Grab & Go Cranberry Crunch Bars

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a healthy on-the-go snack

Healthy On-The-Go snacks are an essential for busy families. Whether you are a mom waiting on dance class to let out or a student suddenly having a snack attack during a long lecture, or just need a tasty break from work, having a handy, grab & go energizing snack can be a game changer.

However, quality store-bought snack bars can be expensive and what’s more sometimes filled with unappealing ingredients like preservatives and excessive sweeteners. Let’s try making our own. As you know, I love a great product and a good recipe challenge, so I have entered into the Cape Cod Select Blogger Recipe Contest.

With premium cranberries as the foundation this recipe is the perfect mix of nutritious superfoods. Protein packed roasted nuts add crunchy flavor and seeds add fiber and heart-healthy fats. Between the cranberries, dates and touch of brown rice syrup there is a perfect balance of natural sweetness. What’s more, both kids and adults will love them as the perfect breakfast on the go, mid-afternoon desk snack, or pre-workout fix. Bake up a batch to have on hand throughout the week.

Bonus: the recipe comes together quickly with things you may already have in your pantry. Toss one of these cranberry crunch bars in your lunch box, brown bag and backpack and be ready any time a snack attack strikes. Don’t ever need to be “hangry” again. ❤

Grab & Go Cranberry Crunch Bars

  • Servings: 10 to 12
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 1/4 cups Cape Cod Select Premium Frozen Cranberries

8 pitted dates, finely chopped

¼ cup brown rice syrup

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups assorted unsalted, roasted whole nuts, coarsely chopped

1 cup puffed rice cereal

¼ cup roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds

1 tablespoon chia seeds

Heat oven to 350F. Line an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper or foil leaving a slight overhang. Spray with non-stick spray. Finely chop cranberries in a food processor. In small saucepan, over medium heat, combine cranberries, dates, brown rice syrup, butter and salt. Stirring, bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until mixture is quite thick. In a large bowl, toss nuts, cereal, and seeds. Add cranberry mixture and stir well to coat the nuts, cereal and seeds. Press mixture into prepared pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Cool in pan on wire rack for 30 minutes. Chill in pan in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until cold. Using the edges of parchment, lift from pan and place on a cutting surface. Slice into bars or squares. Wrap individually in parchment paper or foil and store in the refrigerator.

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Thyme For A Change & Strawberry Madeleines

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There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

Made popular in Victorian times many flowers have been given meaning and often used to send unspoken messages. For instance, and the obvious, red roses symbolizing love and Forget-me-nots, well, don’t forget me. Did you know Kate Middleton carried sweet William in her bridal bouquet as a symbol of gallantry along with myrtle (love in marriage), lily-of-the-valley (trustworthiness, purity) and ivy (continuity)? It was a meaningful bouquet filled with hopes of a long and happy marriage with her Prince. So far so good there.

As we head into April and my bittersweet (truth and honesty) gardening season I’d like to focus on all the goodness of William’s birthday (April 22) rather than the day (April 16) the Navy Chaplain knocked on the door delivering tragic news. It’s a much needed change. The garden, specifically getting my hands into the dirt, has been a great source of strength, joy and now fun with my grandchildren. Garden therapy is a thing. Plant some seeds.

Thyme is easy to grow and hearty through the winter

If there ever is a plant that reminds me of William it is thyme. Thyme is the symbol of courage and strength. I saw William at his strongest following a season-ending knee injury his senior year in high school. Lacrosse was his thing. Team co-captain with his best friend, Whit, running the game made him feel successful. Imagine the devastating loss, in the first game of the season, when an opposing player clipped him from behind blowing out his knee. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Not only that, the surgical repair and 9 months of rehab that followed could effectively dismiss him from the Navy. While others would have crumbled, his hard-work at physical therapy and his ability to lead his team while on crutches was nothing more than courageous and inspiring. I know because so many of his teammates told me.

Next week I will share why he is like dill and nasturtiums. I know he’d be so mad if he knew I was comparing him to flowers, but trying to have a good laugh here rather than a good cry. Let’s get to this recipe before I change my mind…

Grow herbs! Herbs are an essential part of the landscape both outside and inside the kitchen. Cost effective, easy to care for, beautiful and delicious if you are not growing herbs I can’t tell you enough how much I want you to. And if you have yet to pair herbs like thyme or basil with strawberries then you are in for a real treat with this recipe.

Madeleines are like little bite-size pound cakes. I just love them with a cup of tea for a mid-afternoon snack. Super easy to make these fresh strawberry infused lovelies also call for freeze-dried strawberries as they punch up the strawberry flavor and color. Crushing freeze-dried fruit into any recipe eliminates the need for artificial colors and flavors. You can find it at Trader Joe’s or near the fresh produce section of your grocery store.

Strawberry Thyme Madeleines

  • Servings: 18
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup (128 g) cake flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries plus additional for garnish

½ chopped fresh strawberries

2 eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled

Powdered sugar, optional

Heat oven to 375F. Place oven rack in middle. Spray madeleine pan with baking spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In small food processor or spice grinder, combine 2 teaspoons sugar, thyme and freeze-dried strawberries; process to a fine powder with bits of thyme. Add strawberries and process to a puree; measure and set aside ¼ cup of puree. In a medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs with remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and pale in color. Add reserved strawberry puree and flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in melted butter until well blended. Spoon or pipe batter into prepared pan just below each rim. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until madeleines spring back with a touch of your finger. Turn out to cool on a rack. Dust with crushed freeze-dried strawberries or powdered sugar.

Good Grief Baking Therapy

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Peppermint Stick Cheesecake Stuffed Cookies

Baking therapy. It’s a thing this time of year. Among other holiday goodies, I baked a baker’s dozen of different cookies. Tapping into that inner strength I created 3 inspired original recipes which were totally delightful. Sadly, I don’t have photos of the orange nut pinwheels (Bill’s favorite), jam thumbprints (Caitlin’s favorite), molasses, almond butter cookies, bourbon chocolate chip or cranberry crumb bars, but please enjoy the rest.

Truth be told I did have a meltdown the day after Christmas. In a room full of people surrounded by our children I suddenly felt like half of me was missing. In an instant and out of nowhere I was overwhelmed by his absence. Gosh I miss him! Cookies can’t change that. I wonder which one would be his favorite. What gets you through the holidays?

Here is the recipe for the Orange Nut Pinwheels. Clipped from a magazine, I have been making this spicy, fruit-filled nutty slice and bake cookie for decades. What I love about it is the cookie dough can be made ahead and stored in the fridge or freezer for a week and then sliced and baked fresh when you need them. It’s a keeper.

Orange-Nut Pinwheels

  • Servings: 4 dozen cookies
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1 cup California walnuts, ground

1/2 cup orange marmalade

1/3 cup dark seedless raisins, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 cup plus 3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup shortening

1 egg

In medium bowl, combine first 4 ingredients and 3 tablespoons light brown sugar; set aside. Into large bowl, measure flour, shortening, egg and 1 cup packed brown sugar. With hands, knead ingredients until dough holds together. On sheet of wax paper, roll out half of dough into a 14″ x 6″ rectangle; spread with half of nut mixture. Starting with 6″ side, roll dough tightly jelly roll fashion. Wrap in wax paper. Repeat with remains ingredients. Chill at least 2 hours in the refrigerator or until firm enough to slice. You can chill this dough up to a week. Heat oven 350F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment. With serrated knife, slice dough crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices. Place cookies 1-inch apart on baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes or until lightly brown. With thin spatula transfer cookies to rack to cool. Store in an airtight container up to two weeks.