Nutella River Bar Blondies

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My family loves Nutella.  It reminds me of my favorite chocolate from Godiva – the open oyster.  Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be sold in any of their boxed chocolates.  Sigh.

This recipe is exactly like my blondie recipe, but instead of just a plain jane river of chocolate, it has a river of nutella swirled in the batter before getting baked off.

Yum.  Yum.  And Yum.  These are in fact, moist and dense, and downright “parbaked” according to my husband.  Why yes, yes they are.  Otherwise, they’ll be dry and sad.  And you don’t want your little blondies to be sad.

Nutella Swirled Blondies Adapted from Debbie Macomber’s Cookbook

2 sticks unsalted butter

1 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 – 3/4 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9 x 13 inch pan with foil, and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a large glass bowl, microwave the butter until almost completely melted.  Add the sugars and beat until incorporated (about 1 minute).

Add the eggs, vanilla, and salt – beat until light in color.  Add the flour and beat just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and drop Tablespoons of Nutella all over the top of the dough.  Then using a knife, swirl* in Nutella until you’re happy, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.  The top will look crackly and lightly browned.  Cool completely in pan.


*Keep in mind you don’t want to over swirl – you want distinct rivers of Nutella!


Turtle Brownies

March 2016 282These are without a doubt some of the most popular brownies that I make.  In fact, I ran into a former coworker of my husband’s and she was telling me that she was on a cruise in Alaska a few years ago and just happened to be on a hike with another couple that live in Arkansas.  They got to talking and it turns out they both know me, and love my turtle brownies.  Small world, right?!

I make my own caramel – I think it makes a huge difference.  This caramel recipe makes enough for 2 batches of brownies, but you can also use the extra to make caramel dipped apples, or homemade turtle candy.

I know the photo is of huge brownies, but I actually cut them 1 1/2 x 1 1/2 inch pieces for parties.  They’re just so rich and gooey, a little goes a long way!!

Turtle Brownies Adapted from The Pastry Queen

Homemade Caramel Adapted from my mom

2 sticks butter, unsalted

2 1/3 cups light brown sugar, packed

Dash salt

1 cup light corn syrup

1 (14 ounce can) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large saucepan add the first 5 ingredients.  Cook on medium high heat (5-6) until the butter is melted: stir constantly with a wooden spoon.  Once the butter is melted, set a timer for 14 minutes.  Continue to stir constantly with the wooden spoon.  Remove from heat, and add the vanilla – stir.  Set aside.


1  cups pecans, roasted and coarsely chopped

2 sticks butter, unsalted

12 ounces semisweet chocolate

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

4 eggs

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 batch of caramel

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

In a medium pot on medium heat, warm the butter and chocolate until melted – stirring constantly.  Once the butter and chocolate is melted, whisk in the sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined.  Add in the eggs, beating after each addition.  Stir in the flour until incorporated.  Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for another 20 minutes.

In the meantime, add 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream to the 1/2 batch of caramel and place it on a low burner.  Stir in half of the chopped pecans.

Pour the pecan caramel over the brownies.  Spoon remaining brownie batter on top and spread it out.  Dust the top of the brownies with the remaining pecans and chocolate chips.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Let cool in the pan.  Then refrigerate the brownies in the pan overnight, lightly covered.  Cut into small pieces when you’re ready to serve.

*I prefer to keep these in the refrigerator because the caramel oozes at room temperature, but it’s optional.  Either way, be sure to store them in a covered container.

My Favorite Lemon Bars

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Here’s another rustic dessert for you – and this time it’s lemon!!  I’ve been making these lemon bars since I was a kid. . .which was a bit ago.  😉  I love this recipe because it has a lot of lemon filling (to me the ratio of filling to crust is perfect) and a delicious buttery crust.  And it’s big on lemon flavor – what’s not to love?

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Don’t omit the baking powder from the filling – I know it’s odd, but it makes the bars set up like a dense pie filling.  And be sure to take these out when the middle is no longer jiggly – mine take about 25-27 minutes.

Lemon Bars Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens


6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1 cup flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8 x 8 inch glass pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Using a handheld mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until creamed.  Then add in the flour and beat until the mixture turns sandy.  Then use your hands to continue mixing the dough together – making sure to incorporate any remaining butter mixture with the flour.  It will be sandy, but will hold its shape when squeezed together.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, spread it around evenly, and then press the dough into an even layer with your hands.

Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.  In the meantime, make the lemon filling.

Lemon Filling:

4 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

3 lemons, zested with a microplaner

6-7 Tablespoons of lemon juice (fresh squeezed from the lemons you zested)

1/4 cup flour

pinch of coarse kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, salt and baking powder with a handheld mixer on medium speed for about 2 minutes.  Pour the lemon mixture over the hot crust when it comes out of the oven.  (The lemon mixture will look foamy on top – that’s okay).

Bake in the oven for 25-27 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center doesn’t jiggle when shook.

Take the pan out of the oven, and let the bars cool in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Then place the pan in the refrigerator covered with a paper towel on top.  Let chill for 5 hours (if you can wait that long) before cutting.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Store any leftovers in the refrigerator covered.



Molten Lava Cakes

January 2016 1007

Okay, so this is one of those desserts that’s been on my to-make list for awhile, and darn if it’s not incredibly simple & delicious!  I just can’t believe I waited so long to make it.  Don’t make the same mistake – make these right now!

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Molten Lava Cakes Adapted from Baking Illustrated

2 Tablespoons flour

1 stick unsalted butter

8 ounces semisweet chocolate (I used Baker’s)

4 eggs

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup sugar

powdered sugar & raspberries for decorating, if desired

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with 4 (8 ounce) disposable baking cups,  I used these.

On the highest speed – using the whisk attachment, beat the eggs, egg yolk, sugar, vanilla, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat for 5 minutes.  The mixture should become thick, yellow, and double in size.

In the meantime, melt the butter and chocolate in a large microwave-safe bowl, in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until the chocolate is almost completely melted.  Stir together the butter and chocolate until completely incorporated; set aside.

When the egg mixture is done, pour it over the melted chocolate mixture.  Then sift the flour on top, and fold it all together.  This will take about a minute of constant folding.

Using a 4 ounce scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each disposable baking cup.  Place in the oven for about 12 minutes.  Watching carefully towards the end.  The edges will puff up and the middle should still be sunken.  Take out of the oven and carefully remove from the baking pan; serve immediately with powdered sugar, raspberries, whip cream, ice cream – or all of the above!!

If you cook these completely through they are still delicious, almost like a dense, moist, chocolate cake (if you want your cakes like this, then bake for about 15 minutes – they’ll still jiggle just a little in the center), if they are baked for too long, the cake ends up dry).

*This recipe makes only 4 – 8 ounce cakes.  Store any leftover molten cakes (covered) in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  The dense cakes do not require refrigeration.


Rustic Orange Cake

January 5 2016 033

I love books.  Maybe it’s because my mother was a librarian for a time when I was growing up, and we spent many summers at the library while she worked?  Who knows!!  I do imagine however, that it would be no surprise to anyone that I own a lot of cookbooks.  I even have a closet under the stairs that we affectionately call the “Harry Potter closet,” and that is where I store all of them.

Unfortunately it’s not big enough for my entire collection. . .anymore.  So I’m cooking and baking my way through them.  This cake came from one of those cookbooks!

It’s quite deceiving because of the brown color (brown often = dry), but it is incredibly moist, light, and has a delicious slight orange flavor.  I contemplated adding orange extract, but my husband loves it just like it is and even requested it for his birthday a good 11 months from now!   However, I did add the orange extract as an option below if you’re interested in punching up the flavor.

And just a heads up, there is a soaking syrup so be sure to make that while the cake is baking!

Rustic Orange Cake Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

6 large eggs, at room temperature

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup, plus 2 Tablespoons sugar, divided

grated zest of 3 oranges (using a microplane grater)

1 cup of freshly squeezed oranges, approx. 3-4

1 teaspoon pure orange extract, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and spray a tube pan with nonstick spray.  Set aside.

Separate the eggs: place the egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and the whites into a medium mixing bowl.

In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the canola oil, vanilla, orange zest and 1 cup of sugar.  Set aside to beat in a moment.

With a hand mixer, beat the egg whites until frothy and slowly add in the 2 Tablespoons of sugar in small increments, while continuing to beat until stiff peaks form; set aside.

Using the same hand mixer, beat the egg yolk mixture together for about 2 minutes, or until light in color.  Beat in the orange juice, orange extract (if using), baking powder, and salt until combined.

Beat in the flour until completely incorporated.  Then fold in the beaten egg whites until there are no more white streaks or lumps.

Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake for 35-40 minutes (rotating the pan halfway through), until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Pour the orange syrup over the cake right out of the oven.  Let it soak in for about 5 minutes.  Then invert the cake (the top will be sticky from the syrup – so perhaps invert the cake onto a parchment lined baking sheet, and then flip it right side up onto a cake round or serving platter, and carefully peel the parchment off the top.  I flipped mine straight onto a wire rack and that is why it has those ridges on top – I’m trying the parchment method next time!

Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar before serving.

While the cake is baking make the orange syrup!

Orange Syrup Adapted from Grace’s Sweet Life

1/2 cup of fresh squeeze orange juice (1 – 2 oranges)

1/2 cup sugar

strips of zest from 1 orange, using a zester

In a small pot, add all of the ingredients and boil on high just until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Take it off the stove and strain through a sieve, set aside to pour over the baked cake.




Cranberry Spiced Pecan Goat Cheese

January 2016 091

So who knew this whole cranberry-pecan-goat cheese was a thing?  I guess I’m a little late to the party.  I actually just happened upon this combination this past weekend while searching for some cheese for a platter I was putting together.

You see, every New Year’s Eve we have seafood (lobster, scallops, shrimp, and sometimes crab).  And every New Year’s day we have appetizers.  It’s a great way to keep everyone noshing while watching football or playing board games.  It’s also a well deserved night off for me!!

I’m not big on blue cheeses, so my husband suggested I try the last slice of a cranberry pecan goat cheese that our local Fresh Market was offering.  So we brought it home and I think I ate all but a few bites (luckily it was only 1 ounce).  It was fabulous!

So of course I had to recreate it, and I think mine is even better!

Cranberry Spiced Pecan Goat Cheese Adapted from Cooking with Curls

5 ounces of Goat Cheese (I bought 5 – 1 ounce slices of goat cheese)

1/4 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

1/4 cup whole pecans, chopped

1 Tablespoon shelled pistachios, chopped

2 Tablespoons Turbinado sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 Tablespoon salted butter

In a small sauce pan on low heat, toast the pecans and pistachios in the butter for 2 minutes.  Then add in the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, and cranberries.  Stir constantly to make sure the mixture is coated in  butter, and that nothing burns.  Heat for about 5-7 minutes, or until the spices and nuts are fragrant and the butter has all but disappeared.  Set aside to cool.

Place the nut mixture onto a cutting board and roll the goat cheese in it, being sure to press the mixture firmly into the cheese.  Also, make sure to coat the ends of the cheese.

Place on a serving tray and serve with crackers, or cover and refrigerate up to 3 days.

*I like to sprinkle some extra nut/cranberry mixture around the cheese – you can not have too much!


Triple Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

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My family is full of chocoholics.  So when we decided to make crinkle cookies this year, I knew we had to add some chocolate chips to the batter!

The dough is not thick, like typical cookie dough.  In fact, it’s soft and pourable, thus the need for chilling!  So definitely do not skip this step.  😉

Triple Chocolate Crinkle Cookies Adapted from Food Network

1 cup flour

1/3 cup dutch processed cocoa powder (I used Cacao Barry Brute)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

4 ounces of semisweet chocolate

1 stick unsalted butter

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment; set aside.

Place the powdered sugar into a wide rimmed bowl and set aside.

In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter and chocolate together in 30-second increments until melted.  Stir together, and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together for about 2 minutes, until thick.  Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and baking soda and beat until combined.

Beat in the cocoa powder and the flour just until incorporated.  Stir in the chocolate chips and pour the mixture into a container and cover.  Refrigerate for 2 hours.

When the dough has chilled and become firm, using a dough scoop; scoop 1 1/2 Tablespoons of dough into the bowl of powdered sugar and roll around coating the dough entirely.  Place on the prepared parchment-lined baking sheet.

These spread quite a bit, so make sure there’s at least 2 1/2 inches of space between each cookie to allow for spreading.

Bake for 12 minutes; then let the cookies rest on the hot baking sheet for 10 minutes before removing from the parchment.