Back-to-School Strawberry Granola Bars

To say that I’m ready to wear big cozy sweaters and tall boots again would be an understatement. September is my favorite month, not just because my birthday happens to be in it, but because the weather starts to change to getting cool enough to break out the fall clothes but you don’t need a heavy winter coat, and the red and yellow (and brown) and orange leaves around have to put you in a good mood. And for those of us that are still in school (aka me), I’m back in high school, starting my senior year.

When I was little, going back to school was such an amazing time. I would get new pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, backpack, notebook, paperclips, and about anything else that was pink and sparkly. Now that I’m in my last year of high school, I don’t really get the same excitement about it, but using a new pen or eraser is still a little bit fun. The main downfall of going back to school? Not having time to do anything that isn’t school related. It seems that my life now revolves around 3 AP classes and college essays, with a little bit of piano quintet and music theory thrown in there. Baking? I wish.

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A classic of the back-to-school lunchbox is the granola bar. I’ve made them in the past, but these little squares of almond-y jammy goodness are a much better way to start of my school morning. If you make these the night before, they’re an easy grab and go breakfast, and anything homemade just gets my day off to a better start. They come together in a pinch, so even if you don’t have time to make a layer cake, even just a homely little granola bar can brighten your day.
Back-to-School Strawberry Granola Bars- From One Sweet Cookie


  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup strawberry preserves (or whatever flavor you want)
  • Slivered almonds (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8 inch square pan and line a half sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Spread the pecans in a single layer on the prepared half sheet pan. Bake for about 5 minutes, or until lightly golden and fragrant. Cool completely on the pan.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, and pecans. Pour in the melted butter, and using a wooden spoon, mix together until well combined. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan, forming a packed layer.
  4. Using an offset or silicone spatula, spread the preserves over the dough. Evenly sprinkle the slivered almonds over the top. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and fragrant. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Now back to studying!

-Rayna 🙂


Cherry Almond Goat Cheese Bars

During quartet camp today, I realized that it was the middle of August, and I can’t figure out how my summer managed to go by so fast. Yesterday, I finished my first week of quartet camp, which was fantastic as always. I study chamber music with the program director during the year, so being able to buckle down and work on 2 full quartets in 2 weeks is very intense, but also really fun. The members of my quartet are some of my best friends, so rehearsing with them is really great.

DSC_0054Cheesecake is such a fun but temperamental thing for me to make. As you can see, the amount of cheesecake recipes here on the blog is rather limited, but that’s partially because I have a limited audience that will actually eat the cheesecake. My family tends to stay on the healthy side (surprising for an avid baker) so super rich and creamy desserts aren’t big sellers in my house. Not to mention, goat cheese is one of the few foods that almost no one in my family really likes, so I don’t think these bars ever got the attention that they truly deserve.

DSC_0077I loved these bars that I found on Sift and Whisk. The crust is not graham cracker based, but rather crushed almonds give it not only a wonderful crunch, but an amazing warm flavor too. The mixture of the goat cheese and the cream cheese ensures that the batter is not too dry, but it has a little bit of a tangy flavor because of the goat cheese, which I just loved. The fresh cherries not only mixed into the batter but sprinkled on top provide a sweet contrast to the sour edge of the cheesecake. All in all, I can’t rave about these bars enough.

Cherry Almond Goat Cheese Bars


For the almond crust:

  • 1 cup (140 grams) raw, whole almonds
  • 1 cup (120 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (55 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 8 ounces (226 grams) goat cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces (226 grams) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (150 grams) cherries
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract


  1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Let cool slightly, then roughly chop the almonds.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together chopped almonds, flour, brown sugar, salt, and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Bake crust for 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack while making filling.
  3. Halve cherries and remove pits. In the bowl of a food processor, process goat cheese, cream cheese, eggs, and sugar. (If you do not have a food processor, you can use a hand or stand mixer. Beat the goat cheese and cream cheese together first, until smooth and creamy, then add the eggs and sugar.) Remove the food processor blade, then gently stir in most of the cherry halves by hand, reserving 18 cherry halves for the top. Pour filling onto cooled crust. Arrange remaining 18 cherry halves, cut side up, on top.
  4. Bake at 325°F for 35-40 minutes, until the center just barely jiggles, or a thermometer inserted in the middle of the pan reads 155-160°F. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill for at least 3 hours. Cut into 16 squares and serve.

Don’t be fooled by the goat cheese- these are some great cheesecake bars.

-Rayna 🙂



Strawberry Almond Tarts

Even though it’s only Tuesday, my week is already fantastic. I was able to finish all of my finals early last week so I would be able to come to Ottawa, Ontario, to attend a summer music program! So yes, I’m technically blogging internationally, which is totally a first for me. I’m having so much fun meeting other kids and seeing some old friends too, and I can’t wait to spend 2 weeks here.
In addition to all of the music fun that’s been happening, we had our yearly gymnastics banquet last Friday night. It was so sweet seeing everyone from the gym dressed up in their pretty dresses and sparkly shoes (especially the little kids), but it was also emotional because the gymnast who is a senior this year is leaving after 16 years at Arena. We are all so proud of her and know that she’ll be an absolute start in college gymnastics!
Since my summer is just beginning (even though it’s not June 21), I thought that I would share an absolutely delicious tart with you guys. My mom has been working away at her website, which is sure to be launched in August, and I’ve been helping with a lot of the baking. We had a nice selection of strawberries that were begging to be used, and they were just too pretty to shove into a pie or crumble. This recipe is courtesy of Molly O’Neill, former food writer for the New York Times.
Strawberry Almond Tarts
The crust:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, cut in pieces
  • 1/4 cup ice water

The filling:

  • 4 ounces almond paste
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

The berries:

  • 2 pints fresh strawberries, hulled and halved Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish.

1. Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and pulse until butter is the size of small peas. Add the water and pulse until dough barely begins to come together. Press the dough together with your hands, flatten into a disc, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the dough out to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Fit it into a 9 1/2-inch quiche dish. Line the crust with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or raw beans and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the paper and the weights and bake for 2 minutes more. Set aside.

3. Place the almond paste and butter in a food processor and process until smooth. Mix in the flour, sugar and salt. Add the egg and vanilla and process until smooth. Scrape the mixture into the tart shell, spread into an even layer and bake until set, about 15 minutes. Cool.

4. Make a ring of strawberries around the edge of the dish, leaning the cut side of the berries up against the edge. Repeat, making concentric circles until the tart is covered. Just before serving, sift confectioners’ sugar over the top. Cut into wedges. Serve.

Yield: Six servings.

A perfect way to start off an amazing summer.

-Rayna 🙂

Almond Lemon Tea Cake

I would apologize for being gone for so long, but I think that my junior year has to apologize for me. Between all of my classes at school, classes at MSM, gymnastics, AND standardized testing, I haven’t had much time to do anything. I love everything that I’m doing this year though, so it’s more of a way of me figuring out how to balance everything while still getting to bed before midnight. It’s not exactly easy, but I’m making my way through!

While everyone else is baking pumpkin things like crazy, I thought I’d bring you an incredibly delicious and simple Almond-Lemon Tea Cake from Tartine. Unlike most almond baked goods, this one uses no almond extract, but instead gets a deep almond flavor from almond paste, or marzipan. While it does make it a little denser then a “cake” cake, it gets more of a pound cake quality, making it perfect for breakfast, snack, or dessert. So if you’re just not feeling the pumpkin, this beautiful cake will fit the bill perfectly.

Almond Lemon Tea Cake- Makes one 9’x5′ loaf


  • 3 1/4 oz pastry or cake flour, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 7 ounces almond paste, at room temperature
  • 7 ounces sugar
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Sift together the flour and baking powder twice. In a small bowl, combine the eggs and vanilla and whisk together just to combine. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the almond paste on low speed until it breaks up. This can take up to a minute, depending on how soft and warm it is. Slowly add the sugar in a steady stream, beating until incorporated. If you add the sugar too quickly, the past won’t break up as well.
  3. Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon sized pieces. Continue on low speed while adding the butter, a tablespoon at a time for about 1 minute. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Then turn the mixer onto medium speed and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. With the mixer still on medium speed, add the eggs in a very low, steady stream and mix until incorporated. Stop the mixer again and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn on the mixer to medium speed and mix for another 30 seconds. Add the citrus zests and mix with a wooden spoon. Finally, add the flour mixture in 2 batches, stirring after each addition until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl one last time, and then spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.
  4. Bake until the top springs back when lightly toughed and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5-7 minutes before removing.

It’s just good. Really, really good.

-Rayna 🙂


Fresh Cherry Tart

Today is my official last day of summer and at 7:30 tomorrow morning, my junior year will have officially begun! But today, my family and I are driving my brother up to college and getting him settled in. It will feel weird around the house to only have one sibling here and to not hear the constant whistling going on next to me while I do my homework. Who will be my homework buddy at midnight from now on? I’m certainly going to miss him, but I know that we’ll be seeing him again soon.

Now, we all know that the best part about late summer is the fantastic produce, and this summer is a way to get in those dark red, sweet as sugar cherries that I just love. The cherry crisp that I made last year was good, but this tart from Martha Stewart was amazing. I made it with reiner cherries which made the tart especially gorgeous. In addition to the graham cracker crumb on the bottom, I sprinkled on some almond paste, which gave the otherwise simple crust a candy like quality that was amazing. It was almost a little too hard, making it a (kind of) pain in the butt to cut through, but the flavor was absolutely amazing. With a simple cream in the middle, what’s not to love?

Fresh Cherry Tart
Makes 1 9” Tart


  • 9 graham crackers (each 2 1/2 by 5 inches)
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup almond paste
  • 6 ounces bar cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound fresh sweet cherries, such as Bing, pitted and halved
  • 1 tablespoon seedless jam (I used apple)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a 9” tart pan. In a food processor, pulse the graham crackers and 2 tbsp sugar until ground. Add the butter and process until combined. Transfer the mixture to the tart pan, and using the base of a dry measuring cup, firmly press the mixture into the bottom and sides of the pan. Sprinkle on the almond paste. Bake until browned, 10-12 minutes.
  2. While that is baking, using an electric mixture on medium speed, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, almond extract, and 1/4 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually add the cream and beat until soft peaks form. Spread the mixture in the cooled crust and scatter cherries on top.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine jam and 1 teaspoon of water. Heat on low until liquified, about 2 minutes. Using a pastry brush, glaze the cherries.

A perfect Labor Day dessert…(for one)!

-Rayna 🙂

Cranberry Pecan Almond Flour Cookies

Hello again fellow bakers! I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have the first part of my A.P. U.S. History final over, as my best friend Deanna can tell you. This part of our final, which was an essay called a DBQ (Document Based Question), required us to know every detail of American history between 1900-1950. For Thursday, we are required to know every detail from when the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to Ronald Reagan. You could say that I am slightly stressed out.

Throughout the multiple tests, finals, and A.P. testing coming up in school, I am on break week from gymnastics! The regional championships, held up in Maine (a 5 1/2 hour drive) was a great experience, and I loved representing the state of Connecticut. As a member of the team, I got to wear a royal blue leotard with Connecticut spelled out in rhinestones and a lime green breast cancer symbol in the upper left hand corner. We also got a Connecticut jacket, that has Connecticut written on the back and the Region VI gymnastics symbol on the left breast pocket. I was so proud to be on the 2nd place team and to earn the silver medal on floor. Go CT!

Now that my mother is a chef, you can be expected to find all sorts of unexpected ingredients in our house. Whether it be date paste, dried chrysanthemum flowers, or monkey-picked tea, our house is filled with unique ingredients. Finding a various assortment of flours in our house is normal. All purpose, bread, cake, spelt, buckwheat: you name it, I bet we have it. Almond flour is not actually flour, oddly enough. It is just very finely ground almond- strange, right? Due to the almond flour in these cookies, they took on a very marzipan-like flavor, which I loved! The pecans added a much needed crunch and the dried cranberries supplied the perfect amount of sweetness. Plus, they only take a few minutes from the cabinets into the oven. Perfect for any busy schedule! 🙂

Cranberry Pecan Almond Flour Cookies- From Carrots ‘n’ Cake

Makes 12 Cookies


  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal/flour (I used Bob’s Red Mills)
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cups chopped pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare a cookie sheet.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together all of the ingredients. Roll into 1 inch balls (or use an ice cream scooper!) and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Happy May! 🙂

-Rayna 🙂

Almond Macaroons

Hey there! This week has been quite a relaxing one, which is certainly a nice change of pace from my usual schedule. Even though I still have more than my fair share of schoolwork to do (2 essays, a book and a half to read, a take home test, etc.) this break is still really relaxing for me.

Something that I’ve been SO excited about is Level 8 Regionals, which are now less than 2 weeks away! Although they may be a 5 and a half hour drive from my house, I am still so excited to represent Connecticut as a member of the Senior team. Last night, I drove to another gym in Connecticut about an hour away from my house to have a regional workout, where I got to meet some of the other girls on my regional team (that aren’t on my regular club team). It was such a great experience and I can’t wait to cheer up my teammates on April 28 and 29. Go Connecticut!

Like the Chocolate Chestnut Cake, this recipe is a kosher for passover recipe, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy this any other time of year! If you ran out of flour or want an easy-to-whip-up treat, these macaroons are for you. My soon-to-be-chef mother (who graduates culinary school this weekend!) even approved of these light, almondy, crispy, chewy cookies that you are sure to love. The best part? They’re only 3 ingredients! There’s no excuse now for you not to make these!

Almond Macaroons- Makes about 30 cookies

From the inside of the Almond Paste Box


  • 7 ounces almond paste
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 egg whites


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 cookie sheets.
  2. Grate the almond paste (It’s easier if it’s cold) using a cheese grater. Mix together all of the ingredients until fully incorporated.
  3. Bake for 8-12 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom. Let cool and enjoy!

Delicious cookies that are simple to make? Count me in!

-Rayna 🙂