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Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

31 Oct

This past weekend I had big plans for my “recipes to experiment with” list. I hadn’t had a weekend at home with nothing to do in a while and I was itching to create some deliciousness. As I created each new recipe, I started to question if I truly have the “right” interests/hobbies in life. Each one was a fail, one after the other; under seasoned pumpkin curry soup, date caramel apples that didn’t set up right, and running out of ingredients I swore I had on hand. My ultimate moment of questioning came when I excitedly offered my hubby some cheese-less beer cheese soup (I know, I know…cheese is in the name…I get it) and asked for his input. I knew it needed some tweaking but thought I was on the path to an amazing discovery. Trying to be helpful and offer input, he suggested, “trying to use a different kind of cheese”.

I was ready to throw in the towel. I had waited all week for this day. I brought extra cash to the farmer’s market to get some seasonal goods, stocked up on staples at the grocery store, and woke up extra early to spend some extra time in the kitchen; to not have one good outcome from it all was not ok with me. I decided to give it one last effort and came out with these:





wholesome pumpkin bars with cream cheese-less cream cheese frosting.


I got the amazing frosting recipe from Love and Lemons.  I clearly have a lot to learn from her. She was able to make the frosting taste like the real thing without actually including the main ingredient. Genius!

These bars have a lot to offer. Believe it or not they are packed with nutrition: oats, pumpkin puree, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, a touch of natural sweetener; what more could a girl want? Although the frosting makes them a-m-a-z-i-n-g, I have enjoyed them sans frosting as a quick, on-the-go snack. They freeze well, too, and only use one bowl to make! Oh, and depending on your dietary restrictions, they are vegan (so dairy and egg free by default) and gluten-free, if you use gluten free oats! Honestly, I don’t know why you guys are still reading. You should be preheating your oven and getting out your mixing bowl and measuring cups…

Pumpkin Bars

Makes 9 bars (8×8 inch pan)

2 cups rolled oats

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/4 cup maple syrup (add an additional 2 tablespoons if you like things sweeter)

1/2 cup cashew cream (1/2 cup cashews processed with 2 1/2 tablespoons almond milk; you might be able to use a nut butter but I did not test it)

1/4 cup uncrystallized candied ginger, cut into quarter inch pieces (I found mine at Trader Joe’s; other dried fruit would work as well)

Frosting (from Love and Lemons)

1/2 cup macadamia nuts (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/2 cup cashews (soaked for 2 hours, drained and rinsed)

1/4 cup almond milk

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8×8 pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, combine oats, flaxseed, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin seeds.

3. Add pumpkin puree, canola oil, maple syrup, and cashew cream. Mix well to combine.

4. Fold in uncrystallized candied ginger.

5. Spread batter into prepared baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly browned.

6. To make the frosting, combine all frosting ingredients in a high speed blender. Start blender on low and gradually increase to high.  Blend until smooth.

7 . Cool the bars on a cooling rack. Wait until bars are completely cooled to add frosting.


Oatmeal Cookie Dough Balls

5 Oct

I’m going to play “dietitian” for a minute here…


One of the messages that I try to get across to people when they are trying to make healthy lifestyle changes is that once you get away from sugar-laden goods or salty snacks and make them an occasional treat, you won’t crave them as much anymore.

When you get out of the habit of having a bowl of ice cream every night, you begin to realize that you don’t feel your best when you eat it. When you get away from snacking on salty treats all day, when you do treat yourself to a bag of potato chips, they might taste overly salty. A lot of our cravings and food “addictions” are acquired. The more sugar or salt you eat, the more you want it, and the more you need to satisfy that craving.

So, now you’re asking, “What should I do when I get a craving for my daily cookie or sweet treat?”


I never said you have to restrict yourself.

You should make these oatmeal cookie dough balls.


They are sweetened with dates and are packed with healthy fats and good-for-you fiber. They are a cinch to make and make you feel like you are eating oatmeal cookie dough right out of the bowl.


Oatmeal Cookie Dough Balls

Makes 12 balls

1/2 cup rolled oats

10 Medjool dates, pitted

1/4 cup almonds

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor. Pulse until combined.

2. Roll tablespoons of dough into balls and place them on a lined cookie sheet.

3. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes. Place balls in a bag for storage. I stored them in the freezer so they hold their shape.

4. Enjoy when a craving for dessert hits 🙂

Cardamom Shortbread

12 Apr

We’ve almost made it through the most brutal winter of my lifetime. I say “almost” because according to the 10-day forecast on my phone, there is still one day with a high of only 39 degrees. I’m crossing my fingers that a) the high doesn’t drop any lower than that and b) a wintry mix doesn’t decide to tag along with the cooler weather. You just never know when you live in Michigan.

In the event that one more snowy morning finds its way into our lives this spring, I have just the thing for you: cardamom shortbread.



It’s the perfect thing to munch on as you snuggle up under a blanket with a hot cup of coffee and a good book as one last cold spell passes through.


The original recipe comes from ATK’s Baking Illustrated.

Cardamom Shortbread

Makes 16 wedges

1 3/4 cup (8 3/4 ounces)

1/4 cup (1 1/3 ounces) cornstarch

1/8 teaspoon cardamom

2/3 cup (5 ounces) superfine sugar (if not available, process granulated sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds)

1/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

1.Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line an ungreased 9-inch round cake pan with a round piece of parchment paper and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set both aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flours, cardamom, all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar (reserve for sprinkling), and salt at low speed until combined, about 5 seconds. Cut the butter into 1/2-inch cubes and toss with 1/4 cup of the flour mixture in a small bowl. Add the butter and any flour remaining to the flour mixture in the bowl. Mix at low speed until the dough is pale yellow and resembles damp crumbs, about 4 minutes.

3. Remove the bowl from the mixer and toss the mixture lightly with your fingers to fluff and loosen; rub any remaining butter bits into the flour mixture with your fingertips.

4. Turn half the crumbs into a 9-inch parchment-lined cake pan and even lightly with the fingers. Press the mixture firmly into the pan using the bottom of a cup. Add the remaining crumbs and even lightly with fingers. Working quickly, smooth the top of the dough with the back of a spoon. Insert a paring knife between the dough and the pan. Leaving the knife stationary, rotate the pan counterclockwise to free the edges of the dough. Unmold the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Peel the parchment round from the dough; smooth the edges if necessary. Place a 2-inch biscuit cutter in the center of the dough and cut out the center. Place the extruded round to the side, the replace the biscuit cutter.

5. Place the shortbread in the oven; immediately reduce the temperature to 300 degrees. Bake 20 minutes; remove the baking sheet from the oven. Score the top surface of the shortbread into 16 even wedges with a thin knife. If desired, pierce a design with a sharp skewer. Return the shortbread to the oven and continue to bake until pale golden, about 40 minutes longer.

6. Slide the parchment with the shortbread onto a cutting board, remove the biscuit cutter from the center, sprinkle the shortbread evenly with the reserved 1 tablespoon sugar, and cut at the scored marks into wedges. Slide the parchment with the shortbread onto a wire rack and cool to room temperature, at least 3 hours.


Loaded Quinoa Cookies (vegan)

25 Mar


I’ve mentioned before that I love snacking…specifically the kind that makes you feel like you’re “splurging” but you’re really getting loads of good-for-you ingredients. I especially love that kind of snacking when it’s neatly packaged into a cookie.


These loaded quinoa cookies do just that.



The cooked quinoa adds satisfying protein that make these cookies great for an on-the-go breakfast or a tasty snack.

Feel free to add whatever mix-ins you have on hand. The first time I made these cookies, I used a jar of odds and ends mix-ins I had been collecting. The tablespoon of pistachios leftover from making granola, the 1/4 cup of shredded coconut leftover from making banana bread, and the handful of chocolate chips left from making cookies. I’ve made these cookies a few times and use a different combination each time. My favorite combination included pistachios, toasted coconut flakes, walnuts, cashews, peanuts, and chocolate chips.


Leave a comment below with the mix-ins you tried. Happy snacking 🙂

Loaded Quiona Cookies

Makes 18 cookies

1/4 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup agave nectar

2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa

3/4 cup mix-ins (any type of nut, dried fruit, chocolate chips)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a medium bowl, combine peanut butter, coconut oil, agave nectar, applesauce, and vanilla. Mix until ingredients are well incorporated.

3. Add whole wheat flour, salt, and baking soda and mix just until combined. Fold in quinoa and other mix-ins.

4. Roll dough into 2-inch balls and place on a lined cookie sheet 2 inches apart. Using you fingers, gently press dough balls until flattened. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

Raw Vegan Granola Bars

10 Mar

I am posting about one of my favorite things twice because I like it that much…snacking. Healthy snacking to be more specific. These bars are the perfect thing to satisfy an afternoon sweet tooth or to fuel your day for an on-the-go breakfast. They are full of fiber, protein, heart healthy fats, and are naturally sweetened with dried fruit and honey. I made them using Trader Joe’s almond butter. I love all nut butters but this Trader Joe’s creamy almond butter tastes sinfully delicious. I highly recommend it 🙂




They got a stamp of approval from my hubby which is always a big deal!





*Edit: These granola bars are technically not vegan because they contain honey. I was recently informed the vegans who eat honey are called “Beegans”. Substitute the honey with maple syrup or agave nectar to make them truly vegan. Enjoy 🙂

Raw Vegan Granola Bars

Makes 10 bars

1 ripe banana

2 cup oats

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup raisins

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup honey (substitute with maple syrup or honey to make them truly vegan)

1/2 cup almond butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.

2. In a medium bowl, mash banana well. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well combined.

3. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Spread evenly into pan using the back of a spoon to smooth mixture. Place pan in the freezer for 2 hours. Take pan out of freezer. Remove mixture from pan and place on a cutting board. Cut into 10 even bars. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store in freezer.

Chocolate Chip “Larabar”

27 Feb

I decided to experiment with some combinations to make my own Larabars. Using the brilliant idea from Paleo Paisan, I used the nutrition facts and the short ingredient list to come up with the ratio of ingredients to use.


I think Larabars are such a great go-to snack. They are delicious and filling without a laundry list of ingredients attached. They are a snack you can feel good about eating. They are also a cinch to make on your own at home!


I always seem to have a 2:30pm snack attack that usually involves chocolate. I have realized that preparation is the key to any good eating plan. With these chocolate chip “Larabars”, I can feel reassured knowing that I am satisfying my snack attack with a nutritious snack.


Chocolate Chip “Larabars”

Makes 6 bars

30 dates, pitted

30 almonds

18 walnut halves

24 chocolate chips (I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips)

1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1. In a food processor, pulse together dates, almonds, and walnuts until a fine consistency is achieved and the dough starts to form a ball, about 2 minutes

2. Add chocolate chips and pulse to combine, about 10 pulses. Add cocoa powder and sea salt and pulse to combine, about 30 seconds.

3. Press dough into a bread pan lined with parchment paper. Make sure dough is pressed evenly and into the corners. Place pan in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Remove from freezer, cut dough into 6 equal pieces. Enjoy immediately or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 5-7 days.

S’more Bars

18 Feb

If you don’t mind, I am going to brag for a second.

I created a pretty cute Valentine to send out this year.

The sad part is, I neglected to take any picture of them before I sent them out. Luckily, my sister snapped a shot with her iPhone before enjoying the treat.


There’s a long story to these Valentine’s. I had the idea about 3 months before Valentine’s day last year. I was on a marshmallow-making kick compliments of Shauna Sever’s Marshmallow Madness cookbook. I was going to make strawberry flavored marshmallows, cut them out into the shape of hearts, and package them with a graham cracker, chocolate squares and a note that says “I hope your heart melts this Valentine’s Day”.  I attempted to make these marshmallows before the wonderful days of having a microwave in our apartment. I’m still convinced it’s possible to make marshmallows without a microwave but it is oh-so-easy with one. These particular marshmallows had an extra step of making a syrup. So imagine me in a teeny tiny apartment kitchen, 3 pots of dangerously hot ingredients about to boil over, and my Kitchen Aid going at full speed…it wasn’t pretty. I still have red “goop” on my ceiling that I am leaving for the next tenant. I felt so defeated after this failed attempt that I scrapped the idea of sending out valentine’s all together last year.


I decided to simplify my approach this year. I made Shauna’s classic vanilla marshmallow. Making these made me question why I ever got out of my marshmallow-making kick. Homemade marshmallows pale in comparison to the store-bought kind and they are so gosh darn easy to make (assuming you have a high-powered stand mixer). I cut the classic marshmallows into hearts, packaged them with a couple graham cracker squares and a couple squares of Hershy’s milk chocolate (is there any other way to eat a s’more except with Hershy’s?) and wrote a cute note that said “I hope your heart melts this Valentine’s Day”. Off to the post office I went.

And home to a lot of marshmallow scraps I came!

Enter: S’more Bars


They are SO easy. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use homemade marshmallows…I just can’t guarantee they will be as fresh tasting 🙂

S’more Bars

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

5 ounces marshmallows, about 20 marshmallows

3 cups graham crackers, broken into small pieces

1 Hershy’s chocolate bar, roughly chopped

1. Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper and spray with nonstick spray.

2. In a large pan, melt butter over medium low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until melted. Remove from heat and stir in graham crackers. Gently fold in chocolate.

3. Refrigerate until bars are set, about 30 minutes. Remove from pan and cut into squares.

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