Cranberry Bliss

I haven’t written in forever! Sorry about that.

The good news is, I’m making it up to you. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this one- it’s not a science post but a recipe!

Anyone remember Cranberry Bliss Bars from Starbucks? Here on the left coast (or at least my corner of it), they’re not selling them anymore- all our Starbucks stores now have bakery items from another bakery, so no more classic coffee cake, reduced fat blueberry coffee cake, cinnamon scones, chonga bagels… staples of my childhood, all of them. But there is none I loved more than Cranberry Bliss Bars.

Alas, even if they were still being sold, I could not eat them. That gingerbread crust is full of wheat, after all! What’s a nostalgic, former-Starbucks employee to do? Up until now, cry myself to sleep. But no longer, because an old friend posted the recipe on facebook and I knew I had to make it. So I converted it to gluten free and now I am sharing it with you, all three of my loyal blog readers! Behold:

cranberry bliss bars

Somebody call a code, because I’ve died and gone to heaven

Ok, the picture is a bit underwhelming. Don’t judge unless you’ve tried to take good pictures of food inside on a rainy day. Also, I’m not very good at getting even coverage of the topping cranberries.

BUT. You should still try this recipe because Cranberry Bliss Bars. That is all the reason you need. Does this recipe taste exactly like the original? To be honest, it’s been so long, I’m not sure. But that unique flavor combination: white chocolate + cranberry + gingerbread is intact. Plus, this recipe is made with butter and eggs and real sugar- the original was probably made with high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oil. Score one for these.


Adapted from this recipe by Kasey Buick. “Cranberry Bliss Bars” may or may not be trademark and copyright Starbucks, oh my gosh please don’t sue me I have no money.

Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) softened salted butter *
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 2/3 cup potato starch
  • 1/3 cup millet flour
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 6 oz white chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup diced dried cranberries

Cookie Instructions

  • Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between, then add ginger and vanilla extract. Scrape down bowl if necessary.
  • In a medium sized bowl, whisk together both flours, potato starch, and xanthan gum.
  • Using a half cup-ful or so at a time, add flour mix to the creamed butter mix. Mix on low between each addition to keep too much flour from flying out of the bowl. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure it’s thoroughly mixed.
  • Add cranberries and white chocolate, then spread the batter out in a well-greased 9×13 pan or casserole dish.
  • Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes, until it gets nice and brown around the edges. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Ingredients

  • 6 oz cream cheese, softened (eyeball it) *
  • 2 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4-1/3 cup diced cranberries

Frosting Instructions

  • Cream together the cream cheese and powdered sugar. This is probably best done in a stand mixer.
  • Add lemon juice and vanilla extract and beat until you have a nice consistency. This should be thinner than cake frosting but not exactly liquid.
  • Taste test because it’s yummy, and to make sure it’s sweet enough. I cut down on the amount of sugar and bumped up the amount of cream cheese from the original recipe because I don’t like my frosting quite as sweet.
  • Spread over the cooled cookie and sprinkle with the cranberries. Keep in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve!
*Here’s a neat tip: if you want to soften butter or cream cheese quicker, put them on the oven rack and turn the oven light on. They soften up pretty fast and no worry of melting in the microwave! Just remember to take it out before you preheat the oven…



November Round Up

I haven’t written in more than a week, huh? I’ve been quite busy and not much in the mood to write.

Lee’s birthday was Saturday. He is officially old now, I think, and told him so several times.

For his breakfast, I made the cinnamon rolls I mentioned in the last post- they were quite good. Here’s the link again for those who missed it: The Best Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls. I was expecting to struggle a lot more with the dough- having had rather poor experiences with gluten free pastry dough in the past but I watched the video and to my amazement, the saran wrap worked perfectly to keep everything from sticking! The rolls were beautiful and unfortunately did not last long enough to get a good picture (the sun doesn’t really get high enough in the sky these days to filter into our basement apartment so it’s quite difficult to get good pictures) but I did get one with my cell phone. I’d like you guys to check out the recipe at its author’s website, but I did make some changes so I will list those here:

1. I don’t like to use “proprietary” GF flour blends because they always require you to mix up huge batches and I don’t want to waste flour because I might never use that flour blend again. So I crunched the numbers and replaced the “AP gluten free flour” (note that it also calls for an additional 1/2 cup of tapioca flour in addition to the below) with:

  • 2 2/3 cups of brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup potato flour
  • 1/4 cup tapioca starch

2. I also had only active dry yeast instead of instant, so I proofed the yeast by mixing the yeast she called for with the 1/2 cup of warm water and 1 of the tablespoons of sugar.

3. I already had a nice cream cheese maple frosting so I didn’t make the caramel topping. I don’t really like corn syrup and I try to avoid it.

For his cake, after much interrogation, Lee decided he wanted a chocolate cake with raspberry filling and white chocolate frosting. The man’s got good taste! I used the same cake recipe that I used for my Earth Shaking Cupcakes but added a cup of hot water to the wet ingredients to prevent the cake from falling- a little sinkhole was ideal for the cupcakes, not so much for a layer cake. I used seedless raspberry jam for the filling and this recipe for the white chocolate buttercream. The frosting tasted good, but wasn’t as fluffy as reviewers said it would be- I attribute that to me being super impatient and adding the white chocolate before it had cooled down much. So it was a very soft frosting that hardened up almost completely in the fridge, but the flavor was good and nobody complained. I grated a fancy raspberry chocolate bar on top and made lettering using melted semisweet chocolate piped into numbers and allowed to cool, and garnished with fresh raspberries. Did not get a good picture of this because… it was gone pretty fast. Sorry!

Not much else to say. I picked up Jeanne Sauvage’s new book, Gluten Free Baking for the Holidays and have been drooling over it for a few days. She uses a flour blend, which you now all know I do not like, but she provides all her measurements in grams so you can easily just make as much flour blend as you want. I just pulled a batch of chocolate mint biscotti out of the oven to bring to another birthday party this evening and it turned out beautifully. Imagine- gluten free biscotti… mi dio! She also has a recipe for cannoli that I intend to try post haste.

I will leave you with this, which required every light in my house.

Earth-Shaking Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

tray of almond chocolate cupcakesLife has been a bit of a whirlwind the last few days.

I had surprise minor surgery on my foot, so we picked up some new video games and settled in for a quiet weekend, but it was not to be.  We walked in the door to our house and realized that thanks to good shocks on my car, we had missed what most people in town were already panicking about- a 7.7 earthquake just over the Canadian border off Haida Gwaii.

Now, when you live across the street from the ocean with a straight line view of the epicenter of the largest earthquake to hit the Northwest US in 60 years- there’s one thing on your mind. Of course, it was the same thing on the mind of everyone else- from NOAA who immediately issued Tsunami warnings spanning the entire west coast of the US to the village on the next island over, which ordered a mandatory evacuation. Rumors have it they even got helicopters to help the elderly flee more efficiently. The kindly voice on the radio insisted that we remain calm and that city emergency response was not calling any evacuations at this time, but it was easy for them to say- the entire city except one two mile stretch of highway is sheltered by surrounding islands. Guess where we live?

So we packed our bags and our precious items, put the gecko in her travel carrier, and waited. And waited. And waited. Through four hours of “we’ll know more soon”, pacing the floor, picking over the maps, facebook rumors of road closures and evacuations, and distracted video game playing, we simply waited.

In the thick of this, I had some chocolate in a saucepan that I had melted down the night before for dipping cookies into and then left to use later. I melted it back down and, looking for a distraction, started dipping anything I thought might taste good, including a few dozen almonds. Lee had a death in the family and a gathering was scheduled for the next day, should we not be wiped off the map, so I started planning my contribution. I always bring something to these get-togethers and it’s always sweet because that’s what people expect from me.

chocolate almond cupcake

Around midnight, the tsunami warning was cancelled after the waves started showing up and were only about 6″ (according to Lee, indistinguishable from an overweight kayaker paddling by) and the focus shifted to Hawaii, where the tsunami might actually do some damage, having built in size as it traveled across the Pacific. We got some much needed rest, and the next morning I used the chocolate covered almonds as inspiration for these quite photogenic chocolate almond cupcakes which to me will always be tied to our fraught brush with plate tectonics.


Earth-Shaking Chocolate Almond Cupcakes

(Adapted from Elizabeth Barbone’s “Classic Chocolate Cake”)

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup corn/potato/tapioca starch
  • 1/4 cup sweet rice flour
  • 1 cup dutch process cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp each baking powder and soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (for extra almondyness, replace this with almond extract)


  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 tsp almond extract

Whisk together all dry ingredients for cake and then add eggs, milk, oil and extract. This is a super easy cake- you could even put all the dry ingredients in a jar or bag and it would be like a box mix (but better, of course)!

Fill the cups of a lined or very well greased cupcake tin to half full each (these rise quite a bit) and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. When they are done, they will be tacky on the surface and the centers will be a bit sunk in- I like this little crater for a filling or as room for extra frosting!

Once the cupcakes have cooled, prepare the frosting. Whip the butter on high speed until fluffy then add the powdered sugar, a bit at a time while mixing on a low speed. Add too much at a time or mix it too quickly and the sugar will come flying out at you, so be patient. Once all the sugar is incorporated, add the almond extract and milk and whip a bit more to get it nice and fluffy.

Frost the cupcakes and garnish as you like- if you really want Earthquake Cupcakes, try filling the little craters with chocolate sauce before frosting for a delicious tsunami all your own.

Magical Mint Brownie Cookies

Like all good ideas, this one wasn’t mine.

(Seriously, I can’t take any credit for it at all.)

Once a month the finest, or at least rowdiest, minds in my town get together for a night of coffee drinking, binge eating, and music listening. We call it The Monthly Grind, and it’s a spectacular of local musicians and homemade desserts- so it’s right up my alley. Bring a dessert  for the contest and get in free (note: not actually a good deal since tickets are $5). Typically, it’s not themed but last spring, we had a 60’s music themed Grind complete with hippie costumes and a Sing-Like-Bob-Dylan contest.

“Why don’t you make brownies,” Lee scoffed. “But like, with mint leaves so it looks like pot.”

And thus the Magical Mint Brownie Cookies were born. When they announced the winners, they called me up to the stage to accept my first place prize and caught off guard I muttered something I hope nobody heard about brown rice being awesome, but in hindsight I should of said, “yeah, it wasn’t my idea.”

That’s not going to stop me from taking credit for it from here on out.

Without further ado-


Sarah’s Magical Mint Brownies which were totally invented by Sarah

(© Sarah, 2012)

-1/2 cup brown rice flour

-1/4 cup cornstarch*

-1/4 tsp xanthan gum

-1/4 tsp baking powder

-8 0z semisweet chocolate chips

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/4 cup salted butter

-2 eggs

-2 tsp vanilla

-1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

-2/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Whisk together flours, xanthan gum, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Melt semisweet chocolate chips in a small saucepan while you cream butter and brown sugar together. Add the melted chocolate, eggs, and vanilla to the creamed butter mixture and mix thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients 1/4 cup at a time, mixing in between, then add the mint leaves and the milk chocolate chips and stir by hand. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet and bake 12-14 minutes at 350F. Cool at least 5 minutes before gobbling up like a chocolate crazed lunatic.

*The original recipe calls for cornstarch, but starches are pretty much interchangeable. Use tapioca or potato starch instead if that’s what you have. They all taste the same.

(Brownie Cookies adapted from “Double Chocolate Chip Cookies”, from Elizabeth Barbone’s Easy Gluten-Free Baking- I told you it wasn’t my idea at all)

Steak Marinade (1st Post!)

The obligatory first post: bask in the undying light of its obvious glory.

I’ve tried to blog before, but I always seem to run out of things to say by the second post, which is silly because I never run out of things to say in real life. Ever. If I’m not sure what to say next, I just change the subject and keep talking. I’ll tell the same story three times in a row if need be, but I will never, ever shut up.

Blogging is an ideal medium for me, no?

On with the show. Just like I don’t like to settle on one particular arrangement of the furniture, I have no desire to pick one topic for this blog.  This one is all leading up to a recipe- after all you can’t share a recipe without a story, right? Bear with me, and scroll down if you really need that steak marinade so desperately. But I am also going to write about other things I think are cool, which may include but not be limited to: interior design, medical trivia, gluten free baking, Alaskan topics, and the severed toes I occasionally find on the countertop at work.

It’s going to be well rounded. Just like the toes.

With that imagery in mind, let’s move on to the meat of this post (har har): a steak marinade recipe. I love this marinade, and I bet you could even use it for pork.  If you have a really tender piece of meat, you could probably get away with just marinating this for a half hour and then grilling but it’s best to let it sit overnight. No steak sauce needed with this marinade, folks.


Sarah’s Famous Steak Marinade


  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 tbs low-sodium tamari
  • 1 tbs ketchup
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp worchestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp red wine
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp oregano

Whisk all that together and you’ve got yourself a marinade. Wow, that was easy.

“But Sarah,” you ask, “pardon my French, but what the hell is Tamari?”

I’m glad you asked. Tamari is traditional Japanese soy sauce. You see, the Japanese people are super smart and knew even long ago that wheat is evil and would someday make me sick, so they made their soy sauce without it. Even if you’re not gluten intolerant, you might find that Tamari tastes better- it has a much richer flavor. Just watch out, because some companies do not quite get the whole concept and market their sauce as “Tamari” even though it really has wheat just like normal soy sauce. You’re all checking the ingredient lists of everything you buy already though, right?

Try this sauce next time you’re making steaks. If you like it, let me know down there in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe so that my scribblings will be delivered straight to your email inbox.