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Monday, December 7, 2009

Gooey Mixed Nut Bars (by Maren)

Guest Baker Maren is my sister and she's awesome. While usually domesticating in Vermont, she and her family are in Virginia for a year, and would you believe it, they are living mere blocks from us. So this is one guest baker whose goods I have gotten to sample, sometimes fresh from the oven, including these gooey nutty delights. I'm not gonna lie, it's nice. Maren is an extensively accomplished cook and baker, with special talents in the realm of Middle Eastern foods and flavors. You know anything she makes is going to be special.

"Like pecan pie with mixed nuts."

Maren's notes: Yummy and rich. I used "light" corn syrup (reduced calorie) with no noticeable taste difference. I also added a touch of almond extract along with the vanilla and some ginger along with the cinnamon. I might try using reduced sugar cake mix in the crust as I've had good luck with that product before.

Next time, I would omit or reduce the melted butter in the filling layer. This recipe is a great base for experimentation: these could easily be improved (like most things) by adding chocolate chips, coconut, dried cranberries, snipped dried apricots, some granola, a layer of peanut butter, raspberry jam or cream cheese goodness between the crust and filling, or a top drizzle of melted chocolate, etc.

Gooey Mixed Nut Bars
Non-stick cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
1 package 2-layer size yellow cake mix
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 tsp cinnamon
2 cups mixed nuts, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 9x13 pan with foil, bringing the foil up to the top edges of the pan, and spray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, cut 1/2 cup butter into the dry cake mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture evenly onto the bottom of prepared pan. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned and set.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix eggs, brown sugar, corn syrup, the 1/3 cup melted butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir in mixed nuts. Pour mixture over warm crust. Bake about 30 minutes more until golden brown. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Using edges of foil, lift the uncut bars out of the pan. Cut into bars using a sharp knife. Makes 32 bars.

Store between layers of waxed paper in airtight container in refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze up to 3 months.

Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine, December 2009

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