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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Creamy Carrot Cake Bars

Are you on Pinterest?  I just recently started using this fantastic connection site to all these wonderful blogs out there.  Though I must admit, I'm a little leery of the trademark and copyright infringements I try to only pin from sites that have the little button already on them.  I'm stumbling along someone else's board and I see these Creamy Lemon (or Lime) Bars.  I have a huge bag full of limes and decide to give these little guys a try.  Oh my!  They were amazing.  But they had me thinking...they were so easy, what else could I throw in there to make them taste great.  I checked my pantry and my fridge and was inspired when I saw pineapple and carrots.

So after dreaming of how delicious these bars would be, I couldn't wait any longer.  I brought the leftover lime bars to be shared at daycare and got started on my next adventure.  

The whole thing can be made in your food processor and I am definitely one for not making any unnecessary dirty dishes.  

These little gems must cool before you indulge because if you try to nibble on them while still scalding hot, you won't be able to enjoy any of the flavors and you'll burn your tongue.  Trust me.  I did this.  The smell was too much!

Creamy Carrot Cake Bars

20 Nilla wafers
1/2 White whole wheat flour
1/4 c. salted butter
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

1 8 oz package Neufchatel Cream Cheese
1/2 c. unrefined sugar
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. pineapple juice
2 eggs
3 tbsp white whole wheat flour
1/4 c. pineapple tidbits
2 med carrots - finely grated
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves

Prep square baking dish with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350.  Process wafers in food processor till they're little crumbs of goodness.  Don't worry if there is a couple chunks of cookies left - they will get ground later on.  Add your flour, sugar, spices.  Pulse a couple times to incorporate.  Add in your cubes of butter.  Pulse till course crumbs form.  Pour into prepared pan and press into a crust.  Bake 12 minutes.

 While baking crust, prep you filling.  Cream together cream cheese and sugar till well combined.  Add in maple syrup, spices, eggs, extract, juice, flour.  Pulse till combined.  Add in carrots and pineapple tidbits. Pulse once just to combine.  Pour into crust.  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until center is set.  NOTE!  A toothpick will not come out clean on these babies.  It's a creamy center.  : )

 Let cool on wire rack and place in fridge to continue cooling for at least 2 hours before serving but I would suggest 4-6 hours.  Slice and enjoy!  I topped mine with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Baked French Toast with Strawberries

I must say I'm addicted to sales.  Garage sales, discounts at the grocery, name it and if it's on sale, I'm sold!  So while strolling through the grocery store, because this is what I do with two kids (yeah right!), I tend to graze the day old bread section and always find something that I can use.  Most of the time you'll find not day olds but just the "we made too many of these items and now they're on sale!" stuff.  But you can get way more creative with these items than just the usual accompaniment to pasta and soups.  They make the most wonderful brunch items! 

Stratas or french toast bakes are the the number one thing I go to for a delicious weekend brunch item.  With my day old sale bread on hand it makes it super easy!  Not to mention, these items freeze well too so you can always hand some on hand.  This past weekend I had my bread that was staring at me on the counter and some sad looking strawberries.  So while the husband slept and the kiddo enjoyed some Sunday morning cartoons, this is what I came up with...

Baked French Toast with Strawberries
1 loaf of day old bread (I used a multi-grain) + a couple slices of regular bread
2 1/2 c. milk of choice (Coconut is great here - nice and thick)
6 eggs
3/4 c. sugar (unrefined, organic if possible)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
8-12 strawberries - roughly chopped
1/4 c. brown sugar for sprinkling

Spray 9x13 glass baking dish and preheat oven to 350.  Crack eggs and whisk till blended.  Add in milk, sugar, extract, spices and salt.  Whisk again till all incorporated.  Fold in cubed bread. Make sure every piece is equally soaked and pour into prepared baking dish.  Press down bread mixture with back of spatula and pop in the oven for 25 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and evenly spread strawberries on top.  Sprinkle with brown sugar and continue baking an additional 15 minutes or until sugar has caramelized and toothpick comes out clean from center.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before slicing and serving. 

We enjoyed ours with a little shmear of butter and a drizzle of syrup.  The options here are endless.  You can sprinkle with blueberries, raspberries or pineapple.  You can also fold in some diced apples and top with walnuts.  If you choose to fold in the fruit, you might want to cut back on the liquid a bit.  

We had leftovers for a couple days and they kept beautifully in the fridge.  What's better than yummy french toast on a Monday morning?  : )


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry 'Cookies'

After my cooking marathon that you might have read about in Lemon Pesto Sauce Recipe, I was left with some canned pumpkin.  Normally I would throw them into some pancakes and freeze but as you might imagine...I was fresh out of freezer space.  Even the ice machine was being used to store all the goodies I made!  Yikes!  So I searched for some inspiration online via my business page, Round the Table, and folks shouted bread or pancakes.  I decided to take it a step further as we were missing our dessert fix.  Out of this one little can I was able to make a dozen Cocoa Pumpkin Muffins with Cherries (scented with Cinnamon and Cayenne) and also had about 10 little of these pumpkin delights. 

 Prior to baking

This is a rough recipe but I think you will find it suitable for the end product.  Which is far less like a cookie than I had hoped but much more like a breakfast bar which a delightful surprise.  With all this being said, do not attempt to hand these out as cookies to unsuspecting 3 year olds.  They will not be fooled.  When they think cookie, they're wanting that sugar high which you will not find here.  

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cranberry 'Cookies'
1/2 c. canned pumpkin
1 1/2 c. oats
2 tbsp flax seed - ground
1/2 - 1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 - 1 c. coconut milk
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. agave
1/4 c. maple syrup

Mix dry ingredients with a whisk. Mix wet ingredients together.  Add to dry.  Stir till just incorporated and add in cranberries.  Drop onto lined baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until center is set and toothpick comes out clean.  You should be able to pick these little gems up and the bottom will be golden and browned.   Store in an openish container - like an open ziploc bag or a container with a very loose fitting lid.  They could be frozen as well and thawed when you need a nice filling snack!  Thaw in microwave for about 60-90 seconds and enjoy.  

Monday, March 19, 2012

Lemon Zucchini Pesto Sauce - Freezer Friendly!

Yes, yes...I know!  It's been almost 4 months and only 1 post?!?!   Don't know what to say other than kiddos and life simply get the best of me.  I have a ton of new tweaks on recipes that I'm very eager to share. 

Recently I began to subscribing to and have fell in love!  Though you might have to have to use a wee-bit of intuition with some of their recipes, all in all, it's a fabulous time saver and incredibly budget friendly site.  I spent a little over $150 on average food.  By average, I mean a mix of conventional and organic, and of course we opted for the vegetarian menu but there are 6 - that's right SIX to choose from!  I prepared all but one of their selections over the course of 3 days.  I know this sounds like a ton of work and I'm not going to was! 
 This was before the cooking marathon began.  I was feeling so confident that it would stay this way.

But having had a late start and my 7 mth old around all day, I think I did ok.  However, with this 3 days, I have saved myself not only time during the weeknights but also cut down on stress and the grocery bill. To any mamas out there that are struggling with finding inspiration for dinner or just can't seem to find the time to make dinner on a daily basis, I would HIGHLY suggest you check out this amazing site and the wonderful ladies that have put it together.

So where you ask is all of this going?  Well I'm here to review the Lemon Zucchini Pesto Sauce that I made a couple weeks ago.  We had it fresh that night and again this evening in honor or Meatless Monday - a nationwide movement to encourage people to incorporate a meatless meal into their regular diets and I'm the first to support that.  Not only is it good for you to cut back on the meat intake but it's also great for the wallet.   This particular meal is probably about $10 to feed a family of four if not less.  It's so easy to double and bag to freeze for later.  It thaws beautifully though I might add a bit more garlic next time around as that is one flavor that tends to decrease when frozen. 

Lemon Zucchini Pesto Sauce
2 medium zucchinis - cut in half moons
2 jars prepared pesto* - if you look in the Italian section you will find a vegan variation.  There are at least a couple variations on the shelves that are vegan without being labeled that way. 
1 lemon - zested and juiced
2-3 garlic cloves - finely minced or pressed

Heat pan.  Toss in zucchini and a tbsp of water (or vegetable stock).  Cover and let steam till crisp-tender. Add garlic and heat till fragrant about 30 seconds.  Scoop out desired amount of pesto, sprinkle in zest and 2 tbsp lemon juice.  Heat another 1-2 minutes.  At this point you have two choices - toss in pasta and 1/2 c. cooking liquid from pasta and serve OR whip out your immersion blender.  Don't have one?  Get one.  They are priceless!  Stick blender into pan and puree to desired consistency.  I'm not a huge fan of the texture of zucchini once frozen and thawed so I left a couple chunks in mine but not much.  Let cool and bag in ziplocs. Label and freeze.

To serve at a later date - thaw bag in the fridge the morning of (or even a few hours before you plan to eat.) Boil your pasta - drain but reserve 1/2 c. cooking liquid.  Place drained pasta back into pan.  Snip corner of ziploc and squeeze out sauce onto hot pasta.  Toss.  Add in any extra liquid you desire to reach right consistency.  Serve!  You may garnish with a slice of lemon for a little extra zing.

Sorry no pictures yet but check out and for inspiration.  

Let me know if you try it and what your thoughts were!  Of course the only note I would have right off the bat is had it been the middle of summer, make your own pesto.  Save money and get a far superior flavor but it's March and I opted for store bought.  : )