Cinnamon Pecan Blondies

cinnamonpecanblondiesLet’s talk about how dark brown sugar for a second and how every time I use it, I end up wasting half the bag because it solidifies in my cabinet, turning into a rock-hard mass that could probably give someone a concussion if used as a weapon. I even bought one of those little terra cotta discs that’s supposed to keep it from doing this, but maybe I wait too long between recipes? Anyway…

My solution is simple: I’m baking with as much dark brown sugar as I can within a few weeks before it has a chance to become something that might be admitted as evidence in court one day. Hence these cinnamon pecan blondies, which used up the second half of the bag I bought for those brown sugar cookies a few weeks ago. Apparently dark brown sugar will last about two and a half weeks in my cabinet before it becomes dangerous…and these treats are really delicious, so you know, win-win.


  • 10 2/3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cinnamon chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13 x 9 baking pan with foil, extending foil over the sides. Lightly grease foil.

In a large saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Stir constantly over medium heat until mixture melts and becomes smooth. Pour mixture into a large mixing bowl and allow to cool about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once cool, add eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda; batter will become fairly thick. Stir in toasted pecans and cinnamon chips – the cinnamon chips will start to melt, but that’s okay.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread out into an even layer. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top is a very light golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean.

Cut into bars while still warm; when completely cool, remove from pan and store in an airtight container. Makes 24.


Mojito Bars

mojitobarsMike and I traveled to Puerto Rico for our tenth wedding anniversary back in 2010 and he drank mojitos with pretty much every meal except breakfast. He might have even had one for breakfast, now that I think about it. In any case, Puerto Rico is as close as we’ve ever gotten to Cuba, home of the mojito, though I still hope to visit Havana someday.

Anyway…these bars are inspired by that cocktail, though I have to say they’re really just more like a lime bar with a little bit of mint and a hint of rum than the real thing. They’re delicious regardless, though. Enjoy!


For the crust

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups flour

For the filling

  • 3 tablespoons light rum
  • 16 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice (from about 6-7 limes)
  • zest from 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 baking tin with baking spray. Place chopped mint and rum in a bowl and let steep while you prepare the crust and filling.

To make the crust, beat butter and powdered sugar with the paddle attachment of your mixer on low speed to combine. Add flour and beat on low to a sandy consistency; you’ll want to scrape the bowl a few times. Pour into the baking tin and press into an even layer, then bake for 22-25 minutes, until crust is just starting to turn golden brown.

While crust is baking, place sugar and eggs in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add lime juice, zest, salt, flour, and milk and whisk to combine. Pour the rum/mint mixture through a strainer and stir into the lime mixture. Pour over crust and bake for another 23 – 26 minutes, until center is set. Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 1 hour, then cool completely in the fridge.

Cut into squares and dust with powdered sugar; store in a single layer in the fridge for 1-2 days. Makes 24.

Brown Sugar Cookies

brownsugarcookiesWhat happens when you make sugar cookies with dark brown sugar? Magic, that’s what.

Dark brown sugar has a higher quantity of molasses than light brown sugar, so anything baked with it has a more caramelly (is that a word? It is now) flavor, which is definitely true of these treats. A word of caution, though: these cookies are incredibly soft and bendy, so I’d recommend baking them a little longer than the original 8 minutes in the recipe, which I found at C&H Sugar. They need about 12-14 minutes, along with about 5 minutes of cooling time on the baking sheets once they’re out of the oven. And also, if you spread peanut butter on them, they taste a lot like Mary Janes, so a peanut butter-filled sandwich version of these certainly isn’t a bad idea.


  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 8 tablespoons shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour


Preheat oven to 300. Line four baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat dark brown sugar, butter, and shortening at medium speed for two minutes. Add baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and beat until combined, then beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour and mix until combined.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets and flatten slightly. Bake about 12-14 minutes (start checking them around 8-9 minutes), until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let rest on the baking sheets for five minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature for 2-3 days; these treats are really soft and will start to fall apart (quite literally) after just a few days, but they’re absolutely worth baking. Makes about 24.


amarettiAre amaretti the OG gluten-free cookies? Maybe. According to a random internet source, they apparently go all the way back to the 17th or 18th century. Regardless of how long they’ve been around, these little nuggets of Italian cookie goodness are like a rustic version of the macaron, and they are way, waaaay less work.

To make amaretti you mix six ingredients in a bowl. Then you chill the dough, scoop it, coat it in powdered sugar, and bake it. No triple sifting of almond flour, no room temperature egg whites, no piping bag, no letting things “cure” to form that shiny macaron top. They’re crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside, and apparently the textures get more intense after a few days. I don’t think they’ll last long enough for anyone to find out, though.


  • 3 cups almond flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar, plus more for coating
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract


In a large mixing bowl, stir together almond flour, sugar, powdered sugar, and salt. Add egg whites and almond extract and mix until the dough comes together like a paste. Flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic, then chill for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325; line two baking sheets with parchment and place additional powdered sugar into a shallow bowl. Scoop and roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then toss to coat in the powdered sugar. Place on the baking sheets and flatten slightly.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 28.

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

vanillasugarcookiesHere’s a classic: the sugar cookie. But not one of those way-too-sweet, only-take-a-few-bites sugar cookies you can find at almost any bakery. These (admittedly enormous, at four inches wide) sugar cookies have nutmeg and vanilla bean paste in them, which means they’re just delicious without being too sugary and have a more mellow flavor. These treats also have great texture, with a crispy edge and soft middle.

One caveat: be careful not to overbake these. Pull them from the oven when the middles are still puffy and look just a bit underdone but the edges are golden, as they’ll continue to bake while they cool.


  • 12 tablespoons butter, slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar for coating


Preheat oven to 375. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Place 1/4 cup sugar in a small bowl; set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for about 1 minute; add sugar, brown sugar, vanilla extract, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg and beat until well combined. Add flour and beat to combine.

Using a 2-inch cookie scoop, scoop dough, roll into balls, and dip in sugar to coat completely.

Place cookies at least 2 inches apart on baking sheets; they will spread some when baking. I put 6 cookies per sheet, and that worked well.

Bake for 10 minutes, until edges are barely beginning to brown and centers still look puffy. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes 22 four-inch cookies; you can use a one-inch cookie scoop if you’d like smaller treats and a bigger batch.

Raspberry Truffle Brownies

raspberrytrufflebrowniesIf dark chocolate and intense flavors are your thing, these treats are for you. They really do taste like truffles, which I’ve only made once because they’re incredibly messy. And not unlike those little high-end confections, these brownies are best consumed in just a few bites; a little goes a very, very long way.

The original recipe comes from the King Arthur Baking Essential Cookie Cookbook and included raspberry extract in both the brownies and glaze, but I didn’t have any so I left it out. They’re still delicious, though.


For the brownies

  • 12 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup Dutch-process (aka Hershey’s Special Dark) cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 cup flour

For the glaze

  • 1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking tin with foil and spray lightly with baking spray. Sprinkle the bottom with sugar; this is my tip for a slightly crunchy bottom crust that adds a nice texture to otherwise soft treats like brownies.

In a large pot, melt butter over low heat. Stir in sugar and continue heating for another minute while stirring, until the mixture is just hot. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder, then whisk in eggs and vanilla extract. Stir in flour, then spread evenly in prepared pan.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before glazing.

For the glaze, combine raspberry jam, semisweet chocolate, light corn syrup, and butter in a medium saucepan on low heat; stir until melted and smooth. Spread over brownies; allow to set before cutting. Makes 24.

Dolci di Noci (Walnut Cookies)

dolcidinociDespite not being Italian, I always end up baking Italian treats at Easter. So here we are with some dolci di noci, walnut cookies made with just three basic ingredients. They’re easy to make, and also gluten-free if that’s your thing.

There are various recipes online for this treat with varying quantities of sugar, but all you need for these are walnuts, sugar, and an egg. No need for a mixer either – just a food processor (or blender) and a bowl. I wonder how you say “easy” in Italian.


  • 2 3/4 cups walnuts
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature


Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine walnuts and sugar in your food processor; pulse until fine, like sand. Pour into a bowl and add egg, then mix to form a paste. Divide into four equal portions and roll into 9-inch logs, then cut each log into 6 pieces. Place on baking sheets about 2 inches apart and bake for 11-13 minutes, until the edges are just brown and cookies are set. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then place on a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 24.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars

oatmeal reeses barsWant to make a cookie or bar look like it does in a cookbook? Reserve some of your add-ins, like chocolate chips and Reese’s Pieces in these oatmeal bars, and sprinkle them on the top so they’re not all hidden inside the dough. As they bake, they’ll settle in.

These bars are on their way to North Carolina for my nephew Roman for Easter, and they’re pretty sturdy (strange way to describe a treat, perhaps?) so they should hold up well. The dough is quite thick, so you actually need to mix the chocolate chips and Reese’s into it with your hands – a spoon will absolutely not do it. The basic recipe can be tweaked to include butterscotch chips, cinnamon chips, or whatever other candy/toppings you like. I actually feel like these bars would be great warm, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on them. So much for Lent, eh?


  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 cups oats (old-fashioned or quick-cooking; I used quick-cooking)
  • 3/4 cup Reese’s Pieces
  • 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the bottom of a 9 x 13 baking tin with baking spray.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat, then mix in flour and oats. Add Reese’s Pieces and chocolate chips, then mix with your hands to fully combine; if you prefer, leave a few tablespoons of your pieces and chips out to sprinkle on the top.

Press dough into prepared baking pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, until top is light golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center  comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in the pan, then cut into bars and store in an airtight container at room temperature. If shipping, pack between layers of waxed paper. Makes 24.

Oatmeal Peanut Butter Toffee Cookies

pbtoffeeoatmealcookiesOatmeal is good for you. Probably less so when blended with flour and sugar and turned into a cookie that also happens to include toffee bits (read: little nuggets of brown sugar and butter cooked beyond the stage of caramel or butterscotch), but let’s not get too technical.

This recipe comes from The Cafe Sucre Farine, another baking blogger I found on Pinterest. I used my stand mixer for this, but if you’ve softened your butter enough so that you can blend it by hand, go for it. I altered the recipe slightly to include just a half-cup of peanut butter and an 8-ounce bag of toffee bits; the end result is delicious twist on a classic oatmeal cookie. I’m curious to see what this recipe would be like with chocolate-covered toffee bits, so stay tuned.


  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned (rolled) oats
  • 8-ounce bag plain toffee bits (I use Heath Bits O’Brickle)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugars and beat to combine, then add eggs and vanilla and beat to fully incorporate. Add flour mixture and beat to combine, then stir in oats and toffee bits.

Using a two-inch cookie scoop, drop scoops of dough onto the baking sheets, leaving a few inches between; I baked 8 cookies at a time first, then 6 cookies at a time; I think the smaller batches turned out better and browned more evenly. Bake for 13 – 17 minutes, until edges are set but centers still look puffy and a bit wet. Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets for a few minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for several days. Makes 40.

Sparkling St. Patrick’s Day Sugar Cookies

sparkingstpatrickscookiesThis weekend I stood in the baking aisle of my local craft store, staring at the “sorry, we’re out” tag hanging from the rod where the green sanding sugar should have been. To the left were dinosaur sprinkles; to the right, some type of “cactus mix.” And while I’d love to bake with dino and cactus sprinkles someday, I really needed plain old green sanding sugar for my sparkling shamrock cut-outs. To the grocery store I went, only to meet the same fate.

And so I returned home, consulted the internet, and made my own colored sugar. You could probably use regular granulated sugar, but I used the larger crystals known as sanding sugar that you can get at baking supply and craft stores. I had a bottle of white, so I placed about a half-cup in a glass container, added a few drops of green gel food coloring, and shook the container until all the granules were coated. I’m very pleased with how it turned out; the light shade of the shamrocks goes well with the gold coins, all of which are on their way to my favorite young ladies in Maryland, Mo and Margo.


  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • Green and yellow sanding sugar


Stir together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and about half the flour mixture, beating until combined; beat in remaining flour. If necessary, add 1-2 teaspoons of water for a less crumbly dough; you’ll need a more pliable dough to roll and cut later.

Form dough into a disc and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until just barely firm, about 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper, then place green sanding sugar on a plate; place yellow on another.

Roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into shamrock shapes, then press the tops of each cookie into the green sugar to coat. Repeat with a small round cutter for coins and press into the yellow sugar. Place on baking sheets about 1-2 inches apart – they don’t spread much when baking, but you don’t want to crowd your baking sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until just golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on cookie sheets for 2-3 minutes before carefully transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days; if shipping, pack between layers of waxed paper. Makes about 3 dozen 3-inch cookies.