nut free

Chocolate Oat Bars

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Back in the day — when I was a kid, that is — my brother and I walked home from school at 3:00 and knew it was our responsibility to practice the piano (our teacher required an hour a day), do our homework and get dinner ready.

Ours was a working Mom; she taught us how to set the table; she prepared the food and we put it in the oven at the appropriate time.

She was responsible for making sure there were cookies and milk when we got home — to feast on before said chores and stuff.

Sometimes she left us store-bought cookies. I have memories of fig bars, Hydrox and shortbread.

But mostly she baked. Butter cookies. Peanut butter cookies. Oatmeal-Raisin.

By the time I had my own children, life was very different. They took a school bus home and walked down the hill to our house. I was a working Mom, but my job as a food writer meant I worked at home.

I didn’t usually give them cookies and milk. Food styles had changed, so snacktime meant granola bars or those peanut-butter filled cheese crackers (I bought those because I mistakenly thought they were healthy). Sometimes a frozen burrito.

Looking back — I really like the milk and cookies thing. I miss those days. I miss the milk and cookies. Especially the dunking of cookies in the milk and then trying to bite off a soft milk-drenched piece before it fell into the bottom of the glass.

Cookies really are much better than frozen burritos and peanut-butter filled cheese crackers.

So, for all the parents of all the kids who are coming home from school now that the new term has begun — here are some cookies to consider for snacktime after school, before the piano practice or homework or whatever they have to do before the day is done.

Chocolate-Oat Bars

Cookie layers:

  • 1 cup butter

  • 2 cups packed brown sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

chocolate layer:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk

  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons butter

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 15-inch x 1-inch jelly roll pan.

To make the cookie layers: beat 1 cup of the butter with the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and well blended. Add the eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Add the oats, flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Beat for 1-2 minutes or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Press about two-thirds of the mixture into the prepared pan.

To make the chocolate layer, place the condensed milk, chocolate, butter and salt in a saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2-3 minutes or until the chocolate has melted. Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract and raisins. Spread this mixture evenly over the cookie layer. Sprinkle with the remaining cookie crumb mixture. Bake for 20-24 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool and cut into squares.

 Makes about 48

 

 

Zucchini Bread

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When we were first married, Ed promised me 50 years. That was in 1969. We were young and 50 years seemed like a REALLY REALLY long time.

Grandparent stuff.

But here we are. A few months short of 50.

Wasn’t it yesterday that I fit into that long white dress?

We wanted to celebrate with two other couples, all close friends, who are also at 50.

But we didn’t want to have a big party. Not even an intimate dinner party for six. Although those are lovely, it seemed like the same-old, same-old. 50 years deserved something special.

So we decided to have a 150th Anniversary Afternoon Tea.

It was festive, fun and celebratory.

We started with champagne and tea sandwiches.

Then: scones, clotted cream and jams.

Finally, dessert: several kinds of cookies, Lemon Buttermilk Cake, Pumpkin Spice Cake and this: Zucchini Bread, (made with zucchinis from my garden!).

Just us 6. It was a good day.

We all talked about how amazing it is at how quickly 50 years go by.

Zucchini Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 2 cups grated fresh zucchini

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Place the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and whisk the ingredients until they are evenly distributed. Place the brown sugar, sugar, eggs, applesauce and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and stir just until blended. Fold in the zucchini. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Invert the muffins onto the rack to cool completely.

Makes one loaf

Banana Oat Marble Bread

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So, okay, as usual — the family was here for Mother’s Day. I bought a ton of fruit. All gone.

EXCEPT for a few bananas.

And so: Banana Bread. This one with oats and chocolate. It’s moist and gently sweet. Could do as dessert or just with some coffee as a snack. A little nosh.

Freezable too.

Banana Oat Marble Bread

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup quick oats

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 3/4 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 large eggs

  • 3 medium very ripe bananas

  • 1/4 cup fruit juice such as mango, orange or apple

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.

Melt the chocolate and set it aside. Mix the flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and set it aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with a handheld or electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mash the bananas and add them to the sugar mixture. Beat thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the juice and vanilla extract. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spoon the melted chocolate on top and use a knife to swirl the chocolate into the banana batter. Bake for 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a cake rack.

 Makes one bread serving 10-12

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

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Every year I make two charosets for our Seders: the family favorite (a Persian style with pistachios, dried fruit and a hint of cayenne), and also a new one.

Last year the newbie was this Dried Fig and Coconut charoset. It was a BIG HIT!

It’s easy to make, you can make it ahead and it is NUT FREE.

Dried Fig and Coconut Charoset

  • 1 cup chopped dried figs

  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

  • 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries

  • 1 navel orange

  • 1 cup flaked coconut

  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup apricot jam

  • 1/4 cup sweet white or red Passover wine

Combine the figs, apricots and cherries in a bowl. Peel the orange and remove the outer white pith (leaving only the orange flesh). Cut the flesh into small pieces and add to the bowl. Add the coconut, ginger, cinnamon apricot jam and wine and mix ingredients. Let rest for at least one hour (preferably several hours) before serving. May be made a day ahead.

Makes about 3 cups

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff It: Matzo Stuffing

Matzo Stuffing with Apples and Portobello Mushrooms

Matzo Stuffing with Apples and Portobello Mushrooms

Almost everyone I know makes brisket for the first Seder.

But my grandma, and then my mother — for all the years that I remember — served turkey. So, so do I.

I may also make a brisket, depending on how many people are coming to celebrate with us. Or, I may make brisket for the second night. Depends.

But there’s always a turkey. And that means stuffing.

And so, the chosen stuffing for this year: crushed matzo with apples and portobello mushrooms. It’s easy and can be prepared in advance; just pop it in the oven to cook about 40 minutes before serving time. Sometimes I add thyme to this dish, sometimes I don’t, depending on the crowd. It’s delicious either way, although of course, the fresh herb gives it a bit more flavor.

Matzo Stuffing with Apples and Portobello Mushrooms

  • 6 pieces of matzo, broken up into little pieces

  • 1-1/2 cups chicken or turkey stock (or vegetable stock)

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, chopped

  • 1 large stalk celery, chopped

  • 2 large Portobello mushroom caps, chopped

  • 2 tart apples, peeled and chopped

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, optional

  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • 2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the matzot in a bowl and pour the stock over them. Let soak for 5-6 minutes or until liquid has been absorbed. Set aside. While the matzot are soaking, heat the vegetable oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the apples, raisins, parsley and thyme, if used, and cook for another minute. Spoon the contents of the pan into the bowl with the matzot. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss ingredients to distribute them evenly. Add the eggs, mix the ingredients thoroughly. Spoon the ingredients into a baking dish. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is crispy.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

Banana Bread with Orange Flavor

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Once again I was loaded down with bananas. We had sleepover guests for New Year’s weekend and I bought a lot of fruit. Too many bananas as it turns out.

Which is fine, because I love baking new versions of banana bread.

If you read my blog you know I hate to waste food. So for me, this particular recipe is really good because it’s a three-fer. Not only did I get to use up the bananas, I also was able to use fresh orange peel from some of the fruit I squeezed for juice. And I used up the date sugar I had in my cabinet (although this recipe is also fine with brown or white sugar as well).

The added citrus peel gives this bread a perky citrus taste. A refreshing thing, much needed in the gloom of January.

Because it isn’t very sweet, this is also especially good as a breakfast or brunch bread. You can use it to make cream cheese sandwiches too.

Banana Bread with Orange Flavor

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh orange peel

  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup vegetable shortening

  • 1 cup date sugar

  • 4 ripe bananas, mashed

  • 4 large eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. Mix the flour, orange peel, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and date sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and beat them in thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat them in thoroughly. Add the flour mixture and beat for a minute or so until the batter is well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about one hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 16-18

 

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

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I cooked a lot of applesauce lately. We ate some. I froze some.

There was still more, so I used some of it for cake and muffins.

This was one of the best. Crunchy on top, moist underneath, not too sweet.

Applesauce Yogurt Coffee Cake with Oat Streusel

cake:

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt

  • 1 large egg, beaten

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/3 cup milk

Streusel:

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Mix the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8” square cake pan. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and set aside. Beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the applesauce, yogurt, egg and vanilla extract and beat for 1-2 minutes or until smooth. Add half the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat until well blended. Add half the milk and beat until well blended. Repeat until all the ingredients are used up. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Prepare the streusel and sprinkle over the batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan 10 minutes then invert onto a cake rack. Turn the cake right side up to cool completely.

 

Makes 8-10 servings

 

Baked Apples with Date Honey

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If you've never tried date honey, you've been missing something delicious in your life. I've been using it for years in all sorts of dishes from Rosh Hashanah Honey Cake to the Thanksgiving sweet potatoes.

It isn't bee honey. Date honey (known as Silan) is a syrup made from dates. It's thick and sweet like honey, but bee honey has more hints of spice, nuts or flowers, date honey is richer and more mellow.

I have tried several brands and like Date Lady* because of its smooth texture. Last summer, at the Fancy Food show I tasted the company's new California Date Syrup and absolutely loved it. The California syrup has a buttery taste, while the classic middle eastern variety is more molasses-y. Both are wonderful but I preferred the California syrup for delicate dishes such as baked apples and the bolder syrup for breads, cakes and muffins.

The California syrup works perfectly for baked apples, one of our traditional Rosh Hashanah desserts.

*I was not paid for this post. I just happen to love this product.

Baked Apples with Date Honey

  • 4 baking apples
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup diced dried figs
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup date honey
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Wash the apples and remove the core with an apple corer or small knife, leaving about 1/2" on the bottom.  Peel the apples halfway down from the top and place them in a baking dish. Mix the raisins, dates, orange peel, cinnamon, nutmeg and date honey. Stuff this mixture into the apple hollows. Mix the juice and water (plus extra sugar if desired) and pour over the apples. Bake for 45 minutes, basting occasionally with the pan juices, or until the apples are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

 

 

 

Banana Bread with Cherries

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This summer's cherries have been especially delicious. I've been buying (and eating) tons of them.

So, when I had to think of what to do with the usual leftover bananas, I decided to use some in a new version of Banana Bread. I also added some orange (peel and juice) -- just a hint to bring out the best in both of the fruits.

Pitting cherries can be a real drag. But there's an easy way to do it and you don't even have to buy a cherry pitter. Look here.

Banana BREAD with cherries

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 medium very ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup orange juice 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cut up fresh cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Mix the flour, orange peel, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set it aside. Beat the sugar and vegetable oil with a handheld or electric mixer set at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Mash the bananas and add them to the sugar mixture. Beat thoroughly until the ingredients are well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes to blend the ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the juice and vanilla extract. Fold in the cherries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the bread in the pan 15 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and let it cool on a cake rack.

 Makes one bread serving 10-12

Sour Cherry Crisp

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Recently my daughter Gillian brought me some fresh sour cherries. Cherries that are intended for baking, not eating out of hand.

I love sour cherries. In fact I like most foods that are sour -- anything that provides that satisfying pucker in my mouth. 

Mostly, I like sour cherry pie, but I didn't have enough fruit.

Also, I don't have a cherry pitter.

Thanks to some instruction at The Spruce, I learned how to remove the cherry stones using a pastry tube tip, so I decided to make two individual Sour Cherry Crisps.

Notice that the amount of sugar I use is less than what you'll see in most recipes. The point of sour cherries -- for me -- is that they are supposed to be sour, merely mellowed by sugar, not overwhelmed by it. But, by all means, if you like your desserts more on the sweet side, you can add more.

Sour Cherry Crisp

  • 5 cups pitted sour cherries
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl and mix to coat the cherries completely. Spoon the cherries into 4 baking ramekins (or a small baking dish). In a bowl, mix the oats, all-purpose flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until the ingredients are evenly distributed. Pour in the butter and mix to coat the dry ingredients. Spoon equal amounts of the oat mixture on top of the cherries. Bake for 28-30 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden brown.

Makes 4 servings