Category Archives: Baked goods

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt CakeHoly moly, can you believe it’s Thanksgiving week? I’m not sure it’ll actually hit me until I’m sitting down to a plate filled with turkey and as many sides as I can manage to drench in gravy. This year, Robert and I are doing something a little different. We’re staying right here in our home in Chicago. As much as we’d love to be with our families in Kansas City (his) or Vermont (mine), we’re looking forward to four straight days of cozy and calm. We’re going to cook our very own feast (my first time cooking Thanksgiving and a whole turkey) and our friend Jenni will join us for Turkey Day.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

As we head into this holiday season, there’s something I should confess. Pie is great and all, but dessert isn’t truly dessert to me unless chocolate is involved. (I am my mother’s daughter through and through). If you’re sending out a virtual amen on the dessert-must-contain-chocolate point then this is a fantastic cake even the most die-hard pie fanatics will adore. It’s rich without being too decadent. It’s a perfect way to wrap up a perfectly satisfying meal as you head dreamily into your food-induced coma. Sweet dreams, indeed. Chocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt CakeChocolate Chocolate Chip Bundt Cake

Makes 1 Cake


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 4 oz sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease or butter a bundt pan and set aside

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to combine

In a small bowl, mix together milk and sour cream.

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla. With the mixer speed on low, alternate between adding the flour mixture and milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 50-60 minutes, until tester comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and invert cake. Once cake has cooled, dust with powdered sugar.

Recipe slightly adapted from Martha Stewart Living


Whole Wheat ABC Bread

Whole Wheat ABC (Apple, Banana, Carrot) Bread. ABalancedLifeCooks.comThere are some recipes I cook, nail, and share with you as soon as I can. Other times I work at a recipe week after week until I get it just right. This is one of those recipes. It’s been awesome since the very first time I made it, but I’ve been working to create a healthier version while still keeping it absolutely delicious.

And you know what? This final recipe, which uses plain yogurt and very little oil happened to be better than all of the others. The flavors of the whole ingredients (especially the apples and bananas) are more apparent and it’s the moistest (ewwwwwww hate.that.word) banana bread I’ve ever sunk my teeth into.

Naming this light, yet hearty breakfasty bread was no easy task. It’s made with whole wheat flour, apples, bananas, carrots – hence Whole Wheat ABC Bread. Another contender: 1-2-3 bread since it contains 1 apple, 2 carrots, and 3 mashed bananas.

Whatever you like to call it, it’s quickly becoming this year’s version of my apple cake since I’ve been making it nearly every week. Now that I’ve nailed down a recipe that delivers the healthiest and the yummiest results there’s no signs of stopping now!

Whole Wheat ABC (Apple Banana Carrot) Bread.

Whole Wheat ABC Bread

Makes 1 loaf


  • 3 ripe banana
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 c canola oil
  • 1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 carrots, peeled and grated (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground numeg
  • 1 apple (any kind) peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, mash the bananas. Add the sugar, canola oil, yogurt, eggs, and grated carrots. Mix to combine. Remove bowl from electric mixer.

In a separate bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix with a spoon or spatula until combined. Add chopped apple and chopped walnuts. Mix until distributed evenly throughout.

Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. Add batter. Bake 65-75 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Maple Walnut Granola

Maple-Walnut Granola. ABalancedLifeCooks.comHappy Friday friends. We made it! Robert and I are flying to Kansas City tomorrow morning to celebrate our final wedding of 2013. But first, I wanted to leave you with this recipe in case you plan to spend some time in your kitchen this weekend: Maple walnut granola. It’s my absolute favorite this time of year. I make one to two batches each week and eat it every single morning for breakfast. I add it on top of plain Greek yogurt with some sliced strawberries. I’ve also been known to pour some in a little bowl and snack on it for dessert.

Sure, you could easily buy granola in the store, but this is so simple to make and so worth it. All of the sweetness comes from the natural sugars in maple syrup (just 1/2 cup for the whole thing) and you get healthy, filling fats from olive oil and lots of chopped walnuts. There’s also a generous sprinkling of cinnamon and a hit of nutmeg that makes it totally season-appropriate. A generous bowl of this stuff can keep me full from about 8am to 1pm.

After some trail and error, I finally discovered the secret to getting those big clumps of granola. When you pull the granola out of the oven, let it sit on the baking sheet without touching it until it’s cooled — about 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll get those giant mounds that make it difficult to put away before you’ve munched on half the batch.

Maple-Walnut Granola.

Maple Walnut Granola

About 6-8 servings


  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt (such as sea salt or Kosher salt)


Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a big bowl, combine oats, coconut flakes, and walnuts. In a separate, smaller bowl add the olive oil and maple syrup (note: if you give the 1/2 cup measuring cup a quick spritz with cooking spray before adding the maple syrup it pours out much easier). Stir together the oil and maple syrup and pour on the oat mixture. Using a spatula, mix until oat mixture is totally coated. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and mix again until everything is coated.

Spread it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake (no need to stir) for 50-60 minutes until evenly browned. Remove from oven and let cool completely, about 20-30 minutes, until cool and dry to the touch before breaking up with your hands or a spatula. Store in an airtight container.

Apple Spice Cake

Apple Spice Cake ABalancedLifeCooks.comIf there’s one food that defines fall for me it’s apple spice cake. About five years ago when I was living in Colchester, Vermont there was one fall when I made an apple spice cake every single week. So when we returned from Michigan with bags full of freshly picked apples this was one of the very first things I made.

I’ve never met a cake that’s even close to apple spice. It’s truly one of a kind. And as much as I adore it, I’d never consider making it any other time of the year except right now. (But you can, I promise!) That’s just one of the things that makes it extra special. Although it’s not completely necessary, there’s something about the bundt pan shape that makes apple spice cake what it is. The outside gets just the slightest bit crisp and almost caramelized while the inside stays light and fluffy with tiny bits of apples, chopped walnuts (totally optional for those who prefer their sweets sans nuts), and a punch of warm spices including cinnamon and nutmeg.

The best part? It’s a completely acceptable breakfast (duh, it has fruit!) and also makes a satisfying dessert. Heat up a slice in the microwave, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, pour yourself a cup of tea, and I promise time will stand still for just a few moments. In other words, it’s the surest way to make this time of year last just a little bit longer. Apple Spice Cake.

Apple Spice Cake


  • 4 apples (any kind)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)
  • Cooking spray


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and chop apples into tiny, 1/2-inch sized pieces and set aside.

Into a bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs. Mix on high until it turns a bright yellow color. Add vanilla, mix until incorporated.

With the mixer set at medium speed, gradually add dry ingredients in about 3 separate additions and mix until just incorporated–be careful not to overmix. Add apples and nuts, and mix until just combined.

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake about 75 to 90 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool slightly, about 10-15 minutes, before turning out onto a cooling rack.

Banana Bread Cookies

Some things in life are just too good not to share even for another minute. If I could invite all of you over to my house to finish the dozen or so banana cookies that are left I would. (And not just because there’s a risk I may devour them all myself.) The truth is this isn’t a recipe I ever intended to post on this blog. It just happened that I’ve had a bunch of bananas hanging on for dear life for well over a week now and if they didn’t become some kind of baked good soon (like, today) they were destined for the trash. I couldn’t let that happen. So this morning while still in bed I searched for a few different banana-based recipes on my iPad and landed on this one because it looked like the quickest and easiest to make. Plus I had all of the ingredients including disintegrating-before-my-eyes bananas. There was even a chance they’d be ready before Robert left for work. Done. I whipped up the batter so quickly that I didn’t have very high hopes for the outcome. I was sure something would go awry in the process, especially considering the fact that I hadn’t even had any coffee yet. (I would have had coffee if I’d remembered to press the ON button on the programmable coffee maker when I preset it last night. The sad part is this isn’t the first time this week I’ve neglected that little detail.)

Wow was I surprised when I broke off a piece of warm cookie to taste before Robert packed one up on his way out the door. They were totally happy-dance-in-the-kitchen-at-7:30-a.m. worthy. They’re soft, chewy, and everything else you could possibly want from a banana cookie. I don’t know about you, but I had never actually had a banana cookie before and yet they were everything I could’ve hoped they would be. Banana bread cookie is the best way I could think of to describe them, but they’re actually like a bread, muffin, and cookie all in one. Mind = blown. When I made them I was sure they could use some chocolate chips so I was a little bummed that we didn’t have any (don’t tell my mom I was out of chocolate chips. She may disown me for that.) However, these are absolutely perfect in their unadulterated state I’m not even sure I’d add chocolate chips next time I make them. There will definitely be a next time.

Just a word to the wise before you grab your electric mixer and get baking. The batter is much less dense than you’d expect for a cookie. That’s when I was certain my decaffeinated state had failed me. I almost grabbed the muffin tin because the batter was more pourable than scoopable. Fortunately, I just went with it and dropped them onto a baking sheet. Next thing I knew: Cookies for breakfast!

Banana Bread Cookies

Makes: About 18 cookies


1/2 cup canola oil

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup mashed bananas (about 3 very ripe bananas)

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsp cinnamon

2 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour

1/2 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350. Using a stand mixer, beat sugars and oil for about 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined. In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, mash bananas. Add baking soda to bananas. With the mixer on low, alternate adding some of the flour mixture and some of the mashed bananas to the sugar and egg mixture until they’re all combined. Scoop dough onto Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until edges just start to brown.

Recipe from Haniela’s Food & Photography


Butterscotch Brownies

Butter. Brown sugar. Coconut.

These are the reasons I’m skipping over the second main course I made for our picnic (for now) and heading straight for dessert. I just can’t wait another day to share these butterscotch brownies with you. In fact, I’ve mentioned them on the blog more than once before –  here and here – but never posted the recipe. Today I’m finally living up to my promise. You can thank me later : )

There just aren’t enough adjectives in the English language to appropriately describe how I feel about these brownies. But take a closer look and you can see for yourself how they nail that combination of slight crispness on the outside–just enough to sink your teeth into–and utter chewy heaven on the inside. They’re enough to give even the world’s greatest chocolate lovers pause. And you know that perfect balance of salty and sweet? Nailed it.

While I realize they didn’t exactly fit with my Mediterranean picnic theme, they make an ideal picnic dessert: Easy to make, non-melting, and easy to transport. So, clearly, I made an exception.

Thank. Goodness.

Butterscotch Brownies

2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 250. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan.

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Slowly add to the mixture in two to three additions. Stir in coconut. Pour into pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. This is key: Cut brownies while still warm. Allow them to cool completely in the pan before removing.

Source: My Mom

Barefoot Contessa Lemon Bars

If we’re friends on Facebook or you follow me on Instagram (@pngpics) you may remember this picture I posted of lemons on the Fourth of July with the caption, “What became of all of those lemons?  The answer…coming soon.”

But the answer never came. I absentmindedly got caught up in the day baking, surviving the 100-degree plus heat, enjoying a wonderful BBQ with friends, watching fireworks, and trying to figure out whether it was Wednesday or Sunday. As a result, I totally forgot to snap a picture of the answer: These delicious lemon bars.

Then, on Sunday (actual Sunday, not middle-of-the-week Sunday) my friend Stefanie (who hosted the awesome, Pin-worthy BBQ that I brought these to) sent me the sweetest e-mail with the photo above of the lemon bars because she saw I forgot to take a picture. That’s a great friend, folks. Not only that, but it’s now officially the best photo that has ever appeared on this blog. Thank you so much, Stef. That was so incredibly thoughtful : )

I’m still not sure what drove me to make these lemon bars (except, of course, the abundance of lemons leftover from these lemon sugar cookies). I’m not even sure I’ve ever had more than a bite of a lemon bar in my life. My Grammy used to make them for my Dad whenever my family would visit my grandparents in Ocean City, Maryland, but I always skipped the lemon bars and went straight for the frozen chocolate chip cookies. But when lying in bed the morning of the 4th, pondering the fate of my stockpile of lemons, this was the answer that came to mind. A quick Google search on my iPad landed me on a Barefoot Contessa recipe. Since Ina can do no wrong it was pretty much a done deal. I just had to get out of bed.

Since my lemon bar eating history is extremely limited, I’m far from the lemon bar expert. Still, I think I know what makes this recipe work: The ratio of crust to custard. It’s just shy of 50:50, which means the light, buttery crust balances out the denser, sour-sweet filling in every single bite. When I took the crust out of the oven at 15 minutes, just as the recipe suggests, I contemplated putting it in for another five because there was one barely noticeable area that had started to brown. But something held me back and I’m so grateful whatever it was (divine Grammy intervention?) did. The crust remained so light it practically melted on the tongue followed quickly by the bright, smooth filling.

If you’re looking for a crowd-pleasing dessert this recipe is a surefire winner. And, speaking from experience, remember to take some leftover bars home with you so they’ll be there when you wish you had a bite the next day : )

Find the Barefoot Contessa Lemon Bar recipe here.

Thanks again, Stefanie, for hosting an incredible BBQ and for making this post possible!