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Peanut Butter Blondies

3 Jan

At the beginning of January, most food blogs share healthy recipes to help you recover from holiday indulgences and commit to your New Year’s resolutions. Even though I am all about kale salad right now (because it tastes delicious), maintaining a truly healthy diet requires balance. An article I read in the New York Times re-affirmed this belief. I love to bake and consume sweets almost every day, but in moderation, which is key. If my diet centers around fresh produce, whole grains, and lean meats, there is nothing wrong with enjoying quality, homemade baked goods. Which leads me to these peanut butter blondies.

Peanut butter is a quintessential American food. However, despite its ubiquity, most people either love it or they hate it. My dad was of the latter camp, and for years, I tried in vain to convert him. I slathered peanut butter on brioche toast, sandwiched it between shortbread, and even sacrificed some of my beloved Girl Scout cookies to the cause. These magical little bars finally inspired him to see the light.

The blondies have an undeniable peanut flavor without being too rich or overpowering. The saltiness of the roasted peanuts contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the chocolate chunks, and best of all, the batter takes minutes to mix up in a saucepan. My dad ate two in a matter of minutes, and was disappointed when they were all gone. So, what are you waiting for? It’s 2014. Let’s celebrate with some peanut butter blondies.

Recipe courtesy of Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy by Alice Medrich

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 8 tblsp (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup well-stirred natural, salted peanut butter (smooth)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup (3 oz) semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

Yields 16 blondies.

1. Line the bottom and all four sides of an 8-inch square pan with foil. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350° F.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and mix together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the brown sugar and peanut butter. Use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to beat in the egg, vanilla, and half of the peanuts. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

3. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the remaining nuts and chocolate chips evenly over the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the nuts have toasted, the top is golden brown, and the edges have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Cool the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, then lift the ends of the foil and allow the blondies to cool completely on the rack. Use a long, sharp knife to cut into squares. The blondies may be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days.


Almond-Date Breakfast Bars

15 Mar

Are you someone who follows routines? 

In some parts of my life, I have developed a system for doing things and rarely do I deviate from my approach. Take writing newspaper articles for example. I email my sources, record my interviews and take notes for back-up, highlight the most important quotes, and structure my story around these quotes. It’s a methodical structure that produces solid results every time. But there are some tasks that I have not gotten used to, such as waking up before school every morning. I stumble out of bed at least 10 minutes after my alarm goes off, throw on my uniform, and sprint down the stairs. No matter how hard I try to maintain a schedule, going to school will always be an unpredictable scramble out the door.

This past week, however, I broke a routine that I have stuck to religiously: breakfast. Weekday breakfasts consist of three options: eggs, bagels, and granola. I craved a change- something tasty and special, but healthy enough that I would feel energized after my first meal of the day. 

Leave it to Deb Perelman to devise the perfect recipe to relieve my breakfast slump. These almond-date bars are nutty from the almonds and oats, and naturally sweetened with honey and chewy, plump dates. Their golden brown edges and slightly crumbly texture are features only attainable in wholesome, homemade treats. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, these little gems happen to be 100% vegan. It was only after I enjoyed my first bar that I discovered this fact. 

So, what are you waiting for? It’s not so bad to break routines once in a while. 

Recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1 cup chopped dried pitted dates 
1 1/4 cups rolled oats 
3 tblsp barley or whole-wheat flour 
1/3 cup wheat germ*
1/2 cup thinly sliced almonds 
1/2 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon 
1/4 cup almond butter 
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 cup honey 
1/4 tsp freshly grated orange zest 
1/4 tsp almond extract 

Yields 16 2-inch square bars 

*I did not have wheat germ on hand, so I substituted wheat bran instead. 

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square ban in one direction with parchment paper, allowing the paper to hang off the sides a bit. Do the same in the opposite direction. This parchment “sling” makes it easy to remove the bars from the pan later on. 
2. In a large bowl, stir together the dates, oats, flour, wheat germ/bran, almonds, salt, and cinnamon. In a separate small bowl, whisk together the almond butter, olive oil, honey, orange zest, and almond extract until smooth. Pour these wet ingredients over the dry mixture, and stir them together until the dry ingredients are evenly coated. 
3. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan, pressing it firmly to the bottom, edges, and corners to ensure they are molded to the shape of the pan. Bake the bars for 20-25 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the tops have a bit of color too. They will feel soft when you touch them, but will set up once completely cool. 
4. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan on a cooling rack. Once they’re cool, use a serrated knife to cut the bars into squares. If they seem crumbly, chill them in the fridge for an additional 30 minutes, then cut them cold. 

Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars

22 Sep

Recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is 


1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats 
1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut 
1/2 cup raw sliced almonds 
1/2 cup raw whole almonds, coarsely chopped 
1/4 cup flaxseed 
3 tblsp whole wheat flour 
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract 
1/3 cup packed coconut oil 
1/3 cup honey 
1/3 cup dark chocolate chunks 

Makes 8-12 bars, depending on how big you cut them. 

1.  Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line an 8×8 square pan with parchment paper. 

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, shredded coconut, flour, flaxseed, sliced almonds, chopped almonds, salt, and chocolate chunks, mixing very thoroughly until combined. In a small bowl, combine honey and coconut oil, microwaving on high power for 10 seconds at a time, stirring after each increment, until coconut oil is melted. Stir vanilla extract into coconut oil mixture, then pour the entire mix over the dry ingredients.

3. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir until all of the ingredients are evenly coated in the coconut oil. Press the dough into the pan, pressing with the back of the spoon to smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow the bars to cool to room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator for an hour to harden. Remove from the fridge and cut into squares. Serve immediately, or return them to the fridge for later consumption.
Now that reality has sunk in and school is in full swing, every day is a race from one class to the next, onto the yellow bus to tennis matches, and finally back home where I glue myself to a chair for long, treacherous hours of homework. In order to maintain my health and sanity in this crazy whirlwind of a schedule, I need snacks. And not just your run-of-the-mill sliced apples or suspiciously neon orange “flavor blasted” goldfish, but a hearty, satisfying, and delicious item that I can eat on the go. Enter Coconut Chocolate Granola Bars- a nutty, chocolatey, oat-y treat that is both satisfying and good for you. These trump my favorite store-bought granola bars in both flavor and freshness. They’re made from whole ingredients you can find in your pantry and that are easy to pronounce, unlike the mystery products listed on the backs of many wrappers. As hectic as my life has become in the past month, escaping to this nutritious homemade snack gives me the right boost of energy to keep going. 

Chocolate Coconut Bars

26 Feb

3 tablespoons butter 
6 whole graham crackers 
3/4 cup milk 
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips 
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
1 pinch of salt 
1/2 cup shredded coconut 

Makes 12 bars.

1. Line the 8-inch square baking pan or dish with foil so that the foil hangs over the sides. 
2. Grease the foil with butter. 
3. Melt the 3 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. 
4. Once melted, move the pan to a heatproof surface and allow the butter to cool for 5 minutes. 
5. Put the graham crackers in a zippered plastic bag, press out the air, and seal. 
6. Using a rolling pin, crush the crackers to make small crumbs. You should have 1 cup of crumbs. 
7. Add the crumbs to the butter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. 
8. Scape the crumbs into the baking pan. 
9. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the crumbs. Using your hand, evenly spread the crumbs to coat the bottom of the pan. 
10. Heat the milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the chips are completely melted. 
11. Add the vanilla extract and salt to the chocolate filling. Stir until completely blended. 
12. Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly with a wooden spoon. 
13. Allow the chocolate filling and graham cracker crust to chill in the freezer for 15 minutes. 
14. Scatter the shredded coconut evenly over the chocolate, pressing the flakes in gently. 
15. Refrigerate the bars for 3-4 hours, until they are firm. To serve, lift the foil from the pan and cut into small squares. 

These bars represent the perfect balance between sweet and savory. The semi-sweet chocolate filling compliments the coconut perfectly and the graham cracker crust provides a delectable crunch. The recipe requires no baking experience and cleanup is a breeze. Enjoy!