Peanut Butter Dream Bars

These bars are perfect to nibble on with a cup of coffee or tea.  They're undeniably rich, so you may or may not be able to finish eating a bar in one sitting.  The inspiration behind these bars comes from Potbelly's Dream Bars.  Potbelly is a really great sandwich chain, and whenever I frequent airports and see one, I have to stop and get a Wreck Sandwich and a cup of broccoli cheddar soup.  Next to the cash register at Potbelly they have a display of cookies and bars, one of which is their Dream Bar.

Dream Bars are rich, chocolatey oatmeal bars with sweet caramel.  This recipe is my adaptation of Dream Bars; I added chunky peanut butter, white chocolate chips and dark chocolate chips.  I really love the crumbly, buttery texture of these.  For the caramel, I used the caramel bits that are already unwrapped - much easier than unwrapping fifty caramels.

Peanut Butter Dream Bars

10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 bag of unwrapped caramel bits
5 tablespoons evaporated milk
Sprinkle of sea salt.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 13x9-inch baking dish with foil; coat foil with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, peanut butter and brown sugar until creamy.  Beat in oatmeal, baking powder and flour until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and white chocolate chips until combined.  Pat half of the mixture into bottom of prepared pan.  Bake 10 minutes.

In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt caramel bits and evaporated milk, stirring frequently.  Pour caramel on top of bars.  Sprinkle remaining dough evenly on top.  Bake 15-20 minutes more or until golden brown.  Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt.  Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Makes 12 big bars

Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies

I've been getting that old desire to blog again.  And bake!  I've mostly been doing a lot of cooking recently, with inspiration from Vietnamese and Japanese cuisine.  I just love the flavor of sesame so, so much.  I'm a big fan of seed pastes/butters, especially tahini  Also, I had these lovely vanilla beans that my mom gave me for my birthday (Christmas??) one year and needed to use them.  Voila, there's the inspiration behind my Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies.

The vanilla beans are infused with browned butter, then the mixture is whipped with eggs, tahini and dark brown sugar.After folding in some baking soda, salt, flour and white chocolate chips, the mixture is spread into a pan and sprinkled with sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.  Give these a try!  I think you'll really love the salty, nutty, caramel flavor.  Also, I think these would still be fabulous if you left out the white chocolate chips or just used vanilla extract.

Hope y'all have a great Galentine's Day and Valentine's Day!

Tahini Vanilla Bean Blondies

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split, seeded
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds
Pinch of coarse sea salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line an 8x8-inch baking dish with foil; coat foil with cooking spray.

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook and whisk until butter starts to turn golden and foam - about 3-5 minutes.  Remove pan from heat and whisk in vanilla beans.  Cool 5 minutes.

Pour butter in a large bowl and add brown sugar; beat together using a mixer on medium speed until combined.  Beat in eggs and tahini until well combined - about 2-3 minutes.  Beat in salt and baking soda until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour until just combined.  Stir in white chocolate chips until combined.

Spread mixture into prepared pan.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds and sea salt.  Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into blondies comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 blondies 

Lemon Crackle Cookies


Hello again and happy fall, y'all! I feel like the year has flown by.  Here we are almost all of the way through October.  Soon it'll be Thanksgiving and Christmas.  But here I am, still thinking it's summer time, running around in sundresses and baking lemon cookies instead of pumpkin bread.  I'm in total disbelief that it's Autumn.  Here in Raleigh we're only starting to see a few signs of the changing season; cool, crisp air in the evenings and a few crunchy leaves under our feet.  If I didn't go to the store and see bags of candy lining the aisles, I would have no idea Halloween was a little over a week away.

The past few months have been incredibly busy, sometimes I feel like I don't get to stop and relax.  But when I do get a little break, I usually can't stand it and have to keep busy.  So any extra downtime I have had lately has been devoted towards baking - mostly classic desserts and treats given away to new friends.

 My sweet tooth isn't raging anymore like it was for the past... well forever.  Maybe as I've gotten older my little taste buds have evolved and are going in a different direction.  Instead of a piece of cake I'd probably choose a steak.  The other day I had a few lemons left over from a pasta dish I made and used them towards a nice light, lemony crackle cookie.

Quite the beauties, aren't they?  They're pretty photogenic, but then again what cookies aren't?  Hello.  I took these pictures using my iPhone, which is good enough for me these days.  I actually sold my DSLR a few months ago (gotta pay those bills) so I don't have a camera anymore.
 Lemon Crackle Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + zest of one lemon
1 large egg
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

In a medium sized bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together butter, granulated sugar and vanilla until creamy and well combined.  Beat in lemon juice and lemon zest until combined.  Beat in egg until well combined.  Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Chill dough in refrigerator for 1 hour or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Roll 1 inch balls of dough into confectioners' sugar and place on cookie sheets, spacing about 1 1/2-inches apart.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden in color. Side note-feel free to add a few drops of yellow food coloring into the dough.

Allow cookies to cool 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks.  Dust with confectioners' sugar.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies