Sheet Pan S’mores

pan-sheet-smores

What a week!  Thank goodness it ended on a high note – it was truly a day that will imprint on my memory forever, and a highlight of my career.  I won’t go into details, but it is days that these that keep you going, particularly when you wonder why you work so hard.  It is nice to see that light bulb go on in people’s heads – and that’s exactly what happened.

It was also a big week for a couple of other organizations that are near and dear to me. Stonyfield Farms announced last week that they now part of the B Corps Community.  This certification ensures that these companies are not just serving their shareholders, but also our communities and our planet.  In reading about this certification, it makes me even more proud to represent their products.  Some of my other favorite brands are also part of this community: King Arthur FlourPurely Elizabeth, Method, Pukka, Pete and Gerry’s, and Preserve.  These are products that I trust, and I seek out – and in times like these, there is nothing more important than to support companies that are looking out for our future.

certified-b-corp

And now we get to S’mores…it is Girl Scout Cookie time once again!!  This year the Girl Scouts really out did themselves with the new S’mores cookies.  I was fortunate enough to attend this amazing event last Thursday evening to celebrate the launch of cookie season.  This event was hosted by the Girl Scouts of Western Washington, and it was a Cookies & Cocktails party – with Girl Scout cookie themed bites and cocktails made by Seattle’s famous woman chefs and mixologists.

The Girl Scouts are an amazing organization.  Their mission is building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place, by helping them discover their inner strength, passions, and talents. Working at a company that is predominantly male has really taught me how important it is for women to be heard – and without that confidence and courage, it can be difficult.  Fortunately this organization is teaching girls at a young age how important it is, so when they grow up and are in the workplace, they won’t even have to think about it.  They will hold their head high, proud of what they are able to accomplish.

I found this recipe in Cooking Light – and I must say, it was a HUGE hit with our friends.  But don’t fret – the Girl Scouts have got your back – no need to make these from scratch for the next month – just find your nearest Girl Scout and buy a box of their delicious cookies!

Ingredients

  • 1 (14.4-oz.) box graham crackers, lightly crushed
  • 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/8 tsp. salt, divided
  • 5 large egg whites, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 large egg
  • Cooking spray
  • 12 oz. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/3 cup water

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Process crackers in a food processor until fine crumbs form; transfer to a large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons sugar, butter, ¼ teaspoon salt, 1 egg white, and whole egg, stirring to combine.

Press crumb mixture into bottom of a 13- x 18-inch jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until crust is set. Remove from oven; sprinkle chocolate in an even layer over hot crust, spreading evenly as the chocolate melts. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Preheat broiler to high.

Place remaining 4 egg whites in a large bowl. Add vanilla, cream of tartar, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; beat with a mixer at high speed until soft peaks form. Combine remaining 1 cup sugar and ? cup water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer registers 250°. Gradually pour hot sugar syrup in a thin stream over egg whites, beating at medium-low speed, then at high speed until stiff peaks form. Spread meringue over cooled chocolate-graham crust. Place pan on middle rack of oven; broil 1½ minutes or until meringue topping is toasted and golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut into 30 squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  pan-sheet-smores

Please note: As a Team Stonyfield ambassador, I am being compensated. All opinions about Stonyfield Farm’s products are always my own.

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UnReal Peanut Butter Brownies

unreal-peanut-butter-brownies

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Halloween already!  I feel like the girls just finished their candy from last Halloween – that is the goal anyway, to make that candy last as long as possible.  They are already strategizing hard for tomorrow – making sure that they get their fair share.

Fall is my favorite season – particularly for baking – although this year, for some reason, it didn’t really happen.  The weekends are filled with shuttling here and there, and catching up from the week – it’s amazing how much piles up these days.  Thankfully this weekend, I didn’t have a choice – I had to get a post out – and I am so glad.

The folks from Unreal Candy sent me a wonderful care package the other week, with three types of candy to try.  I loved the Candy Coated Milk Chocolate and the Almond Butter Cups – but I must say, my favorite were the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.  I have never been much of a peanut butter cup fan, because they are just too sweet for me – but with the dark chocolate – they were perfect!  So when it was time to decide which ones to showcase – those were the ones I chose.

My girls have been wondering where all the baked goods have gone – although they know I have been busy, and haven’t been complaining – but when I asked if they would like me to make brownies, there were smiles all over the place.  I even got cheers from my little one when I told her my idea – peanut butter brownies…  I decided to try these without using eggs, but with yogurt as a substitute – thanks to my friends at Stonyfield Farms.  These were UnReal – just like the candy – so chocolatey and delicious, with a layer of peanut better in the middle. UnReal, that’s just about all I can say.

Please note: As a Team Stonyfield ambassador, I am being compensated. All opinions about Stonyfield Farm’s products and Bob’s Red Mill products are always my own.

Ingredients

Brownies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 Tbsp. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

Peanut Butter Layer

  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 5 1/2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • UnReal peanut butter cups, roughly chopped, for topping

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9x9x2-inch metal baking pan.
Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Combine 1/2 cup chocolate chips and butter in a large stainless-steel bowl. Set bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and stir until chocolate and butter are melted and smooth. Remove bowl from heat; whisk in sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and yogurt. Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.

In another small mixing bowl, mix together the peanut butter, 1 tablespoon butter and powdered sugar until smooth.

Pour half the brownie the batter into the prepared pan. Next, dollop the peanut butter mixture onto the brownie batter then layer the remaining batter on top of the other layers. Gently spread the batter to the sides if needed. Don’t worry if all the batter does not cover the whole surface area, it will smooth out as the brownies bake.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the brownies are set on top. Allow the brownies to cool completely before frosting.

Meanwhile, to make the frosting, heat the cream in a saucepan until just below a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate and peanut butter until melted and smooth. Add the vanilla until smooth and creamy. Set the frosting aside until the brownies are cool enough to frost.

Once the brownies are cool, spread the frosting over top. Sprinkle with chopped peanut butter cups. Allow the frosting to set about 30 minutes then slice into bars. Brownies can be stored at room temp or in the fridge for about four days.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: unreal-peanut-butter-brownies

Sesame-Peanut Bars

Sesame-Peanut Bars

As my grandmother would say, “What a revolting development…”  I heard her say that when things were pretty grim.  That was exactly what came into my head when I learned what was going on in Paris.  The city that we lived in this summer for 6 wonderful weeks.  The city that I get, and where I belong, despite it’s unrest.  They chose places where locals hang out – it wasn’t the tourist places this time.  But it did happen to be an area that we spent quite a bit of time in.

I remember waking up this summer fearful every morning for something like this, but it didn’t stop me.  I was careful and aware at all times.  I remember one day we were walking around near the Place de la Republique (very close to the attacks), and all of a sudden there were armed police everywhere.  They came out of no where.  I looked around, and told my girls we had to walk quickly.  We needed to get out of there, and we were not about to board the subway.  So, we took off, down some sides streets, but quickly we were far enough away that I felt better.  I still never found out what was going on, but there must have been a threat of something, and I was very thankful that no one was hurt that day.  Unfortunately, Friday was different.

I am slowly getting myself back into a regular schedule, after being gone for 3 months.  I can’t believe it has taken me this long, but it has.  I am now to the point where I am starting to go through my pantry and use up ingredients that have been sitting there a little too long.  Take these black sesame seeds – I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with them, until I saw this recipe in Bon Appetit.  It couldn’t have been more perfect.  I wasn’t sure how these were going to turn out, but they were right up my husband’s alley.  He has confiscated the rest for snacks at work this week.

Paris will always be in my thoughts, and I am always looking forward to my next trip.  Even now, after this revolting development.  They need our support now more than ever.  I hope they feel all the love from around the world, helping them to feel safe again.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 stick of butter
  • 1 1/4 cups white and/or black sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation

Butter an 8×8″ glass baking dish; line with parchment paper, leaving a generous overhang on all sides. Mix 1 1/4 cups white and/or black sesame seeds, 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, 1/4 cup unsalted, roasted peanuts, and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl. Mix 1/4 cup honey, 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter, and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in a small bowl. Add to sesame seed mixture and mix well.

Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish; press firmly into an even layer. Bake at 350°F until golden brown around the edges, 20–25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool until firm, 30–40 minutes. Lift out of baking dish (if it starts to crumble, let cool longer) and cut into 16 bars. Let cool completely.

Do Ahead:  Bars can be made 3 days ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature.

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

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No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

No-Bake Chewy Ganola Bars

What did you do with your extra hour?  Did you get some much needed sleep?  Did you finish that project that you just haven’t been able to fit in?  I know, there are always too many things on the list, and not enough time to get to everything.  That extra hour though is a gift, a luxury, and one that I look forward to each and every year.

This fall things have been a little crazier than normal, with all of the Seattle Public School drama that has been going on.  From the changing bell times, to the budget cuts, the district has kept my family and I on our toes for what has been a very tumultuous ride.  Just when I think that things are getting better, another tree falls in the middle of the road, and you just stop and wonder how you are going to keep moving.  The latest email I received once again brought my older daughter to tears.  She has seen it all – and it has not always turned out for the best – but she is dealing with it.  At 13, she is definitely experiencing real life.

For weeks we have been broaching the subject of High School, and where she will go – because we actually thought she would have a choice.  If the School Board votes for the latest proposed changes – she will no longer have a choice, and may no longer be part of a curriculum that fits her needs.  Let’s see what happens, we shouldn’t jump the gun just yet – but we have been here before, and the worst has happened.  And she knows that…

So what did I do with my extra hour?  I made some granola bars – some delicious chewy no-bake granola bars which I adapted from Cooking Light. And the best news is that it didn’t take the whole hour.  And because of that, I actually had some time to post these tonight.  So if you haven’t decided what to do with your extra hour…why not spend it in the kitchen?  It certainly made my day a little brighter.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup ancient-grain cereal blend (such as Cheerios + Ancient Grains)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted pistachios
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup mini-chocolate chips
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Combine first 6 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl.

Combine peanut butter and honey in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook 3 minutes or until peanut butter melts, stirring frequently.  Mix in the chocolate chips.

Pour peanut butter mixture over oat mixture; stir well to combine. Spread mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray; press firmly to form a compact, even layer. Place pan in freezer for 10 minutes. Remove from freezer, and cut into 12 bars.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here: No-Bake Chewy Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Bars

Peanut Butter Bars

Today is my Aunt’s birthday – she would have been 63 years old today.  My family is full of bakers – in every generation.  Bonnie was not really known as a baker, although she will always go down in history for winning the brownie bake-off two years in a row.  Unfortunately I had already moved to the west coast at this point, and I wasn’t able to participate in the fun – but my family took this competition very seriously.  This was not an easy contest to win, and I remember talking to her after she won – I could see her beaming all the way on the other side of the country.

As if it was bad enough to lose Bonnie, now my Uncle is sick.  Fortunately he has a ravenous appetite, which in our family is a really good thing.  My mother went to visit him today with a pile of chocolate chip cookies – she said he ate a few, and then hid the rest from all his visitors.  I laughed – since at this point, I think that is completely appropriate.

I couldn’t go tomorrow empty handed, so I thought long and hard about what I wanted to make him.  I wanted to make brownies, but I thought that something a little different was in order – peanut butter.  Who doesn’t love chocolate and peanut butter?  I remembered this recipe that my friend Kirsty posted – and I thought they would be perfect.  I adapted the recipe slightly below – and the sample bite I had today was exactly what I was looking for.  A nice peanut butter flavor with a chocolate chip in every bite.  They might not be Bonnie’s winning recipe, but they were made with love.  Just like hers.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 c flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (milk chocolate or dark chocolate)

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9‐in x 13‐in baking dish and set aside. Beat the butter and peanut butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar; mix well. Next add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Finally mix in the vanilla. In a separate mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Slowly incorporate the flour into the peanut butter mixture. Next stir in the chocolate chips. Then spread the batter into the greased baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or un􀆟l lightly browned. Cool, slice and serve.

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

Triple Nut Energy Bars

 

Triple Nut Energy Bars

It is amazing to me how biased people can become.  Not just on food, but on anything.  You buy something – you love it, and then all of a sudden everything that company makes is amazing.  Some people would call that brand loyalty, I would actually call it something different.  That can happen just as easily with people.  You are impressed by what someone does – and maybe that happens a few times, but is that a reason to let your guard down and think that everything that person does is mind-blowing?

It is hard to describe what I have experienced over the past several days – but in some ways, it has helped me tremendously to focus on what I want to do next.  There is no reason to sit back any longer.  I thought my plan was pretty clear before last night – but as the evening wore on, things solidified even more.  Last night I experienced something truly unique.  Something that many people will never have the opportunity to be a part of.  I felt honored to be included, and both my husband and I were blown away.  It was exactly what I needed – I swear the trees parted ways in my head.  I am on a mission, and I can hardly wait to get started.

Now of course there will be bumps in the road, but in any venture, it is all about how you recover.  As I have mentioned, I have been on a KIND Bar kick lately – every weekend I make a batch for the week.  Surprisingly we have not become sick of them yet – but wouldn’t you know that last month’s Cooking Light had an article about energy bars?  They had a bunch of recipes for a similar bar, and of course I decided I had to compare.  Now remember – I never look at the ratings of recipes before I make that – that would take all the fun out of everything.

So – I whipped up a batch of these bars (adapting slightly to our tastes) and they looked wonderful.  That was until I tried to cut them.  They basically just crumbled into a mess.  There was no way I was getting nice rectangular shapes out of this batch.  So, I did what I could – I cut as many square bars as I could, then the rest of the crumbs I put in a container for on top of yogurt.  I gave the bars to my husband to bring to work – even though they were crumbly – I must say, they were delicious.  The crunchy quinoa was such a welcome treat, and the nut butter combined with coconut was just perfect.  Turns out, the people at his worked LOVED them – they were gone in a matter of hours.  So – what I thought was an absolute bust – turned out to be quite the opposite.  A lesson that can be applied anywhere…and I am sure one that will get a lot of use over the next year.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 cup cashews, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup salted, dry-roasted pistachios, chopped
  • 1/3 cup flaked unsweetened coconut
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal or wheat germ
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsalted creamy almond butter
  • 6 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°.

Spread oats and quinoa on a baking sheet. Bake at 350° for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Place oat mixture in a large bowl, and stir in cashews, almonds, pistachios, coconut, flaxseed meal, and chocolate.

Combine almond butter, agave, oil, and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour almond butter mixture over oat mixture; toss well to coat. Press mixture into an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 13 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in dish. Cut evenly into (1 x 4-inch) bars – or just crumble and serve on top of yogurt or ice-cream.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Triple Nut Energy Bars

Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies

Salted Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies

Life is all about choices.  What seems like a rather insignificant decision at one point in your life, can completely turn into something quite impactful.  When you stop and look at your life today, think back to how you got there, and you will be quite astonished, at least I am.  I think about how I met my husband in college, and if I had not gone to that school, where would I be now?  He was the main reason we came to Seattle, where I have spent the last 18 years of my life.  I look at my amazing children and think…wow, it was all because I saw that cat in the library.  And fortunately my husband and I ended up in the same freshman dorm.  Who knows if we would have met otherwise?

I guess you can do the same with mistakes you have made.  One wrong turn, and it can come crashing down.  And believe me, it is not pretty.  It is those times that you wish you could look back and make a different decision,
but often times it is too late.

For the most part I am a fairly decisive person.  Although, I absolutely have a right to change my mind.  I tend to work so quickly though, I don’t like to get bogged down.  Once I have the data I need, I move forward.  Now of course that is not always the case with food. Particularly when I am at a restaurant with too many good choices.  Thank goodness those decisions don’t usually have lifelong impact.  Cooking is a whole different game.  I usually know what I am after, and I make it happen.

On my continued quest to make homemade treats for lunches, with the added twist of baking dairy-free, I made a tough decision to substitute earth balance sticks for butter.  I found the recipe in Bon Appetit, and for the most part, their recipes are on the mark.  I think they do a really good job testing their recipes, and I am good at following directions, which makes for a very good combination.  I decided on earth balance as opposed to oil (which is what I normally bake with), because I thought the oil would make the bars too dense.  Well, turns out that the earth balance sticks were the same way.  Now, don’t get me wrong, we still polished off the entire tray of these, but they could have been just a little lighter.  But seriously – the homemade strawberry jam that I used, really made the entire dessert.  Fortunately for me, that decision will not have any life long consequences…at least I think so.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1¼  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons  strawberry jam
  • 1 tablespoon chopped honey-roasted peanuts

Preparation

Whisk together 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, 1 tsp. baking powder, and 1 tsp. kosher salt. Whisk together 2 large eggs, 1 ½ cups light brown sugar, ¾ cup smooth peanut butter, ½ cup melted unsalted butter, and 1 tsp. vanilla extract; fold in dry ingredients. Scrape batter into a buttered 8×8″ baking pan. Dollop with 2 Tbsp. strawberry jam; top with 1 Tbsp. chopped honey-roasted peanuts. Bake at 350° until a tester comes out clean, 35-40 minutes. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, please click here:  Peanut Butter and Jelly Blondies