Category Archives: Bars

No-Bake Cookie Butter Bars for #SundaySupper

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It’s hard to believe, but change is beginning to settle in the thick, smoggy air. The days are getting longer, the cotton material of my shirt is sticking to my armpit to an increasingly embarrassing degree, and these days I can go until nearly 7:45 PM before the sun starts setting and I actually begin to feel guilty about all the work I haven’t done for the day.

In other words: summer is coming!

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It’s hard to believe we spent the last two perfect weekends outdoors at two of the West Coast’s biggest book festivals–the Young Adult literature festival last weekend, followed by the city’s annual book festival this weekend–surrounded by some of the best, most delightful names in the world of publishing. (For example, yesterday afternoon I met Mac Barnett, one of the friendliest children’s book authors out there, a veritable genius, and a client of one of the lit agents I had worked for years before!)

I spent the first weekend volunteering at the book festival, meeting a variety of YA authors but also getting to interact with thousands of wonderful, vibrant fans (over 6,500 of them turned up!). Last Saturday was brutally sunny, and some of these folks waited in line for over 2 hours just to nab a signed book copy–not to mention the opportunity to exchange a coveted “hello” with their favorite authors. I ended up monitoring the author signing queues, turning away over 200 people in the course of 3 hours because there was simply no way to accommodate every single autograph request.

It was a thankless task at best, but even I was stunned by just how gracious most of the fans were! Most were disappointed, of course, but several of them thanked me for doing my job and for treating that crazy afternoon with a cheerful smile.… Read more

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Easy English Toffee

Spoiler: majorly embarrassing stories ahead……

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Yesterday, over lunch, my friends and I were sharing our best embarrassing stories. You know, the ones that made you blush so hard you thought your face was actually going to combust into a bunch of fiery napalm and set ablaze everyone within 15 square yards of you. We’re not talking the kind of mild embarrassment that happens when you walk in late on the first day of class and get called out by the teacher.

We’re talking stress-dreams-of-getting-caught-stark-naked-in-a-Costco-parking-lot-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of embarrassment.

Unfortunately, I’m terrible at calling up examples while they are still relevant (i.e. during conversation), so I didn’t contribute much to our lunch sharing session. I did enjoy a very nice Afghani spinach flatbread, though.

But as it turns out, this is very lucky for you guys, since I’ve decided to spend this Friday sharing a few of my favorites with you! None of which involve unwanted nudity, thank goodness. So without further ado….

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Quite a few years ago at Disneyland, I was waiting in line for the bathroom next to Adventureland. There I was, fiddling with my gray Tigger jacket sleeve, minding my own business, when I suddenly look up and notice an Asian man with short-cropped hair, spectacles, and a rather square jaw standing in front of me.

Of course, I immediately feel embarrassed for the poor man. Can he read English? His unfashionable red sweater and khaki pants tell me he might be a tourist (thank you, vast over-stereotyping), and as we get closer and closer to the front of the line, I start fidgeting. Finally, when I see the “Women’s Restroom” sign passing us by the restroom entrance, I decide I can’t let him go through the agonizing embarrassment of walking into the Women’s restroom by mistake. So I do the worst thing I could possibly do in such a situation: I tap him on the arm.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Brownies & Chocolates, Snacks, Snacks

Apple Fritter Blondies

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I am fairly good about self-control (said nobody, ever), but every once in a while somebody throws something in my path that sets all my cravings on fire like a match to a bucket of propane.

Something that looks very much edible. Usually shaped like an apple fritter.

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Apple fritter was THE donut of choice in our house growing up. In fact, I did not know there was such a thing as “options” at a donut shop until our eighth grade field trip to Florida, where I downed my first–and second, and third, and maybe a fourth–Krispy Kreme. Up until that moment, I always just assumed you walked to the counter of a place with the DONUTS FOR SALE sign, ordered “one of those,” and walked out with freshly-fried apple frittery goodness in a white bakery bag.

It wasn’t until college, when I started buying my own donuts (we had a place next to campus that fried piping hot donuts until 3 AM), that I even learned what an apple fritter was technically called. Which is probably a good thing, since my household has led to some very embarrassing misnomers…

…like calling it Napoleon ice cream for nineteen years instead of Neopolitan.

Also, my mom convinced me I was allergic to chocolate until I was almost in middle school, so I tried to keep “learning” in my house to a minimum. (Just kidding, Mom, I love you.)

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Still, my mom must have gone right somewhere along the way, because if I had to choose one food to crave for the rest of my life, it might just be apple fritters. Right up at the top there battling tooth and nail with ice cream–and even then, we could all just invent apple fritter ice cream, brush our hands, and call it a day.… Read more

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The Best Blondies for #SundaySupper

Quick Etsy shop announcement: this month’s new featured item is my Coconut Rum White Chocolate Blondie: perfect for pre-holiday season gifting! If you’re looking for other thoughtful gifts, you can browse my whole selection and learn more about the shop’s history here!

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It’s clear what kind of a spinster I will be: not an old batty cat lady (I’m allergic to cats), but a decrepit little woman who bakes Coconut Rum Blondies at 4 AM after finishing a terrible Ginnifer Goodwin rom-com alone on my couch.

On the bright side, there are worse things. For example, I could be an old hag who runs around on her neighbor’s lawns scattering apple tree seeds and shouting at the top of my voice: “The British are coming! The British are coming!

Or I could be without these blondies, and that’d be a crying shame, don’t you think?

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Thankfully, a few nights ago I was chatting with one of my best friends and unofficial psychotherapist H, who finally talked me out of my three-week shlump. To celebrate my release from the fetters of romantic comedy films, I decided to start a dedicated Me-Time journal for the next 21 days, where I can write my scattered thoughts about the day’s events. However, it’s only Day 1 and I’ve already filled 8 pages with musings on life! Who knew anything actually buzzed in this tiny brain of mine, right?

One thing I realized over the course of those eight pages was that a) I’ve actually had a really amazing week, and b) I love the feeling of meeting and keeping in touch with new people. There’s something incredibly liberating about getting to know someone who has no preconceptions about who you are except what you show them while you’re chatting–in the past 3 days alone, I’ve met & become (at least Facebook) friends with 2 folks in Starbucks, 2 guys from an international siblings program, and at least a handful of really wonderful people from my friend J’s recent PhD graduation party.… Read more

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Inverted Graham Cracker Cheesecake Bars

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As students trundle to their first classes of the quarter, laden with heavy backpacks filled with books they will probably never finish, for classes they will soon find no time to attend;

as school swings back into high gear with the sound of familiar chimes ringing from the campus bell tower, tolling its stolen set of pipes recorded from another university tower;

as I lug my brick of a laptop to my office under the unnaturally blazing October sun, I think vaguely to myself that if I chance to encounter a mad Sasquatch on my unlikely path to school, at least I carry a dense projectile with which to defend myself, my expenses spreadsheets be damned.

New beginnings are always an adventure, and Fall is a beautiful thing…

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This–the late start of a new school year–is when the sun sets at an abysmally early hour and all the poetic heebie-jeebies jittering around my body just want to leap off onto the page illuminated by burning midnight oil. Call it my inner Donne or just an English grad student’s whimsy; but this is also the season of  warm, comforting flavors of cinnamon-infused graham crackers in my treats, which must all be baked now that the temperature has dropped below 90F: and there’s something special about graham crackers that makes me ask them in their lurid blue cardboard box, blithely, What the heck is a “graham” anyway? Why didn’t we reunite earlier than this?

On that rude self-interruption: I don’t know what a graham is. The phrase “graham cracker” reminds me oddly of the joke that goes, “If olive oil is made of olives, then what is baby powder made of?” Enigma central. I could probably Wiki this in a second but Bruno Mars’s “Lazy Song” just came up on my Spotify and I am not one to argue with divine intervention.… Read more

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Raw Salted Chocolate Chip Oat Healthy Bars for #SundaySupper

I dare you to tell me this is “just another healthy oat bar” recipe. I triple dog dare you, and if you lose, I will bite the head off a hapless gingerbread man (is it almost that time of the year already? Sigh).

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Apart from the mumbled ooh’s and aah’s these bars received when I brought them to my friends’ houses, this healthy snack alternative just knocked my socks off. I was messing around with the food processor last week because it’s been a solid 98 degrees all week here. Living in perpetual beautiful summertime may not sound like a problem, but it is indeed a problem.

A big, fat Californian first-world problem. Try hashtagging that. 

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I expected “good,” I expected “delicious”–but I did not expect these.

I anticipated “love ‘em!”, I anticipated “yum!”–but I did not anticipate this.

I did not know there would be violent voices in my head screaming at me after I tasted these, “EAT THEM ALL BEFORE THE REDCOATS COME OR WE WILL KEEL YOU.”

And really, who am I to disobey?

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The most gorgeous thing about these bars (if one could pick) is that they taste like honest-to-goodness no other oat cookie/granola bar I’ve ever made before. The oat base is slightly salty and leaves this unexpected coconutty taste (from the coconut oil) in your mouth that makes you suspect they’ve started flavoring crack with essence of coconut these days. The bars are studded with chunks of dark chocolate (always a good move) and a great salty balance of pretzel chunks, which add awesome texture to the bars. And they’re vegan, GF, raw, and completely date-sweetened, which means

the fact that I gobbled up an entire pan in one sitting

is also like a merit or something.

Almost.

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I’m thinking granola bowl, served with vanilla soy milk or–better yet–sweetened coconut milk.… Read more

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Healthy Salted Caramel Apple Bars for #studentbloggers

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Thanks so much to everyone who has joined us for this #studentbloggers series. This is our final installment (for now, at least) as the school year revs into gear. See you guys on the other side, and don’t forget to check out all these incredibly TALENTED bloggers who have participated!

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(See our interviews from Week 1 and Week 2.)

QUESTION 1. Let’s be honest: how much time do you spend on schoolwork/research vs. the blog?

Ala: I treat school like a full-time job…and it is one! I still spend a good chunk of time every night blogging though (anywhere from 20-30 hours a week), and my friends think I’m crazy for doing it because I insist on having a social life as well. That leaves me with some scary number of hours of sleep…you can do the math.

Bec: Majority of the week is spent a) procrastinating and b) mentally and physically stopping the procrastination/procrastibaking c) attempting to smash out Uni work

Nicole: In all honestly – about 60 % research, 40 % blog (but I do spend almost my entire weekends and lots of evenings solely on blog work)

Shelley:  Schoolwork comes first ;) I’ll blog when I have the time!

Zainab: I am ashamed to answer this just in case my PI sees this one day. But in a 24 hour day, I think 9 goes to schoolwork and the rest the blog. Just so much goes into blogging and being new at it, the learning curve is steep so it’s sucking lots of hours of my day. With research, I am very efficient at this point. I get to lab in the morning and can hammer out my experiments pretty quickly. I try to do most of all I need to do there (9-6.30pm) and most times once I leave lab, I leave it all there.… Read more

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Filed under Bars, Blogger Series, Fruit Desserts, Healthy

Mud Hen Bars

Dirty poultry desserts. Say what?

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Okay, so that’s not what “mud hen” really means, but I swear I was on the right track when I first heard the term “mud hen bars” two blissful months ago and tried my hand at creating my own!

Let me break this down for you and blow your soon-to-be-enlightened mind…

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Brown sugar meringue top. Yes, this is actually a thing. It is so much a thing, in fact, that these bars might just explode in the face of its ultimate thingy-ness. Crackle, meringue, yum!

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Base. Possibly my favorite kind of base, unless you count the rebel base from Star Wars, in which case this cookie base swoops in for a close second and Ala collects major geekdom points (+10 EXP, Lvl Up!).

Chocolate Chunks. I support your impulse to throw many chocolate chips in your batter until it becomes chunkier than a sedentary monkey with fifty pounds of butter cake…

Now that I’ve walked you through that drool-worthy deliciousness, I want to talk life stuff. But first, some weird performance artsy gifs…

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If you’re wondering why in holy chocolations I was filming myself breaking off giant chunks of Mud Hen Bars (don’t worry, I ate them all myself afterward), I have no idea either. I think I might have been having a bad day and suddenly realized that my petty grad student income isn’t big enough to justify buying a punching bag. Outlets, outlets…

Between these and stress eating, I really need to find a better outlet for my feelz. Seriously.

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But okay, that’s just me being facetious. Besides the fact that family can be sometimes high-stress in tiny little ways, life has actually been great and relaxing this past week, and I am 110% happy to report that I am rereading the Harry Potter series for the first time in 6 years.… Read more

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Healthy Tropical Bars (Raw, GF, Vegan) for #gradstudentbloggers

Your grad/undergrad student bloggers are back this week! Our mission: creating awesome recipes for the On-the-Go Student!

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Joining us this week: Bec from Daisy and the Fox, Nicole from PicNic, Shelley from Bacon Egg Cheese(cake), and Uru from Go Bake Yourself! (Zainab from Blahnik Baker is off doing crazy epic grad student things this week, but we’ve included her interview anyway.) Don’t forget to check out these lovely ladies’ blogs. (Want to learn more about these fabulous bloggers? Read Week 1’s interview here!)

But first, we asked our super multi-talented bloggers a few fun questions about how they deal with full-time school AND blogging! Here’s what they said:


Week 2 Interview Round-up

1. Describe your grad/undergrad student blogger life in three words:

Ala: You’re kidding…right?

Bec: Busy, fun, inspired

Nicole: Crazy, Chaotic, Fulfilling

Shelley: Procrastinating, fun, UGHHH

Uru: Party. Study. Sleepless.

Zainab: Need. More. Hours.

2. Tell us a fun, unique fact that not many people may know about you!

Ala: I just ran my first half-marathon at Disneyland at the end of last month in 2 hours and 9 minutes! I quite literally ate dessert every day (including a buttload of ice cream) in lieu of “training”: I would run about once every other week and did 13.1 miles cold turkey each time. Dumb luck, but I guess it worked!

Bec: I am completely and totally smitten for kittens dogs! The moment I see one on the street I literally pounce and smother them in sweet nothings and pats. I have a pinterest animal bored, and it is 100% bombarded with dog pictures, cause ya know… damn they’re so cute.

Nicole: People tell me that I should enter a cooking competition on TV – like MasterChef, but I am TERRIFED of ever being on TV for even 30 seconds!… Read more

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Pumpkin Pie Layer Cheesecake Bars for #SundaySupper

There’s something I’m determined to have before autumn hits this city a la Godzilla…

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A WHOLE WEEK OF UNINTERRUPTED SUMMER.

Of course, posting my first pumpkin recipe of the year implies, by tacit contract, that I acknowledge the arrival of fall. Don’t be deceived. It is not fall until I say it is….or until I stop eating double-scoop chocolate-dipped waffle cones of cookie dough / caramel swirl ice cream by the pound from Disneyland.

So basically, summer here will last ferrreverrrr.

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Since we aren’t visited by that weird quarterly occurrence some regions of the world know as “seasons,” there’s really not much to say for autumn, except that it’s kind of cute how some people actually consult a calendar before deciding what kind of “seasonal” treats to make.

Again, not in my vocab.

Around here, the running desserts philosophy is: if it rocks, make it. And then devour it. Lather, rinse, REPEAT to vaguely revolting extremes.

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So even though I’m technically celebrating squash/autumn season with the fantastic #SundaySupper crew today, the Gods of the Paradoxical Realm I occupy have reassured me that it’s still summer, somehow, somewhere. So lucky me, and now lucky you–we can have our squash, and eat it too!

No matter what bizarre climate zone you inhabit, these aseasonal pumpkin pie layer cheesecake bars will be a total hit. I brought them to a friend’s place during our trashy Bachelor in Paradise viewing party (um, but let’s not talk about that) and they got gobbled up, right next to some delicious Rocky Road Brownies that I’m going to be sharing with y’all next week.

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The breakdown, as the pictorial walkthrough demonstrates, is dangerous and fantastically delicious. The vegan shortbread crust is my absolute favorite crunchy shortbread recipe to date, and without any butter, it manages to top all.… Read more

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