Happiness Project Recipe #18: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownie Bars!


In all of my 34 years, one of the things I’ve learned most about myself is that once I set my mind (or heart) to doing something, I do it. With 110% of my entire being. And I tend to like to do things on my own, without needing to rely on the help of anyone else (yes, I can most definitely be quite the stubborn perfectionist at times). But since becoming pregnant, I’ve had to re-learn the importance of asking for a little bit of assistance every now and then, particularly in regards to certain physical activities, like carrying full bags of groceries or moving my trusty (& quite heavy) Kitchen Aid stand mixer from one counter to the other (thanks be for a wonderfully helpful husband!). There are, after all, certain things that a pregnant woman should not be doing on her own, as I’ve been repeatably (& lovingly) reminded. So after gathering up all of the paint supplies I needed for re-painting our master bedroom this weekend, my sister threw another pregnancy “No, No” my way. When pregnant, there will be absolutely NO painting! Of any kind! Which pretty much threw my whole “I will paint the entire master bedroom on my own (by choice) this weekend,” plan askew. Therefore meaning that my Imzadi would have to do the entire bedroom on his own, without me. The catch, you ask? I happen to really LIKE painting whereas my Imzadi most decidedly does not. Hence the dilemma. So what did I do as soon as I got home & was able to freely & legally text again? I issued a “need help” plea to some of our closest friends. And true to form, these friends rallied selflessly to the cause. So as a THANK YOU to our wonderful friends for volunteering to help my Imzadi paint our bedroom tomorrow morning, I did what I do best whenever my cup runneth over. I baked up a little something special, just for them. My THANK YOU recipe? Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Brownie Bars! Because who doesn’t like some peanut butter with their chocolate?? I do! Yes, yes, I do!

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed brown sugar (either light or dark)

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Grease or spray a 9X9 inch baking pan with butter. Dust lightly with flour, gently tapping out the excess (preferably over a sink to alleviate a potentially messy cleanup). Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a stand mixer (or by hand, if you’re prepared to use some elbow grease), beat the eggs and both sugars until smooth. Add the peanut butter and continue mixing until well combined. Beat in the vanilla and butter and mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Once you’ve measured out the flour, baking powder and salt, sift all three directly into the batter. Mix gently on a low speed until well combined and no trace of the dry ingredients remains. With a wooden spoon, stir in the chocolate chips by hand.

Now, using a rubber spatula, pour the dough into the prepared pan and spread out the entire batter by gently pressing and finessing. The batter will be quite sticky so keep pressing until you reach a desired evenness. Bake for 23-25 minutes until the edges start to brown slightly and the center is springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes to 1 hour before cutting up into bars. Quick tip: using a serrated or small pairing knife is ideal when cutting up even shaped bars.

This will make you approximately 12-16 bars.

If not consuming immediately, you can store them in your fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Aren’t thank you’s delicious? *wink, wink*

*Recipe adapted from “Fat Witch Brownies.”

Happiness Project Recipe #10: White & Dark Chocolate Cake Brownies!

Oh. My. Word. You don’t know the meaning of true decadence unless you’ve tried this oozing concoction of cake brownie heaven! Considering how much of a chocolate connoisseur I am, I’ve rarely come across a dessert that is simply TOO much for me to handle. Until now.

This recipe nearly sugar-shocked me into complete chocolate withdrawal. That’s how good it is! Plus, once the flavors have settled in a bit, it tastes even BETTER the day after (I think so, at least). So here it is, in all of it’s sticky, gooey greatness!

1 box devil’s food chocolate cake mix

½ cup butter, softened at room temperature

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 to 3 tablespoons cold brewed coffee

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup white chocolate chips

1 can (14-ounces) sweetened condensed milk

½ cup (4 ounces) cream cheese, softened

½ teaspoon clear vanilla extract

Preheat your oven to 350F and prepare a 9×9 pan by lining it with aluminum foil and then spraying it with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, butter, egg & vanilla and mix with electric beaters. The batter will be very thick & difficult to combine at first, so adding the coffee will help create a softer consistency. Start pressing the dough into the prepared pan & prepare yourself for incredibly messy fingers. Even though it will be a bit sticky, keep pressing & spreading it until it’s evenly laid out.  Once you’re happy with the cake layer, sprinkle the white and dark chocolate chips over the top (fun, fun!).

In another mixing bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese & ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract, stir until well combined and pour milky mixture evenly over the cake dough. Bake for roughly 24 to 26 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown and pull away from the sides of the pan. Remember, you can always use a small pairing or serrated knife to cut off the browned edges. The middle will still be quite soft & jiggly upon removing from the oven but never fear, this will continue to set up more after they are cooled. Cool completely on a rack for about 30 to 45 minutes before carefully slicing them up into bars. If not serving immediately, store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

So what say you? Think you’ll be able to handle the craziness of this glorious lip smacking concoction? You might want to have a tall glass of milk handy when you do! *hint hint* Good luck!

Happiness Project Recipe #2: Chocolate Chip Blondies!


Since finishing Pastry School, I’ve recently become a wee bit obsessed with finding the BEST dessert recipes to tweak & re-invent to my own super snobbish version of perfection. One of these said recipes is creating a bar a bit more adventurous than a traditional chocolate brownie (though what’s NOT to love about a chocolate brownie??). Enter the classic Blondie. The wondrous thing about the Blondie is that you can add just about anything to it & it comes out tasting just the way you want it! Nuts, fruits, frosting, even a cup or so of your favorite whiskey! It’s that easy to create your own slice of personalized bliss! Drooling now, aren’t you? Here’s the recipe!

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, completely melted

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

1 cup all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthurs Flour, which you can find at any Whole Foods Market location)

One of the most important things I learned in school, was that with baking, you MUST follow recipe directions in a timely & exact manner. With any good recipe base, there’s not usually much wiggle room for change (though tweaking bits of it can be fun once you’ve figured out what your individual preferences are). So when preparing this lovely bar, remember to take heed to any specific directions. Ready?

Lightly butter an 8×8 pan. Lightly, because otherwise, the bottom of your Blondies will end up being a bit greasy.

Mix your melted butter with brown sugar & beat until smooth (on medium speed in a stand mixer for a few minutes). Beat in the egg and then the vanilla extract.

Add the salt & stir in the flour until fully combined. If you are using any additions, such as chocolate chips, nuts, fruits etc, mix this in now. I’ll list a few of my favorite additions below.

Additions can be as follows: 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1/2 cup dried fruit (stirred into batter), 1/3 cup bourbon or other whiskey (most of this will burn off while baking & will only add a very subtle bit of extra flavoring); increase the flour by 1 tablespoon

Pour your mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes, or until set in the middle. With most bar & brownie recipes, the sides will begin to brown & peel away from the edges when done. Cool completely on a rack for 20-30 minutes before cutting them. Since I’m not a big fan of flaky edges, I usually cut the browned edges off in the pan (with a small serrated knife) before I slice up the actual bar pieces. It’s just prettier (and we all know how much I like pretty things!).

Now, serve & enjoy!

Yum? Oh yes!

*Recipe adapted from “How To Cook Everything”

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