Birthday Baking

Well, I didn’t realize time was going to get away from me quite to this degree! Since we last posted, Mr. N wrapped up a successful run of his play; Mike traveled to and from Poland; school ended; Nana and Papa came for a visit from Florida; the kids’ camps started and Mike and I celebrated 14 years of marriage.

Most importantly though, we had a week-long birthday celebration for Mr. N who is now in the double digits – 10 years old! (We love our birthdays!) Now admittedly I have not been in the kitchen very often through this busy stretch – at least not to cook anything worth mentioning – but a birthday was not about to go by without some homemade baking. So rather than share more highlights from our last European destination, today we’ve actually got food!

Mr. N’s birthday celebration began with a surprise birthday party with the cast of the play and a karaoke night. He was completely surprised and filled with happiness. I even got an unprompted hug and thank you for one of the greatest nights of his life! karaoke night

Next up was his actually birthday. Unfortunately this also coincided with Mike’s trip to Poland, which Mr. N did not let him forget. Admittedly it was a tough week for Mr. N. Nana and Papa returned to Florida, his show ended, daddy was around the world and school let out for the summer. That’s a lot of goodbyes (and some of them rather difficult) for a little guy within a matter of days. So we needed something to bust through the melancholy. butters

I took a few days off of work and we spent Mr. N’s birthday doing exactly what he wanted to do – playing with the neighbors. We also planned a backyard pizza party and birthday celebration for the night complete with all of his neighborhood friends. Now as is customary, Mr. N requested my Grandma’s cobbler for dessert; however, I know that not all kids are crazy about berries, so we saved the cobbler for the next day. Instead we went with our old stand by – Peanut Butter Bars. dry ingredients

We’ve been making the peanut butter bars for about four years now. They have been a hit with kids and grown-ups alike, and best of all they are easy to whip up. I will warn you though, that if you’re not a fan of peanut butter, these are not for you. I should also warn, that if you’re looking for a lower calorie dessert, these are also not for you. peanut butter mixtuer

The recipe is simple – mix together the butter, peanut butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Next incorporate the flour, salt and baking powder. Then, of course, there is also the mandatory batter sampling. batter

Now, we’re still not done with peanut butter. An entire package of peanut butter chips is also stirred into the mix. peanut butter chip

Half of the batter is then spread over the bottom of a baking dish. This part is a little tricky. As you begin to spread it doesn’t feel like it’s going to go far enough, but it has every time. peanut butter spread

Next is the kids’ favorite part – the chocolate chips! We’ve used dark chocolate and milk chocolate for this recipe and both have gone over well. For Mr. N’s birthday we used milk chocolate since it is likely to go over better with kids. Now, the original recipe on Hershey’s site uses chocolate syrup. It’s another route to go, and it makes a pretty marbled appearance, but we prefer the chips. chocolate chips

Once the chips are sprinkled over (notice I leave a little row plain for me since I’m an odd non-chocolate eater), the rest of the peanut butter mix is spread over the top. peanut butter baking

The bars bake at 350F for about 35 minutes. We usually under cook ours just a bit so that they are nice and soft and chewy. PB brownies

After the bars cool slightly, they are sliced and ready to serve. While these can be served any time, they are especially delightful straight out of the oven. Or in our case, right after a loud and energetic rendition of “Happy Birthday!” birthday boy

The dessert was a hit with most of the kids. We did have one that didn’t really like peanut butter, but we had some gelato available too (no one goes without dessert here!). The adults, on the other hand, did their fair share of devouring the little bars. peanut butter bars

Most importantly Mr. N was happy. He gave the bars 3-1/2 spoons. They still don’t come close to the cobbler though. He could barely wait to the next day to dig into that beauty. peanut butter chocolate bars

Mike and I both give the peanut butter bars 3 spoons. They are chewy and a definite peanut butter indulgence. I also like that they come together so easily and serve lots. That said, I too would rather have the cobbler. cookie bars

Miss A gives them 5 spoons (because 4 is not enough) and likes to make sure she gets a middle piece (who can blame her – they are the most chewy). chewy bars

Miss A’s favorite part of the night though – helping with clean-up. She ran around collecting crepe paper and became the “crepe paper mummy.” (Notice the cobbler cooling on the stove in the background – rather risky of me to leave that lying about with Mr. N on the prowl!) crepe paper mummy

Print this recipe: Peanut Butter Bars

It was a great party and I have to admit it was rather fun to be back in the kitchen again. Hopefully that will start to happen more often. As for the rest of Mr. N’s birthday week…well, we took a little trip to the country where we enjoyed the cobbler, then we took Grammie and BoomBoom to Mr. N’s favorite Italian restaurant because his birthday is not complete without a piece of Rose’s homemade cheesecake.

It was definitely a fun-filled (and dessert-filled) birthday week. I’d like to say that we’ll post again soon, but we have a few summer trips, another summer birthday and more camps starting up. I do have another recipe already queued up, so hopefully I’ll get that to you sooner rather than later. I think we’re also hoping to cook another dish from Poland and a few more from Spain to test our hand at a few favorites we enjoyed on our trips, but until then, I hope you are all enjoying the summer (or winter) season as much as we are right now! Cheers!

Memories of Spain

This is just a brief post to let you know that we haven’t disappeared. Between work, the end of the school year and the play we are…well as a good friend put it, in an intense period at the moment. Wonderful, but intense (and really tiring!). So until things settle down, here are a few images from our next stop on our European adventures this past spring. Barcelona

After Paris, our travels took us by train to Barcelona where we spent three glorious full days sightseeing and eating. We did lots of eating. However, if I had to pick one word to describe our Barcelona experience it would be – Gaudi (Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona’s most famous architect). We first took in his famous church, Sagrada Familia and then the public park, Park Guell. His architecture was instantly a hit with both of the kids who honestly couldn’t get enough. Personally, I had never been a big fan of Gaudi’s work. I had found it rather unnerving and chaotic. That all changed after this trip. We spent hours touring his works, reading books and visiting museums. I have to say I now look at his designs much differently and have found a whole new appreciation for his utter genius. sagrada familia

That said, no one was more taken in by his work than our Miss A. She fell in love with Gaudi’s homes, particularly Casa Mila. During our tour of Casa Mila, or La Pedrera, Miss A was front and center right next to the tour guide listening intently. She didn’t even glance back to look for us – she was completely taken in. At one point during the tour, Miss A walked right up to the tour guide and said, “This is the best grown-up museum I have ever been in. I love it.” After these first few visits, each day of our Barcelona stay included another Gaudi tour. touring

And as I mentioned we ate, a lot. It’s too hard to pick a favorite restaurant. We had at least four amazing sit-down meals that featured everything from paella to snails and jamon Iberico to croquettes. We had tapas, we had sit down meals and we had two wonderful visits to the Boqueria along La Rambla. It was a food paradise! La Boqueria

We all thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our time in this beautiful city. I know we would all love to go back again – especially Miss A. While Mr. N’s favorite city of the trip was Paris, Miss A fell in love with Barcelona. She could have stayed forever I believe. Here’s a few peaks at why, first the Gaudi gallery:

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And then the food and fun:

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Mike and I still can’t really pick our favorite city of the trip. They were all so incredible in their own ways. However, if hard pressed, we would likely answer our next and final destination. It spoke to the two of us in so many ways. It just felt right. We’ll be back soon with highlights of that magical city and then hopefully we’ll finally have time to start cooking again (and something other than quick salads and sandwiches). Until next time, please pardon our absence and know that I will pop back into your blogs as soon as I am able as well. Cheers!