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Thursday, December 6, 2012


Have you ever heard of a healthy chocolate chip cookie bar? No? Me either! I did however find a not-so-unhealthy chocolate chip cookie dough recipe on Cookie Madness.  It uses Kellogg's All Bran cereal.  I get a lot of inspiration from Anna's site.  Her recipes are tried and true. Then I mess around with them!  This recipe was forgiving with the changes I made and actually came out better than I expected! That is kind of why I made them into bars rather than spending extra time making cookies-I was not sure if my changes would ruin them or not. 

In keeping with the  Kellogg's healthy All Bran theme, I substituted a half of a cup of whole wheat flour for one half of a cup of white flour.  Because I wanted to ensure they did not taste "healthy", I added a little more brown sugar and a little less white sugar.  (The bars are a little softer because of this. Next time I might go back to Anna's original recipe of 3/4 cups brown and 3/4 cups white sugar).  I also added 3/4 teaspoon of orange extract instead of vanilla hoping it would hide any "healthy" flavour! (It worked). I left the nuts out of my first go at this recipe. Because there is enough salt in this dough (they are not salty!), you don't need the nuts to cut the richness or the sweetness.  Plus, when I'm experimenting, I don't use the nuts because they are expensive! Anyway, these bars are delicious.  No one would have a clue there is anything healthy in them!   I had four open chocolate chip bags of various flavours. I mixed them all together and ended up with the 2 cups needed for this recipe.  I had fun squishing up the empty bags with frayed twist ties and throwing them away! See the link above for the original recipe. My changed recipe is below.

  • 1/2 cup Kellogg's All Bran cereal
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 stick salted butter softened, but not melted.
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil or extra light olive oil
  • 1 cup golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 teaspoon orange extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose presifted flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • heaping 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used bittersweet, semi sweet, and white)
  • 1 cup chopped, toasted nuts of your choice (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 325°. Lightly spray a 9 x 13" baking pan with non-stick spray or line with nonstick foil.
  2. Pour the All Bran into a small bowl and pour the hot water over it. Mix it up a little bit and let sit until it softens and turns mushy.
  3. In a medium-sized bowl combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix thoroughly.  Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl cream the softened butter with the sugars and oil until well combined.   Add eggs and orange extract. Beat only until well combined.  
  5. Add the All Bran to the wet mixture and mix in until fully incorporated
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix together on the lowest setting until JUST fully combined.  Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if you are using them.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan and pat down so the batter is evenly distributed.
  8. Bake on the middle rack of a 325° oven for approximately 28 minutes. Check at about 25 minutes as ovens vary.
  9. Let cool for about an hour.  Cut them into squares before the chips harden. You don't need to remove them from the pan yet, but cutting them after the chips harden is the mistake I made!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

5-Star Pumpkin Praline Torte

It has been months since my last post. I can't believe time went by so fast! I did a lot of gardening, photography, and State Fair entry baking this summer.  Now to dust off my blog!
I made my favorite Thanksgiving dessert today and thought I'd post it for you before TG.  I received the recipe from a work buddy years ago.  Then I altered it a bit.  No surprise there!  Then I saw it posted on the Taste of Home website.
It has never, ever received a bad review from anyone (at least not in front of me!)
People taste it and you see this look of happy amazement on their faces.  Not even crumbs are left on plates!!!  All reviewers rated it 5 out of 5 stars on Taste of Home.
Here are a few photos.
Just out of the oven


Sliced and ready to eat

You can see a caramel-coated pecan trying to fall out 
of the middle.  

You can get the recipe from the Taste of Home site, but here are my IMPORTANT TO ME changes:
1.  I put a large cookie sheet on the bottom of the oven while it is preheating to catch the possible drips from the caramel.

2.  I use real butter to coat and then lightly flour the pans.  Never had a cake stick.

3.  I use only one 15 oz can of pumpkin.  That is about 1 1/2 cups, not two.  The
change makes the cake lighter.

4.  I use 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract in the batter instead of vanilla.

5.  I only bake it for 30 min.  Check at 25 or so.  Less pumpkin causes it to bake up faster.

6.   Only cool for 4 or 5 minutes in the pan MAX.  When removing the cakes from the pans after about 4 minutes of cooling, you will see caramel and nuts still in the pans. I put the pans back into the oven for about 2 min. and then scrape the remaining softened caramel out and drizzle over the cakes. (I save some to eat-it is amazingly delicious!!!)

7.  I use 1/4 teaspoon of orange extract in the whipped cream topping.

8.  Hints for the whipped cream:  put the bowl and beaters in the freezer about 15 min before you use them.  The colder the cream, the faster it whips up.

9.  I use a product called Whip It  to stabilize the whipped cream so the cake can sit out for a few hours without the frosting melting.

10.  Use a large, sharp knife to slice it.  As you can see in my photos, I didn't.

I sure hope you try this cake!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Easy, Fresh, Corny Salsa

Every year I wait for a certain vendor to show up at our local farmer's market with his home made corny salsa. A small jar is over $7!  This year I couldn't wait and since I'm not working now, I thought I would try saving some money on salsa by making my own. I thought how hard could it be to find a good salsa recipe on line?  You can find everything online!  Guess what? It wasn't hard at all! I found two right off the bat! So, my recipe below is an adaptation of Tyler Florence's Salsa Fresca and Rob Barrett's Cooking For Dad's recipe on   This guy is from Minnesota and so am I.  Many of us don't like fire-breathing dragon spicy food and he takes that into consideration with his recipe.

I hope you enjoy my version!

What you will need:
Food processor-or get ready for lots of chopping.
4 large or 5 small Roma tomatoes 
1 green pepper-use half or the whole thing.  Cut into quarters.
1/3 of a large peeled sweet onion
1/2 jalapeno with seeds for spicy and without seeds for mild
8-10 cilantro sprigs (important for flavor!-I use six because hubby is cilantro challenged) 
2-3 peeled garlic cloves finely minced, or equivalent garlic powder
1/2 cup fresh off the cob or frozen corn-not canned. If using frozen, do not defrost.
1/2 teaspoon salt
juice of one lime

Wash all vegetables well.
Slice tomatoes in half and with your finger scoop out the seeds and juice-throw seeds and juice out.  Throw tomatoes into the food processor.
Slice the green pepper in half, scoop out the seeds, and throw them out with the stem. Quarter it and throw into the food processor.
Slice the 1/3 of an onion in half and throw into the food processor.
Slice the jalapeno and put in as much as you would like. I like mild salsa so I use ½ without seeds.
Break cilantro sprigs in half and throw into the food processor.
Add the remaining items to the food processor and pulse to get the desired consistency.
This recipe makes about 3 cups of salsa-Enough for a couple bags of  Tostitos brand scoops!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Veggie Delight Lasagna

The high today in Minnesota was 44° and that was before noon.  They told us we could possibly get snow!  Here I was ready to plant my annuals and instead I decided it was a good day for baking.  I once tasted my cousin Frank's vegetable lasagna.   I was in the mood for it and had friends coming for lunch who like veggies.  I remembered his was delicious. So I called him up. I was thrilled when he said he would give the recipe to me.  Then he just started dictating! I was scared.  When someone is not reading a written recipe, it makes me think they will forget something.  So I wrote while he spoke.  My post today is proof Frank has an excellent memory and an excellent recipe! I did change one or two things and added one or two things, but this recipe lends itself to improvisation.  Without further ado, here it is!

Cousin Frank's and Gloria's veggie lasagna

My friend's rescued puppy Bronte looking hungry for lasagna!!!

One small box no boil lasagna noodles
About a ¼ cup olive or other vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
16 oz sliced small baby bella or crimini mushrooms for divided use
24 oz can Hunt's pasta sauce or your favorite pasta sauce
1 large bag rinsed and dried fresh spinach (the bags are about 7 ounces or so. )  *You may substitute frozen spinach that has been thawed and well drained.
1 cup shredded carrots ( my addition)
½ cup half and half creamer or cream (my addition)
32 oz container ricotta cheese
2 large eggs.
1 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided use.
18 slices mozzarella cheese.

Getting Ready:
Preheat oven to 350
Spray a 9 x 13 pan with non-stick spray.  Set aside.
Spray the foil which will be covering the pan during baking or use non stick foil for covering the pan.  

For the sauce:
Pour the vegetable oil into a large saucepan.  Set heat to medium and sauté chopped onion until it is translucent (you can kind of begin to see through it). Then add 8 oz only of mushrooms and cook for a few minutes. Then add garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes so mushrooms lose their moisture and shrink.  When the mushrooms are cooked stir in the 32 ounce container of pasta sauce and pour in the bag of spinach.   Cook on medium low so the sauce just barely simmers uncovered for about 20 minutes.    Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup half and half or cream AND 1 cup shredded carrots.

For the ricotta layer:
Scoop out approximately 2/3 of a 32 ounce container of ricotta and put it into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir in eggs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir until well combined.

To assemble:
To the sprayed pan add about a quarter cup of sauce to spread over the bottom.   Use a little more if you need to.  Then add a layer of noodles.  Break to fit them if necessary. Spread some sauce over the noodles. Then place half of the remaining mushrooms evenly on top of the sauce.  Lay six slices of mozzarella cheese over them. Then spread half of the ricotta mixture over the mozzarella cheese.   Repeat. You will end up with the ricotta mixture on top.  Add six slices of mozzarella cheese on top of the ricotta and sprinkle top with one half cup Parmesan or to taste.  Bake covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for about 20 minutes or until cheese on top turns golden.  Note: you can assemble this lasagna and refrigerate it overnight. Then you will need to add 15 extra minutes or so to the "covered" baking time.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Good day for chicken soup!

It snowed a half a foot or more somewhere in MN to day, so today's recipe is chicken soup...
Chicken vegetable soup
You just can't predict soup weather in Minnesota! In March we had an 80° day. Today northern Minnesota got 8 inches of snow. We all go figure.
I was totally getting overdosed on brownies so I decided to make something healthy for a change.  This recipe has evolved over the years so now I call it completely my own (especially since I add an ingredient most people don't add, but it makes a delicious soup.)

3 1/2 or 4 pound cut up fryer
6 unpeeled carrots cut in thirds
2 onions peeled and quartered (I use yellow or white onions)
1 parsnip cut in thirds
1  yam  cut in thirds
2 stalks of celery  cut in quarters
4 cloves garlic  peeled, but not smashed
1.5 tablespoons salt

To add after soup is completely done: 
1 package peeled mini carrots
2 cups sliced celery
Broccoli taste. 

Place chicken in an 8 quart stock pan.  Fill with cold water until chicken is just covered. Bring the water to a boil and then boil for about five minutes.  While waiting for the boil, wash the parsnip and carrots and celery and prepare the vegetables.  Set aside.  Skim the foam out of the pan as it boils.  Add salt to boiling chicken.   Add prepared vegetables and simmer for about an hour and 15 minutes.   Remove chicken to a separate bowl.  Remove chicken meat and return skin and bones back to the soup.  Simmer for another hour (if I am pressed for time, I don't put the skin and bones back in and don't simmer for another hour.)   Strain soup to remove all cooked vegetables and debris.   So now you can do a couple of different things. If I use all dark meat (thighs or legs), I cool the soup, put it in the refrigerator overnight, and then take all the fat off the top before reheating it and adding the mini carrots and celery and broccoli.   If you use less fatty chicken,
then as soon as you strain the soup, put it back on the heat and add mini carrots and celery.  DO NOT ADD BROCCOLI YET!  Simmer for about half an hour. Then turn off heat, add broccoli, and wait for about 20 minutes.  Add chicken meat.  The broccoli will be cooked and the soup will be ready to eat!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Guilt Free, I mean Gluten Free Brownies (ok for Passover too!)

I was excited when I looked at the brownie photo on Cookie Madness Gluten Free Almond Butter Brownies.  All it takes is a shiny-topped brownie to get my stomach juices going!!!  (My tops were not quite as shiny because, well, operator error probably!)

Almond butter brownies with Scarlet Tanager

And the addition of browned butter also excited me-I am a huge fan! ( And huge will have the literal meaning if I don't stop eating these brownies!)
So I hauled my lazy body out of the house in search of almond butter since I had everything else.  Well, as I was looking at each jar of almond butter to get the freshest date, I forgot the recipe called for creamy. Of course I brought home a jar of crunchy!  That turned out to be a happy accident because these brownies could use a bit of crunchy texture. I did make my usual minor recipe alterations (I just can't help myself).  I have to say these brownies produced the best crispy edges I've had!   Another thought I had while eating my third, yes third! brownie was that adding chocolate chips to the batter before baking would have been overkill-and I like chocolate chips in brownies most of the time.   You can cut these after cooled like regular brownies, or scoop them out while still a little warm and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Please try these brownies; you will not be disappointed if you like fudgy, a little nutty, and rich brownies!  Thank you Anna for posting these.
See the link at the top of this post for the recipe from Cookie madness.  

    Wednesday, March 21, 2012

    Anna's adapted Deluxe 8 Inch Pan Brownies

    I was so excited to see Anna's post on Cookie Madness  here today!  I tried it as soon as I saw it.  Sometimes a recipe just hits me hard between the eyes!  Also, I had all the simple ingredients. I only made ONE, yes, ONE change!   I followed her recipe exactly except I used salted butter (omitted the extra salt), and added 2 more tablespoons of flour, and used decaffeinated coffee.   OK.  You caught me.  I made THREE changes!  The crust is crispy and from Anna's teaching, I believe that is from beating the eggs for 3 minutes...They came out a little fudgier for me, but that may be because I just might have under baked them a bit.  I added the extra flour and I believe that helped the chocolate chips stay dispersed through out the batter and not sink.
    If you try them you won't be disappointed!
    See Anna's post for the recipe!

    The "flashy" photo

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Yummy, shiny, chocolate chip deliciousness

    Just a short post to steer you to some excellent CC cookies!  Darlene by way of Anna at Cookie Madness steered me to these cookies.   I made them twice.  The first time I added a 1/2 teaspoon almond extract.  Not so great.   The second time I made them with no changes (for a change).  Great.  I've eaten and baked a lot of cookies.  They are near or at the top of my list.   You can get the recipe here:  Lee's chocolate chip cookies See photos below of CCC and my neighbor's  rescued King Charles spaniel mix named Finnegan.  He is so cute I can't help but post him!!!


    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Easy Cuban-style guava pastelitos (pastelito de guayaba)

    Have you ever tried Cuban pastries? A few years back I fell in love with the  Cuban guava pastelitos I purchased at a kosher bakery in Miami Beach called Rolling Pin Kosher bakery.  I liked them so much that I purchased 6 more of them and carried them on the plane back to Minnesota.  They were the perfect combination of tart and sweet with a flaky, rich, shiny pastry.  As you know, Miami is a long way from Minnesota-too far to travel for this treat (even though I have been known to put on some 120 miles to buy my favorite caramels!) so I searched the Internet and came up with a couple of recipes. I was happy to learn Pepperidge Farm Puff pastry could be used for the dough-I don't like to make dough from scratch. It doesn't turn out for me.  The recipes also called for guava paste and had instructions on how to make it from canned guava shells.  So for the last two years I've been lazily checking my local Super mercado to find guava shells in order to make guava paste.   I checked local grocery stores also, but I couldn't find guava shells.  I didn't think about using guava jelly and it may exist in Minnesota, but I don't know where. So here I was in Fort Myers last December and low and behold not only did they have the guava shells, but they also had pre-made guava paste!  So I said to my self who needs to make paste when Publix grocery store is loaded with it!  So, I lugged three 21 ounce containers of it home!

    To me guava filling tastes a little bit like rhubarb, but not exactly.  Plus guava is a fruit and rhubarb is vegetable. The pre-made paste is thick and does not spread easily on toast unless you microwave it for 15 or 20 seconds.  Anyways, I took some tips from Three Guys from Miami- TGFM (if you look at their site, scroll down to the For The Less Dedicated section) and 5 Star Foodie and came up with a hybrid   First I tried them without cream cheese and in a strudel shape per TGFM.

    I also sprinkled some sea salt on one of them right after brushing on a simple syrup.   I liked it that way.
    Next I made another batch with cream cheese, but kept the same shape because it just seemed easier to do it that way rather than making individual pockets.   Next time I think I would do the individual pockets because they look better and then you don't have to make a mess trying to cut the pastry.

    It was probably the way I prepared the cream cheese, but I could barely find it in the finished product.  It seemed to melt into the guava paste or the pastry and I wanted it to be layered.   Oh well!!  My taste testers liked the cream cheese pastries better for some reason.

    Here is the recipe for just the guava filling with a few easy steps. 

    Utensils you will need:
    1 cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
    1 small saucepan
    1 potato masher 
    1 microwaveable bowl

    Ingredients for simple syrup:
    1/2 cup white sugar
    1/2 cup water
    pinch of salt (about 1/16 of a teaspoon)

    Ingredients for egg wash:
    I large egg
    2 oz water

    Ingredients for guava filling:
    1/3 cup guava paste
    2 teaspoons lemon juice

    Ingredients for optional cream cheese addition:
    4 ounces cream cheese (Maybe you could use 6 ounces?)
    1/2 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 egg ( if you are going to use the cream cheese, beat the one egg listed above for the egg wash (you should have about a quarter cup of egg) and then divide it in half.  Mix half with the cream cheese and to what's left of the egg add a tablespoon of water and use that for the egg wash.    Beat all ingredients together until smooth.  See pictures on how to spread it on top of the guava paste.

    Ingredients for dough:
    1/2 package Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets, or make your own.

    Sea salt for sprinkling on top-If using cream cheese I'd leave it off.  

    Set dough out to thaw per package instructions (set out on a plate for about 40 min at room temperature).

    Make simple syrup first.   Combine sugar and water in a small pan.  Mix together over medium high heat until dissolved then stir until boiling.  Reduce heat to low, add pinch of salt, and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool. 

    Mix egg with water and set aside. 

    Microwave 1/2 cup of guava paste for about 20 seconds. Mash guava paste with 2 teaspoons of lemon juice until it is mostly smooth.  

    Once dough is almost ready to use, preheat oven to 350°.

    Cut the pastry dough lengthwise in half and then cut the halves in half again so that you have four long strips of dough. Place two strips of dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Use a spoon to spread a stripe of guava filling down the center of each dough strip.
    Moisten the edges of the dough strips with a little water. Cover each filling covered strip with the remaining two dough strips. Seal the edges on all sides of the dough by pressing and smoothing gently with your hands (some people use fork tines to make a design).
    Brush the top with the egg wash (recipe above). Bake approximately 30 to 40 minutes (I baked mine 32 minutes) – pastry should be crisp on top and browning. Remove the pastry strips from the oven and brush with syrup (recipe above). If you are going to use sea salt, this is the time to sprinkle it sparingly on each pastry.  Return to oven and bake an additional five or six minutes.
    Let cool for about 7-10 minutes and then cut the pastries into individual serving-sized squares. The simple syrup coating hardens and makes it difficult to get clean cuts if you wait until it is cool to cut it. 

    Wednesday, February 15, 2012

    Valentine’s Day history, Red Velvet cake, and a warning!

    Does anyone know what Valentine’s day really is?  There are historical facts and legends and probably a blending of the two is what Valentine’s day is.   
    I found out some info on's_Day  a little confusing though!
    The name St. Valentine was used by more than one Christian person.  They supposedly died as martyrs-so the original celebration was to honor them-no romance involved.  
    How did it turn in to chocolates and flowers?  

    Lupercalia was a very ancient, possibly pre-Roman] pastoral festival, observed on February 13 through 15 to avert evil spirits and purify the city, releasing health and fertility.  Fertility and love are kinda sorta related…

    I found out some sobering information about what happened to a Jewish population in Strasbourg on Valentine’s day in 1349:   Scroll down to 1349, February 14.  

    It seems no romantic love as we recognize it was associated with Valentine’s day until the author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem about St. Valentine’s day in the 1300s-when courtly love was popular. Courtly love was a medieval European conception of nobly and chivalrously expressing love and admiration.  Generally, courtly love was secret and between members of the nobility.   Still not sure why chocolates and flowers became standard...but I'm NOT complaining!!!!

    On to the cake! One of my niece’s favorite cupcakes is red velvet-perfect for V-day since red velvet reminds me of royalty's robes.   Until last year I had never made it.  I had a few boxes of white cake mix so I searched for an easy cake-mix recipe and found one on   I did alter it a bit after reading many recipes from Cookie Madness and other sites. I baked 12 cupcakes (I only have one 12 cupcake pan) and one layer of a 9” layer cake in a 9” pan.  If anyone knows of a good red food coloring replacement, please, please, please let me know!  I was going to order beet powder, but chickened out.

    This recipe yields a deep-red, moist cake.  Not too dense.  I love the is perfect in my not so humble opinion!!!   I may try experimenting with beet coloring per Ashleen at The Big Bake Theory.  However, this cake is so tasty with the cheesecake pudding that I may just leave out the red food coloring and call it brown velvet cake!  Or maybe milk chocolate velvet cake.  


    •           1 box white cake mix (2-layer size)  (I used an 18 oz Duncan Hines white mix)
    •         1 box (4-serving size) instant cheesecake or vanilla pudding mix (I use cheesecake to add more flavor-red velvet can be bland)
    •         2.5  tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
    •         1 tablespoon white vinegar
    •         1 cup milk
    •         4 large eggs
    •         1/2 cup vegetable oil
    •         1 ounce red food coloring (one bottle)

         Cream Cheese Frosting:

    • ·        4 ounces salted butter (1 stick), softened
    • ·        8 ounces cream cheese, softened
    • ·        ½  teaspoon pure almond extract, or 2 teaspoons vanilla or 1 teaspoon orange extract (extracts have different strengths), or 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • ·        1.5 -2 cups  confectioner’s sugar (I used about 1 and ¾ cups-I like a good cream cheese flavor)
    • ·        Optional  Red sprinkles and or 1 cup  toasted chopped pecans

    Directions and warning:

    Make sure you wear “baking” clothing and a smock.  The red coloring is dangerous!
    Preheat oven to 350 (or 325 if using dark pans).  Line cupcake pans or spray with Pam for baking.
    Mix the 1 tablespoon vinegar into the milk and set aside.  Then pour the cake mix into a large mixing bowl.  To it add the box of pudding, 2 T cocoa powder, and then mix thoroughly.   Break eggs into a separate bowl and look for shells…I always do this because I almost always have shell pieces!  Add eggs, oil, milk, and food coloring to the dry ingredients.   Beat 30 seconds on LOW to incorporate everything.  Then beat 3 to 4 minutes on medium *(make sure to use a spatula a few times in between to scrape the bottom of the bowl)  until smooth 
    Bake 24 cupcakes for about 18 minutes or bake (2) 9 inch cake pans for about 22 minutes. 
    Beat softened butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Slowly incorporate powdered sugar and then almond extract.   Beat until smooth.  

    Friday, January 20, 2012

    Bars, Bars, Bars!

    Ok, not the meet people, drink, get tipsy, and dance type,  but the bake, eat, and get tipsy from the sugar high type.  I have a daunting task for which I signed up-no arm twisting or begging was involved.   I need to make 10 dozen NUTLESS bars for a party for my niece Mattie.  Who better to help me decide than Anna at Cookie Madness.   The bars applying for the job need the following qualifications:  They need to cut easily, hold their shape, keep for a few days, and travel well.  I know.  Lofty expectations.  Well, as usual, Cookie Madness did not disappoint!   First of all, I decided to "hire" 4 bars.  The first bars I made were  Iced Lemon Bars.  As usual, I used salted butter and did not add any extra salt.  I also used regular sugar and not powdered sugar. Okay, I also added the zest of one lemon to the batter.  I didn't make any other changes. Okay, I did use a different glaze found here Cookie Madness lemon icing, but that's it!!!   They were still delicious on the third day.  You ask "if they were so good, then why did they last three days?" Well, I wanted to save a few to see how long they would last because I can't (don't want to) make 10 dozen bars in one day.

    Iced Lemon Shortbread Bars

    10 dozen bars. Whew!   I thought: how can I make this process easier for me? I have an idea!  Let's see if I can make jam bars with the same shortbread dough I used for the lemon bars.  Guess what? You can and I did. I thought they turned out great plus my reviewers texted me saying they liked the jam bars better than the brownies they love.  I followed Anna's recipe with my changes above including the zest.  I substituted about 2 cups of plum jam (which I first put into a bowl and hand mixed until it was smooth) for the lemon mixture.  I spread it evenly over the pre- baked crust while the crust was warm, added the streusel topping, and baked them for another 20 to 25 minutes. After completely cool, they cut like a dream!
    Here is a picture of my dreamy jam bars.  You can use any flavor jam.  The plum jam reminds me of a garnet jewel.

    Dreamy Plum Jam Shortbread Bars

    Well, my third choice needed to have some chocolate in it because my niece would be disappointed without it.  I chose an EASY Toffee Bar recipe from Allrecipes.  The only changes I made were:  Used a 9 x 13 pan, lined it with nonstick foil, substituted 1/2 teaspoon almond extract for the vanilla (for the party I won't use almond extract because that qualifies as a nut), and used about 5 ounces of semisweet chips and 5 ounces of butterscotch chips to melt on top of the hot crust.    They were a hit with my reviewers, but they would prefer to have less butterscotch and more chocolate on the top so I would go 70% semi sweet and 30% butterscotch next time.

    Easy Chocolate Butterscotch Toffee Bars
    My fourth bar ended up being boxed brownies (cringe).  However, to a 9 x 13 pan I added about 4 inches of mashed banana, an extra tablespoon of Hershey's cocoa, 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, and about a 1/16 of a teaspoon salt, or a big pinch.  Most of that odd box mix flavor disappeared.  No pictures of this brownie, but here are a few pictures from my trip to Florida.

    Roseate Spoonbills splashing around Sanibel Island

    More spoonbills..I am infatuated with them!

    Great Blue Heron in front of my condo. 
    Me "roof" hopping in FM. 
    Enjoy "bar" hopping!