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?

Kombucha Files: Batch 3

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So far so good with my kombucha! The latest batch is currently fermenting and I think it’s going to be a good one. Batch one and two were made with organic honeycrisp apple juice and ginger. The last batch had a far more pronounced ginger flavor because I used peeled and sliced ginger instead of just a chunk of peeled ginger.

The second batch used organic black tea bags and organic hibiscus/mint tea bags, this new batch I used organic herbal spice tea and black tea. I plan on adding a lot of ginger to this batch as well, because I really like the flavor and the tummy benefits. I decided to branch out with the juice as well and use organic pear instead of apple.

The glass jar I have been using for the second ferment is not at all right. I love that it has a spigot but the top does not allow for proper carbonation to build up. I really need screw top jars for that to happen, so I’ve been saving bottles to use for this third batch. I have the two apple juice jars and a few store-bought kombucha bottles.

I really want to go to the local homebrew supply store to get these awesome bottles. One case of 12 would be perfect for ongoing batches of kombucha. My whole family loves it and the bottles are really ideal for individual servings. Of course I also fantasize about getting snazzy labels and coming up with some sort of snappy name for my brew. Not to sell, the Austin kombucha market is getting pretty saturated–mostly just because I like the idea of sipping my kombucha out of cute personalized bottles.

Have you made kombucha yet?

Pumpkin Wrap-Up: Peanut Butter & Pumpkin Dog Treats

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I don’t often buy store-bought dog treats, but the recent rash of recalls has me not buying any at all. I know my Martha-Pie gets a little tired of her normal dog food and stolen table snacks so I was inspired to whip her up a batch of seasonally-appropriate yumminess after reading this post over at Stitch in the Sea.

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Martha has never been all that motivated to bother to learn to sit and I have been pretty lazy about teaching her, but she loves these snacks so much that she will do pretty much anything I ask to earn one. When I walk anywhere near my baking area she races over to look up at me hopefully, begging for one.

Baby G has had fun giving them to her and he even personally sampled one or two. I used the leftover pumpkin butter that I had hanging around–turns out I don’t eat enough toast to polish it off on my own and my boys haven’t been as into pumpkin as I have been this season, so I needed to use it up while it was still good.

It was fun to look through all my cookie cutters to choose the right one for my doggie girl. In the end I went with cats and bats. She hates cats more than anything and I thought she’d enjoy chowing down on these elegant kitties. The bats are kind of an Austin thing and the perfect size for these treats. Next time I’d probably go all bats, just because I’d be able to make a lot more using a smaller cutter, even though I love the way the cats looked.

What are you waiting for? Go bake up some for YOUR sweet pooch!

Pumpkinpalooza Continues: Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream

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I knew my first pie pumpkin would go fast. I made pumpkin seed brittle, pumpkin butter, pumpkin bars, pumpkin cinnamon rolls and used up the last of it last night making vegan pumpkin ice cream. It was super quick and easy and very, very yummy.

I had a second pie pumpkin on deck ready to go, and I roasted it a few days ago, in anticipation of using up the first one. But the weirdest thing happened. After hours (4 or 5) of roasting, it remained hard as a rock. AND it turned really brown/charred. I tossed it, I guess I got a bum pumpkin? But now, sadly I am pumpkin-less. (until I buy a new one)

Vegan Pumpkin Ice Cream:

2 cans chilled coconut milk (canned, full fat)
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
Pie spices: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves to taste

Mix everything up, then freeze according to your manufacturer’s instructions. I have the kitchenaid ice cream attachment, so I just pop the chilled bowl on there and churn for about 15 minutes. We ate a bit, then I froze the rest. Initially the consistency is like soft-serve, but freezing it turns it a bit harder like traditional ice cream.

What is YOUR favorite pumpkin recipe? I think I need to make cookies and maybe a bundt cake next.

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: Going Rogue

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We were supposed to make Devil Dogs with Malted Buttercream Filling this time, but I am too deep in my yearly pumpkin obsession to do chocolate and buttercream right now. For me, pumpkin is pretty fleeting–October and November, then on to other things for Christmas baking–but I can do chocolate anytime.

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I didn’t intend to go rogue necessarily, but a few weeks ago my boys were flipping through Baked Elements and pointed at the Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls recipe. ‘Mama. Make these.’ And I have been thinking of them ever since.

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These cinnamon rolls were so easy to make, but they look so beautiful they would be perfect for any fall brunch. The only 10″ pan I own is a springform and that was perfect. Once they were out of the oven I just took the sides off the pan and slid the rolls, still on the 10″ round onto the cake stand to frost. If I was going to travel with them I would have just put the round into the cake taker and been on my way.

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I did make the frosting ahead of time but that ended up not making a difference. I used an offset spatula and smeared/dripped the frosting evenly onto the rolls. As lovely as the picture is in the cookbook, I require more than just a delicate drizzle of frosting on my cinnamon rolls: they need to be drenched.

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The pumpkin made the finished rolls soft and puffy and they were spicy and yummy from the cinnamon and nutmeg. (I didn’t have ground cardamom) I would definitely make these again, and I probably will before pumpkin season closes out for the year.

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Go over and check out my friend’s devil dogs!

Next up: Good Morning Sunshine Bars! Yay, I’ve been wanting to make these!!

Pumpkin Butter!!

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I love love love a piece of good bread with jam in the mornings with coffee. I recently decided to take a bit of the pumpkin puree I made and turn it into some lovin’ for my toast. It’s incredibly easy and super tasty. I’m sure there are some recipes online but I just freestyled it. I really need to replenish my fall spices, but what I had on hand worked fine.

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Pumpkin Butter:

3-4 frozen pumpkin “pucks” (roughly 1 1/2-2 cups)
Cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom to taste. Allspice would be a good addition too.
Maple syrup to taste
1 tablespoon good butter (like Plugra)
A bit of confectioner’s sugar if it seems too thin

Defrost pumpkin, strain if it seems watery. Add spices, syrup, butter. Add powdered sugar until it is a good consistency. Refrigerate and use within a week or so.

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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!

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mile-High Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

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I did NOT want to make this cake. I knew it was going to be delicious, but I just wasn’t in the mood for a layer cake, especially a SIX LAYER cake. I didn’t have an occasion to make it for and I hate having to toss yummy cake that was just too much for us to eat. I had bought the chocolate and heavy cream so I knew I’d end up making the cake, even though I would procrastinate like crazy first.

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I made the layers on Thursday, planning to finish it on Friday in time to share at my PTO night of gossip meeting. That didn’t happen.

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I asked my husband to cut the three layers in half for me, I was terrified of making a giant crumbly mess. He did a great job.

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I procrastinated the buttercream for hours–I put the kids to bed, I cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom….I listened to my favorite podcast…and finally I worked up the nerve to give it a shot. I always did fine with the Baked buttercream, but one batch failed recently when our A/C was acting wonky. I guess the heat just messed it up. But even after several successful cooked buttercreams, it just took that one bad egg to shake my confidence. When it turned out beautiful and fluffy…it was the best feeling in the world. Doing a happy dance in my kitchen at one am–well, I’m glad I was alone. 🙂

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The next step was assembling the layers. It took me a second to realize how to get the layers together without breaking the cakes. I used a flexible cutting board, slid them on and placed them one by one on the yummy buttercream. The layers made me laugh, the looked like Shel Silverstein-style flapjacks…tall and kind of leaning to the side. I didn’t mind.

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Finishing cakes is just not my strong point. I just don’t have enough focus to make them perfect. Once I feel good about the baking process I just want to get to the eating part. I might make it a goal to work on decorating, but right this second I don’t have a lot of interest.

I’ve noticed a direct correlation between the time of day I am baking and what the finished product looks like. When I am doing middle of the night baking (I’m a night owl and sometimes it takes forever to get the youngest boy settled down) my cakes end up looking a bit more…whimsical.

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Why did I choose to use my wavy-frosting comb thing? I don’t know. It was 2am and for some reason I remember thinking ‘it looks kind of like a tree trunk!’ I went to bed with a clean kitchen and a giant cake chilling in the fridge. I giggled a bit when I uncovered it this morning, but loved seeing how great the layers looked and how pretty it looked on the plate. If it had have been a birthday cake I would have covered it with sparkly, pretty candles and sang my loudest to distract from the fact that my cake was a bit imperfect wobbly. Of course my cake testers loved it and proclaimed it the BEST CAKE IN THE WORLD! (they kind of say that about everything I bake ;))

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Go over and see how my fellow bakers fared…did they cut the three cakes into six layers? Did their buttercream turn out? I’m going over to find out now!

Next up: Orange Almond Ricotta Cheesecake…yummy!! (and just one layer!!)