Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pumpkin Oat Bars

I have realized recently that many of my sweet recipes have included oats. This may be partly because I like the chewiness that the oats give to the food, but they also add fiber and other great nutritional value to foods. This recipe is deceptively healthy with the pumpkin (which is so full of antioxidants and vitamins), the oats, the dried cranberries and walnuts, as well as the optional topping of coconut and nuts. This recipe was inspired by a recipe posted on However, I increased the size of the recipe, as well as added some other things like spices, dried cranberries, nuts and also added some topping that is similar to what is often used on top of oatmeal cakes. In addition, I tried cutting back on some of the sugar, which was alright because it still had a nice taste with the added sweetness of the topping and glaze.


1 1/4 - 1 1/2 cup sugar (I used approximately half brown sugar/half white sugar)
2 eggs
10 Tbsp butter or oil (1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp coconut extract/flavoring (may substitute vanilla or orange flavoring)
1 3/4 cup pureéd pumpkin (or a 15 oz. can of pumpkin pureé)

1 1/2 cup flour 
1 1/2 cup oats
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 scant tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup dried cranberries/craisins
1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or other nuts


3/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp coconut flavor (may substitute vanilla)
cream or milk as needed to achieve a moist consistency- not runny, though


1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
2-3 Tbsp milk- adjust milk/sugar as needed to obtain desired consistency


Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan or line it with aluminum foil and lightly coat it with non-stick spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix sugar and eggs together until well blended. Add in butter or oil and flavoring/extract and mix well. Combine dry ingredients together in a smaller bowl and add to wet ingredients alternating with the pumpkin pureé. Stir in the dried cranberries and nuts. Pour into prepared baking dish and spread out evenly.

Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of the baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes (watch carefully- check with a toothpick if the bars appear to be firm to light touch). After they are finished baking, cool in the pan on a wire rack for approximately 20 minutes. Then remove the bars, if on aluminum foil, to the counter and drizzle with the glaze (an easy way to drizzle is to mix the glaze and put into a plastic sandwich bag, cut the one corner at the tip and use like a piping bag- squeezing the glaze across the bars). Cut into bars after they have cooled adequately.

Serves approximately 15

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

This recipe is from the Penzey's spice catalog and was submitted by Meredith Wittmann. It caught my eye because I love both peanut butter and bananas, and this bread also included some ground flax seed, which are optional but very healthy. I also used chunky natural peanut butter and baked them in smaller loaf pans.  


3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs
1/3 cup plain or vanilla yogurt
1/2 cup peanut butter- creamy or chunky
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup ground flax seed (optional)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp  Penzey's baking spice (blend of cinnamon, anise, allspice, mace and cardamom), you may substitute heaping 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp of allspice, 1/4 tsp mace or less of nutmeg, 1/4 tsp cardamom.
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan or 2 smaller loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine bananas, eggs, yogurt, peanut butter and melted butter. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add the sugars and beat well. Add the flax seed; sift the baking soda, spices and flour together and add gradually, mixing until well blended. Pour into loaf pan(s) and bake for 65-75 minutes for the single pan or approximately 35-45 minutes if using the smaller pans. (Watch the smaller pans closely as  the size of smaller pans can vary and should be checked after about 25-30 minutes until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack in the pan(s) for 30 minutes before removing. Dust with powdered sugar or make a simple confectioner's sugar/milk glaze and drizzle over top after the loaf(s) has cooled.

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Monday, January 9, 2012

Chunky Pecan Pie Bars

This is another bar cookie recipe from my mom- don't know where it came from originally, but it is very good. If people like pecan pie, they will LOVE these bars! They are really easy to assemble and are great for a potluck or other gatherings.

Servings- approximately 3 dozen bars


1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup butter, soft
1/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs
3/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup (11.5 oz. package) semi-sweet chocolate chunks (may use 1 1/2 cups if desired)
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x13 inch baking pan or line with aluminum foil and lightly spray with nonstick baking spray.

For crust:  Beat flour, butter and brown sugar in small mixing bowl until crumbly. Press into pan; bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned.

For filling:  Beat eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, butter and vanilla extract in medium bowl with wire wisk. Stir in chocolate and nuts. Pour evenly over baked crust; bake 25-30 min or until set. Cool in pan on wire rack. Set in refrigerator to make bars more firm prior to cutting.

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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Unstuffed Pepper Soup Supreme

This soup started out as a regular Unstuffed Pepper Soup since I had a lot of peppers to use up and I had been in the mood to make this for a long time. However, as I have written in the past, I tend to start adding some of this and some of that until the soup morphs into something else. This leads to moving the soup from one pot to another larger pot- sometimes a couple of different times before it is finished. That is how this soup became what it is- I really didn't even know what to call it because it is not really an Unstuffed Pepper Soup anymore. However, since it still has the "bones" of a pepper soup, I left the name. My children told me after the initial supper that they enjoyed it, which is remarkable given the variety of vegetables in it and the fact they are not fans of peppers usually. This time around, I used sausage, as well as a large patty pan squash that was begging to be used up, some yellow summer squash, mushrooms and cabbage. This made a huge pot of soup and would probably feed about 10 people. I have listed the ingredients along with the approximate amounts. The average size family or couple might want to cut this in half, at least.


1/2- 1 pound ground beef or sausage
1-2 large onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
5-6 large green peppers, chopped
1/4- 1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1 large carton of beef broth (approximately 32 oz.)
1 carton of chicken broth (32 oz.)- you may need to add more if you  need more liquid as the rice cooks
28 oz. tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce (I prefer spaghetti sauce)
1  15 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 cups cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow summer squash, chopped
1 larger patty pan squash, seeds removed & chopped
1 cup rice- white or brown
1 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
1 1/2 tsp Italian herb blend
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt- adjust to taste depending on how salty broth is

In a LARGE soup pot, sauté meat with onions until meat is browned. Drain off fat, if needed. Add in the garlic and cook for another couple minutes. Add in remainder of ingredients and cook for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until rice is fully cooked. Serve with a hearty bread.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ham and Great Northern Bean Soup

I love winter time because it is such a great time for soups. One of the soups my mom used to make quite often when I was growing up was a Great Northern Bean and Ham Soup because it was one of my dad's favorites, and my dad often spiced it up a little with some red hot sauce. I was never particularly fond of it- I just ate it because that was what we had to do in our family. However, after I was married, our neighbor at that time invited us over for a supper of Ham and Bean Soup. It was so delicious that I was immediately hooked! The difference was just a little addition of tomato soup or sauce. Navy beans or any other white bean could be substituted in place of the Great Northern Beans. It could also be made without the ham, although I believe that is part of what gives such a good flavor. Since I had a large amount of leftover ham, decided that this was a good way to make some easy comfort food. I also took a little shortcut and used canned beans- you might soak and make the soup with dried beans if desired. The process will just take longer. In addition, I added some extra vegetables (celery, carrots, sweet potato) to this last soup, which really added a nice flavor.

Serves approximately 6


1 large onion, diced
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (optional, but really boosts the flavor & health benefits!)
2-3 Tbsp butter or olive oil
2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chopped ham (more or less according to your preference)
29 oz. can of Great Northern Beans, or other type of white beans- or may cook 1 pound of dried beans according to directions on package
6 cups water (more or less to cover ingredients well in pot)
1-2 packets ham bouillon (Goya or other brand), optional or ham broth from leftover ham
8 oz. or 15 oz. can of tomato sauce (may use can of tomato soup)- I used 2  8 oz. cans
1 1/2- 2 tsp seasoned salt- adjust to taste
1/2 tsp pepper
parsley for garnish

In a large soup pot, sauté onions, celery and sweet potato in butter or oil. After onion becomes translucent, add in the garlic and cook an additional 1-2 minutes. Then add in the remaining ingredients except that parsley. Cook over medium heat for approximately 30-50 minutes or until sweet potatoes are very soft, stirring occasionally. Then using as handheld stick blender, carefully blend the soup on low speed until the soup becomes thicker. You can still leave some chunks of beans and meat. Serve with a hearty bread.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Caramel Oatmeal Chewies

This is a great bar cookie recipe that my mom found a number of years ago, and I do not know where it came from. It is nice to make when you want something a little more special than plain cookies. Be warned- these are quite rich! We often make these bar cookies around Christmas when we are in the baking mood. It is not hard to assemble the bars and the combination of flavors is very good!

Servings- approximately 2 1/2 dozen


1 3/4 cups quick or old fashioned oats
1 3/4 cups flour, divided
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt (optional if using salted butter)
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 - 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (12 oz. package)
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup caramel ice cream topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9x13 inch baking pan, or line pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.

Combine oats, 1 1/2 cup flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Stir in butter; mix well. Reserve 1 cup oat mixture; press remaining oat mixture into bottom of pan. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Sprinkle with chocolate and nuts. Mix caramel topping with remaining flour in a small bowl. Drizzle over nuts to within 1/4 inch of pan edges. Sprinkle with reserved oat mixture. Bake 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack; refrigerate until firm.

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