Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars


It’s that time of year – the weather is starting to cool down (then warms up again just when you think it’s time to pull out the sweaters).  Around this time of year, I start thinking, dreaming, of the leaves turning.  I joyfully browse the Oriental Trading Co. catalog for Halloween goodies, and get excited to see pumpkin everything!

Yes, I am one of those people who could drink a PSL (pumpkin spice latte) year round, but don’t.  Because that is something to look forward to.  Fall is my favorite season.  I love making warm soup, baking fresh bread, and experimenting with fall recipes.

I ran across a recipe from Modern Parents Messy Kids for Super Powered Oatmeal Bars.  While my kids can down an entire banana in about 30 seconds (which is pretty impressive when you only have 7 teeth), I am not much of a banana fan.  So, I decided to modify the recipe to replace bananas with pumpkin.  I also added pumpkin pie spice, a drizzle of molasses, and chocolate.  Well, pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are one of the BEST.  And breakfast can’t be too healthy all the time.  Plus, chocolate comes from a bean so its basically a vegetable anyway.  Right?

The bars made from this recipe are dense, soft and chewy.  Plus, they really fill you up, and you can eat them on the go!

Hope you are looking forward to the fall season.  :)

Pumpkin Oatmeal Breakfast Bars

  • 1 large can (29 oz.) pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 Tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup raisins or craisins
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups steel cut oats
  • 1/2 cup flax seeds, ground
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (optional)
  • 2 cups pecans (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 – 9″x13″ pans with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  2. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well mixed.
  3. Divide mixture in half, and place half in each pan.  Smooth into an even layer with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake 45-50 minutes, or until the middle is done (check with a toothpick to make sure it isn’t too goopy).
  5. Lift the bars out by the parchment, and let cool completely.  Cut each  pan into 18-20 bars.  Wrap each in plastic wrap, then in a ziptop freezer bag, and freeze, if desired.

Super Simple Fruit Leather

fruit leather

Summer is winding down and fall is right around the corner.  I cannot wait for the pumpkin spice lattes to start flowing in about a week!  I don’t know about you, but this is also the time of year that the overabundance of gardens start to show up at work.  You know – zucchinis showing up in your car if you leave your window open while running in to the grocery store, tomatoes and cucumbers left in the breakroom, peaches and pears at their peak flavor.  Well, if you have an abundance, what can you do with it that doesn’t involve too much work?  Fruit leather, my friends!

I was a little sneaky and made Fruit (and veggie) Leather for my kids.  They didn’t even know.  Not that they would complain – they can only say about 8 words each.  ;)

The recipe here is more of a guideline than a strict recipe.  You could add any combo of veggies and/or fruit you want!  But there are a few key points to remember:

  • I ALWAYS bring my mixture to a boil before drying.  Better to kill any stray bacteria you can.  Die, buggies, DIE!!
  • Dry until the leather is no longer sticky to the touch.  That means enough water has evaporated, and no water means less of a chance of spoilage.
  • Technically, you could store the stuff at room temp, tightly wrapped, for a couple of weeks.  I like to store mine in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped.

What can you do with fruit leather other than eat it straight up?  Cut it up and put it in your oatmeal, your favorite trail mix, homemade granola, add it to cookies and cakes, etc.  Or you could soak it in a little hot water until it dissolves for baby food.  Or so all the dehydrating books say…

Super Simple Fruit Leather

  • 5 cups fruit/veggie puree – peel fruit like peaches, pears, and apples
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (depending on sweetness of your fruit/veggie puree)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
  • Cooking spray
  1. Place puree, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a saucepan on the stove.  Bring to a low boil, and let boil gently for about 5 minutes.
  2. Place parchment paper on cookie sheets or extra wide plastic wrap over your food dehydrator tray.  Be sure not to block the airflow around the tray with plastic wrap.
  3. Spray the parchment paper or plastic wrap with cooking spray.
  4. Ladle the puree onto the prepared trays.  It should be about 1/4 inch thick on each tray and should fill about 2 trays.
  5. Place in a 130°F oven or food dehydrator set at 145°F.  WALK AWAY.
  6. Allow to cook/dry for 8-12 hours, or until no longer sticky.
  7. Gently lift the parchment paper or plastic wrap off the cookie sheet/tray.
  8. Cut into strips or shapes with kitchen shears – wrap each piece well with plastic wrap.
  9. Store in an airtight container at room temp or in the fridge.

I made 3 different combinations this weekend:

  • 2 cups pureed cooked carrots and 3 cups pureed peaches
  • 1 cup plums, 2 cups nectarines, and 2 cups peaches
  • 1 cup blueberries, 4 cups grapes

No Bake Lemon Berry Cheesecake Bars

While perusing the internet about a month ago, I saw a recipe for a lemon blueberry cheesecake.  It looked SO GOOD.  But when I looked up the recipe, it was too complicated for me.  Plus, I hate turning on the oven when it’s hot outside.  So, I looked around the grocery store, and came up with a pretty good recipe.  So good, I forgot to take a picture before it was all gone.  Whoops!  Hope you love this cool, creamy and tangy dessert as much as we did!

No Bake Lemon Berry Cheesecake Bars

  • 2 boxes Jello No Bake Cheesecake (11.1 oz. each)
  • Milk and Butter to make cheesecake (refer to instructions on the box)
  • 2 envelopes Crystal Light lemonade (the kind that are for a water bottle, not a pitcher)
  • 24-32 oz. frozen mixed berries
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  1. Prepare the crust (using both packages) according to the prep instructions on the box.  You should just have to dump the graham cracker crumbs into a large bowl, add some butter, and stir until the mixture resembles sand.  Dump into a 9″x13″ pan, and spread to an even layer, making sure to pack it down well with your hands.  Let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine both cheesecake mixes, the Crystal Light lemonade pouches, and the milk required on the Cheesecake box.  Mix as directed.  Pour over crust, using a rubber spatula to smooth out the top.
  3. Place berries, honey, and lemon juice in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring to a boil, and simmer 5-10 minutes.  Mash berries slightly with a potato masher.  Let cool.
  4. Pour berry mixture over the cheesecake layer, and refrigerate at least 4 hours (overnight is better).
  5. Cut into bars and serve with whip cream on top, if you want.  Yummy stuff!  Hope you enjoy.

Weeknight Mash

weeknight Mash

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods.  We are experiencing a mixture of warm sunny days and cold/windy/rainy days.  When it’s cold, I like having something warm and comforting to eat.  And going outside to grill just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

On days like that, I want a comforting side dish.  The most comforting side dish I can think of is mashed potatoes.  But, I grew up in a small town in Idaho where our high school mascot is a potato.  So, if you don’t know how to make a decent mashed potato and you come from Shelley, Idaho, there is definitely something wrong.  Well, these potatoes are more than decent.  They’re delicious.  And QUICK!

The ingredients are the normal mashed potato ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper.  It’s the method that makes these potatoes my go-to recipe.  And there’s enough for 6 to eat, with leftovers!

Sure, you can feed your family potatoes from a box.  Or spend close to an hour waiting for the huge pot of water and potatoes on the stove to come to a boil.  But, seriously, boxed potatoes taste kinda funny.  And who has time to wait for water to boil on a glass-top electric stove?  I swear, the stove we have is the SLOWEST thing I’ve ever cooked on.  Ever.

I hope you’re able to try this recipe, and that you love it as much as we do.

Weeknight Mash

  • about 5 lbs russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 quart glass (microwave-safe) casserole dish with lid
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Place potatoes in the casserole dish with enough water to come half way up the sides.  Put on the lid and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork – if they are soft and break easily, then they are ready to mash.  If not, give them a good stir, and microwave on high for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain potatoes.
  2. Place milk and butter in a microwave safe dish (I use my pyrex measuring cup) and microwave about a minute.  Watch it to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  3. Place potatoes back into the casserole dish or in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an electric mixer, add about half of the milk/butter mixture, and whip on low speed.  Keep adding the milk until your desired consistency is reached.  If you like thinner mashed potatoes than I do, you might need more milk.
  5. I whip mine in the same dish I use to cook it in, but you could also whip the potatoes in another dish and add back to the casserole dish.  I like to serve in that dish because it’s already warm!

You could also flavor these mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sour cream and chives, sour cream and cheddar– whatever!  :)

Almond Coconut Candy


It’s that time of year.  A time where it seems that everyone I know is posting pictures on facebook from a tropical island, holding a drink in a pineapple or coconut.  I’d love to crawl in someone’s suitcase, but I’d definitely be over the weight limit.  So, I decided to contribute to my weight instead.  Ha!

This candy is awesome.  It’s not an Almond Joy – there’s way more almonds than that.  Almonds all through the candy, not just in a bite or two.  Go ahead.  Indulge in a little island paradise without leaving your kitchen!

Almond Coconut Candy

  • 2 cups sliced almonds, roasted
  • 2 cups flaked coconut (unsweetened is better)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract or vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Spread the coconut and almonds on the sheet pan in an even layer, and set them in the oven to warm.  Butter a separate large sheet pan and set aside.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and cream.  Heat over medium until the mixture boils.  If needed, you can use a wet pastry brush to ‘wash’ the side of the pot at any time.
  3. Insert a candy thermometer.  Heat over medium heat until the temperature reaches about 280°F.
  4. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all incorporated.  It will BUBBLE LIKE CRAZY.  Click the thermometer back on, and cook until the temperature comes back up to 280°F (the temp will drop when you add the butter).
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and add the warmed coconut and almonds, salt, baking soda, and coconut or vanilla extract.  Stir well.
  6. Quickly dump the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet.  Using two forks, spread the mixture out into an even layer.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
  7. Place sheet pan in 200°F oven and let it warm about 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully take the pan out of the oven, and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top of the candy.  Let sit at least 4 hours (overnight is best), then break or cut into pieces.
  9. Ignore the dishes, laundry, etc.  Kick up your feet, and watch an episode of Gilligan’s Island. :)

Jalapeno BACON Cheddar Bread






Are you drooling yet?  You should be.  If you’re not, you need to get that checked out.  Seriously.

I’m warning you – if you make this bread, it has a tendency to disappear.  I made 8 mini-loaves (really, it should have been 10), and the little loaves grew legs and walked away.  Some even walked into some mayo, tomato, lettuce and bacon slices.  Holy crap.  Good thing I caught that one.  Didn’t want it getting away.  Just think of the accidents if it actually made it down the street.  See?  I really AM a super hero.  :)

You can make this bread with just about any mix-in you want.  But jalapenos, bacon bits, and diced cheddar are really, really good.  Some people don’t like jalapenos.  That’s cool.  Just leave them out.  Bacon cheddar bread is pretty darn good, too.  Just not AS good.  So, you know.  Choose wisely.

Jalapeno BACON Cheddar Bread

  • 1/2 cup warm water (115°F)
  • 1 packet quick rise yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into small cubes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup bacon bits (the real kind.  Bacos are for weenies)
  • 8 oz can diced jalapenos, drained
  • 3-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cup cheddar cheese, cut in small cubes and frozen.
  1. Preheat oven to lowest possible temp.  For me, that’s 170°F.  When it gets to this temp, turn it off.
  2. Place yeast in a bowl and sprinkle a little of the sugar on top.  Pour in warm water and stir well.  Let sit about 5 minutes.
  3. Place remaining sugar and eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment.  Whip them up!
  4. Put butter and milk in a microwave safe dish and heat on high until butter melts, about 1 minute 30 seconds.
  5. Pour milk and butter mixture, and foamy yeast mixture into the egg and sugar mixture.  Whip it again!
  6. Add the 3 cups bread flour and mix on low until incorporated.  Add bacon bits and jalapenos.  Then, you know– WHIP IT!
  7. In a medium bowl, mix the all purpose flour and salt. Replace the paddle attachment with a dough hook.  Add the all purpose flour/salt a little at a time until it’s all incorporated.   If needed, you can add a bit of warm water, a teaspoon at a time, to wet the dough a bit and help the last of the flour get incorporated.
  8. Once all the flour is in, turn the mixer on low and let it do the kneading for you – about 5 minutes.
  9. Remove the dough from the bowl, and flatten into a large rectangle.  Sprinkle the cheddar on top, then knead by hand about 3 minutes, or until dough springs back when poked and cheese is distributed evenly.   Freezing helps keep the cheese intact.
  10. Place dough in a large, well oiled bowl, turning once to coat with oil.  Wrap with plastic wrap and place in the oven until doubled, about an hour.  Once rising is done, heat oven to 375°F.
  11. Shape and bake according to options:
    1. Mini Loaves (5-1/2″ x 3″ x 2-1/2″): Divide dough into 10 equal portions.  Shape each into a log, sealing seams on the bottom if needed.  Place in greased loaf pans and let rise until over the top of the pan, 45 minutes to an hour.  Bake 20 minutes, rotate pans, and bake another 15-20 minutes.
    2. Regular Loaves (8″ x 4″ x 3″): Divide dough into 4 equal portions.  Shape each into a log, pinching seams closed on the bottom if needed.  Place in greased loaf pans and let rise until over the top of the pan, 45 minutes to an hour. Bake 25 minutes, rotate pans, and bake another 25 to 35 minutes.
    3. Rolls: Divide dough into balls about the size of a hacky sack.  If you don’t know what a hacky sack is, go hang out on a college campus and ask one of the hipsters. They might roll their eyes, but they’ll tell you.  Anyway… Shape each ball and place in a greased 9″ x 13″ pan.  You should be able to fit 12-15 rolls per pan with about a half an inch around each ball to allow for room to rise.  Grease the top, and cover loosely with plastic wrap.  Let rise about 45 minutes, then bake 20 minutes.  Rotate pan, and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.
  12. Let cool about 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then remove from pan to cool completely.  If you have any left over (yeah, right), store in an airtight container in the fridge.

PS: If you REALLY want to be awesome, make rolls but leave out the cheese in step 9.  Put a bit in the middle of each roll instead of incorporating into the dough.  Make sure it’s completely surrounded by dough and sealed.  Don’t want any cheese leak-ers on my watch… Bake and cool as directed.

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread


It’s that time of year.  That time where everyone is put into one of two categories.  You know the ones – Naughty or Nice.  Well, what if you’re a little bit of both?  What if your halo is held a little crooked because of those cute little horns coming out of your forehead?  Is there a gray area?  No, not one of the 50 shades…

Well, Santa, I’ve been NICE this year.  I’ve done some good deeds, thought some good thoughts, put others before myself.  But I’ve also been NAUGHTY.  I snuck Halloween candy and ate it without telling my hubby I bought any.  And I didn’t share.  I let my babies cry on the floor when they didn’t want to do tummy time and I made them do it for a few minutes more anyway.  And I ate my dinner before feeding the dog.  Because I was hungry.

So, this cracker spread is a little like me.  There’s the nice side that is all creamy and sweet.  Then there’s the naughty side that you THINK is creamy and sweet– until it punches you in the taste buds.  Don’t be surprised if you have every intention of sharing, then end up in the closet with a few Ritz crackers and a spoon.  Go ahead.  Double dip.  Be naughty.  I won’t tell…

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread

  • 2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup raspberry preserves (I used seedless)
  • 1 cup jalapeno pepper jelly (I used Tabasco brand)
  • Crackers (Ritz are NICE)
  1. Plop cream cheese blocks onto a plate- I used one that was about 15″ in diameter.  Use a rubber spatula to smush and squish the cream cheese into a flat layer.  Smooth out the top.
  2. Pour raspberry preserves on one half, and pepper jelly on the other half.
  3. Serve with crackers.

By the way, the spicy NAUGHTY side is fantastic on a bagel in the morning.  Especially with bacon.  ;)