Recipe: brain teaser bars
**You can still enter to win an iPod nano! You have until midnight, September 27, 2009! MST**
Thanks for all of the birfday wishes, folks! Very sweet of you :) I’m going to begin a pre-post -birfday celebration with Helen, Todd and Diane, and so many others very shortly! By the time you read this message, I will either be en route to or in San Francisco for the BlogHer Food conference. Hey now! that doesn’t mean you can all go slacking off! There is some important business at hand – so let’s get to it.
Today, Good Bite is launching the Awaken Your Senses Challenge sponsored by Quaker Instant Oatmeal. use real butter is a part of this campaign to help food charities. Twelve food bloggers have been asked to share some of their favorite food memories with Good Bite. Using those food memories for inspiration, Chef David Lawrence (of Good Bite – and a total cutie!) will create an assortment of oatmeal dishes combining Quaker Instant Oatmeal and other ingredients. Every two weeks, a new round of videos will be posted on youtube at quakertalk where you can vote for your favorite topping. Semi-finalists will be selected from each round and at the end of eight weeks, the blogger with the most votes wins.
But what do they win?
Each food blogger is championing a food charity in this challenge. The winner will have $10,000 donated to their charity. That is a lot of money, but more importantly it will help a lot of people. The charity I have selected is the Farm to School Program which promotes a mutually beneficial community relationship between local farms and school lunch programs nationwide. Here is what they do in a nutshell:
Farm to School connects schools (K-12) and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.
As food bloggers, as people who love food and cooking and eating, it might be hard to imagine that there are others who go without food more often than not. For some kids, their best meal of the day is the school lunch. Sure, we all joke about school cafeteria lunches with the puke green mystery vegetable mush – but what if that was your only exposure to vegetables? Kids who grow up eating fresh fruits and vegetables have a better chance of making those choices a part of their daily lives as adults. The Farm to School Program seeks to improve school lunches and instill good eating habits in children while at the same time creating a demand for what our local and regional farmers work so hard to provide. It benefits two very important groups: our farmers and our children – but ultimately, it is for our collective future.
Okay great! I’m jazzed – what do I do?
VOTE for your favorite topping (or vote for your favorite blogger or favorite charity) each week at www.youtube.com/quakertalk! Let’s see if we can make the semi-finals on our way to winning $10,000 for the Farm to School Program. I would love to have your support, but honestly, all of the charities are Good Causes. And thank you for doing this.
This summer I received a free copy of Julia Usher‘s new cookbook Cookie Swap for review, but never found a moment to actually make anything until a few weeks ago. That was fine though, because as timing goes, Ms. Usher will be in Boulder in a couple of weeks. Folks in the Boulder/Denver area can catch her at the Boulder Book Store on Wednesday at 7:30pm on October 7, 2009 for a talk and a book signing.
If you love decorating with icing and pretty things, this might be the book for you. The detail in Ms. Usher’s decorating is delightful, ranging from elegant cookies to whimsical cookies. As busy and as impatient as I am, I skipped all of those cookies looking for a recipe I could make quickly. Thankfully, she had some of those easier recipes for people like me.
ah yes, butter
I went for the brain teasers – a bar cookie crossed with a carrot cake. It was screaming “I’m AUTUMN!” at me with the carrots, raisins, nuts, and warm spices. So screamed back, “Alright!” Okay, I didn’t scream. I was happy to do it.
pressing the shortbread crust into the pan
You know what’s odd? I love to make shortbread, but I don’t like eating it… unless it’s the base of a bar cookie. Go figure. The shortbread crust comes together quickly with a food processor then bakes on its own. Since I was home alone, I wasn’t about to make the full recipe, so I halved it easily and it baked up in an 8×8-inch square pan with no problem.
pricking the shortbread with a fork
while the crust bakes, whisk eggs and sweetened condensed milk
There’s nothing fussy about this recipe – throw all of the remaining ingredients together in the bowl and when the crust is cool, pour it on and bake some more. It’s also fairly forgiving as there is leeway to under- or overbake by a tad and the cookies are fine.
nutty, fruity, spicy goodness
slice when completely cooled
When the bars were completely cooled, I cut them into 16 squares. Then there were 15 squares. Jeremy was out of town on travel. 14 squares. This had to stop. I took some to the neighbors and then the next day I gave the rest to my good friend, Beth. When she unwrapped the package and took a sniff, her eyes closed and she smiled. “JenJen, these smell like LOVE.” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. Those bars are dangerously easy to make and easier to consume. And while I typically reduce the leavening for baking at my elevation (8500 ft.), I didn’t this time and it worked perfectly.
a bite of autumn
from Cookie Swap by Julia M. Usher
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-size chunks
carrot “cake” topping
2 1/2 tbsps all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsps ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
3/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (about 1 cup + 3 tbsps)
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups carrots, peeled and shredded
1 1/2 cups walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup dried pineapple pieces, finely chopped
1/4 cup powdered sugar, for dusting (optional)
Set rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a 9x13x2-inch baking pan with foil, leaving an inch of overhang around the top edge of the pan. Smooth out wrinkles and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray. [I halved the recipe and used an 8x8-inch pan.] Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor. With metal blade, pulse in the butter until the mixture just starts to ball (15-20 seconds). Pat crust evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Prick the dough with a fork. Bake crust for 20-25 minutes or unti lightly browned and firm to touch. Let cool on wire rack before topping, at least 30 minutes.
Combine the flour, spices, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the sweetened condensed milk, brown sugar, eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla together. Beat until well combined. Gradually incorporate the flour mixture and stir in the carrots, walnuts, raisins, and pineapple. Pour the mixture over the crust and spread evenly. Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until the edges are caramel-brown and top is slightly puffy. Let cook completely on a wire rack before cutting. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. Makes 2 dozen (1 3/4-inch squares).