I’ve had a bag of quinoa sitting in my pantry for months and months. I finally cooked up a big batch and will hopefully put it to good use this week, starting with these cinnamon quinoa bars.
Quinoa is a grain that I’m trying to work into our meals more often. It’s loaded with all 9 essential amino acids, plus it’s got a much higher protein content than other whole grains. It’s easy to find in grocery stores here too, because it’s popularity has really taken off.
Quinoa can be used in savory or sweet dishes, but I’m not sold on these particular bars. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the texture is mildly unappealing for me. I tried them warm and at room temperature to see if I preferred one way over the other, but it really didn’t make a difference. The texture is rather like eating a bar of rice pudding, if that makes any sense at all. All those eggs and the milk give it a custardy consistency, and as much as I love rice pudding, I just wasn’t a fan of these. Plus, as far as appearance goes, I think they kind of look like ground meat, which is just weird. So after all that, if you try them and love them, that’s great. I’ve got some other sweet quinoa recipes to try another time, but I won’t be making these again.
(I do have to give an update about these bars. After spending all night in the refrigerator, I found that they improved greatly. I’m still not saying that I loved them or anything, but they weren’t so bad nice and cold.)
Recipe: Cinnamon Quinoa Bars
(adapted slightly from Gabby’s Gluten-Free)
2 ½ cups cooked quinoa, cooled
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place cooked quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Lightly spray an 8×8″ baking pan with cooking spray or cover with lightly greased parchment paper.
In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon until thoroughly combined. Add maple syrup and mix well. Add egg mixture to cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Pour into baking pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until set and golden.*
*(Though the original recipe called for a 20-25 minute baking time, I found that I had to bake mine for 30-35 minutes.)
Cool completely and cut into squares.
And finally, the last tasty entry from my family’s annual Iron Chef Throwdown competition… cream cheese mints. My sister made these and I’m pretty sure my peppermint-loving kids voted for her. Little traitors.
I like that you can make them any shape you want and the colors can match any occasion. Dani said they were a breeze to make, and they were definitely a hit if how quickly they disappeared was any indication.
I’m posting this on Dani’s birthday to give her an extra shout-out. Happy Birthday, Dan! Love you!!
Recipe: Cream Cheese Mints
3 ounces cream cheese – at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
4-6 drops flavoring (Dani used peppermint.)
4-6 drops food coloring
granulated sugar, for rolling
Mix cream cheese and confectioners sugar together. Start with 4 drops of flavoring, then carefully add more until you reach the desired taste. Add food coloring drop by drop until you reach the color you like. Knead until pie dough consistency is achieved. Add sugar to make softer or decrease sugar for firmer consistency. Take small pinch and roll into a ball in granulated sugar. Press into candy mold, remove excess and unmold onto waxed paper. Chill until ready to serve.
As I mentioned in the last post, I didn’t win our family’s Iron Chef Throwdown, even though these little truffles were darn tasty and pretty adorable. I figured I’d get the kids to vote for me for sure, just on the cuteness alone. They even have little marshmallow tails! But, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Again.
That’s okay though, because the truffles tasted great and were easy to make. And with all the Oreo flavors out there, you can make these in so many different combinations. I’ve tried several, but so far, my favorite has been DoubleStuf Mint Oreo truffles with dark chocolate candy melts. I think Birthday Cake Oreo truffles are in my near future though.
Recipe: Oreo Truffles
1 package Oreo cookies, any flavor
1 8-oz. block of cream cheese
1 package of candy melts
Crush all the Oreos in the food processor until they are small crumbs. Transfer to a bowl and stir in cream cheese until no white remains. (I find this is really a squishing sort of activity. The back of a big wooden spoon works great.) Roll mixture into small balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator to allow them to firm up slightly.
When you are ready to dip the truffles, melt the candy melts according to package directions. Using a fork, dip each ball into the chocolate, tap off excess, and return to waxed paper. After all truffles have been dipped, return to refrigerator to allow chocolate to set up and harden.
To turn these truffles into Easter Bunnies, I inserted colored candy corn into the top right after I dipped the truffles. Then, I immediately added a sprinkle for the nose. After the truffles were set, I used a little tube of black store-bought frosting to make the eyes. Some had whiskers too! Finally, cut a mini marshmallow in half and place the sticky side on the back of the bunnies for a fluffy little tail.
Does it seem to you that Winter has just dragged on and on and on? We woke up again today to 20 degree weather, everybody keeps getting sick, and I just about can’t take much more. Where is Spring?? It’s April, for crying out loud, and we’re still wearing winter coats! If that’s typical where you live, I don’t know how you do it.
Okay, enough whining.
Well, actually, there might be just a little more but on a totally different topic. Once again, I have conceded defeat in our family’s Iron Chef Throwdown to my mom. The secret ingredient for our annual kitchen competition was cream cheese and my mom and Paula Deen teamed up with these caramel apple cheesecake bars with streusel topping. I have to admit, they were delicious! I can’t even begrudge her the win (and the coveted trophy) like I did last year, because this dessert definitely deserved the top spot.
Congratulations, Mom! (and I really do mean it this year!)
Recipe: Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars with Streusel Topping
(from Paula Deen)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Streusel topping, recipe follows
1/2 cup caramel topping
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until mixture is crumbly. Press evenly into a 13 by 9 by 2-inch baking pan lined with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Bake 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with 1/2 cup sugar in an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Then add eggs, 1 at a time, and vanilla. Stir to combine. Pour over warm crust.
In a small bowl, stir together chopped apples, remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Spoon evenly over cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Streusel topping. Bake 30 minutes, or until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel topping.
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients.
If you ever need a special sweet to serve with coffee in the morning, this is perfect. They can be readied the night before, then sliced and baked while the coffee is brewing. It’s like having your own little warm cheese danish. But the real perk here is that the ingredients are as simple as can be. So the next time you have a long weekend or a lazy Saturday morning to enjoy, try adding these to your day. Enjoy!
Recipe: Cream Cheese Breakfast Cookies
(from and adapted from Cookies and Cups)
1 can crescent rolls
4 oz. block of cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
Beat cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Unroll the crescent rolls and gently press seams together so you have a rectangle. Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the sheet of crescent rolls, leaving about 1/2″ all along the edges. Sprinkle mini chocolate chips over the cream cheese. Roll the crescent sheet up, starting from one of the shorter ends, and wrap with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.
When chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or lightly spray with cooking spray to prevent sticking. Slice the roll into 1/4″ slices using unflavored dental floss or a sharp knife. Bake on prepared cookie sheet for 12-14 minutes until rolls are golden.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
We were all having a chocolate craving last week and no one was disappointed with this treat. I was a little worried the kids wouldn’t eat it, because it did have a mild texture difference from regular mousse, but they surprised me and couldn’t get enough. In fact, they’ve both asked for it a week later, so I’m sure I’ll be making it again.
And as for the texture thing? If you’ve ever eaten a cannoli, you’ll know what I mean. It was kind of a silkier chocolate version of cannoli filling, to me. To the kiddos, however, it was chocolate mousse through and through, and perfectly delicious.
Recipe: Chocolate Ricotta Mousse
(adapted from Everyday Food)
2 c. fat free ricotta cheese
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
pinch of salt
mini chocolate chips and whipped cream, for garnish
In a food processor, pulse ricotta and cocoa powder until completely smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Place egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium heatproof mixing bowl, set over a pot of simmering water. Whisk and cook until sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. Remove bowl from heat and beat mixture on high until stiff glossy peaks form, about 5 minutes. With a rubber spatula, gently fold egg white mixture into ricotta mixture. Divide mousse among 6 ramekins. Refrigerate until set, at least 3 hours. To serve, top with whipped cream and mini chocolate chips or shave chocolate.