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dessert

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Brown Butter Cheerios Protein Cereal Treat Bars

June 8, 2014

Cheerios Protein Cereal Treat Bar 1 | Espresso and Cream

As a food editor, I spend a good chunk of my days developing recipes for our brands. It’s a wonderful job, one that I’m so incredibly thankful for, and I love seeing the way recipes and food content can solve problems and provide inspiration for each season and family event.

But when it comes to blogging, lately I’ve felt quite conflicted.

It’s not that I don’t have recipes to share or food ideas, goodness knows I have plenty. But there are so many people sharing amazing food content that sometimes I worry that I’m just one more person adding to the chaos and noise. There are bloggers doing such inspiring work and magazines and food websites that continue to do one great thing after the next. I’m so energized by what they create that sometimes I can’t imagine what I have to add on this site is even worth sharing.

In those moments when I’m tempted to stop creating all together, I find focusing on why I create recipes or share personal stories on this space is the only remedy. I’ve long since abandoned writing for page views or sponsors or new followers (although, let’s be honest, they’re always nice.) I realize that my blog may very well be a small corner of the internet forever rather than the next mega site. More than anything, I write to share life and connect with other like-minded women (and a few men!) who are striving for the same things: authenticity, health, community, a deeper faith, and really great food.

It seems that the most popular type of writing voice on the web is one that’s witty, sarcastic and always chipper. I can’t tell you the number of bloggers I’ve met that are nothing like their online personas, and it always baffles me why everyone feels they need to fall in line with that type of writing. It’s so easy to start to believe that you need to write in that same popular style, but I for one and not all that witty in real life, rarely sarcastic and more direct than chipper. This is your free pass to hold me accountable if ever I seem to veer off course.

Brown Butter Cheerios Protein Cereal Treat Bar 2 | Espresso and Cream

I’m not sure there is any natural transition from authenticity in blogging to cereal treat bars, but this recipe is too good not to share. It’s everything I expect from a dessert: simple, delicious and easy to make. Working at General Mills the word “Rice Krispie” is completely off limits. I’m only sort of kidding, but I have found that my time there has given me a lot of appreciation for marshmallow bars using other types of cereal.

Recently I got a chance to take home a few boxes of the new Cheerios Protein and it didn’t take me long to realize the Cinnamon Almond flavor was the perfect base for a cereal treat bar. But of course I couldn’t stop there, I decided that browning the butter was the best way to bring out the flavor of the cereal. If you’ve never browned your butter before adding the marshmallows I would strongly suggest you give it a try. This little trick reaps so much in terms of flavor that you’ll never want to go back to making them any other way.

Brown Butter Cheerios Protein Cereal Bar
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9
 
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter
  • 1 bag (10 oz) miniature marshmallows
  • 5 cups Cheerios Protein Cereal (I used the cinnamon-almond flavor)
  • 4 oz milk or semi-sweet chocolate, melted
Instructions
  1. Place butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Melt butter and continue to cook, stirring frequently, 3 to 4 minutes or until butter is brown and fragrant. Reduce heat to low and stir in the marshmallows. Continue to cook and stir until marshmallow mixture is melted and smooth.
  2. Stir in the cereal until well combined. Press mixture into an 8x8-inch square pan that is sprayed with cooking spray. If desired, drizzle with chocolate. Let set 30 minutes. Cut into 9 bars.

 

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Easy Rhubarb Crisp

May 23, 2014

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Sometimes when I have a recipe to share it’s almost like going through the motions; I know exactly what I want to say about the recipe, how the flavors are balanced and the recipe’s ingredients shine and the like. But this morning when I sat down to write it was life, more than anything, that felt right to be writing about.

A few people over the last couple weeks have asked how we are doing, a very loaded, complicated and thoughtful question to ask 6 weeks after the fact. It’s a question for which I don’t really have a good answer. We’re moving forward, thinking about the future in all of its uncertainty. There are some days that the sadness and uncertainty hit me like a ton of bricks and just when I think I’m doing really well, I find myself crying on the kitchen floor out of nowhere. We’re celebrating milestones of our yet-to-be-born nephew and niece. And, quite honestly, it’s strange and difficult and hard to navigate juggling feelings of loss and sadness that co-mingle with happiness and anticipation for those around us.

On vacation I re-read Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist and it spoke to me even more than when I read it the first time. If you’ve never read it, I would urge you to run to the bookstore or the e-store and buy/download it today. I’ve been coming back to this quite time and time again:

“…sometimes the happiest ending isn’t the one you keep longing for, but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are.” 

It’s hard for someone like me, who is all about answers and research and knowing the next steps, to do blood test after blood test only to get absolutely zero conclusive answers. Hearing you are absolutely healthy as can be is both a relief and a frustration. Um, have you read my medical record? It doesn’t seem like it to me.

I realize now more than ever that this experience has changed me in the best and deepest of ways. I’ve become more empathetic and noticed people hurting that I never would have noticed before. Instead of feeling like “those are your problems,” my heart genuinely hurts for others in a way I didn’t think possible before. I like this new side of me, even if the journey has not been what I had imagined thus far.

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And now I’ve totally gotten away from the point, haven’t I? Well, our neighbors are the kindest older couple we could have asked for and they regularly bring us little treats, like maple syrup from their trees up north at their cabin and rhubarb from their garden. I’ve never really had a taste for rhubarb personally, but my husband loves rhubarb more than anyone I’ve ever met.

He was so excited when a bag of rhubarb was waiting for us after work one day that I couldn’t resist throwing it into a crisp that very evening. This recipe is inspired by a recipe from The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook**still a favorite in my house and has been one of my go-to books since childhood. The crisp is perfect in all sorts of ways, sweet and tart at once and just the right amount of crunchiness. Joe raved about this dessert when he sat down with a giant bowl of it this week, and I have a feeling if you love rhubarb you’ll feel the same.

Easy Rhubarb Crisp
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
 
This rhubarb crisp is easy to throw together at a moment's notice and tastes delicious when served with vanilla ice cream.
Ingredients
  • 6 cups chopped rhubarb
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • Topping
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, toss together the rhubarb, 1 cup granulated sugar and the corn starch. Toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a 9-inch pie plate or an 8x8-inch square baking pan.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir until well-combined. Use a pastry blender to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a fine meal. Sprinkle over the rhubarb mixture.
  4. Bake 45 to 55 minutes or until golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool 1 hour before serving.

**I noticed you can buy it for less than $1 online. You guys! Go and do so immediately. I promise you won’t regret it! It can be found HERE.

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Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies (4 Cookies)

May 6, 2014

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies 1 | Espresso and Cream

I mentioned on Instagram this past weekend that I had a great small-batch chocolate chip recipe for you. Since a lot of you mentioned you were excited about the recipe, I figured it’s best not to keep you waiting any longer than necessary. Over the years there have been many times when I want just a little something sweet. I don’t want to bake two dozen chocolate chip cookies because of the time and hassle and amount of ingredients required, so this weekend I took one of my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipes and scaled it down to make only 4 cookies instead of a dozen or two.

The recipe is an almond flour based cookie that doesn’t contain any “specialty” ingredients, like starches or specialty flours, just a little almond meal and some basic cookie ingredients like butter, sugar and chocolate chips. Since the cookies are made with almond meal they have a slightly different texture than a cookie made with all-purpose flour, but I can assure you they are still very soft, chewy and totally delicious.

Next time you’re looking for an easy little recipe that makes just a few cookies to satisfy a craving, I would highly suggest these little gems. And in case you’re interested, I’ve also included nutritional information in the recipe heatnote. These aren’t exactly “diet” cookies, but the clean ingredient list can make you feel good about eating a cookie, or two. I promise I won’t tell anyone.

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies 2 | Espresso and Cream

Small Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies (4 Cookies)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 4
 
This recipe only makes 4 cookies so it is perfectly portion controlled! Each cookie has approximately 240 calories, 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber.
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup almond meal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • ½ tablespoon almond milk or other milk of choice
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons chocolate chips, non-dairy chocolate chips or cacao nibs
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat (such as a silpat) and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the almond meal, sugar, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a second small bowl, combine the egg yolk and butter until smooth and well combined. Add in the almond milk and vanilla extract.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until evenly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  5. Scoop dough by heaping tablespoons onto baking sheet. Bake 9 to 12 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

 

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Chia-Chai Vega Protein Pudding {Giveaway!}

April 30, 2014

Chia Vega Protein Pudding | Espresso and Cream

Now that the weather is getting a little warmer and summer is right around the corner, I’ve been thinking more about warm-weather meals and snacks. Okay, it’s still rainy and chilly in Minnesota, but I’m anticipating summer weather soon! For me, that means drinking lots of smoothies and eating lots of chilled snacks, like chia pudding.

A few weeks ago I picked up a new-to-me vegan protein powder and was really turned off by the flavor of the powder. Usually, I’m a total Vega devotee when it comes to protein powders and nutritional shakes, and I seriously regretted my decision to spend some major cash on a competitor’s product that I didn’t care for at all. The good news? After sharing my misfortune with the Vega team, they offered to send me a jar of my favorite Vega One Vanilla-Chai Nutritional Shake and host a giveaway for you on Espresso and Cream! (see more about that giveaway below)

When my Vega arrived I was excited to put it to good use. A few nutritional highlights about the Vega One Nutritional Shake:
-15 g protein
-6 g fiber
-1.5 g Omega 3
-Antioxidants
-Probiotics
-Greens
-Dairy, gluten and soy-free
-No artificial sugars or added sugar

Instead of making a smoothie (like I said, still too chilly) I made a chia pudding. I’ve been on a huge chia pudding kick lately, and adding a boost of protein with the Vega seemed like a natural addition. To smooth out the mixture, I blended the pudding in a food processor to break up some of the chia seeds and give the pudding a more pudding-like texture. Oh, and I added in a little almond butter as well because almond butter makes everything better, right?!

Chia Vega Protein Pudding 2 | Espresso and Cream

Now let’s get to the giveaway, shall we? The Vega team sent along a little starter package to give to one lucky E&C reader. It includes:
-5 day supply of Vega One in their most popular flavors (vanilla, chocolate and berry)
-Recipe book
-$5 coupon for your next purchase of a Vega product
-Water/smoothie bottle
-Reusable Vega tote bag
-1 box Vega One Nutrition Bars (in your flavor of choice)

You have three ways to enter! The giveaway is open from now until Monday, May 5th at 5 am. I’ll announce a winner later next week. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

VegaStarterKit

Chia-Chai Vega Protein Pudding
Author: 
Recipe type: snack, breakfast
Serves: 4
 
Ingredients
  • ½ cup chia seeds
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 scoop Vega Vanilla Chai protein powder or other Vega flavor of choice
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Stevia to taste (I used 3 packets)
  • 1 cup vanilla Greek yogurt (optional, omit if you want a vegan treat)
Instructions
  1. In sealable plastic container, combine chia seeds, almond milk and protein powder. Stir until very well combined. Cover with lid and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  2. After refrigeration, add chia mixture to blender or food processor along with the almond butter, vanilla extract and stevia to taste. Blend 2 to 3 minutes or until some of the chia seeds are broken up and almond butter is well combined. Mixture will only be semi-smooth and still have some whole chia seeds.
  3. Divide mixture into four bowls. Top each with ¼ cup Greek yogurt, if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Madison

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First Birthday Smash Cake and DIY Bunting

April 16, 2014

firstbirthday

Eli Smash Cake 1
A few weeks ago my dear friend Laura asked me if I would be interested in making her son, Eli’s, first birthday smash cake. Laura and I have been friends for years and she has the most amazing blog about life as a stay-at-home mom and DIY/craft expert. Seriously, some day I hope to do half the projects she completes around her house.

Joe and I both agree on the fact that Laura and Mike’s son, Eli, is one of the cutest kiddos we’ve ever seen. He has this adorable little natural mohawk hair and the sweetest personality. So of course I was trilled to be asked to make his cake!

I was also excited to do a little blog collaboration with Laura, something we’ve wanted to do for a while. So I made the cake, and Laura made the adorable flags/bunting on top of the cake. In fact, if you want to know how to make the flag, hop on over to Laura’s blog, Oakland Avenue, today to learn how!

Unfortunately we were planning on being out of town for the actual birthday party, but I made the cake in advance and gave it to Laura a few days before the party. Which, now that I think about it, is a great make-ahead tip for moms who are busy with other party details and want to make their cake in advance. It can be done!

EliCharles_1stBirthday_April2014 (95 of 95)

Laura didn’t have a lot of requests for the cake, but she did want it to be slightly healthier in nature. That said, Laura didn’t want to sacrifice having a beautiful cake just to have a healthy cake, so the goal was really to fall somewhere in the middle. For the cake, I made a lower-sugar yellow cake with mashed banana in the batter to add natural sweetness. Since I wanted the cake to still be “smashable” I decided not to use whole wheat flour since that adds denseness.

For the frosting I focused on lower sugar content and went with a Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This type of frosting isn’t healthy by any means, since it does have plenty of butter, but it is much lower in sugar, in fact the entire batch only had 2/3 cup sugar. And since I used organic butter, I figured a little fat is good for babies, right? This is by far my favorite frosting for decorating because it’s so smooth and spreadable, resulting in a very beautiful cake.

Eli Smash Cake 2

Eli's First Birthday Smash Cake
Recipe type: Dessert
 
Ingredients
  • Cake
  • Cooking spray and flour for the pans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 medium ripe banana
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2¼ cups milk
  • Swiss Meringue Buttercream
  • 4 egg whites
  • ⅔ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1½ cups butter, softened and cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 6-inch round cake pans. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sugar, banana and butter until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, beating until combined after each addition.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add some of the flour, followed by all of the milk, finishing with the remaining flour mixture. Beat until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  4. Bake 28 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire cooling racks, about 1 to 2 hours.
  5. Cut rounded tops off cakes with a serrated knife. Cut each layer in half horizontally to make four total cake layers. Refrigerate cake layers 45 minutes for easier handling.
  6. Meanwhile, make the buttercream:
  7. In small saucepan, combine the egg whites and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches 160F (food safe temperature) with a candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer, the egg white mixture should be very warm to the touch and sugar completely dissolved.
  8. Transfer egg white mixture to an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Beat egg whites on high speed about 8 to 10 minutes or until bowl of electric mixer is no longer warm to the touch. Add the vanilla and the butter, one pat at a time, until the mixture is smooth, creamy and has the texture of buttercream frosting. If the mixture separates while adding the butter, don't worry. Just keep on whisking on high speed until it comes back together.
  9. Place one cake layer on cardboard cake round. Top with some of the buttercream. Repeat with remaining cake layers until you have a four tiered cake. Use a small amount of buttercream to coat entire cake with a crumb coat, about ½ cup buttercream total, just enough to create a smooth surface on the outside of the cake.
  10. Reserve ⅔ cup of buttercream for decorative detailing. Use remaining buttercream to coat outside of cake with a smooth layer of buttercream.
  11. Color reserved buttercream your desired shade of blue, pink or other color. Place in a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch tube tip. Pipe a dollop of frosting on the top edge of cake. Use the back of a teaspoon to pull the frosting into a petal shape. Repeat with dollops and pulls around the entire top edge of cake.
  12. Use a small round pastry tip to make small dots around the bottom of the cake where the cake meets the cardboard cake round.
  13. Make Ahead Tip: This cake can be made ahead and frosted up to 3 days in advance. Simply make and frost as directed, then store in the freezer. I recommend freezing the cake uncovered for 3 hours first, then lightly covering with plastic wrap and storing in a plastic cake container/carrier in the freezer until ready to serve. To de-thaw, remove from freezer 12 hours in advance and allow cake and buttercream to come to room temperature.

 

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