No-Bake Chocolate Oat Bars

This summer has been a hot one! I haven’t wanted to turn on the oven at all (can you blame me?) because we don’t have air conditioning. Every time I turn on the oven, the whole house heats up and becomes some sort of hellish heat-sink.

These are a great alternative to a baked dessert. They don’t take a lot of time to whip up, and they are delicious, and simple. Mine didn’t turn out exactly like the original post, because I overestimated the amount of oatmeal, and put a bit too much on the bottom, so there was a thin layer of oatmeal on the top.

I’m not going to waste your time in this heat wave! Go make these, because they are easy, quick, and taste amazing!

Ingredients

Yield: 12-16 bars (depending on cut size)

1 c. butter
½ c. brown sugar, packed
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. rolled oats
½ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips
¾ c. chunky peanut butter

Line an 8 x 8 pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves.

Add the oats, cinnamon, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 to 5 minutes. Take off the heat.

Pour half of the oat mixture into the pan, spread out evenly, and press down.

In a small, microwave-safe bowl, combine the chocolate chips and peanut butter. Microwave on 20 second increments, stirring constantly, until smooth and combined. Pour 4/5 of the chocolate mixture over the oatmeal.

Top with the remaining oats, then drizzle the remaining chocolate over the top of the oats. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set, then slice, and serve.

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Rhubarb Scones

It’s summertime! That means I have lots of free time on my hands, and my parents have a garden full to bursting with fresh produce, veggies, and fruits. One of the many fruits of their labour (sorry, I couldn’t resist! Ha!) is rhubarb.

My dad recently came down to visit, and brought with him a TON of rhubarb. I mean a ton. I cut it all up, and separated it, there was probably around seven cups of fresh cut rhubarb! I was so excited! Cue searching rhubarb recipes on Pintrest.

I came across a few recipes for rhubarb scones, but every recipe I found included heavy cream. Now, heavy cream is not a staple in my refrigerator. Why? Because I just don’t use it enough! I use it for baking, and that’s about it. If I’m too busy to use it, it goes bad, and there goes money down the drain. Boo! So I decided to compromise.

I searched for a simple, plain scone recipe (because I love breakfast baked goods, I just forget to make them for breakfast), and found this one that seemed absolutely perfect. It used everything I had in my pantry and refrigerator (no heavy cream, just milk. Score!), and was a plain recipe that I figured I could easily jazz up with rhubarb.

The only changes I made to the recipe, and I’ll add them below in addition to the link of the original recipe above, was to add about 2 cups of chopped frozen rhubarb to the scones, then sprinkle the tops with a simple cinnamon sugar mixture.

It’s been crazy hot here in Southern Alberta lately, so you may not see too many baked goods around these parts this summer. I reserve baking for when the weather cools off a bit, and the afternoon I made these, Lethbridge decided to grace us with a bit of a thunderstorm. It’s okay though, I’ve got some great no-bake recipes planned, including a chocolatey treat up next!

As for these rhubarb scones, just make them, and enjoy the delicious tartness of fresh rhubarb! These taste great on their own, a little tart, a little sweet, a lot of flavour. But, these babies are just as good with strawberry jam, or butter and cinnamon sugar to top with as well! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Yield: 8 scones

2½ c. flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ c. butter, cold, and cut into pieces
1/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. milk
2 c. rhubarb, chopped
Cinnamon sugar, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 425°F.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add in the butter chunks, and with a pastry blender, combine until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.

Add sugar, and stir to combine. Add in the rhubarb and the milk, and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together. It may be crumbly. Use your hands if you need to knead the dough until it becomes cohesive.

Pat dough or roll into a circle about 1½ inches thick. With a knife, cut the dough into 8 pieces. Transfer the wedges onto the prepared baking tray, letting the edges touch for softer scones, or separate for crisper scones.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until a light golden brown on top.

Pavlova with Lemon Curd

When I think of pavlova, I think of my dear friend Rita. She was the first person who introduced me to the deliciousness of pavlova, and did so in such a beautiful way that it will always be cemented in my memory. A strawberry-kiwi pavlova with whipped cream. Amazing.

With the end of the school year comes goodbyes. These goodbyes are always hard, and one of these hard goodbyes was to my fellow staff at my school. Teaching contracts can be finicky things if you don’t have a permanent or continuing contract, which I didn’t this year. Hence, we had to say goodbye.

For our year-end staff get-together, we decided to have a potluck. Considering my luck with cheesecake (you might remember my Salted Caramel Pecan Cheesecake), both myself and my fellow staff members were all for me making dessert, and I wanted it to be something special. Paul was the genius that suggested pavlova, and I had everything in the fridge to make it, including cream to make whipped cream to top it. The only thing I didn’t have was the fruit.

I bought strawberries and peaches, and made simple fruit toppings to go with the pavlova, the lemon curd, and the whipped cream. The original recipe I found here. I have found that pavlova is not particularly difficult to make, but is time-consuming. Still, the results were worth it. I will let you know, pavlovas are traditionally Australian, and are meant to be crisp on the outside, and slightly gooey and marshmallow-esque on the inside. These ended up practically perfect.

I made a few changes to the recipe, none very special or important. Instead of making one large pavlova, I made a dozen small, individual-sized servings. This made it much easier to serve. Either way, I was very pleased with the results, so were my staff members, and so was Paul. It was a win-win-win situation. This is the perfect summer dessert; light, airy, fruity, sweet, tart. It’s got a bit of everything you need.

Ingredients

Yield: 1 large pavlova, or 12 small servings

For the pavlova:

6 egg whites
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. white vinegar

For the lemon curd:

Zest of one lemon
1 ¼ c. sugar
½ c. butter, softened and at room temperature
4 eggs
½ c. lemon juice
Pinch of salt

For the fruit topping:

¼ c. sugar
1/8 c. water
2-3 c. frozen fruit (I used strawberries and peaches)
2 tsp. cornstarch, mixed with 2 tsp. cold water

For the whipped cream:

1 c. heavy cream
2 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

To make the pavlova, preheat the oven to 395°F. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. If making one pavlova, trace a cheesecake ring on the parchment paper and flip so the traced circle is next to the baking tray. If making 12 portions, line two trays with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high until soft peaks form. Add sugar, one tablespoon at a time, not stopping the mixer until mixture is thick and glossy, and the sugar is completely incorporated. Add the cornstarch with the last tablespoon of sugar. Whip until sugar is completely dissolved. Once the sugar is dissolved, use a spatula to fold in the vanilla and vinegar.

Spoon the meringue into the ring on the prepared pan, or the twelve portions on the two pans. Make the centers slightly depressed and the edges slightly higher, so the meringue forms a shallow bowl shape.

Place the meringue into the oven, and IMMEDIATELY lower the oven to 210°F. Bake for 1½ – 2 hours, until the outside of the meringue feels dry and crisp. Turn off the oven, and leave the pavlova in the oven to cool completely.

For the lemon curd, in a large bowl over a pot of simmering water (or a double boiler), combine all curd ingredients, and whisk until combined. Whisking constantly, the mixture will thicken over the course of 15-20 minutes. When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, and does not run easily off, it is done.

Transfer to a bowl, and cover with plastic wrap until cool.

To make the fruit topping, combine all ingredients in a small saucepan until thickened and smooth. Fruit will cook down until tender and soft. Transfer to a bowl and cool.

To make the whipped cream, combine all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whip until thick and smooth.

To assemble, slice pavlova, or take a pavlova round and place on the serving dish. Top with lemon curd, the fruit topping, and whipped cream, and enjoy!

 

Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I know what you’re thinking! The first reaction to sourdough cinnamon rolls is “Ugh! I don’t think that goes well together!”. I thought the exact same thing, but the more I thought about it, the more I came around. I mean, I’ve used my sourdough starter in cakes before. Why couldn’t it work for cinnamon rolls?

This recipe was also very easy. I started these rolls at about 4pm on a Saturday. I followed all instructions, and let the second rise happen overnight. When I woke up Sunday morning, the dough had risen beautifully and was ready and waiting to be rolled out and filled with gooey cinnamon filling.

Like I said, this recipe was very easy. I also found the recipe off of Pinterest, and they have wonderful options, so I was excited! The original recipe is found here. It wasn’t that time consuming, and the results were beautiful! I’d say that’s a win-win situation!

Holy man these were good! The sourdough becomes very subtle, but definitely adds something to the dough. The slight tang of the sourdough with the sweetness of the cinnamon and the the sugar? Oh yes. These are AWESOME!

Considering I’m always on the lookout for new ways to use my sourdough starter, I’d say this is a solid choice. I’ve been making tons of sourdough crackers lately (link here), and I wanted to change it up a bit. I mean, I love to snack on those freakin’ addictive crackers, but I wanted to satisfy my sweet tooth, and did I ever!

Ingredients

Yield: 16-24 cinnamon rolls, depending on how big you cut them

For the dough:

1 c. sourdough starter
1 tsp. salt
½ c. sugar
1/3 c. butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
¼ c. warm milk
1 tsp. yeast
3-4 c. flour

For the filling:

5 tbsp. butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla
½ c. brown sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

For the frosting:

1 c. icing sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. milk

To make the dough, add the sourdough starter, salt, butter, sugar and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Combine.

Add yeast to the warm milk, mix in and allow to sit for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Once foamy, add the milk and yeast mixture to the starter mix. Combine again.

With the mixer on low, gradually add the flour, 1 cup at a time (when you get to 3 cups, add a small amount at a time. Mine only took about 3 1/3 cups of flour). Dough should be in a soft ball, that is not sticky.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in an oiled bowl and allow to rise until doubled (2-3 hours).

Punch down, and allow to rise again (I let the second rise happen overnight).

Punch down again, turn out onto your work surface and with a rolling pin roll out into a large rectangle.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a small bowl, mix the filling ingredients until smooth and cohesive. Spread over the dough evenly.

Roll the long side of the rectangle tightly, and keep rolling until the dough is a log. Using plain, unflavoured dental floss, cut the dough into 1-inch sections. Place in pie plates, and bake in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown.

In a small bowl, whisk together the frosting ingredients until smooth. Drizzle the frosting over the cinnamon rolls. Serve warm.

Death by Chocolate Cake

I am a huge chocolate fan, and this cake is EXTREMELY chocolatey. As in, you-need-a-really-small-piece-and-a-big-glass-of-milk-to-go-with-it chocolatey. It’s a very rich cake, but so worth it.

I found the original recipe here, and the only thing I changed was double the recipe, so I got a three-layer 6-inch cake, and cupcakes. I made a teeny error in judgement though, and only made 12 cupcakes. I could have easily gotten two dozen cupcakes from the recipe. They rose like crazy, and I had a dozen monster cupcakes. (Paul wasn’t complaining!)

I’m posting the original recipe, and it makes one triple-layer 6-inch cake. If you are a chocolate fan, then go and make this cake! You will not be disappointed. Rich chocolate cake with a creamy, silky chocolate buttercream icing. Oh, yes. Death by Chocolate indeed!

Ingredients

Yield: 1 triple-layer 6 inch cake

For the cake:

1⅓ c. flour
⅔ c. cocoa powder
1½ c. sugar
1¼ tsp. baking powder
1¼ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
2 eggs
¾ c. milk
⅓ c. vegetable oil
1½ tsp. vanilla
¾ c. strong brewed coffee, hot

For the frosting:

1 c. butter, softened
3½ c. icing sugar
½ c. cocoa powder
¼ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
¼ c. heavy cream

To make the cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Grease three 6-inch pans and dust with cocoa powder (or brush pans with Miracle Cake Release). Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-low until yolks and whites are combined, but not over-mixed. Add in the milk, oil, and vanilla, and mix. Slowly pour in the dry ingredients while the mixer is on low. When the batter is cohesive, slowly add in the coffee and mix on low. When batter is smooth and thin, stop the mixer. (The batter will look VERY thin. It’s okay, trust me!)

Pour batter evenly into the prepared plans (recipe makes 2 dozen cupcakes if you don’t make a cake), and tap lightly on the counter to remove any air. Bake in the preheated oven for 32-35 minutes, or until centers are set, and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in the pans for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely on wire rack.

To make the frosting, cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer, and add 3 cups of the icing sugar, and all the cocoa powder into the mixer. Mix on low until combined.

Turn mixer to medium and add vanilla, salt and cream. Beat until fully absorbed and creamy. Add more icing sugar or milk if needed.

To assemble the cake, place a cake layer on cake stand, and spread an even layer of icing on the first cake layer. Top with second layer of cake, another layer of frosting, and top with last layer of cake. Finish cake with remaining frosting, covering the top and sides of the cake evenly.

Store cake in the fridge until needed, then take out about 30 minutes before serving. Slice, and serve.