Cashew Chocolate Squares+ 5 Sweet Links to Start 2022

Ann ended 2021 similar to the way she began 2021 in bed at 9:30. A few drinks eased the annoyance of the holiday but didn’t compel her to watch the ball drop in Times Square. Twenty years ago she loved New Year’s Eve, celebrating with friends, bar hopping, and drunkenly making out with her husband. Out with the old and in with the new. And yet twenty years later out with the old and in with the new seemed harder to achieve. Letting go was harder. Ann wondered if her age was to blame as she smeared overpriced eye cream over her dark circles and plucked stubborn little hairs from her chin. Maybe age was the culprit, maybe Ann had always struggled to let go. Tonight wouldn’t be the night to find out. She fell asleep.

What seemed like minutes later, Ann woke to the sound of honking Candian geese. She looked at the clock. 12:15am. The geese seemed to be announcing the arrival of the new year. Ann found this odd, comforting, and heartbreaking all at once. What an odd moment. She put her head back on her pillow. Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese” popped into her head. “Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air are heading home again.” She thought of a friend who introduced her to that poem many years ago. She wished her well and released her into the night air. She could let go. What made her release that which no longer belonged she wasn’t sure. This would not be decided tonight. Now was the time to rest. Maybe the geese would return with the early morning light.

The start of a new year makes me anxious. What will this year bring? Will I be able to manage it? In an effort to find some comfort post-holiday madness I turned to a collection of recipes from my grandmother. I came across pecan squares which she wrote “delicious” next to in her perfect script. I knew she wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction. I also realized I wouldn’t be able to make these bars with pecans due to a peanut allergy in our household. Finding pecans not processed in the same facility as peanuts is damn near impossible. Jerry’s recipe calls for pecans as well as Bits O Brickle. I didn’t feel like going to the grocery store specifically for Bits O Brickle so I opted to use cashews and chocolate chips. Success! The shortbread crust is perfectly buttery and slightly sweet. The chocolate chip, cashew, and sweetened condensed milk combination are reminiscent of a candy bar similar to Twix. Also, they are super easy to make- bonus! I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Cashew Chocolate Squares

Makes 16-18 squares

Recipe adapted from Jerry’s Pecan Squares

Ingredients:

2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour

½ cup of confectioners’ sugar

1 cup or 2 sticks of unsalted butter

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 large egg at room temperature

1 tsp vanilla extract

7.5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 cup chopped roasted cashews

Pinch of kosher salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 13×9 inch baking pan with parchment paper allowing the parchment paper to hang over the sides.  Set aside.

Using a food processor mix the flour and confectioners’ sugar, pulsing several times until combined.  Next, add the butter.  Pulse the butter with the dry ingredients until well incorporated.  The dough should come together to form a ball.  Remove the dough.  Press the dough evenly into the prepared 13×9 pan.  (If you find the dough sticks to your fingertips dip your fingertips in confectioners’ sugar and proceed.)  Bake until the crust is golden brown, about 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside. 

While the crust is baking mix the sweetened condensed milk, egg, vanilla extract, chocolate chips, cashews, and salt in a medium bowl.  Pour the wet ingredients over the still-warm crust, spreading evenly, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the bars appear golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cool, cut into squares.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  The bars taste best the day they are made.  Enjoy!

5 Sweet Links

Start the year off with a Toll House brownie you deserve it, after all, we are still in a pandemic.

I made these bars and they are excellent.

My grandmother’s chocolate chip halfway cookies are a family favorite. Check them out here.

This recipe is on my must-make list.

Make these brownies for someone you love.

Rhubarb Icebox Cake + 5 Icebox Cake Links For Summer

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This recipe for rhubarb-strawberry icebox cake is a riff on the traditional chocolate icebox cake. It is easy to make and tastes like summer. It seems foolish to even post this recipe with so much unrest and pain in our world. I can appreciate the black squares that popped up all over Instagram shortly after the horrific killing of George Floyd, however, if white people truly want to support the Black Lives Matter cause it is time to donate whatever money you can. If you can’t donate money, donate your time. Less talk and more action will lead to change. Here are a few local resources for Massachusetts residents but many of these organizations have chapters throughout the country. Please have a look and donate what you can. Every bit helps.

Black Lives Matter: https://blacklivesmatter.com/chapters/,

NAACP: https://www.naacp.org/,

National Police Accountability Project: https://www.nlg-npap.org/

Massachusetts Bail Fund: https://www.massbailfund.org/

Youth Enrichment Services https://yeskids.org/

Rhubarb Icebox Cake

Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour

Serves 6-8

Ingredients for Cookies:

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

½ teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup of sugar

1 cup or 2 sticks of unsalted butter at room temperature

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Ingredients for rhubarb filling:

4 cups washed, diced rhubarb, about ½ inch pieces

¾ cup of sugar

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon fresh ginger

1 tablespoon cornstarch

Ingredients for whipped cream:

2 cups heavy cream, cold

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Fresh strawberries, sliced thin for garnish if desired

Directions for cookies:

Preheat your oven to 300F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Using a small bowl mix together the baking powder, salt, and vanilla.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, mix together the vanilla mixture, almond extract, sugar, and butter until well-combined and smooth.  Add the flour.  Mix until the dough comes together.  Use a 1 ½ tablespoon cookie scoop and scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets.  Press the cookies flat with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar to ¼ inch thickness.  Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Once cooked, transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Directions for the rhubarb filling:

Add the prepared rhubarb, ½ cup of sugar, nutmeg, orange zest, and ginger to a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.  Mix together cornstarch, remaining sugar, and two tablespoons of cold water.  Add to rhubarb filling and bring to a boil. Continue to cook until the filling no longer appears cloudy.  Remove from heat and cool completely.

Directions for whipped cream:

Chill a mixing bowl.  Once chilled, add the heavy cream and sugar.  Whip until the cream thickens soft to medium peaks form.  Add vanilla.  Set aside or chill until ready to assemble the cake.

Assembly time!

Spread a tablespoon of rhubarb filling on top of a cookie then add another cookie to make a sandwich.  Continue to add filling and cookie, stacking them on top of each other.  Once you have 6 or so sandwiches, lay the cookies horizontally on a tray or serving dish.  Continue adding cookie sandwiches until all of the cookies and filling are used.  Spread prepared whipped cream over the entire cake, top and sides.  Make sure all of the cookies are covered with whipped cream.  Place the cake in the refrigerator and chill for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.  Before serving, decorate with fresh strawberries, thinly sliced.  Refrigerate any leftovers in an air-tight container for up to 1 week.  Enjoy!

5 Icebox Cake Links

My grandmother made an icebox cake she called three layer delight for years when I was growing up.  I adored it and I think you will too.  Here is the recipe from Mountain Mama Cooks.

Looking for an icebox cake that serves one or maybe two? Your search is over.  I am a food blog has a recipe for mini green tea chocolate no-bake icebox cake that is sure to satisfy any craving.

Alexandra Cooks is by far my favorite food blog.  Check out her recipe for chocolate-espresso cake icebox cake.  You will not be disappointed.

Switch up your traditional chocolate wafer icebox cake and try Zoe Bake’s icebox cake with chocolate wafers and caramel whipped cream.  This is on my must-make list!

Now that it is blueberry season why not try a blueberry lemon icebox cake.  Crazy for Crust’s recipe screams summer!