Homemade Chocolate LARABARS

This post was written before Callan came along. In fact, I was writing this while in labor! Turns out, these were the BEST snacks to have around in the early weeks of having a baby. I had no idea how hungry breastfeeding would make me. I would wake up in the middle of the night desperate for food and these were perfect bites of healthy calories.


I’m still working on stocking up freezer meals and snacks for Baby Ruf’s arrival. My focus last weekend was quick snacks packed with energy. I made Granola Chews, LARABARS, and Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Bites (recipe coming soon).


My baby doc appointments are in Annapolis which is just over an hour drive from our house. Every time I have an appointment, I have to stop at Trader Joes to stock up. This time, in addition to my normal purchases, I was in search of ingredients to make homemade LARABARS. Really, I just needed some nuts, dates and figs. Somehow, I walked out with nuts, PRUNES and figs. I swear I had dates in my hand!

So, in my attempt to make LARABARS which are typically made from dates, these ended up with prunes. I knew the flavor would be slightly different but the texture should be fairly similar. And since my next appointment isn’t until after my due date, and I’m not making another trip to TJs, I figured I’d give it a whirl.

Success! Next time, I’ll try dates but this is a good substitution, especially if dates are hard to find. I also want to try different flavors and various consistencies. Coconut, cherries or peanut butter would be awesome!


  • 1 C raw, unsalted, mixed nuts (I used a combination of pecans, cashews, almonds, and Brazil nuts)
  • 1 C prunes
  • ½ C figs
  • 1 Tbls coconut oil
  • 2 Tbls cocoa powder
  • 1- 2 Tbls water
  • pinch of salt


  1. Add nuts to food processor until finely chopped.
  2. Add prunes, figs, coconut oil and cocoa powder. Pulse until fully combined.
  3. Add water, 1 tsp at a time, until mixture starts to come together.
  4. Press mixture into a mold. (mini muffin tins, casserole dish, cookie sheet, etc.)
  5. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
  6. Remove bars from mold and slice to desired size (if needed).
  7. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze.

Adapted from Colorful Palate and Avocado Pesto.


Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake with Lemon Glaze


When guests are coming over, I pull out all the stops…including a doctored up cake mix 🙂 Ok, really, I’d just been running errands all day and hadn’t started a dessert when they were due to arrive any minute.

I had intended on coming up with a cool lemon and blueberry dessert that didn’t require me turning on the oven. Maybe I should have thought of that earlier in the day. Oops!

It ended up being a perfect summer treat — light and refreshing cake that topped off an evening of blue crab picking. Yummy!




  • 1 box lemon cake mix
  • ½ C freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 C water
  • ⅓ C vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 ½ C blueberries
  • zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped


  • 1 C powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbls freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • water, as needed



  1. Preheat oven according to cake mix directions.
  2. Grease & flour Bundt pan.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine lemon cake mix, ½ C lemon juice, water, oil and eggs.
  4. Beat mixture on low speed for 30 seconds.
  5. Increase speed to medium and beat batter for 2 min.
  6. Gently fold in lemon zest and blueberries.
  7. Pour cake batter into prepared pan and bake according to package directions or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  8. Cool cake completely in pan set on wire rack.
  9. When cake is cool, place serving plate over the top of Bundt pan and flip cake onto plate.


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and powdered sugar until smooth.
  2. Whisk in water as needed.
  3. Drizzle glaze over cake.

12 slices

Adapted from A Bloggable Life.

Bacon and Shrimp Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette


This week’s PPQ pick from Shawnda at Confections of a Foodie Bride was on the lighter side — Prosciutto Tostadas with Shrimp and Parsley. I turned it into a salad for a light dinner without having to turn on the oven.

With the combination of the bacon and shrimp with the tangy dressing, it was delicious!


For the other versions of this week’s recipe, visit the main Project Pastry Queen site.


  • 4 pieces of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 16 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp vinegar (I used sherry vinegar)
  • ¼ C chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 C mixed greens
  • ½ C cherry or grape tomatoes, halved


  1. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium.
  2. Add garlic and shrimp.
  3. Cook until shrimp is opaque.
  4. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice, vinegar, and parsley.
  5. Toss shrimp mixture with greens, tomatoes and bacon.
  6. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Prosciutto Tostadas with Shrimp and Parsley from The Pastry Queen.

Mexican Chocolate Fudge-Pecan Cake


Here’s your new chocolate cake recipe. Yeah, it’s that good. It’s a rich, dark chocolate cake with a touch of cinnamon and sea salt and a beautiful, shiny chocolate glaze. It reminds me of a fancy Texas Sheet Cake.

I brought this cake to a family dinner on Sunday. Mom made a Hershey Bar Marshmallow Pie (I’ll have to get the recipe and post it. Yum!). Why choose one when you can have both? All of us had a slice of each…the best way to top off a heavy dinner, right?

Thanks Jen for hosting this week. You picked a good one. Check out the other participants over at Project Pastry Queen.


1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¾ cup water
2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 C buttermilk (or put 1 tsp lemon juice in 1 cup container then fill remainder with milk)
2 Tbls vanilla extract
2 C all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp sea salt

1 C pecans (optional)
½ C unsalted butter
¼ C whole milk
½ C high-quality cocoa powder
2  C sifted powdered sugar
1 Tbls vanilla extract
¼ tsp sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9″ tube pan or 10-12 C Bundt pan with non-stick spray or use Baker’s Joy. For cupcakes, line standard-size muffin pans with muffin wrappers and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the cocoa and whisk until smooth.  Add the water and whisk until smooth. Be careful not to boil the mixture. Remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. Add the sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla to the warm cocoa mixture. Whisk until smooth.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Whisk until dry ingredients are completely incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter into the pan. If using muffin pans, fill each cup 2/3 full.
  6. Bake for 40-45 min; the cake is done when it has pulled away slightly form the sides of the pan and feels firm to the touch. For cupcakes, check for doneness after about 20 min.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 min. cupcakes need only a total of 10 min cooling time.
  8. Meanwhile, make the glaze. Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast them in the 350 degree oven for 7-9 minutes, until golden brown and aromatic. Chop the pecans.
  9. Melt the butter over low heat in a medium saucepan. Add the milk, cocoas, and powdered sugar and whisk until glossy. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla, salt, and pecans.
  10. Loosen the cake with a knife or spatula and overturn it onto a seving plate. Spoon the glaze over the cooled cake, covering it thoroughly. For cupcakes, remove them from the pan, and peel off the paper liners. Invert each cupcake onto a small serving plate and cover with glaze.


Adapted (very slightly) from Rebecca Rather’s The Pastry Queen’s Mexican Chocolate-Fudge Cake.

Cake will keep up to 3 days, covered, at room temperature. Unglazed and well wrapped, it will keep frozen up to 3 weeks. When frozen, bring the cake to room temperature and glaze just before serving.

Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Tortilla Soup



Now that the holidays are over, I’m back in the swing of things. Back to a regular schedule, no more Christmas baking, and back to a normal (and much healthier) diet. Thank goodness!

Amanda from Fake Ginger selected Texas Tortilla Soup for this week’s Project Pastry Queen.  I changed the name because I quite drastically changed the flavor profile by adding chipotle chilies and using much more chicken stock.

Neither Andy nor I are tomato-based soup fans. With enough tweaking, I knew I could come up with something tasty. Unfortunately, Andy didn’t really care for it but that just means I have more leftovers for lunch the next few days!

The best part of this meal? It’s healthy, so eat up (and don’t add too much cheese)!!!


4 plum tomatoes
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 Tbls olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
4 C chicken stock
1 dried ancho or pasilla chili
1 canned chipotle chili
14.5 oz. can whole tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
meat from 1 rotisserie chicken
1 C corn (fresh or frozen)

1 ripe avocado
Tortilla chips or bake strips
1 plum tomato, diced
¼ C cilantro, roughly chopped
½ C cheese (I used the pre-shredded Mexican mix)
Sour cream (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the tomatoes in half. Spread ½ Tbls of the olive oil on a baking sheet and place tomatoes on sheet, skin side up. Brush top of tomatoes with ½ Tbls olive oil.
  2. Roast the tomatoes for 25-35 min until skin is partially peeling off and slightly browned.
  3. Heat remaining 1 Tbls olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, soup pot over medium-heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute for about 5 min.
  4. Stir in chili powder and cumin and cook for 1 min.
  5. Add chicken stock and ancho chili. Bring to a boil, then cover. Reduce heat. Simmer for 15 min.
  6. Remove chili (discard stems if you don’t want the heat). Place chili, chipotle chili, canned tomatoes and juices, and roasted tomato in food processor. Puree for 1 min.
  7. Add tomato puree back into soup. Simmer for 1 hour, covered.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Add chicken and corn. Simmer for 5 min.
  10. Garnish with avocado, tortilla strips, tomatoes, cilantro, shredded cheese, and sour cream.


4 meal-sized servings. This recipe can easily be doubled.

Adapted from The Pastry Queen’s Texas Tortilla Soup.

Baked Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips

I’m a sucker for tortilla chips but especially the Hint of Lime Tortilla Chips. Why do they have to be so darn bad for me? It’s something like 10 chips and 140 calories. Not cool. How many of you have actually ever just eaten 10 chips? Not me, that’s for sure.

Recently, I made Guacamole Hummus and needed something to dip into it. I wasn’t going to buy tortilla chips but had some leftover corn tortillas. I knew there had to be a way to make these things healthier.

Yes, I could dip carrots, celery, or other healthy vegetables but that just wasn’t going to do. I needed a crispy, salty fix. Plus, I needed something to send with Andy to work.

This is what I came up with and they are awesome! I haven’t calculated the calorie and fat difference but I know it’s much better since they aren’t fried.

8 6” corn tortillas
2 Tbsp olive oil or Misto
Sea salt or kosher salt
¼ tsp. chili powder
1 lime


  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Brush or spray each tortilla with olive oil. Flip and repeat.
  3. Sprinkle with salt and chili powder.
  4. Cut tortillas into 6 wedges and place on two baking sheets. Be sure not to crowd the chips.
  5. Squeeze the lime over the chips.
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until edges are golden and crispy.
  7. Remove from oven and let completely cool. Chips will become crispier as they cool.

Makes 48 chips.

Be careful not to cook the chips too long. They burn quickly.

Try mixing up the seasonings: sprinkle with garlic or cheese, leave off the chili powder if it’s too hot for you, leave out the lime, or even try with flour tortillas. The combinations are endless!

Field Greens with Spiced Pecans, Goat Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Field-Greens-Spiced-Pecans-Goat-Cheese-Balsamic-Vinaigrette-5A few things today.

One – sorry for being a little off the radar recently. My excuse? Laziness and a busted computer. But…just because I haven’t been posting, doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking.

Two – Emily from A Gilt Nutmeg chose a great recipe for this week’s Project Pastry Queen. Don’t let the length of this recipe stop you from making this. It just looks like a lot. I actually told Andy that if I had to pick one salad dressing for the rest of my life, this would be it. The whole meal took about 25 min to make and I was also cooking other items at the same time.

Three – Back to the busted computer. I’m going to post a few recipes without pictures. You see, I shoot in RAW which means the files are huge. My computer has crashed a few times and opening just one file takes a few minutes. Then, trying to save them in a format I can use on the web…another five min. This doesn’t include the time it takes to do any editing. I don’t have the patience. Once the computer is functioning again, I’ll repost them with some pics.



Spiced Pecans
1 ½ C pecan halves
3 T unsalted butter\
tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
¼ tsp salt

Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 T honey
½ C balsamic vinegar
¼ C red wine vinegar
1 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp salt
½ C – 2 ¼ C extra-virgin olive oil (I used 1 C)

1 (6 oz) goat cheese round, at room temperature (I used a 4 oz log)
3 C assorted baby greens
1 small bunch arugula
1 pint cherry tomatoes


Spiced Pecans:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Place the pecans in a medium bowl.
  3. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, cayenne, and salt.
  4. Pour the butter mixture over the pecans and toss to coat well.
  5. Spread the spiced pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast for 7-9 min, until golden brown and aromatic. Set aside to cool at least 15 min.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

  1. Blend the garlic, mustard, honey, both vinegars, lemon juice, and salt about 15-20 seconds in a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade.
  2. Pour ½ C olive oil through the feed tube in a slow stream and blend until the mixture emulsifies. Add additional olive oil as desired (I used 1 C.).


  1. Cut the goat cheese rounds into quarters and gently form each into a disk.
  2. Coarsely grind ½ C of the spiced pecan halves in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pour the ground pecans into a medium bowl. Roll the goat cheese rounds in the ground pecans to cover completely.
  3. Just before serving, toss the baby greens, arugula, the remaining 1 C of spiced pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette to taste in a large salad bowl.
  4. Serve on individual plates. Top each salad with some of the cherry tomatoes and a disk of pecan-coated goat cheese.


4 servings

The Pastry Queen by Rebecca Rather

One Bowl Scratch Brownies


The quickest, most satisfying chocolate fix.

They’re ooey-gooey, chocolaty goodness.

This is my go-to brownie recipe. It’s fast, easy, and versatile. Even better, there’s only one pot and a whisk to clean. Well, except for the pan you cook them in. My guess is you’ll probably be washing it a few minutes after they come out of the oven. That’s how fast they’ll be eaten.



1/3 C (5 1/3 Tbsp) butter
¾ C sugar
2 Tbsp water
12 oz (1 bag) chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
¾ C flour
¾ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 325.
  2. Melt butter, sugar, and water in medium saucepan until just boiling.
  3. Immediately remove from stove and stir in ¾ of the chocolate chips and vanilla.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  5. Whisk in flour and baking powder.
  6. Stir in remaining chocolate chips (I used peanut butter chips).
  7. Pour batter into greased 8”x8” pan.
  8. Bake at 325 for 20 min.
You can replace the remaining chocolate chips with anything such as peanut butter, white chocolate, butterscotch, etc.
I take them out right at 20 min because I like them a bit undone in the middle, but you may want to cook them for a few more minutes.

Mexican Corn Chowder


A little more Mexican for you!

Andy and I have a new favorite roadside stand. They have a large variety of fruits and vegetables. The owner showed us what had been picked that morning so we’d have the freshest vegetables and she even showed us the fields with what they were going to have ready to harvest in the fall. We’ll definitely be visiting them again.

We ended up buying some late summer sweet corn before it’s gone until next year. I’ve had my fill of corn on the cob this summer but I wanted something that was going to showcase the corn. After an amazing bowl of corn chowder I had at a restaurant in Seattle, I had to make my own.

This recipe has been family-in-law and even 20 month old approved! It was a hit at a family birthday gathering the other day.


2 tablespoons butter
2 T plus 1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp cumin
6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups canned chicken stock
2 cups 1% or 2% milk
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can green chiles
2 C shredded chicken (optional)
6 ears corn (approximately 6 C)
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ C chopped cilantro (optional)


Preheat oven to 450.

Cut the corn kernels off the cob and toss with 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp salt. Spread corn on baking sheet and roast for 15 min or until golden. (Roasting the corn is optional.)

While corn is roasting, start making the soup.

Heat the butter and 1 T olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, chili powder, cumin, and thyme and cook until onions are translucent.

Stir flour into vegetables until fully combined. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.

Add the cream and potatoes. Bring to a boil for about 7 minutes, gently stirring.

Carefully, ladle about half of the potatoes and some broth into blender. Liquefy potatoes and add back to soup pot. (The more potatoes you blend, the thicker the chowder.)

Stir in corn, green chilies and chicken (optional). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Simmer for 10 min. Garnish soup with chopped cilantro.


10 servings

Adapted from Tyler Florence’s Corn Chowder

This chowder isn’t spicy and could definitely be kicked up depending on who’s eating it. I would try garnishing the chowder with jalapeños and/or increasing the chili powder.

Mozzarella and Tomatoes – Post #3 – Chicken Caprese Grilled Sandwiches

Finally, post #3. Chicken Caprese Grilled Sandwiches

Post #2 – Arugula Caprese Salad with Maple Bacon

Post #1 – Caprese Salad

We made these with the remainder of our basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella. A perfect end to our week of summer garden bliss. They’re so simple, yet so delicious!




1 baguette

2 T olive oil

8 T basil pesto

2 precooked chicken patties (we use these)

8 fresh mozzarella slices

8 basil leaves

8 tomato slices


1. Slice each chicken patty horizontally (you want them thin). Cut each slice in half. You should have 8 pieces.

2. Preheat non-stick pan to medium-high.

3. Slice baguette into 16 1/2″ slices. Brush each slice with olive oil. Flip over all bread slices.

4. Top 8 of the bread slices with pesto and chicken. Top each of the other 8 slices of bread with a mozzarella slice, basil leaf and tomato slice.

5.  Grill each bread slice with toppings, oilve oil side down until lightly browned. Sandwich together one of the pesto and chicken sides with the mozzarella sides.


8 sandwiches

Make sure the mozzarella slice is placed directly on the bread. You want it as close to the heat as possible so it melts.