Blissfully Delicious

magic bars 2Phew, I was so glad that this week is finally over. Even though this was only a 4-days week for me (since I took Friday off), it definitely felt long! When I started my current job almost three years ago, I used to bring in elaborate cupcakes to work. I’d bring in these fluffy lemon cupcakes, pumpkin cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, you name it. When I got pregnant with my son, and throughout his first year, I had to go simple. It seemed like every single time we had a potluck day, something came up and I wasn’t able to bring whatever it was that I had planned to bring. This bar was something that I had just come up with, completely by “accident”. I wanted to do rice krispies treat, but with a little something “extra”; so I decided to add some peanut butter on it. But then, I noticed that I had used organic unsalted peanut butter, and I definitely missed some saltiness to cut the sweetness. I decided to sprinkle some crushed mini pretzels. But then, it still needed something, so I decided to melt some peanut butter, butterscotch and chocolate morsels, and pour them on top of the bars. Score! I just found an absolutely delightful new treat to make and take to work. Enjoy!

straw rhubarb 2

I have been going to the local farmer market for about six years now. As soon as I “discovered” such thing existed, I always made sure that I set aside some time on Saturday morning to check out the market as soon as the season starts. Not only that we can get fresh produce, fruits, and all of the yummy goodies from local vendors, it is such a nice activity that we can do outdoor with the kids. We can grab breakfast there (or dessert, because that’s what our kids end up getting), get groceries and do some people watching all at the same time – it is a win and win situation. I also enjoy getting to talk to the hardworking folks that actually grow the vegetables, raise the chickens for our eggs, etc. It is really such a neat experience. Our farmer market’s season actually started three weeks ago, but unfortunately, we haven’t had the time to go due to miscellaneous activities. This past weekend, we finally made it there – and I was so thrilled when I saw gorgeous rhubarb stalks lying everywhere. I was almost sure that I wouldn’t see any left, since their season is so short –so when I saw several farmers still had them laying around, I knew that I had to buy some.

straw rhubarb

While this Berry and Rhubarb Crisp that I made the last time was really good – I wanted to try a different recipe using brown sugar. Now, you can take this recipe and use all rhubarb, but I decided to add some strawberries into mine for the fun of it :). The filling has thicker consistency (better in my opinion), but the topping were less crumbly than the last one (less structure, and sank more than the last time). Since I love having a lot of oatmeal in the topping, I’d probably be adding more of that in my next batch. If you haven’t had time to enjoy rhubarb yet this season, I’d definitely recommend you go find yourself some rhubarb, get yourself a big pint of ice cream or yogurt and dig in!

straw lemonade cupcakes 2 I would classify strawberry as one of my favorite flavors in almost everything desserts. In the summer, I always try to eat strawberries as much as possible. I feel like they’re one of those fruits that just don’t taste the same in the winter, and don’t hold up that well frozen (unless it is used in a smoothie). They’re also pretty watery which presents a challenge during baking between having enough of them in the recipe to ensure the flavor comes through, but find enough other ingredients to offset their watery texture. I was really excited when I made these strawberry cupcakes a couple of summers ago -and found what I thought was a perfect strawberry cupcake recipe, with naturally pale pink strawberry buttercream. This time, I adapted that very recipe, and made it even better by adding tons of lemon zests, juice, and extract to turn them into strawberry lemonade, another one of summer popular flavors.
straw lemonade cupcakes 1I also tweaked the buttercream a little bit: I used a lot more pureed, per a lot of the feedback from the readers who have tried them. This version should have a more pronounced strawberry flavor mixed with lemon.  I took the prettier version of these cupcakes (I actually piped the frosting to make prettied cupcakes) to a bake sale at work – and they went fast! I’m also hosting a baking round-up at the end of the month with a bunch of other bloggers in a bake-along group called “What’s Baking?”. (I had been MIA from this group for over a year, so I’m grateful that I have not been kicked off).  The theme is “Bake with Summer Fruits/Produce”. So please check back at the end of the month where I’d have a link of all of the other delicious treats from other participants! Have a great Sunday.

bbq shredded chix 2Wahooo!! Has summer finally arrived where you live?? Because it is definitely here for us here in Iowa! I’ve been doing my happy dance waiting for the breezy warm summer evenings and so ready to enjoy the warm sunny days outdoor with my family. The weather has been gorgeous outside: the sun is out, and the temperature has even reached the high 80′s. So, what does that mean for our meals? Slow-cooker comes to my rescue again. When I don’t want to fuss and spend too much time in the kitchen, I just rely on low-maintenance meals that I can whip in no time. This barbecue chicken, cooked in a slow-cooker, is such a nice change from the typical chili, or soups. Most of the slow-cooker recipes that I tried with chicken breasts have been less than successful, so I was hopeful that this one was going to be a keeper. bbq shredded chixThe recipe recommends using a mixture of both chicken breasts and thighs. You can follow that exact proportion, or use all breasts or all thighs. I did this several way and all ended up with juicy chickens that were tender enough to shred with fork. The key here is to know how fast your slow cooker cooks the meat. Mine was ready to go at around 7.5-8 hours (the recommended period is 7-9 hrs). I always try to get the best buns available from a local bakery, the ones that are firm enough to soak all of the sauces dripping from the meat, but still maintain its crispy skins. They’re wonderful for your outdoor family supper, or evening summer gathering or picnic – just make sure that you bring enough napkins for everyone.

bbq sauce 1 As much as I love barbecue, I don’t keep any barbecue sauce around the house. It’s weird considering that I feel like I used to always have them around the house; after all, it is a quick way to add flavour to meat. I usually try to minimize the varieties of prepackaged food or condiments that we don’t use to a very minimum so I don’t end up throwing them away after a few uses (like mustard, mayonnaise, relish, etc).  I’m such a stickler with keeping my refrigerator to only hold things that we use on regular basis, and I always check to make sure that nothing is expired. My daughter absolutely loves ketchup, so that’s one staple that I have plenty around the house. Recently I was getting ready to make barbecue chicken and realized that I didn’t have any barbecue sauce at all, but I did have ketchup and the rest of the ingredients to make this easy to put together barbecue sauce. I made several versions of this: with and without the liquid smoke, and the mild and spicier version. This is a nice basic sauce that you can quickly put together, and change up as you wish.