An Easy Valentine Treat

These treats are easy to make if you have some time. You will need:

Mini pretzels

Semi- sweet or dark chocolate chips

1 Tbsp coconut oil

Caramels cut in halves

Jimmies( sprinkles) if desired

First heat oven to 325 F. Lay out a single layer of pretzels on baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent a sticky messy pan. Place half a caramel on each pretzel. Bake in oven about five minutes more or less. While they are in the oven, melt the chocolate chips with coconut oil on the stovetop. Stir constantly so it won’t burn.

Once the pretzels are out dip each pretzel in chocolate. Top with jimmies if desired. Store in an airtight container.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! It doesn’t matter if you are married or have a significant other. If not have your best friend, your pet, your kind neighbor, co- worker or grandchild be your Valentine! Smile at everyone you meet. Spread love everywhere you go!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕💕💕💕

Baking with Coconut Oil

As most of you must know by now, I love to bake! I live in the perfect region to do this, the Northeast. The seasons Fall and Winter host ample time to run the oven as the temperatures are cooler then. Running the oven helps heat our kitchen as well. I don’t bake as often in the summer unless it’s a rainy cool day or early in the morning.

About a year and a half back I read somewhere how bad Canola oil is for your health, my primary staple along with butter in my baked goods. After researching other options I decided to try using Coconut Oil. I found the cheapest options at Wal-mart just under $10 for a big jar. Then it was time to experiment and use it in recipes.

Early on I discovered that simple putting it in recipes from the jar wasn’t going to work smoothly. It’s a thick shortening like state and doesn’t cream well. Simply by trial and error I learned that melting it in a small pan before adding it to recipes did the trick. It adds a slight coconut flavor in goods, sometimes noticeable and others not. I recommend you to try it if you dislike coconut. My son Dylan doesn’t like coconut but enjoys my baked goods with it. Experiment and see the results.

I keep my Coconut Oil for a few months. Once it starts to smell rancid I throw it away. My latest jar I’ve had for awhile and it has kept well in the cool cupboard.

Try Coconut Oil in crepes and pancakes, cakes and cupcakes, zucchini breads and cookies and bars.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ☺️

Baking and Hiding Treats!

Featuring Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

My healthy chocolate chip oatmeal cookies made with banana

Lately I have a problem. A sweet problem, that is. I want desperately to bake sweets to please my family and co- workers, yet the temptation that goes with having goodies in the house is too much for me. ( especially around the holidays) I make my husband hide the air tight cookie container but then he forgets where he has hidden it! Sounds like something I would do!

 

Once it gets frigid here with a blanket of snow everywhere there is a comfort of an oven baking. It warms the whole kitchen with a nesting glow and the scent of fresh baked goodies wafts throughout the house. I tend to bake with candles lit and my music playing in the background. I’m an old school baker as I wear my apron, use wooden spoons yet with a modern twist with the use of my trusty Kitchen Aid mixer.

 

Here is a list of cookies and bars I enjoy to make.

  • M&M cookies
  • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Blossoms ( with a Hershey’s kiss)
  • Lunch Lady Brownies
  • Butterscotch Oatmeal Cookies

Here is my favorite Chocolate Chip Oatmeal cookies recipe that I make often. They are delicious and are hard to eat just one! This isn’t the recipe made with banana but I’ll try to share that soon. 

The Best Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • You will need :
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, unpacked
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole rolled oats, not instant
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch salt, optional
  • 1 cup heaping semi- sweet chocolate chips

Combine egg,butter,sugars and vanilla in mixer. Beat on medium speed for four minutes until creamed and combined. Stop and scrape the sides of the mixer. Add oats, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, optional salt until just combined, about a minute.

Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl. Add chocolate chips and beat until combined.

Using a large cookie scoop form equal sized balls and flatten slightly on cookie pan, about two inches apart. If you wish strategically place a few choc chips on each mound. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake for 11 minutes or until edges and top are set. Don’t overtake as cookies firm up as they cool. Cool on rack. Can be kept in airtight container for a week and in the freezer for up to 6 months.

I hope you will try this recipe. You can make it gluten free by using gluten free flour like oat flour. It may change the consistency but they will be amazing!Happy baking, my friends.

As I close this post I want to focus on positive thinking and faith. If you are going through troubles right now, please remember turning your thoughts ( and praying too if you practice that) to positive and uplifting ones, it will help. When I experienced health troubles for a few months I prayed for strength but acceptance as well. Any bad experience in your life is meant for a lesson. It’s power can build you up, to a stronger person with a new appreciation of all the wonders in life. Have faith that crooked roads lead to beautiful peaceful pastures! 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 😘

Almond Butter Brownies, Gluten Free, Delicious!

This is my sweet sister- in- law Bev’s almond butter brownies. She found the recipe online somewhere and made these for our family Thanksgiving dinner. They are gluten free and healthy, using maple syrup instead of sugar but most importantly they are delicious! Even both my sons gobbled them up, convincing me to bake them for Christmas!

You will need:

  • 1/4 c. and 2 Tbls. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. Soft almond butter
  • 1/2 c. and 3 Tbls. maple syrup
  • 1/2 c. rolled oats crushed or I used 1/3 c. Oat flour. You can use almond flour instead if you wish
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease or line a 8 inch baking pan. Bake 15 minutes and let cool for an hour. Can be refrigerated for up to a week. Don’t overcook. These are soft, rich in flavor and fudgy. Delicious!

An up close photo of the last brownie!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul💕

Cookie Day 2019

A few years ago

Every year my mom, sister and niece gather with me to celebrate the holidays. Our true intention is to create a way to connect over a busy few weeks of the holidays. We soak it all in in one Saturday afternoon, gazing at our Christmas tree and decorations, toasting to our kinship and time together and lastly but not least, we bake cookies.

In previous years we have all brought ingredients to mix and bake one type of cookie. I’ve made peanut butter kiss cookies, chocolate crinkles and cherry chocolate cookies in the past. Now that we’ve mastered this tradition we have gotten smarter. The three of us mix the dough ahead and bring to bake them together. This saves time and space, for four busy bakers in one kitchen can get confusing.

The last several years us girls held cookie day at my house. This year we had it at my sister’s new home about 45 minutes north of me. My mom met me at my house with all her goodies and we packed my car for the ride.

This year’s cookie day toast

My niece Ella Kate rolled out sugar cookies playfully while we listened to Christmas classics such as Bing Crosby’s White Christmas. We rolled and we laughed. We taste tested and reminisced of days of old when we were little girls at Christmas. My mom made coconut macaroons with a new twist, a plopped Hershey’s chocolate kiss on top. I made peanut butter blossoms with kisses. I designated Ella as my helper to unwrap all the kisses so that when the cookies were done we could quickly press them on each treat. One year I messed up by not preparing them ahead and in the time it took to unwrap them, the cookies started to cool and the kisses didn’t melt and stick. Take my advice, do the prep ahead of unwrapping so once the cookies come out of the oven, the kisses are ready!

We were all having such a good time baking, decorating and talking, I forgot that I had another bowl of chocolate kisses and started using my mom’s. The bowl was hidden among other plates and bowls and I discovered them after I used my mom’s! I easily get side tracked in a hoopla of fun but live and learn! No harm done.

While I’m talking about Christmas cookies I wish to share an awesome yummy cookie recipe I found on tv. For a few weeks I was hooked on watching Giada’s Holiday Handbook, watching her craft holiday treats for her family and friends. I jotted down a few recipes including her Peppermint Sandwich Cookies, little light whoopie pie like cookies with a peppermint filling inside. I made them for my family and co- workers and they were a hit!

  • Giada’s Peppermint Sandwich Cookies

You will need:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 4 oz melted bittersweet chocolate ( cooled a bit)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. Nonfat yogurt or Greek yogurt, I used nonfat
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/2 c. cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder

For peppermint frosting:

  • 2 sticks ( 1 c ) softened butter
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • dash salt
  • 8-10 peppermint patty candies chopped

Combine dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix wet ingredients. Gradually fold in dry ingredients to the wet mixture. It will resemble cake batter. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 375 F. Drop tablespoonfuls if dough, five across and 3 down on a standard baking sheet. Bake about 9 minutes.

Cool on rack. Meanwhile mix frosting together. Once cookies are cool, add filling on one cookie and sandwich with another. Can be refrigerated or kept in a sealed plastic container.

You can freeze any leftover frosting for another time. I tried it and it was delicious once I thawed it out.

Serve with pride and expect to have an empty serving platter after. They are delicious!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul😘

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

This is from the Rachel Ray magazine but I’ve adapted the recipe to be gluten free.

In autumn I get my trusty comfort food recipes out of my cookbook binder. Many recipes I have made and baked over the years, mostly by season. In the spring around Easter I make chewy lemon bars and in the summer I bake strawberry angel food cupcakes and chocolate zucchini bundt cake. Come winter it’s time for delicate and sweet Christmas cookies, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, homemade pizza, and my father- in – law’s beef stew. Now that fall has come I’m immersed in making apple crisp, pumpkin pancakes and brownies, crockpot baked beans and caramel apple cupcakes.

Years ago when the boys were little, we made caramel apples with the popsicle wooden sticks in them. We would roll them in chocolate chips, peanuts or coconut. Most of the time we made them around Halloween. Several years ago I was getting the Rachel Ray magazine, where I found some recipe keepers and good ideas. One day I found this delicious caramel apple cupcake recipe, reminding me of those caramel apples we made years ago. I baked them right away and everyone loved them! Now every October I make them at least once.

A look at my fall kitchen

This recipe I’ve adapted to be gluten free made with gluten free Bob’s all purpose baking flour. It’s appropriate for people who are watching gluten but it doesn’t compromise taste.

You will need:

1 1/4 cup flour ( I use Bob’s Gluten free all purpose flour)

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 c melted coconut oil

2 tsp vanilla ( I use pure )

3 cups chopped apples

For topping:

1 1/2 cup unwrapped caramels

1 Tbl heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin pans or line with cupcake liners. In a large bowl whisk flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. ( I mixed the dry ingredients in my mixer) In a separate bowl mix sugars and eggs until smooth. Stir in coconut oil and vanilla. Gradually combine dry and wet ingredients. Lastly gently add chopped apples. Spoon batter into muffin wells. Bake until golden about 25-30 minutes.

While the cupcakes bake, make the topping. Combine caramels and heavy cream in a small pan on medium heat on the stove. Stir often until melted. Once cupcakes are done and cooled, frost with caramel topping. Store at room temperature or in refrigerator.

 

 

Forgive my blurry photo but trust me, they are so so good!

These are messy but are delicious and okey gooey! In one day a dozen of them turned into 5! Eat them with a tall glass of milk or almond milk!

Happy Fall to y’all! I hope you are baking to your hearts content or doing what you love this season!

All My Best,

Mary 😄

Gluten Free Apple Crisp

Years ago my co-worker Judy gave me her apple crisp recipe that has become one of my family’s favorite desserts. Every fall I make it several times and then again on Thanksgiving for Dylan. It always comes out bubbly and delicious and usually my family eats it all the same day! Now that I need to bake differently, (if I’m going to have any) I’m adjusting my recipes to be gluten free. Here’s my adapted recipe that worked for me. Ignore the salt…haha…I didn’t use any but had a brain cramp that I needed it. 😂

You will need:

  • 5 cups sliced apples ( peeled)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar ( I use 3/4 and it’s just as sweet)
  • 3/4 cup King Arthur Gluten Free flour
  • 3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oats
  • 2 tsp. Cinnamon, sometimes I add more
  • 1/2 cup butter, cold

Begin by peeling and slicing the apples. Place in a buttered 13x 9 pan or a 9 inch square pan. Combine flour, oats, cinnamon and brown sugar. Press mixture on apples. Bake in a preheated 350 F oven for about 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. It’s great with almond ice cream or whipped cream or simply alone. Enjoy warm or cold.

See it’s so good that it’s almost gone! I just made this!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend. I’ve had a few days off due to staff development ( I opted out of it as I’m taking a 12 hour course the next few months) and tomorrow off to observe Columbus Day. I plan to bake cookies for work, rake my back lawn and do my Pilates dvd that I love.

All My Best,

Mary

It’s All About Tomatoes!

Last night we had a hard frost here in northern New Hampshire. Despite the glittery ice frosting the plants in the garden as well as the flowers in the window boxes, stark reminders of the growing season lie on the kitchen counter, fresh garden tomatoes. Red ripe juicy globes await to be roasted into sweet caramelized sauce. An overflowing bowl of more tomatoes will be simmered slowly into a thick spaghetti sauce for pasta.

Tomatoes ripening

Every late September into early October, I allot my weekends to put up my tomatoes. Sometimes I make spaghetti sauce and others I roast them. In preparation for the sauce, first I boil them with their skins on. After that I plunge the beauties into a cold water bath. This process makes it easier to skin them.

With cutting board and a sharp knife, I cut out bad spots. Next I load them in the blender and pulse it so they’re smooth. It’s time to simmer the sauce with basil, Oregano, Salt, Pepper, a tablespoon of Olive Oil and two tablespoons of sugar. I also add Prego Spaghetti sauce to thicken it. It still tastes homemade but hold together better in a thick yummy sauce.

Tomatoes are a wonderful tasty addition to stir frys, grilled cheese sandwiches, pesto veggie sandwiches and one of Tom’s favorites BLTs. Once you’ve home grown your own tomatoes, you get spoiled for the taste knocks it out of the ballpark and you can’t go back to store bought. The taste just isn’t the same!

Can you taste that scrumptious tomato? I’ll enjoy a few more before next September. The wait will be long and difficult, but it will be well worth the wait!

Until next time enjoy those fresh tomatoes!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💕

Everything Zucchini!

73E72BFD-1E28-4EC7-897D-36D2FD76B957.jpeg Most gardeners know there’s a harvest time of scarcity and a time of plenty. Usually when the garden starts producing, it’s slow. I pick rich green leaves of lettuce and herbs first while I patiently wait for other veggies to be ready. It’s mid- August and I’ve been picking zucchini consistently for about two weeks. Most days I pick at least two or three green squashes. Bringing my kitchen shears comes in handy as I need them to cut the thick stem while I hold the squash stem tightly with my other hand and twist it. If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a severed stem. This happened to me the other day forcing me to use that squash right away. It seems to dry out without a stem. Some ways I use zucchini are: zucchini mini bread chocolate zucchini bread zucchini carrot muffins chocolate zucchini cake stuffed zucchini with hamburger, rice, chopped tomatoes and cheese ( made pretty closely to stuffed peppers but in a hollowed out zucchini squash ) sautéed zucchini with summer squash ( in butter) zucchini spice whoopie pies ( see a recipe soon!)
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Can you spy the zucchini sandwiched between the corn and broccoli?
However you use this hearty vegetable, it will surely satisfy your family! Thankfully zucchini is easy to grow and hard to kill. No matter the weather, the plants always grow well with enough weeding and watering. Every year I tend to have too much of it so I share with family and my co- workers. In past years I’ve grown less but this year I had a lot from seeds, about eight vivacious plants. All My Best, Heart and Soul 🥰

Putting up Cilantro & Cilantro Hummus

Cilantro is an interesting herb with a pungent wild scent that lingers on my fingers after picking. The woodsy green plant sports beautiful leaves and sprigs. I discovered cilantro a few years ago and have been growing it ever since. I love the taste added to different dishes especially salsa and hummus!

My favorite thing to do with it is to add it to salsa for a fresh taste. This year I stumbled upon a recipe for Cilantro Hummus on Pinterest and have made it twice now. It skips using Tahini but uses fresh garden Cilantro, chick peas, salt and pepper and olive oil. I love it with gluten free pretzels or spread on a veggie sandwich!

Yesterday I picked a bunch of Cilantro, washed it, dried it with paper towels and chopped it up fine. Next I put a bit in each ice cube tray, topped it off with olive oil and water so it would freeze quickly. Once the cubes are frozen I pop them out and place in a marked freezer bag. When I wish to cook with the herb I simply need to get a cube out of the bag! It’s easy! I also do this with my Basil.

Here is my adapted version of the recipe I found on foodfaithfitness.com. Her recipe includes Jalapeno and Tom and I don’t eat it, it’s too spicy for us.

You will need for my version:

1- 15 oz can Chickpeas drained ( I buy Goya)

2-3 Tbsp. Cilantro finely chopped ( I have a Pampered Chef Garlic press…it’s great!)

2 cloves garlic peeled

1 Tbsp fresh lime juice

1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Water

Place everything in food processor or blender. Add Olive oil and water. Blend until smooth. Now you are done! I stored mine in the refrigerator for about 4-5 days. Serve with pita chips, pretzels, fresh veggie crudités or spread on a sandwich. Delicious!