Orange Creamsicle Muffins

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Are you a fan of Orange Creamsicles? I used to eat those a lot when I was a kid! If you like that orangey, creamy taste, you’ll probably enjoy these pretty and puffy rounded-top muffins. They have a great orange flavor and the white baking morsels give them an extra creaminess. They’re finished off with a yummy orange glaze and more of those creamy white baking morsels, coarsely chopped up. This recipe makes about 14 to 15 regular-size muffins.

ORANGE CREAMSICLE MUFFINS

Makes 14 to 15 muffins

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup milk or Half & Half
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1/3 cup orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
  • 1/2 Tablespoon orange zest (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 cup white (vanilla) baking morsels (aka white chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular-size muffin pan with paper liners. In large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; blend together and set aside. In medium bowl, mix sugar and oil together, blending well; then mix in milk (or Half & Half), egg, yogurt, orange juice concentrate, orange zest, and orange extract; mix until well blended. Add this mixture, half at a time, to flour mixture and stir until blended, but don’t overmix! Fold in the white baking morsels. Spoon batter (the batter will be thick) into muffin cups, filling them between 2/3 and 3/4 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of muffins comes out clean (muffins will be lightly browned on top). Cool 5-10 minutes and remove from pan, then cool completely on a wire rack. While waiting for the muffins to cool, you can mix the glaze…

ORANGE GLAZE

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons orange juice concentrate, thawed and undiluted
  • 1/2 Tablespoon milk or half & half
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons white (vanilla) baking morsels, coarsely chopped, for garnish

Mix powdered sugar, orange juice concentrate, and milk together in small bowl and blend well, until sugar is dissolved. This will be a thicker glaze. Spoon over muffins and sprinkle some coarsely chopped white baking morsels on top. Let glaze set for at least 10 to 15 minutes, then serve.

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I think orange is a great muffin flavor! Do you have a favorite orange muffin recipe?

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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! :)

Lemon Mint Cucumber Water (aka Detox Water)

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Now that the warm weather is here, I’m craving some flavored water! Not the sweet, artificially flavored kind you buy, but naturally flavored with fruits and herbs. I have some recipes for flavored water here, but I found another water recipe I wanted to try that I found on a site called The Denver Housewife. It’s supposed to be good for hydrating and detoxing (or removing impurities from) the body. The lemon-mint-cucumber combination cleanses, aids in digestion, and rehydrates. I added an extra lemon because I love the lemon flavor (it does make the water pretty tart and lemony, so try it with two lemons first), and a little more cucumber. I already had mint growing in a large container on my patio, so it was so convenient to just snip some fresh mint right from the pot!

If you don’t have a really large pitcher–a gallon-size pitcher would be best–you can make a half batch of this in a smaller pitcher. Or make the whole batch, split up into 2 smaller pitchers. This water would be great to bring to the office…you could make it in the evening and take it to work the next day!

NoteIf you are wanting to use this flavored water as part of a diet, you should always check with your doctor first! This water recipe is mainly a way to make drinking water more enjoyable with healthy natural flavorings for those who don’t like to drink plain water. If you have further questions about this water, please see The Denver Housewife’s post–she has a Q&A section there that you might find helpful.

Here’s how you make it…

LEMON MINT CUCUMBER WATER slightly adapted from The Denver Housewife

Makes 1 gallon-size pitcher

  • 12 cups of water (3 quarts)
  • 2 to 3 lemons, thinly sliced (you can also substitute limes or mix it up…use a lemon/lime combination–using organic lemons or limes is best)
  • 1 small cucumber or 1/2 of a medium to large cucumber, preferably organic, thinly sliced
  • 10 to 15 mint leaves. preferably organic

Rinse lemons and cucumbers very well before slicing; slice thinly. Add lemons, cucumber, and mint to pitcher. Cover with water and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight (the flavor will be stronger if you refrigerate overnight, but I like the lighter flavor, too). Pour in a large glass over some ice…it’s very refreshing! This water tastes best the day or day after you make it.

Another flavored water I’ve made is Apple Cinnamon Ginger Water, so you may want to take a look at that recipe! What’s your favorite way to flavor water?

Linked to Create and Inspire.

7-UP Pound Cake with Lemon-Lime Glaze

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I’m really not a big soda-pop drinker; I usually drink iced tea instead. But every once in awhile I’ll l have some soda on hand, usually left over from a get-together or party. That’s how I ended up with some 7-UP recently. Instead of tossing it, I decided to see if there was anything I could make with it. After all, I had made a Coca-Cola Cake, which tasted great, so was there such a thing as a 7-UP cake?

It turns out there was–a 7-UP Pound Cake! In fact, it’s been around for awhile, since the 1960′s, when bundt cake pans became popular. I found about 8 or 9 different recipes (here’s one of them) when I searched on the web. They all had pretty much the same butter-sugar-egg-flour amounts, with variations on the amounts of flavorings and lemon juice used. So I came up with my own version and added a sweet and slightly tart lemon-lime glaze to top it off.

This a really good, moist pound cake! And the glaze has a lot of lemon-limey flavor. Some recipes called for 3/4 cup of 7-UP in the cake and some called for 1 cup; I used 3/4 cup when I made this cake and thought it had a great pound cake texture; next time I make this I will try 1 cup to see if there is much difference–I’m guessing the additional 7-UP will make the cake a little more moist, though it seemed moist enough with 3/4 cup.

Next time you have some extra 7-UP, give this a try!

7–UP POUND CAKE WITH LEMON-LIME GLAZE by NancyCreative

Makes one 10″ Bundt cake 

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks), softened
  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon lemon extract or flavoring
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (I used unbleached flour)
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup 7–UP

Preheat oven to 325˚F. Grease or spray a 10″ bundt or tube pan; set aside (you can grease and flour the pan if you want it to come out super-easy).

In large bowl, cream butter and sugar, blending well. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add in lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon extract and blend well.

Add flour to the butter mixture, 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add 7–UP, about a half or third at a time, blending well after each addition. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 325˚F for 65 to 75 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (Note: My cake was done in 65 minutes, using 3/4 cup of 7–UP. If you use 1 cup of 7-UP your baking time may be a little longer, but be careful not to over bake, or it may be dry).

nc7uppdck3Remove cake from oven and let cool for 10 minutes (the cake will be cracked on the bottom–see photo, left–which is fine). Invert pan to remove cake and cool completely on wire rack. While cake is cooling, make the glaze…

(A note on the glaze: this makes a lot of glaze! Enough to glaze the cake twice, which is what I did…I generously drizzled a first glaze on, let it set, then put a second glaze over that, for an extra lemon-limey taste. If you just want one layer of glaze, you can halve this recipe.)

LEMON–LIME GLAZE:

  • 3 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 to 4 Tablespoons 7-UP (start with 3 and if you want a thinner glaze, add another 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon)

In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar with lemon and lime juices and 7–UP, blending everything well. Drizzle half the glaze over the cake when it is completely cooled; let glaze set. Then, if desired, drizzle a second glaze over the cake and let set. Cut into slices and serve.

Note: If you are doing a double glaze, you can also try this: put the first glaze on while the cake is still warm–some of the glaze will soak into the cake, giving it a sweeter taste. Then let the cake completely cool, and put on the second glaze.

This batter also works for cupcakes…one of my readers, Amy, told me she baked hers at 325˚F for 25 minutes. Not sure how many she made with the batter, but I’m guessing probably about 24.

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Have you made any good recipes using soda pop as an ingredient?

Orange Julius

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It is hot outside today…the type of day you think about having an Orange Julius. I had found a recipe at Mel’s Kitchen Cafe that I wanted to try, and I thought it was really good! I added a little more sugar to mine, but if you don’t want a sweeter Julius, then stick with the lower amount of sugar in the recipe (see below). I especially love the frothy, creamy foaminess of this drink…I’m sure it partly has to do with the powdered sugar in it. It’s a real treat, and great to have any time of day…for breakfast, brunch, or as an afternoon refreshment. Super easy to make, too!

ORANGE JULIUS slightly adapted from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

Makes 3-4 servings

  • 6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 cup milk (can use lowfat or whole milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 10 to 12 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients, except the ice cubes, in a blender and process until smooth and frothy. Add ice cubes and blend until smooth (I used the “ice crush” setting on my blender and that worked out great).

Then sit in a shady spot and enjoy your Julius!

Have you had very hot weather where you live? What types of things do you like to make on hot days?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Lemon Brownies with Lemon Glaze

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This recipe is for all of you lemon-lovers out there…these Lemon “Brownies” may not have any chocolate in them, but they have a dense, brownie-like texture with plenty of lemony yumminess in every bite! I was a little skeptical about lemon brownies, but after making these, I love them every bit as much as the chocolate kind! I adapted this from a recipe I found at Rita’s Recipes. I used more lemon juice and zest for my version.

You actually need quite a few lemons for these brownies…about 6 to 7, depending on the size of the lemons. You’ll need to juice them and zest some of them, so there is a little work in making these, but it’s definitely worth it! I’m not that crazy about zesting lemons myself. If you’re not either, you could still try it without the zest…it may be less lemony, but I’m sure they’d still be great!

LEMON BROWNIES WITH LEMON GLAZE by NancyCreative, adapted from Rita’s Recipes

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons lemon juice (you need about 3 to 4 lemons for the juice and the zest)
  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease or spray a 9 x 13″ pan; set aside (for easy clean-up, you can also line your pan with parchment paper; leave paper edges sticking up out of the pan so you can just lift the brownies right out of the pan when they’re finished baking).

Juice and zest your lemons; set aside in a small container.

In large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add in the flour and salt, mixing until well blended.

In small to medium bowl, whisk eggs and add lemon juice and lemon zest, blending well. Pour this mixture into the flour/butter mixture and mix ingredients until smooth.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (the edges will be browned). Let brownies cool for a few minutes in pan. While cooling, you can mix the Lemon Glaze

Lemon Glaze:

  • 2  to 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (depending on how thin or thick you want the glaze)
  • 5 Tablespoons lemon juice (you need another 3 lemons for the juice and the zest)
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice together, blending well, then add in the lemon zest and stir until zest is mixed in evenly. While brownies are still warm, spoon and spread about half the glaze over the top of the brownies (some of the glaze will soak into the brownies); wait 10 to 15 minutes (the glaze will just be partially set) and then spoon the rest of the glaze over the first layer of glaze. Let glaze set completely (this might take an hour or so, especially in humid weather) and then cut into squares or bars and serve. If you want the glaze to set more quickly, you can put the brownies in the fridge for about 20 to 25 minutes, then cut and serve. Actually, you may just want to pop them in the fridge anyway, because these taste great cold, too!

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I like making lemon-flavored things in the warm weather months–they’re so refreshing! Do  you have a favorite lemon recipe you like making in spring or summer?

Linked to Anti-Procrastination Tuesday, Tutorial Tuesday.

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!

Strawberry Honey Agua Fresca

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Agua Fresca, Spanish for “fresh water,” is a type of fruit drink that is served all over Mexico. Made from a combination of fruits, sugar, and water blended together, it’s a refreshing drink for spring and summer. I decided to try this Strawberry Agua Fresca that I found at myrecipes–but instead of using sugar, I made it with honey. You can use sugar if you want, but I thought honey would be a little healthier. My version is a little sweeter than the original, but it’s not super-sweet–I think it’s just right!

STRAWBERRY HONEY AGUA-FRESCA by NancyCreative, adapted from myrecipes.com

Makes 4 cups

  • 2 cups water, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 3 cups hulled strawberries, cut in half
  • 1/8 cup fresh lime juice (or juice from 1 lime), or to taste
  • additional lime slices for garnish (optional)

Combine water and honey in a medium bowl or other container, stirring until honey dissolves. Place strawberries in blender and process until smooth. Add honey-water mixture and lime juice to blender and process all ingredients together until well-blended. Pour into glasses right from the blender or put in a pitcher (you can add ice if you like) and serve.

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I think I’ll be enjoying this fruity drink a lot this summer! Do you have a favorite warm-weather beverage?

Crunchy Honey Almond Granola Bars

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I love those crunchy Nature Valley Granola Bars, so I thought this would be a good recipe to try. It originated from Americas’s Test Kitchen, but I actually found these granola bars on Bakerlady. I adapted the recipe by making them into Honey Almond Granola Bars by using almond extract instead of vanilla, canola oil instead of vegetable oil, adding a little extra salt, and leaving out the cinnamon, since I didn’t want it to take away from the almond flavor. I also added some milled flaxseed for extra fiber. I liked the way these turned out, so I plan on making them regularly! They don’t taste exactly like Nature Valley Granola Bars, but they have the same great crunchy texture. Since I eat a lot of granola bars, I’m sure I will save money making them myself! Making your own granola bars is also much more eco-friendly, too, when you think of all the packaging used for those store-bought bars.

This recipe works best in a 13 x 18″ pan; if you make it in a 10 x 15″ pan the bars will be thicker and harder to cut. Also, you should not use quick-cooking oats–be sure to use Old Fashioned Oats!

CRUNCHY HONEY ALMOND GRANOLA BARS by NancyCreative, adapted from Bakerlady

Makes a 13 x 18″ pan (about 24 to 30 bars, depending on the size you cut them)

  • 7 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons almond extract (if you just use 1 Tablespoon, the almond flavor will be very, very mild)
  • 1 to 2 Tablespoons milled or whole flaxseeds or wheat germ (optional)
  • 1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped or sliced almonds

Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 375˚F.

Line a 13 x 18″ rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oil, and salt, mixing until oats are evenly coated. Transfer mixture to baking sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake, stirring oats every 10 minutes, until pale gold, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove pan from oven and lower temperature to 300˚F.

Combine honey and brown sugar in a saucepan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the almond extract.

In large bowl, combine the oats, flaxseed or wheat germ (if using), and almonds, mixing until ingredients are blended well. Then add the honey mixture and stir with a large spoon or rubber spatula until the oats are thoroughly coated with the honey mixture.

Spray the baking sheet, still lined with foil or parchment paper, with non-stick spray and spread the granola mixture in an even layer on the sheet. Spray a large spoon or metal spatula with non-stick spray and firmly press the mixture into the pan. Make a flat, tight, even layer. Bake at 300˚F until golden, about 35 minutes.

Cool granola in baking sheet, on a wire rack, for 10 minutes before cutting into bars with a knife or pastry scraper. Cut bars all the way through (2 x 3″ is a good size), then allow the bars to completely cool. Do not wait any longer than 10 minutes to cut the bars because they harden up as they cool and become difficult to cut.

You can put the bars in a covered container and store for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE: You can make Cinnamon Walnut Granola Bars by substituting vanilla extract for the almond extract, chopped walnuts (or pecans) for the almonds, and adding 1 to 2  teaspoons of cinnamon to the honey and brown sugar mixture.

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Do you like crunchy or chewy granola bars–and do you have a favorite granola bar recipe?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday.

Chocolate Chip Confetti Brownies

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I love these fun, colorful brownies–they’re kind of like a celebration in a pan! This easy and yummy recipe is from an M&M’s promotional recipe card that I’ve had for quite a while. There are two layers to these brownies– a bottom chocolate layer and a top yellow batter layer, with mini M&M’s mixed in and sprinkled on top. They’re rich and chewy…perfect when you’re craving something chocolate! I changed the recipe a little by adding some semi-sweet chocolate chips in the bottom chocolate brownie layer. It never hurts to add more chocolate, right? :)

CHOCOLATE CHIP CONFETTI BROWNIES by NancyCreative, adapted from M&M’s

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup M&M’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Mini Baking Bits, divided

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan; set aside.

In large bowl, cream butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs and vanilla.

In medium bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups of the flour (save 1/4 cup for later), baking powder, and salt; blend into creamed mixture. Divide batter in half, putting half into another bowl.

Stir cocoa powder and melted butter into one half of the dough; then stir in the mini chocolate chips. Spread cocoa dough evenly into prepared baking pan.

Stir remaining 1/4 cup flour and 1/2 cup of the M&M’s mini baking bits into remaining dough; spread evenly over cocoa dough in pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of M&M’s mini baking bits. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until edges start to pull away from sides of pan.

Cool completely and cut into bars. Store in a tightly covered container. Makes about 20 brownies, depending on how large you cut them. (NOTE: I’ve seen a version of this recipe using regular-size M&M’s, so you could try substituting those for the mini baking bits).

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I actually cut into these while they were still warm, after about 10 minutes of cooling, and they are really good warm! If I had some ice cream in my fridge, I think I would have been tempted to add a scoop on top!

Here’s a helpful tip if you want neat, less crumbly brownie slices:  Line your baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a little overhang on the ends so you can lift your brownies right out of the pan after they are done baking and have cooled. After removing brownies from the pan, turn them upside down onto a cutting board or other cutting surface and slice them from the bottom–this way, the tops of your brownies will have nice clean edges…just like a bakery shop brownie!

Do you like making brownies too? Do you have a favorite brownie recipe?

Linked to Create With Joy, Anti-Procrastination Tuesdays.

Chocolate Chip-Cherry Banana Bread

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I love trying different variations on banana bread–there seem to be so many! I’ve made a Chocolate Chip Banana Bread before, which is really yummy, so when I saw a recipe at BetterHomesandGardens.com for a banana bread with both chocolate chips and cherries in it, I knew I needed to try it out! I made some changes to the recipe, including using a little more chopped cherries, walnuts, and mini chocolate chips. This quick bread is such a treat and if you want a more elaborate treat, you can add a scoop of vanilla or cherry ice cream on top of a warmed, thick slice of this bread and drizzle chocolate or hot fudge sauce over it all!

Another thing about this bread is that I think it tastes even better after a day or two. It comes out of the oven a little on the crusty side, but when it’s completely cooled, wrapped, and refrigerated overnight, it moistens up and the flavor seems a little more enhanced somehow. You can also freeze this–it thaws out well and tastes great!

CHOCOLATE CHIP–CHERRY BANANA BREAD by NancyCreative, adapted from BetterHomesandGardens.com

Makes a 9×5″ loaf

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 small-to-medium bananas)
  • 12 Maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350˚F.  Lightly spray or grease a 9×5″ loaf pan; set aside.

In large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in center of flour mixture; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine Greek yogurt (or sour cream), eggs, oil, and vanilla. Stir in mashed bananas.

Add  yogurt (or sour cream) mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in chopped cherries, walnuts, and mini chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350˚F for 50 to 53 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out almost clean–be careful not to overbake, or the bread will be dry. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

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Then slice, serve, and enjoy!

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Creative Time Out.

Irish Soda Bread

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Whenever St. Patrick’s Day comes around, I see different recipes for Irish Soda Bread and I finally decided to try making it this year. I found a recipe at Kraft that sounded good and it looked pretty easy, too. I modified it slightly and was happy with how it turned out! It has a lightly sweet taste that kind of reminds me of a scone. I think it’s great with butter and jam, although it’s also good without anything on it because the raisins in the bread and the sugar sprinkled on top give it a lightly sweet taste. If you don’t have time to make it for St. Patrick’s Day, it’s a great recipe to keep in mind for brunch any time of the year!

IRISH SODA BREAD by NancyCreative, slightly adapted from KraftRecipes.com

Makes 1 round loaf

  • 3 1/4 cups unbleached flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tablespoon sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small chunks
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease or spray a baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside.

Mix flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk and raisins; stir just until moistened.

Place dough on lightly floured surface; knead 10 times. Shape dough into a 2 1/2″ thick slightly dome-shaped round; place on prepared baking sheet. Cut a  1/2″ deep “X” in top of dough and sprinkle with remaining sugar.

Bake at 350˚F for 47 to 52 minutes or until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (I baked mine for 52 minutes and probably could have baked it a few minutes less). Remove from baking sheet to wire rack; cool completely before cutting into wedges and serve (this tastes great warm, too, so go ahead and serve it warm if you want–it just may not slice as easily).

NOTE: You can store leftover bread in a resealable plastic bag at room temperature for up to 24 hours; for longer storage, wrap bread tightly and freeze up to 2 months–thaw at room temperature before serving.

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Have you made any special Irish recipes this year?

Linked to Inspire Me Monday, Anti-Procrastination Tuesday.

Olive Tapenade from Clean Food and a Giveaway!

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51TfP72OjLLIf you’re interested in learning more about eating healthy, Clean Food is a great place to start! Written by cookbook author, nutritionist, and clean food advocate Terry Walters, this updated and revised edition is a helpful guide to “eating clean.” I received a review copy from the publisher, Sterling Epicure, and also a copy to give away! I’ll tell you a little about the book and share a recipe, and you can see the end of the post for details on the giveaway.

Clean food, simply put, is naturally grown and minimally processed. Walters explains in the book that the more processed your food is, the more you lose out on natural nutrients. So it’s important to eat seasonal, unprocessed, organic, and locally-grown foods.

The book starts off with several chapters that include helpful tips on eating clean, and then the recipes, more than 230, are divided seasonally for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. This helps you take advantage of using fresh, seasonal ingredients all year long. There are lots of full color photos of many of the recipes throughout the book, too.

Some of the great-sounding recipes include Artichokes, Fennel and Olives over Penne, Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies, Honeydew Cucumber Soup, Lemon Berry Cream Pie, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos with Cashew Cheese, and Wholegrain Pancakes.

I thought I’d try the Olive Tapenade because I love olives and have bought olive tapenade many times, but never made it myself. It’s delicious and very easy to make, so I think I’ll make my own from now on!

OLIVE TAPENADE from Clean Food

Makes 1 1/4 cups

I often prepare this tapenade for company and serve it with Garlic Crostini as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to a pasta dinner. But I enjoy it even more the next day spread on toasted sourdough bread in a roasted vegetable or portobello mushroom sandwich.–Terry Walters

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 cups kalamata olives, pitted
  • 1 cup oil-cured black Greek olives, pitted
  • 2 generous Tablespoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice, plus more if desired
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil, as needed

With food processor running, drop in garlic and mince. Turn processor off, add olives, capers, thyme, parsley, lemon juice, and pepper to taste. Process until smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Add olive oil a little at a time to achieve the desired consistency. Adjust flavor with more lemon juice and transfer to bowl. Store in airtight container in refrigerator or freezer.

I wanted my olive tapenade to be thick, so I didn’t add any extra lemon juice and just used about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil. But you can make it as thick or thin as you like. My tapenade was also a little on the chunky side because the food processor setting on my blender wasn’t working that great…if you have a good food processor, your tapenade will be a lot smoother! The tapenade tasted really good on my crusty loaf of bread and I want to try it on a roasted vegetable sandwich sometime like Walters recommends!

I like making recipes that taste great and are good for you! If you do, too, here’s how you can have a chance to win a copy of this book…

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED And the winner is…comment #22, Rachel. Congratulations!

The Giveaway: If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Clean Food, leave a comment on this blog post between now and Friday, March 8, 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 Saturday, March 9. Winner will be notified via email (if  winner does not respond in 3 days, I’ll do another drawing).

First entry: Leave a comment on this post telling me telling me what your favorite fruit or veggie 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.

The giveaway is open to residents of the continental U.S. and Canada.

I hope you get a chance to try the Olive Tapenade! I’m a big olive fan…do you like olives too?

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cup Crispy Treats

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This is a great easy-t0-make recipe…a fancy version of those classic rice cereal treats! If you like peanuts, these bars have both peanut butter and peanuts in them. And they’re topped with a yummy mixture of semi-sweet chocolate and peanut butter chips, plus peanut butter cups…you can’t go wrong with that! :)  This recipe is adapted from one I found at Kraft. The chocolate topping layer in my version is nice and thick, but if you’d rather have a thinner layer of chocolate, just use half the amount of chocolate and peanut butter chips.

You can make these crispy treats two ways…with your microwave or on the stovetop. To save time when you’re making these, unwrap and chop your peanut butter cups ahead of time. Keep these treats in mind the next time you’re craving chocolate and peanut butter! :)

CHOCOLATE–PEANUT BUTTER CUP CRISPY TREATS by NancyCreative, adapted from Kraft Foods

Makes a 9 x 13″ pan

  • 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
  • 1 (10-ounce) package marshmallows
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 cups crisp rice cereal
  • 1 cup salted peanuts
  • 1 (12-ounce) bag (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips (or use half this amount for a thinner topping)
  • 1 (10-ounce) bag (1 2/3 cups) Reese’s® Peanut Butter Chips (or use half this amount for a thinner topping)
  • 1 (11-ounce) bag Reese’s® Mini Peanut Butter Cups, unwrapped and coarsely chopped (or cut each mini cup into fourths)

MICROWAVE DIRECTIONS

Grease a 13 x 9″ pan; set aside.

Microwave butter in large microwaveable bowl on high for 45 seconds or until melted. Add marshmallows; toss to coat. Microwave another 1 1/2 minutes or until marshmallows are completely melted, stirring after 45 seconds.

Stir peanut butter into marshmallow mixture until blended. Add rice cereal and peanuts; mix well. Press onto the bottom of greased 13 x 9″ pan. Note: this mixture sets pretty quickly and gets really gooey, so you have to work fast! I used a sheet of waxed paper to help press down this mixture in the pan. If you don’t have waxed paper, try parchment paper or start saving your waxed paper liners from cereal boxes–they come in handy for things like this!

For the topping: Microwave the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips in a small microwaveable bowl for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, or until completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring every 30 seconds.

Pour topping over cereal mixture and spread to cover. Sprinkle with chopped mini peanut butter cups. Refrigerate 1 hour or until topping is set.

Note: As I mentioned above, the chocolate topping layer is thick. If you’d like a thinner layer, just use half the amount of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

STOVETOP DIRECTIONS

Melt butter in a 3-qt. saucepan on low heat. Add marshmallows; stir until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended. Stir in peanut butter; remove from heat. Add rice cereal and peanuts; mix well. Press mixture firmly onto bottom of greased 13 x 9-inch pan.

Place the chocolate chips and peanut butter chips in saucepan; cook on very low heat until completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring frequently. Pour over cereal; spread to cover. Sprinkle with chopped mini peanut butter cups. Refrigerate until chocolate topping is set.

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NOTE: If you’d rather not frost these crispy bars, you could melt 1 cup chocolate chips and 1 cup peanut butter chips as directed and drizzle this mixture over the cereal bars. Coarsely chop about 10 mini peanut butter cups and lightly sprinkle over drizzle. Refrigerate until topping is set.

Do you like chocolate-peanut butter flavored treats?

Linked to Your Creative Timeout.

Easy Pea Soup with Ham or Bacon

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I like Split Pea Soup but have never made it before. I was looking through a little soup cookbook I had called Soup Gourmet and found an easy recipe I thought I’d try. I made my version thicker because I like thick and hearty soups. I like this soup because, in addition to peas, it has lots of other good-for-you veggies in it–carrots, onion, and celery. And you can add ham or bacon if you want, or make it without any meat.

After looking at some other recipes, I decided I would try garnishing this with croutons and feta, and I’m so glad I tried that out–I really liked it! The feta cheese gives a nice zing to the soup, and the crispy croutons make a nice touch, too. Serve this soup with a salad and some crusty bread–it makes a great lunch or dinner during the cold winter months!

EASY PEA SOUP WITH HAM OR BACON by NancyCreative, adapted from Soup Gourmet

Makes 4-6 servings

  • 2 (16-ounce) packages frozen peas, thawed (or you can use 2 (16-oz.) cans of peas)
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken or vegetable broth (this is a thick soup, so if you’d like it to be thinner, add an extra 1/2 to 1 cup of broth)
  • 1 1/2 cups boiled ham or cooked bacon, diced (if you’d like this to be meatless, leave out the ham or bacon)
  • 1 cup carrots, finely diced or grated
  • 1 cup yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • additional seasonings to taste, if desired
  • croutons for garnish, optional
  • crumbled feta cheese for garnish, optional.

Place peas and broth in blender or food processor and puree until smooth (the peas and broth will fill your blender almost to the top, so you can blend them half the amount at a time, if you prefer–you’ll need to do this, too, if you are adding extra broth to make a thinner soup).

Transfer blended mixture to a large pot. Add ham or bacon, carrots, onion, and celery. Bring to a boil and simmer 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Halfway through cooking, add salt and pepper, and additional seasonings, if desired.

Serve hot in soup bowls or cups and garnish with croutons and crumbled feta cheese, if desired.

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I really like it served with the croutons and feta cheese–they add an extra special touch to the soup! Have you tried any new soup recipes lately?