Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I get by with a little help from my friends...

Party time! We had our youngest daughter's graduation party this weekend and - despite the crazy weather - it was a smashing success.

Even though I only prepared appetizers and desserts (we catered the main meal from Polonia Catering), I was busy all day the day before, making tons of food. We had about 50 friends and family members coming, plus my daughter had invited about 50 of her classmates and friends, too. Busy house. And when the downpour hit, everybody ran inside. Thank goodness we'd cleaned the basement and the garage! LOL

Today I want to talk about everybody's favorite part of the meal - dessert! We ordered a whipped cream cake -- half yellow with strawberries and half chocolate with white chocolate mousse filling from Creative Cakes (fabulous local bakery), but the rest was up to me. As the title of this post says, I definitely got by with a little help from my friends.

I made Cleo's Chocolate Clouds and Jenn's Chocolate Cookies as well as my own raspberry bars (recipe below). Additionally, my sister-in-law made Puppy Chow, and my good friend Rene made her famous chocolate chips, plus Hello Dollies, plus Mixed Nut bars. Tons of treats. We augmented the table with three different flavors of bite-size cheesecakes, too. Take a look at our bountiful the dessert table...

By the time the last kids left at about one in the morning, we were down to four raspberry bars left. That's it. We were cleaned out. Good thing because leftovers have a nasty way of ending up at my waistline LOL

Raspberry Bars (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)

Generously grease a 9 x 13 baking pan

In a large bowl, combine:
2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Add in 12 Tbsp (1.5 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
(HINT: Freeze the 1/5 sticks and then "cheese grate" them over the dry mixture. Makes this super easy to work with!)
With your fingers, smoosh the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles fine crumbs.

Separately, combine:
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp almond extract

Add this a little at a time until mixture holds together. Not wet. You can add a teensy bit more milk if needed to make it hold together. Use your hands...makes it way easier.

Press the dough into the bottom of the 9 x 13 pan and make it smooth and even. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. I left it in for over an hour - no problem.

While this is in the fridge, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Bake the chilled dough in the oven until the center is firm, about 12 - 15 minutes. While it's baking, prepare the streusel topping, below:

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces (use the cheese grater and frozen butter. I swear it's genius! Several people suggested that to me and they know what they're talking about!)

Again, blend with your fingers.

1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup oatmeal (uncooked)

Should be a really nice mess right now.

Separately, combine:
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk

Add *HALF* of this wet mixture to the flour/cinnamon/almond/oatmeal/etc. bowl. Combine with your fingers until the mixture is clumpy and sticky. Set aside. Discard the other half of the egg mix.

Remove baked dough from oven. Spread raspberry preserves or jam over the top. The original recipe called for 1 cup, but I always use quite a bit more. Love my raspberry preserves! I generally use 2 12-oz cans.

The raspberry will spread easily over the hot dough. Once it's fully covered, take the streusel topping and drop little bits of it evenly over the raspberry preserves until you've used it all. The original recipe was for double the amount of streusel and I thought it was way too much. That's why there's only half an egg in the topping. Sometimes, I actually make double the streusel and freeze half for another time. Whatever works for you!

Bake this again, this time for 25 - 30 minutes until the raspberry is bubbly. Allow to cool and then serve. I like to put them in little cupcake papers. Makes it easier to serve.

These are so pretty and so delicious. They take a bit of work, but they're totally worth it!

Parties are a lot of work, but thank you to Rene (big hugs!!) for all your wonderful desserts! Thanks to s-i-l Claudia for Puppy Chow (and Jello for dinner) and thanks to my blog sisters here for the great recipes they've shared here on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. What would we do without friends?


Grace Under Pressure is out now.
Welcome to Marshfield Manor. Come for the tour, stay for the murder...


  1. Congrats to the graduate. Yay! Your table looked lovely and I'm so glad the chocolate cookies were a hit! Man, I could really use a piece of that cake...

  2. Congratulations to your daughter! What a fantastic party you threw.

    Love the pretty pictures...those raspberry bars are to die for!

  3. Congrats to your daughter. Sounds like the party was a big hit. Love the recipe.

    Thoughts in Progress

  4. Charmaine - LOL I hear you. Thank goodness there were at least those few bars left. Snack time for Mom!!

    Thanks Jenn - the cookies were a *huge* hit. Actually, I think they might have been the first thing to go. And I'd doubled your recipe! People were saying "Pepper? Really?" a lot. Of course I talked up Mystery Lovers Kitchen and told them where they could find the recipe... *grin*

    Elizabeth - thanks so much! It was a fun party. Kept us running all day, but you know what? I enjoy that.

    Thanks, Mason. Enjoy making these. Like I said, they take a little effort, but they're so delicious!


  5. Julie, what a fabulous party! Congratulations to your daughter. I love your dessert table, and your raspberry bars sound like they're right up my alley.

    I assume this graduation was from high school, not puppy obedience school, so could you tell me what Puppy Chow is? ; )

    ~ Krista

  6. Krista - LOL! Very true. Puppy Chow is *extremely* popular with the kids. I've never made it but my sister in law always brings it, so I can't tell you exactly *how* it's made (hmmm... future blog post?) but I can tell you that it's a mixture of Chex, chocolate, and peanut butter. She combines these in a way that makes it look like puppy chow. She puts a handful or so in each of about 50 cupcake papers and the kids go nuts for them. I love the stuff myself but I knew better than to have any at this party. With all those kids, I might have lost a hand or a finger if I tried to reach for one *grin*

    Julie (thinking she should ask her s-i-l for that recipe...)

  7. Stop tormenting us!

    In my most recent manuscript, I had a character setting out a nice assortment of goodies for tea at a B&B. My editor asked plaintively, how about some recipes? My response: OMG, where to start? I have more cookie recipe books that anything else. How could I possibly pick only a few?

  8. LOL Sheila! Mmmm... tea and treats at a B&B. Yum! Really... is there anything better or more satisfying than cookies? I *love* cookies. Definitely try these raspberry bars... you won't be sorry!


  9. Julie, I'd love to see that Puppy Chow recipe! A friend of mine used to make something she called Texas Trash with Chex. The internet is full of recipes by that name, but none of them are exactly like hers.

    ~ Krista

  10. Krista - I just emailed Claudia to see if she'll share the recipe. If so, my kids will be happy. I'll make a bunch and post the results here!


  11. Julie - Big congratulations to your daughter! Graduation parties are so important and it looks like your daughter's was truly lovely. MUCH to celebrate at the Hyzy house with GRACE UNDER PRESSURE just releasing, too!

    Those raspberry bars look amazing -- love the hint on freezing the butter. And I can't wait to see that "puppy chow" recipe. (BTW - I'm really flattered that you made my little chocolate clouds. :)

    ~ Cleo
    Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  12. Hooray for a great graduation. What a fun party you threw! The raspberry bars look fabulous! Can't wait to try them. I adore raspberries!
    Hugs to friends.

  13. Cleo - you would have loved watching people try them. Someone would take one, their eyes would go wide at the first bite, and then they'd grab a friend and say, "You have to try these!" Only one person had ever seen anything like them before and he called them "Forgotten Cookies" because you leave them in the oven overnight. But, he said, they aren't soft inside. HIs version is drier and crunchy. The clouds and Jenn's chocolate cookies were a huge hit. Thanks for the congrats!

    Avery - it really was a fun party. I've finally (over the years) learned how to do it all and still make time to enjoy myself. You'll love these bars. Not quite sure how to make them gluten-free, but I know you'll come up with a solution!


  14. What an amazing dessert spread! If I pretend I haven't had my birthday yet, will you guys throw me a party? :) Congratulations to your daughter on her graduation. Cleo's right - lots to celebrate in your house these days!

  15. What a wonderful reason to celebrate, Julie! The dessert table looks splendid. I will be making those raspberry bars for sure. You're right - using the cheese grater is genius.

    With a new book and a graduation, you've had quite a month!

  16. Hey MJ!
    You're right. A busy month! Thanks for the kind words about the table. I was quite pleased! Enjoy your raspberry bars!