Food Columnist Judi Leaming uses grandson Josh and his tennis teammates as guinea pigs for bar cookies like these Chocolate Chip Crispies, Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars and Very Special Blondies.

In this column I have the opportunity to chat with you about two subjects that are near and dear to my heart — our grandson, Josh Goldberg, and the 2012 Delaware State Fair. High school tennis season is in “full swing” (pardon the pun!) and once again I’ve taken up my role as team grandmother and snack baker.  Josh is a sophomore at Queen Anne’s High School in Centreville, Maryland and he plays 3rd singles for their tennis team. With an average of three matches a week, this allows me plenty of opportunity to test new bar cookie recipes.

I asked Josh to “rank” the recipes that I’ve made so far and he astutely told me that he wouldn’t be able to do that unless I gave him a prepared sheet with ranking criteria.  Smart and politically correct young man.  Since all of the seven recipes so far tested have been enthusiastically consumed by the young athletes, I’ll just have to choose three to share with you today – and save the others for a different column.

This year’s Delaware State Fair will begin in just 106 days on Thursday, July 19. One of the most popular contests that we sponsor in the Culinary Department has been our Grand Bar Cookie Competition which is sponsored by Forney’s Too, Unique Gifts. This year that competition will take place on Thursday, July 26 and you really should plan to enter.  No advance registration is required and you could win $100.  Information is now available on line at under Exhibitors then Culinary.

Because this has proven to be such a popular contest over the last seven years, one of our judges graciously volunteered to sponsor a Brownie/Bar Cookie competition for kids ages 5 through 10 and ages 11 through 16.  This contest will be held on Monday, July 23rd and again, no advance registration is required and the necessary information is available on line.

The judging criteria for both of the above mentioned contests is included at the appropriate site on-line but IF you want further information about Bar Cookies, you might also want to check out .

Meanwhile I’ll continue to bake brownies or bar cookies for the tennis team because I’d rather pour the batter into one pan and spread it out than have to plop out individual cookie dough onto cookie sheets.  Hopefully I’ll have space in another column to share more recipes with you because tennis season (and my baking) will continue through May.

Cooking Hints: If a recipe calls for butter at room temperature (or the recipe may say “softened”), that is what it means. If a recipe calls for melted butter, that is what it means. These are two different instructions and they will affect the texture outcome of your recipe so pay attention.  Butter is used as flavoring ingredients too so if your recipe calls for butter, use butter.  You will see that each of these recipes requires a different sized baking pan and it is important that you use the size pan that is called for.

Chocolate Chip Crispies
1 cup white corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups peanut butter, creamy or chunky
8 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 (9-x13-inch) baking pan
Butter the pan. Pour the sugar, syrup and peanut butter into a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave on high until it begins to bubble – about 2 or 3 minutes. Once the mixture is boiling, remove from the microwave and stir in the cereal and chocolate chips until well mixed. Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Wet hands, sling off any excess water and press the mixture down until evenly spread in the pan. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Oat Bars
2 cups old-fashioned or rolled oats
1/2 cup milk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (10-x15-inch) baking pan with 1-inch sides
About 30 minutes before preparing the recipe, place the oats and the milk in a small bowl and set aside to allow the oats to start to soften. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease the baking pan and set aside. In a large mixing bowl cream together the sugars and the butter until fluffy. Add the peanut butter and beat again to incorporate then beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add vanilla and beat in. Stir in flour and baking soda to mix then stir in the softened oats and blend well. (Batter will be sticky.) Spread batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes. As soon as the bars come out of the oven, evenly sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes until the chips start to look shiny and melted. Quickly spread the chocolate chips all over the top with a spatula. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Very Special Blondies
2 cups (1 pound) butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar, firmly packed
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
1 (12-x17-inch) non-stick baking pan with 1-inch sides
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the baking pan with parchment paper and set aside. Cream butter and sugars with an electric mixer at medium high speed until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time and add vanilla, mixing well. Slowly add the flour, salt and baking soda to the creamed mixture, beating on low until combined. Using a wooden spoon, fold in coconut, chocolate chips and marshmallows and blend well. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until center is set. Do not over bake. Let cool in pan and then cut into squares.