I mean, let’s get real.  Do these bars look like they even need any words to convince you how amazing they are?

Well, they don’t but since I can’t hand deliver one to each of you, let me tell you about these little lovers.  If you start with a graham cracker crust, you really can’t go wrong from there.  Then how about adding homemade caramel??  Now top that off with chocolate ganache and some smoked sea salt.  Oooh, oooh, oooh.  These are so naughty, but oh so nice.

I love graham crackers.  S’mores, graham crackers smeared with Nutella, graham cracker crust:  I’ll take it all.  I don’t even particularly like cheesecake, but if it has a graham cracker crust, I will have a piece and just eat the crust.  It’s just so buttery and subtly sweet.  I love that the ratio of crust in these unbelievable bars is equal to the other delicious layers.  It’s about time a graham cracker crust gets to shine as a leading role in a dessert, don’t you think?

Sometimes making homemade caramel can be challenging.  But this perfectly velvety caramel is so easy to make!  It’s the perfect chewiness-not so soft that it oozes everywhere, but not so stiff that it might pull the fillings out of your teeth either!

Finally, a thick luscious layer of semi-sweet chocolate ganache.  I love the way a little bit of coffee added to chocolate can enhance and intensify the flavor of the chocolate exponentially and that’s exactly what you get with this coffee-spiked ganache.  As if that’s not special enough, what makes this topping especially unique is the smoked sea salt sprinkles!  A little salt to balance the sweet.

Have I convinced you yet?  Just be a little naughty and make the bars already!


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 (Recipe adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis)

graham cracker crust pressed into prepared pan

baked graham cracker crust

heat caramel mixture

until it reaches 240° 

pour caramel over graham cracker crust

melt chocolate and cream together

stir coffee into chocolate mixture and pour over caramel layer

sprinkle with sea salt






Come join the fun at the My Baking Addiction and GoodLife Eats Holiday Recipe Swap sponsored by Scharffen Berger.

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Aug 26

Bar La Grassa

Bar La Grassa has earned itself quite a reputation around the Twin Cities.  The Italian restaurant has boasted several local and national “best” restaurant awards over the past couple of years.  And Chef Isaac Becker was named the 2011 James Beard Best Chef in the Midwest.  Awards like that are nothing to overlook.  The atmosphere at Bar La Grassa is exactly what you would hope and expect to find at an Italian restaurant in the warehouse district of Minneapolis.  It is hip, packed and loud (in a good way).

I always enjoy the feeling of an open kitchen with a bar that allows you to belly up and watch the masters at work.  I went to Bar La Grassa last weekend expecting to have quite a wait since I had not made a reservation, but I was pleasantly surprised to be offered immediate seating at the bar overlooking the kitchen.

When we sat down we were met with some marinated peppers and butter beans and wonderful focaccia that had a topping of salt and herbs.

After ordering some wine, it was time to explore the menu.  Bar La Grassa is known for it’s homemade fresh pastas among other things, and being the pasta lover that I am, I knew that I wanted to sample some fresh noodles.  However, that did not narrow down my decision much as the restaurant offers about 12 different fresh pasta selections.  We decided to start with the Crispy Insalata Saporoso Vinaigrette which was a lovely green salad with frisee, fennel, pine nuts and cheese.  It was an unique, fresh and light way to begin our meal.

I was lucky that my company also wanted to sample fresh pasta dishes.  That way I got to try 3 different pastas without feeling totally gluttonous.  I had read about the Mushroom and Taleggio Agnolotti, so that was the decision for me.  The rich flavor of the mushrooms was amazing, but I am glad that the plates come in half or whole orders because a little bit of this dish goes a long way.

My mother is unable to eat cheese, so the Crab Ravioli was perfect for her.  The Ravioli was paired with a rather simple cream sauce.

Finally, my husband needed some meat and so he sampled the Pappardelle with Veal Ragu.  The sheets of fresh pappardelle were perfectly delicate and light, but the veal ragu was sweet, somewhat one-note and left me wanting for something:  salt, spice, garlic, something.

We were too stuffed for dessert, but lucky for me, Bar La Grassa Satisfied My Sweet Tooth anyway.  The check was brought with some almond brittle with a hint of chili pepper for a surprisingly warm and lovely slow burn.

What is your favorite pasta dish and/or restaurant?

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I was a little green yesterday.  With envy, not with a tummy ache don’t worry.  I was talking with a friend who was raving about all of the wonderful produce that her garden has produced this summer and how she has so much she doesn’t know what to do with it.  Boy, that’s a tough problem to have, isn’t it?  I live in a condo in the city with no outdoor space for a garden, but I can’t wait to someday have tomatoes and herbs growing out of my ears!  I think it must be such a wonderful sense of satisfaction and accomplishment to go out to your garden and pick the ingredients for your meals, come inside and wash them and just enjoy the clean, organic splendor of your own produce.  Someday sweet teeth, someday.

As for now, I love to support our local farmers’ markets.  Last week my mom and I bought all of the ingredients for salsa and spent a few hours of fun in the kitchen.  Again, I love that canning gives you the ability to capture the flavors of a season and enjoy them all year long.  Do you ever get attached to your ingredients or final products as you are baking or cooking?  For example, my imagination went wild while I was treating each tomato for the salsa with care.   In my mind, first, my tomatoes got to enjoy a few minutes in the hot tub (blanching them in hot water), then they were submerged in a refreshing pool (ice bath), then I gave their skin a peel (literally peeling the skin off) and massaged the little babies (crushed them with my hands to break them up).  I hope my tomatoes enjoyed their day at my spa and I think I have officially divulged way to much information about myself to you!!!

Canned Salsa

by Mercedes Porter

Keywords: snack side vegetarian vegan vegetables

Ingredients (6-7 quarts or 12 pints)

  • 13 pounds tomatoes
  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 6 green peppers, diced
  • 5 jalepeños, diced
  • 10 garlic cloves, minced
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 (12 oz.) can tomato paste
  • Special Equipment: canner, jars, lids, rings, candy thermometer


Clean jars with hot water and boil lids before processing.

Fill large stock pot with water and heat to a boil. Place tomatoes into water and blanch until skins begin to split. Remove tomatoes and place into ice bath. Peel, core and remove any blemishes from blanched tomatoes, then crush tomatoes by hand into large pot that salsa will be cooked in.

Add all other ingredients to pot with tomatoes and stir. Place candy thermometer into mixture and heat on medium until temperature reaches 180º. Once mixture reaches 180°, simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add tomato paste, stir and cook another 10 minutes.

Turn off heat and pour salsa into prepared quart or pint jars. Seal with boiled lids and rings and process in boiling water for 15 minutes.

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 blanch tomatoes in boiling water until skins split

place blanched tomatoes into ice bath

peel, core and remove blemishes from tomatoes

dice and mince other vegetables

place all ingredients into large pot

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I hate to say it, but I felt it this weekend.  That chill in the evening air that reminds you that fall is right around the corner.  Not that I don’t look forward to fall, but we all want summer to last as long as possible, right?  Maybe it stems back to when we were school kids and we just wanted summer to last one more week.  There is something very bittersweet about those last summer days no matter how old we get.  On a positive note, one of the best things about the end of summer is that it is the peak time for some of the best summer produce.  Farmers’ market has every type of tomato you could want, family members share their extra zucchini with you, and you just want to squeeze as many fruits and vegetables as you can into each day.

Canning allows us to bring these to-die-for summer flavors onto our kitchen tables all through the fall and winter.  I grew up canning with my mom and grandma and have continued to have more interest in it each year.  My mom was visiting last week and we took advantage of our time together and spent most of it in the kitchen, as usual!  We started by canning some salsa (STAY TUNED!) and then made the most delectable strawberry rhubarb jam.  This jam is the perfect consistency to spread on your morning toast and is also a luscious topping for ice cream.

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Is this not the most beautiful color???

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Can you stand one more?  I promise, no more posts on zucchini for awhile after this one, but I would feel like I was depriving you if I did not share this.  I saw this recipe, made it and could not stop myself from raving to you about it.  This Cream Cheese Zucchini Bread not only has unbelievable texture and flavor, but the appearance of it will leave people wondering, “Are you a wizard?  How did you do that?”  I believe we all enjoy receiving compliments, so if you are having a blue day, bring this to a friend or to work, and at the end of the day, you will have to remember to deflate your head before going home because it will have become so big.

The crust of this bread is slightly crispy and the inside is surprisingly dense and oh so moist.  Then you get to the cream cheese swirl and your little sweet tooth heart just melts with delight.  This is not your grandmother’s zucchini bread.


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(Recipe adapted from Cookies & Cups)

the cream cheese filling

the layering of the batter and filling

the yummy baked goodness

and the dreamy, creamy frosting

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