Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Things have been “bananas” lately so I thought it would be fitting to make a treat out of bananas. These banana oatmeal chocolate chip muffins are a perfect addition to any busy morning or for a great snack. The oatmeal adds texture and the chocolate chips add a bit of sweetness. The base of this recipe is my standby banana bread recipe. I enjoy making the banana muffins slightly more than the bread because it’s the same great taste and it takes half the time. Give them a shot- enjoy!

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Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

Recipe adapted from: Pillsbury

Yields: 18 muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar20160117_155945.jpg
  • 1 cup (2 medium) mashed bananas
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:20160117_160745.jpg

1.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper muffin liners in the muffin cups.

2.) In a large bowl, cream the sugar and butter until well incorporated. Next mix in the mashed bananas.20160117_161117.jpg

3.) Add the vanilla extract and the 2 eggs and mix well.

4.) Next stir in the flour, baking soda, salt and oats. Lastly fold in the chocolate chips.

5.) Using a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop, fill muffin cups until 2/3 full with batter.20160117_161938.jpg

6.) Bake muffins in 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean). The tops should be lightly browned. Take muffins out of pan and cool on cooling racks. Store in air tight container.

Notes and Tips:

  • Make sure your butter is at room temperature before you start mixing the batter. Softened butter will make for a smooth, creamy batter.
  • Using well-browned (or even black!) bananas will create a strong punch of banana flavor for the muffins.
  • Feel free to omit the chocolate chips and/or add 1/2 cup of your favorite nut.
  • If you are looking to cut a few calories- I’ve made these muffins in the past with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup of Splenda and they turned out just as tasty.
  • These muffins freeze very well and can be defrosted quickly in the AM for breakfast or for drop-in guests. Freeze in zip top bags and defrost muffins for 30 seconds in the microwave.

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Chocolate Mint Kiss Cookies

The holidays are fast approaching and if you are looking for a fun twist on a holiday cookie, you’ve found it! I love anything mint flavored so this is one of my favorites. This cookie packs a punch of both chocolate and mint flavors into one small bite. The recipe makes four dozen cookies which leaves some room for sharing, if you are feeling generous.

These cookies are soft, chocolatey with a fresh hit of mint flavor. If you are not a fan of mint, feel free to leave out the mint extract and they will still be delicious. Give them a try! Enjoy!

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Chocolate Mint Kiss Cookie

Recipe Adapted From: https://www.hersheys.com/recipes/en_US/recipes/4715/kisses-triple-chocolate-blossoms.html

Yields: 4 dozen cookies

Ingredients: 

  • 48 milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped20151220_131802.jpg
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon mint extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup coco powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions: 20151220_150942.jpg

1.) Remove the foil wrappers from chocolate kisses and set aside in a bowl. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2.) In a large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, 20151220_132621.jpgvanilla and mint extract in large bowl until light and fluffy.

3.) Add eggs and milk and beat well.

4.) Stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until well blended.20151220_150725.jpg

5.) Using a cookie scoop or spoon, shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

6.) Bake 10 to 11 minutes at 350 degrees. Once you take the cookies out of the oven, gently press chocolate kiss in center of each cookie. Immediately remove from cookies from sheet and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Notes and Tips:

  • Feel free to omit the mint extract if you so not like mint.
  • The dough may be a little sticky when you go to put in on the baking sheet so I would suggest using a cookie scoop. I used a 2 teaspoon scoop and it was the perfect size!
  • You can use different flavors of chocolate kisses if you want to mix it up. I’m a fan of the plain milk chocolate but you could also use dark chocolate, chocolate and almond, mint truffle…
  • Before storing the cookies, make sure the chocolate kiss has hardened again or you will end up with chocolate mint smoosh cookies instead of chocolate mint kiss cookies.

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Pumpkin Bars

With Thanksgiving coming fast and furious, it’s time to prep your pies and other goodies for the big feast. I’m not a pumpkin pie person myself, which leaves me in a bit of a conundrum for the holiday. I thought by finding a spin on the typical pumpkin pie ingredients, that I could redeem myself.

These Pumpkin Bars were very easy to create and make enough for the whole family. The fluffy cream cheese frosting is just sweet enough to compliment the light, pumpkin layer. Give them a shot for a pumpkin pie alternative this Thanksgiving! Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yields: 20 bars

Ingredients for Bars:wpid-20151101_161822.jpg

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Ingredients for Frosting:wpid-20151101_180437.jpg

  • 6 oz cream cheese (at room temperature)
  • 6 tablespoons butter (at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Directions for Bars:wpid-20151101_162421.jpg

1.) Using an electric mixer on medium speed, cream sugar and eggs together until well mixed. Next add oil and pumpkin until well incorporated.

2.) Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon and mix until smooth.wpid-20151101_163627.jpg

3.) Pour into 10 1/2 X 15 1/2 inch baking pan. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Directions for Frosting:

1.) Cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth and wpid-20151101_181724.jpgcreamy.

2.) Next alternate adding the powdered sugar and milk until well incorporated and frosting has a light and fluffy consistency.

3.) Once bars are cool, spread frosting over the top.

Notes and Tips:

  • It’s best to have the butter and cream cheese at room temperature for the frosting.
  • Bars can be stored covered in the refrigerator for a few days or you can freeze the pan and cut off pieces as needed. The bars have a richer flavor when served cold.

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Apple Roses

Once again Fall has moved into the Midwest and I found myself in the middle of apple picking season. After a few bouts of picking, the overabundance of apples had me searching for fun, new apple recipes. My brother sent me a video of these Apple Roses being created and I decided to give them a try!

The Apple Roses look complicated to make, but the recipe is very simple and the results are stunning. They would make a great addition to any party or an alternative to apple pie at Thanksgiving. Because they are so beautiful, you may be hesitant to take a bite. But don’t be shy- dig right in! They taste like a delicious, mini apple pie. Give them a try, enjoy!

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Apple Roses

Yields: 10 Roses

Recipe adapted from: http://thelovenerds.com/2015/05/apple-rose-pastries-recipe.html

Ingredients: 

  • 3 medium appleswpid-20151010_180616.jpg
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry, thawed
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Caramel
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions: wpid-20151010_181442.jpg

1.) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the apples in half and remove the core and seeds. Using a mandolin or knife, slice apples into very thin slices.

2.) Place apple slices in a microwave safe bowl with the water and lemon juice. The lemon juice will help to keep the apples from browning. Microwave the apples for 4 minutes, or until slightly soft and pliable. You don’t want the apples to be too crisp when you roll them into the roses, or the slices will crack and break.

3.) Drain the water from the apple slices and let cool.

4.) Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the thawed puff pastry. Cut pastry into 4 to 5 strips (depending on the size of your apples) withwpid-20151010_190723.jpg a pizza cutter. Combine the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. For each pastry strip, sprinkle with cinnamon, sugar and a smear of caramel.

5.) Place apple slices on the top half of the strip of puff pastry and overlap each slice. Be sure that some of the apple slice is sticking up over the top of the pastry. Fill the whole strip of puff pastry with apple slices and then fold up the bottom half of the pastry over the apples.wpid-20151010_191453.jpg

6.) Starting at one end, tightly roll up the pastry to create the rose and then seal the end of the pastry. Lightly grease a muffin tin and place each rose in the tin.

7.) Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes or until pastry is lightly brown and cooked through. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes. Then remove roses from pan and cool on a rack. To serve, sprinkle with more cinnamon and sugar and/or powdered sugar.

Notes and Tips:

  • Use a mandolin to slice apples very thinly or take your time to do it by hand. I was quick to slice the apples and they came out a little thick.
  • Feel free to get creative with the ingredients that you add to the inside of the puff pastry. You could add nutmeg as another spice or use apple butter, caramel, butterscotch…
  • Store completed Apples Roses in a covered container.

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French Macarons

What is a macaron? What’s the difference between a “macaron” and a “macaroon”? It’s something more than just an “o”- let’s find out!

Basically both versions are meringue cookies with a base of sugar, egg whites and either ground almonds or coconut. Here is where it can get confusing- stay with me! A macaron (one “o”) is made with almond flour, egg whites, and sugar and the batter is typically dyed bright colors. The semi-liquid batter is then piped into a pan and baked. Lastly, the meringue cookies are typically then filled with buttercream or ganache. This version of the macaron has a light, crunchy outside and chewy inside, see the picture below. To add to the macaron confusion, this version of the cookie is often called a French Macaroon. For the purposes of this post, we will spell “macaron” with one “o” to imply the French version of the cookie.

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Pastries in Paris

I recently returned from a trip to Paris and each time I visit, I fall in love with it more. When I visited Paris three years ago, I was in awe of the hand-crafted desserts and they became one of the inspirations for this blog. So after my recent trip, it reignited the spark for baking and all things sweet! Paris is traditionally known for the lights, wine, and croissants, but I prefer to focus on the pastries.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite treats from the trip for inspiration and (literal) eye candy. For starters, all of the bread and bakery is outstanding and always fresh. It’s fairly common for the French to buy bread fresh when they need it, no Wonder Bread for them! In addition to the food and wine, the desserts and pastries are intricate and make your mouth water by just looking at them. 
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Lemon Swiss Meringue Tart

With the arrival of warm weather in Wisconsin, I’ve moved on to lighter, less filling desserts. These lemon tarts are an inspiration from a favorite French restaurant in my city. These lemon meringue tarts can be a time-intensive dessert project, but they are definitely worth the effort. If you are up to the challenge, you can make these tarts in stages, or over a day or two. The end result is a light, sweet and tangy tart. The buttery crust is the base for a creamy lemon curd, all topped off with marshmallow-like sweet, Swiss meringue. Give them a shot- enjoy!

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Lemon Swiss Meringue Tart

Recipe adapted from: Lecole de la Maison

Yields: 12- 4 inch tarts or 2- 8 inch tarts

Ingredients for Tart Dough:wpid-20150614_190532.jpg

  • 12 oz unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 oz powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 vanilla bean (or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
  • 1 lb all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Lemon Curd:wpid-20150614_200211.jpg

  • 125 grams of fresh lemon juice (approximately 4 lemons)
  • 75 grams granulated sugar
  • 95 grams unsalted butter
  • 75 grams sugar granulated
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 6 egg yolks, room temperature

Ingredients for Swiss Meringue:wpid-20150614_210805.jpg

  • 1 cup egg whites, at room temperature (save from making the lemon curd)
  • 10 oz of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Directions for Tart Shells:

1.) Combine butter, powdered sugar, wpid-20150614_191449.jpgsalt, egg, lemon zest and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Stir until well combined.

2.) Next add in the flour and mix until well incorporated.

3.) Divide the dough evenly in half and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1-2 hours until rolling out.

4.) To bake the shells, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take dough from the refrigerator and unwrap. Kneed the dough until it becomes pliable (but not too sticky).

5.) Sprinkle the work surface and rolling pin with a small amount of flour, and work quickly to roll out the dough to 1/8 inch thick. Be sure to pick up the dough after a few rolls tart doughto ensure it’s not sticking to the work surface.

6.) Lay out the tart pans about 1 inch apart. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and lay out over the top of the tart pans. Push the dough and the molds inward towards the center of the pile (this helps to force the dough into the wpid-20150614_205232.jpgpans). Roll the rolling pin over the top of the tart pans to trim off extra dough from the pan edges.

7.) Lightly press the dough into the pans. Prick the bottom of the tarts with a fork to prevent the dough from bubbling when baking. Bake until the dough on the inside of the crust is lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes. Cool the tart shells in the pan and then remove when cool.

Directions for Lemon Curd:

1.) While the tart shells are cooling, start on the lemon curd. In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice, 75 grams of sugar, and 95 grams of butter. Bring this mixture to a boil.

2.) Next whisk together the second measure of sugar (75 grams) and the cornstarch.wpid-20150614_201843.jpg

3.) Add the eggs and egg yolks to the cornstarch mixture and beat until well combined and free of lumps.

4.) Whisk the egg mixture into the hot lemon juice mixture. Cook over low heat until thick. Cool, stirring occasionally, to room temperature before filling the tart shells.

Directions for Swiss Meringue: wpid-20150614_213144.jpg

1.) While the lemon curd is cooling, start on the Swiss meringue. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a bowl of stand mixer (or use electric hand mixer). Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water.

2.) Cook the egg whites to 140 degrees, stirring often.wpid-20150614_214110.jpg

3.) Return the bowl to the stand mixer and add cream of tartar and whip on medium-high speed until mixture is light, shiny and holds a firm peak.

4.) Transfer the meringue into a pastry bag with a star tip.

To Assemble the Tarts: curd and tarts

1.) Take the cooled tart shells and fill with lemon curd.

2.) Pipe the Swiss meringue onto the top of the filled tarts in tall peaks or rosettes if making a large tart.

3.) Place tarts under oven broiler for 30 seconds-1 minute or use a kitchen torch to brown the top of the meringue.

Notes and Tips:

  • This recipe uses grams as a measurement to help with accurate amounts of ingredients. You can use an inexpensive kitchen scale to help with the measurements. You will also need a candy thermometer for the Swiss meringue.
  • Using fresh vanilla bean in the tart shells creates great flavor and will create pretty flecks of vanilla bean.
  • Keep the tart dough refrigerated until ready to roll out. The dough is easier to work with when it’s cold. If the dough gets too soft when you are working with it, pop it in the ‘fridge for a few minutes and take it out again.wpid-20150614_194556.jpg
  • Use fresh lemon juice for the lemon curd. It’s more work to juice the lemons, but it’s well worth the fresh flavor.
  • You don’t need the professional pastry bag set for this recipe. I found an inexpensive kit for $5 that used disposable bags and plastic tips that could be reused.
  • When browning the Swiss meringue, be light handed. You want a brown color, not black. If using an oven broiler, it can go from brown to burned within a few seconds so keep a close eye on it!
  • Store finished tarts in airtight container, in cool place for up to one week.

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