Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars

Have you ever wanted to make a pan of cookie bars so you just made a regular recipe of cookie dough, threw it in a pan and then were disappointed with the final results?  I think it has something to do with the amount of leavening required to make the bars rise enough in a pan vs just as a small cookie on a sheet pan.  Enough science though, let’s talk dessert. These oatmeal bars are a real gem – they don’t contain any butter or eggs, and bake for less than 20 minutes – peanut butter and milk provide the glue to hold these together, and lend a more earthy and hearty flavor to the end product.  They’re great served warm with milk, like their cookie cousins, but will leave you feeling a little more full thanks to the oatmeal and peanut butter.  And just like a cookie (or a Lay’s potato chip), I bet you can’t eat just one. 

Oatmeal bars v1

Oatmeal bars v2

 

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Bars
Yields 24
A hearty and sweet dessert bar filled with oats, peanut butter and chocolate
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup light brown sugar
  2. 1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
  3. 2 Tbsp vanilla extract
  4. 2 cups flour
  5. 2 cups quick-rise oatmeal (not instant)
  6. 2 tsp baking soda
  7. 1/2 tsp salt
  8. 1 cup milk
  9. 12oz mini chocolate chips (1 regular bag)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease two 9x11 metal baking pans.
  3. In a large mixing bowl cream together the brown sugar, peanut butter and vanilla until light in color and well blended. Scrape down the sides.
  4. Add the dry ingredients - flour, oats, baking soda and salt - and mix to combine. The dough will be dry and crumbly.
  5. Add the milk to the dough and stir just to combine.
  6. Add the chocolate chips and fold in to incorporate.
  7. Place half the dough in each greased baking pan. Wet hands with water and flatten dough into the pan.
  8. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.
  9. Let cool, then cut 12 squares from each pan.
Notes
  1. This recipe is delicious using a gluten free flour like Bob's Red Mill or Betty Crocker's Rice Flour blend.
  2. This recipe can be halved to make 12 squares, or one 9x11 pan of bars.
  3. These bars can be frozen and defrosted to serve at a later date. Will freeze well for at least 4 weeks.
Adapted from How Sweet Eats
Adapted from How Sweet Eats
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Pumpkin Muffins

If you’re anything like me, you have a hard time making it between meals without a little snack to tide you over.  Not a full mini-meal or anything, just some fruit or nuts or a baked good.  Okay let’s be honest, more often than not, a baked good.  I’ve had the usual suspects in rotation for quite some time – banana bread, oatmeal bars, blueberry muffins – until my sister introduced me to pumpkin muffins this winter, and my snacking world was turned upside down!  What is this delicious treat??  It tastes almost like cake given how soft and moist it is, and is sweet enough to not need frosting, but with the pumpkin puree and spices it tastes healthy enough to not feel (too) guilty for enjoying it between meals.  

Here my friends, is the pumpkin muffin.  Easy to make, hard to eat just one.  This recipe makes a double batch, nearly 30 muffins, so we’re in luck that these muffins freeze and defrost beautifully, if that’s your thing.  For those of you on the gluten free wagon, substitute a good gluten free flour (like Domata or Bob’s Red Mill) one-for-one with its wheat-filled sibling, and that’s it!  You’d never notice the difference.

A big thanks to my sister for sharing this recipe she received from a friend!  That’s one of the beauties of good food – you can share not only the end product but also the recipe, many times over, extending the joy to countless others. So go ahead and make a batch for breakfast, to give to a friend or for a delicious snack!


Pumpkin muffins

 

Pumpkin Muffins
Yields 30
These pumpkin muffins are moist and sweet, and perfect for breakfast or a snack!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. 12 T butter, melted and cooled
  2. 2/3 cup water
  3. 3 cups sugar
  4. 4 eggs
  5. 1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz)
  6. 3 1/3 cups flour
  7. 2 tsp baking soda
  8. 1/2 tsp baking powder
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  11. 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  12. 1/4 tsp ground cloves
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease and flour or line muffin tins with paper baking cups.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, water, sugar, eggs and pumpkin puree, and stir until fully combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together, then combine into the wet ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix! It's okay if there are a few lumps.
  5. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.
  6. Remove from the oven, and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the muffins to a rack to cool completely.
Notes
  1. Make sure to use pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.
  2. You can halve this recipe for a smaller batch, or about 12-15 muffins.
Adapted from Courtney Remes
Adapted from Courtney Remes
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Pumpkin bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

As summer turns to fall I love enjoying all the seasonal foods that come with the changing seasons – warm soups, apple crisp and most of all, pumpkin bars.  I once had a lengthy debate with a friend about this recipe – if bars or cake was the right name for this pumpkin dessert – and we agreed that the name didn’t really matter because it’s delicious!

This dessert is a moist, dense cake, and is relatively thin because it’s baked in a large jelly roll pan, spiced with cinnamon and flavored with pumpkin puree.  The cream cheese frosting is coated on thick – smoothy and creamy, with a little tang from the cream cheese.  If you don’t want to make the frosting from scratch two cans of pre-made cream cheese frosting do very nicely – but be sure to use two cans (not one) to ensure you can get nice, thick coverage on these bars.

Once the bars are prepared, find some friends to share them with since the recipe makes at least 30 bars of generous size – I found out the hard way that if these hang around my home too long I’ll eat them all myself!

Pumpkin bars 1

Pumpkin bars 2

 

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yields 30
This pumpkin bars are moist and delicious and with cream cheese frosting coating the top are the perfect fall dessert!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 eggs
  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1 cup vegetable oil
  4. 15 oz can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  5. 1 cup rice flour
  6. 1 cup cornstarch
  7. 1 tsp xanthan gum
  8. 2 tsp baking powder
  9. 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  10. 1 tsp salt
  11. 1 tsp baking soda
  12. 2 cans of pre-made cream cheese frosting (16oz each)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Grease a large jelly roll pan with PAM spray.
  3. Using an electric mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, oil and pumpkin on medium speed, mixing until light and fluffy.
  4. In a separate bowl stir together the dry ingredients (rice flour, cornstarch, xanthan gum, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda). Add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until well combined.
  5. Spread the batter into the greased pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the bars begin to pull away from the edges. Remove from the oven before they begin to darken and brown.
  7. Let cool completely, then frost.
Notes
  1. If you prefer to make these non-gluten free, substitute 2 cups of unbleached flour for the rice flour and cornstarch, and exclude the xanthan gum.
Adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Lemon Bars

Somewhere along the way I became a person who almost always eats some sort of dessert after dinner – this could involve a cookie, ice cream or just a piece of chocolate.  I feel the need to impress my love of dessert on others when they come over to eat, and in the summer months I like to rotate out the warm, dense desserts of winter for something lighter, brighter and more refreshing.  Enter – lemon bars!  A buttery cookie crust topped with a gooey lemon filling and sprinkled with powdered sugar is just what the doctor ordered after a BBQ or outdoor meal while you lounge on the deck.  This dessert is great to make ahead and serve at room temperature – even if you’re not the patient type, these bars need a few hours to rest before you cut them to allow the lemon filling to firm up.

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Lemon Bars
This light and refreshing dessert is great to make ahead and serve outside on a warm summer night.
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CRUST
  1. 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  2. 1/2 cup sugar
  3. 2 cups flour
  4. 1/8 tsp kosher salt
FILLING
  1. 6 eggs, room temperature
  2. 3 cups sugar
  3. Grated lemon zest of 2 lemons
  4. 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  5. 1 cup flour
  6. Powdered sugar, for dusting
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the flour and sugar on low, mixing just to combine.
  3. Remove the dough and press into a 9x11 baking pan, creating a flat surface.
  4. Chill the dough in the pan for 30 minutes.
  5. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or just until beginning to brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and let rest while you prepare the remaining ingredients. (Leave the oven on)
  7. In the bowl of a mixer, combine the eggs, sugar, zest, lemon juice and flour, whisking to thoroughly combine.
  8. Pour the whisked mixture into the baking pan over the baked dough, and return to the oven.
  9. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling has set.
  10. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few hours until the filling has cooled and firmed up.
  11. Cut into small squares and dust with powdered sugar before serving.
Notes
  1. This recipe is easily prepared gluten free by substituting the flour for a gluten-free flour blend and excluding any xanthan gum.
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp and Vanilla Ice Cream

That title there is a long one, isn’t it?  I’ll be forthcoming – there is no recipe for ice cream in this link, though maybe another day.  It’s really just a serving suggestion. 🙂 This here post is about fruit crisp, summer farmers markets and knowing your audience.  

First, fruit crisps.  Know them?  Love them.  They are a cinch to make, flexible to include almost any fruit you have on hand and are somehow easy to make but still feel a little fancy when served, especially when topped with ice cream.

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Second, I was a late-joiner to the farmers market craze but am now hooked on my weekly Saturday morning visit.  It’s a great way to start the weekend, to explore local produce and product offerings, and to experiment with foods you might not otherwise try.  This last week there were lots of strawberries and rhubarb for sale so the makings of this fruit crisp were decided for me.

 Finally, know your audience.  This doesn’t apply just to food, but to life.  It’s probably the most important professional advice I’ve ever received when it comes to formal presentations at work, and is equally important (if not more) to keep this in mind in the kitchen.  Who are you feeding?  Do they have special dietary concerns, aversions or passions?  What did you feed them last time they were over?  (This one is hard to keep track of, and in my case, the answer is almost always “Mexican food”)  Is there something special they love to eat that would make them feel like the whole meal was in their honor?  If I can find something to hit that last point, I will go that route 100% of the time, time permitting.  In the case of this recipe I was looking for something to make for dessert for a belated Father’s Day celebration for my beloved Daddio and know that this man loves desserts, homemade treats and rhubarb, so a fruit crisp in his honor it would be the ticket.

 

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The dessert was a hit on the patio on a hot summer Saturday night and some of us (*ahem me*) made it back for seconds.  If rhubarb isn’t your thing, leave it out, add some other berries, or go for straight strawberries.  Find your bliss here, my friends.  And don’t forget the ice cream.

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream
Serves 8
This fruit crisp is super easy to prepare and bake, and delicious when served warm and topped with vanilla ice cream.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 min
Ingredients
  1. 5-6 stalks of rhubarb, washed and diced into 1 inch pieces
  2. 1 lb fresh strawberries, washed and quartered
  3. 1¼ cups granulated sugar, divided
  4. 1/2 lemon, zested
  5. 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  6. ½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
  7. 1 cup all-purpose flour
  8. ½ cup light brown sugar
  9. ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  10. 1 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
  11. 3/4 cup cold butter, diced (1 1/2 sticks)
  12. Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine the rhubarb, strawberries, ¾ cup granulated sugar, and the lemon zest.
  3. In a measuring cup, measure the orange juice and add the cornstarch, stirring until dissolved, then mix it into the fruit.
  4. Pour the fruit mixture into an 9 × 13 inch baking dish.
  5. For the topping, combine the flour, the remaining ½ cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, salt, and oatmeal.
  6. Add the cold butter and mix until the dry ingredients are moist and the mixture is in crumbles (the butter should be the size of grapes).
  7. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit, covering the fruit completely, and bake for 1 hour, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is light brown.
  8. Serve while warm, topped with ice cream.
Notes
  1. This recipe is easily prepared gluten free by substituting gluten free flour and oatmeal.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa "How Easy Is That"
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Better than Tom Selleck Cake

What in God’s name does Tom Selleck have to do with cake?  Take a look at this bad boy.

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Yep, it tastes as good as it looks.  Maybe even better.  

This, my friends, is known as “Better than sex” cake but for those of you with a robust Catholic upbringing you may read that dessert name and inwardly cringe and become suddenly uncomfortable and don’t know where to direct your eyes.  I know I’m not alone in this weird Catholic guilt thing – you know why?  My friend’s grandma fessed up to it too.  Ha!  In an effort to not have to say the “s” word in front of her grandchildren (yea, it’s considered the “s” word if you’re Catholic) this grandma renamed it “Better than Tom Selleck” cake.  So while that’s a little silly it’s also a lot funny, so I’m going with it.  Call this cake whichever name you like better, or create your own.  My vote is on “Better than sleeping in on Sunday” cake.

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So with no further ado – let’s get to it.  This cake is incredibly moist, sweet and decadent.  To prepare it you need to make a chocolate cake – from scratch or a from a box, milk chocolate or German, doesn’t really matter in my book. (I opt for a gluten free box mix)  Once baked you’re going to stab a million little holes into it with the blunt handle end of a wooden spoon and then… pour a can of sweetened condensed milk over it.  And because that isn’t enough, then you’re going to pour on a jar of caramel sauce.  Refrigerate overnight, top with cool whip and chopped Heath bars.  Decide how much of the cake you’re going to allow yourself to eat (I don’t know, maybe one slice, like a normal person)… then eat said amount… and then try to stop there. 

 

My mother in law made this for a baby shower a year or two ago and made me my own gluten-free version (read: an entire cake for just little ol’ me) – while I love her for the personal touch, it forced me to recognize that my metabolism is no longer running at pre-teen levels (duh) and taught me that this cake keeps great in the fridge for a few days.  

Enjoy!

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Better than Tom Selleck Cake
Serves 15
Chocolate cake soaked with sweetened condensed milk and caramel sauce, topped with whipped cream and chopped Heath bars.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
45 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 box mix, chocolate cake (gluten free, if desired)
  2. 14oz sweetened condensed milk
  3. 10oz caramel sauce
  4. 8oz Cool Whip
  5. 4oz Heath Bar bits
Instructions
  1. Prepare chocolate cake in a 9x11 metal pan according to the directions on the box and bake.
  2. Remove from the oven and immediately poke 50-100 holes into the cake using the handle end of a wooden spoon or a chop stick.
  3. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the cake.
  4. Heat the caramel sauce in the microwave for 30 seconds, then pour over the cake.
  5. Cover the cake and refrigerate overnight or up to 24 hours.
  6. When ready to serve the cake, spread with Cool Whip and sprinkle heavily with Heath Bar bits.
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/

Mom’s Blueberry Muffins

The Church of Saint Dominic Cook Book  is a collection of recipes that reminds me of my family and growing up in Northfield – it’s certainly not inclusive of all my family’s recipes, but it goes a long ways towards that goal.  Since as long as I can remember my mom has been using this cookbook for recipes for beverages, hot dishes (GO Minnesota!), cakes, muffins and cookies, and nothing reminds me more of home cooking than the food that comes out of this book.  One of my all-time favorite recipes is from that cookbook and is the feature of this post – Blueberry Muffins.  I’ll admit, I may have sinned last summer and strayed to try a few new recipes for blueberry muffins but found my way back to this one as the proven favorite, plus two small additions.  It’s like I can’t help myself from taking a perfectly good recipe and making a few small tweaks so I can call it my own.  It’s an illness.  

So with no further ado, let’s talk about muffins.

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 Since the first half of this post is a little long I’ll try to make the rest of this short and sweet.  When you make muffins there’s just a few things to keep in mind.

1. Prepare the wet and dry ingredients in separate bowls, and combine at the very end to make your batter.

2. Don’t mix the berries into the batter or it will turn it purple – scoop the batter into the paper muffin liner, top with berries, and then top with more batter.

3. For the love of God – DO NOT OVERMIX THE BATTER.  This should have been tip #1.  If you’re going to over-mix your muffin batter you might as well throw it away and head to the bakery.  Something about over-mixing muffin batter turns it into tough, hard hockey pucks.  So when making this recipe, start with maybe 10 folds/stirs of the batter.  Not enough?  Add ONE more.  The wet and dry ingredients aren’t fully combined yet?  Stir ONE more time.  If you need proof of the importance of this tip I’ll send you a photo of the first round of making muffins for this post, which resulted in a batch I had to throw out because they were so tough you could throw them through a window.

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Ha, look at this, the second half of this post isn’t short and sweet.  Please don’t hold it against me.  Just make these muffins.  The recipe is decades old and has been made at my parents’ and my home countless time so I promise the end result will be great IF YOU PROMISE TO NOT OVERMIX THE BATTER.

Oh yea, those little tweaks I couldn’t resist adding to the original recipe? Lemon zest and vanilla extract – they really add fragrant, citrus, sweet flavors but if you want to try the original St. Dominic Cookbook recipe, just exclude these two items.  Very few recipes in my kitchen epitomize the best of homemade family foods and baked goods more than this one.  

This recipe not only results in delicious muffins, it makes me warm and fuzzy inside every time I pull out the +30 year old St. Dominic Church Cookbook to prepare them.  I’m the third generation in my family to cook from this book and love carrying the tradition forward.

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Mom's Blueberry Muffins
Serves 24
These blueberry muffins are delicious fresh from the oven with hints of lemon and vanilla.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
25 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. DRY INGREDIENTS
  2. 4 1/2 cups rice blend flour (gluten free)
  3. 2 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
  4. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  5. 2 T. baking powder
  6. 1 tsp. salt
  7. 2 tsp lemon zest
  8. WET INGREDIENTS
  9. 1 1/2 cup milk
  10. 3 eggs, beaten
  11. 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  12. 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  13. 8oz frozen blueberries thawed OR fresh blueberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position the baking rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. Fill muffin tins with 24 paper liners.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including the lemon zest.
  4. Combine all wet ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking to combine (do not add the blueberries yet).
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and carefully stir to combine, stirring as little as possible. Start with 10 folds or stirs - try to stir no more than 20 times. Batter may be lumpy.
  6. Scoop 2 T. of batter into each paper liner.
  7. Top batter with thawed or fresh blueberries, roughly 5-6 per muffin.
  8. Top batter and blueberries with 1 T. of the remaining batter.
  9. Place both muffins tins on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until just starting to brown.
  10. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then remove muffins to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Notes
  1. This recipe has been adapted from the original to result in a full batch of 24 muffins (instead of 10) and includes lemon zest and vanilla extract for citrusy and sweet flavors.
  2. If you want to make this recipe non-gluten-free, exclude the xanthan gum and use 4 1/2 cups of regular bleached white flour.
Adapted from Church of St. Dominic Cookbook
Adapted from Church of St. Dominic Cookbook
In Bryna's Kitchen http://www.inbrynaskitchen.com/