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Still Waiting {recipe: chocolate chip cheesecake brownies}

20 Jan

Blake wrote this week that millennials are not good at waiting. She is right.

I think this is very true. My whole life I have been more-or-less able to get what I want by working harder, training more, listening better, enduring longer, accomplishing faster…

But, I am quickly learning there are things that we can’t control. Things that we can’t work harder for or change ourselves. We wait for babies to come and cancer to heal seasons to change and someone to fall in love with us and heck, for that really dense beer bread I was put in the oven to bake all the way through. Sometimes we get what we’re waiting for and sometimes we don’t.

Last night, we went to a benefit concert for Real Hope for Haiti. It was amazing. Aaron played. He and Jamie are waiting for a four year old that they met and adopted two years ago to come home to the US. Two years of arduous paperwork has likely been lost and they’re not sure what happens now.

Aaron wrote a song last year about getting their two kids home from Haiti. the two-year-old girl came home in October, and they’re still waiting for Amos, the four-year old boy. Here’s the video:

No matter how hard we work, there are a lot of things that we can’t control. There are a lot of things we just have to wait for. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. waited for people to gain a sense of urgency and open their minds, we too shall wait.  And we should be patient, because as noble as his dreams were, we are still waiting for some of them to happen.

On that note, I will try to work harder at things that I can affect. Like wooing the Labor & Delivery nurses to like me with chocolate. I made fudgy, cheesecake-y brownies that will freeze well and I wrapped them individually and stacked them in the freezer so that I can grab them when we head to the hospital. I hope they work.

Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Brownies

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Brownie Batter

12 T. butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces

4.5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped

1 1/2 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 T. cinnamon

Cheesecake Batter

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 t. salt

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Make brownie batter: Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×13-inch baking pan. Heat butter and chocolate over a double-boiler by placing the mixing bowl over simmering water over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Whisk in flour and cinnamon until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Make cheesecake batter: With an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until soft. mix in sugar, salt, vanilla and egg yolks. Dollop over brownie batter, sprinkle chocolate chips on top, and then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

Bake brownies: Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes. Chill in the fridge and then cut carefully. Serve cold.

I hope they like me!

original post:


No Baby Yet {recipe: cranberry vanilla granola bars}

16 Jan

Dear Baby,

Today is your due date. It is 11:36 a.m. and you are not here. You have shown no real signs of wanting to be here. That’s ok. I am usually late to stuff too, so maybe this is the first quality that you’ll take from me. Together, we will annoy your dad for the rest of our lives.

I have done a lot in the past few weeks. I have cooked enough meals that if I did not leave the house for a month, we could still eat well. Don’t worry, if you tear my insides up on your way out, it doesn’t matter because I won’t be having to stand up in the kitchen for any length of time. The freezer shelves are packed carefully with lasagnas with homemade sauce and enchiladas and stuffed peppers and other things that are easy to thaw and throw in the oven. Those all sound like dinner foods, huh? Well don’t worry, because we also have roasted chickens and roast beef for lunches and breakfast food too: batches of muffins and pumpkin bread and fresh granola bars.  And snickerdoodles and chocolate peanut butter cookies and oatmeal scotchies for dessert. It is ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop.

There are still some things I have not finished, but I don’t know that they’re too necessary. Like I haven’t made the mobile to go above your crib (that your little eyes won’t even be able to focus on for months), and I haven’t made the clock (that you won’t be able to read for years). All of the important things are in place, you have a carseat an diapers and a crib an a beautiful room, and most of all, parents and grandparents and lots of friends to love you.

Today we planned fun stuff to do, in case this day comes and goes and you are not ready to come out yet, so that we are not sitting there, staring at each other, waiting. But really we are still waiting. Anticipating. We are just doing it at a coffee shop surrounded by life. There’s a table of four people next to us learning French, a couple who looks like they’ve just recently met and are getting to know each other. There are people reading and studying and to my left there’s a woman from Colombia writing letters, and today, an old friend is the barista. So, we will wait, and we will mask our waiting with activities and plans and conversation, but really, we are just excited for you to get here.

So when you are ready, we will be ready too. Ready to love you with a love that I don’t even thing we understand yet.



Here’s something I made for quick breakfasts in the mornings to come:

Cranberry Vanilla Granola Bars

Makes 16 granola bars, one 9×13 pan.

2 cups oats (old-fashioned, not quick-cooking)
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, loosely packed
2/3 cup honey
2 T. pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 350. Butter  a 9×13 pan and line it with parchment paper.

Pour the oatmeal, almonds, and coconut together on a cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Dump the ingredients into a mixing bowl and reduce the oven temperature to 300°F.

Add honey, vanilla and salt to the oat mixture and stir until everything is coated in honey, then stir in the cranberries. Dump the mixture into your 9×13 pan and press it into the pan (if you wet your fingers, it’s a little bit easier because the granola won’t stick to your fingers. Get it packed in there as tightly as you can.

Bake about 25 minutes, until light golden brown.

Cool for a few hours, then wedge the giant granola rectangle out of its pan and place it on  a cutting board. Use a long, serrated knife to cut the giant rectangle into bars. Put the granola crumbles in a bag for yogurt topping later.

Now, here’s the key. Store these bars and granola-crumb bag in the freezer. They will last longer and be crunchy…rather than awkwardly sticky granola 🙂 If you want them for on-the-go eating, wrap them individually in foil and put them all in a plastic bag in the freezer. That’s what I did.

original  post:

I Love Carbs Now, Honestly {recipe: chocolate caramel oat bars}

22 Sep

I am going to be honest with you, because it will be best to maintain honesty in our friendship. I originally made these bars to send to my brother. And then I ate them all.

Sorry, Ben.

I shall make more. Actually, I am a little afraid to make more in case the same thing happens where I lose all willpower and then eat too, too many. So maybe I will make you something slightly less tasty.

In the spirit of honesty, there is more I should share… all these tidbits of pregnancy that I did not expect. Honestly…

1. The first is that dutiful willingness to indulge in many a baked treat or carb. I have never been much of a bread or pasta eater, thinking meals laden with such things leave me feeling full and sleepy, but now I have a newfound love for them. Especially when I am hungry and turn into the need-to-eat-now-or-the-hungry-monster-will-take-control-of-my-emotions person, nothing fixes that quicker than a quick pasta dinner or frozen pizza (gasp!) for dinner.

2. There is a sense of pride that comes when someone you don’t know, asks you in public when you are due. At this point, you can stop wondering if everyone just thinks you drink a lot of beer.

3. The willingness of other pregnant ladies to share their pregnancy/baby things. Right now, I am wearing Erika‘s shirt and Olivia‘s pants. Amber-Rose‘s sling and Coralee’s Baby Bjorn are patiently awaiting a newborn, tucked away in the closet, and Jackie’s soft, green crib bumpers are rolled up on the floor, where the crib  will go in the nursery. I didn’t ask for any of these things. Friends just willingly shared from what they had from their own babies. Think of what life would look like if we did that with all stages of life.

4. Temporary, overwhelming emotions to a not-over-emotional person like me.

5. Pain. I came back from a run last week with shooting pain in my back and down my leg. I am only 23 weeks pregnant. This will get worse and I am a little irritated that the pain has started now, and not 12 weeks from now.

6. A sense of feeling. Other than physical pain and other than the occasional over-emotional times that I mentioned before. I feel like if pregnancy has done anything to me, it has made me ‘feel’ things more, giving me a heightened sense of emotion. I like it. I would say that I am someone who shoves things out of my mind and would rather not deal with things that are hard because they can cause hurt, and consequently, I don’t feel as much excitement around happy things as I should, because I feel like getting really stoked about something only sets me up for disappointment, and then that hurt that I so desperately avoid. So….I am hoping I can hold on to this. Not being an emotional wreck, but just having heightened senses of excitement and sadness, because I am finding that those things only drive me to a healthy empathy and sorrow, or joy and thanksgiving.

7. Pregnant does not always mean tired. There have been multiple mornings that I have quit fighting insomnia at the wee hour of 4am and just gotten up to start the day.

8. General largeness. I knew I would get bigger, but I really only thought my stomach would get bigger. I have jeans that side low, on my hips below my waist. I left these jeans in the closet when I rid the racks of any clothing I knew would not accommodate my growing belly. Much to my surprise, I am 23 weeks in and, um, none of those pants fit. Apparently all other body parts grow throughout pregnancy as well. Some more than others, but we won’t go there. This weekend, I will conduct Round Two of maternify-my-closet, and all such pants will be banished to the storage tubs, sealed, and placed on the floor of the closet, not to be opened until June of 2010.

9. Nosebleeds. And giant veins. I look like a body-builder. You gain something like three pounds just in blood during pregnancy…and it shows on me. So much that for 10 days straight the veins in my node would burst from so much pressure and I had nosebleeds.

10. Excitement and Fear. Fear of pain. Of giving birth. Of raising a human. Of not being enough…and Excitement to experience new life. To give birth. To raise a child with my husband. To try.

Chocolate Caramel Oat Bars

from Half-baked

2 2/3 cup oats, rolled, old fashioned or quick cooking, divided

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter
32 kraft caramels, unwrapped (or, a bag of the new kraft caramel bits for baking)
5 tbsp cream
1 cup chocolate chips

Grease or butter a 9×13 pan.

Take 1 2/3 c. oats and whirl through a food processor until they resemble a fine flour.

Combine oat flour, baking soda, salt and stir well. Stir in oats and brown sugar. Cut butter into dry ingredients until crumbly.

Press half of mixture into a lightly greased pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
While the base is baking, in a small saucepan, melt the caramels in the cream until smooth.

Remove pan from the oven. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of the base. Drizzle the caramel mixture on top. Add remaining oat mixture. Return to the 350 degrees oven for another 10 – 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow bars to cool before cutting. Because they don’t contain any flour or eggs the carmalites are not as thick and a little most crumbly than most bar cookies but they taste so good you won’t mind.


Everything Can Wait {recipe: toffee shortbread bars}

2 Aug

Everything can wait.

From toffee cookie bars

My work ‘to do’ list is organized and pristine, nothing is crossed off.

The floors in my house are grimy and there are dishes in the sink and I head out tomorrow for a four-day conference that will have, perhaps, no down time.

But, it can all wait. Erika and Micah are having a baby. And Jon and I aren’t going to miss a second of it. Somehow, what I would have stressed myself out with tonight has found a way to fit itself into tomorrow’s schedule. Tomorrow there will be time. Now, we wil wait in the waiting room among family and a now-empty Domino’s pizze buffet complete with four boxes of cinnastix (courtesy of the father-in-law).

Rewind 38 weeks and three days ago. Erika called about an hour after peeing on a pregnance test that gave back two lines unstead of one. I feel like I have been waiting a long time and it is not even my baby. I can’t imagine how long it has been for her and Micah.

Ten weeks before that, we sat in their living room and talked abou the domestic adoption that they were pursuing wholeheartedly, until the news that would follow. And, only five weeks before that. we met at a mutual friends’ house. So much has happened in a year. Our relationship has progressed so quickly: meeting, birthday celebrations, camping trips, adoption plans, tuesday night conversations that went so late they ended in overnight stays  in guest rooms, dinner parties, pregnancy news, holidays, early-morning grocery trips, late-night dinners, more pregnancy news, and now, childbirth.

It has been 30 hours. That is a lot of hours.

They are going on 40 hours of no sleep, 30 hours of labor, and 28 hours of no food for Erika. Laughs and joking have turned to prolonged waiting as she pushes through resisting a cesarean delivery. It is go time. We, in the waiting room, hear there is lots of pushing going on in the delivery room. What was once soft, mood-type lighting in her room has I am sure turned into a spotlight show, with bright lights and lots of instruments and hairnets. All so glamorous.

Well, Erika, this one is for you. I think we polished off a plate of these cookies after dinner one night a few months age 🙂

From toffee cookie bars

Toffee Shortbread Bars

adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody

1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces almonds, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 325°F and grease a 9-x-13-inch pan.

Beat butter in large bowl until light and fluffy, then add brown sugar and beat on medium high until fully mixed. Add in vanilla and beat for 30 seconds on medium-high. Turn mixer to low and mix in flour and salt. Press dough into prepared pan. It will be thin.

Bake until shortbread is golden brown,  firm at edges and slightly soft in center, about 30 minutes.

Take shortbread out of oven. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over the shortbread. Place back in oven for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and using a spatula, spread the chocolate out evenly over the shortbread. Sprinkle the almond pieces on top of the chocolate. Let cool. Place in fridge for 30 minutes and then break into pieces.

From toffee cookie bars

Good luck, E. It’s 9:36 and I think you’re almost there.

Pre baby, Oct 2008
Pre-baby, October 2008
New Year’s Eve, 2008
May 2009

July 2009

Never Downplay a Good Shortcut

19 Nov
From pumpkin bars

Cake mixes, full of crap that is clearly not good for you, are a brilliant shortcut for every I-need-something-to-bring-to-tonight’s-event-and-it-is-already-5pm moment. Fear no more. Keep a few cake mixes on hand and you will be saved time and again.

On the top shelf of my bookcase (above the real Bibles) are reads like The Cake Mix Bible, 101 Things to do With a Cake Mix, and 101 More Things to do With a Cake Mix (can’t have too much of a good thing, right?). According to these books, you can do anything with a cake mix. Banana bread, muffins, cookies, pancakes, biscuits, bars, brownies, cornbread, and much, much more can all be made with a cake mix. 

These pumpkin bars are made with a cake mix. Try them, and then go buy one of those books above (I recommend this one first, it’s the best and Amazon has it used for $1.90 right now).


From pumpkin bars

Pumpkin Pie Bars

makes about 15 bars.



1 (18 ounce) package yellow cake mix (reserve 1 cup)

1/2 cup margarine or butter, melted

1 egg


2 cups pumpkin

2/3 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2  teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar


1 cup yellow cake mix (reserved from crust)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup margarine


Grease a 9×13 pan and preheat oven to 350.


Mix all but one cup of the cake mix with the melted margarine/butter and egg. Press firmly in pan and prick with a fork. Bake 8 minutes until just lightly brown.


Mix pumpkin, milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, 2 eggs, and brown sugar. Pour over crust.

With a fork, mix the one cup of reserved cake mix, cinnamon, sugar, and margarine together untill crumbly. Sprinkle over filling.


Bake at 350°F for 40-45 minutes. Let cook before cutting into bars.

Like pumpkin pie, these are really good cold with whipped cream!

Smores’ Bars End Blogger Haitus

16 Aug

My haitus was caused by both professional and personal overload.

We just finished our annual geekfest user conference which reached its pinnacle last Thursday after sleeping very little – the little sleep that I did get filled with nightmares of entering presentation rooms to find them filled floor to ceiling with stacks of paper covered in VHDL code (VHDL code? who am I?), stuffing press kits in a hotel lobby, entering the Austin Convention Center before dawn and exiting after dusk, watching a ten-year-old boy-genius and leaving my feet in a permanent state I call “Barbie Feet” (Feet get stuck in position that is a variation of pointing toes due to too many 18-hour days in heels. This position is similar to that of Barbie’s feet, ergonomically designed so that heels slide with ease on and off of her feet). To further complicate matters, the week before the user conference was prefaced with nasty strep throat and an ear infection.

On a personal note, we are purchasing a house – it is absolutely perfect and we cannot wait to get in!

As for today, we have some Smores’ Bars. It is worth getting back into the habit of posting to share these, they have gone over really well in the office. In the summer we don’t have fires over which to roast some gooey marshmallows, so this is a nice alternative (in Texas we really never have those fires regardless of the time of year). The key is the graham cracker crumbs in the dough.

Smores’ Bars (photos to come)

makes 16 bars.

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 2/3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs or 14 sheets of graham crackers, whirled in the food processor until fine

2 tsp baking powder

3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 cups marshmallow creme (not melted marshmallows)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Grease a 9×13 baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar.

Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, and baking powder.

Add to butter mixture and mix.

Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.

Place chocolate chips in one layer over dough.

Spread marshmallow creme on top of chocolate.

lace remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening small handfuls of dough at a time and laying them together).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Cool completely before cutting into bars or else they are very very gooey. When cool, cut with a pizza cutter.

Ina’s PB&J Bars

22 May


This recipe is awesome. It is awesome for two-year-olds and and I think my grandpa would love it too. Who doesn’t love the comfort of peanut butter and jelly? I do, particularly on a rainy day on soft white bread (rule for comfort food: no need for nutritional concern). In fact, I still make PB&J for Jon and my lunches some days.

There are apparently a lot of people in England with nut allergies (how so many? I do not know), because the country as a whole is very paranoid about nuts (WARNING: THIS PRODUCT CONTAINS NUTS). Therefore, when we lived overseas, there weren’t many peanut butter cookies or peanut butter bars. Marmite: yes; salad cream: yes; mincemeat pie: yes (why?); peanut butter: no. Thankfully, one of my dad’s favorite weekend activities was going to explore any new American imports at the Costco down south (it was a long drive for Costco…an hour maybe?) with Mr. Marchesi and they would pull through, bringing home peanut butter by the quart. My mom would roll her eyes, wondering how we would evey get to the bottom of that jar or better yet, how we would fit it in our teeny-tiny pantry, and then she would realize that dad bought the double pack. Peanut butter for everyone! My mom is fantastic and makes some wonderful peanut butter cookies, she used to let me make the criss-cross on the top of her peanut butter cookies with a fork. Thanks, mom.

There are peanuts on top of these bars, but if you don’t like nuts on your sweets, just leave them out. Also, these bars are pretty heavy, so I cut them into bite-size squares for easy snacking and so I would not have to commit to eating a whole bar.

Comfort food for all, ah, a recipe loved by all most.


Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

adapted from a recipe by Ina Garten

serves 36.

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoon vanilla

2 large eggs

2 cups (18 ounces) creamy peanut butter (use the full-fat stuff…remember the rule about comfort food?)

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 cups (18 ounces) jam (i used raspberry)

2/3 cups salted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 9 by 13 by 2-inch cake pan.

Line it with parchment paper, then grease and flour the pan. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light yellow, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the vanilla, eggs, and peanut butter and mix until all ingredients are combined.Add in baking powder and salt.With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour to the peanut butter mixture. Mix just until combined.Spread 2/3 of the dough into the prepared cake pan and spread over the bottom with a knife or offset spatula.

Spread the jam evenly over the dough.

Drop small globs of the remaining dough evenly over the jam. Don’t worry if all the jam isn’t covered; it will spread in the oven.

Sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Bake for 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Cool and cut into squares.