Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

I have always loved when my aunt, Debbie, comes to visit. Since I can remember, I’ve looked forward to her trips to see my parents and me and spend time with us.

She’s my cool aunt. You know, the member of my family, other than my parents, that I look up to, admire, want to spend time with. I distinctly remember her past visits fondly. They involved lots of shopping, watching movies, and going out to eat.

Cherry Pie Bars

I think my all-time favorite visit of hers was a long time ago when we spent a day painting our nails purple, eating pretzel nuggets right from the bag, and watching Spice World. I told you it was a long time ago! I sometimes wish I could transport back to that day.

It had been a very long time since Debbie came to visit, so late last year I asked her if she’d like to take a trip here and go to the Justin Timberlake concert with Mom and me (more on that fabulous show next week!). She said yes! It just took Justin Timberlake to get her to visit; no one can say no to Justin! While it seemed like the concert was eons away at the time, it came up super quickly.

We didn’t waste a single moment of the long weekend. The time flew by and was full of talking, a day of shopping, and some baking! We had to get in the kitchen for some bonding time.

Cherry Pie Bars

We made Cherry Pie Bars. Blackberry Pie Bars are one of my favorite recipes, so I was excited to mix them up with cherries. They did not disappoint. The crisp buttery shortbread with the creamy vanilla filling, and those juicy, sweet cherries is an irresistible combination. Plus, they are equally tasty warm from the oven or cold from the refrigerator. We could not stop eating them!

Even better than the bars was the time spent with Mom and Debbie in the kitchen talking and baking the day away. It’s a memory forever treasured in my mind. I really hope Debbie’s next visit is soon . . . even if it doesn’t involve Justin or Cherry Pie Bars.

Cherry Pie Bars

Cherry Pie Bars

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Yield: 18 bars

Ingredients

Shortbread

Zest of 1 orange

Zest of 1 lemon

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cubed

Filling

4 large eggs

2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup sour cream

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

6 cups fresh Bing cherries, washed, dried, stemmed, and pitted

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9 by 13 inch pan.

In a large bowl, stir together orange and lemon zest, sugar, flour, and salt until combined. Add butter and work in with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the butter is about the size of peas and has been well distributed.

Reserve 1 ½ cups of the shortbread in a small bowl. Pour the remainder of the shortbread into the pan and press it in firmly. Bake 15-20 minutes until light golden brown.

While the crust cools, prepare the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, and vanilla bean paste until fully incorporated. Fold in the cherries. Pour the filling over the baked crust and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle with reserved crumb topping.

Place the pan on a baking sheet larger than the pan to catch any drips (mine dripped a lot) and bake for an additional 45-55 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool at least one hour before cutting. Bars may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or frozen, wrapped individually in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator about 1 hour.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

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How Suits Inspires Me + Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

I have been wanting to write a letter to Suits creator Aaron Korsh for awhile now, but I couldn’t find an address to send it to him. Then I realized I have a vehicle through my blog. I figured I’d post the letter here and cross my fingers he’ll read it. Here goes nothing!

Dear Aaron,

When I watch Suits, I think three things. First, “Yay, Suits is on,” because it’s pretty much my favorite show. Second, I wish Harvey was real and would be my boyfriend since he’s smart and handsome and charismatic and basically perfect (am I right, ladies?). Third, I want nothing more from life than to have the opportunity to create a show as wonderful as Suits.

Suits takes me away from my life and all its problems. It makes me happy, makes me cheer for the characters, makes me wish I was a part of the characters’ world. Very few people have the talent you do to create such escapism, but I believe I do.

I have several completed novels, two completed screenplays, and a spec script. I have submitted my novels to agents on several occasions without success. I have submitted one of my screenplays to contests and received positive feedback, which is inspiring. There are, however, very few agents that accept unsolicited submissions from screenwriters.

Because I so admire your work, I was wondering if you would help me get my foot in the door and start my career. I’d appreciate any advice you could offer or any connections you could give me. Seriously, only a moment of your time would mean the world to me. I hope you have had the chance to read this letter. And if you have, thank you for doing so! It only takes one person to make my dreams come true, and I think that person just might be you. Oh, and thank you for creating Suits!

Best,
Laura Dembowski

Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

For those of you here for a recipe and not to hear about my dreams, you’ll be glad you stuck around. These cherry crumb bars are crazy good. Yes, making them means pitting a little less than two hundred cherries, but they are worth every moment of the messy work. I recommend investing in a cherry pitter, but you can also pit cherries easily with a paring knife. I’ve done it both ways because summer means pitting lots of cherries for treats like this. The slightly crispy, slightly crumbly shortbread crust, paired with the sweet, juicy cherries, and the slightly sandy, melt in your mouth topping is the perfect combination, just like the world of Suits!

Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

Sweet Cherry Crumb Bars

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: 24 bars

Ingredients

5 heaping cups Bing cherries, stemmed, pitted, and halved

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups granulated sugar

¾ cup packed dark brown sugar, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cubed

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9 by 13 inch pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, and salt until combined. Add the butter and work it in using your fingers or a pastry cutter until the butter is evenly distributed in pea sized pieces and the mixture is crumbly.

In a medium bowl, stir together cherries, 1 cup of the crumb mixture, remaining ¼ cup brown sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon until well combined.

Pour half of the remaining crumb mixture into the prepared pan. Press it down firmly with your hands and bake for about 12 minutes, until light golden brown.

Allow crust to cool slightly before spreading the cherry mixture on to it in an even layer. Top cherries with remaining crumb topping. Press the topping gently into the cherries. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 40-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the cherries are bubbling. Cool completely in the pan before cutting into bars and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature about an hour or in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Crepes of Wrath

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Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars #SundaySupper

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars #SundaySupper

Everyone has problems.  That’s what my seventh grade science teacher once told Mom.  I was pretty smart, a straight A student, but socially, I didn’t fit in.  I pretty much never chatted with my peers.  Instead I minded my own business, moving quickly from class to class, sitting silently, being ignored at lunch and standing alone at recess, contemplating life’s big issues . . . or my weekend plans, unless Mom was there helping out, in which case, I happily talked to her.

It was easy to look at the popular kids and think they led perfect lives, but they didn’t.  I’m not sure why this didn’t dawn on me until that teacher said this.  It was like a revelation.  It didn’t make us all best friends, far from it, but it made me understand that I was not the only one struggling in some way.  I may not have known the issues they dealt with, but they were there.  Whether they couldn’t make the grades, didn’t earn a spot on a sports team, or had issues outside of school, no one was immune.

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

The same is true today.  I am constantly guilty of looking at others and assuming their lives must be absolutely fantastic, but everyone has issues.  Maybe I’m wishing I was a fearless traveler like a family friend.  Perhaps I’m admiring the fame, fashion, and friends of my favorite celebrity.  Or even just wanting the career of a fellow food blogger.  But all those people, they have issues too.  We always think the grass is greener on the other side, when in fact that probably isn’t the case.

It’s important to remember that anyone can suffer; anyone can want to curl into a ball and cry the day away; no one’s life is perfect.  Because if you’re anything like me, you’ve looked at other people’s lives and believed them to be perfect, when in reality you’re only seeing the surface.  We need to take time to appreciate the perfect and imperfect parts of our lives and find happiness with what we have and work to change the things we aren’t happy with.

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

If anything is perfect, it’s these Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars.  Seriously, I may never eat pumpkin pie again – these are that good.  The bottom shortbread crust is super firm and crunchy with a deep, complex, caramelized flavor.  Then there’s the filling.  It’s just like pumpkin pie filling with tons of warm spices.  The only way I’d improve it is to add a little bourbon because bourbon makes everything better!  And then there’s the crumb topping, crunchy in spots, soft in others.  The individual components are rock stars, but together – OMG!  This is irresistible!  This must be on your Thanksgiving table!

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

 Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars

Pumpkin Pie Crumb Bars #SundaySupper

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 55 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 9 bars

Ingredients

Crust and Crumb

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups quick cooking oats

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed light brown sugar

1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Filling

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ¼ cups pumpkin puree (I used homemade, but canned will work)

1/3 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 inch square pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, oats, salt, baking soda, and sugars until fully combined. Add butter and vanilla and stir until all ingredients are moistened. Press half of the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, make the filling. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, egg, egg yolk, vanilla, pumpkin, and cream until a homogeneous mixture is formed. Pour filling over baked crust and return to the oven to bake for 15 minutes more.

After the filling has baked, remove it from the oven and sprinkle remaining crust mixture over the top, breaking it into crumbs of various sizes. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until the crumbs are golden brown and the center is still slightly jiggly. Cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 additional hour before carefully cutting (the bottom crust is tough to cut through) and serving. Bars may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or frozen, individually wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for about 2 hours.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy

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Don’t forget to check out all the other Sunday Supper dishes!

Breakfasts and Breads

 

Appetizers, Starters, and Condiments

 

Soups, Sandwiches, and Salads

 

Main Dishes

 

Side Dishes

 

Desserts

Wine Pairing Recommendations for Squashin’ Winter #SundaySupper from Enofylz Wine Blog

Sunday Supper MovementJoin the #SundaySupper conversation on twitter on Sunday! We tweet throughout the day and share recipes from all over the world. Our weekly chat starts at 7:00 pm ET.  Follow the #SundaySupper hashtag and remember to include it in your tweets to join in the chat. Check out our #SundaySupper Pinterest board for more fabulous recipes and food photos.

Would you like to join the Sunday Supper Movement? It’s easy. You can sign up by clicking here: Sunday Supper Movement.

Salted Caramel Squares

Salted Caramel Squares

Baseball season started this week.  I love that I means the beginning of spring (I hope), but I’m not much of a baseball fan.  I don’t really understand the game or why it’s entertaining.  Sure, I love when the Tigers make it to the playoffs and I still remember cheering for the Yankees (yes, I’m kind of a Yankees fan) in the 2001 World Series.  Mom and I would stay up way too late watching the games.  It was riveting and our eyes were glued, positively glued, to the TV.

I’ve been to one game in person many moons ago.  Dad got tickets from work for us and some of our friends.  The seats were in the first two rows on one baseline or another.  It also happened to be the fourth of July.  So that means it was searing hot outside.  My makeup was melted, my hair a mess, and I was generally uncomfortable.  No, miserable might be a more accurate description.

Salted Caramel Squares

Salted Caramel Squares

I remember eating a few peanuts and McDonald’s.  Why we didn’t get a hot dog, I don’t know, and while I don’t remember what I ordered, I do remember it was the best food I’d ever had from McDonald’s.  I haven’t eaten from there in years, but my young self took comfort in some golden arches food that day.  It actually kind of saved the day.

As if the weather wasn’t bad enough, at some point during the game, the sky opened up and it poured.  Luckily our friend had an umbrella and rescued us from the downpour.  I don’t think we stayed much longer.  We had no idea there was so much as a chance of rain.  I guess I didn’t obsessively check the weather back then like I do now (fifties and rainy next week?  Really?  That’s the best we can do?)  In fact, I don’t remember who the Tigers played or if they even won.  Dad and I both vowed to never go to a baseball game again.

Salted Caramel Squares

Salted Caramel Squares

So instead of heading to the ball park, I went to the kitchen and made Salted Caramel Squares.  The shortbread crust is not my favorite, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s only a vehicle for the home run caramel on top.  Seriously, this caramel is deep, complex, rich, not too sweet, and totally amazing.  I am in love with it.  It’s made even better with a sprinkling of sea salt.

This recipe also serves a lot, as a small serving is enough even to satisfy my giant sweet tooth with the ooey, gooey, vanilla bean flecked caramel and the crumbly, crunchy shortbread.  Oh, yeah, these are definitely better than sitting through another baseball game.

Salted Caramel Squares

Salted Caramel Squares

Don’t miss my Bob’s Red Mill Giveaway either!  I know you’ll love their products as much as I do!

4.7 from 11 reviews
Salted Caramel Squares
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 32
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
Caramel
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds and pod reserved
  • 2 ¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 ¾ sticks unsalted butter
  • Maldon Sea Salt, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch pan and line it with parchment leaving an overhang to pull the bars out later.
  2. Make the crust. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together using a hand mixer, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until once again light and fluffy, and then beat in the flour. Place the dough in the prepared pan and press it into an even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until light golden brown.
  3. While the crust cools, make the caramel. In a small saucepan, bring the cream and vanilla bean pod and seeds to a simmer. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm.
  4. In a very large saucepan, stir together the sugar and water over medium heat. Stop stirring and allow the sugar to cook until deep amber. This part takes awhile, but is so worth it. As soon as the caramel is to the desired color, remove it from the heat and add the cream. It will bubble vigorously. Once the bubbling begins to subside stir in the butter a few tablespoons at a time. Using your spoon to scrape the caramel off the bottom of the pan – it will melt back into the caramel.
  5. Place the pan over medium-high heat and attach a candy thermometer. While stirring, allow the mixture to come to 240 degrees F on the thermometer. Once this happens, remove it from the heat, remove the vanilla bean pod and pour the caramel over the crust. Sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Allow to cool at room temperature for about an hour until it is cool enough to handle. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hours before cutting and serving. Bars may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or at room temperature for 1 (after being chilled to set), or in the freezer in pieces, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for several hours.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Zoe Nathan, courtesy of Food and Wine

Vanilla Walnut “Shortbread” and Liebster Award

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

Jennifer from Luv What You Do was kind enough to give me for a Liebster Award.  I love reading Jennifer’s blog for all her adventures in fitness and healthy eating.  It is so great to read another blogger’s posts on exercise.  I am always getting healthy ideas and lots of inspiration from Jennifer.  I was absolutely shocked when I received this award, and to be honest I had to do some investigation into what it is.  A Liebster is given to bloggers by other bloggers who like them.  The awarded bloggers then have to share eleven facts about themselves, answer eleven questions from the blogger whom nominated them, share eleven new questions, and nominate eleven bloggers.  I am so honored and excited, so let’s get right to it.

Unflattened Cookies

Eleven Facts About Me

  • I don’t know how to drive a car and I have no interest in learning.  I tried to drive once and felt the car was going to fast when it was idling.  Luckily I have Mom and Dad to drive me places . . . I’ll worry about the future another day.
  • I am obsessed with nail polish.  I have bottle after bottle of it, more than I could ever use.  It makes me feel happy and pretty when I’m down or just at home wearing a track suit.
  • I exercise two hours a day five days a week.  I run for an hour and play Wii Active Life Outdoor Challenge for an hour.  It kicks my butt but makes me feel great and lets me eat all the yummy things I make.
  • If I am at home and awake, my TV is on.  I love watching TV and do so while blogging, baking, writing, eating, reading, sometimes I even leave it on when I sleep.  And there’s even one in my bathroom.
  • I watch almost everything after it has been recorded on my TiVo.  I almost never watch commercials.  I can watch so much more TV!  Yay!
  • I never wear perfume because I’m allergic; however I collect little decorative bottles and display them on a tray in my bedroom.
  • I make a concerted effort to avoid buying things made in China.  My kitchen, closet, house, and life in general are filled with things made in France, Germany, and my favorite, good old America.
  • I never lay out in the sun.  I have fair skin, don’t want to get burned and don’t want skin cancer.  So if I’m spending more than twenty minutes outside I’m carrying an umbrella.
  • I don’t shake hands or fist bump.  I’m germaphobic and don’t want to do something so minor I’ll spend the rest of the day worrying about.  I’ll elbow bump if absolutely necessary.
  • I always wear a small gold and citrine ring that my Granny gave Mom when she was a little girl.  I now also wear one she gave my aunt with an emerald as well.  They remind me of them and make me feel like they are always with me, even if they aren’t.
  • When I am in the house, I always wear Ugg Slippers.  They are so soft and fluffy and keep my feet warm and clean.  I love when I get a new pair as the fur surrounds my toes.  I just wish they lasted longer.  No shoes are ever allowed to be warn in the house.

Unfrozen Cookies

Eleven Questions from Jennifer

  1. What is your astrological sign?  Do you fit the description?

My astrological sign is Aquarius.  I am original, artistic, and inventive, along with being impatient and opinionated.  I am also pretty eccentric, so I would say I surprisingly do fit the description.

2.  What is your favorite winter activity?

My favorite winter activity is staying home and watching TV.  I really do not like winter weather and want desperately to move somewhere warm.  So any activity that allows me to stay home and warm is the best.  I’m a TV addict, so it’s always nice when the fall season starts.

3.  Flats or Heels?

Heels all the way.  If I am outside of the house, I have heels on.  The higher, the better.  The lowest heels I own are 3.5 inches, and the tallest are 6 with a platform.  Shoes are one of my favorite things.

4.  Who was your first kiss?

I still haven’t had my first kiss :(  But it will happen when the time is right.

5.  If you could get rid of one form of social media, what would it be?

Facebook.  I just don’t like Facebook.  It is weird and complicated and not everyone who likes me gets to see my posts and their advertising is funky.  Yeah, not a fan of Facebook.

6.  Last race you participated in?  What race are you doing next?

I have never participated in a race.  While I know I could do one physically, I just don’t know if I have the mental toughness to do it.

7.  What is your favorite gift to give others?

Food.  I’m a foodie and I love sharing great food with others.  If they are close, I love to share the things I make.  But for those far away, I send food from my favorite places, Zingerman’s or Jeni’s Ice Cream, among others.

8.  If you won the lottery, what would be your first purchase?

A house in California and enough hours on a private plane to get there.  I would be happy with that alone forever.

9.  What is your favorite meal?  Breakfast, lunch or Dinner and Why?

Dinner.  It is the meal Mom and I always make together without having to rush around.  It is always different and my favorite way to round out the day.  I also love the foods I eat at dinner – fish, beef, vegetables, fruit, dessert.  And it’s my biggest meal of the day, so as a foodie, it’s bound to be my favorite.

10.  Do your friends, family and coworkers know that you are a blogger?

Anyone who comes into contact with me knows I am a blogger.  If I can have your attention for one moment, I will mention my blog, hand you a business card, and beg you to visit, like me on Facebook, etc.  I want my blog to grow sooooo badly.

11.  What do you like most about blogging and what is the hardest part?

I love that blogging forces me to bake and pushes me out of my comfort zone to do so.  If I’m out of posts, I’m forced to the kitchen to whip up something.  I also don’t want my blog to be filled with boring recipes or the same things everyone else is making, so it’s a blast coming up with different and creative ideas.  The hardest part is growing my blog.  No matter what I do, it just won’t grow.  Please visit and help it grow :)  Taking photos is a very close second.  Sometimes I just want to throw the camera across the room.

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

Eleven New Questions

  1. If you could meet one celebrity who would it be and why?
  2. Where is the best place you have taken a vacation?
  3. What is your favorite thing to do on a day off?
  4. What is your favorite TV show?
  5. What is your favorite season – spring, summer, fall, or winter, and why?
  6. What is your favorite thing you have posted on your blog?
  7. What made you start blogging?
  8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  9. If you could have a superhero power what would it be?
  10. Since I have never been on a first date, what would your ideal first date be like?
  11. Do you have a good luck charm?

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

Eleven Bloggers that Inspire Me

Averie Cooks

The Cooking Actress

Cooking Quidnunc

Crepes of Wrath

Diethood

The Healthy Apple

Julia’s Album

The Messy Baker Blog

The Pancake Princess

The Ruby Red Apron

Sally’s Baking Addiction

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

These are the blogs I read all the time and the bloggers I have come to feel are my friends.  They make this crazy blogging adventure so much more enjoyable, as I look forward to seeing their latest creations day in and day out.  Whenever I need a smile, I look to them and they always provide great content and sometimes a little needed encouragement.

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

On to the recipe.  I wanted to make something quick, easy, and healthy.  That’s right I said healthy.  Aida Mollenkamp tweeted these Vanilla Walnut “Shortbread” Cookies and I knew instantly I had to give them a try.  They are ready in well under an hour, including chilling time.  The flavor and texture are incredible.  Okay, if you gave me a blind taste test, I’m pretty sure I could tell the difference between these and traditional shortbread, but these are a completely addictive guilt free treat.  The honey flavor stands out, which I welcomed, as there aren’t many desserts that really taste like honey.  The texture is fine and sandy, kind of like shortbread.  I also think these could have many variations.  Swap the walnuts for pecans or almonds.  I am also wondering if maple syrup could be used instead of honey to make them vegan in addition to being gluten free.  They can also be raw if you use raw honey.  I did not as it brings more possible health risks than processed honey.  Regardless, whip up a batch of these cookies and eat a couple while visiting my favorite blogs to find some more kitchen inspiration.  I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it.

Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award

4.3 from 8 reviews
Vanilla Walnut "Shortbread" and Liebster Award
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups raw walnuts
  • 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 30-60 seconds, until all the ingredients are combined and a dough is formed. You may need to scrape down the bowl and break up the ingredients if they form a ball.
  2. Take a spoonful of dough and roll it into a ball in your hands. Place it onto the lined baking sheet. Once all the dough has been formed into balls, press down on each ball to flatten it slightly. I did not flatten them too much, but flatten as much as you like. Place the sheet in the freezer for 30 minutes before enjoying. Cookies may be stored in the freezer in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Shutterbean

 

 

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

The Super Bowl means two things for me: commercials and half time.  I like football.  I like the players and their stories.  The underdog winning when you least expect it.  Learning the stories behind the game.  Hearing about the people that aren’t always at the forefront of publicity.  Having something to cheer for, along with the rest of the country, even when it seems there isn’t anything to be happy about.  I love watching the pregame shows.  I’m a FOX viewer, welcoming Curt, Terry, Howie, Michael, and Jimmy into my home every week during the season, along with my local pregame team.  They make me laugh and teach me something about a game I’m not all that familiar with.  I haven’t missed an episode of Inside the NFL in years, even as it changed hosts and networks.

Other than touchdowns and field goals, first downs and punts, I don’t know much about the game itself at all.  Off sides, holding, pass interference, it’s like another language.  When I’m watching Inside the NFL, I fast forward through the highlight segments.  The game itself kind of bores me.  But at the end of the day it’s about moments of amazing plays and winners and losers.  That fascinates me.  I’ll be the first to cheer for an amazing play.  A zero – zero tie heading into the fourth quarter?  I’ll be in the kitchen.

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

The Super Bowl is the only game I actually sit on the couch and watch.  And truthfully, I don’t really watch it.  I can’t get enough of the day long pre game coverage.  Musical performances before the game excite me.  Then the game comes on and I pick up my latest read or my phone to catch up on blog work and email.  But everything gets set aside when the commercials begin.  In a world where I fast forward through every commercial, this is the one night when I am riveted by them, occasionally rewinding to catch it again.  If I need to pause for any reason, it’s during the game I catch up.

Halftime is the best.  A performer’s best in less than fifteen minutes.  It couldn’t get better with not only Beyonce, but also a Destiny’s Child reunion this year.  I’ve seen Destiny’s Child in concert twice and know almost all their songs.  This should be a halftime show that I’ll remember forever.

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Of course, you need a treat while you watch the game.  Sure, there needs to be savory food, but what’s a football game without dessert?  These Caramel Pretzel Bars instantly struck me as Super Bowl worthy.  A thin, yet firm brown sugar shortbread has amazing texture, some of the best I’ve found in shortbread, along with a mild sweetness.  But the topping of caramel, with its complex flavor, accented by honey, and pretzels make these the ultimate treat.  Crunchy, creamy, smooth, sweet, salty – these bars have everything.  I was really impressed by the components separately as well as together.  I have to say the stand out is the caramel.  It’s so rich and smooth, but somehow the honey flavor is really pronounced, a welcome treat.

Whether you’re watching the game, checking out the commercials, or avoiding the hoopla altogether, these bars are a treat for any day.  They’ll leave you yelling touchdown!

Caramel Pretzel Bars

Caramel Pretzel Bars

4.6 from 12 reviews
Caramel Pretzel Bars
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ⅓ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Filling
  • 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ cup honey
  • ¼ cup pure maple syrup (I love Blis)
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 6 cups small pretzel twists, broken into large pieces (I used Rold Gold)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9 by 13 inch baking pan with parchment, leaving overhang to pull the bars out later.
  2. Make the crust. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. I did this by hand, but a hand or stand mixer would work as well. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt and mix until the ingredients are combined and the mixture is crumbly. Press into the pan firmly. Bake for 15-18 minutes until light golden brown around the edges.
  3. While the crust is baking and cooling, make the filling. In a large saucepan over medium or medium-high heat, combine butter, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Add the cream and insert a candy thermometer in the pan. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees F. Once this happens, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the pretzels immediately.
  4. Pour the pretzel-caramel mixture over the prepared crust and spread evenly over the crust. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the mixture is bubbling. Allow to cool completely in the pan. When cool, use the parchment to remove the bars from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut into bars. Bars may stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 1 week, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for about 1 hour.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Saveur

 

 

Sweet 2 Eat Baking

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Thanksgiving in my house is so not traditional, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We did the whole family gathering thing for years.  Each Thanksgiving, school and work ended on Tuesday and Mom, Dad, and I rushed to get ready to head out of town the next day where life would instantly become a whirlwind of grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, table setting, and getting ready.  We were all so busy, I’m not sure anyone took a breath.  Once all of that work was done, it was time for twenty to thirty other people, family and sometimes their friends.  Yes, they’re my family and it was nice seeing them, but I’ve always been very, very nervous around crowds.  When I was younger this fear was even worse, particularly when I couldn’t put eyes on Mom who was off doing one thing or another.  I was just a scared little girl who, by the way, has only eaten a traditional Thanksgiving dinner once and pretty much hated it.  Turkey, stuffing, stuff from a can . . . I just can’t.

Cranberries

It’s been just about ten years since we made that trip, and since then we have built wonderful Thanksgiving traditions of our own.  They might not be your cup of tea, but Thanksgiving is a holiday I have learned to love.  My day begins with America’s Thanksgiving Parade, taking place just half an hour from my house, but so much more fun to watch on TV, avoiding traffic and crowds.  Dad puts up the Christmas tree and village, while watching the Lions win lose.  The house instantly feels warm even if the temperatures outside aren’t.  We forego turkey for a delicious bone-in prime rib (the recipe will be coming in time for Christmas) along with some roasted vegetables.  And you know Mom and I spend the day in the kitchen baking some decadent dessert.

This may not be the Thanksgiving you all spend the year dreaming about, and I do sometimes miss seeing my extended family, but more than that traditional dinner, Thanksgiving is about being thankful for all the amazing things in your life and spending it with the people you love.  I can’t imagine there will ever be two people I love more than Mom and Dad.  I treasure these Thanksgivings, because even though in so many ways it is just another day, the three of us hanging out together, cooking, baking, eating, decorating, it feels special, and I know that one day Thanksgiving will be very different whether I want it to be or not.  So I am very thankful for my untraditional Thanksgiving.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Thanksgiving is nothing without cranberries of some kind.  And canned cranberry sauce isn’t going to happen in my house.  Fresh cranberry sauce is easy to make and would make a great side dish, but I’m still not a huge fan.  These cranberry bars are irresistible.  They have that tart tang from fresh cranberries, but it is mellowed greatly from a sweet and crunchy shortbread crust and topping.  There are a few steps to these, all simple ones, but they can definitely be made a few days ahead of time and served room temperature or even warmed in the oven.  Your guests would be pleasantly surprised to find that their boring Thanksgiving cranberry sauce has been remixed into Cranberry Shortbread Bars for dessert.  It will be one of your new Thanksgiving traditions.

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

4.5 from 2 reviews
Cranberry Shortbread Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
Crust and Streusel
  • 2 sticks, plus 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Filling
  • 1 12 ounce bag fresh cranberries, rinsed, dried, and picked over
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup water
Instructions
  1. Make the crust. Line a 9 by 13 inch pan with parchment going up the sides of the pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together butter, ¾ cup sugar, and salt until combined. Stir in the egg yolks. Stir in the flour until a dough is formed with no crumbs of flour left. Place 2 cups of the dough in the prepared pan and press into the pan, forming an even layer. Prick the dough with a fork several times. Refrigerate pan for 30 mintues. Place the remaining dough in the refrigerator as well.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Bake the chilled dough for about 20 minutes, until it is mostly set, though not brown.
  4. While the crust is baking, make the filling and streusel. For the filling, place the cranberries, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil the mixture until it has thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes. The mixture will thicken more.
  5. For the streusel, remove the remainder of the dough from the refrigerator and add the remaining ¼ cup sugar. Mix it in with your fingers until the dough is just crumbly but not sandy.
  6. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F once you have removed the crust from the oven. Pour the cranberries over the hot crust after it comes out of the oven. It is okay if it has cooled for a few minutes. Spread them evenly over the crust. Sprinkle the streusel over the cranberries. It should cover the cranberries almost entirely. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the streusel is light brown. I like the streusel to remain quite light and soft, but if you prefer it to be browner and crunchier bake it a couple extra minutes.
  7. Cool completely in pan before cutting into bars. May be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil, and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. Thaw at room temperature for a couple hours or in a 350 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Nicole Rees, courtesy Fine Cooking

 

 

Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

Any time I think of anything related to politics and the election, I think of The West Wing.  So it’s obvious I watch too much TV when the first thing I think of is a TV show when faced with the serious issues surrounding elections and government.  When The West Wing was on I was far more into politics than I am now.  Watching the faux government there and how it operated with all the uber-dedicated employees and a president one could love and cheer for whether Republican or Democrat made me want to know more about the real president and his employees.  I wanted to know about real filibusters, Supreme Court nominations, back door deals.

The moment I got home from middle and high school, I turned on CNN, eager to see what Crossfire and then The Situation Room had to say about the day’s events.  I knew names and facts and could explain just about any aspect of the government without flinching.  All I learned from The West Wing is how I aced my sophomore government class, expending virtually no effort.  I liked reading that textbook and raising my hand in class, showing off my skills, impressing my teacher.  I wanted to take AP Government, but that wasn’t allowed as a sophomore.  Too bad there wasn’t a show that led me to be killer at math, as a student could take Calculus as a freshman if they tested in, but enough complaining about the monarchy that is high school.  My teacher even told me I knew more than the AP students, not that he did anything to help get me in the class.

Crust

But then high school grew worse and worse, The West Wing ended, and I realized real life politics is not as idealist and easy to cheer for as fictional politics.  I’m now a casual observer, a part of me still wishing President Bartlet could lead the country.  I can’t wait for this election to be over.  The fighting and arguing, sounds bites and campaign stops, phone calls and pamphlets, massive, seriously massive, waste of money.  I just want it to stop.  I wish the election system in this country would be reformed, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon, so perhaps I’ll revisit my West Wing DVDs to remind me of what government could be.

I don’t want to start a political argument, don’t want to share whose side I’m on, who’s name I want to hear tonight on the networks as winner.  This is a fun blog about sweet treats and big dreams, but on Election Day, it’s kind of hard to avoid the topic.  So whoever you voted for, I think we can all agree, it’s great that we get to voice our opinions in elections, even if it is an imperfect system.

Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

Onto happier things.  I’ve had my eye on these Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars for awhile now, mostly because I’m pretty obsessed with Biscoff.  When I went to make them, I realized I had very little brown sugar, so I mixed some granulated sugar with molasses.  The bars came out great.  The shortbread crust is crunchy and sandy, that classic shortbread taste and texture.  The filling was super-duper ooey gooey, which I loved.  Seriously loved, because that’s a texture that is rarely achieved without chocolate, yet these managed to do it.  But they don’t taste like Biscoff, they taste like molasses.  I really loved them still, though I’d like to give them another try without the molasses.  So if you want ooey gooey molasses flavored bars, swap out the brown sugar in the recipe below with granulated and enough molasses to fully moisten it and turn it deep golden brown.  If you’d rather them less gooey and tasting as they’re supposed to, make the original recipe.  Which ever you choose, I think you’ll love these bars.  They’d be a great accompaniment to watching election results tonight.

Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars

4.5 from 4 reviews
Biscoff Brown Sugar Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 9 generously
 
Ingredients
Crust
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
Filling
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 ¼ cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup Crunchy Biscoff spread
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place parchment paper in the bottom of an 8 inch square baking pan. Butter the parchment and up the sides of the pan.
  2. Make the crust. In a medium bowl, combine butter, sugar, flour, and salt. Cream it together using a hand mixer on medium low. The ingredients should be evenly distributed, but the mixture will still be crumbly. Pour it into the pan and press it in with your fingers. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through if necessary, until lightly golden brown. Let cool while you prepare the filling.
  3. Make the filling. In a medium bowl, stir together the eggs, sugar, Biscoff, and flour until there is a homogeneous mixture. Pour into the baked crust.
  4. Bake for an additional 30 minutes, until the center is just set. Do not check with a toothpick. Let the bars cool completely before slicing and serving. I waited overnight. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour. I’m going to try to warm one of them in a 350 degree F oven for about 10 minutes, but I think it could end very messy. Try this at your own risk.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Handle the Heat

 

Peach Crumb Bars

Peach Crumb Bars

You probably know by now that I love summer.  I love everything about it: the weather, the fresh produce, the general feeling of happiness it gives me.  But I also love the flowers and plant life, specifically those on our deck.  It’s filled with pots of greenery and flowers.  I see it every day, all day, while I write, bake, clean up, and if I crane my neck, I can even see it when I’m watching TV.  It offers me constant comfort and smiles all summer long.  I hate to see it start to fade as winter approaches, but I know next year it will look even better.  I wanted to share some pictures of our flowers with you to brighten your day too.

Begonias

Petunias

Flowers

Flowers

Flowers

Hibiscus

Morning Glory

Morning Glory

Now on to these Peach Crumb Bars.  I’ve made them before but think they turned out even better this time.  They are super easy to make.  No room temperature butter, no mixers.  The hardest part is peeling the peaches, and it’s really not bad at all.  The end result?  Pure amazingness.  The bottom crust gives a little texture, but isn’t super crunchy.  The top provides that necessary crunch, while the peach filling in the middle is almost too good for words.  Tons of fresh large diced peaches, which don’t lose their texture at all, enveloped in this thick, rich, peachy, spicy juice.  I used more fantastic Frog Hollow peaches in these. I love them more and more with each peach I eat.  If you’re looking for a seasonal treat, go order some before peach season is over :( These bars are so good.  If you don’t have the time or energy to make my Peach Blackberry Pie, put a pan of these bars in the oven for a serious treat!

Peaches

Peach Crumb Bars

4.8 from 10 reviews
Peach Crumb Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 24
 
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • 1 large egg
  • Filling
  • 5-6 cups large diced peaches, peeled
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
  2. Make the dough. In a medium-large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the dough with pastry cutter, fork, or knife. I used a fork and knife with great success. Mix until the butter is in small pieces and somewhat blended in. Add the egg and continue mixing the dough until the egg is distributed. The dough will still be very crumbly; that is perfect. Pour half the dough into the prepared pan and press it firmly in the bottom. Place the pan with dough and remaining dough in the refrigerator while you make the filling.
  3. Make the filling. In a large bowl, combine peaches, lemon juice, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir to fully combine until the peaches are surrounded by a thick juice.
  4. Pour the peach filling on top of the crust in the pan. Spread it evenly. Sprinkle the remaining dough evenly over the peaches. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the crust is lightly browned. Cool completely (or almost completely) in the pan before cutting into bars. May be stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or frozen wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 4 months. May be thawed at room temperature for a couple hours or in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

 

Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Pie Bars

I bet you’ve never had blackberries.  How is this possible?  Those clamshells at the grocery store full of hopefully dark, plump, non-moldy berries can look okay, but upon tasting them, they are flavorless and consist of more seeds than actual juicy fruit.  They’re more like cousins to blackberries.  Cousins that have been grown to be able to survive the trek from typically California to wherever you buy them, rather than grown for their flavor.

Blackberries

Enter farm fresh blackberries.  These are nothing, absolutely nothing, like their grocery store counterparts.  And if you think you don’t like blackberries, do yourself a favor and seek some of these out.  They vary in size from huge to quite tiny, but all of them are sweeter, have the best blackberry flavor you can imagine, and have fewer and less noticeable seeds.  The thing is they can be exceptionally hard to find.  I haven’t seen them at any local farmers’ markets since I’ve been shopping at them for the past few years.  They usually are in the stores for a couple weeks each July, but I never saw them this year, though I am still holding out hope for a few late season berries.  So my wonderful Dad headed to the nearest blackberry farm, about half an hour away from our house, to pick them.

It is not an easy task, I am told.  As a girl who keeps her outdoor time to a minimum, this is something I would never do, but Dad likes to be outside and doesn’t mind doing these crazy things for his “little girl,” so off he went to pick berries.  The weather was hot, though not as hot as it has been lately, and the process involves lots of walking, reaching, and being attacked by the blackberry bushes.  Yet he says it’s not that bad and he kind of likes it, which is great because I love the end result.

Unbaked Crust

They weren’t as big as I’ve seen, but they were among the best flavor wise.  So delicate, juicy, and full of flavor, they can be crushed with the softest touch, the first sign that they are nothing like what is found in the store.  The next is the burst of juice and flavor with each bite.  The final, that the seeds are almost nonexistent.

I wanted to make something fabulous with them, so I headed over to Brown Eyed Baker’s blog for a recipe; I consider her the celebrity of the baking blogger world.  I spend my days hoping she’ll notice me or even leave a comment on my blog as I hope I’ll one day run into someone like Matt Damon in town filming a movie or get a Twitter response from Alton Brown or Bobby Flay.  I found Blackberry Pie Bars, a treat that looked amazing and unlike anything I’d ever made before.  They took a little longer to assemble than I thought they would, but they did not disappoint.  Not by a long shot.

Unbaked Filling

Unbaked Bars

A wonderful tender and crumbly shortbread crust with a rich creamy custard like filling surrounded the bounty of blackberries, topped off with a little crunch from some of the reserved shortbread.  Each bite is pure joy and a different experience.  It was the perfect thing to make with the blackberries.  Even Dad, a blackberry hater, ate a whole piece, proving just how delectable these bars are.

If you’re a blackberry lover, and even if you think you’re not, seek out some great farm fresh berries to have your mind blown.  Then make these bars, and you’ll want to eat blackberries every day.

Blackberry Pie Bars

Blackberry Pie Bars

5.0 from 3 reviews
Blackberry Pie Bars
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 18
 
Ingredients
  • Shortbread
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cubed
  • Filling
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (I’ve been using Daisy and loving it)
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 cups fresh blackberries
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
  2. Make the crust. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and orange and lemon zest. Rub the sugar and zest together with your fingers until it is distributed throughout and fragrant.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse to combine the sugar and zest mixture, flour, and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is evenly distributed and no bigger than the size of peas, about 15 times. The food processor bowl will be extremely full, so take caution. If you have a small processor and it does not fit, use a pastry cutter or forks to make the dough in a large bowl. After pulsing there may still be a few larger pieces of butter. Mix them in with your fingers. Reserve 1 ½ cups of the shortbread for the topping. Place it in the refrigerator until it is ready to be used. Press the remainder of the crust in the bottom of the pan. It will form a thick layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly golden brown. Cool while preparing the filling.
  4. Make the filling. Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, and vanilla in a large bowl. Stir until there is a homogeneous mixture. Very gently fold in the blackberries to prevent breaking as much as possible, though some is inevitable. Pour the mixture over the crust. Even out as much as possible. Distribute reserved shortbread evenly over filling.
  5. Bake 50-60 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the edges are golden brown. It will still be very jiggly. Cool for at least 1 hour before cutting into bars. May be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen, wrapped in parchment and foil and placed in a zipper bag for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature for about an hour.
Notes
Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker