I Am Back and I Made you Grandma’s Blondies

Hello! After a long hiatus from this space I am now back. I lost my way there for awhile and was consumed by my day job. I am happy to report that I am back in the kitchen and anxious to write about my experiences here again.

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I have been baking all month and have been trying new recipes from many new sources. I have also been revisiting old recipes that are tried and true. I realized that my first post back would have to feature this family blondie recipe. This recipe is from my husband’s side of the family courtesy of Grandma but was actually given to me by Aunt Ann. I still need to double check with Aunt Ann if the recipe is from her Mom or my husband’s Grandma. Either way, it is damn good.

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A simple combination of butter (lots), sugar (tons!) and sweet chocolate produce this incredibly decadent bar. I often bring these to pot luck parties and without a doubt these blondies are talked about and people always reach for seconds. I feel what sets these blondies apart from a chocolate chip cookie is the delectable denseness of it. You must take the Do Not Overbake direction seriously. As the edges turn golden but the interior is still light in color, take the pan out. I also prefer to age the bars overnight after baking which I think adds a deeper flavor to these already rich bars. Whip up a batch for your 4th of July BBQ party. I promise that the crowd will be pleased :-)

Grandma’s Blonde Brownies (aka Blondies)
Recipe from Aunt Ann
Recipe notes – I have used both dark and light brown sugar in this recipe but I prefer to use light. When I am feeling extra fancy I substitute the chocolate chips for chopped dark chocolate. I have also swapped out 3/4 cup of the flour for whole wheat pastry flour which adds a faint nuttiness to the blondies. Speaking of nuts, you could add a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts but then they wouldn’t be Grandma’s Blondies now would they!

1 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups packed brown sugar, light or dark
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, divided

Preheat oven to 350* and grease a 9×13 pan with butter. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy (about 3-5 minutes.) Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Beat in vanilla, then add salt. On low speed, add flour gradually. With a wooden spoon, stir in 1 cup of the chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the pan. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of chocolate chips on top.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. Do not overbake. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars with a sharp knife and enjoy!




My Granola

Over the years I have had many different morning rituals that always involved coffee but didn’t always involve food. In high school and college I would fill my biggest travel mug full of coffee and race to class leaving no time for breakfast. In my twenties, coffee was still number one but I found the time to make toast or eat some cereal before heading out the door in the morning. Now, in my late thirties, I need some fuel in the morning to keep me going and that fuel is oats.

I enjoy oatmeal, soaked oats, muesli, granola bars and straight up granola. To pick a favorite would be difficult but if I had to it would be granola. What a perfect breakfast/snack food? It can be tailored to your own taste and it is pretty hard to screw up. The tricky part I have found is to not let it bake too long or it will become brown. Other than that the options are limitless and there is a oat-fruit-nut combo out there for everyone.









There are so many granola recipes out there and I hope to experiment with many of them. In February, I discovered a delicious granola recipe from Melissa Clark via The Kitchn and I made three batches in one week. I gave a batch to my granola loving friend pronouncing that this was the best granola I had ever eaten. She agreed. One bite and you get hit with the spices – cinnamon, ginger and cardamom. This granola was not for the weak because it really packed a punch and had me under it’s spell immediately. Or so I thought.

After a month of eating this granola I got bored with it. It almost had too much going on what with the fancy pistachios, intense spices and dried apricots. Uh oh, maybe this wasn’t the be-all/end-all granola recipe I once thought it was. I took a little granola break and continued searching for more recipes, determined to find one that was perfect.










I was thumbing through a vegan cookbook a few weeks ago and came across a granola recipe that looked very good. I was struck by how simple the ingredient list was – oats, almonds, coconut, sugar. I happened to have all the ingredients on hand so I dove right in and started measuring and mixing. As you can see from above, my little one helped me on this early Saturday morning baking project. We were both hungry and anxious to taste this new batch of granola.












The granola baked up nicely and I pulled it out of the oven. The recipe says to mix in raisins and then push it to one side so it can clump up while it cools. I love clumps so I did as the recipe said. I poured a small bowl of the cooled granola and splashed it with almond milk while my little partner had hers with yogurt. It was tasty and hit the spot that early morning.










I found that on day two, the granola tasted a little better. Day three, a little deeper. Day four, wow this truly is the best granola! The flavors definitely developed more and more each day until about day four. It is simple, yes, but deep with the traditional granola flavors of cinnamon, raisins and oats. This may not be the best granola recipe EVER but for right now it is My Granola and I will happily eat it each morning!


My Granola
Adapted from Sweet Vegan by Emily Mainquist

I have made this recipe using vegetable oil and coconut oil. I was surprised that I liked the vegetable oil version better since I adore coconut oil. Next time I want to try using coconut chips instead of shredded coconut a la Hannah.

4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsweetened or sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 cup dark or light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable or coconut oil
1/4 agave or maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups raisins

Preheat the oven to 300* and line a baking sheet with parchment or silpat.
Mix the oats, coconut, almonds, brown sugar, salt & cinnamon. Heat the oil & agave in a bowl for 20 seconds in the microwave. Pour over oil mixture over oat mixture.
Add the vanilla and stir everything to combine. Spread the granola onto the baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and stir in raisins and push granola to one side of the pan to ensure clumps of granola.
Store granola in an airtight jar or container for one month.

The Power of Cookie Butter

Cookie butter. The name alone sounds delicious, doesn’t it? Around the holidays I picked up a jar at Trader Joe’s with the intent of incorporating it into my Christmas baking. Per usual, I was so busy with the other things I needed to do to make the holidays happen that I only had time for my standard holiday baked goods. No time for experimenting or introducing new recipes into the mix. Next year!









That jar of cookie butter sat on my pantry shelf for a good six weeks until I finally pulled it down and decided to bake with it. I surmised from the label that is was essentially Trader Joe’s version of Speculoos paste or Biscoff Spread. Speculoos is a shortcrust biscuit commonly made in the Netherlands, Belgium and Northern France. It is reminiscent of a Christmas cookie because of the spices used, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. About five years ago a Belgian woman brilliantly created a creamy spread with the unique taste of a speculoos cookie. Lotus Bakeries bought the recipe and started making Biscoff Spread which is a common alternative to peanut butter in Europe and now found in the U.S.








Back to the baking part. I perused my usual baking blogs for recipes using Biscoff Spread which I remembered seeing a few months earlier. I found one and decided to try it for a shower I was co-hosting that weekend. It is essentially an oatmeal cookie recipe with the addition of cookie butter which is added to the butter during the creaming stage. The combination of the oats and the burst of spices from the cookie butter is a nice combination. Buttery, crispy yet chewy from the oats, these cookies are pretty darn tasty.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen and putting away ingredients I realized I hadn’t tasted the cookie butter yet. I tasted a cookie from the first batch and it was good but my feeling was that the cookie butter needed to be tasted on its own. Oh how I wish I had fought that initial urge and went about my day. But no, I grabbed a teaspoon and dug into the creamy, cookie butter. To say that this stuff is good doesn’t quite do it justice. It is a spoonful of comfort, a smooth and delicious butter peppered with the perfect amount of spice. I could have taken down that entire jar on one sitting but I exercised restraint and screwed the lid back on the jar. After tasting this unique and delicious butter I bought five jars on my next trip to Trader Joe’s, for baking purposes of course. I was fearful that they would run out, or worse yet discontinue it. A life without cookie butter was a life I didn’t want to live. Hence, the jars & jars that line a shelf in my pantry.

Fast forward to last week when I was snack mom at my daughter’s co-op nursery school. I usually look forward to this duty but this last one snuck up on me. I had no time to bake fabulous non-dairy, no-nut muffins (many kids have food allergies) and even less time to grocery shop for fun and healthy snacks. I scanned my pantry and refrigerator and was able to cobble together a nice enough snack. When you are snack mom you are also responsible for bringing snacks for the parent break room and you don’t have to abide by the dietary restrictions you do when feeding the kids. If the kids only knew that we snacked on cheeses, crackers, candy and quick breads (sometimes with chocolate) they would be majorly bummed.

I ended up serving whole grain toast with my homemade jam plus cut up fruit for both the kids & parents. As I was packing up the car that morning I noticed my cookie butter stash and threw a jar into my bag. I thought to myself, “The moms are going to love this stuff.” I scooped out the cookie butter into a little serving dish and set it next to the jam and toast in the break room.

Immediately after the first wave of moms hit the break room one mom raced to the kids snack room, with the empty cookie butter dish, and said, “What is this stuff?” I laughed and handed her the jar which she whisked away to the break room to be devoured by the other moms. Even though I didn’t bake anything special for snack that day I came away with a hit because of that delicious cookie butter.

My friend, Hannah, fellow co-op mom and cooking/baking enthusiast, has been asking me all week for the cookie butter cookie recipe. She too became a cookie butter fan last week and has been patiently waiting for my recipe. Here you go, Hannah!









Cookie Butter Oatmeal Cookies
Two Peas and their Pod
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus 2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup cookie butter (or Biscoff Spread)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Coarse sea salt (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter, cookie butter, sugar, and brown sugar and beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla extra and beat until smooth.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Chill the dough 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
5. Form the cookie dough into rounded tablespoons and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Dust with coarse sea salt, if using. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are golden and just firm around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack.
*These cookies freeze very well. I suggest making a double batch and freezing some for later.

Tomatillo Salsa

Are you looking for a super easy salsa that tastes great too? How about a snazzy sauce to dress up your quesadilla? Look no further than this tomatillo salsa recipe.






My friend Jaime served this at a party we recently hosted and it pulled in rave reviews immediately. I only had one but at the party but the next day when we were lounging around watch the Golden Globes I devoured the entire batch.

Six different ingredients, throw them in the food processor, whiz up and you are done! Enjoy!

Tomatilo Salsa
From my friend Jaime who got it from her co-worker

5 tomatillos
4 scallions
3 garlic cloves
2 serrano chile peppers
1 bunch of cilantro
1 ripe avocado

Take the tomatillos out of their papery casings and chop the white and light green parts of scallions. Throw everything in the food processor and whiz up until it resembles a salsa. Add salt to taste.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

I do not know why it had taken me so long to buy buckwheat flour but it did. It had been on my specialty food store shopping list for at least six months but at last I finally threw it into my basket on my last trip and brought it home.








flour is very nutritious, has a slightly nutty flavor and is gluten free. It comes from ground buckwheat which is a fruit seed similar to the sunflower seed. Buckwheat is commonly used in Japan for to make soba noodles and is also used in Brittany to make galettes and crepes.

Of course the first recipe on my buckwheat list was chocolate chip cookies. I had some major baking to do for a long weekend get away and so I started measuring the buckwheat flour and pulling out the good ingredients. As Ina would say, “use really good butter and really good chocolate, it makes a difference.” Yes, Ina, yes it does.
I have reached the point in my baking life where I always have at least a pound of butter on hand and stacks of three different types of chocolates that can be chopped up for cookies on a moment’s notice. It is comforting to me.











These cookies look like any old chocolate chip cookie but they certainly do not taste like any old chocolate chip cookie. Tender, nutty, salty, crunchy, chewy – all of the cookie characteristics I love.I thought whole wheat chocolate chip cookies were my favorite but these buckwheat gems kind of blow them out of the water. I dusted each mound of dough with coarse sea salt before baking which added a nice salty crunch and flavor. Of course you can use chocolate chips but I like to chop up bars of chocolate so you encounter irregular chunks of chocolate in each bite.






This recipe yields a lot of cookies especially when using a small cookie scoop like I did. But they freeze beautifully and even taste good slightly frozen.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Alice Medrich‘s Chewy, Gooey, Crunchy, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies

Note: I always rest or dry age my cookie dough by putting the mixing bowl in the refrigerator for 2-48 hours. This typically produces a firmer, heartier cookie.

1 cup of unsalted butter, melted and kept warm
1 cup + 4 tbsp. buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea or kosher salt
1/2 cup + 4 tbsp. packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup toasted walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375* and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda and salt.
Combine the sugars in a large bowl, then stir in the warm, melted butter. Whisk in the eggs and the vanilla extract.
You can either refrigerate the cookie for 2-48 hours or bake immediately. If you refrigerate bring the dough to room temperature before baking off cookies.
Scoop tablespoons of dough onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake cookies for 5 minutes and then rotate pan to ensure even cooking. Bake cookies for a toal of 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.
Let cookies cool on the pan for 2 minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.
The cookies will keep in air tight container for 3-4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. They taste really good frozen plucked right from the freezer bag!


Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels

I subscribe to the Food Network Magazine and while it doesn’t have the sophistication of Bon Appetite Magazine it is a resource I go back to time and time again. I find that I pull many of my weekday dinner recipes from FNM and they have never disappointed.

Every issue features a pull out mini-magazine of 50 recipes and the theme changes monthly. I refer to these mini’s weekly for cooking and baking ideas. This month’s features 50 Edible Gifts and I hard time choosing which one to test out first.

I attended a cookie holiday party on Saturday and I decided to the try the Sea Salt Chocolate Caramel recipe. I had all of the ingredients in my pantry so whipping this up was a breeze.







The only time consuming part about making the caramels is standing at the stove watching the candy thermometer. So if you can spare 15 minutes while stirring a pot of hot sugar I suggest making these treats and taking them to your next holiday party!








After you pour the caramel into the prepared pan let it sit for about 10 minutes before sprinkling on the sea salt. I sprinkled mine on too early and it got a little lost on the surface. Don’t worry, it was still totally edible!








Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels
From Food Network Magazine insert

2 sticks of butter
2 cups of sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
14 ounce can of condensed milk
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder

Line an 8 inch square pan with foil and brush with canola oil. Melt 2 sticks of butter in a saucepan, then add the 2 cups of sugar, 1 1/4 cups con syrup, condensed milk and cocoa powder. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer reaches 248*, about 15 minutes. Pour into prepared pan and cool for 10 minutes before sprinkling with sea salt.

Gingerbread Granola

I am very delinquent in posting but it is because I have been busy baking. I have had my fill of pumpkin recipes and now I am moving onto Christmas flavors and more importantly ginger. I love to cook & bake with ginger all year long but it is particularly tasty this time of year when it is paired with spices, butter, molasses, etc.

I found this recipe on Kitchen Simplicity and it immediately jumped out at me and I was in the kitchen within minutes gathering the ingredients.






I actually made this recipe twice because I baked the granola too long and it got too brown the first time around. I seem to do this often when I bake granola and you think I would know when to pull it out of the oven by now. I recommend watching the granola closely and stirring it twice over the 20 minute baking time period.








I have been eating this granola with almond milk every morning and it tastes like a slice of the holidays. Perfectly spiced and not too sweet and very filling. This granola would also make a great gift if packaged in a mason jar and decorated with a nice label and ribbon.


Gingerbread Granola
Adapted from Kitchen Simplicity

1/3 cup molasses
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
pinch of ground cardamom
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut (Can also use unsweetened)
1 cup walnuts, pecans or hazelnuts, chopped (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup organic raisins

Preheat oven at 325*.
Whisk together molasses, oil , salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves & cardamom until blended. Stir in oats, coconut and nuts until evenly coated. Spread onto silpat or parchment lined baking sheets. I have one oven so I baked one sheet pan at a time.
Bake for 20 minutes total, stirring the granola twice during the baking time period. The granola is done when the oats are lightly golden.
Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Let cool completely before storing in an air tight container.



Apple-Rhubarb Crisp

This fall I have become an apple person. I look forward to visiting the apple stalls at the farmers markets so I can taste all the different varietals and pick the ones I like. I would typically pick any other fruit over an apple but my tastes have recently changed. Last week I was counting down the minutes until I could leave my office for the farmers market across the street so I could pick up pounds of beautiful apples!

I tasted five different kinds of apples and decided on a pound of Mutsu’s and a pound of Honeycrisp’s.  Mutsu’s are good baking apples and so I started to think of what I could throw together quickly that night and use the apples in a dessert. I had some leftover rhubarb from a rhubarb pie I made over the weekend and I always have the ingredients on hand to make a crumble topping.

When I got home from work I started working on the crisp and it only took about 20 minutes of work before I popped it in the oven. The smell of baking apples, sugar and cinnamon wafted through the house and I was anxious to take the baked fruit dessert. After dinner and after it finally cooled, I cut into the crisp and wasn’t disappointed. I ate a bowl of it plain but it would also taste great with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I am so glad my tastes changed and I am now eating & baking with apples. It was the perfect taste of fall in one dish!









Apple-Rhubarb Crisp

3 cups diced apples (I used Mutsu’s but Granny Smith, Gala or Fuji work well too)
3 cups diced rhubarb
1/2 cup of sugar
2 tbsp. all purpose flour

1/2 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup of brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 stick of butter, cold & cut into pieces (I used Earth Balance)

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease a pie plate or 9 inch baking dish with butter. Combine apples, rhubarb, sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and then pour into pie plate or baking dish.
For the topping, in a separate bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar and salt. Work in butter with your fingers until mixture is well combined and the mixture sticks together when squeezed. Mound the topping over apple-rhubarb mixture. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until the fruit bubbles up and over pie plate or baking dish. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.


Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies

One of my favorite things to do is to curl up on the sofa and flip through one or many cookbooks. Baking, cooking, French, Californian, you name it and I will sit down with it and devour it. I have a baker’s rack filled with cookbooks that I visit and revisit often. When I have the time I try to visit the library and check out cookbooks just to mix it up a bit.

It was in my neighborhood library that I discovered Maida Heatter and I am so glad I did. Her cookbooks are simple and straightforward and the finished products are always delicious. I made one slight change to this peanut butter cookie recipe by using Turbinado sugar instead of granulated sugar. I also sprinkled coarse sea salt on top of each cookie before I baked them. I formed the dough into a log and let it sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours before slicing and baking.

These peanut butter cookies are not the typical moist, chewy kind made with commercial peanut butter. I do like that type of peanut butter cookie, don’t get me wrong, but this cookie is unique. It tastes like a peanut butter biscuit cookie and it would be great in the morning with coffee or tea or as an afternoon snack.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from Maida Heatter‘s, “Book of Great Cookies”

1 1/4 cup unsifted whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
generous 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup smooth natural peanut butter
1 cup Turbinado sugar
1 egg
Coarse seat salt for sprinkling

Dump flour, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine. In the bowl of stand mixer cream the butter. Add the peanut butter and beat until smooth. Add the Turbinado sugar and beat well, then add the egg and beat well again. On low speed gradually add the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula and beating until smooth.

Tear off a piece of parchment paper about 14″ long and place on the counter. Spoon the dough in the center of the paper and loosely form into a log. Fold the  one long side of the paper over the dough and, with your hands, shape the dough into a log. Roll the log in the paper until you get a long, round roll. Twist the ends and wrap under the log to secure it.

Place the log in the refrigerator until firm or overnight. I like to leave cookie dough in the refrigerator overnight because I am convinced it enhances the flavor or the baked cookie.

When ready to bake off cookies, preheat oven to 350* and prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Unwrap the log of dough and cut 1/4 inch slices, place them 1 inch apart on baking sheets and sprinkle each slice with coarse sea salt.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or when the edges turn golden. Leave on baking sheet for 1 minute before transferring to a wire rack.




Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Last week I had an appointment but no babysitter. I asked my very pregnant best friend if I could drop the little one off for a few hours while I went to my appointment. She happily agreed and with a few hours to spare before we left for her house I baked her some cookies.

It is a recipe that I tweaked and changed so much I think it qualifies as my very own now. I try to swap out granulated sugar for Turbinado when I can and here it worked. I also try to add whole wheat pastry flour to recipes so not to strictly use all-purpose flour.

I forgot to take a picture of the cookies but they looked like standard oatmeal cookies if not a tad more golden brown.

They were well received by my friend’s entire household and my husband ate his tiny allotment before the night ended. All in all I would say this recipe is a good one.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

3/4 cup of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup Turbinado sugar (Raw cane sugar)
2 tbsp. honey
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I suspect whole wheat flour  would work fine too)
1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (I use Saigon cinnamon)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 3/4 cup of old fashion rolled oats (Do not use instant oats)
1 cup of raisins (Or chocolate chips or a mixture of the two)

Preheat oven to 375*. Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
Cream the butter and sugar. Add the honey and blend for about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs and then the vanilla extract.
In a separate bowl combine the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, salt & oats. Gradually mix this into wet batter. Stir in the raisins or chocolate chips, if using. Use a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon to drop dough onto baking sheets. Bake 8-10 minutes until edges are golden. Cool on a wire rack.
Makes about 2 1/2 dozen