Blueberry Bars for Back to School! (and a MNFoodBloggers Bar Bake-off)

Yesterday was the official end of summer in my house. Back to school for both boys, and I spent the day wishing they were home again. “Seriously?”  You may ask. I spent the past several weeks anticipating the beginning of school with a certain glee, which may have bordered on unhealthy. I couldn’t wait to have peace and quiet in my house, for hours at a time. I looked forward to doing my work without interruption, sans little fingers dipping into the bowl. But, when it came to the actual day, I missed them and couldn’t wait for them to get off the bus.* Instead of pathetically staring out the window waiting, I decided to bake them some bars. Every MN kid loves bars.

For those of you from the coasts, I am referring to a layered dessert baked in a pan resembling a brownie/cookie/pie, but can be made with fruit, caramel, chocolate or anything else your pantry contains. Then they are cut into neat bars. I was first introduced to this concept when I moved to Minneapolis 18 years ago. Bars are generally served on a buffet table with lots of crock pots filled with “hot dish.” Every family has their own recipe, usually a tightly held secret, mostly kept from the neighbors.

Just a couple of weeks ago Stephanie Meyer asked me to judge a MNFoodBloggers Bar Bake-Off. It seems the quintessential task of any MN food blogger, baker or non-baking type, to create the perfect bar. What I forgot when I took on this responsibility is how many members the MNFoodBloggers has and how many bars I would have to eat in one sitting. Luckily, I was not alone in my task, Stephanie March from Mpls/St.Paul Magazine and Joy Estelle Summers from City Pages joined me. We consumed 13, or was it 16, different MN Bars. Some were traditional recipes from grandma’s kitchen and others were a daringly new take on the MN dessert. The winner was Kelli Abrahamian from IHadaDelicousTime.com with her Rosemary Apricot Bars (picture below). Her fantastic herby crust and fruit filling were my inspiration for my Blueberry Bar recipe.  (more…)

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Coffee Ice Cream with Rosemary Shortbread

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I’m a dedicated coffee drinker. I was very loyal to illy for a time, while Costco carried it, but now my heart belongs to LavAzza. Many of you recommended it to me, but honestly I never tried it until I went to my friend’s bakery. At the Salty Tart Michelle creates pastries that inspired Andrew Zimmern to say it is the “best bakery in the World!” The coffee she serves is LavAzza. The coffee is excellent, worthy of her treats and good enough to make me switch from illy!

So when I wanted to make coffee ice cream I used Lavazza beans and a recipe from David Lebovitz, which I found in a recent copy of Fine Cooking magazine. The coffee flavor is so deep and intense that it almost has a bittersweet chocolate taste to it. If you’ve ever had Vietnamese ice coffee, this ice cream is reminiscent. That rich flavor just begged for something bright, so I paired it with a rosemary shortbread cookie. A new addiction is born! (more…)

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