Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Coconut Cream Bars

I have had a lifelong love affair with coconut.  I don't know why but I do know if there is coconut mentioned, I am there.  I recently saw a post for Coconut Cream Pie Bars and if you know me, you know that making a pie crust is not my favorite thing.  Being a lover of coconut cream pie, I figured I had accomplished two things.  I would get to eat one of my favorites as well as not have to make a pie crust!  How cool is that?  For me to make a pie means that I am in some sort of a blogger recipe exchange where I have to make a, I have to tell myself to get over it and just make the pie!

Well, that is not the case here, I was happy to make coconut cream bars!!  ...I ended up with three layers:  a buttery crust, a wonderful creamy, coconutty (is that even a word?) custard, and a whipped cream topping with lots of extra coconut on hand.  To make it even better, I was coffee hostess at church and I thought this would make a great little bite for everybody.  So, I knew I wouldn't sit down and eat the entire pan single-handedly and never be able to stand up and walk again!

I went directly to the kitchen and I soon had toasted coconut to munch on while I got things together!

Coconut Cream Bars
adapted from Willow Bird Baking

Crust Layer
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Coconut Cream Layer
3 cups half and half
3 cups coconut milk
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flaked coconut
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring (or extract, if available)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping
1 Tbsp cold water (for stabilizing)
1 tsp gelatin (for stabilizing)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3-4 Tbsp powdered sugar
1 cup coconut, toasted

Crust Layer
Preheat oven:  350° F.

Prepare baking dish (9 X 13 inches) by making a foil sling by folding an 18" piece of foil lengthwise to an 8" width.  Fit the foil into the length of your baking pan.  Push it into the corners and up the sides of the pan.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

Cut a 14" length of foil and fit it into the width of the pan in the same manner, pushing it into corners and up the sides of the pan.  It will be perpendicular to the first piece.  Allow the excess foil to hang over the edge of the pan.

In a bowl, cut the butter into the flour and the powdered sugar, by hand or in the food processor.   Press the dough evenly into the baking dish,  Bake 18-20 minutes or until light brown.  Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool.

While the oven is on, toast the coconut for the topping.  Lay a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.  Spread about 1 cup coconut flakes on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3-6 minutes. Stir every few minutes until the coconut is a golden brown.  Remove from the oven and spread on a separate baking sheet or a plate to cool.

Coconut Cream Layer
In a large saucepan combine the half and half, coconut milk, eggs, sugar, cornstarch, and salt.  Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat.  Whisk constantly until it is thick and bubbling, approximately 20 to 30 minutes.  Add the coconut flavoring, vanilla extract, and 1 1/2 cups flaked coconut (not toasted).  Stir.

Pour the mixture over the cooled crust.  Allow to cool.  Place in the refrigerator for 2-4 hours to chill until firm.

Whipped Cream Topping
Put 1 Tablespoon cold water in a small microwave safe bowl.  Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the surface.  Let the gelatin soften for 2 minutes.  Microwave for 30 seconds.  Whisk to dissolve the gelatin.

In the bowl of your mixer, beat the 2 cups of heavy cream and powdered sugar together until the cream forms stiff peaks.  Stop about halfway through to add the gelatin mixture.  Gently spread the cream over the top of the bars.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut on top.

Chill until ready to serve to allow the whipped cream to set up.

Use the sling to lift the bars out of the dish.  Slice with a sharp knife and enjoy!


The Verdict:  The bars were amazing.  We loved them.  The learning was that these are not finger food!  They are creamy and delicious but I decided that they were not really firm enough to easily handle and balance coffee at the same time!  So, they never made the trip to church...but, we shared with neighbors and friends and did our fair share.

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage, Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm as well as SEASONS, hosted by St. Germain's Blog.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Honey Mustard Salmon

Salmon has been on the menu at our house frequently.  For many years we prepared it the same way...why? Because we really, really like it.  Lately we have broken away from the rut and have been trying a variety of new recipes.  While our method of cooking hasn't really changed that much...we do love to put it on the barbecue....the seasonings have changed.

Food and Wine had a recipe for Honey Mustard Salmon that sounded good and since it wouldn't involve me driving into town to go to the store, it was a go!

I did make an adjustment for our taste.  The original recipe calls for equal parts Dijon, whole grain mustard and honey.  I cut the whole grain portion in half.  I also cut back to 1 tablespoon of soy.

Honey Mustard Salmon
adapted from Food and Wine

1 1/2 pound salmon, cut into fillets
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp whole grain mustard
1/4 cup honey
1-2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp Canola oil, for brushing on salmon
kosher salt
Pepper, freshly ground
1-2 Tbsp chopped parsley
Lemon wedges, if desired

In a small bowl mix the Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, honey, soy, and garlic. Set aside.

Brush the salmon with oil and season with salt and pepper.  Grill the salmon fillets skinned side down over medium heat for about 3 minutes.  Turn the fillets and grill about 3 minutes longer, until the salmon is nearly cooked through. Then, generously brush both sides of the salmon with the honey mustard sauce and continue grilling, turning frequently, for another minute or two, until the salmon is richly glazed.

The salmon is done when the thickest part of the salmon will flake.

Transfer the fillets to a platter alongside fresh steamed broccoli and lemon wedges.  Drizzle the salmon and broccoli with a bit of the reserved honey mustard sauce, a sprinkle of chopped parsley, and serve.  Pass any remaining honey mustard sauce at the table.


And what was the verdict?  We would make this again.  The sauce was very nice and there was enough left over to try it out on chicken the next night.  I think I have found a keeper!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Coos Bay's Shore Acres State Park

Shore Acres State Park is located on sandstone cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.  It was once the estate of timber baron Louis Simpson.  The gardens are lushly planted with flowers and plants from all over the world.

The landscaped area is home to a formal garden, a Japanese garden and lily pond as well as two rose gardens.

The walkway, through the formal garden features a lovely sitting area and water fountain.

It was super overcast and chilly but still, a beautiful walk!

I am sharing today at Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mexican Pizza

When one hears the name, Mexican Pizza.  Usually it is the Taco Bell Mexican Pizza that comes to mind.  At least that is what I usually envision.  My daughter made a Taco Pizza for me using pizza dough.  It is super easy and tasty.  Recently, though, I found a recipe that inspired me to try to replicate the Mexican Pizza that is found at Taco Bell.  Thank you, CJ at Morsels for Life, my Secret Recipe Club assignment, for the inspiration.

When one lives in California, there is no end to opportunities to have Mexican food...really good Mexican food, but there are those times when just popping into a Taco Bell for a Mexican Pizza just happens.  Using that thought, CJ's recipe, and with dinner in mind, I knew just what to do.

My vision was of a fun Mexican Pizza with a layer of refried beans and some spicy ground beef sandwiched between two flour tortillas and then topped with salsa, shredded cheese, green onions, black olives and tomatoes, and then sprinkled with chopped cilantro!

I made some fresh Tomatillo-Chipotle Salsa but a jar of your favorite thick and chunky salsa will do. I just happened to have some tomatillos in the refrigerator that needed to become something!

Mexican Pizza

Yield:  2 pizzas

4 flour tortillas (8" - 9" diameter)
1 15-oz can refried beans
1 lb ground beef
1 jar of your favorite chunky salsa
2 Tbsp from a package of taco seasoning
1 1/2 cups Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 can sliced black olives, drained
2 roma tomatoes, diced
3-4 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Preheat oven:  350° F.

In a large skillet cook the ground beef and the taco seasoning.  Break up the beef into small pieces as it is cooking.  Drain.

Line a baking sheet with foil.  Place two tortillas on the baking sheet.  Spread about 3 tablespoons of refried beans on each of the tortillas.  Next, add a layer of the prepared beef and cover with a tortilla.
Bake for about 10 minutes to heat the beans and beef.  Remove from the oven. Allow to cool just slightly.

Spread about 1/4-1/3 cup salsa over the top of each of the tortillas.  Then top with about 3/4 cup shredded cheese, tomatoes, green onions and olives.  Return the pizzas to the oven and bake an additional 7-8 minutes or until the cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with chopped cilantro.

Slice each pizza into four pieces.  Serve immediately.

There will be enough beef left over to make additional pizzas or to use in nachos the next day.  Be sure to use your favorite salsa as much of the flavor comes from that ingredient.

If desired, you may also add a dollop of sour cream or guacamole before serving.


This turned out just great!  It is a quick and tasty meal.  We love spicy so adding the salsa really perks it up!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chocolate Fudge Thumbprint Cookies with Sprinkles

What could be more fun than chocolate fudge thumbprint cookies with sprinkles?  Not much.  My daughter and granddaughter will be visiting for a few days, so I decided to look for an easy no mess cookie recipe for my granddaughter and me to make.  I found a recipe and it looked perfect.  I decided to take it on a test run before suggesting to Sabine that we make cookies.  It was actually a great success!  It was also a first for me.

The recipe called for a Betty Crocker® Sugar Cookie Mix Pouch!  I had never considered using a mix for cookies!   But, you know what?  It couldn't have been easier. The cookies were delicious!  I can see fun times ahead 'cause it is really all about the sprinkles!

Chocolate Fudge Thumbprint Cookies 
with Sprinkles
adapted from Dinner at the Zoo

Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

1 Betty Crocker® Sugar Cookie Mix Pouch (1 lb 1.5 oz)
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
2/3 cup sprinkles (your choice)
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven:  375° F.

Pour the sprinkles into a shallow bowl.

In a large mixing bowl combine the cookie mix, flour, melted butter and egg.  Mix until a soft dough forms.

Using a small scoop or spoon, scoop out a little more than a tablespoon of dough and form it into a ball.  Roll the ball in the sprinkles and place it onto the parchment lined baking sheet.  Place the cookies about two inches apart.

Use the back of the scoop to make an indentation in the center of the ball.

Bake the cookies for 8 to 9 minutes or until they are lightly browned around the edges.  Remove the cookies from the oven.  If any of the indentations filled in during the baking process, use the back of the scoop to press it back into shape while the cookies are warm!

Remove the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack for cooling.

Place the chocolate chips in a small bowl.  Heat the cream in the microwave for 30 seconds or until very hot.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is combined.  Should the chocolate not melt completely, you may need to microwave it for 5 second intervals.

Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the chocolate into the indentation of each cookie.  Let the cookies stand for at least 30 minutes so that the chocolate firms up.

Cookies may be stored in a resealable container for up to 3 days....that is, if they last that long!


I decided that there isn't anything wrong with taking a shortcut now and then.  The world didn't stop turning because I used a cookie mix.  I had a large group of cookie tasters, since I was the coffee hostess at church last week.  The cookies passed muster!  They were very popular...tasty....and they didn't last long!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage and Foodie Friday hosted by Michael at Rattlebridge Farm.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Low Tide at the Beach

It was fun to explore Seola Beach in Southwest Seattle at low tide!

Logs that wash ashore can easily become a type of teeter totter.

Sabine found to many things to investigate.

It was a beautiful day, one great for exploring and discovery.

I am sharing today at Outdoor Wednesday hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer.