Thursday, September 30, 2010

Crispy Caramel Popcorn

To celebrate the fact that I have a new power cord for my laptop and can use my computer again, I give you caramel popcorn! I had about 20 teenage girls from church over to my house for an activity last night and made this caramel popcorn for a treat. This recipe is from a friend, and it is to die for. Really. The caramel makes a super-thin coating on the fluffy popcorn and it is incredibly light and crispy when you eat it. It was completely, totally addicting and my husband and I made ourselves sick eating what was left after all the crazy girls went home.

On a fun note, my sweet husband bought me a light box. I'm going to use the lightbox (and the new camera that's coming for Christmas--Eeee! :) to take the pictures for my book. These pictures are some of my first experiments; getting the lights just right is going to take some practice, I think.

Crispy Caramel Popcorn (from Stephanie)
Printable Recipe

2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
6 quarts popped corn (I used an air popper)
2 cups nuts, optional (I didn't use any nuts)

1. Heat your oven to 200 and spray two rimmed baking sheets with non-stick spray.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, cream of tarter, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat.

3. Clip on a candy thermometer and cook, stirring constantly (I actually didn't stir it at all--so much for reading the directions carefully) until the mixture reaches hard ball stage, about 5 minutes.

4. Remove from the heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda. Poor immediately over popped corn, and stir and toss gently until it's evenly coated. Divide the mixture between the two prepared pans and spread into an even layer.

5. Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes. Turn out onto waxed paper and allow to cool completely (I actually let it cool on the pans, and I stirred it a few times as it cooled to break up the big chunks). Store in an airtight container.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Autumn Pork Stew

Happy Tuesday! My laptop is out of commission, and of course, it's what I write my blog on and have all my pictures on, blah, blah, blah. So, in order for you to have delicious food to read about--and hopefully be inspired to make--I've reposted a recipe from a year ago. Enjoy! And send good, laptop-fixing thoughts my way :)

Ah, pork, the delicious, sweet meat from sus domesticus, or the common domesticated pig. A staple in the American grocery store for who knows how long (forever?), sus domesticus has, in recent months, come under very close scrutiny because of it's most unfortunate association with the H1-N1 virus, or Swine Flu (thank you, media).

However, I'm trilled to report the CDC has concluded the H1-N1 virus is spread person-to-person, not from pig-to-person, and I want to celebrate the very happy news by sharing this recipe for my Autumn Pork Stew as part of Om-nom-nomivore's week-long tribute to the (whispering) Swine flu. Let's eat some pork!

The pork in this stew, sweet and lovely in it's own right, is complimented by carrots, sweet potatoes, and slightly bitter turnips. Pale ale adds a layer of flavor, and a touch of tarragon, sage, and cloves gives just a hint of herbiness (if that's a word) without taking away from the star of the stew: the pork.

Autumn Pork Stew
Printable Recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2 lbs pork for stew
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 small onions, chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
1 32-oz carton chicken broth
1 12-oz bottle beer (I used a pale ale)
4 carrots, scraped and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large turnip (about 8 oz), peeled and chopped
1/8 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
3 whole cloves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth or water
1 sweet potato (about 8 oz), peeled and chopped
fresh ground pepper to taste

1. Trim the pork of any less desirable parts, and cut any large pieces into bite-size ones. Season the meat with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Heat a large pot over medium high heat for 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium. Add 2 teaspoons of the oil to the pan and heat for about 10 seconds.

2. Add half of the pork to the pan (don't cheat here and add all of the meat at once; if you crowd the pan the pieces won't be able to brown because they'll steam in each other's juice instead of searing in a dry, hot pot). Once they are down don't try to move them; they need a chance to develop that lovely, flavorful crust that's so yum. After about 3 minutes stir the pork to turn them over, and brown the other side. (Don't worry about cooking the pork all the way through--that's what 2 hours of simmering is for.) Remove the browned meat to a bowl, add 2 more teaspoons of the oil to the pot, and repeat with the rest of the pork. Set all the browned meat aside.

3. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of oil to the pot. Add the garlic and onion, and cook, stirring often, until the onion has started to soften, 3-5 minutes. Watch the fond (browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot). Super dark brown is good flavor, black is bad (blech) flavor. Adjust the heat if the fond starts to burn.

4. Add the chicken broth and beer, scraping all of the browned bits off the bottom of the pot, and bring it to a high simmer over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, turnip, sage, tarragon, cloves, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pork (and any juices that accumulated in the bowl), and bring it back to a high simmer. Cover the pot with the lid slightly ajar, reduce the heat to low, and barely simmer for 1 hour 10 minutes.

5. In a small bowl, whisk the flour and water together. Add the flour slurry and sweet potatoes to the pot, bring it back to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until the sweet potatoes are tender and the stew has thickened (stirring occasionally), 35-40 minutes.

Makes about 6 servings.

I served this with Irish soda bread.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On Fire and Evacuating

Hurriedly packing bags, gathering important papers and pictures, and preparing kids and pets to leave home is not the way someone wants to spend their Sunday evening. But yesterday I found myself and my husband doing just that. A wild fire, sparked by National Guard machine gun practice at Camp Williams here in Utah, started sweeping across the hills just to the south of my house yesterday afternoon. As we read and listened to the lastest information throughout the evening, my 14 year-old daughter said, "This doesn't happen to us. This happens to other people." This time we were the other people.

It was a very strange and surreal thing to watch the flames move across the hills. Our house backs up to some smaller hills (not the ones on fire), and as the moon was rising the smoke above our hills glowed red, and the moon reflected the color in an amazing display. It was stranger still to pack things to take with us in the event we decided to leave our home. Fire is a strange creature, and while the winds were taking the fire away from us, we worried they could change direction at any time.

Of course I packed clothes, important papers like birth certificates, car titles, social security cards, marriage certificates, and pictures that couldn't be replaced. But as I stood in the middle of the main level of my house and looked at everything else we'd leave behind, I kept wondering if I should take more things. I knew it was just "stuff" and that "stuff" could be replaced, but I still wondered. We were leaving voluntarily--other neighborhoods had been told to leave. Was it easier if you had to leave quickly, rather than to stand there second-guessing yourself because you had time?

I'm blessed to have an Aunt nearby who has a house big enough to accommodate our family plus pets, and my sister's family, so that's where we headed when we decided it was time to go. As we drove down the highway we had a perfect view of the fire, a bright red-orange ribbon in the night, and I wondered what the neighborhoods would look like in the morning. I wondered how much damage there would be and what would be left.

As I write this, over 4,300 acres have burned and the fire is mostly contained. And to the tremendous credit of the police, fire departments, disaster response teams, The American Red Cross, and volunteers, evacuees who were displaced were tended to, and all but 3 of the 100's of homes in the path of the fire were saved. There were no fatalities, and only a handful of injuries (that I know of). I am so thankful for the selfless efforts of these people and for the miracles they have performed in the last 24+ hours.

Thank you, all of you.

(Photo credit: I pulled the picture off our local news website. There was no photographer listed. If anyone knows who took the picture please let me know.)

You can see more pictures and read more about the fire here and here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo

There is something deeply satisfying about Cajun gumbo. The rich flavor from the deep roux is amazing, there isn't any other way to describe it. When my husband and I went on our honeymoon to New Orleans I was in absolute heaven.

I'm fortunate enough to have a sister-in-law who is from Louisiana, and one of the first times we visited her and my brother-in-law at their home in Texas she made gumbo. I had never eaten gumbo before and was instantly hooked. She gave me the recipe and I didn't even have to beg. Thanks, Vee! :)

What elevates gumbo to a level above your regular soup is the roux, a slow-cooked mixture of fat and flour. Some people use shortening, or even butter (though butter's not recommended for the long cooking required to make this dark of a roux), but I like to use canola oil. As the fat/flour mixture cooks it starts to develop a nutty aroma and flavor, and as it cooks to a beautiful dark caramel color the nutty flavor intensifies. I should warn you that because the mixture is so hot it will smoke a little as it cooks, so plan on having fans on and a couple windows open. And plan on stirring, a lot. A roux isn't something you can leave unattended.

Before getting to the recipe, I have to say something about the shrimp I used. I live in Utah, which means there are no fresh shrimp to be found, and I've been disappointed by every brand of frozen shrimp I've used, until now. While at the store I noticed a bag of Chicken of the Sea brand frozen shrimp. Even though it gave me a little chuckle, it was a brand I hadn't tried before and I really wanted to make gumbo.

Let me tell you I was pleasantly and wonderfully surprised. The shrimp were very, very good. I bought a 2 pound bag of large (16/20 shrimp per pound) peeled, cleaned, raw shrimp with the tail on. After defrosting the shrimp in the sink in a bowl of cold water and rinsing away all the little bits of stuff, the tails came off easily leaving big, gorgeous shrimp, ready to cook.

Shrimp cook very fast, so it was just 2 or 3 minutes in the finished hot soup and they were done. Tender, sweet, and delicious. I was so excited! Now I can work my list of recipes I thought were lost to me for lack of decent shrimp. Yay!

Note: I may have committed a gumbo faux pas by combining shrimp and sausage. I think traditionally you have shrimp gumbo or chicken and sausage gumbo, but not usually shrimp and sausage. This gumbo was really tasty, but if it offends your Cajun sensibilities, you can omit the sausage.

I served this with corn bread, pan-roasted green beans, and white rice.

Shrimp and Sausage Gumbo
printable recipe

1 14-oz link smoked sausage (I used light)
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 ribs celery, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 large bell pepper, seeds removed and roughly chopped
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and halved
8 cups chicken broth or water or some combination of both (I used half/half)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2-3 teaspoons Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
6 green onions, thinly sliced
2 pounds peeled, cleaned raw shrimp with tails removed (16/20 size)
hot cooked white rice for serving

1. Heat your oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with non-stick spray. Cut the sausage link in half lengthwise and then into 1/2-inch pieces. Place the pieces on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer and bake until browned, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

2. While the sausage is cooking, combine the oil and flour in a large pot and mix well. Heat over medium heat until the roux is a deep caramel color, stirring very often, 30-35 minutes.

3. While the roux is cooking, put the celery, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 2 times for 3 seconds each time and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Pulse 2 more times, 3 seconds each time, scraping down the bowl after each pulse. The veggies should be finely minced but not pureed.

4. Add the veggies to the roux and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes (the roux is very hot, please watch for splatters when you add the veggies).

5. Add the browned sausage, broth/water, salt, pepper, and Tony's seasoning. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for 45 minutes.

6. Add the green onion and shrimp, and cook 2-3 minutes or until they are just barely pink (they will continue to cook as they sit in the hot soup, so don't overdo it here). Serve over white rice.

This makes a ton of gumbo. We easily get two meals out of a pot.

Beautiful, tender shrimp is a glorious thing.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy

Pan-searing made this baby bok choy a very fast side dish. Like 5 minutes fast. I seasoned it with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and seared it in a little olive oil. If you wanted you could sprinkle the finished dish with a little rice wine vinegar, but I ate it straight today (no vinegar).

Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy

3-4 heads baby bok choy
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
rice wine vinegar, if desired

1. Remove any damaged outside leaves, and halve each head of baby bok choy lengthwise. Rinse well with cold water; shake off excess water and pat dry on paper towels. Season the cut side of the bok choy with salt and pepper.

2. Heat a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add oil and heat for 30 seconds. Lay the bok choy cut-side down in the hot pan and cook, without moving, until it's developed some nice color, about 2 minutes. Turn the bok choy over and cook another 2 minutes.

3. Serve with rice wine vinegar, if desired.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Works For Me Wednesday: Catch Tray for Sprinkles

Today's Works For Me Wednesday post is about cupcakes and sprinkles, and looking at these pictures makes me want one! :)

Putting your cupcakes on a rimmed baking sheet before shaking on the sprinkles is a great way to contain the mess. Before I started doing this they either went all over the counter or I put the sprinkles on the cupcakes over the sink (which killed me because it was wasteful). Using the baking sheet not only contains the mess, but it lets you collect the extra sprinkles to use again. Works for me!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Simple Vegetable Bean Soup

I eat soup all year long, but I really crave it when the temperature outside starts to drop. I made this very simple vegetable soup for lunch in about 30 minutes. Well, maybe it took me 45 minutes with the chopping (most of the time is simmering-time, though). For such a quick soup it was very tasty. It's also very healthy: lots of veggies, low calorie, low (almost no) fat, protein from the beans, and lots of fiber. And almost everything is in 1's. See? Simple.

Vegetable Bean Soup
printable recipe

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 large carrot, scraped and diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
couple shakes red pepper flakes, optional
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 32-oz carton chicken broth
1 small zucchini, diced
1 15-oz can kidney beans (or other bean) drained and rinsed

1. Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the oil and let it heat for about 30 seconds. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook, stirring often, until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add the oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and cook for about 2 minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes, chicken broth, zucchini, and kidney beans. Bring it all to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the veggies are tender and the broth is slightly thickened.

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts soup. I ate it for lunch and then we had it with our dinner that night. And then I ate it for lunch again the next day....there was a lot of soup.

Note: This would have been really good with some fresh Parmesan cheese on top, but I didn't think of it until I'd already eaten. I was hungry.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pumpkin Recipes for Fall

Kids are back in school, days are getting shorter, trees are changing colors, and nights definitely have a chill. Fall is here and I'm so excited! I love fall and everything that goes with it, especially the food and spices we all love to cook with when the weather turns cool: pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, alspice, cloves... Love them! Here are some recipes to help get you into the fall spirit. Enjoy, and break out those spices!

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Breakfast Cake

Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Cream Syrup

Friday, September 10, 2010

National Waffle Week: Berry White-Chocolate Chip Waffles

For my final post for National Waffle Week I thought I'd use my Buttermilk Pancake Mix to make waffles, something I've never done before. Don't get me wrong, I like waffles, and I knew the mix would work for waffles, I just think making waffles takes too much time. Until they make a waffle iron that lets me make 8 at a time, I'm sticking with my pancake griddle :)

These waffles were really good. The raspberries added quick little shots of sweet-tart flavor to each bite, and the white chocolate chips added little pockets of creaminess. And as the waffles cooked the juice of the raspberries caramelized making little sweet, burnt spots. I know, sounds weird, but it was really tasty.

Berry White-Chocolate Chip Waffles

2 cups Buttermilk Pancake Mix
1 cup chopped frozen raspberries (chop first, then measure)
1/2 cup mini white chocolate chips
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil

1. Pre-heat your waffle iron.

2. In a medium bowl, combine the pancake mix, raspberries, and white chocolate chips. Mix well.

3. In a separate medium bowl (I use a 4-cup glass measuring cup), whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, and canola oil. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and gently fold together with a rubber spatula.

4. Cook the waffles according to your manufacturer's directions. I used about 1/3 cup batter for each 4-inch'ish square waffle.

Makes about 14 4-inch'ish square waffles.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

National Waffle Week: Bacon Waffles

The current bacon craze is, well, crazy; t-shirts with "Everything's Better with Bacon" printed on them, chocolate-dipped bacon at carnivals (I'm so not kidding). When I saw this recipe for Bacon Waffles in Beyond Oatmeal by Carlene Duda my first reaction was, "Oh, weird!"

I knew I had to make them for National Waffle Week.

The bacon wasn't as strong as I worried it would be and my husband thought they were really good. My verdict is still out. They didn't taste bad, but I think I like my waffles bacon-free. They were very easy to put together, though, since the recipe doesn't call for separating the eggs and whipping the egg whites before folding them in to the batter. That was definitely a plus.

When I cook bacon that's going to be chopped or crumbled for a recipe I cut it up with kitchen scissors and then saute it in a pan (I learned this from my sister's sister-in-law). It's so much easier than trying to handle a bunch of full-size pieces only to cut them up afterward. You can also cook more pieces at a time if you cut them up first.

This recipe calls for 1/2 cup cooked, crumbled bacon, plus 1/2 cup warm bacon drippings. I cut up 6 pieces of bacon, sauteed them in the pan, and added the bacon and whatever drippings there were to the batter.

Bacon Waffles (from Beyond Oatmeal)
printable recipe

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup graham flour (I used wheat flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup crispy cooked bacon, crumbled (I used 6 pieces)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 teaspoon kosher)
2 eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup warmed bacon drippings (I used the drippings from my 6 pieces)

1. Preheat waffle iron and oil. (I used non-stick spray)

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the two flours, baking powder, sugar, bacon, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, use a whisk to beat the eggs until foamy. Beat in the milk and bacon drippings. Combine the two mixtures, blending until the batter is smooth.

4. Cook the batter on your waffle iron according to the manufactures directions. I used 1/3'ish cup batter for each 4-inch'ish waffle on my iron. The waffles-are-done light was just about right; about 3 minutes.

I made 12 4-inch'ish waffles.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

National Waffle Week: Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Cream Syrup

This week is National Waffle Week! To celebrate I'm going to post three great waffle recipes this week, and what better way to start off (especially since it's also the first week of fall) than with these Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Cream Syrup? Seriously, if you want to start feeling the fall spirit, all you need to do is make these waffles. The smell in your house as they cook is perfect for this time of year: warm, sweet, and spiced.

I first had these fantastic waffles after a friend (and next-door neighbor) posted on Facebook that she'd made them for her family for dinner. I posted a comment about how awesome they sounded and hinted that I'd like the recipe, and before I knew it she was at my door with a plate of waffles in her hand. Isn't she nice? They were so good--mouthwateringly good--and I knew I wanted to post them on my blog. Then National Waffle Week came along and voila! Here they are.

The waffle recipe comes from a blog called Pumpkin Waffles--a blog devoted to the single goal of finding the perfect pumpkin waffle recipe. Gotta love the singlemindedness. The recipe says it makes 4 round Belgian-style waffles. I made 14 4-inch'ish square waffles. The Cinnamon Cream Syrup comes from a cookbook called Beyond Oatmeal by Carlene Duda. Let me tell you, the syrup isn't the only heavenly recipe in this cookbook.

Pumpkin Waffles (from Pumpkin Waffles)
printable recipe

1/4 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 teaspoons cinnamon (I used 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons ground ginger (I didn't use this)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (I didn't use this)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
1 cup canned pumpkin
4 tablespoons butter, melted and warm

1. Lightly oil the waffle iron with vegetable oil, and set it to the desired temperature. (I sprayed mine with non-stick spray and turned it on to the preset temperature).

2. Combine brown sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Whisk together to break apart the cornstarch. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to blend.

3. Separate the eggs: yolks go in a medium bowl and whites go in a smaller bowl. Add the pumpkin and milk to the egg yolks; whisk to blend well. Add the melted butter; whisk to blend and set aside.

4. Whip the egg whites with a hand mixer on high until stiff peaks form, 1-1 1/2 minutes. Set aside.

5. Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and mix them together until just combined. Add the egg whites and gently fold them in until no whites bits are obvious.

6. Pour the batter on the heated waffle iron and cook according to the manufacture directions. I used just over 1/4 cup batter for each waffle on my iron, and the automatic waffles-are-done light was about right.

Note: If you don't eat them all you can freeze the extras and then pop them in the toaster later.

Cinnamon Cream Syrup (from Beyond Oatmeal)
printable recipe

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 5-oz can evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Bring it to a boil over medium heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the evaporated milk, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Note: after typing these directions I realized I made the syrup all wrong. I combined everything in the saucepan, brought it to a boil, reduced the heat to low to maintain a simmer, and cooked it, stirring often until it was thickened. It took about 20 minutes. It was super-yum.

Mother Nature's Sense of Humor

Tomatoes Gone Wild. That's how you can describe our tomato plants this year. We joined a community garden in the spring and didn't get over there as often as we should have. When my husband and I went over yesterday to try to reclaim our plot from the weeds (and alfalfa--weird) and see if anything was salvageable, we were amazed by how crazy the tomatoes were. Not only had they survived our near-total neglect, they had thrived. They thrived all over the bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, yellow zucchini, and even the area behind and to the side of our plot.

We decided to pull and chop off the vines that were the most out of control to let the plants put their energy into making the remaining green tomatoes gorgeous and tasty. My husband was working on the Early Girl tomato plants when he found this beauty lying in wait under some thick vines. "Oh! That's just wrong!" he laughed and made like he was going to throw it in our enormous bank of weeds, alfalfa, tomato vines, and over-ripe zucchini the size of baseball bats (oops). "Wait! You have to let me have that!" I begged. This tomato gave us a good laugh.

I now have absolute, irrefutable proof that Mother Nature has a sense of humor. Did she giggle to herself the whole time this tomato grew under the masses of over-grown vines, waiting for us to find it? I'd have to say probably yes. I know if it were me, I definitely would have.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Cookie Carnival: Coconut Cherry Bars

These gorgeous Coconut Cherry Bars are the August cookie for the Cookie Carnival hosted by Tami over at Tami's Kitchen Table Talk. Yes, I know it's September 6. Better late than never, especially for these bites of goodness.

Before making these I took a few minutes to read all the comments people left about them on the Betty Crocker website. Comments ranged all over, from loving the bars to hating them and everything in between. Some people didn't think there was enough cherry flavor, some wanted more coconut flavor. Want to know what I kept thinking? "OMG! These sound so much like the Rum Nougat from See's Candy (my favorite candy from See's)! I'm going to add rum flavoring to mine!" In addition to the rum flavoring, I increased the coconut from 1/2 cup to 1 cup, and decreased the vanilla a little (though I probably won't next time).

One of the comments I totally disagree with is that the recipe was not easy to make. I thought it was very easy to make. The hardest thing was chopping the walnuts and cherries. Yeah, super easy. I do have to say that I didn't actually chop my walnuts. I hate chopping nuts. They fly all over and make such a mess. This time I put a bunch of walnut halves in a zip-top bag and whacked them with my rolling pin (French-style. I hate rolling pins with handles). Barbaric, I know, but it totally worked. I may never chop walnuts with a knife again.

These bars don't have a strong flavor (one of the complaints on the website), but I really liked the flavor it did have. Sometimes it's nice to have a bar cookie that's not chocolate or lemon (stay with me here), and the coconut-cherry flavor of these bars was really nice. Of course, I also loved the rum flavor I added. I even think I'll add more next time. And I can't forget to mention the gorgeous pink color the cherries added. These cookies were really very pretty and would be a very nice addition to a dessert table. See? We're not replacing chocolate and lemon, we're adding. All is well...well, delightful, and scrumptious. :)

Note: these were much easier to cut into nice-looking squares after they sat in the fridge overnight.

Want the recipe? Click here to go to the Betty Crocker website.

Yum! Aren't they gorgeous?
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