Pecan Pie Bars

I got a trainer. A personal gym trainer. She makes me do grueling exercises and work out muscles I didn't even know existed.

I’m well aware that these desserts aren't exactly helping me reach my goal but when I got home from my first workout all I could think about was a hot shower and a treat.

You have no idea how hard I worked! I deserved it!

This aside, a dessert that is predominantly pecan is a definite favorite in my books. And can you believe it, I had never made pecan pie, bars or tarts… only happily consumed them.

Well that all changed last night. As a pecan anything lover I can tell you that I thoroughly enjoyed these bars. And, did you know that pecans are one of the healthiest snacks you can eat? They are naturally sodium free and contain only unsaturated heart healthy fat. They are particularly beneficial to your immune system, as they contain zinc and vitamin E, a natural antioxidant.

So really, it’s like I’m doing my body a huge favor by eating these bars! I’m on my way to being toned, fit and fabulous and these tasty pecan treats are helping me along the way! Total bonus!

Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from:  I don't have a source as this is a photocopied recipe I've had for a while.


3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs
2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla


Preheat oven  to 350° F. For crust, beat butter in large bowl with electric mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until well blended. Add flour gradually, beating at low speed after each addition. (Mixture will be crumbly but presses together easily).

Press dough evenly into ungreased 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Press mixture slightly up sides of pan (less than 1/4 inch) to form lip to hold filling.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Meanwhile, for filling, beat eggs lightly in medium bowl with fork. Add pecans, granulated sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and vanilla; mix well. Pour filling over partially baked crust. Return to oven; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until filling is set.

Loosen edges with knife. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into squares. Cover and refrigerate until 10 to 15 minutes before serving time. Do not freeze. 


Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries

We had an early Mother's day celebration and as per my lovely mom's request, I made Pavlova (a dessert, I should note, that she is exceptional at making).

Pavlova is a meringue cake with a light, delicate, crisp crust and a soft sweet marshmallow center. It’s truly an exercise in varied textures. The crunch of the outside of the meringue contrasts with its marshmallow-like interior. This is achieved through slow and low cooking in the oven. The creamy tartness of the lemon curd plays off the firm sweetness of the fresh fruit topping. All of these components come together to make an enjoyable mouthful and a beautiful dessert.

Don't be put off by the long directions as it is mostly mixing. This dessert doesn't take too long to assemble and can easily be made a day or two before serving. Also, be sure to top of each piece with whipped cream – it tempers the sweetness of the meringue and adds a luxurious over-the-top richness. Enjoy!

Pavlova with Lemon Curd and Berries
Adapted from: Gourmet, April 2009


1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites (at room temperature at least 30 minutes)
3 tablespoons cold water
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 fresh lemon juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter
3 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream
4 cups mixed berries (I used sliced strawberries and some blackberries)


Make the Meringue
Preheat oven to 300° F. As a guideline, measure and draw out a 7-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Then flip the paper over and place it on the baking sheet.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch. Then, get out your electric mixer and beat the egg whites and a pinch of salt on medium speed, until they hold soft peaks. Add the water. The whites will loosen, but don’t worry – just beat until they hold soft peaks again.

Crank up the speed to medium-high and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. Then, after all sugar has been added, beat 1 minute more.

Add vinegar (this is what creates the marshmellow-effect) to the egg whites and beat at high speed until meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 3-5 minutes.

Spoon the meringue out onto the parchment, and gently spread inside (or slightly outside) the circle you drew on the parchment. Make the outside edge of the meringue slightly higher than the center, so there’s a crater to hold the curd and fruit. Bake for about 45 minutes, until meringue is pale golden and has a crust. The inside will still be gooey.

Then, turn the oven off and prop door open a little with a wooden spoon – let it cool in oven for 1 hour.

Lemon Curd
Lightly beat yolks in a small bowl to get them ready. In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cornstarch, salt, lemon juice and butter. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, whisking, then continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 1 minute. (I turned off the heat at this point so I could concentrate on not curdling the eggs.) Carefully whisk 1/4 cup lemon mixture into the egg yolks. . . Then whisk in a little bit more, and finally, whisk the yolk mixture into the rest of the lemon mixture in the saucepan. Over low heat, cook a little longer, whisking constantly, until curd is thickened (about 2 minutes – do not let boil). Pour it into a small bowl, stir in zest, and chill, surface covered with parchment, until cool (about 1 1/2 hours). If you’re going to be short on time and/or stove space, this curd can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Putting the Pavlova Together
Beat the cream until it just holds stiff peaks, then fold about 1/4 cup whipped cream into curd to lighten it up. (Don't forget this step! You don't want the lemon to be too tart). Spoon the lemon curd into the meringue shell and spread it around, then mound berries on top. Serve the remaining whip cream on the side.

Cooks' notes:
For best results, keep oven door closed as much as possible during baking.
Meringue can be made 2 days ahead and frozen, wrapped well in plastic. Thaw before serving.
Curd can be made 2 days ahead and chilled.


National Zucchini Bread Day

April 25th is National Zucchini Bread Day!

This Zucchini recipe is still my favorite! It is so moist and slightly cakey that it makes eating your veggies an absolute delight!

It's nice that this 'holiday' falls on a Sunday this year. Lots of time to bake! So go buy your Zucchini and get busy baking with your vegetables!

Zucchini and Cinnamon Loaf


Chewy Brownies

Calling all chocolate lovers! These brownies are for you!

These brownies are cakey, borderline fudgy and have an intense chocolate flavor.

These chewy treats are filled with hidden dark chocolate chunks and will  undoubtedly have you returning for more. Serve the brownies on their own or with ice cream, strawberries and hot fudge sauce.

Chewy Brownies
Adapted from: Cooks Illustrated

1/3 cup cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used dark chocolate)


Preheat the oven to 350° F with the oven rack on the lowest position.  Using a 9 × 13 baking pan, cut two pieces of foil, and fold the edges over so they fit perfectly in the pan.  Place on piece of foil lengthwise, and one width-wise.  This will allow you to lift the brownies easily out of the pan after they are cooked.  Once the foil has been fitted into the pan, spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth.  Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted.  Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled).  Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous.  Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated.  Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined.  Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean with just a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 to 35 minutes.  Transfer pan to a rack and cool for 1 1/2 hours.

Using foil overhang, lift the brownies from the pan.  Return brownies to a wire rack and let them cool completely, about 1 hour.  Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.


Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are not your average chocolate chip cookies… these are different, delightful and mighty delicious!

This cookie differs from most because it calls for all brown sugar, which lends a chewier texture and more flavors of caramel. The recipe calls for shortening which provides the beautiful shape and height of the cookie and there is the addition of two spices, cinnamon and ginger, which lend depth to the caramel flavor without totally dominating the cookie. After leaving the dough to rest in the freezer for at least an hour to develop the flavors you roll the cookie balls in confectioners’ sugar before baking - this adds a brilliant touch of flavor.

I love all of the additions in this chocolate chip cookie and I'm so happy I veered away from the traditional recipe and took a chance on these. My dad said these were the best he has ever had and he has had a lot of chocolate chip cookies! Be sure to bake these - I guarantee you won't be disappointed!

Chocolate Chip Cookies
From: She Runs, She Eats


1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
3/4 teaspoon coarse salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup confectioners' sugar, and more if needed
additional coarse salt


Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours with baking soda, spices, and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening and butter with the brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the egg and beat to mix, followed by the vanilla and espresso. Slowly add flour mixture to butter mixture just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips until blended. Transfer dough to a container and chill for at least two hours.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the confectioners' sugar in a wide, shallow bowl or pie pan and place next to baking sheet. Portion out rounded tablespoons of cookie dough to fill sheet. Roll into balls, then roll until completely coated in sugar. Using the back of a spoon or your thumb, make a shallow indent on the top of the balls and sprinkle a few grains of coarse salt on top.

Bake for 11 minutes, until tops are just set and edges are barely beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack, cookies still on baking sheet, and let cool for 10 minutes before transferring cookies from the sheet to the rack to completely cool. Repeat process with remaining dough.


Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie

What's better than a dessert that starts with a graham cracker crust, then a layer of caramel and pecans, lots of caramelized apples, topped with a layer of cheesecake, and finished off with whipped cream swirled with more caramel and pecans? Absolutely nothing!

This dessert was delicious, sweet, included all things wonderful and will definitely be made again!

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
Adapted from: Ezra Pound Cake


For the crust
1½ cups graham cracker crumbs
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½-¾ cup caramel
1 cup chopped pecans

For the apple filling
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon. cinnamon
5-6 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced

For the cheesecake
8 oz. cream cheese
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the topping
¾ cup heavy cream, whipped
3-4 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar
¼-½ cup caramel
¼ chopped pecans


To make the crust, preheat the oven to 375° F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round springform pan with parchment paper. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, cinnamon and melted butter. Toss with a fork until all the crumbs are moistened and the ingredients are evenly mixed.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared springform pan and press the crumbs in an even layer over the pan bottom and about half to two-thirds of the way up the sides of the pan. Bake for 6-8 minutes, until golden in color. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Pour a layer of caramel into the bottom of the crust and sprinkle evenly with the chopped pecans. Refrigerate the crust while you prepare the filling.

To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, salt and cinnamon and cook for 1 minute, until bubbling. Mix in the apple slices and toss well to coat. Cook over medium to medium-high heat until tender and most of the liquid has been reduced, about 15-20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and pour into the prepared pie shell. Set aside.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 350° F.  To make the cheesecake layer, combine the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Mix in the vanilla, egg and lemon juice until fully incorporated and smooth, 1-2 minutes. Spread the cheesecake filling into an even layer over the top of the cooked apples in the crust.  Bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

To serve, carefully remove the sides of the springform pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the heavy cream and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form (being careful not to overbeat). Spread gently over the top of the chilled cheesecake layer. Top with dollops of caramel sauce and swirl with a knife to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle with a handful of chopped pecans if desired. Enjoy!


Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies

Martha, you've outdone yourself again!

This cookie really is like a mini-carrot cake! The edges of these cookies are slightly crispy but the centers are puffy and soft and loaded with everything delicious. Sandwich the flat sides of two cookies together with a generous dollop of rich cream cheese frosting and enjoy it's bliss in every bite!

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies
Adapted from: Martha Stewart's Cookies


1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots, (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup raisins

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine. Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Transfer to oven, and bake until browned and crisped, rotating pan halfway through baking to ensure even color, 12 to 15 minutes (I took mine out at 11-12 minutes). Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Once cooled completely, use an offset spatula to spread about 2 teaspoons of cream-cheese filling onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners' sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.


Mushroom Barley Soup

Look at that! Food! With nutritional value!

I'm turning over a new leaf (this leaf happens to turn often, just not this way) and I'm cooking and I'm cooking healthy. (My mom is probably picking herself up off the floor right now).

There has been a healthy handful of you that have mentioned there are no nutritious recipes ::gasp:: Although I can't guarantee you that this will be a regular occurrence I can tell you that I will try my best to post something tasty and nutritious every once and a while!

So here we go, Mushroom Barley Soup.

Barley is a nutritional powerhouse! (Yes! Just what you've all been asking for!) Barley is described as a wise choice for heart-smart dining as it contains soluble fiber content, along with its naturally low-fat content and zero cholesterol.

This soup was really easy to make, has a super low calorie count, tasted delicious and was great for both packed lunches and dinners. Enjoy!

Mushroom Barley Soup
Adapted from: Two Peas and Their Pod


1 cup barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2  carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 package of white button mushrooms, sliced (I used 20-25)
3 cans low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste


In a medium pan, bring 4 cups of water and the 1 cup of barley to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook until they are soft.  Add the vegetable broth, water, bay leaves, and fresh thyme. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked barley and cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the bay leaves before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

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