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Summer S’mores Cookie Bars



Don’t judge…I know my last post was preaching about how I’m doing low-calorie dieting and cooking. However, I was asked to bring a dessert to a wedding reception bbq for a couple in my life group and the bride mentioned s’mores as an idea.  So, I decided to hunt around for a recipe for a s’mores type dessert since that seemed very summer picnic friendly. I got lucky when I pulled up Pinterest (my go-to for recipes)  and a few friends had recently re-pinned just those sorts of recipes.

The recipe I decided on is from a blog titled “Lovin’ From the Oven“. She gives this recipe in her 12 days of cookies series during the Christmas season. Not sure if she created these or borrowed the recipe, but wanted to give her credit since it is where I’m pulling the recipe.

Kim says on her blog that if you throw these in the microwave before demolishing, they go up a few notches in amazingness (I’m paraphrasing). I tried this and…yes….it is extremely delicious. Please do that!

These are pretty simple so I don’t have a lot of pointers. I will just let you enjoy my improving photography skills (they are getting clearer!)  and give a few notes and recommendations along the way.

The recipe from Kim’s blog calls for you to use a square pan but I decided to use a 11.5 x 8 pan and double the recipe. The bars are fairly rich and messy so if you did the square pan, you could make smaller bars and it would still be a tasty, generous, and less messy bite.

A few ingredient related notes:

*Later in the recipe you will need to crumble up your graham crackers so if you don’t have a food process, improvise :O) I was thinking a hammer or a chopper would do nicely if I didn’t have the food processor.

*I found a few recipes that wanted you to use marshmallows so if you don’t like using the Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Cream or have marshmallows you want to get rid of, there are recipes out there for bars like these that may work better for you. Personally, I hate marshmallow fluff, but this recipe looked the best to me so I went and bought it. I only used part of one container so that is the one ingredient that I chose not to double in the recipe.

*I would recommend buying the really big chocolate bars and getting 3 or four of them if you are choosing to do a larger pan. You’ll see in my pictures later on that I had to space out my chocolate  to cover the pan. The recipe says to just lay the chocolate bars in the pan, which was not exactly what I did even though I did technically double the ounces from the original recipe. Feel free to learn from my mistakes on this one because you can never have enough chocolate.

I didn’t want to wait for my butter to get room temperature so I put my butter in the window and direct sunlight to soften it up a bit. Glamorous I know, but I hate microwaving butter because I always overdo it. This worked well and it was ready to go in about an hour.

The butter will go into your large bowl along with your brown sugar and granulated sugar. You will be adding your dry ingredients into this bowl so make sure you have a good sized mixing bowl for this part.

I used a full package of graham crackers then an additional 3 board from the next package to get my full amount. This is an essential part in the s’mores so you’ll want to make sure you have enough so it really has that graham cracker taste. 

Taking your crushed graham crackers,  add them to your other dry ingredients. This combination will be added to your butter sugar mixture after you combine the eggs in to start your dough.

The dough ends up being very similar to a normal cookie dough, but a little rougher because of the graham crackers. After most of it was mixed with the hand mixer, I turned it off and used my hands to get the last of the flour mixture into the rest of the dough.

Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there and finish it up so you end up with the smoother dough. You will be separating your dough into two parts so I used my spatula to do the deed since it was sharper then my hand. One half will be  for the bottom layer and the other for the top layer.

After you split the dough, take half and press it into your greased pan. I tried to get it as thin as possible, which was good in the end. I made the top layer too thick, but the bottom layer held together really well. Your next layer is chocolate which, ideally, you will be able to just lay down as full bars. I needed one more chocolate bar to be able to do that, so instead I broke mine down to fill the pan. I bough two of  a size larger then the King Size but three would have been just enough. So, if you can only find king size, buy four or five just to be safe. I don’t think you’ll have a hard time figuring out what to do with any extra chocolate…marshmallow fluff on the other hand…ugh. I’m not sure what to do with all the extra I have. On that note…

…my next mistake involved the marshmallow fluff. I didn’t even think about sticky-proofing my spatula for the next layer until I had glopped on my first dollop of the fluff. Which is why you see the picture of my very messy spatula and some cooking spray. I just sprayed it over the mess and used it on round 2 which went on much smoother. Some bummers about the marshmallow and cooking with it is that it doesn’t change form. Chocolate will soften in the oven and then harden as it sets…marshmallow… is what it is. I’m really glad I went lighter on the fluff because the finished bars had marshmallow oozing out of them even after they had set. Maybe using actual marshmallows would have been better. Hard to say, but if I make them again, I may choose to do a layer of actually mini marshmallows instead. I would love to hear if you’ve done that and how it went.

For your final layer, the recipe suggests that you piece together the top. I like the idea because it’s much easier then trying to do anything else. What I don’t like about it is how brittle the top is after it is baked and you’ve cut them into bars. They don’t hold together as well as I would have hoped for and I’m thinking the piecing together may have been the reason. I wonder if you were to use a rolling pin to roll out your last round of dough into a square shape how that would do on top??? I’m willing to try it next time and see if it’s just a dainty cookie or if the piecing on the top layer made the difference. Let me know how it goes if you make it and roll our the dough. Either way, it made for a cool series of photos.

It’s time to put it in the oven at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes. 35 worked great for me and everything was nice and brown. I don’t think I was expecting to love the way the kitchen smelled while these were in the oven, but the first time I check on them, my room mate and I both took a big whiff and went “Wow, those smell good!” Not like a traditional cookie smell but almost more gourmet then usual. I’m sure I’m over-exaggerating a bit but I really don’t mind you trying this recipe out and seeing for yourself what I mean :O)

Here’s the finished product before slicing. It honestly looks more like corn bread then a cookie bar so that was disappointing. I wish the chocolate was peeking through a little on the side. However, if you double up your chocolate bars like I failed to do, you’ll be able to get that yummy side profile I was hoping for and thus the ooos and ahhs from your spectators. Very important as we all know.

And the money shot! Don’t these look awesome?! I’m happy to say they were a crowd please and even more happy to say that despite all my mess ups, they were easy to do. Take my few recommendations and you’ll do it awesome the first time. These are still pretty great so even if you do mess up, be encouraged that they won’t taste horrible.

Now for those of you counting calories, I can’t offer you much hope. I did a little research on other sites for similar recipes and ended up on about 210 calories for a bar. Not the 100 calorie desserts you can find at the store, so it’s got to be worth it to you. I think they are worth the splurge, but be encouraged that you can share a bar with a dieting buddy….or four…. and only loose 50-100 calories to this dessert. Smile! A bite size is better then none at all…I’m starting to learn.

As of this post I’ve lost 5lbs and as good as these are, I’m happy to say that the motivation to keep strong with my daily calorie goal was stronger then eating 4 of these! God is good :) It was fun to share these with others and watch them enjoy them. Brings just as much satisfaction.

Happy cooking and baking all. And as always, I would love to hear your reviews and comments!

S’MORES COOKIE BAR RECIPE

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 king-sized milk chocolate bars (e.g. Hershey’s)
  • 1 1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix at a low speed until combined.
  3. Divide dough in half and press half of dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan. Place chocolate bars over dough. 2 king-sized Hershey’s bars should fit perfectly side by side, but break the chocolate (if necessary) to get it to fit in a single layer no more than 1/4 inch thick. Spread chocolate with marshmallow creme or fluff. Place remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together).
  4. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

Makes 16 cookie bars.

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Low Calorie Cilantro Quesadilla and Wonton Chips



I know, Quesadilla…big deal…right? It has been a long while since I’ve been in the kitchen and had time to get creative. I’ve not been as inspired recently to fire up the stove and open the recipe books. I’ve actually been attempting to watch my calorie intake and feel like the past 4 weeks have been about learning how to cook and eat with low calories in mind and less about being creative…but things are going to change!

This dish was oddly inspired from a Quesadilla that Hannah (my younger sister) and I enjoyed at our University cafeteria. I know cafeteria food usually equals ‘yuck’ and sometimes, Biola’s cafeteria is less then awesome. But this silly little Quesadilla  had us going back for seconds within one bite.

I decided to keep it simple and not add too much to it….it is a quesadilla after all! I shopped around for the lowest calorie burrito sized tortillas and found these Smart and Delicious Soft Wraps which were extremely low calorie for the size that they are. They were soft and pliable like you want a tortilla to be and they didn’t have that healthy tortilla taste that could make you cringe if someone offered a low calorie, high fiber tortilla. They worked amazingly well for this recipe and I will buy these things again!

I bought some fresh cilantro and used a block of monterey jack cheese on hand as well as some minced garlic for a little extra flavor. I used a spoon to push the garlic into the tortilla a bit so there were not the larger chunks of garlic but a nice flavor added to everything happening inside the tortilla.

I’m so happy with how these turned out and was wowed by what cilantro can do to a quesadilla. I don’t usually like cilantro so the fact that I tried it and like it at the Biola cafeteria, is amazing! Quesadillas are easy to make but I often forget about them as a meal idea. I ended up making a bunch of them up and refrigerated them so I can just pull them out as I want them. For those of you who care, the calorie break down for these cilantro quesadillas are as follows:

Tortilla = 100 calories (per tortilla)

Monterey Jack Cheese = 100 calories (four squares from an 8 oz block)

Cilantro = 1 calorie for 1/4 cup (soooo….let’s say 0 calories since each quesadilla had a few pinches of minced cilantro in it)

TOTAL CALORIES per quesadilla = 200

The other thing I made tonight for dinner was wonton chips. I have never actually thought about using wonton wrappers for chips but when I saw them in the store today and noticed that it’s only 80 calories for 4 squares I decided it would be worth a try making my own oven baked chips from the wrappers. To get the small size chip, I used a sharp knife to cut each of the squares into quarter pieces so I was getting four chips per wrapper and ultimately 16 chips for 80 calories. The package of wonton wrappers cost me $1.99 and the package has 60 wrappers which means you’re getting 240 chips per package. That is a better deal then any healthy chip brand you try to find at the store. We all know that the unhealthy chips come in the big bags and are the least expensive but the healthy chips come in tiny bags for double or triple the price. This mini “ah-ha” moment may have just saved me a bunch of money!

 I made these chips in the toaster oven so I could keep an eye on them since the wonton wrappers are delicate and don’t take long to crisp up. I set the toaster oven to broil and it probably took 5-6 min each time I loaded up the tray (I just kept an eye on them and didn’t really time myself…sorry). I sprayed them with the butter flavored cooking spray to help them brown a little quicker but it also brought some flavor to them. I LOVE the flavor and delicate texture of the chips. They are not absolutely not the hardy chip you get in a corn or tortilla chips, but lighter and more flavorful then you would expect for an unseasoned baked chip. I find them more flavorful then if you make your own pita chips/tortilla chips without butter or oil. These wonton wrapper chips just seem to have a great flavor all on their own.

Hummus was on sale so I grabbed a tub of the red pepper and used those to dip my chips in….delicious.  The calorie count for this little side snack comes to:

16 wonton chips = 80 calories (one wonton wrapper is 20 calories)

2 Tbls Hummas = 50 calories

TOTAL CALORIES = 130 calories

And there you have it…quesadilla and chips. I’m sure you’ve never been more amazed, right?! haha…I hope no one is annoyed by the low cal discussion in this post. I use to hate hearing people always talking about calories. I’ll try and keep that brief to please both kinds of readers, but I did want to share my efforts since it’s a big part of what I’m up to lately. I started working on counting calories about 4 weeks ago and I have steadily lost one pound a week.  I’m still enjoying eating out and having a few splurge days once in awhile but it’s been encouraging to see the number on the scale go down while still enjoying food that tastes good!

Happy cooking all and let me know your ideas for other tasty quesadillas!