Coconut Lime Bars

Although moments like these are too cute, I always have a bit of guilt when they happen. Poor baby Micah had been fussing at me from her bouncy seat for about 10 minutes. Of course, I was in the middle of something else "important" and ignored her. When I finally went to check on her, she had given up on me and fallen asleep. Poor little baby just needed her Mommy to come put her in bed. Is that asking too much????
Usually, I'm in the kitchen when the child neglect takes place. Obviously, feeding the eight of us three meals a day requires a lot of time in my culinary factory. It is recipes like these bars that make my time there fun and interesting. If only Micah would have been able to enjoy them, I wouldn't have felt so guilty about neglecting her :-)
I had to take a picture of the filling before I baked them. I thought it was so beautiful with the flecks of lime zest throughout. They taste just as good as they look. Strong and fresh from the lime and the crunchy, crumbling, coconut topping is perfect. They were a bit softer than I had thought, so I served them on a plate with a fork....which makes them just fancy enough for when we have friends over for dinner!

Coconut Lime Bars
1/2 C butter, room temperature
1 C brown sugar
1 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C oats
1/2 C shredded coconut
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C fresh lime juice
2 tsp grated lime zest

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9x9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until everything comes together in a crumbly mixture. Mix in coconut and oats. The finished mixture will be dry and sandy. Press two cups of the mixture into the bottom of your prepared pan.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and zest. Pour over the top of the oat mixture in the pan. Crumble all the remaining oat mixture over the top of the lime filling and bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting. Keep in the fridge if you prefer them to be firmer.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Anyone who reads a food blog or two knows the debate that constantly circulates about the best chocolate chip cookie recipe and how long to refrigerate your dough before you bake them. In my opinion, all chocolate chip cookies are delicious fresh from the oven. The true test of a good cookie is how they taste by day #2 or 3. These have made it to the top of my list.
I have made these twice in the past week and played with the length of time in the fridge before baking. Though I couldn't tell much of a difference in flavor, there was a big difference to me in the texture of the finished cookie. The longer in the fridge, the better the texture of the finished cookie.

I also wondered about my baking surface so I used parchment, silpat and a plain cookie sheet to bake them on. They maintained their shape best on parchment paper, followed next by silpat but spread pretty flat on the plain cookie sheet.

My verdict: keep them in the fridge for 24 hours and bake them on parchment paper. They are easy to mix by hand so get going and into your fridge! That is the hardest part of the recipe....waiting!!!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
from Alton Brown

1 C butter, melted
1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 Tb milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 C bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 C semisweet chocolate chips

1. Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside
2. Add the sugars to the melted butter in a large bowl and beat well. Add the egg and yolk and mix until smooth. Add the milk and vanilla and mix until combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Chill the dough for 24 hours.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Using your 1 1/2" cookie scoop, take two scoops of dough and form them into one cookie. To get the rough tops to your cookies, break the dough ball in half and push the smooth sides together, leaving the rough edges on the top of the cookie.
4. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper and put 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through the baking to ensure even browning. Allow cookies to sit for a few minutes on the sheet after removing from the oven then cool completely on a cooling rack.

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole

Am I alone that when I hear the word casserole, I cringe just a little bit? Of course, in Minnesota, they are called a "hot dish" but don't get me started on weird Minnesota sayings and words. That could take all day.

You see, in my house growing up, casseroles tended to be a means of emptying out the fridge. Take whatever meat, veggie, cheese or leftover there was, mix it with a cream of something soup and viola....dinner! (Sorry Mom, but I still love you more than life even with the permanent scarring that was inflicted)

I'm glad my aversion to the word "casserole" didn't keep me from giving this recipe a try. It was a very different way for me to eat butternut squash. The recipes I've used before have brought out the sweetness of the squash but this is definitely a savory dish. My hubby and I really enjoyed it and loved the crunch of the pecans. The reviews were mixed from my kids, but that is why I served it with some hot homemade bread.....if you want more bread, eat your dinner first :)

Butternut Squash and Spinach Casserole
3 1/2 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4" slices
3 large handfuls of baby spinach
3 Tb butter
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 C milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp dried thyme
1 C bread crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 C pecans
2 C grated cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick spray.
2. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot over high heat. Add the squash and cook for 6 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for one more minute. Drain and set aside.
3. Return the pot to the stove and add the butter and oil. Add onions and saute over medium high heat until limp. Remove from the heat and add the squash, spinach and everything else but a 1/2 C of the cheese. Mix to combine well.
4. Spread into the greased pan and sprinkle with the remaining cheese . You can also add a few more nuts on top if you desire. Bake for 50 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pizza Bites

I've been driving now for 22 years and for the first time ever, I pulled a complete "dumb blonde" moment and ran out of gas....right in front of the gas station!

I was so grateful when a tow truck stopped to help me. That is, until he found out I didn't need a tow, just someone to help me push my car a few feet into the gas station. He then got in his truck, and pulled away!! Can you believe that?!?

Luckily, my kind, loving, understanding and forgiving husband showed up to rescue me from my own stupidity.
Not only is my hubby my Knight in Shining Armor, he is also a great hand model for my baked goods! These little gems were HUGE with my crew, especially with some of my jarred marinara from my garden to dip them in! I made a double batch and had to beat the kids off the last few so I could pack some in their lunches the next day.
Next time I make these, I want to include a chunk of mushroom as well. I also think these would be yummy dipped in some ranch dressing.

Pizza Bites
1 recipe pizza dough (here is mine!)
sliced pepperoni
4 oz mozzarella cheese, cubed into 24 pieces
olive oil
italian seasoning
parmesan cheese
garlic powder

1. Bring your favorite pizza dough recipe to it's first rise. Deflate and divide into 24 even pieces. Flatten each piece, and wrap it around 2 pieces of pepperoni and one cube of cheese. Place seam side down into a greased 9" pie plate. Repeat with remaining dough pieces.
2. Brush the tops of the pieces with olive oil then sprinkle on some parmesan, italian seasoning and garlic powder. Allow to rise for 20 minutes, then bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve hot with your favorite marinara, if desired.