I’m excited. It won’t be long till enjoying the outdoors will become the norm. Happily, thanks to COVID vaccines, I look forward to gathering with family and friends that I haven’t seen in way too long. Envisioning backyard barbecues, picnics and parties in the near future, collecting some go-to summer recipes is in the cards (recipe cards, that is.)
As get-togethers go, I’m often asked to bring dessert and my favorite totable treat is the versatile bar cookie. They go together quickly, serve many and are easy to eat, perfect for any outdoor gathering.
Bars are a good option for those who don’t have a lot of time to bake. They go together especially fast when made with a packaged cake mix. With a few staple add-ins it’s possible to whip up a pan of bars in an hour or less that are so delicious no one will suspect they began in a box.
Oat Toffee Bars
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1 (15-ounce) package yellow cake mix
2 cups quick oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup toffee baking chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup milk chocolate baking chips
2 T. butter
Directions: Grease 13×9-inch baking pan. Set aside. In large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat 3/4 cup butter at medium speed till creamy. Add cake mix, oats, brown sugar, egg and vanilla to bowl and beat till well blended. Stir in toffee chips and nuts. Press dough into bottom of prepared pan.
Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven 30 to 35 minutes or till golden brown. Cool completely in pan set on wire rack.
In small saucepan over low heat melt 2 tablespoons butter and milk chocolate chips. Stir till smooth. Drizzle or pipe mixture over bars. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour or till chocolate is set. Cut into bars. Makes 24 to 36.
Lemon Cheese Bars
1 (18.25-ounce) package lemon or yellow pudding in the mix cake mix
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Directions: In large bowl combine cake mix, 1 egg and oil. Stir till crumbly.
Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture. Press remaining mixture into bottom of ungreased 13×9-inch baking pan.
Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven 15 minutes or till light golden brown. Remove from oven but leave oven on.
In medium bowl combine remaining egg, cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice. Beat till smooth and well blended. Spread over baked layer. Sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture. Bake 15 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack; cut into bars.
Makes 18 bars.
Double Chocolate Bars
1 package Butter Recipe Fudge Cake Mix
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 (6-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts
Confectioners’ sugar for garnish, if desired
Directions: Grease 13×9-inch baking pan. In large bowl combine cake mix, eggs and melted butter. Stir till thoroughly blended (mixture will be stiff.) Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Press mixture evenly in prepared pan.
Bake in preheated 350-degree F. oven 25 to 30 minutes or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (do not overbake.) Cool completely. Cut into bars and dust with confectioners’ sugar, if desired. Makes 36 bars.