a balanced plate with room for dessert


Apple Streusel Bars

Mike and I went apple picking with my family a few weeks ago and we went home with a 10+ pound bag of apples. I ate as many as I could (I think I averaged 2 a day). My new favorite snack? Apples with vanilla yogurt and a sprinkle of cinnamon. YUM. There is such thing as too much of a good thing, though. I decided to bake something before I started to hate apples.

My only criteria was that it had to be something I’ve never made before. So, caramel apples, apple pie, baked apples, applesauce,  and apple cupcakes were all out. I finally stumbled across a recipe for apple streusel bars over at Our Best Bites. They looked pretty darn tasty and the recipe was simple, too. Simple is a must because I find myself with so little time to cook and bake now with the internship…

These bars are perfect for breakfast, dessert or even a snack. Mike likes them warmed up a bit in the microwave before he eats them. No microwave? A toaster oven or even a hair dryer might work 😉

Apple Streusel Bars

For the pastry:
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 cups sliced, peeled baking apples

For the glaze:
2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon almond extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. For the crust: combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter until pea-sized crumbs form. Gently mix in beaten egg. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Gently pat about 2/3 of the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the dish.
  3. For the filling: combine flour, sugar, and cinnamon. Toss with apples. Spread apples on to prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved crust mixture over apples evenly. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes. When cooked, allow to cool completely.
  4. For the glaze: whisk together powdered sugar, almond extract and milk. Place glaze into a zip-top bag and cut off a small portion of one of the corners. Drizzle glaze over cooled pastry and allow to harden. Cut into bars and serve.

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White Peach Blueberry Cobbler

Cobbler vs. Ice Cream. Spoiler alert – ice cream wins. I tried my darndest to get a picture of the cobbler with a scoop of ice cream. For some reason, I thought I would be quick enough to get one photo of it before the ice cream turned into a puddle. I even tried taking the picture inside since it was a bit cooler.

I lost.

Darn. I quickly ran this plate out to my father in law before the ice cream turned to complete liquid and the whole dish became inedible. Then, I tried again.

Eh, a little better. Food photography is obviously not my forte. Moving on… here’s the recipe!

White Peach Blueberry Cobbler
serves 8

3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 white peaches, peeled and sliced
1 pint blueberries
1 tablespoon sugar
Vanilla ice cream

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter an 8×8 pan and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in small bowl. Add milk and butter, whisk until smooth. Pour into pan and scatter fruit evenly over batter.
  3. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
  4. Bake until batter is a golden brown and the fruit bubbles, about 60 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

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Peach Cake

I bought 3 peaches with the intention of making a dessert of some sort. I had no idea what dessert I wanted to make; all I knew is that those peaches looked good. And I needed them.

They sat in fridge while I looked and looked for a recipe that sounded good. A few days later, I paged across a Fresh Peach Cake recipe in Food Network Magazine. Bingo. This cake was awesome – moist and not-too-sweet with a perfect crunchy topping. I’ll definitely be making this one again!!

Fresh Peach Cake
adapted from Food Network Magazine, June 2011

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, room temperature
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 large ripe peaches
1/2 cup chopped pecans

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease a 9 inch square baking pan.
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Dunk peaches into boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge into ice water. Slip skins off peaches. Remove pit and slice into 1/4″ slices.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 1 cup sugar for 3 – 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy.
  4. With mixer on low,  add eggs one at a time. Mix in sour cream, yogurt and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  5. In separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients slowly to batter with mixer on low. Mix until just combined.
  6. In small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Spread half the batter into prepared pan. Top with half the peaches. Sprinkle with 2/3 of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Spread remaining batter on top of peaches. Arrange remaining peaches on top and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon sugar and the pecans.
  8. Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  9. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Strawberry Smoothie

For the first time in my life, I made a smoothie without any ice or frozen fruit. Why? We didn’t have any. I did however, have some very ripe strawberries that I needed to use up. I threw this together and it was light and refreshing, even though it wasn’t ice-cold. Feel free to use frozen fruit or toss in some ice to up the chill factor.

Strawberry Smoothie
serves 2 

1 large ripe banana, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt

  1. Place all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately.


Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes

I can’t help myself. Every time I go to the store, I buy strawberries. Walking through the farmers’ market is dangerous. I buy strawberries. I just love strawberries!!! I love them in salads, I love them in cakes, and now I love them in cupcakes!

This was inspired by one of Mike’s favorite summertime drinks – strawberry lemonade. I wanted a cupcake that echoed the taste of strawberry lemonade – sweet, but tart, and really refreshing.

I think this one really hit the spot. I found a recipe on  Annie’s Eats and modified it to suit my tastes. I love this! Be warned – the more strawberry and lemon you put in, the runnier the icing will be. I ended up with 5 teaspoons of lemon juice and the whole half cup of strawberries in my frosting. I wanted the flavor in there. I paid for it with runnier frosting. Worth it 🙂

Strawberry Lemonade Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcake:
1 cup and 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup milk
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and diced

For the syrup:
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons powdered sugar

For the frosting:
½ cup fresh strawberries
6 ounces cream cheese
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line cupcake pan with 12 paper liners.
  2. In medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest. Stir together and set aside.
  3. In large bowl, beat butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add sugar and beat until well combined. Beat in egg, scraping in sides, until well combined.
  4. Add half the flour mixture and beat on low until just incorporated. Mix in milk until smooth. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in strawberries.
  5. Divide batter evenly into paper lines, filling them about 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes and then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
  6. Once cupcakes have cooled, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar for the syrup, until well combined.
  7. Poke holes into cupcakes with a skewer (I used a chopstick) and pour the syrup over the cupcakes, allowing it to soak in.
  8. To make frosting, puree strawberries in a food processor or blender and set aside. Beat cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in powdered sugar until smooth. Add lemon juice and vanilla extract until incorporated. Mix in strawberry puree a little at a time until desired consistency and flavor is reached.
  9. Frost cupcakes and serve immediately or keep refrigerated.


Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp

I love fruit crisps. They’re pretty idiot-proof, meaning I don’t need to rely on a recipe to make it taste good. I was so excited to use the first batch of rhubarb that my in laws’ garden yielded*, especially since the rhubarb that we transplanted into our garden was looking pretty pitiful.

I kept waiting for a nice day so I could take good pictures, but Wisconsin decided to rain on my parade. Literally. Our sump pump has been running 24/7 and our yard is a lake. We now have water-front property, folks.

I love the simplicity of this recipe – it takes so little effort and time, and it’s so delicious!

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp
makes 9 servings 

4 cups chopped rhubarb
1 pound strawberries, hulled and halved
1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Mix filling ingredients together and let sit.
  3. Meanwhile, mix dry ingredients of topping together. Pour in butter and stir until large crumbs form.
  4. Pour filling into an 8.5″ square pan and top evenly with topping.
  5. Bake 40 minutes, or until done.
  6. Eat as soon as it’s cool enough to shovel into your mouth.

*Grass may or may not have made its way into this dish. I will neither deny nor confirm this. I kid. I think I picked most of it out from the rhubarb 😉


Banana Bread

I dislike bananas. A lot.  The texture of them makes me sick to my stomach. On the rare occasion that I do buy them, they usually just sit until they’re disgustingly brown. What to do? Make banana bread, of course! I’m a huge fan of little or no fat in my cooking and I’ve been making an attempt to use more whole wheat flour as well. I guess I’m finally admitting it – I’m a nutrition freak. I guess my schooling taught me well! In the past I’ve tried posting recipes that the “average” person would like, but it’s taking way too much effort to make meals that I know aren’t good for me. Better eating means better running, and it requires so little effort! Trust me, the foods tastes just as good as the full-fat, full-sugar versions.

I recently had a discussion with a friend about how frustrating it can be to cook (and bake) with whole wheat flour. I closed my eyes, crossed my fingers, and hoped this bread wouldn’t come out super dense, gummy, or brick-like. I’m glad to say that it actually tastes pretty darn good!!

Healthier Banana Bread

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups over-ripe banana, mashed (about 3 large bananas)
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup chocolate chips and/or chopped walnuts, optional

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8.5″x4.5″ loaf pan or 8 mini loaf pans.
  2. In medium bowl, mix together applesauce and brown sugar until well combined.
  3. Beat in eggs and then bananas. Add flours, baking soda, chocolate chips and walnuts, mixing by hand until just combined.*
  4. Pour batter into loaf pan, or divide evenly into mini loaf pans.
  5. Bake for 1 hour (large loaf) or minutes (mini loaf pans), or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before removing to cooling rack.
*If you have a good eye, you’ll see that I didn’t mix in my toppings. Since I decided to make both the nut and the chocolate and because I’m a lazy bum and didn’t want to wash any extra dishes, I cheated. I put half the batter in the pan, topped it with a sprinkle of nuts or chocolate chips, put another layer of batter on, and then finished it off with some more nuts or chocolate!

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Cherry Coffee Cake

I set out looking for dishes I could make for Easter brunch. I found this one in one of the old cookbooks and couldn’t resist. I opted to use frozen tart cherries instead of blueberries though, since that’s what we had on hand. The cherries were picked by my in-laws during the summer and I thought that they would be perfect in coffee cake!

Here’s a snapshot of the original recipe:

Here’s the recipe with my modifications:

Cherry Coffee Cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
2 cups tart cherries, pitted
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon sugar

For the topping:
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 13×9 pan with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl.
  3. In medium bowl, cream butter until smooth. Gradually add sugar and continue creaming until fluffy. Add egg, beating well.
  4. Add dry ingredients alternately with milk, mixing after each addition until just smooth.
  5. In small bowl, combine cherries, 1 tablespoon flour and 1 tablespoon sugar. Gently fold in cherries to batter.
  6. Spread batter into greased pan.
  7. To make topping: combine all dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture in crumbly.*
  8. Sprinkle topping evenly over coffee cake and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes and enjoy!!
*I couldn’t find my pastry cutter and I never quite mastered the technique of cutting with a forks and/or knives, so I just used my fingers. I rubbed the butter into the dry ingredients until they became crumbly. It was pretty quick and easy!

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Blueberry Pancakes

I’m not a huge fan of pancakes, but I have one exception – made from scratch blueberry pancakes. Not plain, not chocolate chip, not pumpkin, not any other flavor you can imagine. Blueberry. Only blueberry.

So, here you go – from scratch blueberry pancakes that couldn’t be easier to make. Trust me, I wouldn’t spend time making breakfast if it took a long time. I don’t have enough patience or energy in the morning to cook up anything complicated.

Blueberry Pancakes
makes 10
adapted from

3/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and dried
cooking spray

  1. Combine milk with vinegar in a large bowl and let sit for 5 minutes to “sour”.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Whisk egg and butter into soured milk.
  4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and whisk until lumps are just gone.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cupfuls of batter onto the skillet and immediately sprinkle some blueberries onto the pancake. I used about 4 – 7 per pancake.
  6. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface of the pancake. Flip with a spatula and cook until browned on the other side.


Potato Pancakes with Applesauce

There’s something really comforting about eating a warm, crispy potato pancake with some freshly made applesauce in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. I wasn’t going to make these at first since it would require me to shred a million potatoes, but then I remembered that I had a food processor. BAM! Done in 5 minutes. I really should use my beloved Cuisinart a little more.

I love love love this applesauce because it is not overly sweet – it’s a great combination of tart and sweetness. If you’re someone who loves a sweeter applesauce, add a little more sugar into it.

Potato Pancakes
adapted from

4 egg whites
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 medium potatoes, peeled and shredded
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl, beat together eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Mix in potatoes and onion.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In batches, drop heaping tablespoonfuls of the potato mixture into the skillet. Press to flatten. Cook about 3 minutes on each side, until browned and crisp. Drain on paper towels.
  3. Serve warm with butter and salt or homemade applesauce.

Homemade Applesauce
makes 4 cups

5 granny smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Combine apples, water, sugar and cinnamon in medium-sized saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 15 – 20  minutes, or until apples are soft.
  2. Mash with a potato masher and serve warm, or refrigerate until serving.