blueberry buckle

I didn’t take any pictures while we baked because a certain someone was eager to lick the bowl.  Also, we’re barely unpacked from a 2,100 mile cross-country trip and it was a small miracle just to find the camera.  This is just another classic summer fruit recipe.  Take advantage of fresh, local produce and do something good with it.  Personally, my favorite way to eat berries is right off the bush, but layered in cake batter and smothered in a crumbly topping isn’t bad, either.

There are a ga-zillion versions of blueberry buckle awaiting you on the internet.  I’m not sure this one is much different, at all.  It’s done in a spring form pan versus a cake pan, but that’s about it.  It would also be easy to adapt for baking in individual ramekins.  Eat it in the morning with coffee, or add freshly whipped cream or a little dollop of vanilla ice cream and call it dessert.  Versatile, but classically summer!  Enjoy!

Blueberry Buckle

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 c granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 c blueberries, washed and de-stemmed

Topping:

  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c unsalted butter, cut in to mixture cold

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Cream together butter and sugar.  Add egg to mixture.  Set aside.
  3. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt.
  4. Add to butter/sugar mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with milk.
  5. Add blueberries.  Fold to combine.
  6. Place in prepared 9″  spring form pan, add topping, and bake for 35 minutes.

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***Baker’s Notes:  If you only have an 8 1/2″ pan, bake for an additional 10 – 15 minutes longer.

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strawberries with balsamic vinegar

So we’ve been away for a little while.  Two months, to be exact.  Tending to other things.  Our hearts, our souls, our peace-of-mind, our new (to us) cottage in Northern Michigan where we’ll happily watch the weather in the desert on our smartphones and say, “Oh, how good it is to be here in Northern Michigan.”

With two months of projects, including a white picket fence, I’ve been otherwise occupied with gardening, and beach walks and campfires.  The simple pleasures of life.  With that said, and with summer berries in abundance, I bring you another simple pleasure.  Some of the best and most simple pleasures of summer: strawberries and balsamic.  And vanilla ice cream.  Moomers, of course.

This is so easy to make and is so incredibly delicious, you’ll never want to put anything else on your vanilla ice cream, again.  Guaranteed.  Enjoy!!

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Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar (recipe courtesy Traverse Magazine, June 2012)

 Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 pints strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 1/8 cup light brown sugar
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Bring vinegar, granulated sugar and lemon juice to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Simmer until syrup is reduced by half. Cool.
  3. Toss berries and brown sugar in a bowl.
  4. Pour vinegar syrup over berries, add fresh black pepper to taste.
  5. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Serves 6.

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***Cook’s Notes:  Use the very best balsamic vinegar you can afford…which is true no matter what you’re making.

blood orange olive oil brownies

A couple of years ago, we went to the Olive Blossom festival at Queen Creek Olive Mill, in….you guessed it, Queen Creek, AZ.  It’s a place I’d highly recommend visiting if you’re here from out-of-town, or live in the Valley and are looking for a unique day trip.  It was an oasis in the desert.   Not to mention, live music, great food, lots of shade, and wine!

While we were there, I had a slice of the most delicious Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake from the mill’s kitchen.  It was so delicious, I picked up a bottle of Blood Orange Olive Oil and a handful of recipe cards.  This was one of the recipes:  Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies.  Seriously!  Citrus and chocolate.  Heaven!

Like a lot of things, this one sat on the back burner for a while.  But this weekend, because our citrus is plentiful and I have an enormous bowl of fresh lemons on my kitchen island, I got it in my head to bake these brownies.  You don’t actually need Blood Oranges for the recipe, just get yourself a bottle of this olive oil.  If you’re not local, you can order online.  If you’re in Arizona, but can’t make it out to the mill, they have several shops in the Valley and one in Tucson.  Check out this link to find the location closest to you.

The end product was delicious.  The dark chocolate flavor is beautifully infused with citrus undertones.  We loved them and I’ll definitely be making these again, although probably more for a special occasion.  The kiddo was not as enamored with the citrus.  She’s a purist, I suppose.  But to a more sophisticated palette, they’re a real treat.  Enjoy!

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Blood Orange Olive Oil Brownies (recipe courtesy Queen Creek Olive Mill)

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 1/2 c Blood Orange Olive Oil
  • 1 c walnuts, coarsely crushed (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Spray 9×13 baking pan with non-stick baking spray (i.e. Pam).
  2. On low heat, melt chocolate in sauce pan, stirring constantly.  Set aside to cool.
  3. In a separate bowl sift flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.
  4. In a separate sauce pan, melt butter, add olive oil, and incorporate one egg at a time, whisking as you go.
  5. Add vanilla and then chocolate, combining well.
  6. Fold in dry ingredients and walnuts, being careful not to over mix batter.
  7. Pour mixture into pan smoothing off the top.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until brownies pull away from side of pan.

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***Baker’s Note:  There’s A LOT of sugar in this recipe. (It’s not a healthy treat by any stretch of the imagination.)  Don’t be discouraged if your batter seems gritty.  The sugar does bake down and the texture of the brownies is cakey and dense.  No grit.  Just lots of calories.  But they’re special occasion, right??

baked s’mores – not just for the campfire

Kat and I had a girl’s night last night while Daddy-O was at the Stanford/ASU game.  We baked homemade mac/cheese (her all-time favorite meal) and settled on the animated version of A Christmas Carol for after dinner entertainment.

But what of dessert?

Ice cream?  Too cold.

Popcorn?  Too last Friday night.

Baked S’mores?  Why, yes, please and thank you!

These are pretty much a no-brainer.  You don’t really need a recipe.  Just keep your eyes on the s’mores at all times lest they quickly turn to ash under the broiler.

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Baked S’mores

Ingredients:

  • Graham Crackers
  • Marshmallows
  • Chocolate pieces (Hershey, Dove, you choose)
  • Parchment paper for easy clean-up

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat broiler to 500° F.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Break crackers in half, placing one half on baking sheet and reserve other half to top your S’more.  (Or, bake both sides and eat them open-faced.)  Place one marshmallow on each cracker.  Heat under broiler until tops of marshmallows are golden brown.  Turn off oven and remove pan.
  3. Top melted marshmallow with the chocolate pieces of your choice.  For these I used dark chocolate Dove candies.
  4. Slide pan back in the oven for 25 -30 seconds, or until chocolate starts to melt.
  5. Remove and top with remaining graham cracker halves to complete your S’mores.
  6. Indulge!

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homemade chocolate buttercream frosting

I’m a pretty low-key when it comes to birthday celebrations.  I like to keep it simple.  Party of three, please:  Me + Husband + Kiddo.  It’s all good that way.  They took me to dinner, bought me a couple of gifts, and we ate cake; the cake they baked and of which I was tasked with frosting.

Frosting my own birthday cake is not offensive to me in the least.   Being asked to do so insures I don’t have to eat store-bought frosting, and I get to play with butter and sugar and cocoa.  What’s not to like about that?.

This recipe is a staple…tried and true.  Everyone has these stock items in their pantry and they go together in less time than it would take to run to the grocery store for one of those gritty, over-priced, pre-packaged frosting containers.  The quantity easily frosts a 9 x 13 sheet cake, or 24 cupcakes.  For a round layer cake, I might bump up the ingredients a bit to allow for frosting between layers.  Enjoy!

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Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 6 Tbsp butter, softened
  • 2 2/3 c confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 c cocoa, unsweetened
  • 1/3 cup milk (I use 1%)
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Place butter in a bowl and beat until creamy.
  2. Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well.
  3. Stir in milk in portions, stirring each time.
  4. Add vanilla.
  5. Spread on cooled cake or other items needing frosting.
  6. Lick the bowl.

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pumpkin chocolate chip squares

So, yesterday I spent too much time reading news and scanning the Twitter feed re: the current state of affairs in Washington D.C.  I’m a fiscal conservative.  Borrowing money to pay your bills is ludicrous.  You wouldn’t run your household budget that way, so why is it ok for the government to spend like a passel of reckless teenagers with a stolen ATM card??  (I’d refer you to the recent glitch in the welfare EBT system in which recipients of government-funded, i.e., my tax dollars, debit cards went on a spending spree…knowing full well their cards did NOT have balances to support their spending).  Get it?

Well, enough of that.  After an overload of (more) bad news out of our nation’s capital, I shut down (ha ha…no pun intended) the internet and headed to the kitchen to bake.  With ingredients I bought with hard-earned money contained within our monthly household budget.  Get it?

Oh, never mind.  Just bake these.  They’re yummy and perfect for fall – pumpkin, pumpkin spice, vanilla, and chocolate.  Good stuff.  Good stuff.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Squares (adapted from Martha Stewart)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 Tbsp pumpkin-pie spice*
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • dash salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5/8 cup sugar (weighed on a kitchen scale = .625 ounces)
  • 1/2 large egg (approx 1 Tbsp and 1 1/2 tsp)**
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 6 ounces chocolate chips (I used a combination of white and semi-sweet)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray bottom of 8 x 8 baking pan with Pam Non-Stick Baking Spray
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, pie spice, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  4. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium-high speed until smooth; beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin puree (mixture may appear curdled). Reduce speed to low, and mix in dry ingredients until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread batter evenly in prepared pan. Bake until edges begin to pull away from sides of pan and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached.  Approximately 30 – 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan.

*Pumpkin Pie Spice is easy to make at home:  Combine 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

**I halved this recipe which created the dilemma of halving an egg.  A typical large egg contains about 2 Tbsp egg white and 1 Tbsp yolk.  So, to half the egg, you’ll need 1 1/2 Tbsp of whipped egg (1 Tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp).

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***Baker’s Notes:  First, the original recipe called for chocolate chips.  I’m not a huge fan of white chocolate, but I had a partial bag I wanted to use up, so I divided the 6 ounces into half white chocolate, half semi-sweet.  The end result?  Perfect way to eat white chocolate.  You can’t even really taste the difference.  Secondly, because I halved the recipe, I ended up baking in an 8 x 8 pan rather than the 9 x 13.  Watch the baking time.  I pulled them the first time at 30 minutes, but quickly reconsidered because they’re much thicker.  Last, the one thing I might add to give this recipe a little more punch (not that they’re not delicious), is cayenne pepper.  Heat and chocolate and pumpkin.  Triple threat!!

raw brownies

Sooooo…while I’m on a roll with recipes I think were good, but failed me for one reason or another, let’s cut to the chase.  These sounded great.  I’d made something like them, a no-bake homemade power bar, and posted the recipe over on my other blog.  Not sure why I never got around to sharing them here, but…click over and give them a try.  They’re really good and a big hit on my Pinterest page.  But I’m wandering off topic here.  Let me stick to the raw brownies.

Kat started Brownies last week and I’m helping out as an “assistant troop mom.”  I can’t juggle the responsibility of a troop leader, so I’m doing my best to carry at least some of the weight for the mom who has agreed to shoulder the burden.  During our discussions about snacks for the girls during meetings, we decided processed sugars were out.  Kids eat way too much junk, anyway, and part of our goal is to show and set good examples for them to take into their every day lives.  Teaching them the value of eating whole foods is part of that lesson.

Hence, raw brownies for Brownies.

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Sadly, that’s not how the story ended.  The girls never ate the brownies.  The brownies, although absolutely delicious, ended up in the garbage.   Because even though they looked pretty when I plated them, and they have an uber-chocolately delicious flavor, they looked like this as soon as we put a fork to them:

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I exchanged a couple of comments back and forth with the author of the original recipe, Tina Jeffers, and we decided the dates I used probably weren’t fresh.  Having worked with dates before in other baked goods, I noticed they seemed a bit dry when I was handling them for this recipe.  This doesn’t surprise me as I didn’t buy them at my usual health food market, but picked them up on a quick trip through Albertson’s – where, in my experience, freshness isn’t their motto!

Long and short of it, I’m going to pick up more dates…at Sprouts, this time, and give these another try, because the flavor was amazingly chocolatey and delicious.  These wouldn’t be a tough sell to a bunch of hungry Brownies, either, and would be a great lesson in how everything sweet and delicious doesn’t have to be unhealthy!  Enjoy!

Raw Brownies (recipe courtesy Scaling Back Blog)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole walnuts, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup raw oats
  • 1 cup raw cocoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons cocoa for dusting

Directions:

  1. Place  walnuts and oats in a food processor or food chopper and blend on high until the mixture is finely ground.  Add cocoa and salt and pulse to combine.  Add the dates one at a time, running the processor continuously.  The mixture will ultimately be crumbly but will hold together in a ball if you roll it between your hands.
  2. Even press the cocoa and date mixture into a 9×9 pan, then place the pan in the freezer or fridge until ready to serve.  Lightly sprinkle with cocoa before serving.
plated2©zouptonuts***Baker’s Notes:  Make super sure your dates are fresh!  You can also use, as I did, a 9 inch cake pan, and serve in wedges.

nutella sandwich cookies

Despite the beauty of technology and the ability I have to catalog and cross-reference all my recipes online, I still keep a big, honkin’ three-ring binder full of recipes I collect from various places.  I don’t know why.  I guess I’m a tactile kind of person.  I need the tangible product; the book, the magazine, the sheet of paper.

With some regularity, I add to the file, or go through it for inspiration I’m just not finding on the internet.  That’s hard to believe given how much great cooking and baking there is out there in the vastness of the web.  Anyway, being in an old-school kind of mood, I was flipping through clippings the other day looking for something to bake.  I haven’t baked in a while.  It’s summer.  It’s hot.  I swore not to turn my oven on until October.

But I have yet to master baking on the grill.  And we needed something to occupy us as the days of summer wind down and the start of school looms.  And what better way to take a little girl’s mind off the looming start of school than by baking.  With Nutella!!!!

These cookies are simple and delicious and it’s taking all the willpower I can muster not to eat more than one.  A day, that is.  They’re brownie-like and chewy and that Nutella center is heavenly.

I like Nutella.  A lot!  Eat them with milk icy cold from the fridge.  Enjoy!
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Nutella Sandwich Cookies (recipe courtesy Radically Simple)

Ingredients:

  • 13-ounce jar Nutella
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (not melted)
  • 1 extra large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups self-rising cake flour (I used regular self-rising flour)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment.  Beat together 3/4 cup of the Nutella, butter, and egg.  Slowly add the flour until a wet dough forms.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary; the dough will be sticky.  Divide the dough into 18 pieces and roll each into a perfect ball, flouring your hands as you go.  Place several inches apart on the baking sheet.

Bake 10 – 12 minutes, until firm.  Cool 10 minutes on the sheet.

Using a serrated knife, split each cookie in half horizontally.  Spread each bottom half with 1 tsp Nutella.  Replace the tops, pressing lightly.

Serve!

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***Baker’s Notes:  On the baking time, err toward the lower end.  My first batch stayed in closer to 12 minutes and I thought they were a little harder to slice in half because they were crisper.  For a softer cookie, I’d recommend 10 minutes.  Also, next time I’d use all-purpose flour on my hands to roll them into balls.  Self-rising flour contains salt and rolling them with the self-rising flour gave the outer part of the cookie a hint of salty flavor.  That’s not a bad thing if you like the sweet/salty combination.  Just a head’s up to anyone who would rather not taste a hint of salt in their cookie.

cocoa fudge cookies

Two or three times a year we have a “movie night” in our cul-de-sac.  A neighbor has an inflatable outdoor projection screen.  They stream Netflix  through their iPhone and….well, I don’t know how all the techie stuff works, but I do know I got to watch Cars II on a gorgeous spring evening with a lot of other families and their kids, noshing all sorts of tasty treats.  That’s one of the rules:  bring a treat to pass!  There’s never a shortage of food…or wine, for that matter!

This time around we opted to bring cookies.  I was scanning the contents of my pantry and spotted the unsweetened cocoa, which became my inspiration ingredient because I’m always looking for an excuse to add cocoa to baked goods.  A quick Google search turned up these little lovelies from Cooking Light.  I wasn’t the least bit surprised when they baked up thin and crispy because the picture provided with the recipe clearly presented a thin cookie.  But I was surprised to bite into one and discover, between the crisp exterior, an almost brownie-like inside.  Thin, yes, but soft and chewy and nicely contrasting to the original texture.

These cookies were delicious on their own and perfect for dunking, but given their crispy outsides I think they’d also be perfect for making a sandwich cookie.  Maybe even an ice cream sandwich-type cookie.  I didn’t try it, but I would think the outer cookie would hold up nicely if you added a layer of ice cream after they’ve cooled completely.  Serve immediately, of course.  Cookies and ice cream are not meant to be eaten slowly.  Enjoy!

Cocoa Fudge Cookies (courtesy Cooking Light, January 2002)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt; set aside. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat; stir in cocoa powder and sugars (mixture will resemble coarse sand). Add yogurt and vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist. Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray.
  3. Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2 to 3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans; cool on wire racks.

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Nutritional Information (provided by Cooking Light):

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 78
  • Calories from fat: 31%
  • Fat: 2.7g
  • Saturated fat: 1.6g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 0.8g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 0.1g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Carbohydrate: 13.4g
  • Fiber: 0.5g
  • Cholesterol: 7mg
  • Iron: 0.5mg
  • Sodium: 54mg
  • Calcium: 12mg

four fruit oatmeal crumble bars

I haven’t baked for a while, in some small part because 2/3 of the house has been down with the creeping crud.  I generally prefer not to hack and cough all over my goodies even if they’re going to bake at 350° for 40 minutes.  Yeah, that’s just gross!  So I’ve been out of the kitchen for a couple of weeks.  Good man that he is, hubs has been picking up the slack at meal time, but he’s not about to photograph it – even though last night he put together an amazingly good Shrimp Scampi….garlic heaven, people.  Garlic. Heaven!!!

Of course, this mandatory time off has forced allowed me to spend an awful lot of time perusing recipes on the interwebs.  That’s what laptops and iPads are for, right?  Just because you feel like death-warmed-over doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make yourself feel better by indulging in some foodie fantasy.  I might not have been capable of much else, but I could prop myself up on my pillow and imagine what I’d cook/bake if I ever stopped feeling like death-warmed-over.

This recipe caught my eye because it was so easy and so adaptable.  The original recipe calls for strawberry preserves, but a four fruit preserve made up of  cherries, strawberries, red currants, and raspberries sounded particularly delicious when I was picking up some other ingredients at the grocery store.  If you’re moved by a certain fruit preserve, have at it.  If I can find some pear preserves, that has the makings of a good combination, as well.

These fruit crumble bars are easy to assemble and make great school or after-school snacks for the kids, too.  Enjoy!!

2013-02-25

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Strawberry Oatmeal Crumble Bars (recipe courtesy The Pioneer Woman)

Ingredients:

  • 1-3/4 stick cold butter, unsalted, cut into pieces
  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cup Oats (quick or regular)
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jar (10 To 12 Ounce) strawberry preserves (or the preserve of your choice)

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 or 8 x 10 baking dish.

Mix together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle half the mixture into the pan and pat lightly to pack it a little tight. Spoon strawberry preserves evenly over the surface, then use a dinner knife to carefully spread it around. Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly again.

Bake until light golden brown on top, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool in pan.

When cool, cut into squares and serve.

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Baker’s Notes:  I used regular rolled oats in the recipe.  The original recipe did mention slight differences in texture based on whether you use regular or quick cooking oats.  The regular rolled oats result in a crisper bottom crust and more crunchiness.  I think the quick cooking oats would result in a softer, chewier cookie.  Again, like the preserves, it’s all personal preference.