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.





Pack and Go and Go and Go

It seems spring and summer activities are leading to more make ahead meals to pack and go in our family.  Lately I’ve kept my lunch tote in the kitchen as we unpack from one meal and activity and repack for the next.  The weekends of swim meets and outdoor festivals along with midweek baseball games is having me get more creative.  It’s also been kind of fun and easy as long as I plan ahead.  It helps me to think outside the box or traditional breakfast, lunch and dinner and merge them together too.  Here’s a few things that have been working for easy prep and healthy meals to avoid the snack shacks and take out menus.


1. Sandwiches and Wraps

Simple to make a customize.  Having some simple ingredients on hand means everyone’s tastes are met.   My family thinks sandwiches are more special if on some type of roll or baguette.  My vegetarian daughter is always happy with a caprese – tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil.  While my son is a turkey, cheese and pesto kind of guy.  My husband eats anything without cheese and I’m pleased with whatever.  This has also become a fun way for the kids to make their own sandwich and we pack them all together.  Putting out an array of bread options, condiments, spreads, cheeses and meats makes it easy for assembly.


2. Pasta Salad

At my daughter’s swim meets they sell a pretty good pesto pasta.  But for a single $5 serving, I can feed my whole family the same thing.  Not to mention that the meets often sells out of food before we’re hungry.  I was inspired and I’ve been making pesto as well as other cold pasta salads with a variety of pasta shapes, veggies, cheese and olives.  I pack the pasta in the kids’ lunchbox thermos’ and in reususable containers that we can eat out of, and only require me to bring forks.  This also cuts down on trips to the snack stand where kids are tempted by other not so healthy offerings such as candy and chips.


3. Fruit and Fruit Salad

Who doesn’t like cold fruit on a hot day?  We were particularly happy to have slices of watermelon while at an outdoor play last weekend.  And this time of year there is so much to choose from: grapes, cherries, berries, nectarines, plums, etc.


4. Veggies and Hummus

If you have time slice carrots, jicama, celery, and cucumber for quick healthy snacks to go.  If you’re short on time just buy some baby carrots, snap peas and cherry tomatoes and throw them in a container with a prepared hummus or ranch dressing on the side for dipping.  Again only napkins necessary.


4. Food on a stick

Food is always better on a stick.  Think shish kebobs and fruit sticks.  I’ve been putting a variety of items on a stick to rave reviews at my house.  Even left-overs.  How about a chicken sausage, tomato, cheese and tortellini stick.  Or a vegetarian stick of veggies, cheese and olives.  The options are dizzying.  Pack a sauce like pesto (yes, we do eat a lot of it), marinara and hummus and it’s good dipping too.


5. Pancakes and Waffles

If you’re making these on the weekend for breakfast, remember to make a double batch to have on hand for on-the-go meals.  A pancake sandwich layered with nut butter makes a simple, yummy meal.  Filling waffle wholes with nut butter, dried fruit and trail mix makes people healthy and happy too.


6. Treats and Dessert

I always know there will be some kind of sweets at sports events and activities.  I am very proud that my kids do not whine for churros, donuts and cotton candy.  That is because I plan and make ahead.  I always bring a homemade sweet that my kids (and usually their friends’) like, such as cookies, muffins, or kettle corn.  When I don’t have time to make something I offer a better option (higher quality, healthier) after.  For instance we skipped the chemical laden ice cream at the carnival and went to our favorite gelato shop after the rides and games.


7. Drinks Too

Bringing your own water and low sugar drinks also cuts down on the purchase of sugary soft drinks and chemical laden sports drinks.


Don’t forget to keep it cool.  Having ice packs ready in the freezer is helpful to keep foods safe and fresh.  As is a few small bags of ice.  (I’ve found these also work well for baseball game injuries.)




Crisp Rice Treats – Familiar but Vegan

O.K. so everyone calls these Rice Krispies treats even though they are made with other rice crisp  cereal and vegan marshmallows.  I guess it’s like calling a tissue a Kleenex.  Anyways, I thought these would be fun to make and package for my daughter’s soccer team snack.  My box had a peanut butter version, so I went online to look up the original.  This was a fun one to do with my kids.  Super easy.  I realized I hadn’t made these in quite a while when my son looked into the pot with an amazed face and said “Wow, these are cool looking!”


How can 3 little ingredients add to so much fun, ease and taste?  The thing is we don’t buy Rice Krispies Cereal (high fructose corn syrup) or regular marshmallows.  No worries.  We used Trader Joe’s Puffed Rice cereal (Ewewhorn makes one too – no GMO’s and organic) and found vegan, gelatin free marshmallows  (Dandies’ or Sweet & Sara).  Of course once my vegetarian daughter found out what was in regular marshmallows (gelatin is made of hides and  bone) she wasn’t haven’t any.  I don’t blame her – yuck!  I bet you could even make this recipe with vegan sticks, but no need to go there if you don’t have to.  The expense of the marshmallows alone is twice that of the regular gelatinous ones.  The funny thing is even one of my daughter’s friends who apparently rejected one of these earlier in the day at Starbuck’s, ate this version after the game.  Maybe we’re on to something.  Of course most people didn’t know about the vegan marshmallows so when another family made Rice Crispy treats another game my daughter passed and said they weren’t vegetarian and told the dad all about what’s in marshmallows.  Oops!  We need to work on simply saying “no thank you” without a political or nutritional statement.


Here’s the recipe, which may not be on the box of other  rice cereal.

Crisp Rice Treats

3 Tbl unsalted butter

10 oz. vegan or regular marshmallows

6 cups crisp/toasted rice cereal

Coat a 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan with butter or cooking spray. Set aside.

In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add  cereal all at once. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into prepared 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan while warm. (Be careful if children are helping) Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. (Best if served the same day.)


Message from a Fellow Mom – Share the Love, and Food


A well marked Petit Appetit Cookbook

I get a lot of nice emails from parents and caregivers thanking me for help with recipes and information in my cookbooks.  I received this message on New Year’s Day which was a very pleasant way for me to start year.  This DC mom not only made Petit Appetit recipes for her son, but also shared gift boxes full of homemade treats with her playgroup too.  I love that!  So with permission, here’s the story (and her fun photos) I’d like to share…

“I am a first time, stay-at-home mother to Nicholas who is two years old. I breastfed my little guy for the first year and fed him both handmade and store bought organic purees while he was still tiny and learning to eat.  As he grew bigger, he ate and still eats like a little bird. He is pretty typical, in that he likes pasta, grilled cheese, cheese wraps, Mac and cheese (he loves cheese) and turkey dogs, but while I was making these things healthier (whole wheat or veggie pasta, whole wheat bread and cheddar cheese, etc.) I longed for a fruit or veggie to be thrown in there, and perhaps a little variety (gasp- I know).

I went to my local library and checked out a slew of cooking for kids sneaky type books and yours was one of them. I went through it and marked about 20! recipes that I wanted to try. I have made the graham crackers, Lisa’s cookies, fruity gelatin, citrus corn muffins, banana apple bran muffins, couscous pudding, and this very morning my son and I enjoyed a mango tango smoothie together.  Your book was definitely my favorite as I believe in the organic lifestyle as much as I can find and that doesn’t break our budget, and the recipes are truly tasty to me, and more importantly to my son!

I do quite a bit of baking, and this year for the holiday season, instead of making tons of unhealthy cookies to give to my son’s friends and their mommies, I made gift baskets full of healthy goodies that could be eaten as a breakfast (citrus corn muffins or banana apple bran muffins), or snacks (graham crackers or Lisa’s cookies). Therefore, saving my mommy-friends a little extra time in the kitchen, and they had the piece of mind knowing that their kids were eating something homemade, healthy, and organic to boot. Some of the kids ate all the snacks right then and there during the play date and for others the goodies didn’t even last overnight. I was seriously happy that an entire morning in the kitchen paid off and well, they are your recipes so I have you to thank. Thank you again.  Sincereley, Aimee from a DC Burb”


Chef Nick
adorable zoo pancakes
fruity gelatin
Gift boxes of healthy, homemade muffins and cookies