September 29, 2010

Chocolate Hazelnut Rice Krispie Treats

I have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Rice Krispie Treats.  My girls think that this is fine since when I make them there is more for them to eat.  I don't know what it is exactly that I don't like.  We have something a little similar in Australia called Chocolate Crackles but I guess I was never a huge fan of those either.  However, I am more than happy to make these for everyone else.

In a previous post I mentioned that I am a fan of the blog Culinary Concoctions by Peabody.  It was on this blog that I first saw this recipe.  I had to make a few changes because I already had Rice Krispies rather than Cocoa Krispies and I didn't want to buy hazelnut extract when I knew I wouldn't use up the bottle before it expired.  I kept thinking that a little Bailey's liqueur would be nice in these, but I had to remind myself that these were for kids not adults.

These treats certainly give your arms a workout. They are a sticky, gooey mess when they are first being mixed together.  I was worried that I would never be able to smooth them out the first time I made them, but practice makes perfect.  Well, maybe not perfect, but good enough for me.  Once they cooled down I found that the easiest way to cut them was with a rocking pizza knife.  I wrapped a few for the girls to share with friends at school and the rest disappeared quite quickly.

Chocolate Hazelnut Rice Krispie Treats
(Recipe adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

  • 6 Tablespoons butter
  • 16 ounces mini marshmallows 
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup Nutella
  • 7 cups Rice Krispies Cereal
  • 3 cups roughly crushed Pirouette Rolled Wafer Cookies (Chocolate Hazelnut flavor)

  1. Butter or spray a 9-x-13-inch baking pan.
  2. Over low heat melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large stock pot.
  3. Once butter has melted, add marshmallows. Continue to cook over low heat while they melt. It may take a little time. Don’t turn up the heat to try and make it go quicker, you could end up with burned marshmallows or your treats could end up too hard once they firm up. 
  4. Stir in the Nutella and vanilla until fully combined. It may take a little bit of time for the Nutella to melt in.
  5. When most of the marshmallows have melted and they resemble marshmallow crème with a few lumps, remove from heat and add the cereal and cookies.
  6. Using a wooden spoon, stir, stir, stir some more, until all the cereal is fully coated and other parts of the pot are not hogging all the marshmallows (so evenly coated).
  7. Pour into prepared baking pan. Take a rubber spatula and either spray it with non-stick spray or simply get some water on it (I just put mine under the faucet real quick). Using the spatula, press the cereal/marshmallow mixture down into the pan, attempting to create a flat, even surface.
  8. Cover with foil and let sit for a few hours to firm up.
  9. Take foil off. Place wax paper down that is a little bit longer than the baking pan. Flip the pan over onto the wax paper. Cut into squares or shapes.
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September 28, 2010

To Try Tuesday - Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins

I am drowning under a pile of recipes I have saved to try one day.  The problem is that "one day" never seems to arrive.  So I have set myself a little challenge and I am calling it To Try Tuesday.  Each Tuesday I have to pull one recipe from the pile to try.  After doing a taste test I then have to decide if the recipe is a keeper or not.  A keeper will be entered into MasterCook and a dud will result in the paper being thrown away.  Either way I will be getting rid of a mass of paper floating around my house so it is a win-win situation.

The first recipe I have chosen is Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins from Eating Well.  I chose this recipe because it reminded of my favorite treat from Starbucks on the Big Island, a honey bran muffin.  I found out on my last visit that they will no longer be offering the muffin in their stores, even though it was one of their best sellers and you had to get there early to get one or miss out.  I don't understand why stores do this.  Anyway, I wanted to find something close and I liked that this had pineapple, brown sugar, and nuts in the topping.

After reading through the recipe I knew I wanted to make a few adjustments.  I wanted to use macadamias rather than pecans or walnuts because I love the taste of them with pineapple.  Also, since I did not have any whole wheat flour on hand, I used a blend of white and ultra-grain flours that I had purchased from Costco. To make the muffins a little more moist I added some applesauce.  Lastly, I replaced the cinnamon with Baking Spice from Penzeys. There is a note in the recipe about plumping up the raisins by soaking them in hot water.  To give them a bit more flavor I drained the can of sliced pineapple into a cup, heated the juice in the microwave, and then added the raisins.  They plumped up nicely, and I drained them just before I added them to the bowl.

All in all I was really pleased with how these turned out.  The muffin itself had a nice flavor, but it was the topping that made it.  I think that next time I make these I will double the topping mixture because the taste of toasted macadamias, pineapple, and brown sugar was addictive.  I made a double batch of these muffins but I ended up with 30 muffins.

Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins



  • 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, or pecans (optional)
  • 1 10-ounce can pineapple slices (drained - use the liquid for raisins)


  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (I used a white/ultra-grain flour)
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Baking Spice
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice, or orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 8-ounce can crushed pineapple, (not drained)
  • 1 cup grated carrot, (1 large)
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4 cup raisins, preferably baking raisins (see Ingredient note)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, or pecans (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat 12 muffin cups with cooking spray.
  2. To prepare topping: Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar into each muffin cup. Sprinkle nuts, if using, over the sugar. Stack pineapple slices and cut into 6 wedges. Place 2 wedges in each muffin cup.
  3. To prepare muffins: Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Baking Spice in a large bowl.
  4. Whisk eggs and brown sugar in a medium bowl until smooth. Whisk in oil, juice and vanilla. Stir in crushed pineapple and apple sauce. Make a well in the dry ingredients; add the wet ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Stir in carrot, oats, raisins and nuts, if using. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups (they'll be quite full).
  5. Bake the muffins until the tops are golden brown and firm to the touch, 15 to 25 minutes. Immediately loosen edges and turn muffins out onto a baking sheet. Restore any stray pineapple pieces and nuts. Let cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve upside-down, either warm or at room temperature.
Makes 12 muffins

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September 27, 2010

Strawberry Spinach Salad

One of my favorite places to have a casual dinner is Kona Brewing Company.  Not only do they have great beer and pizza, but I love their salads too.  Their original restaurant is in Kona, Hawaii and I was so happy when they opened another restaurant here on Oahu.  I could finally enjoy my favorite beer, the Wailua Wheat Ale (which has passionfruit in it) on tap, without having to wait for a trip to the Big Island. For anyone who visits the Big Island I would recommend you sign up for their brewery tour - not only is it informative, but you get samples! And for those who don't have a trip to the Islands in their immediate future Kona Brewing Company beer is available in bottles now - and they are all excellent. And, no I do not work or have any affiliation with this restaurant - I just really like their beer and food.

It was at Kona Brewing that I first tried a Strawberry Spinach Salad.  It is described on their menu as "fresh spinach covered with strawberries, toasted macadamia nuts, Gorgonzola and Ewa onions, house-made strawberry 
vinaigrette on the side".  I ordered it each time we ate there and soon realized that I would have to try and replicate the dish at home.

It turns out that it is not that hard.  I had to play around with the ratios for the dressing, but I think I came up with a pretty good copy of the original.  In this version I used goat cheese because that is what I had in the fridge but it is just as good with blue cheese.  To adjust for the different tastes in our family I sometimes serve the components of the salad in separate bowls so each person can make their own salad according to their taste.  Add some sliced rotisserie chicken and you have a quick and easy meal.

Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • 3 cups sliced strawberries, divided
  • 3 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar (or red if that is what you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/2 cups macadamia nuts, toasted and cooled
  • 10 oz spinach
  • 1/4 cup sliced sweet onion, such as Ewa, Maui, Walla Walla, or Vidalia
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or blue cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Add 2 cups of strawberries to a blender or food processor.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sour cream, salt, pepper, and blend until smooth.
  3. In a large serving bowl add spinach, 1 cup sliced strawberries, toasted macadamias, onion, and cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Just before serving pour approximately 1/2 cup of dressing into bowl and toss to coat.  Serve immediately.
  5. Refrigerate and leftover salad dressing for use in the next few days.
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September 26, 2010

Snickerdoodle Muffins with Cinnamon Chips

Cinnamon is such a versatile spice.  It is sweet, fragrant, warm, and aromatic and can be used in both sweet and savory recipes.  Studies have also shown that cinnamon has medicinal benefits such as lowering LDL cholesterol, lessening inflammation, and just smelling the wonderful odor of this sweet spice boosts brain activity.  It is a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

I was cleaning out my freezer and found some cinnamon chips from King Arthur Flour that I received in a regional swap exchange with a friend from the Cooking Light Forum.  I love the products from King Arthur Flour.  They offer so many different items and the quality is excellent.  I decided that they would make a great addition to the Snickerdoodle Muffins.

The recipe I used was one I found on a blog called Taste and Tell. This is a super quick and easy recipe that tastes delicious.  These only take approximately 15 minutes to cook and I dare you to try not to eat one as soon as it is out of the oven.  The addition of the cinnamon chips really adds an extra cinnamon boost to the muffins.  I think they would also be good with coffee chips.

Snickerdoodle Muffins with Cinnamon Chips

  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • cinnamon sugar - for sprinkling on top
  1. Preheat oven to 375F. Prepare muffin tins.
  2. Combine dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients. Mix only until moistened. Fill muffin cups and top with cinnamon sugar.
  3. Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick entered in the center comes out clean.
Makes 12 muffins

September 24, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

I recently became a member of The Cake Slice Baker's. Once each month I will be baking along with the group as we tackle the chosen cake.  Then I will be posting about it on my blog. There will also be links to other members blogs so you can check out how everyone's cake turned out.  I just know it is going to be fun to be a part of a wonderful group of baker's and blogger's, and I can't wait to get started.

In the meantime I decided to bake the Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze that they all baked last month.  This recipe is by Nancie McDermott from her book, Southern Cakes.  My daughter is having a bake sale at school tomorrow and I thought there should be something to offer besides neon colored cupcakes, which seem to be all the rage at her school.  At least I know the teachers will be happy with what I made.

At first I was going to use some left over Fuji apples.  Then I remembered that I had some Ginger Gold apples, which I had never tried before, so I used them instead. After doing some research on these apples at the Produce Oasis, I found out that it is one of the first apples available in the fall and it does not store well. There is a slight taste of spice and it has a crisp white flesh that does not go brown too quickly after it has been cut, which worked out really well when I was prepping the ingredients. It also holds its shape well during cooking.  An interesting trivia fact about apples - "in ancient Greece, tossing an apple to a girl was a traditional proposal of marriage; catching it was acceptance".

I did make some minor changes to the recipe after reading some of the reviews.  There seemed to be a few people mentioning the amount of oil so I cut it down to one cup and replaced the other half a cup with apple sauce. I also cut the sugar back to one cup of white sugar and half a cup of brown sugar.  The last change I made was adding a teaspoon of Baking Spice from Penzeys because I needed to use it before it gets stale and I like the taste of it in baked goods.  I try very hard not to let anything from Penzeys go stale because we don't have one here so it is hard to replenish my stock (shipping is a killer).

The smell of the cake cooking was incredible - apples, pecans, and baking spice = yum.  Once it was out of the oven, and I poured the glaze over the top, it took all my my willpower not to grab a fork and dig in. After it had cooled on the counter for a while I hid it in the refrigerator so it wouldn't tempt me.  Once it was cool I cut it into squares and packaged it for the bake sale.  I did try some of the crumbs and they were delicious.  There were a few smaller pieces so I decided to keep those to enjoy tonight with our coffee.  This recipe is definitely a keeper and I can't wait to bake another one.

Fresh Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Glaze
(adapted from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

  • 3 cups all purpose flour  
  • 1 cup white sugar 
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda  
  • 1 tsp salt  
  • 1 teaspoon of Baking Spice (from Penzeys)
  • 3 eggs  
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup apple sauce
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract  
  • 3 cups finely chopped apples  
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

Brown Sugar Glaze
  • 1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 tbsp evaporated milk, half-and-half or cream
  1. Heat the oven to 350F. Grease a 13 by 9 inch pan or two 8-9 inch cake pans.In a medium bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir with a fork to mix everything together well.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a wooden spoon or a mixer at low speed until pale yellow and foamy. Add the oil and vanilla and beat well. Stir in the flour mixture with a wooden spoon and continue stirring the batter just until the flour disappears. Add the apples and nuts, stir to mix them into the batter until fairly uniform. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for 45-50 minutes (start checking at 25 minutes if making a 1/3 recipe loaf) or until the cake is golden brown, springs back when touched lightly near the center and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Place the cake (still in the pans) on a wire rack and spoon over the glaze while still hot.
    Brown Sugar Glaze
    1. Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the mixture comes to a gentle boil. Then cook for 3-5 minutes.
    To Finish
    1. Spoon the hot glaze all over the hot-from-the-oven cake. Let the glazed cake cool completely before serving straight from the pan.

    Makes one 13x9 inch sheet cake or two 8-9inch round cakes (1/3 of a recipe makes one loaf pan)

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    September 23, 2010

    Banana Muffins With Crumbly Topping

    Is there anyone out there who doesn't love a muffin warm from the oven?  I know that I can never resist the temptation, even though I risk burning my fingers and my mouth.  There is just something about peeling off the liner, breaking off a piece and seeing the steam billow out, then popping that morsel of goodness right in your mouth.

    I don't know if I have a favorite muffin flavor.  It seems like each time I try a new recipe it becomes my new favorite.  Oh well, they say that variety is the spice of life.

    Once again I had an excess of ripe bananas so I went looking for a muffin recipe.  I came across this recipe for Banana Muffins with Crumbly Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Tops on Group Recipes.  It seemed like just the right combination of flavors.

    Banana Muffins With Crumbly Brown Sugar And Cinnamon Tops


    • 1 1/2 C flour
    • 1 t baking soda
    • 1 t baking powder
    • 1/2 t salt
    • 3 bananas - mashed
    • 3/4 C sugar
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1/3 C melted butter
    for the streusel:
    • 1/3 C brown sugar
    • 2 T flour
    • 1/8 t cinnamon
    • 1 T butter


    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease muffin pan if you are not using muffin liners.
    2. Mix together 1 1/2 C flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, mix together bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter. Make sure to slowly temper the egg/banana/sugar mixture before pouring all the melted butter into the bowl so the egg does not cook.
    3. Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients and mix until just moistened. Spoon batter into muffin cups.
    4. In another bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 T flour and cinnamon. Cut in the butter until it resembles a coarse meal. Sprinkle amply on top of the muffin batter.
    5. Bake muffins from 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Makes 12 muffins.
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    September 22, 2010

    The Passion of Passionfruit

    Passionfruit is one of my favorite fruits. I just love the tangy flavor and vibrant color. I remember as a child we had a vine in our backyard and most days we would pick a few and scoop the flesh out to eat with vanilla ice cream. Here in Hawaii it is known as lilikoi.

    Did you know that The 'passion' in passionfruit refers to spiritual passion. The name was given to the fruit by the Jesuit missionaries in South America. The ten petals of the passionfruit flower referred to the ten disciples present at the crucifixion, and the thin curling passionfruit tendrils are the whips that scourged Christ on the way to the cross, and if you look at the flower closely you can see the crown of thorns.

    There are many different varieties of passionfruit and the vine is quite ornate when the flowers are blooming.   Below is a photo I took of one of the flowers blooming in early January.

    This recipe comes from the Woman's Day in Australia. It is a recipe that was submitted from a home reader, and as soon as I saw it I knew it would be a winner.

    Passionfruit and Lemon Slice

    • 1 cup self-rising flour
    • 1 cup desiccated coconut
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 125g butter, melted
    • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
    • juice 2 lemons (about 1/2 cup)
    • pulp 2 passionfruit (about 1/4 cup)
    1. Preheat oven to moderate, 350°F. Lightly grease an 18 x 28cm lamington (or brownie) pan. Line base and sides with baking paper, allowing paper to extend 2cm above the rim of the long sides.
    2. Sift flour into a bowl. Stir in coconut and sugar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add butter, mixing well.
    3. Press firmly into the base of the prepared pan. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly golden.
    4. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine condensed milk, lemon juice and passionfruit. Pour over base and bake for a further 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool and chill overnight.
    5. Lift the slice from the pan. Peel away paper and cut into 24 squares. 
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    This recipe comes together so quickly and easily.  The richness of the slice really makes you think that a lot more work went into making them.  I just had a feeling that it was going to be a winner even before they were cooled that, before I put away the dry ingredients, I measured out everything for another batch.  I then put each ingredient in separate plastic bags and placed them in the freezer.  This way it will be so quick and easy to whip up another batch whenever the mood strikes me.

    September 21, 2010

    Love ya Bunches

    Has it really been that long since I have updated my blog?  Where did the time go?  I have been making lots of goodies, but I just haven't seemed to be motivated to get my fingers busy typing and get the words written down here.  The next few posts will be the clearing up of my backlog.  I just have to remember what I baked.  Thank goodness I took photos so I can work may back back from there.

    Honey Macadamia Bunches

    I discovered this recipe at the Whole Grain Gourmet when I was searching for some healthy treats to make.  My husband is currently training for the Ironman (Triathlon) World Championships in Kona and he does a big training session on Saturdays with a group of friends. I really wanted to find something a little more healthy that he could take to share after their big workout.  I made some changes to the original recipe by replacing the pecans with macadamia nuts, decreasing the sugar, and adding vanilla, cinnamon, & salt.  Other than that I made the recipe as stated.  I realize that this is not the healthiest recipe I could make due to the amount of butter. Next time I will try replacing some of the butter with apple sauce.

    • 3 cups quick oats
    • 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
    • 1/2 cups finely ground flax seed
    • 1 cup coconut (shredded or flaked)
    • 1 cup macadamias (chopped)
    • 1 cup brown sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/3 cup honey or molasses
    • 1 cup butter
    1. Preheat oven to 325
    2. Combine oats, flour, flax seed, coconut, salt, cinnamon, and nuts in a large bowl.
    3. Melt butter, sugar and honey in saucepan over low heat, then add vanilla.
    4. Add melted butter mixture to dry ingredients.
    5. Fill mini muffin tins 3/4 full.
    6. Bake 9-12 minutes, until browned and chewy.
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    These were so easy to make and I really liked that you can make extras as they freeze really well. I also think that they would be good with some crystallized ginger added to the mixture.