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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Baking for When it is the Last Thing You Want to Do [Magic Bar Recipe]

My mom is a beautiful baker. When I was growing up she would make hundreds, yes hundreds of different types of stunning cookies to give to my Dad's coworkers, family, teachers and essentially everyone we had ever met as gifts for the holidays. As kids we got to reap the benefits... we were the taste testers and the battered bowl lickers... it was pure bliss.

My mom seemed to almost find therapy in it. She also had four kids and ran a daycare out of our home so a December Saturday spent baking alone was probably the closest thing to a winter vacation that she ever got. Note to self: buy mom a larger Christmas present.

I don't typically find therapy in baking but I do often feel the torture part. I sigh in having to pull out my mixer. The exact ingredients, all that measuring, the perfectly timed cooking, being interrupted 27 times and then the fact that there are cookies that must then be consumed. Yes that's the happy part but sugar is so much more tempting when it is right in front of us. Everything in moderation though right? And these kids are desperate to bake something this time of year and I'm trying to not be a complete Ebenezer so what to do...
The solution: let's simplify. This year I'm making one homemade beautifully easy recipe and then letting my kids do exactly what they want to do- whip up a store bought mix and then let them go insane with icing and sprinkles. It is really all about the sprinkles.

Here is a so simple you will be instantly in love recipe for Magic Bars. Adapted from Vegan Cooking for Carnivores which is a fabulous cookbook written by Ellen and Portia's personal chef (I'm sure I'll be invited for dinner there any day now). This is a non-vegan version but you can substitute vegan butter and make your own non-dairy condensed milk (2 cups) if you prefer vegan or love someone that is. Both versions are magic baby...

Magic Bars

The Players

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs 
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 2 cans (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • One 12-ounce bag Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
The Game

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, mix the graham cracker crumbs and the butter. Press the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking pan to form the crust. Pour the  condensed milk evenly over the crust.
In a medium bowl, mix together the chocolate chips, flaked coconut, and chopped pecans. Distribute the mixture evenly over the crust and press down gently. Bake for 25 minutes. Allow the pan to cool completely before chilling it — overnight if you have the time — oth­erwise chill it for 2 hours.
For best results, cut the dessert into 1 x 3-inch bars or 2 x 2-inch squares once they are ice cold. Serve them at room temperature.
Serving Size
Makes about 25 bars
Done and done.
Now off to procrastinating something else.

Happy baking or lack there of to you magical beings...


Thursday, December 5, 2013

What NOT to Get Someone Who has a December Birthday

My dear ones, I have a birthday around the bend. And according to my Facebook friends feed, I am not alone. It is time we Sagittariuses and Capricorns unite for the good of what we receive (or lack there of) with birthdays so close to baby Jesus. I'm not saying Christmas is not an important holiday, the opposite is true, in fact I spent the first 22 years of my life using any money I received for my birthday on Christmas presents for others (now that I'm a mother I spend every dime on shit for my kids). The thing is just that we would love a little separate time of celebration too.

Here is what not to give us:

  • Anything wrapped in Christmas wrapping paper. Do you not have any holiday-free gift bag or wrapping in your home? No? I don't believe you. Look again. I am not baby Jesus or Santa and would really prefer a neutral wrapping. My husband has always wrapped gifts in newspaper or architect plans and man I really dig that about him. Going green is a safe way to go. Smart smart man.

Target has to have a normal party aisle somewhere right...
I'm lost in a maze and so drawn to all that is sparkly.
Okay, I get it now.

  • A combo gift. Look I care enough about you to combine your birthday and Christmas together- aren't I swell? You are swell and thoughtful for remembering me; I don't want to sound ungrateful. It's just that I'd prefer in an ideal world a separate shout-out- not even a gift; just a post  or call or text that's not combined as one. I don't recall combining a June birthday as a combined gift with December 25th. Or even my mom's January birthday- that would be just mean. See what I'm saying? The exception to this rule: a kick ass gift. To an island. Or time alone. AAaaahhhh yes... an alone trip to an island works as a combo gift for life.

Yes please.

  • A complete oversight. You want to know the surefire way to break someone's heart that you truly love (I'm talking the deep bff, soul mate, child/parent relationship)? Tell them that you were too busy with the holidays to remember their birthday. Ouch. That stings. I'd rather you fake a stomach virus or the plague. Breaking off plans? Damn it. I really need that cocktail. Birthday or not we all just need any excuse to drink more this time of year. 

Your place or mine? Who the hell cares. Let's just drink.

  • Anything ridiculously Christmas themed. Unless it is specifically asked for, do you mind being a doll from refraining? My dad's birthday is in April and you don't see me buying him chicks and stuffed rabbits do you? Plus not all Christmas decorations and attire are good, some are really on the dreadful side.

Case in point.
I just wish there were more ornaments on it.

So what should you get us? I don't remember a girl ever throwing someone out of her bed for anything wrapped in an Anthropologie box. And a night free of cooking and cleaning. And alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. This will make her birthday and the whole season a hell of a lot more merry. 

Happy happy birthday dear Sag friends & December Capricorns too who really get the shaft...
love & joy & a whole lot of toasts to you-