Sunday, April 28, 2013

Week 17 of 52: Berry Coconut Crisp

My husband loves fruit smoothies. He uses whatever fruit we have on hand, along with some juice like orange juice, and blends them up regularly. The other day, I suggested he use the frozen strawberries that I picked up and they made a great smoothie. So it got me thinking, what else could we do with them.

Then, I watched a show called Recipe Rehab. Not sure if your have ever seen this, but they take really delicious (read fat- and sugar-filled!) recipes and rehab them to be more healthy. This week they rehabbed a traditional southern peach cobbler. One chef used fresh peaches that they grilled and poured on a reduced-sugar-with-no-fat batter. The other chef used frozen berries and peaches along with tapioca with a crumb-style topping. I thought, I will make a crisp with my frozen berries!

I went in search of a variety of recipes. First, I realized that I like crisps and not cobblers. The difference is that a cobbler has more of a bready biscuit style top, where the crisps have a more granola type topping. Next, I realized that there are as many different crips recipes as there are chefs! I finally meshed together a few recipes with the flavors that I most prefer and came up with this week's dessert.


Berry Coconut Crisp

Preheat oven to 375F.

3 c frozen strawberries, thawed, quartered - do not drain
4 c frozen blueberries, thawed - do not drain
2/3 c granulated sugar
4 T orange juice, with some pulp
4 T flour
Mix sugar, juice, and flour in a bowl.
Add thawed fruit and mix well.
Pour into a greased 9x13" glass baking pan.

1/2 c quick-cook oats
1/2 c shredded coconut
1 c brown sugar
3/4 c flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 c butter, chilled, cubed (1 stick)
Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add in butter and mix with hands until crumbly.
Distribute topping over filling evenly.

Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown on the edges.
Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes, and serve with ice cream, whipped topping, or vanilla yogurt.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Week 16 of 52: Lemon Pie Bars

This weekend was VEISHEA in Ames. For those of you unfamiliar with this, it is the largest student-run event in the nation celebrating the original 5 divisions of Iowa State College - Vet Med, Engineering, Industrial Science, Home Economics, and Agriculture - and started in 1922.  As a tradition, the students in what is now the College of Human Sciences make and sell mini cherry pies as a fundraiser for scholarships. This year they made over 9000 pies. Find out more here:

To say I am a fan of tradition would be kind of an understatement. My father was the first in his family to go to college (ISU DVM '57).  My mother did not go to college. My older brother went to several colleges before he finished his BA. I went to U of Iowa for my undergrad...quite a disappointment to my father (haha). But I redeemed myself by coming to ISU for my MBA ('98). I could tell you where every building on campus is (and was), that Old Botany held the classes on poisonous plants, that George Washington Carver got his PhD at ISU, and that Christian Petersen was hired by ISU to teach sculpture and produced 12 major works of art on campus. I could tell you that I go to the VEISHEA parade even when it snows, and that every year, I buy at least 10 cherry pies. At a buck a piece, they are so worth it.

So I decided that I could not try to compete with the tradition of cherry pies, but I wanted to make something just as portable and fruity. So, I went on a hunt through my recipes and ran across a lemon one. I have had plenty of lemon bars in my time, so I thought about how I could change them up a bit. I mean after all, this will be my tradition! So,why not make them darker by adding some brown sugar to the mix. Here is my version, I hope you enjoy!

Lemon Pie Bars
Adapted from

2 c flour
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1 c butter, salted, room temp

Preheat oven to 350F.
Mix flour and sugar, cut in flour, and mix well until the dough resembles pie dough crust consistency.
Press dough into a 9x13 pan.
Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

6 eggs, large
1 1/2 c white sugar
3/4 c brown sugar
1/4 c + 2 T flour
3/4 c lemon juice
zest from one lemon

Mix all ingredients using a hand mixer for about 1 minute.
Pour into the baked crust.
Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the lemon filling has set.
Cool and sprinkle with more confectioner's sugar.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Week 15: Peanut-Butter-Filled Snickerdoodles

Two of my favorite cookies are Snickerdoodles and Peanut Butter Cookies. My mama would make Snickerdoodles only on occasion when I was growing up and even today, they are a very special treat.

Peanut Butter Cookies were more often found in the cookie jar. I learned how to bake them when I was young and they are my papa’s favorites, too.

So, when I thought about a great recipe for today, I thought – combine them!

In doing my research for recipes, I found that the recipe for both were quite identical, save for adding peanut butter. So basically, this recipe is a peanut butter cookie that is filled with peanut butter and then rolled in cinnamon/sugar.

Peanut-Butter-Filled Snickerdoodles

2 ½ c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
½ t salt
1 c butter, unsalted, room temp (2 sticks)
2/3 c peanut butter, creamy
¾ c brown sugar
½ c white sugar
½ c powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 t pure vanilla extract

½ c peanut butter, creamy
¼ c powdered sugar
generous pinch of sea salt

1/3 c granulated white sugar
2 t ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Mix first four dry ingredients in a bowl, set aside.
  3. In another bowl, using a hand or stand mixer, mix up the filling. Roll pea-sized pieces with your hands and set aside on a plate.
  4. In stand mixer, cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars together until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Mix in extract.
  5. Add dry ingredients slowly just until incorporated.
  6. Roll dough into 1 T balls using hands.
  7. Flatten slightly and envelope one pea-sized filling piece and reform into a ball.
  8. Roll in coating and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Using a fork, put cross hairs on each cookie to flatten. Dip fork in extra coating if needed to prevent sticking.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on racks and store in sealed container.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Week 14 of 52: Pina Colada Icebox Pie

What a great week we are having in the midwest! It nice enough today to be out in a sweatshirt and have the front door open for at least part of the day. I must say that despite being an "Iowa girl," I wonder how I survive when the temps fall below 50F in October and don't return until late April!

Well it has been a long time, since I blogged out Week 13 on the Wednesday before Easter, because we had travel plans to my brother's in St. Jo, Missouri. Good inspired this week's dessert: Pina Colada Pies.

Whenever we go to my brother's, it is usually a holiday. He and his lovely wife always invite their close friends and "singles" who might not have another place to go for a holiday. So there always lots of faces and good conversations. This past weekend was no different. We met a new face, B, who happened to bring a dessert that I had never heard of nor tried icebox pie.

As the name suggests, you keep this in the fridge to keep it set. She used a recipe from the cookbook inspired by the movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes" that was called, Miss Sipsey's Icebox Pie.  She told me that it was sweetened condensed milk, lemonade, whipped topping, and cream cheese and that was it. Wow...simple, but it tasted delish!

So off I went to research this pie and how I could make it my own. I found several recipes, all of which used cream cheese, whipped topping, and sweetened condensed milk. Some used real lemon juice, others lemonade. But as you might have figured out, I love coconut. In order to bring in that twist, I had to figure out what to replace the lemonade with given that coconut milk is not that sweet. So I wandered through the frozen juice aisle and stumbled upon my find: Bacardi mixers. Now we don't drink, but these mixers are non-alcoholic and they had a pina colada one. Perfect! With more research, I found one person that had tried coconut milk in place of sweetened condensed milk, only because they were vegan (they also used tofu cream cheese...sorry, but that just didn't sound good to me).

After finding some different recipes for the crumb crust, I was ready to get to work. I ended up making a chocolate graham cracker crust for one dozen desserts, a coconut crust for another dozen, and then used my remaining chocolate crust for the coconut milk variety.

Chocolate crust - this is really tasty, but please make sure your graham crackers are finely ground. I had a few chunks and wished I had rolled them out more.

Coconut crust - this was my favorite, as it was more moist.

For both crusts in the tins, I would use half as much in the future. I got 12 tins from the coconut recipe, and I should have thinned the crust and spread it over 24 tins.  The chocolate crust made 12 tins plus an 8x6 pan. I probably could have gotten another 12 tins from the chocolate crust too.

Personally, I like the filling with the sweetened condensed milk better because it is sweeter. But the other filling is good when you don't want a really sweet dessert, and the crust does add a nice lift.

So for week 14, I have decided to post the Pina Colada Icebox Pie. Enjoy!

Pina Colada Icebox Pie

1/2 c brown sugar
1 c flour
1/2 c quick cooking oats
1/2 c sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t sea salt
1/2 c butter, unsalted, melted

Mix all ingredients together, except the butter. Then add the melted butter, and mix with your hands until the butter is fully incorporated and crumbly. Spoon a heaping tablespoon into 24 baking-cup-lined muffin tins. Using a small glass, press down crust into the liner.  Bake at 350F for 7 minutes. Let cool.

8 oz cream cheese, full fat, at room temperature
14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
3/4 c Pina Colada mixer concentrate, thawed
8 oz whipped topping, thawed

In a stand mixer, whip softened cream cheese. Add in juice and milk and mix on medium until fully incorporated. Remove bowl and fold in whipped topping. Spoon into baked tins to the top. Refrigerate to set (about 1 hour). Keep in fridge until ready to serve.