Almond Ginger Cookies

IMG_9265Hello Cookie Eating Friends–  Loving these tender little cookies.  They’re sort of a shortbread with an almond crunch and a bit of ginger bite.  If you like ginger beer or ginger cat cookies from Trader Joe’s, I think you’ll love these sweet guys!

ALMOND GINGER COOKIES
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup candied ginger, minced fine
1/2 cup sliced almonds*
little more sugar for coating

With an electric mixer, beat the butter** and sugar until they form a fluffy paste.  Then beat in the flour and salt for a few minutes more until the dough resembles coarse crumbs.  It will take a several minutes.  Persevere!

Then, finally, beat in the almonds and ginger until the dough is sticky crumbs.

Divide the dough into two halves and roll each into a log on a piece of plastic wrap.  Pop them into the fridge a couple hours (or overnight).

Unwrap the logs and roll them in sugar to coat the sides.

Then slice the logs into 1/4 inch circles.  It will slice best while the dough is still cold!  Place the cookies on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray– about 1″ apart.

Cook them up for about 20 to 25 minutes at 350 degrees– just until the edges start to brown and they smell gingery good.

Cool them on a wire rack.  Makes about 30 cookies.

*I like the sliced toasted almonds from Trader Joe’s– pretty and crispy
**If the butter comes straight from the fridge, microwave it for a few seconds to bring it close to room temperature.

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Blueberry Bran Muffins

IMG_8289Hi all– I was going to you all this recipe several months ago.  Back then, I made these cozy muffins for my group of young moms who get together every other week.  I was rushing around getting the breakfast together and completely forgot to put eggs in the batter.  They came out of the oven rather sad and crumbly.  But this group has been together a long enough that by now they are happy to uncomplainingly eat mistakes, bless their hearts.  We’re way beyond crumbly muffins…

So here is a new batch, where I actually read the recipe!  They turned out just fine.  I think you might like them if you have friends come for breakfast.

BLUEBERRY BRAN MUFFINS
1 cup flour
3/4 cup wheat bran
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup buttermilk*
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries**

Mix together the flour, bran, salt, sugar and baking powder.  Then stir in the buttermilk, egg and oil.  Finally, carefully fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the mixture into 10 muffin cups lined with paper liners and bake it up at 425 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until the muffins are nicely browned and firm to the touch.

*If you don’t stock buttermilk (like me), just put 2 tsp. of vinegar into 3/4 cup milk and let it sit a couple minutes to thicken.
**And if you use frozen berries, don’t defrost them– or they will be mushy and color the batter blue!  Just cook frozen berry muffins 3 or 4 minutes longer.

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_8889Hi there–My grand-buddy (aka grand daughter) Maryann and I are good kitchen partners.  She’s usually happy to pull up a chair to the counter and mix and pour…  And she wants to dip her finger into every ingredient to give it a taste as we dump it into the mixing bowl– actually thinks flour is “yummy!”  I think we have a future cook on our hands…

So when I found this recipe from a favorite blog CookiesCakesPiesOhMy I knew Maryann and I should hit the kitchen.  Here’s what we made:

COCONUT PECAN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1  1/2 sticks)*
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
3 tab. sour cream
2 cups flour
1 tab. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cups chocolate chips**
1 cup pecans
1 cup shredded coconut

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, egg, vanilla and sour cream.  Then mix in the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt.  Finally continue mixing in the chocolate chips, pecans and shredded coconut.

Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto cookie sheets sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake them at 325 degrees for 14-16 minutes.  Makes 3 dozen smallish cookies.***

*If the butter is cold straight from the fridge, microwave it for a few seconds to soften it up.
**Kristen’s original recipe called for dark chocolate chips or chunks.  I think that would make them even yummier, but we just had plain old chocolate chips and used them for our impromptu Sunday afternoon baking.
*** Kristen posted the recipe for 14 large cookies–and we made them small– make them just the size you like.

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Apricot Almond Muffins

IMG_8610Good morning!  Sunday mornings are muffins mornings when the family is here.  Everyone is getting up at different times and in different stages of getting read for the day.  So we just leave out a good supply of muffins and some eggs to scramble and everyone manages to breakfast.  I love these sweet simple muffins.  They taste like a sunny Sunday morning…

APRICOT ALMOND MUFFINS
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped to small bits
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 tab. amaretto (or almond extract)*
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Soak the apricot bits in a bowl of hot water for about 10 minutes to plump them up.  Then drain off the water.

Next mix together the apricots, egg, milk, oil and amaretto.  And stir in the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Top them off with the almonds

Pop them into the oven at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes while you pull out the eggs and orange juice, put on the coffee.  Breakfast!

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Hummingbird Cake

IMG_8800Hi friends– Made this cake for Mothers Day with the whole big family clan– lots of aunts and uncles, great grandparents and those little cousins running around underfoot.

I enlisted my grand-girls, Charlotte and Maryann to help me bake.  They got really excited when they heard it was a “hummingbird cake!”  I’m not sure why.  And don’t worry.  No hummingbirds were harmed in the making of this cake.

It has the fruity banana taste, sweetness of the pineapple and all those pecans!  It’s an old southern recipe and the Mothers loved it (and other people as well).  I think you would too.

HUMMINGBIRD CAKE
3 bananas, mashed
1 1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/4 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 cup pecans

Smash the bananas in the bottom of a large mixing bowl.  Then stir in the oil, 2 sugars, eggs, pineapple and vanilla.  When that is blended mix in the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and pecans.  Stir until blended.

Spoon the batter into 3 9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for xxx minutes.

IMG_8822FROSTING:
12 oz. cream cheese (1 1/2 blocks)
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
4 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tab. milk
1 cup pecans, chopped

With an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter together.  Then with the mixer on low (so you don’t get a cloud of powdered sugar in your face), add the sugar, vanilla and milk.  Beat until it’s all well combined.

Spread between layers and around and about the cake.  Then carefully attach the pecans to the sides of the cake, patting them on by small handfuls.

You can top with flowers if you like.–I used these nasturtiums, that are currently running riot in the yard–any non-toxic flowers will do.

Serve it to moms or anyone else you’d like to share cake with…

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Double Chocolate Banana Bread

IMG_8723Hey there– When Larry and I get to spend a day walking down by the beach in Balboa, I can usually drag him over to the shop that sells ice cream– and also frozen bananas.  That’s where the difference in opinion comes in.

Larry loves those frozen banana. While they do have the virtue of being dipped in chocolate, I fail to see their charm. I stick to chocolate dipped ice cream, obviously much tastier.

All that to say, there is one one chocolatey banana combination, that really is worth tucking in to.  This stuff has a rich chocolate  flavor, but it’s the bananas that shine through.  Hey, and if you added a scoop of ice cream along side you’d have the best of both!

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD
3 bananas
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa*
1 cup (about 6 oz.) mini chocolate chips**

Mash the bananas completely with a fork in a mixing bowl.  Stir in the oil, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla.  The mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa.  Finally fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into a standard bread pan –(or I use 2 smaller 3 1/2″ by 7″ pans)– that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Pop the banana bread into the oven at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

*I love the Hershey’s dark cocoa, so much richer than their old standard cocoa.
** Mini chocolate chips work better than normal size chips, that tend to sink to the bottom of the loaf.
*** If I were just baking this for myself, I would also throw in a heaping cup of walnuts or pecans!!

P.S. — If you look at the photo, you can tell someone in a striped t-shirt is taking the picture.  Oh brother!

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake

 

IMG_8319Hello friends– this little coffeecake comes to you thanks to an earthquake.  It’s a long story.  But after our recent big shake here in California, another school in town was closed and their students moved in with us.  We went from 315 to 800 students overnight!

So it seemed like everyone had the same idea– fill the teacher’s room with goodies every day to keep us all going.  This was my little contribution to the “Welcome Fanning School Food Fest!”  We nibbled our way through the first week together with those intrepid Fanning teachers and bonded over bagels and berry cakes. It’s gone just fine.

BLUEBERRY SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

Streusel:
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, melted
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1  1/3 cup flour
1/2 cup (or more if you love almonds like I do) slice almonds

Cake:
3/4 cup canola oil
1  1/2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tab. vanilla
1  1/3 cup sour cream
2  1/2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cups blueberries*
powdered sugar to dust the cake after it bakes

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, 2 sugars, flour and almonds.  Set aside.

For the cake, mix together the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla and sour cream.  Then blend in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally fold in the blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a 9″x13″ baking pan (or a 11″ springform pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle the streusel on top, breaking it up with your fingers.

Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes– until it’s firm to the touch.  After it’s cooled, dust it with powdered sugar through a sieve.

*You can fresh or frozen berries– I like the frozen tiny berries from Trader Joe’s.  But if you used frozen berries, add them in frozen.  Defrosted berries will color the batter purple!

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Caramel Apple Cake

IMG_7550Hi there all you cake lovers– There’s nothing more homespun than this little cake.  It’s the kind of cake you’d take to your grandma, if you were dropping in for a mug of tea with her– and seeing as Mothers’ Day is just around the corner, that might be a fine idea.  What grandma doesn’t love cake (and you too).

CARAMEL APPLE CAKE
3 apples, peeled, cored, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)**
1/2 cup caramel ice cream sauce*

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the apples, sugar, old, egg and vanilla.  Then mix in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  –plus walnuts, if you like.

Spoon the batter into a 9″ or 10″ cake pan sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop it into a 350 degree oven for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is browned and a knife inserted comes out clean.

While the cake is still hot and in the pan, poke the top with a fork to leave small holes all around for the caramel to seep into.  Pour the caramel over the hot cake and let it cool in the pan.  It’ best served up with a scoop of ice cream, of course.

IMG_7560*You can make your own yummy caramel sauce of course, but I think Hershey’s caramel sauce is just fine.
**I always toss in extra walnuts because I love their solid crunch– unless my Laurel is coming to eat and then no walnuts!  I leave them out altogether…

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

IMG_8519Hello all–  When our 3 grand-girls (and their parents) were packing to move to California from Shanghai, I emailed the girls and said, “I’m about to go grocery shopping to get food for when you come.  What should I buy for you?”  They emailed right back, “peaches, cookies and strawberries!”

Lucky for us strawberries are just coming into season here.  So strawberries in hand, Charlotte and I baked up these fruity muffins last weekend.  Hot from the oven, they were oatmeal homey and strawberry sweet.  We thought they were A-OK!

IMG_8514STRAWBERRY OATMEAL MUFFINS
1 cup oatmeal– regular oats or quick oats
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
1  1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
6 to 8 large strawberries, cut to small chunks

Mix the oatmeal, milk, brown sugar, oil and egg.  then stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.  Finally fold in the strawberries.

Scoop the batter into the muffin pan lined with muffin papers.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes–until they are browned and firm to the touch.   Makes 10.

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Crispiest Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_8359Hello there fellow cookie lovers–  I know.  I know.  There are definite preferences when it comes chocolate chip cookies. Some people like them thick, doughy and soft.  But not me.   This is an old family fave–and this version is crunchy crispy.  Delectable!

Whipped them up with the grand-girls this afternoon– for a good munch while we watch the new Tinkerbell movie.  Simple pleasures.

CRISPIEST OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
1/2 cup butter*
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup flake cereal**
1 cup chocolate chips

In a large bowl beat together the butter, brown sugar, white sugar and egg with an electric mixer.  Then blend in the flour, oatmeal, salt and baking powder.  Finally mix in the cereal and chocolate chips.

Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls onto a baking sheets sprayed with cooking spray– about 1 1/2 ” apart–these guys spread!!

Pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes until they are nicely browned around the edges.  Immediately eat 2 or 3 straightway not from the oven.

*If you a getting the butter cold from the fridge, microwave it 4 or 5 seconds to bring it down to room temperature.
**Any flakey cereal will do– We had Special on hand, but corn flakes of oat flakes are A-OK.

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Blackberry Yogurt Bread

IMG_7755Hi friends– I wish I could tell you I picked a large bowlful of blackberries out in our side yard to make this berry bread.  But those vines are just starting to bloom– weeks away from turning over their berries.

I happened by these at the produce store and they were pretty irresistible (and on sale).  So they ended up in the friendly quick bread for a breakfast with friends.  Wish you could have dropped in for a slice…

BLACKBERRY WALNUT BREAD
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 rounded tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup yogurt
1 cup walnuts, chopped (or pecans)
8 oz. blackberries (more or less)

Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then mix in the oil, eggs and yogurt.  Add in the nuts and finally gently fold in the blackberries–trying not to mash them as you stir.

Spoon the batter into a standard loaf pan (or two smaller pans) sprayed with cooking spray.  Pop it into the oven at 350 degrees for about 45 to 55 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a tiny knife inserted comes out clean.

I love this warm from the oven with a swath of butter across the top.  And so good toasted for breakfast the next day.  Hope you like it!

Double Chocolate Wafer Cookies

IMG_8153Hello Cookie Lovin’ Friends–   I found a new very favorite cookie–  I’ve always seen recipes where you make the dough a head and roll into “cookie dough logs,” then slice it up the after it’s chilled and bake it later.  But it my cookie baking routine, that’s too slow, too much planning ahead!  I’m more of a spontaneous cookie baker.

BUT these guys are worth the lag time.  Maybe the anticipation of waiting makes them even more delicious.  I’m not sure.

But I have to say, they are the best cookies yet– pretty and nutty and chocolaty.  Perfect in my way of cookie thinking.

DOUBLE CHOCOLATE WAFER COOKIES
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 stick)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1  1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup dark unsweetened cocoa*
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips**
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped fine

IMG_8156Soften the butter in the microwave for 10 seconds, if it is coming right out of the fridge.  With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars, salt and vanilla.

Then mix in the flour, cocoa and baking powder–leave the mixer on the lowest setting to start out so your don’t have flour flying out of the bowl!

After that is pretty well mixed, pour in the chocolate chips and walnuts.  Continue with the mixer until it forms into one cohesive glob in the mixing bowl.

Then divide the dough into 2 parts and roll each into a2″ thick log and wrap it in plastic wrap.  Chill it in the fridge for 3 hours (or up to 3 days).  Take it out of the plastic wrap and slice into 1/3″ slices with your sharpest knife.

Set them onto a baking sheet that’s been sprayed with cooking spray and bake them up at 325 degrees for 12 minutes.  They will still be soft.  Be careful when you lift them off the pan.  They firm up as they cool–tender and so, so chocolaty!

*Love the Hershey’s dark unsweetened cocoa–the chocolaty-ist.
** The mini chocolate chips work best she you’re trying to slice up the cookies.

Lazy Day Oatmeal Cake

IMG_7956Hello Cake Lovers–   A couple weeks ago our Lit Group went to a newish place in town for dinner and a lot of book talk.  It was “Sue Ann’s Kitchen” and you’d think you had stepped right back into the 1950’s– decorated mid century kitchen “artifacts” including a vintage double oven built in to the wall and a line up of old wooden rolling pins above a doorway.  The menu featured meat loaf and homemade apple sauce and cakes, lot of cakes.

So when I saw this recipe later with this thoroughly 1950’s title– I couldn’t wait for a little more cake nostalgia.  It tastes like something I remember eating when I was ten.  If you like good old fashioned cake–this might be just what you’re looking for…

LAZY DAY OATMEAL CAKE

Cake:
1 cup oats
1  1/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1  1/2 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Topping:
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tab. milk or cream
1 cup coconut
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

Put the oats in a heat proof bowl and cover them with the boiling water.  Let the whole thing sit for 20 minutes. Then mix in  the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  And next, stir in the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.

Scrape the batter into a 9″ square or round baking pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and pop it all into the oven for 35 to 40 minutes.  Until the cake is firm to the touch.

While that’s baking mash together the butter, brown sugar and milk with a fork.  Then work in the coconut and nuts til it’s all bended.

Spread the topping over the cake warm from the oven and then put it under the broiler on the lower rack fro just 3 or 4 minutes until it just starts to toast the coconut.  Keep your eye on it–so easy to burn!

 

Black and White Cake (& an earthquake!!)

IMG_8227Hi all–  My buddy Jill  comes up with the best get togethers– Tonight a bunch of us are headed over for a “Black & White Movie Night.”  We’re all wearing black & white clothes and she’ll summon up an old 1940’s movie on her big t.v.– And we’ll munch on black & white treats– root beer floats and pop corn during the movie– and a table of black and white cakes for intermission.  Here’s my contribution to the cake line up:

BLACK AND WHITE CAKE
1 angel food cake mix
2 tab. butter
1/2 cup cream
1 cup chocolate chips.

that’s all.

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You quite possibly are a better, more dedicated baker than me– but I just can’t make myself whip up an angel food cake from scratch– all that egg beating and finger-crossing in hopes it doesn’t fall…

Betty Crocker angel food cake mix never fails– no eggs, no greasing the pan, just mix a minute and a half–  It’s in the oven in just 3 minutes and always, always turns out angelic!
So step one in the “recipe” is make a box angel food cake.

Glaze:
Melt the butter in a sauce pan on low.  Pour in the cream and turn up the heat a bit and stir just until it starts to simmer.  Then pour in the chocolate chips and mix til they melt. Turn off the heat.  Then whip the glaze with a spoon for 2 or 3 minutes more to temper it a bit.

Let it cool to room temp and drizzle away on your cake– I recommend lots of chocolaty finger licking as well.
P.S.– This cake story has a crazy exciting ending!!– We were all settled into a dimly lit room watching the black & white 1948  Clifton Web movie, when a nearby 5.1 earthquake hit!!  Lights flipped on– all of us exclaiming and standing in doorways.  Then all the phones came out to call home!

Back at our house,  lots of things fell askew and a few dishes broke, but really we are A-OK.  But–  another school in our town was closed for earthquake damage and those children joined us at Laurel School– so my little school of 315 is now a school of almost 800!!  It’s a little crazy!!

Blueberry Lemon Bread

IMG_7843Hello all–  I dredged this recipe out of the old family favorites– my mom would make it when we were 4 kids at home.  And with an anniversary just past, it made me remember our wedding, 39 years ago.

It was big–nearly 700 people.  And my amazing mom, baked ahead for weeks with the help of a friend’s big freezer– all kinds of breads and sweets, including this lemon bread.  It was a homemade wedding–my seamstress of a sister sewed up my dress for $25.  And I drew the invitations for a friend to print.

I don’t know why I’m going on like this.  But the lemon bread got me to remembering…

It’s sweet and so lemony with the glaze on top– and with this recent addition of blueberries adds another bit of sweetness.  I think you’d like it.

BLUEBERRY LEMON BREAD
1/2 cup canola oil*
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1  2/3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
peel grated off 1 lemon
6 oz. blueberries (about a cup)

Glaze:
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup sugar

Stir together the oil, sugar, eggs, and milk.  Then mix in the flour, salt and baking powder.  Finally blend in the lemon peel and blueberries.

Spoon the batter into a standard bread pan (I like to use two smaller 7″ pans) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it in a 350 degree oven for 35 for 40 minutes until it is firm to the touch.

While the bread is still hot from the oven, stir together the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar.  Drizzle it over the hot lemon bread and let it cool in the pan and soak up all the glaze.

This lemony bread just begs for a mug of tea and a book.  Enjoy!

*The original recipe–from my mom– calls for 1/2 cup butter, melted in place of the oil.  So if you want a richer loaf, butter it is!  (I think the oil is A-OK).

Toffee Pecan Brownies

IMG_7910Hi friends– We spent the last weekend with about 40 of our best friends at a little get away down towards the beach.  It was low key– meals out on the patio, crazy games with lots of laughing and shrieking involved,  worthwhile conversations and a 6 mile walk down along the shore.

Also there was a table involving goodies of all sorts.  I dropped a plate of these brownies into the mix.  They’re easy to make in the middle of packing a suitcase and do travel well in an old plastic container.  Just right for sharing with friends…

TOFFEE PECAN BROWNIES
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), melted
1/4 cup dark cocoa*
1 tsp. instant coffee**
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
3 Heath candy bars, chopped***
1/2 cup pecans, chopped to nice bits

Stir together the melted butter, dark cocoa and coffee granules.  Then mix in the eggs, sugar and vanilla.  Finally blend in the flour just until it’s a dark creamy mess of batter.

Scrape all the batter into a 9″ square  of 11″x7″ baking dish that’s been sprayed with cooking spray.  Sprinkle on the bits of candy bar and then the pecans.  Pop it into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes (please don’t bake too long and let them dry out.).

Cut into polite little squares and enjoy with a friend to two (or more).

*I love, love the Hershey’s Dark cocoa– so darn chocolaty!!
**Just a little sleeve of that generic instant coffee equals a teaspoon– makes the chocolate all the richer.
***Heath bars, Skor bars, any toffee-ish candy bar

IMG_7912     IMG_7915Here’s the crew  that crossed with the ferry and trekked down to the beach.  Love you guys!!  (nice hats!)

Zucchini Bran Muffins

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Hi there– Made these muffins a couple weeks ago when  group of friends were off to hike on a Saturday morning.  We met up for coffee and a nibble (that would be the muffins) and we set off up the freeway to Hollywood, where we parked the car in the prettiest old neighborhood and trekked up to  the Hollywood sign on the hill, with several stops to admire the views across Los Angeles along the way.

All that to say, these are fine muffins.  Just sweet enough and hearty from all that bran and zucchini.  A good way to start off a morning of hiking…

ZUCCHINI BRAN MUFFINS:
1 medium zucchini, grated to shreds
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup unflavored yogurt
1 cup1 flour
1 cup bran
1 1/2  tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup walnuts (or pecans), chopped (optional)

In a mixing bowl, stir together the grated zucchini, sugar, eggs, oil and yogurt.  Then thoroughly mix in the flour, bran, baking powder and salt.  Finally fold in the nuts.

Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with paper wrappers (makes 12 muffins) and pop them into a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until they are lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Butter and marmalade along with a mug of tea make them just about perfect.

IMG_7659Hello friends– Here are some nubbly little cookies that start with hearty oats, but quickly fill up with extra little goodies– apricots, chocolate and coconut.

They are the kind of little bars a grandma should have around the house when the grand-girls arrive,  wait!! —like mine who are coming from China end of the month!!  I’m jumping up and down.  Can you feel the vibrations of my computer as you read?

But back to the cookie bars, they’re fast and easy and just sweet enough to satisfy.  I think you’ll like as much as I’m hoping Charlotte, Maryann and Josie do…

IMG_7646APRICOT CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL BARS
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped to smallish bits
2/3 cup coconut
2/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup canola oil (or melted butter, if you prefer!)
2 eggs
3 tab. milk

In a mixing bowl stir together the oatmeal, flour, baking powder and salt.  Then add in the “goodies”–apricots, coconut, chocolate chips, sugars.  Finally add the wet ingredients–oil, eggs and milk.  Mix is tip blended and spoon it into a 7″x11″ pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake it at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes, until a knife inserted into the cookie bars comes out clean.  Cut them into tidy little squares and enjoy!

Salted Orange Walnut Cookies

IMG_6419Hello cookie lovers–  I’m usually the one who loves cookies to be the sweeter, the better.  But these plain, homely little gems are citrusy, salty, nutty and just sweet enough.  I have to admit they are truly addicting!  I ate most of the batch you see here all by myself.

And I don’t regret it…

SALTED ORANGE WALNUT COOKIES
3 cups walnuts, pieces
1 cup of butter (2 sticks)–at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
grated zest from 1 orange
2 large egg yolks
2 cups flour
1 tsp. flake sea salt (like Maldon)

IMG_6427Toast the walnuts in a 350 oven for 8 to 10 minutes until they just start to brown.  Take them out and chop them to fine bits.

With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, orange zest and egg yolks.  Then beat in the flour and salt.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Then roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thickness on a floured surface.  Cut out the cookies with a cutter and set them on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until they just start to brown around the edges.

If you want to make them pretty– you can apply a little orange tinted frosting.  But I like them just as they are from the oven– with my biggest mug of tea.  Hope you love them!

Caramel Pecan Banana Cake

IMG_7071Hello there– I just don’t know what to say about this cake.  It’s sort of an up-side-down cake –or maybe kind of Banana’s Foster-ish.  It could be a brunch worthy coffee cake or with enough whipped cream a lovely dessert at the end of a dinner with friends.  It’s best warm from the oven, but yummy cold as well.  I think the best thing would be for you to try it out and decide for yourself what kind of cake we have on our hands.

I will say it’s sweet and delicious.  You can take if from there…

CARAMEL PECAN BANANA CAKE
3 tab. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans*
2 bananas, sliced
4 very ripe bananas, smashed
1/2 cup canola oil
1  1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

IMG_7088.

Melt the butter in a skillet and cook just until it starts to sizzle.  Stir in the brown sugar and take off the heat.  Carefully drop in the banana slices turning them to coat with the sauce.  Set aside.

In in mixing bowl, smash the remaining 4 ripe bananas.  Stir in the oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Mix thoroughly and then stir in the flour, baking powder and salt.

In a 3X13″ baking dish or a 12″ round dish, coat it with cooking spray.  Then sprinkle the pecans over the bottom, carefully nestle the caramel-ly bananas evenly over the bottom of the dish with tongs.  Scrape the remaining butter/brown sugar out of the pan over the bananas and pecans.

Spoon the banana cake batter over the bananas in the baking dish and pop it all into the oven at 375 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes– until the cake is lightly browned and firm to the touch.

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool for just 5 minutes.  Then invert the cake onto a dish so the sliced bananas come out on top.  Scrape any extra gooey stuff out of the baking dish onto the cake.  Serve it warm with ice cream and maybe a little caramel sauce.  Mellow and delicious.