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
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
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.