View out my patio window. (December 12, 2016)
Minnesota really can be beautiful in the winter. If only winter came the week before Christmas and ended the week after New Year’s. Although, I am convinced that surviving long, snowy, freezing Minnesota winters is what gives our state’s residents a longer life span than the average American. I am undecided on whether we are either naturally a very hearty determined sort or are just too stupid to move south and too ornery to die.
That notwithstanding, today Minnesota looks like a lovely Christmas card. We received about four inches in fresh snow yesterday and the trees and bushes are all draped with the sunlit pristine white fluff. It now truly looks and feels like Christmastime.
Today is the day that I am going to start my Christmas baking in earnest. Which will commence as soon the butter softens up. Every year I struggle with which recipes to make, since I no longer make all of them as I did in my prime.
Of course in my prime, when I was working at the State Capitol, I used to make over 30 dozen cookies and deliver them each year to the Minnesota National Guard headquarters as a thank you for their service. In addition, I baked for many of my co-workers, friends, relatives and some very special shut-ins.
One year I had to start baking before Thanksgiving, because my National Guard friends had been deployed. So, I boxed up dozens and dozens of cookies and shipped them to a war zone.
When I was getting the box ready to be shipped. I remembered some good advice shared with me by my World War II buddies. They told me that you should never ship anything that is not useful to a war zone.
They also informed me that their cookies were always crushed and reduced to crumbs by the time they arrived. They called them, “spoon cookies.” Those old veterans eyes just sparkled as they recalled eating those precious cookies sent from home with spoons. To a man their response was always the same, “They sure tasted all right!”
When I sent my cookies off to our soldiers, I took the World War II Veterans’ advice. Instead of bubble wrap, I used nice soft rolls of Charmin toilet paper for packing. Just in case the Charmin tissue turned out not to be as cushiony as advertised and my cookies got demolished in transit, I also sent along a whole package of plastic spoons.
As fate would have it my cookie care package arrived on Christmas Eve. I still have the picture of our Minnesota soldiers enjoying those cookies on that Christmas Day when they were so far from home.
The cookies I make for gifts are the same as I normally make for my family such as, iced butter cookies, sugar cookies, gingersnaps, Snickerdoodles, Spritz, Chocolate-Cherry Bon Bons and Swedish Creme Wafers.
Last but not least there are the bar cookies. There are Oatmeal Caramel Chocolate Bars; Chocolate Marshmallow Bars; Mint Brownie Bars; red and green topped M & M Bars; powdered sugar dusted Lemon Bars; and two coconut filled confections…Dream and Mounds Bars.
At my house to become a favorite recipe more often than naught the goody must contain chocolate. Mound Bars have a graham cracker crust, coconut filling and are topped with semi-sweet chocolate. They really do taste much like their namesake candy bar. These bars do not last long, because they are gobbled up quickly. They last and freeze very well.
Pat’s Mounds Bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
In a small bowl, by hand, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9 X 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven
1-14 ounce package of shredded coconut
2-14 ounce cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon almond flavoring. ( I use imitation almond extract, due to my allergy to nuts.)
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, by hand, combine coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and almond flavoring. When completely combined spread evenly over the hot graham cracker crust. Return to the oven and bake for another 25 minutes. The filling should be very lightly browned when done.
1-12 ounce package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Remove from oven and evenly sprinkle chocolate chips over hot filling. Return to the oven for about 2 minutes, or just until the chips melt. Remove from the oven and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the bars.
Cool completely. Cut into squares and serve.