April 30, 2011

Easter Cheerio Nest Treats

This recipe is from Lauren's family, from her early days of Easters with family and friends. Recently (before Easter) Lauren was describing these delicious little treats to me, and how her family would make them each Easter, but she hadn't had them in a long time. They look like cute little eggs in nests. Magically, her old neighbor from her hometown sent her a batch for Easter this year, and I can vouch they are very tasty. I imagine they are especially fun to make with and for children. Be sure not to use off-brand ingredients (a tip from Lauren's Mom). I wish I had a picture of them!

What's in it
24 caramels
2. T. water
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (think Jiffy)
1 1/2 cup Cheerios
12 peanut M&M's - preferably Easter colors

How it's made
Put caramels and water in saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring all the time until melted and smooth. Add PB and mix.
Remove from heat. Add Cheerios. Mix until evenly coated.
Drop by round spoonfuls on wax papered cookie sheet. Press 1 M&M into each cookie (like a nest!). Place in refrigerator until firm.
Makes 12 cookies.

April 22, 2011

Banana Oat Muffins

Overripe bananas: they're a little scary looking, and honestly quite disgusting when you open them, but they are the perfect motivation for making a baked treat. I love banana bread, and make it often, when I have three or more overripe bananas. This week I only had two, so I figured I'd have to mix it up a bit.

I found a recipe for banana oat muffins on allrecipes.com, the website I usually start with when looking for a good base recipe I can adapt for my pantry. I found a simple recipe with good reviews, and it looked super easy to make. I am sure you can substitute as you like with the recipe posted here as well. A good rule of thumb - if you're not down with sugar or oil, just use applesauce instead, and a little brown sugar. You can also incorporate yogurt or sour cream in lieu of milk or oil. Get creative, have fun, banana muffins are very forgiving. (Also check out our other banana recipes: Nana's Banana Bread, Banana, Pecan, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins, and Best Oatmeal )

Banana Oat Muffins
What's in it
1 1/2 C flour (you can do half whole wheat, half unbleached)
1 C oats
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 C sugar (you can mix and match brown and white)
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 C milk (I used almond breeze)
1/3 C oil (or applesauce - I grated an overripe apple into it)
1 C mashed ripe banana
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
optional: chopped walnuts, chocolate chips

How it's made
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line cupcake/muffin pan with paper liners or spray with oil. (Recipe makes a baker's dozen.)
In a large mixing bowl, combine the first 7 (dry) ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix until just combined. Using the 1/4 C measuring cup, scoop batter into muffin pan, almost full. Bake 18-20 min until done.

April 20, 2011

Creamy Meyer Lemon Tart

Spring, 2003: A handwritten sign in a downtown Berkeley restaurant window announced, "We buy Meyer lemons." It was the first I'd heard of them and I had no idea what they were. I figured maybe they were a cross between a lemon and a lime. (Nope!) Every time I walked home I saw the sign, but I never ate at the restaurant or looked into the Meyer lemon mystery.

Fast forward to Spring, 2011: As an avid reader of food blogs and magazines, I am hearing about Meyer lemons left and right. People are raving. Desserts abound, but savory dishes do, too. I read recently that Alice Waters brought Meyer lemons from her backyard all they way to a speaking engagement in the Midwest some years back. Oh and by they way, as it turns out a Meyer lemon is more like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. Intriguing.

Though I've been hearing much about them lately, I have yet to see them in the grocery store. Maybe fancy stores carry them, but my neighborhood store does not. Fortunately, I have relatives that live in California. My dad just brought me a big bag of Meyer lemons direct from a California backyard.

As luck would have it, I also happened upon a "creamy lemon pie" recipe. I like this recipe because it is "light" (non-fat sweetened condensed milk, reduced-fat graham crackers and the like), but it does not taste like you've cut any of those corners. It is rich and creamy, sweet and very lemony--or in this case, Meyer lemony (which is marvelously the best flavors of lemons and oranges at the same time, and not too sour either.) Anyone can make a great dessert if you put enough fat and sugar in it, but a guilt-free dessert that doesn't taste guilt-free--now that's really a find. At least in my mind it is.

I'm calling this a tart and not a pie because it just doesn't seem thick enough to be a pie. (I'm sure that's not really how one is able to tell the difference between a pie and a tart, but I'm sticking with it.) The slices look a little on the dainty side, but I swear to you, once you taste this tart you will understand. It makes up in taste what it lacks in bulk. Each bite is so flavorful that you savor it slowly. And anyway, I'd rather have a small slice of something delicious than a big slice of something lackluster.

Oh, and did I mention that this recipe is ridiculously easy? Pretty sure it doesn't get better than that. I made two and froze one for a week. (It was just as good the second time.)

Creamy Meyer Lemon Tart
  • 6 whole reduced-fat cinnamon graham crackers
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 11 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grind graham crackers in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Place crumbs in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt butter on stove top or in the microwave. Pour over graham cracker crumbs, mixing with a fork until completely moistened. Press crumbs evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch pie pan (or spring-form pan, or a tart pan). Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while preparing filling.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine condensed milk and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add lemon juice and zest. Stir until incorporated. Pour into prepared crust.
  4. Bake pie for 15 minutes. Cool completely. Serve chilled and topped with fat-free "whipped cream" topping. (I think a sprinkle of zest or candied peel would be a good finishing touch.)

April 3, 2011

Easy Salad Dressing

I needed a salad to bring to a dinner party. The main course was clam chowder, so I wanted something light for the salad dressing. I love clam chowder,  but I didn't want the whole dinner to be too rich and creamy. I found a quick, easy and "bright" dressing online and made minor adjustments. Lemon juice replaces vinegar in this dressing which makes it just different enough than a vinaigrette to keep things nice and interesting. The garlic adds a great depth of flavor. (If you are not into garlic, substitute with something you like and post the variation in the comments!) The salad was a hit!

Lemon, Garlic and Olive Oil Dressing
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
  • 2 tsp salt
  1. Add all ingredients to a container with a tightly sealing lid.
  2. Shake contents vigorously until the oil is well-incorporated, about 1 minute.
  3. Drizzle over salad and toss to coat.
This recipe makes a large batch. Store remaining dressing in the refrigerator.