Raising the Baking Bar – New Recipes, New Loves & *NEW* Cranberry Chocolcate Pecan Oat Squares!

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I’m on cloud nine.  I just had one of the best baking experiences EVER over the weekend and I’m so excited to share the goods with you all!  Ate by Ate has been starving for some baking love for a few months now and while I’ve been collecting recipes and thinking of new ideas, I haven’t put on oven mitts in goodness knows how long.  And if I have, it’s only been to open and shut my beloved George Foreman grill!  It feels SO good to bake.  I’ve missed it and even though it’s really only been a few months, it feels like an eternity to me.  And it felt so fabulous trying something new! 

Everyone knows I love cookies and cupcakes, but for the first time in my life, I took a crack at baking squares and bars!  It sounds ridiculous, I know.  “You’ve never made brownies?!  You’ve never used a 9×13 pan?!”  Sad, but true.  But there’s a first time for many things in life and this is mine.  I used my brand new 9×13 pan to make cranberry chocolate pecan oat bars and squares and they turned out amazing! 

I got the recipe from Kraft Foods ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine (Festive 2007) and I fell in love with the recipe the second I saw it.  And for those of you who might be unfamiliar with Kraft’s magazine, ‘What’s Cooking’ is a quarterly publication available through subscription only.  Not to fret though because all of these magazine recipes are also available online on their website at kraftcanada.com.  There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of recipes of all kinds on their website (dinner ideas, sandwiches, desserts, pasta, meats, barbeque, you name it!) so if you’re interested in online recipe surfing, that’s your way to go.  But you know me – hard copy rules my heart!  

After making these, I am so in love with making bars and squares.  They are so incredibly easy to make and they’re almost like one of my favourite cookies, cranberry white & dark chocolate chip cookies, only in square form!  Beware if you’re allergic to nuts though; these have pecans in them so if you omit them you can substitute them with different dried fruit.  Or, you know, some more chocolate!  

Recipe for Chocolate, Cranberry & Oat Bars (makes 32 squares or 16 bars):

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (*Deb’s Note: I actually omitted the orange juice from the recipe because I ran out of it.  My brother, um, kind of drank it all.  So I didn’t use it!)
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1 tsp. Magic Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (*Deb’s Note: I used butter because I prefer it over margarine and the squares turned out fabulous, so use whatever you feel most comfortable with.  3/4 cup butter equals 1-1/2 sticks of butter, just for reference.  And make sure it’s at room temperature!)
  • 1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.  Combine cranberries and orange juice in microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on HIGH 30 sec.  Let stand 10 minutes.  (*Deb’s Note: remember, I didn’t use orange juice so if you find yourself in my shoes, just measure out the cranberries and put them aside for later).
  • Meanwhile, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt; set aside.  Beat margarine and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  (*Deb’s Note: I used a handheld mixer and I also used butter as opposed to margarine).
  • Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition.  Gradually add flour mixture, mixing well after each addition.  Stir in cranberries (and orange juice if you’re using), chocoate and pecans.
  • Spread dough firmly into 9×13-inch baking pan sprayed with cooking cooking spray (*Deb’s Note: I lined my baking pan with parchment paper and had “handles” hanging off the sides so it would be easy to lift out the giant baked bar after cooling).
  • Bake 20 to 22 min. or until centre is set.  Cool completely on wire rack before cutting to serve (*Deb’s Note: mine took 21 minutes and I left mine to cool for an hour before cutting.  Cooling is absolutely necessary because it will literally crumble if you try to take it out too soon).

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Recipe taken from Kraft Foods Canada ‘What’s Cooking’ magazine, Festive 2007, page 23.

The Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project – Sparkles & Crushed Oreos for Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Scrapbooking materials used: Fruit punch pink cardstock (Choco-Mod Patterns by Stemma); teal cardstock (Best Occasions); sky blue cardstock (Recollections); “Sugar” adhesive embellishment (Sweet Stack by DCWV), cooking and baking stickers (Sticko); cookie embellishments (handmade); alphabet stickers (Choco-Mod Patterns by Stemma); sparkly pink, blue, and lime green polka dotted ribbon (Celebrate It by Michaels); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Banana Buttons and Baking With Love – Squeaking Out the Last Layout for National Scrapbooking Month

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Scrapbooking materials used: powder blue, sky blue, pale yellow, buttercup yellow, cappuccino, and chocolate brown cardstock (Recollections); blue and brown patterned paper and green, brown, pale blue and pink circles patterned paper (Choco Mod scrap pad kit and stack by Stemma); baking stickers and embellishments (Jolee’s); chocolate chip cookie embellishments (handmade); sparkly banana button (De Serres art store); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); medium and small scalloped edge decorative scissors (Provo Craft); black fine point Sharpie pen.

Crazy for Cranberry Chocolate Chip Cookies! Apron Stickers & The Cookie Scrapbook Project Continued

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The cookie and baking scrapbook project continues on!  I posted my very first cookie scrapbook layout for the project earlier in the month to kickstart the actual scrapbooking process, and I’m here now with layout number two!  This is a two-page layout of the famous cranberry dark and white chocolate chip cookies I posted HERE, and I refer to them as being famous not because I think they’re actually famous among other people (although I’d like to think that one day they will be), but because the recipe for them snowballed into a gazillion other spin-off recipes I created afterward using different ingredients.  This recipe kickstarted so many cookie brainstorming sessions over the last 6 months.  They are genuinely some of my favourite cookies ever, so for that, I thank Food & Wine magazine a thousand times over for providing this recipe in their November 2011 issue. 

I am having SO much fun with this project.  Aside from having some key components to every layout, I have total creative freedom to go as colour and sticker crazy as I want.  Since the cookies themselves don’t always have colourful aspects to them, I don’t feel like I have to compete with an already busy colour scheme.  I can bring the photos to life by using colour schemes and patterns that I put together myself and that’s been the funnest part of the whole thing.  Each and every single layout has its own story, it’s own identity, and it’s own place in the album and project and by replicating certain aesthetics on each layout, I’m able to keep things coherent throughout the entire project.  

Scrapbooking workspace in action!

I’m keeping the project simple by limiting layouts to two pages each (every time you flip a page in the scrapbook album, you’ll be presented with a new layout and story!) and I’m also writing out the recipes and pasting them on the layouts.  I think it makes the scrapbook feel a little more like a miniature cookbook in a way as opposed to just photos jumbled together, and it makes it look and feel a little more personal since I’m handwriting them.  I’m keeping things consistent between layouts by writing out the recipes and tacking them on as “sidebars”, so to speak, anchoring and bringing the whole thing together.

I was so super excited to use my epoxy baking and sweets stickers for this one, especially since the colours were so rich and vibrant.  And the aprons!  CUTE AS A BUTTON!  Green, pink, and red is such a fabulous colour scheme and I went wild with the use of patterned paper, using some of the goodies I showed you all in THIS post.  I used green, two shades of pink, and red as primary colours, cappuccino and chocolate brown as secondary colours to balance out the brights, and a big expanse of solid white where I wrote out the recipe to absorb and counteract the busyness in the patterns.

Check out the Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project from its beginnings by visiting these posts!

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Scrapbooking materials used: Bubblegum pink and pale pink cardstock (Recollections); green, pink, and red paisley patterned paper (“Green Paisley”, Divinely Sweet collection by Bazzill Basics Paper); red and turquoise floral patterned paper (“Sweet Daisy Cream”, Divinely Sweet collection by Bazzill Basics Paper); olive green floral patterned paper (“Placemat”, Let’s Eat collection by TPC Studio); lime green and pink leaf and butterfly patterned paper (Lime Garden by K & Company); chocolate chip and chocolate sandwich cookie embellishments (handmade); epoxy apron, sweets, and baking stickers (Sticko); scalloped decorative edge scissors (Provo Craft); black fine point pen (Sharpie).

May is National Scrapbooking Month! Filling Up the “Cookie Jar” For the New Cookie & Baking Scrapbook Project

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Scrapbook materials used: Goldenrod, emerald green, and lavender cardstock (Recollections); blue “party” patterned paper and violet star patterned paper (“Celebration” scrap pad kit and stack by Stemma); cookie embellishments (handmade using cappuccino, chocolate brown, and terra cotta cardstock, Recollections); medium scallop circle paper punch (ek success); small and medium scalloped decorative scissors (Provo Craft).

Embarking on a New Scrapbook Journey – Baking, Cookies, and Plenty of “Sweet” Patterned Paper!

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I love the feeling I get when I start on a big, brand spankin’ new project.  It feels fresh, it feels exciting, and it feels like the possibilities for inspiration and creativity are endless.  It’s amazing how therapeutic scrapbooking is for me and how happy I feel when I’m in my zone and completely focused on cutting paper and arranging stickers on a page.  I’m embarking on a new scrapbooking journey and all of you will be following me while I cut, snip, and paper punch away!  The name of the game: cookies, cookies, and more cookies!  I’m actually doing something completely out of my comfort zone because I’ve never scrapbooked any photos of my own baked goods.  I know, I know, after all these years!  I’ve made so many layouts and pages of the food spots I’ve visited as well as a few small themed food books (I made a cute little summer barbeque scrapbook two years ago), but never a baking one. 

It’s been years since my last big themed project and it feels so refreshing to have this on my plate.  The last time I worked on and completed a large scale scrapbooking project was over 3 years ago when I first started grad school.  At the time, I was working on two: a Christmas themed one and a top-secret, special album for my best friend documenting 10 years of friendship to give to her for Christmas.  I remember coming home from campus and sticking myself at my kitchen table for hours with paper, scissors, and sticker strewn everyone and I remember how much fun it was being so dedicated to those projects.  Sure, I scrapbook food in general, but this new cookie and baking project is a little different because it’s solely focused on one central theme. 

 

I’ll be creating a special cookie and baking scrapbook focused on the cookies, muffins, and baked goods I’ve made and it’ll be one of those continuing projects that won’t necessarily have a definitive ending.  I have so many cookie flavour combination and recipe ideas and this will be such a fun way of documenting what I’ve done so far and what I hope to do in the future.  I want to branch out, try new things, and just learn to be better.  I was so excited about this new project that I went out and developed nearly 50 photos and went on an impromtu scrapbooking supply shopping spree at De Serres art store to supplement my current supply of goodies.  And here are the photos of the loot I brought home!

De Serres (a Canadian art supply store) is one of my favourite places to browse and shop for scrapbook supplies.  While their selection varies by store, their Yonge and Eglinton location is like a fairy wonderland for scrapbooking and I took full advantage of what they had to offer.  I adore green and turquoise so when I found this gorgeous cardstock pack, I pounced on it.  These rich, jewel tone shades are harder to come by, especially in packs where the colours are already matched up and preassembled.  I picked up a few sheets of cute stickers and then came the fun part: choosing patterned paper! 

De Serres has the most amazing selection of patterned paper and the best part?  They carry a ton of cardstock and paper pads by my favourite scrapbook brand, DCWV!  I was having the time of my life choosing pretty, colourful florals, dots, and stripes and of course, food and baking patterns!  Just look at how pretty and adorable these patterns are!  Oven mitts, cookies, pies, cupcakes, tools, and more.  A lot of it came from TPC Studio’s line of “Let’s Eat” and “Let’s Bake” collections and I’m so happy I have access to these.  They’re beautiful and as an added bonus, they’re double-sided! 

It’ll be a little harder to find a 8×8 scrapbook album (the selection has sadly dried up at many of the Winners and Homesense stores), so my plan is to get a pack of album refill sheets and to bind everything together with metal binder rings.  I’m very excited about making an online order for some themed baking and cookie stickers and I can’t wait to stock up on some more themed materials to use throughout this new project.  Now that I have a whole bunch of photos developed and a very decent selection of paper, the next order of business is to get some more themed stickers and to make some cute cookies out of paper to use as embellishments.  Let’s this scrapbooking party started!

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De Serres serves 3 locations in Toronto, with one in the east end on Danforth, one in downtown on Spadina, and the other in uptown near Yonge and Eglinton.  The uptown location is located at 124 Eglinton Ave. West, just a few blocks west of Yonge Street.

The Oreo Anniversary Series – Crushing Oreos to Bake Inside Out Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies!

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Happy Passover and Easter, everyone!  I hope everyone has a little room left in their bellies for my cookie treat because I KNOW you guys will absolutely love and foam at the mouth over this one!  First off, how do you all like to eat your Oreo cookies?  Twisting them?  Dunking them in milk?  Shoving them in your mouth and closing your eyes as you float through cookie heaven?  Or do you prefer to have a dessert within a dessert, with your Oreos in a cupcake or cheesecake or cake?  How about a cookie…within a cookie?!  Introducing my beloved inside out Oreo stuffed chocolate chip cookies!!  *Cue harps and angels singing* 

With all the crazy Oreo birthday madness going around and my constant cookie recipe brainstorming, I thought to myself, “how awesome would it be to have an Oreo stuffed cookie full of crushed Oreos!”  And so the crushed Oreo chocolate chip studded cookie was born.  I used crushed golden Oreos since that’s what I had on hand in my pantry, but think of all the delicious possibilities!  You could crush chocolate fudge ones, chocolate mint ones, and – wait for this – the brand spankin’ new birthday cake Oreos!  I tested this out with the cookie recipe base that I had been using for the last several recipes I posted on Ate by Ate (just substituting and switching around “add-on” ingredients” each time”) and I loved them!  My mum lifts the lid of our cookie box every day just to get a whiff of them and my dad said that after eating one, he wants a gazillion more because they’re delicious! 

Two facets of the food industry I really enjoy having fun with are the collectibles and hunting down fun flavours of things.  I am crazy about collectibles and special edition things, even though being Canadian sometimes has me stymied when it comes to special flavours that aren’t available on my side of the pond.  Lip glosses, Hello Kitty items, and food-related memorabilia rank at the top of my list of fun things to collect and I have cargo ship sized collections of all three to prove it!  My favourite sweets and snacks to chase down are M&M tins and collectibles, M&M flavours, flavoured Kit Kats (not regular ones, just flavoured ones), and of course, Oreo cookies! 

Which leads me to another one of my more recent happy moments: getting my hands on Oreo’s 100th birthday cake cookies!  Do you know what I did when my mum brought home a beautiful, shiny new bag of special 100th birthday and anniversary Oreos from the supermarket?  I grabbed it and I hugged it.  The same way Winnie the Pooh hugs his pot of honey.   

Recipe for Inside Out Oreo Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies (yields 4-5 dozen small cookies)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter (10 ounces), at room temperature (make sure the butter is super soft and squishy!)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 20 crushed Oreo cookies (I just crushed them with my hands but you could also crush them with a mallet) 
  • 1 ½ cups of semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (*Deb’s Note: Depending on how big you make your cookie dough balls, you’ll need to reuse your cookie sheets a few times.  My oven runs hot, so I actually don’t bother putting anything on the bottom rack and only use the top rack, placing 2 baking sheets vertically side by side).
  • In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (*Deb’s Note: I didn’t use the mixer for this step, I just used a large spoon to mix everything together).
  • Beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until creamy.  Add the egg followed by egg yolk and vanilla, beating well between additions and scraping down the side of the bowl as necessary (*Deb’s Note: I don’t have a standing mixer so I used a handheld).
  • Beat in the dry ingredients, then add the crushed Oreo cookies, followed by the semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips.  Using a large spoon or your clean hands, fold in until evenly distributed. 
  • Grab fistfuls of cookie dough and shape into golf ball sized balls.  Place cookie dough balls onto the baking sheets, 2 inches apart.  Flatten them slightly with either the bottom of a spatula or the palm of your hand.  Bake 11-13 minutes, until the cookies begin to brown at the edges.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely (*Deb’s Note: I placed 15 dough balls on each baking sheet and took them out after 11 minutes for super soft cookies.  If you prefer crispier cookies, leave them in for 12 or 13 minutes).

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Recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  Sampson, Sally.  “How Baking Can Change the World.” Food & Wine November 2011: 130.