Craisin Pistachio Magic Bars

IMG_4717When I was a wee Ella, one of my favorite holiday treats were those Magic Bars. You know the ones with the graham cracker butter crust, condensed milk, coconut, chocolate and nuts? Yes, those.

They’re still one of my favorites, but now I make them a little differently. (As I am wont to do because I like things to be different so I change up the ingredients.)  Sometimes I use toffee, sometimes cranberries and white chocolate, sometimes dried cherries and dark chocolate. You never know what I’m going to toss on them!

I haven’t tried this particular combo, but I do love Craisins and Pistachios so I decided to give it a whirl. If you try it and hate it, so sorry. I’m anticipating this to be delicious.

You’ll need:

  • 8 or 9 inch round pan (I used a foil disposable one)
  •  Sleeve of graham crackers crushed up
  • 1/2 cup of butter – melted (one stick)
  • can of sweetened condensed milk (I used about half of it, you can fix having left overs by making two of them if you’d like, just double everything else…or make two different ones!)
  • 1 cup plus a small handful of shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup plus a small handful of craisins
  • 1 cup plus a small handful of coconut
  • 1 cup plus a small handful of dark chocolate chips (I used mini ones)

What to do:

  • Preheat oven to 375*F.
  • Melt butter in microwave safe dish big enough to mix crushed graham cracker into too.
  • Use the butter paper to grease the inside of the pan. If you don’t have enough on the paper, use your non-stick spray I’m fairly certain you have or use a little more butter.
  • If you haven’t already, put sleeve of graham crackers in zip lock freezer bag and smash them up.
  • Mix crumbs into melted butter and press them into the pan for the crust.
  •  Drizzle a little of the condensed milk around the top of the crust and use the back of a spoon to spread it around.(NOTE: When drizzling, hold the can of condensed milk up high and pour slowly so it doesn’t GLOB onto the surface.)
  • Use about half a cup of each of the pistachios, craisins, mini chips, and coconut and layer them on the condensed milk. Press them down so they stick.
  • Drizzle another layer of condensed milk and use the back of a spoon to spread it around a little. 
  • Use other half cup of pistachios, craisins, mini chips, and coconut and layer them on the condensed milk. Press them down so they stick.
  • Then you want to drizzle a little more of the condensed milk on and toss a the handful of each on top.
  • Cover with foil and put in the oven for about 25-30 min. I like to check after 20 or so to keep an eye on it.
  • It’s done when the coconut is browned and it doesn’t look soupy.

Here is the crust:

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Here’s what the first layer looks like:

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And with both layers and final toppings:

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And done!

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I wish you luck. What would you put on these bars if you didn’t want (or have on hand) crasins and pistachios?

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Sassy and Salty Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_4341We were the cookies that live in the bag and we have a story to tell.

We were made on a whim one day and some of our comrades were taken to the Track for a day out and about. They were good cookies and we will miss them.

Some were sent to their death as munchies for the return trip to one of Cute~Ella’s friends road trip

There were many of us, but now we are but a few.

The other day we heard Cute~Ella talking about how she was going to take us to work to share, but we just sat on her desk all day.

Wanting to get out of our misery of life in the bag, we stared at her all day long. Our salty peanuts and dark chocolate begging her to be eaten.

She held out though, wavering around 3pm when the snack time kicked in and we really thought we had her!

But alas we did not.

IMG_4344Apparently she had plans for us later that evening and she rose to our challenge…Armed with a glass of milk and a bad attitude, she savagely ate us one by one.

Some of us were munched on. Some of us were drowned in the icy cold milk.

Some were shared with that guy she lives with and while that sped things along, well?

We never stood a chance.

She faced that challenge head on and won.

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I alone am left. Although nibbled at and a little worse for wear, I am the one left to tell our tale.

***

modified from Hershey’s recipe

Ingredients:

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips
1 cup cocktail peanuts

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet. I use my mini ice cream scoop.
  3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 5 dozen cookies.

***

Please note that I received no compensation from Hershey’s for writing this post. The Special Dark Chips are just the ones I like to use when I have them on hand. They were paid for by my own money. Or Franks.

Cherry Chocolate Muffins: A Photo Essay

Previously from here.

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You take these.

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Mix it in this.

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Add these

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And get this!

Helpful Hints: Decorating with Sprinkles

When I’m decorating with sprinkles, I like to frost first and then dip to ensure maximum sprinkle cover. What can I say? I love sprinkles and other decorations! That said, they can be messy to work with and a pain to clean up.

Here are a few of the things I keep in mind when I’m using those lovely little colored treats:IMG_3950

  • When you’re pouring the sprinkles onto a plate or dish to dip your cupcakes into?
    Pour low to avoid them bouncing everywhere!
  • If you’re dipping frosted items into sprinkles?
    Allow it to set for a few minutes so you don’t end up with wet frosting in your sprinkle dish!
  • If you’re sprinkling onto wet frosting?
    Do so with your fingers, not so far above the frosted item so they don’t go all over.
    Alternately, put all the frosted items into a foil cake baking dish and it will collect the rogue sprinkles and keep (most of) them off your floor

And remember that you can use things other than sprinkles for decorating! Mini chips, little candies, nuts, sugar and spices…there are many possibilities to try.

What do you like to decorate with that’s not a sprinkle?
#helpfulhints

Home Made Whipped Cream

IMG_3842Whenever I really want to impress someone (or myself) with a dessert and it includes whipped cream, I always make it from scratch. Considering how easy it is, I’m surprised more people don’t!

(I once taught a non-cook to do this in about 10 minutes and they’ve done it again and again since! You can do this too.)

Here’s how I make it.

For a good sized bowlful you will need:

  • 8 oz of COLD Heavy Cream.
  • Tablespoon or two of Sugar (or Splenda, whichever you prefer)
  • Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract for regular (Almond, Mint whatever flavor compliments your dessert, be careful with citrus flavors, they might change the texture of it)
  • A metal or glass bowl
  • A mixer

Simple stuff, yes? You probably already have everything except the heavy cream and Stewarts sells that if you don’t want to go to the grocery store.

Achem. Anyway!

So first, you want to do this in a metal or glass bowl because they can get cold. The one I use is a metal one that holds about 2 quarts. And you want everything really cold because it helps with the whipping, so I put the bowl and beaters in the freezer for a bit before I’m going to make the whipped cream.

Frost on the bowl is a good thing.

Pour the cold heavy cream in the cold bowl. Add flavor and sugar and mix on low setting to get bubbles formed. Now turn it up to medium until it thickens a little and then I like to go to high to finish.

Here’s the thing about fresh whipped cream…it looks like not much is happening and you might want to give up. Don’t! You want to give it a little longer and all the sudden POOF! Whipped Cream.

It’s important to stop when it forms peaks. For those of you who might not know what this means, if it’s leaving pretty design lines in the whipped cream and they’re staying pretty? Well then you’re done. Don’t over whip it or you’ll end up with a consistency more like butter than whipped cream. Tasty yes, but workable? Not so much.

There you have it! Fresh, home made whipped cream in under 10 minutes (not counting chilling time) any time you want.

Your diet hates me. I know. So you’re going to try it, right?

Dreaming of it all…

In a few short weeks, I’ll leave my very small apartment with a tiny kitchen and move to a slightly less small apartment with a very big functional kitchen.

I’m so very excited. Basically, the kitchen was the one of the few reasons I said yes to this apartment with only one closet and no storage space. Yes, it has some lovely features, but only one closet. Whatever, I’ll make it work.

I am however very excited to have SO. MUCH. SPACE. in my new kitchen AND a full sized stove. Do you know what that means? I can make more than one cookie sheet of cookies at once. I can do roll out cookies and have real decorating space and, and, and oh the possibilities are endless.

I will most certainly be making roll out sugar cookies – they’re some of my favorites to make and decorate for special occasions. Gingerbread cookies and other holiday cookies now that I can cook them faster and have room to cool them.  I’ll also feel free to make meringue cookies. I do love them so, but they have to be baked and sit still for a very long time so I haven’t been able to make them since I only currently have an oven for one cookie sheet. I can also make more than one loaf of bread and cook full pans of lasagna AND a loaf of garlic bread with it!

Also, I’m stoked that I can use my crock pot and try lots of fun new things with that. Right now, I can have my toaster oven out or my crock pot. Stews, soups, roasts and more from my cook book! Yay.

I’m so very excited. I don’t know if you can tell.

So what should I make first? Do you have a favorite cookie or crock pot recipe that I should try?

Ginger Pear? I just can’t share!

Yesterday was Momma’s birthday and Ginger Pear Mini Muffins are her favorite. It sounds like a different combination, but it really works!

Saturday, I mixed up some of this:
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And baked them up like this:
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And the insides looked like this:
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I’m typically a very giving person who will share what I have with most, but some things? I just can’t. Part of it is that I’ve worked hard to make them so very delicious and while I”m willing to make them for others, I can’t just hand over the recipe. (And this is one those things I do use a recipe for!)

Besides, I don’t want people angry at me if they can’t recreate my deliciousness!

What recipe do you have that you can’t bring yourself to share?