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:


Here’s what the first layer looks like:


And with both layers and final toppings:


And done!


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


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.

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


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


  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.


You take these.


Mix it in this.


Add these


And get this!

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?

Yummy & Quick! Ham & Cheese on a Bagel Thin.

h&c on a bagelTuesdays will be deemed Yummy & Quick day here at Cute~Ella Cooks. I’ll share something that I find Yummy to eat and Quick to make with you guys. If you have something Yummy & Quick that you make and would  like to share, please do!

As part of my challenge for this week over on Budgets are Bold & Sassy, I have to keep both my food numbers (calories/fat/fiber) in control this week, but I also challenged myself to bring my lunch every day this week.

Tall order, I know!

One of my favorite ways to fill both is to make Ham & Cheese on a Bagel Thin.

(By the way, I love Bagel Thins. They’re awesome at 110 Calories, 1 g Fat, 4 g Fiber and they’re delicious. They’re like a bagel with the flavor, but without the 300+ calories. Totally awesome toasted with a wedge of Laughing Cow Cheese.)

If you follow me, you might know that Ham & Cheese on a bagel is an old favorite of mine from when I was a kid. It’s been reintroduced into my life because they’re easy, they’re tasty and they’re warm!

I like to construct mine as follows:

  • Open Bagel Thin.
  • Put some yellow mustard on the bottom.
  • Put 2 oz of ham on the bottom.
  • Put one slice of cheese (I like to have Cheddar) on that.
  • Put top of the bagel on that.
  • Either put in the toaster oven for a bit (til it’s warm or the cheese is melted) and or eat then.

Personally, I think it adds a little something extra when it’s warm.  When I’m at work and don’t have a toaster oven, I put it in the microwave wrapped in a paper towel for about 20-30 seconds.

This came in at 250 Calories, 9.5 g Fat and 4 g Fiber. You can make it with less with low-fat cheese and low-fat ham.

What’s your favorite Yummy & Quick to make?

Please note that I did not receive any compensation for using any particular products. I’m just sharing what I like.


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:

And baked them up like this:

And the insides looked like this:
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?

I Like a Little Kettle in My Corn

I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Kettle Corn. Other than caramel corn, it’s my favorite way to eat popcorn. The best I’ve had so far is this kind that you can get at the Daytona Flea Market or order online, but I love most of it – so much so that I often have some microwaveable 100 calorie bags on hand just to get a fix.

The other day I wanted some kettle corn and didn’t have any to put in the microwave so I looked online and found this recipe. (My added notes are in italics.)

* 1/4 cup vegetable oil
* 1/4 cup white sugar (Plus a couple of tablespoons for the end)
* 1/2 cup unpopped popcorn kernels
* A healthy pinch of kosher salt and some in a shaker for taste

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat. Once hot, stir in the sugar and popcorn. Cover, and shake the pot constantly to keep the sugar from burning. Once the popping has slowed to once every 2 to 3 seconds, remove the pot from the heat and continue to shake for a few minutes until the popping has stopped. Pour into a large bowl, and allow to cool, stirring occasionally to break up large clumps.

How hard could that be? Here’s what I did. (I changed just a couple of things.)IMG_3518

I used my tall stock pot for this adventure. It’s the one I use when making homemade popcorn so that there’s enough room for the popping action.

(What? You’ve never made it? Oh dear. You MUST try homemade popcorn if you like popcorn. It’s so much better!)

Now, I did put the vegetable oil in the pan and heated it up but instead of just putting the sugar and popcorn kernels in, I put a healthy pinch of kosher salt in first and stirred it around the oil.

IMG_3519Once it seemed evenly distributed, I put the sugar and 3 kernels of popcorn in the bottom. I do this to gauge when it’s hot enough to go. (A trick an old friend taught me.)

When they pop, put the rest of the popcorn in and give it a good stir.

They will start popping almost right away so give it a few stirs and get a cover on that pot quickly! You don’t want popcorn all over the place…at least I don’t.

It’ll take just a few min to get it all popped. You want to pay attention and listen carefully because you do not want this to burn.Also, I found it helps to shake the pot over the heat (a strong circular motion will suffice) to keep it from burning on the bottom.

Once the sound slows to 2-3 seconds between pops turn the heat off and let it sit for a few moments. It may continue to pop as the final kernels get settled. IMG_3521

Let it cool for a few moments so you don’t burn yourself and sample a few pieces. Note that some may be burnt and that’s typical but the rest is delicious.

Here’s where the “to taste” comes in. When I tried it, it wasn’t sweet enough so while it was still warm, I shook about 1/8th of a cup of sugar while I carefully stirred it around. When I tasted it again, I felt it needed more salt so using my regular shaker, I gave it a few shakes and stirred some more.

Add these parts a little at a time and get it just right for you!

How about you? What’s your favorite way to eat popcorn?