Saturday, January 8, 2011


by Sheila Connolly

I'm delighted to be joining the writer-cooks of Mystery Lovers Kitchen, because I love to talk about food (and eat it too).

This past week I made a tiny step toward my New Year's resolution of organizing my piles of paper. For years I've kept a binder with my favorite recipes, culled from cookbooks, newspapers, magazines, friends–you name it. These are the recipes I've used over and over (and even my husband has some favorites in there). The problem is, I keep collecting new recipes (including those of my colleagues here), and the binder overflowed. In fact, the pile outside the binder grew larger than the stack inside the binder. It was time for an overhaul.

Rather than get a new and gigantic binder, I decided it was time to split the recipes, so I started sorting. What I found very quickly was that I had far more dessert recipes than anything else. Guess what: the desserts are getting their very own binder.
I hied me to the office supply store and contemplated my options. The binders should be washable (greasy fingers, you know), easy to use, and large enough to accommodate current and future recipes. There were plenty of choices. But I wanted to be able to distinguish between Desserts and Everything Else at a glance, so I needed two colors of binder. I went with blue for the Everything Else (I happen to like blue, and the old binder was blue). But what color is sweet?

For some reason the obvious answer (to me) was pink, and I'm still trying to figure out why. If I were going to divide everything, I'd probably have green for vegetable dishes, red for meat dishes, and I have no clue what color soups would be. Maybe I was brainwashed by all that pink bubble gum from my misspent youth. But I hate pink, and I have a yellow kitchen, so pink clashes. In the end Desserts ended up in an aqua binder. Not perfect, but at least it doesn't offend my eye. What color says "dessert" to you?

Anyway...since I'd delved into my stacks of recipes, and thus into my entire adult cooking history, I could review the ones I've been using the longest and most often, and one of those is Coffee Toffee Bars. This one actually originated in my college days. I went to a women's college, and in the last millennium we used to have weekly sit-down teas, with homemade (or housemade) cookies. The housemother (yes, we had those too) would pour from a tea urn, and we (starving students) would grab as many cookies as we could. It was a nice weekly occasion for socializing with dormmates; it's also where I learned to play bridge. (No, I'm not ninety, and the tradition was waning even before I graduated, alas.)

So here's the recipe (warning: this is not a healthy recipe, but it sure tastes good!):


1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. almond extract
1-2 Tblsp. instant coffee (regular or espresso)
1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 to 2 1/4 cups flour
1 cup (6 oz. pkg.) chocolate morsels
1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped

Cream the butter. Gradually add brown sugar, creaming well. Blend in almond extract and coffee.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt, and add to butter-sugar mixture to form a stiff dough (mixture will be crumbly). Stir in chocolate morsels and almonds.


...and after
Press into well-greased 15x10x1-inch jelly-roll pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Frost while warm with almond glaze:

1 Tblsp. soft butter
3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1/8 tsp. almond extract
Add 1 to 2 Tblsp. milk until spreading consistency.

(If you feel guilty about eating them, just cut them into little tiny squares.)


  1. As soon as you asked, "what color is sweet?" Pink came to my mind too.

    Hubba bubba bubblegum?

  2. Pink for cotton candy? I was looking through my recipe "files" (that implies organization, which they ain't) and I do believe that the first 20-25 recipes I looked through were for a dessert of some sort. Shows where my favorite food group is! Maybe I should organize my files, or collapse on the couch in utter apathy...hmm, decisions, decisions~Nurse JudyMac

  3. These look heavenly! Just wanted to let you know that I discovered you through Jenn's Bookshelves blog. Food, cozies, fun ... I'll be here often.

  4. Apparently my guilt mechanism is off, because I'll have no problem eating these...yum! I need to organize my recipes, too. Actually, a lot of them are on my computer now, in Word files. I do like that because I can search for them.

    White means dessert to me. I don't know why!

  5. Double-Bubble and Bazooka were both pink. Although those bubble gum cigarettes (talk about politically incorrect!) came in a variety of colors.

    Yes, Elizabeth (or Riley), I've been converting my favorite recipes into documents--in large print. That way I can stick them on my fridge at eye level and actually read them (plus they stay cleaner that way).

    The recipe pile just keeps growing and growing...

  6. Red. Sweet is red. It's luscious, it's Valentine, it's candy boxes. But aqua will do. Love the story. My recipes are overflowing, too. I just added that to my to-do list - which is sort of like a bucket list but not...Ah, me.

    Love the coffee toffee bars. I've got to try. Thanks for joining us!


  7. White means dessert to me (vanilla ice cream, white frosting, white cake, sugar).

  8. Sweet is brown...the rich deep brown of fudge brownies, chocolate mousse and devil's food cake; the warm golden brown of oatmeal raisin cookies, coffee toffee bars, and apple pie. Definitely brown.

    Welcome, Sheila! You are the obvious addition to this group - you simply belong here. Now there's yet another reason to look forward to this blog every day.

  9. Welcome Sheila I like how you think desserts are the best. 70% of my recipes are some type of dessert as well. To me brown is sweet chocolate is my best friend :). Glad to have you here it will be nice to see what their recipes you share with us.

    The World of Book Reviews

  10. I'm gonna agree with Babs, light brown (like brown sugar and caramels) is the color of sweet... And welcome to the party!

  11. This is hysterical! Apparently, sweet is the color of the rainbow and all shades in between. I'm afraid I would go with the crowd opting for white -- sugar!

    ~ Krista

  12. I'm joining Krista in the LOL-ing on your Q of the day! Even before I got to the comments, I thought pink made sense. The logic of it is clear enough (along with the bubblegum association)! But for me the color of "sweet" is brown, primarily because of that Mad Men brainwashing of Hershey Bar wrapping. (More subliminal embedding from a too-young age, lol.) This recipe looks so easy and tasty. I love the story of your college tea time, and I especially love the espresso powder addition – no surprise, right? (BTW, I recognize the little Medaglia D'oro instant powder in your pic - that's what I use for adding coffee flavoring to recipes, too.) :)

    Cheers and Happy Recipe Organizing (an admirable endeavor for the New Year)!
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  13. I'm with the crowd voting for white. Desserts (the concept) screams white or pink to me. (But since you nixed pink, I would have voted for white.) Desserts as a word, however, makes me think pale brown with stripes of white and a scant touch of red, mostly. Sweet conjures up pink, for sure. Even though the letter "S" is not pink for me. As a synesthete, I always associate colors with letters and words and numbers. Weird, but cool.

    Good for you organizing your recipes. I really need to do that. But my kitchen reorganization project is on hold for a while... a week or two at least. Love the idea of binders. You have just given me more ideas for my master (mwaha ha ha) plan! Thanks, Sheila!

    And I love the recipe, too! Can't go wrong with toffee!

  14. I think the color of sweet is also pink for me. More a holdover from my youth of cotton candy. But desserts for me would be in a chocolate brown cover. I comment you for getting your recipes in order. I started putting mine into a recipe software program, but didn't get far because I was having to type in each one.