Happy Birthday, Checkter!

Chester got another year older this week (I won’t tell you his exact age because that’s just mean and I’ve made fun of him enough lately for his proximity to 40). So, we celebrated with food, of course.

Saturday night, we had dinner at one of his favorite places, Fogo de Chao, where he estimated that he ate about a pound and a half of filet mignon, lamb and other assorted meats. My favorite thing about Fogo is salad bar, which offers a huge assortment of salads, veggies, and cheeses. I loaded up on so much of that stuff that I didn’t even flip my card from red to green once.

We walked off some of our dinner with a stroll down Walnut Street to see the Christmas tree in Rittenhouse Square park.

Then, somehow, we found room for milkshakes at Max Brenner.

For the homemade portion of his birthday celebration, Chester requested blondies. He loves brown sugar more than anyone I’ve ever met (he told me he used to eat it by the spoonful when he was little), so it’s no surprise that he would prefer these to rich, chocolate brownies. Obviously, we are total opposites in this regard.

When I’ve tried blondies in the past, I’ve always been disappointed. They always seem to be dense, bland and dry. The America’s Test Kitchen recipe that I used for this batch completely changed my mind.

Melting the butter instead of creaming it incorporates less air into the batter, for a light, chewy texture. I also added a little bit of espresso powder to bring out the flavor of the milk chocolate and took the extra time to toast the pecans to enhance their flavor as well. The longer they sit, the better the flavors and textures have become.

This recipe could be adapted for a wide variety of preferences, using different flavors of chocolate chips or different kinds of nuts. The possibilities are endless!


Adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

What you will need

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

What to do

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with a foil sling and coat with cooking spray
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, espresso powder, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
  4. Fold in the chocolate chips and the nuts, and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.
  5. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, for 22 to 25 minutes.
  6. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely (about an hour). Cut into 1 1/2- by 2-inch bars.


  1. Joe Scipione says:

    Happy Birthday to Chester and nice job Lauren ” aka ” Chester’s Blondie lol

Comments make me happy. Leave one!