Pitfalls to avoid. Included here are failed experiments.

Eggnog Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 1

In light of the success of Prototype 4 of the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bran Buddy Bars, I thought that I would proceed with an eggnog version.

Mix together:
Two 8-oz. packages of Philadelphia 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 pint (16 fluid ounces) light eggnog
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

These ingredients were mixed together by hand, instead of by electric mixer, so the cream cheese (probably not soft enough at this point) did not get fully dissolved in the mixture.

1/2 package (8.8 oz.) of Kellogg's All Bran Bran Buds, finely ground

The Bran Buds were mixed in by hand, and this resulted in a thick texture that also helped the cream cheese to become more thoroughly blended.

Next came the tricky part. Would refrigeration make the mixture firm enough to be cut into sufficiently solid bars?

I left the mixture in the mixing bowl, which I then put into the refrigerator.

After perhaps close to three hours, I took the bowl of mixture out. While a taste signaled a presence of eggnog and cream cheese, I was dissatisfied with the texture. Furthermore, this filling was still too soft.

Therefore, I tried something very different: baking. So I spread the mixture into a 9" x 9" (note the size; it wasn't 13" x 9") pan lined with buttered wax paper (no, I did not grease the paper for the chocolate peanut butter bars, because those weren't baked), and then transferred this prototype into an oven heated at only 300 degrees.

I cooked this for about 75 minutes, opening the door a few times in order to check for firmness. The mixture rose until it looked like a big loaf with the middle being higher than the edges (just like a typical loaf of bread). I then turned off the oven but kept the pan in there with the door shut for, likely, about 15 minutes. It think it was likely near the end of this phase (I cannot exactly remember when) that the middle of the mixture fell back down to about where it was at the start of the baking process (the edges, which also rose during baking, remained high against the pan's perimeter). Next, I left the door slightly ajar for about another 30 minutes before finally pulling the pan out of the oven. Hence this prototype had been in there for about two hours altogether. From what I best recall, immediately afterward, I took a sample before a brief, room temperature cooling, after which I likely took another sample before transferring this recipe into the refrigerator for further cooling. I also sampled this prototype after a reasonable amount of refrigeration.

In all the post-baking samplings that I did here, I was very dissatisfied. The taste was now a lot like that of pumpkin pie. I could not detect my intended flavors, whether eggnog or cream cheese. The resulting recipe was crusty on the outside (at least enough for cutting purposes), but gooey on the inside. I was about to dispose of this prototype, but I thought that I would give others at a party an opportunity to try it. So I went ahead and cut it up into bars. Who knows, there just might come along somebody who would end up happening to love this unsuccessful recipe.

But that turned out to be to no avail, and the bars were ultimately discarded.

Will there be a Prototype 2 for this recipe? If so, I anticipate avoiding baking for this one. I think that eggnog generally fares better under cold conditions.

Eggnog Bran Buddy Bars—Prototype 2

Yes, about a year (therefore an eggnog-oriented Christmas season) or so later, it was time to give this another try.

Repeat Prototype 1, but with three differences:

1. Substitute whipped cottage cheese, 16 ounces of it, for the cream cheese.
2. Add 12 ounces of melted, white chocolate to the recipe.
3. Do not bake this recipe! Instead, chill it until firm.

For this prototype, I actually cut this one down to a "probationary" trial size, about 1/8 of the regular recipe. I am glad I did this, because despite adding the white chocolate, the mixture, while it thickened in the refrigerator, still failed to get firm enough.

On a positive note, I was able to fully blend the whipped cottage cheese into the mixture. And inasmuch that the recipe turned out to be pasty, I still liked the taste, so I eventually ate it all (it's a good thing I only made a 1/8 size).

Perhaps a pie (with a Bran Buds-based crust and cottage-cheese/eggnog filling) instead of a batch of bars should be considered here? Maybe I should give gelatin (or pudding mix, possibly vanilla) a try. To be continued??

Yes—although not directly, at least at first. How about a non-Bran-Buddy recipe for now?

Okay, here we go with an eggnog variation of a cheesecake mix. Don't go looking for fiber here, but at least enjoy the amount of fat being low.

Start with 1 package (11.1 oz.) of Jell-O NoBake Real Cheesecake Dessert. This kit contains two items:

1. Crust Mix (note: weight of this item determined to be 4.5 oz.—for the sake of possible future Bran Buds substitution).
2. Filling Mix.

The eggnog version's preparation closely follows the package's directions—but there are some exceptions:

1. Instead of using 2 tablespoons of sugar and 5 tablespoons of butter (that's a lot of fat!) with the crust mix, use 1.5 ounces of melted white chocolate, 1 tablespoon of whipped, lowfat cottage cheese, 1 1/2 tablespoons of light eggnog, and only 1/4 tablespoon of sugar. Press all this into a pie plate (I was able to use what seemed to be an 8" size here, as opposed to the 9" size that the package called for), and chill until the filling is ready to be poured.
2. Here is what makes the recipe an eggnog cheesecake! Use 1 1/2 cups of eggnog, instead of milk, with the filling mix (I was also able to somehow get by with mixing these ingredients by hand, as opposed to using an electric mixer, inasmuch as the hand mixing was somewhat of a challenge).

The resulting recipe ended up being a terrific hit among friends!

I have some additional recommendations. If you are in New England, try Oakhurst or Hood light eggnog (the tastes of which I personally rate as excellent) with this recipe. (For drinking purposes, I have tried other brands as well. I was not satisfied with Garelick's regular, i.e., "full-fat", eggnog, because I thought it had too much of a "chemical-like" flavor. I found Trader Joe's light eggnog somewhat better, or "fair". I felt that Stop & Shop's light eggnog tasted too "vanilla-y", somewhat like a vanilla milkshake, but good nevertheless. Adding some nutmeg to it, perhaps about 1/2 teaspoon per cup, would make it very good.) To further enhance the preparation experience, listen to some rawkin' Christmas tracks by Trans-Siberian Orchestra (especially "Come All Ye Faithful / O Holy Night", "Christmas / Sarajevo 12/24" and "A Mad Russian's Christmas") while making this pie.

Update! It has now been about a year since I started doing these Jell-O NoBake-based eggnog pies. It was time to try some kind of Bran Buds version. With plenty of Bran/Hifi Buddy Bars experience, I aimed for a relatively plain kind of Bran Buds/cottage cheese crust.

The "foundational" ingredients:

8 oz. whipped lowfat cottage cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4.4 oz. ground Bran Buds.

In earlier taste evaluations, I felt that this resulting mixture was a little too bland, so in a later version to be used to build my first Bran Buds eggnog pie, I spiced up this crust by adding 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg. The total amount of crust ended up being rather plentiful—enough for a thick crust if using a small pie plate (perhaps 8 to 9 inches). On top of this went the resulting mixture of one package (Trader Joe's, 3.39 oz.) of vanilla instant pudding mix and 1 3/4 cups of light eggnog (Hood). I served this one at my Wednesday Night Bible Study, and many of the guests seemed pleased with it. However, I felt that I had used too much cinnamon and/or nutmeg in the crust—enough to somewhat overwhelm the eggnog flavor. Perhaps the crust was too thick as well. But with this experiment, I felt that I was well on my way to finally coming up with a decent Bran Buds-containing eggnog treat (the eggnog filling itself was very delicious). See the Eggnog Pie recipes (including with pumpkin) on the main recipes page for further details.

Pecan Pie Disk—Prototype 1

For Thanksgiving of 2012, I made a pumpkin cheesecake which itself was backed by a lot of previous cheesecake refinements, which included various flavors along the way (not just pumpkin itself), leading up to the latest pumpkin version, Prototype 5 at this point. I had already prepared a "double-size" of this recipe for Living Hope Church a few weeks earlier, where it was a great success. So I made a "single-size" to bring to my cousins on Thanksgiving as well.

But I was somehow moved to add some enhancement to this pumpkin cheesecake as well, somewhat like adding a border of chocolate chips for chocolate cheesecakes. How about a border of pecans? But then I came up with the idea of some kind of pecan "sauce" or pie filling that guests could optionally add to their pumpkin cheesecake slices.

Searching the Internet for a decent recipe, I found one at Food.com. It was posted by "Traci & Jeff Poole2" (http://www.food.com/recipe/pecan-filling-4115). I copied the list but made one slight change, using only two eggs rather than three. The resulting ingredients were:

2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons flour (I used white whole wheat, from what I best recall)
2 cups corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole pecans (I chopped these up, but I did so, from what I can best remember, after measuring)

Instead of putting the resulting mixture into a pie crust, it was cooked in a small pot, heated (about medium) to roughly a boiling temperature, and I stirred the contents very frequently. The color ended up being brown enough to my liking, so that eliminated my concern, color-wise, about using light, rather than dark, corn syrup. Earlier, I was leaning towards using Karo dark syrup. But while the Karo light syrup had a natural lineup of ingredients, its dark counterpart had, to my surprise, some artificial-sounding stuff. That ultimately led me to select the light version. But I still got the desired dark results on the stovetop.

But another concern that I had was about whether the mixture would be thick enough. After all, I was using just 2 eggs. While it was hot, the mixture showed a slight thickness. But would it end up being thick enough when cooled? I wasn't sure.

So what did I do at this point?

I added one tablespoon of xanthan gum (Bob's Red Mill) to this mixture (in fact, I considered using two tablespoons). The mixture quickly got fairly thick.

Then it got thicker than I wanted upon cooling. I then decided to put all this, as a layer, on top of my pumpkin cheesecake. At that point, the mixture was getting rather difficult to spoon. But I still managed to form this roughly 3/4-inch thick "disk" on top of the cheesecake.

Before long, I was having second thoughts. I ultimately decided after an overnight refrigeration to remove this new layer. I carefully did so—and managed to get it peeled off in one piece. I felt better when the top of the cheesecake ended up remaining intact. There was only a negligible pecan "residue" left behind, and that hardly bothered me.

As for the pecan "disk", now separated from the cheesecake, I chose to serve that as a separate dessert. I encouraged my guests to have it with their cheesecake or however they wished.

But I had a really hard time slicing this pecan "filling" disk. This somewhat soft, very sticky, caramel-like stuff needed more than just a spatula. From what I best recall, only one guest (besides myself) seemed interested, asking for just a small sample. I personally was not all that pleased with the taste myself. It was sort of "okay", but not worth repeating. I thought that it did not taste quite sweet enough, but maybe that was only because of the thickener that I added (and to think that I was almost going to add a second tablespoon!), and the texture was, at least for me, a disappointment. Hardly anyone else wanted this disastrous disk. While I took the leftover pumpkin cheesecake with me on to another cousin's place (where a considerably later Thanksgiving dinner was served), I left the pecan disk behind at my earlier cousin's for disposal.

As for the pumpkin cheesecake, it fared so much "smashing" better. I got plenty of positive comments on it at both cousins' houses (no surprise—after all, Living Hope made a big jump on this one).

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