Chewy Cherry Almond Bars

cherry bars (640x424)
Use your favorite preserves to make a chewy bar full of oats and almonds. Enjoy!
Chewy Cherry Almond Bars
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups regular rolled oats
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 12 ounce jar (1 cup) cherry preserves

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

2. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and baking powder. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and almond extract until combined. Add flour and mix until blended.  Stir in the oats and almonds.

3. Remove 1/2 cup of the dough and set aside. Press the remaining dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Spread with preserves. Crumble the remaining dough evenly over preserves layer.

4. Bake in the preheated oven about 35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

Quick Cranberry-Nut No-Knead Bread

cranberry nut sliced (640x424)Here is another adaptation of the no-knead bread that is quicker that the traditional method where the dough rises overnight. The “quicker” versions use more yeast and start with warm water for the sponge. The bread is like the traditional bakery bread with a crusty outside and soft, tender interior. Yum!

Quick Cranberry-Nut No-Knead  Bread

1 ⅓ cups warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Sprinkle of ground cinnamon

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until the flour and other ingredients are mixed and a shaggy dough forms (You may need to add one or two additional tablespoons of warm water if the dough is too stiff – or use a little less flour).
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (It is okay if it sits longer than an hour). As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and slide the cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

quick cranberry nut break (640x424)

Apple Cider Oatmeal Pancakes

apple cider pancakes (640x424)The oatmeal adds a rich texture and the cider and cinnamon flavor can’t be beat! The recipe is easy – just mix everything together and drop on a hot griddle. Great for a weekend breakfast when you have a little more time. Enjoy!

Apple Cider Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup flour

1 cup rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup milk

1/2 cup apple cider

2 beaten eggs

1/4 cup butter, melted

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Mix all ingredients together. Scoop by 1/4 cup onto a hot griddle. Cook on one side until it bubbles, than quickly flip to the other side.

2. Serve warm with some butter and maple syrup. Yum!

Oven Baked Beef Ragout

beef ragout (640x424)Here is a hearty beef stew that is flavorful with herbs and spices. Everything is put in a casserole dish and then bakes in the oven for over two hours. Give it a try for a hearty dinner!

Oven Baked Beef Ragout

2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1 inch cubes

2 medium red onions, cut into thin wedges

4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch slices

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 3/4 cups beef broth

1 cup water

1/2 cup diced tomatoes, drained

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1 teaspoon molasses

3/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 bay leaf

1. In a 2 1/2 to 3 quart casserole combine beef cubes, onions, carrots and garlic; set aside.

2. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Stir in the flour. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add broth and water all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in tomatoes, parley, molasses, thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf. Pour over beef-vegetable mixture in casserole.

3. Bake covered in a 350 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours. Stir stew. Bake, uncovered, about 1 hour more or until beef and vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Remove and discard bay leaf.

 

Spicy Chicken Chili

chicken chili (640x424)A hearty white chili that uses Great Northern beans, chicken (I used leftover turkey), some green chilies for spice and some cheese for smoothness. A good option for a cold winter evening…

Spicy Chicken Chili

1 pound dry Great Northern beans, rinsed

1 tablespoon cooking oil

2 cups chopped onions

1 4-ounce can diced green chile peppers, undrained

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

7 cups chicken broth

4 cups coarsely chopped cooked chicken or turkey

1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese with peppers

1. In a large pot, combine beans and enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans; set aside.

2. In the same large pot, heat oil. Add onions and cook over medium heat for 5 – 8 minutes or until tender. Stir in chile peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano and cayenne pepper. Cook and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in beans, chopped chicken and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 2 hours or until beans are tender. Add 1 cup of cheese and stir until cheese is melted. If desired, serve with sour cream, salsa, cilantro and additional cheese.

 

Apple Butter Doughnuts

apple butter cake (640x424)

I ran across this recipe for baked doughnuts this past week. I have already fried doughnuts so this was my first time to bake them so I had to run to the kitchen store to purchase doughnut pans. I also found out that if you fill the pans too full, the hole at the top of the doughnut will close. This recipe uses fresh apples and apple butter to make a wonderful doughnut full of spice topped with cinnamon sugar.

Baked Apple Butter Doughnuts

2 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup apple butter
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped apples
2 eggs
2 tablespoon butter, melted
Topping
3 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 tablespoon butter, melted
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray doughnut pans with cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add in the apple butter, milk, melted butter and eggs. Mix well and then fold in the chopped apples.
3. Pour the batter into each doughnut cup of the pan about 2/3 full. Bake 7-9 minutes or until the tops of the donuts spring back when touched.
4. Let the donuts cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.
 5. Once cool enough to handle, melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in a microwave safe bowl.In another small shallow bowl, whisk together the sugar and cinnamon. Quickly dip the top of one of the doughnuts in the melted butter and then twist immediately into the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Repeat this for each doughnut.

Winter’s Blue

bluebird squawk (640x447)One of the joys of winter in our area is the profusion of Eastern Bluebirds. Once rare, the bluebirds have made a comeback in the last 20 years as residents construct bluebird trails and conserve natural areas. The bluebirds are year-round residents but tend to stay in the woods in the summer. Once the cold weather hits, all it takes are some mealworms in the feeders and the bluebirds suddenly appear. And if the feeder is empty, they will sit on the pole staring at you until you come out to add more worms. And from the photo above and below you can see that they argue a lot about the mealworms. And don’t forget the fresh water for the birds in the winter – in our area, we have to add a heater to the bird bath to keep the water ice free. Enjoy our winter touch of blue.

bluebird pair (640x424)

bluebirds (640x453)

female BB on birdbath (640x424)

bluebird 2 (640x424)

female bluebird (640x424)

Quick No-Knead Cheese Bread

cheese no-knead (640x424)“Quick” is a relative term when talking about no-knead bread but this is a shorter version than the traditional 12-15 hour no-knead process. This bread comes out with the crusty exterior and soft inside. The cheese adds a nice flavor for Italian food or casseroles. Give it a try and enjoy!

Quick Crusty No-Knead Cheese Bread

1 ⅓ cups warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3⅔ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup shredded cheese

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until all of the flour and cheese is mixed and a shaggy dough forms (You may need to add one or two additional tablespoons of warm water if the dough is too stiff).
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (It is okay if it sits longer than an hour). As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and slide the cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

sliced cheese bread (640x424)

Quick Crusty No-Knead Bread

quick crusty bread (640x424)We love no-knead bread made in a hot cast iron pot. It tastes like bread from the bakery with a soft interior with a crunchy crust on the outside. “Quick” is rather a relative term but this method is faster than the traditional no-knead recipes. I have always used the method of mixing the sponge and allowing it to rise overnight or 12-18 hours. That method works great but sometimes you do not have 12 or more hours to wait for the bread to be ready to cook.

I have been experimenting with some directions for a quicker version and this yielded bread with a soft inside and a crusty exterior. You make the sponge and allow it to sit for one hour. Then you form it into a ball, let rest for 15 minutes and then place in the hot cast iron pot and hot oven. The bread comes out a beautiful brown with wonderful crust. Give it a try if you want a shorter version of great no-knead bread.

quick no knead cut (640x424)Quick Crusty No-Knead Bread

1 ⅓ cups warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3⅔ cups all-purpose flour

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until all flour is mixed and a shaggy dough forms.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour.
As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Please cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 15 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and remove cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

Applesauce Cake

applesauce cake (640x424)As I was cleaning closets this weekend, I found a box of my mother-in-law’s recipe. My mother-in-law immigrated from Germany after World War I when her aunt, who was already in America sent her a ticket for passage on a boat to America. She eventually married another German immigrant and they settled in the Hudson River Valley. This is a recipe that one of her friends gave her in 1952. It combines applesauce, nuts and raisins to make a tasty dessert or snack. Add a dollop of whipped cream for additional delight!

Applesauce Cake

1 cups all-purpose for

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cloves

Sift together all of the above dry ingredients. Then blend:

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 cup raisins mixed with 1 tablespoon of the sifted dry ingredients

Cream together:

1/2 cup shortening

12 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Blend in:

1 egg and mix thoroughly

Add alternately sifted dry ingredients and 1 1/4 cups applesauce

Blend in floured nuts and raisins. Mix thoroughly.

Pour into lightly greased, floured, 9 x 9 x 2 inch pan.

Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool and enjoy! You can also add a powdered sugar glaze. I used 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar mixed with 2 tablespoons of milk.

 

Nature Photos on Twitter

twitter page (640x306)Do you use Twitter and enjoy photos of nature? I set up a new Twitter account this weekend that features photos of the wildlife and scenery in our area. You can follow it at @ALookatNature or click on one of the “Follow” buttons below. What are some of your favorite feeds on Twitter?

Creamy Turkey Soup

turkey cream soup (640x424)Do you still have leftover Thanksgiving turkey in the freezer? Warm a cold winter’s night with this creamy turkey soup.

Creamy Turkey Soup

1/4 cup butter

1 cup chopped green onion

2 cups sliced carrots

1/4 cup flour

5 cups turkey broth, divided (or chicken bouillon)

2 cups milk or 2 cups cream

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dried parsley

3 cups chopped cooked turkey

8 ounces uncooked noodles

1. Saute onions and carrots in butter until soft, not brown.

2. Add flour and mix well.

3. Gradually add 2 cups broth and milk.

4. Cook and stir until it thickens.

5. Stir in remaining 3 cups broth, and all remaining ingredients.

6. Simmer 10-12 minutes until noodles are tender, stirring occasionally.

Getting Outside

take a walk in the woods (640x424)One of the joys of the grandchildren visiting is spending time with them walking in the woods or when the weather is warmer, working in the garden. Even though it was cold during the Christmas visit (but no snow on the ground this year), we still spent time in the woods and filling jars with “nature” things that we found.

I read an interesting article about how Scandinavian babies nap outside even when the weather is well below freezing. We lived in Germany when my oldest son was young and I remember the German mothers shopping and taking walks with their babies snug in their warm sleeping bags inside the prams during the coldest weather. Here is a link to the article and a couple of photos of our time outside with the children and grandchildren.

rock pile (640x424)The rock wall is always interesting to explore

woods with steve (640x424)Uncles are great for spending time with nieces

feedng mealworms (640x424)Filling the mealworm containers for the bluebirds

reflection (640x424)Unfortunately a great blue heron found the fish pond this week so not sure how many fish we have left

rocks 2 (640x424)Talk a walk and enjoy all of the great things to see and explore!

Cinnamon Rolls

cinnamon rolls (640x417)Love the smell of cinnamon rolls baking in the oven? If you enjoy working with yeast dough, here is a great recipe to try.

Cinnamon Rolls

Dough

1 package dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1/2 cup scalded milk

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup butter

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg

3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour

Filling

1/2 cup meted butter

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

3/4 cup raisins or pecans

Glaze (optional)

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 to 6 tablespoons ht water

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside. In a large bowl mix milk, sugar melted butter, salt and egg. Ad 2 cups of flour and mix until smooth. Add yeast mixture. Mix in remaining flour until dough is easy to handle. Knead 5-10 minutes. Please in a well-greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

2. When doubled in size punch down dough. Roll out on a floured surface into a 15 x 9 inch rectangle. Spread melted butter all over dough. Mix sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over buttered dough. Sprinkle with raisins or nuts, if desired. Beginning with the 15 inch side, roll up dough and pinch edge together to seal. Cut into 12 to 15 slices.

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the bottom of the baking an with butter. Place cinnamon roll slices close together in the pan and let rise until dough is doubled (about 45 minutes). Bake for about 30 minutes or until nicely browned.

4. If you want to add a glaze to the finished rolls, mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Add hot water 1 tablespoon at a time until the glaze reaches desired consistency. Spread over slightly cooled rolls. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

What is Your Aim?

bluebird pair 3 (800x466)I think this devotional by John Piper is a good meditation for the new year. In the comments, Pastor Piper says,  “God’s revealed will for you is that when you get up in the morning, you don’t drift aimlessly through the day letting mere circumstances alone dictate what you do, but that you aim at something — that you focus on a certain kind of purpose.”

Click on the link below for the full devotional and let’s all consider how we can live 2015 with  purpose focused on love and good works.  Enjoy the bluebirds and Happy New Year!

What Is Your Aim? http://dsr.gd/1dm5OK4

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. (Hebrews 10:24)

Split Pea Soup

split pea (640x424)A cold night and a leftover ham bone means one thing for dinner – split pea soup and a pan of cornbread. Hope this recipe helps to keep you warm during the cold winter weather.

Split Pea Soup

1 pound dried green split peas

1 ham bone or smoked ham hock

1 small onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2 medium carrots, sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

8-10 cups water

1. In a 6-8 quart pot, combine all of the ingredients. Bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat, cover and cook on low for 2 hours. Serve and enjoy!

Abide in Me

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Daily Wisdom: December 29

What does it mean to “abide in me?” This devotional includes some sound advice to practice in the new year. We begin with faith, hope and love and then make those traits visible through daily prayer, Scripture study, denial of self, and patience. Click on the link below for the full devotional.
John 15:5 – “I am the vine, you are the branches. He that abides in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.”

Source: Daily Wisdom – http://www.youdevotion.com/wisdom/december/29

Peanut Butter Blossoms

peanut blossom (640x424)This is a classic cookie recipe that combines the flavor of peanut butter with chocolate. It makes a very pretty addition to any tray of cookies.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

1/2 cup shortening

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1 egg

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1  3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

Chocolate Kisses

1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl beat shortening and peanut butter until blended. Add 1/2 cup granulated sugar, the brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in egg, milk and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

2. Place the 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in sugar to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Immediately press a chocolate Kiss into the center of each cookie. Transfer cookies to wire rack; cool.

Mississippi Mud Cake

mississippi mud (640x424)I was not able to make a photo of the cake until there was only one piece left after a Death By Chocolate snack party at where I work so the photo is not great. Mississippi Mud is a traditional cake in the south and every year a family friend prepares one for my brother for his Christmas gift. There is lots of chocolate, nuts, coconut and marshmallow cream so it is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Mississippi Mud Cake

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

2 cups sugar

2 tablespoons cocoa

4 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cup cake flour

1 (3 1/2 ounce) can coconut

1 cup chopped pecans

1 large jar of marshmallow cream

1. Preheat oven to 350. Cream butter, sugar and cocoa. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add flour and beat well, around 3 minutes. Fold in coconut and pecans.

2. Bake in a 9 x 13 inch pan for 30 minutes. After removing cake from oven, immediately spread marshmallow cream over the top. Let cool.

Frosting

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

1 pound powdered sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk

1/3 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Melt butter. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth Spread over cake. Freezes well.