brownie + blondie + bar

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

[insert dumb blonde joke here] [get it? smartie? blondie? smart blonde?… *crickets*]

Anyone who has known me for even an obscenely short amount of time will probably hear of my obsession for cadbury chocolates. Woo me with Dairy Milk, Crunchy, Twirl, Flake or a Creme Egg. But when these roll around? Forget about it. My freezer will be stocked with bag upon bag for months to come.

Second favorite on my imports list are Nestle Smarties. Easily confusable with Hershey M&Ms. But really? Far superior. Smarties come in more colors, have a thicker shell + a coating with a distinct, sweet and tasty crunch.

The Husband, Jeremy, recently met with a work colleage from Canada who brought along with him a bag full of snack-sized boxes of Smarties. When Jeremy shared my obsession with Smarties and my recent foray into food blogging, said colleague left a handful of these jewel candy-filled boxes with him to inspire me. Or at least fill my belly!

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As soon as I saw Shawnda, from Confections of a Foodie Bride, post her cranberry sauce brownies I shared them on twitter to drool with my cranberry-loving friends [ahem, Amanda!]. Then I immediately dug around my fridge + pantry to make sure I had the goods to make them that very night.

I tweaked the cranberry sauce to work with what I had – fresh cranberries, frozen blueberries and pomegranate juice. The three combine to make a deep, tart berry explosion and guarantee that you won’t miss the typical orange juice or orange zest you might see in your average cranberry sauce.

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I’m happy to say this is my last pumpkin recipe of the season! While I’m always happy to jump on board with the quintessential fall flavor come September, I’m usually itching to move on to the cranberries and mints of the winter season by mid-November.

This dessert is perfectly remiscent of a pumpkin pie but has the oat-y crumble of a crisp or cobbler and a bright, tart finish with the addition of a cranberry buttermilk glaze topping.



Brown Butter Pumpkin-Cranberry Bars

adapted from Brown Butter Lucuma BarsThe Cupcake Project

Prep Time : 20 minutes  Cook Time : 60 minutes  Yield : 12 servings


Brown Butter Pumpkin-Cranberry Bars

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup granulated cane sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup oats

1 tsp baking powder

16 oz pumpkin puree

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

2 large eggs, beaten

Cranberry Glaze

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 TBSP melted butter

1 TBSP cranberry juice

1 TBSP whole milk

zest of 1 lemon


Brown Butter Pumpkin-Cranberry Bars

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease/Flour/Prepare 13″ x 9″ x 2 ” pan. Set aside.

2. Melt butter in saucepan over medium/medium-high heat. Cook butter, stirring continuously, until browned [around 10-15 minutes]. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.

3. Combine sugar, flour, oats and baking powder in a medium bowl. Add browned butter and stir until just combined.

4. Divide oat mixture in thirds. Press approximately 2/3rds of the mixture in the bottom of the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20 minutes to set crust.

5. While the crust bakes, combine pumpkin puree, milk and eggs in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined.

6. Spread pumpkin mixture over baked crust. Crumble remaining oat mixture over the top.

7. Return pan to oven and bake for 30-35 more minutes, or until mixture is set.

8. Remove pan and cool completely prior to glazing and cutting into individual servings.

Cranberry Glaze

1. Stir together powdered sugar and melted butter until smooth. [I usually just dump all these ingredients in a medium bowl and have at it with a fork.]

2. Gradually add in up to 1 TBSP whole milk and 1 TBSP cranberry juice until you reach the desired consistency of glaze for your donuts. Add zest and stir.


Spoon glaze over bars and let sit for 15 minutes for glaze to set before slicing into individual servings.

Can be kept in refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days. If you are preparing the bars in advance, wait to glaze them until just prior to eating.

While I won’t turn up my nose at pretty much any baked good, I’m a huge sucker for brownies. Blondies even more so!

I had snacked on a handful of the seasonal White Chocolate Candy Corn M&M’s I recently picked up and liked them enough but knew they needed some salty crunch to balance out their chewy sweet. I think the addition of a pretzel crust along with some salted macadamia nuts finds that perfect balance between the two.

What do you think? Make these and let me know!



Pretzel Macadamia Candy Corn M&M Blondies

[adapted from Julie’s M&M White Chocolate Candy Corn Blondies at The Little Kitchen]

Prep time : 20 minutes  Bake Time : 25-28 minutes  Yield : 16 2″-ish square bars


Pretzel Crust : 1 stick // 8 TBSP unsalted butter, melted mixed with 1 1/2 cups pretzels [I pulsed mine in our blender until it was a good mix of pulverized crumbs and small bite-sized pieces]

3/4 cup + 2 TBSP packed light brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 stick // 8 TBSP unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup Candy Corn M&M candies, roughly chopped

1/2 cup salted macadamia nuts, toasted + roughly chopped


1. Preheat oven to 325 F.

2. For the pretzel crust: Mix butter and pretzel. Press into a prepared 9″ square pan [or line with parchment paper for easiest removal – my preferred method].

3. Bake for 10 minutes to set crust.

4. For blondies: In a medium bowl, whisk flour and baking soda until evenly distributed.

5. Cream sugar and egg in bowl of stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add vanilla extract and melted butter. Mix until incorporated.

6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds, scraping down the sides of the mixing bowl as necessary. Mix until just combined with each addition. Add chopped M&M candies and macadamia nuts last.

7. Pour batter into prepared pan.

8. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until the top is dry and a toothpick/cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

9. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and setting on wire rack to cool completely.

10. Cut into 16 squares. Enjoy!