Oatmeal Banana Almond Breakfast Bars

During my elimination diet days my breakfast usually consisted of quinoa with apples, cinnamon, and maple syrup. I still eat that from time to time, but have been looking for other healthy alternatives that will keep me full and a little sweetness doesn't hurt either. let's face it, even after months of not having any refined sugar, the sweet tooth has not gone away. However, I have been experimenting quite a bit with using natural sweeteners and fruit juices rather than refined sugar. There are a few new blogs that have given me a lot of inspiration and when I came across this recipe on Healthy Happy Life I did not wait long to try my own version. These are very tasty and I imagine I will make them again and again using whatever mix-ins I have in my cabinet at the time. I don't eat dried fruit anymore because of my migraines, but craisins would be a great addition. My one issue with these, is that they are a little gummy. From past experience using flaxseed meal, that might be the culprit, but I have a lot more experimenting to do. Since I am not vegan, perhaps I will try these again with half the flaxseed meal and an egg or two. As delicious as they are, I don't think I want to eat them 12 days in a row, so I froze most of them to take out one at a time as needed; hopefully they freeze well.

-2 Cups Almond milk
-4 Cups Toasted rolled oats
-1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
-1/2 Cup Agave Nectar
-3 Tbsp Unsweeted Shredded Coconut
-1 Tbsp Baking Powder
-1 tsp Salt (I would use 1.5-2 tsp next time)
-1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon (I might try adding some nutmeg as well next time)
-1 tsp Vanilla
-2 Bananas (Cut in thin slices)
-1/2 C Almonds (coursley chopped)
-2 Tbsp Almond Butter
-3 Tbsp Olive Oil (I didn't have coconut oil, but will use it next time)
-1 Cup Flaxseed meal
-1/2 Cup Unsweetened Applesauce

-3 Tbsp shredded coconut, handful of Almonds, maple syrup

-Preheat oven to 350°
1. Combine oats, flaxseed meal, baking Soda, and salt into a large bowl.
2. Stir in milk, maple syrup, agave nectar, vanilla, oil, applesauce and almond butter.
3. Fold in almonds, coconut, and bananas.
4. Pour into a greased 8x8 pan (It will be very full, it doesn't really rise, so don't worry). Top with the coconut and almonds and drizzle with maple syrup. Bake for about 40 minutes, until toothpick comes clean.
5. Cool for 30 minutes and cut into 12 large squares.

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Tres Leches Cupcakes & Mexican Brownies- Ole'

Happy Belated Cinco de Mayo or Happy Siete de Mayo! If you have been paying attention to this blog for the past year you may have noticed that my co-workers and I enjoy a good themed lunch from time to time. I think this is mostly forced by Natalie and I because we LOVE to order fabulous decor from Oriental Trading. Unfortunately we didn't plan this lunch far enough in advance to order any amazing party supplies, but it was a fun lunch anyway. We catered in some burritos, quesadillas, and chips and salsa, and I offered to make some mexican inspired treats. Ale also made some delicious guacamole, it disappeared almost immediately!

The cupcakes and the brownies both turned out great! I have a feeling I will be making the brownies again and again. Not only are they easy, but cinnamon cream cheese frosting....need I say more?! Thank  you Bridezilla Bakes for another amazing recipe!

The cupcakes are yet another recipe from the Martha Stewart Cupcakes book. Since the recipe is not on-line here is a link to the closest thing from her website, a Tres Leches Cake They were very tasty, but they were extremely time consuming and if I am to make them again I will definitely make at least a few more cupcakes. I made 20 (like the recipe stated) and a few of them ended up being a little too big,  making it very tricky to brush the tres leches mixture onto. It was messy! I ended up placing the cupcakes on wire racks over cookie sheets in order to catch the mixture that didn't soak in. This was also my first time making whipped cream since the kitchen aid mixer landed in my kitchen and it whipped up like a dream! I don't think I will ever again buy whipped cream.

Mexican Brownies with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
-1/2 C Flour
-1-1/2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
-3/4 teaspoon chili powder
-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
-10 tablespoons unsalted butter
-1-1/4 C sugar
-3/4C +2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-2 large eggs

1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 325°. Line an 8"x8" baking pan with aluminum foil. Spray foil with non-stick spray. Allow some foil to overhang for easy removal.
2. Whisk together flour and spices. Set aside.
3. Melt the butter in a double boiler and add sugar, cocoa, and salt until the mixture is hot to the touch. The mixture will be grainy, but everything should be fully incorporated.
4. Stir in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time. When the batter looks shiny add the four and spice mixture and stir until just incorporated. Then beat vigorously for 40 strokes. Spread evenly in lined pan.
5. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out of the center just slightly moist with batter. Cool completely before frosting.

- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
-3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
-1/4 teaspoon vanilla
-1 cup confectioner's sugar
-2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at high speed until fluffy (about 3-4 minutes). Sift in confectioner's sugar and cinnamon and beat at medium speed until incorporated. If the frosting is too thin slowly add more confectioner's sugar 1/4 cup at a time; if it is too thick slowly add warm water 1 tablespoon at a time.

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1st Blogiversary! Lavendar Brownie Cupcakes & Something I can eat right now....

Today marks 1 year from my first blog post, fruit sushi. I made a delicious Asian pasta salad last night (recipe to come), so I must have some serious asian persuasion this time of year. I had big plans to attempt a re-creation of the most delicious banana caramel cake I ate at a restaurant a few months back, however, due to my dietary restrictions until May 11th that deliciousness is going to have to wait. I did attempt a vegan/gluten free version, but they came out with about the same consistency of a gummy bear. Instead my 1 year blogiversary will be celebrated with some Lavendar Brownie cupcakes (for everyone else) and some no-bake almond butter chocolate bars (for me and everyone) inspired by a recipe from a fabulous blogger I met at the bakesale the other weekend. Everything (banana cupcakes aside) turned out great and I feel like my blogiversary recipes are the perfect culmination of my year of experiments......some successes, some failures, but overall a sense of pride that comes with creating something with my hands and the joy of sharing my creations with others.

Lavendar Brownie Cupcakes
recipe from Martha Stewart Cupcakes Book

-3/4C + 2T all purpose flour
-1/2t baking powder
-1/2t salt
-10-1/2T butter
-3-1/2oz unsweetened chocolate
-1-1/3C sugar
-2 large eggs (room temperature)
-1t vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line 24 standard muffin tins with paper liners (I could have filled mine a little less, but I only got 15 cupcakes from this recipe).
2. Melt butter and chocolate in double boiler. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
4. On medium speed beat together chocolate and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in Vanilla.
5. Reduce speed to low and slowly add in flour until just combined.
6. Spoon batter into muffin tins, fill a little over half way. Bake about 18-20 minutes, rotating half way through. I took them out when a toothpick came out almost clean. They continue to cook as they cool and I did not want them to be dry. Allow to completely cool before spooning on the icing.

Lavendar Icing (This recipe made about double what I needed)
-1/3C whole milk
-1/2t dried lavendar
-3C confectioner's sugar
-Violet food coloring (or equal parts blue and pink)

1. Bring milk and lavendar just to a boil in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
2. Strain milk/lavendar mixture into a medium bowl. Be sure to remove all of the dried lavendar bits. By hand, mix in 3 cups of confectioner's sugar. Slowly add in food coloring. I ended up using 4 drops of blue and 4 drops of pink.
3. Immediately spoon onto cupcakes and smooth with a knife.

Crystallized Flowers
-Edible flowers
-2t meringue powder
-2T water
-Superfine sugar

1. Remove stems from flowers
2. Whisk together meringue powder and water
3. Brush meringue mixture onto flowers one at a time and sprinkle with sugar. Place on a tray or wire rack and allow to dry completely.

No Bake Almond Butter Chocolate Bars
recipe adapted from Bridezillabakes

-1C granola
-1C almond butter
-1C earth balance margerine (or butter)
-3C powdered sugar
-12oz dark chocolate

1. Butter a 9x13 pan and set aside. Mix together first 4 ingredients (slowly adding powdered sugar until you reach the right consistency add more if necessary, I added a bit too much and they turned out crumbly). Spread evenly into pan.
2. Melt chocolate in double boiler and spread over bars. Allow to set before cutting.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

I originally decided to make these cupcakes for the bakesale because they do not need frosting and since they needed to be packaged individually I figured it would save me quite a bit of time not worrying about smudging frosting, but per usual, my sweet tooth got the better of me. I could not resist making these into my own version of Mrs Field's cookie cupcakes. I you have ever had one, then you know why I had to proceed with that direction. If you have not had one, please immediately make these or go out to the nearest Mrs. Field's at once and buy one. Because this is not simply taking cookie dough and baking it in a cupcake tin they are not quite as dense as my original inspiration, but that makes them a perfect pair with the frosting. They are sort of a cakey cookie, and I am sorry, but it would just be in poor taste to serve cake without frosting. In order to keep them a little more tidy for packaging purposes, after they came out of the oven I used the rounded side of a melon baller to smush in a 1/2" well to fill with frosting. After filling the indentation with frosting I continued to swirl it up just a smidge to make them super cute. Since these are for a bake sale I also found the cutest ribbon to finish off the packages that says 'Thank You' to our oh so generous customers. I am still a few weeks away from being able to eat anything like this, but my taste testers were thoroughly impressed, so this definitely goes on the 'make again' list. I just don't know if I will ever get to that list with so many new things I want to try!

Recipe Adapted from Martha Stewart
Cupcake Ingredients (makes 24 cupcakes):
-1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour
-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 Cup unsalted butter, room temperature
-3/4 Cup sugar
-3/4 Cup light brown sugar
-3 eggs
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
-1/2 Cup milk (I used unflavored light soy milk, but non-fat cow's milk would work as well)
-8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chunks

1. Preheat oven to 375°. Line a standard size muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, & salt. Set aside.
3. At medium-high speed cream together butter and both sugars until pale and fluffy- about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and add eggs one at a time until combined. Add in vanilla.
4.  Reduce speed to low and alternate adding flour mixture and milk in at least two batches. Stir in chocolate chunks by hand.
5. This is where I halt the process and refrigerate the dough for at least 24 hours, but you could also bake them immediately.
6. Fill each cup with 1/4 Cup batter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the tins to wire racks and allow the cupcakes to cool completely in the tins.
7. After the cupcakes have been out of the oven 10 minutes, use your melon baller to push into the tops of the cupcakes to create a 1/2" 'frosting well'.
8. After cupcakes are cooled completely, use a pastry bag to fill/frost the cupcakes.

Dark Chocolate Frostng Ingredients:
- 16 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
-6 Tablespoons Cocoa powder
-6 Tablespoons boiling water
-3 Sticks unsalted butter, just at room temperature (I have had a lot of trouble with my frostings if the butter is too warm)
-1/2 cup confectioner's sugar
-1/4 teaspoon salt

1. Melt semisweet chocolate in a double boiler, or glass bowl over a simmering pot of water. Be sure not to let the water boil or touch the bottom of the bowl. Continuously stir over the heat until chocolate is just about smooth. Then remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set this off to the side, stirring occassionaly until completely cooled, about 30 minutes.
2. Stir together the Cocoa powder with boiling water until smooth, set aside.
3. In a mixer on medium-high speed combine butter, sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. On low speed mix in melted chocolate until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture. Scrape down the sides as needed until fully incorporated.

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National Food Blogger Bake Sale: Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mark your calendars for April 17th 2010! This is the big day! We are kicking off the Share Our Strength fundraising season with the first annual National Food Bloggers Bake Sale!!

Maris of In Good Taste is leading the effort for Chicago. It's going to be a great event, Thanks Maris!

Who: Some of Chicago's finest food blogs and bakeries will be there, including Kudos Kookies  & Foiled Cupcakes.

What: Remember your childhood bake sales? This one will be even better! Food bloggers and baking aficionados are teaming up to give readers the opportunity to sample some of their favorite baked goods and treats. Proceeds from the sale benefit Share Our Strength.

When: Saturday, April 17 from 12pm - 3pm (CST)

Where: Smash Cake Bakery, 2961 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago IL 60657 (at Wellington) Get a sneak peek at its BRAND NEW location!

Why: Food bloggers from across the country will unite to support the Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America by holding bake sales in their states. Proceeds from the sale will support the 17 million children (almost one in four) who face hunger in America. More information on SOS can be found at www.strength.org.

I plan to make some Chocolate Chip cookie cupcakes with dark chocolate frosting. if you have ever had the Mrs Field's cookie cupcakes you are going to want to check these out! I'll post the recipe once I actually make them later in the week.


Moroccan Pilaf & Cinnamon Sunflower Truffles

A couple of weekends ago I went up to Milwaukee to celebrate Gregory's birthday. We exchanged a few e-mails before the visit to decide on the menu options. He was all about cooking up a delicious dinner that was elimination diet friendly and I could not be more appreciative of that! I really enjoy cooking and baking, but my limits have been stretched on this journey since I need to prepare every meal and snack 24/7 to ensure that I am am not taking in any additives or other foods that I should not be having. Unfortunately this is one of the few recipes that has made me realize that dried fruits (raisins, currants, figs, etc) are a migraine trigger for me, but I still wanted to pass it along, because it is an absolutely wonderful blend of flavors and textures. I have made quite a few recipes from http://www.nourishingmeals.com/ and Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook ,which is where I am gaining all the knowledge for my elimination diet, and everything has been so good. I will continue to make these recipes again and again, even once I am through with this cleanse. We also decided to try our hand and one of the elimination diet friendly desserts and if I do say so myself, they were pretty delectable little treats, even though they looked like cheesy meatballs! It also made me want to invest in a food processor since we had a little incident with a wooden spoon and the blender. Gregory got an extra birthday present and was the lucky recipient of a small wood chip in the last truffle he ate, whoopsy!

Moroccan Quinoa Pilaf
-2 to 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-4 carrots, sliced into rounds
-1 cup raw almonds, chopped
-½ cup currants
-1 ½ to 2 teaspoons mild curry powder
-½ teaspoon turmeric
-½ teaspoon ground cardamom
-1 teaspoon Herbamare (this can be found in the natural/organic spices; you can also substitute sea salt)
-4 cups chopped kale
-4 to 5 cups cooked and cooled quinoa (about 1 cup dry)
-1 small lemon, juiced

1. Heat a large skillet with olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions for 5 minutes. Add in carrots, and saute about 10 minutes more. Until soft but not quite browned.
2. Add the almonds, currants, and spices- Saute 5 minutes. Add in chopped kale (still wet from washing) and saute 5 more minutes.
3. Stir in Quinoa and stir until thouroughly mixed and all ingredients are heated through. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

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Cinnamon Sunflower Truffles  
-2 Cups raw Sunflower Seeds
-2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
-1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt
-1 Cup Pitted Medjool Dates
-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
-2 Tablespoons Agave Nectar or Maple Syrup
-1/2 Cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut

1.Place the sunflower seeds, cinnamon, and sea salt into a food processor fitted with the "s" blade. Process until seeds are very finely ground. It only takes a minute or so.

2.Then add the pitted dates and olive oil. Process again until combined and sticky. Only add the agave or maple syrup if need be. Your dates may be moist enough and you might not need extra sweetener. Check to see if you can form a truffle by rolling some of the mixture in your hands. If it falls apart then add the sweetener and process again. If I were to do this again without a food processor I would process the dates in a separate blender and then mix them with the sunflower seeds.
3. Scoop out the sunflower mixture by the large spoonful and roll into balls. Then roll in shredded coconut. Store in the fridge for up to 10 days.

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Dessert Squash

The cleanse is going well, and I have only had 2 migraines in 3 weeks. That may not sound great, but lately, that is a new record for me. I know one migraine was stress induced and the other may have been triggered by the addition of almonds into my diet. I will test them again in a week or two in order to confirm if it was a fluke or not. Anyway, I am feeling great! I have so much more energy than usual and in general I am in better spirits. It has actually been an easy process for me and there is nothing that I am really craving. Although I definitely have my days where my fruit intake is through the roof, so I must be in need of some sugar :) Last week, I was having one of those days, so decided to concoct a little something that would satisfy my sweet tooth and still be 'Elimination Diet' friendly. Maybe my taste buds are skewed after 3 weeks of only fruits and veggies, but I thought it was a delicious treat!

Apple Cinnamon Acorn Squash (makes 2 servings)

1 Acorn Squash
2 Apples
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Teaspoons Cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Cut Acorn squash in half and scoop out seeds. Fill a glass baking dish with about a 1/2" water. Place squash in a glass baking dish cut side down. Bake for 30 minutes, or until squash is tender.
2. Slice the apples and mix with maple syrup and cinnamon.
3. Once squash is tender, flip over in baking dish and fill each half with the apple mixture. Bake another 15-20 minutes.

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Happy Valentine's Day & the last of sweets for 28 days........

This post is slightly belated, but the treats within are appropriate for any occassion. Just fun for Valentine's because they are red & white. The first treat for a Valentine's/Chinese New Year work lunch was a hit, and was quick, perfect to whip up during a busy week. I had this strawberry pretzel dessert a few years ago and knew the recipe was not hard, but never found it until my co-worker, Natalie, was making a family recipe book and it was just what I had been looking for. We had also received some cupcakes from a rep the day before our lunch so we saved them and I created some paper conversation hearts to jazz them up. The words are heard throughout our group on a regular basis. The reason this post is also titled 'the last of sweets for 28 days' is because, althought I have suffered from migraines for the last 15 years, the past two months have been unbearable, so I have started a restrictive diet that slowly adds back in 'trigger' foods, so that means no sugar for about a month. It will be tough, but definitely worth it if I can figure out what is causing my migraines. And who knows, maybe I'll get creative and come up with some tastey sweets using things that are not restricted like agave nectar and pure maple syrup.
Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

2 Cups Crushed Pretzels
1 1/2 Sticks Melted Butter
2 Tablespoons Sugar
8 oz. Package Cream Cheese (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese)
1 Cup Sugar
8 oz. Cool Whip (I used light cool whip)
2 Small Packages Strawberry Jello
2 Ten oz. Packages Frozen Strawberries (I used 1 16oz package of fresh strawberries, sliced)

Mix crushed pretzels, butter, and 2 tablespoons sugar to form crust. Spread across the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Let cool.

Bottom Layer
Mix together cream cheese and sugar until smooth then fold in cool whip. Spread over pretzel crust and refrigerate.

Top Layer
Mix 2 cups boiling water with jello powder in a bowl. Refrigerate until somewhat gelled and then add strawberries. Pour over cream cheese layer and put in the freezer until set.

I spent the rest of my Valentine's weekend in Wisconsin with Gregory, Dino, and my Mom. Dino made us delicious dolmates for dinner and Gregory and I made red velvet cupcakes for dessert. For now, these are definitely in my top 3 favorite cupcakes along with the strawberry dream cream cupcakes and the snickerdoodle cupcakes I made last year. I really love red velvet when it's done right (it's like tiramisu, if it's not amazing, I can't even be bothered with it) so I did a lot of research and landed on the combination of red velvet cupcake recipe from Magnolia Bakery in NYC and the cream cheese frosting recipe from Sprinkles Cupcakes originally out of California.  The cupcakes are so light and airy but still have a great flavor, just enough cocoa to actually taste it, and then paired with the cream cheese frosting, they are just to die for! Like most frosting recipes it makes more than enough, so we also had a bonus dessert of cream cheese frosting on graham crackers.....brought Gregory and I right back to our youth, the frosting was usually from a can though.
Magnolia's Red Velvet Cupcakes
3½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened

2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp red food coloring (I used one whole tube of the red gel coloring and it was just enough)
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp salt
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ tsp cider vinegar
1½ tsp baking soda
1.Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes), or use cupcake liners.

2.To make the batter: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.

3.In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

4.Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about ¼ cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.

Sprinkles Frosting
12 ounces cold cream cheese

1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, firm but not cold
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds (1 1/2 boxes) powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla

1.Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese in mixer and beat on medium speed 2-3 minutes.

2.Add sugar until just incorporated. Don’t over mix. It should be thick but not fluffy.

3.Add vanilla. If necessary, add milk to thin.
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Cinnamon Raisin Bread

It has not taken me long to truly enjoy the art of baking bread. I am still starting out and have yet to try some more complex breads (I am waiting to get a kitchen scale so I can weigh flour and also waiting for some warmer days). However, a couple of Sunday's ago it was a gorgeous sunny day which I figured would aid in the rising of my dough and it certainly did. A few days earlier I was out with some co-workers and someone mentioned cinnamon raisin bread and I could not get it out of my head. Of course Martha has a recipe for it in her baking hand book so that is the recipe I chose to proceed with. It turned out SO good, I could have eaten the whole loaf right out of the oven. I was initially excited because the recipe made two loaves so I made sure to freeze one right away for a future day. Well, I recently retrieved that loaf for the weekend because I had friends in town, and although it worked perfectly for french toast, freezing it had dried it out a lot. I guess from now on I will just have to be a generous bread baker and pass on a delicious fresh loaf to a lucky recipient.

2 cups plus 1 1/2 teaspoons warm water (100 degrees to 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
5 3/4 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons nonfat powdered milk
4 teaspoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups dark raisins
Canola oil, for bowl and plastic wrap
3/4 cup sugar
7 teaspoons cinnamon
1 large egg, beaten
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg white, beaten  

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine 1/4 cup warm water and yeast. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Add flour, powdered milk, sugar, salt, 3 tablespoons melted butter, and 1 3/4 cups warm water. Mix, using the paddle attachment, on low speed for 1 minute. Change to dough hook, and mix on medium-low speed for 7 minutes. Or knead by hand, 15 or 20 minutes. Add raisins, and mix on medium-low speed until dough is firm but not dry, 3 minutes.

2. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand into a ball. Place dough, smooth side up, in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

3. Butter two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans generously, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon, and set aside. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface, and cut in half. Cover one piece of dough loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap.

4. Press the other piece of dough into a 10-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with half of the beaten egg, sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar, and drizzle with half the melted butter. Rub the surface with the back of a spoon to blend butter and cinnamon sugar. Starting at a short end, roll up dough tightly, and pinch together along crease. Roll the dough back and forth to make it cylindrical, and pinch the ends together. Transfer to a loaf pan, seam side down, and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Repeat process with second piece of dough. Let loaves rise in a warm place, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Thirty minutes before this final rise is completed, place a baking stone, if using, in the lower third of oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

5. Brush tops of loaves with egg white, and sprinkle each loaf with 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar. Bake 15 minutes; lower oven to 400 degrees, and bake 15 minutes more. Remove from oven; cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

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Magic Blondies

I have found a new favorite recipe! Not just because it tastes great, but it is the perfect recipe to use up all the half bags of chocolate chips, craisins, coconut, nuts, or anything else you may have in your cabinets from a baking extravaganza around the holidays. These were so easy and delicious I actually made them two nights in a row. My roomies were quite dissappointed when I didn't bring any leftovers home from the ones I brought to the office so we made another batch that night. This recipe, of course, comes from Martha Stewart. I made them in a mini-muffin pan and it was the perfect size for the plethora of flavors.

-2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
-2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

-2/3 cup chopped pecans (about 2 1/2 ounces)
-2/3 cup dried cherries or cranberries
-1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
-9 tablespoons (1 1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
-1 cup packed light-brown sugar
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a standard 24-cup mini muffin tin with paper liners; set aside. Stir together coconut, chocolate, pecans, and craisins in a medium bowl; set aside.

2.Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

3.Put butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture, and mix, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined. Mix in 1 cup coconut mixture.

4.Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Sprinkle remaining coconut mixture over tops. Bake blondies until a cake tester inserted into center comes out with a few crumbs but is not wet, about 15 minutes. Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 2 days.
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Parmesan Rosemary Crackers

It is no secret that I am in love with my kitchenaid mixer and I have grand ideas of making delicious artisan breads and other specialty items.....in a perfect world my kitchen will never see a store bought bread item again. Seeing as though I have never tried my hand at yeasted baked goods I decided to start small and it doesn't get much smaller than crackers. Really though, these are pretty giant crackers. I have a lot of faith in Martha Stewart and she has yet to lead me astray so I thought it best to choose something from her Baking Handbook.  

The only thing I did not already have was fresh rosemary so I substituted a garlic/parmesan/rosemary seasoning and it was fantastic. At some point I will probably make this with fresh rosemary, but I will definitely add some garlic. From the yeasted bread recipes I have been studying I don't think there are too many out there that are not going to be time consuming or at least have to be tended to a few times over the course of 5-6 hours, but this was a pretty simple one and there was no rising of dough that had to occur, which is something that I have a lot of anxiety about, especially since I am attempting to do this in winter. I think I am going to learn to appreciate the hot humid summers Chicago has to offer when my dough rises like a dream.

I'm not sure if I did not roll the dough out thin enough or did not bake them long enough, but they ended up being more like a very thin flat bread than a crispy cracker. Not only did they taste great, but the house smelled wonderful for the entire day and night!

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Chocolate Pretzels

I am now the proud owner of the Martha Stewart Cookie book and Martha Stewart Baking Handbook and simply cannot be baking enough these days. With my new kitchen aid mixer I am virtually unstoppable. I have quite a few baking supplies/ingredients left over from all of my holiday candy making so I have been narrowing down my choices by making things that don't require a trip to the grocery store......the snow and freezing temps have also ignited my baking drive a bit. I suppose another factor in my choices is the new year's inspiration to drop a few pounds, but a girl's got to eat and I just can't cut out sweets entirely.

My first recipe for the new year was Martha Stewart's Chocolate Pretzels from her cookie book. although they are shaped like pretzels they remind me much more of a biscuit or biscotti. They are not very sweet and taste best with coffee or tea. They turned out well, but not quite sweet enough for my taste. I much prefer a pretzel covered in chocolate. I could see myself making these again, but only in addition to a variety of other cookies and sweets in order to fill up a tray and add something that breaks up the really sweet things.

1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
3 tablespoons boiling water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 large egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg yolk
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling (I used some left over sugar sprinkles I had from my christmas sugar cookies)

1. Stir cocoa and espresso powders into the boiling water in a small bowl until dissolved; set aside. Meanwhile, put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until creamy. Mix in vanilla and salt. Reduce speed to medium-low. Mix in egg, then cocoa mixture. Gradually add flour, and mix until a smooth dough forms. Turn out onto a piece of plastic; pat into a square. Wrap dough, and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

2. Divide dough into 24 equal pieces. Roll into balls. Shape balls into 12-inch-long ropes. Twist each rope into a pretzel shape. Space 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush cookies with egg wash; sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until dry, about 35 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 1 week.
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