Tag Archives: dessert

Lemon Bars

I like you, a shop here in Minneapolis that sells handmade goods from local and regional artists had copies of this print in their shop recently:


Image from Etsy

I’ve always loved this print because it’s so true – there’s nothing that a lemon bar can’t fix.  That and because my absolute favorite VVG recipe from Grandma has always been lemon bars.  Life hasn’t been giving me many lemons to speak of lately, but that didn’t stop me from making three batches of these to celebrate the end of the spring semester.  I brought them in for one my classes this semester and promised my students that I would post the recipe.  It’s a little late in coming to them, and to you, but I hope you’ll all enjoy some lemon bars soon!

Lemon Bars
1 c. butter
2 c. sifted flour
1/2 c. sifted powdered sugar
4 eggs
2 c. sugar (you can reduce this by half and still be adequately sugared up, I promise)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1/2 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. sifted flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Cream butter.  Add flour and powdered sugar and mix.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9″ x 13″ pan.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Combine well beaten eggs, sugar, salt and lemon juice.  Mix together baking powder and flour and add to egg mixture and mix well.  Spread on the hot crust layer.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Cool completely. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

lemon bars


Plum Puffs – Anne of Green Gables style

Last weekend I hosted the nerdiest event of 2012 – an Anne of Green Gables tea party.

That’s right.  4 grown women.  Tea.  Egg-salad sandwiches.  Chicken salad sandwiches.  Biscuits and jam.  Cookies.  Plum puffs.  A viewing of the 1985 Anne of Green Gables film.

Growing up with four younger brothers, I never really got into the tea-party scene.  I had to wait until I was an adult to meet my kindred spirits (aka, fellow nerds) to fully enjoy such an event.

And by enjoy fully, I mean to say that we drank cordial (or something like it, anyway).  Okay, so it wasn’t raspberry cordial as in the Anne book (nor plum wine for that matter), and we certainly didn’t gulp it down like that greedy Diana, because at our age, we’re slightly more civilized.  And by slightly, I mean to say that for our next viewing, we have a better approach to drinking it (anytime Anne is in “the depths of despair”….drink!!).

I made these plum puffs long before my mom allowed me to drink cordial.  In my memory I remember these being really putsy, but maybe it’s just because I was young and didn’t know my way around a kitchen well yet.  In any case, I was quite happy to make these little delicacies again.  They were quite yummy, even with my substitution of blackberry jam.  Whether you’re an Anne fan or not, you should bake a batch of these up.

Plum Puffs (from the Anne of Green Gables Treasury)
1/2 c. water
3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c. plum jam
1/2 c. whipped cream

1.  Preheat oven to 425˚.  Grease a baking sheet lightly.
2.  In a large saucepan, heat the water and butter until boiling.  When the butter has melted, turn the heat to low, add the flour ans sugar all at once and mix them in thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Continue to beat the mixture over low heat until it leaves the sides of the pan, about 1 minute.
3.  Remove the pan from heat.  Add one egg and beat the mixture until it is smooth.  Add the second egg and beat again until smooth.
4.  Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls onto the baking sheet, about 2 inches apart; they should be about 1 inch around.  Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden-brown.
5.  Take the puffs out of the oven and turn the heat off.  Close the oven door.  With a toothpick or think skewer, poke a tiny hole or two in each puff to let the steam out.  Return the puffs to the turned-off but warm oven for about 5 more minutes to ensure that the insides are done. Remove puff from the oven and cool on a rack.
6.  When cool, gently split the puffs in half and fill each one with a spoonful of jam and a bit of whipped cream.

Makes about 18 delicious little puffs.



MMM Day 16: Maple and Bourbon Pear Upside Down Cake

“It’s healthy.”

That’s all you really need to know about this cake.  You need not feel guilty for having a second or even a third helping because as my friend put it so elequoently,

“It’s healthy.”

Don’t believe her?  Well, maple syrup is full of antioxidants, if you didn’t know.  And it’s a well known fact that the bourbon in a hot toddy is what cures your colds.  And, hello, pears are fruit!!  All the other ingredients are good for your soul.  So my friend is right,

“It’s healthy.”

Maple and Bourbon Pear Upside Down Cake
1/3  c.  maple syrup
1 jigger bourbon
3  peeled pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
1  c.  all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4  tsp. baking soda
1/2  tsp. ground ginger
1/4  tsp. salt
2/3  c. sugar
1/3  c. butter, softened
1  tsp. vanilla
2  eggs
1/2  c.  buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°.

Bring syrup to a boil in a medium nonstick pan over medium-high heat; cook 2 minutes. Add pears and bourbon and continue to cook until syrup thickens (about 4 minutes), gently shaking pan frequently.  Gently pour syrup mixture and pears into a 8 or 9″ cake pan.  Arrange pears in a spoke like fashion.

Combine flour and next 4 ingredients  stirring well with a whisk. Place sugar, butter, and vanilla in a large bowl and beat until well-blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time to the butter mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture.

Pour batter evenly over pear mixture. Bake at 350° for 30 – 40minutes or until cake springs back when touched lightly in center. Run a knife around outside edge. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Place a plate upside down on top of cake; invert onto plate. Serve warm.


March Maple Madness Day 4: Maple Butter Cookies

I have a confession to make.  I did not make these cookies today, but rather mixed them up and had my two friends cut them out and bake them in preparation for the Staycation Party a couple of weeks ago.  Note in the picture below that they are alligator shaped.  The whole idea of the Staycation is to go on a trip without ever actually leaving home, and I thought some Australian wildlife – we ate koala maple cookies and kangaroo maple cookies, too – would do the trick.

This recipe is adapted from Epicurious.  I’ve been adding whole wheat flour to a lot of baked goods lately, party to free up some space in my cupboard, and partly to give my baked goods a more nutty, hearty quality.  For this recipe in particular, I think the whole wheat flour was a good addition that made for a richer tasting cookie that’s not too sweet (I know what you’re thinking Dad – why bother, right?  But really, these are pretty good!).

Maple Butter Cookies
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Mix in maple syrup and egg yolk.  Fold in salt and flours until combined well.  Divide dough into 2 balls and wrap in plastic wrap.  Chill until firm, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350º.  Remove one ball from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured surface until about 1/8″ thick (or thicker or thinner depending on your preferences).  Cut cookies out using fun cookie cutters from your friends in Australia (or whatever fun cookie cutters you have).  Chill scraps.  Place cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.  Bake cookies for 10 – 12 minutes, depending on your oven.  Repeat steps with remaining ball of dough.  Gobble up them up within a week!

Maple Butter Cookies

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Day 2 of March Maple Madness brings you a dessert recipe with flavors that remind you of how wonderful the past fall was, how sweet this spring is, and how refreshingly cool and delicious the coming summer promises to be.  Though these little gems may not be the most photogenic item I’ve ever made, they are pretty tasty.

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches (adapted from Cooking Light)
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2  c.  all-purpose flour
1  tsp.  baking soda
1/2  tsp.  salt
1/2  tsp.  pumpkin pie spice
3/4  c.  granulated sugar
1/2  c.  butter, softened
1/3  c.  brown sugar
1  cup  canned pumpkin puree
1  egg
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

For the filling:
1  quart vanilla ice cream
1/3  cup  maple syrup

1.  To prepare filling, combine ice cream and syrup.  Cover and freeze 30 minutes or until firm.
2.  Preheat oven to 350°.
3.  While filling freezes, prepare cookies.  Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and pie spice, stirring with a whisk. Beat granulated sugar, butter, and brown sugar in a large bowl until well blended. Add pumpkin, egg, and vanilla; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture to sugar mixture, stirring just until moist.
4. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. With moist hands, flatten cookies into 3-inch circles. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until set. Remove cookies from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.
5.  Spread about ice cream onto the flat side of each of 15 cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down, pressing gently. Wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap; freeze 4 hours or until firm.

Pumpkin and Maple Ice Cream Sandwiches

Grandma saves the day with Crazy Cake!!

Today one of my students, who happens to be from a South American country, a place with a hot climate, noted that it was pretty warm out today so I took the opportunity to explain the word balmy to the class.  We all had a good laugh at the fact that we live in a cruel, strange world where we think 30º is warm.  Even those of us from South America.  But compared to the cold temperatures we endured last week, it is downright balmy out!

When the temperatures climb above 15º, I usually try to walk home from work.  Yesterday was just such a day.  On my leisurely walk home I remembered that I had book club later in the evening and that I should really bring some food to share.  I was thinking of making a nice citrus salad, but alas, didn’t have many of the ingredients on hand.  That, coupled with the fact that I was feeling pretty lazy – too lazy to chop a few oranges – left me with few options.  I mean really.  If you can’t handle chopping a couple of oranges, the cooking options are looking a little bleak.  I considered baking something, but that lazy component kept rearing it’s ugly head.  I didn’t want to make cookies – too much work!

But then, wouldn’t you know, Grandma came to the rescue.  I was flipping through the cards, hoping for some inspiration and there it was – Crazy Cake!  “Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt in an ungreased pan”.  Wait a second!  No bowl?  I can mix this thing up in the pan?!  And it will be ready in 40 minutes?  And be delicious?!  Crazy! I always wondered why this was called Crazy Cake, when for all those years I thought it was just a good chocolate cake with a delicious caramel frosting.  Nothing too outrageous or anything, but now I know the real reason for it’s name.  Between the ingredients and the method, it is a little crazy!

Grandma used to make this cake for us all the time.  One bite into this last night and I remembered just how much she made it.  I haven’t had it in years, but it tasted exactly like I remembered.  Rich, moist, chocolaty, and that caramely frosting…so good!  Actually, it’s VVG!

Crazy Cake
3 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1/3 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. oil
2 c. cold water

Sift flour, sugar, soda, cocoa and salt into an ungreased 9 x 13 pan.  Make 3 holes in the dry ingredients.  Pour vanilla into one, vinegar into another, and divide the oil between all three.  Pour cold water over the entire mixture.  Blend with a fork.  Do not beat.  Bake at 350º for 35 – 40 minutes.

Quick Caramel Frosting
1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/4 c. milk
2 c. powdered sugar (sifted ??)*

Melt butter in sauce pan.  Add brown sugar.  Boil over low heat 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk, continue stirring until it comes to a boil.  Remember to cool.  Then add powdered sugar, beat after each addition.

* I’m not sure why Grandma had these questions marks after the powdered sugar.  She sifted everything.  There was no question in that.  And she measured everything perfectly.  I’m also not sure what the underlining was all about on this one, but I definitely remembered to let it cool.

I only used one cup of powdered sugar last night because I felt I was going into some sort of hyperglycemic shock just thinking about all of the sugar in that frosting and guess what – it was still good.  Yes, Dad. I wrote this for you.  Minus one cup of sugar and still edible!  In fact, tasty!  Believe it!!

Crazy Cake with Caramel Frosting

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

You know what’s VVG?  My grandma’s Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies.  I haven’t made one of Grandma’s recipes in quite a while so I decided it was time to break out my little recipe box and dig out a gem.  And dig one out I did!  I forgot about how wonderful these are!

I like to think that in addition to being a tried and true Grandma VVG* recipe, these cookies also turned out well because I made the peanut butter myself.  That’s right – I made peanut butter!  No, I did not shuck the peanuts and roast them myself, nor did I manually grind them into a fine butter, but I did go through the painstaking process of pouring a bag of roasted nuts in my food processor and turning it on to watch the magic of electricity and sharp blades work it’s magic.  That counts for something, right?

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
1 c. shortening or butter
1 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 c. peanut butter
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 c. oatmeal

Mix ingredients together. Drop dough on an ungreased cookies sheet.  Bake at 375º for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

A note from Grandma:
I bake all drop cookies at 375º. Depends on your oven.  Since Grandpa replaced a spring in my oven door, it doesn’t close tight – so it’s baking by guess and by gosh!

I wish I had a picture of Grandma baking by “guess and by gosh” to share with you.  She was pretty cute perched on her stool watching the progress in her oven!!

Jar of Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies










*All of Grandma’s recipes are tagged VVG (and a few of Aunt Pat’s).  You can just type in VVG in the search field at the top of the screen and you can see them all!