, shrimp, scallops, haddock, sardines
  • dates, figs, molasses, bean salad, hummus
  • muffins, cupcakes, squares, pasta, cinnamon rolls
Of course there are many, many more foods I enjoy as well, these are just some of the first that came to mind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Lemon Crackle Cookies

Lemon Crackle Cookies
1/2 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 large egg
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
additional granulated sugar, for rolling, optional

Preheat oven to 350F. Prepare a cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in egg, lemon rind, and juice.
Stir in flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Shape batter into balls. Sprinkle with a little sugar, if desired. Place on prepared cookie sheet.
Bake for exactly ten minutes. The cookies should be light brown on the bottom.
Makes about 30-40 cookies.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Harvest Grain Oval

This is the bread I used to serve my salmon burgers on from yesterday. It is not a typical burger bun, or even a type of bun at all, but that does not matter, especially if you are looking to serve a rustic-style burger. Why did I buy a bread instead? For a few reasons; the grocery store did not have the type of buns I really like, this bread was a good deal, and I really wanted to try this bread.
I like to make as many of my own breads as I can, but sometimes it isn't always possible.   When not, I like to turn to specialty, fresh bakery breads, with simple, wholesome ingredients, just like I would make at home. This is a bread made with whole wheat flour, flax, sesame seed, and millet, with a little honey. 
To use for burgers, I simply cut some thin slices and toasted it. This bread is so good and crisp toasted. Aside from burgers, this bread is good for breakfast, other sandwiches, and as a small side for meals. It is yummy spread with jam or nut butters, or dipped into a sauce, or with melted cheese, hummus, or a flavored oil dip. The possibilities are endless. 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Salmon Burgers

Burgers. A classic summer food. I love veggie burgers. I am not a fan of meat burgers. I can tolerate chicken burgers. Time to try something different - fish burgers. Although not typical, these can be really tasty when done right. It is possible to use a fillet of fish, either plain or breaded or battered and fried, but you can also use "ground" fish as well, formed into patties. It is much like chicken burgers, where you could use a chicken breast or ground chicken. There are many different types of fish burgers - crab, haddock, even scallop burgers. This is a salmon burger. Fish burgers may be made with canned fish, but the flavor is so much better with real fish fillets, even if they are frozen. There burgers are tasty and moist.
Salmon Burgers
1 pound salmon pieces or fillets, skin and bones removed (we used frozen wild Pacific)
1 small onion, grated
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs
salt and pepper, to taste

Grease grill and preheat to medium-high.
Cut salmon into chunks. Pulse it in a food processor along with the remaining ingredients. Shape into four 2 cm thick patties. 
Place patties on the grill, close lid, and cook for about ten minutes, turning once. A thermometer should register 158F.
Notes: You may add a little minced parsley, a squirt of lemon juice, a dash or hot pepper sauce, or other flavor enhancers to the patties.
This recipe is evenly multiplied. We used three pounds of salmon to make 12 patties.
These patties are fairly soft and crumbly, more like veggie burgers, since they are fish patties and not meat patties. They should be handled gently and carefully so they will stay together. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Apricot Hazelnut Energy Bars

Apricot Hazelnut Energy Bars
500 grams dried apricots
2 cups boiling water
1 cup pitted dates
1 1/2 cups rolled oats, toasted if desired
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup hazelnuts, roasted if desired
In a medium-sized bowl, pour the water over the apricots and allow to soak and soften for at least eight hours. 
Line a 9x9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
In a food processor, purée the apricots and water with the dates until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and boil over medium heat for about ten minutes, stirring often, until dry and very thick.
Add oats, salt, and spices and cook for about ten minutes more, until it becomes a stiff, solid mass. Fold in hazelnuts. 
Spread in prepared pan and allow to cool.

These are easy, no-bake energy bars with plenty of flavor and texture and lots of nutrition.
The fruit and nuts may be varied as desired, and a cup of chopped chocolate may be added along with the hazelnuts.
These bars can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one month.
Makes about sixteen bars. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Cinnamon Swirl French Toast

This is some French toast made with my father's cinnamon swirl bread. He has made this bread two different ways, once by hand (see {Cinnamon Swirl Bread}) and once using my bread machine (see {Machine Cinnamon Swirl Bread}). I cannot actually remember which one this is, but I am pretty sure it is the machine version. We wanted a quick supper one night, and decided to make French toast. We had some of this bread in the freezer, and I though it would make really good French toast. If I remember correctly, this bread was a little dry (so it must have been the machine bread) and sometimes bread does dry out even a little more after being in the freezer. So French toast was a great way to bring new life into this delicious bread, without totally transforming it. It may not look much different than the bread itself, but once this is dipped in an egg and milk mixture and fried in a little butter, it becomes crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside and quite tasty. A little cinnamon added to the French toast batter enhances the flavor of this bread. And this does make one huge, yummy slice of French toast for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, or dessert! 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Peach Strawberry Oatmeal

Anyone for some fresh summer flavors combined in a bowl of oatmeal? Throw in one fresh peach, diced into small pieces into a bowl with 1/3 cup oats and 2/3 cup water. Add a pinch each of cinnamon and ginger and a little flax if you wish. Cook in the microwave for about four minutes on medium (50%) power - being sure to stir halfway through. Top with some fresh sliced strawberries, and some nuts for a little extra protein and crunch.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Toasted Steak and Cheese Sandwich

It's at times like this when I wonder why I don't really care for steak. Or toast for that matter. So definitely not toasted steak sandwiches. I mean it looks pretty good, warm juicy steak, crisp toasted bread, and hot melted cheese. But it just is not my cup of tea. This is a sandwich my brother made. He wasn't really trying to be fancy or anything, we just had some leftover steak in the fridge and he decided to eat it on a sandwich. I thought it looked quite good though, better even then some sandwiches restaurants sell, so of course I photographed it. Upon asking if I could take a picture of it, my brother replied with something like, "Oh boy, my food must be getting good, she's taking a picture!" Well, there you go. 

This sandwich consists of a reheated medium-well done steak sliced into thick slabs, placed on toasted white bread, and finished with some slices of mozzarella cheese. 

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Oreo Brookies

This is the finished product from the brownie base and cookie topping I have featured in the past two days' posts. What is a brookie, you say? Well, it is a combination of a brownie and a cookies. Much like a panookie (pan baked cookie), a pazookie (pizza cookie), a doughcano (doughnut volcano), or a cronut (croissant doughnut). Brownies and cookies are two favorite and popular sweets. You can make brownie cookies and you can make cookie brownie bars. You can also put both into one convenient square with cream-filled chocolate wafer sandwich cookies (otherwise known as Oreos) in the middle for a really decadent sweet treat that really delivers on chocolate flavor. 

This is a really sweet treat that makes a lot of servings because they are tall and need to be cut into fairly small bites. They are certainly an indulgence. To make them, simply prepare the brownie base as directed, place Oreo cookies over top of this, carefully spread with the cookie dough, and bake again as directed.
I bet these are absolutely excellent enjoyed while still warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of hot fudge sauce if you are really looking to splurge! 

They remind me of these They remind me of these {Cookie Dough Brownies} which I made a few months ago, only this time there is an Oreo layer and the cookie is baked. Nevertheless, that recipe also featured three posts of brownie layer, cookie layer, and finished treat. 

Monday, July 07, 2014

Brookie Cookie Layer

Here is layer three of the brookies I will be making. The second layer is simply cream-filled chocolate wafer sandwich cookies. 

Brookie Cookie Layer
1 cup butter or hard margarine, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then the chocolate chips. 
For brookies, spread this dough evenly and carefully over the oreo and brownie layer.
Bake for 45 minutes at 350F until cookie dough is cooked through.
For cookies, drop dough by teaspoons onto a cookies sheet and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes, until set and lightly browned, depending on size. 

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Brookie Brownie Layer

This is going to be the base layer for some three-layer, delicious chocolaty bars I will be making. This is a simple, sweet decadent brownie layer. It could be made on its own as well, and frosted as desired for brownies. 

Brookie Brownie Layer
4 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter or hard margarine, melted
2 1/4 cups granulated (white) sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9x13 inch rectangular baking pan with foil.
In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and cocoa. Beat in the vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Stir together the butter and sugar, then add to mixture. Stir in the flour.
Spread batter evenly in prepared pan and bake for about ten minutes if making brookies or approximately 30-40 minutes if just making brownies. Brownies should be just set and beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with fudgey, moist crumbs attached. 

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Manicotti Filling

What's this? It is the leftover filling from these {Vegetable Cheese Stuffed Manicotti}. Although we had cooked extra noodles than called for in the recipe, we still had some leftover filling remaining. So instead of wasting it we put it into a ramekin and baked it alongside the manicotti as well. There was raw egg in the mixture, so it did require cooking. It was baked for the same amount of time as the manicotti. This mixture contained chopped vegetables, cottage and mozzarella cheese, egg, and sauce. I ate the leftover filling once all the manicotti was gone. I just ate it as is, though I easily could have cooked up some more pasta (any shape really) and enjoyed it with that, or on bread, or on rice. It's strange, but I actually enjoyed it more than the manicotti. I guess the filling was the best part of the dish, so eating a dish full of filling was even better. I just like to post these little things to remind you never to waste anything that is perfectly edible, and sometimes it will turn out better than expected. Everything salvageable can always be re-purposed! 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Dad's Steak

Meat and potatoes. The dream meal for many. Here is a grilled barbecue steak, some homemade, handcut, lightly salted, baked fries, and some sautéed onion and mushrooms. What a classic, comforting meal. Probably not the best for you, but I wouldn't exactly call it a heart attack on a plate either. Looking at this plate (it wasn't my plate) I notice that is a hunk of steak, and probably more than one serving size there. My father made this meal for himself as a treat on Father's Day, since he is the grilling master here, and is also really good at making home fries. I do believe my mother prepared the vegetables though. I am not a steak fan or a french fry fan, but I do enjoy home fries (and vegetables). 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Wonderful Chip Cookies

This is basically the same recipe as yesterday, but with a slight change. I used the same dough, but then I cut up a chocolate bar into small pieces and enclosed the dough around it, then baked it. This would work with almost any type of chocolate bar, and works with a variety of other cookie doughs as well. When the cookies are warm, you get a nice center of molten chocolate (or caramel or chocolate peanut butter, or whatever type of chocolate bar you used). When the cookies are cool, they have a nice crisp or chewy surprise center. For these cookies I used a "Wunderbar" which is a crisp peanut and caramel flavored chocolate bar. The entire bar was cut into sixteen pieces, so I made sixteen of the cookies from that batch like this. 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Double Chip Chocolate Cookies

Double Chip Chocolate Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or hard margarine, softened
3/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup crushed dark chocolate thins (I used crispy dark chocolate wafers)

Preheat oven to 375F. 
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and both sugars until creamy. Beat in the vanilla and eggs. Gradually stir in flour, soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate. 
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons (or by using a small ice cream scoop) onto an ungreased or lined cookie sheet. 
Bake for 8-10 minutes until just set and lightly brown around the edges. 
Makes approximately 4-6 dozen cookies, depending on size. 

Regular chocolate chips of any type may be used, but I had some extra chocolate so I broke that into small pieces and also used some miniature chocolate chips so there is a good dose of chocolate in every bite. These cookies retain a soft and moist texture, but if baked longer they could become crispy if desired. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Trip Number Two

Remember last summer when I went away on a trip for five weeks and had to turn to writing posts about things I ate and did in French? Well, I am going on another trip, although this time there is no requirement for me to post in French. However, since I am travelling, you never know, I may make a few of my posts in French or even a different language! Anything can happen on this blog.

This time, I will only be away for three weeks, not five. However, I may not have as much internet access as I did last year. I know at some point throughout my trip I will be able to log on to my blog, but not always. Therefore, just to be safe, I am preparing three weeks worth of pre-made blog posts to go on automatic update while I am away. Since I can't really bake three weeks worth of posts in a few days, many of these posts may turn out to be articles or older things I have made. I am sure I will experience many new amazing culinary adventures during my trip, so I will be sure to share them upon my return. If I do however, have internet access and also have some great pictures of food to share, I will cancel some of my ready-made posts, save them for a rainy day, and post something new and exciting! Believe it or not, I still have not posted everything from my trip last year, so maybe I will do that these few weeks when I am busy on another trip. Although I do have quite the stash of things I have made recently as well, and just haven't had the chance to post. I can't post it all if I make more than one thing per day!
Bis Bald!