Other Sweet Treats


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Magic cookie bars are a childhood favorite I’ve never outgrown. Today, I’m sharing them with a fall twist–fresh bits of apple and tart, chewy Craisins.

KATTY’S MAGIC COOKIE BARS

¼ cup butter, melted
¾ cup graham cracker crumbs
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup chopped dark chocolate (I used Valrhona Guanaja 70%)
¼ cup chopped Valrhona Dulceys (32% blond chocolate)
about ¾ cup flaked coconut—enough to make a generous coconut “snow” layer over the graham crumbs and butter
½ cup chopped pecans
¼ cup Craisins
1 small apple, diced (about 3/4 cup)–I couldn’t find my usual Macouns so I used a Smitten™ and really liked it
a bit more than ½  of a 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk (SCM)
1 tablespoon bourbon to mix into the SCM (optional)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract to mix into the SCM
sprinkle of cinnamon for the top of the pan (optional)

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish. Melt butter, combine with graham cracker crumbs and ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, spread evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover this layer completely with coconut, then nuts, chocolate(s), Craisins and apples. Sprinkle a bit more cinnamon over the top of the apples if you like. Stir 1 tablespoon of bourbon and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract into SCM, then pour evenly over the pan.

Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees F . Run a knife around the outside of the pan while still warm. Cool. Cut into bars or diamonds. Happy fall and happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with the ones you love and the ones who love you most.

Hope and Balashi

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PUMPKIN SPICE CARAMEL BUDINO

It smells like fall in here! Which is a pleasant change, as it sure feels a whole lot like summer outside. But I digress. You can still climb aboard the pumpkin spice train and not heat up the house too much with this tasty budino. It’s easiest to break down in steps, so  here we go.

1. In a small bowl, whisk and set aside:
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In another small bowl, whisk and set aside:
3 egg yolks
Then whisk in:
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon clove
1 cardamom pod, crushed

3. In a small saucepan, combine and heat just to a simmer; then set aside:
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped

4. Get ready to add at the end:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark

5. In a separate saucepan, stir to combine over medium heat till sugar dissolves:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Increase heat; cook without stirring for approximately four minutes, then remove from heat.

Now, here’s where we start moving quickly and combining the previous steps.

a. Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into eggs.

b. Whisk milk/eggs into milk/cornstarch.

c. Slowly whisk all the above into saucepan with caramel in it and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.

d. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons Maker’s Mark.

e. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher/mixing bowl (makes it easy to pour).

f. Pour budino into four ramekins.

g. Proceed to lick all whisks, spatulas and spoons using during the cooking process. AHM NOM NOM NOM! Or shall we do it in Italian? AHM GNAM GNAM GNAM!!!

Something about marshmallow treats brings me directly back to being a kid–piano recitals, playing hide ‘n seek and marshmallow treats. Low energy days call for an update to classic comfort. Brown butter, more marshmallows, and a combination of Rice Krispies and crushed Golden Grahams make these treats extra special EXCELLENT. Not only do they come together quickly, but they just might make you want to break into a happy dance, like our old friend Snoopy.

BROWN BUTTER MARSHMALLOW TREATS WITH GOLDEN GRAHAMS

4 cups Rice Krispies
2 cups Golden Grahams cereal, lightly crushed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick salted butter, browned
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 10-oz. bag mini marshmallows
2 cups (additional) mini marshmallows–keep these separate

Butter an 8 x 8″ baking dish.

Gently crush (in a Ziploc bag, roll with a rolling pin or bottle) the Golden Grahams cereal so it becomes roughly the same size as the Rice Krispies. Combine with Rice Krispies and salt. Set aside.

Brown the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Once the butter melts, stir and watch carefully to be sure it gets just a bit brown and nutty–like so.

Stir in the 10-oz. bag of mini-marshmallows and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla till it’s nice and melted. Now, remove from the burner and stir in the cereal. Once the cereal is combined and evenly coated, add the final 2 cups of mini marshmallows (these won’t melt all the way–that’s our goal) and press into the buttered baking dish.

Cool, cut, happy dance! It’s that easy!

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They call ’em cowboy candy and they’re loaded with sweet heat and a bit of crunch–along with that element of surprise: how hot will this one be? Seems the heat level can vary even within different bites of the same pepper. I ate a particularly spicy ring last summer, experienced an all-over “I’m melting” sensation, then fainted and literally hit the wall. For a while, I was afraid to eat more of them, but I soon got over it and ate the rest because a) they’re damn tasty and b) Yankee thrift prevents me from throwing away perfectly great food. 🙂

What to do with them? Whether you eat ’em like candy, perch them atop a spicy margarita or add them as a garnish for tacos, they’re a welcome guest at a variety of sweet or savory parties. And, as a bonus, the by-product is a fiery syrup you can use to make kicked-up margaritas. I even made my own spicy sugar for dipping the glasses–there goes that Yankee thrift action again. Let’s heat things up, amici!

CANDIED JALAPEÑO RINGS: COWBOY CANDY
And a spicy syrup by-product to boot!

6 jalapeños, cut into thick rings
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground chile (I used 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
additional 1/2 cup sugar for dipping
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Preheat oven to 200 degrees F.
Dissolve water, spices and half cup of sugar in a small saucepan. Stir over medium high heat till it boils. Add jalapeños and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 3-4 minutes. Using a toothpick, dip each jalapeno ring into granulated sugar. Coat the rings generously. Place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
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Bake sugared rings at 200 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Let them cool and air-dry for several hours. You can even leave them uncovered for a day or two.

But wait! Save that syrup and stick it in the fridge–it contributes to a mean margarita.

You’ll see you have a bit of leftover sugar from dipping the rings–to that, add 1/4 teaspoon of the syrup. To make it pretty, add about 7 drops of food coloring. Stir thoroughly to combine. Now you can dip each margarita glass (dip first in a shallow dish of tequila or run a wedge of lime around the top) in the spicy sugar to make a colorful presentation.

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Be sure to have some tortillas or bread or crackers on hand just in case you need to rescue yourself from the ring of fire. 🙂 Cheers!
spicy-margaritas

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They say if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. So, after a failed attempt at making salted caramel pudding a few weeks ago–and after eating all the not-quite-thickened portions myself, MOO–I gave it another go this afternoon. These little babies are heading over the river in their own little individual containers for a cookout with my family, so I’m not going to trick them out even further with caramel sauce and whipped cream as directed in the original recipe, but you sure can!

Let’s do this in steps to keep everything straight. I find it easier to follow this way.

BOURBON SALTED CARAMEL BUDINO
inspired by Marcie Turney’s recipe from Barbuzzo (Philadelphia, PA) via Bon Appetit

8 Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers, crush and set in jars (2 per serving)

1. In a small bowl, whisk and set aside:
½ cup whole milk
2 tablespoons cornstarch

2. In another small bowl, whisk and set aside:
3 egg yolks

3. In a small saucepan, combine and heat just to a simmer; then set aside:
½ cup whole milk
½ cup heavy cream
½ vanilla bean, scraped

4. Get ready to add at the end:
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark

5. In a separate saucepan, stir to combine over medium heat till sugar dissolves:
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Increase heat; cook without stirring for approximately four minutes, then remove from heat. Now, here’s where we start moving quickly and combining the previous steps.

Slowly whisk hot milk mixture into eggs.
Whisk milk/eggs into milk/cornstarch.
Slowly whisk all the above into saucepan with caramel in it and cook over medium-high heat until it thickens, about 3 minutes.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon Maker’s Mark.
Pour through a fine-mesh sieve.
Pour 1/2 cup of budino over each chocolate-cookie lined jar.

Chill. When the east is in the house, ohmygod! Danger! Enjoy! Happy Labor Day, amici!

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Let’s go back to the 70s and 80s with a light and fruity summer treat–perfect to eat when you wanna beat the heat. Too many of us forgot about this delightful fruit mousse-like thinG, so let’s revive it right now. It’s so easy to make and reminds me of times when life was more carefree.

Keep it sweet and simple with just yogurt and Cool Whip, or add fresh fruit. And, if you do add berries, save some for the top to give your pie a grin, because who can resist a smiling dessert? 🙂

The most challenging part of this pie is finding French or custard-style yogurt–not fruit on the bottom, not Greek. Stonyfield’s Smooth & Creamy Organic is an excellent choice. Here in central Connecticut, I was thrilled to find it at West Side Marketplace in Rocky Hill. Stonyfield Organic makes all great things dairy, including my favorite milk and cream. If you can’t find Stonyfield, Yoplait Thick & Creamy is another good option.

COOL ‘N CREAMY SUMMER SMILIN’ BERRY PIE

1 8 oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed
2 6-oz. containers French or custard-style yogurt (try Stonyfield Smooth & Creamy or Yoplait Thick & Creamy): how about strawberry or strawberry banana?
6 oz. fresh raspberries (optional)
1 graham cracker crust (I like Honey Maid)

If you’re using them, set aside the most perfect berries for your smile–or whatever design you’d like to make.

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Fold yogurt into thawed Cool Whip till combined. Now, if you’ll excuse my technical term, smoosh the remaining raspberries into the side of your bowl with a spoon and stir them in, too.

Smooth evenly into graham cracker crust. Decorate top of pie as you like.

Put the pie in the freezer for about two hours so it sets and holds its shape when you slice it. Store remaining pie in the fridge.

slice of pie

Sending you a cool Strawberry Letter of summer enjoyment straight from my childhood. ♫ Feel sunshine sparkle pink and blue, playgrounds will laugh if you try to ask: Is it cool? Is it cool? ♫ Oh, yes, it is!

peanut butter pie

Two great tastes that taste great together–chocolate and peanut butter– come together beautifully and easily. Start with a store-bought Oreo shell, then whip up (literally) a quick ‘n tasty filling.

PEANUT BUTTER PIE

1 Oreo pie shell
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Neufchatel cheese, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter (Skippy is my fave)
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon Maker’s Mark
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a stand mixer, whip the heavy cream till stiff peaks form. Move to a small, separate bowl in the fridge till it’s time to add to the pie.

Again, using a stand mixer, cream together the peanut butter and Neufchatel cheese till smooth. Add sweetened condensed milk, bourbon, vanilla and lemon juice. Beat till smooth, scrape down sides to be sure everything is incorporated. Next, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream you set aside. Then fold in the rest.

Pour into the Oreo shell and smooth the top of the surface. I saved one dollop of whipped cream for the center, just to be fancy. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving. Delicious!

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