Faster to make than cookies, easier to transport than a cake and equally as delicious as both, what’s not to love about dessert squares (or in this case ‘diamonds’).
The classic rice krispie treats recipe found on the back of the cereal box call for very few ingredients. While we will forever appreciate the simplicity of the sweet treat in its unaltered form, its hard not to experiment with a few new ideas.
There’s a good reason why oatmeal cookies are the poster child for rolled oats. Oatmeal can enhance a whole range of dough and/or batters from pancakes to bread & muffins, etc.
The idea of putting oatmeal, rice krispies, pumpkin seeds & candied fruit peel all in one dessert bar is the ultimate rice krispie treat in my opinion.
You can choose to cut them in whatever shape you wish depending on the the baking pan you use. I wanted to bake these in a 9 x 13 pan and cut them into diamonds for this blog recipe. I had previously made the same recipe in a drop cookie form. Same great taste, just a different shape.
Crispy Seed & Fruit Oat Diamonds
Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease or line (w/parchment paper) baking pan of choice & set aside.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda & oatmeal.
In a large bowl, cream together butter & sugars until light & fluffy. Mix in vanilla & eggs until well incorporated. Add flour mixture & mix until completely combined.
Stir in seeds, fruit & rice krispies with a spatula.
Press batter into prepared baking pan. Bake 20 minutes, until LIGHTLY golden on the edges. These bars are best if slightly under-baked. They may look shiny & under-baked, but will darken & set up as they cool.
Cool completely then cut into desired size & shape (squares, diamonds or bars). Drizzle with lemon glaze & remove diamonds from pan.
- If you are not a fan of pumpkin seeds or candied fruit peel, just substitute them with your own favorites.
We are now officially into fall, so its time to think in terms of a bit of pumpkin. I had not considered pumpkin as part of a sandwich cookie before, but oatmeal with pumpkin and cream cheese makes good sense to me. There’s more to oatmeal cookies than the recipe on the Quaker Oats box. In fact there’s a lot of amazing combinations out there but first a bit of food history.
Oatmeal cookies evolved from oatcakes, a type of plain flatbread made centuries ago by the British and the Scots. Raisins and nuts were added to the mix somewhere around the Middle Ages to make them tastier. When oatmeal cookies became elevated to the ranks of ‘health food’, a recipe for them appeared on containers of Quaker Oats. These recipes were circulated widely and oatmeal cookies were soon common in households throughout North America.
An important part of these cookies lies in the spices. Rather than using a pre-made ‘pumpkin pie spice’, I like to give them a personal touch by using my own combination. This way, you can control the flavor better. Feel free to adjust the spice mix to suit your taste or just simply go with cinnamon.
Oatmeal Pumpkin Sandwich Cookies
In a small bowl, whisk together spice mix combination from recipe notes & set aside.
In a bowl, beat together cream cheese & butter until smooth. Add in pumpkin & mix until fully incorporated. Add remaining spice mixture & powdered sugar about 1/4 cup at a time, allowing each prior amount to fully mix into the filling before adding more.
Spread or pipe filling on half of the cooled cookies & top with remaining cookies. This recipe makes 5 dozen filled cookies so you may want to freeze some.
- Spice Mixture Recipe (2 1/8 tsp):
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp EACH nutmeg & cloves
- 1/8 tsp EACH ginger, cardamom & white pepper
- 1/4 tsp ground star anise
I don’t know if you recall Post Grape-Nuts cereal? It was one of the first ready-to-eat cereal products ever made available to the public. Developed by C.W. Post in 1897, Grape-Nuts was so named because of the glucose, which he called ‘grape sugar’, that formed during the baking process. This, combined with the nutty flavor of the cereal, is said to have inspired its name. Originally the cereal came out of the oven as a rigid sheet. He then broke it into pieces and ran them through a coffee grinder to produce the ‘nut’ sized nuggets.
In addition to being the first wide spread product to use a coupon ( Posts’ penny-off coupon was a game changer at that time), Grape-Nuts was also there for several famous moments in world history.
The cereal was made of wheat and malted barley. A unique muffin recipe I had used during some of my commercial food service years, made use of this particular cereal. It gave the muffins such a wholesome, nutty taste and was always enjoyed by customers.
Somewhere, in the late 90’s the cereal became discontinued here in Canada for whatever reason. I suspect with the dozens of cereals available these days, grocers ran out of shelf space. Anyway, I got an idea to re-invent that great tasting muffin recipe into a coffeecake. I understand that ‘Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nugget Cereal’ would be a good replacement. When I read the ingredients of oats, wheat, rye, brown rice, triticale, barley, buckwheat and sesame it sounded great or maybe even better.
Vintage 'Grape-Nut' Coffeecake
Preheat oven to 325 F. Butter a 12-cup bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients & allow to stand for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda & salt. When wet mixture is 'soaked', combine wet & dry ingredients, stirring ONLY until moistened.
Spread 1/3 of batter in bundt pan. Place dollops of apricot preserve (about 1/4 cup) over batter; carefully spreading evenly. Repeat again then ending with the top layer being cake batter. Bake until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean, about 45 minutes to an 1 hour. Remove from oven; cool slightly before removing from pan. If you wish, coffeecake can be dusted with powdered sugar or drizzled with a cream cheese glaze.
In a small bowl, whisk 60 grams of cream cheese with 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2 Tbsp butter & 1/2 tsp vanilla until drizzling consistency. If necessary, add a little milk. Drizzle over coffeecake.
Scones were originally made from oats and shaped into a large round called a ‘bannock’. Each round was scored into four to six triangles and cooked on a griddle either over an open fire or on top of the stove.
A scone is not a cupcake. Making scones is like stirring together biscuits. A simple mixture of flour, salt, baking powder and/or soda, milk or sour cream, butter and sometimes eggs. Scones are the perfect blank canvas and can be flavored to taste and loaded with add-ons.
Many times, scones have been perceived as dry and boring. The classic scone is crusty on the outside and biscuit textured within. A cakey super moist texture should not be expected in a scone.
We found this dried fruit scone was excellent eaten slightly warm. The cardamom spice really enhanced the flavor of the papaya fruit in them. I used the flour/oatmeal combo, as I most often do because of the the nice texture and taste it gives. The glaze is optional as it kind of goes against the basics of a scone but what the heck!
Tropical Papaya Scones with Vanilla Glaze
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds then add next 5 ingredients & pulse a few more seconds. Add butter; whirl ONLY until mixture resembles coarse crumbs then place in a large bowl. Stir in chopped fruit.
In a small bowl, whisk together sour cream, milk & vanilla. Add to dry mixture blending only until JUST incorporated. Scoop onto baking sheet & bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients until smooth. With a small spoon, drizzle glaze over scones.
Love it or hate it, pumpkin spice season is well underway. Every year our obsession with the ‘flavor of fall’ continues to grow with weirder, more unique, pumpkin themed products invading the bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, you name it—
It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.
Some time ago, Brion had picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. It has a wonderful taste on its own but of course it only seems fitting that I would want to bake with it.
I believe one of the secrets of having incredible flavors in both savory and baked goods is with the use of alcohol. You can’t help but notice, over the last number of years how the humble little cupcake has been elevated to a whole new level. Many of these specialty cupcake stores that have popped up are featuring alcohol-inspired, adult-friendly options.
Now, today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’ to see what I can come up with.
Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.
In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients & set aside.
In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
In another bowl, whisk together egg, liqueur, milk & pumpkin puree. Stir into flour mixture JUST until moistened. Place a small scoop of batter in each cup. Divide topping. Using half of topping, divide evenly between cupcakes, creating the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Divide remaining batter between cups; top with remaining topping. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack.
- Technically, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are the same thing. But pepitas (which mean “little seeds of squash” in Spanish) don’t have a shell and are found in only select pumpkin varieties.
Although rice takes top priority at our house, noodles (pasta) are always a staple nevertheless. Some years ago, we started using the ‘no yolks’ version of egg noodles.
Like many old world pasta products, there is a history. In 1976, Robert Strom created NO YOLKS. They would become the world’s first no-cholesterol egg noodle. They are made with Durum wheat semolina, corn flour, egg whites and have no problem cooking up firm and fluffy.
In Canada, they are the top selling noodle and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. In this recipe, I have paired them with my favorite Chia Chicken Meatballs. Does it get more healthy than that?!
No-Yolk Noodles with Chia Chicken Meatballs
In a small bowl, mix together chia seeds & water; let stand for about 20 minutes. In a large bowl, combine remaining meatball ingredients. When chia gel is ready, add to meat mixture. Using your hands, combine ingredients well. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & lightly coat with baking spray. Scoop into 50 meatballs; place on baking sheet & bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely if you are choosing to freeze half for a later meal. Set aside the amount you are using for this meal.
Sauce / Noodles
In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Meanwhile, cook no-yolk noodles as directed on package in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain.
In the pot you cooked the noodles, combine noodles with sauce & meatballs. Fold together & serve topped with some parmigano-reggiano if you wish.
Yeast batter bread is like the bridge between muffin-like quick breads and full grown yeast breads that require kneading. Like the name implies, this bread is a batter because it has a higher ratio of liquid in it than a traditional Artisan style yeast bread. Any batter bread you make still requires a rising time, but the dough is too soft to be handled so no kneading is required. The batter is vigorously beaten either by hand or with an electric mixer to develop the gluten. When it leaves the sides of the bowl and is shiny and smooth, your batter has been beaten long enough.
The pan you use to bake it in is entirely up to you. If you want individual rolls just use a muffin tin otherwise coffee cans, tube pans, loaf pans or whatever strikes your fancy.
Batter breads come together very quickly making them a convenient and easy way to enjoy a fresh bread. Although best eaten the day they are baked, they are equally good toasted or slightly warmed in the microwave. I found that they make a good ‘fill in’ if we are short of regular bread and I haven’t got time to run to the store.
Oatmeal/Flax Batter Bread
In a mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in water. In another bowl combine oatmeal, flax seeds, flour & salt. To dissolved yeast, add honey, shortening & 1/2 of the combined dry mixture.
Beat 2 minutes on medium speed on mixer or 300 strokes by hand. Scrape sides & bottom of bowl frequently. With spoon, blend in remaining dry mixture until smooth. Cover. allow to rise in a warm place until double in size, about 30 minutes.
Stir down batter beating about 25 strokes. Spread batter evenly in chosen pans. Batter will be sticky. Smooth out top if you wish. Allow to rise until batter reaches about 1-inch from top of pan, about 35 minutes.
Bake at 375 F. about 35 minutes or until golden brown. Tap top of loaf, it should sound hollow. Place on cooling rack, brush with butter. Do not place in direct draft. Cool before slicing.
- The rising time is crucial to the success of batter breads. The dough is delicate and can collapse very easily if allowed to rise too long. Generally their baked shape is more squat then rounded.
Crumble, a dish of British origin, can be sweet or savory. The sweet variety generally contains stewed fruit with a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar. A savory version uses meat, vegetables and sauce for the filling, with cheese replacing sugar in the crumble mix.
Crumbles and crisps are very similar. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusal-like topping. The original difference between the two was in the topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. Overtime the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.
Oatmeal ‘anything’ is very nostalgic for me. I can’t remember one thing my mother made using oatmeal that I didn’t like, including ‘porridge’. Oatmeal is still as much a staple in our pantry as it was in my mothers.
For this dessert, I thought it would be unique to add a little caramelized twist to an old classic crumble. Caramelization is a chemical change that makes naturally occurring sugars in fruit, when gently sauteed in butter, turn brown and quite flavorful. The combination of caramelized bananas, fresh mango and lemon juice topped with a spicy crumble is wonderful (and easy).
Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
Preheat oven to 350 F. On a parchment lined baking sheet, slice bananas into discs. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar & bake for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, place mango, 1 Tbsp sugar & lemon juice. Mix until combined; add Caramelized bananas & toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture equally into 2 or 4 ramekins.
In a small dish, toss together all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to combine. Divide crumble between ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with either ice cream or whipped cream.
Most all muffin, scone and cake recipes will work just as well using mashed avocado as a substitute for butter. When they are pureed, avocados take on the texture of softened butter, which makes them easy to incorporate into the batter.
It’s hard not to love using avocados since they are the ‘good kind of fat’. To work out how much avocado you need in a recipe, simply halve the amount of butter that is called for in the recipe. The calorie difference is huge. For example, 250 grams of butter contains 1750 calories (or more), where as 125 grams of avocado ‘butter’ only adds 200 calories.
Avocados have a mild, fresh, slightly sweet flavor which allows them to pair well with other ingredients. The combination of avocado, oatmeal, cinnamon, dates & walnuts give these scones a unique flavor that gets only better after a day or two.
A while back I noticed that you can buy frozen avocado chunks at the grocery store. They come in a 400 gram bag. What a great idea instead of having to buy them and wait until they ripen. Ready when you need them!
Avocado Oatmeal Scones
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a large bowl, cream together oil, avocado & brown sugar; stir in yogurt & eggs. Add oat mixture to avocado mixture & stir until combine. Fold in dates & walnuts.
Using a scoop, transfer the mixture onto lined baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
Its true that a good scone is a delicate flavor balance of opposites: rich but light, tender but sturdy, satisfyingly sweet but not overly so.
As baking soda and baking powder came into use as rising agents in the mid 19th century, the familiar light, raised scones began to appear in recipe books.
Scones are closely related to biscuits in that they contain much of the same ingredients — flour, baking powder, salt, shortening or butter.
The making of tender scones lies in the technique itself. The ‘secret’ is to mix the dough as little yet as thoroughly as you can. The less you work at it, the more tender the scones will become.
Scones as well as muffins seem to fall in and out of ‘fashion’. For me, I love them both and never tire of making either one.
This particular recipe I developed some time back with a lot of room for variations. My sister, Loretta and I share a common addiction for scones and fully believe it should be a constant in one’s life. This one is for you, Loretta. Enjoy!
Spiced Apple & Carrot Scones
Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor, pulse oatmeal for a few seconds; transfer to a large bowl. Whisk oatmeal, flour, baking soda, spices, salt, flax & pecans (sunflower seeds) together until combined. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk egg, brown sugar, syrup, oil, applesauce, orange zest, orange juice & vanilla together until combined.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, stir a few times, then add raisins, carrots & apple. Fold together gently just until blended.
Scoop onto baking sheet & bake 3 minutes at 425 F. then reduce heat to 350 F. & bake for an additional 9 minutes or until they test done. Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes; remove to wire rack.