Sunday, July 31, 2011

No Bake Cookies

Another hot day in Minnesota. Give me a few months and I'll be complaining about the cold. To be fair, we've been setting some records for heat around here. The hard thing about it is that I hate the thought of turning on the oven to bake anything. But we need treats. What is a girl to do?

Luckily, I remember a recipe from my past. We won't mention how long ago I first encountered them, but I'm thinking we used to get these in the high school cafeteria for dessert. I know I did try to make them once when I was in college and they didn't turn out all that great...they were kind of grainy. The recipe I'm thinking about is a no bake cookie....aptly named No Bake Cookies.

Now, I didn't remember exactly how to make these things. I knew they had peanut butter, chocolate and oatmeal--and they tasted more like candy than cookies. You know those haystack candies that come in a box of bon-bons? Yes--those are the ones---these "cookies" remind me of the haystack candies. So, I did a little search on the Internet.....

You know what? There are about a thousand No Bake Cookie recipes out there. Yikes. I decided on the one from for a couple of reasons. First, no less than 19,500 people have saved this second, there is some very good advice to be had from the comments.

So here is the recipe, with a link to my source:

No Bake Cookies

1 3/4 cups white sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used smooth)
3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup shredded coconut (this is optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, milk, butter, and cocoa. Bring to a boil, and cook for 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in peanut butter, oats, and vanilla. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper. Let cool until hardened. 

Something I learned from all of those comments on all of those ingredients together. Once the mixture boils, there isn't much time to get everything in there.

The recipe says to drop by teaspoons. That seemed tiny to me, so I used my cookie scoop. Much easier, no?

Check out this pan. My sister found it and gave it to me when she was downsizing. It comes from my dad's bakery. I heart this pan....

One of the suggestions was to add coconut. I did this.

And the best suggestion...the key to them not being grainy or crumbly....bring the mixture to a full boil and set your timer for 1 1/2 minutes. Perfect!

There you have it. Treats for a hot Minnesota day. Enjoy. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

The fruit flies were starting to gather around my brown bananas the other day. Do you know how hard it is to get rid of them? The fruit flies, I mean. Seriously, where do they come from? It seems like they spontaneously erupt. Eww. The bananas, on the other hand, were easier to deal with. A little flour, some butter, and a load of cream cheese frosting, along with those bananas, resulted in a little something called "banana bars".

Banana bars are really banana cake in a bar form. They are made in a 15" pan, so, in theory, they can feed a crowd. Or three people. They are a nice diversion from banana bread. The following recipe is adapted from one I found in a Taste of Home magazine.

Banana Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting


1/2 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup low fat plain yogurt
1/2 cup light sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3-3/4 to 4 cups confectioners' sugar


In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, yogurt, sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in bananas.

Spread into a greased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.

For frosting, in a bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla. Gradually beat in enough confectioners' sugar to achieve desired consistency. Frost bars. Store in the refrigerator.

Amazing what a little banana can do for cake.

Be sure to mix in the baking soda really well--you don't want that to clump together and taste icky.

The batter will be fairly thick....

.....but it spreads out nicely. Don't forget to butter and flour your pan.

Enough to feed a small army. Or three people.

The edges baked up a little crispy. looks like someone picked a little off of the side.

The cream cheese frosting may be the best part. My husband followed me around until I gave him the bowl and spatula to lick.

Even better than Sara Lee. I know this, because my husband told me...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rhubarb Slices with Buttered Almond Glaze

It's been awhile and I won't bore you with the details of my absence. Suffice to say that it has been hot and bothersome in these here parts. Recently, however, I was lucky enough to have a new double-oven range delivered to my kitchen. Thanks to Mixing Bowl and Frigidaire, I was the winner in the Frigidaire's Ultimate Recipe Contest on! I know the first thing I should have baked was the winning recipe, Peanut Butter Cup Oatmeal Cookies, but I've been getting some requests for a rhubarb dessert. So, let it be rhubarb!

Rhubarb Slices with Buttered Almond Glaze


1 pound rhubarb, fresh or frozen, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup butter flavored shortening
2/3 cup cold milk
1 egg yolk (reserve the white for brushing on the crust)

1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Sliced almonds for garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, combine the rhubarb with 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat to simmer and continue to cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Stir the beaten eggs into the cooled rhubarb mixture and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour and the salt. With a fork, cut in the shortening until the mixture is crumbly. Beat the egg yolk into the cold milk and slowly add it to the flour mixture, stirring it together until it forms a ball. Turn the dough onto a floured surface  and gently knead a little more flour into it if it is too sticky (avoid handling it too much, or the crust will be tough).

Divide the dough in half. Sprinkle a little flour on a piece of parchment paper or a silpat and roll out one half of the dough into a large enough rectangle to cover the bottom and sides of the 9 X 13 inch pan. Turn the dough into the pan and gently press it into place. Prick several holes into the dough with a fork.

Beat the egg white with a fork until frothy (add a couple drops of water if desired). Brush about 1/2 of the egg white over the crust.

Spread the rhubarb mixture evenly over the crust. Roll out the other half of the dough and carefully place over the rhubarb mixture. Prick the crust to vent and brush the remaining egg white over the top.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Remove to a cooling rack. Drizzle with glaze while still warm. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.

For the glaze, simply blend the melted butter, almond extract, powdered sugar, and 1 tablespoon milk together with a fork until it is smooth. Add additional milk, a teaspoon at a time, until desired consistency is reached.

Since I just had to try out the range right away, I grabbed a pan and fried an egg. I have to confess that my air conditioning was on the blink and the heat index outside was hovering around 113 I waited until nightfall to turn on the oven. The little one on top is perfect for just one item---and it doesn't heat up the entire house (not that it would have made much difference, lol).

If you look close, you can see the condensation on the pan. It was quite warm, so I didn't bother with cutting fresh rhubarb--I confess to using frozen.

Feel free to double the filling. I wanted to be able to pick the slices up by hand, so I just used less rhubarb. I also just pushed the crust halfway up the pan.

Rhubarb is actually considered a vegetable and it is very tart. If you prefer a sweeter filling, it is OK to add a little more sugar.

These slices are just a variation of my Strawberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie, and my original recipe for Apple Pie Slices. The dough is a bit denser than traditional pie crust and it allows for portability--really important if you want to pick up a piece and run! My next try at this will be with peaches...stay tuned.