Chewy Almond Vanilla Bars – Simple Sesame Blogger Challenge

I’m excited to share a recipe I created for the Simply Sesame Blogger Recipe 118956612Challenge!
As part of the challenge, I received three flavors of Simply Sesame to try: Vanilla with Almond Bits, Pistachio Morsels with a hint of Cardamom and Pure Roasted Sesame. I immediately knew I wanted to make experiment and make a recipe for granola bars. My kids are big fans of snacks and these would make great after school snacks for them.I loved that all three were 100% natural, non GMO and low in calories, sugar and salt – and it makes a great alternative to peanut butter or hazelnut spread. It’s also gluten-free and vegan!

I love the vanilla and almond flavor of the bars and hint of sesame. The bars held up well and can be cut into whatever size you’d like. I did rectangles for my oldest and then smaller bite sized pieces for my youngest. The spread was great to use and I loved the flavor. I can’t wait to try the regular variety to make a batch of hummus! There’s so many possibilities with these products and are great substitute for those of us with food allergies.

Visit Simple Sesame over on their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram  or Twitter for more delicious recipes and find out where you can get your own Simple Sesame spreads!

Chewy Almond Vanilla Bars | Join Us, Pull up a Chair
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Cranberry Vanilla Shortbread Cookies

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2014This is my second year participating in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap. It’s so much fun and I love that we partner with Cookies for Kids Cancer to help support this amazing non-profit!

Once you’ve signed up to participate in the swap, you’re assigned three other food bloggers and send each one a dozen cookies. Then you get three dozen cookies in the mail! My kids were loving this and came home each day waiting for our swap cookies to arrive. The one requirement is that we’re to make a cookie that is new to us. I searched high and low and found a recipe for pistachio shortbread cookies. Well…after seeing the price of pistachios (holy sticker shock!) I decided to take the base recipe and make a few modifications to use common ingredients that I always have in my pantry – dried cranberries and ground vanilla beans.

These cookies are easy to make and modify to whatever flavor you want! They would be great with fresh orange zest or lemon zest instead of the vanilla….the possibilities are endless!

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 tsp ground vanilla bean

In a bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add in the vanilla extract and mix. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch and ground vanilla bean. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients with the butter-sugar mixture until a dough forms. Stir in the cranberries by hand.

On a foot long piece of plastic wrap, form the dough into a log about 9 to 10 inches long, about 2.5 inches thick. Wrap the dough and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours, preferably overnight.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice the dough with a serrated knife 1/4 to 1/3 inch thick and place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your cookies. Allow to cool for 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

After packaging up the cookies, I sent a dozen off to:

A Zesty Bite
Dang that’s Delicious 
Cooking with Curls

I received cookies from the following bloggers:

The Freshman Cook sent me the cutest Gingerbread Men. The kids gobbled them up!
Susan from A Less Processed Life sent delicious Billionaire Bars..I devoured these!
The Toasted Sprinkle sent a dozen Cris Kringle cookies. My husband loved these!

Shortbread cookie recipe slightly adapted from The View From the Great Island

Honey Vanilla Coffee Creamer

I’m slowly in the process of eliminating as much processed food as I can from our kitchen and this was a big step for me to replace my store-bought coffee creamer. I didn’t realize how simple and easy it was to make and I can’t wait to try out different flavors – almond, caramel, pumpkin spice…the possibilities are endless!

I love the light flavor of the honey and vanilla and I didn’t need as much creamer as I usually pour into my coffee. I used regular milk this time, but I’m going to try almond milk next time and I’m going to even attempt to make my own sweetened condensed milk! Plus I found this super cute carafe at Target and I knew it would be perfect to hold my creamer.
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 3/4 cup milk (your preference: whole, skim, almond, heavy cream, etc)
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp vanilla extract
Heat the honey with a small amount of milk in the microwave to thin it out and for the sugars in the honey to completely dissolve. Add the remaining milk, condensed milk and vanilla extract. Stir to combine and then place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.
Check out recipes for other flavor combinations at Reclaiming Your Castle.