Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pina Colada 7 Layer Hello Dolly Bars

 "Pina Colada 7 Layer, Hello Dolly Bars are filled with macadamias, dried pineapple, white chocolate, coconut and rum. These decadent bars are better than drinking out of a coconut."

Pineapple, Coconut, Macadamias, Cookie Bars

In my never ending quest to fill my body with as much sugar as I can before I die, (just kidding mom) I must admit to loving 7 layer, hello dolly bars. My mother didn't bake many sweets other than a Heath bar cake, chocolate chip cookies and yes....7 layer magic bars. I think those might have even been my first introduction to coconut which I detested, until I devoured these.

I have lots of variations of 7 layer bars that I've baked over the years, but I've never done a tropical version. Last summer I found myself with macadamia nuts that needed to be used and dried pineapple leftover from some granola I had made. With company coming I concocted this quick dessert, served it with pineapple sorbet and it was a winner. Perfect after a BBQ; the kids enjoyed these 7 layer bars just like cookies.

pineapple, 7 Layer Bars, Hello Dolly bars, coconut, macadamias

So why now am I sharing these tropical delights? Well, they are a perfect sweet in the dead of winter when one might be dreaming of warm Hawaiian breezes and sand in one's toes. They also are a great bar to serve on a buffet and I suspect some folks out East may be planning something for the Super Bowl. Maybe out West, too! Easily assembled in 15 minutes or less, these are almost like biting into a pina colada. Yes, there is a bit of rum in there and yes, you can leave it out, but frankly I think it cuts the sweetness of the bars.

pineapple, 7 Layer Bars, Hello Dolly bars, coconut, macadamias

These 7 layer bars are loaded with macadamias, white chocolate, dried pineapple and coconut. And yes...that touch of rum. Many recipes call for crushed pineapple and maraschino cherries but this isn't the direction I chose to take. I like the crunch of the nuts, the chew of the pineapple and yes...that rum. These are sweet so I like using salted macadamias because it helps cut down the sweet factor just a bit. And the coconut? I prefer to use the dried coconut shavings but any coconut will do. Don't have macadamias? Cashews will work and so will any other nut.

Give these a try. Aloha!

Here are a few more Pina Colada ideas:

Pina Colada Bundt Cake from Inside BruCrew Life
Pina Colada Sorbet from Tidy Mom
Coconut Pineapple Popsicles from Saving Room for Dessert

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pineapple, 7 Layer Bars, Hello Dolly bars, coconut, macadamias

A Few More 7 Layer Bars:

Yield: 1 13 x 9 Pan

Pina Colada 7 Layer Bars

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 25 MINStotal time: 40 mins
Pina Colada 7 Layer, Hello Dolly Bars are filled with macadamias, dried pineapple, white chocolate, coconut and rum. These decadent bars are better than drinking out of a coconut.


  • 1 4 oz stick of butter
  • 1 3/4 c graham crackers crumbs
  • 1 14 oz can condensed milk
  • 2 T dark rum (optional)
  • 1 c white chocolate chips
  • 1 c dried pineapple chunks
  • 1 c chopped salted macadamias
  • 1 c flaked unsweetened coconut


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place 13 x 9 pan in oven with  1 stick of butter. Let butter melt in pan. This takes about 5 minutes. Don't let it burn!
  3. Slide melted butter around pan and make sure pan is covered with butter. Sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top of butter and distribute evenly. Pat down gently as this will be your crust.
  4. Mix rum, (if using) into condensed milk. Pour mixture evenly over crumbs in pan.
  5. Sprinkle with white chocolate chips.  Sprinkle that layer with pineapple. Sprinkle pineapple with nuts. And finally sprinkle with coconut flakes.
  6. Bake about 25 minutes or until the edges of the pan start turning golden. The bars will be bubbly. I cool them in the fridge before slicing into bars.


I have been know to be generous with the toppings. If you think you want more chocolate or coconut or whatever, don't be afraid. It is perfectly acceptable to add more! Just remember the crust has to hold the weight...unless of course you want to eat these with a fork!
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Easy French Onion Soup

"French onion soup is like a treasure chest. Break through the salty molten cheese and discover the gems of sweet caramelized onions inside!"

It's hard not to love French onion soup. Like a treasure chest, maybe it's the salty molten cheese that covers the top, and upon breaking the lock one encounters bread soaked with rich sweet broth and then last but certainly not least, one reaches the hidden gems made up of strands of caramelized onions. Ahh. Everyone has their own version, but pretty much they are all the same. I first encountered my treasure chest at the Magic Pan on Michigan Avenue, a very long time ago. And though I consider French onion soup a special treat, I really should make it more often. Don't make the mistake of thinking that anything with cheese is verboten, because really this simple peasant broth is pretty calorie free. So if you must, just make the broth, but everyone needs a splurge now and then.

When I was married many moons ago we were gifted French onion soup crocks in the classic colors of gold and brown. They looked something like this.

Image result for french onion soup crocks

I kept them for many years on the top shelf where they gathered dust as they sat unused. They were never very attractive to me and since my kitchen dishes are blue and white I finally felt the urge to purge. And so I did. As my daughter says, or really Marie Kondo, if it doesn't give you joy there is no reason to keep it. So after 20 some years I didn't. When I'm in a purging mood I throw with gleeful abandon but those moods don't strike me often. (This is a good thing because when I throw it generally means I'm in a really bad mood.) However when I  do toss - watch out. By chance if these gold and brown crocks with handles are in your cabinets, I hope they are not gathering dust. I hope they are bringing you joy. As much joy as this French Onion soup does me.

I now use deep white individual souffle dishes to make my soup and it works out just fine. I still am able to run them under the broiler and turn that cheese into molten lava. And I'm still able to break into the treasure chest just fine. Just fine indeed.

More Soup:


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Soup, French Onion soup

Yield: Serves 6
Soup, French Onion Soup, Easy Recipes

French Onion Soup

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 60 MINStotal time: 75 mins
French onion soup is like a treasure chest. Break through the salty molten cheese and discover the gems of sweet caramelized onions inside!


  • 3 T butter
  • 1 3/4 lb onions or 2 very large, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 8 c chicken stock
  • 1 c white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 12 slices crostini or toasted baguettes
  • 4 oz grated Gruyere cheese


  1. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pot.  Add the thinly sliced onions. Partially cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes or until the onions are golden and beginning to caramelize.
  2. Add the garlic . Let soften for a few minutes. Blend in the stock and the wine, stirring until blended. Add bay leaf and thyme and season with salt and pepper. (This will depend on how salty your chicken stock is.) I do like plenty of fresh ground pepper but that is up to you.
  3. Cover the pot and simmer for 25 minutes. Remove bay leaf and thyme and check for seasoning. Preheat the broiler.
  4. Using your choice of bowl, place the soup into bowls or souffle ramekins. Top with 1 layer of baguette slices. Sprinkle with grated cheese. I like to cover it thick! Place bowls in your broiler pan and then place under broiler until the cheese melts and turns golden. Serve while hot!
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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Saffron Herb Rice and Guilin and Yangshuo

"This saffron herb rice with currants and pomegranate seeds is not only pretty it tastes great too!"

Saffron Herb Rice with  yellow and white grains is easy to make and tastes great! Plus it is so pretty! #rice #China

2018 is in full swing and though I've been busy you wouldn't know it from this blog. As I mentioned 2017 did not end on a high note and I was definitely not in holiday mode. Try as we could throughout 2017 to make things better...well,  better just wasn't cutting it. This will be the year of doing things differently as it was obvious to us that better doesn't always work. It isn't easy to teach old dogs new tricks but we are determined to master skills such as how to work differently, how to be nicer, how to gain patience and most importantly how to grow old together.  It's time to say goodbye to the year of floods, me getting older, parents getting even older, crappy jobs and to say hello to a new year- a year of new possibilities. I've been in high mode getting my business restarted and soon will have a website where you can see the custom plates I design for special occasions. Revamping this blog is also on the list as as are the usual items such as health, diet and exercise which are kind of one and the same. Boring!!! And that's it for what some may call resolutions.

On to rice. I last left you at chicken shawarma and didn't even have the decency to write out the recipe for this charming, perfectly gorgeous, perfectly festive, luscious rice. It reminds me of how my bedroom looked when I was young. Yellow walls and yellow bedspreads with rose, hot pink flowers, a gold shag carpet and of course... a pink princess phone completed the picture.  Well that's how I remember it and though this rice doesn't leap off bed spreads it will leap off your plate and into your mouth quite rapidly. It is good and tasty and perfect with most any dish, but pile this on a plate and surround it with chicken shawarma and you will be diving in. Even from a high dive...this distinctive yellow and white rice is that enticing. And easy to make!

Saffron Herb Rice with  yellow and white grains is easy to make and tastes great! Plus it is so pretty! #rice #China

So speaking of rice I figured it was time to continue the journey to China. I should have added this to my list of resolutions... though I only have two more segments after this. Hopefully if I complete them I will be able to go back because it doesn't sound like China Boy is coming home any time soon. However he will be visiting in a month and I can't wait!

From Hangzhou we flew south 2.5 hours to Guilin. We didn't arrive until midnight due to Chinese airlines consistently running late. Early the next morning we left for our 4 hour Li river cruise to Yangshuo. The limestone karst scenery was beyond spectacular. We may not have cruised the Yangtze but this was quicker and I hear a lot better than spending 3-4 days on a boat.  As you can see the morning haze was still looming.

And lots of boats were going the same place we were!

We got settled well on the ferry...Don't you just love it?

And then they served us brunch. Yummy!

We climbed often to the upper deck to take snaps of the scenery. It was hot. Really hot. Maybe more humid than hot. But that didn't stop us and everyone on the boat from getting the money shot. The money ask?

And quickly we arrived in Yangshuo. This might be as close to Boulder as one can get in China. This is where one can climb, hike, bike and boat. It is a destination for backpackers. We saw Jamaican bars and Irish bars and 99% of the faces were Chinese. Lots of cats roamed the streets. The red chiles were prevalent. The daytime streets were empty. The night time streets were packed. We stayed a bit out of town at the Eden Garden Hotel which can be found on booking sites. It was a lovely site located on the river and near the bike paths. They served us an awesome dinner of Drunken chicken or fish - a popular dish in Yangshuo.

This is the entrance to the hotel. Yes, it was off of a busy road, but once inside the gates it was very peaceful. At night it was lit up and made for a pretty site. We also happened to time it right and the red flowers on the vines had just started blooming. We were told this only happens once a year.

The next morning found us renting bikes. It was expensive, probably because of the quality of the bikes. For a whopping 75 cents we were able to rent bikes with no brakes or steering. It was quite a  deal!  We headed to the brick paved path that took us along the river and through the rice fields. The haystacks kind of made me think Monet in China!

We are looking quite good here, aren't we? Until the ....well... you know!

I think this was her IG shot!

Be careful little duckies. China is a dangerous place for a duck!

We rode over bumpy bricks-we did notice the stone layers in China have yet to perfect their craft. Every surface of tile, or brick tends to have its fair share of toe thumpers. And always there is a section being redone! Truly a hot, glorious ride that made for many photos. It was on this ride I had my famous bike accident that caused China Boy to exclaim that he can't take me anywhere. But really it wasn't my fault. As Manservant started to ride too close, I steered away to avoid hitting him and without a bike that steers or brakes I felt myself going down. It really was slow motion until I got up and noticed my torn leggings and the bruises on my face. Thank goodness I had just passed off the camera around my neck to Manservant.
It was then that the flower selling ladies crowned me, and bruised and all we continued on our path. Two boys decided to go swimming and then the Chinese boys followed suit. I think they were waiting for them to test the waters! Note that this was a popular spot for truck crossings, too!

And then it was a quick stop for lunch and biking back to take Advil, wash off and catch our Uber back to Guilin. Way too fast for such a glorious spot. Oh, but I almost forgot. I couldn't forget the rice. After all it isn't everyday one sees rice in China.

Though we came back to Guilin the next day we still didn't have enough time to explore its beauty. Trying to see everything in China in three weeks is impossible. We did manage to eat well, never any problem with that, and walked around Fir Lake, saw the twin Sun and Moon pagodas, but still there was so much more to do. I hope to see Guilin again some day and spend more time exploring. A Chinese Song dynasty scholar once wrote, "I often sent pictures of the hills of Guilin which I painted to friends back home, but few believed what they saw." There is a lot of truth in that.

Seafood and chilies were everywhere. So were the crowds. The garlic baked oysters were incredible and I don't even like oysters. We grabbed a plastic stool and dove in!

Yes, those are plastic school cafeteria trays. However I've never seen them filled with fresh scallops! What a full day we had. From bike riding to ubering from Yangshuo to Guilin is one day I would happily repeat-bruises and all! We woke up Sunday morning in time to catch the bullet train to Shenzhen but not before enjoying our breakfast and one last view from the Aroma Tea House where we stayed. I wish we would have had more time to enjoy this little gem of a hotel, but next time, I promise!

And those are happy memories to start the new year with. Now it's time for rice which will forever be ingrained in my soul. Get it? In grained? So time to shut up and give you the recipe. Enjoy this rice. And just for your notes...This rice isn't from China. It is from the Middle East. An Ottolenghi favorite of mine. But if you want a new take on a Chinese STYLE  fried rice this could fill the bill. And because this is a post on China I will close with an old Chinese proverb, "Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook." 

Saffron Herb Rice with  yellow and white grains is easy to make and tastes great! Plus it is so pretty! #rice #China

More on China:

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Saffron Herb Rice with  yellow and white grains is easy to make and tastes great! Plus it is so pretty! #rice #China

Yield: Serves 6Pin it

Saffron Yellow and White Rice with Currants and Herbs

prep time: 20 MINScook time: 25 MINStotal time: 45 mins
This saffron herb rice with currants and pomegranate seeds is not only pretty it tastes great too!


  • 2.5 T unsalted butter
  • 2 c basmati rice, rinsed and drained well
  • 2.5 cups boiling water
  • 1 t saffron threads soaked in 3 T boiling water for 30 minutes
  • 1/4 c currants soaked for a few minutes in hot water
  • 2 oz fresh herbs such as cilantro, dill, tarragon or a combination of your favorites
  • 1/2 c slivered or crushed pistachios or almonds
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Pomegranate Seeds for Garnish


  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and stir in the rice, making sure the grains are well coated in butter. Add the boiling water, 1 t salt, and a pinch of white pepper. Mix well, cover with a tight lid and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from the heat-all the water should be absorbed- and pour the saffron water over ONE side of the rice, covering about 1/4 of the surface and leaving the majority of the rice white. Cover the pan immediately with a thin dish towel and reseal tightly with the lid. Set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Use large spoon to remove the white rice to a large bowl and fluff it with a fork. Drain the currants and stir them in, followed by the herbs and most of the nuts, leaving a few herbs and nuts for garnish. Mix well. Fluff the saffron rice and gently fold it into the rice mixture. Don't overmix as you don't want the white grains to be stained with yellow-however I did not have this problem. Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. Serve hot or at room temperature.
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