Saturday, February 26, 2011

Suck It, Martha Saturday - Harmonious edition

This week's Suck It, Martha moment came courtesy of the lovely ladies of Harmonious Soul, a women's a capella group that was silly enough to allow me to join them last December. Each week one of us is responsible for bringing a snack to rehearsal, so this week I decided on my mom's recipe for Cream Cheese Nut Bars. (This particular example was made without nuts, in deference to possible unknown allergies.) I know it doesn't look like much, but anyone who has ever tried these can tell you, they are fan-freaking-tastic.

They are also ridiculously easy to make. My mom used to make them for Christmas all the time. I took over Christmas cookie duty several years ago, and I think these are the only cookies that I can say I have made every single year since then - they are that easy, and that popular.

Mom S's Cream Cheese Nut Bars (liberally adapted by yours truly)
1 box cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup walnuts, divided
1 cup brown sugar
16 oz cream cheese, softened
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour (or line with parchment) a 13x9 pan. Or two 8x8 pans. Whatever.
  • Chop 1/2 cup of the nuts fairly small. (Use a food processor.) Combine with the cake mix and the butter. (You can use the food processor for this too and save yourself washing another bowl.) Press firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan.
  • Cream together the brown sugar and the cream cheese. Don't just stir them together - you've really got to beat them until they're almost whipped. (Insert husband joke here.) Spread over the cake mixture in the pan.
  • Roughly chop the remaining 1/2 cup of walnuts. Sprinkle evenly over the cream cheese. Or don't. Your call.
  • Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, crack the oven door, and allow to cool in the oven. Refrigerate until completely cool (or at Christmastime, set out on the back porch) before attempting to cut. A pizza cutter works best.
  • Get out of the way before the ravening hordes tear your fingers off.
The best thing about this recipe, besides it's utter simplicity, is that it is quite adaptable. For example, the original called for golden cake mix, but as you can see in the picture, chocolate cake works deliciously too. Last Christmas I drizzled maple syrup over the bars as soon as they were done baking before putting them back in the warm oven. You can use any type of nuts you like in place of the walnuts - pecans would be lovely, or hazelnuts.

And finally, I'm aware that some of you may be saying, "Hey, this is the second week in a row where you've featured chocolate and cream cheese." To which I reply, Yeah, what's your point?

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