Category Archives: food gifts

Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberries are everywhere during this time of year. I’m always so happy to see the first fresh ones popping up in the grocery stores and farmers markets right before Thanksgiving and so sad to see them going away shortly after Christmastime. So during that period I tend to perhaps overdo it a bit on the cranberries. Muffins, bread, salad, pork loin, you name it, it will probably get some cranberries thrown in there somewhere.

This recipe is so easy and doesn’t have any weird ingredients, or very many ingredients at all, in fact. I love it because the bars are just slightly sweet, more of a shortbread sort of taste, and then you get a burst of tangy cranberry in every bite, and it is just heavenly. I’ve made these at least four times so far this season and every time I make them I wish there were more. With so many overly sweet and rich desserts during the holidays these were a refreshing change. We even ate them for breakfast.

I don’t know about you, but a couple of bags of berries will be finding their way into my freezer so I can be enjoying these long after cranberry season is over.

Cranberry Cake Bars

Cranberry Cake Bars

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
12 oz fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With a mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until slightly thickened and light in color, about 5-7 minutes. The mixture should almost double in size. The eggs work as your leavening agent in this recipe, so do not skip this step. This mixture should form a ribbon when you lift the beaters out of the bowl. Add the butter and vanilla; mix two more minutes. Stir in the flour until just combined. Fold in cranberries.

Spread in a buttered 9×13 pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until very lightly browned and a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before cutting into small squares.

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A Few Of My Favorite Things – Holiday Goodies!

A couple of months ago, I teamed up with two of my cousins and we had ourselves a bake-a-thon.  The thought was to finish all of our holiday baking in one fell swoop!  We each came armed with recipes and ingredients for 4-5 things, and we made double batches of everything, which we divided into freezer bags, took home and piled in the freezer to be brought out as needed for holiday parties and such.

Well, as you can imagine, most of it didn’t make it to Christmas.  But it sure was nice to have on hand for company, last minute things to take to a potluck, and family dinners.  And of course, some just called to us in the evenings and had to be eaten.  I was very happy to discover that EVERY SINGLE THING froze beautifully and tasted fresh when thawed out.

Although I have a few things left up in freezer town, I am going to do a little more baking this weekend for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together a few of the recipes I will be pulling from for the holidays, in hopes of helping those of you in need of ideas.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there!

Simply click on each recipe to go to the post.  Any of these will make a wonderful gift or a welcome addition to any holiday party.  Happy baking!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Rich and indulgent, I love these!

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Incredibly easy and only a few ingredients!

Classic Chocolate Brownies

My go-to foolproof brownies.  I make these all year long.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Always a holiday favorite.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Decadent, chewy, and gluten and dairy free (and you won’t miss either one)!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I know it sounds weird, but these were delicious!  They also come down on the healthier side of holiday treats at a fraction of the calories of regular brownies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My bumped-up version of banana bread.  So good!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a Twist

My favorite cookies, soft, rich, with a twist of orange and cinnamon.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A delicious twist on an old favorite!

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Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

In my quest to use up a massive amount of zucchini given to me this summer I came across this gem of a recipe.

I have to say when it comes to baked goods, I’ve never been the biggest fan of the gluten-free, no flour, no sugar, no butter (no good stuff!) variety.  While there are some good recipes out there, most of them just can’t hold a candle to the real thing…in my humble opinion.  Now if you’re on a special diet and you have to go there, I understand but otherwise?  Why bother?  This recipe is worth bothering.  It’s every bit as good as something that has the sugar, butter and flour.  The fact that one of these brownies is just a fraction of the calories of a regular one AND are gluten-free just makes them easier to justify.  But the real reason to make them is because they are delicious!  And if you ask me, that’s the main reason for making dessert to begin with, am I right?

The original recipe only called for 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, and you can use that amount if you want.  I am a chocolate fanatic so I doubled it, and used the big bittersweet ones.  Fabulous!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you?  Yep!

Fudgy, delicious, and good for you? Yep!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies
(slightly adapted from ambitiouskitchen.com)

1/2 cup all natural unsalted peanut butter
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup dark chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×11 baking pan (or an ultimate brownie pan!) with nonstick cooking spray.

Place oats in blender or food processor and process until finely ground. Don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect but it should take a few minutes. Mine still had some whole oats and pieces mixed in with the ground stuff.  Worked fine.  Set aside.

In a large bowl of electric mixer, cream together peanut butter, applesauce, honey and vanilla until smooth. Add in zucchini, cocoa powder, ground oats, baking soda, and salt; mix until well combined. Gently fold in 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and sprinkle remaining chocolate chips over the top. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until tooth pick inserted into middle comes out almost clean.

Cool brownies on wire rack then cut into squares. Yum!

Cooling brownies.  I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges!  The edges are my favorite part.

Cooling brownies. I used my ultimate brownie pan (gift from my dear sister) so all my brownies have edges! The edges are my favorite part.

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Lemon Zucchini Bread

We received a garden gift.  Four GIANT zucchini.  After four loaves of zucchini bread I still have two of these monsters left.  I’m debating about what to do with it.  Zucchini tacos?  Zucchini soup?  Nah…probably just more of this bread, because it was fantastic.  This one in particular was even better because it was made with love by my daughter, Claire.  Have I mentioned that teaching that kid to cook was a great idea?

The original recipe for this had a glaze over the top.  If you want to add that, it’s simply a mixture of powdered sugar and a little milk, spooned over the cooled bread.  We left it off…now we can call this healthy, right?  In any case, this was a delicious twist on an old favorite.  (Get it?  Twist?  Lemon?  Yikes.)

Scrumptious Lemon Zucchini Bread

Scrumptious Lemon Zucchini Bread

Lemon Zucchini Bread
(adapted from NancyCreative.com)

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice of one lemon
Zest of one lemon
1 cup grated zucchini (unpeeled)

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt.

In medium bowl, beat 2 eggs well, then add canola oil and sugar, and blend well. Then add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest and blend everything well. Fold in zucchini and stir until evenly distributed in mixture.

Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl and blend everything together, but don’t overmix.

Pour batter into prepared 9×5″ loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (if your oven tends to run hot, check the loaf after 40 minutes; also, if you make this in an 8×4″ loaf pan, your baking time may be a little longer…about 5 to 10 minutes more). Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely.

Yum.  Is it cool enough to eat?  I think so.

Yum. Is it cool enough to eat? I think so.

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