A classic treat for sharing

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If you’ve been invited to a barbecue this weekend, you’re probably thinking about what you can bring. Look no further than the original recipe for Rice Krispies treats.

Every time I’ve had a prepackaged Rice Krispies treat, I’ve been disappointed. They’re often too hard and a little bit stale, which is unfortunate because it’s so easy to make these correctly. You just need the recipe below, and about 20 minutes.

Whether or not you’re headed to a barbecue for summer’s last hurrah, this is a good one to have on file for when you need to contribute to your child’s class party or just want to have an after-school treat on hand.

Ingredients
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
40 marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

Grease a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan with butter. Set aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

Add Rice Krispies cereal. Stir until well coated.

Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into pan. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

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Bombshell blondies that can’t be beat

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One recipe I keep going back to is the Joy of Cooking’s recipe for Butterscotch Brownies, aka Blondies. Some people think a brownie isn’t a brownie unless it involves chocolate, but this recipe gives you the consistency and richness you’d expect, but with a different flavor. This is one I make well, and one that has been well-received by anyone who has tried them. It’s a keeper.

The key to this recipe is to get the first step right. Browning butter is an easy thing to mess up the first few times you do it. The trick here is to make sure you don’t turn the heat up too high. I did that when I first tried browning butter, and it went from beautiful to burnt in a matter of seconds. I’ve had consistent success browning butter when I keep the heat at medium-low, about a four on my oven knob. When the fat starts to separate, the butter will start to smell differently. When it starts to smell like butterscotch, take it off the heat immediately and throw in the sugar to keep the butter from burning. It doesn’t take long for the butter to smell slightly burnt, and that flavor will carry into the finished blondies if you don’t catch it before it gets there.

These decadent bars are a delicious treat and a great excuse to work on your butter-browning skills, which can be used in pasta dishes like this one and other types of meals. Use your nose, and you’ll get it down. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan lined with foil.

In a large heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium heat, then boil, stirring constantly until light golden brown, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sugars until well-blended. Let cool to barely warm. Stir in egg, egg yolk, corn syrup, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and coconut. Stir until combined. Scrape mixture into greased baking pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan on a rack.

Pesto provides endless possibilities

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Never underestimate a good pesto recipe.

Pesto can be used to coat chicken for baking; it can be tossed with pasta for an easy-to-make dinner; it can be combined with a bit of mayonnaise to make a potato salad dressing — the possibilities are endless. pesto2063013

Italian basil is usually available at Tahoe farmers markets, which run from about May through September, but can sometimes be hard to find in stores. During the months when it is available, I keep homemade pesto in my fridge at all times.

The recipe I use was given to me by one of the reporters at my last job. He got it from “Pasta Cooking” by Jeni Wright. He said it was his favorite recipe, and it has become mine, too.

While some pesto recipes are more Parmesan and olive oil, this one is all about the basil, as it should be. The original also calls for four tablespoons of butter and a dash of pepper, which you can add if you like. I leave it out. Be prepared for the strong basil flavor. I love it.

pesto3063013If the pesto gets a little dry in the fridge, just stir a little more olive oil into it. It’s definitely something worth keeping around.

Ingredients
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 packed cup of fresh basil leaves (about two bunches, just the leaves, not the stems)
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Dash of salt

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Who knew applesauce could be so good?

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Until recently, I had never made applesauce. My only experience with it was the kind spooned from the Mott’s jar with a yellow lid. I never found it impressive. It was something I might eat with pork chops, but not much else. That is, until I made my own.

While figuring out what to make next, I remembered I had bookmarked Ina Garten’s recipe for applesauce. Then I saw that it was baked in a Dutch oven, which is perfect since I’ve been using mine nonstop since I received it.

The recipe is straightforward, which is what I’ve come to expect from the Barefoot Contessa. That she keeps things simple is what I most like about her attitude toward cooking. Her recipe for applesauce is no exception. I had no idea applesauce could be so good until I made her flavor-packed version. applesauce2After baking the ingredients, her recipe calls for whisking them together. I left small chunks of apple in mine instead of making it the same consistency as the store-bought stuff.

Over the course of a week, I devoured the pot. It’s great for breakfast, a snack or as a dessert — and healthier than many alternatives. This applesauce may become a regular item in my refrigerator. I doubt I’ll ever purchase a jar of applesauce from the store again.

Ingredients
Zest and juice of 2 large navel oranges
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 pounds Granny Smith apples (6-8 apples)
3 pounds sweet red apples, such as Macoun, McIntosh or Winesap (6-8 apples)applesauce3
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 pound unsalted butter
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the zest and juice of the oranges and lemon in a large bowl. Peel, quarter and core the apples and toss them in the juice. Pour the apples and juice into a nonreactive Dutch oven or enameled iron pot. Add the brown sugar, butter, cinnamon and allspice and cover the pot. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until all the apples are soft. Mix with a whisk until smooth. Serve warm or at room temperature.