Category Archives: bars

You Look Familiar…

We’re in the middle of…a bit of an adjustment period. A Moving Adjustment Period. This is the time, after arriving in a new city, where it is perfectly acceptable to drive around aimlessly gawking until you’re lost beyond belief. Or cut across three lanes of traffic because you forgot your turn was coming up.

Nothing in this place is familiar. Frankly, it’s taking some getting used to. Little things are different. Like the oven makes a totally different sound when it’s done preheating and it always catches me off guard. And we don’t know where to go to get excellent Mexican (GASP! I can’t live like this!) The other day, I was in a very familiar department store that was laid out in very same way as the same store in our old location. After spending a good hour in there, I think I forgot where I was, because I came out, saw a completely different view from the door and had a mini freak out. I thought I stepped into another dimension.

ZOMG, what happened to that weird buffet restaurant that clearly used to be a Chi-Chi’s!?? What is this BIZARRO WORLD?!

Oh yeah…I moved. The re-purposed Chi-Chi’s is in another state. Whoops.

Anyway, we’re learning the ropes. Adjusting to this exciting new world. While the surroundings aren’t familiar yet, these quick and simple bar cookies are an old favorite. Comforting in a time of change, ya know? 🙂

Toffee Squares! I remember these from holiday treat trays when I was a little girl. I know my mom has this recipe on a handwritten card in her collection somewhere. A sweet, buttery, nutty shortbread-like crust topped with a layer of silky milk chocolate and crunchy chopped nuts. They totally have the caramel notes you expect from a yummy square of English toffee. So simple, yet so delicious. These literally take seconds to throw together. Cream together butter, brown sugar, vanilla and the yolk of one egg. Add the flour to bind it all together, press into a greased 9×13 inch pan and toss in the oven. When they come out, lay squares of milk chocolate over the top, let them soften up a bit and spread it across the entire pan like frosting.

Try not to lick the knife…. Eh, lick the knife if you want. No one’s looking…

The entire thing is finished off with chopped nuts. I recommend pecans, but if you’re like me and happen to have just about every nut in your freezer EXCEPT pecans, you can use whatever you have around. I went with sliced almonds. You could also leave them off completely if you’re not a fan.

TOFFEE SQUARES (Recipe Source: Betty Crocker’s 1963 Cooky Book)


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark will work)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 7 to 8 oz. milk chocolate, broken into squares (I used two large Hershey bars that were somewhere around 4 oz. each)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cover a 9×13 inch pan with foil and grease well with cooking spray.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla together with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add flour and salt and mix until combined and soft dough forms.
  3. Press the dough into the prepared pan, spreading it to the edges with a rubber spatula or fingers. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly golden brown on top.
  4. Remove from oven and immediately place chocolate squares on top. Let stand for a few minutes until softened, then spread evenly across the entire surface. Sprinkle with nuts. Allow the chocolate to set and cut into bars. Makes about 32 squares.


One year ago: Lindsay’s Chocolate Cafe Chocolate Chip Cookies (the best chocolate chip cookies in the Midwest they say!)
Two years ago: Potato Chip Cookies (another retro fave from my grandma!)



Filed under bars, chocolate


Go-to recipes.

These are the ones that never fail to impress. The ones you return to time and time again. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I don’t have many go-to recipes. I want to try new things, not make the same thing over and over. This actually upsets my poor husband, who will fall in love with something I made and then pout and whine…

I’ll never get to have this again! ::insert red face, trembling bottom lip and pathetic whimper here::

Okay, okay. I get it. There are certain things you would like to see repeated around here, is that right Husband? Yes?  Now go sit in time out!

(I kid, I kid. He’s not THAT whiny. 😉 I’m the whiny one in this house.)

I suppose there are some recipes where a go-to would be appropriate. I think the perfect, chocolately, fudgey brownie would fall into that category. You just have to have it. Why? Because people love brownies, that’s why.

Ah, but beware, brownies can miss. Big time. We’ve all had a bad brownie at some point in our lives, right? It probably had really stiff chocolate icing and colored sprinkles on it. It may or may not have come from a box with a picture of a smiling child on it. I’m talking about the ones that are so sweet they make your teeth hurt. Or the ones that are so dense and underbaked, they’ve stopped being brownies and crossed over into fudge. And, of course, there’s the overly cakey brownie, which, if you want to get technical is not a brownie at all…it’s, you know…cake.

The brownie is a delicate balance between fudgey and cakey – a deep, dark chocolate flavor is preferable to that of just straight sugar. It should be rich and delicious enough to stand on it’s own without add-ins or frosting. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, they have their place, but I’m talking about a go-to recipe here in purest sense of the word. That is, you don’t have to mess with it…it’s just THAT GOOD on it’s own.

I have been using the same brownie recipe for a few years now and it’s very good but when I needed a sweet treat to satisfy my chocoholic husband while I was out of town, I decided to try a different one. I spotted this recipe over at Jen’s blog Bakin’ and Eggs (One of my favorite blogs! Check out her great 68 days of Gourmet magazine series! 🙂 ) and I knew I just had to try them. These Chewy, Fudgey Triple Chocolate brownies stood out to me because I had everything I needed on hand and they’d be quick to make. That’s the recipe for a winner, if you ask me!

Good golly miss molly, these are so good they make me want to shout to the heavens in outdated slang. These brownies are the bees knees!! The cats pajamas! Groovy! Radical and totally tubular, dude! All that and a bag of chips!

Ahem. ‘Scuse me. 😉

I guess what I’m saying is…one bite and you will be a believer too! These brownies have it all. Great chew, unbeatable chocolate flavor and a great crinkly, flaky top that I can’t resist. They are the perfect balance of fudge and cake chock full of rich, dark chocolate. The texture is spot on. Eric loved these. So did I. I am pleased to announce I have a new go-to brownie recipe.

Alert the media!

CHEWY, FUDGY TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWNIES (Recipe Source: Cooks Illustrated, May 2000 as seen at Bakin’ and Eggs.)


  • 5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate , chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder (either Dutch-processed or natural cocoa works well in this recipe)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour


  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Fold two 12-inch pieces of foil lengthwise so that they measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan. Fit the second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray. The foil overhangs will help you lift the brownies out of the pan.
  2. Place a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of almost-simmering water. Melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Alternatively, you can melt chocolates and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Cook on 50 percent power, stopping to stir ever 30 seconds, until mixture is smooth.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners and level surface with rubber spatula. Bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs clinging to it, 35 to 40 minutes.
  4. Completely cool brownies on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. (You don’t have to promise you’ll try to wait…but try to try. You’ll end up with mush if you don’t. Believe me, I made this mistake. Now you don’t have to! Learn from your peers, friends. Learn.) Remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days.)


One Year Ago: Rosemary Lemon Sandwich Cookies
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Ice Cream


Filed under bars, chocolate

Bad Reputation

Guess what. I’m on to you. Yep. You have quite the reputation, don’t you? Yeah…I know your type. I’ve seen you ‘round these parts before….with your pots and pans – sporting that cute apron of yours. Some might even say people like you – you’re straight up trouble. You’ve got sugar, spices, butter and cream and you’re NOT afraid to use ‘em.

Among your family, you’re The One who Pulls Off Flawless Holiday Meals Wearing Pearls, Heels and an Effortless Smile.

Among your co-workers, you’re The One who Kills Everyone’s Diet Plans by Showing up on Monday with Piles of Homemade Treats.

Among your friends, you’re simply The Crazy One who Actually LIKES to Cook.

Does that sound like you? It’s okay. It’s not a bad thing. In fact, that reputation of yours can work in your favor…. Everyone knows the most effective way to win friends and influence people is to FEED them. 🙂

::evil laugh::

And you LOVE to feed people. You could spend hours – DAYS, even – shopping, chopping, stirring, straining, baking, boiling, toiling…all in the name of feeding people.

Then comes the day, and this day will come, when you are desperate need of something to feed to other people. You forgot about that work potluck. Your husband invites 6 friends over to watch the big game at the last minute.

The situation – is dire. Time – is slipping away. Panic mode – on.

Others throw up their hands in despair and result to store bought brownies and pizza delivery. But not you. You are SUPER WOMAN! Crusader of the Kitchen. Queen of the Cookie. Master of the Mixer!

And you’ve got a rep to protect! So what to do, in this a moment of great despair and darkness? How do you scale the impending mountain that is providing tasty, homemade food when there’s exactly NO time?

You take a small shortcut. All girls with this kind of reputation should have an arsenal of shortcuts in their possession. It’s the only way to stay sane. And since we’re kind of kindred spirits, you and me – seeing as we’re both keepers of this elusive foodie rep within our respective circles – let me share one of my favorite shortcuts with you.

No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars.

Got that…NO BAKE. No Bake is code for fast. And easy. No Bake means you can make these in pearls and heels before your shoes even start to pinch your feet. These bars…they WILL win you friends. They WILL influence people. And that sweet little rep of yours…will not suffer in the least.

No one has to know how easy they are. I won’t tell if you won’t!

These bars are my go-to Oh My Goodness I’m Panicking Because I Need to Bring Something and Have No Time recipe. They come together in a snap and people LOVE them. They taste just like a peanut butter cup or a buckeye without all that pesky rolling and dipping. Just press into a 9×13 inch pan, smother with melted chocolate, pop in the fridge for about an hour and cut into small squares. They are pretty rich so a little goes a long way. You can feed quite a crowd if you cut them small enough. People just go crazy over these! Can’t beat ‘em!

NO BAKE PEANUT BUTTER BARS (Recipe Adapted from:


  • 1 3/4 cups peanut butter, divided
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 3 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 12 oz package Chocolate Chips (semi-sweet, milk, dark – whatever you like – I like milk here because it gives these a bit more about Reece’s feel.)


  1. Spray a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Beat 1 1/4 cups of the peanut butter and butter in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar, then graham cracker crumbs. Press evenly into prepared baking pan. Smooth top with spatula.
  3. Melt remaining 1/2 cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips in medium saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. Spread over graham cracker crust in pan. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until chocolate is firm. Cut into bars. Store in covered container in refrigerator.


One Year Ago: Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Cool Scallion Yogurt Sauce
Two Years Ago: Bubbly Baked Rigatoni with Sausage and Parmesan Panko/Basil Topping


Filed under bars, chocolate, peanut butter

Orange you glad…

Have I told you lately that I love citrus? Yes. Oh, how I love citrus. See also: here, here, here or here. I’ll stop there, but I could go on. There’s just something about the clean, crisp bright flavors of lemon, lime, and orange I can’t resist. Maybe it’s their versatility – from delectable desserts to savory main dishes and sides, citrus just seems to add that punch of flavor that makes me want to jump up and shout YUM! Or maybe it’s their timing – when the snow is falling and the wind is blowing the stores are packed with fragrant citrus fruits from California and Florida. (Hey, this is Iowa – locally grown citrus doesn’t exist, okay? Let’s reconvene on the whole local food issue come sweet corn/tomato season, please and thank you.) When it’s so cold and snowy out, piles of sunshine-hued fruit just makes me smile – they chase away the S.A.D.s, if you will.

Our local grocery chain built a CASTLE of citrus in the store a few weeks back. True. And quite the castle it was too. Towering turrets of tasty treats. 🙂 They may or may not have dubbed it the Disneyland of Citrus. I swear they did…but I can’t actually remember…I may have just called it that myself as I whistled Zip-a-dee-doo-da down the aisles. LOL. At any rate, what I do remember is being socked in the face so hard with the scent of oranges upon entering, that I was practically drooling. The scent must have burned itself into my subconscious because all of a sudden anything and everything orange was sounding really, really good.

So, of course, when I saw this recipe for Orange Brownies, I immediately added them to my Super Bowl party menu as an easy-to-eat, non-chocolate dessert option. See, this is what I do when I entertain. I set out to please everyone. Which is silly. But that’s how I roll.

Now, I know what your thinking: how in the world can a BROWNIE recipe be void of any and all chocolate. It’s the chocolate, by definition, that makes it a brownie! DUH!

Hey, I don’t name the recipes, all right? I just make ’em. 😉

Actually, I think brownie part of the recipe comes from the texture of the bar. They are somewhere in between chewy and cakey, which is common in brownies. They are not ultra-dense and gooey like a super fudgey brownie, but they for sure have a bit of a brownie feel. Plus, there’s no brown sugar so I don’t think they can be called a blondie either.

Let’s just forget about all the technicalities and call these bad boys what they are…DELICIOUS! The chewy brownie-like texture paired with the bright flavor of orange and creamy frosting is such a great combo.  They were a big hit at the party. Everyone raved! Me personally? I found myself downright obsessed with them. As long as there were leftovers in the house, I found myself thinking about having one. It was like my only reason for getting out of bed in the morning was so I could get through my day of pesky healthy eating so I could get my hands on one of these. That’s serious. They are that good. I’m thinking the two entire sticks of butter and 4 whole eggs may have something to do with it. Just a wild guess.

Dear Paula-
Thanks for all you do!
Erin’s Growing Butt.

My only note on this recipe would be that the frosting recipe makes a TON! You could easily halve the frosting recipe and it would still be great. So if you’re a bit of frosting-phobe, you make want to knock it back.

Frosting-phobes? Hm. These people live in the land of leprechauns and unicorns, right? Next to the bridge trolls and across the street from the gnomes? Right. Got it.

ORANGE BROWNIES (Recipe Source: Paula Deen,


  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure orange extract (I couldn’t find pure and used imitation. Despite the fact that it was in fact ORANGE, as in orange in color, it worked fine)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 recipe Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13X9 inch baking pan.
  2. Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest. Beat until well blended with an electric mixer.
  3. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set. Remove from oven. Spread the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting over completely cooled brownies. Cut into squares.


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 4 tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 (1-pound) box confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixer. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until it is all combined and smooth. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Spread over brownies.


One Year Ago: Smokey Red Pepper Dip with Toasted Pita Chips – more delicious party food!


Filed under bars, fruit

Confidence? What Confidence?

Have you ever had those moments where you have absolutely no confidence that the outcome of any given situation will end favorably? You have accepted defeat. Failure is imminent. You just want to get it over with already so you can shake it off and move on. It’s one of those things that happens to everyone at one time or another. Nobody’s perfect, after all.

Example: Let’s say you are cramming hard for finals in a crowded university library. You’re jamming to some Matchbox Twenty on your Sony Discman (no iPods yet!) and highlighting away in a textbook with your favorite purple highlighter. You are in the zone. You’ve got this in the bag. You are surrounded by at least a hundred of your closest friends doing the exact same thing. It’s been a long evening, so you decide to take a break. You put down your highlighter and take off your headphones. You stretch out your legs and pull your arms up over your head. Ahhh. That feels good. But those legs need just a bit more stretching. You tip your chair back a bit to really get at those muscles.

Then it happens. You realize there is no stopping it. It’s going to end badly. You realize you have absolutely ZERO confidence in your ability to stop yourself from falling backwards in your chair. In the library. In front of everyone. CRASH! A nanosecond later, you are on your back staring up at the ceiling.

Ah, crap.

Another example: Let’s say for three to five months of every year, your lovely Midwestern state with it’s miles of lush farmland and pefect glowing sunshine becomes a terrible, arctic wasteland of wintery doom. The snow flies, the wind blows, the ice builds up so much on your driveway you could go there and start training for Olympic speed skating events. It’s bad enough when you are standing in front of a window in your pj’s inside your nice, warm cozy house looking outside at it. It’s quite another to be out in it. But life must go on. You feel that little pang of jealousy toward your brothers in southern states where entire cities shut down just because three inches of snow falls. But, alas, you’ve lived in the Midwest for nearly thirty years and you know that it’s business as usual when winter weather strikes.

So you’re driving down a fairly busy residential street one evening after the snow’s been falling all day. You inch along slowly, careful not to make any sudden moves. Your eyes are wide with panic, your knuckles white with the fear that can only come from trying to navigate a particularly hairy snow covered street. Behind you, giant SUVs and pick up trucks are piling up, irritated to be stuck behind one THOSE people who won’t just move her ass already. You see another car approaching the road from a side street in front of you. It’s moving way, WAY too fast.

The car tries to slow down but slides out into your path. You are helpless. You have absolutely ZERO confidence that you will be able to avoid hitting that car. You move your foot to the brake and brace yourself. You are about to get into an accident.

Oh no!

A third example: Let’s say you have a bag of lemons on hand that’s just begging to be turned into lemon bars. You find a recipe that looks tasty and sounds easy so you go to work measuring, mixing and beating things into a crust and a filling. Your recipe calls for beating four eggs until thick. You turn on your trusty KA mixer and let it go to town. After 5 or 6 minutes, you take a look and decide that said eggs are not really thick. Well, maybe they are kinda thick. Thicker, maybe, than they were? You can’t really tell. Meh. Good enough, you decide, and off you go adding the rest of the ingredients.

When it’s all said and done, you realize your lemon bar filling is thin. Like really, REALLY thin. Hm. So you beat it some more, even going as far as to switch out your paddle attachment for your beater attachment. It is clear that your lemon filling is not going to get any thicker. You decide to press forward. Panic sets in as you pour your filling onto your par-baked crust. It flows like water, with definite splashback. The evidence is on your shirt. Maneuvering the pan to the oven prooves challenging, as you try not to spill this awful, runny filling all over the floor.

This can’t be good. There’s NO WAY this right. Where did you go wrong? What happened? You have absolutely ZERO confidence that these lemon bars are going to turn out. What a waste of time and ingredients.

Dang it!

Ah! But a wait a minute! Things are not always as bad as they seem. Tsk, tsk, tsk, Oh Ye of Little Faith, for assuming the worst.

Fall backwards in your chair at the library? No worries. Everyone around you is so focused on the task at hand that not one person notices. Not a soul looks up and sees you sprawled on the floor like a rag doll. You are either extremely lucky…or you are a really quiet faller. 🙂

About to hit a crazy driver who slides into your path on cold winter’s night? No problem. You some how manage to slow down just enough to let the guy get his bearings in your lane and move forward. WHEW! Thank goodness! You are either extremely lucky…or you are quite the tactful and alert winter driver.

Lemon bars looking like a huge, embarrassing failure? It’s okay, because after 20 minutes in the oven, they have set beautifully with not even the slightest quiver of runniness in the center. And after cooling and chilling, they cut like a dream with a perfectly tart, smooth, creamy filling that’s just makes you want to run screaming down the street proclaiming your Kitchen Greatness to your entire neighborhood. You are either extremely lucky…or… Oh, heck with that, you knew they’d be okay from the start, right? There’s no way you’d mess up a recipe for lemon bars, for goodness sake. I mean, really….. 😉

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, you can change all the “yous” in the stories above to “me, mine, I, my,” etc. etc. All three of those are true stories that did in fact happen to yours truly. 🙂 The Great Lemon Bar Saga of 2009 being the most recent, of course.

I really honestly thought these weren’t going to turn out. I had trouble from the get go. Right off the bat, I overpulsed the butter for the crust mixture in my food processor. Let’s just say I did not have coarse crumbs. I had what looked, well, flour. I was sure I wasn’t going to be able to press it into my pan with any kind of positive result. I was wrong! Crust came together wonderfully despite my error. 🙂 And then, of course, there was the filling fiasco. I was so sure I had a stinker on my hands, I was already rummaging around to see what else I could bake today to fill the void left by the loser Lemon Bars.

I was so pleasantly surprised at how wonderful they are! They held up great after being cut into squares and the filling is wonderful. Sometimes I find lemon bars to be too sweet…I want to taste LEMON for crying out loud! I want that tiny bit of pucker on the inside of my cheeks. These are perfect. Smooth, creamy and sweet without being too sweet.

Oh, the only thing…I did end up with tiny bubbles all over the tops of my bars probably because I beat the snot out of the egg mixture before pouring it into the pan. All worked out great though, because they’re dusted in powdered sugar! Bubbles? What are these bubbles you speak of? I see no such thing, be gone with you! 🙂

Give these a try today! And DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT panic when your filling looks too thin. They’ll be fine. I promise! 🙂

LEMON BARS (Recipe Source: Martha Stewart, Everyday Food)


  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus 1 tablespoon for sifting
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces


  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 4 medium lemons)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center. Coat a 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray; line pan with two crisscrossed rectangles of parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides.
  2. Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour with confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press into bottom and 3/4 inch up sides of prepared pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes.
  3. Bake until crust is lightly browned 20 minutes. Let cool slightly in pan. Reduce oven heat to 325 degrees.
  4. Meanwhile, make the lemon filling: In a bowl, beat eggs with an electric mixer until thick. Beat in granulated sugar, lemon juice, flour, baking powder, and salt. Pour over warm crust. Bake until set, about 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature; refrigerate about 1 hour.
  5. Using paper overhang as an aid, lift square from pan. Sift remaining tablespoon confectioners’ sugar over the top. Cut into 16 squares.

ENJOY! (with confidence) 🙂

One year ago: I wasn’t doing much cooking because Eric and I were enjoying a long weekend in St. Louis! Check out all the fun we had! 🙂


Filed under bars, fruit

Blond(ie) Moments

I’ve had plenty of blond moments in my time. Fitting, I suppose, considering my hair is in fact blond. It’s dark blond…but blond none the less.

I’ve had blonde moments in public – stepping onto the bike path without looking my freshman year of college and getting “schwinned” (that’s UIUC speak for getting knocked over by bike) comes to mind as a biggie. Learned my lesson after that…NEVER cross the bike path without looking both ways!

I’ve had blond moments at work – I once stood up at my desk to grab something and didn’t realize I had kicked my chair away. I went to sit back down without looking. Yup, you guessed it…no chair. Fell right on my ass. Good times.

And I’ve had blond moments in the kitchen – Two summers ago I RUINED Eric’s birthday dinner by throwing chicken pieces that had been marinating for 24 hours in a mixture of honey, brown sugar and balsamic straight on the grill. They immediately burnt to a crisp and stuck like glue to the grill. Duh. Sugar + scorching hot grill = a disaster waiting to happen. While I was outside fighting with said chicken, I put a sauce on the stove to reduce that was the same flavor profile – honey, brown sugar, etc – I put the lid on the pot and left it unattended. Duh again. It promptly boiled over and turned to tar on my glass stove top. I am rather ashamed to admit I never did get it all off…a small spot of ruined birthday tar remains stuck on that burner to this this day. Oh yeah, and a sudden summer downpour DRENCHED me out of nowhere as I was chiseling chicken bits off my grill. I cried. Then we went out for pizza.

These Blueberry Cream Cheese Blondies are not the product of a blond moment. 🙂 They are the product of a very busy girl with a gallon bucket of blueberries in her freezer who has been zig-zagging all over Illinois and back to Iowa for the past three weekends and was desperate for some kitchen time. I first saw the cheesecake and blondie combo over at Carrie’s Sweet Life. Sounded DELISH. Love blondies…love cheesecake. Sounds like a winner!

I did kind of go my own direction with these, combining several different recipes that I have tried in the past. First, just like Carrie, I used the basic blondie recipe from Baking Blonde’s blog. I use this recipe all the time and truly love it! So versatile and SO easy. If I find myself in a pinch and needing something delicious but still homemade, I make a pan of these and fill them with whatever I have availalble from peanut butter, to nuts, to chocolate chips. YUM!

For the cream cheese layer, I used the cream cheese portion of this Cream Cheese Brownie recipe from I actually made this recipe not too long ago for a get together with friends. I really liked the simple flavor of the cream cheese layer, but I didn’t love the brownie part. I like a fudgy brownie, but these were a little bit overkill for me. Meh. I don’t know…I’ve had better brownies. So I decided to recycle the cream cheese portion of the recipe and use it here.

For the blueberry layer, I winged it. I’ve made enough fruity sauces/fillings in my time, I’m comfortable in just throwing something together.

The results were a creamy, chewy treat with just the right kick of blueberry. In addition to the blueberry swirl on top, I threw a handful of fresh berries into the blondie layer too – just for fun. Very tasty. I already ate one tonight, but now that I’m sitting here writing about them, I’m thinking about going back for round two. YUM!

BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE BLONDIES (Recipe Sources: Carrie’s Sweet Life, Baking Blonde and

Blondie Layer:

  • 6-7 TBS butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup fresh blueberries

Cream Cheese Layer:

  • 8 oz block of cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg

Blueberry Layer:

  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsps corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Make the blondie layer:

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line an 8×8 pan with foil and lightly spray with PAM.
  3. In a large microwave safe mixing bowl melt the butter. Allow to cool for 5 mintues. Mix the brown sugar with the melted butter and beat until smooth. Beat in egg and then vanilla. Add salt, stir in flour and baking powder (if using). Mix in blueberries
  4. Pour into prepared pan and use a greased spatula to evenly spread mixture in pan and level the top. Set aside

Make the cream cheese layer:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor (or with a hand mixer), process the cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, vanilla and egg and process until creamy and smooth. Spread on top of brownie layer.

Make the blueberry layer:

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine blueberries, sugar, water, cornstarch and lemon juice. Bring mixture a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, until the berries reduce and the mixture thickens. Cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Drop the blueberry mixture by tablespoon fulls onto the cream cheese layer and swirl with a knife.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the blondies pull away from the side of the pan and the cream cheese is almost set. Cool completely on a wire rack. Chill for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares.


One Year Ago: Caramelized Apple, Onion and Sausage Flat-Bread Pizza


Filed under bars, fruit

Some Beach. . .

My husband’s nickname for me is House Cat. You know, a lazy old cat that is perfectly content staying home all day long and not moving around a whole lot. Yup, that sounds about right. Ha. Well, except for the lazy part. I don’t consider myself a lazy person in general, but I do daydream about being lazy pretty much all the time. I WANT to be lazy, I would LOVE to be lazy….real life just gets in the way most of the time. Stupid real world…. I’m a wanna-be lazy bum. Heh…

Anyway, he gave me said nickname because I’m what you might consider an indoor girl. He LOVES to be outside, he makes up things to do outside just he can be out there, which to me is just downright nutty. I rarely ever get the urge to be outside. I don’t camp or hike or anything like that and I have no desire too. Two reasons: 1. Outside there are bugs. Lots of them. I don’t want them crawling on me or near me, end of story. 2. How many days a year do we get when it really and truly is comfortable to be outside? Here in the Midwest, not nearly enough as far as I’m concerned. There are some days, of course, and I do enjoy those days, but if it’s too hot or too cold (and it don’t take much for me to be too hot or too cold)….I’ll just stay inside, thank you very much.

Believe it or not, this not a big fan of the outdoors thing I have going on transfers right on over to being at the beach. GASP! You thought everyone loved the beach, right? Sun, sand, surf…all that stuff. Meh. I can take it or leave it. Laying out on the beach all day long is not my idea of a good time. It’s too hot, there’s no shade, and what’s worse than your everyday yard bugs?? Um, how about creepy, crawly, slinky sea creatures. Blah.

It could just be my lack of beach experience. I have been to the beach a grand total of…..wait for it….TWICE in my entire life. Ta-da! To clarify, I’m talking about the ocean here….not family trips to the lake in Northern Wisconsin or to Lake Michigan, salt water only. The first time I was a kid and we took a day trip on our Disney World vacation to go to the beach. It wasn’t a very nice day that day, so I didn’t get a good feel for what it was like. The second time was on our honeymoon. We stayed on Clearwater Beach for a few days. I wandered out into the Gulf up to my knees right when we got there and an hour later ended up covered in an itchy, red, nasty rash everywhere the water touched me. I realized at that moment I was allergic to nature. I spent the rest of our time there by the pool.

Last week my office held a Beach Day potluck to chase away those winter blues. I had NO CLUE what to bring as I was having trouble coming up with something beachy feeling. Had to be easy, had to be something that could sit out most of the day, and had to make enough to share. I decided something with pineapple would have a beachy feel but I couldn’t find anything that appealed to me in my usual recipe sources.

So then I thought…okay, if I’m going to buy a can of pineapple at the store, who makes it? Dole. Okay, awesome. What grocery store brand name doesn’t have an entire section of their website devoted to recipes that use their fabulous products? So I jumped on there and started surfing (surf…get it, get it??!!) around for something easy and yummy. Elaborate recipes with fancy ingredients have their place but the office potluck is not one of them, as far as I’m concerned. I stumbled across a recipe for Pineapple Butterscotch Bars. I was immediately intrigued. On first glance you might think that doesn’t sound like a great combo but the reviews of the recipe were positive, I knew it would take me literally 10 minutes to get a 13×9 inch pan of these in the oven, and frankly, I was tired of looking. I went for it.

Oh my goodness gracious, YUM!! Wow! Sweet, moist, buttery, fruity….mmmmmmm. I honestly could not believe how good these were. I was so pleasantly surprised. I love when I go in with mediocre expectations of recipe and it turns out being better than I expected. They were a huge hit. “Who made the pineapple things?” “These are so good.” That’s what I heard all day long. Oh, it sends my little heart a-flutter. HA!

A couple notes: The original recipe called for nuts, but I omitted them because I try to avoid bringing things that are common allergens into our office because it’s a public building and you never know who is going to wander in and out. I bet chopped nuts of any kind would be a delicious addition though! Macadamia nuts maybe. I’ll for sure add nuts next time, but they are good without them too.

Also, they are pretty cake-like. If you prefer them to be denser, you could probably decrease the amount of baking powder for a more blondie-like consistency. They are good fluffy though too! 🙂



  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can (20 oz.) DOLE® Crushed Pineapple, well drained
  • 1 cup (6 oz.) butterscotch chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, toasted (I omitted)
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Powdered sugar, garnish (optional)


  1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in small bowl; set aside.
  2. Beat together butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in large bowl until creamy.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat until blended.  Stir in crushed pineapple.  Stir in flour mixture, butterscotch chips and nuts until blended.
  3. Pour into 13 x 9-inch baking pan sprayed with vegetable cooking spray.
  4. Bake at 350°F., 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Dust cooled cake with powdered sugar, if desired.  Cut into squares.



Filed under bars, fruit

Up to the challenge!

One thing I never thought I’d be comfortable doing in the kitchen would be to make up my own recipe for a baked good. Baking is such a science….and we all know that’s not my strong suit. With cooking, it’s all about feeling around…going with the flow, following your gut. Baking has to be just so or else the flavor and texture will be all wrong.

I’m for sure more confident in my abilities in the kitchen these days and I got inspired after receiving and email about the Pilsbury Bake-Off. Now, I’m pretty sure I’m not Bake-Off ready but I decided I was going to try my hand at making up my own recipe for a sweet treat. Just to give it a shot. First, I had to decide on the kinds of flavors I wanted to go with. For some reason peanut butter was sticking in my brain. But peanut butter  and what? What do I like with peanut butter? Chocolate, of course…that’s a given. But, eh, it’s been done. Peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and jelly…hmmmm… Then it hit me! One of my favorite snacks…peanut butter and apple! Okay, now we’re on to something here!

I decided I wanted some kind of cookie something or another. LOL. In the end I decided on a cookie bar that incorporated oatmeal with an apple and peanut butter filling. After reading a ton of recipes for cookies and bars, I was actually pretty confident in my ability to put something together.

Below is the recipe exactly as I prepared it. I am the first person to admit that it was far from perfect, but just the fact that it was not a total disaster either made me smile a bit. Check out my thoughts and notes on how I plan to improve it. Not bad for a novice!



2 ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 cup packed brown sugar

½ tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 ½ cups rolled oats

1 cup butter, slightly softened.


4 large apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup water

½ cup granulated sugar

½ tsp. cinnamon

2 tsps. Cornstarch

½ cup creamy peanut butter


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Line a 13X9 in. pan with foil. Grease with cooking spray

To prepare filling: In a small bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch. In a medium saucepan, combine apples and sugar mixture. Pour water over apples and stir to combine. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the apples are tender and the mixture thickens slightly; about 15 minutes. Add peanut butter and stir until the peanut butter melts and the mixture is nice and thick. Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine flour, brown sugar, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oats in a large bowl. Using your hands or a pastry blender, cut the butter into the mixture until coarse crumbs form.

Pour 3 ½ cups of crumb mixture into prepared pan. Press firmly into the pan. Pour filling over the top and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the top.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until top is golden brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Cooks Notes:

I noticed two things right off the bat that I think are related. One, the texture was a tad dry and two, the bottom layer was a bit thick for my taste. I think if I decreased the amount of flour by 3/4 of a cup or so that might help some. Then I’m trying to decide if I want to make it more “cookie” like by adding eggs, but then I wouldn’t have a nice crumbly topping….so, I don’t know. I’m going to keep thinking on it.

Anyway, I just wanted to share because I was pretty proud that I even attempted to do something like this. I’ll repost after I tweak it some!



Filed under bars, fruit, peanut butter

Cranberry White Chocolate Bars

When I was planning out my menu of goodies for the open house, I actually wrote down on my list “something with white chocolate and cranberries” but I didn’t have a recipe picked out. Within just a couple days Katie at Good Things Catered shared this recipe for a totally delish sounding cranberry white chocolate bar! Perfect!! I immediately added it to my list of treats. They did not disappoint – such a wonderful combo! Loved the little citrus tang in the background. Thanks, Katie, for sharing this recipe! 🙂

CRANBERRY WHITE CHOCOLATE BARS (Recipe Source: Good Things Catered)


  • 1/2 c. butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest of 1/2 orange
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 c. dried or fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 c. white chocolate chips


  1. Preheat to 350 degrees and line an 11 x 7 pan with foil, coating with cooking spray.
  2. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, nutmeg and set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until soft and light in color, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn mixer to low and beat in eggs, one at a time, and then vanilla until thoroughly combined.
  5. Slowly incorporate flour mixture.
  6. Remove from stand mixer and stir in cranberries and white chocolate.
  7. Spread batter in pan (it’s thick so use a spatula and be sure to remove all air bubbles).
  8. Bake 25 – 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.
  9. Cool on rack for 1 hours.
  10. Remove from pan and cut into bars.


Filed under bars, fruit

A childhood treat…college style.

When I lived in the dorms at U of I, this was one of my favorite lunchtime dessert treats. I decided to recreate it at home…just to see if they taste like they did in the ISR dining hall. Guess what, they do! Totally took me back. Chewy, gooey, cinnamon-y goodness. Who would have thought I’d want to relive my dorm dining hall days? You’d think that’d be something I’d want to forget all about. Ours really wasn’t that bad. This, right here, is the proof. They’d appear at noontime meal at least once a week. I could never pass up the opportunity to grab one before heading out back to campus for class! 🙂

It’s super simple…just a take on the classic Rice Krispie Treat. Just switch out the Rice Krispies for Cinnamon Toast Crunch and you’re done!

CINNAMON CRISPY SQUARES (Recipe inspiration:


  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 6 cups Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal


1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.



Filed under bars