Caramel Cracker Bars!

Ask and it will be given to you: seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7.

I love to search the Internet.  It’s like going down a wormhole – you never know what direction it’ll take you. It’s truly amazing!  My husband isn’t really Internet savvy, and sometimes when he’s watching Jeopardy or some such show,  I’ll quickly Google the question that’s being asked and shout out the answer.  I think for a while he thought he’d married a genius.  I finally had to tell him what I was up to because he was so astounded by the depth and breadth of my knowledge. Hee Hee.

I come by it honestly – my dad was total joker.  He got a kick out of everything and he loved a good prank. It did get him in trouble a few times though – most notably when he came home one day shortly after  I’d gotten my driver’s license and shouted out “Kimbo! I bought you a car!!”.  I was so excited – this was a totally unexpected windfall.  I couldn’t believe it. He told me it was sitting in the driveway waiting for me, and when I ran outside at first I didn’t see anything, then I spotted the Matchbox car he had left there.  Now granted, in hindsight this was pretty funny – but remember, I was 17 and this didn’t seem funny at all.  I came back in the house and started crying and told him he wasn’t funny. 

And then my mama, who was the peacemaker in our house, LIT into him. And I mean LIT. INTO. HIM.  I almost fell over I was so surprised (I think he almost fell over too!).  She told him he was going to come home with a car for me the next day or there’d be hell to pay! When I heard that, I really turned on the waterworks (my dad hated to see me cry even if I deserved it). And by gosh, he bought me a car. I don’t remember if it was the next day, but it was that week.  The other thing about my dad was that he know how to get a good deal.  He found me a sweet little Vega – remember the Vega? Here’s a picture:

This picture came from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgspiller/2769738924/

He got it from a little old lady and it only had a few thousand miles on it. Mine was a rusty orange color.  Isn’t this just so totally 70s?  It had bucket seats and surprisingly, quite a bit a of room in the back seats. We could fit 5 people in the car, but it was usually just me and my two best friends, Caralyn and Cheri.

Talk about getting off on a tangent!  See what I mean about the wormhole effect? So anyway, I was goofing around on the Internet the other day, and I ran across this recipe for Caramel Cracker Bars. This is from a Web site called Shugary Sweets (love the name!) – http://www.shugarysweets.com/2011/06/caramel-cracker-bars.html.  It reminded me of a recipe my mom and grandma used to make with Ritz crackers – Mock Apple Pie.  And it was really good (although I’m not sure if apples were more expensive than crackers or why anyone would have thought to make a mock apple pie…).  Totally lived up to my expectations – these are really good.  Extremely rich – best in small quantities, very good with Diet Coke or coffee. It’s crunchy and chewy and kind of candy-bar like.

You’ll need this stuff…

And this stuff…

And a little milk.  After I got started I decided to add some vanilla, so it’s not pictured. And one of these days I’ll figure out a spot to set stuff so I can photo everything at once. We live in a tiny frame house with a gallery kitchen so space is at a premium.

First, line a 9 x 13″ pan with tin foil, and butter it really well (the caramel is STICKY). Now layer a bunch of Ritz Crackers across the bottom.  Make sure to leave some foil hanging over the edges of the pan so you can lift the bars out when they’re done. Set this aside for now.

Crush up the graham crackers, and mix them with the butter, the sugars and the milk in a nice heavy pot.

 

Bring this to a boil, and then boil for 5 minutes – stirring constantly (I like to read a book while I stir – makes the time go faster). Remove from heat, and add some vanilla and stir well to combine.

Pour half the caramel over the Ritz Crackers. Add another layer of Ritz Crackers and pour the rest of the caramel over the second layer.  Top it off with a third layer of Ritz Crackers.  Now pop that bad boy in the fridge while you make the topping

Mix the butterscotch chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips and peanut butter together in a pan.  Cook over medium low heat while stirring until it gets all melty and smooth and yummy.

Pour the peanut butter mixture over the cracker/carmel layers and smooth it out.  Back in the fridge for a few hours until it’s completely cold.

You end up with this! Lip smackin’ yumminess.

And they look so lovely on a plate. I think the next time I make these I’m going to sprinkle some toasted nuts on the top – maybe pecans or almonds? Delish.

Caramel Cracker Cookie Bars

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs (this is 3 rectangles).
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 -2/3 tubes of Ritz Crackers (approximately)
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter

Directions:

  1. Line a 9 x 13″ pan with tin foil, and butter it. Don’t skimp on the butter. Be sure to leave some tin foil hanging over the edges for lifting the finished bars out.
  2. Place a single layer of Ritz crackers over the bottom of the pan.
  3. In a medium sized heavy pot, mix sugars, butter and graham cracker crumbs together.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the vanilla.
  5. Pour half of the graham cracker mixture over the Ritz crackers.
  6. Place another single layer of Ritz crackers on the caramel.
  7. Pour the remaining half of the caramel over the Ritz cracker.
  8. Add one more single layer of Ritz crackers on top of the caramel.
  9. Put this in the refrigerator to cool.
  10. In a medium heavy bottom pan mix together the chips and the peanut butter, and cook over medium or medium low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth and well combined.
  11. Pour over the Ritz cracker caramel layers and smooth out.  Refrigerate until completely cold and set.
  12. Lift the bars out by the tin foil lining and cut into small pieces.
  13. Keep refrigerated.


Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

“My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished 2 bags of M&M’s and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.” – Dave Barry

Chocolate is a beautiful thing. I love to have a cup of coffee, take a sip, and then pop a little piece of chocolate in my mouth and let it melt.  Oh my goodness, what a fabulous way to eat chocolate. I’ve been looking for some good recipes for an event I’m hosting in July. 

I have a group of amazing friends, and one of them, Jacqui, came up with incredibly fun idea about 2 years ago. She created a club called Girl’s Games and Giving. Now, this isn’t an exclusive club, anyone – any GIRL – can come to any of the meetings, which are held about once a month.  Each month a different member gets the chance to play hostess.  Everyone comes to the party and the hostess makes some yummy goodies to nosh on. We usually play games like Catch Phrase or Apples to Apples, or sometimes we just get to yackkin’ and that’s what we do all night.  There is always wine involved (or sometimes sangria) but the best part is the giving. 

Everyone brings $10 to the party, and the hostess gets to pick out the charity that she wants to support that month.  So far, we’ve raised about $2100 for a bunch of different causes.  Sometimes the hostess chooses a charity that is very personal (like donating to someone she knows who is in need of help) and sometimes the money goes to a larger organization such as Feed My Starving Children.  Which, by the way, if you have never gone to a FMSC food packing party, you need too.  It’s a lot of fun and it’s unbelieveable how many meals can be packed up in a couple of hours.  So as the hostess I feel I have two duties.  One is to come up with a fabulous spread; and the other is to pick a really good charity.  This time I’ve decided to give to – whoops, it’s supposed to be a surprise.  I’ll update you after the event.

I need to come up with some great goodies and I found this recipe for a Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball.  Isn’t that cool idea?  A cheese ball that’s sweet instead of savory?  I thought so.  I found the recipe on the Taste of Home Web site and modified it just a tiny bit. Last night I mixed up the ingredients and gave it a little taste.  It was pretty good, but not knock me back on my heels good.  But today, the flavors melded and it is really delicious.

Gather up these low fat ingredients.

Let the butter and cream cheese sit out and get nice and soft.  Then mix together until fluffy.

Mix in the powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla (the vanilla’s in there, it’s just buried under the powdered sugar. Really).

Mix it up good and then add in the mini chocolate chips. Yeah.

Mix those chips and try a taste.  Now cover it up and put in the refrigerator for awhile.  I put mine in overnight but I bet an hour or so would work.

Now dump it all out onto a large piece of plastic wrap.  Don’t eat any (KIDDING).

 

Now use the plastic wrap to keep your hands clean and wrap it up into a ball.  Stick it back in the fridge for about an hour.

While you’re patiently waiting, keep yourself occupied by toasting some walnuts and chopping them up. Chop into pretty small pieces.

Peel off the plastic wrap.  Mmmm. Smells great!

Roll them it in the walnuts.  Keep rolling it until it’s completely covered. This is also a chance to make it rounder if you need to.

Voila!

Very nice! Serve with graham crackers, cinnamon sugar pita chips, vanilla wafers (you get the idea, nothing healthy).

Don’t eat half of it while typing stuff into a blog. I didn’t do that. I had help. Well, at least I had help with the pita chips and graham crackers – I don’t feed chocolate to the dogs.

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cups finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

  • Beat butter and cream cheese in a medium sized bowl until fluffy.
  • Add powdered sugar, brown sugar and vanilla, and beat until combined.
  • Stir in chocolate chips.
  • Refrigerate for 2 hours or longer.
  • Scoop out mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and form into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer.
  • Toast walnuts and finely chop.
  • Unwrap cheese ball and roll in walnuts until well covered.
  • Serve with graham crackers, vanilla wafers, cinnamon sugar pita chips, or any goodie of your choice. 

 

 

 

 

 




Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake



Wrinkles only go where the smiles have been. Jimmy Buffet (take off on a quote by Mark Twain)

Smile, kiddos, it’s good for your soul.  Have you ever noticed how people react to a big grin? It makes them feel loved, I think (I know it makes me feel loved!).

 I have well over 100 cookbooks, and probably about the same amount of those 5′ x 7′ booklets that are always calling my name when I’m checking out at the grocery store (100 Fabulous Casseroles or Slow Cooker Recipes 0r Springtime Cookies), and full access to the Internet with it’s millions of recipes.  But yet, I still find myself buying a cooking magazine on occasion (and certainly any new Ina Garten cookbooks!).  I recently bought the new Better Homes and Gardens recipe magazine, and in it was a recipe for a raspberry coffee cake.  And having a surplus of raspberries, I decided to try the recipe.  And, it was pretty good, but something was missing. So, I made a new version, but this time I used almond extract in lieu of vanilla, and almonds in lieu of pecans.  Yummy!

Somehow I deleted my picture of the ingredients.  I think it’s because I was taking pictures when I made this coffee the first time, the way the recipe was written, and then I chucked those photos!  But, I think it’s going to be okay.

First, gather together your ingredients. You’ll need fresh raspberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, flour, baking powder (make sure it’s not out of date), cold butter and softened butter (leave a stick in the fridge), eggs, sour cream, almond extract, powdered sugar, milk and Marcona almonds (you can use regular but the Marcoa’s add so much to it).

  

Put the raspberries and the lemon juice, along with some water, into a saucepan.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Now add the lemon juice, give it a stir, and then add some sugar and cornstarch.  Bring it back to a boil.

Keep stirring – it’ll start to thicken up.  Cook it for about 2 minutes and then take it off the heat and set it aside.

Mix together some flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the butter – cut it into 4 or 5 pieces.  Using two knives or a pastry cutter (this is my first choice), cut the butter into the flour mixture.

Keep cutting in the butter…

Until it looks like big crumbs.

Now add the egg, the sour cream, and the almond extract. Stir just until combined.  This dough is sticky and a pain in the patootie to work with (a fact lightly brushed over in the original recipe I might add).

Take about half the dough and beat it into submission spread it in a greased pan. The original recipe calls for a 9 x 13″ pan, but I halved the recipe since there are only two of us here.  This is some work, because again, the Dough. Is. Sticky.

Now take your lucious raspberry concoction and spread it on the sticky dough.  This is the easy part. Really.

Now drop the other half of your dough in little piles all over the raspberry sauce.  This part isn’t too hard either.

Now, spread the dough over the the raspberry sauce.  This is a pain and I just have to wonder – do the magazines that publish these recipes actually try them first so that they can tell you if it’s hard to do?  Somehow I doubt it – the recipe made it sound like you just spread it out no problem. Instead, what happens is that the top layer of dough and the sauce mixes all together and looks a little gross.  But not to worry – it comes out all right in the end!

Now mix up some softened butter, chopped almonds, sugar and flour.

Sprinkle this all over the top (mmm, crumble).

Cover the whole thing and pop it in the oven.

While the cake is baking, mix some milk, powdered sugar and almond extract together to make a glaze.

Drizzle this over the cake when it comes out of the oven. Let it cool completely and then cut yourself a big slice (goes great with milk!).

Pretty!

Here’s your recipe.  Two things – remember that I cut my recipe in half.  This recipe is for a 9 x 13″ pan. And again, try using Marcona almonds – the flavor adds much to this treat!

Raspberry Almond Coffee Cake

Ingredients:

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 3-1/2 cups fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1 -1/4 cup sugar

Batter:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks of cold butter
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

Crumble Topping:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup chopped Marcona almonds

Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 or 3 teaspoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions:

  1. Place the raspberries and the water in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for about 5 minutes
  2. Add the corn starch, 1-1/4 cups of sugar and the lemon juice.
  3. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a strong simmer.  Cook and stir until thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan and preheat the oven to 350°.
  5. Mix 3 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1 cup sugar together in a large bowl. 
  6. Cube 2 stick of cold butter and add to flour/sugar mixture, and cut in until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  7. Add eggs, sour cream and 1 teaspoon almond extract, and mix just until combined.
  8. Pat half of this mixture into the prepared pan.  The dough will be sticky and difficult to work with.  Using a silicone spatula is very helpful.
  9. Spread the raspberry sauce over the top of the dough.
  10. Dollop the remaining dough over the raspberry sauce, and using a spatula, spread it around.  It will mix with the raspberry sauce, this is okay.
  11. Mix together the chopped almonds, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup softened butter.  Sprinkle evenly over the top of the cake.
  12. Bake for  40 to 45 minutes until golden brown.
  13. While the cake is baking, mix together the powdered sugar, milk, and 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract.
  14. When the cake is done, place it on a wire rack to cool and immediately drizzle the glaze evenly over the cake.
  15. Enjoy!

 


Ice Cream You Scream We All Scream for Ice Cream

I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man floating down Canal, it doesn’t use numbers or moving hands, it always just says now. Now you may be thinking that I was had, but this watch is never wrong.  And if I have trouble the warranty said, “Breathe in, breathe out, move on”.  Jimmy Buffet – Take the Weather with You.

Woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise – we’re having nutsy cuckoo weather here this week.  We broke a heat record last Tuesday and someone told me we were the hottest state in the country on Tuesday! It was 103°. Then the next day the temp dropped about 30 degrees! 

I love the summer so much, and I don’t know about you, but for me it always brings a strange mixture of joy and melancholy.  I don’t know if the melancholy is because I love summer so much and I know it’s going really fast; or if it’s because I’m older now and I have so many great summer memories!  Can’t go back, sometimes I wish I could. 

I was listening to Jimmy Buffet this morning – he’s really quite a wordsmith .  If you aren’t familiar with his music, I’m here to tell you he’s not all cheeseburgers and margaritas and let’s get drunk.  A lot of the lines from his songs pop into my head at appropriate (and often inappropriate) times.  Stuff like, “I’m down on the knees of my heart” and “My twain of thought is loosely bound, I guess it’s time to Mark this down” (get it? Mark Twain?) and of course his take on tattoos – “A permanent reminder of a temporary feeling” (and same song – “There’s no dumba** vaccine” – HAH – sure wish there was.   And of course, his songs remind me of bright blue oceans and salt water and palm trees!  I love to play them in winter to chase away the blues – but summer time calls for the windows rolled down ruining my car speakers ’cause I like to play it LOUD.

So I was listening to Mr. Buffet’s song Breathe in Breathe Out and realized that too often I’m thinking of the past or planning the future (You know what God does when we makes plans, don’t you? He laughts!) instead of enjoying the moment.  Now is what I’ve got and I want to make the most it.

The heat wave we had made me want to make ice cream – homemade ice cream is so wonderful!  We used to make it as a treat when I was a kid in a wooden hand crank machine (you know, with all the ice and salt).  Seemed like magic – actually still does.  I like to make the custard style (cooked base) as opposed to Philidelphia style, which has no eggs and does not use a cooked base.  I think the eggs give it spectacularly rich flavor.   Today I’m going to make three kinds of ice cream. – Butter Pecan, Mint with Chocolate, and of course, Vanilla.

Making ice cream is really easy – there are some tips and tricks I’ve learned that I’ll share as we go along.  Some recipes call for adding the sugar to the cream while it’s warming and some don’t; some recipes call for adding the eggs directly to the warmed cream without tempering, etc.  What I’m going to show you here is the way that works best for me.  We’ll start with vanilla and I’ll show the basic steps only for the vanilla ice cream, but these steps apply to each recipe.

These are the ingredients you’ll need for plain vanilla bean ice cream.  You can substitute vanilla paste or vanilla extract for the vanilla bean. Vanilla beans can cost a bloody fortune.  Here’s a hint – sometimes I can find them at Costco.  I think you get 5 in a tube, and they’re about $9.00.  You can reuse them, but that just gives me the willies. Last time I priced them at the large grocery store near us I found 1 bean for $7.99 – not going to happen.

First, put your cream and milk into a heavy medium size sauce pan (I know there’s stuff floating in the cream in this picture.  It’s because I forgot to take a picture of the cream before I put in the vanilla bean. You’ll see this picture again later). 

 Take two vanilla beans and cut them in half. I just hold them down on a cutting board and use a pointy paring knife.  They’ll feel a little tough. Take the point of the knife and scrape out the seeds in the center of the vanilla bean.

Looks a little like itsy bitsy caviar, doesn’t it?

Put the bean halves and all the seeds into the cream mixture. Warm this over medium or medium low heat, just until you see bubbles around the edges. Don’t boil it! Once it’s warmed up, turn off the heat and let it sit for 20 minutes or so. The vanilla flavor will steep in and become richer.

While the cream is warming up, separate your eggs.  You can save the egg whites for another use (you can freeze them, you know). I actually give them to the dogs as a special topping for their food (I know, gross, but they of course love it!).

Put the yolks in a medium to large size bowl. Pretty!

Mix in the sugar and salt and whisk vigorously.  You’ll see the eggs turn a more lemony yellow as you whisk them.  Now turn the heat back on under the cream – remember, you don’t want it to boil. 

Get a kitchen towel, wet it thoroughly, wring it out, and pull it tight around the bottom of the bowl your eggs are in. You are going to need to whisk very quickly while pouring the hot cream mixture into the eggs, and since I’m pretty sure you only have two arms, you need a way to keep the bowl stable.

Scoop out about a cup or so of the hot cream. I like to use a measuring cup.  Slowly pour the cream into the egg sugar mixture, whisking very quickly (aren’t you glad you stablized your bow?).  By doing this you are tempering the eggs.  This helps you to avoid have scrambled egg ice cream, which has never been one of my favorite flavors. 

Now pour the tempered eggs back into the pan and continue to heat, stirring constantly.  I know I keep saying this, but Don’t Let It Boil!!!

Remember this picture? As you stir, you’ll feel it getting thicker (use a wooden spoon – you’ll see why in the next picture).

When you think it’s done, see if it’s coating the back of your spoon.  You can tell for sure when you can draw a line through the coating on the back of the spoon and it stays separated (now lick your finger – it will make you want to stop right now and pour yourself a glass of custard – try not to do this).

Pour this lovely custard though a strainer into a clean bowl.  Put this in the refrigerator and let it get really cold.  Here’s a tip: the colder it is, the better it will freeze, and the smoother and creamier it will be.  I cool mine in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.  It’ll keep a couple of days before you need to freeze it. When you’re ready to freeze it, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular ice cream freezer. After freezing, put it in the freezer for 2 hours or longer so it really sets up – when it comes out of the ice cream maker it will be the consistency of soft serve. 

The finished product! This is before hardening it up in the freezer.

Okay, now let’s make Butter Pecan.  You’re going to use the same methodology, slightly different ingredients.

First, coarsely chop some pecans.  This is about 5 or 6 pulses in the food processor.

Put half the pecans in a dry pan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring, until they get nice and fragrant.

Put the cream and milk into your pan, add the brown sugar, and stir well. Pour the toasted pecans into your cream mixture.  At this point you will follow the same procedure of warming the cream/pecan mixture just until bubbles form around the edges, then take it off the heat and let it steep for 20 minutes or so.  This will give it a nice pecan flavor.

While the cream is warming. put the rest of the pecans in your pan, add the butter, and cook and stir over medium heat for about two minutes.

Add some brown sugar, and continue stirring.  The brown sugar will start to melt and caramelize. 

Yummy.  Don’t let them burn!  Now take them off the heat, keep stirring for a few seconds. Grab a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and ine it with parchment paper or non-stick foil.

Spread them out on the parchment paper and set aside.  Resist the urge to sample right away – hot sugar will burn your tongue!  Once they’re completely cooled, break them up and put them in a ziplock. Hide them from your husband.  You’ll need these later when you freeze the ice cream.

Right before your ice cream is finished freezing, add the candied pecans.  They’ll get mixed in perfectly and won’t get soggy.

Oh my. This is really sinful.

Now for the grand finale, Mint Chocolate!!

Again, same basic procedure here., slightly different ingredients. The mint smells fabulous!

Pack a cup full of cleaned, dried mint leaves.  Try to find these in the unpackaged produce section – they’re less expensive.

Add them to cream mixture, warm it up, and let it steep. You’ll strain them out once you’ve made the custard.

Before you freeze your custard, chop up some chocolate.  Basically take a big knife and shave it off. Use whatever you like – I’ve never tried white, but that might be fun.

Put it in a double boiler, let it melt, and add some oil.

Pour it into a little pitcher or bowl and let it come to room temperature.

Just as the ice cream is finishing, pour in the melted chocolate in a thin stream – isn’t this cool? The ice cream is so cold it breaks the chocolate into little tiny bits.

The final result!  Very good with homemade hot fudge sauce (I’ll post the recipe for that later).

I have a blast making ice cream. These are just three recipes among hundreds.  Have fun with it!  One last hint.  I looked all over for cardboard ice cream containers and I finally found them at sweetblisscontainers.com. They offer both pint and quart size (all of these recipes make a little better than a quart) and they are terrific.  Check them out!

Here are your recipes (please note, I’ve been making these for awhile, have changed some around, but I can’t remember where they came from except I know they are from the Internet) :

Vanilla Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cup milk
  • 2-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. Place the cream and milk in a medium size heavy saucepan.
  2. Slice both vanilla beans in half, and scrape out the seed from the vanilla beans, and add the beans and seeds to the cream mxture.
  3. Heat the cream over medium low or medium heat until it starts to bubble around the edges, then remove from heat.  Let steep for at least 20 minutes
  4. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk vigorously until the eggs start to lighten to a lemony yellow. Place a wet towel around the bottom of the bowl to stabilize it.
  6. Reheat the cream mixture – do not let it boil.
  7. Take about a cup of the hot cream mixture and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk vigorously until all combined.
  8. Pour the egg/cream mixture into the remaining hot cream mixture. 
  9. Continue to heat, stirring constantly, and do not let it boil.
  10. When the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, run your finger across the back of the spoon. If you leave a clean mark that doesn’t close, the custard is done.
  11. Strain into a clean bowl, discarding vanilla beans.
  12. Refrigerate several hours or overnight before freezing.

Butter Pecan Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups pecans, divided
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2/3 cup dark brown sugar plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

    1. Coarsely chop pecans.
    2. Pour the milk, cream and 2/3 cup brown sugar into a medium saucepan, and stir to combine.
    3. Saute 3/4 cup of the pecans in a pan over medium heat until toasted, and add to cream mixture.
    4. Warm cream mixture over medium low or medium heat just until bubbles appear around the edges.  Remove from heat, let steep at least 20 minutes.
    5. Mix eggs and salt together in a large bowl.  Whisk vigorously until eggs turn a lemony color. Place a folded wet towel around the bottom of the bowl to stabilize it.
    6. Reheat cream mixture, do not allow to boil.
    7. Take about a cup of the hot cream mixture and slowly pour it into the egg mxture, whisking constantly. 
  • Continue to heat, stirring constantly, and do not let it boil.
  • When the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, run your finger across the back of the spoon. If you leave a clean mark that doesn’t close, the custard is done.
  • Strain into a clean bowl, and discard pecans.
  • Refrigerate several hours or overnight before freezing. Add vanilla before freezing.
  • Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil.
  • Toast the remaining pecans in a saucepan with the butter, sauteing for 2 minutes.
  • Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and continue stirring until the sugar melts and caramelizes.
  • Pour the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and spread it out. Let it cool completely.  Break into small pieces, and place in a Ziplock bag until needed.
  • When the ice cream is almost done freezing, add the pecans.

Mint Ice Cream

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup mint leaves, tightly packed
  • 4 egg yolks
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 ounces chocolate (semi-sweet or mik)
  • 2 teaspoons oil

Directions:

    1. Place cream, milk and mint leaves in a heavy saucepan over medium heat or medium low heat. Heat just until bubbles appear around the edges and then remove from heat. Let steep for at least 20 minutes.
    2. Mix the egg yolks, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
    3. Whisk vigorously until the eggs start to lighten to a lemony yellow. Place a wet towel around the bottom of the bowl to stabilize it.
    4. Reheat the cream mixture – do not let it boil.
    5. Take about a cup of the hot cream mixture and slowly pour it into the egg mixture, continuing to whisk vigorously until all combined.
    6. Pour the egg/cream mixture into the remaining hot cream mixture. 
    7. Continue to heat, stirring constantly, and do not let it boil.
    8. When the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, run your finger across the back of the spoon. If you leave a clean mark that doesn’t close, the custard is done.
    9. Strain into a clean bowl, and discard mint leaves.
    10. Refrigerate several hours or overnight before freezing.
    11. Melt 3 ounces of chocolate in a double boiler, and add 2 teaspoons of oil.  Pour into a small bowl and let it come to room temperature.
    12. At the end of the freezing cycle, drizzle the chocolate mixture into the ice cream in a thin stream.


No Bake Party Bars!

Although there is some cooking involved. This is a recipe my  brother and I would pester my Mom into making when we were kids – I think she finally got so tired of it she taught me to make them.  It brings back so many memories!  I was really blessed – my Mom always encouraged me to experiment in the kitchen (she even let me cut up her cookbooks to make my own!). 

And boy is she a great cook – she taught me to make so many Norwegian goodies – lefse, krumkake, rosettes, fattigman, sandbakkels…she did try to get my brother and me to eat ludefisk one time, but we escaped a fate worse than death when she accidentally cooked it too long and it turned to juice. Uff da.

Okay, I’ve never been the brightest bulb on the tree when it comes to technology, but I just realized that somehow I deleted the picture of all the ingredients.  So I’ll just tell you as we go along. You’ll also notice these bars are virtually calorie free (I think my nose is growing).

 

 Place eggs, cocoa, sugar and butter into a double boiler.

Cook and stir until the temperature reaches about 180° F. Keep stirring so the eggs don’t scramble!

Crush graham crackers in a Ziplock bag (use a rolling pin or a can of something). You’ll need an entire box of graham crackers.  This is 27 rectangles. I would’ve used my food processor here but I was too lazy to drag it out.

 

I’d recommend doing 1 pack (9 rectangles) at a time.  Crush ’em up nice and small.

Like this.

Toast some pecans and chop ’em up. I like to toast them in the microwave.  Mine are usually frozen, so I put them in a glass pie plate, and nuke them on high for 1 minute.  Then I stir them, and give them another 30 seconds. 

Get out a big bowl.  Put the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, chocolate mixture and vanilla in the bowl. Mix well.

Now don’t be like that.  I know this looks a little bit like a cow pattie, but it’s really good and it’ll be fine once we get the other layers on it.

Quit laughing!  I know this is a horrible picture.  Remember, I’m technology challenged. Anyway, pat the mixture into a nicely buttered 9″ x 13″ pan. Put it into the refrigerator until it’s chilled.

Now put some butter, milk and powdered sugar into a bowl.

Mix it together until it’s nice and creamy.

Like this!

Spread this yummy mixture over the first layer.

Like this!

Melt the Hershey bars and spread over the butter/powdered sugar layer – it’ll make a nice marbled effect.  I usually melt the Hershey bars in the microwave on 50% until it’s just melted. Oh my goodness, I just realized that when I first starting making this there were no microwaves!  That doesn’t make me feel old or anything! On a  side note, do you see at the bottom of the picture toward the right where it’s kind of fuzzy?  I took about 30 pictures and finally decided it was the lighting in my kitchen at night.

 

Until I started taking this picture this afternoon and I was getting the same fuzzy result. Guess what? There was a big greasy fingerprint on my camera lens. My POINT AND SHOOT camera lens which covers itself automatically when it’s shut off.  No idea how this happened but as you can see from this picture and the next one a clean lens makes a big difference!

Aren’t they pretty?

 

Ingredients for 1st layer:

  • 2/3 cup butter (no substitutes)
  • 3/4 cup of good quality cocoa powder
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 slightly beaten eggs
  • 4 cups crushed graham crackers (about 40)
  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 cup toasted pecans
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Ingredients for 2nd layer:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons of milk

 Topping:

  • 1-1/2 almond Hershey bars (6.8 ounce size)

Directions:

  1. Butter a 13 x 9” pan.
  2. Mix 2/3 cup butter, cocoa powder, sugar and eggs together in a double boiler (or use a bowl that fits snugly in a saucepan without touching the bottom, put water in the pan, place the bowl in the pan, and heat to a slow boil). Cook until the mixture is slightly thick (should be about 180° to ensure eggs are cooked). Keep stirring to make sure the eggs don’t scramble. 
  3.  Thoroughly mix graham crackers, coconut, pecans and vanilla into the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared 13 x 9” pan and place in the refrigerator until chilled. 
  4. For the second layer, mix together 1 cup butter, powdered sugar, and milk, and spread over the bottom layer and refrigerate until firm. 
  5. Melt Hershey bar, cool slightly and spread over powdered sugar layer. Score top for easy cutting. Chill until firm. 
  6. Store in an airtight container with wax paper between layers. These will freeze well.

This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there’s a rumor going around the shop that some of us are someday going to come to life. C.S. Lewis