Apricot Crumble Bars

A good friend of mine found out recently that her mother needed to have surgery.  I wanted to give her something to take along to the hospital, and I knew my friend was vegan.  I looked around at different recipes and found this one from The Good Neighbor Cookbook.  It was great because it called for butter, and while I was unsure whether it would work to use margarine, I thought it was worth it.  These had a great fruity flavor to them.  I have no doubt they would be great with almost any flavor of jam in the middle of them.

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Apricot Crumble Bars

1 1/2 c flour
3/4 c sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c cold butter, cut into pieces
1 c pecans, chopped
1 c old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 c apricot preserves

Preheat the oven to 375.  Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.  In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt.  Add the butter and pulse several times, until the dough comes together.  Transfer to a large bowl and gently knead in the pecans and oats.

Reserve 1/2 c of the dough and press the remaining dough into the prepared pan.  Spread the preserves in a thin, even layer over the dough, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edges.  Crumble the remaining dough over the preserves.

Bake until the edges are golden, 25 to 30 minutes.  Let cool for at least one hour on a wire rack before slicing.

Pumpkin Pie Bars

It’s pumpkin spice latte and pumpkin spice everything season all around.  I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin spice, but I am a huge fan of pumpkin pie.  So, when I saw this recipe in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel 2nd Cookbook, I knew I wanted to check it out.  Adding to this is the fact that a few days after I put these bars together, the steeple at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church was taken out by straight line winds.  It made me want to make these bars even more.

After the storm, I posted this on Instagram, and I don’t think I have anything better to say: Sometimes a church is a place to come together on Sunday mornings, but in the small town of Easton, in southern Minnesota, the church is at the heart of the community. Heck, the town’s festival, Friendship Days, is actually the church festival. I’m a bit biased about it because it’s where my dad grew up, my cousins raced to my grandparents house after Mass to get cookies, those same cousins married the loves of their lives. It’s where we’ve celebrated grandparents, aunt’s, and uncles lives. I have been to visitations where the line to get in and share condolences with the family has left us standing outside for 30 minutes before getting I’m, talking about the crops. And last night this centerpiece to the community was damaged in some storms and it just doesn’t seem quite right. I know the townfolk are resilient and it’ll get figured out, but in the meantime, my heart is with friends and family in Easton, grateful that no person was injured as the steeple was lost.

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Pumpkin Pie Bars

Bottom layer:
1 yellow cake mix (reserve 1 c for topping)
1/2 c butter, melted
1 egg

Mix together above ingredients; press into greased 9×13 inch pan.  It works best with a glass pan.

Filling:
28 oz pumpkin pie mix
2 eggs
2/3 c milk

Mix together; pour over cake mix in the pan

Topping:
1 c reserved cake mix
1/4 c sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix and sprinkle on filling in the pan. Melt 1/4 c butter and drip onto topping.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

Butterscotch Bars

A few weeks ago I ran out of flour and because I feel like I’ve been doing ALL OF THE BAKING and NONE OF THE COOKING lately, I made the executive decision that I was going to not buy any flour for a bit.  It has gone all right until I borrowed a friend’s version of Pandemic — have you played this board game??? — and was going to return it, but wanted to provide a little sweet treat with it.  Cue the church cookbooks and looking for a recipe with a cake mix as a base, and I found this recipe for Butterscotch Bars in the Our Lady of Mount Carmel cookbook.  What more could I want?  So, I stirred these together and they turned out amazingly!  They are sweet without being over-the-top.  Ingredients are easy to find and, basically, I couldn’t recommend them more.  So, if you’re looking for a quick little dessert to throw together, check out this recipe.

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Butterscotch Bars

1 pkg butter pecan cake mix
1/2 c butter
3/4 c mini chocolate chips
1 (12.5 oz) jar caramel topping
1 egg

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Stir together dry cake mix, egg, and butter with a fork.  Press half the mixture in bottom of an ungreased 9×13-inch pan.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Pour caramel topping over the crust, then sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cake mixture.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown.  Cool completely.

Homemade Summer Sausage

Over Labor Day, my parents came to visit.  We power-washed part of the house, trimmed some bushes, and celebrated Meg’s birthday.  In addition to these elements, we ate some good food.  One item we ate was some homemade summer sausage.  A few days before they came to visit, I saw this recipe in a small pamphlet cookbook, titled “75 Years of Good Cooking.”  Directly underneath this was a recipe for Squirrel with Gravy.  So…of those two recipes, I thought the summer sausage was the way to go.  After all of our work, we sat on the porch, at some cheese, crackers, and summer sausage, and enjoyed the night.  I may attempt to perfect this recipe and hand it out to friends and family at Christmas.  We’ll see how it goes.

Homemade Summer Sausage

Homemade Summer Sausage

1 lb hamburger
1 tsp curing salt
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic salt
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp mustard seed

Mix and shape into 1 1/2 inch diameter roll and let stand in refrigerator 24 to 36 hours.  Bake in a broiler pan at 175 degrees for 4 hours.

Melanie’s M&M Cookies

I was intrigued by the idea of these cookies including cream cheese in them and thought they might help to make the cookies softer.  The cookies were definitely soft and sufficed as thank you gifts for some folks who assisted in presenting to our new students a few weeks ago, but I was relatively disappointed with the ways they did not spread.  After the first batch baked, I found myself flattening the rest of them before they went into the oven.  I still didn’t love the presentation of them, but the flavor was pretty great.  You can find the recipe from Nana’s Family Cookbook

Melanie's M&M Cookies

Melanie’s M&M Cookies

1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/4 c cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 c M&M

With a mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese.  Add the sugars and mix until light and fluffy.  Add in the egg and vanilla and mix until combined.  Scrape down sides as needed.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to teh wet ingredients slowly and mix until just combined.  Stir in the M&M’s by hand.  Place the dough in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Scoop the dough onto a baking sheet using a cookie scoop.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove and cool for 2 minutes, then transferring to a  cooling rack.

Chicken Salad

Earlier this summer, I was craving chicken salad.  After heading to Costco and picking up some cooked chicken breast, I started mixing things together and came up with this combination.  You could also add some dried fruit to enhance the flavor just a tad more.

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

12 oz chicken breast
1 c Sir Kensington’s mayonnaise
1/2 tsp Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle
1 tsp mustard
3 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 c cashews

Mix together all except bacon and cashews.  Refrigerate.  Sprinkle with cashews and bacon before serving.

Chunky Lola Cookies

These cookies took a couple of tries to make them turn out.  I’m not sure what went wrong the first time, but they spread far too much and baked too long, and so I decided to not follow the instructions the second time around and use smaller cookie scoops and go by smell, rather than time in determining doneness.  The flavor combination was good enough to make them a second time and share with some colleagues as the academic year kicked off last week!  This recipe came from the Flour cookbook.

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Chunky Lola Cookies

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons (13/8 sticks/156 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
2/3 cup (150 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¼ cups (175 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup (70 grams) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
9 ounces (255 grams) bittersweet chocolate (62 to 70 percent cacao), chopped into ½-inch pieces
1¼ cups (125 grams) pecan halves, toasted and chopped
1 cup (120 grams) sweetened shredded coconut

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a handheld mixer or a wooden spoon), cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is light and fluffy. (This step will take about 10 minutes if using a handheld mixer or a spoon.) Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle to release any clinging butter or sugar. Beat in the eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl and the paddle again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate, pecans, and coconut and toss to combine. On low speed (or with the wooden spoon), slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture and then mix just until the flour mixture is totally incorporated and the dough is evenly mixed.

For the best results, scrape the dough into an airtight container and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 3 to 4 hours) before baking. When ready to bake, position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Drop the dough in ¼-cup balls onto a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes, or until they are cool enough to remove with a spatula. Then transfer the cookies to the wire rack to cool completely, or enjoy them warm.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. The unbaked dough may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.