Monte Cristo Spinach Sandwiches

Divide mustard, cheese, ham/turkey, and spinach evenly between each of two bread slices; cover each with a bread slice. Whisk together eggs and milk in a medium bowl.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium. Dip sandwiches in milk mixture; transfer to skillet, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve with raspberry jam or cranberry conserve.

*NOTE: I’ve added spinach to the Real Simple recipe. Again, always trying to up my veggie intake in my meals…

Raspberry Wine Bread

FullSizeRender-1This sweet bread with a raspberry filling and cream cheese frosting is an absolute favorite with my current (but soon to be former!) co-workers. These are best for brunch, or as a treat with a cup of coffee or tea. Since it tastes similar to a Swedish kringle, I’m not sure why this is called “wine bread,” as there is no wine used in the recipe. Does it go great with a glass of red or white? I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve been making this recipe for years, ever since it was given to me by my host mom during a Bethel College women’s choir tour. Maybe it was the break from church basement potlucks featuring red Kool-Aid and green Jell-O that made this treat especially delightful, or maybe it was the thoughtfulness of the South Dakota mom who made the effort to go beyond chocolate chip cookies to welcome her guests. In hindsight, I think the poor woman was a little shocked that a skinny little college girl (this was a while ago…), could down as many of these delicious treats as I did. She simply had to share the recipe so I could get my fix once I got home. She sure didn’t want me stalking her for more.

Don’t let the fact that there’s yeast in the recipe scare you. This is one of the easier yeast dough’s to make, as all the eggs and butter make it very pliable. I’ve included photos below of how to roll out and assemble, in case my descriptions don’t make sense. Then once you’ve tried it, give me YOUR opinion of how it got it’s name.

Makes 4 pastries, each one yielding about 8 pieces

For pastry:
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ teaspoons dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk
Raspberry pie filling *

For frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
¼-1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sliced almonds

In small sauce pan, melt butter. Stir in sugar and salt, and stir until they are dissolved. Let cool to lukewarm. Pour into mixing bowl; fit mixer with dough hook. Sprinkle yeast on top of butter mixture. Mix eggs in small bowl, then add to butter and yeast in bowl, along with 1 cup of the flour. Stir to combine. Add milk and the rest of the flour all at once, and turn mixer on second to lowest setting. Stir until dough clings to dough hook, and no bits remain on outside of the bowl. Cover dough with plastic wrap, tucking it right on top of dough ball. Chill at least 15 minutes, or up to 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Divide chilled dough into 4 equal parts. Sprinkle cutting board with flour and drop one section of dough onto surface, and knead into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on top. Roll out with rolling pin to about ¼” thickness. Transfer to a baking sheet. (You will need 2 baking sheets for the 4 pastries.) Spread one-quarter of the raspberry filling down middle section of the dough, then fold 1/3 over from each side on top of filling. Repeat process with other three sections of dough to form the rest of the pastries.

Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and place each pastry on a cooling rack. Cool for about 30-60 minutes. Then make frosting. Place cream cheese in smaller mixing bowl, then add powdered sugar and cream thoroughly. Gradually add ¼ cup milk, and both extracts. If frosting is not thin enough to drizzle on pastry, add more milk. Drizzle or spread onto cooled dough, then sprinkle sliced almonds on top. To serve, slice into 1-2 inch wide strips. Store any remaining pastries in an airtight containers.

*NOTE: While I prefer raspberry pie filling for this recipe, you can also use blueberry or peach. I’ve made this with all those flavors, but usually raspberry is the fan favorite.


Blueberry Breakfast Bars

IMG_0979Breakfast, lunch, dinner, or bedtime snack—these bars are a hit any time. This was a recipe request when I wrote a food column for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, and was wildly popular with subscribers.  It had been circulated by WIC as a healthy (or healthier than sugary cereals) and kid-friendly recipe at one time. Fresh or frozen fruit work equally well in these bars, and I’ve made them with either blueberries or raspberries, too. Strawberries do NOT work well in this recipe, so save yourself the hassle (and waste) and don’t bother with those berries. Because these are deliciously soft, they fall apart when I’ve tried to send them in a school lunch bag, so cut and serve the bars at home, or bring a pan to share with co-workers. Others will be glad you decided to share the love.

Makes 15 bars

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter, melted
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (or raspberries)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional – I’ve made it without and can’t taste the difference!)

Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit. Grease a 9″x13″ glass baking dish. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, nuts, baking soda, and salt. Pour melted butter over top and stir until all ingredients are coated with butter. Reserve 1 cup of the mixture. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of prepared dish. Bake for 10 minutes.

While base is baking, combine berries, sugar, and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 2 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. In small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon water cornstarch, and lemon juice. Mix well. Gradually stir into blueberry mixture. Cook and stir for 30 seconds or until thickened.

Spread berry mixture over baked base to within 1-inch of edge, and sprinkle reserved oat mixture on top. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Cut into bars. Store tightly covered.

Raspberry-Rhubarb Slab Pie

FullSizeRenderWhen my rhubarb plant got beaten up in a fierce summer storm, I needed to get creative in the kitchen and use it or lose it. Browsing online, I came across this raspberry and rhubarb dessert (from that sounded like a fun departure from my usual go-to rhubarb recipes. Plus, I’ve never made a pie crust—unless we did a pastry session in 7th grade foods class. Who can remember? At any rate, I thought I should get outside my baked-goods comfort zone and challenge myself a little.

Whoever coined the phrase “easy as pie” was on drugs. What’s so “easy” about PIE??? I followed the instructions for making the pastry, and got ready to roll out the dough. The directions were to roll it out between layers of waxed paper, but it was too flimsy and the dough was slipping all over the counter and the flour was flying. So I switched to floured parchment paper, and that worked a little better, but it was still no picnic. (That’s another expression I don’t get… Doesn’t making a full meal to bring on a picnic rank up there in culinary challenges? I find it exhausting.)

The next hurdle was trying to get the dough evenly distributed—equal thickness, and sorta in a rectangular shape. After 3 hours (or so it seemed) of huffing and puffing, I did finally get the bottom piece rolled and ready for the fruit filling. But then I had to do it again for the top! Ugh. I just about stabbed myself with the rolling pin. The end result was quite tasty, but I don’t think I’ll be winning any ribbons at the Fair in my lifetime.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d give it an 8. I loved the sweet-tart combination of the raspberry and rhubarb, and it was a nice change of pace from strawberry-rhubarb. It would be a fabulous treat to bring to a potluck, as it serves two dozen. I also liked that it was slimmer than a piece of pie, and the crust to fruit-filling ratio was perfect. Had my crust not been so tough, it would have been a perfect dessert. Next time, I’ll buy the Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts* and save my sanity.

Makes 18-24 servings

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
3/4 cup plus 1 to 2 tablespoons 2% milk
1 egg yolk
2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch
5 cups fresh or frozen unsweetened raspberries, thawed and drained
3 cups sliced fresh or frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained


1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 to 6 teaspoons 2% milk

 In a large bowl, combine flour and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Whisk 3/4 cup milk and the egg yolk; gradually add to flour mixture, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Add additional milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, if necessary. Divide dough into two portions so that one is slightly larger than the other. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375° Fahrenheit. Roll out larger portion of dough between two large sheets of lightly floured parchment paper into an 18″x13″ rectangle. Transfer to an ungreased 15″x10″x1″ baking pan. Press onto the bottom and up sides of pan. Trim pastry to edges of pan.

In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar and cornstarch. Add raspberries and rhubarb, tossing to coat. Spoon into pastry. Roll out remaining dough and place over filling. Fold bottom pastry over edge of top pastry; seal with a fork. Prick top with a fork.

Bake 45-55 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

For icing, combine confectioners’ sugar, vanilla and enough milk to achieve a drizzling consistency; drizzle over pie. Cut pie into squares. Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream.

NOTE: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

* Pillsbury also makes a gluten-free refrigerated pie crust option.