Sweet and Salty Magic Bars

on wire rackThese classic bar cookies have been around since the 1850’s! They also go by the moniker of Magic Bars, Hello Dolly Bars, Five Layer and even Seven Layer Bars. Essentially, they all begin with a melted butter and cookie crust, typically crushed graham wafers. This sweet base gets topped with more sweetness, usually chocolate or butterscotch chips, sweetened coconut and some type of nuts. A thick layer of sweetened condensed milk acts as the glue to hold everything together.

Whatever they’re called, they have never really appealed to me because they just seemed too tooth-achingly sweet. But last week I saw this charming video and knew I had to try this twist on these bars. In her new book, “Modern Potluck”, Kristen Donnelly solves the sickly sweet problem by swapping out a cookie base with a potato chip base. What??? Pure genius.

I had high hopes for these “potato chip crusted magic bars”. The combination of sweet and salty is my kryptonite. I went shopping for potato chips, because I rarely keep them in my house. Shockingly, don’t have much will power when it comes to salt. By the way, did you know that they sell unsalted potato chips? Chicken and waffle flavoured potato chips is one thing, but I draw the line at unsalted! I mean, salt is the whole point of potato chips, right?

I whipped up a batch of Kristen’s potato chip crusted magic bars. I was so excited I could barely wait for them to cool.potato chip crusted barsThe first bite was interesting. The crust was not as crispy as I thought it would be. Nor did it taste as salty as I was hoping for. The second bite left an almost rancid aftertaste in my mouth. I had eaten a few potato chips out of the bag as I was making the crust, and they tasted great. I suspect that cooking the potato chips a second time caused some kind of chemical reaction that changed the taste. I was so disappointed. I knew that Kristen’s idea of adding a salty crust was a great idea and I wanted to make these bars work.

And then I remembered these pretzel crusted treats I made last year. Why not trade potato chips for pretzels? Why not indeed? I topped mine with bittersweet chocolate chips, unsweetened coconut chips, salted cashews, almonds and macadamia nuts, and chopped vanilla caramels.cutting caramels

 

Watch the magic happen!

 

These bars have it all. A perfect sweet-salty balance and great textural contrast. Crunch from pretzels, nuts and toasted coconut, gooey sweetness from  sweetened condensed milk,  bittersweet from the chocolate, and chewiness from the caramel. A perfect treat. baked up close

one barOh, and I figured out why they’re called magic bars. Set them out with some cold milk and watch them magically disappear. They are even more delicious straight from the freezer!

Click here to print recipe for Sweet and Salty Magic Bars.

with milk

Chilled Melon Soup

One bowl 1The first time I ever saw two different kinds of soup in the same bowl, I thought it was just so magical. Corn soup on the left and Black Black Bean soup on the right. And they just stayed on their own sides of the bowl, never crossing that center line and mixing! Like at a Chassidic wedding. How did they do it? The secret is to have two liquids of roughly the same consistency, and to pour them at the same time, from opposite sides into a shallow bowl.

Pouring melon soup 6I got all fancy for you and poured my soups into glass pitchers. But you can just use two 1/2 cup measuring cups and it will work perfectly.

My friend Margo served these melon soups to us a few weeks ago at a big gathering at our cottage. They were so refreshing and light, I had to get the recipe to share with you. I couldn’t believe it when she said that it was simply honeydew pureed with mint and canteloupe pureed with orange juice! I added a touch of lime to my honeydew soup.Melons and Citrus

ready to pureehoneydew soupcanteloupe soup

Click here to print recipe for Melon Soup.

Two bowls 1

Wild Blueberry and Corn Galette

A slice with tea 2Galette is French for “Lazy Ass Pie.” No, not really. It actually refers to a free-form tart. Pies are a lot of work. There’s all that stress about making the crust and rolling it out without cracking. Plus, I suck at crimping. But a galette is supposed to be rustic. Rolling the dough into a perfect circle is  not required, in fact, it is frowned upon. (Well, I frown upon perfect circles)

Wild blueberries have arrived and sadly, they’re only here for a few short weeks, so I take advantage of the short season and work very hard at eating my weight in wild blueberries during the month of August. This recipe would certainly work with regular blueberries, but you may need to add a bit more sugar, since wild ones are so much sweeter. You could also use frozen berries. The PC frozen wild blueberries are excellent, as are Trader Joe’s brand.

OK, let’s make a lazy ass pie galette. Start with the filling. Mix blueberries, tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch), sugar and lemon juice. Filling ingredientsNext we tackle the topping. This corn crisp topping was the genius idea of Bon Appetit Magazine. I saw it in their July 2016 issue, and I knew I had to try it. Such a fun idea to combine blueberry and corn in a dessert. Start with a traditional crisp topping of flour, sugar and butter. Add a touch of cornmeal for added crunch. corn topping_2Then cut in fresh corn kernels. Topping done. cutting corn off the cobThe dough comes together very quickly in the food processor. No need to chill it. Just roll it out right away between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to avoid any fuss. rolling dough between sheets of parchmentTime to assemble.

I made a dairy free version of the galette last weekend for some friends. I used chilled coconut oil in both the dough and the topping and it was fantastic. The coconut oil was only detected (and rejected) by one friend, but I suspect he’s a super tasterBlueberry Corn Galette 2

Click here to print recipe for Wild Blueberry and Corn Galette.

slice of galette

 

 

 

Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup

3 black bowlsI know what you’re thinking. “Really?? Who needs another gazpacho soup recipe?” But before you abandon this post and surf on over to see what’s new for fall at Joe Fresh, just hear me out. This is a little different than your typical cold tomato soup. Half the tomatoes get roasted, for a smoky depth of flavour, and the other half are left fresh, to enhance their tangy bright nature. Combining fresh and roasted tomatoes was the brainchild of Cook’s Illustrated Magazine. They featured this soup in their July 2012 issue. I tarted it up a bit with some summer toppings.

Squeeze in a dollop of tomato paste to ramp up the umami factor. Sprinkle in a dusting of smoked paprika and cayenne and this soup is humming. Throw in some roasted garlic and shallots for fun.Ingredients Yes, I’m going to ask you to turn on your oven in August, but it will be worth it. Once everything is roasted, puree the whole lot, along with some fresh tomatoes and strain it for a velvety smooth texture. straining 1straining 2Finish it off with corn, avocado and basil and you have summertime in a bowl. Have I got your attention yet?white bowl 2

Click here to print recipe for Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup.

black bowl

Beat the Heat with Watermelon Spears

Here’s how I’ve been amusing myself this week – making watermelon spears. This is a fantastic  kitchen hack. So much fun to do and eat. (Clearly, I am easily amused!)remove spear 2Start with a large oblong watermelon and if my mom is around, make sure you wash the skin very well. I must admit she’s right, since a quick cleaning will eliminate the chances of transferring whatever’s on the outside of your watermelon to the inside when you cut into it. Cut watermelon in half widthwise.Za'atar Chicken_1Stand one half, cut side down. Using a large sharp knife, cut into slices about 1-2 inches apart.slicing across 1Now, here’s where it helps to have large hands like me. Hold the top of the watermelon, so that the slices stay together and cut across the other way into slices. Like rows and columns on a spreadsheet.slicing across 2How cool is this?remove spear 1Like an edible game of Jenga. Go ahead, you’ll thank me later.Watermelon jenga