Monday, February 17, 2014

White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Dream Bars

Who doesn't love those chocolate coconut seven layer bars?  Well, if you like those, then you will love these dream bars--white chocolate, dried cranberries, coconut, a oat-y and crunchy crust all bound together with sweet gooeyness.   Although they are sweet, they aren't over-the-top-so-you-make-a-dentist-appointment-after-eating-one sweet.  The dried cranberries provide some tartness in just the perfect amount.  I also love the crunchy crust on the both the top and bottom.  

I have been making these for years and they are always a crowd favorite.  I also love them because they are quick and easy to make--they would be the perfect dish for kids to help!  They are wonderfully versatile too--I have taken them to summer BBQs (they are really good straight out of the fridge) and have also taken them to festive holiday parties in the winter.

These little bars certainly are a dream.  I hope you think so too!! 

White Chocolate Coconut Cranberry Dream Bars:

For the Crust...
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Filling...
  • 1 1/2 heaping cups dried cranberries 
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1ish heaping cups of pecan halves
  • 1ish cups of flaked coconut  
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 13 pan with nonstick tinfoil.
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, oats, salt and baking soda. 
  3. Add in the granulated sugar and the brown sugar.  Mix until no clumps remain. 
  4. Add in the melted butter and vanilla.  Stir until evenly moistened.  
  5. Gently press a little more than half of the mixture into lined baking pan.
  6. In another mixing bowl, combine the cranberries, white chocolate chips, and pecans.  Stir well, then pour over the crust in the baking pan.
  7. Sprinkle the flaked coconut evenly on top.
  8. Next sprinkle the rest of the oat crust on top.
  9. Drizzle the sweetened condensed milk all over the top of the bars.  Try to pour evenly, but it will spread when baking, so it isn't a major concern.  (It is too sticky to try to spread with a spatula.)
  10. Bake for 30 minutes or so, or until your crust on top is lightly golden brown.  (You'll want to check it starting at about 20 minutes.)
  11. Let cool completely before cutting. 
  12. ENJOY!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Curried Squash Soup

Today has been a fantastic day.  In fact it has been a fantastic weekend.  Friday night was Valentine's Day, and the Man and I had an incredible dinner downtown--Cordova oysters with chimichurri (I have to admit that I now like Cordova oysters better than those from Kachemak Bay), an ahi poke "cocktail", then scallops in a thai burre blanc with lemongrass risotto and grilled veggies.  It was one of the best dinners I have ever had, and it was at a place that is rather unassuming--my favorite!  We then went to a wine tasting bar and had all kinds of fun.  Yesterday was spent at the resort making groomer turns with good friends before coming home for grilled salmon, elk, veggies, and a killer corn dip (to be blogged soon).  Today I relaxed, skate skied, and now am catching up on old blog posts....

....which leads me to this soup.  I made it two or three times this fall, but somehow never posted.  As we all know, I absolutely love butternut squash.  I also love curry, so naturally this soup blew my mind.  If my memory serves me correctly, I substituted pumpkin for the squash once and it was equally as delicious.

This soup scores a 10 out of 10 on the comfort food scale.  The best part is, it is healthy too!  I love this soup because it is so versatile--add a little more or less curry, do the same with the soy sauce, throw in some cayenne if you'd like, use more milk...the options are endless! 

This soup is sure to please both the young and old.  It is perfect for any chilly evening by the fire!  It makes me miss fall...but I'll enjoy my summer first. 

Curried Squash Soup:   
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium sized sweet onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2ish (or more) tablespoons of curry powder
  • 1 (32 ounce) box of chicken broth  (if you have a small squash, you may use less)
  • between 1 and 2 cups of milk
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • between 2 and 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pine nuts to sprinkle on top
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with nonstick tinfoil.  Place the squash cut-side down on the tinfoil.  Bake until the squash is soft when poked with a fork, about 30 minutes.  Let cook, then scoop out the "guts" into a bowl.  Oftentimes, I cook the squash the night before I am going to use it.  It saves a lot of time.
  2. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium high.  Add the onions and saute until cooked.  Add the flour, a little at a time.  Stir with a spatula consistently to ensure the flour doesn't scorch.  
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of curry powder and stir again.
  4. Add the butternut squash and stir with spatula to combine.  Add your desired amount of chicken broth.
  5. Add the milk, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of soy sauce.
  6. Let simmer for 10 minutes or so.
  7. Turn off the heat on the stove.  Use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it is smooth and creamy.
  8. Turn the heat on low.  Taste.  Adjust your flavors--add more curry powder or more soy sauce.  Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve!  and sprinkle some additional curry powder and pine nuts on top if you'd like!
  10. ENJOY!