Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Bars

So I feel badly that I haven't posted in over a week, but the last seven days have been pretty interesting for us.

Between paying our income taxes (plus the accountant), paying off the first year of insurance for our new house, packing our belongings, dumpster diving for free cardboard boxes, and having my brain scrambled by the (extremely adorable & well-meaning) seller who tried to teach me about all her beautiful plants around the house.... it turns out I am not only poor, but also botanically-challenged, and incredibly tired.

(And... we haven't even had to sign away our life savings and our first-born child at closing yet.  That's next Monday.)

Sooo... needless to say I haven't spent much time in the kitchen lately.  But a few weeks ago I got a recipe from Mr. Vittles' aunt for 'granola bars' that are super yummy.  They are basically like oatmeal cookies, but without a leavening agent, and for breakfast.  

Raise your hand if you like cookies for breakfast?

(P.S. if you didn't raise your hand, I will forced to rethink our friendship.  Just sayin'.)

His little cousin actually made the ones we tried at their house, this is a good recipe for kids.  (BTW, she was also helping her mom make chocolate cake while we were visiting - definitely a girl after my own heart!)

Sadly my bars came out a little more dry than hers, I think maybe because I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose.  (I also added whole flax seeds, but that shouldn't really affect the moisture in the bars).  But they were still really good.  You can use whichever flour you prefer, or a mixture of both, and feel free to switch up the dried fruit too.  Just be sure to watch these carefully in the oven, because they do burn easily!

Oatmeal Raisin Breakfast Bars

  • 2 C. old fashioned oats (not the quick-cook kind)
  • 1 C. flour (all-purpose or whole wheat, or a mixture of both)
  • 3/4 C. brown sugar
  • 3/4 C. raisins (or other dried fruit of your choosing)
  • 1/2 C. wheat germ
  • 1/4 C. whole flax seeds
  • 3/4 t. salt
  • 3/4 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 C. canola oil
  • 1/2 C. honey
  • 2 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients (oats through cinnamon).  In a small bowl, whisk together canola oil, honey, vanilla, and egg.  Add to dry ingredients and mix with a spoon until evenly coated and well-combined. 

Then, with wet hands, place 5 clumps of the mixture on the cookie sheet and shape them slightly into even bars.  (This should use half your mixture - you will have about 10 bars total, depending on how large you make them).  Bake 18-20 minutes, watching carefully toward the end of the baking time so bars do not burn.  Cool briefly on pans then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.  Repeat with remaining half of mixture.

Makes about 10 breakfast bars.

Adapted Slightly from Family Recipe

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Frozen Peanut Butter Cup Pie

It's in the low 70's outside right now, and the weather forecast for tomorrow tells me it's going to be 85 degrees.

So I think it's safe to say, summer is on it's way!

(So is global warming perhaps, because I don't know that I've ever seen such a warm winter in New Jersey?)

I love summer but the older I get, the more I hate being hot.

I hate being cold too - but at least you can put on sweatshirts and blankets.  There's no escaping oppressive heat.

Mr. Vittles and I have not lived in a house with good air conditioning probably since we both lived at our parents' house.  My first apartment after college (which was really more of a shed?) had one only window unit that I could barely afford to run anyway.  So my house was consistently in the upper 50s in winter and the 80s in summer.  Fun times.

Then our last apartment had central air... but little to no insulation.  So it really never got below the mid-70's at best.

In our place now, we have window units, but it's a large house and we were too cheap to buy a bunch of them - so we only had one for each floor of the house.

Sweat city.

Our new house that we're buying also does not have central air.  I think we're going to look into installing it, but we're not sure yet if that's going to be possible.

I sometimes wonder though how people lived before air conditioning.  Especially in warm climates.  I mean, even in the northeast we still get heat waves where the temperatures reach the upper 90s and lower 100s.

I guess you just get used to it?

Not me though.  Mr. Vittles always teases me that I have a very small window of comfortable temperatures. I think it's between 70 and 73, actually.  If our house is 65 degrees (which it usually is in the winter) then I'm freezing.  If it's 76 degrees in summer, I'm sweating.

Ridiculous, I know.

But there's nothing worse than having to turn on your oven when it's hot out.

So... with the prospect of summer brings the need for no-bake treats!

I saw a recipe on Confessions of A Cookbook Queen for Frozen Peanut Butter Butterfinger Pie and knew I had to save it for summer.

And... also make it immediately.

Just to, ummm, make sure it's good and all.

(Are you buying that excuse?)

In any event, I also knew that Mr. Vittles is not much of a fan of Butterfinger bars, so I figured peanut butter cups were a safer bet.  I also figured I'd throw some hot fudge in the mix for good measure.

This pie may give you cavities, but it will also make you (and your hot kitchen) very happy.  I promise.

Frozen Peanut Butter Cup Pie

  • One chocolate or Oreo Pre-made Pie Crust (6 oz.)
  • 8 oz block cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 reduced fat from Philly)
  • 3/4 C. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 8 oz tub Cool Whip, thawed (I used a light version)
  • 7 “snack size” Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, chopped
  • 1/2 C. hot fudge topping (I used Hershey's Extra Dark)
  • Chocolate syrup, for decorative drizzling (optional)

In the bowl of a mixer, combine cream cheese, condensed milk, peanut butter, and powdered sugar.  Beat on medium speed until smooth and completely combined.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the Cool Whip until combined.  Add chopped candy.

Pour hot fudge topping into bottom of crust (heat the fudge in microwave first if cold or too stiff).  Spread fudge evenly to cover bottom.

Pour peanut butter mixture into pie crust.  Drizzle top with chocolate syrup, if desired.  Cover and freeze until firm.

Adapted from Confessions of A Cookbook Queen

Friday, April 6, 2012

Coconut Patties

I don't know why these seem appropriate for Easter to me, but they do.

Maybe it's just because I love chocolate and coconut, so it seems appropriate for every occasion?

The only person I know who enjoys this combo as much as me is Mr. Vittles.  He doesn't usually get too excited about my treats, but coconut patties are one of his favorite things.

If you have ever taken a trip to Florida, you have probably seen these in airport gift shops and rest stops.

Mr. Vittles grandparents lived down there when he was growing up, so I'm assuming that's how he got introduced.  As for me, my mom's parents had a second home down there and I eventually went to college in Sarasota.

My dad and I used to make the trip to and from school together, so I could have my car on campus.

We always had grand plans for stopping along I-95 & I-75 to see some attractions, such as the Weeki Wachee mermaids.  But as the hours and miles ticked by (and it seemed more & more cramped inside my little 2-door Chevy Cavalier) my dad would inevitably get too impatient to make any side trips.

So after almost 4 years the only things we saw were some rest stops boasting 13-foot gators, this weird place called Alligator Town (where oddly enough we saw not one alligator, nor one other human being?) and South of the Border.

Which, judging by the myriad billboards along the highway, should have been way cooler.  Instead it was mostly disgusting and run-down and just overall tired.

Anyway... back to the coconut patties.  These bad boys are cavity-inducing, chocolate-covered sugar bombs.

But they are freakin' delicious.

Hope you all have a happy holiday!

Coconut Patties

  • 1 1/4 C. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 stick (4 T.) butter, cubed
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 1/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. coconut extract (optional)
  • 1 C. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 t. vegetable shortening

Fill a medium saucepan with an inch of water, and set it over medium heat to simmer.
In the bowl of a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl that fits snugly on top of your saucepan), combine the powdered sugar, butter, and egg white, and whisk together. Place the bowl over the saucepan of simmering water, and continue to heat and stir until the mixture is well-combined and very runny, about 5-10 minutes.

Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the coconut, vanilla, and coconut extract (if using). Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until it is firm enough to scoop, about 2 hours.

Once the candy has firmed up, line a baking sheet with waxed paper or nonstick aluminum foil. Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, scoop small balls of the coconut mixture and flatten them into discs between your palms.  Place the discs on the baking sheet, and place sheet in freezer while you prepare the melted chocolate.

Place the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring after every minute.

Remove baking sheet with discs from freezer.  Using a fork or dipping tools, dip the discs in the chocolate and drag the bottom against the lip of the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Place the dipped patty on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with remaining coconut candy and chocolate.

Place the dipped patties in the refrigerator to set the chocolate, about 20 minutes. Store coconut patties in a airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.

Recipe slightly adapted from About.com

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hazelnut Carmelitas

So call me crazy, but Pinterest is one of the best things that's ever happened to me.

To say that I'm obsessed with it is a serious understatement.  I have wasted spent hours upon hours on this website, scrolling through pins.  Salivating over delicious foods.  Simmering with jealousy over other people's fabulous sense of style.  Willing my pea brain to remember all the handy tips I've read.  And wishing I had more time to make all the neat crafts I've seen.

(In a more practical sense, I also love Pinterest because it has brought so many new visitors to my blog.  Yay! I like new friends!)

Now, I recently noticed a very popular Pinterest recipe, for Carmelitas from Lulu the Baker, that I have been dying to try.

I'm sure the original recipe is amazing, but I wanted to put a slightly different spin on it - so I added some Nutella and toasted hazelnuts.

Oh my word.  These things are dangerous.

My dad and stepmom had Mr. Vittles and I over for dinner, and we brought these for dessert.  My stepmom specifically asked to be quoted on V&B that she "thoroughly enjoyed" this dessert.  Which, might I add, is a lot coming from a person that doesn't much care for sweets.

My dad... well that's another story.  I only brought a few because they don't like to keep bad-for-you food in the house, but he quickly determined that the two leftover bars would definitely not be going home with us.

I did have a couple more left at our house though, so I brought one to my friend (and cube buddy) Joe at work.  He loves caramel, so I figured he would enjoy it.  It lasted until about 8:30AM on his desk, when I heard a muffled "These are amazing!" over my cubicle wall, amidst lots of chewing.
So please, do me a few favors.

One, get on Pinterest if you aren't already.  

And two, make some carmelitas.  Plain, hazelnut, whichever - just please make them!

I can't be the only one wearing pants with an elastic waist around here.

Hazelnut Carmelitas

  • 16 caramel squares, unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 C. nutella spread
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 C. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 C. chopped hazelnuts (I recommend toasting them first, but that's up to you)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large bowl, combine melted butter, brown sugar, flour, oats, and baking soda. Pat half of the oatmeal mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan.  Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes.

While crust is baking, melt caramel squares with heavy cream and nutella in saucepan over low heat.  Stir until melted & smooth.

Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips and hazelnuts over baked crust. Pour caramel mixture evenly over pan. Crumble remaining oatmeal mixture over caramel. Return to oven and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting.*

*The original recipe says you can put these in the fridge to speed up cooling if you are short on time. The bars shouldn't be served cold, but the caramel takes a long time to cool down.  I would wait until they are cooled a little bit though first if you used a glass pan (don't want it to crack).  Bars should be stored and served at room temperature.  Mine were good for about 5 days in an airtight container.  Makes 1 8x8 square pan.

Recipe Adapted from Lulu the Baker


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