When We Tried to Make Key Lime Bars

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We tried, really hard.  We even gave it a second try.  And we will see how that turns out.  All I know is that sometimes it’s not in the stars to come out with a victory.

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But maybe you shall succeed with these!  I wish you luck.  They are a good challenge.  And if they turn out, you will be in possession of squares of paradise: desserts that taste like a vacation in a hot Florida sun.

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As far as nutrition goes, I’m not sure these are really chock full of valuable vitamins and minerals.  They’re chock full of animal crackers and condensed milk, however!  Quite the trade off, am I right?

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Even though these aren’t healthy, the act of making them is quite therapeutic (even if you don’t end up succeeding at following the recipe…).  I spent time with friends and laughed!  On a Sunday!  Didn’t think that was possible (whaaat?).

We also ordered Thai food for lunch that was much more vegetable oriented than these dessert bars.

Also, this recipe is straight out of Cooks Illustrated.  Yeah…

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from cook’s illustrated

Recipe:
Crust:
5 ounces animal crackers (about 1 1/4 C crumbs) (Try to resist eating all the animal crackers)
3 tbs light or dark brown sugar packed
pinch salt
4 tbsp butter melted and cooled slightly

Filling:
2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 tbsp grated lime zest
1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg yolk
1/2 C lime juice (do not use bottled juice) (BE STRONG!!!! YOU CAN DO IT!!!!)

Garnish (optional) (NOT AN OPTION!!!! 🙂 )
3/4 C shredded coconut toasted until crisp  (I RECOMMEND THIS!!!!!)

~~note:  I used about 5 limes~~

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Cut about 12-inch length extra-wide heavy duty foil; fold cut edges back to form 7 1/2-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

2. To Make Crust. In workbowl of food processor, pulse animal crackers until broken down, about ten 1-second pulses; process crumbs until evenly fine, about 10 seconds. Add brown sugar and salt; process to combine, ten to twelve 1-second pulses. Drizzle butter over crumbs and pulse until crumbs are evenly moistened with butter, about ten 1-second pulses. Press crumbs evenly and firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Bake until deep golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack while making filling. Do not turn off oven.

3. To Make Filling: While crust cools, in medium bowl, stir cream cheese, zest and salt with rubber spatula until softened, creamy and thoroughly combined. Add sweetened condensed milk and whisk vigorously until incorporated and no lumps of cream cheese remain; whisk in egg yolk. Add lime juice and whisk gently until incorporated (mixture will thicken slightly).

4. To Assemble and Bake: Pour filling into crust; spread to corners and smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until set and edges begin to pull away slightly from sides, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on wire rack to room temperature, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Cover with foil and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled at least 2 hours.

5. Loosen edges with pairing knife and lift bars from baking pan using foil extensions; cut bars into 16 squares. Sprinkle with toasted coconut if using, and serve. (Leftovers can be refrigerated up to two days; crust will soften slightly. Let stand at room temperature, about 15 minutes before serving.)

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Gingerbread, Gingerbread, Ginger All the Way

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It’s funny that people always describe cookies as “ginger” cookies.  I have yet to see a recipe that has more than 1 teaspoon of ginger in it.  This recipe only has 1/2.  It actually has more cinnamon.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to call these “molasses cookies with assorted spices.”  Funny.  Gingerbread sounds more catchy.

Anyway, I am a big fan of ginger, cinnamon, and molasses, for a multitude of reasons.  I have a finicky stomach, for one thing.  Ginger and cinnamon are both good at soothing an upset tummy.  Besides adding taste, cinnamon is great for stabilizing blood sugar levels and preventing unhealthy spikes.

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When it comes to cookies, molasses is a secret weapon.  Molasses makes things sweet as well as moist and chewy.  We’ve all broken a tooth or two trying to chew a gingersnap.  Molasses is good at softening up baked goods so you don’t have to have your dentist on speed-dial.

Whatever you choose to call these cookies is your choice.  Bring them to a holiday party…or just keep them for yourself.  Your decision.  I know I’ve made mine.

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recipe

makes ~18 cookies

[adapted from running to the kitchen]

3/4 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup white or whole wheat flour

1/2 baking soda

1 t cinnamon

1/2 ginger

1/8 t salt

2 T molasses

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 egg

1 T canola oil

coating:

2 T sugar

1/2 t cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and whisk.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients and whisk until smooth.  Add wet to dry and stir until combined.  Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

After refrigeration, roll 1 T dough into a ball and roll ball in coating, if desired.  Bake on parchment-lined baking sheets at 350˚F for 8 minutes.

Remove cookies from oven, flattening them with a spatula.  After 5 minutes, transfer cookies to wire racks to finish cooling.

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Salty Oat Cookies

I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole salty/sweet combination thing that’s been really popular for the past year or so.  Salted caramel, anyone?  Yeah, thought so.

But have you tried salty cookies?  At first thought it sounds gross, I’ll admit.  But it’s not!  Especially not when salty is combined with sweet chocolate, crunchy oats, and savory coconut.  The yum never stops.

These cookies, in addition to being delicious, are very hearty.  As in, eat-a-cookie-for-breakfast hearty.  You can totally do that, especially if you substitute raisins instead of chocolate chips (but even if you don’t….I won’t tell).  Judgment-free zone right here.

Oats are healthy.  So these cookies are healthy.  Right?  Here’s the deal.  These cookies do have oil in them.  These cookies do have chocolate in them.  But oats, coconut, and whole-wheat flour take away some of the guilt.  And if you’re going to eat a cookie, why not eat one that has fiber and healthy fats and will load you up with energy?  Vote oats 2012! (Seriously, oats are looking like a much better candidate…)

Annnddddd, oats are a very versatile ingredient.  They are complemented by so many other things: chocolate, coconut, dried fruit, salt, cocoa powder, nuts, etc.  Which means that you can get creative with these cookies.  As in, you don’t have to do everything I tell you (shocking!  I know).

So even though mine are delicious, you have the freedom to make your cookies in whatever way you enjoy most.  Get baking!

recipe

makes ~22 cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole-wheat, half regular)

1 t baking soda

1 t baking powder

1 t salt

1 1/2 cups canola oil

a bit more than 1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 t vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips/chunks

good quality sea salt

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a large bowl of an electric mixer (with paddle attachment), beat oil and sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla.  Beat to combine.  Add oats and coconut and stir.  Add chocolate and stir some more.

Using an ice cream scooper, shape 22 cookies on baking pans.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt.  Bake at 350˚F for 13 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.

[Try to] allow the cookies to cool before enjoying 🙂

Homemade Granola Bars

Time for fall.

Time for school.

Time for cross-country.

Running makes me hungry.  Biking doesn’t….which is bad.  But running does.  I feel like I’ve been eating 7 meals a day.  And I still wake up with a growling stomach.

Here’s a formula I like: Number of miles=Number of meals.  Yeahhhh.

We’ve all heard how hard it is to eat healthfully on the road (and on the run).  Blah, blah, blah…the evolution of fast-food…the end.  Enter: homemade granola bars.  Wrap one up and stash it in your bag for later (or now).

You won’t find any soy protein isolate or xanthan gum in these.  You won’t need to pay $2.00 at a vending machine for these.  Here’s real, good food.  Made by you!

This recipe comes from a dear friend who loves food almost as much as I do.  Here’s a shout-out thanks to her for sharing her awesome lake with me.  And then feeding me sushi to revive me.

Here’s to the new season and whatever it may bring you.  Eat up!

recipe

[servings depend on how you slice it 😉 ]

1 cup peanut or almond butter

1 cup sweetener such as agave nectar, brown rice syrup, or honey

3/4 cup chopped almonds

1 1/2 cups puffed rice

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds

3/4 cup sunflower seeds

1 heaping cup Nature’s Path Mesa Sunrise

1 cup dried cherries, cranberries, raisins (optional)

chocolate chips (optional)

Lightly coat a 9 x 13” baking pan with oil.

In a large saucepan, heat peanut butter with brown rice syrup over low heat until bubbles form.  Quickly stir in remaining ingredients (except chocolate) and mix well.

Allow mixture to cool slightly.  When cool enough to handle, press mixture into baking pan.  Press chocolate chips onto top of bars, if using.  Enjoy 🙂

TIP: These bars can be sliced and frozen.  Just take one out of the freezer and it will defrost in time for a snack!

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Truffles

I have a couple of reasons why you should make these.  Now.

Reason # 1:

Before an interview at the College of William & Mary, my dad was quizzing me with some practice questions that my interviewer might ask me.  One question was the typical, “Why do you want to come to this college?”  My dad suggested that I answer, “Because you have an ampersand in your name.”  Um….what?  Apparently the ‘&’ symbol is also known as an ampersand.  Ok Dad.

So, if you’re following my dad’s logic, you should make (and eat) these because I put an ampersand in the title.  There’s a reason for all you grammar nerds out there.

Reason #2:

Of all the people who eat my food (ok, so, basically just friends and family…), my sister is my most discerning critic.  Sometimes in my quest to create healthy desserts, I end up accidentally sacrificing flavor.  My sister is always the judge of that; she can spot my substitutions instantly as she suspiciously eyes the food I’ve put out in front of her.

The first person who tried these (besides me, of course) was my sister.  Instead of wrinkling her nose and asking, “Are these healthy?” she simply said, “These are good.”  Coming from my sister, that’s a rave.

Later when I was looking in the fridge for these truffles, I found that 2 were missing.  I asked my sister and she confessed to taking them.  Rather than get angry that she stole my food,  I took it as a good sign.

These truffles taste like a Reese’s peanut butter cup, they’re that delicious.  When chilled in the refrigerator (if you can resist eating them), they’re cool and melt in your mouth.

Sweet enough to be a dessert but healthy enough to be a snack, these truffles are a good source of protein that will satisfy any dessert craving.

Recipe

(taken from chockohlawtay )

makes 4-5 truffles, depending on size.  takes 10 minutes if you’re slow.

2 T peanut butter, smooth or chunky

1-2 T agave nectar or other sweetener

1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use whey)

raw cacao nibs or other coating, if desired

In a small bowl, combine protein powder and agave nectar.  Mix until powder and sweetener stick together to make a sort of dough.  Add peanut butter and stir to combine.  Using your hands, shape 4-5 balls out of dough.  Roll in cacao or other decoration, if using.  Store in refrigerator and enjoy 🙂

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding

Am I the only person who doesn’t know what a chia pet is?

Well, now I do.  But honestly, when I first heard about chia seeds, “ch-ch-ch-CHIA” did not blare through my brain the way it seems to for some people.

I first used chia seeds by adding them straight into my water-bottle and sipping them throughout the course of the day.  Sometimes I stir them into my morning yogurt too.  The seeds absorb liquid and turn gelatinous.

Chia seed pudding is a sweet and creamy breakfast, snack, or dessert, yet it is loaded with health benefits.  Chia seeds boast fiber, protein, and healthy omega fats.  Their ability to absorb water allows for continuous hydration.

If you’ve never tried chia seeds, I encourage you to jump on board.  Flax seeds have a somewhat nutty taste, but chia seeds literally taste like nothing.

This easy pudding is a great place to start.

Recipe

Yields 3-4 servings

2 cups almond milk

2/3 cup chia seeds

3/4 t vanilla extract

2-3 t sweetener (I used agave nectar)

fruit, nuts, spices, or other garnishes

Combine almond milk, vanilla extract, and chia seeds in a large bowl and stir.  Let sit for 30 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so.  Once mixture has taken on gelatinous/tapioca-like texture, add sweetener and refrigerate.  Serve chilled, topped with fruit, nuts, cinnamon, and more sweetener, if desired.