Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake and a Guest Post

Well, Hello there!

Katie from Katie at the Kitchen Door and I are joining forces today.  If you have never been to her blog – you must, you just have to head over there.  Katie is oh so talented…her talents in the kitchen and behind the camera are out of this world.  When she asked me to write a guest post for her blog, while she is on vacation, I couldn’t but jump at the chance.

And if you are visiting my little space on the Internet because you are wandering over here from Katie’s blog….then you totally know what I am talking about.  She is awesome, right?!?  And welcome!  I am so very glad to have you here today.

Let’s get going!

The sun is shining.  The trees are budding.  Daffodils are waving ever so slightly in the breeze.  Tulips are testing the waters…soon to be in full bloom.  The grass is growing fast and furious, aided by the April showers.  Spring is starting to slowly and finally roll into Ohio.  It has been a long winter and we want nothing more than warm afternoons and long lazy evenings.  Spring in Ohio requires us to practice patience.

In the spring, we have this internal urge to clean out the old and bring in new.  Start fresh – Spring, to me,  has always represented a new year more so than January 1st ever has.  Something takes hold and before we know it windows are being cleaned, floor boards scrubbed, closets sorted and organized, and if you are me – fridges and freezers are overhauled.  It has been a long winter – heaven only knows what I have stocked and stored away over the cold months.  I am like a squirrel hoarding nuts.  So it was no surprise to me when I found 2 extra bags of fresh frozen cranberries in my freezer last week.  Left over from Thanksgiving/Christmas.  Stored away just in case.  Just in case I needed to whip up a cranberry sauce.  Or jam.  Or needed a another loaf of orange cranberry bread.

Honestly, I had forgotten about them.  Big Surprise.  So, when Katie asked me to guest blog and I was scratching my head and standing in front of my refrigerator wondering what recipe I would offer her readers…I spotted the cranberries.  And instantly thought…I bet there are more people out there like me.  Spring cleaning and finding extra bags of cranberries (among many other things… why do I buy so many packages of frozen spinach?!?).

I know, I know…cranberries are generally eaten around winter holidays, but I think they are perfect this time of year ( and I am not just saying this because I have an abundance).  They have a bright tart flavor, matching the feeling of an early spring afternoon.  A coffee cake with a thin layer of sweetened cranberries and a coconut streusel top is just what a Sunday afternoon calls for.   A lazy Sunday afternoon spent on your porch, soaking up the sunshine, getting lost in a good book, with baseball on the radio in the back ground.  All while you nibble away on an extra large piece of coffee cake that is studded with little flecks of vanilla bean.  And coffee.  Lots of coffee.  Always coffee.

Vanilla Bean Cranberry Coffee Cake and a Guest Post
 
Ingredients
  • ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1¾ cups sugar, divided
  • 2 cups fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
  • 2 cups All Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • Topping
  • ⅓ Cup Flaked Coconut, unsweetened
  • 1 Tablespoon All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Unsalted Butter, room temperature
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Grease a 9 inch round cake pan with butter and line bottom with parchment paper. Grease parchment.
  3. Make vanilla sugar: With the tip of a paring knife, scrape out the seeds from the vanilla bean and place in a food processor with 1+3/4 Cup of sugar. Pulse to combine. Transfer to another bowl – you will need the food processor again.
  4. Place cranberries and ½ Cup of vanilla sugar in food processor and pulse until chopped but NOT pureed.
  5. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt – set aside.
  6. In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1 stick of butter and 1 cup of vanilla sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down side and bottom of bowl.
  7. With mixer on low, add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, beginning and ending with flour. Beat until just combined.
  8. Pour ½ of batter into bottom of prepare pan – the batter will be very thick, so spread it out with a butter knife.
  9. Spoon cranberries over the batter, leaving a ½ inch border around edge. Spread the remaining batter over cranberries. (With the batter being so thick, the best way to do this is by dolloping spoonfuls of batter all over cranberry filling and very carefully with a buttered knife, gradually spreading the batter over the filling)
  10. Prepare crumble topping : In a small bowl, combine remaining ¼ cup of vanilla sugar, flaked coconut, tablespoon of butter, and tablespoon of flour. Crumble with fingers or fork until pebble like.
  11. Spread evenly over top of cake.
  12. Place in preheated oven and bake for 45-50 minutes until toothpick comes out clean (don’t test into cranberry filling).
  13. Let cool in pan for about 30 minutes before removing from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.
  14. Serve with coffee and good conversation.

Adapted from Gourmet December 2008

Chocolate Coconut Espresso Cookies

Is your tree up?  Lights strung and garland draped?  Candy canes hooked and ornaments placed just so?  The angel tree topper straight or is there a red bow with its red tails cascading down your tree?  Do you string popcorn and cranberries or perhaps marshmallows?  Have you named it?  It is a thing…people naming their trees.

Are you a family that pulls on wool socks and boots, layers coats and scarves, and traipse out to the evergreen forest  (ok, fine, tree farm) with axe in hand and a thermos of hot chocolate thrown over your shoulder and chops down a yearly Christmas tree?  My mental image of this is a tad skewed…a tad too Norman Rockwell.  Because in my head Christmas carols are being sung and the kids are happy and rosy-cheeked and walking hand in hand merrily with their siblings – ha!  Maybe I have seen too many Bing Crosby Christmas Specials or watched one too many ABC Family Christmas movies…because I also picture snow lightly falling ever so carelessly from the frosty night ski.  Twirling to the ground, carefully so.  Perfectly white and fluffy snow that gently coats the trees and ground and the ever so cheerful family.  The snow being a crucial part of the magic…

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Coconut Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am in a funk, a rut.  Having a serious lazy bout.  A bit blasé.   Even a touch melancholy.  Whatever you call it, I am in it.  My get up and go is gone.  This happens from time to time ( to everyone, I think.  I hope.) and this time around it is because I am tired of summer.  There, I said it.  I am a girl with 4 seasons burned into her soul…and I am ready for a bit of change.  A seasonal change.

I am craving layers of clothing that need no explanation and I find myself longing for boots and thick socks.  Hearty meals full of comfort and nourishment are tempting my tastebuds.  My need for quiet evenings absorbed in a book or a classic flick outweight my drive to be doing anything else, besides maybe a bonfire with quiet conversation and random outburst of laughter.  My craving for change is rearing its head before the calendar says it is time for change.  Therefore, I am stuck.  Or just a tad sticky.  And boy do I hate being sticky.  ( Stickiness is my one aversion to small children.  Why are they always so sticky?  Like, literally, sticky. Tacky to the touch.  I will handle my children with rubber gloves. )

 

The final weeks of winter and summer bring about these feelings.  I can feel it coming on and there is no stopping it.  Late February, the stirring enters and leaves me feeling anxious and squirmy.  Ready for the warmth of the sun on my skin and the sweet smell of spring rains.  Ready for the longer days and warm evenings.  Come August, I am prepared for the opposite.  God forbid I ever move somewhere with no distinct seasons.  Would I ever be able to shake the funk?  Where would the reliable and predictable change come from?

It doesn’t help to see promotions for upcoming Oktoberfest celebrations in the paper and pumpkin ales in the grocery.  Boot sales at Nordstroms and ‘Back to School’ sales at Staples.  My eyes and mind see and recognize change….however, they are premature and they, too, are jumping the gun.
Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not trying to rush summer or toss it to the wayside.  Consider this like the week or two before vacation.  That is how I feel.  Where the anticipation is maxed out and the urge to drop whatever is on your plate and leave early is so strong that the tiniest temptataion will have you buckling under its pressure.  You are just pleading with the clock to tick a little faster for the next two weeks.  And then halt.  Because when you find yourself where you want to be, you kinda want that to last as long as possible.


So…Dear Summer,
While I love your heat and tanktops.  Pool parties and freckles.  I am sorry to say that I am over you.  Over you until next year.  So, I apologize in advance for any angry words or complaining comments aimed in your direction or my lack of motivation to enjoy what is left of your time with us.  I am, however, rather digging the hint of fall in your night air.  What does it feel like to be pushed out of the spotlight?  See, snarky.  I can’t help it.  Sorry.  Again.
Love.  Mal.

So since pot roast and chili.  Apple crisp and spiced cider must wait their turn, I am having a bit of trouble in the kitchen.  My cravings are not matching the season.  Thank goodness for cookies!  They are always in season.  Especially chocolate ones.  And if there is one thing that will drag me out of a funk, it is chocolate cookie dough (not that I recommend eating raw cookie dough, bbbuuutttt it kind of is the best stuff on Earth, just sayin’.)  And after a good dose of  cookie dough and then in rapid succession, hot from the oven coconut chocolate chocolate chip cookies…I can feel that blasé feeling evaporating.  The cool evening air drifting in through the wide open windows kind of helps too.

Come on fall…hurry up!

Coconut Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
 
Rich and fudgy chocolate cookies, dotted with mini chocolate chips and thin shreds of sweetened coconut. These are for the true chocolate lover!
Ingredients
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, room temperature
  • ¾ Cup Granulated White Sugar
  • ¾ Cup Dark Brown Sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 + ½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 + ¼ Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • ½ Cup Unsweetened Dark Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ½ Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Mini Chocolate Chips
  • 1 Cup Sweetened Shredded Coconut
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. in a medium sized bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and both sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla.
  4. With mixer speed on low, slowly add dry ingredients and beat until well combined.
  5. With a wooden spoon or spatula, fold in chocolate chips and coconut.
  6. Scoop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes. (do not over bake!)
  7. Remove from oven and let sit on tray for about 5 minutes before removing and transferring to a wire cooling rack.

 

Coconut Lime Bars

I can’t see Venus.  I think the universe tricked me.  And it might have something to do with the clouds.  But mainly I think it was the universe.  Or those scientists.  I think they made a mistake.  Maybe it is supposed to be tomorrow.  Nope today…I Googled it, again.  (and for the record, I think Google should have made a doodle for this…)

Anyway…I have been sitting on my patio with ‘eclipse glasses’ perched on my nose, randomly staring at the sun…and then looking around to make sure the neighbors aren’t staring at me.  Even though they would be the ones missing out on this actual ‘once in a lifetime’ event.  Unless we live to be centuries old…we won’t see this happen again.  And, personally if I am around to see this again in 2117, I don’t think I’ll be exactly excited about Venus floating across the sun…I mean, it would have just happened a mere 105 years earlier.  Old hat.

No, I would celebrating being 134 years old…eating brownies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, drinking wine for lunch, living on a beach, wearing large brimmed hats, saying whatever is on my mind (the filter disappears around age 78 anyway), snacking on lobster rolls and coffee ice cream, and living in a house without mirrors - could you imagine the wrinkles a 134 year old would have?  Yikes!  Wrinkles they would no longer be, but creavices…deep canyons that even a face lift mixed with daily injections of Botox wouldn’t be able to fix.  But then again, I would still be totally against all forms of cosmetic surgery – Like rings to a tree, those wrinkles tell a story … and really, at 134 – I shouldn’t try to look 70.  But I might have to invest in a wig…I am pretty sure thinning hair won’t be avoidable at 134 years.  Maybe at 80 or 90, but 134 might be a little much for my hair follicles.  And this is what I think about while waiting for an eclipse…

Just looked again…no Venus.  I think Cleveland, OH got hosed.

I will be saving my eclipse glasses…I might need them again.  There should be another eclipse of some sort before I turn 134 right?

Coconut lime bars…one word, addictive.  Slightly sweet and chewy and then there is the whole lime and the coconut, which triggers me to sing/mumble Hary Nilsson’s ‘Coconut’.  But the lime is not in the coconut and you don’t drink ‘em both up….the lime is in the shortbread crust and these are to be eaten.  None the less, I recommend downloading the song and dancing to it while you make these…it just makes sense.

p.s.  I am planning on making these again, but with a thin layer of strawberry jam atop the crust…or maybe raspberry.

 

 Coconut Lime Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes an 8 or 9 inch square pan

Ingredients

1 Stick Butter, Melted and slightly cooled
1/2 Cup Light Brown Sugar, tightly packed
1 Cup Granulated White Sugar, divided
3 Large Eggs
2 Cups All-Purpose Flour, divided
1/2 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Cup Pecans, roughly chopped
1 + 1/2 Tablespoons Lime Zest, grated (about 3 limes)
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
2 + 1/2 Cups Sweetened Shredded Coconut

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.  Line 8 inch (or 9 inch) baking pan with parchment paper, or liberally butter all sides.  Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together melted butter, brown sugar, 1/3 Cup white sugar, and 1 egg – whisk until smooth.  Stir in 1 Cup Flour, salt, chopped pecans, and lime zest.  Press crust into the bottom of the baking pan and bake in preheated oven for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown and set.  When baking, prepare filling.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup white sugar, 2 eggs, and vanilla.  Stir in 2 Cups coconut and 1 cup flour.  It will be a rather stiff batter.  Spread carefully/gently over baked crust.  ( placing small dollops all over crust and waiting a few minutes for the heat of the crust to slightly melt the filling before spreading evenly over crust worked well).  Top with the remaining 1/2 Cup of shredded coconut.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden brown and when toothpick is inserted, it comes out clean with a few moist crumbs.  Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.

 

 

 

Coconut Strawberry Oat Bars

Spring cleaning.  It is something that I want to do.  No, let me make it clear…it is something that I wish I wanted to do.  It needs done – no doubt.  Winter tends to be the season to collect and gather, making life cozy.  Or cluttered.  As I look around my house, it is clutter that I have accrued over the past few months.  Or I have created the clutter, since I am not an organized person.  Good intentions I have, but my organization skills just lead to more clutter, plus the act of organizing does not keep my attention…so, it’s half-assed organization.  I wish I was more Type A regarding home organization.  Are you organized?  I know some of you out there are…what are your tricks?  From bedroom closets to kitchen pantries…how do you keep things tidy and organized?

But back to spring cleaning…Beyond the organization bit, I do need to purge a bit…that bookshelf I hate, dating back to my college days – it needs to be upgraded to a grownup bookshelf.  And those t-shirts I got free, while also in college, they need to go…and those knit shirts that I hate to wear – why are they still taking up room in my closet?!?  And can we discuss my kitchen?  Yikes.  Is there a reason why I have 10 slotted spoons? But only 1.489 decent spatulas.  ( 1 spatula has half a handle…not joking.)  And my pantry and cupboards…there is no rhyme or reason to any of it…who knows how many cans of cannellini beans or boxes of instant oatmeal are hidden among cans of tuna and dried pasta…Can someone spare me their Type A personality, just for the afternoon?

I suppose, at some point in time, I will tackle the closets and cupboards and purge what I no longer have use for and organize that which I do.  But until then, I will try to navigate what system I have in action now – however faulty.

That is how I came about making these fruity bars.  I ran across (let’s pretend like I knew it was there) a jar of strawberry jam that I had made last summer.  Oy! My freezer, it too is experiencing the same amount of disarray as my cupboards…everything is just frozen.  Anyway, it was the final jar of jam (i think).  With the weather hitting the mid 80’s, the trees in bloom, and my daffodils out in abundance….the sudden urge to make a dish that was reminiscent of the weather outside hit me like a Mack truck.

These bars can be made with any fruit/jam combination.  I think peach jam with blackberries would be out of this world.  Coconut oil was used in combination with butter to make the crust, but if all you have is butter, use butter (not margarine my friends…never margarine).  And if you don’t have whole wheat flour…use all purpose.  These are a simple dessert that will earn you wows from the crowd…Just make sure your crowd enjoys coconut.

p.s.  by no means am I a hoarder…just unorganized.

Let’s get baking!

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