Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

You guys, there’s this bright light in the sky and I don’t know what it is.

Oh, that’s the sun???!!!

You’ll have to forgive me for not recognizing it.  I can’t remember the last time the sun was out.  This winter hasn’t been that bad as far as winters go.  We recently had a ten day stretch during which even low temperatures did not dip below freezing.

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

But it has been so dark and grey and lifeless and downright depressing I can’t even.

Winter has me down.  This happens every year, but this year it’s stronger than ever.  Maybe it’s because I was making the same wishes last birthday as I did a little over a week ago on this one and because year after year things build and build and build until they come to a head.

I want to frolic outside in the sun and take walks and eat outside and be happy and not have to slather lotion and oil and all things moisturizing on my skin.  Please tell me I’m not alone.

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

I won’t be alone in loving these Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars.  I made these years ago, before the blog and loved the filling but not the crust.  Then I made them again recently with a different crust that tasted great but totally fell apart.

Enter test three.  These are the winner.  The filling is as gooey and rich as ever with tons of crunchy nuts.  The base is a vanilla bean olive oil shortbread.  I know olive oil in shortbread sounds weird, but trust me, it is heaven.  It provides a fruity, light note against the rich filling.

Winter is no match for these bars.  Well, really it is, but we can pretend it’s not while we make them.

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

 

Caramel Nut Shortbread Bars

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 18 bars

Ingredients

Crust
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ stick unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
Filling
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
½ cup honey
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups untoasted nuts, I used half pecans and half walnuts

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. generously butter a 9 by 13-inch pan.
  2. Make the crust. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, salt, butter, oil, and vanilla bean paste until a thick dough forms that holds when squeezed together. If it falls apart, add a bit more oil until it holds. Press into the prepared pan, bringing some of the dough up the sides. Bake for about 15 minutes until just barely golden brown.
  3. While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium saucepot, stir together butter, brown sugar, honey, and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the mixture is slightly thickened and foamy.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream. Be careful! It will bubble up. Place pan back over the heat and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees or about 10 more minutes. I actually did this without a candy thermometer. It’s rather forgiving and you can always test for soft ball stage in a bit of cold water.
  5. Add the nuts and cook an additional 2 minutes. Pour filling over the hot crust, spreading into an even layer. Bake for about 15 minutes, until bubbling and the crust is golden brown. Cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag. Thaw at room temperature about 1 hour.

Notes

Filling recipe adapted from Food and Wine

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http://piesandplots.net/caramel-nut-shortbread-bars/

Blueberry Sticky Buns + 27 Wishes

Blueberry Sticky Buns

So it’s my 27th birthday today.  26 was in so many ways my best year EVER, but professionally is was seriously disappointing.  Before we get to sticky buns, and you’ll want to stick around for those, here are my 27 wishes for my 27th birthday.

And before you get all if you share wishes they don’t come true, it hasn’t really worked keeping them to myself, so there.

Blueberry Sticky Buns

27.  Not to get sick. Seriously no colds.  Cancer, MS, whatever they’ve been talking about on Grey’s Anatomy that I now can’t stop thinking about, you stay away too, and everything in between.

26.  Ditto for Mom and Dad.

25.  Early spring … or summer, I’m not picky.

24.  Even some sunshine would do. There aren’t enough vitamin D supplements in the world to combat these clouds, people.

23.  The Good Place to be renewed. NBC, don’t mess this one up.

Blueberry Sticky Buns

22.  Lady Gaga to make a tour stop in Detroit this year. If you haven’t heard Million Reasons, go.  Now.  Listen.

21.  Can’t miss OneRepublic either. Again if you haven’t listened to Choke, I’ll wait.

20.  A really cool new orange nail polish. Why is this such a hard color to perfect?

19.  My skin to not be so terribly dry. It’s kind of a problem when your hands are literally squeaky clean.

18.  To pass a skill level of 1100 on Wii Sports Resort swordplay duels. Yes, I still play that.

17.  For no more appliances to die. Dishwasher, I’m watching you.

16.  It would be nice if the electronics stayed around too. Heeeeeyyy cell phones.

15.  A friend. A really good, legit friend who actually texts me back.

14.  People emailing back promptly so I can stop wondering if something is wrong with my email. There never is something wrong.

13.  Lots of fun nights out with Mom checking out new spots in Ferndale. Girls’ night!

12.  Okay, fun nights with Dad too. Father-daughter bonding!

Blueberry Sticky Buns

11.  An agent.

10.  A good one. One who likes my writing and me and gets me and can help me get my work out there.  I’m really tired of “you’re a good writer, but …”

9.  My contacts to come through. I have three good ones.  Like really good ones.  But when you’re making movies, it’s easy to forget about little old Laura in Michigan.

8.  To finally move to California. No more #californiadreaming.

7.  An 8 on The Blacklist. Guys, really, I’m trying.  You could give a little too.

6.  Something to celebrate so I can go to Townhouse, not count calories, and order that flight of Pappy van Winkle.

5.  To be able to stand up after consuming said flight. Hey, I’m not a big drinker.

4.  To be myself. Not regret.  Not question.  To be happy as I am and accept myself, even if others don’t.

3.  To be inspired by life.

2.  To inspire someone else.

1.  Make awesome shit happen.

Blueberry Sticky Buns

That’s a lot of lofty wishes, so I hope 2017 and my 27th year are up to it, because I am.

I’m also up for these Blueberry Sticky Buns everyday all day and you should be too.  Mom was skeptical when I said I was making these, but I totally changed her mind with one bite.

You have an awesome cinnamon roll base that is tender with so much cinnamon flavor.  And then there’s the ooey gooey sticky top that celebrates everything blueberry with a pop of lemon to keep things from getting too sweet.  The toasted pecans add that much needed crunch.

While my 26th year might not have been perfect, these really are.  They’re one of the best things I’ve ever made and I really encourage you to have some fun in the kitchen and whip up a batch of these.

Blueberry Sticky Buns

Blueberry Sticky Buns + 27 Wishes

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 12 buns

Ingredients

Dough
½ cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast
½ cup granulated sugar, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, very soft
½ cup milk (I used almond, use what you love)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
Zest of 1 lemon
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Blueberry Goo
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 heaping cups blueberries
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
Zest of 1 lemon
Assembly
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter, very soft
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 ½ cups toasted pecans

Instructions

  1. Make the dough. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, yeast, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Allow to proof for about 5 minutes until foamy. If this mixture does not get foamy, the yeast is dead. Start over with fresh yeast.
  2. Add the remaining sugar, butter, milk, baking powder, flour, lemon zest, salt, and vanilla. Stir until the dough starts to come together and then knead with your hands for about 5 minutes until a soft, not too sticky ball forms. You may need to add up to ½ cup more flour.
  3. Form dough into a ball, oil it and the bowl lightly, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 -2 hours until at least doubled in size.
  4. Make the blueberry goo. In a medium pot, combine the butter, brown sugar, and maple syrup. Cook over medium heat, bringing to a boil and simmering for 2 minutes. Add the blueberries and simmer for 3 more minutes, mashing some of them with the back of your spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the lemon zest and vanilla. Allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. Assemble the rolls. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon.
  6. Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan liberally. Pour a generous half of the goo into the pan, top with the toasted pecans and a generous sprinkle of the cinnamon sugar.
  7. Once the dough has proofed and the goo cooled, roll the dough out into a large rectangle about ¼ inch thick. Spread with the 4 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar. Top with the remaining blueberry goo.
  8. Carefully and tightly roll the dough up, trying to keep as much of the goo inside as possible. Cut into 12 roughly equal pieces and place into the pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  9. At this time you may either set in a warm place to rise while you preheat the oven to 350 degrees F or you may place the rolls in the refrigerator overnight and in the morning, remove them from the refrigerator to rise in a warm spot for about 1 ½ hours. Then preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  10. Bake for 30 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees F for 15-25 minutes more until the buns are golden brown on top and fully cooked.
  11. Allow to cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving tray. Serve warm or store buns in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Buns may also be frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to three months. Thaw in the microwave about 1 minute.

Notes

Additional rising time is necessary

Recipe adapted from Half Baked Harvest

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http://piesandplots.net/blueberry-sticky-buns-27-wishes/

Graham Cracker Toffee

Graham Cracker Toffee

I don’t know why I even check the weather.  I think I would be better at predicting it than the meteorologists.

Right now I’m supposed to be looking out the window at chilly rain, which is better than what I am looking at: snow.  At least two inches of it.  It’s supposed to turn to rain, but I’m not holding my breath.

Someone with an arthritic knee would be better at telling me what to expect with the weather.  Over the weekend, they were upwards of ten degrees off on the temperatures.  Predicted rain and clouds were replaced by sun.

Graham Cracker Toffee

Playing the lottery seems to be more of a sure thing than watching a weather forecast.  And I don’t understand that.

In the world of radar and satellite and all that technology that I certainly don’t understand, how is weather prediction so inaccurate?

Once upon a time, I took a meteorology class.  Let me tell you, it is difficult and confusing.  People who actually go to school to learn this craft and retain all that information are impressive.  But how all that training and learning and terminology can turn into forecasts that are consistently so wrong is beyond me.

Graham Cracker Toffee

At least if they are going to be wrong, it would be preferable if the weather turned out better than anticipated, instead of worse.  But such is winter in Michigan.  #californiadreaming

So instead of going shopping today like I had planned, I think I’ll make another batch of this Graham Cracker Toffee.

Um … it’s pretty much graham cracker crack.  It’s super addictive and I couldn’t stop taking little bites here and there and basically stuffing my face with it.  It’s very easy to make, though is definitely on the sweet side.  A nice sprinkle of sea salt really balances it out.  This would make an awesome gift as well.

Whatever the weather, make this toffee, it’s sure to be more predictable than Mother Nature.

Graham Cracker Toffee

Graham Cracker Toffee

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: Varies

Ingredients

10-12 graham cracker sheets

1 cup packed light or dark brown sugar

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter

1 ½ cups dark chocolate or carob chips

1 tablespoon vegetable shortening

1 cup toasted pecans

1 teaspoon sea salt

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Fill the tray with an even layer of graham crackers, breaking them up to fit as necessary.

In a small saucepan melt the sugar and butter. Bring it to a boil and boil for three minutes. Immediately pour over the graham crackers. Be careful – the mixture is very hot. Spread to cover the graham crackers evenly.

Bake for 6-7 minutes, until the toffee is super bubbly. Allow to sit while you melt the chocolate.

In a microwave safe bowl, place the chocolate or carob chips and the shortening. Microwave in 30 second increments, stirring in between, until fully melted. Pour over the graham crackers and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with pecans and salt, pressing them in slightly so they stick.

Cool toffee in the pan completely, about 4 hours. Break into pieces and serve. Toffee may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Notes

Additional cooling time is necessary

http://piesandplots.net/graham-cracker-toffee/

 

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix #SundaySupper

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix - a gluten free treat the whole family will love!

Another football season is about to end.  It’s amazing how quickly the seasons pass, and how often the Lions don’t make the playoffs.  Oh well, at least there are two great teams competing this year.  Though I like both teams, I have really enjoyed watching the Panthers this season.

Whether you are hosting a party or just hanging out with family or even by yourself, I bet you are going to watch the big game, if only for the commercials and halftime.  And you definitely need some fabulous food to make the festivities … well more festive.

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix - a gluten free treat the whole family will love!

Sure you need a savory entrée and maybe a drink, luckily my Sunday Supper friends have you covered there, but I’ve got dessert locked down.

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix is one of those things that just screams football.  It’s an addictive snack that is easy to crunch on while you watch and cheer.  Plus, it makes a ton.  In fact, I halved the recipe and still have plenty of Chex Mix to share … or not.  Because you might not want to share this.

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix - a gluten free treat the whole family will love!

It’s crispy crunchy with Chex, pretzels, and pecans all coated in an addictive cinnamon sugar mix.  I even used Glutino pretzel twists to keep this mix gluten free and friendly for all special diets.  If you aren’t a fan of pecans, swap in walnuts, peanuts, or almonds.

Whether your team wins or loses, you will be cheering for this Chex Mix to go all the way!

Cinnamon Sugar hex Mix - a gluten free treat the whole family will love!

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix #SundaySupper

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Varies

Ingredients

4 ½ cups Rice Chex

2 cups pecans

1 cup pretzel twists (use Glutino to keep gluten free)

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 large egg whites

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a large bowl, stir together Chex, pecans, and pretzels.

In a medium bowl, stir together sugars, cinnamon, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk egg whites until frothy. Whisk in the vanilla.

Add the egg whites to the cereal mixture and stir to coat. Add the cinnamon sugar and stir until all of the cereal mixture is fully coated.

Pour onto the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Bake for about 35 minutes until crispy and golden brown, stirring halfway through baking. Cool completely on tray.

Mix may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

http://piesandplots.net/cinnamon-sugar-chex-mix-sundaysupper/

Don’t forget to check out the other Sunday Supper dishes!

Appetizers and Sides

Main Dishes

Desserts and Drinks

 

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Peach Breakfast Bars

Peach Breakfast Bars - a hearty, vegan, adn gluten free breakfast treat!

Last week I went to see my friends at the dentist. Hi, ladies! I never thought going to the dentist could be fun, but here I am looking forward to my visits. And they look forward to them as well. We all enjoy chatting and catching up, but mostly, I think they like the treats 😉

So I made a seriously amazing treat. It wasn’t too hard to make, it featured peaches, and it tasted ah-mazing. Oh, and it’s vegan and gluten free.

I tasted it hot out of the oven. Packed some up for the dentist. Ate one for breakfast. Saved some for the freezer. I couldn’t stop craving another one. I was planning my post … and then I realized something.

I forgot to take pictures.

Peach Breakfast Bars - a heart, vegan, gluten free breakfast treat!

It was one of those moments where you wonder where your head went. So I made them again. And now I can present you with Peach Breakfast Bars.

Let me tell you, worse things have happened than having to make these again. They are seriously so good. Though I wouldn’t quite call them healthy due to the sugar in them (maybe you could swap in honey or maple syrup), they are full of oatmeal, nuts, peaches, and cinnamon, so I definitely think they’re breakfast appropriate.

With the glaze (yeah a little more sugar – but I wouldn’t skip it), they almost have this apple … er, peach fritter thing going on. They’re dense and chewy and super satisfying. Make these once or twice or more, just make sure you give them a try.

Peach Breakfast Bars - a hearty, vegan, gluten free breakfast treat!

Peach Breakfast Bars

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 50 minutes

Yield: 18 bars

Ingredients

Bars

3 cups old fashioned oats (gluten free if necessary)

1 ½ cups gluten free flour (I used Cup4Cup – I wonder if oat flour would work)

1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¾ cup olive oil

4 cups chopped peaches, peeled and pitted

1 cup pecans

Glaze

3 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2-5 tablespoons water

Instructions

Make the bars. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 by 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Add the oil and vanilla and stir to combine. Add the peaches and pecans and stir until they are well distributed and the mixture is completely moistened.

Pour into the prepared pan and bake 35-40 minutes, until golden brown and set on top.

Make the glaze. In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, vanilla, and water. Add more sugar or water until a pourable glaze is formed. Pour evenly over the hot bars.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Bars may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up 5 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature about an hour or in the microwave 30 seconds.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Nutmeg Nanny and How Sweet It Is

http://piesandplots.net/peach-breakfast-bars/

Triple Cherry Crisp #SundaySupper

Triple Cherry Crisp - Full of fresh fruit and vegan and gluten free!

One of my first grocery shopping memories is going to a local produce market with Mom and buying cherries. They had big bins of them and mom would select only the best cherries to be placed in her produce bag.

Thankfully no one sells cherries like that anymore (can you say germs?), but Mom and I still make plenty of trips to the produce markets (including that same one) and farmers’ markets picking up lots of cherries.

It’s one fruit I can’t get enough of, even after the time I swallowed a cherry pit. It’s easy enough to do when you’re eating them. That pit is tiny, just the right size to go down the hatch with the juicy fruit itself.

Vegan and Gluten Free Triple Cherry Crisp

It was my first summer at home alone while Mom worked. I missed having a baby-sitter to keep me company, but Mom only worked two days a week, so I managed to occupy myself with movies and computer games most of the time without much effort.

By the time I was ready to start my day, ate breakfast, then lunch, and watched a movie, she was basically home. There may have been a few dance parties too because life should have dance parties.

I was eating my unassuming looking lunch one day when I realized I swallowed a cherry pit. There was no stopping breathing or need for a Heimlich, but I was freaking out nonetheless. I called Mom in a panic. She called the doctor who assured her I would live. I spent the rest of the day stressed, but here I am, years later alive and well, and still eating more cherries than any one person should.

Vegan and Gluten Free Triple Cherry Crisp

A lot of my cherry consumption has come from this Triple Cherry Crisp. Full of fresh (and pitted!) bing, rainier, and sour cherries and topped with a crumbly oat crisp, I recommend just grabbing a spoon and eating this baby hot out of the oven. Of course, it’s also great cold the next day. And it makes an awesome breakfast. Ice cream may be a welcome companion too. Plus, it happens to be vegan and gluten free.

What I’m saying is you can’t go wrong with this crisp … as long as you double check you don’t accidentally add any pits!

Vegan and Gluten Free Triple Cherry Crisp

Triple Cherry Crisp #SundaySupper

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

Topping

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten free if you like)

¾ cup oat flour (gluten free if you like, all-purpose would work as well)

½ teaspoon kosher salt

¾ cup packed light brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

½ cup walnuts

7 tablespoons vegetable oil

Filling

2 cups sour cherries, pitted

2 cups rainier cherries, pitted

2 cups bing cherries, pitted

½ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Instructions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a medium bowl, stir together cherries, sugar, and cornstarch. Allow to sit while you prepare the topping.

In a medium bowl, stir together oats, flour, salt, sugars, cinnamon, and walnuts. Drizzle in the oil and stir until all the ingredients are moistened and crumbs form.

Pour the fruit mixture into an 8 inch square pan. If the mixture is extra juicy, do not add all the juice. Evenly distribute the crumb mixture over the cherries. Place on a baking sheet, in case the fruit bubbles over during baking. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden brown. This is best served hot out of the oven, but may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container. Eat cold or heat in the microwave until warmed through.

http://piesandplots.net/triple-cherry-crisp-sundaysupper/

Don’t forget to check out the other Sunday Supper dishes!

Appetizers, Sides and Salads

Entreés

Desserts

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Apple Juice Cake

Apple Juice Cake

Do you ever have leftover ingredients? You know ones that need to be used NOW.

I try to keep things moving in my refrigerator and pantry, but every once in awhile, I lose track of things. I find that bunch of asparagus that has been hanging out in the crisper a little too long. Or that extra jar of marshmallow fluff I picked up a couple months ago and totally forgot about (by the way, stay tuned for that recipe in a few weeks).

Apple Juice Cake

There are a couple dishes that help me use all these things up. Vegetables about to pass their prime can be added to salads or frittatas, even pasta. Fruit makes an awesome crisp or baked oatmeal.

But recently I had a huge bottle of apple juice sitting in the refrigerator. I bought it for a recipe from a cookbook that didn’t turn out. But I couldn’t stand to waste the rest of it.

Apple Juice Cake

I can’t remember the last time I bought apple juice, so I did drink some of it. Icy cold from the refrigerator, it totally quenched my thirst. I needed to do something more with it though.

So I made cake. Apple Juice Cake. This is one of the more unique cakes I’ve made. It baked up beautifully and has a distinct apple juice flavor, which kind of surprised me in a pleasant way. It has more of a bready texture, instead of a cakey one. Not that this is a bad thing; it actually reminded me of my favorite raisin bread as a kid.

Apple Juice Cake

Full of crunchy nuts and plump raisins, and topped with a fabulous glaze, this is such a nice, old fashioned cake that I know you will love!

Apple Juice Cake

Apple Juice Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 10-12 servings

Ingredients

Cake

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable shortening

2 large eggs

2 cups apple juice

1 cup raisins (I love Trader Joe’s Jumbo Raisin Medley)

1 cup mixed nuts (I used unsalted pecans and walnuts)

Glaze

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

¼ cup apple juice

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and shortening until light and fluffy. I did this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer will also work. Beat in the eggs one at a time.

Alternately add the flour mixture and the apple juice, beginning and ending with the flour. You should do 3 additions of flour and 2 of juice.

Fold in the raisins and nuts. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs.

Cool in pan about 15 minutes, before carefully loosening and inverting onto a serving platter. Cool cake completely before preparing the glaze.

To make the glaze stir together sugar and juice until a thick yet pourable consistency is formed. Add more sugar or juice as necessary. Pour over the cake and serve. Cake may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen, wrapped in pieces in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Lucky Leaf

http://piesandplots.net/apple-juice-cake/

Banana Bread Blondies

Banana Bread Blondies

Family is the most important thing in life. I am so lucky to see my parents every day. It is hard for me to imagine a time when that will not be possible. It is impossible for me to imagine going weeks, months, or years without seeing them, but that is the reality for many people.

While I may see my parents every day, I understand how it feels to be away from family, because I do not often have the opportunity to see my aunt and uncle. They mean so much to me and are people I know I can always turn to no matter what. However, they live hours away and over the past few years, my uncle’s job has taken him to several different locales, including one in another country!

My Family

My aunt, me, and Mom during her last visit.

This makes it nearly impossible to see them. I always wish I could call them to come over for dinner or to watch a movie or go shopping or to see a play, but without weeks or months of planning and schedule checking, it can’t happen. Even with the planning, it often doesn’t happen.

One thing that brings us all together is food. Western Union understands really well. Many of their customers are “Dual-Belongers,” meaning they live in one place for a better education, career, or life, but their family, and therefore their heart, lies somewhere else. They rely on Western Union to send money home, which seems like no big deal to them. It’s something they do without question or second thoughts.

Banana Bread Blondies

Food helps link them to their homes, whether those homes are oceans away or a long drive. Once Western Union heard from their customers how important food is in linking them to home, their family, and memories, they created #WUHomeCooked, a heartwarming video in which they surprised some of their customers with a surprise meal from their family!

The video is really inspiring and reminds me how lucky I am to have any family at all close to me. The world can be a really lonely place. It made me think of my aunt and uncle and how they must feel when they are far away from home and family, as well as how I feel missing them.

Banana Bread Blondies

They don’t always get to cook, a simple thing I take for granted because I do it every day. While eating out is fun, it gets old after awhile, and a homemade meal, or even better, a baked treat sounds good to them. I was inspired by my aunt’s love of banana bread to create these Banana Bread Blondies.

I wish I could send her some (oh! Maybe I could do that!), but I hope if she gets the chance to make them, she feels as connected to me as I did to her while whipping them up.

They have all the classic banana bread flavors with the dense, chewiness of a blondie and are rather addictive. Plus, they only take one bowl to mix together. I think I’ll grab another one while I pick up the phone and talk to my aunt. I hope you find ways to stay connected to those most important to you. Just as Western Union discovered, food is a great way to keep that connection going!

Banana Bread Blondies

Banana Bread Blondies

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 35 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 18 bars

Ingredients

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

3 small ripe bananas, mashed

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

3 large eggs

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup pecans

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan. Set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together sugars and butter until combined. Mix in the bananas, vanilla, and eggs. Stir in the flour and salt. Fold in the pecans until evenly distributed.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center of the blondies comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool completely in pan before cutting into bars.

Blondies may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen, individually wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag, for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour or in the microwave 30 seconds.

http://piesandplots.net/banana-bread-blondies/

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake #SundaySupper

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

Let me set the scene for you. It’s Christmas Eve. Midday. I’m getting ready to head to the elliptical before finishing wrapping presents. Mom’s wrapping presents much better than I do (on the ironing board, which is a pretty genius way to do it). Dad’s about to vacuum. Then it happens.

The power goes out. On Christmas Eve. Pretty much my worst nightmare.  Okay, so the power going out is always among my worst nightmares.

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

After a moment . . . or more of panic, I reported the outage. The restoration estimate was two hours away. I did take a bit of a sigh of relief, but estimates are just that . . . estimates.

Dad coolly read a book and divided up some of my old toys to give to friends. Mom went on with wrapping presents. And I panicked and exercised while I wore out my laptop battery playing iTunes. For the record, “Shake it Off” didn’t really help me shake my anxiety, but it did make my workout go fast.

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

Nearly exactly two hours later, the power came back on. With winds expected that night, my anxiety didn’t vanish, but I was definitely happy. The power company saved Christmas. The house didn’t get too cold. The food in the refrigerator and freezer was fine. The lights could go on.

I later Googled the incident. The power company said in a newspaper article they didn’t know the cause. So that’s . . . comforting.

Regardless, the high winds died down, so there were no further incidents and we had a lovely Christmas. Plus, I’ll never forget the Christmas Eve the power went out and we had a thunderstorm. Yep, a thunderstorm.

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

Mostly, I was worried about the freezer because my last few pieces of this Sweet Potato Sheet Cake are stashed there. I would have been sad to see any of this amazing treat go to waste. The original recipe calls for pumpkin, but sweet potato is pumpkin’s more flavorful cousin. It provided great flavor and moisture to these cake, and complemented the warming spices perfectly.

Then there’s the silky smooth, just sweet enough cream cheese frosting. I could eat it with a spoon, but it’s definitely better with the cake. Pecans decorated the top, adding another dimension of flavor and texture. You could also put a cup of pecans in the cake if you wish.

Just make this cake. You’ll be as thankful as I was when the power came back on.

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

Sweet Potato Sheet Cake

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes

Yield: 12 generous servings

Ingredients

Cake

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground cloves

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes

Frosting

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

Instructions

Make the cake. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 9 by 13 inch pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk oil, sugar, and eggs together.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves. Add to the oil mixture and whisk to combine. Whisk in the sweet potatoes until fully combined.

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake about 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool cake completely in the pan.

Once the cake is cooled, make the frosting. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until fluffy and combined. Add the brown sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Add the confectioners’’ sugar slowly while mixing and mix until the frosting comes together. Mix in the vanilla bean paste. Spread into an even layer over the cooled cake.

Serve immediately. Cake may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen in pieces, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for about an hour.

Notes

Additional cooling time is necessary Recipe adapted from Kitchen Trial and Error

http://piesandplots.net/sweet-potato-sheet-cake-sundaysupper/

Make sure you check out the other Sunday Supper dishes!

Comfort Food Cravings

Quench Your Thirst Cravings

Seafood Cravings

Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Cravings

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET. Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. To get more great Sunday Supper Recipes, visit our website or check out our Pinterest board.
Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

So things have been pretty busy for me lately. I’m working on blog projects, went to an event at Neiman Marcus, working hard on my writing, keeping up on fall TV. Oh, yeah, and I joined match.com and went on my first date.

It was nerve wracking joining Match. But I figured I didn’t have anything to lose. It has been an interesting experience. There are definitely some weird dudes on there. Some that seem nice and never write back. Some that are apparently way too busy and have no business stringing us ladies along. And there are some nice, genuine guys. They’re just a little harder to find.

Apple Spice Bundr Cake

So if joining Match had me freaked out, you can imagine what it was like going on my first date EVER! I mean it’s pretty scary venturing out in the world like that. But I was completely and totally ready for it, so my nerves didn’t take over as much as I thought they would.

The guy was nice and even brought me a book as a gift. We met at a nice restaurant and had a great meal. We didn’t really have a connection, we both agreed, and that’s okay. I don’t regret going on the date and I hope the guy finds the right girl for him. It was a good start and I’m excited to see what happens from here.

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

I finally pushed myself out of my comfort zone and that is an amazing thing. It worked out pretty well and hopefully things will only go up from here. I mean, I got to cross going on a date off my bucket list. How cool is that?

I’ve also been busy baking fabulous things like this Apple Spice Bundt Cake. This cake is the perfect comforting fall dessert. Easy to make, it makes use of the wonderful apples available now, and adds in some warming cinnamon, along with a bunch of crunchy nuts for texture. The exterior of the cake gets caramelized and a bit crunchy while the interior is dense and moist. Some future boyfriend is going to be lucky to sample treats like this!

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 10 servings

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/3 cups vegetable oil

2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 cups apples, peeled and chopped (I used Fuji and Gala – use what you love)

1 cup nuts (I used pecans and walnuts – use what you love)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour a large bundt pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, stir together oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla until well combined and lightened in color and texture. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Fold in the apples and nuts until distributed.

Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth into an even layer. Bake, rotating halfway through if necessary, for 65-75 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs. Cool cake in pan for about 20 minutes. Then loosen cake from pan and gently invert it on to a serving plate. Cake may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen in pieces, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in the microwave for about 1 minute.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Dorothy Mae Brown via the Martha Stewart show

http://piesandplots.net/apple-spice-bundt-cake/

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