My Talent Is Baking (Mocha Crumble Bars)

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything! Life has been a little crazy for the past couple of months, but it might calm down a little bit now! I had eye surgery 10 days ago, so I’m starting to get back to normal. In fact, my job search will even start next week! There’s going to be some culture shock around here when I go to work. I will start needing help with household chores, breakfast may not be the same every day, and the Crockpot and BBQ will be much more active!

The dogs will be completely confused and unhappy. Bogey can handle it, he’s seen it before. But I can only imagine the chaos Chloe, AKA Captain Naughty will cause!

I have an awful lot to do in the meantime! We’re running out of canned food from last year, just in time for the produce stands to open. My favorite opens June 15, and then it’s game on! We’re out of jalapeños, pickles, salsa, corn, green beans, and our favorite jams. Crisis!!

Jalapeños will be first on the list. Shane’s two favorite things are jalapeños and bass guitars. Some of you know, he has quite the impressive collection of basses. In fact, he’s one month into a year-long buying hiatus. As I have jewelry credit to match the amount he spends, I must have some pretty stuff coming, too!

He has a new band forming, which is really exciting. He plays at church some, too, and played in the church talent show earlier in the month, which is always fun. They always ask me what I plan on doing for the talent show. I was musical when I was younger, but my talent now is, well, baking! So I baked.

I love chocolate. I love coffee. I probably love them in equal amounts, but I know I love them a lot! For my baking “talent,” I combined the two and made a recipe I had been looking at: Mocha Crumble Bars. I have to say, they turned out yummy!! And a little messy, but whatever! Lick your fingers and you’ll be fine!

This recipe makes about 50 bars, depending how you cut them. I decided serving them cut and in cupcake liners was a good idea, and it turned out perfect!

1 cup softened butter (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon divided
2 cups quick oats
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
2 cups chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 T instant coffee

Preheat oven to 350.
Line a 15″x10″ baking sheet with foil.

In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat butter and brown sugar. Add egg. In another bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Gradually add to butter mixture. Add oats and walnuts.
Tip: if you don’t have quick oats, add old fashioned oats to food processor and pulse three quick times.

Reserve one cup of mixture. Press remaining mixture in the prepared pan.

In a saucepan, melt, stirring, 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, coffee, and remaining cinnamon until smooth. Spread on top of mixture in pan. If it doesn’t look perfect, don’t worry!

Drop remaining flour/butter mixture on top of chocolate in crumbles. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

Bake for 20 minutes until lightless browned. Cool completely on a wire rack. Lift from pan by foil and cut into 1×1 squares.

And because they’re messy and yummy, lick every spoon and knife you use to make hese!! Well, be careful with the knife!








Are you bringing pie?? (Cherry Pie Bars)

It’s been a while since I’ve been here ~ and I missed writing! Luckily, I was still cooking and baking, so I have lots to share over the next few days!

There’s been a lot going on for us lately. We’ve been spending a lot of time with a friend and his family. We’ve done a lot of talking, started some new friendships, and done a LOT of eating. It goes along with my theory, though: when you get a group together, all you need is food. That’s it. When people get together to eat, conversation naturally follows and everyone is happy (most of the time!).

Party planning rule #1: provide lots of food!

So of course, I’m in heaven cooking for a group! Especially when the little people in the group hear me mention something and ask me later if I’ll make it. But who wouldn’t want strawberry white-chocolate-chip pancakes?!

But man, I need to get to the gym! As it turns out, there’s some eye surgery in my near future, so I won’t be at the gym for a couple of months. We’re going to have to turn to some healthier cooking!

That definitely hasn’t been the case lately, though. Somehow there’s been dessert every night, and lots of it. There’s been ice cream, brownies, all kinds of stuff. One night another friend even brought pies from Nations. Since “going for pie” is already one of our favorite ways to extend a night out with friends, the guys were in heaven, too, and it’s become the favorite question: “Are you bringing pie?”

As it happens, I am! I found this great recipe on an amazing blog written by Six Sisters for Cherry Pie Bars. The picture sold me, but then I made them and it was on!! I’ve made them several times in the last two weeks. They’re insanely easy, and mostly things you would have in your own kitchen. The only exception is probably cherry pie filling.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a fan of canned (processed) foods, unless its something I canned myself. I do make a lot of recipes that call for a can of pie filling. I usually substitute fresh fruit with a little juice, sugar, and cornstarch or flour. Mix and heat while stirring for a few minutes and you’ve got pie filling. In this recipe, though, I used two jars if homemade cherry jam I made last year and it turned out perfect! I also made it with apricot jam. I don’t think I would use store-bought jam, though. It’s just not the same. If you want to try it, let me know ~ I have lots of jam!

In fact, this year as I make jam, I’ll be making some larger jars of each kind just for this recipe! Doesn’t blackberry pie sound amazing?!

So YES, I’m bringing pie!

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract
3 cups of flour
1 tsp salt
1 can cherry pie filling or 2 cups homemade jam

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 T milk

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9×13 dish (I like to use butter for this recipe).

In your mixer bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and extracts, then dry ingredients.

Spread about 2/3 of mixture in your pan. The dough will be sticky. A metal spoon works fine for this. I also used a rubber spatula sprayed with cooking spray, which worked well, too. Spread your fruit evenly over the crust. Tip: if you’re using jam, make sure it’s not refrigerated ~ that would be hard to spread evenly! Drop the remaining crust over the fruit by the spoonful.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes until a knife comes out clean. It actually took me another five minutes. Cool and glaze.

Little serving tip: I cut these into 32 bars (8 by 4) and put the individual bars in a paper cupcake liner on a tray. They cut neatly, but they’re a little messy as a finger food, so they’re easier for people to grab in the papers!

And yes, this beater is worth liking, as is the spoon you use for the jam!!





The lazy way to shred a chicken (Crispy Mexican Chicken Wraps)

Two years ago, Shane and I made a giant shift in our eating habits. It started with a trip to Trader Joe’s. When we think about shopping at Trader Joe’s, we think healthy, right? If that’s your thought, too, you should read the labels on the food you buy ~ or maybe you shouldn’t! We were shocked!

It shifted our habits, though, in a big way. In fact, I still have a package if broccoli beef in the freezer from that shopping trip. I just can’t bring myself to cook it, so I guess it’s time to throw it away! But we turned to fresh food and the barbecue. It’s the best way to control what’s in your food and, as a result, what you’re putting in your body. This body has to last us 80+ years, so let’s treat it nicely!!

We started BBQ’ing meats and vegetables. We quit using prepared marinades. Bread and starch didn’t happen often (meaning a couple of times a week). We made breakfast and lunch as freshly as we could. And (of course) desserts were as clean as possible!

A about the same time, we started riding our bikes.

And I lost 15 pounds without trying.

Last year we kept it going. I canned everything I could get my hands on so we could eat like this all winter. I even grew as much of it as I could. The rest came from the amazing Larry’s Produce. The only canned food we ate was beans and the only boxes are pasta and crackers. And we’re still at it!! Even with foot surgery and two winters, those 15 pounds are still gone!

It takes some preparation, though. One of my basic always-do-it things is to have shredded chicken in the freezer. If I go to Costco, I’ll buy two or three rotisserie chickens at a time. If not, I’ll buy a giant pack of boneless skinless breasts at the store and boil them. Either way …

And then I do it the lazy way. Throw it all in the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, attach the paddle blade, and turn it on low. Sixty seconds later, I have four pounds of shredded chicken ready to use or freeze! If I use just chicken breasts, I add a little season salt and pepper while shredding. Fill some Ziplocks and into the freezer they go! (If I had figured out how to insert pictures, I would insert them herein stead of at the bottom!)

This week I used my entire four pounds of chicken. The first thing I made was these YUMMYcrispy Mexican chicken wraps! I saw a recipe circulating on Facebook and thought we would like it. The best part: I made the filling ahead of time, so it literally took less than 10 minutes to make dinner (and lunch the last two days!)! You can totally put your own spin on them, too. When I made them, Shane looked at them and grabbed the fire-chicken (Siracha) sauce and wow, he was right~ it was perfect!!

1 cup cooked rice
1 cup shredded cooked chicken
1 can black beans, drained
1 chopped green onion
1/2 red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 T chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic salt
2 cups shredded cheese
6 burrito sized tortillas
Sour cream

Mix the rice with the chili powder, cumin, and garlic salt. Add chicken, beans, onion, pepper, cilantro, and lime juice. When ready to serve, spread shredded cheese on tortilla (I warm the tortilla first) within an inch of the edges. Add filling dozen the middle of the tortilla. Roll up, but don’t tuck the ends in. Spray both sides with cooking spray. Grill until browned on all sides. Top with sour cream and any other sauces or toppings and enjoy!!







Man, I love that Martha Stewart lady! (strawberry shortcake cookies)

Really, I do love Martha. Sure, she went to prison. But let’s be real here. If you were told a company was struggling and you owned stock, wouldn’t you sell? She’s too smart not to! I get it, rules and all, etc. but still. And sure,Moshe can be so annoying. But holy wow, she and her staff come up with some amazing stuff!! I got into her website one night for something. It was like quicksand. I was there for at least an hour, happily pinning away!

Because of that, Shane is now a Martha fan, too, even if he doesn’t realize it!!

He said tonight’s yummies were highly addicting. We take that word seriously in this house!

It’s been a crazy day. Actually, a crazy week. Somehow we’ve already had a week’s worth of stuff and it’s only Tuesday! And the rest of the week, through next Sunday, is just as crazy. Gulp. Today I kicked it in high gear. I dealt with insurance issues and event issues this morning, requiring several morning errands. I stopped by a friend’s office. I came home and made cookies, made Shane’s lunch for the rest of the week, and started dinner for tonight and tomorrow night in two hours. Doctor and more errands. Finished dinner and ate. Went to a meeting at 7:00. Three more errands at 8:00. FINALLY jammies, some paperwork emailed, event fliers posted, and I can be here for you! You know who you are! 🙂

Who has time to work?!

For me, though, as long as I have a good arsenal of recipes, I can make life work. I think that’s one reason I love Pinterest. I have good stuff, but it’s good to have new ideas! Follow me there if you don’t already! And follow me here so I can share the good ones with you!

I finally made my first trip to the strawberry stand today. I’m a couple weeks behind!! They were amazing. I can’t describe it. Amazing! I bought a half flat (6 baskets). I baked with a third. Another third are cut up in the fridge. The last third are, well, gone. Regrettably, the strawberry monster stole them.

I’m just excited about what I can do with those other third!!

It’s a good thing to be connected to me if you’re hungry. It’s my job to feed the world. I go to the doctor and take goodies for everyone (he doesn’t share so I have to take a separate plate for his staff). I have a meeting, I take goodies. It works out for everyone. For them, for Shane, for me ~ I was asked to take a catering gig off my goodies at this meeting!

So of course today we used (wait for it) strawberries!! I’ve already shared my love of strawberry cobbler and shortcake, but I needed a cookie. My friend, Martha, had the perfect recipe for Strawberry-Shortcake Cookies. Is this HEAVEN?? Yes!!

I have to start with a disclaimer. Martha is more domestic and in a more pure way than me. She says mix by hand and I say sure, let me get my dough hook for the Kitchen Aid. I’ll include both our ways.

2 cups hulled and diced strawberries
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup plus 1 T sugar
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt (I used canning salt)
6 T cold butter cut into pieces
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 375.

Mix berries, juice, and 2 T sugar. Set aside.

Mix flour, the rest of the sugar, baking soda, and salt together. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter (the Martha way) or with your Kitchen Aid paddle attachment (the Sarah way) until it resembles crumbs. Add cream slowly as you mix until a dough forms. Stir in strawberry mixture (Martha) using the dough hook attachment (Sarah). You’ll know when you’re done.

Scoop onto a parchment lined sheet using a large cookie dough scoop. Bake for 22-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve right away. I only made what we would eat today and refrigerated the rest of the dough from my double batch!

And seriously. Don’t just lick the beater. Grab a spoon and get a good bite of this dough!!





Butterfly cooking ~ Preparing for the real world!

The time has almost come to emerge from retirement and go back out into the working world. Something about having masters degrees and not wasting them and stuff like that. That sounds so dramatic, doesn’t it?! I’m being silly! I’m actually looking forward to going out and using all of this knowledge and fun stuff in my head!! I love being home and able to take on whatever projects I want, too. The never-ending foot surgery recovery has certainly given me a nice taste of that freedom!

So how do I mix the two? Drew Barrymore recently said women can’t really have it all. Of course, she’s baby-sleep-deprived, but she’s right. She has her hands in all kinds of stuff and now added in a baby, and well … I get it. I have my hands in all kinds of stuff and now have to add in a job … Time or prioritize …

I think my answer is to add a few more things to my plate. Classic me. As my friend, John says, just when I couldn’t possibly squeeze anything else in, I come up with something else! So overachiever me says I’ll take three! I’m going to play with a few things while I decide where to build my empire. I started tonight.

I was invited by a friend to pass out business cards at his business during a Wedding Walk. I’ve always loved event planning and miss my time doing it. So off I went. It was so fun getting in there and talking to brides! This might just be one of my few things, and honestly, just getting out and talking to the public and being creative was the best part!

I’m like a butterfly, coming out of my cocoon! Or is it my chrysalis? Too bad Science Guy isn’t home to ask. Anyway …

The downside: I wasn’t home for dinner, and Shane had an 8:00 thing, so we passed like ships in the night. I’m not digging that part.

But don’t worry, not only was dinner made and hot for both of is, it was one of our favorites and the leftovers are already packed for lunch tomorrow! Not only am I a butterfly, I am well-prepared and efficient! And I have a dirty Crock Pot to prove it!!

It’s good to remember that anything you bake in the oven can be put in the slow cooker. One hour in the oven translates to three to four hours on high or seven to eight on low. You do, however, have to adjust the recipe a little to make sure there’s enough liquid.

Tonight’s recipe, provided by the magic Pinterest: Baked Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Rice! YUMMMM!!!! I’m giving you my modifications for the slow cooker, but if you’re baking it and need help modifying back, click the link! The fried rice is pretty basic, so I’m going to just walk you through that. Ingredients are totally up to you!

3-4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut in 1″ pieces
2 eggs, whisked together
1 cup cornstarch
Canola oil
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup ketchup
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 T soy sauce
2 tsp garlic salt

Mix your sauce first. I use my small Pampered Chef batter bowl, which is a 4-cup capacity, and add, in that order, the vinegar, ketchup, sugar, soy sauce, and garlic salt, just so I don’t have to wash any extra measuring cups (remember, Tiny Kitchen has no dishwasher other than the one named Sarah!). Whisk together.

Heat canola oil in a large skillet. Use enough oil for half-inch depth. Dip chicken pieces in egg wash, then corn starch, and into the frying pan. Cook just enough to brown (about 2-3 minutes), turn, and brown other side. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to Crock Pot. It might take two batches to get it all!

Pour sauce over chicken. It should just about cover it. Cook on high 3-4 hours or on low 6-8 hours. Yum!

Fried rice can be made earlier or just before dinner. This is one of my no-measuring-cook-what’s-in-the-fridge things. Start by making rice. I make three cups, which is enough for dinner tonight, lunch tomorrow, and a snack somewhere in the next couple of days. I always use Minute Rice, too!

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a skillet. Saute some chopped onion and garlic for a few minutes. Start adding more chopped veggies. I chop in the order I add to the skillet (again, lets avoid an extra bowl!). Add what you want. For ours tonight, it was carrot chips, zucchini, and mushrooms. With the veggies, I added a little sesame oil – this is strong stuff, so don’t get crazy.

When your vegetables are almost done, scoot to the side and crack two eggs in the open space. Scramble until cooked. Add your rice, stir together. Season with soy sauce, still stirring, until you’re happy with the flavor. Turn off heat and stir in chopped green onions.

And that’s it!!

There aren’t any beaters to lick tonight, but use (several) spoons to taste the rice!! And don’t worry, baking will be back this weekend!








Venting my aggressions with a rubber mallet … It helps!

Some Boston, some food …

It’s been a really emotional couple of days, hasn’t it? I think we all have so many thoughts and feelings about yesterday’s attack we almost don’t know where to go with them. I know, for myself, on top of the sadness and horror related to the attack, I also feel a strong sense of concern for where we’re going as a nation, not in a political way (don’t go there!!) but in a humanitarian way. Why is all of this happening? It breaks my heart.

And yet … It’s also so uplifting in several ways. We are seeing examples of heroics, solidarity, respect, and discretion. Really, all of those things?!

We saw people running away in fear, but also people running into the chaos to help. Not just first responders, but civilians.

We are seeing solidarity in crazy ways. Unlikely groups are uniting in support of each other ~ I don’t think we will ever see Yankee fans display visual signs of encouragement for Red Sox fans under any circumstances beyond these! That was a miracle right there!!

I’ve seen respect given to victims through the media and on social networking. Photographers and news outlets have posted surprisingly few pictures of the victims and their injuries. Don’t think this is for lack of availability – the Boston Marathon attracts press and they were there! Instead the pictures have highlighted the response to the emergency. Very few victims have even been named.

And finally, discretion. I don’t remember ever seeing an attack like this where assumptions haven’t oozed from every communication. We don’t know who did this yet and for the most part, people aren’t guessing. We’re waiting for cues from investigators. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity from our nation and maybe it’s an acknowledgement that we are not exempt from anything, foreign or domestic.

But there’s another thing that has amazed me and both impressed and humbled me. The immediate response and “name” given this attach: Pray for Boston. Wow. A nationwide plea to pray for Boston.

Nobody is telling you who to pray to, or how. Just to pray. Have we come to a point where we recognize the path to peace and humanity is through faith and compassion? Are we remembering the foundations our amazing country was built on, before we reach the extreme inhumanity so many other nations are experiencing? I hope so!

So pray. Pray for Boston and pray for our nation. Let’s find our way back together!

Okay. I’m done. Thanks for letting me blab on my blog! And let’s talk about food!!

I didn’t bake, I cooked. Well, I did bake coffee brownies that were amazing, but that’s another day. But dinner tonight was fantastic.

I have to share ~ I’m not a recipe cook. Once in a while, the first time I make something, maybe. And I don’t measure much or time anything. So I will be more descriptive than anything.

We had some fantastic stuffed chicken breast tonight! There are two ways to do it: cut into the breast by slicing one side lengthwise almost to the edges, creating a stuffing pocket, or rolling. Tonight I rolled, but either will work.

I thought about what was in the fridge. I started with a half a brick of cream cheese and whipped it with the hand mixer. In my Cuisinart mini, I chopped several marinated artichoke hearts (I didn’t rinse them, why get rid of the seasoning?!), four green onions, and a spoonful of sundries tomatoes. Really, this could be any combination of things you like! Once chopped, I mixed it with the cream cheese. I’m sad – I forgot to lick the beaters – this turned out so good!!

Drizzle some olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot, add panko crumbs. Stir and cook until browned. Doing this means you don’t have to brown your chicken breasts once coated before baking. Trust me on this! Add seasoning to the browned crumbs (I used garlic salt).

Make an egg wash by scrambling two raw eggs in a dish for dipping. Don’t cook them!

Finally, flatten your chicken. Most use a rolling pin. Not my favorite way. It’s much faster and more effective to use a rubber mallet! Did I mention more fun?? Put a boneless skinless breast in a Ziplock bag (do not seal the bag), place on a flat sturdy surface, and pound away! Try to pound to an even thinness, and to about 1/2 inch thick. Repeat with all breasts.

Spread a couple of spoonfuls of the cream cheese filling on a breast. Roll up. Dip in egg bath on all sides. Roll in panko until well coated. Place in a baking dish. Repeat until done.

Seems like a lot of work, but it’s not!! It took me 15 minutes!

Bake at 400 until done. My mom hates when I say this!! She always says “How long will that take? How will I know?” You’ll smell it. It will start to smell good, and then it will smell done. In this case, it will take 30ish minutes.

Tonight I also cut two zucchini in half lengthwise, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with spices, loosely covered with foil, and baked next to the chicken for 20 minutes. In the last few minutes I made white minute rice(yes, I cheat, I suck at regular rice!).

And violá! Amazing dinner!!

Did I mention following up with brownie sundaes, made with coffee-infused dark chocolate brownies, coffee ice cream, and fresh whipped cream? Yes, I licked that beater!!






Hello, my name is Sarah and I’m an addict

Is there a 12 step program for Starbucks? If there is, somebody tell me and save me from myself!! I’m not kidding. I’m out of control. And here’s the only good part about it: I figured out the cheapest way to get the most coffee …

My friend, Shauna, says it’s like chain smoking your coffee: when you top off your new coffee with your old coffee. I don’t quite do that (although I’ve seen her do it!). I discovered one better.

I start my day with a cup of coffee at home. We recently started getting coffee beans from a friend of a friend, who roasts them himself. Coffee with his beans and frothed cream ~ yum!! But on days like today, I schedule some sort of meeting at Starbucks and head on down there. This is where it gets ugly.

Did you know iced coffee comes in Trenta size? I said for years Starbucks needed a Big Gulp size and THEY LISTENED!! And did you know that if you buy your iced coffee with your registered Starbucks card they refill it for FREE as long as you’re in-store??? It’s all bad.

So I start with my Trenta iced coffee, no sweetener, light ice, with room for cream. I drink it down and at the end of my meeting get my refill for the road. By noon, I’ve had horrifying amounts of coffee for only $3.45.

Luckily my friends know me well and I’m still working my birthday Starbucks cards, although that will be over tomorrow. And amazingly I can still go home and nap on demand. Go figure!

Regardless, I think I may have a problem here that requires the help of an expert!!

Thankfully,it gives me the energy to bake, even when I’m so tired! Because of that, I just ate some amazing strawberry shortcake. Now, of course, you can get the angel food cake cups and Cool Whip at the store and make it easy. But there are amazing strawberries this time of year, so make it amazing!! This was my last batch of store-bought strawberries ~ it’s all about strawberry stands from here on out. But do it right!!

Big surprise, we’re using Bisquick. My mom was a Bisquick fan, so I am, too! The only things you need to buy are Bisquick, strawberries, and heavy whipping cream. If you’re buying strawberries at the store, don’t worry about mold (unless there’s a lot of it). Worry about how they smell. If you smell the package and they don’t smell amazing, put them back! If you aren’t using them right away, when you get home rinse them in water, then a vinegar-water solution, then water again ~ no mold!

So for the Strawberry Shortcake

2 1/3 cup Bisquick (I usually need a little more)
1/2 cup milk
3 T sugar
3 T softened butter
Heavy whipping cream
Powdered sugar

Mix the first four ingredients together until a soft dough forms (your Kitchen Aid with the dough hook will do this perfectly!). I always have to add a little more Bisquick here to get it to the right consistency. Drop onto your ungreased cookie sheet by spoonful. You should end up with six shortcakes. Bake at 425 for 10-12 minutes until they’re starting to brown.

Meanwhile, hull and cut your strawberries. I like small pieces. Sprinkle with sugar, mix, and refrigerate until time. The sugar helps release the juice, but the better the berries, the less sugar needed.

Before serving, whip cream with powdered sugar. I use my Cuisinart immersion blender and it literally takes 30 seconds. I always test the whipped cream with a spoon, which is really merely an excuse to have a spoonful of whipped cream!

Serve by slicing cooled shortcakes and topping with strawberries and whipped cream. Everyone will think you are amazing, and you are!!!

And … I hoped you licked the whipped cream beater!!