autumn oatmeal cookie bars

Another squash recipe, but this time – a sweet version!

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I don’t know if it’s the cooler nights, seasonal flavors, or the fact that it’s no longer “swimsuit season” {LOL} but this time of year I start craving desserts. There’s something so special about sitting down at the end of the day, dinner cleaned up and dishes put away, and enjoying the perfectly sweet bite of dessert. For some people – ice cream {year round!}, others – cookies and cakes. I am not going to say no to any of those options, but boy…do I love me a good cookie.

This particular recipe was inspired by…as mentioned above…squash. I LOVE pumpkin, y’all! It’s a great ingredient to work with; packed with vitamins and minerals, full of flavor, and it serves as a great way to scale back on some of the typically not-so-good items that go into cookies. Paired with tangy Greek yogurt, the resulting cookie is perfectly moist and chewy, and loaded up with spices. A combination of rolled oats and all-purpose flour lends a hint of nutty flavor, which is beautiful with the pumpkin and brown sugar. The little nuggets of chocolate chips and raisins don’t hurt, either ; )

Once you bake up a batch of these, don’t expect them to last long. BUT! If you want to, portion of a section of the pan to freeze; your weeknight self craving something sweet, but not overly indulgent, will be glad you did.

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~~~

Autumn Oatmeal Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Averie Cooks}

Traditional chocolate chip cookie meets pillowy pumpkin cookies. They taste every bit delicious as they look: perfectly fluffy, with crispy edges and bursting full of flavor and goodies. Ideal for any autumn get-together; I promise, they won’t last long. 

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

3/4 cup brown sugar, packed {light or dark is fine}

1 large egg

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3/4 cup canned pumpkin puree {not pumpkin pie filling!}

1 Tbsp. molasses

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

pinch salt

3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour {I used a combination of 2 cups AP flour and 1-1/4 cups oats, just for extra texture and flavor}

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2-1 cup assorted dried fruits…cherries, apricots, cranberries, raisins, etc. *nuts of your choice can also be used

*optional: for a sweeter cookie, add 1/2 cup of granulated sugar 

**optional topping: 1/3 cup granulated sugar + 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, mixed together

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine plain Greek yogurt, brown sugar {optional granulated sugar to be added here, if using}, and beat on medium-high speed for 3-4 minutes to cream ingredients together; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add in the egg and vanilla, and beat on high speed for 3-4 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy.

Add in the pumpkin, molasses, 3/4 tsp. cinnamon, pinch of salt, and mix until incorporated, about 1 minute.

Add in the flour {or combination of flour and oats} and baking soda, and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips {and any add-ins you might like} by hand. Cover the mixing bowl and let chill in the refrigerator for at least 90 minutes {I only chilled for about 30 minutes because of time constraint}. Dough can be chilled for up to 4 days.

Prepare your 9″ x 13″ baking dish by coating liberally with nonstick spray. Evenly distribute the batter into the dish, making sure to spread it out evenly and ensuring that all corners are filled. Top with optional cinnamon/sugar mixture, and bake for 20-25 minutes {edges will be golden and set, and the top will have just set; they will continue to firm up as they cool}. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before cutting into bars.

Cookies will keep in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to three months.

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cookies n’ cream cake

Oreo lovers, you’ve found your ::literal:: slice of heaven.

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We all know pretty well by now that I have a sweet tooth the size of the planet, but it’s not too often that I do a lot of baking. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking! – it’s a methodical, precise process; entirely different from the way most of my day-to-day cooking goes. But the art of baking requires concentration and focus; sometimes I need that in the kitchen. Which is why I always let the hubs choose as intricate a birthday dessert as he wants. It’s a win for the both of us – he gets an awesome dessert, and I get my focus fix {and yes, the entirety of the dessert is consumed solely by the two of us!}.

This year’s cake was a no brainer. I mentioned above that Oreo cookie lovers have found a slice of heaven. I kid you not, this cake is hands-down the embodiment of an Oreo cookie, crafted into a glorious 2-layer cake. Every inch, every crumb of this cake pays homage to the iconic cookie. We have crumbled Oreo wafers in the actual cake base. The creme filling finds its way into the frosting that is sandwiched between the two cakes. Whole Oreos have been pulverized into a fine powder, and folded into the buttercream frosting.

One  might think that such a cake will be cloyingly sweet. But I promise that it’s not! I tweaked the original recipe just a bit; eliminating a bit of the sugar, presenting alternate options for the oil and sour cream ingredients. It is a perfectly balanced dessert; sure, it’s indulgent, but worth every delicious bite.

 Have I described it well enough? Are you running to the kitchen to make this?

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Because you very well should be : )

~~~

Oreo Cookies n’ Cream Cake {recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Oreo lovers will fall head over heels in love with this decadent creation. Full to bursting with both Oreo cookie crumbs and the oh-so-loved creme filling, it hits all the right notes. Finished with a fluffy buttercream frosting, this cake is sure to win a spot in your hearts – not to mention, bring back fond childhood memories of dunking Oreo cookies into a tall glass of milk! 

Ingredients: Chocolate Layer Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder {not dutch process}

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups cake flour*

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup applesauce {you can also use vegetable or canola oil}

1 cup full fat sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot coffee or hot water

3/4 cup  Oreo cookie crumbs**

*if you don’t have cake flour, simply remove 3 Tbsp. of the all-purpose flour, the add in 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Sift the all-purpose flour and the cornstarch together before using

**scrape out the filling before pulsing the cookies, and set to the side for later use

Ingredients: Oreo Cream Filling

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

reserved Oreo creme filling {from the 3/4 cup of Oreo cookie crumbs}

2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp. milk or cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients: Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk or cream

10 additional Oreo cookies, pulsed into a fine crumb

To Prepare:

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Generously spray two 9″ cake pans with nonstick spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cocoa powder, sugar, cake flour, baking soda, and salt together on low speed for 30 seconds. Add in the eggs, applesauce {or oil of choice}, sour cream {or Greek yogurt}, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for one minute.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the coffee and Oreo cookie crumbs; stir to combine. Some of the chocolate chips will melt as you stir. Avoid overmixing the batter!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes come out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes cool, make the Oreo Cream Filling. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitting with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening {or just all butter}, and reserved Oreo creme filling on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream and vanilla. The filling will be thick, but you may add more milk/cream if you prefer. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

While the cakes cool, make the Vanilla Buttercream. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla on low speed, then add in the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream. The buttercream will be thick. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the Oreo cookie crumbs. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Once the cake is cooled, assemble the cake.

Place one cooled layer on a cake stand or large plate. Using an offset spatula or knife, cover the top with a 1″ thick layer of the Oreo Creme Filling. Top with the second cake. Cover the tall layer cake with the Vanilla Buttercream.

Slice and serve! Leftover cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

make ahead tip: the cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. The frosting and filling can be prepared, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the next day, when you are ready to serve. 

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that was the size of one slice <3

whole wheat pita bread

This is my kind of sandwich bread.

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Perfectly thin, crisp yet boasting a soft interior. Pita bread is the ideal sandwich vehicle, because let’s be real – you can stuff it with everything that you love, no mess or drips to worry about!

One of my girlfriends makes some of the best homemade pita that I’ve yet to experience, and after having them at one of our many get-togethers, I was finally inspired to try my own version at home. The process was made super simple because of my handy bread machine {y’all know how much I love this piece of kitchen equipment!}. Just a few quick ingredients, basic ones, actually, are added into the well and left to let the machine work its kneading and rising magic. The real beauty is what happens AFTER the machine has worked on it; a quick bit of handwork, rolling it out, followed by a quick secondary rise to ensure maximum puffiness while baking. The end result?…

Hands down the most gorgeous, fluffy pita I’ve ever seen! The hubs could not get over how much they ballooned while baking. I was pleasantly surprised myself : ) we’ve used this for everything – sandwiches, pita pizza, chips…the variety of uses is endless – and love them so much that they have become a freezer staple for quick meals!

I’m thinking that some dressed up variations {think: herbed pita, cheese infused, etc.} will be making an appearance sooner rather than later…I mean, how could that be a bad thing?!

~~~

Whole Wheat Pita Bread {adapted, minimally, from The Bread Machine Cookbook}

Makes 10 pita 

Ingredients:

1-1/3 cups water

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. honey

2 cups bread flour

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

1 heaping Tbsp. vital wheat gluten {optional, but encouraged}

2 tsp. yeast

To Prepare:

In the order mentioned above, add all ingredients into the well of your bread machine. For the yeast, I make a small hole in the center of the flour and add it in last, covering it slightly with flour once put in. Set the program to ‘dough cycle’ and let the machine work as programmed.

Once the dough has completed the cycle, divide the dough into 10 pieces and roll into balls.

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly dust two large baking sheets with cornmeal. Set aside.

Flatten each ball into a disk, and roll into a circle of about 6″. Place onto the prepared baking sheets, and let rise for about 20 minutes, covered loosely with a kitchen towel in a warm place.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the pita have puffed and the bottoms are golden brown.

Pita will keep at room temperature, tightly sealed, for 2-3 days. After that, place in the freezer and let thaw before using.

oatmeal raisin waffles

As I’ve gotten older {and more adept} in my kitchen, I’ve come to the realization that if I can make it from scratch, I want to do just that. There’s something so satisfying about knowing every exact ingredient, and every measurement, that goes into the food that I prepare for myself and for the hubs. Sure, I’ll take a little help when the timing doesn’t work out {or if we are just insanely busy!} but I find it so refreshing to spend time in my teeny kitchen measuring ingredients, doing meal prep, and laying out dishes.

Today’s recipe is no different. As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved waffles. As kids, my sisters and I would get so excited when we got to enjoy the frozen waffles from the grocery store {that didn’t happen to often, as my mom would frequently make homemade ones!}; there was something so fun about watching them jump out from the toaster, perfectly round and golden…just begging to be slathered with butter and syrup. While my taste buds have matured a bit since those days, my love and appreciation for said breakfast treat still remains.

I’ve been making waffles in large batches lately; they come together quickly, require minimal work, and freeze beautifully for easy morning meals during the work week. My go-to recipe has definitely stood the test of time, but recently, I decided I wanted to shake things up. Not wanting to go the safe route, I did some research and settled on testing my culinary skills with a new kind – one that used oat flour as the base! I’m such a huge fan of oatmeal raisin ANYTHING, I knew that this would be an ideal flavor combination to try out. And there’s no denying it; these waffles are on.point. They are so fluffy on the inside, and chock full of raisins…one bite and you’ll be in heaven. The edges get perfectly crisp, similar to the edges of an oatmeal raisin cookie right out of the oven{!!!!}. And as as far as toppings go? Plain, buttered, a scoop of ice cream {yes, I went there}, smeared with jam – there’s no wrong way to do it. Your favorite way is the correct way : )

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~~~

Oatmeal Raisin Waffles {recipe adapted from Girl Makes Food}

A fun twist on traditional waffles, this {easily adaptable} gluten-free version is sure to please even the pickiest of eaters! The oat flour is perfectly nutty and sweet, and when paired with the overload of raisins that we stir in, is reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie {a healthy one, to boot!}. These freeze beautifully, too; I definitely recommend making large batches because you’ll find yourself craving these for breakfast constantly! Makes 12-14 waffles. 

Ingredients:

3 cups oat flour*

2 Tbsp. baking powder {aluminum free}

pinch salt

4 large eggs

2 cups milk {I used a low-fat buttermilk in mine, but any milk of your choice is fine!}

4 Tbsp. pure maple syrup

1 cup golden raisins

*to make oat flour, simply add 3 cups of rolled oats into the body of your food processor and pulse until it resembles flour…- how easy is that!

To Prepare:

In a large mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients, whisking well to combine. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, mix the eggs, milk, and maple syrup.

Gently fold the wet mixture into the dry mixture, adding in the raisins at the end. Let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes {this helps the batter to develop flavor and marry together as one}.

Using a 1/4 cup measure {I have this waffle maker, but feel free to use the correct amount for your machine!}, ladle in the batter and cook until done. Mine took about 4-6 minutes; usually when the waffle iron stops releasing steam, the waffles are done!

Serve immediately with desired toppings.

If freezing, allow waffles to cool completely on baking racks. Transfer to storage bags; waffles will keep at least one month when frozen. To serve, simply pop into the toaster and reheat until desired “crunch” is reached. 

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Enjoy!

{secret ingredient} chocolate chip cookie bars

Sometimes, the most unusual of ingredients can be the most versatile. Enter: tofu…today’s secret ingredient!

I know what you all must be thinking – Alicia MUST be crazy!…tofu used in cookies? That can’t be right…

The exact same thought was running through my mind when I happened upon this recipe while in a futile search to use up a block of tofu before it reached the point of no return. You see, I cook pretty frequently with tofu: sauces, stirfrys, smoothies, often just plain. You name and I have more than likely tried it {or saved a recipe to try it, hah}. But I wanted to do something different, something unusual. So, when I saw this recipe, I knew it had to be done.

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I’ll admit, I had my doubts. My husband did too. After all, how can a soy by-product be transformed into a sweet and luscious dessert? It didn’t make sense. But boy oh boy, were we pleasantly surprised! These cookies come together in not time, and the batter is rich and thick; typical of any traditional cookie dough. The tofu {whether silken or firm} is simply a means of replacing the higher fat ingredients; butter, oil, and the like. By nature, tofu has a pretty mild, almost undetectable flavor, so when paired with the bold tastes of chocolate/peanut butter/oats, it blends in beautifully.

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You have to promise that you’ll give these a shot, ok? You won’t be sorry! {or miss the other ingredients!}

~~~

{secret ingredient} Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars {recipe adapted from Food.com }

Want to fool even the pickiest of eaters? Look no further! These protein-packed cookies will satisfy anyone’s sweet tooth, and won’t leave you feeling guilty. 

Ingredients:

1 package {12-1/3 ounces} tofu

heaping 1/3 cup natural style peanut butter, creamy style

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats

optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, assorted nuts of your liking

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8″ x 8″ baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the tofu, peanut butter, brown sugar, and vanilla.

Slowly add in the flour, baking powder, and oats. Stir gently to combine with the wet ingredients.

If using, add in any additional optional ingredients.

Spread evenly into the baking sheet, and bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting into squares and serving.

Cookies will be kept best in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for several days. They freeze beautifully, too; simply use a freezer-safe bag, and transfer to the fridge several hours before consumption. 

plum tarte tatin

Have you seen anything more beautiful?

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Fresh, juicy plums just begging to be transformed into a luscious dessert. Typically, I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to fruit desserts {hello, apple pie} but with my parents in town…which just happened to be her birthday weekend…I knew I had to do something special.

I’ve seen the oh-s0-wonderful Ina Garten make tatins countless times; I’m a huge fan of her show, and while watching an episode not long ago, this plum tart tatin jumped out from the screen, just begging me to make it. After reading up on the recipe, I was sold – packed with fruit and little else, it was a simple dessert, but a total showstopper.

This particular recipe is practically a one-pot wonder. Aside from making a rich simple syrup, it is a no fuss, low maintenance dessert. Halved plums are packed into a buttered baking dish, then topped with the syrup. A light and fluffy batter is haphazardly dropped on top of the fruit. Once popped into the oven and baked off, you wait with bated breath until the cake has cooled slightly, and you can invert it onto your baking dish. You want the entire dessert to come out in one fell swoop, but fear not! – if a plum or two pops out during the turning out, you simply re-position it back into the cake. It will be out little secret.

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And y’all? The juice that is created from the fruit baking and marrying with the simple syrup….wow. Soak up every last bit of that heavenly liquid. You won’t be sorry.

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Plum Tarte Tatin {recipe adapted from Ina Garten}

Wonderfully simple and totally gorgeous, this cake will impress anyone. Served with a bit of sweetened whipped cream, it’s the perfect springtime dessert. I recommend enjoying it al fresco! 

Ingredients:

3 tbsp. unsalted butter {room temperature} + 3 tbsp. plain nonfat Greek yogurt

additional butter for greasing the dish

6-10 large plums, cut in half and pitted

3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar, for separate uses

1/3 cup water

2 extra large eggs, room temperature

1/3 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

1 tsp. grated lemon zest

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

optional: confectioners’ sugar, for serving 

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter a 9″ glass pie dish and arrange the plums in the dish, cut side down.

Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until it turns a warm amber color, about 360 degrees on a candy thermometer. Swirl the pan but don’t stir. Pour evenly over the plums. Set aside.

Cream the 3 tbsp. butter, 3 tbsp. yogurt, and remaining 1/2 cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy {about 5 minutes}. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs one at a time. Add in the 1/3 cup yogurt, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix until combined.

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add it into the butter mixture. Mix only until combined.

Pour the batter evenly over the plums {you might have to use your spatula to spread it a bit; it’s ok if some of the tops of the plum peak out} and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes.

Invert caked onto a flat plate or serving stand. If a plum sticks, simply ease it out and replace it in the design on the top of the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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spinach & squash galette

This dish is almost, almost too pretty to eat.

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I often find that some of my most favorite recipes happen to be the ones that I throw together during the week, with whatever ingredients I happen to have kicking around in the refrigerator and/or freezer. Because sometimes I simply lack the energy to run to the grocery store after work and want to get dinner prepped and in the oven as soon as I can. This dinner was the result of said night.

And let me just say that I could not be more thrilled with how fantastic this dish turned out. Leftover roasted butternut squash fanned out atop flaky pie crust, a creamy spinach center, and finished off with tangy blue cheese made for the most comforting dinner we’ve had in awhile.

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It’s hard to keep your “groove” in the kitchen during the week, especially after a long day of work. The hubs and I enjoyed every last crumb of this meal, feeling so satisfied and warm, it was as if this galette had given us both a comforting hug. Almost.

~~~

Spinach & Butternut Squash Galette {original recipe}

Easy to prepare with pre-roasted squash, frozen spinach and a handful of herbs and cheese, you’ll have dinner on the table in no time flat! Both you and your taste buds will be 0h-so-happy to dig in. 

Ingredients:

1 prepared pie crust disc {about 9″ in diameter}, room temperature

cornmeal {for dusting the baking sheet}

1 bag of frozen spinach, thawed and drained of any excess water

1 medium butternut squash, roasted/cooled and cut into medallions

1 cup of Greek yogurt {I used 0% fat because it’s what I had on hand, but you can use whatever your preference is}

8 ounces of crumbled blue cheese

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. onion powder

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

salt & pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray, sprinkle with cornmeal.

Unroll the thawed pie crust into the center of the baking sheet, making sure that the entire surface is smooth. Starting about 1″ in from the edge, fan out the roasted butternut squash so that the half-moon pieces overlap slightly; essentially creating a spiral shape. It should make about 2 full spirals. Continue to fan out until you have a well in the center about 4″wide {this can vary slightly, depending on the size of the squash}. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the spinach, Greek yogurt, spices and season to taste with salt and pepper. Place this mixture into the center well of the galette and, if you find yourself having a bit extra, around the outermost edges of the squash {make sure to do this in a very thin line!}.

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Fold the edges of the pie crust over top of the squash, being careful to not stretch too thin! Overlap each fold slightly, so that it folds on top of itself. Brush with a bit of water to ensure the edges get crisp. Sprinkle the exposed vegetables and spinach mixture with the crumbled blue cheese.

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Bake for 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden. Increase the heat to 425 degrees and bake for 5-10 minutes more; this will result in a browned center with crispy edges. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.

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Enjoy!