Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Millionaire's Shortbread

I should be working right now…I have so many things to finish it isn’t even funny, but it has been a long day.  A day that started at 5:30 this morning, and after working 12 hours and almost a 2 hour commute home, I am pretty much done.  I have been on edge for a while now, and there could be many reasons to explain it, but I think I finally figured it out.  Today’s rain was definitely a sign.

When I was delivering my first baby, there was a joy that I can’t explain that came over me when the doctor told me I had a girl.  It was not that I didn’t want a boy, but for some reason I was less afraid of having a girl.  My husband was convinced that our second child was a boy, but deep down inside, I knew it was another girl.  That same joy consumed me when I heard those same words after she came out of me.  Even though my sister and I are not close, I was thrilled to have two girls – sisters – even with all the drama that comes with it.

I have always cherished the fact that I have two girls.  They love to cook and bake with me, they love to go shopping, get their nails done – and don’t get me wrong – they can fish, play softball and other fun stuff with their Dad (and boy do they love their Dad), but we have a special bond as well.  I am the Mommy, they tell me things first – and they hold nothing back.  I am sure there will be a time when that will change, but let’s hope not, and until then – I will savor every minute.

Unfortunately my story is not the way it always is for mothers and daughters.  You hear about the struggles that mothers and daughters have – sometimes you even get a glimpse of the pain.  It is not fun to watch.  I want to be involved in every happy moment that my children have – and I am pretty optimistic that I will be able to do so.  I am a very lucky Mommy.

It is only fitting that I post these delectable goodies – this was a team effort – I made the crust, and my daughter and mother made the caramel and topping.  My daughter wanted to make it all by herself, but I asked my mother to supervise – and it didn’t take long though before they both had their sleeves rolled up and were knee-deep in the caramel making.  It was really fun to watch.  These were hands down ridiculously delicious.  Crisp on the bottom, chewy in the middle, and rich on top.  Thanks Tracey’s Culinary Adventures adapted from Annie’s Eats (originally from Baked and The Golden Book of Baking) – for a great afternoon, and a perfect finished product – with my mother and my daughter.



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk


  • 8 oz chocolate, finely chopped (I used bittersweet) 
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
  • Fleur de sel for sprinkling (optional)


Preheat oven to 325 F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

To make the shortbread layer: Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.  With the mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and beat just until combined.  Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and press into an even layer over the bottom (it’ll be a fairly thin layer).  Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and cool completely.

To make the caramel layer: Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan.  Set the pan over medium heat.  Stir occasionally until the butter is melted.  Increase the heat to medium-high, and bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and turns a light caramel color.  This may take 10 minutes or more, so be patient.  Pour the caramel mixture over the cooled shortbread and spread in an even layer.  Allow to cool completely, then chill briefly (I stuck mine in the fridge overnight, but you just want to chill enough that it won’t melt when you add the warm chocolate in the next step).

To make the chocolate layer: Add the chocolate, corn syrup, and butter to a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until everything is melted and the mixture is smooth and glossy.  Pour the chocolate over the chilled caramel and spread into an even layer with an offset spatula.  Let cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle the top with the fleur de sel (if using).  Let the chocolate set completely before slicing and serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Salted Caramel Chocolate Shortbread Bars

Cocoa Brownies

Classic Brownies

I am trying to recover from my travels this week – the 9 hour time difference is not easy on the body, but I am doing my best.  Life doesn’t stop for you – so you just need to carry on and hope that eventually everything will go back to normal.  Whenever I travel for work, I never have enough time to soak everything in.  I do my best though to at least savor the food.  I have mentioned this before, but my favorite place to soak in the culture is at the super market.  Fortunately in Israel, I was able to go on a field trip.  I was there the week before Passover, and the woman who was hosting me was so excited that I also celebrate Passover.  She took me to the market near the office, and we bought lots of fun stuff.  Matzo ball mix, Passover biscuits, halva and chocolate covered matzoh.  What fun!  I couldn’t believe I was able to fit all this stuff into my suitcase, but I crammed it in.  As a bonus, one of the women in the office sent me a recipe for a Passover Apple Cake – maybe a post for tomorrow, if I can get my act together?

The food in Israel was delicious – lots of fresh vegetables and cheeses – and wonderful salads for breakfast.  My stomach was not overly thrilled to eat salads for breakfast, even though they were wonderful – so I mostly stuck to yogurt – which was rich and creamy, and just delightful.  The two highlights of the trip were the lunch I had at the falafel restaurant – just a tiny hole-in-the-wall, with amazing falafel and pickled vegetables.  The pita bread though was really too much though – not like the pita bread we get – this was light and fluffy and completely fresh.  The other highlight was a Persian restaurant that my cousin took me to – the salad was so amazingly fresh, and the chicken and rice I had was out of this world.  It was really a treat.

On my way back to the states, I stopped in Paris to visit the subsidiary there, and of course had my fill of magnificent food – even though I was barely there.  It gave me just a taste and I can’t wait to get back there…  At the office, they have a regular cafeteria, and then two specialty French restaurants.  We went to the “bistro” – and had an incredible lunch.  I felt spoiled.  I was stuffed after my appetizer and entrée, but they insisted I order dessert.  All the desserts sounded terrific, but I decided to go with a chocolate brownie – on top of Panna Cotta, then topped with chocolate mousse.  Oh my…it was spectacular.  Although the brownie was my least favorite part.  It was good, but nothing like these brownies that I found in Bon Appetit that I made for book club the other week.  These were so simple to make, and seriously decadent.  Nice and rich – and it had been too long since I posted a brownie recipe on this site.  I have posted similar recipes before, but this one was too good, even if it was a duplicate.  So – even though the French are pretty much better at making everything else sweet – Americans are the experts when it comes to making brownies.  Someday when I live in France, I am going to make some of these recipes with their superior ingredients – won’t that be something. I can’t wait!


  • Nonstick vegetable oil  spray
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup Scharffen Berger natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher  salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla  extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour


Preheat oven to 325°. Line an 8x8x2 inches glass baking dish  with  foil, pressing firmly into pan and leaving a 2 inches overhang. Coat foil  with nonstick spray; set baking dish aside.

Melt butter in a small sauce-pan over medium heat. Let cool  slightly. Whisk sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl to combine. Pour butter  in a steady stream into dry ingredients, whisking constantly to blend. Whisk in  vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each  addition. Add flour and stir until just combined (do not overmix). Scrape batter  into prepared pan; smooth top.

Bake until top begins to crack and a toothpick inserted into  the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 25-30 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack;  let cool completely in pan.  Using foil overhang, lift brownie out of pan; transfer to a cutting board.  Cut  into 16 squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cocoa Brownies

Crunch Bars

Crunch Bars

The other week my step-father called to talk to me about his fax machine.  As he was talking to me, I was picturing the monster that sat in their kitchen, taking up precious space on their counter.  I told him that fax machines are a thing of the past – no one uses them anymore – with email, and scanners, there is just no need.  I told them to get rid of it, move into the 21st century.  He listened intently, and I could tell he wasn’t completely buying it – but he took the plunge, and gave it away.  He wasn’t going to let a huge fax machine get in the way of moving onto bigger and better things.

This weekend I bought myself a new desktop – it was about time, I had been using mine for at least 7 years, because it was right around the time that I had my younger daughter that I purchased this baby.  I love my new touchscreen monitor with Windows 8 – but to be honest you, I am typing this on my old one.  I hate to admit it, but I am having a little trouble letting go.  At one point, I tried to load my photo editing software onto my new PC, and I ran into a bit of a snag.  Now, you have to understand, I am extremely loyal to Microsoft – so, when they came out with photo editing software over 7 years ago – of course I was right there installing it – now 7 years later (long after they stopped selling the program, and created a free photo editing program within Windows 7) – I am still using it.  Mind you, I use the free software as well – everything has its specific purpose.  I digress – so, I was trying to load this and it wouldn’t let me – my new machine is a x64 bit system, and Microsoft Digital Imaging software is only compatible with a x32 bit system…  Ugh.  I know I should be using the free software, and supposedly it offers all the same functionality in a much more streamlined process – but I like my old process.  I knew exactly how to edit my photos the way I liked.

It just so happens that my step-father was visiting this weekend, and when I told him my sob story – he reminded me about the fax machine.  Yes, he is exactly right – welcome to the 21st century.

So – what does this have to do with these Crunch Bars?  Well, let me tell you.  Candy bars are almost becoming retro in my mind.  The organic chocolate bars that are sustainable and made with all natural ingredients are becoming more and more hip – and the Kit Kat bars are looking old and un-cool.  Plus, they are just taking up space in the pantry – from Halloween – yup, that’s right.  So, we decided to make something to use up some of that candy in the pantry – and Bon Appetit came to the rescue with this recipe.  Boy were these decadent – and so easy to make.  You can basically make this into anything you want – the sky is the limit.  So – if you are looking for ways to use up some of your old stuff so you can move onto the bigger and better – give this one a try.  Wish me luck as I now dive into the deep end…


Cookie Base

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for dish
  • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


  • 6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate or high-quality milk chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1-1 1/2 cups assorted toppings, such as cocoa nibs, crushed candy,  toasted chopped almonds and pistachios, lightly toasted coconut, and popcorn
  • Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)


Cookie Base 

Arrange a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 375°. Line the bottom and sides of a 13x9x2 inches metal or glass baking dish with foil, allowing 2 inches overhang on either side; butter foil in dish.

Using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat 1 cup butter in a large bowl until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add both sugars and salt; continue to beat until mixture is light and creamy, about 3 minutes longer. Beat in vanilla, then slowly mix in flour, beating until entirely incorporated (dough will be wet and sticky).

Scrape dough into prepared dish. Using your fingertips, spread into a thin, even layer.

Bake cookie base until it is golden brown and has begun to puff and crack, about 22 minutes.

DO AHEAD: Base can be made 2 days ahead. Let cool completely and store airtight at room temperature.


Preheat oven to 375°. Scatter chopped chocolate evenly over cookie base and bake just until chocolate is soft and has begun to melt, about 2 minutes. Immediately spread chocolate in an even layer over base.

Scatter toppings over warm chocolate; lightly but firmly press into chocolate. Sprinkle with salt. Let cool in dish on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Using foil overhang, lift cookie from dish. Place on rack; let cool until chocolate is set, about 2 hours.

Carefully remove foil from cookie and slide onto a cutting board. Cut into bars.

DO AHEAD: Crunch Bars can be made 5 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Crunch Bars


Remember this commercial?  I actually don’t, but the saying is something I will never forget.  Each one is delicious on its own, but when you put them together – WOW!

When I started this blog, I was taking a leap.  I was doing something that was bottled up in my head for years, and I was finally getting it out.  As I have written before, most of my good friends enjoy their food, in fact I can even go as far as to say that many of them LOVE their food.  But there is a difference – I am consumed by food, and in a good way.  I have not let it affect my life in a negative way, but it brings me an immense amount of joy.  I love cooking and baking for my family – and with my family – and I love sharing what I make with others.

I remember when I started the blog, people started to find me.  I started to find people who were like me – they had regular jobs and families, but who loved food – they were obsessed like me.  I remember going to one of my first food photography classes at The Pantry, and finding out that there were a ton of people just like me.  It was great to be able to bond with them.  One of the people who found me was Keren Brown.  Her story is amazing – she was new to Seattle, and created a blog to connect with the Seattle food scene – and what a scene there is.  I had no idea.  I was so flattered that she invited me to one of her food events, it was like a dream come true.  Unfortunately I don’t get to participate as much as I would like to – my job is just slightly demanding (ha!), and when I am not working, I am spending time with my family – but occasionally I do something just for me – and it is pretty incredible.  She calls her events Foodportunity  – and they are just that – they are an opportunity to be surrounded by food.  Food to eat, food to discuss, and people to meet who are obsessed with food.  It is food attached to people who love it – getting them eating and talking about food, the perfect combination.

My mother sent me this recipe, and I was hitting myself for not thinking of this myself.  This recipe comes from the Brooklyn bakery Baked – and boy have they got a winner here.  Two great tastes that taste great together – is it a cookie or a brownie, no wait – it is both!!!  It was almost like someone dropped chocolate chip cookie dough onto a brownie, and it was genius – just like those Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were.  Personally, I prefer a Brookie.  In a way, it was like a Foodportunity.  An opportunity to be surrounded by two of the most classic american baked goods, and opportunity to taste two favorites as one, and boy will this get people talking about food…


chocolate chip cookie dough

  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

brownie batter

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, plus more for muffin tin
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 5 oz. dark chocolate (top quality, 60 to 72 percent cacao), coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Using butter or nonstick spray, grease the bottom and sides of a 24 cup mini-muffin tin.  Set aside.

chocolate chip cookie dough

Add flour, fine grain sea salt and baking soda to a large bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together butter, white sugar and dark brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Using a spatula, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix until just incorporated. Add half of the flour mixture to bowl. Mix for a few seconds on low then increase the speed to medium. Beat until just combined (15 – 20 seconds). Add the remaining flour mixture and repeat the process above. Do not overmix here. Gently fold in the chocolate chips.  Cover bowl, transfer to the refrigerator and chill for at least 3 hours before using.


Add flour, fine grain sea salt and cocoa powder to a medium bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

Bring a large pot filled with 2 inches of water to a simmer. Set a heatproof bowl on top of the pot, but make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the simmering water. Add butter and chocolate to the bowl, stirring until melted and combined. Turn off the heat, but keep the bowl on the pot. Whisk white sugar and light brown sugar into the chocolate mixture. Remove the bowl from the pot and let cool to room temperature.  Add eggs to the chocolate mixture, whisking until just combined. At this point, switch from a whisk to a spatula. You want to avoid adding extra air to the batter. Add vanilla and stir until just combined. Gently fold flour mixture into the chocolate mixture until just incorporated. Do not overmix here.

Fill each well of the muffin tin halfway with batter. Transfer muffin tin to the refrigerator and let chill for at least 1 hour. Both the cookie dough and brownie batter must be well chilled before baking to insure even cooking.

Preheat your oven to 375°F and place a rack in the center of the oven (please see notes above regarding cooking times and temperatures).

Once thoroughly chilled, take the muffin tin from the refrigerator. Using a small spoon, scoop out a small amount of chilled cookie dough. Using your hands, shape dough into ball then slightly flatten it into a disk. The disk should be a bit smaller than the top of the muffin tin wells. Gently press the disk into one of the wells of batter. Repeat this process with remaining 23 wells.*

Place the muffin tin in the oven and bake until the cookies are golden brown ( 11 – 13 minutes), rotating the muffin tin halfway through.

*You will have extra chocolate chip cookie dough leftover. Don’t throw this out. Make cookies. Roll remaining dough into balls. Slightly flatten the balls into disks and place on a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Bake in a 375 oven until golden brown (9 – 11 minutes depending on the size of your disks). Let cool for a minute on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Or enjoy warm.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Brookies

Cheesecake Brownies

Sometimes I feel that back-to-school, means back-to-brownies.  I have no idea why, but there always seems to be a reason to make brownies when you have kids at school.  Fortunately I have not had a reason to do that yet – but I am ready when it happens.  More on that later…

Tonight I am going to tell you what happened to me today – it has nothing to do with food, but after you read this, you might need a brownie.  Today I attended an offsite for work – we had a productive meeting for most of the day, although late in the afternoon we all had a little fun – we went kayaking.  It was a spectacular day – actually, very typical of September in Seattle.  Warm and sunny, and perfectly wonderful.  I am one of these people who carries my smart phone everywhere – as my grandmother said recently, “My son-in-law has a little black box that has all the answers” – and it does.  Besides the fact, I don’t like to be away from my email for any length of time – yes, it is a problem.  Well, today I ended up wearing something without any pockets, and so my cell phone ended up in the dry bag instead of with me.  In addition, the ringer was turned off during the meeting – and I forgot to turn it back on when I started kayaking.  We were having a wonderful time, and really taking it all in – in fact, we were the last double back to the dock. When I got to my car, I took a look at my phone, and I had a missed call from my daughter’s school…never a good sign.

There was no message, which I thought was a positive sign, but I decided to call anyway to see what was going on.  After talking to a few people, I was finally able to get a straight story.  My younger daughter attends a Mandarin class after school on Wednesdays – and the teacher picks her up from her classroom with a couple of other students – and they walk to a house about 1/4 mile away.  I guess my daughter got separated from them outside the school, and thought they had gone ahead.  In the meantime, the Mandarin teacher, who doesn’t speak english that well panicked when she didn’t see her.  She immediately took the kids back to the school thinking she went to the bathroom.  When she couldn’t find her, she went to the office.  At this point the four other kids were freaking out too.  This was when they called me.  Oh my gosh, could you have imagined me picking up the phone and learning about this in the middle of a lake?  I think I would have had a nervous breakdown.  No joke.

Fortunately, they called the woman whose house they normally walk to – and she said her husband was home.  They called him, and sure enough, my daughter had walked all the way there by herself, thinking they were already at the house.  She crossed three streets by herself today, and she is six years old.  Thank goodness she was OK – wow, I don’t even want to think about what could have happened.  On the flip side, what an independent girl we have raised.

So, back to these brownies.  I have been wanting to post these for a while, and I figured now would be a perfect time.  I found this recipe in Cooking Light, but like most of the good brownie recipes I find there, you would never know.  The cheesecake topping is not rich like a regular version, but it is perfect with the chocolate.  I will definitely be making these again, and if I do happen to make these for a school event, there might just be a few missing…



  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 ounces 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon matzo cake meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  large egg, lightly beaten


  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1  large egg
  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325°.

Place 1/4 cup sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute or until smooth. Add matzo meal, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg; beat just until blended.

To prepare brownies, coat a 9-inch square metal baking pan with cooking spray; dust with cocoa. Combine chocolates and butter in a microwave-safe dish; microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, stirring every 20 seconds. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, egg whites, and 1 egg. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir the chocolate mixture into flour mixture.

Scrape half of the brownie batter into prepared pan. Dot half of cheesecake batter on top. Top with remaining brownie batter. Dot with the remaining cheesecake batter. Swirl batters using the tip of a knife. Bake at 325° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Cheesecake Brownies

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

My older daughter has been really into baking on her own lately.  She wants me to be in the kitchen with her, but she wants to do things all herself.  Her favorite thing in the world is when I say to her “Hey, I found a recipe that you can make all by yourself!”  She loves it.  I can tell as soon as she is old enough to be in the house alone…watch out.  It is going to be all about the baking.

I remember when I was younger, I was the exact same way.  I actually only liked baking when I could be in the kitchen myself…I should have known then, it was going to be my sanctuary.  I still laugh to this day when my sister and I decided to make a money cake.  It was her job to get the money.  She found some change, and we dumped it into the batter.  Of course it all sunk to the bottom, but we didn’t think about that.  We thought it would be so hilarious for our parents to eat this cake and as a surprise, end up with money in their mouth?  I can’t seem to remember how much trouble we got in – but let me tell you, if my girls every did anything like that, not only would I freak out, my almost over-protective husband would freak out more.  What would be worse, breaking a tooth, choking, or getting sick from germs on the coins?  I am sure we didn’t wash them.

I picked out a nice safe recipe from Cooking Light for her to make, and they were delicious.  We both agreed she should adapt it slightly to fit her tastes, which she did.  This is the perfect recipe for kids – not only is it fun and easy to make, it is perfect for packing in their lunch boxes – and because they stay good for a couple of weeks, you are set!  Start cooking with your kids now – or else they will start without you, and then life’s a box of chocolates…you never know what you might get.


  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2/3 cup)
  • 1 3/5 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons fat-free milk
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups whole-grain granola
  • 3/4 cup chopped mango
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut


Preheat oven to 350°.

Coat a 13 x 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour.

Weigh or lightly spoon 3 ounces all-purpose flour and 1.6 ounces whole-wheat flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl; stir with a whisk. Combine sugar, oil, milk, and eggs in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at high-speed until smooth. Add flour mixture, beating at low-speed until blended. Fold in granola and fruit. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with coconut.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack. Cut into bars.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Chewy Coconut Granola Bars

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Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

So, when is enough enough, and when is it overkill?  That is a question I ask myself constantly – mostly at work, but pretty much in all situations.  I learned years ago that there is a big difference between good enough, and too much.  The difference can actually mean good enough somewhere else – if you understand where I am going with this.  The time we invest in going overboard could be time actually well spent somewhere else.  In a world (at least like mine), where there is never enough time – it is an important question to ask, and I think the most successful people are the ones that know exactly how much time to spend to get the biggest return.  I admit that sometimes it is luck, but I have to believe this is something you can get good at over time.

Take food for example, the time it takes to make homemade caramel vs. buying a jar in the store, in my opinion, is well worth it.  I have had some good purchased caramel, but it is nothing like what I can make using sugar, butter and cream.  Homemade pretzels though that you are going to crush up and cover with caramel after placing on the blondies – in my opinion, not worth the time.  I’m sure you can make some pretty amazing pretzels, but that my friend, seems like overkill.  This recipe from Bon Appetit, well worth every minute I put into them – the chewy blondies, the salty pretzels combined with the sweet homemade caramel – it was over the top, but wonderful at the same time.  I guess sometimes overkill is the way to go…as long as you leave some time for the next amazing quest.



  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups (packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Peanut-pretzel caramel:

  • 4 cups roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups 1 1/2″-wide thin twisted pretzels, coarsely crushed

Special equipment: A 13x9x2″ metal baking pan


For blondie: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 1″ overhang on long sides of pan. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Stir butter in a medium skillet over medium heat until browned bits form at bottom of pan, 7–8 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl. Add brown sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat until well combined and mixture resembles wet sand, 2–3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy and well combined, about 2 minutes. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth (batter will be thick). Using an offset or regular spatula, evenly spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake blondie until golden brown, edges pull away from sides of pan, and a tester inserted into center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 20–25 minutes. Let cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

For peanut-pretzel caramel: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread peanuts over sheet in an even layer. Bake, stirring frequently, until golden brown and fragrant, 5–7 minutes. Set aside.

Stir sugar and 1/2 cup water in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is deep amber, 12–15 minutes. Add honey; return to a boil, stirring often, about 1 minute longer. Add butter; stir until blended. Add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously); whisk until smooth. Stir in peanuts and pretzels. Pour over cooled blondie. Chill until cool, about 30 minutes.

Run a knife around short sides of pan to release blondie. Using parchment-paper overhang, lift from pan. Cut lengthwise into 4 strips. Cut each strip crosswise into 10 bars.

DO AHEAD: Chill for up to 1 week in an airtight container. Bring to room temperature before serving.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Butterscotch Blondie Bars with Peanut-Pretzel Caramel

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Coconut Brownie Sundaes

This is the story of my life in one sentence:  I can always do more…  Unfortunately this sentence plagues me day in and day out.  I don’t like to waste a minute of time, and what that means is I am constantly running from one thing to the next, leaving very little time in between.  If I feel like I have a little extra time, I take that time and run with it – and then that usually makes me late for the next task.  It is a curse, although on the other hand, I am extremely productive!  And tired.

The other week we were invited to our neighbor’s house for dinner, and was asked to bring dessert.  I really had all day to prepare something, but I wanted to get errands done, and pretty soon I had an hour left to prepare.  I looked in the refrigerator and saw that there was some extra creme of coconut in a container…and that got me thinking about this recipe I found in Bon Appetit ages ago, but never had an opportunity to make it – Coconut Caramel Sauce.  I quickly found the recipe, and decided to try it out – I also had vanilla ice-cream in the freezer, so I decided that ice-cream and caramel would make an excellent dessert.  When I looked at the recipe, it looked so simple, that I knew I would have a little extra time – and wouldn’t brownies just taste delicious with that ice-cream and caramel?  They are super quick, and ridiculously delicious – and the last time I made them, I remember thinking about how awesome they would be with caramel.

So – I got to work, and within an hour, both were ready and waiting.  The caramel was amazing – it was just perfect with those brownies and ice-cream, you would have thought I had been baking all day!!  So, I got lucky, and the problem is that when things work out so well, it gives me no incentive to change…but then again, I have been living my life this way for over 20 years, and as long as I can make brownies and home-made caramel sauce in under an hour, the future is looking brighter and brighter.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cream of coconut (such as Coco López)*
  • Classic Fudge Brownies
  • 1 1/2 pints purchased French vanilla ice cream

* Sweetened cream of coconut is available in the liquor section of most supermarkets.


Place sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy deep medium saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high. Boil until mixture turns dark amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Remove from heat. Immediately add cream and sweetened cream of coconut (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk over low heat until caramel sauce is blended and smooth and any caramel bits dissolve. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and chill. Rewarm slightly over medium heat, stirring often, before using.

Scoop ice cream on top of a brownie. Spoon some of warm caramel sauce over.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Coconut Brownie Sundaes

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Caramel Brownies

Have you ever made something following a recipe that just didn’t turn out at all like the picture?  Ok, maybe I should rephrase the question – is there anyone out there who this hasn’t happened to?  I have to admit, I choose my recipes very carefully, and for the most part, I get lucky.  Before I had this blog, I actually didn’t care as much what my creations looked like – as long as they tasted good.  All of a sudden appearance has become extremely important.  The last thing I want to do is spend hours making something that tastes incredible, but takes a horrible picture – then I am left convincing you that you HAVE to make it – even though it looks horrendous.  I actually recall doing that a couple of times, and I swear, it is not easy.  Beautiful pictures take us in, in fact you can almost taste the food with your eyes.  There are times though when the picture just does not do the food justice.  Such a sad statement.

Back to the brownies – now, I have never really made a bad batch of brownies – until Thanksgiving week.  I made the worst brownies ever – they were caramel brownies, and you would think, how could they be bad?  Well, they were – even my family agreed these were not worth eating.  I swear it was the first batch of brownies I ever had to just give to the compost bin – and I do not waste food, but I just could not waste the calories on these crumbly brown squares.  Soon afterwards, I found this recipe in Cooking Light – another batch of Caramel Brownies.  I figured there was no way this could happen again.  As I was making these brownies though, I knew something was just not right.  The topping was a little runny, and did not cover the brownies well.  I decided all was not lost though, since there was another layer of chocolate to drizzle on top.  The problem was that the chocolate was just too runny – so as I tried to drizzle it on top, it basically just ran all over the caramel, and looked horrible.  There was only one last thing to try, and that was to spread the chocolate and cover the caramel completely.  The chocolate didn’t cover the caramel though as well as I hoped, but at that point I didn’t care.  I took a bite, and they were so delicious.  Much moister and chewier than the other caramel brownies, and the layer of dark chocolate on top was just the perfect balance with the sweet caramel.  So – even though these look nothing like the picture in the magazine, they tasted great – and none of them got close to the compost bin, thank goodness!



  • 3 19/50 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Cooking spray


  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt


Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare brownies, weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking powder) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine 6 tablespoons butter, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add butter mixture to flour mixture; stir to combine. Scrape batter into a 9-inch square metal baking pan lightly coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

To prepare topping, melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons milk; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; stir with a whisk until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over cooled brownies. Let stand 20 minutes or until set.

Combine 2 tablespoons milk and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until melted, stirring after 20 seconds. Stir just until smooth; drizzle over caramel. Sprinkle with sea salt; let stand until set. Cut into squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Caramel Brownies

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Oatmeal Coconut Squares with Chocolate Chips

What do you do when dinner about 30 minutes away from being done, and you have no fresh baked goods in the house for dessert?  Well, most people would just say – there is no dessert.  In my family, that doesn’t go over so well.  That is not to say that we have fresh baked goods every night for dessert – but it was a weekend, and we decided to take a vote.  What do you think won?  Of course the fresh baked goods.

I took out one of my old recipe binders, where I cut out recipes in magazines and actually put them in a photo album, with all intentions of making them.  I did this for years, until I decided – out of sight out of mind – and that’s when I started piling my recipes on the counter (and later on in the pantry) – so they were always in my face when I was looking for something to make.  I was in search of a very quick and easy recipe that my kids could make without my help – and that we had all the ingredients.  After flipping pages for almost 10 minutes, I found it – the Oatmeal Coconut Squares from Gourmet Magazine – years and years ago.  We had all the ingredients, and the recipe was so easy, I just let them loose.  They were the perfect quick and easy dessert – and I think my 6 year old did most of the work – my 9 year old supervised, which is a role she loves playing in the kitchen.  So – if you don’t feel like making dessert tonight – go and get a little person to make this for you.  You and your little person will thank me for it!


  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (milk or semisweet)
  • 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven to 350°F.

Line a 9-inch square metal baking pan with a 12- to 14-inch-long sheet of foil, letting excess hang over sides, and butter foil in pan.

Toss together oats, flour, brown sugar, chips, coconut, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Beat together butter, egg, and vanilla with a fork in another bowl, then stir into oat mixture until incorporated. Spoon batter into baking pan, patting evenly.

Bake in middle of oven until set, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan by lifting ends of foil. Cool on a rack, then cut into 16 squares.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Oatmeal Coconut Squares with Chocolate Chips

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