Chewy Dark Chocolate and Apricot Granola Bars

chewy granola
Well, friends, I’m happy to report that my daughter, Eleanor, was born three weeks (almost 4!) ago and she’s doing amazing and we are surviving the sleepless nights and the toddler-sister adjustment without too many scrapes and bruises.  Life is certainly different than it was just a month ago.  But it’s also a billion times sweeter.  Here’s my new family (pics taken by my wonderful friend, Katrina):

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It’s remarkable how little time in the day I actually can get things done, which explains further why posting recipes took a very, very far back burner to everything else.  I also didn’t cook a single thing for two weeks.  It felt weird, but it was nice to have a break. We have remarkable friends who brought us dinner for nearly two whole weeks and then it was Thanksgiving and although we didn’t travel, we certainly cooked!  And a few of those recipes will come in the following weeks.  I wanted to post an easy and satisfying snack for my first post back, because that’s what I need in my new life, now, and honestly, I’m hungry all the time while nursing a baby around the clock.  I find myself insanely hungry when Eleanor wakes up for her 2 a.m. feed but too tired to go to the kitchen to find something and so I fixed that problem yesterday by making some truly crave-worthy granola bars.  Chewy, almost falling apart, no-bake, and filled with my favorite things – namely, dark chocolate, apricots and almonds.

I hope you enjoy these and I am looking forward to getting back in the kitchen around the baking-est time of the year.  🙂

Chewy Granola Bars

 

Chewy Dark Chocolate Apricot Granola Bars
makes about 16-24

2 cups puffed rice cereal
2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup mix-ins (I used dark chocolate, dried apricots and some leftover trail mix that had almonds and raisins – you use what you can find!)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

Combine the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  In a medium saucepan, combine the honey, sugar, salt and peanut butter and let it come to a boil for about a minute.  Remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients (if you don’t want your chocolate melting, add it after you get everything else combined.  I didn’t care and it didn’t melt that much).  Stir until fully incorporated and then press in either a 13×9 greased baking dish, or like I did, a rimmed sheet pan (for slightly thinner bars).  Let it cool completely and then slice and store.

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The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies

The Ultimate Brownie
Just look at them.  Super dense.  Fudgy.  Chewy.  Crisp around the very edges and topped with a square of caramel chocolate so it oozes out when it’s cut.  Simply put: the best brownies you will ever eat.

The Bread Man made these a few years ago when we decided to host a Brownie Battle and invite about 20 of our friends to all bring brownies to taste test and enter into the competition for the Golden Whisk.  Yes, there was a golden whisk trophy.  We are serious about our food battles.  Matt baked these brownies and topped his with dark chocolate toffee bars, which is his favorite combination.  They tied up with another contender for Best Traditional Brownie out of about 20 pans of brownies!  When I went to make them last week, I bought Ghiradelli bars – the individually wrapped ones.  And I bought sea salt caramel (as seen pictured) and sea salt soiree with almonds to place on top of the batter.  Check it out, sinking down into the glossy batter…
Ultimate Brownies
This recipe is super simple and I nearly have it memorized.  We’ve adapted it from a stunning UK recipe and put it in slightly easier steps and terms for everyone.  I hope you make these soon.  If for nothing else than to cry with happiness.  It’ll happen.  And be creative with the type of chocolate bars you put on top!  There’s so many to choose from!  I thought if I were in the mood, a dark chocolate mint bar on top would be good.  Or dark chocolate and strawberry!  The fun thing about going with the individually wrapped bars is that it’s instant perfect portioning for cutting!  Have fun and let me know how you like them!

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownie

The Ultimate Dark Chocolate Brownies
makes about 16 depending on how to slice it 😉

8 oz unsalted butter
8 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli 60%)
10 oz superfine sugar (I used Baker’s Sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs
pinch of salt
5 oz cake flour
Your favorite chocolate bars for topping (I used these two kinds)

Preheat your oven to 400F.

In a double boiler (or a medium saucepan over low heat filled a couple inches up with water with a big heatproof glass bowl setting on top) melt the butter and chocolate together and stir with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated.  Gently stream in the sugar and whisk constantly until fully incorporated and smooth.  Whisk in the vanilla.  In a separate bowl, crack your eggs and lightly whip them up with a pinch of salt.  Take the bowl off the double boiler (if you haven’t already) and whisk in the eggs until smooth and then add the flour in two batches, stirring well to smooth out as many lumps as possible.

Line a 9×13″ pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Pour the brownie batter in the pan and smooth out the surface.  Dot the entire surface with chocolate bars and bake for 20 minutes.  It’s not going to look done, but take that sucker OUT and let it cool COMPLETELY before cutting.  Restrain yourself.  Plan ahead.  Gently lift the foil out of the pan and place the sheet of brownies on a cutting board and cut into squares.  Enjoy your life more than you ever have before. You’re welcome.

Double Dark Chocolate Brownies

 

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies

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This is one of my most favorite cookie recipes.  I found it a few years ago in a baking issue of Cooking Light magazine.  I’ve made it several times and I always get requests for the recipe.  The original recipe is soft out of the oven but then it hardens up pretty fast and becomes sort of like a short bread or pecan sandy texture.  I love the original, crunchy, good-with-coffee version, but I’m a soft and chewy cookie kinda gal.  So I adapted the recipe a bit to make the cookies more flat and chewy and I LOVED the results!  Crispy along the edges, soft in the middle – with a bite from the pepper and cinnamon!  As you can tell, I’m a fan of the Mexican chocolate flavor and I hope, within my life, to incorporate it into as many baked goods as possible.

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
I hope you try this recipe out!  If you’d like the cookies to be the original crunchy style, leave out the extra egg and cut back to 4 TBS butter.  But I don’t think you will want that after you taste these 🙂

Chewy Mexican Chocolate Cookies
makes about 30 cookies

5 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped (I use Ghirardelli 60% chips and skip the chopping)
3.4 oz AP flour (about 3/4 cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
a few grinds of black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 TBS butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Place the chocolate in a small glass bowl and microwave for one minute, stir and microwave 30 seconds more to fully melt.  Stir with a rubber spatula to full incorporate and ensure it’s all melted and set aside to cool.

Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, cayenne and black pepper and stir well with a whisk.

Combine sugar and softened butter in a large bowl and beat with a mixer or by hand until well blended.  Add the eggs and beat well.  Add the cooled chocolate and vanilla and beat until just blended.  Fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated.

Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I’ve tried it without and they will come off a regular sheet pan if you spray it with enough oil.) Bake at 350F for 12 minutes or until cracked on top and almost set.  Let the cookies cool on the pan for a couple minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.  Dust with powdered sugar if desired!

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*recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine, 2010

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

I was paid $25 to make this recipe.  Well, technically,  I was paid about $12.50, because Matt was paid the other half to make a loaf of his awesome bread.  Why?  Because an old co worker from his previous job had a Christmas party to go to and a twenty-five dollar limit to spend on a gift.  So he contacted us and said, “Make a couple things.”  The fun thing about these office party gift-exchanges is that the person whose gift got the most steals, or trades in the game, wins $100.

Gary won.  🙂 So I guess you could say these are $75 brownies.  Or $37.50.   Or probably less, because as I well know, it was most certainly Matt’s bread that won the contest.  Hey, Matt – guess what?  You won 1st place for your bread.  Only this time, instead of a $6 check like at the fair, some other guy got $100.  That’s better, right? 😉

The brownies were indeed, great.  I followed a recipe from Fat Witch Brownies (a most awesome brownie book) for an espresso brownie, and then I thought, “What could make this more show-worthy for a gift exchange?”  Covering it in a rich chocolate ganache!  Then, with some sprinkles of cocoa nibs, these brownies become a huge version of a chocolate-covered espresso bean, which in my opinion, is the ultimate adult candy.  They’re like one big “congratulations” for getting older.

And so are these brownies!  Enjoy!

Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies

Chocolate Covered Espresso Brownies*
worth $37.50

7 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon hot water
1 cup AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 recipe dark chocolate ganache (see below)
cocoa nibs or crushed up coffee beans for sprinkling

Grease a 9×9″ baking dish with butter.  Dust with flour.  Or use that awesome flour spray.  Preheat oven to 350F.

Melt butter and chocolate in a microwave safe bowl at 30 second increments, stirring with a rubber spatula after each time, until smooth and melted.

Cream the eggs, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth, then add the cooled chocolate mixture and continue beating until incorporated.

In a small dish, mix the espresso powder with the hot water until dissolved.  Add it to the chocolate mixture and continue to beat until well combined.

Measure the flour and salt and then sift together directly into the batter.  Mix the batter gently until well combined.

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and cool on a rack for 1 hour.  Make your ganache while the brownies cool.  After they cool, cut them into 16 squares and gently remove and place on a drying rack, or on sheets of waxed or parchment paper.

Dark Chocolate Ganache*
makes 1 cup of goodness from the heavens

1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream

Over medium heat, place the heavy cream in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove the saucepan from the heat immediately after it has just started to boil.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate chips and let them sit for a minute.  Then, with a rubber spatula, gently begin mixing the chocolate in tiny circles in the center of the bowl.  You will think it will never incorporate.  Keep mixing.  You will think your cream wasn’t hot enough.  Keep mixing.  Chocolate demands patience.  Then, just like magic, the chocolate will deepen its color instantly and you will only have a few more stirs, incorporating the sides and scooping down to the bottom of the bowl, to end up with one, big, glossy, gorgeous bowl of thick, dark chocolate ganache.  Take this and spread over the tops and sides of your cut brownies and sprinkle the tops of your brownies with the nibs or crushed beans and let it cool till the ganache firms up.

*both recipes adapted only very slightly from Fat Witch Brownies.  Go buy this book for someone for Christmas.

EAT! ENJOY!

Overnight Steel-Cut Oatmeal


Back when I was still a fairly new mom and my night’s sleep was a fun game of Russian Roulette, I started putting my breakfast on the stove the night before so that I wouldn’t have to use my brain in the morning. I bought these fancy steel cut oats and the side of the can said that they would take 40-60 minutes to cook, but THEN, at the very end of the directions, it said, “For quick-cooking method, let the oats soak in water overnight and then boil for 10 minutes.”  This was the answer to needing breakfast after a who-knows-how-much-sleep kinda night!  I would literally add everything to the pot the night before – the butter, the pinch of salt and even stuck my stirring spatula in there so that I would not have to use even one iota of brain cells to make breakfast.

I’ve been doing this a few times a week ever since!  On days that I run out of steel cut, I just use plain rolled oats, except I don’t soak them overnight.  I just like the steel cut – they are chewy and interesting and they don’t turn to glue and mush after they go cold, so they are perfect for making a big batch on Monday and then warming them up with a splash of milk the next day – it’s always a great texture!  Most commonly, I make chocolate oatmeal.  It’s Olive’s favorite and I love hearing her request it the first second she sees me in her room in the morning “Chock-ate oatMEEEEL?!”  I’ll add that recipe to the end of this one for those who saw it in my Week in the Life post!

For today I recreated my favorite dessert bread at our grocery store – Apricot White Chocolate!  I had a little of everything and so I went for it, and it was amazing!  What’s fun about oatmeal is the various toppings you can add – so if you have guests for the weekend, make a huge pot and set out an array of dried fruits, nuts, fresh fruits or syrups and let them add what they want!  Great for kids, for people watching their diet and for picky eaters!
apricot and white chocolate oatmeal

Overnight Oatmeal with
White Chocolate, Apricot and Toasted Walnuts

2 cups water
1/2 cup steel cut oats (or one cup of rolled oats and skip the night before step)
pinch of salt
1 tsp of vanilla extract
tablespoon of fat – I use butter, but it’s GREAT with coconut oil and it’s probably just fine without it)
splash of milk or cream
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, almonds – whatever you have on hand

Right after Top Chef is over, before you check Facebook for the 75th time, put a large saucepan on the stove and add the steel cut oats, water, butter, vanilla and salt.  Place a rubber spatula in the pot, too, so you won’t have to think at all in the morning.  Go to bed.
First thing in the morning, or 10 minutes after your toddler starts talking in her crib, turn on the burner to medium-high heat and bring oats to a boil.  Lower the heat to medium and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid is absorbed.  Add a splash of milk or cream if it gets too thick and taste for texture.  If it’s to your liking, remove from heat, place a small portion in a bowl and stick it in the fridge to cool a bit for the toddler while you assemble yours.  Stir in the white chocolate chips till they melt and then top with the dried apricots and walnuts.  Take the kid’s portion out of the fridge, stir again, and then add a few chips so she can stir them around or pick them out herself and discard the rest.  That’s at least how it happened to me.

Chocolate OatMEEEEEEL version:

same as above, except add:

1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 tsp cinnamon
sliced banana or dried cranberries

I love banana and chocolate.  Near the end of the cooking time, I add the cinnamon to the pot and stir to incorporate.  I take the pot off the heat and stir in the chocolate chips until an adequate darkness is achieved.  This may call for more chocolate.  Because I use 70%, I have no guilt and no shame.  Top with sliced bananas and eat! Sometimes I shake it up and stir in dried cranberries.  The cranberry/chocolate or banana/chocolate combo is always a winner.  Do what you feel with the toppings, but more often than not, we just do plain chocolate oatmeal!  Olive is never disappointed.

Dark Chocolate Chip-Pecan Pancakes

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancake stack

I opened up this recipe this week with the intention of pinning it to my Pinterest recipe board.  Then I went to my recipe board and discovered that I’d pinned this exact recipe four times over the last 2 years.  My subconscious must really want these pancakes.  I decided, no more pining for a pin!  I made these bad boys this morning for breakfast, right when the clouds rolled in and it started raining.  We enjoyed the rest of our coffee on the front porch while watching the rain and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t the perfect way to spend the morning.

These pancakes are intense, rich, but not too sweet.  I accidentally left out the melted butter from the batter (believe me that I would never do that intentionally) and they turned out just fine!   Matt had pancake syrup on his and I had creme fraiche sweetened with a bit of honey on mine and I will proudly say that my way was the best.  But his way photographed better 🙂 Whatever you decide to put on top of these pancakes, be it whipped cream, syrup, powdered sugar, yogurt, it’s going to be the right decision.  The baby girl loved them, too and called them “panpays”, which was nearly the cutest thing I’d heard all week.

Enjoy your weekend!  Hope you find time to make these desert-like pancakes at some point!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Chocolate Pecan Pancakes*
makes about 10 pancakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oilPreheat oven to 225 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl, whisk together milk, egg, melted butter, and vanilla; pour over flour mixture, whisking to combine. Fold in chocolate chips and pecans; let batter stand until slightly thickened, 5 to 10 minutes.

    In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until a water droplet sizzles; swirl to coat bottom of pan with oil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Spoon four small mounds (1 heaping tablespoon each) of batter into skillet. Cook until bubbles appear in center, 3 to 4 minutes. With a thin spatula, flip pancakes; continue cooking until set, 3 to 4 minutes more.

    Transfer to a baking sheet; cover loosely with foil; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining oil and batter in three more batches (adjust heat as necessary to avoid overbrowning).

    Stack ’em up and enjoy, topped with anything you’d like!

*recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Stack of Chocolate Pancakes

Chocolate Mousse

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French Kids Eat Everything was the second book I read in my brainwashing of French food culture (the first was Bringing Up Bebe) and it was the best one in the trend of “the French know what you’re doing wrong”, in my opinion.  In the book, the author, Karen Le Billon, describes her struggle raising her two little girls on the streets of Paris, trying to fit in to a food culture so different from our own.  She noticed toddlers sitting in restaurants for an hour meal without making a peep and eating the entire time.  She never saw public temper tantrums in grocery stores over a product not bought, even if desired (kids know they can’t have snacks unless it’s 4 p.m. and even then, most are not used to packaged food aisle-fare).  She wanted to know how the French managed to raise children who ate peacefully and in turn, made having a meal together actually appear fun for the adults, as well!

There are a lot of great take-away tips in this book and one of them is to make the 4p.m. snack (or 3ish, in our case) really good – something a child won’t mind waiting for.  The French have an appointed time for snacks in the afternoon because between noon and 8 is a long time to wait for food (although they expect adults to wait!  Snacks only apply to children – dang it).  So I’ve been trying to find fun things to make and at the back of the book, there are some real recipes found in the daycare systems in Paris, as well as in every day homes.  One of those recipes is for a simple chocolate mousse.  I had procured some amazingly fresh eggs from my dear friend, Katrina, and I thought there would be no more honorable way to consume them than to eat them raw.

I just lost some readers.

Seriously, though, eating eggs from a reliable source, from happy chickens whose eggs are only a few days old – you would more likely get eaten by a goat than get sick from eggs like this.  I’ve never been one to shy away from a raw egg in cookie dough, even with the old eggs from the store, but for a recipe that calls for 6 whole eggs, I don’t think I would have been too comfortable eating them if I didn’t know how old they really were.  And I knew, in this case, because Katrina gathered them from the hen house a day before I took them home.  You all should hook up with a friend who has chickens.  They can never eat as many eggs as they end up getting!  And if you have chickens, this type of recipe is great for using up excess eggs!

This mousse is light, fluffy and has an amazing texture and flavor with the added zing of orange zest.  You must eat it very very cold or the texture gets a little too loose.  But straight from the fridge, they are amazing and Olive enjoyed it a LOT, and I exercised my patience with messy eating and happily took pictures of the chocolate chaos.

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chocolate mousse001

Chocolate Mousse
Serves 6

1/2 pound semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate (I actually used Ghirardelli 60% chips)
4 teaspoons butter (oh, just use two tablespoons)
6 eggs, whites and yolks separated
Zest of half an orange (I also think a 1/4 tsp almond extract would be awesome!)
Pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler on the stove over low heat.  Quick method: melt in the microwave on 30 second increments, stirring gently until melted and smooth.  When the chocolate is melted and cooled a bit, add in the egg yolks and orange zest and stir well. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment (or in a large metal bowl with metal whisk, by hand, if you know what you’re made of) beat the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks (adding a pinch of salt at the start will help them stiffen).

Gently fold one-third of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture.  Mix gently, then fold in the other half, mixing very gently.  Spoon the mousse into little serving dishes and chill for 2 to 3 hours or over night until firm.

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