Treats and Tricks: Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies

plated3Halloween is all about sweet treats and for me, that means blondies.

I don’t prepare homemade goodies for the ghosts and goblins coming to our door because we live in the city and it’s just not done for safety reasons. But these bars, individually wrapped and hand delivered to neighbors, would make an excellent Halloween treat! They would also be a welcome addition to any Halloween party and great to have on hand as sustenance for those who service trick or treaters, too!

plated 1What makes these blondies so special is the addition of warm cinnamon spice, vanilla and oats. For a while now, I’ve wanted to translate an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie into a bar and these bars are the tasty result.

This is an easy recipe which comes together in a jiffy. And while I’m not going to say that these are healthy…they do have butter, sugar and chocolate after all…they are healthier than most blondies. In the vicinity of 100 calories per bar, they’re a reasonable indulgence for those of us that need to watch such things! (Me.) Most of all, they are absolutely delicious!

To make these bars my own, I omitted some of the sugar from the traditional blondie recipes I’ve seen (holy cow, is there a lot of sugar in those recipes!), as well as some of the butter, and I used only light brown sugar. Then I added rolled organic oats and chocolate chips to the batter, along with a touch of cinnamon for warmth and a really good dose of bourbon vanilla extract to enhance the overall sweetness. The resulting deliciousness was exactly what I wanted. A tiny bit chewy from the oats, toasty caramel flavor from the sugar and butter, decadent chocolate with a hint of spice and a vanilla hit to amp up the whole bar. Perfect.

plated4These blondies certainly aren’t just for Halloween. In combination with some hot tea or a glass of milk on a cool Fall afternoon, these are delightful. Need something sweet for a summer picnic? These treats will do the trick. They freeze incredibly well, too. In fact, I plan to make more and freeze them to use for the upcoming holidays. Just take what you need out of the freezer, thaw to room temperature and plate, and you’ve got instant holiday or hostess gift, party food…or cookies for Santa.

Below are a few simple “tricks” to ensure making perfectly browned and moist blondies:

Trick number 1: Properly prepare your pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

Trick number 2: Melt your butter only until it is ALMOST melted, then take it off the heat or out of the microwave and stir it until it finishes melting. This will keep it from “cooking” the sugar when you combine it to make batter. Do NOT add hot melted butter to your batter. If you do, you may end up with hard as brick edges to your bars and an uncooked middle!

Trick number 3: Removal from the pan. Click on any image above for instructions.

chili1

On another note, I always make a batch of my Spooktacular chili for Halloween and this year will be no exception. You can see that recipe by clicking here and it’s a great idea for Halloween parties, too. Make a chili bar and let your ghosts and goblins decorate their own chili with the fixings. Boo!

Happy Halloween!

punkitties2

Spiced Oat and Chocolate Chip Blondies
Makes 36 small bars

Ingredients:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted* (see “trick” number 2 above)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten to combine
2 teaspoons Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
1/4 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

waxed paper and scissors
2 – Wire cooling racks that will fit 13″ long

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with butter. Measure and tear off a piece of waxed paper slightly larger than the 13″ length of the pan. Turn the pan over and cut the waxed paper to fit the bottom of the pan. Turn the pan right side up and fit the cut waxed paper into the bottom of the pan and butter it. (See trick number 1.)

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla until just blended. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder and salt until well mixed. Add the flour mixture to the butter and sugar mixture and stir just until well mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Turn out the batter into the prepared baking pan. The batter will be thick. Spread it so that it evenly covers the bottom of the pan. It will be a thin layer, but will rise during baking. Bake in the oven for 18 minutes and check for doneness. The bars will be done when the edges are golden brown, the blonde top is just starting to brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Run a table knife gently around the outside of the bars. Place one of the wire cooling racks on top of the pan, then using oven mitts, invert the pan so that the blondies will fall onto the wire rack. You may need to give the bottom of the pan a rap. When the blondies have released, remove the pan. Gently peel the waxed paper off the bottom of the blondies. Place the second wire rack over the bottom of the blondies and invert again so that the top side of the blondies is up. Allow the blondies to cool to room temperature. Slide the blondies off onto a cutting board and cut into 36 even bars. EAT! These blondies may be frozen in small freezer bags for up to two months. Thaw before serving.

Advertisements

Apple and Oat Cake with Vanilla Yogurt Cream

finishedcake1With October upon us tomorrow (my birthday!), I’m definitely in the mood for Fall ingredients like butternut squash, leafy kale and fresh apples. Lately I’m trying to cook healthier dishes for a number of reasons and that means lighter cooking without sacrificing flavor or texture. Thanks to the latest edition of Cooking Light magazine, I found some inspiration. Their Whole-Grain Apple Cake with Yogurt Cream sounded so delicious and very easy to make…I just had to give it a try.

As is often the case for me of late, once the time rolled around that I could make the cake—a rainy day last weekend—I started prepping in the kitchen and realized that I did not have what I needed. Time to improvise.

While I didn’t change the recipe a huge amount, what I did change resulted in a pretty magnificent, not-too-sweet and technically gluten-free cake. It was very dense, apple forward and delicious, but with fewer calories than most apple cakes. The vanilla yogurt cream adds just the right touch of creamy decadence that one wants in a topping.

My simple substitutions included making my own “buttermilk” from 1% milk and lemon juice and adding a little extra lemon for some kick, because apples love lemon. I also used oat flour instead of whole wheat, rolled oats instead of quick, candied ginger instead of powdered and a little more cinnamon, please. I loved the resulting texture, which was less airy than the original appeared to be since I didn’t change the leavening to compensate for the denser oat flour. Additionally I made my yogurt cream the way I always do…with 2% Greek Fage yogurt, a little brown sugar and some Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla, and left out the whipping cream called for in the recipe. Very, very yummy and a great sub for whipped cream on most sweets that aren’t opposed to some tang.

slice

It’s that night time shot time of year again.

One of the things I’ve learned on my own about substitutions in baked goods is that one must be extremely careful to not upset the balance of leavening or the liquid to dry ratio in a recipe. If you respect that, you can learn a lot about baking by experimenting…which is basically what I do in my kitchen.

Having said that, the idea of this cake and the method that Cooking Light used to reduce the fat and calorie content in a favorite recipe was very enlightening. One of the most brilliant ideas was that of freezing your butter so that you can then grate a small amount of it into the topping. This allows for excellent distribution of a very small amount of fat, while providing great flavor and crispness in the streusel topping. That’s a trick I’ll keep handy for the future…and my stick of butter is now residing in the freezer just waiting to go.

My only wish for this cake would be to find a good substitution for canola oil. I did use it in the recipe below, but may try a different type of oil next time, even olive oil. I am becoming less and less of a fan of canola oil because it isn’t very pure and doesn’t seem to be as healthy as some other oils on the market. If you have other ideas for substitutions that are healthy and work well in baking, please let me know!

Apple and Oat Cake with Vanilla Yogurt Cream
(Slightly adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 10

Note: Oat flour is more caloric and has slightly more fat content than whole wheat flour, but is a healthy flour. Technically this recipe is now gluten-free, but if you’re sensitive to gluten you should review the ingredients carefully. Hopefully by not using whipping cream in the yogurt cream, some of the low caloric balance is restored.

Cake:
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice added to 1% milk in order to make 2/3 cup total of lemon juice and milk “buttermilk” (let mixture to sit for 10 minutes and thicken before using)
1/3 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 2/3 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped candied ginger
2 cups grated apple such as Honeycrisp or Gala (if not using organic apples, peel the apples before grating)
Baking spray for the pan

Streusel:
3 tablespoons rolled oats
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon brown sugar packed
1 1/2 tablespoons frozen unsalted butter, grated
dash of kosher salt

Vanilla Yogurt Cream:
3/4 cup plain 2% Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. For the cake, place the first 5 ingredients (thorough eggs) in a large mixing bowl and beat together with a hand mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds until well combined. In a medium bowl combine the flour and the next 5 ingredients (through the ginger) and stir well with a whisk. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and beat at low speed until just combined. Stir in the apple by hand. Pour the batter evenly into a 9-inch non-stick cake pan that has been coated with baking spray.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine the rolled oats and the next 4 ingredients (through kosher salt) in a small bowl and toss to combine. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-45 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Run a knife gently around the edges of the cake pan, place a plate on top of the pan and invert the cake onto the plate, then place the rack onto the bottom of the cake and invert back onto the rack to finish cooling, streusel side up. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To prepare the vanilla yogurt cream, place all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until combined. Slice the cake into 10 pieces and serve each piece with about 1 tablespoon of the cream.

*****

finished cake top view

An Anniversary and an Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu

PeachMelba7BHi Everyone! I hope that your last couple of months (yes, two months almost!) have been lovely. All is well here. My time has been spent helping family get through some surgery and recovery, traveling, work, hiking, birthdays…you know, life in general. But all is good, I’m back online and ready to share more trails leading to good food.

I’ll start off by mentioning that not only is this my 200th post, but today is the 4 year anniversary of this blog! That first post, Ode to Red Speckled Grits, was all about testing the waters of websites and blogging…and once I started, I was hooked. Thanks to all of you who found me, encouraged me and joined me in this adventure. And thanks for sharing your own blogs while giving me informative and fun dialog along the way. Please join me for the beginning of the next 4 years!

Celebrations require some dessert, and with all of the lovely fruits available in this almost summer season, I want to share a quick and easy celebratory recipe where fresh fruit is the star. I’ve always loved tiramisu…the little “pick me up” from Italy. The traditional recipe involves a rich and delicious combo of ladyfingers, cream, mascarpone, coffee, marsala wine, chocolate and sometimes egg yolks. Nothing wrong with that.

This version, however, is a little lighter take on the original and can be quite versatile in terms of changing out seasonal fruits and whatever booze strikes your fancy. Filled with juicy berries and peaches, creamy mascarpone cheese lightened with yogurt and a bit of fresh citrus zest for some zing—along with the traditional ladyfingers and liquor—this satisfying dessert keeps much of the texture and feel of the original tiramisu with about half the calories. It’s a “pick me up” that comes together quickly, resulting in a cool, light and elegant dessert, just perfect for the hot weather season or whenever you need a delicious finish to a meal. Try my two variations below and then have some fun experimenting on your own.

BlueberryPeach1

Easy Fresh Fruit Tiramisu for 2
(can be doubled or quadrupled as needed)

For Blueberry-Peach-Almond Tiramisu:
3/4 cup fresh blueberries, washed and dried
1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and sliced, with their juice
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
3 generous tablespoons mascarpone cheese
1 generous tablespoon plain greek yogurt (I use 2%)
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
3 teaspoons of amaretto, divided
4 hard italian ladyfingers (can use the soft kind if you prefer, but hard holds up better)
1 generous tablespoon of toasted, slivered almonds

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon zest, mascarpone, yogurt, powdered sugar and one teaspoon of Amaretto, until smooth. Break two ladyfingers into four pieces each and place four pieces (one ladyfinger for each glass) into the bottom of two pretty glasses…low ball, brandy snifter or wine glasses work perfectly. Drizzle 1/2 teaspoon of Amaretto per glass over the ladyfingers. Spoon 1/4 of the peaches and some juice over the ladyfingers in each glass, then top with 1/4 of the blueberries per glass. Layer 1 generous Tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture on top of the fruit in each glass. Sprinkle 1/4 of the toasted almonds into each glass. Repeat the layers with the remaining ladyfingers broken into 4 pieces each, the Amaretto, peaches, blueberries and mascarpone mixture evenly divided, and finish with the remaining toasted almonds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving to allow the flavors to blend. Serve and enjoy.

Peachmelba1For Peach “Melba” Tiramisu:
Substitute 3/4 cup fresh raspberries for the blueberries, orange zest for the lemon and Grand Marnier for the Amaretto. Omit almonds and proceed the same as for Blueberry-Peach-Almond, garnishing the top with a raspberry and some fresh mint, if desired.

*****

A few scenes from our latest adventures in North Carolina.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

The BEST Chocolate “Fudge” Pie

You know how you have those favorite recipes you keep in your handwritten book and make over and over again, so much so that they become as much a part of you as they were of the person who wrote them originally? This is one of those. As promised, the second of my savory and sweet pie posts, and this time it’s a fantastically easy and absolutely delicious pie of the sweet variety, the perfect dessert for all occasions. Continue reading

A Bodacious Birthday Cake!

Well, once again some time has passed since my last post, written on my birthday at the very beginning of this month. Thank you all for the wonderful birthday wishes…it was an awesome birthday! I feel like I’m still celebrating.

Upon request, my husband gave me a new pair of hiking boots and socks for my birthday, along with some other goodies. And additionally, keeping with the hiking theme, a friend gave me a really super day pack as a birthday present. In order to do justice to all of this new gear, we had to go someplace where the hiking was cranked “up a notch,” so to speak, and we spent a lovely weekend in Highlands and Cashiers, North Carolina. Continue reading

Happy 4th of July! Happy Weekend!

fireworksIt’s a great day to celebrate our country’s independence, and to celebrate independence in general. We take for granted the rights we have in this country to make our own choices, and to choose those who enact those choices for us. We have the freedom to live where we want, cross our state borders freely, speak our minds and interact with the rest of the world. We should never forget that we are fortunate to be citizens of, and to live in, this country, nor forget the price and the responsibility of protecting our freedom to do so.

Today in America is all about celebrating liberty and freedom. And celebrate we will!

Here are some great dishes to share that are worthy of a celebration…or worthy of a weekend shared with family and friends. Whether you need inspiration for an appetizer, a salad, side, main dish or dessert, you can find it below. Click on the name under each image to link to its recipe.

Cheers, everyone! May those of you in the United States of America have a wonderful and safe Independence Day, and may all of you out there have a fantastic weekend.

eggs1

Deep South Deviled Eggs

You know you want one of these!

You know you want one of these!

Italian Sliders

This is what the patties should look like once off the grill, and see? They are juicy!

Sundried Tomato and Basil Turkey Burgers

Alas, another night shot which really doesn't do these justice, a wrinkle in my cloth, and my little digital camera ran out of space in the middle of shooting...plus I was hungry!

Alas, another night shot which really doesn’t do these justice, a wrinkle in my cloth, and my little digital camera ran out of space in the middle of shooting…plus I was hungry!

Easy Chicken Enchiladas Verdes

Texas Sheet Cake....you know you want it, you know you're gonna make it!

Texas Sheet Cake….you know you want it, you know you’re gonna make it!

Texas Sheet Cake

Ready for the picnic, cookout or pot luck, this salad has outdoor fun written all over it!

Ready for the picnic, cookout or pot luck, this salad has outdoor fun written all over it!

Couscous Salad

Luscious homemade peach ice cream. I mean really, can there be anything better than this? (A daylight picture perhaps?)

Luscious homemade peach ice cream. I mean really, can there be anything better than this? (A daylight picture perhaps?)

The Best Peach Ice Cream

Now THIS is a southern plate of food that makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat!

Now THIS is a southern plate of food that makes me grin like a Cheshire Cat!

Firecracker Slaw and Corn with Chipotle Butter

With such a fiesta of color, this dish just has to be good!

With such a fiesta of color, this dish just has to be good!

Betsy’s Famous Black Bean and Mango Salad

wholeplate

Betsy’s Retro Cheese Olive Bites and Bacon Wrapped Dates with Apricot and Pistachio

chickensalad4

Curried Chicken Salad

Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini...need I say more? But I will!

Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini…need I say more? But I will!

Tarragon Pecan Chicken Salad on Brioche Crostini

cornbreadtartlets2

Cornbread Tartlets with BBQ Pork, Sauce and Wickle

tart1

Crustless Summer Squash, Zucchini and Tomato “Pie”

sticksadded

Peach Melba Pops

finished plate3Mock Maque Choux

The 4th of July all wrapped up in a dessert. Happy Independence Day!

The 4th of July all wrapped up in a dessert. Happy Independence Day!

Star Spangled Peach, Cherry and Blueberry Crumble

 

Bourbon Scented Peaches with Ginger Cinnamon Shortcakes and Vanilla Cream

MaindishAh, Spring. It was so pretty and it went by so fast.

Suddenly we are full into summer here, and with that comes one of my most favorite fruits…the mighty delicious peach. Now supposedly I live in what is known as the “Peach State” in the United States…that would be Georgia. But having lived here for three decades now, I have to say I didn’t understand until just recently why anyone would say this was the peach state. All of the peaches I’d ever tasted here were quite inferior to those from my native state of Alabama. In fact, I’ll be harsh enough to say that the ones I’d tried from Georgia were always picked too early, were mealy and tasteless.

That is until three years ago when I discovered Pearson’s Peaches at the local Farmer’s Market.

It was a banner peach year, with perfect growing conditions and a very, very long peach season. The first peach I tasted was all that a peach should be: Juicy, fruity, naturally sweet deliciousness dripping down your chin when you bite into it. Never had I tasted a peach this good. We gorged on peaches for 4 months! Here are some of those recipes that I posted during that time: Just Peachy Ice Cream, Peach or Nectarine Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet with BourbonA Very Short Little Peach Cake, A Star Spangled Cherry Berry Peach Crumble, Peachy Pops, Mom’s Easy Peach and Blueberry Crisp, Damon Fowlers Peach Orange Marmalade…just to name a few.

Now it is peach season again in Georgia. It’s a little late this year because the first crop was destroyed by the cold, and the next round was delayed by all of the rain. But they are here and they are grand. It’ll be a short season this year, but I plan to make the most of it. We’ve been through two bags of peaches already and here is my first peach recipe of the season…a really superb way to enjoy these beautiful and tasty fruits.

Peach Shortcake. No, not strawberry shortcake…not that I don’t love that, too. But if you’ve never tried a peach shortcake, you’re really missing something special. You can make it exactly the way you would a strawberry shortcake. Or, you can try this recipe of mine instead.

Peaches love bourbon, and I put just enough in with the peaches to scent them, but not overwhelm them. Peaches love cinnamon and ginger, too, as does shortcake. So I made my shortcake with candied ginger and a touch of cinnamon…resulting in a very scone-like shortcake that is as wonderful enjoyed as a scone with your tea as it is used in combination with your fine peaches. Lavish your split shortcakes with peaches, and then top this with a combo of heavy cream and a bit of yogurt, whipped together with madagascar bourbon vanilla and just a pinch of sugar. The yogurt adds a very slight underlying tang to the cream (kind of like a touch of sour cream) that balances well with the natural sweetness of the peaches and the bourbon. Wow. This makes for a not too sweet, but just right dessert that we could eat every day!

Bourbon Scented Peaches with Ginger Cinnamon Shortcake and Vanilla Cream
Makes 8 Shortcakes (Shortcakes adapted from Bon Appétit)

For the Ginger Cinnamon Shortcakes:
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons finely chopped candied (crystallized) ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for work surface
6 Tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 cup heavy cream
1 large egg plus 1 Tablespoon water beaten to blend

For the Bourbon Peaches:
12 fresh peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
2 Tablespoons good quality bourbon, or to taste

For the Vanilla Cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, I use 2% fat
2 Tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon madagascar bourbon vanilla extract, or good quality vanilla extract

Optional sprigs of mint or tiny strips of candied ginger to garnish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt and 2 cups flour together in a large bowl. Add the pieces of cold butter and work in the butter with your fingers until the texture is like a coarse meal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. Add the cream and mix until the dough just comes together, it will be sticky. Turn the dough onto a flat surface lightly floured with the 1 Tablespoon of flour. Pat the dough out into a 12 x 4 inch rectangle about 3/4″ thick. Cut rounds out with a round 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter, re-rolling scraps as needed to make 8 rounds. Whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl. Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silpat. Brush the top of each round with some egg wash. Bake until the tops are golden brown and the shortcakes are cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. (Shortcakes can be made 2 days ahead and stored tightly wrapped at room temperature.)

In a medium bowl, combine the peaches, sugar and bourbon and allow them to macerate for about 10 minutes at room temperature.

In a medium bowl that has been chilled in the freezer with the beaters for 5-10 minutes, whip the cream, yogurt, sugar and vanilla on medium high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks.

Split each shortcake in half and divide amongst 8 dessert plates. Spoon 1/8 of the peach mixture with its juices over each split shortcake. Divide any remaining juice from the peaches between the 8 shortcakes. Top each dessert with 1/8 of the cream mixture. Garnish with mint if desired, or a thin strip of candied ginger, and serve.

***Note: As you can see from my above photos, I made smaller shortcakes and cooked them for approximately 12-13 minutes. We made our desserts two at a time over the course of two days, and had the remaining shortcakes, sans peaches and cream, for breakfast with tea. These make amazing scones.

***Tip: Always chill your bowl and beaters before whipping cream, or in this case cream and yogurt. The chilled bowl and beaters will help the cream to whip faster and fluffier.

Juicy sweet and delicious to eat!

Juicy sweet and delicious to eat!

Light and Lovely Lavender Lemon Sorbet

sorbet7BI’m a bit late posting and therefore late in wishing you all a Happy Spring! Yes, has arrived for some of us, and maybe not so much for others. We’re blooming here, in between the freezing temps and then zooming up to the high 70’s. It is still March after all.

The longer days and blooming flowers make me want something light and delicious. A palette cleanser of the very best kind. This elegant and easy to make Lavender Lemon Sorbet fills that desire perfectly. The combination of floral essence and flavor of the lavender buds tames and compliments the tang of the lemon. In fact, they are symbiotic in a way…bettering each other in the marriage. Adding buttermilk to this sorbet creates an underlying creaminess in its texture, without taking it all the way to a sherbet consistency. It’s really delightfully refreshing, any time of the year.

I didn’t strain out the lavender flower buds from my simple syrup because I enjoy the visual appeal and seed-like texture, as well as the pop of lavender essence that they add to the finished product. But if you don’t care for that tiny bit of herbal and floral chew, then by all means, strain your infused syrup before adding it to the rest of the mixture.

This is my new favorite sorbet and I’ll be making it over and over again. I hope you’ll make it, too. Be sure to use cooking quality lavender for this and all recipes that call for lavender. Cheers and have a great weekend!

Lavender Lemon Sorbet
Makes 3 pints

2 teaspoons cooking lavender buds (you can find these in gourmet sections of fine grocery stores and cooking stores)
1 cup cane sugar, divided
2/3 cup water
4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
4 cups buttermilk, I use low fat but any kind will do

Combine 2/3 cup of the sugar, 2/3 cup water and the lavender buds in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for about 1-2 minutes, until the syrup is clear and all the sugar has melted. Take it off the heat and allow it to infuse and cool for about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, lemon juice and zest, and the buttermilk and stir to dissolve the sugar. Add the lavender infused syrup (straining it through a fine sieve first if you want to remove the buds), and stir well to combine. Cover the bowl and place it in the refrigerator to chill for about 5 hours or overnight. Process the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the directions, then remove the dasher and scoop into freezer containers (it will be quite soft), then seal them. Place the sorbet into the freezer and allow it to harden the rest of the way, then scoop out and serve as desired.

Note: To make this recipe without an ice cream maker, pour the mixture into a metal tray or baking dish and place it in the freezer. When the mixture starts to freeze, rake a fork through it several times to break up the ice crystals. Repeat this process about 4 or 5 times over the course of three hours. This will give you a sorbet that is really more of a granita. You can run this through a food processor to make a finer texture, then put it back in the freezer and run your tines through again several times until it has refrozen. If you don’t run the fork through it and break up the ice crystals, it will freeze solid.

You can also pour the mixture into ice pop molds.

Sorbet1B

Snow Day Sweet Tooth

This is a magnificent shot of my thumb, don't you think?

This is a magnificent shot of my thumb, don’t you think?

You may or may not have heard on the American news that we had 2 – 2 1/2 inches of snow here this week, resulting in ice, resulting in 4 million folks all heading home in the middle of a minor snow storm, compacting more ice and ending in a massive traffic gridlock…and stranded motorists. This event is now not-so-affectionately known as “Snowpocalypse 2014.” I still feel so badly for anyone who went through the stress and frightening strain of being stuck in traffic or stranded for hours—and in some cases days—on our roads and interstates here in Atlanta as well as in Birmingham, Alabama. Hopefully everyone is home, safe and sound by now.

This is what our Southern felines thought of the snow.

This is what our Southern felines thought of the snow.

In addition to a stiff single-malt scotch, there’s nothing that can take away the sting of enduring such an event quite so well as these easy, chewy and toffee-covered Heath Bar Blondies. And hey, they’d be a good choice for the Superbowl festivities, too.

Not a fan of toffee? Use the same amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips instead, and lightly press them into the top of the batter before baking.

Heath Bar (or Chocolate Chip) Blondies
Makes 3 dozen rich bars, plenty to soothe your raw nerves and some to share, too!

1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup melted butter, unsalted, plus extra to grease the pan
1 egg
2 teaspoons good quality pure vanilla extract (I use Madagascar bourbon vanilla)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup English toffee bits in milk chocolate such as Heath, or you can sub an equal amount of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan with butter and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the sugar, butter, egg and vanilla in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt, then pour it into the butter mixture. Stir with a spoon to combine, until the mixture is moist and just blended. Spread the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing evenly. Scatter the toffee bits or the chips evenly over the top of the batter and press lightly to adhere. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until the blondies start to pull away from the sides of the pan, and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Cut into 36 small squares. Relax.

Hard to believe such a beautiful little snow could wreak so much chaos.

Hard to believe such a beautiful little snow could wreak so much havoc.

Peachy Pops!

PeachGingerMintpop

Frozen fresh Peach, Ginger and Mint Pops are refreshing and light!

Peach "Melba" Pops are so colorful....they take me to my happy place.

Peach “Melba” Pops are so colorful and cool….they take me to my happy place.

Peaches!

I don’t know if I even need to write much more than that word to evoke salivation, do I?

Peach season is in full force here right now. This year I wanted to try making some new peachy delights and I just happened to have some popsicle molds I bought on sale at the end of last summer that were crying out to be used.

Enter these two homemade frozen peachy pops! So easy to make, and endless variations can, and will, be explored.

PeachGingerMintpop2

Frozen delights on a stick!

First up is a refreshingly light Peach, Ginger and Mint combo…the perfect antidote to a hot and steamy summer day! With August just around the corner and July heating up exponentially each passing moment, this particular frozen pop is on my short list for the next couple of months. It reminds me of an ice cold peach tea, but is more toothsome from using the whole fruit.

My second and latest frozen concoction is a Peach “Melba” Pop. Peaches and raspberries are truly a match made in heaven, and this pop exemplifies that. The only variation on this one that I might try is to stir the raspberry mixture through the pop with a stick before freezing, just to swirl those flavors throughout. But honestly, this pop is lip-smacking and tongue-tinglingly good just as I’ve written it. The tiny bit of Grand Marnier in the raspberry puree really amps up the peach and the raspberry flavor, adding a richness to the pop that might otherwise be missing. And it’s, well, a winner…there’s no other way to say it!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There’s an added bonus to this peach melba recipe, too. If you use the four-pop molds that I use, you’ll have a little extra peachy goodness left over to pop into an ice cube tray and add to your next tea or cocktail. Of course you could just make more puree to start with to ensure having some leftover for this very purpose. Peachylicious!

Peach, Ginger and Mint Pops
Makes 4 – 6 oz. pops

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar (I use cane sugar)
3 slices of fresh, peeled ginger, about 1/16  inch thick
1 1/2 cups fresh peeled and sliced peaches (about 3-4 depending on size)
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves
4 – 6 oz. pop molds or 4 small paper cups and wooden popsicle sticks

Prepare the sugar syrup by placing the water, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the peaches, mint and sugar syrup and puree until smooth. Pour the puree into 4 – 6 oz. pop molds or 4 small paper cups, dividing evenly. Place the pop mold stick tops into the molds and secure, or place your popsicle sticks into each cup. Freeze until hard and well frozen, about 6-8 hours. Unmold by carefully submerging each pop in a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds, to loosen the pop from the sides of the mold, taking care not to allow the water to get into the mold or touch the frozen pop. Remove the pop from the mold or cup and enjoy.

Peach “Melba” Pops
Makes 4 – 6 oz. pops

1/4 cup granulated sugar (I use cane sugar)
1/2 cup water
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 more tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
1 1/2 cups peeled and sliced fresh peaches
4 – 6 oz. pop molds or 4 small paper cups and wooden popsicle sticks

Prepare the sugar syrup by placing the water and sugar in a small saucepan over low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for 5 minutes.

Prepare the raspberry puree by placing the raspberries, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier into a small saucepan over low heat and cook until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes a puree, about 5 minutes, pressing the berries with the back of the spoon to help them break down. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a food processor, combine the peaches, and sugar syrup and puree until smooth. Pour 1/3 of the peach puree into each of the 4 – 6 oz. pop molds or 4 small paper cups, dividing evenly. Divide the raspberry puree between the 4 pop molds, gently spooning it on top of the peach puree. Pour the remaining peach puree on top of the raspberry, filling to just below the top of the mold. (At this point you can take a small skewer and run it through the whole mixture if you want to swirl the raspberry throughout, or just leave it layered as shown.)

Place the pop mold stick tops into the molds and secure, or place your popsicle sticks into each cup. Freeze until hard and well frozen, about 6-8 hours. Unmold by carefully submerging each pop in a bowl of hot water for just a few seconds, to loosen the pop from the sides of the mold, taking care not to allow the water to get into the mold or touch the frozen pop. Remove the pop from the mold or cup and enjoy.

Want more? Here are some other delectably peachy recipes of mine to try once you have your pops in the freezer: Just Peachy Ice Cream (possibly the best peach ice cream ever!), Star Spangled Cherry Berry Peach Crumble, Mom’s Easy Peach and Blueberry Crisp, A Very Short Little Peach Cake, Susan’s Nectarine (or Peach) Lemon Buttermilk Sorbet with Bourbon.