Saturday, April 27, 2013

Cinnamon-Sugar Apple Skillet Cake & a great book!

Hello Friends! I hope you all had a wonderful week! Ours was busy and I'm so glad that the weekend is finally here! Yay!
As promised I made an apple skillet cake this week.  I really think you are going to love this one.  The first, warm piece out of the pan was the best, and we literally ate every crumb of this cake.  Rob took a piece everyday for his coffee break and I even packed some in my son's lunch box for snack.  Apple anything is ALWAYS a good idea.  Don't you agree?
Even though it's not apple season, I've had my eye on this skillet cake for a while now.  There is something so comforting about warm apples with cinnamon and sugar on it.  It all sounds so simple which just proves my point that the best things in life are the certainly the easiest.  ♥

recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
6 tbs (3/4 stick) unsalted butter,  at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 or 4 apples, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
1/4 cup sugar and 3/4 tsp cinnamon for topping

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease and flour the bottom and sides of an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet (or other oven proof dish or cake pan). 

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add egg and yolk, one at a time, beating for one minute between each addition. 

With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture.  Add the buttermilk and when the flour is just combined with the butter mixture, add the remaining flour.  Beat on low until all of the flour has been incorporated. 

Spoon batter into the pan and spread evenly.  Top with the sliced apples and cinnamon & sugar.  Bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 



Before I go I have to tell you about this awesome book that I just finished called Garden Spells. It's by a wonderfully talented writer named Sarah Addison Allen.  I LOVED this book!  I'm usually a pretty slow reader.  On average it takes me at least two weeks to finish a book.  I flew through this one in under a week because I simply could not put it down.  I was so sad when I finished the book.  Not because I was unhappy with the ending, but because I was sad to see it end.  I guess that's a sign of a good read! : ) 
The story takes place in Bascom, North Carolina and tells the tale of two sisters living together in their grandmother's house.  In the back of the house, there is a garden that posses special powers and a very enchanting apple tree.  Anything that grows in garden is magical, so be careful what you eat.
Growing up, Sidney and Clair Waverly were always thought of as outsiders in their hometown and looked down upon by their peers.  Now Claire is a successful caterer (making dishes with her mystical plants, and thus casting spells upon the ones that eat them) and Sidney had just returned home after being gone for years and struggling to deal with her dark past. 
There are family secrets, drama, romance, and a little bit of magic.  What more could I want in a book? If you are looking for a little escape, I highly recommend Garden Spells ♥
I just picked up another Sarah Addison Allen book called The Girl Who Chased the Moon.  Has anyone read it? I hope it's as good as Garden Spells! : ) xo
PS. No magical apples were used in the making of my apple skillet cake...unfortunately...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Toasted Marshmallow Squares

Spring has arrived here in New England and what a week we have had.  It seems as if overnight all of the flowers and trees have popped open.  There are little bursts of color everywhere and a sweet scent in the air.  Driving down the road I suddenly see more green than brown. In the backyard there are animals scurrying everywhere and the birds nest under my gutter, by the kitchen window, is back again.  It appears every April. I know they are there without even looking because I can here them. Babies have been born!  Winter is officially over.

It makes me wonder how, in such a beautiful world, there can be such hatred.  Horrible things happened this week.  Right in my city.  Not far from where I live.  Like everyone else, I am struggling with it.  All we ask is for a safe placed to live and raise our children.  In this day and age, is this too much to ask?  Is this our new reality?  Will we always be afraid?  Why is it so different now then the way it used to be?

I spent much of the week glued to the news and then when it was all calm, I took time and counted my blessing. I retreated to the things that always comfort me (got lost in a book for example; thank God for books!) and then I did what I needed to do.  Made toasted marshmallow squares.  Took pictures of them.  Blogged about them.  Life continues.  It has to.

recipe adapted from Joy the Baker

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk
1 cup plus 2 tbs flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup fruit preserves (I used strawberry)
15 marshmallows, cut in half

First the crust. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Using an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add in the vanilla and egg yolk and beat until well combined. Stop the mixer and add the flour.  Beat on low speed until completely incorporated. 

Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper (leaving some overhanging paper flaps on two ends).  Grease or spray the parchment paper with non-stick baking spray.  Spoon batter into the prepared pan.  Press dough onto the bottom of the pan, trying to make the crust as even as possible. 

Bake for 20-24 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. 

Using the two parchment paper flaps, carefully remove crust from the pan.  Remove the paper and carefully slide crust onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Done.

Top with fruit preserves. 

Next, arranged marshmallows on top of jam.  Return to the 350 degree oven for about 4 minutes.  This will warm and soften the marshmallows.  Remove from the oven and turn it's setting to broil.  Use the back of a spoon to gently press and smash down the top of each marshmallow.

Return to the broiler to brown.  Keep a very, very close eye on them.  They burn quickly.  They will toast up in just a few seconds. 

Remove the toasted marshmallow cookie from the oven.  Allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into squares. 

Cookies can be served warm or at room temperature.  Store at room temperature for up to 4 days. 

The crust is a buttery shortbread.  On top of that is the layer of sweet fruit, and then finally the surprise of the toasted marshmallow.  These cookies are a delight!

My Dad said he thought they looked like little fried eggs on top of ketchup! Trust me when I say they taste nothing like that, but in a way I guess he has a point. Maybe I should have made these for Easter! {mental note for next year}. 

I saw a wonderful old quote from Mr. Rogers on Facebook this week.  He said that whenever there was a tragedy and he was scared his mother would say to him "look for helpers, you will always find people who are helping".   His words are so true and God bless those people who risk their lives everyday to protect us.  And in moments of despair I have seen beautiful things happen.  People helping people.  We are all in this together and because of that we cannot be afraid.  The beauty will rise to the top and life continues.  Flowers will bloom, birds will sing, I'll make apple skillet cake tomorrow and take pictures of it.  That much I can guarantee. 
I knew Mr. Rogers was always right.  ♥

Monday, April 15, 2013

Strawberry French Toast

Hello Friends! Today is the official start of Spring vacation week here and as a treat, I wanted to kick it off with this fun breakfast!  I got this idea from one of my new favorite blogs - Meal Makeover Moms.  They are changing the way I cook for my family.  Liz and Janice (who also do a weekly podcast by the way) take your families favorite meals and treats and transform them into the healthy (or healthier) version you always wanted.  I'm feeling less guilty everyday thanks to these ladies!

My household loves strawberries and french toast, so this recipe was right up our alley.  Do your kids drown their french toast in syrup? Well, not anymore.  Take a look at this gem....

1 cup frozen strawberries (unsweetened)
1/2 cup water
2 tbs sugar
pinch of salt

Place the strawberries, water, sugar, and salt in a small saucepan.  Place over high heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and continue to cook at a low boil, stirring every few minutes for about 15-20 minutes.  The mixture will become thick and syrupy. 

Serve over french toast.  Easy Peasy!

Top with whip cream or a sprinkle of powdered sugar if you desire....I did! : )

We love this french toast.  The best part is kids are getting a serving of fruit and you don't need to add any sugary syrup.  The strawberry topping is enough! It's so good!

Store any extra sauce in a sealed container in the fridge.  And just so you know - it's pretty awesome over ice cream too!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Chocolate Cherry Almond Granola Bars

I'm so glad the all of the Easter candy is gone from the house.  My thighs could not take one more mini egg.  They are already furious with me as it is.  Yes, I'm in trouble.  If there was ever a time for a healthy snack, this is it. 

Spring is here and it's time to get my act together.  The clock is ticking to Summer. Yes, I know I say this every Spring.  And yes, you and I both know this sudden burst of motivation won't last for long, but for now I must go with it.  We have one warm day around here and already people are running around in shorts and flip flops.  I am not quite ready for that yet! My toes aren't pedi-ready, and for the record I don't even own a pair of shorts.  Cute skirts I can do.  Shorts, no way.  But that's a whole other topic entirely.

So instead of beating myself up about a few extra Easter "lbs" I decided to just do something about it.  These granola bars are a start.  Ok, yes, they do have chocolate chips in them, but come on - I'm only human. At three o'clock coffee break, a girl has needs!

2 cups quick cooking oats (regular or whole wheat)
1 cup almonds
1 1/2 cups dried cherries (I used the Craisons brand)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Place the oats, almonds, cherries, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times until the mixture is finely chopped. 

I like to have some large almond pieces remain, but do it however you like.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, and vanilla.  Add the oat mixture and chocolate chips.  Stir all ingredients together until well combined. 

Spread evenly into a greased 8x8 baking dish.  Use the back of a large spoon or spatula to flatten gently. 

Bake about 18 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown.  Let cool completely in pan before slicing.

I promised my thighs that I would get out into the sunshine and start walking again.  It's been a while you know. This weekend the weather is supposed to be beautiful so we are going on a picnic.  My son wants to ride his bike and hopefully I will be running along beside him.  A little exercise won't kill me, right? Don't answer that.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Baked Pita Chips

We eat chips and salsa a lot in my house.  My son loves salsa.  And I love how he tells me he hates tomatoes, yet in salsa form he gobbles them up like nobodies business! I feel like in some way I'm tricking him into eating something healthy....and as a mom, that makes me happy. 

In an effort to try to make this snack just a bit healthier I substituted the tortilla chips we normally have for these baked pita chips. I got the idea from Heather Tallman of  She recently did a segment on her website about healthy snacks for kids.  By using whole wheat pita they can't even tell that they are getting whole grains into their diet (another trick!).  They only take 5 minutes to make and are so much better than the store bought chips sitting on your shelf right now.  Trust me, once you eat one its hard to stop.  I made two batches of these chips last week (my hubby liked them too!).  They disappear fast.

Start with some whole wheat pita bread.  Open it up and lie both half's flat on a board.

Brush with olive oil on both sides.

Season (the "inside" side) however you like.  For these ones I used sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Basil and parmesan cheese are also nice options.  If you prefer something on the sweeter side you could also brush with melted butter instead of olive oil and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

Cut into triangles.  Line a cookie sheet with foil and arranged the triangles on the cookie sheet.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 5 minutes.  That's all it takes.

They come out crispy and delicious!

Enjoy these with with any of your favorite dips or just as is.  It will be hard to stop snacking!