O'Henry Bars

These are my version of Scotch-eroos. They have been a summer picnic staple for many years. I've tweaked the recipe a bit from the standard. I like the flavor a little simpler, so I omit the "scootch". I've also reduced the amount of rice krispies, as I like mine gooey.

This recipe makes enough to fill a jelly-roll pan. It may seem like a lot, but they go fast. Any you don't eat right away can be frozen for a couple of weeks. Make sure you cut them into individual bars before you freeze them. When you're craving a PB and chocolate fix, just take one out of the freezer and set it on the counter for 5 or 10 minutes. Enjoy.

2 C sugar
2 C corn syrup (Karo)
2 C creamy peanut butter
11 C rice krispies
2 bags chocolate chips

Pour cereal into a LARGE bowl. Set aside.
Combine sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until it melts. Pour over cereal and stir to coat. Press into a greased jelly roll pan (rimmed cookie sheet).
Melt chocolate chips in microwave or over double boiler and spread evenly over bars. You may need to refrigerate them to get the chocolate to set, but bring back to room temperature before you cut them.

Birthday Cookies for the Birthday Girl

Number three turned four today. She wanted to take a treat to school so we made these sweet little cookies together. This recipe is from "101 Things to do with a Cake Mix" . It's a great "short-cut" to homemade cookies.

1 Cake mix, any flavor
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 cup chocolate chips (we like mini m&m's)

Preheat oven to 375.
Mix together cake mix, sugar, oil and eggs. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop dough balls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pan and cool.

Zesty Black Bean Hummus

This is a tasty and healthy snack to have on hand for after-school munchies.

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drain and reserve 1/4 cup of liquid
1/4 c fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons tahini (can be found in most major supermarkets, generally in the "health food" aisle)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (start with 1/2 teaspoon, taste it after you process it and adjust the flavor)

Combine all ingredients in bowl of food processor. Process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking.
Serve with assorted veggies (we love it on carrots), pita chips, or tortilla chips.

This will store well in the refrigerator for a week or so (ours has never made it uneaten past a week).

Spring Conference Muffins

It's that time of year again. Spiritual enlightenment on TV...Omelette brunch... Muffins.

We found a sweet little muffin recipe this year. The lemon flavor was a bit subtle for my taste. I'd probably double the zest next time. Still, a great little bite-size muffin.

Pint-Size Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins
from Bon Appetit Magazine
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon (packed) finely grated lemon peel
2 large eggs
1/4 cup poppy seeds
(we also sprinkled the batter with a little sanding sugar before baking, to give them a little sweet crunch on top)

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°F. Butter and flour three mini muffin pans or line with paper liners. Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, and baking soda in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, butter, and lemon peel in large bowl to blend. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition until mixture is light and fluffy, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Beat in dry ingredients in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions. Mix just until blended. Mix in poppy seeds. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups by generous tablespoonfuls.
Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes (mine only cooked about 16 minutes, so check early). Cool in pans 5 minutes. Remove muffins from pans and cool on rack.

Cinnamon Ice Cream

Homemade Ice Cream is completely worth the effort. Trust me.

This is a variation of a basic vanilla ice cream recipe

2 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
7 whole cinnamon sticks
8 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine milk, cream, 1/4 cup of each sugar, and cinnamon in large heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and cover. Let stand for one hour to steep. Strain the mixture; discard the cinnamon sticks. Return the milk mixture to the saucepan.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar until well blended and thick. Bring the milk mixture to a simmer. With mixer on low speed, whisk 2 cups of the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture; return to the saucepan. Stir the mixture over medium-low heat with a wooden spoon, until it thickens and becomes a custard that will leave a path on the back of the wooden spoon when a finger is drawn across it -- do not allow the mixture to boil! Pour through a strainer into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on the surface of the custard. Chill until very cold, at least 8 hours.

Stir the chilled custard mixture. Pour into container of ice cream maker and mix until thickened, about 25 - 30 minutes*. Turn the machine OFF. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If desired, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in the freezer for about 2 hours (or longer) until firm. If made ahead, take ice cream out of freezer 10- 15 minutes before serving.

*I use a Cuisinart counter-top ice cream maker. I don't know how long it would take to freeze in a back porch freezer with the ice and rock salt. Check after about 30.

Banana Cheesecake Bars

We travel to Southern California about every other year. Each time, we stop for the night in Las Vegas. We make it a point (an extremely important point) to stop at a certain cheesecake restaurant while we are there because it is (was) the closest one to us. One of my favorite things to eat there: banana cream cheesecake.

Supply and demand is a funny little thing. When it took 6 hours to get to said restaurant, we made a ceremonial trip. Well, one opened 15 minutes from my house a little over a year ago. Do you think we've stopped in yet? Now that I found this recipe, we may not need to!

Banana Cheesecake Bars

adapted from Food and Family (I prefer whipped cream to cool whip and mine took a little longer to bake)

1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix, divided
4 eggs, divided
3 Tbsp. oil
2/3 cup packed brown sugar, divided
2 bananas, sliced
2 pkg. (8 oz. each) Cream Cheese, softened
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1-1/2 cups milk
whipped cream
Heat oven to 300ºF. Reserve 1 cup dry cake mix. Mix remaining cake mix with 1 egg, oil and 1/3 cup brown sugar with mixer. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Press onto bottom and 1 inch up sides of greased 13x9-inch baking pan; top with bananas.
Beat cream cheese and remaining brown sugar with mixer. Add reserved cake mix, remaining eggs and lemon juice; beat 1 min. Blend in milk. (Batter will be VERY thin.) Pour into crust.
Bake 45 to 60 min. or until center is almost set. Start checking at 45 minutes. Just open the oven door and jostle the pan a little.
Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight. Top with whipped cream and a sliced banana. Store leftovers in refrigerator.