Congo Bars

My girlfriend Charlotte brought these to a cookie exchange.  Not only were they delicious, but I loved the story behind it: Throughout my childhood my mother made these for our family and for church and school gatherings.  For years she would send them to the soldiers in Germany. They loved them because they were sturdy bar cookies and therefore always arrived fresh and unbroken. I now make them for my grandchildren.

3/4 C butter, at room temperature
1 lb. brown sugar
3 eggs
2 1/4 C flour
2 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 12 oz. package chocolate chips
1/2 C chopped nuts

Beat butter and sugar together.  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add vanilla, dry ingredients and mix well.  Add chocolate chips and nuts.

Spread dough evenly in a  12"X18" rimmed pan and bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes or until just lightly brown.  Cool and cut into squares.

(Image credit: Eat the Love)


Nebraska Caramel Corn

My girlfriend Patty brought cellophane bags of candied popcorn to a cookie exchange.  From Patty: The recipe originally came from my grandmother. Growing up in Nebraska, my mother made it for me and my two sisters when we were young. When we grew up and moved away, she made it for us when she visited our homes for the holidays.  She continued to make it for herself and her friends for her last Christmas when she was 93!  She was a strong woman and definitely influenced us all.  Jack helps me make it…that caramel sauce is boiling hot and he helps pour…both of us talk about Mom when we make it.  

From me: My husband, a self-proclaimed caramel popcorn connoisseur, says this is the best.

2 C brown sugar
2 sticks butter (1/2 lb.)
1/2 C white corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 quarts popped corn

Combine brown sugar, butter, syrup, and salt.  Bring to boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for 5 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat, add soda and stir. In a large bowl, pour over popped corn and stir throughly to coat.  Transfer caramel corn to rimmed baking sheets.  Bake in 250 degree oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven to cool, then break up pieces and enjoy.  Wrapped in cellophane bags and tied with a ribbon, they make pretty party favors or hostess gifts.