Weekend Update – Hall of Fame Balls Just in time for the Holidays!

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Good Morning!

With the snowfall in Chicago yesterday, and the Christmas & holiday music being played on some of the radio stations, it really feels like the holidays are here already! I love Thanksgiving and Christmas time.  With that said, I wanted to let you all know that the “Hall of Fame Balls”, the ones that I make for the Bears each week, are going to be sold exclusively at and for the Gateway to Learning Holiday Bazaar on December 1st.

Gateway to Learning is a wonderful organization.  Here is a little information on their mission:

The mission of Gateway to Learning (GTL) is to provide lifelong learning to adults with intellectual challenges and developmental disabilities that promotes active inclusion at home, at work and in the community. Founded in 1973 as a Special Education school, Gateway to Learning is now licensed by the Illinois Department of Human Services as a day training center. Currently serving 85 adults (and growing), in Chicago’s Lincoln Square Neighborhood, GTL’s programming focuses on skill acquisition, development and mastery in key life sectors, including: academia, employment, citizenship, empowerment and advocacy, and daily living/home life. A strong emphasis is placed on vocational training specifically in the culinary arts, with 4 operating kitchens, a bakery and store front café (Dorothy’s Can-Do Cafe) which sells over 30 varieties of cookies and chocolates. The culinary arts and customer service programming, designed and modified for adults with various DoAbilities including Autism and Down syndrome, supports participants in obtaining food sanitation credentials and/or developing a career path for future employment in the food industry. Although the majority of participants reside at home with their parents or siblings on the northside of Chicago, GTL does not have a geographical requirement for services.

I hope those of you that are in the Chicago area will come out to the Holiday Bazaar and pick up some holiday treats and support this wonderful cause!  These balls freeze well too, so you can buy them early and serve them later. But there will be plenty of other goodies to choose from as well… so save the date! I’ll post more information with the exact time and location after Thanksgiving.

Thank you so much for reading my blog…and Go Bears!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Treat Day Week 10 – Banana Cake!

IMG_2342Hello and Happy Friday, Friends!

Ok, Buffalo, NY was a blast – a great dinner with girlfriends, and then met up with the crew from the Bears for some fun in the city.  Game Day was even more fun with another WIN on the books! My brother hooked us up with field passes and the players just looked like they were having a ball dancing to the music that New Era Field was blaring during pre-game warm up.  And then, of course, the game itself was SO GOOD! Oh, and Syracuse, NY (where my friend Lisa just moved to) was such a pretty & quaint town.  So beautiful this time of year with the leaves on the trees in full color. We had so much fun catching up over some delicious wine – and then dinner in the downtown area with more friends. A tour of the Syracuse University campus (where Lisa now works) on Saturday morning, delicious lunch at a bar as we cheered on Syracuse U to a win! Then packed up the car and headed to Buffalo to cheer on the Bears.  Just a great weekend all around! And did you know that Buffalo NY is where Buffalo wings originated?? I did not.  But was sure to order some, and they were great! Chicago does a fantastic job of replicating them too…

Ok, enough about me.  This week, I weaned myself off the cheesecake kick, and decided to send “Best Banana Cake” to Halas Hall (along with the balls & chocolate chip cookies, of course).  My brother said “Great job on the cake…everyone LOVED it!”.  I had sent this to them one time in the past.  I remember I sent this cake without a test run that season, and was a little nervous as to how it would go over, but it got rave reviews, according to my brother.  I actually have two great recipes for Banana Cake… one has a browned butter frosting which is more of a glaze.  Very good, but I particularly love this cake because it comes with a very thick & creamy cream cheese frosting…just like you’d see on a carrot cake or red velvet cake.  It’s delicious, and the blogger that I found it on calls it “Best Banana Cake”, and I think that title is pretty true.  It’s made with buttermilk, and I think that helps make this cake super moist. It’s also a very dense cake, bordering a banana bread. At any rate, this recipe is worth the effort! Even people who are a little weird about anything banana flavored, tend to enjoy this cake, because I think the frosting off-sets any issues you might have with bananas.  I don’t know… I love bananas and cream cheese frosting, so I am biased.

So, here are the only tips I have for you on this cake:

  1. If you are like me, and don’t think far enough in advance to have already purchased bananas and let them sit for days to brown them for baking, then here is a wonderful trick I learned from the old google machine: Take unripened or yellow bananas and place them on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 300 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. They will turn black. They tend to ooze too, so I always line my baking sheet with parchment. But you will have perfectly ripened bananas in a matter of minutes. Just be careful when you take them out of the peel because they will be hot!
  2. The recipe says add an extra 1/4 cup of powdered sugar for a stiffer frosting.  I do this.  I like the frosting thick and sweet, and a more firm frosting makes for a nicer cut and less mess… and I love a sweeter cream cheese frosting.
  3. And the only product that I am particular about in this recipe is the cream cheese.  I always use Philadelphia full fat cream cheese!  Never ever do I deviate from that brand.  Ever. 🙂
  4. Oh, and I use salted butter no matter what the recipe says.  Salted. Never ever do I buy unsalted.

Ok, here is the recipe from a really good blogger – Sally’s Baking Addiction :Best Banana Cake

I hope you try this recipe and that you enjoy it! If you have any questions or comments please feel free to reach out to me!

Thank you so much for reading my blog…and GO BEARS!!!!

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Treat Day – Week 9 (Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake Bars!)

IMG_2219Happy Friday!

So, this week the feedback was that the players were requesting my pound cake… remember the Elvis Pound Cake that I posted a few weeks ago? Really? Already you want pound cake again?  Seems like I just made that, and I have sooooo many more delicious and fun recipes to share.  But of course I am going to listen to what they want. Plus, I am really happy that they love it so much. That makes me happy.  So, to solve my own personal dilemma, I decided to make and send the Elvis Presley pound cake AND whip up a couple batches of the Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake bars as well for the guys. I wanted one more week of the “cheesecake” theme and was craving these little bars myself.  Because after all, it’s all about me and what I want…and I want to share good recipes.  Haha!

This recipe is so easy and delicious.  In fact, the first time I brought it to work to test it on co-workers, one of the guys, Kristian, who is a pretty darn good cook himself, said, “This is the 2nd best thing you make, after Mrs. Lloyd’s Raspberry Bars”. That was one opinion, but hey, I will take it because this recipe is a breeze to make, but looks like you spent hours over it… and can be made the morning of any occasion because it is made with already prepared dough.  Do  you remember one of the early Food Network stars, Sandra Lee & her show “Semi Homemade”?  This would have been a good recipe for that show!  Simple.   All you need to do is whip up the cream cheese base.  If you love cinnamon churros, and cheesecake filling… then you should add this to your list of recipes to try!  Perfect for any occasion – and not too sweet for a morning treat with your coffee.

Here are the few tips I have for you when making this:

  1. Pillsbury now makes crescent dough in full sheets without the little cuts, so if you can find those in your grocery store, I would suggest using them.  Otherwise, the ones with the perforated lines is just fine, you will just need to pinch the dough together as best you can.
  2. I double the vanilla amount in this recipe
  3. I grease my 9×13 pans with real salted butter (not cooking spray) because I think it helps the flavor come out better when replicating a real churro
  4. I always use Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese – full fat!

And speaking of Philadelphia, I’m sitting in the Philly airport right now waiting for a connecting flight to Syracuse.  Spending time with some old friends in Syracuse tonight and then we are shuffling off to Buffalo to cheer on the BEARS this weekend!

So here is a link to the recipe which I found on a great blogger that calls herself The Recipe Critic. Cinnamon Churro Cheesecake Bars

I hope you try this recipe and enjoy it.

If you have any questions please comment or email me!

Thank you for reading my blog and GO BEARS!!!

Mrs. Lloyd’s Raspberry Bars! aka: Spitzbubens

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Happy Monday!

I am posting twice and early this week because I have had so many requests for the Raspberry Bar recipe that I talked about on the Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder WGN Radio show recently.  Thank you all for listening to my story and for reaching out to me! It’s so fun to hear from you and I love that all of you have an interest in good recipes too.  And of course, thank you to Bill & Wendy for even having an interest and allowing me to talk on their show.

Ok, with that said, I like to tell you where, why or how, I found each of these recipes that I post, because I like to give credit to those that have shared them with me in the first place.  So, here is the story & history behind the Raspberry Bars, and more importantly, the original recipe!  Here goes…….

Seven years ago, my first season baking for the Bears, I worked with a great guy by the name of Mike Lloyd.  Mike used to bring in cookies, caramel brownies and “Spitzbübens” that his mother would bake and send for all of us to enjoy at the office. The Raspberry Spitzbübens were by far, something I found to taste exceptional and unlike anything else I had ever had.  When I accepted the challenge of baking for the Bears, I literally had no idea what I was doing as far as baking went, and had NO recipes that I loved and couldn’t wait to send.  BUT, Mike and his mom, being the good and kind people that they are, did not hesitate to share all of the recipes of the treats that had been sent to the office.  Not only did Mrs. Lloyd send Mike copies & instructions of everything for me, she told Mike to tell me to call her if I had any questions.  How kind!  So, here it is, Mrs. Lloyd’s Spitzbübens, or, otherwise known as “Raspberry Bars” recipe! I’m even including a picture of her handwritten copy to me for proof that it’s the real deal 😉  You are going to  love this… Only 4 ingredients, plus your favorite jelly, jam or preserves.  Mike said his favorite has always been raspberry, and so that is what I have stuck with!

Spitzbüben (Raspberry Shortbread)

2 cups butter

2 cups sugar

4 egg yolks

4 cups flour

1 1/2 cups raspberry preserves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees
  2. Beat butter & sugar until light and fluffy.
  3. Blend in egg yolks.
  4. Gradually stir in flour until well mixed and dough forms. Cut dough in 2 equal halves.
  5. In a 10″x15″ jelly roll pan spread half of the dough evenly.
  6. Spread the preserves over the dough
  7. Then put the other 1/2 of the dough on top of the jelly preserves. (Mrs. Lloyd drops the dough by spoonfuls)
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for up to one hour or until light brown (Check after 40 minutes – my oven bakes these in full at about 45 minutes, so keep an eye on them)
  9. Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar before cutting into bars

 

I didn’t modify this recipe one bit, so here are the only few tips I would add for you when you make these bars:

  • I always use salted butter, no matter what – this original recipe doesn’t indicate either, but since I don’t believe in unsalted, it’s a no-brainer
  • I ALWAYS use Smucker’s seedless Red Raspberry Jam for these bars.  I have tried blueberry, and tried other name brands, but find that Smucker’s is the best.  Just my opinion.  I think a friend of mine even made this shortbread recipe but with Nutella instead of any kind of jam.  The point is, this shortbread is what really stands out and above the rest!  I think anything will go well with it.
  • When I put the top layer of dough on the bars, I take little chunks and flatten them out between the palms of my hands and then lay them strategically on top of the preserves… fitting the dough together like a jig-saw puzzle so as not to leave too much raspberry showing.  I never saw Mrs. Lloyd make this recipe, but her bars never seemed to have any open jam showing, so in my mind I thought I should cover the entire sheet as best I could, to make them just like Mrs. Lloyd’s – and I find that flattening out with your hands is a good way to achieve this. The bars will be on the thinner side
  • I also try to seal the dough well to the edges of my jelly roll pan, because during baking, the jam tends ooze out a bit, and in the past has caused my fire alarm to go off when it starts to burn off the bottom of the oven.  You might also want to put some foil on the bottom of your oven floor, just in case, to catch any jam that might ooze out.

That, my friends, is it!  I hope those of you that try this recipe will enjoy it just as much as everyone that I’ve made them for does!  Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.

Thank you so much for reading my blog!

And GO BEARS!

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Treat Day – Week 8 (Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars!)

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Hi there!

So keeping with the “cheesecake” theme this month of October, and Halloween being less than a week away, I decided that this week’s featured treat for the Bears should be something that always reminds me of Fall and growing up… CARAMEL APPLES.  This recipe is delicious and is a cross between apple pie and cheesecake. A little bit labor intense, not really difficult, but just a little more time consuming because it consists of a shortbread crust from scratch, a cheesecake filling, a layer of cored, peeled and finely chopped apples tossed in spices, as well as a streusel topping.  And then, to tie-in and perfect all of the flavors…a drizzle of caramel sauce on top.  So worth every ounce of effort here!  If you like Apple Pie, Caramel, Caramel Apples, Cheesecake and fall, get ready to fall in love with these little bars!

Here are my few tips for you if you decide to make these:

  1. If you can, get yourself one of these little apple peeling gadgets – it literally shaves your apples as well as shaves down your time tremendously, and turns your Granny Smiths into a Slinky (like the toy that walks downstairs alone or in pairs and makes a slinkety sound…). So fun! I think they are sold at Williams-Sonoma
  2. I always use salted butter, even though the recipe calls for unsalted
  3. And I always use KRAFT Philadelphia cream cheese – full fat, for anything cheesecake related
  4. If you don’t have a pastry cutter you can also use a fork to incorporate the flour/sugar/butter to make your shortbread and your streusel topping – but a pastry cutter helps with time
  5. For the caramel sauce, I was going to use some of my homemade dulce de leche made from the sweetened condensed milk and thin it out a bit to drizzle on top of these bars, but then stumbled across Smuckers Salted Caramel prepared sauce in the ice-cream section aisle of the grocery store, and it was the perfect consistency (not too runny and not too thick) – so that is my recommendation for this recipe as of last night.
  6. Per usual, I cut these up into little 2-3 bite sized bars, and put them in cupcake liners for easy grab-n-go.

 

Ok, here is the recipe I found years ago on the Food Network.  I hope you enjoy it!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

Please feel free to send me any comments or questions.

Thank you so much for reading my blog and… GO BEARS!!!

Treat Day – Week 7 (Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cheesecake Bars)

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Hi!

This post is a little later than I hoped, but it is only because Bill Leff & Wendy Snyder were so nice and invited me out to their WGN radio show this morning to talk about Christmas treats.  It was a remote location broadcast from Treetime Christmas Creations out in Lake Barrington, and it was so festive and fun! I brought with me a few of my favorite, as well as Bears favorite, treats for the holidays to share with the audience, and I will be sure to post the recipes in the near weeks leading up to Christmas. Thank you, Bill & Wendy, for having me on your show again!

Ok, back to baking for the Bears.  Since last week’s caramel cheesecake bars were such a hit, I decided while I was down in Miami and talking with some of the Bears people, that I would continue on the cheesecake theme this month.  Kevin, one of the camera men, suggested that I run with “Peanut Butter”, so I said, “done!”.  However, because I know that not everyone loves peanut butter (actually, maybe it’s me that doesn’t love peanut butter), I decided to do a second cheesecake bar in addition, and pulled another great recipe from the same blogger.  OREO Cheesecake Bars! I didn’t get solid feedback or commentary on either of the cheesecakes, but my brother said, “everything got eaten”. He was busy and wasn’t there in the morning when the treats were put out. So, I’ll  take that as a good sign that these are two good recipes.

Here are the few tips I have for you:

  1. As I mentioned last post, I always use KRAFT Philadelphia full fat cream cheese for everything cheesecake related… and room temperature.
  2. Eggs should be room temperature as well.
  3. For the Peanut Butter & Chocolate cheesecake pan, I bought a bag of Reese’s regular sized peanut butter cups and broke a bunch up to put on top of the chocolate glaze layer. I think it really added to the flavor and would highly recommend it if you are looking for a little something “extra”.
  4. Also, I used OREO wafers for the crust on the Peanut Butter & Chocolate cheesecake bars.  I did take the time to scrape out the inside creme filling by using a spatula. I have an obnoxious amount of OREOs in my house, so didn’t want to spend money on a box of chocolate graham crackers. The OREO crust tasted great! I didn’t get a picture of the OREO bars, but the one on the recipe site is really nice and gives you the full idea of how they should look.

Ok, here are the recipes, both from one of my favorite bloggers, The Brown Eyed Baker:

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Cheesecake Bars

OREO Cheesecake Bars

Thank you for reading my blog. And GO BEARS!!!