Homemade Granola Bars


Granola bars are my latest breakfast. They’re also one of my children’s favorite snacks, so we go through a lot of them. I wanted to try to make some myself so I didn’t have to keep buying them all the time, and so I could make a slightly healthier alternative than the sugary processed kind. But it’s not easy to replicate the chewy texture that still sticks together as a proper granola bar. I’ve tried making them before and they either fall apart or they’re more like a dessert.

Finally I found this recipe, which has great ingredients such as whole oats, nuts, honey, and healthy add-ins like shredded coconut. It uses a little butter and sugar, which is not ideal for a totally healthy granola bar, but it helps to make it all stick together. And it does stick together.

Thanks to the blog with the great name Bless This Mess Please for the recipe (which I only slightly adjusted).

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cups total extra mix-ins (such as coconut flakes)

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees. Line a 9- or 8-inch square baking dish with lightly greased parchment or foil.

Place the oats and nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly toasted. Place the nuts and oats in a large bowl.

While the oats are toasting, put the honey, butter, and brown sugar to a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. When butter mixture is ready, remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.

Pour this mixture over the oats and nuts and stir to combine. Add any extra ingredients and stir to combine. Make sure none of the oats are dry.

Place in prepared pan and use a rubber spatula or the back of a greased spoon to press mixture into the pan. Put in refrigerator for at least two hours, then cut into bars.

Other suggested mix-ins include dried fruit, miniature chocolate chips, and sunflower seeds, but you can play around with ingredients and add whatever you’d like.

Easy Dessert Recipes for When You’re Stuck at Home

Cooking is a great activity while we’re all stuck at home these days, trying to find things to do. Learn some new recipes, make some comfort food, or spend time cooking with someone. If you have children, cooking can be a fun activity together. Food is one way we can help ourselves feel better during this crazy time.

I looked through my dessert cookbook and found four recipes that are easy and require five ingredients or fewer, mostly with items you’re still likely to find at the store (though we had a hard time finding eggs the other day). These are favorites of mine.

Coconut Macaroons
1 14-oz. package sweetened shredded coconut
2/3 cup sugar
6 Tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. salt
4 egg whites
And I always include this, but you can make it optional: 1 tsp. almond extract

Heat oven to 325F (about 160C) degrees and lightly grease a baking sheet. Mix everything but the egg whites in a large bowl. Stir in the egg whites, and the almond extract if using, until blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

And to use up the yolks, make this next recipe! (You don’t even have to bake it!)

Key Lime Pie
1 pre-made graham cracker crumb crust
4 egg yolks
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
½ cup + 1 Tbsp. key lime juice

Beat the egg yolks until lemony (you’ll notice the color change to more of a yellow color), then add sweetened condensed milk and continue beating for 3 minutes. Pour in the key lime juice and beat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Pour into prepared shell and refrigerate at least 6 hours before serving.

Tip: Whipped cream is great to have on top when you serve it.

Easiest Cookies Ever
1 box of cake mix – any kind is fine, but I use white cake mix
1 stick of butter, softened
1 egg

Mix everything in a bowl, form into balls, and bake on greased baking sheets for 10 minutes at 350F (175C) degrees.

Frozen Lemonade Squares
9 graham cracker rectangles
¼ cup butter
1 quart (4 cups/1/4 gallon) frozen vanilla yogurt, softened
6 oz. (half a can) frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed (make lemonade with the rest!)
Optional: Blueberries

Finely crush graham crackers. Melt butter and mix with crumbs. Press into bottom of 9-inch square metal pan. Thoroughly mix yogurt and lemonade concentrate. Spread over crust. Freeze 4 hours or until firm. Serve with blueberries on top.

Sweet Potato Pie



Though I have been making pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving alongside my favorite chocolate pecan pie, I had never tried a sweet potato pie, which several people have told me is their favorite holiday dessert.

I love sweet potatoes, both savory — like roasted or mashed — or in a sugary casserole, which admittedly is more like a dessert. (I’m still trying to perfect a recipe for that.) When I found a Southern Living recipe for sweet potato pie, I figured I’d give it a try.

It turned out so well that I think it’s going to be on every one of our Thanksgiving menus from here on out.

The recipe in the magazine called for roasting and mashing whole sweet potatoes, then putting them through a sieve to remove the stringy bits. I do not have time for that. I just used the classic, old-fashioned sweet potatoes in a can (they’re labeled as yams). If you want to roast and mash your own sweet potatoes, you will need 2 cups mashed.

Makes one 9-inch pie

1 refrigerated pie crust
2 oz. unsalted butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of ground cloves
29-oz. can sweet potatoes, mashed with a fork (if they are in syrup, briefly rinse them before mashing)
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Place pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Prick bottom several times with a fork. Line pie crust with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the oven until slightly golden, about 15 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment and let cool, about an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F degrees again. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the foam subsides and the butter begins to smell fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and remaining ingredients with an electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Pour into the pie crust and bake on the middle rack of the oven until the filling is slightly puffed and set, about 45 minutes. Let cool at least 1 hour before serving, but note that the pie gets firmer if kept in the refrigerator and served the next day.

Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies


For Halloween, I wanted to make some dark cut-out sugar cookies so I could decorate them with white icing that would stand out. I knew exactly what I wanted — flat cookies that I could roll out and cut into shapes. They needed to be very dark (it’s for Halloween, after all), not just kind of brown. I had cut out a picture of the ghost cookies a while ago (I forget the source) and wanted to copy them.

A search turned up this recipe from the American Butter Institute, of all places! (Something about their name seems very trustworthy for a cookie recipe.) The picture of these cookies on their site was beautiful. I’m glad I tried it — the cookies were delicious and just what I was looking for.

These would make nice chocolate wafer cookies if you roll them thin enough and watch them closely in the oven to make sure they don’t burn. They’re also just a nice twist on regular sugar cookie cut-outs. The institute’s site shows them in snowflake shapes, for example.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder (dark, if possible)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well until combined. Add flour mixture and beat until dough is smooth.

Form dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate one hour or until firm enough to roll.

Remove dough from refrigerator and, on a lightly floured surface, roll out to 1/4-inch thickness. (Tip: If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, don’t use flour to make it not stick — dust it with cocoa powder so the dough stays brown!) Use cookie cutters to cut desired shapes; transfer cookies to non-stick baking sheet or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Return to refrigerator for another 10 minutes. Turn oven to 350F (175C) degrees.

Remove cookies from refrigerator and bake 12 minutes, or until firm around edges. Let cookies cool on baking sheet 5 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

FOR ICING: It’s easy! Put some confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar) in a small bowl. Add a few drops of water and mix with a spoon. Keep adding only a few drops at a time until it’s a good consistency for piping — you don’t want it too watery. If you’re not sure, then thicker is better than thinner. Spoon the icing into a plastic sandwich bag and snip off a very tiny corner. Then you can pipe it onto the cookies.

Nutella Brownies

When I posted the recipe for Nutella pancakes a few weeks ago, I mentioned Nutella brownies. I’m finally posting the recipe, which I’ve had for a few years now and is the only homemade brownie I will ever make.20190807_142943

Nutella brownies are as good as they sound! They are chocolatey and moist — not dry and cakey. They also bake to a nice height. Sometimes when I’ve sought a fudgy brownie, they come out flat and chewy. Not these. And just like Nutella on a spoon, they are irresistible.

I found this recipe on a site called Life in Pleasantville that I’m really enjoying. (It has some recipes I’m eager to try.) No tweaks are needed, but self-control definitely is. Seriously — what do they put in Nutella to make it so unbelievably delicious?

4 large eggs
1 large egg white
725g container Nutella
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until light and frothy. Blend in Nutella, butter, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and walnuts.

Spread mixture into baking pan and bake 30-40 minutes. Brownies will appear slightly underbaked in center. Let cool. For your brownies to look their best, refrigerate the pan overnight before slicing — otherwise they’ll be crumbly.

Lemon Icebox Pie

If there is a perfect summer dessert, then a sweet, tart icebox pie may well be it. Pies such as key lime, lemon meringue, and this classic all share the same delicious traits: a tangy, custardy filling in a buttery cookie-crumb crust.


I recently found myself with two different recipes for this, which was a welcome excuse for another one of my bake-offs at home. I made them side by side and although they were similar in taste, there was still a clear winner. All of us at the table agreed.

Both called for egg yolks, a can of sweetened condensed milk, and lemon juice. The losing recipe added buttermilk and lemon zest — it was a pastry chef’s recipe in a magazine (I won’t say which one) so I thought it would win. But the winning recipe was the one that stuck to the basics. It also called for a homemade graham cracker crust that had a distinct saltiness, and it tasted great alongside the sweet filling — just like with salted caramel, or sea salt on dark chocolate.

The recipe comes from a restaurant called Revival in Decatur, Georgia. It was printed in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the request of a reader who said the pie tasted like the one they grew up with. I’d say it’s just as timeless, simple, and delicious, with the added specialness of the salty-sweet crust.


Makes one 9-inch pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter

For the filling:
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (I used 3 lemons)
Whipped cream for garnish

Preheat oven to 325F degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together crumbs, sugar, and salt. Add butter and stir together until all dry ingredients are coated. Press crumbs into a 9-inch pie pan. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Leave oven on.

In a medium bowl, whisk condensed milk and egg yolks together. Add juice and whisk until combined. Pour into cooled pie crust. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving with whipped cream on top.

Saltine Toffee

Chocolate, butter, and brown sugar is an irresistible dessert combination, and here’s a way to enjoy it with a crispy layer underneath and a touch of salt. Just like it does when paired with caramel, the salt brings out the sweetness and makes each bite finish with a “wow!”

This was printed a few days ago in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution list of the best recipes of 2018. I was almost turned off by the idea of using saltine crackers. It seemed too easy, too much of a shortcut, and I didn’t think it would look as elegant as the picture made it out to be. But it was being recommended by Wendell Brock, who writes about food for the AJC and whose recipes and articles I really enjoy. So I gave it a shot and was so glad I did.

Brock called the combination of flavors and textures “heaven,” and I’d agree. 100% delicious.

Oh, and it was a fun recipe to make with my children. They laid out the crackers, sprinkled the chocolate morsels, and sprinkled the nuts and watched me do the pouring and spreading.

48 saltine crackers
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks, 225g) unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. (340g) semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Flaky or big-granule salt, such as sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C degrees. Line a 12-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lay the crackers out in one layer, as close together as possible, filling the sheet.

Melt butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. When the butter has melted, raise the heat and bring to a boil. Keep it at a boil for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

After 3 minutes, add the vanilla, give it a good stir, and pour evenly over the crackers. Spread the mixture around with a spatula if needed. Don’t worry if the surface isn’t completely covered. You just don’t want it pooling in one place.

Bake the crackers for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle the chocolate morsels over evenly over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes, then spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle pecans and salt over the top. Leave to cool, then place in refrigerator about an hour to set the chocolate.

Break into pieces and store in an airtight container for up to five days.

Printed in the AJC and adapted from “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food With a Twist” by Perre Coleman Magness.

Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallows

Here’s a little treat that doesn’t take long to make. You can adapt it to any holiday with sprinkles, keep it plain, or try drizzling with icing or white chocolate. It’s a fun snack that would be great to set out at parties or nice to box up and give as a gift.


All you need are large marshmallows and chocolate morsels — I used peppermint chocolate morsels — then sprinkles, icing, or white chocolate morsels.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper (the baking sheet must be rimmed so sprinkles don’t roll away and make a mess when you decorate).


In a bowl, melt a large handful of chocolate morsels in the microwave. Do it in 20- or 30-second intervals, stirring in between, to make sure all the chocolate is melted and none of it burns.

When chocolate is completely melted, you must work quickly. Take a large marshmallow and dip it into the chocolate, then set it on the parchment paper with the chocolate side up. Sprinkle it right away, then do the next one. Refrigerate once they’re all decorated so the chocolate hardens, then serve.

If drizzling with icing or white chocolate, let the first layer harden in the fridge before decorating. Melt the white chocolate as above.


Halloween Eyeball Cupcakes

20181030_1539161. Bake some chocolate cupcakes with cupcake liners.
2. Prepare a thick buttercream frosting and tint it with Halloween colors like purple, orange, green, and brown.
3. Pipe spikes all over the top of the cupcake. (Squirt a small blob and bring the tip of the frosting bag straight back up.)
4. Put candy eyes randomly between the spikes.

As you can see, we didn’t just do spikes — we had fun making crazy monster faces. This is one Halloween treat that doesn’t require a specific shape or design, so just use your imagination!

Peach Cobbler

The best way to enjoy peach cobbler is scooped in a bowl and topped with some vanilla ice cream. It ought to be golden brown on top, liberal with the fruit, and just mushy enough on the bottom to remind you this is comfort food best eaten with a spoon.

This recipe started with a version found on many websites that all credit The Salt Lick barbecue restaurant near Austin, Texas. I tried to do my own searching and couldn’t find the original, so I asked the restaurant — and it seems it’s not theirs, after all.

Now I don’t feel so bad about the tweaks I made. I slightly reduced the amount of butter and got specific about the peaches. The recipe calls for canned, but if you have a bounty of fresh peaches, by all means, use them instead.

One last thing — this is one baked dessert that doesn’t have to cool off before you serve it. Although you can make it ahead of time, this dish, even in the heat of summer, is best served warm.

28 oz. peeled, sliced peaches (if using canned, weigh the peaches after draining — three 15-oz. cans should give the right amount)
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

6 1/2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 cup room-temperature milk
1 room-temperature egg

Heat oven to 350F degrees. Meanwhile, prepare the peaches. Cut slices into halves or thirds, depending on size. In a bowl, combine peaches with sugar and spices.

Once oven is hot, put butter in a 9×13-inch pan and melt in the oven. Remove once melted.

In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in milk and egg. Pour evenly over melted butter.

Spread peach mixture, including any liquid, evenly over batter. Do not stir.

Bake 35-45 minutes until batter is golden brown.

Note: I have updated this post to include the restaurant’s reply to my question about the recipe’s origin.