Lydia asked for reader help finding a recipe for a bar cookie I tasted recently that was out of this world. She said it had a light brownie base, and was topped with caramel, pretzels and peanuts so it was sweet but slightly salty, crunchy but also tender.
How serendipitous, Dafne Gregorisch of Pembroke Pines replied. This Saturday I had downloaded all recipes from your column, including the intriguing request from Lydia. The next day, in hopes of getting a jump start in planning my yearly cookie trays, I decided to search all of my Christmas recipe clippings and came across exactly what Lydia described!
Rita Rolter and Laurie Hauptli also sent the recipe, from the December 2011 Bon Appetit magazine. Rolter says you can add a sprinkle of chocolate chips to the topping if you want to be even more decadent.
Marion DLaurenti asked for a fruitcake cookie recipe. A good source for all kinds of recipes for candied fruit is the Plant City-based producer of all things candied, from fruit to ginger, Paradise, at paradisefruitco.com. This is a good time to stock up on the candied mix, which can be hard to find at Easter for hot cross buns and in fall to start those fruitcakes mellowing.
Here are two giftable cookbooks:
• Perfect for introducing children or grandchildren to the joys of cooking is The Unofficial Narnia Cookbook (Sourcebooks, $19.99). Dina Bucholz does for C.S. Lewis series what she did for Harry Potter, translating the food of fiction into recipes suitable for young cooks. Breakfast with Trumpkin the dwarf, tea with Tumnus and snack with the White Witch. There is plum pudding and biscuits from Father Christmas to celebrate the season, along with the easy nougat recipe here.
• For busy home cooks on a budget, try Delicious on a Dime (Oxmoor House, $12.95). There are more than 150 simple, money-saving recipes from the editors of All You magazine, with a cost-per-serving estimate and many complete meals for less than $10. The cost estimate for the French toast recipe here is $1.21.
Tried and new
• Thai Kitchen has added color to its line of rice noodles. Theres one made with red rice that would make a festive change to stir-fries and noodle casseroles, and another made with purple corn. I made a pad Thai with the red noodles and lots of green cilantro and scallions that was a hit. The noodles are gluten free and vegan. Available at larger supermarkets or at thaikitchen.com for about $4.89.
• Pampered Chef has a new line of skinny cocktail mixes in flavors including Cosmopolitan, Appletini, Mojito and Margarita ($8.50). Each 4.9-ounce mix makes 16 (4-ounce) servings. The Cosmo, for example, comes in at just 94 calories with vodka.