oatmeal jam bars

I went home to visit my parents for Easter, before heading to L.A. for a writers conference. The timing worked out great because I got to spend a couple extra days with my family before making the short drive to Los Angeles. As always, it was a relaxing time in my hometown… going out for breakfast with Dad, running errands with Mom, watching a few good movies, reading a ton, and catching up on some playtime with Mr. Mur-dog! I also got in some quality baking time, as I always love to do when I am on vacation. Baking is so relaxing and nourishing for me!

Ready to do some baking in my Easter outfit!

Ready to do some baking in my Easter outfit!

One of my favorite things to do is when I’m at my parents’ house is to rifle through their pantry for ingredients that need to be used up, and then find a way to plug these into a recipe. This visit, I made a batch of my beloved three-ingredient cookies, substituting granola for the oats. I also made some lemon bars for Gramps, who joined us for Easter dinner. Then I noticed that Mom had a soon-to-be-expiring jar of jam to use up, along with a ton of oats. So after some online searching, I tweaked a recipe I found to make some healthy oat jam bars using the ingredients at hand. I loved these for dessert… and they are still healthy enough to eat for breakfast, too! I also think these would be a great road trip snack or a healthy snack for kiddos. {You don’t need to tell your kids how healthy these are!} ūüėČ

In my own healthy living journey, I have been trying to eat fewer packaged and processed foods and to make more foods on my own. One thing I love about making my own food is that I know exactly what goes into it… and, in turn, exactly what is going into my belly. Also, baking takes way less time than I would have thought before I started doing it routinely. I typically like to bake on the weekends and enjoy treats most of the week! Baked-from-scratch goodness just feels fancier to me than store-bought treats. Many baked goods can easily be frozen for later, too, and then heated up in the microwave or toaster oven when you’re ready to eat ’em!

Another good thing about making your own snacks and breakfast foods and desserts, rather than buying them from the store? You save a lot of packaging waste, which really adds up over time in our landfills! AND you save money. It’s a win-win!

healthy easy oatmeal jam bars

{This recipe was adapted from this one by Diana at My Humble Kitchen.}

  • 1 & 1/2 cups whole wheat white flour
  • 1 & 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil¬†or butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup¬†agave
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup jam {I used raspberry}
  • 1 cup fresh berries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a small glass baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, 1 cup of the oats, salt, cinnamon and baking soda.
  3. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt the coconut oil or butter.
  4. Stir the melted coconut oil or butter, the honey, and the agave together. Add to the dry mixture.
  5. Transfer about 2/3 of the dough to the prepared baking pan. Pack the mixture down firmly.
  6. With a spoon, spread the jam evenly over the dough.
  7. Sprinkle the fresh berries throughout the jam layer.
  8. Top the berry-jam layer with the remaining 1/3 of the dough.
  9. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup of oats over the top, being careful to cover any bare areas where the jam is peeking through.
  10. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the top is golden brown. {Be careful not to over-bake — these burn easily!}

Note: Allow to cool completely before cutting.

oatmeal jam bars

Hope you enjoy! These make a wonderful breakfast, healthy dessert, or after-school snack!

if you liked this recipe you might also enjoy:
raspberry brown-butter bars
vegan healthier toffee bars
quinoa breakfast bars via The Lean Green Bean
homemade no-bake granola bars via PB Fingers

easy, throw-together, can’t-fail fruit cobbler

Sometimes my grandparents like to shop at Costco.

Which is great! I love Costco! The only problem: there are only three of us in the house. None of us are teenage boys with roaring appetites. And my Grandma likes to buy fruit at Costco.

Which means we sometimes often have a whole bunch of fruit ripening all at once.

So I devised this fruit cobbler recipe out of necessity. I really hate throwing away/wasting food, but a girl can only stir so many strawberries into her morning oatmeal. So one day I chopped up a bunch of strawberries that were on the verge of going bad, added some squishy blueberries and a sad, mealy apple, and topped the whole thing with some stale, also-bought-at-Costco oatmeal cookies that I crushed up with a rolling pin.

I slid the whole thing into the oven and crossed my fingers that when I pulled it out half an hour later, the concoction would have magically transformed into deliciousness.

Well, guess what? IT DID.

costco fruit cobbler

This disappeared from the pan in record time and is a new favorite dessert of my cousin Bianca. {Don’t tell her how easy it is to make… she thinks I’m a superhero every time I bring her some!}

Since then, I’ve made this recipe with a variety of different fruit and topping combinations, and it comes out delectable every single time. So I wanted to share it with you! If you’re looking for an easy, can’t-fail way to use up some past-its-prime fruit — or if you’re just looking for an easy, delicious dessert to make for your family or bring to a party — this is a wonderful recipe!

And {shhhh}… it’s actually healthy! There is no extra sugar added into this dish, unless you use crumbled cookies as the topping — most of the sweetness comes from the baked fruit!

cant fail fruit cobbler

ingredients:
– fruit: strawberries, apples, pears, grapes… whatever is in your fridge! blueberries and raspberries work well, too!
– if you are using less-juicy fruit such as apples or pears, add a little fruit juice {apple, cranberry, orange, whatever you have on hand!}
– topping: stale cookies {I’ve used oatmeal raisin, sugar, even animal crackers} OR granola OR mix up rolled oats with cold butter
– spices to taste {I like cinnamon!}

directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Get out a glass pie pan or a shallow glass dish and set aside.

2. Slice up the fruit until relatively small, even chunks. Mix together. If you are using drier fruit, add about 1/4 cup of fruit juice.

3. Pour the fruit mixture into the glass pan.

fruit in pan

4. Make your topping. If you’re using stale cookies, place them inside a plastic Ziplock baggie and crush them with a rolling pin until they are crumbled. To make¬†a homemade topping, use your fingers to crumble a few small pieces of cold butter through about 1 cup of rolled oats. Add spices to taste, and a bit of brown sugar if you would like. I’m also a fan of sprinkling the cobbler with granola, like I did here:

fruit cobbler with granola topping

5. Bake for 35-45 minutes, until bubbly and golden brown on top. It will make your kitchen smell delicious!

fruit cobbler

I like to eat this fruit cobbler on its own, or serve it warm topped with iced cream, or stir it into yogurt! Hope you enjoy!

a year of Wooden: week 4

Happy Monday, friends! I’m enjoying a special day today with my cousins Makena & Bianca, who are off school for a teacher inservice day. We baked delicious apple cinnamon muffins this morning, and this afternoon we’re going to the movie theaters to see “Frozen.”

bianca makena

Last night we had a lovely family birthday celebration for my cousin Arianna. I really liked this new tradition we started while eating dinner: everyone went around the table and said one word they would use to describe Arianna. It was such a sweet & heartfelt way to celebrate her!

arianna bday

This year I am doing “a year of Wooden” following the teachings of Coach John Wooden, and in particular his 7-Point Creed.

a year of wooden

I‚Äôm beginning the year with the Creed’s first item:

  • January:¬†Drink deeply from good books.

This past week I read¬†Coach Wooden’s children’s book,¬†Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success. Even though I’m not a child anymore, I still deeply enjoy this book. I think sometimes grown-ups — more than anyone! — need to be reminded that true success isn’t money or material possessions or the amount of Instagram followers you have. True success trying your best, day by day, little by little, and being authentic to your own unique self. This charming picture book is perfect for the child in all of us.

To summarize this month’s challenge of “drinking deeply from good books” we read:
Wooden & Me: Life Lessons from My Two-Decade Friendship with the Legendary Coach & Humanitarian to Help “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece”
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off The Court
Inch & Miles: The Journey to Success

Since Coach Wooden was also a devoted Christian, I’m also going to work on reading more of the Bible this year. I’m participating in #SheReadsTruth, an online community of women that sends out a daily email with a Bible verse and contemplation questions.

Next week, moving into February, we’ll move on to the second monthly challenge in this year of learning from Coach Wooden!

Questions of the day:

  • What are your final thoughts on the books we read this month?
  • What is your personal idea of “true success”?
  • Do you have any fun birthday traditions in your family?

my favorite. dessert. ever!

Happy Friday, friends! Hope you have something fun planned for this weekend. ūüôā I am getting ready to head to LA this afternoon for my cousin Amanda’s¬†bachelorette party! I am so excited! It will actually be the first bachelorette party I’ve ever attended. I’m looking forward to seeing my cousins and friends and celebrating Amanda’s final days of singledom!

I have a delicious recipe to share with you today! I made this for my dad’s birthday cake on Monday. He loves peanut butter and chocolate, so I took my peanut butter cup brownies and upgraded them to a “brownie-cake” … and the highlight is definitely the homemade peanut butter frosting! This frosting is SO simple to make, and if you like peanut butter, you are in for a treat! I predict you will be licking the bowl. {Or maybe that’s just me!}

pb brownie cake

I will warn you in advance, I didn’t even try to healthify this dessert … I don’t even want to know how many calories/fat/sugar/etc. is in a slice of this! Sometimes you just have to treat yourself, right? But I did just come across this recipe by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean for healthy sweet potato brownies that I might try using in this recipe in the future! If you try it out, let me know how it goes!

I used my fave boxed brownie mix … Ghiradelli dark chocolate!

brownie mix

I made the batter as directed {if you’re trying to healthify things a little, you could substitute unsweetened applesauce for half of the oil} and poured the batter into a lightly greased 8 x 8 pan. Then I stuck in mini dark chocolate peanut butter cups in a tic-tac-toe pattern.

brownies prebake

Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

brownie cake

Once the brownies were cool, I frosted them with homemade peanut butter frosting!

homemade peanut butter frosting
– 1/4 cup butter, softened
– 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
– 3/4 cup powdered sugar
– 2 tbsp milk {to taste … depending on your frosting consistency preferences!}

1. Mix together the butter and peanut butter until well blended.

butter pb

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth. Add milk until it gets to desired consistency.

frosting

After frosting the brownies, my final step was sprinkling mini chocolate chips over the frosting layer. Ta da! My favorite dessert ever!

pb dessert

These disappeared from our house in record time!

Thank you also for the sweet birthday wishes! I had a wonderful birthday. My family took me out for dinner and even surprised me with sunflowers! How pretty and happy are these flowers?

bday girl

Thanks also to everyone who took part in my birthday beauty giveaway, and welcome to all our new subscribers! The two randomly selected winners are:
– Big Beauty Basket: Anna Wang
– Travel Beauty Clutch: Jo Tran

I will email you both to get your mailing addresses to send you the prizes!

Happy weekend, everyone! Eat something yummy and spend time with those you love!

MPM-Spring
This post is linked up as part of Menu-Plan Monday!

springtime veggie pasta bake

Hi everyone! I have a simple, delicious and healthy recipe to share with you today. This meal is simple to make, easily adaptable to your preferences, and is bursting with fresh veggie flavors! Hope you enjoy!

springtime pasta bake

– 1/2 box whole-wheat pasta {I used rotini}
– 1 yellow squash
– 1 green bell pepper
– 2 roma tomatoes
– 1/2 sweet onion
– 1 cup fresh baby spinach
– 1 tbsp minced garlic
– a drizzle of olive oil
– your sauce of choice {I used a combination of tomato sauce & pesto}
– 2 cups shredded cheese {I used an Italian blend}

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.

3. Chop and dice the veggies. Toss them in olive oil and saute them in a large pan on medium heat, until onion and garlic are fragrant and spinach is wilted.

4. Drain the pasta and pour cooked noodles into a large casserole dish. Toss with sauce and veggies until everything is well mixed.

5. Top with shredded cheese.

6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Serve and savor! This is one of those recipes that makes terrific leftovers, too!

pasta bake

What are some of your favorite springtime recipes?

if you liked this post, you might also enjoy:
easy veggie, potato & sausage bake
cilantro-lime quinoa with chicken
tilapia with pineapple salsa

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: 3-ingredient banana cookies

kttovenmittbanner425

Hi everyone! Time for another Kitchen Tip Tuesdays post! {Here are links to my previous posts about making the most of oven time and reusing leftovers in new recipes.}

I have a quick recipe to share with you today — it’s an easy and delicious cookie that is also healthy for you! And it only has three ingredients {one of which is chocolate!} ūüôā That’s my kind of recipe!

This would make the perfect sweet dessert, kid-friendly snack, or grab-and-go breakfast. It’s also a great way to use up spotty bananas before they go bad.

banana cookies

All you need to make these babies are:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips {if desired; I used mini chocolate chips for mine}

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Mash bananas in a bowl. Add oatmeal and chocolate chips and stir until well combined.

banana dough

3. Plop dough onto a greased cookie sheet {I greased mine with coconut oil} and bake for 15-18 minutes.

Done and YUM! How easy is that?

banana cookies done

This recipe is also easily customizable to suit your tastes! You can add chopped nuts, raisins, peanut butter, coconut … whatever your taste buds desire!

What are some of your favorite grab-and-go recipes?

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if you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
peanut butter breakfast cookies
chocolate strawberry coconut cookies
2-ingredient pumpkin spice cookies

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: making the most of oven time

Hi everyone! Today I’m excited to be participating in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays, hosted by Tammy’s Recipes!

kttovenmittbanner425

I have a simple tip to share: something I’ve just started doing recently that relates to meal-planning, saving time and saving money/energy!

I eat a lot of chicken — for most meat recipes I use chicken, whether it’s baked with veggies, diced up in soups and chili, shredded in the crock pot, or tossed with a bit of mayo to make chicken salad sandwiches.

I used to just bake the chicken when I needed it. But one night I had an idea: why not bake some extra chicken to use later in the week? It seems simple, but it had never crossed my mind. Now, whenever I am baking a chicken dish, I put a couple extra chicken breasts in the oven. I usually cook them in a glass pan with a little bit of water or chicken broth in the bottom of the pan to keep them moist.

That way, I have cooked chicken to use the rest of the week! Now it’s so easy to add cooked chicken to salads, rice, sandwiches, or pasta. Making dinner is so much quicker!

This tip can also work with roasting veggies, baking cookies, or making bread. Now pretty much whenever I need to turn on my oven for one dish, I think, “Is there another dish I can also cook right now? This maximizes my use of the oven and saves energy, time, and meal preparation later!

What are your kitchen tips? I’d love to hear in the comments section below!

peanut butter cup brownies

Thanks to everyone who joined in Monday for this week’s #yearofkindness challenge {delivering valentines to a nursing home} and those who were with us last week for my fave romantic movies and easy, inexpensive homemade Valentines ideas. Today we’re continuing “Valentine’s Week” with a delicious recipe that you can make for your sweetie, friends, coworkers, or even yourself!

valentines week

Peanut butter and chocolate may be my all-time favorite dessert combo, so it’s no surprise I was inspired to combine peanut butter cups and dark chocolate brownie mix! I thought I was soooo clever for using my muffin tin to make these cute little brownie cups, but one of my friends told me she and her mom have been making these babies for years. Maybe I’m a little late to the party, or maybe it’s just true that great minds think alike! ūüôā¬†Either way, these are de-li-cious and so easy to whip up.¬†Enjoy!

peanut butter cup brownies

– 1 package brownie mix {i like the dark chocolate variety}
– 1 package mini peanut butter cups
– 1 egg
– 1/3 cup vegetable oil
– 1/3 cup water

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with paper cups or spray with vegetable spray and set aside.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine brownie mix, egg, vegetable oil, and water. Stir until ingredients are well-mixed and there are no lumps in the batter.

3. Fill each muffin cup 3/4 of the way to the top with the batter.

4. In the center of each cup, gently press an unwrapped peanut butter cup.

reeses brownies

5. Bake for 20-22 minutes, until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean.

reeses brownies

YUM! These are dangerously good. You’ll want to eat the whole batch yourself!

What are some of your favorite Valentine’s Day memories? Are you planning to do any Valentine’s baking this year?

More tomorrow!
-Dallas ‚̧

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Looking for more Valentine’s Day treats to make? You might enjoy these earlier posts:
red velvet cupcakes with coconut cream-cheese frosting
rice krispies treats with m&ms
chocolate strawberry coconut cookies

easy sausage, veggie & potato bake

Happy Thursday! I thought I would share a simple recipe with you today that my mom showed me back when I was home for Christmas. {Hard to believe that was a month ago!} It’s perfect for a cold winter night when you want to make something healthy and hearty — and an extra bonus is that it comes together really quick!

sausage potato veggie bake

easy sausage, veggie & potato bake

– 1 package of your choice of sausage {i like turkey sausage or chicken sausage}
– 1 medium onion
– 1 red bell pepper
– 1 green bell pepper
– 3 cloves garlic, minced {i used 3 tsp of pre-minced garlic}
– 2-3 lbs of small red potatoes {depending on your amount of potato love}
– 1 cup chicken broth {i like the low-sodium kind}
– salt & pepper to taste

1. Quarter the potatoes. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the potatoes for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

2. Brown the sausage in a skillet until cooked through.

sausage

3. While sausage and potatoes are cooking, roughly chop up the veggies. Combine in a big bowl with the garlic until well-tossed.

pepper and onion

4. Once potatoes are cooked through, drain the water.

potatoes

5. Once sausage is cooked through, transfer to a cutting board and slice into pieces.

6. In a glass baking dish, combine veggies, potatoes and sausage. Pour chicken broth over mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7. Bake for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until veggies are tender.

8. Serve plain or over rice! I like serving this dish with corn muffins.

What are your plans for this upcoming weekend? Mike and I are going to have a quiet night in tomorrow — I’m looking forward to cuddling up on the couch with a movie! {Looking to save money on date night? I compiled a list of some of my favorite strategies here.}

Till soon!
-Dallas

MPM-Winter

**This post is a part of Menu-Plan Monday!

mom’s classic chocolate-chip cookies

My mom makes AMAZING chocolate-chip cookies! Back in college she’d send me big batches of chocolate-chip cookies and my dorm-mates would actually cheer. {I would share them of course!} Hmmm, thinking about it now, maybe I should thank Mom for helping me make friends! ūüôā

This year, Mom gave me her recipe and I tried my hand at making a batch … they didn’t turn out quite as well as hers, but still pretty darn delicious. Crispy, buttery edges; gooey chocolatey middles. It’s hard to go wrong with a chocolate-chip cookie!

chocolate chip cookies

mom’s classic chocolate-chip cookies

– 2 and 1/4 cups flour
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1 cup butter, softened
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 2 large eggs
– 1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Cream butter through sugar.

butter & sugar

3. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.

4. Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

flour mixture

5. A little at a time, add flour mixture to wet ingredients, stirring well to combine thoroughly.

cookie batter

6. Add chocolate chips and cinnamon, if desired.

chocolate chip batter

7. Scoop by tablespoons onto a baking sheet.

cookies prebake

8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until cookies are golden-brown and firm to the touch.

cookies baked

9. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from baking sheet.

I like these cookies best when they’re still warm — and of course with a big tall glass of milk!

choc chip cookies

Hope you are enjoying these last couple days before Christmas!

-Dallas

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If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:

butterscotch pudding cookies
aunt elaine’s peanut butter blossoms
apple, brown sugar & cinnamon cookies
pumpkin oatmeal cookies

This post is linked up to Menu-Plan Monday!

MPM-Winter