Crazy Bark

Sometimes I like to get a little nutty in the kitchen, especially when said nuttiness can be achieved without investing a significant amount of time. I invented this concoction awhile back and decided to whip up a batch recently. I call it Crazy Bark, ‘cause, well, it’s a little insane.

How do I describe what this is? In a nutshell, it’s like a s’more and a peanut chew collided to make one supremely indulgent concoction. I mean, take a look at the ingredients. You’ve got chocolate and peanut butter. You’ve got caramel. You’ve got graham crackers and marshmallows. What more could you ask for?


Crazy Bark


For the bottom layer:
1 cup semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate
1/3 cup lightly salted peanuts
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup chopped marshmallows (not mini marshmallows—you want smaller pieces here)
1 graham cracker, chopped

For the top layer:
1/2 cup caramel chips (if you can’t find these, feel free to use butterscotch or peanut butter chips instead; or, just double the amount of caramel and milk indicated below)
6-8 Kraft caramels, unwrapped
1 tbsp whole milk (you can use another type of milk if you don’t typically have whole milk on hand)
1/3 cup chopped marshmallows
1/3 cup chopped graham crackers


1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Melt the semisweet chocolate, dark chocolate, and peanut butter in the microwave on 50% power at 30-second intervals, stirring in between. Once melted, stir in the peanuts, marshmallows, and graham cracker. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking sheet and refrigerate until set (1-2 hours).
3. Once the bottom layer has set, combine the caramel chips, caramels, and milk in a bowl and melt the mixture in the microwave. Once melted, stir in the marshmallows and graham crackers. Pour the mixture over the bottom layer and return to the fridge to set (another 1-2 hours).
4. Once the bark has set, use a sharp knife (or your hands) to break into pieces. Try not to eat entire batch all at once.

Chocolate Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars

Oops. I realized I made these awhile ago but never got around to posting the recipe. Luckily I remembered to take a picture, so better late than never I suppose.

Anyway, I’m a big fan of repurposing easy recipes, especially when they come out tasting delicious. So when I needed something to throw together for an impromptu neighborhood gathering, I decided to revisit the oatmeal raisin bars I made a little while back. This time, however, I decided to forego the raisins in favor of chocolate and cinnamon chips. The end result? Pure magic in every bite.


Chocolate Cinnamon Oatmeal Bars
Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup AP flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup cinnamon chips

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Butter an 8×8 square baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two sides, and butter the paper.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, sugars, egg, salt, and cinnamon until smooth. Add flour, oats, and chips; fold in just until combined.
4. Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely in pan.
5. Once cool, use the parchment paper to lift the bars onto a work surface for cutting.


Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars

We’ve had a bit of a heat wave lately here in New Jersey. And for the record, I knew this was going to happen. See, most years we get at least a little taste of that wonderful season called “spring.” You know, when the sun comes out and the temps are warm enough for you to walk around outside in a t-shirt without being too hot or too cold. Well, this year we basically had cold, often-rainy weather up until a couple of days ago. Then it turned hot. Really hot. I’m talking 85-degree, smog in the air hot. It’s the type of weather where my naturally curly hair doesn’t stand a chance (not that I’m above pulling it back into a bun or slapping a baseball cap on top of my head, but there’s just something about massive, uncontrollable humidity-induced frizz that makes my self-esteem take a bit of a hit) and the simple act of walking down the street is enough to make you reach for a Gatorade.

In weather like this, all I ever really want to eat is yogurt, cereal, and ice cream. And the last thing I want to do is slave over a hot stove or even contemplate turning on my oven. But alas, my desire to put something in my stomach other than pure dairy got the better of me, and so I decided to bake up some quick oatmeal bars.

The good thing about this recipe is that it’s just about the easiest thing ever. You don’t need fancy equipment or a ton of ingredients, and your oven stays on for only a short amount of time. While some people might refer to these babies as oatmeal cookie bars, to me, they’re more like candy bars. The only downside to making them smack in the middle of a heat wave is that the tops have a tendency to melt if you’re cheap and stubborn like me and refuse to run your air conditioner (though I eventually caved). In fact, you’ll definitely want to store these in the fridge, no matter the season. But if you like chewy, chocolate peanut butter candy bars, you’ll definitely want to whip up a batch of these. Just be careful offering them up to neighbors, coworkers, and friends—you may be surprised at what little you have left for yourself.


Oatmeal Chocolate Peanut Butter Bars


For the base:
4 cups of quick-cooking oats
1 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup corn syrup

For the topping:
1 cup milk chocolate, chopped (it’s okay to use chocolate chips)
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped


For the base:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan and set aside. Using a wooden spoon, combine the oats, brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup.
2. Press the mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 10-12 minutes.
3. Allow the base to cool completely (at least 30 minutes) before adding the topping.

For the topping:
1. Combine the chocolate and peanut butter in a small bowl and melt in the microwave at 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring in between each. Once the mixture is smooth, immediately stir in the peanuts and then use an offset spatula to spread the topping over the base.
2. Place the bars in the fridge to set, at least one hour.
Keep these bars stored in the fridge, not at room temp. They happen to taste really good cold, but if you’d prefer them a little warmer and chewier, just take them out about 15-30 minutes before you want to eat them. I don’t recommend microwaving them to warm them up, as the topping has a tendency to melt quickly.



M&M Sugar Cookies

Do you like M&Ms? I do. In fact, I think they’re wonderful. And while I’m definitely happy to eat them on their own, there’s just something about the presence of M&Ms in baked goods that makes me feel like a kid again.

It had been awhile since I’d made cookies, so I decided to try this recipe for M&M cookies. The process was fairly quick and easy, and the cookies came out tasting really yummy in the end. My only gripe is that they didn’t wind up as soft and chewy as I would’ve liked—but I blame myself for that, not the recipe.

If you’re looking for a fun cookie recipe to try, give this one a shot. Even if your cookies end up a little more on the crispy side like mine did, you’ll probably still get plenty of takers when you offer them up. I even caved and let the baby have a bite of one. Not shockingly, he loved it.


M&M Sugar Cookies
Recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures

2 and 1/4 cups AP flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 cups sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
2 oz cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and still warm
1/3 cup vegetable (or canola) oil
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cup M&Ms

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 or 3 baking sheets with parchment paper (see note below).
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3. Combine 1 1/2 cups of sugar and cream cheese in a large bowl (no need to stir them together yet).
4. Put the remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a pie plate and set aside.
5. Pour the warm butter over the cream cheese mixture and whisk to combine. The mixture won’t be completely smooth yet, and that’s okay.
6. Whisk in the oil, and then whisk in the egg, milk, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth.
7. Use a rubber spatula to start folding the dry ingredients into the wet. When the dry ingredients are partially incorporated, add 3/4 cup of the M&Ms to the dough. Continue mixing until a soft dough comes together. (Don’t wait to add the M&Ms until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated, or you’ll end up over-mixing.)
8. Portion the dough onto the prepared baking sheets with a cookie scoop. Working quickly (if you handle the dough too much, you’re more likely to wind up with flat cookies—which is what happened to me), roll the dough into a ball with your hands, and then roll in the sugar set aside in the pie plate. Repeat until you’ve used all of the dough, placing 12 cookies on each baking sheet. Use the bottom of a glass to flatten the dough balls into discs that are about 2 inches in diameter (or don’t, and see if this helps your cookies come out softer and fluffier). Gently press 2 or 3 more M&M’s into the top of each cookie.
9. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes, or until the edges are set. The tops will be puffy and slightly cracked.
10. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack and let the cookies cool on the sheet for 5 minutes; then transfer them to the rack to cool completely.

Note: The original recipe says it’ll yield about 24 cookies, but I easily got 36 decent-sized cookies out of this batch.

Caramel Tres Leches Rice Krispies Treats, or What to Do With Leftover Tres Leches Mix

Remember that delicious tres leches cake I made recently? Well, the one annoying thing about the recipe is that it calls for about a cup of that yummy milk mixture to be discarded. Since I don’t like letting any type of food go to waste, I decided to get creative in finding a way to repurpose some of what I had leftover. And hence these caramel tres leches Rice Krispies treats were born.

This recipe is incredibly easy to whip up. It only takes a few minutes, and there’s no actual baking involved. The only thing is that the cleanup can be a little messy…and the bars themselves, though wonderfully tasty, did end up coming out a little sticky. But if you do what I did and cover them individually with plastic wrap, you’ll have a nice little snack supply on hand.

Incidentally, I still have some more of that milk mixture left over, so if anyone has any ideas on what to do with it before it goes bad in my fridge, I’m all ears.


Caramel Tres Leches Rice Krispies Treat

1 and ½ cups Rice Krispies cereal
1 cup miniature marshmallows
About 20 Kraft caramel candies, unwrapped
3 tablespoons tres leches mix (heavy cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk combined)

1. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Combine the caramel candies and tres leches mix and heat in the microwave or on the stovetop until the caramels have melted and the mixture starts to bubble slightly.
3. Stir in marshmallows and cereal, making sure to coat the cereal well.
4. Pour the mixture into your prepared pan and refrigerate until set, about one hour. Cut into squares and enjoy.

Chocolate Blackout Cake

As I mentioned in my previous post, this past weekend was my husband’s birthday, and I went a little crazy and decided to make him two cakes to celebrate the occasion. The first was a yummy tres leches cake, and the second was this insanely, intensely delicious chocolate blackout cake.

To give you the back story (it’s a quick one): Before my husband and I had our baby, we used to actually leave the house for dinner every so often. And when we did, we’d often hit up a local diner that served this awesome chocolate cake. My husband, who’s definitely not a big cake person, would order it and devour it every time. So since it was his birthday, and since it’s been well over a year since we’ve gone out and had that cake, I decided I would try to make something similar.

I started searching for a blackout cake recipe online and stumbled across this classic Brooklyn recipe from the famed and long-gone Ebinger’s bakery. Being a Brooklyn girl at heart (I grew up there), I just had to give it a go. And it’s a good thing I did, because I think this is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. The cake itself is rich and moist, and combined with the chocolate pudding filling, the end result is absolutely amazing. If you’re a chocolate-lover, you must try this cake. And when you do, having a tall glass of milk on hand and is practically a must.

The recipe itself isn’t complicated, but you do need to leave yourself enough time to allow the pudding to set up. I actually made the pudding the day before and left it in the fridge overnight; but if you start early enough, you can definitely pull off this cake in a single day. And if you’re like me and my husband, you can definitely take down half this cake in a single sitting. But you probably shouldn’t. No judgment either way.


Chocolate Blackout Cake
Original recipe can be found here


For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing pans
1 and 1/2 cups AP flour, plus extra for dusting pans
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup strong black coffee
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the chocolate pudding/filling:
1 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups half and half
1 cup whole milk
6 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 tsp vanilla


For the cake:
1. Preheat your heat oven to 325 degrees.
2. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans, plus a mini loaf tin (you’ll want to have an extra “mini cake” on hand for the crumb topping).
3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cocoa and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
5. Take the mixture off the heat and whisk in your coffee, buttermilk, and sugars until dissolved.
6. Whisk in your eggs and vanilla, and then slowly whisk in the flour mixture.
7. Pour some batter into the mini loaf pan until it’s about half-full. Then divide the remaining batter evenly between your 8-inch pans and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
8. Let the cakes cool in their pans for about 15 minutes and then invert onto a wire rack to cool completely (at least one hour).

For the chocolate pudding/filling:
1. Whisk together your sugar, cornstarch, salt, half and half, and milk in a large saucepan.
2. Set the pan over medium heat. Add the chocolate and whisk constantly until the chocolate melts and the mixture begins to bubble. (The original recipe said this would take 2 to 4 minutes, but I let mine go for about double that time. You want the mixture bubbling pretty consistently; otherwise your pudding may not set up.)
3. Stir in your vanilla and transfer the pudding to large bowl.
4. Place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to a full day. The plastic wrap is supposed to prevent a skin from forming. If you get one anyway, just scrape it off.

To assemble the cake:
1. Take the cake from the mini loaf pan and use your hands to crumble it into crumbs. Set aside.
2. Place the first cake layer on a platter and top with pudding. Sprinkle on crumbs.
3. Place the second cake layer on top of the filling and spread your remaining pudding evenly over the top and sides of the cake. Then sprinkle your remaining cake crumbs evenly over the top and sides of the cake, pressing lightly so that the crumbs stick.
4. Store the cake in the refrigerator. The recipe says it’ll keep for two days, but that depends on the speed at which you devour it. Again, no judgment either way.


Tres Leches Cake

It was my husband’s birthday this past weekend. And while I’m not really a birthday person, he usually enjoys a bit of extra attention when his birthday rolls around. So I did what any good wife who couldn’t find a babysitter would do: cooked up his favorite dinner and made not one, but two birthday cakes. Now since it’s just us plus a 16-month-old at home, that may seem a bit excessive. And it was. But it was also oh so delicious.

The first cake I made was a classic tres leches cake, partly because I know my husband likes it, and partly because his birthday is right before Cinco de Mayo, and, well, I thought it would be both cute and appropriate.

This cake is really easy to make if you have a stand mixer. If you don’t, it’ll take some effort to whip up your eggs and your cream. But it’s so worth it, because this cake is amazing. It’s fluffy, moist, and light—which actually makes it kind of dangerous if you lack self-control, which we all know I do. Even my husband couldn’t help but go back for seconds. And although I’m usually the world’s biggest hypocrite when it comes to letting my son eat sweets (as in, I can stuff my face with cake but he can’t have any), I decided to let him have some of this cake to celebrate the occasion. I tried to get a picture of him enjoying Daddy’s birthday cake, but my child is a vulture when it comes to food, and by the time I was able to bust out the camera, his cake was long gone.


Tres Leches Cake
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman


For the cake:
1 cup AP flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 eggs, separated
1 cup granulated sugar, divided into 3/4 cup and 1/4 cup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup whole milk

For the milk mixture:
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup heavy cream

For the frosting:
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar


For the cake:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and set aside.
3. Separate your eggs.
4. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until the yolks turn pale yellow.
5. Stir in milk and vanilla.
6. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
7. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry.
8. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined.
9. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
10. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and let cool.

For the milk mixture:
1. Combine the condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher.
2. Once your cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture over the cake (you can discard the rest, or get creative and save it for a future recipe). Try to get as much around the edges as you can. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes.

For the frosting:
1. Whip the heavy cream and sugar until the mixture thickens.
2. Spread over the surface of the cake.


Caramel Cookie Dough Shortbread Bars

The other day, my 16-month-old locked me in my pantry. No, I’m not kidding.

I was standing in the doorway of my walk-in pantry, whose knob was set as locked to prevent my sneaky child from busting into my closed pantry behind my back and helping himself to whatever goodies he can reach. As I was combing the shelves looking for some caramel candies, the baby decided to sneak up behind me and start pushing the door into me. Now in all fairness, I didn’t try very hard to resist, thinking there was no way my little 16-month-old could possibly exert enough force to shove my body all the way into the pantry via the door. But lo and behold, I was wrong, ‘cause about eight seconds later, the child managed to push me all the way into the pantry, thus locking me in.

My husband, who was on hand for most of this scene, found it extraordinarily funny. Me, not so much. Actually, that’s not true. I laughed about it after the fact, but was also quite thankful that my husband was on hand to immediately bust me out.

Of course, this incident has caused me to rethink my strategy of keeping the child out of the pantry, and so going forward, I will not lock the door, but rather will use one of those annoying but necessary baby-proof knobs that makes opening things unbelievably difficult (for me) but will most likely do the job of keeping my junk food stash safe and out of my child’s mouth.

Anyway, once I recovered from my very brief moment of pantry incarceration, I got to work making these amazing shortbread cookie bars. I’ve done something similar in the past along the lines of classic Millionaires’ Shortbread, which is basically a shortbread base, caramel center, and chocolate glaze. But when I saw this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker, one of my absolute favorite baking blogs, I decided I had to go for it.

These bars are nothing short of amazing. I was actually worried that the cookie dough layer would make them a bit too sweet, but they turned out perfectly. The original recipe is enough for an 8×8 pan, but I wanted extra to bring in to work, so I made one and a half times the recipe to fill a 9×13. In hindsight, I could’ve stuck with the 8×8. These bars are wonderful, but they’re also incredibly rich, and believe it or not, you really only need a small piece to come away satisfied.

Although you do have the option of storing these beauties at room temperature, I decided to keep mine in the fridge and found that I enjoyed them cold—so much so, that my once-ample supply is now rapidly dwindling.


Caramel Cookie Dough Shortbread Bars
Original recipe from Brown Eyed Baker


For the shortbread base:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used a little more to bring out the vanilla flavor)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup AP flour

For the caramel layer:
7 ounces soft caramel candies (about 25 candies), unwrapped (I used Kraft caramels)
2 tablespoons heavy cream

For the cookie dough layer:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup AP flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

For the chocolate glaze:
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter


To make the shortbread:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8×8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving some overhang on two sides.
2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
3. Add the vanilla and salt, and beat until combined.
4. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated; the dough may appear slightly crumbly.
5. Firmly press the dough into your prepared pan. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes (22 to 25 minutes if you’re making enough for a 9×13 pan), or until the edges are lightly golden.
6. Remove pan from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.

To make the caramel layer:
1. Place the caramel candies in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the heavy cream and stir until completely melted. (Disclaimer: I totally cheated and melted these together in the microwave. It turned out just fine, but I made sure to watch it carefully.)
2. Pour the caramel mixture over the shortbread crust and spread into an even layer.
3. Refrigerate until set, about one hour.

To make the cookie dough:
1. Combine the butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
2. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and mix well.
3. Add the flour and salt, and mix on low until incorporated.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips.
5. Spread the cookie dough on top of the set caramel layer, using a spatula to smooth the dough into an even layer.
6. Refrigerate the pan while you prepare your glaze.

To make the chocolate glaze:
1. Combine the chocolate and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture on 50% power in 30-second increments, stirring well after each, until it’s completely melted and smooth.
2. Spread the glaze over the cookie dough layer and chill in the fridge until set, about one hour.

To remove the bars from the pan, grasp the edges of the parchment paper and lift out the entire block. Place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut into squares.

The original recipe says that these can be stored at room temp in an airtight container for up to three days. As I said, I opted to keep mine in the fridge. Don’t struggle with the decision too much; they’re delicious either way.