When selecting a new recipe consider where it fits in. Is it a dessert for one night or part of your holiday baking. If the first, you need to decide what works with the dinner menu. If the latter, then consider what else you have that will be going on the combined plate. Does it add colour, texture or a new flavour. I like to have at least one offering with fruit and cranberries are definitely holiday and add a great tartness. Lemon bars are another I might look into this year if I have time.
The two below were chosen because they are quite different from each other. The first uses dried cranberries and is the only one I'm making this year with white icing. I love that they were cut in triangles - something I might adopt with my other bars. The second is a more traditional streusel created with fresh or frozen berries. This appealed to me as it wasn't too gooey - just a nice layer of filling.
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I love when someone takes a commercial recipe and tries to make it a little healthier. Gina Homolka of Skinny Taste was asked if she could please create a lighter version of Starbuck's Cranberry Bliss Bars – a blondie cookie bar with chunks of white chocolate chips and dried cranberries, topped with sweet cream cheese icing, tart dried cranberries and white chocolate drizzle. And she did!! Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars have a quarter of the fat (5 grams) and less than half the calories (149). Now remember those numbers only apply if you cut them the recommended size and eat just one! HOHOHOHOHO! (I tried them out and not hard at all, but my dried cranberries weren't as bright and colourful. They never do look just like they do in the pics.)
Skinny Cranberry Bliss Bars
Makes 30 bars
2 cups all purpose flour (Gold Metal)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar, unpacked
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter
2 large egg whites
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup white chocolate chips or chopped white chocolate
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
8 oz 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 ounces white baking chocolate, melted*
1/3 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13 inch non-stick baking pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend. In another bowl, whisk the sugars with the butter, egg whites, applesauce and vanilla until light and fluffy. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in two additions until the batter is very well blended. If the batter looks more “crumbly” than smooth, add just a drop of water at a time (ONLY if needed) until it smooths out.
Fold in white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup cranberries. Spread batter onto the baking pan using the
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting; in a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until well-blended. Frost bars and sprinkle with remaining cranberries. Drizzle with the melted white chocolate. When the chocolate sets, cut into 15 large squares (5 cuts by 3 cuts with the knife). Then cut each square in half diagonally to create triangles. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
*To melt the chocolate, place in a microwave safe cup and heat 15 seconds; stir. Another 15 seconds; stir until the chocolate is melted. (I usually melt chocolate in bowl set onto a pan of simmering water. With the variation in microwave power, be careful if you use this method).
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The second, from a website called Fine Cooking, is credited to Nicole Rees. In looking down the list of reviews - always a good idea - the biggest suggestion was to reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup in both the streusel and the filling. I prefer things not overly sweet so embraced those changes. Other recommendations I took to heart were just a little orange rind in the filling and even a little orange liqueur or orange juice - so I went with those suggestions as well. (Note - I always worry about fussy recipes. I have a kitchen scale, but not one that is that accurate. Fortunately I stumbled along missing a few steps and adjusting to my style as I went and they still came out fine. When substituting ingredients - weighing is the only way to go. For a regular recipe, slight variations are how you make it your own. So don't be intimidated.)
|Image by Scott Phillips|