Posts Tagged ‘cookie bar’


dinner 2

Lots of desserts

dessert table 4


bar 2

More meat

dinner 3

Delicious side dishes


Too many desserts

dessert table 2


guests guests 2 lauren sara

guests newlyweds



decor 2

decor 3

room 1

Much too many desserts

dessert table after

More food than one could imagine out of a NYC kitchen


More people than you’d usually fit in a 1-bedroom apartment

getting food

5 Years of Thanksgiving with Friends

Five years ago, in what started out as a “dinner club” with two other couples, Matt and I hosted our first mock Thanksgiving dinner with friends.  Four friends came to Matt’s apartment at the time for a turkey, sweet potato casserole, and some other dishes that aren’t memorable enough to stand out in my mind.  It was a fun night and such a success that in the years that followed, our intimate dinner party of six has turned into an annual event with almost twenty friends.  It gives us an opportunity to be in the kitchen together, share an evening with many of our closest friends, and show them how thankful we are for them through delicious food.

matt lauren cooking

This year’s dinner was so much fun and full of many tasty traditional and non-traditional Thanksgiving dishes: Turkey, Brisket, Turkey Meatloaf, Salad, String Bean Casserole, Sweet Potato Casserole, Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Parmesan, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

dinner 1

And of course, as you surely already know, lots of desserts

dessert table 5

Cookie sandwiches: Red Velvet Cookie Sandwiches with White Chocolate Buttercream, Chocolate Chip Cookies with Mocha Ganache and Chewy Chocolate Cookies with Peanut Butter Filling

sandwich cookies 2

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake bars

bars on plate 1

Cookie Dough Topped Brownies

cooke dough brownies

Gooey Caramel Butter Bars

caramel bars

Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Bars

Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream and Mocha Ganache

I am excited about the recipes I have to share from the dinner party over the next few weeks!  There are definitely some new desserts that I know I’ll be making again

What is your favorite Thanksgiving-related tradition?

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done 2

I am a chocolate lover.  It is rare that I’d pick a dessert on a menu that doesn’t have chocolate (it would have to be an extremely appealing warm fruit dessert option with ice cream).  However, I have to acknowledge that there are some people out there who don’t feel the same way, especially when I entertain.  The husband and I are planning a dinner party and I have a long list of desserts to include.  That list has been edited down from an even longer list, but it will probably be slightly overboard:-)  That is just how I do it.  Anyway, since I will be baking more than enough desserts for our friends, I realize I need to make sure that each dessert should serve its purpose with a unique set of flavors, textures and appearance.  When I flipped to the Gooey Caramel Butter Bars in my Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey cookbook, I knew I had to make them.  Layers of shortbread cookie dough and creamy decadent caramel?  What else could a non-chocolate lover want?


Luckily I found this recipe online so you can bake these at home.  It is always tough when I decide to bake from a cookbook because I know that I can’t reprint the recipe as is.  Luckily, someone else had it posted so you can refer there for measurement details.  I’ll point out the small changes I made to the original below.

These Gooey Caramel Butter Bars have several steps but are not difficult to make.  Just make sure you have a couple of hours because you need your crust to cool before layering on the caramel and topping.

For the shortbread you will need an entire pound of butter, granulated and confectioners’ sugars, vanilla, salt and all-purpose flour

shortbread ingred

You will need a sifter for your confectioners’ sugar


I used my make-shift version from last time powdered sugar in sift sifted powdered sugar

Then you will beat together all of the butter, granulated sugar and sifted confectioners’ sugar

butter and sugars

Beat well until it is creamy and a little fluffy

mixture of butter and sugars

Beat in your vanilla and salt and then set aside

adding vanilla

Sift your flour as well

dry ingred

And then slowly add to the dough while mixer is on low

adding dry ingred 2

Combine just until a thick dough forms

dough 1

Now you will set aside 2/3 of your dough

dough on seran 1

Flatten it out on seran wrap

dough on seran 2

Wrap it up and refrigerate until you need it as a topping

dough on seran 3

Your other third of the shortbread dough will go into a 9×13 pan sprayed with cooking spray

dough in pan 1

Use your hands to flatten out the dough

dough in pan 2

Then bake at 325 for about 25 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges; allow to cool on a rack prior to adding additional layers

baked crust

While the crust cools, it is time to make your caramel; you will need 1 bag of caramel candies, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, salt and the optional kick of dark rum (I used just a tablespoon and didn’t notice much effect on flavor)

caramel ingred

Put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl

making caramel 1

And microwave the mixture for a minute, then small 30 second increments

making caramel 2

Stir in-between microwave sessions

making caramel 3

Your caramel will start to look like this

making caramel 4

And then more like this

making caramel 5

and this

making caramel 6

then this

making caramel 7

And then finally it will be smooth and creamy like this

making caramel 8

When the shortbread crust is cooled to room temperature and the caramel is ready, spread it onto the crust

caramel on crust

If you keep the caramel away from the edges, clean-up will be a lot easier

caramel on crust 2

My “secret” ingredient

sea salt

Sprinkle the sea salt lightly over caramel (next time I’ll use a little more than in the picture below)

salt on caramel

Now get the rest of the dough out of the refrigerator to top your bars

dough for top

Break it up into small pieces and pile them evenly on top of the caramel

dough on top

Then bake again for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the caramel is bubbling


Cut and serve!


Notice that you can see the grease marks on the cutting board, these really are buttery but as a result, they melt in your mouth in a very delicious way.

Are you a chocolate lover? What is your favorite non-chocolate dessert?

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Bars are such an easy thing to make and serve. Rather than dropping dozens of cookies onto several baking sheets and switching pans in and out of the oven, you can spread the batter into one large pan and bake it in one batch. Once they are done and cool, you just slice and serve. Pieces can be as big or small as you want.

Since I have a ton of baking to do over the next month or so, I have found a few recipes that are less time consuming to mix in with the more complicated desserts. Besides, as it turns out, sometimes the easiest desserts are the most popular! I am really excited about the recipes I will be making over the next several weeks, and I think you will enjoy them as well. This recipe is a good start to the holiday baking season but can be used year round. I was excited when I found it because it uses almond butter as a main ingredient. I haven’t baked with almond butter before, I am more of a die-hard peanut butter lover, but I do enjoy it for variety. This Food &Wine cookbook actually has a ton of great recipes and this recipe for Chocolate Chunk Almond Butter Bars is one of the more simple that I found.


For a change, I didn’t make any tweaks, and I don’t think it needs any. These crispy and chewy bars would be terrific with a glass of milk, but I’ll be serving them among a selection of many other desserts.

The details to the recipe can be found here.

For this recipe you will need a food processor and just a few ingredients

all ingredients

Side note: the hardest part of making these was getting my food processor down from the back corner of my top kitchen shelf

Chop your nuts and set aside

chopped almonds


Then mix up the dough in the food processor (you don’t need to clean it between these steps)

food processor 1

food processor 2

food processor 3

food processor 4

dough 1

Stir in chocolate chips (I used chunks) and chopped almonds.

dough 2

dough 3

Spread it out in your baking pan

dough 4


done 1

Crispy, chewy, delicious

done 3

done 2

Have you baked with almond butter before?

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