Plenty Sweet Life

Grandma's Recipes One By One!

Brownies by Odetta

I have no idea where this recipe for Brownies by Odetta came from, and I have no idea who Odetta is, but it was in my mom’s recipe file, and that means I need to try it. I laughed out loud when I started mixing these, because as we all well know by now, my mom is a HUGE chocoholic, and this recipe uses cocoa as the chocolate, so it smells unbelievably cocoa-y and chocolate-y. I’m not surprised that she asked someone for this recipe – way back in 2008! You can make brownies any time of the year – obvi – but no matter what season it is, you can and should decorate them appropriately. Sprinkles are obligatory and as we well know, make everything WAAAAAY more festive. There are so many beautiful sprinkles out there now, you can really go crazy. Let’s just say I restrained myself. Somewhat.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Brownies by Odetta

Mix together:

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

Bring to a boil:

1 cup water

1 cup margarine (I used butter)

4 Tablespoons cocoa

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)

Pour over flour and sugar.


1/2 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour into jelly roll pan (11″ x 15″).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.


Beat together with a mixer until smooth:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened

4 Tablespoons margarine, softened (I used butter)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups powdered sugar

enough milk to make the frosting spreadable (I used 3 Tablespoons)

Add more milk if too stiff.

Spread on bars.

The ingredients for this recipe are so perfect for our criteria – right from the cupboard and easy to make!

Next, the melted mixture goes right into the dry ingredients. Add the rest and you’re ready for the pan.

It makes a cakey brownie – this is not the fudgy kind.

The cream cheese frosting is easy to make, too.

Here we go  – a blank canvas, ready to decorate. Or not. It’s totally up to you.

You don’t have to use sprinkles, but why wouldn’t you? Seriously – festive as heck! I just HAD to add a pumpkin patch to it, too. Especially if using these for a Halloween party, you can use holiday chocolate candies, candy corn, chopped up cookies, chopped up candy bars – go crazy!! Why not?

Brownies and chocolate and Halloween – they just all go together!

The brownies are cakey, and not very thick, but really – aren’t they just a vehicle for the cream cheese frosting (and sprinkles)? These are really easy to make, they’re very chocolatey and delicious, and the cream cheese frosting is, well, cream cheese frosting. Need I say more? I think you need to make a pan of these Brownies by Odetta – all the ghouls and goblins in your life will thank you!





Canadian Bars

Why did they name these delicious bars Canadian Bars? I had no idea until I looked online for more Canadian Bars recipes and found the same recipe called Nanaimo Bars, named for the city in British Columbia. It’s practically the exact same recipe. Who knew? They are just one more no-bake treat to try before the summer is over. This has been a hot one, and we all know August and even September can also be hot. Summer’s not over yet, and there are still reasons to need a delicious no-bake treat. Because summer’s not over yet, I wanted to share this photo of some of Grandma’s family. Her mother and aunt and oldest sister are in the middle, along with various other family members. They look like they are truly enjoying the beautiful summer day. I love this photo so much, with the ladies wearing their high collared blouses and long skirts.

I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded having some no-bake recipes back then – those wood fired stoves that they had to use must have made the kitchen and house incredibly hot! Turning on the oven in our houses NOW can make the kitchen and house incredibly hot. So I’m glad I found just one more no-bake (it actually says unbaked) recipe from another of Grandma’s old church cookbooks to end the summer!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Canadian Bars

Mix together:

5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1/2 cup butter, softened

5 Tablespoons sugar

1 egg

Beat over boiling water until butter melts.


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup coconut

1/2 cup nuts, chopped (I used walnuts)

Pour mixture into 9″ x 13″ pan.

Cover with the following mixture:

1/4 cup butter

3 Tablespoons milk

2 Tablespoons Jello Instant Vanilla Pudding mix

2 cups powdered sugar

Let stand 15 minutes to firm up.

Spread with:

4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (you can use 1 package chocolate chips – I did)

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

This recipe has ingredients that you probably have in your cupboard.

The bottom layer is full of goodies!

The second layer barely covered the bottom crust. I’m beginning to think that even though the recipe calls for a 9″ x 13″ pan, I maybe should have used an 8″ x 8″ pan instead.

The top layer of chocolate did cover the second layer.

See how thin the bars are? When I looked up the other recipes and found the Nanaimo Bars, they were thicker.

While not a thick bar, these are definitely delicious and are a great no-bake option for a hot summer day. I might try using the smaller pan next time, to see how that goes. I have no doubt that before submitting the recipe for the old church cookbook, someone decided that they could get more bars and make them go further if they used a larger pan. Either way, they’re easy to make and really delicious. Try something new before this hot summer’s over – these no-bake Canadian Bars!



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Black and White Bars

As you can see, my mom first made these Black and White Bars in April of 1970! I love that! I love that she and Grandma started the tradition of writing on the recipe the date that they first made that recipe. I do it now and so do my daughters. It’s a fun way to remember just how long we’ve all been making these great recipes. Speaking of long ago, this photo is of me jumping into the water at the lake when I was about 3 years old. I think they used one of those new-fangled cameras called a Polaroid – you know, the kind where you take the photo and peel off the back and then wait for it to develop right before your eyes!

This is a total summer pic – I must say, it sure looks like I was enjoying myself! If water was involved – I KNOW I was! This is why we need really easy, really delicious recipes in the summertime. This is why I designated this the “Nothing But Easy Summer”, so we could get out and enjoy those things we love to do without suffering with bland and yukky food. This is why I’ve been sharing quick to make, easy to do, tasty recipes. I love summer!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Black and White Bars


1 cup shortening (I used butter)

2 cups sugar


4 eggs, unbeaten

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups nuts, chopped

Pour 3/4 of batter into 9″ x 13″ pan.

Add to remaining batter:

2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate, melted

Spoon dollops of chocolate batter onto top of batter in pan as in marble cake.


Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

The recipe also says you can leave out the baking chocolate, add chocolate chips, and make them as blonde brownies.

Here are the two kinds of batter before the swirl.

I just used a spoon to dollop the chocolate batter on top of the vanilla batter.

The batter – both kinds – was so thick, I didn’t think that maybe this would work. I tried to swirl the batter with a toothpick, but that didn’t work. Then I tried a wooden skewer – the pointed end – and THAT didn’t work. Next I flipped the skewer over and used the flat, cut end, and finally that worked. Sort of. I wasn’t so sure about this.

It worked! Look how pretty they are!

I will totally be making these over and over and over.

This recipe totally fits with the “easy” theme for this summer. They’re so easy to make and they’re so good – I know why my mom’s been making these since 1970! Make a batch or two of these Black and White Bars – maybe put one in the freezer – and get outside and enjoy the summer before we look up and another summer is already gone!


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S’mores Bars

Everybody loves s’mores, and while I have made The Easiest S’mores Pie Ever and S’mores Snack Mix, the recipe for S’mores Bars today is a ridiculously easy one that I came up with one Sunday for a family lunch. As I’ve said almost every post so far this summer, this is the “Nothing But Easy Summer”, and I refuse to be in the house any longer than absolutely necessary. You’re going to love this recipe, too, for how easy and how yummy these bars are. I recommend you bake them just before you serve them for maximum melty gooeyness.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

S’mores Bars

Mix up:

1 recipe of cookie dough (pan bar version) from the back of a bag of your favorite chocolate chips – just don’t add the chocolate chips yet! I would think you could also use any of your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipes.

Spread cookie dough in 9″ x 13″ jelly roll pan.

Instead of mixing the chocolate chips into the dough (I used about half of a bag of chocolate chips), I sprinkled them on top of the dough.

Next I sprinkled on about half of a bag of mini marshmallows.

Bake according to the directions for the recipe on the bag of chocolate chips.

The chocolate chips get melty and the marshmallows turn crusty brown on top and gooey on the inside.

I only suggested baking these right before serving because of the deliciousness of the warm cookie, melty chocolate, and gooey marshmallow. However, I brought these to a Sunday lunch at my daughter’s place, and we had a picnic outside. After the bars sat in the sun while we ate lunch, they were just as warm, melty, and gooey as they were right out of the oven! I just covered them with a piece of foil to transport, left it on while the bars sat in the sun, and enjoyed them after lunch. These S’mores Bars are so easy and so delicious – you’ll want to keep them in mind for your next picnic!



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Easy Unbaked Bars

Today’s recipe for Easy Unbaked Bars came from one of my sisters-in-law. She brought these to her mother’s 94th birthday celebration last spring, and I had to have the recipe. The name says it all – easy – unbaked – bars. Check, check, and check. That’s the way we like ’em! They’re perfect for this “Nothing But Easy Summer”! I’m not doing anything this summer that isn’t easy. That leaves all possible time during the day to enjoy the summer while it lasts. We’ve had a very cool spring here in Minnesota, and once summer hits – we’ll outside, enjoying every minute before the flakes fly again next fall. Have I mentioned that I’m not doing anything this summer that’s not easy. Right – I’m keeping is easy – nothing but easy.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Easy Unbaked Bars

Melt in microwave 1 1/2 minutes:

1 10 oz. package of peanut butter chips

1 stick butter


1/2 to 3/4 bag of miniature marshmallows

In 9″ x 13″ greased pan, put half of a jar of roasted peanuts.

Spread first mixture on top of peanuts.

Top with other half of jar of peanuts.

That’s it – easy!

Go ahead and get the first layer of peanuts ready before starting on the middle layer.

There really aren’t a lot of ingredients for these. It’s amazing how that makes for such an addictive treat.

Melt the chips and butter and stir until smooth.

Stir in the mini marshmallows – they’ll get a bit melty, yet still hold their shape.

You might want to spoon on the middle layer so you can cover the bottom layer of peanuts while keeping the peanuts in place.

Once the top layer of peanuts is on, I recommend you put the whole pan into the refrigerator for about 30 minutes.

Did I mention that these are addictive? Oh my.

It’s a good thing that these bars are easy to make, cuz I think we’re all going to be making a lot or pans of these over the course of the summer. Yep – nothing but easy – and ridiculously, deliciously addictive, I might add. Watch out for these! Don’t say I didn’t warn you! You and everyone you know will get hooked on these Easy Unbaked Bars!




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Easter Blonde Brownies

Today’s recipe for Easter Blonde Brownies is the recipe for Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies that I’ve made on the blog before – I just made it into a holiday treat! I mean, this recipe was from before the name for this type of  bars was Blondies. These bars are so different from brownies. My mom always made brownies when we were growing up, mainly because she has a chocolate problem, but these are more of almost a caramel flavor from the brown sugar. Oh my. This recipe is really, really, really good. I mean it. These are ANOTHER total red light food for me. I. Can’t. Stop. They. Are. So. Good.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Easter Blonde Brownies

Sift together:

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup nuts, chopped (I didn’t use nuts for this batch)

Mix well and set aside.


1/3 cup butter


1 cup packed brown sugar



1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

Add flour mixture to the egg mixture a little at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Pour into 9″ x 9″ pan.

Sprinkle on Easter chocolate candies and sprinkles (or chocolate chips as in the recipe for Chocolate Chip Blonde Brownies).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Cool in pan.

This is a very easy recipe with minimal ingredients.

It does make a thick batter.

I used a little offset spatula to spread the batter in the pan.

I think this would be another fun one to try to put all kinds of candies on top of the bars: jelly beans, peanut butter cups, Peeps, etc.

What a festive and pretty holiday treat! I love making something ordinary into something more extraordinary by using holiday candies and sprinkles – it’s just so fun! Go crazy and try your own variation of these delicious – and very festive – Easter Blonde Brownies!

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Lemon Bars

This recipe for Lemon Bars comes from one of Grandma’s sisters, who got it from her daughter (my mom’s cousin and my godmother). I just love how these family recipes were passed around from family member to family member. Mainly that’s because they’re so amazingly GOOD! Grandma and her sisters loved their lemon. I have done so many different recipes for lemon bars on Plenty Sweet Life like Lemon Cheese Bars, Lem-O-Nut Bars, Lemon Love Notes, and Lemon Squares.

Speaking of family, I had to share this photo today of my mom (on the right) and her cousin (the one this recipe is from – on the left). This looks like they were about 3 years old, and don’t they look like they’re having fun?!!! Ha! I LOVE the look on their faces! They look like they don’t really understand how this sledding thing is supposed to be fun.

It’s just too cute – both of them with the snow pants, coats, hats, and scarves! This is how long they have been best friends, and still are!

Back to the bars – I seriously don’t know whether to put this into the Bars category or the Cake category – they could go either way. And let me say that either way – these are amazingly delicious. This recipe is also one of the easiest EVER! You’re not gonna believe this – but they’re my new favorite!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Lemon Bars

Mix together:

2 eggs

1 can lemon pie filling

1 lemon cake mix

Put in jelly roll pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Cool and then spread on the frosting.


1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 ounce cream cheese (or about half of an 8 ounce package), softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

1-2 Tablespoons lemon juice, or enough to make the frosting spreadable

After mixing the batter, I put it into my lovely (and quite beat up) jelly roll pan.

It was easier to spread by using my little off set spatula.

After baking, the bars are tender and delicious.

The simple ingredients for both the bars and the frosting makes it a simple recipe to pull together.

The frosting make a nice, thin layer, but that’s all you need. It’s delicious!

These bars were a breath of springtime in the middle of this never-ending winter! Love that lemon!

Yes, these bars are one of my new favorites – again! No kidding, these are so ridiculously easy to make and are so ridiculously delicious – it’s just amazing! You’re going to want to call up your bestie and make up a batch of these tart and lemony Lemon Bars – do it today!


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Coconut Bars

The recipe for today is Coconut Bars and comes from Grandma’s church cookbook. In fact, it was submitted by one of her good friends. I won’t leave her name on here, but I remember hearing Grandma say her name often. That’s just another thing that I love about those old church cookbooks – they were put together by friends, neighbors, and fellow congregation members sending in their best and favorite recipes. I’m sure these recipes were the best ones made for years for different gatherings, afternoon coffee get-together, or church functions. I like to think there was a friendly (or maybe not so friendly) competition amongst these friends and neighbors, to see who could submit the best and tastiest recipes around! They didn’t disappoint! These recipes usually really are the best around – all of them!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Coconut Bars


1 cup flour

1/2 cup margarine (I used butter)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

Pat into an 8″ or 9″ square pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

Beat until thick and foamy:

2 eggs

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 cups coconut

Mix well and spread on top of baked crust.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (I baked it for an extra 10 minutes because it was still jiggly in the middle).

This is another recipe where most of the ingredients are ones that you probably already have in your cupboard. So simple.

Mix up the crust ingredients first . . .

. . . pat the crust out into the bottom of the pan and bake it.

Next mix together the ingredients for the topping . . .

and pour the topping onto the baked crust and bake it again.

I love this simple and delicious recipe!

This really isn’t a recipe for bars – it’s a recipe for more of a candy. These bars are so rich and yummy, that you really don’t need a very big one (I know, I can’t believe I’m saying that, either). I cut the square pan into 12 bars, but next time I’d go ahead and cut them into 16 bars. They’re SO GOOD!!! Next time you need to satisfy a sweet tooth craving, you’ll want to give these Coconut Bars a try!



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Brownies #3

Today I’m sharing a recipe for Brownies #3 that comes from the tiny book I found at my sister’s house. The #3 connotation is simply because there have been that many brownie recipes in Grandma’s file, and while there have also been many with other names, this is the third one simply named “brownies”. It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and what’s the best treat for that special day? Chocolate. Plain and simple. There’s nothing better, in my opinion. This is the same recipe, basically, as the original recipe I made for Brownies from my mom. She probably got her recipe from this tiny book, or at least from the person who donated the recipe to that tiny book. We all know that my mom is a chocolate freak, and unfortunately she passed on this gene to the rest of us in the family (I’m just gonna go ahead and blame that on her). I adored the smell of brownies baking (most Saturdays) while growing up, and for some reason, the smell of brownies always makes me feel loved. Therefore, it makes sense that brownies is what I wanted to make for my valentine.

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Brownies #3

Sift together:

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar


1/2 cup shortening (I used softened butter)

2 eggs, unbeaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Fold in:

1 square unsweetened baking chocolate, melted and cooled for just a bit

1 cup nuts, chopped (I used walnuts)

Pour batter into greased 9″ x 9″ pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

This recipe uses ingredients that any baker will most likely have in their kitchen cupboard. That means that any time you have a hankerin’ for chocolate, you can make these really easy brownies. Trust me, they’re very satisfying.

I decided to use my heart-shaped pan to make these brownies for my valentine. I let it bake for about 20 minutes, then took it out of the oven and put on the sprinkles. Any sooner than that and they sink to the bottom and you can’t see how pretty they are. Back into the oven for at least another 10 minutes.

It actually took about 45 minutes to bake in this pan – it was probably more full than a square pan would be. So – it’s confession time. I wanted to get this out of the pan and freeze it for use on Valentine’s Day. Nope. I tried to get it to come out of the pan and it wouldn’t. It started to break, and I don’t know if you can really see it here, but it cracked right down the middle and only half started to come out. I immediately flipped it back over and just left it in the pan. On to “Plan B”, as one of my friends likes to say.

Here’s what I came up with. Luckily – and I kid you not, here – I had raspberry sherbet in the freezer from making Salad #9, so what goes better with chocolate than raspberry? (BTW – I was making this on a Saturday afternoon and my valentine happened to be home. Whew! We’re celebrating Valentine’s Day RIGHT NOW!) I suppose I could have put the whole pan into the freezer until Valentine’s Day, but instead I made the executive decision to enjoy this treat right away. I scooped up the raspberry sherbet and put it in the middle of the brownie pan. Next, on went the obligatory (in our frig, anyway) canned whipped topping and chocolate sauce. More sprinkles over the top of the whole thing and voila! Happy Valentine’s Day!

I mean, seriously, Happy Valentine’s Day to us! We grabbed two spoons, sat right down, and enjoyed this warm brownie with the cold sherbet, whipped cream, chocolate sauce, and sprinkles. Right there in the middle of a Saturday afternoon in January! I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed a valentine treat more!

Let me tell ya, we did quite a number on it, too. We did save just a little bit for another time, but we sure did work it over. It was absolutely delicious! Sometimes the best laid plans . . .  Well, I’m sure glad I was able to think fast and go on to “Plan B”. It was a great decision. I highly recommend the raspberry sherbet instead of vanilla ice cream, but that would also be delicious. So, the bottom line here – if you want a valentine treat that your valentine will LOVE – make Brownies #3 and add the goodies on top!


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Spice Bars

These Spice Bars are just about the perfect fall treat. They’re easy to make, smell like your favorite fall candle while they’re baking, and taste absolutely delicious. This recipe is another one from one of Grandma’s old church cookbooks.

I saw this photo of what I think was one of Grandma’s (she’s right there in the middle with the big bow on her dress) Sunday School classes – or I guess it could have been a class in school – and I think about these girls (and boys) getting together for coffee or events as they grow up and have their own families. Most of the kids in the area where she grew up probably stayed there in the small town near their farm. Those girls probably used some of these same old church cookbooks while raising their families.

There would have always been Sunday dinners, christenings, baby showers, wedding showers, weddings, birthday parties, church events, etc. to use those recipes for. Today’s recipe just got me thinking about how perfect they would have been for all of those kinds of events, as well as afternoon coffee. All of the church cookbook recipes were perfect for new brides starting out on their cooking and baking lives. Even if the brides moved somewhere else with their grooms, I bet they took those cookbooks with them as a piece of home. Recipes can do that – bring you right back home.

I like that this recipe is a bit different from other bar recipes, in that they are baked on a baking sheet instead of a cake pan, and they’re cut in strips instead of squares. I guess you could cut them anyway you want to, but it’s a little different to have it written into the recipe. Let’s get these bars baked so we can have some with our afternoon coffee!

Here is the recipe as I made it:

Spice Bars

Blend together:

3/4 cup shortening (I used butter)

1 1/2 cups brown sugar


3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Add, beating well:

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together:

2 1/4 cups flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Add alternatively with:

1/4 cup milk

Fold in:

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Pour batter into 7″ x 12″ baking sheet (I lightly sprayed the pan with non stick spray).

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Frost while still warm with:

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 teaspoon lemon extract (I would use real lemon juice next time)

1 Tablespoon butter, melted

1 1/4 Tablespoons milk (I used more than this – see below)

Cut in strips.

There are some pretty simple ingredients in this recipe, but because of all of the spices in there, it really does smell like a fall candle when they’re baking.

It takes some work to get all the batter spread on the pan. The recipe says to “pour the batter” into the pan, but this was definitely a thick batter. It’s more of a “spread it” kind of thing.

Oh man, this smells so good!

The frosting, or glaze, is also kind of thick, and while the lemon extract was delicious, I would use real lemon juice next time. I just like that flavor better.

Here you can see how thick the frosting was. It pulled up the top of the bars. They were still just as delicious, but even though I added about 2 extra tablespoons of milk, I would add more milk or lemon juice next time.

Because I lightly sprayed the pan with non stick spray, the bars came out very easily and I was able to take out the first whole row and cut them on the board. From then on I cut them in the pan.

These bars are so good and smell so good, the whole house smelled delicious – it smelled like Grandma and Grandpa’s house – it smelled like home. They’re spicy with the raisins and walnuts in them, and then to top it all off, they have that delicious lemony frosting or glaze on the top. That’s it – we can’t wait anymore – time for a cup of coffee and a Spice Bar!

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