Baked Sunday Mornings: Good Morning Sunshine Bars

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I was really excited about this recipe, it’s something I knew everyone would love and it was a great quick and easy treat to throw together, even on a busy week night.

I had a friend in town who happened to be vegan so I cut a few pieces for her before I added the milk chocolate. I was feeling lazy so I just melted the chips in a glass bowl and used a teaspoon to Jackson Pollock the top of the bars.

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I have to say, these were perfect. I loved them immediately after they were made and they were amazing in the morning with coffee. They were definitely NOT a morning treat for my boys, they got them in the evening after dinner.

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The bars were a yummy and elegant upgrade from the usual cereal concoction: rice crispy treats. These would be great for one of the many bake sales we have at the boys’ school and I know I’ll be making these again sooner than later!

Go over and see what everyone else thought!!

Next up: Antique Caramel Cake!! I’ve wanted to try this one and there are two good things about it–1. It uses ingredients I almost always have on hand 2. It’s only two layers so I shouldn’t have a lot leftover. I’m going to try and plan making this around dinner plans, Baked cakes are always perfect for sharing with friends!

Portable Breakfast: Whole Wheat Toaster Pastries

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I’ve been wanting to make toaster pastries for a while. My boys bug me sometimes for Pop Tarts and I never buy them–I want them to have healthy breakfast choices–but portable foods really come in handy. It takes us about 20 minutes to get to school each morning and we usually all choose sleep over sitting groggily at the kitchen table. Things like smoothies, breakfast tacos, eggs in pita pockets are usually the way to go, but I wanted to give DIY Pop Tarts a shot.

I found this recipe and decided to make these at the same time as I made my sweet puppy girl some doggie treats.

I made half with pumpkin butter and half blueberry preserves and sprinkled the tops with cinnamon sugar before baking. I was worried that it would be to crust-y/dense and not fruity enough. The first morning my boys grabbed a pumpkin one and were.not.impressed. Day two was a blueberry morning and they tore them up. I’m going to make another batch and make some changes to make them still healthy but more interesting for the guys.

What are your healthy breakfast on the go recipes?

Spooky Saturday Night

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It was hard to narrow down what to do over the weekend to celebrate the Halloween season. Haunted hay ride? Zoo trip? Museum event? Pumpkin patch? I had a few ideas, then a friend on Facebook let me know that R.L Stine, one of my boys’ favorite authors was speaking at the Texas State Cemetery after dark.

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I am eternally grateful to R.L Stine and authors like him for creating books that capture my boys’ imagination. When they were learning to read, all of the early readers were boooooring to them and I was worried that they would not learn to love books the way I do. I spent hours googling early readers, graphic novels and chapter books that were more on the gory exciting side for them. Of course R.L Stine came up.

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Before R.L (“Bob”) went on, a man named James Preller read from one of his newer books. I’ll definitely add him to our list of spooky, boy-friendly authors.

After the reading Mr. Stine walked past me and I said hi. He told me that Griffin was cute. I wanted to thank him for helping my boys become book lovers, but all I managed was a smile. I think he got it. Authors have always made me far more starstruck than movie stars. The line for autographs was super long, and most of the people there were adults, oddly enough. My boys didn’t have the patience to wait, the three of them wanted to shine their flashlights at the headstones instead.

What spooky things have YOU done so far for Halloween?

The Scobe: Adventures in Kombuchaland

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I inherited a scoby from a friend last week and decided to bite the bullet and finally give DIY kombucha a whirl. I had no clue what to do with her when I brought her home in a glass pint jar, swimming in the brew she was born in, so I did a lot of internet reading to prepare. After a couple of days I shrugged and tossed the scobe in with a fresh batch of sweet tea into a glass jar with a spigot (that I had just bought) I saw the scoby sink to the bottom. I had no idea if I had killed it or what was going on.

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The next day I took the kombucha down from the shelf above my dryer in the laundry room and peeked under the coffee filters (used to help the ‘booch breathe and keep bugs and fruit flies out) The scoby had floated to the top and it smelled happy and very kombucha-y in there. I tasted it in day three (I slipped a straw under the scobe and took a sip) and it seemed like it was going to be good.

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After it brewed for 7 days I used a pair of tongs to fish out the scoby (my oldest boy insisted on putting on a pair of plastic gloves so he could feel it’s slimy squishiness) and let it swim in some of the kombucha in the pint jar I brought it home in. I tossed in a chunk of peeled fresh ginger and added 32 oz. of organic honeycrisp apple juice. I used the scoby (fused with it’s baby, I didn’t separate them yet) to start a fresh batch and put the first batch back on the shelf to do a second ferment and hopefully create some yummy bubbles in there. (like what I’m used to in store-bought)

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This morning I poured a glass to sample and really loved the way it tasted. It was definitely “real kombucha.” I put it back on the shelf and was excited to see lots of bubbles forming on the top. I tasted it again tonight and the flavor is definitely deeper and more complex. I’ll taste it again tomorrow and if it seems to be where I like it then I’ll toss it in the fridge. I don’t plan on straining it, the spigot seems to be catching the bigger chunks and I don’t want to mess up the carbonation. Plus it will be gone probably before the second batch is finished with the first fermentation.

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I let my older boys have some with dinner and they loved it. I think we’ll need a bigger jar! I feel bad because my sweet husband wanted to get a 2 gallon screw top (looked like a giant mason jar!) container the first time but I was hesitant to go bigger than a gallon or so in case it didn’t work out. (the one he wanted was twice as much as the one I wanted) I want to get a case of flip top bottles and a few jugs and another bigger container with a spigot. I found a few online, but I will probably end up investing in real homebrew supplies as time goes on. I can’t wait to experiment with different flavors!

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Have you made kombucha before? What are YOUR favorite flavor combinations?

Baked Sunday Mornings: Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars

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This recipe forced helped me to jump-start my fall baking. I bought my first two pie pumpkins and located my pie weights. That alone made me feel triumphant. The bars are really yummy, the perfect thing to make for a holiday potluck…(or in this case, a random rainy weekend)

The only problem with it is that it is NOT procrastinator-friendly, it definitely takes a bit of time and planning to execute this recipe. Luckily we were just having a lazy weekend at home so while the boys snuggled on the couch watching Winnie the Pooh I spent some time in the kitchen.

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By the time we were finished having breakfast this morning (ok, I’m still in my jammies drinking coffee, but it’s technically not the morning anymore) the bars were ready to be cut.

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I definitely think they were a hit. I don’t need a pan of these laying around my house, so I think I am going to pack up most of them and send them with my oldest boy to take to his Nana’s house.

Go see how my tester friends fared with these yummy autumn treats!

Next up: Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling. WOW!

The Great Pumpkin

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It’s finally fall(ish) and our first pumpkin of the season went into the oven. I haven’t used gross canned pumpkin in many years. I had once figured fresh was a pain, or wouldn’t taste right or would be expensive. Not only is that just not true (one good-sized pie pumpkin can bake three-four pies) but fresh just tastes better and isn’t artificially orange. (fresh pumpkin bakes up brown, an orange pie or other baked good is a surefire canned giveaway)

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Baked Elements has instructions for making pumpkin puree from a fresh pumpkin, but I didn’t use directions since I have done it lots of times before. I just poke holes (or employ two stabby 8 year to do the job) and put the pumpkin on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake on 225 and go do other things.

This time I started in the evening and by the time it was done (a fork will pierce the skin very easily) it was bedtime so I turned the oven off and left the pumpkin to hang out in there overnight.

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The next day I cut off the stem, reached inside and scooped out most of the guts/seeds (the fun part) then cut it into quarters. Using a fork, I gently scraped off the rest of the stringy bits and seeds Those went into a colander to be cleaned later. Using a large spoon I scooped out the flesh and scraped the skins clean.

The pumpkin chunks went into a large bowl with a lid (there are about 4-5 cups) and when I am about to use the pumpkin in a recipe I will toss a cup or so into a strainer and drain any liquid off before putting it into the food processor to blend until smooth.

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I almost always roast my seeds but this time I used the Baked Elements book and made the Toasted Pumpkin Seed Brittle.

Brittle is so so so easy, and I’m happy most people would assume it was difficult: it makes great gifts when tucked into a cute tin. This recipe is salty and sweet and cinnamon-y and makes me (and all my guys) very happy.

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What side are you on? Team Canned or Team Fresh?

Redemption Cookies

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*check out the blister I got from planting the school garden–IT WON’T GO AWAY!!!*

Last Monday was magical. It was rainy and my sweetie and our little guy were cuddled in bed. G slept and C and I finished up our last episodes of Girls. (which I *do* want to write about in another post) We climbed out of our cocoon to seek out some food. C made some beautiful ramen from some broth he had made over the weekend. We slurped our yummy noodles, then I got to work on some Compost Cookies. It was the first time I truly was making a real compost cookie. Usually I buy full bags of what I plan on including, but this time I put in a little of this and a little of that–half a bag of peanut butter chips, chopped up candy melts leftover from G’s birthday, mini pretzels, leftover graham crust that I had been saving in the freezer, and our new favorite coffee.

I have been making so many Baked recipes for the past few months that I was a bit of of practice with the Milk Bar method. I was thinking to myself how quickly the dough was coming together when I realized I totally skipped a step and added the flour mixture BEFORE I put in the egg and vanilla.

My sweet man was waiting patiently for cookies and I sat there for a second, stumped. I tried to think WWCTD? But came up with nothing. I finally just took the initial mixture, tossed it in the fridge, washed my mixer bowl and started over.

I kind of forgot about the ill-fated dough, but came across it just now in the fridge. I’m out of eggs but had some egg yolks leftover from something (?) we made recently. I tossed a couple of yolks and some vanilla and oatmeal into the dough, scooped it out onto prepared half sheet pans and chilled them for an hour.

The resulting cookie was sugary, chewy and super vanilla-y. I’m happy I could salvage it, and now my big littles will have yummy cookies waiting for them when I see them after school on Monday. (after a whole week!!!)