My lovely husband recently crossed the threshold into official “mid-30’s”-dom. We were able to celebrate on his actual day with his family back in his hometown in Southern Illinois and so I knew I could count on his dear mother to make him his favorite dessert – pineapple upside-down cake [made in a cast iron skillet, natch!].

To make sure I didn’t step on any toes but still bake some sweets for my sweetie [awwww..] I sleuthed out what Jeremy’s second favorite dessert was – chocolate-pecan pie. Since I haven’t ventured into making my own pie crust and was already in my pajamas [meaning, no running to the Kreepy Krogs around the corner to see if they might have some non-dodgy pre-made pie crusts available], I got to googling and discovered Deep South Dish‘s Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars.

I tweaked just a few things from the original recipe. I love using King Arthur Flour‘s Midnight Cocoa in place of regular Dutch-processed cocoa. It makes your desserts all that much richer, chocolate-r and less sweet [which is my personal preference]. I also added the optional bourbon [yes, puhleese!] as well as the suggested shredded coconut.

The next time I make these, and there will definitely be a next time, I’ll probably skip the coconut and bourbon and add some cayenne pepper to the mix when toasting the pecans, as well as adding some large flake sea salt to the top of the mix pre-baking to add a bit of a savory edge to the pie.

Do you have a favorite dessert you usually have on your birthday? What is it? I’d love to know!



coconut bourbon pecan pie bars | sweet betweens

Coconut Bourbon Pecan Pie Bars

via Deep South DishChocolate Pecan Pie Bars

yield : 1 9×13 dish / 12-16 bars


Toasted Pecans

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup pecan pieces

1/4 cup [1/2 stick] unsalted butter

2 tsp kosher or coarse sea salt


1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup midnight/black cocoa powder [like this version from King Arthur]

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 heaping TBSP all-purpose flour

3 eggs, large [lightly beaten]

1 cup light corn syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

2 TBSP bourbon [I used Wild Turkey‘s American Honey]

1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut

2 TBSP unsalted butter, room temperature


Toasted Pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter, pour over pecans and toss to coat evenly. Spread buttered pecans on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring about halfway through.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with salt and let cool to room temperature.


Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil, leaving excess hanging over the ends to help with the bar removal after baking. Butter foil generously and set aside.

Whisk together flour, cocoa and confectioners’ sugar. Cut in the cold butter with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Press crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared baking pan, making sure to go slightly up the sides [about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch].

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips and return to oven for 3-4 minutes to begin melting the chips. Remove from oven and, using an offset spatula, spread melted chocolate evenly over crust. Set aside to cool completely, about 30 minutes.


In a medium bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and flour. Stir in eggs, corn syrup, vanilla extract, bourbon and softened butter. Finally, stir in toasted pecans and coconut.

Pour pecan-coconut mixture on cooled crust and bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool on rack, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to refrigerator to chill and set for another hour.

Using aluminum overhang, remove bars out of baking pan and cut into bars of desired size. [I did 12 3×3-ish sized bars, 3 rows of 4 bars].


coconut bourbon pecan pie bars | sweet betweens


I am lucky enough to be connected to a great group of community minded people here in Nashville through our Nashville Food Bloggers group. Not only do we support each other through our kitchen successes and failures, but we oftentimes get involved great movements that support our neighbors near and far. [see : Sweet Relief 2.0 : Hurricane Sandy and StreetSmart]

Our friend and Nashville mover and shaker Jennifer Justus, a food/culture reporter for the Tennessean, recently reached out to us after she had seen a new documentary called A Place at the Table. She was so very moved by the film that she immediately reached out to a network she knew would respond. Thanks to her, we are all going to have the opportunity to see this film at the end of this month.

So, what’s this film about? First, watch the trailer:

Essentially, although our nation has a glut of food that gets tossed at the end of each business day [have you ever walked behind your local grocery store, by the dumpsters, around quitting time?] there are 16 million [one out of every five] children in our country that are going hungry. One in five.

In conjunction with hunger, our country is also setting up the next generations to live shorter and unhealthier lives than their parents due to issues stemming from childhood obesity. This is thanks to a lack of access to healthy and fresh foods for those living on federal assistance programs.

Even this federal assistance program [SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program]] is at risk for severe budget cuts.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself what this means for you, what you can do. Well, honestly? A lot. Even from your tiny apartment in your tiny town. Start here:

1. Connect with these great leading organizations here in our country that are leading the charge to end hunger once and for all :

Share Our Strength

Bread for the World

Feeding America

The Food and Research Action Center

Each of these organizations has mailing lists, calls to action, suggested next steps. Donate your time, your letter-writing abilities, your knowledge and your money, if possible. Each little action step adds up.

2. Send a letter to your local congress person. It’s easy. Visit this link, fill in your contact information, add something to the form letter if you’d like and then click send. Easy, right? I’ve done this one myself.


3. Attend the screening of A Place at the Table in your hometown. If you live in Nashville, come join me and other Nashville Food Bloggers here:

Monday April 29, 2013 6:00 p.m. [movie begins promptly at 6:30]

Downtown Presbyterian : 154 5th Avenue North Nashville, TN 37219


4. If you’re a Nashville resident, look into supporting and getting involved with Vanderbilt University’s Mobile Market. An entirely student/volunteer-run effort, the Mobile Market’s mission is to provide a sustainable source of healthy foods in low/no access neighborhoods. This program not only meets an immediate need for community members but also educates a new generation [college students] in various community development techniques that the graduating students will continue to use and employ in their post-college careers.

5. Play around in the kitchen. When you go grocery shopping next, keep in mind what types of food are eligible to be covered by the SNAP program and make one of these recipes that some of my Nashville food blogger pals have shared with us today:

La Aguacate : Sweet Potato Black Bean Tacos

Erin’s Food Files : Red Lentil Curry Soup

An Organic Process : Tomatoes and Cannellini Beans Over Brown Rice

Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures : Basmati Rice Salad

Life a la Mode : Ground Beef and Green Bean Stir Fry

Eat . Drink . Smile : Turkey Sausage and Spinach Ragù on Parmesan Polenta

A Nasty Bite : Collard Greens and White Beans

– check out Lesley Eats who has linked several of her budget friendly and healthy recipes, as well as some tips on how to shop fresh and healthy on a budget.

I’ll be updating this page as we find out more information about the upcoming screening and other action opportunities locally. Make sure to check in, especially if you’re planning on attending the screening later this month. I’d also love to know how you’re planning on getting involved in the fight to end hunger, so please leave a comment on this post!



You may have read the title of this post, rolled your eyes and said “ugh. doesn’t this woman know the speculoos/cookie butter/biscoff thing is so over?”. For this deliciously creamy, spicy and rich dessert you are going to want to set your need to be on trend aside, swallow that ego and make this pie. Like, yesterday.

I tweaked Darla‘s original recipe for No-Bake Biscoff Cream Pie by adding some [locally distilled!] Prichard’s Sweet Lucy Cream Liqueur. The regular Sweet Lucy bourbon has been my go-to sipping and cocktail bourbon and though I’d purchased the Cream Liqueur ages ago, it had been sitting on our bar shelf gathering dust. Most literally. The bottle caught my eye when I was going back and forth from the refrigerator to the counter assembling my needed ingredients, so I picked up the bottle and just went with my gut. And my gut was very very right.

The bourbon taste is most noticeably when the pie is eaten after the first chilling noted in the directions. I saved the pie for a visit to my in-laws and noticed that the bourbon wasn’t as strong a day after [not-] baking. Because of this I would recommend that if you need to prepare the pie in advance that you split the whipped cream recipe in half and only add the bourbon to the whipped cream topping you can make and assemble just before serving.

I hope you’ll make this, and soon. When you do, come back here and let me know how ridiculously over-the-top delicious it was. I’ll be waiting!



no-bake bourbon biscoff pie | sweet betweens

No-Bake Bourbon Biscoff Pie

from Bakingdom‘s No-Bake Biscoff Cream Pie

yield : one 9″ pie



20 chocolate Oreos [approx 2 1/2 cups crumbs]

7 TBSP unsalted butter


6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature

1 cup Biscoff spread [I used nearly the entire jar of Biscoff Crunchy spread]

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 cups bourbon whipped cream

Bourbon Whipped Cream [Filling and Topping]

2 cups heavy whipping cream

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 TBSP Pritchard’s Sweet Lucy Sipping Cream bourbon


4-5 Oreos, chilled and sliced into 5-6 pieces each

small piece of semi-sweet chocolate, grated


* I find chilling a metal or glass bowl and the beaters of a hand-held electric mixer in the freezer before making the whipped cream speeds up the process.


Pulse Oreos [about 5 at a time fit in my Vitamix blender] until you get uniform crumbs. Melt butter and mix with Oreo crumbs until evenly distributed.

Press crumbs firmly and evenly into a 9″ pie plate. Refrigerate.


In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add Biscoff spread and mix on low until combined thoroughly. Add confectioners’ sugar [all at once – no need to divide] and continue to mix on low until combined. Don’t worry if mixture looks curdled!

Set Biscoff mix aside.

Bourbon Whipped Cream

Add all ingredients into a large bowl. [Large! The volume of this mixture will quickly double once the whipping process begins.] Whip on high with an electric hand-held mixer until light and airy, where stiff peaks form on the end of the beater blades when removed from mixture.


Divide whipped cream in half [estimate, as it’s not crucial to be exact]. Fold half into the Biscoff mix until well combined.

Pour and spread the Biscoff mix into the chilled pie pan, on top of the crust. Top with whipped cream.

Decorate with shaved chocolate and extra Oreo crumbs [optional]. Return to refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours.

Serve and enjoy!

no bake bourbon biscoff pie | sweet betweens

This recipe adaptation was another one of those saw it-checked the pantry-made it situations. Jeremy and I spent a few days before the actual Easter holiday this year with his family in Southern Illinois. I’ve  established a precedent of bringing some baked goods with me every time we take the three hour drive north/west on I-24 and when I saw the Spiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns Kathryn posted on her blog, London Bakes, I knew they’d be perfect.

I had a bag of fresh cranberries withering in a produce drawer of our refrigerator [last hold-outs from the winter holidays] as well as a bag of candied ginger slices. Adding both amped up an already deliciously spice-ful recipe and added a variety of textures with the pop of fresh cranberries and the chew of the candied ginger.

The beauty of these buns is that they don’t have to be pigeon-holed just for the Easter holidays. Just skip the addition of the plain flour cross on top of the buns – but don’t skip the sugar glaze!

Hot cross buns were never a tradition for the Easter holiday in my family, unlike the ham and potatoes au gratin, but after these buns turned out so beautifully, I’m thinking I may have to make them one!

What are your favorite family Easter traditions, if you celebrate this holiday? I would love to know!



cranberry ginger spice hot cross buns | sweet betweens

Cranberry Ginger Spice Hot Cross Buns

from London BakesSpiced Cranberry Hot Cross Buns

yield : 12 buns



300 ml [1 1/4 cups] milk [I used whole, but you can use whatever you prefer]

50 g [a little under 1/2 stick] unsalted butter

500 g [4 cups] bread flour

1 tsp kosher salt

75 g [1/3 cup] granulated cane sugar

1 packet yeast

1 large egg, lightly whisked to combine yolk + white

100 g [4 ounces] fresh cranberries, sliced in half

1/4 cup candied ginger, small dice

zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Cross [optional]

75 g [2/3 cup] all-purpose flour, unbleached

Glaze [optional]

2 TBSP granulated cane sugar


Warm milk to near boiling, stirring to prevent scorching the milk. Add butter and stir until melted. Set aside and let cool to 120-130 farenheit [ideal temperature to activate yeast].

While milk is heating, butter is melting and/or mixture is cooling, put flour, salt, sugar and yeast into the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Whisk to distribute evenly. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture.

Add milk and egg to flour mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined. Knead mixture with dough hook attachment on low for about 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Cover dough with a clean cotton dishtowel and set in a warm place for an hour or so, until the dough has doubled in size.

Return bowl to stand mixer. Add cranberries, ginger and spices and knead for a few minutes until well distributed. Re-cover with towel and allow to rise again for an hour, or doubled in size, in your warm spot.

Divide the dough into equal pieces, weighing about 3 ounces each. Smooth into round buns and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Cover again and let rise until the buns have doubled in size, about an hour.

Heat oven to 375. While oven is coming to temperature, mix 2/3 cup all-purpose flour with 2-3 tablespoons water until you have a smooth paste. Pipe flour paste on top of buns into crosses.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

While buns are baking, melt 2 tablespoons granulated sugar in 2 tablespoons water. Once buns are finished baking [golden and crispy outsides, especially bottoms], brush syrup on top of each bun with a pastry brush.

cranberry ginger spice hot cross buns | sweet betweens

If you follow me at all on twitter you might have caught on to the fact that I recently made a trip to New Jersey to see my family [my mom, dad, sister and paternal grandmother all still live in central NJ]. My visit was timed perfectly to introduce the latest addition to the New Jersey Tarans – Zuzu!

I grew up with a black labrador retriever, named Mushka [which is a Russian name that means ‘little black fly’]. She became a part of the family while we lived in the Philippines and over the next fourteen years of her life she traveled with us to New York City, New Jersey and Hong Kong.


In the recent year or so my parents were seriously beginning to entertain adding a dog to the family again. And so, Zuzu has made her grand entrance!

I was able to spend 5 days with the sweet [then] 9 week old puppy, so this week’s favorites round-up is dedicated to this sweet floppy-eared, snotty-nosed, puppy-breathed bundle of fur.


zuzu loves shopping!


beware the shark puppy!

zuzu | sweet betweens

crate training . nailed it!


and so it begins – zuzu’s a jersey girl!

zuzu | sweet betweens

sophie + zuzu during their new nightly routine : cuddle time!

zuzu | sweet betweens

squee! those eyes! those ears!!

zuzu + alexandra | sweet betweens

all . of . the . LICKING!

zuzu | sweet betweens

preferred sleeping position 01

zuzu | sweet betweens

preferred sleeping position 02

zuzu | sweet betweens

zuzu + sophie waiting for the school bus

and a video to ensure complete squee-ability :