Friday, May 13, 2011

Classic Goodie: Seven Layer Magic Bars

There was a time in my life that I worked with church youth groups and was asked to not watch rated-R movies since our youth could not watch them and they typically expose us to themes that are not the best for our minds. This time period produced some great movies that people often will reference in conversation. People are shocked that I have not seen some of these “classics.”

Awhile back, a good friend sent me an odd text message that turned out to be just such a reference to a movie that I had not seen. He was surprised that I didn’t understand the reference and when I told him why he suggested that we start to meet up and “catch me up” on some of these classics. The deal was that I would bake with him (teach him how to make some of the classic goodies) and then we would watch a classic movie.

This turned into a weekly treat for both of us as we worked our way through goodies and movies. We made chocolate chip cookies twice and then we made these seven-layer magic bars. I’d never made them before, but the recipe looked very easy, and it was even on the can of sweetened condensed milk!

The bars are made by simply layering the ingredients into a pan and baking. We took the easy way and ground the graham crackers in my food processor and using pre-chopped nuts. This recipe felt very semi-homemade to me. Not much true baking skill is required. It would be a great recipe to quickly pull together to take to a potluck or party. The only downside for me is that it includes coconut. Had I been making it for myself, I would have probably omitted it and said six-layers were enough…but since these were a childhood favorite for my friend, we stuck to the recipe and he took home all of the leftovers!

He said that they were perfectly delicious and just as he remembered having as a child….so I call that a success! Give them a try!

Oh, by the way, we watched Shawshank Redemption, Silence of the Lambs and The Green Mile. So, what movies are on your classic “must-see” list? Let me know in the comments!

Recipe: Seven-Layer Magic Bars
Source: Eagle Brand

Non-Stick Cooking Spray
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup (6 oz.) butterscotch-flavored chips
1 cup (6 oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts

HEAT oven 350°F. Spray 13 x 9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.

COMBINE graham cracker crumbs and butter; mix well. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of
prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with remaining ingredients; press down firmly with fork.

BAKE 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Loosen from sides of pan while still warm; cool on wire rack. Cut into bars or diamonds.

For perfectly cut cookie bars, line entire pan with foil, extending foil over edge of pan. Coat lightly with no-stick cooking spray. After bars have baked and cooled, lift up by edges of foil to remove from pan. Cut into individual bars.

With Love,

Friday, May 6, 2011

Comfort Food: Mac ‘n Cheese

I think most of us have a food from our childhood that we would consider a comfort food. For me chocolate chip cookies, mom’s meatloaf with mashed potatoes and the cheap pot pies seem to rank towards to top of my list. One food though really seems to always evoke a childlike comfort more than any other…Mac ‘n Cheese.

Growing up a latch-key kid there weren’t many things that my sister and I could cook alone during the summers or after school. We ate a lot of snack food and things that simply required us to boil water. Hot dogs were great, but mac ‘n cheese was my preferred choice. To this day, seeing the blue box of Kraft takes me back to those summer days lounging in front of the tv (Is it no wonder the battle of the bulge hit me as a kid?!)

With all of the changes going on in my life right now (Qatar has been delayed...maybe up to 2 months!), I started to crave comfort foods. I decided that instead of turning to the ever reliable blue box of Kraft, I would try to expand the comfort food horizon and see if I could find a new version of the delightful pasta and cheese treat. With the recent food truck craze in DC it wasn’t too hard to find one that served mac ‘n cheese. CapMac ( is a mac ‘n cheese lover’s dreams come true. They serve several kinds of macaroni covered in cheese or other sauces, but my taste buds delighted in what they call “Balls Out.” It is their version of mac ‘n cheese with chicken meatballs garnished with crushed Cheez-its. Nirvana! It was so creamy and filling, certainly satisfies the comfort food craving. The only downside is the cost…eating from a DC food truck isn’t cheap! So my quest continued.

I decided that it couldn’t be that difficult to make mac ‘n cheese from scratch at home, and thought I'd try to bake it rather than do a stovetop version. I searched the internet and found the recipe below. It came together easily and was tasty. It’s not perfect…It wasn’t as creamy as I’d hoped for, but I’m sure it could be adapted just a bit to be pure perfection. I liked that this recipe didn’t try to get too fancy. There are a ton of recipes out there that add all kinds of things to the basic mac ‘n cheese. Heck, I was tempted to try adding in some crispy bacon, but wanted to find a good basic recipe before I started to experiment.

Give this one a try. It hit the spot and was just as easy as making mac ‘n cheese from the blue box. It was also easy to reheat and eat as leftovers for a few days.

By the way, what are your comfort foods? Leave me a comment and let me know!

Recipe: Mac ‘n Cheese
From: Very Best Baking

1 2/3 cups (about 7 oz.) dry small elbow macaroni, cooked and drained
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (12 fl. oz.) evaporated milk
1 cup water
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

PREHEAT oven to 375° F. Grease 2-quart casserole dish.

COMBINE cornstarch, salt, mustard and pepper in medium saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, water, and butter. Cook over medium-heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in 1½ cups cheese until melted. Add macaroni; mix well. Pour into prepared casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

BAKE for 20 to 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and light brown.

With Love,