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Monthly Archives: November 2014

Two Sisters, Serial #20 and Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

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O.K. So it’s Thanksgiving. That’s a good thing, right? Family, food, the parade, the football games. It’s all fun. Even if it’s not fun, it’s the tradition. And we can’t mess with tradition, can we?

Or maybe we can.

Now I’m not talking about taking the Big Bird off the menu and replacing it with fried liver, or switching the channel from the ball games to The Price Is Right (“Come on down!”). Such radical actions might cause a wholesale revolt and someone might be wearing that turkey on his head and concluding that it would’ve been better off on the platter after all.

No, at R&R we’re thinking about nibbling around the edges of tradition with this unique and totally nutritious and refreshing Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Whether you need a little break from putting together that feast (getting up at five in the morning so you can cycle everything in and out of the oven and still have time to cook the turkey) or want something nice to sip while you’re watching the parade that won’t make you look or feel like one of those balloons floating down Fifth Avenue or need a relaxing treat that doesn’t have alcohol and a million calories at the end of the day after all the good china is dried and put away and what’s left of the Big Bird is wrapped up in foil and crammed into the fridge along with all the rest of those leftovers you’d just as soon not see again till next Thanksgiving but know you’ll be looking at till Christmas–whatever the need for relief, this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie will do the trick.

(Come to think of it, maybe a little alcohol in the Pumpkin Pie Smoothie wouldn’t be such a bad thing. A shot of dark rum should be about right. And we won’t tell a soul.)

pumpkin pie smoothie

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

1/2 medium banana

1/4 cup pumpkin puree

1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or ground cinnamon)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-2 handfuls of ice

Add all of the ingredients to a blender in the order listed. Blend for 30 seconds. Add more milk for a thinner smoothie. Add more ice for a thicker, more slushie-like smoothie.

Makes 1 smoothie.

pumpkin smoothie

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #20 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #20, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #20, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #19 and Banana Oatmeal Scotchies

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So it looks like winter is here–a month early!

At least that’s what one would gather by looking at the weather map or watching some poor sucker shovel six feet of snow in upstate New York or going bouncing out the door in your light jacket only to run back inside to dig your down parka out of the back of the hall closet (I know that darn thing is in here somewhere!). But don’t tell the boss you were late because you couldn’t find your winter coat. Tell her your battery died or your door was frozen shut or your dog’s tongue got stuck to the water bowl (ouch!).

But where was I? Oh yeah–winter arrived a month early. And here at R&R we’re determined to do something about it. Now we could all go outside and huff and puff like the Big Bad Wolf and try to blow all that cold air back into Siberia where it belongs, but between that and shoveling the snow we might get a collective heart attack and then where would we be?

So we’ve got a better idea. You know how good a warm bowl of banana butterscotch oatmeal feels on a cold winter morning. No? Well try it tomorrow–you’re in for a treat! And what we’ve decided to do to battle Old Man Winter (how come winter is a man? because he’s so grumpy all the time!) is turn that warm and comfy breakfast food into a take anywhere, eat anytime cookie–Banana Oatmeal Scotchies! That way, whether you’re in the car on the way to work (no time for breakfast) or out on an afternoon power walk or (Heaven forbid!) shoveling snow, you can still get the wholesome boost of that warm bowl of oatmeal without the mess or the prep time.

We’ve got you covered here at Reading and Recipes (and it’s not in snow).

banana oatmeal scotchies

Banana Oatmeal Scotchies

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1 egg white

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 ripe banana, mashed

6 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

3/4 cup old-fashioned oats

1/3 cup butterscotch chips

banana scotchies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and set aside.

Beat together the butter and both sugars until well combined. Add the egg white and vanilla and mix into batter. Stir in the mashed banana and make sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Slowly mix in the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and cornstarch, careful not to over mix the dough. Lastly, fold in the old-fashioned oats and butterscotch chips.

Divide the cookie dough into 8 balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake the cookies in the preheated oven for 9-11 minutes, or until they just begin to turn golden brown. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 8 cookies.

banana oatmeal scothies cookie

{Adapted from Life, Love, and Sugar}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #19 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #19, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #19, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #18 and Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

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I call this power food.

There’s a big movement out there toward energy snacks, as you well know from any trip through the natural foods aisle of your grocery store. These high-energy (and high cost) prepackaged snacks promise to pick you up from those low-energy lulls during the day. And to read their labels, you’d think they invented the idea.

NOT! Power food has a long and fabled history, and all samples I can think of include peanut butter. Remember saving half a pb&j sandwich from lunch for the bus ride home so you’d have the energy and the nerve to stand up to the bully kicking your seat from behind? And what about the famous Fluffernutter (peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwich)? That rocket ship between two slices of bread got me through more than a few overnight shifts at the loading dock.

So now R&R is proud to add another power food to your arsenal–Peanut Butter Fudge Bars! Guess what? It has peanut butter in it! Even better– chocolate! (Give me caffeine, give me sugar, give me cocoa butter!) Mix in a little butter, a little condensed milk–and cake mix? Well, got to hold all that good stuff together and keep it from blasting off out of the pan!

I’m writing faster just sitting here thinking about Peanut Butter Power Bars–I mean Fudge Bars. Mix yourself up a batch today–quick!

peanut butter chocolate fudge bars

Peanut Butter Fudge Bars

1/2 box  yellow cake mix*

1/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 egg

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

7 ounces sweetened condensed milk**

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

peanut butter fudge bars

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly spray an 8 inch baking pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Pour the cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup butter and 1/2 cup peanut butter to a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently until the ingredients are melted. Pour the melted butter and peanut butter over top of the cake mix and stir ingredients together. Add the egg and mix into cake batter. Press half of the mixture onto the bottom of the prepared baking pan.

Add the chocolate chips, remaining 1 Tablespoon butter, and sweetened condensed milk to a saucepan over med-low heat. Stir frequently until all of the ingredients are melted and mixed together. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract. Pour this mixture over top of the peanut butter cake layer. Smooth melted chocolate to completely cover the cake layer. Break up and sprinkle the remaining peanut butter cake batter over top of the fudge layer.

Place bars in the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake just begins to turn golden brown. Remove the bars from the oven and let cool completely before cutting. Store any leftovers at room temperature for a more frosting like fudge layer, or in the refrigerator for a denser, harder fudge layer.

Makes 9-12 bars.

*You can easily double this recipe if you don’t want to only use 1/2 box of cake mix. Instructions, baking temperature, and baking time are the same–just use a 9×13 baking pan.

**Make our Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream Sandwich with the leftover sweetened condensed milk!

pb fudge bars

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #18 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #18. audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #18, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters, Serial #17 and Italian Cream Cupcakes

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If you haven’t ever had the distinct pleasure of indulging in a piece of Italian cream cake, then you may be looking at the name of this week’s recipe–Italian Cream Cupcakes–and expecting something like a gelato or custard or semifreddo.

And I have to admit that as many times as I’ve enjoyed this wonderful dessert, I’ve never understood the “Italian” or the “cream” in the name. Far as I can tell, there’s nothing Italian or creamy about this cake.

But, as Juliet says, what is in a name? Call this cake anything you want and it will still be out of this world delicious. The richness of the cake (kicked into overdrive by buttermilk) combined with the texture and subtle sweetness of the coconut combined with the slight tanginess of the cream cheese combined with the earthiness and crunch of the pecans–that’s a lot of strong flavors that work together perfectly in these cupcakes.

So check it out. It’s a little break from our fall theme; but once you try it, you’ll understand why. These cupcakes (or the expanded layer-cake version) will become a favorite of yours for any time of year, any occasion–just as it is in our family.

italian cream cupcakes

Italian Cream Cupcakes


1 egg, room temperature, separated

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

1/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1/2-1 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

1/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

italian cream cupcake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a regular muffin pan with 6 cupcake liners and set aside.

Divide the egg into two separate bowls. Beat the egg whites until stiff and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter, oil, and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and beat into the batter until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the cake batter, alternating with the buttermilk. Mix all of the ingredients until just combined and the batter becomes smooth. Fold in the coconut. Lastly, gently fold in the stiff egg whites.

Divide the batter between the 6 cupcakes liners, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake in the preheated oven for 18-22 minutes, or until they turned golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cupcakes from the oven; allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. The cupcakes may sink slightly when cooling–this is ok.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by beating together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Slowly add the powdered sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, until a desired consistency and taste is reached. Fold in the pecans and coconut. Divide the frosting between the 6 cupcakes and frost.

Cover and store any leftover frosting or cupcakes in the refrigerator.

Makes 6 cupcakes.

italian cream minicakes

{Adapted from The Pioneer Woman}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #17 of “Two Sisters”.

Two Sisters, Serial #17, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters, Serial #17, text © Jeffrey Anderson