Cherry Chocolate Crumble Bars


Merry Christmas Eve! For me, this will mark the 3rd day of Christmas celebrations. On Saturday night, my parents, brother, Eric and I celebrated together by exchanging gifts and watching White Christmas and last night we celebrated with my Grandma, aunt, uncle and cousins. And because for us, Christmas is a week long celebration rather than just 1 day, we will be getting together again tonight with some more of the Berendt side of the family. And finally, on Christmas Day we will be celebrating with Eric’s side of the family. Whew! Even typing that makes me tired! But a marathon of Christmas celebrations is just how I like it. But today I have some downtime and am happily spending it in the kitchen. I was asked to bring some cookies to Eric’s family Christmas, so I have spent the day dusting my tiny kitchen in sugar and flour. I decided to bring a batch of my favorite Sugar Cake Cookies and a batch of this new creation. A few years back I worked at the cutest little bakery named Just Delicious. One of my favorite treats from Just Delicious was their White Chocolate Raspberry Crumble Bars. But as per usual, I thought I would switch this classic recipe up a bit. Rather than raspberry preserves I used some Michigan Cherry Jam. I also substitute the white chocolate for semi sweet chocolate as I am a huge fan of the dark chocolate and cherry combination. However, if you prefer the white chocolate raspberry combo, feel free to make your own substitutions. Well, it is almost time for me to get ready for phase three of Christmas 2013, so I will leave you with my Christmas wish for you. May your year be filled with sugar, butter, and all things sweet. Merry Merry Christmas!

Ingredients: Makes 12 bars

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup Cherry Jam
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, divided


  1. In a large bowl, combine first 5 ingredients (flour through salt)
  2. Add softened butter and egg into flour mixture and beat with an electric mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  3. Take 2 cups of the crumb mixture and place in a separate bowl, set aside
  4. Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 9×9 pan
  5. Place cherry jam (or your favorite flavor of jam) in a small microwave safe bowl and microwave until jam becomes slightly runny (about 30 seconds)
  6. Pour jam over the crumb mixture in the 9×9 pan and sprinkle 1/4 cup chocolate chips over the jam layer
  7. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture over the jam layer
  8. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes or until crumb mixture has slightly browned
  9. Place remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or until completely melted.
  10. Drizzle bars with melted chocolate



M&M Blondies

One of my favorite reactions to Eric and my engagement came from Eric’s cousin, Katie. She said something along the lines of          “good job marrying someone who has a useful hobby- Colleen has to bring baked goods to all the family parties now!” And anytime I “have to” bring baked goods, I am totally game. Well last Saturday was one of Eric’s family parties, and I happily volunteered to bring some sweets. Per Eric’s request I brought his favorite Nutella Pretzel Cookies and these M&M Blondies. The blondies are based off of my favorite bar recipe, with a few new ingredients. As usual, these bars are dense and sweet and full of flavor. This time around the addition of M&Ms made the batch reminiscent of cake like chocolate chip cookies. And like most of the recipes I share, they come together quite easily. Enjoy!
Ingredients: Makes 12 bars
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup m&m’s
  1. Cream butter & sugars together with an electric mixer
  2. Beat in eggs & vanilla
  3. Stir in milk
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt
  5. Slowly add flour mixture into butter mixture
  6. Stir in m&m’s
  7. Spread batter into a greased 13 x 9 inch pan (batter will be similar to that of cookie dough)
  8. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or until baked through


Gluten Free Brownies

As you all may know, I’m all about sweets. Cookies, cupcakes, candy…if it counts as dessert I’m bound to be a huge fan. But it is dense, chocolatey brownies that would really be my weakness. But seeing as I would prefer not to abandon my usually healthy lifestyle, I don’t often make my favorite dessert due to their not so healthy stats. But then I discovered the following recipes. Dark chocolate brownies that satisfy even the most devoted chocoholic’s sweet tooth…without costing you hundreds of calories. These brownies are not only low in fat and calories, but they are also gluten free. A win-win…win. So what is the secret? A rather unusual ingredient that is most often found in burritos. Black beans. But before you roll your eyes and write off this recipe as some crazy health trend, I beg you to just try these babies out. The result is an incredibly moist brownie studded with gooey melted chocolate chips. I even fooled one of my favorite dessert snobs into falling in love with this recipe before I revealed the secret ingredient. And they could not be easier to prepare. Throw all the ingredients in a blender and bake. And just like that you are only 30 minutes away from one of the most decadently healthy desserts out there.

Ingredients: Makes 16 brownies

  • 1 can black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  •  1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 3/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips


  1. Place black beans in a fine sieve and rinse well, draining excess water
  2. Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor
  3. Blend in blender, Scrape sides as needed.
  4. Pour in Lightly Greased 8×8 Pan.
  5. Bake at 350 for 25-30 Minutes

Pina Colada Bars

I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen lately…I’ve been too busy going to fun places like Margaritaville!

If you’ve never heard of Margaritaville, you need to get your hands on some Jimmy Buffet music asap. His music is the perfect summer soundtrack and instantly transports you to a breezy island shore land. And for me, it usually transports me to my childhood. Because thanks to my dad, Jimmy Buffet music was also the soundtrack of my childhood. We always had Jimmy’s tropical songs about boats, beaches and “island time” drifting through our house. My dad even played Jimmy Buffet during my soccer practices…so all my friends from grade school know all about Jimmy and his classic “Fins.” So I’m sure you can understand my excitement when Jimmy Buffet himself came to Detroit for one of his fantastic summer concerts and we got tickets. But his concerts are a bit more than a few hours of great music. Jimmy Buffet fans, or “Parrot Heads” camp out for a full day of tropical tailgating before the concert. So what do you bring to a tropical tailgate? This dessert. Chock full of coconut, pineapple & lime, these Pina Colada bars are the perfect summer dessert. The bars are incredibly moist and decadent with a sweet and tangy pineapple glaze. I would suggest you whip these bars up, make yourself a boat drink and turn up the Buffet tunes, and soon you’ll be a Parrot Head too.


Ingredients: Makes 9 bars

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • lime zest from 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips


  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons pineapple juice


  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy
  2. Beat in eggs, one at a time
  3. Beat in coconut extract, lime juice & zest
  4. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder & salt
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients into butter mixture and beat until well combined
  6. Stir coconut and white chocolate chips into batter
  7. Spread batter into a greased 9 x 9 baking dish
  8. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes
  9. For the glaze, whisk powdered sugar and pineapple juice together
  10. Drizzle glaze over cooled bars

Caramel Pretzel Brownies

As I mentioned once before, I met Eric on Halloween three years ago. But the funny thing about our first meeting is that I had actually heard of this elusive “Eric” character quite a few times before. But all the stories I heard about my now boyfriend weren’t just “Eric” stories…they were always “Eric and Tom” stories. At the time, I didn’t know either of these boys, but I did know that they were best friends. Any stories told by the mutual friends Eric and I shared prior to our meeting often involved Eric and Tom. So when I finally did meet Eric that Halloween night, he was decked out in a flight suit, channeling Top Gun’s “Goose.” And even though Tom wasn’t there that night, it made total sense that he was at another Halloween party, dressed as Maverick. Together or apart, these boys were quite the pair.

And a few months later, it was Tom who nudged Eric along in asking me out. And although Tom gave Eric some decent advice, Eric didn’t exactly follow it. I heard later on that their conversation went a bit like this: “Whatever you do, Eric, don’t just ask her to be your girlfriend. Be more casual. We aren’t in middle school.” Fast forward two days and Eric was ever so awkwardly asking me “If I wanted a boyfriend…namely him.” Well, Tom, at least you tried.

I’m pretty thankful for Tom not only for pushing Eric along, but also for letting me share his best friend. And Tom’s a pretty hilarious guy to be around, so that’s pretty cool as well. So when I heard he was coming back into town for a few days, I decided “welcome home” baked goods were a necessity. Because baked goods are pretty much always a necessity in my book. When deciding what to make, I figured brownies would probably be a safe bet. But rather than typical fudge brownies, I decided to up the ante with a few more decadent ingredients. This recipe is incredibly easy, as it starts with a packaged brownie mix. And with the addition of crushed pretzals  & caramel topping, it’s safe to say they will be devoured quickly. Boy and best friend approved.


  • 1 package brownie mix (I used Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pretzels, crushed
  • 1/4 cup caramel topping
  • 1/4 cup chocolate syrup


  1. Place brownie mix in a large bowl and add eggs, water & oil and mix until well incorporated
  2. Stir in chocolate chips
  3. Pour brownie batter into a greased 13×9 inch baking pan
  4. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  5. After brownies have baked for 20 minutes, sprinkle crushed pretzels evenly over the top of the brownies and return to the oven for 8-10 minutes of additional baking time
  6. After brownies are baked through, remove from oven and let cool.
  7. Drizzle caramel topping & chocolate syrup over top of brownies before cutting into 24 even squares

Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Bars

Some flavor combinations just scream “comfort.” Cheese and macaroni noodles. Turkey and stuffing. And then there is the delicious combination of oatmeal and raisins. Whether it is in your morning bowl of oatmeal or that classic childhood snack of an … Continue reading