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For some reason, my life has been surrounded by fruit gratin lately.  Ina Garten was making one on Barefoot Contessa and then there was one Smitten Kitchen made with raspberries and sour cream which sounded… ummm… scary.  So I decided to make it with plain yogurt instead.  Which, yes, I realize tastes almost the same as sour cream.  But it sounds different in my head and my version tasted just great, so I’m thinking I won’t even voyage into the land of sour cream mixed with fruit. 

 

The first time I made this it was with peaches, and it was delightful except for the fact that I am an idiot and can’t get through my brain that sometimes you just need to use the full-fat version of food if you want it to taste good.  I had this fat-free plain yogurt and – no surprise – was kind of thin and not as flavorful as I would have liked.  It was fine but there wasn’t really any “wow” factor.

Fast forward to this past weekend when I had fresh raspberries and blackberries in the fridge.  Why not give the whole fruit gratin thing another try?  This time I used greek yogurt and a couple of drops of pure vanilla extract and it was amazing the difference it made!  I would definitely advocate using real, fatty, delicious yogurt.

Then you throw a whole lotta brown sugar on top.  You can’t go wrong with brown sugar.  Ever.  I could see you eating this for breakfast (it is practically a parfait) or even as a light dessert.  Personally, I would eat it any time of day.  And if you ever try making it with sour cream or creme fraiche or anything instead of yogurt, let me know how it goes!

Brown Sugar Fruit Gratin

2 cups plain greek yogurt
3-4 drops of pure vanilla extract
2 cups bite sized fruit (berries or other fruits sliced up)
1 cup brown sugar

Preheat the broiler on low.  Mix the yogurt with the vanilla extract.  Spread a layer of half the yogurt on the bottom of a shallow baking dish or ramekins.  Add all of the fruit, gently pressing it down into the yogurt.  Spread the remaining yogurt on top of the fruit.  This makes you less likely to crush the berries than just mixing it all together, but if mixing it is easier then feel free because this isn’t a pretty dish by any stretch of the imagination.  Then crumble all of the brown sugar on top, making sure that there are no lumps.  Broil for as long as it takes for the brown sugar to melt and start to bubble a bit (it took me about 10 minutes).  Enjoy!

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Blueberry boy bait is essentially the same as blueberry coffee cake but it has a fun little story behind it.  Supposedly, a teenaged girl entered this cake into the Pillsbury Bake Off in 1954, won second place, and stole the show (evidently, considering it is still a popular cake 56 years later).  She named it after the effect that it had on boys.  So, needless to say, this recipe won’t be passed onto my little girl until at least 56 more years have passed.

Obviously, this recipe starts with blueberries.  But look beyond them in the picture above and notice the AMAZING berry bowl.  Meghan’s mom, Erin, sent it to me for my birthday and I use it almost as much as the oven.  It is never sitting on the shelf during the summer.  And why would it be?  You can clean the berries and then keep them in the fridge all in the same bowl.  No unitaskers allowed!  Alton Brown would be so proud.

Pieces of this cake are also good to package up and give to the neighbors or whomever you please.  My poor neighbors end up as test subjects for a lot of these recipes that make too much for two people… but they have never complained, so I figure I won’t stop until I see their lights turn out and curtains close every time I walk by.  Actually, one set of neighbors is moving!  I wonder if it has anything to do with the brownies I dropped off a couple of weeks ago…

Regardless, this boy bait is a winner.  It is moist and berrylicious and somehow with the blueberries I don’t feel so bad about all of the butter that goes into it.  Don’t even look below yet.  Let’s just sit here for a minute and imagine that this is health food. 

Ok, you can look now.  But trust me, it’s worth it!

Blueberry Boy Bait (from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from Cook’s Country):

2 cups plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, do not defrost first as it tends to muddle in the batter)

Topping:
1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (do not defrost)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13 by 9-inch baking pan.

Whisk two cups flour, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. With electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy, about two minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until just incorporated and scraping down bowl. Reduce speed to medium and beat in one-third of flour mixture until incorporated; beat in half of milk. Beat in half of remaining flour mixture, then remaining milk, and finally remaining flour mixture. Toss blueberries with remaining one teaspoon flour. Using rubber spatula, gently fold in blueberries. Spread batter into prepared pan.

For the topping:

Scatter blueberries over top of batter. Stir sugar and cinnamon together in small bowl and sprinkle over batter. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes, then turn out and place on serving platter (topping side up). Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.)

It is way to hot to have the oven on this summer (please forget for a moment about the corn casserole that I just posted), so here is another ice cream recipe.  And this one is for humans!  Much to Buster’s disdain.  He probably still has puppy dreams about the ice cream that I made for him last month.  Wait, no he doesn’t.  He has spent the last several weeks playing with his doggy girlfriend at his grandparents’ house on the lake.   So any dreams that this dog has right now are probably about going back there!

On to the ice cream (do I talk about the dog too much?).  The name six threes is pretty obvious.  It is 3 each of 6 ingredients.  But be warned that this actually makes two batches of ice cream!  I should have realized it while reading how many ingredients were going in there but it somehow slipped right through my head.  And then after the first batch I had to sit around and wait for the ice cream maker to freeze again before making the second batch.  You know where this story goes…

I got impatient while waiting for the ice cream maker to freeze and decided that it was frozen enough and just threw the second batch in there.  Well, it wasn’t “frozen enough” and the second batch never fully froze.  Smart, Lindsay.  So, I just threw it in the freezer and hoped for the best.  It ended up ok, but kind of icy.  Note to self: don’t rush the ice cream.  Or just turn it into six one-and-a-halfs ice cream and forget about all of the refreezing mess.

Six Threes Ice Cream (from AllRecipies.com):

3 cups sugar
3 cups cream
3 cups milk
3 bananas, mashed
3 oranges, juiced
3 lemons, juiced

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar and cream until sugar is dissolved. Mix in the milk, mashed bananas, and fruit juices.

Pour mixture into ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions, about 45 minutes.


Warm blueberry muffins are ohhh so good.  I love weekend mornings when I can leisurely wake up and make breakfast.  I say “leisurely” with a grain of salt because Buster wakes up at 6am every day and doesn’t understand the concept of sleeping in, but not having to get ready and go to work just makes the whole day feel more relaxed. 

I chose this recipe because it uses yogurt for moisture instead of oil, and I happened to have yogurt in the house.  How convenient!  Also, because it is winter, I used frozen blueberries which worked just as well as fresh.  They all bake pretty much the same way. 

        

You could use pretty much any little berry-like fruit.  The recipe suggests raspberries, but I might try them with sliced strawberries, too.  The base of the muffin recipe is definitely a good one… and the crumb topping is easy and wonderful.   I want to eat one right now, but they are all gone.  Sigh.   There’s always next weekend. 

     

Here’s how I made them. 
Blueberry Yogurt Muffins (from About:Southern Food):

Ingredients:
1/2 cup vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup red raspberries or blueberries

Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
Dash cinnamon
2 tablespoons softened butter

Preparation:

Heat the oven to 400°. Lightly spray the muffin cups with cooking spray or put cupcake liners into the cups.

In bowl combine yogurt, milk, granulated sugar, brown sugar, melted butter, and eggs. In a separate bowl stir together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Combine the mixtures, stirring only until dry ingredients are moistened. Gently fold in berries. Spoon into muffin cups.

In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients with a fork until crumbly. Top muffins with crumb topping.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes if you are making 12 large muffins.  If you are making mini-muffins then the cook time will be shorter.

While on the hunt for a fantastic tomato soup recipe, I looked at dozens of websites.   Literally.  There are a ton of them out there, but none of them really spoke to me.  I liked some parts of most of them, but there was always something amiss.  I’m sure that sherry is delicious in tomato soup, but I don’t keep it in the house and didn’t really want to go buy a bottle just for this.  I wanted a soup that I can make again in the future without going too far out of my way.   On the other hand, I also wanted the flavor to be more complex than just tomatoes and cream.  This Food Network recipe hit the spot.  It has several vegetables in it, so it isn’t really “tomato-y” and it has bacon in it, which is interesting and delicious.  It doesn’t call for red wine, but I put some in there and it really ended up being a nice flavor.

This soup isn’t really quick to make, but it certainly isn’t like you have to let it simmer for hours on end.  And the actual process of it is quite simple… though it’s easy for me to say that because I made it while I was alone in my house with my mute dog and no time constraints.   But, really, if you have the time to make this, it is way better than canned.  I mean, there’s bacon in it!  How bad could it be?!

Here is the recipe (slightly adapted from Food Network Test Kitchens):

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 slice bacon, finely chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes to get rid of the raw flour taste. I also threw the bacon back in the pot at this point.  Why not, right?  Next, pour in the broth, wine and tomatoes. Bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Throw in the bay leaf, parsley, and thyme.  If you have fresh parsley and thyme then you can put all of the herbs into a little bundle, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  Lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat and let cool.

Remove the bay leaf. Working in batches, transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the pot and reheat over medium heat.  If you have an immersion blender then you can do this process a lot more easily and I’m guessing that your clean-up will be quicker, too!

Whisk in the heavy cream, salt, and pepper, to taste. Divide among warm soup bowls and serve immediately.  I served my soup with toasted bagel croutons, which you can make by cutting up an old bagel, sprinkling it with olive oil, and toasting it.  Yum!

When you make bread as moist and tasty as the banana-oatmeal bread that I wrote about yesterday, it just seems to be a shame to smear some butter on it and call it a day.  There has to be more to this world than bread and butter, right?  Well, Elvis would be proud because I decided to take the banana bread and throw on some PB (though he might not be as happy that I left out the bacon… it just didn’t seem right, but maybe next time!).

      

This sandwich could be served for breakfast or a snack or even dessert .  Really, just eat it whenever you want to because it’s tasty and fun.  And a little bit messy with the melty PB.  If you are really feeling wild, you could throw some chocolate chips in there.  Oh, yum. 

Here is how you make the grilled PB&A (this makes two sandwiches):

4 slices of banana-oatmeal bread
4-6 thin apple slices
4 Tbsp. peanut butter
4 tsp. butter or margarine

The process for making this sandwich is just like making a grilled cheese, but with different ingredients.  For each sandwich, spread 1 teaspoon of butter on one side of each slice of bread.  These will be the outsides of the sandwich.  Then spread peanut butter on the insides of one of the slices (2 tablespoons).  Lay the apple slices on the pb and then put the other slice of bread on top. 

Put the sandwiches on a skillet over medium heat.  Let them cook for about 5 minutes (or until the bread is toasted) and then flip them and cook the other side. 

Then you’re done!  It’s that easy!

Can you tell that I like bread?  This is another tried and true WW recipe, and it doesn’t taste like you are giving up any of the flavor in order to make it a little bit healthier.  I actually used egg substitute instead of the real eggs, which is healthy but doesn’t take away from the bread at all.  It is moist and delicious, and usually doesn’t last very long in this house!   

The key to this bread is to let the bananas sit around for several days and get really ripe.  It makes them sweeter, which in turn makes the whole loaf so much better.  You can eat it with butter (or without!), or make a sandwich, like the peanut butter apple sandwich that I’ll write about next time. 

Here is the recipe (from Weight Watchers):

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour   
1/2 cups unpacked brown sugar   
1/2 tsp table salt   
1/2 tsp baking soda   
1/4 tsp baking powder   
3 tsp canola oil   
1 large egg and two large egg whites, beaten (I used just shy of 1/2 cup of egg substitute instead of the eggs in this recipe)  
3 large bananas, ripe   
1 cup uncooked old fashioned oats

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add in the oil and eggs; mix thoroughly.

In a smaller bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher or fork. Add the bananas and oatmeal to batter and mix them all together. 

   

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Pour the batter into the pan and bake until the top of the loaf is firm to touch, about 45 minutes.  Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then, flip it out and cool on a wire rack for another 10 minutes.

    

Soda cupcakes are what you make when you have little time and limited ingredients in the house.  They are easy, low in calories (if you use diet soda instead of regular), and easily customizable without much risk.  You can make a chocolate cake with Coke, a white cake with Sprite (or tonic water), or you can get creative and make different flavors (such as the super easy pumpkin muffins).  Essentially, boxed cake mix really just needs 12-15 ounces of liquid to work. 

For this recipe I wanted to put a citrus twist on these cupcakes.  It ended up working out really well.  Lemon is just such a clean, refreshing taste, and I love it combined with sugar.  Really, I love any food that has lemon in it, but especially sweets.

Here is the recipe:

For the cake:
1 box yellow cake mix
~10 ounces diet lemon lime soda (like Sprite)
1/4 cup lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon

For the frosting:
1 container of store-bought vanilla frosting
2 Tbsp lemon juice

The cake tends to end up better if the soda is flat, so if you have an open 2 liter bottle in the fridge, then that’s great.  If not, a new one will work fine, too (bottle or can).  Either way, you mix all of the ingredients together.  Easy as that! 

Next, fill a cupcake pan that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  I made 12 big cupcakes, but this could just as easily make really fun bite-size cakes in a mini-muffin pan.  Bake until the cupcake tops are a light golden brown and a toothpick or knife comes out clean.  This is usually about 15-20 minutes, depending on how your oven cooks.  Obviously, if you are making the mini cakes you need to cook them for less time.   You can also refer to the box that the cake mix came in and see what that particular brand recommends.

After you take the cupcakes out of the oven, let them cool completely.  We don’t want the frosting melting all over them. 

In order to make the frosting lighter, put it into a mixing bowl, add in the lemon juice, and whip it up with a mixer (or a wisk) to add air.  This makes it less dense, and, in my opinion, a lot better. 

Then you can either pipe the frosting on or just lather it on there with a knife.  Both ways taste exactly the same!

On Veteran’s Day I didn’t have work and had so many good intentions of getting chores done and running errands. Of course, none of this happened. But I did make an apple crumble to take to work tomorrow! There really isn’t a recipe for my crumble. It is more a matter of what we have in the house and what kind of mood I am in. For someone who loves baking, I’m not the biggest fan of rules… which is why some of my creations end up disasters (e.g. homemade icing).

This apple crumble has a couple of different kinds of apples – whatever was in the fridge. It seems that having different apples helps to make the taste more complex. But that might just be something I tell myself when I don’t know what kinds of apples I’m throwing in there. I threw some lemon juice and brown sugar on the apples and called it done.

For the topping I mixed about 1 tablespoon of melted butter with one of those individual serving size cups of apple sauce. This was an attempt to keep the calorie count down. Then I mixed in some wheat flour, oats, brown sugar, sliced almonds, and raisins. I dotted the top of the apples with tiny little bits of butter and then threw the topping on top (which makes sense considering the name).

I put the apple crumble in a 350 degree oven and forgot about it. Literally. I cooked it for way too long and the topping was dried out. Thankfully, I had some apple cider in the fridge so I brushed it on top and it saved the whole dish. Maybe I should screw it up every time!

Here are some pictures of the final product. I was trying to be all creative so I took one in a pile of leaves…

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