Saturday, April 26, 2014

Coconut Cream Pie Bars

Could Easter really have been a week ago? Time is flying like the wind!
We had a wonderful long visit from my daughter, son-in-law, 3 yr old Emmie and 2 month old Hudson. It was a whirlwind weekend but such fun to have little ones in the house. Just yesterday we finished off all of the leftovers ( and I sent some home with them! ). My husband announced last night that the 2 refrigerators are officially empty! I think that was a signal for baking to commence.

I'm not a huge coconut fan, but he certainly loves it ( along with anything else containing sugar). And since I am going to the gym 4 days a week, I am perfectly happy to have sweets in the house that do not tempt me. This recipe makes a 9x13-inch pan of coconut pie bars. There are several advantages... Portion control, more servings than a traditional pie and no pie crust to make! Winner! Winner!

Disclaimer: I "borrowed" the recipe from another blogger, Willow Bird Baking. Here is the link: on Coconut Cream Pie Bars
 Enjoy! They look delicious!

Coconut Cream Pie Bars

Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking with filling adapted from All Recipes
Yield: 12-16 bars, depending on size


1 cup (2 sticks) butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Coconut Cream Filling
3 cups half-and-half
3 cups coconut milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon cold water (for stabilizing)
1 teaspoon gelatin (for stabilizing)
3-4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup toasted coconut

 Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with a foil sling (I use one long sheet across the length of my dish, and two overlapping short sheets across the width of my dish — just arrange it so that it has some overlap and overhang to help you pull the bars out after they’re finished). Cut the butter into the flour and powdered sugar and press into the baking dish (I used a food processor to cut the fat into the flour — about 6-10 pulses — and then the bottom of a glass to press the mixture into the pan). Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown. Set on a wire rack.

Toast coconut for the topping: Spread about 1 cup of the coconut flakes out on a baking sheet and bake in the oven along with your shortbread crust for 3-6 minutes, stirring every minute or so, until the coconut is golden brown. Spread it out on a plate to cool completely. ( Or you can toast the coconut in a skillet, stirring constantly until lightly browned.)

Make coconut cream filling: Combine half-and-half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, whisking constantly (this can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Just do it. It’s worth it.) Add coconut and vanilla extracts and 1 1/2 cups coconut and stir. Pour this filling over your cooled crust, letting it cool for a bit on the counter before sticking the whole thing in the fridge to chill until firm, about 2 to 4 hours.

Make whipped cream topping: Put 1 tablespoon cold water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top. Let it soften for 2 minutes before microwaving it for 30 seconds and whisking to dissolve the gelatin. Using a chilled bowl and beater, whisk the 2 cups of heavy cream and powdered sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks, stopping to add gelatin mixture about halfway through. Dollop the cream over your bars and gently spread it around. Sprinkle on toasted coconut. Chill until ready to serve to let the whipped cream set up. Use the sling to pull the bars out of the dish, slice with a sharp knife, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Easter Dessert

Easter Dessert
Just out of college and newly married, we were ( job) transferred from Birmingham, Al to Jacksonville, FL. This young Alabama gal was completely lost in the big city! Thankfully, I was hired by the Florida Extension Service and went to work with an amazing staff of 4 other Home Economists ( well... 2 amazing, 1 nice and 1 just plain strange). One of these ladies, Tamer Britton, literally " raised me"!  We bought our first home in a nice subdivision and were thrilled to have kind, loving neighbors across the street. They were a little older than us, had a house FULL of kids and when we had our kids, they "adopted" them immediately. Bob Bob and Aunt Bebe ( as my kids dubbed them) were/are very special friends. Bob brought a huge bunny head ( no idea where he got it!) and placed it in our shrubs early one Easter morning! They also called our kids every Christmas Eve and pretended to be Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Talk about kids going to bed without a moment's hesitation! I was thrilled beyond words when my daughter and her husband bought their first home and we found out that one of Aunt Bebe and Bob Bob's "children" lives 10 minutes away!

In return for their kindness, my meager offering usually consisted of baked goods left on their doorstep on Sunday mornings. When Bob came out for his newspaper, he frequently stumbled over a basket of freshly baked blueberry muffins. Aunt Bebe fueled the fire when she gave me her Garden Club's Cookbook. Those are some of the BEST recipes! Community cookbooks are usually compiled of family favorites which are trusted and true.

One of my favorites from this book is the Pea Pickin' Cake. I have no idea where the name came from and the book does not say, but 4 ladies submitted the same or similar recipes. Rarely will you find me using a cake mix, but this is a worthy exception. Besides, it gives me more time at Easter for baking homemade crescent rolls, making Sour Cream Potato Salad, baking a ham, etc. etc......

Warning! This cake must be refrigerated, so if your refrigerator space is limited, pass on this one for now or you can make it in a 9x13 pan.

Pea Pickin' Cake
1 yellow cake mix
1 can Mandarin oranges
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 3-9-inch cake pans.
Combine all ingredients in bowl of electric mixer. Beat at medium speed until ingredients are combined. Pour into prepared cake pans and bake for 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pans 10 min. Remove from pans and cool completely.

1 large container Cool Whip, thawed
1 large can crushed pineapple with juice
1 small box instant vanilla pudding

Combine pineapple and pudding. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread between layers and on top of cake. Cover and refrigerate. It's best when made a day or 2 ahead.

Keep leftovers refrigerated.

As Ina Garten would say, " How easy is THAT?" Wonder if I should send her this recipe?? ............

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Rustic Mushroom Tart/Pizza

Once again.... Here's a recipe from Pinterest. I look at Pinterest while watching mindless TV like I would thumb through a magazine but instead of turning down page corners, I "pin" the recipes. I'm a sucker for a pretty face/picture. This one looked amazing and sounded scrumptious. But, you know me. I couldn't leave well enough alone. The recipe calls for a buttery flaky pie crust. ( You KNOW I HATE to make pie crust! ) so,  I substituted pizza crust. It was ok. Not scrumptious, but after all, I married "Mikey" who will eat absolutely anything! It is very rich ( and would be great as an appetizer) and very filling. I would make it again, but I would use my tart pan instead of shaping free form. Anyway, give it a try if you LOVE mushrooms, goat cheese and creamy ricotta. I see an extra 1/2 mile on the elliptical at the gym tomorrow! Was it worth it? Absolutely!

Rustic Mushroom Tart /Pizza
3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3/4 pound mixed mushrooms (such as cremini and shiitake), sliced (4 cups)
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), trimmed, cut in half lengthwise then into thin half-moons, and thoroughly rinsed or 1 small sweet onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Kosher salt
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 recipe Flaky Butter Crust or pizza crust
1/2 lemon, zest only

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

 In a large bowl, stir together ricotta, goat cheese, parmesan, rosemary, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until well mixed.

 In a large skillet, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat until the butter melts. Add the mushrooms, leek, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushroom juices release and evaporate and the mushrooms start to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine, bring to a boil, and simmer until it evaporates. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll the dough into a 12-inch round. Slide the parchment paper with the dough on it onto a half sheet pan.

Spread the ricotta mixture evenly over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Spoon the mushrooms in an even layer over the cheese. Fold the border of the dough over the mushrooms, pleating the dough every 2 inches. Immediately transfer to the oven.

 Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Grate the lemon zest directly over the mushroom filling and drizzle with a little olive oil. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Strawberry Banana Muffins

What a difference a few days has made in our weather! Glorious sunshine, warm temps, flowers blooming and fresh strawberries in the market. These muffins are moist with chopped strawberries and mashed bananas. Using brown sugar adds to the moist texture and the freshness over several days. They were a hit at our house for breakfast or a quick snack.Remember to release muffins from the pan when you take them out of the oven to allow the steam to escape. No one wants soggy muffins!

Strawberry Banana Muffins

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 cup)
1 cup fresh strawberries, cut into bite sized pieces
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Position rack in center of oven.  Line 12 muffin cups with muffin liners or spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a small saucepan melt the butter. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and mashed banana. Add the melted butter and stir to combine.
In another large bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Fold in the berries, making sure they are coated with flour.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 20 to 24 minutes, rotating halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.
Yields: 12 muffins