Friday, November 30, 2012

Bar None

I bake cookies on a regular basis for my little family. They think it is a major crisis when both the cookie jar, and the freezer stash, are empty.
So I was trying to get a picture of my really awesome hippie shirt-flowy sleeves and all.
I can't figure out how people do these mirror pics.

Christmas time is no different. I make many different varieties that only see the light of day at this time of year. The past few years I have made

Goodie Bars
Toffee Bars
Lemon Bars
Gingerbread Men
Frosted Sugar Cookies
Sugared Sugar Cookies

*double batches of all except for the Sandies.

I pick one day usually in the second week of December, and that is my baking day. I start early and end late. I'm elbow deep in flour, sugar and butter, chocolate, nuts and buttercream. It is a great time.

When I am in the midst of my baking marathon, I miss the years that I used to bake with my sisters before I got married. The conversation, and spreading out the chore of rolling, cutting and decorating sugar cookies. Many hands make light work and all that...

Now we are spread throughout three different states. And none of them are closer than a 16 hour drive. Kind of a bummer.

My sister Bek is on bed rest this Christmas season. She is expecting twins in January. My sister Lyd is working. And Kathryn is going to college. Though she is coming to visit me-after the cookies are all done.

Anyway, off the nostalgic, home sick wagon...

we have the same hairdo!

The recipes I use, are recipes that have always been in my life, for as long as I can remember. (all except the biscotti-that's newish) They are recipes that my mom would haul out in December. That her sisters would make in December. These are the real-deal Barefoot Hippie recipes rooted in my tradition.

The three recipes that I am going to share with you today are all bars. Bars are nice. One pan-in and out of the oven. Done.

I like cutting my 9 x 13 pan of bars into 24. And if I am making up a sample plate for church or a potluck, I cut those 24 into diagonals. They go farther, and they look nice.

These three recipes all have a minimum of ingredients. They are all delicious. They are all favorites of my little family. I hope you add one, or more, to your Christmas baking repertoire this year.

Lemon Bars
1 plain yellow cake mix (I use Aldi brand-works great)
3 eggs, divided
1 stick butter
1 pound powdered sugar
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 T lemon juice

Mix cake mix, butter and 1 egg. Pat into the bottom of a well greased 9 x 13 pan.
Beat together the 2 eggs, cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice until smooth. Spread over the crust.
Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until golden brown.
Hippie Tip: Cool 10 minutes on a wire wrack, then run a sharp knife carefully around the edges to loosen. You will be glad you did. Refrigerate when cool.

Goodie Bars (with a name like that, how can't these be amazing?!)
1 stick butter
1-1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
1-1/2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup chopped nuts
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 can sweetened condensed milk.

Melt butter. Pour into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 pan. Sprinkle crumbs on top to cover butter. In order listed, sprinkle the next 4 ingredients evenly over the crust. Drizzle the milk on top of all, and then let sit for 10 minutes. This allows the milk to soak in and coat all the layers nicely.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
Cool, and again run a sharp knife around the edge about 30 minutes into the cooling process to loosen for later.

Toffee Bars
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
1/4 t salt
2 cups flour
6 bars of Hershey's chocolate (dark or milk chocolate)
1/4 c chopped walnuts

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour. The dough will be stiff. Spread in a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes-until golden. Top with chocolate bars, broken into sections, and put bake into the oven for another minute or two. Spread the melted chocolate over the bars, and sprinkle with walnuts.

Fyi, on my baking day, to maximize my time, and get started off on the right foot, plus look like I am accomplishing a lot, I get the Toffee Bars started and baking, then I assemble the Goodie Bars. While those are baking, I make the Lemon Bars. Hands on time is usually less than an hour.

What cookies or bars on traditional favorites for your family? Share in the comments. Leave a link to the recipe if you so desire. I'd love that.