Monday, December 30, 2013

Super Easy Date Nut Bars

When I was growing up, Date Nut Bars were a fixture on the cookie tray at Christmas. They came from a mix probably made by Betty Crocker. I don’t think it is made any more, but I found an excellent substitute. This is a quick and easy recipe that will amaze you if you have the same craving for Date Nut Bars that I have.

Super Easy Date Nut Bars

2 cups chopped pitted dates

3/4 cup water

1 package of Krusteaz Brand Raspberry Bars Mix (Set aside raspberry filling for another use—like over vanilla ice cream!)

1/2 cup butter, melted

1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Combine chopped dates and water in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and stir continuously until dates begin to dissolve and mixture thickens. About 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8” square baking pan with baking spray.

Combine butter with pouch crust mix and stir with fork until mixture is crumbly.

Spoon 2/3 of crust mixture into prepared pan. Press firmly into bottom of pan.

Bake 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown.

Remove from oven and spread date filling over hot crust.

Combine remaining crust mixture with chopped walnuts. Crumble nut mixture over date filling.

Bake for 25-28 minutes until top begins to brown.

Cool completely before cutting into squares. Store in sealed container. 
The last piece of Date Nut Bar from Christmas Cookie Baking 2013!

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Prize-Winning Cookie Recipe!

Yesterday, I hosted a Christmas Cookie Baking Party. It is the 3rd year that I have done this. We bake about 500 plus cookies in my kitchen. Most of the cookies go to a local senior citizen complex for their annual Christmas party. Everyone who comes also gets to take a box of cookies to take home with them.  I really enjoy doing this.

Let's see, We have classic sugar cookies, pecan tassies, chocolate fudge, lemon squares, magic seven layer bars, chocolate cookies with pistachios and candied orange peel and peanut butter cup cookies. Hmm. What am I missing? Working on jam thumb prints and then fruitcake cookies. Yummers! Had great helpers today! My own set of elves! What fun! And my partner,  John Rush, spent all day Saturday cleaning the house from top to bottom so I could concentrate on the kitchen. I am truly blessed!

Verna's scrumptious cookies!

About 8 years ago I tasted these cookies for the first time. I fell in love with them and have made them ever since. Verna is my sister Kay's mother-in-law. She is now 90 years old and still lives on her own. I hope she doesn't mind my sharing her wonderful recipe. Christmas is not Christmas without these cookies!! UPDATE 12/18/2013: These cookies won the Fort Myers News-Press Holiday Cookie Contest! Here's the link to the article.Not sure how long you will be able to access it. This is is a cached copy.: 

Verna's Apple Walnut Spice Cookies with Vanilla Glaze

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup shortening
1 1/3 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup finely diced apple
1 cup raisins
1/4 cup milk

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cloves.

Cream shortening, sugar, and egg. Add 1/2 sifted dry ingredients. Blend in milk. Add nuts, apples, and raisins and mix well. Add remaining dry ingredients, mix well.

Drop by heaping teaspoon on greased baking sheet (I always use lightly greased parchment paper on my cookie sheet).

Bake at 400 degrees for 11-13 minutes. Brush on glaze while still warm.

Whisk together all ingredients as shown. If too dry to spread add a little more milk.

UPDATE 01/24/14: I found out Verna, who is 90 years old, was hospitalized over the Christmas holidays. It was pretty serious. I had sent her a clipping from the Ft. Myers News-Press about my winning the Christmas Cookie Baking Contest using the recipe she had shared with me several years ago. Her family told me that getting that clipping had made her day and that she was absolutely beaming. She was sharing the article with everyone who came to visit.

God works in mysterious ways, indeed.

Here is a pic of Verna with the newspaper clipping.

Thank you, Verna, for sharing that absolutely wonderful recipe with me. You deserve all the credit!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've made many versions of pumpkin bread, but this one is, by far, the best!

Pumpkin Pecan Streusel Bread
This is one of the best pumpkin breads I have ever made.
The surprise difference is using olive oil instead of butter.
Non-stick cooking spray with flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup solid pack canned pumpkin
1/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup white raisins

Streusel Topping
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon flour


Heat oven to 350°.

Coat 9 x 5-inch loaf pan lightly with non-stick cooking spray with flour.

In a bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice and set aside.

Stir olive oil and sugar together. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add pumpkin and milk and mix well. Add flour mixture stirring until well combined. Stir in pecans and raisins. Pour batter into prepared pan.

For streusel topping, combine 1/2 cup pecans, brown sugar, flour, and olive oil until mixed and crumbly. Sprinkle over batter. 

Bake 55 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. If topping begins to brown too much near the end of the baking time, lightly tent with tin foil. Cool 20 minutes. 

Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before serving.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Second Sunday Brunch at St. John the Apostle, MCC, in Ft. Myers, Florida - August 2012

I made quiche for fifty people for Second Sunday Brunch. Tried something different--a quiche made with chicken. It turned out great! I served it with a colesaw with grapes and raisins (my friend Jack made the coleslaw), herbed French bread and mini-pineapple upside down cakes.
I think next month I am going to try a Southern breakfast--Sausage gravy and biscuits, scrambled eggs with chive, cheese grits and a fruit salad.
Chicken, Mushroom and Asparagus Quiche
1 pre-made refrigerated pie crust
8 ounces (2 cups) Sargento® Artisan Blends® Shredded Swiss Cheese with Gruyere or 2 cups shredded swiss cheese, divided

1 cup coarsely chopped cooked chicken
1/2 teaspoon Grill Mates Montreal Chicken spice

1/2 cups thinly sliced and coarsely chopped onion, sautéed in 1 tablespoon olive oil, drained on paper towel
1/2 cups thinly sliced button mushrooms, sautéed in 1 tablespoon olive oil, drained on paper towel

4 slices crisply cooked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces, optional
10 spears asparagus, blanched and divided

1 1/2 cups half and half
4 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 slice small tomato, optional

Quiches almost ready for the oven. Just waiting for their egg and cream bath.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray 9 inch pie pan with butter spray. Place prepared pie crust in pie pan. Flute edges.

Spread 1 cup of cheese over bottom of crust. Sprinkle chicken with ½ teaspoon of Montreal Chicken spice. Spread on top of cheese.
Spread onions and mushrooms over chicken. Spread bacon over mushrooms.

Chop 4 spears of asparagus into 1” pieces. Spread over bacon. Spread remaining cheese over asparagus.
Combine half and half, eggs, and Dijon mustard and beat well. Pour over filling until filling is covered.

Arrange remaining six spears on top of pie. Place tomato slice in center.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and set in center. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.  

Monday, July 9, 2012

2nd Sunday Brunch at St. John the Apostle MCC Church in Fort Myers, Florida - July 8, 2012

It's been a long time since I posted on my blog--too long. I've been experimenting with lots of recipes, not just Polish, but all kinds.

For the last couple of months I've taken the responsibility of putting together (with the help of lots of other folks) the 2nd Sunday Brunch at St. John the Apostle, MCC church in Ft. Myers. I really enjoy St. Johns--the message, the fellowship, and the brunches.  Here's a link to the church if you want to know more about it.

This past Sunday we had Monte Cristo sandwiches as a main course, accented with Peach Salsa and a Roasted Corn and Black Bean Salad. Dessert was Mini Fresh Cherry and Almond Cakes.

Note: This is not a picture of my sandwiches. I didn't have my camera around when I made them so I found a sample pic on the web that looks very similar.

Adam’s Baked Monte Cristo Sandwiches

4 tablespoons melted butter

4 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups milk

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

½ teaspoon salt

18 1” diagonal slices of French bread

9 tablespoons prepared Pesto sauce

9 slices Honey baked ham

9 slices smoked turkey

9 slices of Swiss cheese

9 tablespoons French’s French Fried Onions

9 tablespoons peach preserves

3 tablespoons confectiners’ sugar

Spray 9x13 baking pan with cooking spray.  Spread 2 tablespoons of melted butter over bottom of pan.

Combine eggs, milk, mustard and salt in blender. Blend until smooth. Pour into shallow bowl. Dip 9 slices of the French bread into egg mixture and place in the baking pan. Put 1 tablespoon Pesto sauce on each slice and spread to edges of bread.

Top bread with one slice each of ham, turkey and Swiss cheese. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon French fried onions on top.

Dip remaining nine slices of bread into egg mixture. Top each slice with 1 tablespoon peach preserves and place bread on top of sandwich, peach preserve side down.

Brush tops of sandwiches with remaining 2 tablespoons butter.

Cover baking pan with tin foil and refrigerate overnight.

In morning, set oven to 350 degrees. Bake sandwiches for 30 minutes. Remove tin foil, set oven to broil and brown tops of French toast, 3 to 5 minutes. Watch carefully as toast browns fast.

Remove from oven. Place on serving platter if desired. Sift confectioners’ sugar over sandwiches.

Note: These sandwiches can be placed in a buttered frying pan and fried as you would French toast. Just be sure that you cover the pan for a few minutes until the cheese starts to melt.