I’m not usually into bars for dessert, but I am sooooo into these! This July fourth holiday we are organizing meals a bit more since there's so many of us and we're only getting larger with all the new babies in the family! So each of the five kids is picking a day to be head chef for dinner and head chef for lunch. I'm really excited! I think it's going to be great. But as a little extra fun, we're going to have a family "Chopped" for desserts. This is what I'm going to make:) I think this is definitely a crowd pleaser! Bring it to your next summer potluck!

raspberry chocolate bars

1 cup butter
2 cups flour
1/2 cup oatmeal, pulsed to a flower in a food processor first
1/2 cup walnuts, pulsed with oatmeal
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup raspberry jam (seedless is a bit easier to work with)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional) 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 baking pan. Beat the butter in a standing mixer until creamy. Then add the flour, sugar, and salt and mix on low until crumbly. With floured fingers, press 1 3/4 cups of the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake at 350 for 10-12 mins. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup chocolate chips and the sweetened condensed milk in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until melted. Pour the melted chocolate and milk mixture onto the hot crust. Spread raspberry jam on top of hot chocolate filling. I found that warming the raspberry jam in the microwave first helped with even spreading, otherwise you can just plop it all over! Add the chopped walnuts to the remaining crumb mixture and dot the crumb mixture on top of the jam. Sprinkle the top with the rest of the chocolate chips. Drizzle a bit more raspberry jam over the bars, then bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into bars.


I know most people look forward to waking up to Saturday mornings, but I have to say that I think I'm actually ecstatic about Saturday mornings. Why? Because I wake up early, walk over to Patterson Park, and spend my morning volunteering with Bienestar, a health outreach group that works with the Baltimore Latino community. The participants are amazing. Each and every one is full of energy and enthusiasm for communal health and the camaraderie within the program is really quite beautiful. Usually we take some health measurements, discuss a health topic, and then do some exercise together, but a couple of weekends ago we had a fun change of pace: a healthy cooking contest! Anyone could enter- participants and volunteers- so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to combine my love for cooking with my love for working with Bienestar. The only problem was that I was pretty nervous about submitting an entry since I don't have much of a Latino influence in my day-to-day cooking. Not that it had to be Latin American cuisine, but I'm all about the culturally compelling aspect of healthy cooking. If the goal is to give people an opportunity to cook healthy recipes, I should try to suggest recipes that suit their tastes so that they actually use them! But I couldn't think of anything I knew how to make that would fit that self-imposed requirement... until I started craving my mom's chicken tinga! And it was perfect! It's really healthy and really simple. So that's what I made! And everyone loved it. So give it a try yourself, you'll see! It tastes great and is truly great for you!

chicken tinga

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
4 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
2 14 oz cans tomato sauce
1 tablespoon adobo sauce 
3 chopped chipotle peppers
2 chicken breasts
1 cup water
Cilantro for garnish
Rice for serving

Sauté the onions in olive oil over medium high heat for about five minutes, until translucent. Add the sliced green pepper, garlic, and salt and sauté for another minute. Add the tomato sauce, adobo sauce, and chipotle peppers and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer, and then add the chicken breasts and water. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove the chicken, shred with two forks, and return to the tomato mixture. Let simmer for 3-5 more minutes, then serve with cilantro garnish over rice!


Summer is here! The sun is hot, the thunderstorms are wild, and we're all craving strawberries. And dessert. Right? Dessert happens year round? You just have to tailor your baking appropriately- heavy desserts don't sit well when you're picnicking in the sun! You need something refreshing and light. That's why fruit works so well. But sometimes when fruit just isn't enough of a dessert, you have to add some cake. But you can still feature the fruit. That's why this summer strawberry cake is so perfect- it's refreshing with the whipped cream, light with the cake, and fruity with the strawberries. Your perfect summer cake is here!

summer strawberry cake

4 eggs, separated
2 egg whites
2 cup sugar
6 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 t salt
1 t baking powder

7-8 strawberries to garnish

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Separate the eggs and beat the egg whites with the sugar on medium high for about a minute until light and fluffy. Then add the egg yolks and beat on medium to combine. Add the milk, vanilla, flour, salt, and baking powder one at a time to the egg mixture and beat on low to combine between each addition. Pour the batter into two prepared cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes at 350 until the top springs back to the touch. While your cake is baking, prepare the simple syrup, strawberry filling, and gelatin for the whipped cream frosting. Recipes and assembly instructions to follow below!

simple syrup

1 strawberry sliced into eighths
1/8 cup sugar
1/8 cup water

Bring all ingredients to a boil, then allow to cool. Puree in blender to a smooth syrup and reserve for cake assembly. 

strawberry filling

7-8 strawberries, sliced into fourths
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Place the sliced strawberries and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat. The strawberries will begin to release their juices. Bring the strawberry juices to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and mash the strawberries as they begin to soften. After about 3 minutes of simmering, combine the water and cornstarch in a separate bowl until it is a nice, consistent paste, and then add this paste to the strawberries. Let this simmer for about 5-10 more minutes until the filling is thick, almost like jam.

whipped cream

2 teaspoons strawberry jello/gelatin (use flavorless if you prefer!)
8 teaspoons water
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar

Combine the jello/gelatin and water in another small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before continuing. I would wait until the cake has cooled and is assembled before making the whipped cream frosting because it's easier to work with and more aesthetically pleasing when it's cool. When ready to make the frosting, whip the heavy cream on high for about two minutes, then add the powdered sugar and cooled gelatin. Whip on high for about two more minutes to stiff peaks.

Cake assembly!

Finally! There's a lot to this recipe, sorry! But it's worth it! Think of it as a fun challenge:) And maybe a weekend morning or afternoon activity. Alright, so first you'll want to place one of the layers of the cake on your serving platter. Pour the cooled simple syrup over this layer- this will keep the cake nice and moist and make the strawberry filling start to seep into the cake. Full flavor equals great flavor! Next, spread your strawberry filling over the bottom layer. Then you'll want to spread about 1/3 of your whipped cream frosting over the strawberry filling before topping with the second cake layer. Then frost with the remaining 2/3 whipped cream frosting. Slice the 7-8 strawberries reserved for garnish into thin circles and place on top of the cake for decoration and some extra fruity fun. Enjoy!!


This might be one of my favorite baking experiences ever... but first I have to give a little background:) It all dates back to my first summer living off-campus in St. Paul. We lived on one of the main streets running from the Mississppi River to downtown St. Paul- Grand Avenue, the best street actually ;). There were restaurants, coffee shops, clothing stores, a cooking store with cooking classes, a yoga studio... you name it. Every June, a huge festival called Grand Old Day is held on Grand Avenue to kick off summer. Although we'd lived in the house for a year already, the summer between our junior and senior years at Macalester was the first time all of us were planning on spending our summer in the Twin Cities. So, naturally, we had to make it the best summer ever! And what better way to start things off than with a bake sale at Grand Old Day?! How we thought of that idea.. don't ask me. Bake sales are for kids, right? I think we just wanted an excuse to bake a ton of sweet treats. But it turned out to be so much fun because we spent the whole preceding day baking together, used our kindergarten crayon skills to make a few signs the morning of, moved the living room futon out into the front yard, and drank cold-pressed coffee while we watched the thousands of people walk by our house throughout the day. Rather than listing prices for the treats, we advertised as "by donation" just so we could recuperate the cost of ingredients (butter is expensive these days!). We laughed later though because we definitely would have collected less money had we listed prices- apparently people are more generous when you list as by donation! Even when knowing that we weren't fundraising for a particular cause, people would give us $5 for a cookie that probably cost us fifty cents to make! So, in addition to having fun baking a bunch of sweet treats, we also ended up having enough donations to fund other summer adventures! We each made one sweet treat, and this just happens to be the one I made:)

grand old day orange, almond, and olive oil cake

1 small to medium orange
1 lemon
6 ounces raw almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 large eggs
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
Confectioners’ sugar, for serving

Put the orange and lemon in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes. Drain and cool. Meanwhile, toast the almonds. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and set a rack in the middle position. Put the almonds on an ungreased sheet pan, and bake until they look golden and smell warm and toasty, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool completely. When the almonds are cool, pulse them in a food processor until finely ground, the texture of coarse sand. Set aside. Set the oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9-inch springform (or bundt) pan. When the citrus is cool, cut the lemon in half and scoop out and discard the pulp and seeds. Cut the orange in half and discard the seeds. Put the lemon rind and orange halves in the food processor and process to a coarse paste. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Combine the eggs and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat until foamy. Gradually beat in the sugar. Fold in the flour mixture. Add the citrus, almonds, and olive oil, and fold until just incorporated. Do not overmix. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack. Remove the sides of the pan. Before serving, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar.