Is it fair to say that everyone has a hard time coming back from vacation? I know I always do. Back in the days when I had a desk job, I would feel an almost overwhelming depression when I was finally back in my house and realizing I had to go to work the next day.
Now that my life is very different, I don’t feel that same despair but it certainly is hard to get back into the regular routine. This time around it’s especially hard because my husband is going to basically be gone for the next three weeks, essentially making me a single parent. When Randy is not here, I don’t put that much effort into cooking. I know some people delight in cooking for one, but I am not one of those people. In some ways I welcome the break. In other ways I miss cooking.
I am lucky to have my family living close by and when Randy is out of town, I always invite my parents and my brother Michael over for dinner. I invite them most weeks anyway, but it’s especially nice to have them here when I’m flying solo. I welcome the company but I also welcome the chance to cook. They are enthusiastic eaters of my food.
Since my brother is a cookie monster of the highest order, I can’t have them here without some kind of baked good to send him home with. I usually make something I’m certain he will like, but since he really loves anything in bar or cookie form, this time I decided to cater to my parents. Both my mom and dad love coconut. I have a recipe from Food and Wine for a sophisticated take on a Mounds bar that I have been meaning to make. The problem is, it’s one of those recipes that takes up the entire page of the magazine. There are three elements to the bar, each one fairly time consuming and complicated. Not quite the right thing to tackle this week.
Instead I offer you this fairly simple Coconut Bar from Vegetarian Classics. It’s not perfect but it’s easy. If you are a coconut fan, this is a great way to satisfy a craving.
The original recipe calls for only 1/2 cup of chocolate chips but I used a full cup. Because I am a chocolate person, I think it could have used even more but I’ll leave that up to you to decide.
8 tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
6 oz. Neufchatel (light cream cheese), softened
3 tbsp. butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1 1/2 tbsp. flour
3 cups (about 12 ounces) sweetened coconut
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9×13 baking pan.
2. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until blended. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Sprinkle in the flour and salt, and beat just until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared dish and use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly on the bottom. It will be very thin. Bake 15 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the topping using the same bowl and beaters (you don’t have to wash them.) Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and almond extract, and beat until combined. Stir in the coconut.
4. When the crust is done, spoon the batter into it. Carefully spread it around to cover the crust evenly. Bake 18-20 minutes, or just until the top off the batter begins to get a tiny bit of color. Place on a wire rack to cool.
5. While the bars are still hot, fill a medium-size saucepan halfway with water, bring to a boil, and remove the pan from the heat. Place the chocolate chips in a small Ziploc bag and tilt the bag so the chocolate chips collect in one corner. Lower the bag into the water, keeping the chips in the corner, and let them melt, about 2 minutes. Squeeze the chips occasionally to see if they are melted. Remove the bag from the water. Keeping the bag tilted, snip off a very tiny piece of the corner. Squirt the chocolate all over the coconut surface in an abstract pattern. When everything is completely cooled, cut into bars.