Monday, August 15, 2005

Finger Foods & Sunbeams

My nephew Tommy had his first birthday party on Saturday. Tommy is only a few months younger than Fat Baby, and since the two of them live less than a mile apart, they will go to school together all of their lives. Mom told me on Friday that the party would be a potluck, so I pulled out the cookbooks, eager to decide what to bring. I love cooking for parties, since they are my best chance to try new hors d'oevres recipes. Apparently though, Tommy's mom and I were the only ones who got the memo about the party being a potluck. Luckily, neither of us are capable of only bringing one dish, and while I brought finger foods, Tommy's mom took care of ALL of the main dishes.

I ended up making toffee bars, an incredibly easy recipe that I copied from an old issue of Family Circle magazine, and two different kinds of cheese spreads, recipes from America's Bounty that I have been wanting to try for a few months. The toffee bars were the biggest hit. This was the second time I'd made them, and I found that by mixing the ingredients for longer than normal, the consistency came out richer and smoother than the first time. These have earned a permanent place in my dessert repertoire.

  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsps vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  1. Place vanilla, brown sugar and vanilla in a large bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes.
  2. Add flour and mix on low speed for 2 minutes (do not scrimp on the time here - it takes this long for the flour to fully incorporate).
  3. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Spread dough evenly into an ungreased 10x15 baking pan.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees (convection setting works better than regular bake setting for a moist, rich texture) for 20-30 minutes, or until they are light golden brown.

I lived for years without an electric mixer. Most of the time, I found that a LOT of hard stirring was a fine, if highly aerobic, replacement. There were only a few recipes in which I would have to drive over to my grandmother's house, holding a bowl of ingredients, to use her mixer. A few years back, at a yard sale held by a local well-known artist, I spent $5 on a gorgeous antique mixer that didn't work. It looked exquisite on a shelf in my kitchen, where it lived out its last decorative days. Once I started doing a lot of cooking though, I got real tired of looking at the beautiful useless kitchen art and I went grumbling over to my mother's house to borrow hers. She, in the spirit of giving up EVERYTHING for her childrens' happiness, handed me the 1970s snazzy-looking stainless steel Sunbeam (with 12 settings!) that she had obtained from a yard sale and which I had long coveted, and said "You'll get more use out this than I will. You can keep it."

At least weekly since then, I have pulled out the Sunbeam to make some dessert or another, and I have remembered why my mom is such a great mom. Of course, my mother is also extremely smart, and I'm sure she knew that if I had a good mixer, she would get to sample even more of my desserts. Regardless, I wonder if I will ever be a selfless enough mother that I will be able to give up such a fine kitchen implement to my own child. Then again, while The Carnivore daydreams about Fat Baby becoming a great UGA football player, I secretly long for my son to become a world-famous chef. When he has his own restaurant (a dream I have long held for myself), he will be able to buy his own mixer.

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