Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars

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DessertMashUpsHave you ever heard of a “Dessert Mash-Up”? If you haven’t, it’s simply a yummy creation of two different desserts combined into one! It’s also the name of a new cookbook that has recipes like Blueberry Muffin Waffles, Pumpkin Cheesecake French Toast, Chocolate Cheesecake Sandwich Cookies, Snickers Cake Roll, Almond Joy Dip, and lots more. There’s also great color photos of the recipes that will make you want to start baking right away! Written by Dorothy Kern, author of the blog Crazy for Crust, the book has recipe sections for…

  • Breakfast
  • Candy
  • Cookies, Brownies, and Bars
  • Pie;
  • Cake and Cheesecake
  • Sweet Dips
  • Holiday Recipes.

There are so many yummy recipes I found in my review copy of Dessert Mash-Ups, it was hard to decide what to make! Since it’s autumn, I thought the Pumpkin Pie Magic Bars would be the perfect thing to try. I am a big fan of Magic Bars but never would have thought of adding a pumpkin pie flavor to them–what a great idea! The recipe in the book makes a 9 x 9″ pan of bars–I decided to double the recipe and make a 9 x 13″ pan instead. I had a feeling I would like these so much, I’d want a bigger batch! :) The pumpkin flavor in these bars is pretty subtle–they have more of a gingery, caramel flavor combined with the creamy sweetness of the white chocolate chips in the middle. All-in-all, these are very rich and super yummy–just the thing for satisfying your autumn sweet tooth! :)

PUMPKIN PIE MAGIC BARS from Dessert Mash-Ups

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan (I doubled the original recipe; halve these amounts for a 9 x 9″ pan)

  • 48 to 50 gingersnap cookies
  • 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons (or 1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 cups (one 12-ounce package) white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup toffee bits
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup fat-free sweetened condensed milk (or you can use a 14-ounce can, which is a little more than 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 x 13″ pan with cooking spray or line with foil and spray with cooking spray for easy cleanup.

Grind the gingersnaps to a fine crumb in a food processor; you should have about 3 cups of crumbs. Place cookie crumbs in a medium bowl and mix with the sugar and melted butter. Press into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the white chocolate chips, pecans, coconut, and toffee bits over the top of the crust.

Whisk together the pumpkin puree, sweetened condensed milk, and pumpkin pie spice in a small bowl or measuring cup and pour over the top of the bars. The mixture will just barely cover; use a spatula to carefully spread it to the edges.

Bake for 29 to 35 minutes, until the edges have started to brown. Cool completely before cutting. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Tip: Different brands of sweetened condensed milk come in different thicknesses. If it’s too thick to be pourable, you can transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl and heat it on high for 10 to 20 seconds until it becomes a little thinner.

These bars are definitely a treat–the sweetened condensed milk and the toffee bits combine to make a yummy caramel-like topping that really tastes great with the gingery crust! I think I’m going to have to try more of these dessert mash-up ideas–have you made any yourself?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday at Create with Joy.

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Spinach, Blueberry, and Blue Cheese Salad with Blueberry Vinaigrette

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I took a short break from the internet at the end of August, and I can’t believe we are into September already! But it’s still officially summer and the weather is still warm for many of us, so I thought I’d … Continue reading

A Taste of Provence-Tomatoes Provençal

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DownloadedFileHave you ever been to Provence? I have never been to France but if I have the chance to go, Provence will be one of the areas I want to visit! This region of southern France stretches from the Mediterranean to the hills of Haute Provence, and from the Rhone River valley to the Italian Alps. It was the site of the first Roman colony beyond Italy and today it’s known for fragrant lavender fields, beautiful beaches like Cannes, Saint-Tropez, and Nice, quaint small villages, and fine wines and food. The cuisine of this area includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, extra virgin olive oil, and nuts–basically the core of the healthy Mediterranean diet.

I learned these things and more about Provence as I was looking through my review copy of Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living, by François Millo and Viktorija Todorovska. This softcover book introduces you to the geography, history, traditions, wines, and recipes of the region. Here are some images of Provence you’ll find in the book:

Provence

Above images used with permission © François Milo.

Isn’t it beautiful? You’ll find more full color photography of picturesque Provence as well as many of the 47 recipes in the book, which are traditional favorites of the region…like Niçoise Salad, Fougasse with Tomatoes, Olives, and Peppers, Artichokes Barigoule, Tapenade, Swiss Chard Tart, Mediterranean Cod with Caramelized Onions, and Lemon Tart. The recipes are organized by the different areas of Provence that they’re popular in–Aix-en-Provence and Haute Provence, Marseille, La Cote Varoise, and Nice and the Riviera.

I decided to try the recipe for Tomatoes Provençal, because I love tomatoes and this is a simple yet delicious way to fix them–fresh tomatoes topped with a mix of breadcrumbs, chopped fresh parsley, and minced garlic. This makes a great side dish and would even work nicely for a spring or summer brunch. The book recommends serving “as a light meal with other Provençal delicacies and some crusty bread, or with meat.” For best results, use fresh, sweet, ripe tomatoes!

 TOMATOES PROVENÇAL from Provence Food and Wine: The Art of Living

Makes 4 servings

This traditional Provençial dish relies on the quality of the tomatoes used; they must be fresh and ripe. It’s best to prepare this dish in the summer, when tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness, sweet, and full of flavor….

  • 4 small to medium ripe tomatoes, halved and stems removed
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (64 g) chopped fresh parsley (I used Italian flat leaf parsley)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs (I used the very fine breadcrumbs you purchase, but I think fresh breadcrumbs would be even better!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Optional: I added some additional chopped parsley for garnish

Lightly dust the cut sides of the tomatoes with the sugar.

In a large sauté pan, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, cut sides down, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until they caramelize.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the parsley and garlic.

Flip the tomatoes and distribute the parsley and garlic mixture evenly onto them, pressing down so the mixture adheres to the tomato. Sprinkle with the 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the black pepper. Distribute the breadcrumbs evenly among the tomatoes.

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft and fully cooked through. Remove from the heat. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Transfer the tomatoes to a serving dish and serve warm. Note: I drizzled the remaining olive oil from the sauté pan over the tomatoes and garnished them with additional chopped parsley.

I thought the blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and touch of sea salt made a great flavor combination as a topping for the tomatoes.

Have you made or tasted this dish before? And are you ready to take a trip to Provence now? :)

Down-Home Tomatoes with Okra

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HealthySlowCookerCooking with a slow cooker is so convenient, and it’s even better when you can make healthy meals in it! I recently received a review copy of The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition, and found that it not only includes lots of healthy gluten-free recipes, but also has additional information about the health benefits of many of the ingredients. The book starts off with helpful tips on using your slow cooker, and then you’ll find recipes for Breakfast, Starters and Snacks, Soups, Poultry, Fish and Seafood, Beef and Veal, Pork and Lamb, Vegetarian Mains, Sides and Sauces, and Desserts.

Some of the recipes include Warm Black Bean Salsa, Gingery Carrot Soup with Orange and Parsley, French Basil Chicken, Texas-Style Chili con Carne, Mixed Vegetables in Spicy Peanut Sauce, Creamy Polenta with Corn and Chiles, and Poached Pears in Chocolate Sauce. All recipes include information on Calories and Nutrients per serving, too.

I decided to try the Down-Home Tomatoes with Okra because I’ve never made an okra dish, and thought it was about time! I don’t eat okra that often, but learned from this book that it’s very good for you. Okra “…provides glutathione, an antioxidant that supports the immune system and assists your body with eliminating toxins (pg. 291)….”

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it out! I was a little surprised to see that it had bacon in it, but the book points out which type of bacon is healthiest to use (see recipe below). I used turkey bacon because I already had some on hand.

DOWN-HOME TOMATOES WITH OKRA from The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition

Makes 6 servings

  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (15 mL)
  • 4 ounces chunk bacon, diced (125 g) I used turkey bacon–the book recommends using bacon without additives and synthetic nitrates and made from pigs that have been pastured, which is higher in omega-3 fatty acids
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (2 mL)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns (2 mL)
  • 1 (28-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes including juice (796 mL)
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups sliced (1/2 inch or 1 cm) okra, about 12 ounces (375 g)-I used a 12-ounce bag of sliced frozen okra, thawed

In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring, until nicely browned, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, salt, and peppercorns and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware.

Cover and cook on Low for 6 hours or on High for 3 hours, until hot and bubbly. Add bell pepper and okra. Cover and cook on High for about 30 minutes, until okra is tender.

Nutrients Per Serving: Calories 101; Protein 4.4 g; Carbohydrates 12.2 g; Fat (Total) 4.5 g (Saturated Fat 1.1 g; Monounsaturated Fat 2.7 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 0.5 g); Dietary Fiber 3.0 g; Sodium 339 mg; Cholesterol 6 mg. Excellent source of vitamins C and K; Good source of potassium; Source of Vitamins A and B-6, folate, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and zinc; Contains a moderate amount of dietary fiber.

Courtesy The Healthy Slow Cooker, Second Edition by Judith Finlayson © 2014 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission.

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You may want to add some additional seasoning to taste before serving. Do you have a favorite way you like to prepare okra?

Edamame Snap Pea Salad from The Lemonade Cookbook and a Giveaway!

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the-lemonade-cookbook-southern-california-comfort-foodIn 2007, Chef Alan Jackson opened what is now L.A.’s favorite modern cafeteria–Lemonade, serving up healthy comfort food Southern California-style. This popular eatery has 10 locations and is still growing. Like me, if you didn’t live in Southern California, you were missing out…until now. Chef Jackson and coauthor JoAnn Cianciulli have come out with The Lemonade Cookbook (hardcover, St. Martin’s Press), filled with 120 unique, easy-to-make, tasty recipes and lots of great full-color photos of many of these dishes.

I received a review copy from the publisher, plus a copy to give away to one of you! See the end of this post for details on how to win this book! I’ll share a little more about it here, along with a recipe I made.

In The Lemonade Cookbook, there are recipes for salads, veggie sides, unique sandwiches, soups and stews, and desserts. Some of the recipes include:

  • Fingerling Potatoes with Dill and Lemon-Saffron Vinaigrette
  • Heirloom Tomato, Crushed Basil, Fleur de Sel Salad
  • Greek-Marinated Chicken with Tzatsiki
  • Buttermilk-Baked Chicken
  • Citrus-Poached Salmon with Mustard Sauce
  • BBQ Brisket
  • Turkey with Dried Cranberry and Sage Gravy
  • Caesar Club (with Turkey, Ham, and Tomato)
  • Egg Salad Sandwich with Bacon and Heirloom Tomato
  • Creamed Cauliflower Soup
  • Mac ‘N Cheese
  • Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Lemon Drop Cupcakes
  • Caramel-Butterscotch Pudding

So you see, there’s quite a variety of recipes to try! And there’s even a chapter of recipes featuring their popular lemonade concoctions including Peach Ginger, Pear Basil, Cantaloupe Sage, and Blueberry Mint!

I decided to make one of the veggie salads, Edamame Snap Pea Salad with Sesame Vinaigrette, which was wonderful! I don’t know of many ways to serve edamame, but this is a great one! It’s easy to make and very healthy! It’s a slightly crunchy, tangy salad mix of edamame and sugar snap peas, and has a great Sesame Vinaigrette mixed in. If you aren’t familiar with edamame, it’s another word for green soybeans-it’s best to use non-GMO edamame. Here’s the recipe so you can try it out!

EDAMAME SNAP PEA SALAD WITH SESAME VINAIGRETTE from The Lemonade Cookbook

Makes 4 cups

This lean green edamame and snap pea dish adds just the right crunch, while sesame, shallot, and chive add another level of texture by coating the vegetables. The best part about this dish is it’s so simple to whip up.

  • 1/2 pound sugar snap peas (2 cups), ends trimmed
  • 2 cups shelled edamame (green soybeans), frozen, thawed, and cooked
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup Sesame Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
  • 1 Tablespoon black sesame seeds (I just used regular sesame seeds)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl halfway with water and adding a tray of ice cubes.

Blanch the snap peas for only about 2 minutes; they become tender very quickly. Using a slotted spoon, remove the snap peas from the water and plunge into the ice bath to “shock” them, i.e., to stop the cooking process and cool them down right away. This procedure also sets the vibrant green color of the peas. Drain the snap peas in a colander.

Put the blanched snap peas in a mixing bowl. Add the edamame, shallot, chives, and vinaigrette, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, salt, and pepper, tossing well. Serve chilled.

SESAME VINAIGRETTE

  • 1/2 cup seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small mixing bowl or mason jar, combine the vinegar, sesame seeds, garlic, mustard, soy sauce, canola and sesame oils; season with pepper. Whisk or shake to blend. Keep any left-over vinaigrette covered in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Makes 1 cup.

the-lemonade-cookbook-southern-california-comfort-foodThe Giveaway Is Now Closed!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The Lemonade Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 23, at 11 p.m. (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 24. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of side dish is!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

This is a great book for anyone who loves trying unique recipes and using fresh, healthy ingredients! It would also make a wonderful gift! :)

Oatmeal Maple Bread from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day–and a Giveaway!

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You’ve probably heard about the bestselling book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, first published back in 2007. Because of its popularity, authors Jeff Hertzberg, M.D. and NewArtisanBreadZoe Francois have completely revised and updated their original book that revolutionized bread-making. Their new book,  The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day was just released on October 22. The publisher, Thomas Dunne Books, sent me a review copy, and I’m happy to say they are providing a copy for me to give away! They will send the giveaway copy directly to the winner, so see the end of the post for details on how to win this book! First, I’ll tell you more about the book and the recipe I made from it.

The New Artisan Bread In Five Minutes a Day is completely revised and updated with forty new full-color images, one hundred black-and-white how-to photos, an expanded “Tips and Techniques” section, a gluten-free chapter, and more than 30 new recipes for homemade breads and sweets, including…

  • Gluten-free Cheesy Breadsticks, Pizza, Baguette and Sweeet Brioche
  • Beer-Cheese and Crock-Pot Bread
  • Pretzel Buns
  • Apple-Stuffed French Toast
  • Panini

I decided to try the recipe for Oatmeal Maple Bread–that just sounded so good and healthy! I definitely am a novice bread maker, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I’m happy to say it turned out wonderfully! The bread has a great texture and rises nicely, and pure maple syrup gives it a delicious, slightly sweet taste. This recipe makes 2 loaves. I brought some of the bread in to work for my coworkers to sample and everyone loved it! I hope you get a chance to try the recipe out!

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OATMEAL MAPLE BREAD from The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Makes two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″ loaves

A note from the book: This high-fiber loaf is lightly sweetened with maple syrup and tastes great cut into thick slices and then slathered with butter (and marmalade)…. It also makes a great sandwich with smoked turkey and cheese.

  • 2 3/4 cups (625 grams) lukewarm water
  • 1 Tablespoon (10 grams) Granulated yeast
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons (17 to 25 grams) Kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon (170 grams) Pure Maple Syrup (the 1 Tablespoon is for brushing on top of the loaf right before baking)
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) oil, plus more for greasing the loaf pans (I used olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup (55 grams) Wheat bran
  • 1 1/2 cups (140 grams) Old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup (130 grams) Whole wheat flour or White Whole wheat flour (I used White whole wheat)
  • 4 cups (570 grams) All-purpose flour (I used unbleached all-purpose flour)
  1. Mixing and storing the dough: Mix the yeast and salt with the water, the 3/4 cup maple syrup, and the oil in a 6-quart bowl or a lidded (not airtight) food container.
  2. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon or a heavy-duty stand mixer (with paddle). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.
  3. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top), approximately 2 hours.
  4. The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate the container of dough and use over the next 7 days.
  5. On baking day, grease two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pans. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and divide dough in half. Dust each dough half with more flour and quickly shape each of them, one at a time, into a ball by stretching the surface of each piece of dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
  6. Elongate each ball of dough to form an oval loaf and place into the prepared pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 90 minutes.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350˚F. A baking stone is not required, and omitting it shortens the preheat.
  8. Using a pastry brush, brush the top crusts with the remaining 1 Tablespoon maple syrup (use 1/2 Tablespoon on the top of each loaf).
  9. Place the loaves on a rack near the center of the oven. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until browned and firm (my baking time was 50 minutes). Smaller or larger loaves will require adjustments in resting and baking time.
  10. Remove from the pans and allow to cool on a rack before slicing and eating.

I let my loaves cool before slicing one of them and put the other in the freezer for later. But you may not be able to resist eating this bread warm right out of the oven! :)

9781250018281GIVEAWY IS NOW CLOSED. The winning comment was #5, Barbara. Congratulations!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, November 9, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, November 10. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post–it would be great to hear what your favorite kind of bread is or if you have ever made homemade bread!

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

This is a great book for bread lovers, so if you’re one, be sure to enter the giveaway! :)

S’mores Popcorn from The S’mores Cookbook and a Giveaway!

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bildeWhen I think of summer treats, I think of S’mores around a campfire. But when I looked through my review copy of The S’mores Cookbook  by Susan Whetzel, I realized that you can enjoy the great taste of S’mores all year round in lots of different ways! This hardcover book is filled with lots of wonderful full-color photos of the many recipes you can make. And the publisher, Adams Media, has offered to send a giveaway copy directly to the winning commentor on this post! See the end of the post for details.

So S’mores are not just for summer anymore…you can make a great S’mores dessert whenever you crave it! And actually, S’mores are not just for dessert anymore, because this book also includes breakfast recipes, too! Some treats from this book that I’d like to try out are:

  • S’mores Stuffed French Toast
  • S’mores Popovers
  • Mini Dark Chocolate S’mores Muffins
  • S’mores Coffee Cake
  • Dark Chocolate S’mores Pie
  • S’mores Mousse Cups
  • S’mores Dip
  • S’mores Cupcakes
  • S’mores Chocolate Chunksters

I decided to make the S’mores Popcorn first because it’s been really hot and humid lately, and I wanted to do a no-bake recipe. Plus, this is a great recipe to give as a food gift, packaged in a cellophane bag–and with Christmas just 4 months away, I’m on the lookout for some tasty and easy food gift ideas! :) It’s really kind of addicting, so you’ll want to either have lots of people help you eat it up or share with your friends! The two kinds of chocolate mixed with the caramel corn and marshmallows make a really rich and yummy treat! It’s also a great snack to make in the fall if you’re having a tailgate party or watching the games at home. Store-bought caramel corn works great in this, or you can use homemade if you like.

When I melted the chocolate, I added just a little bit of coconut oil, about 1 teaspoon per cup, to make the chocolate a  little smoother for drizzling. If you do this, the chocolate will take a little longer to dry or set, and it may not package as well since the chocolate will be a little gooier, so it’s definitely an optional thing. If you decide to add some oil when melting the chocolate and if you’ve used an extra large sheet pan to spread your popcorn mix on,* you can put your pan of S’mores popcorn in the fridge, after everything is mixed together, for at least a half hour or until chocolate is set.

Here’s the recipe…

S’MORES POPCORN BAGS from The S’mores Cookbook

Yields: 10 gift bags

Feel free to make your own caramel popcorn for this amazing treat, but store-bought works amazingly well and tends to hold up and look nicer in the gift bags. Either way, it’s a win-win situation!–Susan Whetzel

  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (Note: I used an extra 1/4 cup later in the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs
  • 8 cups caramel popcorn
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 10 cellophane gift bags
  • Ribbon, to tie bags, as needed

Cover the counter with parchment paper (*I lined an extra large sheet pan with parchment paper instead). Drizzle the parchment with melted semisweet chocolate and immediately sprinkle with graham cracker crumbs and popcorn, making as even a layer as possible.

Drizzle the white chocolate over the popcorn; allow to dry. (NOTE: I melted an additional 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips and drizzled this over the popcorn, too, for an extra chocolatey taste). Once chocolate is dry, pour the popcorn from the parchment into a large bowl; add marshmallows.

Divide evenly into cellophane bags, and tie with decorative ribbon.

This makes a great game snack or food gift and it’s so easy to make, so keep it in mind for football season and gift- giving at the holidays!

bildeThe Giveaway is Now Closed. Congratulations to commentor #8, Linda G., for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway….if you’d like to enter to win a copy of The S’mores Cookbook, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Sunday, September 1, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! Winner will be chosen ramdomly via Random.org and announced on Monday, September 2. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway is limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me if you make S’mores often or if you’ve made any S’mores-inspired recipes this summer.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following!

Don’t worry if your comment doesn’t show up right away–because of spam, I need to approve all the comments before they show up! Hope you all have time to enter, and enjoy your Labor Day Weekend!

 

Banana Split Ice Cream Sandwich from I Scream Sandwich!

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Photo from I Scream Sandwich!

Did you know that August 2nd is National Ice Cream Sandwich Day? I just heard about it recently myself. Before I was involved in the food blogging world, I had no idea how many IScreamSandwich90365JFfood holidays there were–too many to keep up with! :) But I do love ice cream sandwiches, so I thought I’d share a little about a book that has lots of recipes for the homemade kind, I Scream Sandwich, by Jennie Schacht. There’s a wide variety of ideas for sandwiches made with brownies, bars, cakes, brioche, crusts, gelatos, sorbets, and even dairy-free options…just about any kind of ice cream sandwich you could imagine!

There are also helpful ice cream sandwich-making tips in the first chapter, Sandwich Secrets. And in the second chapter, Jennie writes about Essential Equipment, Ingredients, and Building Block Recipes. The rest of the book is filled with yummy full-color photos and ice cream sandwich recipes like:

  • Inside-Out Carrot Cake (Cream Cheese Ice Cream on Carrot Cake Cookies)
  • Key Lime Pie (Key Lime Ice Cream on Sugar Cookies)
  • S’mores (Fudge Ripple Ice Cream on Graham Crackers with Toasted Marshmallows)
  • Apricot Croissan’wich (Apricot Sorbet on a Croissant)

And then there’s the Banana Split ice cream sandwich (pictured above), made with assorted ice creams and toppings on a hot dog bun with Caramelized Bananas. I didn’t have time to try this recipe out myself, but it sounded like such a  fun one that I thought I’d share it with you! And you can use either homemade ingredients or store-bought to make these.

BANANA SPLIT ICE CREAM SANDWICH from I Scream Sandwich!

Makes 6 sandwiches

“…Part sandwich, part sundae, it’s a great way to use up bits of leftover ice cream and sauces, all while maintaining a semblance of health (bananas! berry sauce! fruit and nut garnish!). I’ve even used soft honey-whole wheat buns in place of the brioche and they perfectly soaked up all the melty ice cream and sauces…For a banana split party, line up the buns, sugar-crusted bananas, ice cream with small scoops, bowls of sauce, and any additional toppings, and let everyone make their own.” – Jennie Schacht

ASSORTED ICE CREAMS AND TOPPINGS

  • 3 or more flavors of ice cream or gelato (homemade or store-bought), enough to make 18 small scoops in total (1 to 2 Tablespoons per scoop)
  • 3 or more sauces (homemade or store-bought), such as Salty Carmel Swirl (page 156), Fudge Ripple (page 156), and Berry Ribbon (page 159)
  • Any additional toppings you desire, such as fresh berries, chopped toasted nuts, marshmallows, whipped cream, or candied cherries

HOT DOG BUNS

There’s a recipe for homemade Brioche Buns in the book, but you can also use 6 soft, good-quality bakery or store-bought hot dog buns.

CARAMELIZED BANANAS

  • 3 bananas, peeled and split lengthwise
  • 2 to 4 Tablespoons granulated sugar

Lay out the bananas cut-side up on a flat flameproof surface and sprinkle each half evenly with 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar. Holding a kitchen torch 1 to 2 inches from the surface, move the flame slowly and steadily over the bananas until the sugar melts and then browns, 1 to 2 minutes. Alternatively, broil the sugared bananas on a baking sheet as close as possible to the heating element, watching closely until the sugar is melted and golden brown, 2 minutes or longer, depending on your broiler.

SANDWICH

Split and open the buns, leaving them hinged on one side. Remove some of the soft insides from both sides of the bun to form a well.

For each sandwich, place a bun on a plate and lay a caramelized banana against the top half of the open bun. Place 3 small scoops of slightly softened ice cream on the bottom half, up against the seam. Top each scoop with a spoonful of sauce, warmed if desired, and any additional toppings you wish. Press gently to close the bun, and serve immediately.

Doesn’t that sound like a great cool summer treat? Do you like ice cream sandwiches, and have you ever made homemade ones?

Recipe/photo reprinted with permission from Stewart, Tabori & Chang. All rights reserved.

Healthy Rooibos Tea and National Iced Tea Day

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Did you know that Monday, June 10, is National Iced Tea Day? I didn’t, until the folks at Rooibee Red Tea told me about it and wanted to know if I’d like to try some of their tea flavors. Well, of course I did, because just a few weeks earlier I had read some information about how healthy rooibos tea was!

Rooibos, which means “red bush,” is a bush that grows only in South Africa. The leaves from the bush are used to make the tea. Used for generations in South Africa, rooibos tea has a high level of antioxidants, is naturally caffeine-free, and is known for it’s calming and rejuvenating benefits. It has grown in popularity in other parts of the world over the years. After reading about rooibos tea a few weeks ago, I had bought some teabags from my health food store and liked those, so I had a feeling I would like Rooibee Red Tea.

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Rooibee Red Tea is the only bottled, ready to drink USDA-organic rooibos tea on the market. I received a bottle of each of their flavors…Watermelon Mint, Peach, Cranberry Pomegranate, Vanilla Chai, and Unsweetened. I really like the flavors…the fruity flavors have a nice light sweetness without being overly sweet, and the Vanilla Chai has a great  chai spiciness to it. When I make my own tea, I often drink it unsweetened, so I liked the Unsweetened Rooibee Tea, too!

It’s nice to have a healthy summer drink option…a great alternative to sugary juices and sodas. Rooibee Red Tea is available at Whole Foods, Kroger, Fresh Market, and other select grocery chains and retailers–you can see a more detailed list on their site.

I plan on drinking more rooibos red tea now, because I really like the taste of it. What type of tea do you like best–black, green, red, white, or herbal? Whatever tea you choose to drink, hope you enjoy National Iced Tea Day! :)

Spanakopita from 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes and a Giveaway!

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Spanakopita is one of my favorite appetizers. I have always loved these bites of cheesy spinach filling and flaky phyllo crust. But I’ve never tried making them. So, when I received a review copy of 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes: Sweet to Savory and discovered a recipe for them in the book, I knew it was time to give it a try! I’m really glad I did–they were really good! I’m sharing the recipe with you later in this post. But first I’ll tell you more about the book, because there are all sorts of mini pie recipes in it…and I have a giveaway copy you can enter to win, too! See the end of the post for the giveaway details!

minipiecover175 Best Mini Pie Recipes (softcover), by chef and food writer Julie Anne Hession, has all kinds of wonderful sweet and savory recipes. Here are just a few…Blackberry Sugarplum Cornmeal Pies, Raspberry Nectarine Gallettes, Caramel Apple Hand Pies, Brown Butter Custard Pear Tarts, Southern Banana Pudding Pies, Carrot Cake Pies with Cream Cheese Crust, Chocolate Cappuccino Pocket Pies, Pesto Chicken Hand Pies, Pork Empanadas with Salsa Verde, Mini Cheese and Sausage Calzones, Croque Madame Breakfast Cups, Minestrone Pot Pies…and lots of other tasty treats for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. The book also includes helpful tips in the chapters on Creating Perfect Mini Pies and Working with Dough. So if you’re new to pie-making, you’ll find this book helpful and easy to understand. And if you’re an experienced pie maker, you’ll enjoy the wide variety and creative recipes to choose from!

Here’s the recipe for Spanakopita…no need to make any dough for this, since it calls for purchased phyllo dough. If you haven’t ever used phyllo sheets in a recipe, you may find it a little tricky to work with because they are so thin and delicate…but after folding a few spanakopitas, you’ll get the hang of it! :)

SPANAKOPITA from 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes

Makes 24 Triangles

When people think of Greek food, spanakopita is likely one of the first dishes that come to mind. Serve these crisp spinach and feta phyllo pies as a flavorful vegetarian appetizer at parties–they will quickly disappear!–Julie Ann Hession

  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) unsalted butter
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 12 ounces (375 g) fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped green onions
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 mL) chopped parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2mL) freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup (250 mL) crumbled feta cheese
  • 24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 375˚F (190˚C), positioning racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

1. Filling: In a large skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium heat. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

2. Squeeze excess liquid from spinach, then transfer to a cutting board. Chop coarsely and place in a large bowl. Add green onions, parsley, lemon juice, egg, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; stir to blend. Add feta and toss to blend.

3. Place one sheet of phyllo on clean work surface, short side facing you. Working quickly, brush with melted butter and fold in half lengthwise. Brush again with butter.

4. Spoon 1 heaping Tablespoon (20 mL) spinach filling onto bottom left side of strip, leaving about a 1-inch (2.5 cm) border at the bottom. Fold bottom left corner over the filling to form a triangle, then continue to fold triangles up the strip of phyllo to the top as if you were folding a flag. Brush top of triangle with butter, pressing end to seal. Place triangle, seam side down, on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and filling, making 24 triangles.

5. Bake in preheated oven at 375˚F for 18 to 20 minutes, switching positions of baking sheets halfway through, until phyllo is deep golden brown and crisp. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Tip: The key to making perfectly crisp spanakopita is to ensure that excess liquid is removed from the spinach before filling. If your filling begins to produce liquid while you are still constructing the triangles, remove it by straining or by pressing the spoonful against the side of the bowl before placing on the pastry. This will make the difference between soggy and spectacular bits.

Make Ahead: Spanakopita can be assembled and frozen for up to five days. Freeze pies for 30 minutes on baking sheets, then seal in zip-top bags. Bake from frozen as directed.

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GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED

Congratulations to commentor #18, Marie, for winning the book!

Now for the Giveaway…if you’d like to enter to win a copy of 175 Best Mini Pie Recipes, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Saturday, June 1, at midnight (CST)–the random drawing will be made from the comments on this post only! The winner will be chosen randomly via Random.org and announced on Sunday, June 2. Winner will be notified via email (if winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing). Giveaway limited to readers in the Continental U.S. and Canada.

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite kind of pie is.

Bonus entry: If you are a new or existing follower or subscriber, you can leave one extra comment telling me the way (or ways) you are following.

Can’t wait to hear what kind of pies you all like! :)

Mango Parfait from 150 Best Desserts in a Jar

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51vAE27HW4L._SY300_Have you served any desserts in jars yet? I’ve seen some great ideas on Pinterest and in several magazines, so when I heard about 150 Best Desserts in a Jar, I was happy to review it and discover a whole collection of yummy recipes, from rich and decadent to light and healthy. Author Andrea Jourdan has developed quite an array of recipes that sound easy and delicious–puddings, cobblers, pies, cakes, trifles, parfaits…just about any kind of dessert you can think of! And you can creatively present them in attractive jars…antique jars, canning jars, or just uniquely-shaped jars you’ve kept…I’m always saving jars from jams, relishes, and other items because they’re just too pretty to discard!

The book is divided into two parts: Warm and Comforting (crumbles, cobblers, puddings, bread puddings, custards, cakes, and souffles) and From the Fridge (fruity and/or creamy desserts, gelatins, trifles, tiramisu, chilled cakes, sweet soups, parfaits, and frothy desserts). I thought the Marble Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream Sauce, Warm Salted Caramel Pudding, Blackberry Bread Pudding, Pear and Almond Crumble, Brownie Frozen Delight, and Banana Cream Pie Crunch all sounded wonderful. But I decided to try one of the healthier recipes, the Mango Parfait, because I was craving a healthy dessert…and this really hit the spot! Mangos are sweetened with a little sugar and paired with creamy Greek vanilla yogurt for a great-tasting treat. It’s really cool and refreshing, so you’ll have to try this out soon!

MANGO PARFAIT from 150 Best Desserts in a Jar

One of the most popular exotic fruits, the mango here brings its tangy flavor to a perfect companion–yogurt. This is my family’s favorite healthy treat after lunch.–Andrea Jourdan

Makes 4 servings

  • 3 mangos, peeled and sliced, divided
  • 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) ground cardamom
  • 2 cups (500 ml) Greek-style vanilla yogurt

Mangos: In food processor fitted with the metal blade, puree the flesh of 2 mangos with the sugar.

Place remaining mango slices in a bowl. Sprinkle with cardamom and mix gently. Set aside.

Assembly: Spoon approximately 2 Tablespoons (30 ml) mango puree into the bottom of each jar. Cover with 1/4 cup (60 ml) vanilla yogurt. Repeat. When ready to serve, garnish with reserved mango slices.

Tips: For a sweeter treat, add 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) maple syrup to the top of each jar. Mango and maple syrup are a great match. Use any leftover mango puree to make a smoothie.

You could also sprinkle some granola cereal on top of these parfaits–that would make a nice garnish. I was having a little trouble slicing my mangos–most of my slices didn’t look that great–so I cut most of my mangos into chunks and that worked fine, too.

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Hope this inspires you to make some desserts in jars–it’s easy and fun!

Black Bean, Sweet Corn and Feta Tacos from Mary McCartney’s FOOD

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food-marymccartneyOne of the reasons I was interested in reviewing FOOD: Vegetarian Home Cooking is because I’ve gradually been eating less meat and more veggies, but it can be challenging to make interesting veggie meals. I’ve never actually been a big meat-eater, but I do crave a juicy burger now and then! I may crave one less frequently now though, because there are so many great veggie recipes to try in this book! If you are wanting to eat less meat and find delicious ways to make fresh and simple vegetarian meals, you may want to check this book out, too.

Author Mary McCartney, an acclaimed photographer, grew up on vegetarian cooking and remembers many happy times in the kitchen with her mother, Linda McCartney“During those times,” she writes, “I soaked up her knowledge, and gained an understanding of how certain extra-simple ingredients or cooking techniques could transform an ordinary dish into something special.”  There are many gorgeous color photos throughout the book, taken by Mary, and even a few old family photos at the beginning that include her mother and her father Paul.

There are a wide range of great-sounding recipes, with chapters on…

  • Breakfast and Brunch
  • Snacks and Sandwiches
  • Soups, Salads, and Starters
  • Mains
  • Basics and Sides
  • Desserts and Baking

I thought the Deep-Filled Omelette, Lip-Smacking Minestrone, Asparagus Summer Tart, Mac and Cheese with Crispy Topping, Linda’s Lemon Drizzle Cake, and Peaches and Cream Pavlova sounded especially good. But I couldn’t resist trying the Black Bean, Sweet Corn and Feta Tacos first, because it was such a unique recipe! I’m so glad I did, because I thought they were great–I love all these flavors together. They are a little messy to eat, like most tacos are, but you can always wrap the ingredients up in a soft taco or tortilla shell if you prefer. Here’s the recipe…

BLACK BEAN, SWEET CORN AND FETA TACOS from Food: Vegetarian Home Cooking

I’ve always loved tacos but this is a little deviation from how I usually make them, to include the corn. My mum loved Mexican food and she also loved corn, eating it from the cob when it was in season. I think it adds a lovely, crunchy texture to this particular taco combination. The added bonus is that these are quick and easy to make. –Mary McCartney

Serves 2 (2 tacos per person)

  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable or light olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 15-ounce can black beans
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 slices pickled jalapeno (from a jar), chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, or 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh red chili
  • pinch sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 ounces sweet corn, cut (1 large cob fresh, frozen, or canned)
  • 4 taco shells
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • juice of 1 lime

Preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat and saute the chopped onion for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse the black beans in a sieve, and then stir them into the onion in the pan. Add the garlic, jalapeno or chili, the sea salt, and the cumin, and heat for 5 minutes until cooked through.

To cook the corn (if fresh), place it in a small saucepan with boiling water and simmer for a couple of minutes until hot; drain.

In the meantime, wrap the taco shells in aluminum foil and put them in the oven for 5 –10 minutes to heat up.

When the taco shells are warm, remove them from the oven, then divide the bean mix evenly between the 4 tacos, top with the cooked corn and, finally, sprinkle the crumbled feta over the top. Finish off with a little squeeze of lime juice, and serve hot.

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Are you more of a veggie-eater than a meat-eater? What types of veggie meals do you like to make?