Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies

I must be on a peanut butter and chocolate baking kick lately. Or maybe I always have been? Anyway, if you’re a fan of peanut butter cookies, cookie bars, and chocolate, these bars are for you. That’s right – no fancy introduction needed for these bad boys. Just make them for the peanut butter cookie lover in your life and I promise he or she won’t be disappointed!

peanut butter heath bar blondies - icrashedtheweb

Peanut Butter Heath Bar Blondies (from my Magnolia cookbook)

Here’s what you need:

For the cookie bars: 

  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups smooth peanut butter
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temp. (I used Egg Beaters because that’s what I had on hand and they came out fine!)
  • 2 Tbs vanilla
  • 3 cups self-rising flour

For the topping:

  • 1 1/2 cup peanut butter chips
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup  coarsely Heath bar bites (they sell them with the chocolate chips)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted peanuts

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 325 and grease a 12 x 18 jelly roll pan.
  2. Beat butter and peanut butter until fluffy.  Add in the sugar & mix until smooth.
  3. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat thoroughly.
  4. Gradually add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mixing well after each admission. Mix until well incorporated.
  5. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until edges start to brown.  Cool to room temp.
  6. Make the topping: In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the peanut butter chips and the cream until smooth.  Pour the mixture over cooled blondies.  Sprinkle with heath bar and peanuts.

Variations: I also made some with semi-sweetened chocolate chips melted (instead of peanut butter, as well as chopped up peanut butter cup (instead of Heath bar bites)

peanut butter heath bar blondies - i crashed the web

Some questions for you:

  • Are there any nut butters you don’t like? Which have you tried? I’ve never tried cashew butter! But I do like peanut butter, sunflower butter (or sunbutter) and almond butter. And cookie butter – does that count as a nut?
  • What other topping would you put on these bars besides peanut butter or chocolate? I’m wondering how white chocolate would taste. I know I would like them (I like white chocolate Reese’s!) but not sure how others may enjoy them.
  • What’s a new cookie bar recipe you’ve tried recently? I need some new ones to try!

 

A Northeastern Fall Foliage Tour

B and I recently were able to take some time off – a week! – and decided to go on a roadtrip to some eastern states in what we were dubbing our “fall foliage tour.” Yes, that’s how I know I’m getting older – we are planning fall foliage tours. What am I, almost 30? (rhetorical question – don’t answer that)

It was a great way to spend a week off- it was relaxing (even though we were active), we got a chance to do some of my favorite fall activities (hiking and apple picking) and even got to spend a day seeing my parents and a day seeing a friend from college. Just what I needed in some time off! Some highlights from the trip:

We started with a quick stop to see my parents and go apple picking (full blog post here).

apple picking at indian ladder

Then headed to the town of Schroon, New York to see our friend Mitch and run the beautiful, hilly Adirondack Half Marathon along Schroon Lake (full blog post here).

adirondack half marathon

After the race

On our way to our next stop, we hit up Ticonderoga, New York. We visited the small downtown area and then visited Fort Ticonderoga.

walking around Ticonderoga

B and some old cannons

B and some old cannons

Great views from Fort Ticonderoga!

Great views from Fort Ticonderoga!

Then we headed to the beautiful state of Vermont! It was B’s first time there and we spent a few days in Northern Vermont, staying in Burlington, checking out their pretty waterfront, trying the local food, walking around their fun downtown area, taking quick trips to neighboring small towns and touring Ben & Jerry’s!

Hello from the town of Stowe, Ohio!

Hello from the town of Stowe, Vermont!

Being goofy at Ben & Jerry's

Being goofy at Ben & Jerry’s

The flavor graveyard. RIP cookie dough frozen yogurt :(

The flavor graveyard. RIP cookie dough frozen yogurt :(

sunset along the waterfront in Burlington

sunset along the waterfront in Burlington

On our way to our next state, we made a pit stop in New Hampshire for a hike through the White Mountains. We spent a few hours hiking around Mt. Eisenhower. Unfortunately the weather was drizzly and foggy that day so we didn’t get in any amazing views that we’d heard about. But we did get in some activity – something I’d been craving, since it had been a few days since our half marathon.

pre-hike

pre-hike

Then we headed to Portland, Maine. Full blog post coming about this trip, but we had a great time walking everywhere, trying the local food and craft beer (Shipyard Pumpkin FTW!) and I even got in a few runs while I was there.

maine craft distilling

Our last quick stop was Boston. We walked around our alma mater, Boston College, stopped by the place we got engaged, and hit up the North End for dinner. A perfect end to a great vacation!

Back at BC!

Back at BC!

Some questions for you:

  1. Are the fall colors changing where you are? What’s your favorite way to see fall foliage? On a run? A hike through the mountains? A Sunday drive? Apple picking? Other?
  2. Do you like pumpkin beer? What’s your favorite? I’ve heard of some beer snobs who can’t stand it! I liked trying the Shipyard, but Pumking may still be my favorite.
  3. What’s your favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor? I loved Vanilla Heath Bar fudge (they don’t make it anymore now that they’re GMO free … RIP Heath bars!) but also love their new core flavors (any with vanilla as a base) and love anything with Caramel. Oh, and Cherry Garcia. Do I have to choose just one?

Back in the CLE

Just in time for fall, B and I are back in Cleveland for a weekend. We’d been gone the past few weeks traveling (don’t worry, more vacation recap posts are coming soon) but we were back this past weekend and had a great time. Here’s how the weekend went -

Friday night B managed to get suite seats to the Eric Church concert. I honestly hadn’t heard of many Eric Church songs before but made sure to listen all day Friday and then by the time of the show had a great time. A few Facebook friends even requested some songs that I listen to to get in the mood for the show – so if you’re not familiar with him, here are some recommendations: Springsteen, Drink in my Hand, Country Music Jesus, Give me Back my Hometown, The Outsiders, Over When it’s Over, Smoke a little Smoke, Love Your Love the Most.

Anyway, the show was GREAT. Eric Church put on a great show – he rocked the house. And the Q was the most crowded I have ever seen – it had people in every seat, from the floor to the highest levels – and the show was great.

Hanging out in the suite before Eric Church came on

Hanging out in the suite before Eric Church came on

FULL house!

FULL house!

We invited Dave and Anson to come with us - thanks to Anson for the photo!

We invited Dave and Anson to come with us – thanks to Anson for the photo!

Saturday morning B and I went for a great fall run. I honestly hadn’t expected us to have such a good run after staying out so late on Friday, but both B and I were feeling pretty good the entire time. And it was a beautiful fall day! We have less than one month now until the Savannah Half Marathon.

We ran all the way from downtown to Case.

We ran all the way from downtown to Case.

Saturday night B and I got all dressed up for his job’s annual black tie event.

All dressed up!

All dressed up! And my fro-worker Cari did my hair and makeup – wish I had a better shot you could see.

The place was all decked out in CLE-themed swag

The place was all decked out for the CLE-themed evening

A photo of a photo! They always take professional photos at the event for us to bring home.

A photo of a photo! They always take professional photos at the event for us to bring home.

Sunday was a laaaaazy day. An easy workout, a little work, watching some football, some weekly meal prep and catching up on a few episodes of Damages. B and I have now finished the third season – have you seen the show? Wow. That’s all I can say.

Some questions for you:

  • How was your weekend? Did you do anything fun?
  • Any long runs or races this weekend? Congrats to all my friends who completed the towpath marathon and half!
  • Are you an Eric Church fan? What’s your favorite song?
  • What was the last concert you went to?

Weekends with Family

I have some pretty great parents. I know – you probably think your parents are the best, but I assure you, mine are amazing. They’re good people and have a great, loving relationship – I truly look up to them and their marriage. Anyway, on our way to our recent fall foliage vacation (recaps to come), B and I had the chance to stop off and see my parents for a day. Was the timing waay too short? Yes. But was it still great? Of course! And we packed in some fun times as well in the less than 24 hours we had.

<3

<3

We started off Saturday morning with a short 2 1/2 mileish walk around the neighborhood my parents live in. I had plans to run a half marathon the next day so I didn’t want to go for a run, but since my office was doing a pedometer / steps challenge, I knew I had to get in some steps somehow.

indian ladder farms apple picking in upstate new york

indian ladder farms apple picking in upstate new york

how gorgeous is this backdrop for apple picking?

Then, we headed out to apple picking at the place we used to go when I was younger in Upstate New York – Indian Ladder Farms! It was fun to show B around and try out their apple donuts. They were just as good as I remembered!

indian ladder farms apple picking in upstate new york

Me and B. Yes, it was 80 degrees in fall so tank top and shorts was necessary.

indian ladder farms apple picking in upstate new yorkindian ladder farms apple picking in upstate new york

the best cider donuts!

After apple picking, we headed to downtown Saratoga Springs for dinner. I opted for a veggie panini (again, so good!) and then convinced everyone to go out for frozen yogurt. The best pre-race meal? I don’t think that much sugar is recommended, but it was delicious nonetheless.

I ate every darn bite of this amazing panini.

I ate every darn bite of this amazing panini.

Pre-half marathon fuel?

Pre-half marathon fuel?

Was it only a day? Yes. But it was still awesome – I wish we lived closer and could spend more days like this with my family!

apple picking at indian ladder

Some questions for you:

  • Do you like apple picking? What’s your favorite type of apple?
  • Cider donuts – yay or nay? Cinnamon or plain? I’m not a big donut fan, but I can’t resist a good warm freshly made cider donut- with cinnamon sugar of course!
  • When you get frozen yogurt, do you typically get more ice cream or candy? I’m all about the candy toppings!

Race Recap: 2014 Adirondack Half Marathon

About two weeks ago, B signed us up for my third half marathon this year (if you may remember, it was my goal to do three this year). The race was the Adirondack Half Marathon –  a race known for being beautiful, around Schroon Lake in Upstate NY in the fall during the beginning of the peak foliage season – but also known for being somewhat challenging as it goes through the rolling hills of the Adirondacks. In other words – it would be a perfect excuse to travel for a mini runcation! Anyway, our friend from college Mitch was also doing the race- and he had signed up for the full marathon. So – we couldn’t really complain, could we? Nothing a few weeks of hill training and some long runs couldn’t prepare us for right?

adirondack half marathon course elevation

course elevation

Well … not exactly. B signed us up for the race about 10 days before the event. Whoops! Luckily, I’d been doing some somewhat long runs throughout the summer/early fall with Nicole (one of my morning running buddies), but nothing too long (no more than 10) and definitely nothing hilly. So needless to say, this was definitely the least prepared I’d ever been for a half marathon in my life. And when I saw the race day forecast – sunny and 80+ degrees (the race even started at 10 a.m. – so late!), I knew my goal would be just to survive the race and not walk any of it (not counting the water stops).

Sunday race day forecast - Sunny and 80s

Sunday race day forecast – Sunny and 80s

So, how did the race go?

adirondack half marathon c

Before the race – Mitch, B and I – of course the sun came out and the course heated up about 5 min before 10 a.m. when we started

The good:

  • The cheering – despite being sparsely populated, some areas of the course had some great cheering sections. We ran through the Word of Life camp at around 5 or 6 of the half marathon and their campers were amazing. The rumors were true – we could hear them cheering well before we got there. It was great!
  • The race was super organized. There was no confusion as to where to pick up our race packet, and they even let Mitch get our packets for us as we weren’t arriving until late Sat. night. The morning of the race there was clear signage as where we could park (and people to direct us as well), where to get on the bus (they bussed the half marathoners to the 13 mile marker so we all finished at the same point) and everything else was very smooth.
  • The race water stops were great – they were every other mile until mile 20 and then every mile. And being 85 degrees around noon, I definitely took advantage or nearly every stop. And there were some interesting snacks at some of the stops –  fig cookie bars and M&Ms!
  • The course was beautiful. I was a little worried that I’d get bored running through the same scenery the whole time (I’m generally not a fan of running through nature-ish courses…I know – I’m weird), but the foliage and lakes and houses were gorgeous. Plus, I was mentally challenged with all the hills so I made an effort to just enjoy the fall colors.
  • The post-race refreshments were out of this world – typically at the end of a race there’s some water, maybe beer, bananas, bagels, milk and some other goodies (I’ve seen races with ice cream or yogurt or popsicles or even something like a breakfast casserole or sandwiches). But this race had all of the above – soda, water, ice cream, bagels with different types of cream cheese, yogurt, tons of different types of fruit (bananas, melons, watermelon, grapes, etc.), and desserts like brownies, cookies and even gluten free options. It was amazing  – I wish I was hungrier after a race!
  • There was a post-race party for all participants – runners and volunteers – at a local restaurant. We stopped by and there was a free huge buffet – chicken, fish, beef, salad, corn, pasta, potato salad, dessert, fruit and more. I’ve never seen that during a race before!
adirondack half marathon c

Thanks to Mitch’s wife Becca for taking the photo!

The not-so-good:

  • The good people of Schroon had kindly paved the road probably the week before the race. So while this meant no pot holes to run around, this also meant the blacktop was scorching hot to run over and in the sunny 80 degree heat, it was reflecting back onto us. Which meant an even hotter run.
  • The snacks during the race- yes, they’re also under “the good” but at the same time, I really would’ve appreciated some standard race goodies like Gu or Hammer Gel. Especially when I felt my energy levels were low around miles 8 on.
  • The crowds – some areas of the run were pretty sparse. The places where people were cheering were great, but there were many spots along the course that had no one.
  • The hills! Luckily for us, the first few miles of the half marathon were flat and the second half of the course is flatter than the first half, but still  – those hills were rough for me. We hadn’t trained with hills as I mentioned so I was definitely struggling.

adirondack half marathon

So how did we do? B and I finished in just under 2:10 which was better than I imagined. Yes, it was more than 10 minutes slower than my other races this year (both under 2 hours), but considering the heat, hills and lack of true training and preparation, I’m pretty proud of it. Mitch’s family was there to cheer us on at the end, and his mom and wife had even made signs for us – my first race sign!

 

adirondack half marathon

Our AMAZING sign – Thanks so much to Mitch’s mom and wife!!!

adirondack half marathon

After the race

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your ideal race temperature? What’s the hottest weather you’ve ever had a race in? This was definitely the hottest half marathon I’ve run. 83 degrees is not my ideal running temp at all!
  • What type of scenery do you like for long runs – natural, trails, urban, suburban, beach, etc.? I like a good mixture – but typically prefer urban and water scenes to run by.
  • It’s fall race season! What was the last race you ran /  next one you have coming up?
  • What’s the latest you’ve ever signed up for a race? B and I once signed up for a 5k the day of – but 10 days before a half marathon is another record for me.

Semi-Homemade Buckeye Brownies!

I know I’ve expressed my love for peanut butter and chocolate before. There’s just something SO perfect about the way the two flavors combine and the creaminess of peanut butter mixing with the creaminess of chocolate (don’t get me started on white chocolate and peanut butter — that’s amazing in my opinion).  So, naturally since stumbling upon this recipe, I’ve now made this three times. Once, for a Cleveland-themed party (thus the Cleveland beer), once for B’s birthday, and once for … hmm … I don’t remember but I’m sure there was a good reason.

Anyway, this recipe is super easy but SUPER delicious. A coworker told me these were the best brownies she had ever had! AND – shh – I even use a brownie mix. It may be a little time consuming (hey, I only said it was easy) because you have to make three separate layers and let them cool  – but it’s worth the wait. Try this IMMEDIATELY.

For my non-Ohio friends – Buckeyes are peanut butter chocolate candy. They’re like an amazing peanut butter cup, shaped like a nut from a local tree (the Buckeye!). I wrote about them once before .. or twice.

three layer buckeye brownie bars - peanut bar + Brownie + chocolate OMG! - I CRASHED THE WEB

Three-Layer Buckeye Brownies

Here’s what you need:

For the Brownie Layer:

  • Brownie Mix
  • Beer! – You can replace the water quantity with a stout-like beer (so my brownie mix called for 1/3 c. water – instead, I used 1/3 c. Great Lakes beer to continue with the Buckeye/Cleveland theme)

For the Peanut Butter Layer:

  • ¾ cup peanut butter (creamy)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Chocolate-Peanut Butter Topping:

  • 1½ cups semi-sweetened chocolate chips
  • ⅓ cup creamy peanut butter

Here’s what you do:

  1. First, make the brownies! I did it the easy way and just doctored up a brownie mix. Feel free to make your own brownies or beer brownies if you choose – really any work. I went with the beer-themed brownies to keep with the Ohio theme. If you want to do that too, make brownies and cook them according to directions in a 13×9 in. pan – but instead of adding water, replace that same quantity with a dark, stout-like beer. After cooked, cool completely (at least 1 hour).
  2. Then, make the peanut butter layer. Try not to drool! Beat together peanut butter, butter and vanilla on medium high until smooth and creamy. Then, turn your mixer on low and alternate adding a little powdered sugar and then adding a little milk/cream. Mix well between each addition and keep mixer on low until both ingredients are added. Then, increase the speed and beat until super smooth and spreadable. NOTE: If it’s too dry, add a little more cream – if it’s too thin, you may need a little more sugar. Using a spatula, spread the peanut butter layer evenly on top of the brownies.
  3. Make the chocolate peanut butter topping. Melt together the chocolate chips and peanut butter in the microwave. Keep an eye on this – you DON’T want it to burn! I stirred mine about every 20-30 seconds for a few minutes until it was melted and combined. Pour over the peanut butter layer and spread evenly with a spatula.  Let set for at least 1 hour.  Or put it in the fridge if you can’t wait that long :)

I’ve made this a few times now and each time I cut them differently – sometimes I cut them into 1 1/2-2 inch squares, other times I make them smaller and more bite-sized and put them in mini cupcake papers (like I did for B’s birthday).

Enjoy!

three layer buckeye brownie bars - peanut bar + Brownie + chocolate OMG! - I CRASHED THE WEB buckeye brownies - i crashed the web

#TBT: Throwback Thursday – Travel Edition

As you probably know by now, B and I love to travel. We’ve gone to some great places – international and in the U.S. – together and had a great time trying out new meals, meeting new people and getting in as much of the local scene as we can.

We have two more trips planned this year – what we’re calling an “East Coast Foliage Tour” (which will include stops in Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Boston and New York) and a trip to Asia (Hong Kong and Vietnam for now). So as I started to get excited about what’s to come, I began to also think about all the great trips we’ve had over the past few years. Here are some old photos from past trips, 2010 through last year:

2010 – New York City to see my brother play at Carnegie Hall

NYC 2010 Carnegie Hall

2010 – Road trip to Pittsburgh – checking out the city for the first time and of course their Hofbrauhaus

2010-10-09_12-52-47_517

2010-10-09_20-34-27_490

Not sure if this counts as travel … but we go to upstate New York quite often to see my parents. These pictures are from our engagement shots in 2010 :) (thus the cheesiness)

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2011 – trip to Chicago!  We tasted our way through local beers and deep dish pizza, and did a walking tour, tried the architectural boat tour and got in great views.

Chicago + 391 Chicago + 408 Hemmingway Lou Malnottis

2012 Cape Cod - we ate lobster, went whale watching, tried tandem biking and even walked on the beach (even with my boot :()

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Also in 2012 we went to Ireland and England! More hiking, local food and drinks, and siteseeing.

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And we ended the year in Montreal and Toronto. In a snowy winter wonderland! We still managed to walk around, check out some amazing food (crepes, poutine, Chinatown) and had a great time.

20121227_125941 20121227_145659

2013 started with a winter surprise vacation in Miami - which meant sunshine, running along the beach, fresh seafood and fruity drinks!

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Also, that year we spent a week checking out another midwestern city – Milwaukee!

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And 2013 ended with a great trip to the West Coast, with stops in San Francisco, NapaSeattle, the Redwoods, Los Angeles and more.

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This year, you probably remember we started off with some travel to Costa Rica. And I can’t wait to see what the rest of 2014 holds for us for travel!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you like to travel or do you prefer to stay home?
  • What’s the coolest place you’ve been – I need more places to add to my travel bucket list!
  • Ever been to Hong Kong or Vietnam? Recommendations?
  • Ever been to Portland, Maine? What do you recommend we do?
  • What’s on your travel bucket list?