Seven-Layer Cookie Bars

I feel blessed that, although I never got to meet my mother-in law (sadly, she passed away from breast cancer before I had the honor of meeting her), I have been lucky enough to carry on some of her most scrumptious dishes. I love being able to make her pepper steak, chicken curry, raisin rice and so many other great recipes for my husband, taking him back to his carefree childhood days, and I know it means a lot to him when I make them.

I especially enjoy making his mom’s seven-layer bars and made them over the weekend. They are so quick and easy to make. The ingredients are usually already in my pantry and hardly any utensils are needed, which makes clean up a breeze! All you need is a 9×13 inch baking pan, a set of measuring cups and a small pan to melt the butter.

I have been making these bars for years. They are delicious and always a big hit just as they are, but as I have been on a mission to incorporate more coconut oil into my diet lately, this time I decided to replace the 1/4 cup of melted butter for equal amounts of coconut oil. The results were so good!! I highly recommend it (and I’m sure my mother-in-law wouldn’t mind :)). I will probably make them this way going forward.

Seven-Layer Cookie Bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1/4 C melted butter
1 C graham cracker crumbs
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 C coconut
6 oz chocolate chips
6 oz butterscotch chips
1 C chopped walnuts

Lightly spray sides of pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Spread melted butter to cover the bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan. Then simply layer each ingredient in order. Take care to spread each ingredient evenly so each bar gets every bit of deliciousness.

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Bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting. Enjoy!

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Chocolate Banana Soufflés

My husband is running this year’s Boston Marathon for Brigham & Women’s Hospital and in memory of Martin Richard, the little 8-year old boy who died in last year’s marathon bombings. He’s been trying to eat clean in prep for the big day (or he’s at least been talking about it :)), but is having a hard time giving up desserts (especially after burning so many calories while training). Last weekend, I stumbled upon this low fat, fabulous Chocolate Banana Soufflé recipe from eatingwell.com. Let me tell you, it is fantastic. You can really taste the bananas and you’ll have no idea that it’s low fat. I wonder how they’ll taste with peanut butter? 🙂

Chocolate Banana Soufflé

3 tablespoons sugar, plus extra for preparing souffle dishes
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I just used semisweet chocolate chips)
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder, or instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably Dutch-process
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana, (1 large)
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup low fat milk
5 large egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil six 6-ounce (3/4-cup) individual souffle dishes or ramekins or coat them with nonstick spray. Dust with sugar, turning to coat, and tapping out the excess. Set aside.

Melt chocolate over barely simmering water or in the microwave. Dissolve espresso powder (or instant coffee) in vanilla in a small bowl.

Sift cocoa, cornstarch and salt into a large bowl. Add banana, brown sugar and milk, whisking to blend. Add melted chocolate and the coffee mixture and blend well.

Place egg whites in a clean, grease-free mixing bowl. Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until frothy. Add cream of tartar; increase the speed to medium and whip until soft peaks form. Gradually add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat on medium-high until the whites hold stiff, but not dry, peaks.

Whisk one-fourth of the egg whites into chocolate mixture. Gently but quickly, fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula. Spoon into the prepared souffle dishes or ramekins.

Bake until souffles are well puffed and browned, but still jiggle slightly when shaken, 15 to 25 minutes, or. Remove from the oven and sift a little confectioners’ sugar over the top. Serve immediately.

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HALLELUJAH, we have success! — Delicious Gluten Free Carrot Cake

My mom was diagnosed with celiac’s disease last year and, since then, I’ve been trying my hand at different gluten free recipes for her.  She loves food and this disease has been a bit of a hardship on her.  Now my mother, God love her, is an incredibly picky eater so trying to find the right recipes has been trying, to say the least!  Last week, we got together to celebrate my birthday and my sister’s birthday so I thought I’d try a gluten free carrot cake recipe I found at www.glutenfreecooking.about.com.  HALLELUJAH, we have success!  She loved it and even asked for the recipe!  As a bonus, my husband (my dessert lover) loved it, too, and said he couldn’t tell that it was gluten free.

I mostly followed this recipe exactly other than using coconut oil instead of the olive or vegetable oil.  Comments on the website noted that 1½ cups of oil seemed excessive and some thought the cake was a bit greasy. I didn’t want to end up with a dry cake so I measured 1½ cups of oil exactly this time.  Though I didn’t find the cake too greasy, there was a little bit of a greasy texture (I made both a cake and cupcakes and really only noticed it when holding the cupcake; they didn’t taste greasy) so next time I will only use one cup of oil.

The frosting was delicious, but the recipe didn’t cover the whole cake and all of the cupcakes so I’d probably increase it next time.  I don’t think you’d need to double it, but maybe increase it by ½.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups light olive oil OR your favorite vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour mix (also use 1 teaspoon xanthan or guar gum to the recipe if the mix you are using doesn’t already contain one of them) (Note: I used King Arthur gluten free flour and 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 3 cups freshly grated carrots
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups gluten-free powdered sugar (See note)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 176° C Use two round 9-inch cake pans, one 9×13 pan or 36 muffin cups for this recipe. If using round cake pans, lightly grease and place a circle of parchment in the bottom of the pan for easy removal. Use paper lining cups if making cupcakes.

  1. Cream sugar and eggs in a large mixing bowl with an electric beater or stand mixer. Add oil and vanilla and beat just until smooth.
  2. In a separate bowl combine gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat until blended.
  3. Stir in grated carrots and nuts. Pour the batter into prepared pans.
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. For muffins, reduce baking time to 30-35 minutes or until they pass the toothpick test. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. While cake or muffins are cooling place butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy.
  6. When cake is cool frost.

P.S.  If anyone has a delicious gluten free recipe out there, please feel free to share here and, thank you!

Mmmmm….it is that time of year again! Apple pie season!

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Now, I have to admit that I cheated and used a ready made pie crust for this particular pie.  I am in the middle of testing gluten free pie crusts and didn’t have time to make both (and couldn’t run the risk of using a not so good crust on this pie and having an extremely unhappy husband!)  Making a crust is not a scary as it sound, though.  The secret is using very cold butter.

The hardest part about making an apple pie, in my opinion, is peeling and coring the apples. I might suggest purchasing one of those corer/peelers all in one devices, but the gadget I use for coring and slicing (see above) also works nicely. You'll need about 7-9 apples, depending on the size of the apples.

The hardest part about making an apple pie, in my opinion, is peeling and coring the apples. I might suggest purchasing one of those corer/peelers all in one devices, but the gadget I use for coring and slicing (see above) also works nicely.
You’ll need about 7-9 apples, depending on the size of the apples.

Combine the sliced apples with one cup of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon.

Combine the sliced apples with one cup of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon.

You'll need 2 pie crust to fit a 9 inch pie dish.  Place one crust in the dish and fill with the apple mixture.  Cut the butter into 1/8 inch pads and place around apples.  Cover apples with second pie crust and pinch the edges to seal.  You can play with the edges to make them fancy, if you'd like.  I just pinched the crust shut and then made indentations with my fingers.

You’ll need 2 pie crust to fit a 9 inch pie dish. Place one crust in the dish and fill with the apple mixture. Cut the butter into 1/8 inch pads and place around apples. Cover apples with second pie crust and pinch the edges to seal. You can play with the edges to make them fancy, if you’d like. I just pinched the crust shut and then made indentations with my fingers.

Slice the top crust in the middle about an inch to allow the steam to escape.  Lightly brush the top of the crust with a little bit of milk and then sprinkle a little surge over the top.  This is completely optional but makes for a pretty pie.  Place the pie on a cookie sheet to avoid a big mess if the filling oozes out while baking.  Bake in a preheated, 425 degree over for about 50-60 minutes.   I would check on it 3/4 of the way through and if it looks like the edges are starting to brown too much, consider putting foil around it.   Finally, enjoy!!

Slice the top crust in the middle about an inch to allow the steam to escape. Lightly brush the top of the crust with a little bit of milk and then sprinkle a little surge over the top. This is completely optional but makes for a pretty pie. Place the pie on a cookie sheet to avoid a big mess if the filling oozes out while baking. Bake in a preheated, 425 degree over for about 50-60 minutes. I would check on it 3/4 of the way through and if it looks like the edges are starting to brown too much, consider putting foil around it. Finally, enjoy!!