Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mississippi Mud Bars

I don't know where this recipe originally came from, but it's one of the most "mom recipes" that I can think of (along with salad dressing, potato salad, and a few others). She used to cut these into star shapes and send them in our care packages to summer camp and college. I kept them hidden in the bottom of my closet when I was in New York for grad school. When I made these recently to take to a Clark family dinner, they went so fast I didn't have time to take a picture. It's a "boiled cake" which makes for a strange looking recipe if you haven't made one before. The frosting is very sweet so I recommend serving it in bite-sized squares or star shapes.

Mississippi Mud Bars
makes at least 24

Combine in a mixing bowl:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
Boil in a medium sauce pan:
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 3 T unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup water
Mix the chocolate mixture with the flour mixture and then mix in:
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup softened butter (1 stick)
  • 1 t vanilla
Pour everything into a jelly roll pan (a high-sided cookie sheet) that has been buttered and floured. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.

While the cake is baking, prepare the frosting. It needs to be spread on very quickly right when the bars come out of the oven, so be ready.

  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 2 T unsweetened cocoa
Add this gradually to 1 pound of powdered sugar that has been sifted. Then add 3 to 6 T of milk until the frosting is smooth.

Pour the frosting onto the hot cake and spread it with a butter knife as quick as you can. The frosting will start to set so it's best not to try to go back over it, just dump, smooth, and let it be.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Orzo Salad

This is a dish that is so simple, and so open to endless variations, that it seems a little silly to write it down as a recipe. But I've been working on orzo salads all summer and they are worthy of a post. You can change pretty much every part of this, but keep the orzo. There's something about its tiny, rice-like shape that makes for the best cold pasta salads. Try it with roasted vegetables off the grill, shrimp, an Italian vinaigrette, raw zucchini sliced very thin, chick peas and Moroccan flavors, just about anything.

Orzo Salad
serves 4 as a main dish

1 pound orzo
about a 1/3 cup olive oil (just enough to keep the orzo from sticking)
juice of 3 lemons
2 chicken breasts (optional)
2 tomatoes, seeded and cut small
1 cucumber, seeded and cut small
1/2 pound feta (I really like feta), crumbled
1 cup plain yogurt (Greek-style with fat works best)
1/2 cup mixed fresh herbs, minced (basil, mint, & oregano are my favorite)
1/2 a red onion, cut very very small
salt & pepper
  • Cook the orzo just like regular pasta, but pay attention to your colander. Mine has holes that the orzo fits through so I have to use a mesh strainer. 
  • Toss the orzo with the olive oil and half of the lemon juice. Set aside to cool while you prepare the rest.
  • Grill the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, cute into bit-sized pieces, and set aside to cool.
  • When the orzo and chicken are cool toss everything together in a large bowl. 
  • For best results, let it sit for at least an hour before serving. Sometimes I make it a few days ahead, but then I hold out the tomatoes and cucumber until I'm closer to serving it.
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