Recipe: S’more Cookie Bars

heaven

‘Tis the season for Christmas cookie exchanges! Something about Christmas seems to make even the least kitcheny person a little bit more likely to bust out a rolling pin or cookie cutters. I learned a really brilliant lesson this Christmas Cookie Exchange Season, in fact I’m relieved to be learning this now in my early 30s. Ready? Cookie bars. This is the answer to parties where you need to have 9 dozen cookies perfectly packaged. It’s not the mixing that takes long, nor the actual baking time. It’s the rolling/cutting/or even dropping a zillion evenly placed cookies onto rotating baking sheets, parchment, silpat and the like. Cookie bars solve all this. Mix, bake, cut, give. Then instead of cutting the cookie bar into little pieces, I gave them away as a big bar, maybe 6″x6″, wrapped in parchment paper and ribbon. SO EASY.

I came across this recipe from Here . It is so easy, works out great, and pays tribute to (let’s be honest) the most loved confection of all times, the S’more. So Thank you Lovin’ From the Oven for my new absolute favorite cookie bar recipe! (You may also remember my honest and vulnerable confession about my obsession with marshmallows).

I wanted to take a minute to thank the Calgary Herald for listing Fig&Fennel as one of Calgary’s favorite food blogs! And thank YOU for reading! That was a very nice surprise to wake up to yesterday.

S’more Cookie Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)

1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.  Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together). Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
Makes 16 cookie bars.

graham dough

chocolate layer

Recipe: Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

Well Hello!!!

It’s been a long time! I hope you are all warm and well with people you love. I can’t believe fall is gone and Christmas is nearly upon us. I’m finding myself drawn to simpler things this year. Other years I find time and inspiration for decor and crafts and elaborate desserts and dinner parties and new recipes galore. This year I’m happy to read the girls Christmas books, toboggan, and meet friends for a glass of wine. But I am grateful for the season. Grateful for winter magic in little girl eyes.

Mini Cookbook update: I know. I know. I’m working on it. It’s too long and dreary to explain but let’s just summarize: new publisher, new format, first experience outsourcing(amazing), new graphic work, not a lot of free time, setting up online purchasing, soon.

I’m pretty sure I haven’t cooked anything since I last blogged which was…2 months ago. It’s true. Sexy Husband is on tour, Picky Princess and (super picky) Foodie Baby eat about 1 calorie each for supper, so I slice a lot of apples and boil a lot of eggs. I’m unapologetic. It’s the season. And seasons change all the time.

THIS recipe, however, is amazing. It is a no-fail-go-to-every-winter-binge-worthy dessert. It is easy and was handed down to me by a lady named Gail, who is wonderful. Gail is a friend of mine from Saskatoon, where I went to university. I was just there to watch a show Sexy Husband sang in and…she made it again! It brought back the happiest most nostalgic memories, even though I’ve made them myself every winter. Something about Gail making them, reminded me of cold COLD winters in Saskatchewan, surrounded by the warmest people I’ve ever met. I can’t actually find the original recipe she gave me, but it’s one that I can make in my sleep because it’s THAT GOOD. If you have holiday parties, cookie exchanges, or boring lonely nights when your husband is away on tour: this is a great treat. I’ve discovered this year that is pairs nicely with red wine(go figure).

Chocolate Raspberry Shortbread Squares

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 can sweet and condensed milk(Eagle Brand)

1 bag(approx) chocolate chips

raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add flour and stir to combine. Press 2/3 of dough into a 8×8 glass baking dish. Bake for 15 mins. Remove from oven and drizzle with Eagle Brand, chocolate chips, small dollops of raspberry jam(try to space evenly for a little on every square) and the rest of the dough. Bake for 20 minutes more until edges are turning golden. Remove and cool completely. Cut into small squares(or large ones, whatever). They are much easier to cut if they’ve been in the freezer for a little bit.

Happy December!

Recipe: Rhubarb Shortbread

Rhubarb Shortbread

…brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things…particularly if the brown paper package is filled with rhubarb straight from the garden, delivered by a friend, and still with the slightest bit of dirt on the stalks.  Just such a package arrived for me this week from a Beautiful Soul and I’ve had a great time making rhubarb inspired meals. We had rhubarb compote on chicken breasts, strawberry rhubarb crumble, and tonight’s experiment: rhubarb shortbread. This recipe is loosely taken from a Smitten Kitchen recipe that is one of my summer favorites. A few changes and voila. The sweet and nutty brown sugar spelt shortbread with the tang of the rhubarb is absolutely delicious. It all tastes a bit like…summer!

Rhubarb Shortbread

makes a lot

3 cups spelt flour(or regular unbleached flour)

1 cup brown or raw sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups thinly chopped rhubarb

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 and butter a 9×13 baking dish. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. Add butter and egg and work together with a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Tightly press 3/4 of mixture into the baking dish. Sprinkle the rhubarb over the shortbread. Top with remaining shortbread mixture. Bake for about 30 mins until edges are turning golden. Cool completely in pan and cut into squares.

Local Fare: Cruffs

Birthday Boy

Sexy Husband is 34 today!!! Happy Birthday Love! The world is celebrating him by snowing. Again. Not what he deserves for being one of those people who lives to serve others, do anything to make his family happy, and enjoy the simple things in life. He really is the best person I know.

Every year I ask him what kind of cake he wants. I’m hoping he’ll say something like 6 layer hazelnut ganache torte or baked alaska. But no, it’s always something like, Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake, or Strawberry Shortcake. I want to put monstrous amounts of effort in to show my love, he wants me to spend 2 minutes buying it, instead of 2 days baking it. Of course this is why I love him. This year he requested cream puffs. A tower of cream puffs to be exact. So I purchased enough cream puffs to feed the SW corner of Calgary. But then this morning we were downtown and noticed Cruffs, a Cream Puff Store!! Perfect! So I stopped in and now…you MUST! Click on the link to see their website.

Cruffs is owned by 2 brothers from Indonesia. The couple who were working were passionate about their cream puffs, taking great care to tell me how to store them until tonight. They were also seriously about the nicest people I’ve talked to in days. I left wanting to be their friend. This is how it works. You choose mini or regular sized cream puffs. The minis are about 3 times of the size of minis you get in a tub from Superstore. The large ones about the size of a donut. Then you pick your fill, and he injects the filling straight into the cream puff, so it’s completely fresh!!! Fillings included: hazelnut chocolate, coconut, lemon, strawberry, vanilla, and chantilly cream. How amazing is that? They cost exactly half the price of fancy cupcakes and I love the idea of getting exactly the kinds you want!

yum yum

Tonight we will celebrate with a tower of cream puffs, particularly coconut, lemon and hazelnut ones. Tomorrow is Foodie Baby’s 2nd birthday(can you BELIEVE I have 2 important people to cook for and celebrate within 48 hrs? Tricky). So the afternoon is being spent baking all things mini: mini cookies, mini scones, mini cupcakes, all for her little Button mini brunch table tomorrow. Pics to come I’m sure. Forgive my few day foray away from normal, healthy, easy meals!

My little Button

Think Fresh: Pavlova

pavlova with vanilla whipped cream and berries

Pavlova is such a beautiful, colorful dessert. It is light and airy and completely versatile. It seems like the ultimate springtime dessert. I made a couple of pavlovas for Easter Dinner this year. It just seemed right with the sun finally out, and the slightest hue of green starting to emerge.

I wouldn’t exactly call pavlova healthy, as it has a fair bit of sugar in it. However it is low in fat and sweet enough that a little goes a long way.

Follow the basic pavlova recipe below and then add any toppings you like. I like it with vanilla whipped cream and fresh berries on top, or you can top it with whipped cream and any fruit! Another favorite is to make lemon meringue pie filling, and fold in some whipped cream, layer that on top of the pavlova for a lemon meringue type dessert. You can also add a bit of cocoa to the basic recipe and top the chocolate meringe with whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts. mmm, so many options! Let me know if you try a great combination!

I’m going to give some credit to Martha Stewart for this basic pavlova recipe. It’s the recipe I use from my head for pavlova but I’m pretty sure that a million years ago when I first made it, I probably got it from Martha.

Vanilla Pavlova

1 serves about 8

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200. In a standing mixer, beat 4 egg whites, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1/2 tsp cornstarch and a pinch of salt. Mix on medium until very frothy. Very slowly add 1/2 cup superfine sugar. Beat on medium-high until stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and very slowly add 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar. Beat on medium-high until very stiff glossy peaks form, 5 more minutes. Beat in 1 tsp vanilla. Using a spatula, plop meringue onto parchment and form into about a 9 inch circle, making a bit of a divot in the middle for the filling. Bake for 2hrs. Meringue should be marshmallowy in the centre but dry to touch and easily lift off parchment. Turn off oven and crack door open. Let cool in the oven. Whip cream and add toppings right before serving(or up to 1 hr ahead). Enjoy!

Think Fresh: Sugar Free

We don’t eat a lot of sugar around here. Not for the calories, not for weight loss, but for the sheer reality that sugar is dangerous to our bodies, creates an environment for bad things to grow inside us, messes with our natural cellular functions, and stresses our immune system. I can completely tell in my body too when sugar is more present. If I eat poorly, I feel every painful detoxifying second in the Bikram Yoga hot room I practice regularly in. If I don’t have sugar in my system, I feel great! To be honest, when we don’t eat sugar, I don’t miss it or even notice it. But it has a way of creeping back into our lives. It is just EVERYWHERE, and it can easily become a habit for me, to have it around. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the odd dessert or special treat. But when it becomes that I am consuming some amount of sugar, every day, it’s too much. Let’s be honest, it’s not a treat if you have ice cream every day. So every once in a while I feel the urge to eliminate sugar completely from our lives, just for a week or two to get back on track. I like to think of it as spring cleaning for the body!

That’s where we’re at this week. Sexy Husband and I are off sugar for a couple of weeks. Thankfully we eat healthy enough that it’s not too dramatic(although he is a chocoholic so it’s a bit more painful for him;). HOWEVER, life is meant to be enjoyed and there are so many amazing and natural sweet things out there that are sweet simply because they were made to be that way, not because they’ve been chemically manufactured for sweetness.

Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and fruit, are all great sugar alternatives. Once you get used to the more natural taste of sweet, refined sugar can seem too cloying.

So here’s an idea. I made this as a little pre-class snack for one of my bff’s who is pregnant with baby number 2, baby number 1 just turned 1 and she’s a full time university student(so she’s busy and needs healthy snacks!) So simple, took 2 minutes to prep:

Slice one pear into paper thin slices. Divide between two bowls. Pour 1/4 cup of whipping cream into a standing mixer. Add 1 tbs of maple syrup and 1 tsp of cinnamon. Beat until whip cream is lightly whipped. Place a couple of spoonfuls of spiced whipped cream on the pears and serve. So yummy!

The bottom line is this: I have kids, we like sweet things. I’m not going to pretend that eating ultra healthy things that taste like dirt are satisfying. But there are many ways to make small changes, decreasing the amount of sugar we eat. Hopefully I can give you some ideas this week!

Baking: Caramel Fudge Macadamia Squares

Caramel Fudge Macadamia Squares

In case the title of the dessert didn’t give it away: these are not healthy squares. These are a special treat. We have some friends coming over tonight and we’ve placed a ridiculously enormous sushi order in from our favorite place here in Calgary. I’ve managed to not have to cook hardly at all this week so I thought I should bake a little something, just so I don’t forget how! It was all a little bit of an experiment, and after sampling one or two(or five) of these squares, I can assure you…delish. Totally over the top, totally decadent, perfect for cutting into little pieces.

Caramel Fudge Macadamia Squares

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 can eagle brand sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

1 tbs cocoa powder

2 tbs unsalted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

handful or two each of macadamia nuts and shredded coconut

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Butter a 8×8 glass baking dish. In a food processor, combine first 3 ingredients. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into pan and bake for 15 minutes. Meanwhile in a small saucepan, over medium heat, stir eagle brand, chocolate chips and cocoa powder until melted and smooth, just a couple of minutes. Set aside. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine butter and sugar. Stir until smooth and combined and then let simmer until the whole top of the caramel is frothy with bubbles(3 minutes of boiling or so). Remove from heat and stir in cream. Pour chocolate ganache mixture over the crust, sprinkle coconut and nuts over the chocolate and drizzle caramel over the top. Bake for about 20 minutes more. Remove from heat and cool completely until set. Cut into squares and serve!

Brown Sugar Caramel

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