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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10 and Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

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So you want to have a celebration but not make a big deal about it. Maybe it’s the end of the school year, or a promotion at work, or a non-biggie anniversary–of your first date, maybe; or of thirty-two years together (I know, hard to count that high). You want to mark the occasion with something less than a $300 meal for two or a forty-guest party. But you just don’t know what to do.

Well, click on Reading and Recipes and we’ll give you a hand.

First, turn a regular sugar cookie recipe into a pan of bar cookies–that goes a lot faster and tastes just as good (even better since there are no individual cookies to get dried out). Then jazz those bar cookies up with a quick and easy and colorful frosting. And voila–you’ve got your celebration: Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars.

These work anytime of year, for any holiday or occasion. Our red, white, and blue this week are a nod toward the upcoming Memorial Day holiday, but school colors work for graduation, green for Saint Patty’s, red for Valentine’s, and so on.

Tuck this recipe and idea away for future reference, right after you mix up a batch for this weekend. And enjoy your quiet (and easy) celebration!

frosted sugar cookie bars

Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars

For the bars:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cornstarch

For the frosting:

1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1-2 Tablespoons milk or cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

pinch of salt

food coloring, optional

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 5×7 inch pan, and set aside.

To make the bars, add the butter and granulated sugar to a mixing bowl. Beat the ingredients on high until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract, and mix until the ingredients are fully incorporated into the batter. Slowly mix in the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cornstarch until all ingredients are just combined. The dough will be thick!

Press the dough into the prepared pan. For an chewy, cookie-like texture, bake the bars for 15-17 minutes; OR, for more of a cake-like, crumb texture (as shown in the pictures), bake the bars for 18-20 minutes. The top should only just begin to turn golden brown and the bars will look underdone. Remove the bars from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan. The middle will sink significantly while the bars are cooling.

Once the bars have cooled, make the frosting by whipping the butter until it is fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in three increments, beating into the butter after each addition. Mix in 1 tablespoon of milk. If the frosting is still too thick, add one more tablespoon. Stir in the vanilla and a pinch of salt. If you have food coloring, add one or two drops and stir into the frosting.

Frost the cooled bars. Cut into squares and serve at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 bars.

frosted sugar bars

{Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #10, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #9 and Pineapple Macadamia Nut Muffins

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There are lots of fruit and nut combinations we know about and love.

Many of us were raised on the pairing of bananas and walnuts in banana-nut bread. Apples and pecans mix nicely in many fall desserts. And some of us have discovered the delicate balance between cherries and almonds.

But maybe my favorite fruit-nut combination for its mix of unlikely flavors that somehow manage to be simultaneously exotic and homey is that of pineapple and macadamia nuts.

And that mix is perfectly displayed in this week’s Pineapple Macadamia Nut Muffins. On first hearing of this combination (if you haven’t been lucky enough to try it already) you might think it a little too radical to try on less adventurous taste buds (read: kids and meat-and-potatoes reactionaries). But just don’t tell them what they’re called. Let those unadventurous souls try them, then smile to yourself when they ask for more.

Or the heck with sharing. Keep them all for yourself (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack–they’re perfect anytime of day), enjoying every minute of this newly discovered match made in Heaven.

pineapple nut muffins

Pineapple Macadamia Nut Muffins

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 ounces crushed pineapple with juice (1/2 can)

3 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place 8 paper liners in a muffin pan, and set aside.

To make the muffins, add the egg and egg yolk to a mixing bowl and beat lightly. Add the sugar and beat until incorporated and the eggs turn a light yellow. Add the milk, vanilla, pineapple, pineapple juice, and melted butter and mix all of the ingredients together until well combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing until just combined. Fold in most of the chopped macadamia nuts into the batter, reserving about 2 tablespoons.

Divide the batter between the 8 muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining macadamia nuts on top of each muffin. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until the muffins start to turn a golden brown and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow to cool in the pan. Serve the muffins warm or at room temperature. Store the muffins in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Makes 8 muffins.

pineapple mac muffins

{Adapted from Southern Food}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #9, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #9, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8 and Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

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Life is best found in simplicity, or at least it should be.

Sometimes that’s a hard truth to remember as we run around doing twenty different things at once and not able to keep track of all we’ve got going on let alone appreciate and absorb some of the simple pleasures associated with those tasks.

So, in pursuit of, or with a nod towards, such simple pleasures, this week’s Homemade Chocolate Strawberries couldn’t be much simpler: fresh strawberries, melting chocolate, done.

And the pleasure gained from this dessert is not merely in its simplicity. There are few things better suited to being coated in chocolate than a ripe strawberry. And there are few combinations of flavors more satisfying and elemental than that of a sweet and juicy strawberry mixed with the earthy richness of chocolate.

So dial your life back a few notches, and partake of this simple two-ingredient dessert. And then look around and be grateful for all your blessings.

in memory of Cathy

chocolate covered starwberries

Homemade Chocolate Strawberries

4-6 strawberries, washed and thoroughly dried 

3 ounces chocolate melting wafers*

sprinkles, optional

Melt the chocolate according to package directions. Hold one strawberry by its stem over the melted chocolate. Using a spoon, drizzle the melted chocolate over top of the strawberry until the fruit is completely covered. Place the strawberry on a plate lined with wax paper. Add sprinkles, if desired. Once all of the strawberries are coated, place them in the refrigerator for 10 minutes, or until hardened. Store strawberries in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Makes 4 chocolate strawberries.

*For best results, please use chocolate specifically designed for making candy. Brands such as Candiquik and Ghirardelli Melting Chocolate should be readily available at your local grocery store or Target. I would not suggest using regular baking chocolate, chocolate chips, or any other form of chocolate.

choc covered strawberry

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #8, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7 and Yogurt Fruit Dip

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So you come home from work or school or running errands and you’re starving. It’s too late for lunch but way too early for dinner. You go rooting around the cupboards and the fridge for something to eat, and if you’re lucky you find a few crackers or maybe some fruit in the back of the veggie drawer at the bottom of the fridge. And you wolf down those tidbits like a bear just come out of hibernation.

And in the aftermath of that snack, you look at yourself in the hall mirror and think two things–one, that was not a very graceful way to satisfy your late afternoon hunger; and two, you’re still hungry because a couple dry crackers or a few grapes by themselves just doesn’t cut the craving.

But wait–Reading and Recipes to the Rescue (R&R to the R!).

This week’s Yogurt Fruit Dip takes just a few minutes to mix together and can be stored in a covered container in the fridge, waiting there to jazz up any afternoon snack.

And just like that, you are no longer wolfing unsatisfying tidbits like a wild child but are now eating flavor-enhanced tea-time fare like the landed gentry on one of those cable-t.v. mini-series. Next thing you know, you’ll be ordering a sterling tea set and booking a butler.

Nah. Bag of pretzels and this Yogurt Dip will do just fine.

fruit dip

Yogurt Fruit Dip

8 ounces plain Greek yogurt*

2 ounces whipped cream or Cool Whip

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 Tablespoon granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

a pinch of salt

In a small mixing bowl, mix the yogurt, whipped cream, and vanilla. To another bowl, whisk the granulated sugar, cornstarch, and salt, ensuring there are no lumps. Stir this mixture into the yogurt until well incorporated. Refrigerate the dip for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled, with fruit, graham crackers, pretzels, or other dippers.

Makes about 1 cup.

*Greek yogurt is preferred. You can substitute regular yogurt, but the dip will not be as thick.

vanilla fruit dip

{Adapted from Layers of Happiness}

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Before the Mellowing Year, Serial #7, text © Jeffrey Anderson