Raise your hand if it’s only December 5, and you’re already tired of peppermint chocolate bark.
As much as I love December and all the food that comes with it, I get bored of the peppermint chocolate bark you inevitably get offered 1,000 times between Christmas parties, work, and everywhere else ever. Chocolate + crunchy crushed peppermints is tired, but luckily, rocky road isn’t.
The best part of this recipe is that you don’t necessarily have to measure the ingredients, so you can kind of just throw everything down on a piece of foil or waxed paper and walk away for a little while. If holiday baking is not your thing, this is the best way to contribute.
Aside from crying at IAMS dog commercials and avoiding all conversations involving politics or football, my most common past time of late has included attempting to make the best chocolate chip cookies e v e r.
I know this is a hefty task. Everybody has their favorite version of the best chocolate chip cookie, and somebody else’s favorite may not match mine. But if I’m going to own a bakery and coffee shop in the future, I just have to have the best chocolate chip cookies ever. It’s become an obsession of sorts.
I’m not going to lie, my favorite chocolate chip cookie has always been the Nestle Tollhouse recipe. They have magic within them. I don’t even know what they’re doing over at Tollhouse, but I want in on it. It’s the recipe I grew up with, so I will always love them. But what if I can make Nestle’s recipe even better?
Yeah, that’s what I’m going for.
Unfortunately, my cookie labs are only done on the weekends when I feel like my friends can stand trying another batch of chocolate chip cookies (about once or twice a month). This is also because 1. I don’t have time to bake cookies constantly and 2. Even if I did, I’m sure humans actually cannot function long term on a complete cookie diet. It’s a sad, but true, fact.
Therefore, I preoccupy myself with other kinds of projects.
Enter healthy granola bars.
I really love granola bars as a quick snack or breakfast. Sometimes I spend entirely too much time looking at myself sullenly in the mirror because I don’t want to put on makeup and I haven’t had breakfast or coffee yet. That’s a granola bar in the car morning. They happen more than one would expect.
Unfortunately, the nutrition facts on the back of granola bars terrify me. Oh my god. The mere amount of added sugars alone. And I don’t want to get into sodium, fat, and chemical additives.
It makes me realize why American food is banned in multiple countries around the world.
Additionally, I cannot justify spending $10 on a box of somewhat “healthy” granola bars that mostly taste like cardboard. Why is it so hard to get some quick, healthy food for a reasonable price?! Am I really asking for too much?!
Luckily for us all, healthy granola bars are super easy to make at home! They’re also way cheaper and freeze-able, and don’t have a bunch of sugars and icky gunk in them!!!
People who care about their bodies, rejoice!
2 c. quick oats
1 c. raw almonds
1 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
2 Tbs. flax seeds
1/3 c. almond butter or peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1/4 c. agave
1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
*Optional step*: Toast oats, nuts, and seeds in an oven at 350* until you can smell nuts and everything is a nice golden brown. I left out this step, but you can totally do this if you want less of a “raw” taste.
In a large bowl, mix together the almond butter, honey, agave, coconut oil, cinnamon, and salt until smooth. Add oats, almonds, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Stir mixture until combined thoroughly.
Press mixture into a greased 9×13 pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the granola bars are golden brown on the edges. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Cut into bars. You can do larger or thinner bars depending on your preference.
*You can do any mixture of nuts and seeds, dried fruits, etc. You can also do more agave, less honey, etc. Everything in this recipe is super easy to replace and adjust. You can make these however you want!*
Also, I’m just going to throw out there that a small amount of mini chocolate chips would be good in place of cranberries.
Reno weather has finally gotten much more sunny and much less rainy. I don’t really quite understand what’s happening but the rain was non-stop for like, 2 weeks.
At this point, I’m not sure why I’m even surprised with crazy Reno weather. One time a few months ago I walked into the grocery store in 80 degree, completely sunny weather and walked outside to a blizzard.
It may not have been quite that dramatic, but it was pretty close. Anyways, that’s typical Reno weather. Welcome to Northern Nevada!
Although I have loved the constant rain, cool weather, and cloudy skies, I’m also really excited for it to clear up so that I can go to Tahoe and lay on the beach next weekend! I’ve heard it’s going to be in the 70s and sunny. Being an OG Vegas girl (where you barely wear clothes from mid-May to mid-August), I’m going to need to wear a swimsuit very soon. Although I definitely consider myself a Renonian at this point in my life, I can’t completely get away from that part of my upbringing.
Anyways, to celebrate the warmer weather, my friend invited me to go to a BBQ that her friends are hosting. To feel like I contributed in some sort (and since I feel the incessant need to please people), I decided to make one of my family’s favorite recipes.
To be honest, I’m not really sure where this recipe came from, but I know my grandma has been making it for forever. We make it quite frequently in the summer, which is why it’s definitely my BBQ staple item.
The recipe itself seems a little odd. It is. I may have even used the adjective “ghetto” to describe it before.
But it’s soooo good, and you definitely need to make for your Memorial Day BBQ.
1 head green cabbage, shredded
4 green onions, chopped
1 c. slivered almonds
4 Tbs. sesame seeds
2 packages chicken flavored Top Ramen
1 c. vegetable oil
6 Tbs. sugar
4 Tbs. cider or red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 package Top Ramen seasoning
Heat oven to 350* F. Spread almonds and sesame seeds evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until nuts and seeds are evenly toasted. Cool.
Combine shredded cabbage, green onions, almonds, and sesame seeds in a large salad bowl. Set aside.
Combine dressing ingredients until smooth. Toss dressing with salad, cover, and refrigerate for a few hours to marinate cabbage.
Right before serving, crush Ramen noodles and toss with salad. Serves about 20.
Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend! Thank you to our amazing troops, past and present, who have fought for our freedom.
Have you ever had one of those days where you feel like nothing goes right?
And then you realize that literally everything you’re sad about is just a bunch of first-world problems, and nothing is actually wrong and you’re just being a princess about everything…?
Because I had that kind of day on Friday.
First, I woke up really early (at like, 6 a.m. On my day only day off…) and could literally hear my next door neighbor’s TV. Please note: I live in a house. Not an apartment. Not a condo. A house. And I could hear their TV. Because only at 6 a.m. do I have superpower hearing. After laying in bed staring at the wall for a few hours, I got up and *attempted* to do my hair and makeup, but no matter what I did, I looked like a hot mess. After about 1 1/2 hours, I finally was able to make myself look how I do every single day. It just took twice as long.. I finally decided that I would grab lunch and watch movies. But then I dropped my lunch on the ground 1 bite in (and ate it anyways because at that point, I had no limits). I also couldn’t find half of my Disney movies. So to solve that problem, I had a meltdown.
I am almost 20 years old and I cried over not being able to find my Disney movies.
Eventually, I decided to go grab a coffee, talked to a cute barista, and ended up at an 80’s party wearing a Risky Business costume.
The day ended up pretty great, and I realized that I just needed to take a deep breath, and understand that my problems were really not that bad.
Because they weren’t.
But they were kind of funny and now you can mock me a little.
Plus, I had these sitting in my fridge, so how bad could my day really be?
Since I know most of you are probably thinking, “What’s a nanaimo bar”, here’s a brief history:
The Nanaimo bar was invented in none other than Nanaimo, Canada. That’s about all I know. The actual dessert is made up of 3 layers. The first is a no-bake crust made with chocolate, nuts, coconut, and graham crumbs. The second layer is traditionally a custard buttercream, and it’s topped with chocolate.
But since it’s Girl Scout Cookie season (because obviously that’s a season), I decided to make them using Somoa cookies. Which already have chocolate, coconut, and a graham-like texture.
Plus caramel which is never a bad thing.
As previously stated, traditional nanaimo bars have a custard buttercream filling. Which is really good, but really rich, and really sweet. To make it a little less dense, I decided to make a swiss meringue buttercream filling. And add caramel to enhance the Somoa theme.
Result = something you need to make now.
Note: Please don’t be scared. 3 layers sounds like a lot. Swiss meringue buttercream sounds intimidating. SO NOT. These are very easy and don’t require that much time. Be brave, bakers.
1/2 c. unsalted butter
3 Tbs. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 c. Samoa cookie crumbs, crushed + 1/2 c. chopped roughly for garnish
1/2 c. almonds, chopped
1 c. sweetened coconut
3 egg whites
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. caramel sauce, homemade or store bought
4 oz. baking chocolate
1 Tbs. butter
For the bottom layer, melt the butter, sugar, and cocoa on the stove over medium heat. When it’s combined, mix 1/4 cup of the mixture into the egg to temper. Add egg mixture back to the chocolate mixture and stir over the heat until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Samoa crumbs, almonds, and coconut. Press into a greased 8×8 or 8×11 baking pan. Freeze for 20-40 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat 1-2 inches of water in a medium sized sauce pan on the stove until it starts to simmer. In a heat-proof mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and sugar. Place mixing bowl on top of the sauce pan and stir the mixture until a candy thermometer reads 140-150* F. Remove from heat, and whip egg mixture until stiff peaks form and mixture is cooled. Add butter, 1-2 Tbs. at a time until frosting forms. If it appears curdled, keep beating until it forms, or add butter 1-2 Tbs. at a time until the texture is creamy and smooth. Add vanilla extract, salt, and caramel sauce. Pour mixture and spread evenly over the crust layer. Refrigerate until buttercream is firm.
While the buttercream firms, heat the chocolate and butter over low heat until melted. Spread chocolate evenly over firm buttercream layer. Sprinkle chopped cookies over the top, and refrigerate until chocolate is hardened. Cut into bars, or bite sized pieces. Bring to room temperature before serving.
Makes 16 large bars or 64 bite sized pieces.
I hope you all had a wonderful Sunday. I laid in bed until 11, went to my favorite coffee place, and watched Friends for hours.
What did you do?
*Song of the Day: Pedestrian at Best–Courtney Barnett