Cookie Butter Granola Bars

I love hiking. I love being surrounded by trees and dirt. I love ascending a giant mountain (I use the word “giant” loosely) toward the summit. I love the breezy wind and the silence.

I wasn’t always outdoorsy. It wasn’t until around my senior year in high school that I started to go hiking a lot. I loved every minute of it. There’s nothing like the Appalachian Mountains, except peanut butter and chocolate.

One of my favorite mountain past times is having a picnic at the summit. I need a little treat after walking all that way (actually, I just like eating and this gives me a good excuse).

Before I got really into baking I would pack store-bought granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches. Now that I’m a “baking aficionado”, I like to make my own treats that don’t have all those tasty preservatives (although sometimes I just can’t resist high fructose corn syrup and monosodium glutamate…). My homemade treats are so much tastier and I feel like one of those super earthy mountain people. It rocks.

These bars are a spin on the peanut butter pretzel granola bars that I made recently. I used the same formula, but instead created a warm, cinnamon-y cousin to the insanely delicious peanut butter version.

This recipe uses cookie butter (also known as Speculoos or Biscoff Spread). It tastes like the baby of a gingerbread cookie and a graham cracker in a highly addicting, spreadable form. It’s the consistency of peanut butter (and it bakes the same too), so I substitute them in a one to one ratio.Everything is thrown into one bowl. It’s basically one of the easiest things I’ve made in my kitchen recently.

I would know.

I’ve made four batches.

In two and a half weeks.
Almonds and dried fruit are thrown into the bowl too! The awesome factor just increased by 10!
White chocolate pairs wonderfully with cookie butter. There’s something about the warm and spicy cookie butter and the white chocolate that just marry together.
They bake up to taste like a graham cracker-granola bar hybrid. They are perfect for a hike. Or a walk. Or as movie theater contraband.

And if you don’t feel like actually hiking, you could always put on your hiking clothes, grab a granola bar and watch youtube videos of people hiking. It’s basically the same thing

What’s your favorite hiking snack?

Related Recipes

Dried Fruit and Nut Granola Bars

Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars with Chocolate Chips

Cookie Butter Granola Bars adapted from this recipe which was originally from How Sweet It Is

Makes one 9 x 13 pan

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup oat bran (wheat bran should work too)
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup cinnamon cereal (like Cinnamon Cheerios or Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon Oat Cereal)
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw almonds and dried fruit (I used an almond and dried fruit trail mix, but plain almonds will work fine)
  • 2/3 cup cookie butter (or peanut butter if you can’t find it)
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (or agave)
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, oat bran, rice cereal, cinnamon cereal, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, and almonds with dried fruit. Add cookie butter, stirring until combined until a “dough” forms, 3 to 5 minutes. Combine the melted butter and vanilla and then add it to the peanut butter mixture, stirring until mixed throughout. Add the honey and mix until “dough” is completely moistened. Fold in white chocolate chips.
3. Line a 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Press the mixture into the pan until even. Bake for 18-23 minutes (the first time I overcooked them with 25 minutes, 18 worked best for me), or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Pull bars out with the aluminum foil edge and cut into desired size (may be slightly crumbly). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Armenian Nutmeg Cake {Daring Bakers}

I used to have a dog named Snowy.

She was terribly cute and completely white (hence the insanely creative, original name).

Sometimes she would be the sweetest, most charming dog you’d ever met.

Most times, though, she wasn’t (just look at the photo below for evidence). It may have something to do with her wardrobe. But, what dog wouldn’t love to always being primped and dressed?

Don’t answer that.

I may also be forgetting to mention another part of the story.

Snowy wore a diaper too. I won’t get into the logistics, as mentioning her incontinence on the web might embarrass the late canine, but I think that maybe she felt that this diaper recked her style. Here she was, a nine pound, 18 inch wonder with no hope for a social life.

Because she wore a diaper and a parka.

And sometimes sunglasses.

If Snowy were still alive today, I’d bake her this cake and ask her to forgive me for putting her into all of those darling outfits. It is April’s Daring Bakers Challenge and it’s perhaps one of the most amazing treats I’ve ever tasted. It’s rich and buttery with a caramely sweetness. The staring ingredient, nutmeg, is prominent, but in the most perfect way.

This cake is a hug from a friend. It’s sleeping in on Saturday morning. It’s the feeling you get when you sit in front of a roaring campfire in the depths of summer. It can cure a broken heart or fix a flat tire. It would totally make Snowy feel better about her clothing predicament.

The crust is delicious and buttery. It reminds me of soft baked shortbread.

And nutmeg. I can’t even begin to describe it. I do like nutmeg, but often I’ve found that it can be overpowering. In this cake though, it is poi-fect! I only used a teaspoon, but if you enjoy the nutmeg-y flavor, add an additional 1/2 teaspoon.

The only modification I made to this glorious cake was using unsweetened vanilla almond milk. I’m certain regular milk would work just as well, but I wanted to try it.

Walnuts are an excellent addition to the top of the cake. They add a bit of a crunch and they become fragrant and nutty after baking.

It is so moist and tender. I’m sure it would pair excellently with coffee or tea or even cardboard.

Obviously I didn’t like the cake… ;)

Looking for other cake recipes?

Summer Strawberry and Peach Cake

Chocolate Chickpea Cake

Pumpkin Cake with Caramel, Chocolate Chips, and Walnuts

Armenian Nutmeg Cake from Jason at Daily Candor

Makes 1 9-in cake (about 12 slices)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240 ml) milk (I used almond milk)**
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking soda
  • 2 cups (480 ml) (280 gm/10 oz) all-purpose flour**
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) (10 gm) (⅓ oz) baking powder
  • 2 cups (480 ml) (400 gm/14 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed**
  • 3/4 cup (1½ sticks) (180 ml) (170 gm/6 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature and cubed
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) (55 gm/2 oz) walnut pieces, or more to taste
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons (5 to 7 ½ ml) (5 to 8 gm) ground nutmeg (I used 1 tsp.)
  • 1 egg
Method

1. Preheat your oven to moderate 350°F/175°C/gas mark 4.

2. Mix the baking soda (not baking powder; that’s for the next step) into the milk. Set it aside.

3. Sift together the flour and the baking powder into a large bowl. Add the brown sugar. Mix the flour and brown sugar together. Toss in the cubed butter. Mash the butter with a fork into the dry ingredients (you can also use your fingers too). You’ll want to achieve a uniform, tan-colored crumbly mixture.

4. Take HALF of the crumbly mixture and press it into a 9-in (23 cm) springform pan to form a crust (I used a cake pan with a removable bottom, like this one). Set remaining mixture aside.

5. In a mixed or a bowl, crack the egg and toss in the nutmeg. Start mixing slowly with a whisk attachment and then increase to medium speed, or mix with a hand whisk if you’re doing it manually. Once it’s mixed well and frothy (about 1 minute using a standing mixer, or about 2-3 minutes of vigorous beating with a whisk), pour in the milk and baking soda mixture. Continue to mix until uniform. Pour in the rest of the crumbly mixture that you set aside earlier. Mix well, with either a paddle attachment, or a spatula.
6. Pour the batter over the base in the springform pan. Gently sprinkle the walnut pieces over the batter. Bake for about 30-40 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when the top is a golden brown, and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan, and then release the sides of the springform pan or remove from cake pan. Enjoy!

** Notes **
** I used almond milk instead of real milk because it was what I had. I thought that it was so incredible (although I haven’t tried it with real milk to know the difference).
**I weighed my ingredients. I found that there was quite a different between ingredients like flour and brown sugar that were measured in cups and measured on a scale. If you have access to a scale, I’d recommend it for this recipe.

Creamy Orange Bars

First off, I just want to say a HUGE thank you to my new blog friend Eric at Health DemystifiedEric was so kind in featuring me in his post Rising Stars in the Health and Fitness Blogosphere: 9 health and fitness bloggers who will entertain, inform, and inspire the world in 2012Eric’s blog is a wonderful look at health and nutrition with intelligent and entertaining writing. I would definitely recommend checking it out. Thanks again!

I have a love affair with fresh citrus fruit. When I was in the marching band in high school, we had an annual citrus friuit fundraiser. It was probably one  of my favorite times of year. My mom and I would order 40 to 60 pounds (to our defense, they only came in 20 pound boxes, and we like a variety) worth of different oranges and grapefruits.

At the time, I really hadn’t experimented with eating oranges in any other form then well, as an orange. Actually, I still don’t really eat oranges in any other way than as an orange.

I was craving some creamy lemon bars that I saw on Pinterest (as I often crave anything with sugar, butter, and crumbly toppings).

But, I had no lemons. I did, however have Cara Cara Oranges. If you haven’t tried them, they are a gorgeous dark pink-orange color with a tart, almost grapefruity, flavor.

So I threw together these orange bars tasting hoping along the way that they would satiate my desire for a tasty citrus bar.

The butter, sugar, oats, and flour come together to make a wonderful crust and crumbly topping. Sweetened condensed milk and orange give the center a creamy and slightly tart middle. This is the perfect treat.

Let’s just say that I’m glad that I was running a half-marathon that weekend because I ate enough for myself and all my friends ;)

Enjoy these wonderful treats. Share them with your friends… Or not.

How do you eat your citrus fruit?

Creamy Orange Bars lightly adapted from Cafe Zupas Blog

Makes 9 large to 12 medium bars

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (I used Cara Cara oranges, but I think any citrus would work)
  • zest from 1 large orange (about 1 to 1-1/2 tablespoons)

Method

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. In a stand mixer or large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until combined. In another bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Add oats to the flour mixture and mix well. Pour oat and flour mixture into butter mixture and combine until a crumbly mix forms. Press half of the mixture into an 8 x 8 baking dish, set aside baking dish and remaining crumbly topping.

3. In a small-medium bowl, whisk sweetened condensed mix, orange juice, and orange zest until well combined. Pour wet mixture over crust. Sprinkle remaining crumble topping over wet sweetened condensed milk mixture.

4. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for about 30 minutes. Move to refrigerator and allow to cool completely. Cut into desired size and eat all of them by yourself share.

Related Recipes

Peach Crumble Bars

Maple Pecan Shortbread Squares

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Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Do you remember the kids in the cafeteria who always brought the weird stuff for lunch? You know, the ones who packed hummus sandwiches and prunes?

I was one of those kids.

It was rare that I brought chips to school (in a clear plastic baggy, of course, not the “cool” fun-size chips), let alone a Lunchable.

My mom filled my lunchbox with everything from fruit (yes, prunes too) and tuna fish sandwiches to tabbouleh salad and jicama sticks . I’m not saying that I don’t like those foods, I actually really enjoy them. But to a cafeteria full of 9-year olds, it is so not cool.

While, I felt completely embarrassed at my “misfortune”, I look back now and feel so happy that I was spared from the Twinkies and Funyuns.

So, in honor of all the weird kids like me, I made Tabbouleh. I didn’t make it the traditional way with bulgar. Instead I went a bit crazy and made it with quinoa, one of my favorite grains.

I added crisp, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers; a sprinkling of herby, green parsley; and a bit of olive oil, lemon, and cumin.

That’s all! Amazing right?

This dish is deliciously filling and healthy – perfect for summer.

Other Quinoa Favorites

What is your favorite way to eat quinoa?

Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup tomato, diced
  • 1 cup cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Method

1. In a medium pot bring quinoa and water to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. Once cooled, move cooked quinoa to a large bowl. Add all of the remaining ingredients and mix well. Quinoa may be served immediately, but I feel that it tastes best after sitting in the fridge for at least a few hours. Serve with pitas and hummus for a tasty and fresh vegetarian meal or with grilled meat or fish for a fresh summer feast.

Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars with Chocolate Chips

Letter to my 30 year old self:

Dear self,

Wow! Look at you blazing your way through the world. Too bad your 20 something year old self isn’t quite sure what you’re doing for your career, but you’re doing it well I’m sure. I just wanted to tell you a few things…

1. You really need to stop watching Instant Nexflix 3.0. I realize it’s a much better version than what I’m watching now, but it’s most probably interfering with said career.

2. You don’t need another cookbook, just sayin’

3. You’re still insanely crazy about chocolate and peanut butter? Why don’t you hop into the kitchen and whip up these granola bars. They are the perfect brain food for you since I’m sure you’re career juggling, blogging, running, Netflix-watching, grocery store perusing, Facebook stalking, eating, and sleep basically all the time.

4. Stop waiting and make this now… Love, Me

Peanut Butter Pretzel Granola Bars with Chocolate Chips from How Sweet Eats

Ingredients

  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup puffed rice cereal
  • 1 cup crushed salted pretzels (I used pretzel thins from Trader Joes)
  • 1/4 cup flaxseed meal
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry roasted peanuts
  • 2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon honey (or agave)
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips
Method
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, rice cereal, pretzels, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, whole wheat flour, and peanuts. Add peanut butter, stirring until combined until a “dough” forms, 3 to 5 minutes. Combine the melted butter and vanilla and then add it to the peanut butter mixture, stirring until mixed throughout. Add the honey and mix until “dough” is completely moistened. Fold in chocolate chips.
3. Line a 9 x 13 pan with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Press the mixture into the pan until even. Bake for 18-23 minutes (the first time I overcooked them with 25 minutes), or until golden brown on top. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Pull bars out with the aluminum foil edge and cut into desired size (may be slightly crumbly). Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.