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).

*****

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

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The Gingerbread Series – Warm Gingerbread Cake With Whipped Cream, Ice Cream & Caramel Sauce from Moxie’s!

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Finally, the long-awaited gingerbread series is here!  Okay, so maybe it hasn’t been long-awaited by everyone else, but it’s definitely long-awaited by me!  I meant to start The Gingerbread Series much sooner, but here we are smack dab in the middle-to-latter part of December.  Part of me whimpers at all the precious time I wasted while another part is just thankful the series has started and that I’m able to put something of substance in it. 

If you’ve been following my foodie and scrapbooking adventures on the blog since the beginning, you’ve probably noticed something “missing”, so to speak.  I’ve showcased breakfast diners, coffee shops, cupcakeries, vegetarian eateries, bakeries, and many others, but never anything pertaining to large chain restaurants.  You know which ones I’m referring to.  And this omission was – and is – completely intentional.  Let’s be honest with one another.  Whether we frequented large chain restaurants with our friends as teens because they were conveniently located in our suburban neighbourhoods, or because they’re so prevalent (they wouldn’t be monster chains if they weren’t!), or because we genuinely enjoy eating at these establishments, we’ve all eaten at the large chains.

When I first started writing the blog, I knew right from the get-go that I wasn’t going to write about meals and experiences from these restaurants unless there was something I just had to share with you all.  It’s hard to explain why I felt, and still feel, so adamant about this stance because so long as food brings about enjoyment, it’s ripe for the sharing, no?  I guess it’s because I wanted to steer the blog in a particular direction, focusing on independent businesses, hole-in-the-wall gems, and great food from places others may not be familiar with or know about. 

Toronto (and its surrounding suburbs) is a BIG city and I wanted to show off all the amazing, droolworthy food I love and could find, not be pinned down by places and spaces that everyone and their mother already knew about.  Not to mention, I wanted to post about different ethnic cuisines, different foods catering to dietary restrictions and intolerances, and vegetarian and vegan food, and I knew I would never be able to accomplish had I chose to post about chain establishments on such a frequent basis. 

However, I respect that others might want to know about certain foods served at these types of places and that others may not always care for the unique or the independents and prefer to find foodie enjoyment in a large chain.  We know they wouldn’t be in business if people didn’t!  As well, I’m well aware that a number of you aren’t even Torontoians or Canadians, so another way of looking at it is that everything I post is new and unknown!  In this case, I obviously have something a little more out of the ordinary to show you all and since it’s part of a holiday menu and gingerbread related, it’s worth putting up on the blog.  Just for the holiday season, Moxie’s has a warm gingerbread cake on their winter menu!

After perusing through menus online, I was ecstatic when I found out that Moxie’s was serving a gingerbread cake ($5.99) especially for the holidays.  I was really looking forward to trying it because not only was it something I could consider posting on the blog, but also because it was something I had never eaten before.  I’ve never had gingerbread cake before and I was so curious to see how Moxie’s made and served theirs. 

It blew me away.  I always try to mentally envision what my dish or meal looks like before I get it if it’s not something that I can already see from a display case, and I’m almost always wrong in my mental imagery.  This was another one of those times.  I was expecting a simple slice with the accompanying vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce, but what I got was a large dish with two giant gingerbread cake wedge slices sitting on top of a caramel sauce pond with vanilla ice cream and a huge helping of whipped cream.

I was so giddy.  Dessert will do that to me.  Oh, what the heck, scratch that.  Yummy food in general will do that to me.  This is one fabulous holiday dessert and cake.  Just like the name said, the cake and sauce were nice and warm and the cake was incredibly soft and moist and not crumbly or dry in the slightest.  The caramel was smooth and fluid without being runny, watery, or stodgy, and the whole dessert was just mouthful after mouthful of warm spiced, nutmegy cake with soft whipped cream, rich sauce, and sweet vanilla ice cream.  The dish was very well-balanced.  With every bite of gingerbread cake, I had some whipped cream, sauce, and ice cream and there wasn’t a ridiculous amount of one that left the other out in the dust.  There was enough sauce and sweet accompaniments to eat with the cake and there was enough cake to swirl around the sauce.  For those who have nut allergies, beware though as I asked about nut content and there is indeed traces of nuts in the dessert, so steer clear.  

Other than it being delicious and just REALLY GOOD, the best thing about this gingerbread cake was that I could have eaten the cake without its sweet partners.  Yes, the sauce, whipped cream, and ice cream made it that much more decadent, but the cake itself was great enough to stand on its own if need be.  I found myself swirling my cake in the sauce and others because I wanted to, not because I felt compelled to.  Sometimes you glop the sauce and accompaniments on because whatever it is you’re glopping it onto is too dry or just not good enough but it certainly wasn’t the case for this cake.  It was fabulous and if you want to get your sweet teeth into it, you better do so before the 29th because the holiday menu is only in effect until December 28th!

*****

Photos taken at the Scarborough Town Centre location at 300 Borough Drive.  Moxie’s Classic Grill has locations all across Canada, click here to find different locations, to view their menus, and more.