A Happy Accident – It’s It Cookie Bars

Creamy, messy, chocolatey, chewy It’s It ice cream bars are just one of those special treats that I really enjoy once in a blue moon. They take me back to happy summer memories spanning a lifetime. I remember saving my change and enthusiastically picking them up at the little mini-mart down the road from my house on hot summer days growing up. Ice cream trucks that sold them were golden. As an adult we get them so rarely- sugar is my enemy.. but YOLO! Here and there I really enjoy one. They’re just so satisfying to eat!

So it was in fact a happy accident when I managed to ruin oatmeal cookies this weekend by leaving out the flour in the recipe (dur)- and used the results of that failure to make cookie bars that turned out tasting a whole lot like an It’s It.

I was aghast when I pulled the trays of cookies out of the oven and found the cookies flat and mushy. What kind of a baker forgets to put flour in the cookie dough?! Me, that’s who. But I couldn’t stand the idea of throwing all of that goodness away. I had used up the last of my mini chocolate chips and walnuts in that darn recipe!

I thought for a few minutes about how I could still use the ruined cookies- they did not rise and wouldn’t hold together in cookie form, but they were still delicious! I decided to press them down into two greased 8×8 square pans and top them with melted chocolate chips. I really thought my family would think it a wasted effort- but they loved them and have requested I make them again.. this time on purpose! And a new recipe was born.

I regret not photographing the debacle turned miracle for you all- but I was in a hurry to bake up a bunch of stuff for our Game Night: 17th Anniversary Edition. That’s right- I’ve been married 17 years! It’s been real, it’s been good, it’s been real good. We had a great time celebrating the event with friends over a dirty game: Drawing Without Dignity. It’s like Cards Against Humanity crossed with adult Pictionary. I can’t recommend that game to you unless you have really chill friends with no filter. Ha. I do. It’s all about the right crowd. 😛

17 Years Ago

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There are some really great photos of our game night here– thanks to the amazing photographer Adam Freidin. 🙂

But anyway, here’s the recipe!

It's It Cookie Bars - A Happy Accident
A happy accident!

It’s It Cookie Bars
3/4 shortening
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1tsp vanilla
1tsp salt
1/2tsp soda
1/2tsp cloves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 12oz bag of chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°. Mix thoroughly shortening, sugars, egg, water and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients (saving the 12oz bag of chocolate chips for later.) Grease your pans- I’d use either 2 8×8 pans or 1 9×13. Press the dough down into the bottom of the pans and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Pour the remaining chocolate chips over the top and toss it back in the oven for 4 minutes or so- until you can easily smooth the chocolate chips with a spoon. Let cool completely, until the chocolate topping solidifies, then cut into bars. I put mine in the fridge for an hour or so after the pan had completely cooled to speed up the process. Then, I just cut long horizontal bars and broke those into jagged pieces like candy.

Enjoy!




Today’s Project: Prep for our upcoming yard sale… lots and lots of prep.

Today’s Soundtrack: Roller Derby Road Trip on Spotify (recently updated!)

I’m reading: The Stand by Stephen King (still. My goodness it’s a long book! But soooooooo good. It had been some years since I’d read it.)

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes
Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

It’s a sad day in the Rhodes household- we have now consumed every last blood orange from our tree (and then a few more we were gifted.) I’m not sure it is possible that we’ll ever grow enough blood oranges to allow for any to be preserved, they’re just too glorious. Pretty, unique, flavorful, nutritious- they are everything that is best about winter.

So far this year I have made three blood orange recipes, two of which: blood orange candy and blood orange simple syrup, are detailed in my blog post titled It’s Like Sunlight In My Mouth. If you haven’t checked it out yet and you have some blood oranges still hanging around, you really must. My kids really love the blood orange candies, they are very flavorful and easy to make. The resulting simple syrup comes in handy too, my daughters have used it in smoothies, my husband has used it in his tea, and I used it to make Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes yesterday.

These Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes are Pretty and Tasty
These Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes are Pretty and Tasty

When our blood orange tree proved especially fruitful this year I really didn’t know what to do with them all so I hit up Pinterest for cake recipes- but I just couldn’t find an easy recipe with few ingredients. So many of the recipes I found wanted me to use alternatives to regular flour, or to add other exotic ingredients I don’t have on hand. And I couldn’t find even one recipe for blood orange upside down cupcakes, which seemed a shame- I could just imagine how lovely they would look with a perfect blood orange disk on top! So I decided to try out a recipe I’ve used for pineapple upside down cupcakes, but with my own modifications. Here it is:

Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups blood orange simple syrup
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Duncan Hines Classic Yellow Cake Mix
24 very thinly sliced blood orange disks

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F, spray cupcake pans well with cooking spray

2. Thinly slice blood oranges and set aside (blood orange juice stains, so be mindful!)

3. Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 cup blood orange simple syrup, 1/2 cup water, eggs, and vegetable oil.

4. Spoon 1 tbsp of blood orange simple syrup into the bottom of each muffin cup. Place a slice of blood orange into the syrup.

5. Pour 1/4 cup cake batter into each cup.

6. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

7. Cool for a couple minutes, run a knife around the edge of each cake, and then invert the pan onto parchment paper.

8. Serve warm, or not! These are lovely either way. Refrigerate leftovers, if you have them.

And that’s it!

Like many of my experiments in the kitchen, I learned a few things that I might want to improve next time. Like: not forgetting to spray the cupcake tins with oil. I also waited a few too many minutes to invert the pans, I was doing dishes at the same time and didn’t think a few minutes would matter- but when you have the equivalent of candy in the bottom of your muffin tins and it’s allowed to cool- ack! So, my cakes weren’t as pretty as they could have been. Thankfully I was just feeding immediate family, so it didn’t matter that they were a little rustic looking. Especially since they were super delicious.

It’s gray out so I made blood orange upside down cupcakes.

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I hope you get a chance to enjoy these lovely little cakes! Please, if you have any blood orange recipes you think I’d like, or improvements upon my recipe- I’d love to hear from you! I’m looking forward to next year’s blood orange season already. 🙂




Today’s Project: Blood Orange Upside Down Cupcakes

Today’s Soundtrack: This is: Alabama Shakes on Spotify

I Finished Reading: In a Different Key: The Story of Autism
My quick review: If you know or love anybody with Autism, this is an incredibly interesting history. It was a little long, but well written and interesting until the end.

It’s Like Sunlight In My Mouth

Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day to all, and to meeeee, for it was a three-day weekend! I love those. Especially in this dreadful weather. We drive a lot on a dangerous stretch of freeway and the cold affects my health negatively so I’d just rather skip winter each year. GTFO Winter. Yo.

But yeah- I had an extra day to fiddle around with this weekend so I decided to candy some lemon and make lemon simple syrup in between posting MLK memes on Facebook.

Martin Luther King Jr Quote
Martin Luther King Jr Quote

He was so great, we need someone like him so much right now. Don’t you think?


I have to say, the result was really spectacular. After candying the first batch of lemon I immediately had to make another batch. They were so wonderfully flavorful and pretty that I couldn’t resist. And then there’s that sparkly delicious syrup…. I could die happy right after ingesting it all.

There are really some fun ways to use candied fruit and simple syrups. My husband puts the simple syrup in his tea and in mixed cocktails. I used some of the lemon simple syrup for my lemon bread recipe, and my daughter used it in her fruit and yogurt smoothie. I used the candied lemons to garnish lemon bread.

Poofy is creeping up on my lemon bread.

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Pretty much the moment I was done with the lemon candies and simple syrup I started working with blood oranges. I’m so stoked that we put that tree in.. these are glorious fruit. They are small but visually striking and fantastic tasting.

I plan on making blood orange upside down cake later this week and will garnish it with candied orange slices. My kids especially like the candied blood orange slices. They taste like fruit gummies, but lighter and brighter, if that makes sense. I just can’t get over how these taste like the sun! On these dreary  gray days there’s nothing better than a little bit of sun in my mouth. 😉

Oh, and I learned a few interesting things about blood oranges yesterday. I was treating mom to some candied blood orange when she asked how they got the red coloring. I had no idea so I asked Siri and she hooked me up:  All About Blood Oranges

According to Wikipedia’s Blood Orange page, “The flesh develops its characteristic maroon color when the fruit develops with low temperatures during the night.”

Pretty cool! So, if warm days/cool nights helps blood oranges turn a deeper and more thorough red- I’m wondering if I kept them in the garage at night and brought them in during the day for a few days, could I deepen their color myself? My daughter Lillie, The Brilliant One, actually suggested this. She’s cool. I’m going to try it. Mine are about half as bloody as they could be, mostly. I’ll let you know how it works.

Project Details:

Candied Lemon Slices (& Simple Syrup)
I used this super easy recipe: Candied Lemon Slices
Tips & Modifications: I cut up two lemons (slice it very thin!) and used two medium saucepans at once to increase my yield. I used tongs to turn over the lemon slices every five minutes while simmering. After removing your candied lemon slices to parchment or wax paper, just pour the liquid leftover from the candied lemons directly in a jar and there’s your simple syrup!

Candied Blood Orange Slices (& Simple Syrup)
All you have to do is the exact same thing as you did with the lemon slices above. Easy. Fast. It’s worth buying a few blood oranges from the store if you don’t have access to the tree at home to make these.

Lemon Bread
I used this recipe from Taste of Home: Lemon Bread Recipe
Tips & Modifications: I thickened the very thin glaze recipe by doubling the powdered sugar, but I still wish I would have made an even thicker glaze. I wanted the glaze to cure white because I wanted to cover up or distract from my ugly poke holes. See, once I transferred this bread to a plate to cool I poked holes in it with a toothpick and then drizzled it in lemon simple syrup before applying the glaze. Oh well, like I always say, “it doesn’t matter what it looks like when it’s in your belly.” It was brilliant tasting. Highly recommend.




Today’s Projects: I think I’m going to try one of the Starbuck’s copycat lemon loaf recipes I see floating around on Pinterest. We can’t get enough of the lemon stuff around here right now. And the kids want to have a side-by-side taste-off to decide which of the two lemon breads are the best. Also: handwarmers again , maybe, if I get a chance to sit.

Soundtrack: Today’s Top Hits Playlist on Spotify

I’m reading: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Putting Up Lemons

I’ve been putting lemons up, a little each day, all week.

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Several years back we put in what was supposed to be a miniature lemon tree. We planted it in a maybe five feet wide strip of land bordering our driveway. Of course it was not in fact in any way “miniature” and has grown to the point where we can hardly avoid driving into it. We’ve trimmed it drastically several times, but it’s hardy and growy. I have scratches all down the side of my new car.

When we got it, it was already producing some, so it was quite a disappointment that it didn’t produce at all for two seasons thereafter. We thought it was because it had grown a large sucker, a kind of parasitic take-over. We cut out the parasite and waited, thinking that it might do better, but it still didn’t produce. It caused nothing but problems.

Finally, finally, I decided to google it. At that point my dad, who is also my neighbor, was threatening to dig it out of the ground. Dudes, google everything. So yeah- our giant miniature lemon tree just wasn’t getting the right stuff from our soil. A few treatments of citrus fertilizer later and I’m putting lemons up for days and days. Annnnd feeling a little dumb. And neglectful.

So, what does putting up lemons involve, and why would you want to go to the trouble? I’ll tell ya.

To begin with we picked the lemons over the course of a week, choosing just the ripest first because I planned to immediately preserve them. Then each day I would dust off the handy dandy juicer we got for like $20 on Amazon, push through about 20 lemons, and strain the juice. (Some of my people like pulpy lemonade, so I didn’t strain the first few batches just for them.) I strained the juice through a couple layers of cheesecloth, then poured the strained lemon juice into ice trays and froze them overnight. Once the lemon juice was frozen into cubes I transferred them into labeled freezer bags and tossed them in the freezer. Additionally I zested the prettiest peels and put the lemon zest in a small jar in our freezer for baking throughout the year.

Project time: We didn’t spend much time picking lemons, we saved time by using clippers and hurrying to beat the rain that just won’t stop in California right now. Each day I spent about an hour and a half from beginning to end (set-up, transferring the day before’s cubes to the freezer, juicing, straining, pouring, clean-up) for a yield of about 5 cups juice, which filled a little more than three large ice cube trays. I only zested lemons one day and it took me less effort and time than I expected, even using an old-fashioned hand zester.  A little zest goes a long way, so I’m not sure if I should put up more or not- we’ll see how fast we go through it when we have it on hand! All I know is that I didn’t put up all the lemons last year, as I got bored of the process after three or four days.. and guess what? We were out of lemon before spring. This year I’m not gonna slack. Fresh lemon juice and zest can make so many things absolutely wonderful. Here are a few of those:

Lemonade. There are so many wonderful things about lemonade, and the lemonade made from lemons off our own tree is somehow so sunny and magical and light tasting.

Lemon juice for health: it’s full of good stuff for ya, and you can read about the many ways you can use it for health benefits all over the interwebs so I won’t bore you. Google everything.

Lemons for cleaning: I loved how, after clearing the juicer repeatedly in the sink with the dish disposal, I noticed that the slightly moldy, not wonderful smell that had been in that sink was gone. Lot’s of people use it for varied cleaning purposes so please, google, google.

Lemon juice for cooking, oh yes. So many things are improved by lemon juice. One our favorite ways to use it is to add a teaspoon or two of fresh lemon juice directly into our bowls of chicken soup. This was an old tradition of my husband’s family, and since I discovered it I never eat chicken soup without a dash of lemon juice!

We love to bake with lemon in this household! I made this the other day and it was really great:

Sunburst Lemon Bars

My daughter Lillie made these fantastic wonderful amazing cupcakes for me for my 40th birthday:

Pink Lemonade Ruffle Cupcakes

My husband tried a new chicken picatta recipe recently too and it was pretty good. I’ll bug him for that recipe.

And hey! Let me know if you find anything else interesting to do with lemon! I have enough to get a little creative this year, I hope.




Today’s Projects:
-Lemons: I’m getting closer to done putting this year’s crop up.. must. not. give up. We DO need all this lemon, I’m pretty sure.
-Reusable Grocery Bags: I have one last bag to make today and then we should have enough to put a full set in both cars. More on those soon!

Today’s Soundtrack: Today’s Top Hits Playlist on Spotify
I’m Reading: The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey

 

 

I’m baaaaack!

Wow, Poofy, what sharp teeth you have.

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For years and years I maintained a lifestyle blog but then came Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. My journaling became fragmented.  A little bit of me went here, a little there, and my blog withered and died. Sad story, eh? Whatever. I’m back dudes.

Here’s what I’m thinking.. I CONSTANTLY create and do stuff. But nobody knows it! That’s weird. I’d like to show you what I’m up to- and how I learned to do it… and where I got my best resources… and whether or not I’m making any money at it (usually not.)

I have a lot of interests- I get bored easy and try new things- so I’ll probably bounce around a lot, but my primary interests are crafting (mostly sewing and knitting), genealogy, web and graphic design, baking, reading, roller derby, swim, travel, music, photography, philanthropy, and art. Pretty much something for everyone, I hope.

So yeah! Stop back by sometime soon and see what you think.. that would be cool.




Today’s Projects:
This Blog- customization
Lemons- today is day 5 or 6 of putting up lemons.. only a few more days to go?
Reusable Grocery Bags- more on this soon, but here’s the pattern!