Chewy Homemade S’More Granola Bars (Better Than Store Bought Any Day!)

30 Apr

There’s no doubt about it – we are living in some strange times. Being basically “stuck” at home can be tough in a lot of ways – but it can also be rewarding in a lot of ways, too!

I always have enjoyed baking (obviously!), but now I have even more time to do it – and my husband and my son have gotten in on the fun too – baking bread together for us to enjoy (nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread, is there?).

As for me – I have been trying to be creative with what we have on hand, and taking advantage of Target drive up orders, as well as Amazon too – to help me stock my pantry so that I can try out some new treats at home!

Last week, I bought my son a variety pack of kids Clif Bars on Amazon – they came Thursday evening, and by Saturday he had eaten 11 of the 16 – eek! I am so glad he liked them, and I can of course order more, but I would love to find an alternative in the somewhat healthy breakfast bar arena that I can make at home, and keep on hand for him as his snack needs arise (which – as those of you who are parents know – they arise MANY times a day!)

So in my searches for a breakfast bar/granola bar recipe, I came across these Chewy Homemade Granola Bars – and since my son loves the store bought ones, I figured – why not give these a whirl?

He’s ready to bake (well – they are no bake,

Chewy Homemade Granola Bars
(Recipe courtesy of Dinner Then Dessert)

Ingredients
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar , packed
2/3 cup honey
3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups Rice Krispies cereal
1/2 cups graham crackers , crushed in pieces and crumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cup cereal marshmallows

Instructions
-Spray an 8×8 inch pan with canola oil or baking spray and line just the bottom of the pan with some parchment paper.
-In a small pot over medium heat add the butter, brown sugar and honey and whisk on medium low heat for 2 minutes until well combined.
-In a large bowl add the oats, cereal, graham crackers and salt then pour the butter mixture over the cereal and whisk it together carefully to combine well then let it cool for 20 minutes.
-Add in the marshmallows and mini chocolate chips gently then press into your pan gently but slightly packed down and let it solidify in the refrigerator before slicing for 2 hours.

Expert Graham Cracker Crusher

Various stages of mix (and yes I messed it up and put the chocolate chips and marshmallows in with the dry stuff before adding the honey mix – oops! Still worked out though ha!)

That’s a legit cross section right there

They are a thing of beauty, aren’t they?

These turned out SO GOOD – delicious, not at all dry, nice and chewy – and they stuck together in bar form really well!

I don’t really love the boxed kind of these bars – they are good in a pinch and taste fine, but kinda just – blah in my opinion. So I wasn’t sure what to expect from these – but i was really blown away by how good they were – I highly recommend them for those of you like me whose little ones (or bigger little ones!) are going through snacks like crazy right now! The batch made like 20 smaller bars, and the items in the recipe were all things I had on hand (minus the mini chocolate chips – but thanks to Target drive up I got those real quick!), and they taste so much better than the store bought ones!

Next time – I think I’m gonna put mini M&M’s in them…hmm…*target.com – add to cart*

What about YOU – what are you making/baking/doing during this “Quarantine” to help you and your family stay sane?

Pecan Pie Bars – The Perfect Holiday Dessert For A Crowd

31 Dec

A friend of mine has been making these DELICIOUS Pecan Pie bars at holiday time for years – and I decided this was the year I finally try to make them on my own!

Pecan Pie Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of All Recipes)

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3 tablespoons margarine, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Directions
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10×15 inch jellyroll pan.
-In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and salt. Cut in 1 cup of margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared pan, and press in firmly.
-Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
-While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, corn syrup, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoons margarine, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the chopped pecans. Spread the filling evenly over the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven.
-Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into bars.

img_4100.jpg

Ok. So. Some notes
-Grease THE HECK out of your baking pan. Like. Grease it, then add some more. and then redo it again. Otherwise they will stick like crazy
-Cook it a little longer than the suggested time (to avoid the middle being soupy)
-Let someone super strong cut them for you – as they are hard as HECK to cut and get out of the pan

BUT – in the end – it’s all worth it – they are so good, and perfect for a big group at Thanksgiving, or anytime!

M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars – An Easy, Sweet Holiday Treat!

31 Dec

Hope everyone had an amazing Christmas – I know I did! It was pretty low key, got to hang out with my little family and just relax (much deserved I think, after all the work that us moms and dads put into the holiday season, am I right?). One of the best parts of Christmas in my eyes is not the presents or singing carols or waiting for Santa – those are all great don’t get me wrong, but let’s be real – I am here for the FOOD. Specifically – the SWEETS – cookies, baked goods of any kind – this is really their time to SHINE. People who don’t normally bake whip out their aprons and spatulas to create cookie trays to DIE for!

I attended a cookie exchange in November – where I brought along Snickerdoodle Blondies, and the treats I got to take home and try were SO AMAZING, everyone REALLY brought their “A” game to the table for this one! One treat really stood out for me though, and I knew after just one bite of the M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars that I would be making them for myself – PRONTO!

M&M’s Marshmallow Dream Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Mom On Timeout)

Ingredients
12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips
11 oz package butterscotch chips
1 cup creamy peanut butter
10.5 oz bag mini marshmallows
1 cup M&Ms

Instructions
-Line a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick foil. Set aside.
-Combine first three ingredients in a large microwave safe container.
-Microwave on high heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chips are fully melted and the mixture in smooth.
-Stir in marshmallows until fully coated.
-Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
-Sprinkle on M&Ms and press down slightly.
-Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours.
-Cut into bars.
-Store leftovers in an airtight container.

I was lucky enough to have some adorable helpers on this one – it was the perfect recipe to let them measure and stir (and taste test the ingredients, of course!)

Are these messy? Yes
Are the delicious? YES
Will they make a perfect addition to your cookie trays? YES
Should you make them now? YES!!

Christmas Gifting – The Original Chex Party Mix

12 Nov

I love to bake for the holidays – there are few things better than giving a homemade gift, to me it really shows you care, plus – it’s delicious! I have made Snickerdoodle Pinwheels, Cutouts, Peanut Butter Balls, and plenty of other recipes for Christmas gifting. In fact, I am so serious about my Christmas baking, I usually take a whole day off so I can have time to focus and get it done since the holidays can be such a crazy time!

This year, I decided to change it up a bit. Still giving homemade gifts, but going the “treat” route instead of the traditional “cookie” route. Nothing against the cookie of course – I love it in ALL its forms, but I just wanted to try something different this year. So I have decided that the following items are on this year’s gifting “menu”:

Crock Pot “Crack”
Saltine Toffee
Rolo Pretzel Treats
-Chex Mix – the Original Version

Of course, I had to test out the Chex Mix before giving it out as gifts, and I am happy to report it went well!

Chex Mix
Ingredients
3 cups Corn Chex cereal
3 cups Rice Chex cereal
3 cups Wheat Chex cereal
1 cup mixed nuts
1 cup bite-size pretzels
1 cup garlic-flavor bite-size bagel chips or regular-size bagel chips, broken into 1-inch pieces
6 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Directions
-In large bowl, mix cereals, nuts, pretzels and bagel chips; set aside.
-In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on High about 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal mixture; stir until evenly coated.
-Spread mixture out onto two cookie trays lined with silicone pads or parchment paper
-Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes
-Spread on paper towels to cool. Store in airtight container.

Ingredients are assembled and ready for action!

Looks good enough to eat as is, doesn’t it?

Butter and spices – smelling amazing

Waiting for it to cool – patience wearing thin…

Close up of the goods

So – this was easy to throw together and toss in the oven, and it made the house smell AMAZING while it baked

Once it cooled, we all deemed it worthy of gifting, so I will be making more batches in the coming weeks. The good thing about it was all the stuff I bought for the first batch will make at least 1 more batch (the cereal, nuts, etc), so it’s basically like getting two for the price of one!

Now – the official Chex website directs you to make this in the microwave, but I was not into that idea, so I looked around online and saw some recipes with the baking directions, and did that instead. I am all about shortcuts, but for this I really wanted the crispness that comes with using the oven. Besides, when the first Chex Mix recipe was introduced back in 1952, the instructions stated to bake it in the oven – and I say, if it was good enough in the 50’s, it’s good enough for now!

Snickerdoodle Blondies = Cinnamony-Sugary Heaven

15 Oct

When a friend of mine sent me a link to this recipe, I knew I had to try them – not only for her (to bring to her after her recent surgery), but also for my house and boys, too (my husband is a big snickerdoodle fan!)

So – in true “me” fashion, I decided to whip up a double batch of these – with some help from the cutest sous chef, of course!

Snickerdoodle Blondies
(Recipe Courtesy of Delish) 

Ingredients
Cooking spray
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. cinnamon sugar

Directions
-Preheat oven to 350° and grease a 9-x-9″ pan with cooking spray.
-In a large bowl using a hand mixer, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.
-In another bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat until just combined.
-Press batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.
-Bake until golden and still slightly soft in the middle, 25 to 30 minutes.
Let cool before slicing into squares.

I had all the ingredients on hand for this – and since I am slightly lazy, this is always a HUGE win for me – and as I was making these more as a gift/for others, I wasn’t really expecting to like them too much, but they were AMAZING – just the right amount of chewy, and the SMELL they filled the kitchen with – WOW. These are a MUST make – trust me!

John’s Cookbook Page 12 – Peanut Butter Cup Fudge

6 Aug

This week’s dessert pick is another fudge – we had so much fun making Milk N Cookies Fudge last week that we just decided to go back for more

And can you blame us? I mean – Peanut Butter Cup Fudge with only 3 ingredients? Oh yeah, that’s happening!

Peanut Butter Cup Fudge
(Recipe Courtesy Of Lauren’s Latest)

Ingredients
3 cups milk chocolate chips
1can sweetened condensed milk
24 Reese’s peanut butter cups unwrapped and divided

Instructions
-Line 8×8 glass dish with nonstick cooking spray lightly.
-Line with 16 whole Reese’s {as pictured above.} Set aside.
-In a large microwave-safe bowl, stir chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk together and microwave in 30 second increments until smooth and completely melted.
-Pour over peanut butter cups and smooth the tops.
-Chop up the remaining Reese’s and press into the top.
-Bring to room temperature {about 1 hour} before refrigerating. -Once it’s pretty solid, remove from the pan using the foil and cut into squares. Serve.

This was so delicious. And as you can see – I did not use Reese’s – I’m an Aldi girl so – had to go with their delicious peanut butter cups (not the same as Reese’s but yummy all the same!)

John’s Cookbook – Page 11 – Milk ‘N Cookies Fudge

19 Jul

I asked my little sous chef what he was in the mood to make today – and he picked FUDGE – and really – I am not mad about that at all – after all, what’s not to love about fudge? It’s basically frosting in a more solid, easier to eat forma – and since frosting is my all time fave I am on board!

Milk N Cookies Fudge
(Recipe courtesy of Delish)

Ingredients
3 c. white chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 c. marshmallow Fluff
1 c. mini chocolate chip cookies
1 c. crushed mini chocolate chip cookies
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

Directions
–Line square (8″-x-8” or 9″-x-9”) baking pan with parchment paper then grease with cooking spray.
In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine white chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, butter, vanilla and salt. Cook, stirring often, until melted and smooth.
-Reduce heat to medium-low and add marshmallow fluff. Stir until melted.
–Remove from heat and immediately stir in mini chocolate chips and mini chocolate chip cookies.
Pour mixture into prepared baking pan and immediately press whole mini chocolate chip cookies into fudge.
-Refrigerate until firm, 2 to 3 hours, then slice into squares.g

 

 

Easy to make? Check

Super sweet? Check

Delicious to eat? Check! Oh – and it earned a thumbs up from my little man – a win-win!

Patriotic Puppy Chow – An Easy (and Delicious!) Red, White & Blue Treat!

8 Jul

John recently attended a kids cooking class at a local grocery store near us – it was geared towards aged 4-7 and “red white and blue” themed – so they made patriotic, kid-friendly treats, including a super awesome Patriotic Puppy Chow – it was so good in fact, that I decided to make it again this past weekend for the 4th of July!

Patriotic Puppy Chow
Ingredients
Red
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines strawberry cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
White
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines white cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Blue
1 cup red (vanilla flavored) candy wafers
3 Tbl. vegetable oil
3/4 cup Duncan Hines white cake mix
4-5 cups Rice Chex cereal
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions
1. Melt Candy wafers in microwave safe bowl
2. Whisk in the vegetable oil
3. Add the cake mix – stir until smooth
4. Pour the wafer mixture over 4-5 cups of Rice Chex and stir lightly until cereal is evenly covered
5. Pour into a large ziploc bag, add the powdered sugar and shake until evenly coated
6. Repeat the process with the white and blue as well – and then combine all three colors

*If you can’t find colored candy wafers you can use white chocolate chips and food coloring instead

The kids loved helping me with this, and while I didn’t get any pictures of the finished product, I can assure you – it was delicious!

John’s Cookbook – Page 10 – Golden Grahams S’mores Bars

13 Jun

Golden Grahams S’mores Bars
(Recipe Courtesy of Just So Tasty)

Ingredients
5 cups mini marshmallows
1 1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
5 tablespoons butter , or margarine
1/4 cup corn syrup*
7 cups Golden Grahams
1 cup mini marshmallows

Instructions
1. Butter/grease a 9×13 inch baking pan.
2. Add 5 cups marshmallows, milk chocolate, butter, and corn syrup to a large sauce pan.
3. Melt the mixture together over low heat while gently stirring with a rubber spatula.
4. Once melted remove from the heat and immediately stir in the cereal and remaining cup of marshmallows. It will be very sticky.
5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and flatten down using the back of your spatula (lightly greasing the spatula can help).
6. Allow to harden at room temperature for 60 minutes before cutting into squares.

Recipe Notes
*If you don’t have corn syrup use 1/4 cup of sugar and 1 tablespoon of water instead.

**Store bars in an airtight container at room temperature. I don’t recommend storing them in the fridge because they can get too hard.

As you can see, John loved making these (and eating them!). No-bake recipes are not only perfect for little ones to help with, but they are also awesome on a hot summer day when you don’t want to turn on the oven!

This recipe in particular is perfect for when your child has been BEGGING you for a fire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores – but the dang weather just won’t cooperate (rain for days ugh!)

A Cookie Cake For My Sweet Little Graduate

4 Jun

This sassy little man is about to graduate from PreK. Which ok – “graduate” may seem like a strong term, but it does make the end of one phase of life and the start of another. Next year he will be in full day Kindergarten – riding a school bus, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and growing up right before my eyes. Excuse me while I cry….

Ok. Now that that’s out of my system, I wanted to find a way to celebrate this milestone. Saw someone order an awesome looking cookie cake for their preschool graduate, but when I looked it up they started at $35. No thanks. So I figured – might as well try and make one

So, here we go:

Giant Cookie Cake

(Recipe courtesy of Divas Can Cook)

INGREDIENTS

COOKIE CAKE

12 Tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2¼ cup all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ cup mini chocolate chips + more

decorations (m&m’s, frosting, sprinkles, etc)

FROSTING

4 Tablespoons butter, softened

1/4 cup Crisco

2 Cups powdered sugar

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp butter flavoring

2 Tablespoons milk

INSTRUCTIONS

-Preheat oven to 325.

-Line a 12-inch pizza pan with grease parchment paper. Set aside.

-In a large bowl cream together melted butter and brown sugar.

-Mix in eggs and vanilla extract.

-In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt and baking soda.

-Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring until a soft dough forms.

-Fold in mini chocolate chips.

-Press dough evenly into prepared pan.

-Sprinkle additional mini chocolate chips on top. (optional)

-Bake for 13-15 minutes. (do not over bake. Remember cookie will continue to cook as it cools)

-Let cookie cool on pan until completely cooled.

-Prepare frosting by creaming softened butter & Crisco together. Add the other ingredients and mix throughly until light and fluffy. Spread on cake

Notes: I didn’t have any mini chocolate chips on hand – so I used regular ones, and I used way more than 1/2 a cup – more like a heaping cup. Otherwise, I followed the recipe as written – baked it for exactly 15 minutes and it came out great!

I am NOT a pro at decorating – but I think this one turned out pretty awesome! Not as fancy as if I had ordered one, but considering that this one cost nothing (since I had all the ingredients on hand) makes it pretty hard to argue with. Plus – the kid likes it, and that’s all that really matters isn’t it?

Next stop – kindergarten! (Cue sobbing moms everywhere)