The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars

Recipes are everywhere – magazines, cookbooks, online, etc.  However I just can’t turn them away.  And there’s always some reason for another book – even if it’s just to discover one great recipe.  I received a review copy of The 250 Best Brownies, Bars and Squares by Esther Brody and I’ve already found my one favorite new recipe – Chocolate Chip Granola Bars.  If I only try 1 of the 250 in this book I am satisfied.

This book certainly has a variety of brownies, bars and squares.  Everything from quick dress ups for store bought mixes to layered and frosted homemade treats.  There are just enough full color photos in a center spread to make your mouth water.  And tips about baking, storing, cooling and cutting are always appreciated.  This is a good one to have for a holiday gift for someone that likes to bake or to use as inspiration to get yourself baking and gifting.  Yesterday I gave some of these yummy  bars to my daughter’s teacher on her birthday (yes, she’s 40 and fabulous), and she’s already asking for the recipe.

Warning that while these granola bars have healthy stuff like nuts, seeds and oatmeal they also have sweetened condensed milk (aka milk  with 40% sugar) and butter.  However there are some healthy and low-fat recipes in here too.

What I like about this recipe is that it can be easily changed and customized to your family’s tastes.  Cranberries or dried cherries could be substituted for raisins.   And various nuts could be substituted for peanuts.  I think next time I’ll make these nut-free by substituting some dry cereal for the peanuts so my kids can take them in their lunchbox or to a playdate.

Chocolate Chip Granola Bars,

page 131, Specialty Bars & Squares

Makes 36 bars

Preheat oven to 325° F (160° C)
13- by 9-inch (3.5 L) cake pan, lined with greased foil


3 cups          old-fashioned  rolled oats 750 ml

1 cup           raisins 250 mL

1 cup           sunflower seeds 250 mL

1 cup           chopped peanuts 250 mL

1 cup           semi-sweet  chocolate chips  250 mL

1                 can (14 oz [398 mL])  sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup     butter or margarine, melted   125 mL
1.  In a bowl mix together oats, raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips. Add condensed milk and mix thoroughly. Stir in melted butter until blended. Spread evenly in prepared pan.

2.  Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Place pan on a rack to cool slightly, then transfer cake, with foil, to a cutting board and cut into bars.

Excerpted from The 250 Best Brownies, Bars & Squares by Esther Brody © 2013 Robert Rose Inc. Reprinted with publisher permission.





Blondies vs Brownies…What Did Santa Prefer?

In thinking about this year’s Santa plate, my son decided that Santa would like brownies.  My daughter said she didn’t want to have dark chocolate (this is always a debate at our house).  I settled the score with making both brownies and blondies.  Nevermind that I had been baking gingerbread, sugar cookies, candy cane cookies, etc.  We needed to make more.

Luckily I also have a stack of cookbooks to review.  Two are really fun and I know I’ll be using them a lot throughout the year.  The first is Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, Melt in Your Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich.  The second is Food Fest 365! : The Official Fun Food Holiday Cookbook by Yvan D. Lemoine. 


Chewy Gooey is great for those with a sweet tooth who need more ideas and inspiration (pictures are mouth watering).  I like that the cookies are divided by mouth feel and texture.  Each recipe even has a suggestion to make “upgrades” to create variations and new flavors.  There’s also a veriety of diets and allergies in mind with an index of dairy free, wheat free and low fat recipes.  I made the blondies from this book.  And yes, they were chewy and gooey – my daughter had her first blondie and it’s become a fast favorite.  Next time we make them we’ll try one of the updgrades.  But which one?  Nutmeg, cinnamon or peanut butter blondies?  Perhaps a tasting of all three.

Food Fest 365! is a bit different, but very fun.  It celebrates all the quirky food days established by politicians over the years.  Did you know March 16th is artichoke hearts day?  Of course I love the idea of celebrating the everyday.  The tough part about this book is the arrangement and order is by the calendar.  So if you’re menu planning, you’ll need to consult the index to find what you’re searching for.  Of course it’s also just fun to look up dates and see what food day it is.  For instance my birthday is Cheese Sacrifice Purchase Day (after the Mayans of course) with a recipe for Sundried Tomato Cheese.  I can see someone going through a la the movie Julie and Julia and blogging about making each day’s recipe.  You’ll find everything from Hot Toddy Day to Lobster Day to Angel Food Cake Day, with hundreds in between.  December 8th is where I found Chocolate Brownie Day.  My son was very pleased with the gooey, rich flavor and they were quick and easy, like a brownie should be.

So what did Santa like?  Well Santa (I believe) was so tired since one of the children at our house stayed up to try to see him (and made it to 2:30 a.m.), that he broke off an equal piece of each and then left crumbs on the fireplace. (Note.  Besides the blondies and brownies and milk for Santa, there were of course carrots for the reindeer.  Plus my daughter also made a beaded collar for Rudolph – see photo above)