Orange Fig Bars

This year I am running behind on everything!  Shopping, baking, mailing the Christmas cards and gifts… So I am absolutely grateful to have a quiet weekend just before the big day.  I’ve been craving something fig lately and I came across this wonderful recipe in the Family Circle Magazine 2013 holiday edition.  Being a huge fan of figs, I just couldn’t pass it up!

So….(drum roll, please) here is my first attempt at homemade fig bars!

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 023

Pre-heat your oven to 350* F. The next thing I do is get the figs cooking down so that once I finish the cookie layer, they are ready to go and I don’t have to wait for them.

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 016

You’ll need a large, lidded pan that can hold 4 cups of dried figs that have been coarsely chopped.  In this pan will go the chopped figs, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, orange juice (I squeezed a fresh naval orange) and the zest from an orange.  I also added a little water.   The figs I used were organic, dried figs that we found at Costco.  They are wonderful!  And since figs can sometimes be difficult to find depending on where you live, this was a nice treat for me.

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 017

First chop your figs into smaller chunks.  I cut these figs in half, the cut each of those halves into another half.  Wash your orange really well (organic is best) and take your zester, pictured above, and zest all the peel off into the pot. Then squeeze the juice of that orange. It will look like a sticky mess once you add the honey, orange juice and water!  But it will smell absolutely wonderful!!

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 018

On medium heat, bring the figs to a simmer, lower the heat, put the lid on and let cook about 15 minutes or until they are all soft.  I made sure to stir occasionally and was actually able to resist the urge to lick the spoon!  While the figs are cooking, put together the cookie layer.  Once that is done and the figs are soft, you will put them into a food processor, or blender, and run until they are completely smooth.  This mixture will then be spread on top of the cookie layer to be baked for about 25 minutes.  Make sure you cool completely or cutting them into bars will be a nightmare!

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 020

The recipe is below.  Have fun with it and enjoy these!  I actually ended up cutting them smaller than what is on the plate.  They are so rich and delicious and not very sweet at all!

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 021

Orange & Fig Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour (make sure it is unbleached) or whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 tsp. aluminum-free baking powder

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt (I used Celtic Gray Sea Salt)

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened (vegan butter works well here)

1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

4 cups dried figs, roughly chopped

1/2 cup orange juice or the juice of one large orange

1/4 cup water – this is my addition to the recipe

zest from a large orange

2 tbsp. pure honey

Pre-heat the oven to 350*F.  Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper.  (I am partial to parchment)

In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Slowly pour in the flour mixture and beat on low until well combined.  Press firmly and evenly in the bottom of your lined baking pan.

In a medium, lidded pot, combine figs, orange juice and zest, honey, 2 tbsp sugar, and water, if you are adding it.  Bring to a simmer, then lower the heat and cook until soft…about 15 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a food processor (or blender) and run until smooth.  Let cool about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula dipped in warm water to prevent sticking, spread the fig mixture over the cookie layer. (re-dip your spatula in warm water as needed to prevent sticking)

Bake at 350*F for 25 minutes.  Cool completely.  Lift from the pan to a cutting board.  Cut into small squares.

Per cookie: 122 cal; 3g fat (2g sat fat); 2g pro; 24g carb; 2g fiber; 41mg sodium; 7mg chol

Cyns Kitchen Goodies 022

Birthday Cake For The Birthday Boy!

In celebration of my husband’s birthday, I decided to bake a German Chocolate cake this morning.  I’ve been wanting to try a homemade frosting for it and have searched high and low for the right recipe.  Finally finding one, I became quite the “busy bee” this morning!


The cake is the tried and true Hershey’s chocolate cake recipe and I’ve played around with it a tiny bit. Here’s the recipe (My changes are in parenthesis):

Thanks to Hershey’s for the simply awesome recipe that has been one of my favorites.

HERSHEY’S Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake

2 c. sugar  (1-1/2 cups sugar)

1-3/4 c. all purpose-flour (1-1/2 cup unbleached AP flour + 1/4 c. ww pastry flour)

3/4 c. Hershey’s cocoa

1-1/2 tsp baking powder (1-1/2 tsp aluminum-free baking powder)

1-1/2 tsp. baking soda

2 eggs

1 c. milk (I will sometimes use Unsweetened nut milks)

1/2 c. oil

2 tsp. pure vanilla

1 c. boiling water

(1 tsp. coffee)

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla.  Beat for 2 minutes on medium speed.  Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin).  Pour into pans.  Bake 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees.  Cool 10 minutes then cool completely out of the pans.  Ice when completely cool.

This is the icing recipe for a 2-layer cake. Since I’ve never made it before, I will follow it exactly before I start playing with it! Ok, so I lied. I did play around with it, but only a little bit!


German Chocolate Cake Frosting

1 c. evaporated milk

1 c. sugar

3 egg yolks beat with 1 tsp. water

1/2 c. butter

1 c. chopped pecans

1 c. flake coconut

1 tbsp. corn starch (optional)

Cook over medium heat until thick.  Then stir in nuts and coconut. Spread on cooled cake while still warm. Let set for about 1/2 an hour, then serve it up as big, thick slices!


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jeff! I love you more than you’ll ever know!

Banana Bread

One of our favorite breakfast items is homemade banana bread.  I’ve been making it for years, tweaking the recipe and messing around with it changing out the bananas for other fruits.  It has become a family favorite and my husband requests it for the guys at his office every now and then.

Banana Bread 002

Gather together all your ingredients and grab a big mixing bowl and your favorite wooden spoon and let’s make banana bread!

I have found a fantastic new use for my potato masher….mashing bananas! This wonderful tool pictured below was a gift from my thoughtful friend, Tonya.

Banana Bread 001

One of my “secrets” to having plenty of bananas ready for baking at any given time: freeze those overripe Produce Manager’s specials. You know, the ones where you can buy a whole bag of bananas for 99c! Every time they are on sale at the market, I buy 1-2 bags and peel them, lining them up in a large freezer bag. Lay the flat and you’ll have bananas ready at any time!

Here’s the recipe that I have used:

Banana Nut Bread

Preheat oven to 350F

1/3 c. shortening – note: I do NOT use shortening, substitute canola oil, extra virgin coconut oil or safflower oil – cup for cup

3/4 c. sugar – I cut this back to 1/4 cup

2 eggs – I half this

1 3/4 cup flour – I take the 3/4 cup & change it out to whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp. aluminum free baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt – I use kosher salt or sea salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 c. mashed bananas – as you can see from the picture above, I pour the thawed bananas and the juices in all together, plus I use more than a cup…..makes it extra good!

1 cup chopped walnuts – or your favorite nut – pecans are good for this too.

3 tbsp. milk – I use unsweetened soy milk – you can use whatever you want

In a large bowl, cream together milk, oil/shortening and sugar; add egg and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda and add to creamed mixture.  Stir until well mixed. Fold in bananas and nuts, blending well. Pour into greased loaf pan.

Bake for 50 minutes or until golden brown and pick inserted comes out clean.

Remove from pan and cool on a rack. Wrap and store overnight.

Or as we do in our house….slice it up hot and chow down!

Banana Bread 005

Banana Bread 007

Cutting back on the sugar works okay for this recipe if the bananas are super ripe. If you are concerned about any bitter taste, make sure that your bananas are just spotted, not super black. But if they are that ripe, a couple little scoops of stevia will help adjust the flavor and allow the sugar amount to be cut in half or more.  Pure honey also works well as a sugar replacement in this recipe. You’ll need to reduce the oil/shortening amount to compensate for the extra moisture that honey provides.

Banana Bread 009

Won’t you pull up a chair, have a cup of tea and a slice of banana bread with me? I’d like that very much!

Making Yogurt Cheese

Looking for a low-fat delicious substitute for cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream or whipping cream? Try yogurt cheese!

Well, at least that’s what “they’re” telling me. This is my first time making this, so it’s quite the adventure!005  The enclosed directions are simple: Place the strainer in the plastic container and add up to 3 cups (750 ml) of homemade or commercial yogurt to the strainer. Yield of yogurt cheese is 1 cup (250 ml). Cover and chill unit for at least 2 hours. It will continue to thicken for up to 24 hours.  When the yogurt has reached the desired thickness, drain off the whey and reserve for other recipes. Remove yogurt from the strainer and transfer to an air-tight container. Will last up to 2 weeks. Now I would like to add here that given the questions from my total vegan friends, I don’t see why soy yogurt or coconut yogurt couldn’t work! The disclaimer is that I have not yet tried this with those types of yogurt. The question remains that since there is no whey, would there be “cheese?” That’s a topic another time. This time, I went by the classic route and chose to use Greek style yogurt. My local grocer doesn’t carry every brand that I would like to buy, so I tend to select the best that I can find.


As you can see from the picture on the left, the contraption is quite simple. Just a big plastic container, air-tight lid and a screen. I’m sure with some imagination there could be a lot of great uses for it!

For my first batch, I decided to go with Cabot’s Greek Style, low fat yogurt. I choose many of their products for the wonderful list of ingredients they have. I try to choose products carefully and usually buy only those with the best list of ingredients.

Here are a few of the provided recipes using this cheese:008

Maple Cream Topping

1 cup (250 ml) yogurt cheese

1/4 cup (50 ml) maple syrup

Gently blend together and dollop over fresh fruit, fruit crumble or serve with a Belgian waffle.

Lemon Yogurt Cream

1 cup(250 ml) yogurt cheese

1/4 cup (50 ml) sugar

1 tsp. (5 ml) grated lemon zest

1tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice

Stir together all ingredients until well blended. Great served over fresh fruit or fruit crumble or this can be used in any dessert recipe calling for sweetened whipped cream or sour cream.

011And a favorite of mine:


1 English cucumber, grated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp (5 ml) salt

1-1/2 cups (375 ml) yogurt cheese

2 tbsp (30 ml) parsley, minced

Place the grated cucumber in a colander and sprinkle with salt to allow to drain for 30 minutes. Squeeze to remove the excess liquid.  Place the cucumber in a bowl and add the yogurt cheese, garlic, parsley, and for added heat, 1/4 tsp (1 ml) of hot pepper sauce. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Serve as a vegetable dip or with baked pita chips.

I don’t know about you, but I’m all for the tzatziki!

Clafoutis aux Cerises


Yes, clafoutis aux cerises….you read right! I decided to try and make it after a co-worker made it for us the other day. To say the least, it is a delightful French cherry “cake” that just melts  in your mouth. The tartness of the cherries mix wonderfully with the slightly sweet custard.

It’s very simple to make and only takes about 15-20 minutes of time to prepare then about an hour to bake. Serve it warm, just like they traditionally do in France. You’ll love to wow your friends and family the next time you have a dinner party!

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. (I am in the mountains, so if you are at a lower elevation, you may want to watch your custard closely and lower your oven temperature to 300-325F.)


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 whole eggs

1/3 cup sugar

1/8 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

1-1/4 cup milk (whole is best, but low fat works well, too)

Mix the flour, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and milk together until a custard batter is formed. It will be smooth.

Pour enough to cover the bottom of your greased pie plate and bake at 350F for about 7-10 minutes, just until the custard is set.

Place 2 cups pitted cherries in the pre-baked custard and sprinkle with 1/3 cup sugar. Pour the remaining batter over the top covering the cherries and sugar completely.

Bake at 350F for about 50 minutes or until the edges of the custard begin to brown.

Let cool 10-minutes, dust with powdered sugar and serve while warm.

Optional: trade out the cherries for berries that are in season or mix berries with the cherries, also good are apricots, pears, and peaches. Adjust the sugar based on the sweetness of the fruit.


Also, no worries if the clafoutis aux cerises fluffs up in the oven. As it cools a little, it will settle down. Mine poofed up really high and I got worried, I thought cherries would be all over the oven, but they settled down as you can see in the photo.

Your guests will love it and beg for more!