caramel sea salt blondies

This week has been a roller coaster – highs and lows, elation and tragedy.

My brother’s girlfriend was life flighted to Portland’s trauma center this weekend after a zipline accident. She is recovering from a long surgery, but her spine is severed and the prognosis is paralysis.

Along with this news, I also received some incredibly good news about a freelance project I was wanting – but right now that seems so far away and numb…

because our family also had other news that brings mixed emotions – it is not my story to tell, but it leaves us on this roller coaster, so to speak. I do not mean to be vague, sorry.

…and for those who still ask after him (thank you), no, it is not bad news about Dad. He is recovering from his last chemo and radiation, and we are waiting for his ct scan appointment. I get to see his smiling face often. I appreciate those of you who ask after him, we all appreciate it.

Yes, I tell Dad that he has good wishes and prayers from all over the country, all over the world. Just like I told my brother that there are prayers and positive thoughts coming to him and his friend right now – he was blown away, and grateful.

Last night after receiving the last bit of news, I could not sleep. At 10:30pm I was running on the treadmill. Then I made blondies. and a caramel sauce.

caramel sea salt blondies

dairy, egg, soy and gluten free, vegan

makes 9 squares, in a 9×9 pan

1 tablespoon fresh ground flax
3 tablespoons warm water
3/4 cup butter (Earth Balance soy free)
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon xanthan gum
salted caramel sauce (recipe follows)
sea salt 

Grind flax seed in blender, coffee grinder. Place 1 tablespoon flax in a bowl, add water and stir. Place in refrigerator to set into gel (this equals / replaces one egg).

In mixing bowl, cream together butter,  sugar and vanilla, add flax mixture. Add flour to the bowl but do not stir in. Add baking powder and xanthan gum, stir into flour then fold into butter sugar mixture. Pour mixture into a prepared (buttered, sprayed) 9×9 inch baking dish, adding caramel mixture to the top of the batter, drizzling or pouring and swirling through with a knife. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown and set. Sprinkle with more salt, allow to cool slightly, caramel will set.

salted caramel sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup coconut milk (canned or carton)
3 tablespoons butter (Earth Balance soy free)

In saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, salt, cornstarch, water and milk, stirring until sugar is dissolved and mixture begins to thicken. Remove from heat. Add butter, stirring until combined. Let cool.

Once again I am humbled and grateful for this community – thank you.



  1. says

    There’s not much I can say other than life is tricky and sometimes it’s hard to understand why certain things happen when they do to the people they happen to. Sigh…it makes you appreciate the good–the good experiences, the good moments, the good people. May you find comfort in the good…and in the caramel sea salt blondies 😉

    Thoughts are with you and your family, my friend!

    • spabettie says

      yes – Kev and I have had several conversations this week about the why. there have been a couple of pretty big personal victories to come out of this tragedy, believe it or not – roads one could have chosen and all that. it has brought new perspective, it has been just one more thing to bring our family closer this year. thank you, Abby – I always appreciate your support and your wise words.

  2. says

    Oh my gosh, I am terribly sorry to hear about your brother’s girlfriend. I am sending positive thoughts and healing vibes her way.
    Although it may be hard to celebrate the highs right now, I do want to congratulate you on the freelance project. The best things in life can sometimes feel few and far between when other things are low, but being alive and breathing and able to celebrate sometimes feels like reason enough to rejoice.
    Thinking about you and your family! Hope all goes well with everything.

    • spabettie says

      thank you, Beth – we appreciate it.

      and yes, you are so right – I think the good news is just now starting to hit me, which is good. it was overwhelming for a bit there.

  3. says

    Oh wow… I am so sorry to hear about your brothers girlfriend. I cannot begin to imagine how one would deal with that, physically and emotionally. Sending loving thoughts to you and your whole family!

    I often find myself speeding along in the living room on my bike trainer or baking when I can’t sleep/ can’t stop thinking, as well. Exercise and cooking are good for the heart.

    • spabettie says

      thank you – I appreciate your positive vibes, and so does Kevin!

      yeah, that late night run (and the late night baking!) was just what I needed.

  4. says

    I feel so badly for your brother’s girlfriend, you’ve been in my prayers and thoughts, absolutely. Same with your dad, as always. I bet it feels bittersweet to have some good news for yourself in there too, but congrats, that sounds much much deserved. XOXO

    • spabettie says

      I am starting to get excited about the good news (thank you!!), it’s just beginning to hit me. :) thank you so much for your support, I so very much appreciate it.

  5. Shilpa says

    So sorry to hear about your brother’s girlfriend. Hope the doctors are wrong with the prognosis. Lots of positive thoughts coming your way. Good Luck.

    • spabettie says

      I hope so too, Shilpa – I have been saying this every day – that people hear that all the time and end up walking again! you never know.

  6. says

    Oh Kristina. My heart aches for your brother and his girlfriend. I can’t imagine what that must feel like to go through. I’m glad there is something hopeful in the midst of such tragic news. And it’s good to hear your dad is on the mend, smiling all the way. You can have my shoulder to cry on any time, darlin’. And if I could, I would give you the biggest of hugs right now. You are loved.

    • spabettie says

      I know, I cannot imagine either, and I’ve been watching it firsthand. Truly tragic, although I keep hope and whether anyone believes it, it doesn’t hurt to point out that people are given these dark diagnoses all the time, and completely shatter them!

      thanks so much – I appreciate your friendship so!

  7. says

    Oh Kristina, I’m so sorry to hear about the rough time your family is having! I can’t believe that about your brother’s girlfriend–ziplining seems so harmless, but oh my gosh, that is tragic! I’m hoping for the best for everyone, and am glad your dad is doing well, that caramel exists and that you got a freelance gig. Always have to remember the good, because it DOES outweigh the bad, even if sometimes it doesn’t seem like it.

  8. says

    My thoughts and prayers are with you, dear. I was having a moment yesterday and I just stopped to appreciate all of the good going on because sometimes the bad can cloud all of that – I encourage you to try to do the same, though I know it can be very difficult.

    Also, those blondies look like they could make anyone feel better about things 😉

  9. says

    I’m continuing to send you as much love, strength, prayer and good energy my friend. You are juggling a LOT of emotional things right now…totally here for you if you EVER need a fresh shoulder to lean on, ok?? XOXO
    (PS these blondies look amazing, I’m obsessed with all things caramel sea salt!)

  10. says

    Wow, I am so sorry. I am sending you positive vibes and hoping for a miracle for your brothers GF. That is so horrible. I was just listening to a piece on NPR a couple of weeks ago discussing how zip-lining is taking off in OR and WA and how there needs to be more regulation. That is freaking tragic :(

    • spabettie says

      I hadn’t heard of the gain in popularity here, although I did think it was one of the safer things… (based on what, I’m not sure…)

    • spabettie says

      thanks so much, Heather!! with all the negatives there have been positives, and I’m trying to focus on those. I appreciate all of your support. :)

  11. says

    Wow, you have quite a lot on your plate. I’ll be keeping your family in my thoughts and sending positive vibes to all of you.

    Like others said, Congrats on the freelance gig! And you must have channeled your emotions just right to create these beautiful blondies. Good job!

  12. says

    Wow, you have a lot going on right now. I’ll be sending positive vibes your way and hoping for the best for your brother’s girlfriend. Hopefully the exercise, the blondies (yum), and the freelance gig help make things just a teeny bit better.

    • spabettie says

      thanks so much – we are calming down a bit here… and yes, I am counting my blessings and able to be happy about good news :)

    • spabettie says

      thanks, my dear – I am so grateful for your friendship! there is a smile on my face every day that you are responsible for, I hope you know. XXO!

  13. says

    Sending my thoughts and prayers to you and your family. It’s so tough when everything happens all at once.
    Amidst the flood of emotions, don’t forget to be proud of your accomplishment. Congrats on the freelance gig!

    • spabettie says

      thanks, Gillian. you’re right, I know – and I am able to get excited (it’s kind of just hitting me now…) there was just an overwhelming amount of stuff at once, you know? getting better.

    • spabettie says

      thanks, Lauren – it is much appreciated. Kevin just can’t get over all the positive vibes everyone is sending his way – he had no idea this community was this powerful! 😀

  14. Lora @cakeduchess says

    I’m so sad to hear about your brother’s girlfriend. I will keep her and your dad in my prayers. You really deserve a freelance job-wow! I’m super proud of you, Kristina. These blondies look fantastic. xx

  15. says

    Count your blessings. This is awful, I am so sorry to hear about the accident. Your family is in my thoughts. In an instant everything changes. Crushing to hear.

    To cheer me up, the blondies, I love anything with sea salt.

    • spabettie says

      I have been counting my blessings, Nichole! that is the only good to come from this kind of event, perspective.

      wish I could send some blondies across the pond your way… hope all is well, mama!

  16. says

    Oh, Kristina, I’m so sorry to hear this news. Life is often so fragile and turns in an instant. Sending all good thoughts, prayers, and hugs to you and your family!

    Those blondies look phenomenal. Baking is often the thing that quiets my mind and helps me get through the tough times.


    • spabettie says

      thank you, Shirley. life is so fragile – we definitely have to appreciate everything we have.

      I love that about baking – helps me too.

  17. says

    so sorry for all that you and your family are dealing with. know that we are thinking of you and sending positive thoughts to you. congrats on the freelance project.

    • spabettie says

      thank you! I appreciate all the positive thoughts, and my brother is just blown away by them – he had no idea how powerful a community this is, until I told him :)

  18. says

    Oh dear, that’s awful about your brother’s girlfriend. I’m so sorry, and although I don’t know them, I am saying a prayer for them, that they will somehow be comforted, and that they will have strength, courage and wisdom to endure the trials.

    I know it doesn’t feel much like a celebration, but seriously, congrats on the freelance job. We take our blessings when we can, and you deserve yours.

    • spabettie says

      thanks, Sophia, I really appreciate it (my brother does, too). and thanks – every day I am able to enjoy the excitement about the job more! 😀

  19. says

    I have no words. Life is so weird sometimes. I am so sorry that your family is having to deal with such a heavy load right now. *Big hugs.*

    These blondies are incredible, by the way. :-)

  20. says

    I just read about so much that´s going on with your family. You need to focus on the positive, though it´s hard. Grief and tragedies are very personal, there´s nothing anyone else can feel in your name, but there is comfort in knowing there are many thinking of you all and being there to catch you if you fall.
    Your freelance job sounds awesome, I´m so happy for you!

    • spabettie says

      hi Paula, and thank you. I know, I have tried to remain positive through all of this past year… I am able to most of the time, Dad being so positive helps. When there is so much going on it can be overwhelming, and what I really need to do is remember to take time out, away from it all.

      I am so very grateful for all the love and support we are receiving from all over!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *