Lemon Crumb Squares


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Despite the fact that spring has been a little fickle, it is here, and the spring-like days have been glorious.  It's such an exciting time of year, as flowers bloom and birds chirp.  I like varying qualities about each season, but spring feels like a time of rebirth and new starts.  It's exciting.

Also despite the fact that citrus fruit is in its peak during the winter, these lemon bars practically embody spring.  They feel light and fresh, and even refreshing.  They're not health food, though, so all things in moderation.  This was one of the desserts I made for our family's Easter dinner and they were a hit.  They're easy, fairly quick, and make ahead friendly.  Love them!

Creamy Lemon Crumb Squares
from The Pioneer Woman, aka Ree Drummond

1-1/3 cup All-purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 stick (1/2 Cup) Butter, Slightly Softened
1 cup Brown Sugar (lightly Packed)
1 cup Oats
1 can (14 Ounce) Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/2 cup Lemon Juice
Zest Of 1 Lemon

Preheat oven to 350. 
Mix butter and brown sugar until well combined.  Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder.  Add oats and flour to butter/sugar mixture and mix to combine.
Press half of crumb mixture into the bottom of an 8 x 11 inch pan.
Mix together condensed milk, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Spread onto the bottom layer of the crumb mixture. Top with the other half of the crumb mixture, but don't press.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Allow pan to sit on counter for 30 minutes after baking. Cut into squares and refrigerate for a couple of hours or until cool.  Serve cool.
  • 1/2 cup of lemon juice takes about 5-6 large lemons, in my experience.  I would use fresh lemon juice over bottled any day.
  • Since it didn't specify, I used old fashioned rolled oats, and it turned out great.

Coffee Break Muffins


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I actually made these muffins a month or so ago and am just now getting around to telling you about them.  I should have told you sooner because they're SO GOOD!  They're light and airy in texture, and have a good coffee flavor.  They come together quickly, and were able to be made from ingredients I already had on hand.  If we were friends and you made me these muffins, I'd know we were real friends.

These come from Dorie Greenspan's book, Baking: From My Home To Yours and is likely the best purchase I've ever made from a Ross discount store.  If baking is your thing, you would benefit greatly from having this book in your collection. 

My one tip is that you eat these the day they're made or wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze them in a gallon zip top bag, because they don't keep well.  I made no changes to the recipe because I am OCD about baking recipes, but I think I'd add chocolate chips next time.

Coffee Break Muffins
from Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home To Yours

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 cup strong coffee, cooled
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-sized muffin tin or fit the molds with paper muffin cups. Alternatively, use a silicone muffin pan which needs neither greasing nor paper cups. Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, espresso powder, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the coffee, melted butter, egg and vanilla extract together until well combined.  Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don’t worry about being thorough – a few lumps are better than over mixing the batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a think knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake


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Do you want to hear a rambling story?  If not, I won't be offended if you scroll on to the bottom of the post, where the recipe lies, but this story does connect.  So, this weekend Drew and I were having two separate dinners, one with my family and one with his.  I was to make the desserts for each.  Since my family is larger, I opted to bring two desserts, one chocolate and one fruity.  I thought my fudge pie recipe would produce enough batter for two pies, but I was gravely mistaken.  There I was on Saturday morning with only two desserts and neither for the dinner with the Givens family that night.  I was determined not to go back to the store, so I looked through my files to see what recipe I could create with ingredients I had on hand.  While I narrowed it down to a few contenders, this recipe was the winner, and boy was it ever a winner. 

Like a thick, barely baked cookie, this recipe satisfies all your sweet teeth.  It comes together fairly quickly and is pretty easy.  I recommend using a stand mixer to mix the batter/dough, but if all you have is a hand mixer, try it out.  You could just about term this a pie and not be wrong- no crust but closer to the consistency of a pie than a cake.  Whatever.  A rose by any other name, right?

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake
from That's So Yummy

1 cup All-purpose Flour
1-½ teaspoon Baking Powder
¼ teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ cups Butter, Unsalted
1 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 whole Large Egg
1-¼ cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream the butter, light brown sugar, and vanilla extract on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute.  Increase the mixer speed to high and beat for 15 seconds.  Stop the mixer, scrape down the sides of the bowl, and add the egg.  Blend on medium speed for 30 seconds.  Add the dry ingredients and combine on low speed until just a few dry streaks remain.  Add the chocolate chips and mix for a few seconds until combined.

Scrape the batter into a greased and lined 9-inch round cake pan.  Press the batter into a smooth and even layer in the pan. Bake until lightly golden and puffy around the edges (the center should still feel quite soft), 18 – 22 minutes.

Cool for 10 minutes and then run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to release the cake.

Cool for at least 4 hours before turning the cake out of the pan and onto a large plate.
Slice then serve.  Note: If you’re real naughty, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and hot fudge!

  • I made the recipe as is, but my cookie cake was not baked at the end of the baking time.  I probably baked it an extra 10 minutes.  You want gooey but not runny. 
  • I transported this cake in the pan in which I baked it.  If you want to display it you'll either want to make sure it's well baked or even use a springform/cheesecake pan. 

Pasta e Fagioli Soup- Olive Garden Copycat Recipe


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One of my favorite casual restaurant meals is Olive Garden's Soup, Salad, and Breadsticks lunch.  One of my favorite soups there is the pasta e fagioli.  Hearty, filling, and yet it feels light.  I just love it.  Then I made it, thanks to this recipe!

It's easy and makes enough for a small country so I suggest freezing about half this recipe for later use.  That is, unless your family is the size of the Duggers. 

I am going to show the recipe as I made it and also list other suggestions in the notes section.  For the original recipe, click on the recipe title below, which is the link to the site where I found this recipe.

Pasta e Fagioli
from Farm Girl in the Suburbs Blog (link above)

1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1- 28 oz can diced tomatoes (or 2 14.5 oz. diced tomatoes)
1 15-oz. can red kidney beans
1 15-oz. can Great Northern Beans
1 15-oz. can tomato sauce
1 T. white vinegar
1 ½ t. salt
1 t. oregano
1 t. basil
½ t. pepper
½ t. thyme
½ lb. Ditali pasta
1 qt. chicken or beef broth or water

Brown the ground beef and onion in a large stock pot or Dutch Oven over medium heat.

Add the carrot, celery, and garlic, and saute for 10 minutes, until vegetables are tender.

Add remaining ingredients except pasta, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring often.

At 50 minutes into simmer time, cook the pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain the pasta (reserve cooking liquid) and add to the pot of soup.

Simmer for 5-10 minutes and if soup is too thick, add broth, water, or even the reserved pasta water until it is the desired thickness and saltiness.  Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

  • I made this recipe as was posted on the blog site, and felt that it lacked both salt and liquid.  I had about 2 c. chicken broth in the fridge, and even after adding that, felt it was still not soupy enough and not salty enough.  I added 1-2 cups of pasta water to add additional liquid and salt.  I sometimes neglect it, but it's so important to taste as you go and to adjust seasonings
  • The vinegar really does make a difference, though I'm not foodie enough to know why.  I plan on trying red wine vinegar next time.
  • I have not yet tried it in the crock pot, but I'd just about bet money you could brown the meat and throw everything else into the crock pot, warm it through without the pasta, and pick it up from there.