Tag Archives: Mocha

Mom’s Mocha-Toffee Bars

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About 35 years ago, my mom held a summer luncheon in our family home. She made these bars for dessert, and I fell in love them. After I returned to the Southwest, she sent the recipe, which I cherished and saved in my recipe file.

Mom's Mocha-Toffee Bars Resized

And yet, somehow, I never baked them until a week ago.

Perhaps to honor her passing, I was destined to wait. I was given time to reflect upon her love of the color brown. The color of earth, of solidity, of groundedness that she decorated our childhood homes with.

My earliest childhood home was actually painted mocha at mom’s request. Likely because she made a killer yellow cake with mocha frosting that the entire neighborhood craved, yet they rarely had the pleasure of indulging in because my dad, brother, and I usually engulfed it on its first night of creation.

Having said that, I’ve pondered the obvious fact that perhaps I named my blog after my mom in a surreptitious way that even I never uncovered until now. “Now” as in this very moment of typing these words on my chiclet keys. Amazing how and when connections are recognized!

Mocha-Toffee Bars

  • 2 Cups Brown Sugar – Firmly Packed
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 Cup (1 Stick) Butter, Softened
  • 1 Teaspoon  Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Coffee Liqueur
  • 1 Cup 1/2 and 1/2
  • 1 Egg – At Room Temperature
  • 1 Cup Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts or Pecans

Baking Directions

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13″ x 9″ baking pan and set aside.

Step 2:  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and flour.

Step 3:  Using a pastry cutter or your hands, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Remove 1 cup of crumbs and set aside.

Step 4:  To the original large bowl, add baking powder and salt. Using a whisk or fork, lightly beat in coffee liqueur, 1/2 and 1/2, and egg.

Step 5:  Continue beating until batter is smooth. Pour batter into the prepared baking pan.

Step 6:  In a small bowl or measuring cup, stir together chocolate chips and nuts.

Step 7:  Sprinkle reserved crumbs over top of batter in pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts on top of the layer of crumbs.

Step 8: Use a long, flat spatula to spread topping evenly over the top of the batter in pan. (I find that using my hands is also effective.)

Step 9:   Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean.

Step 10: Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. Cool bars in pan completely before slicing.

Step 11: Using a serrated knife, cut into 24 bars. If you’re using a non-stick baking pan, you might consider a serrated plastic knife for this process. My husband recently surprised me with a Bakeware Buddy Knife that seems to be ideal for protecting pans from damaging scratches.

Step 12: Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. I used a cake platter with a glass dome to store mine, and they were moist and delicious on the fifth day.

*High Altitude Note: This recipe has been tested from sea level to 5000 feet. I suspect that altitudes above 5000 will also do well, however, always best to be prepared to experiment.

Indulge in mocha!

Bye Bye Boys

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There’s a certain timbre in the coffee shop this morning. Porcelain colliding with wood, with more porcelain. Hushed voices. Whispers mixing with the steam of hot coffee rising.

As I glance back over my shoulder, I think of 2017. I see a mental billboard – a roadside advertisement featuring the famous bad boys. The lineup of naked egos exposed in their full self-glorification. 

Some courting felonies, some hoping for misdemeanors.

 

It was a year of cause and belated effect.

It was the truth of existence in operation, and a multitude of us watched with consciousness and remembrance of our own battles with the many flavors of abuse.

It was the year that Newton’s third law was made apparent to all.

It was a moment of satisfaction for me.

And to those celebrated offenders, I say:  “Bye Bye Boys. You’ve had your day. Now it’s time to go away.”

 

For all the unknown, the unexposed – may you wrestle with you consciences, have tea with your demons, and learn your lessons profoundly. Police Mystery Man

I am cordially indifferent to your individual plights.

 

I have only one sorrowful loss in this whole mess:  Garrison Keillor. He’s been my inspiration and a source of cynical, wickedly humorous Americana entertainment since 1980.

I’m angry that his fictional small-town tales and homey music have been removed from the terrestrial radio waves and the intergalactic currents.

Radio theatre is a dying art, as is impromptu storytelling.  I want the best to remain for as long as possible.

So desperate was I to find a replacement, I searched Podcasts and settled on “Welcome To Night Vale.” It seemed like a strong contender until I reached the episode of the three vomiting dogs.

Too rude, crude, and unattractively graphic for my taste. I unsubscribed.

Now, I’m back to the eloquent emptiness Garrison left behind.

And my anger deepens. I don’t know if it’s directed more at him or at Minnesota Public Radio. It’s a selfish and selective anger – Yes.

I want my small-town fantasy safely back on the radio each week, while I want him to scurry along and correct his wrongdoing.

Just get it right, Mr. Keillor. You’re an Anglican, a man of fair faith and intelligent virtue.

Just get it right with the Lord and get back on the airwaves.

Please.

From all of us at the coffee shop .  .  . we thirst for your witty gossip, disguised as provincial-minded chatter, to stimulate our decaffeinated minds.

One smart conversation begets another. And soon we can again have a community of cafe culture that enlivens the imagination.

I raise my cup of mocha chai to you. I need this gift restored.

 

 

Mocha Chai

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I began this blog with a dilemma: hating coffee, but, loving coffee shops.

I’ve spent the past couple years reflecting upon the thrills and memories that coffee shop ambience sparks within me, and also experimenting with some confections and drinks that my taste buds associate with coffee shop culture.

Last year, I developed a recipe for a Mocha Smoothie that worked well for my caffeine-free lifestyle. This year I have a soul-soothing alternative for anyone seeking a warm, nourishing drink.

Mocha Chai

For a 12-ounce mug:

  • Combine 8 ounces of Rice Milk and 4 ounces of Water in a small saucepan.

Add:

  • 2 Whole Cloves
  • 2 Cardamom Pods
  • 2 Whole Black Peppercorns
  • 1″ Piece of Cinnamon Bark
  • 1/2″ Piece of Fresh Ginger Root (No need to peel)
  • 1 Teaspoon Turmeric Powder

Step 1:  Stir together and bring to slow boil over medium heat on range top burner.

Step 2:  Once the liquid begins to boil, reduce heat slightly and allow mixture to gently boil for 3 minutes.

Step 3:  Cover pan and let sit while placing in the mug:

  • 1 Teaspoon Dark Maple Syrup
  • 1 Teaspoon Oil (Udo’s is my favorite)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Coffee Liqueur
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Chocolate Liqueur

Step 4:  Pour liquid from pan through a strainer into the mug.

Step 5:  Stir well.

Sip and enjoy on a chilly evening. Or, anytime, really. It’s a drink that warms and relaxes the body, mind and heart.

Baking With Bourbon

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In the past one-and-a-half years, I’ve lived in three different houses. Had three different addresses.

It’s been a long season of fluid and stressful change.

If this sounds like a coexistence of contradictions, it is. It has been the trail of a pinball ricocheting through channels of opposition.

But now it’s Christmas departing and a new year is preparing to be ushered in.

Tonight Hub and I had chocolate biscotti with a dollop of cappuccino-chocolate- swirl almond-milk ice cream, separately drizzled with a spoonful of dark rum. Yum. The healing power of mocha.

We’re celebrating our own version of the twelve days of yuletide. Tomorrow I’ll be baking sweet potato cranberry muffins with a shot of bourbon in the batter. Life doesn’t get much better than baking with bourbon. I learned that while living in the South. Specifically, in the hollers of Appalachia, from whence I’ve carried this secret ingredient for decades like a concealed weapon.

On the actual day of the New Year, we’ll share a Southwestern favorite: chicken enchiladas with some black beans tossed in for good fortune.

No eggnog, but I may have a mug of steaming chai. My recipe, made without tea – not black or green. And, by golly, it’s dairy-free and delicious. Sweetened with a deep note of dark maple syrup and perhaps a whisper of dark rum – just a special grace note for the holiday.

We deserve it. That’s how we see it.

Life has been chaotic and quixotic. We’ve endured the tumbles. We’ve come out the other end with tales to tell and some minor scars as proof. Basically, we’re just grateful to be standing still a spell and breathing in the unusual warmth of December air.

Thinking back over the past year, my favorite event was the solar eclipse. I spent the moment sitting by the pond in our new backyard, with my back to the sun and eyes fixated on the cinderblock wall ahead of me.

As the shadow shifted, my chattering mind slowed to a murmur. Then .  .  . silence. No thoughts. Just as there were no bird notes on the breeze. No breeze even. No airplanes overhead. No traffic humming in the distance. No dogs barking. No children laughing.

It was the silencing of my entire world. And I continue to cherish this sacred twinkling of emptiness.

Why? Because all fretting ceased. It was simply irrelevant. And existence just was what it always is beneath the flurry of humanity’s fears: Free.

And I, being a loner by nature, connect with empty spacious skies like a Velcro dot seeking its opposite and equal mate.

This is why we sold the retirement condo and chose not to move to the East Coast. Chose not to live next to the hazel waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

We circled around a few times, but ultimately returned to the arid highlands. This time to the city life. To the balance of civilization and surrounding nothingness, with blue skies and cauliflower clouds hovering above the brown earth.

It fits my soul.

My mocha soul of introspection. Like the secret of bourbon in my back pocket.Bikers, Cowboys & Outlaws @ The Hollar, Madrid, NM.jpg

A Signature Smoothie

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I began this blog with a dilemma: hating coffee, but, loving coffee shops. And I’ve spent the past one-and-a-half years trying to recreate the sparks of thought, reflection, and creativity that coffee shop ambience inspires within me.

Well now, I’ve found a solution to the first half of my polar quandary. Instead of cups of gourmet coffee with frothy hearts atop their steamy ceilings, I’ve developed a recipe for a Mocha Smoothie.

 

An all-natural, caffeine-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan alternative that satisfies the taste buds while nourishing the body and soul.

I drink it after workouts; post-yoga; in-between meals when cravings try to sneak in.

So, now I have the drink to sip. I just need the human company. The live conversation. The tangible infusion of the senses that only a brick-and-mortar shop can provide. That’s my next challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the moment, though, here’s the recipe:

  • 7 – 8 ounces of Water
  • 20 Raw Almonds + 5 Raw Cashews, soaked overnight and then rinsed
  • 1 tsp Maca Powder
  • 1 T Cocoa Powder (My favorite is Just Like Sugar Cocoa Mix)
  • Handful of Fresh Blueberries
  • 1 Scoop of Vegan Protein Powder, Mocha Flavored (My favorite is Vega)
  • 1/2 Banana – Frozen, Fresh, or Pureed (Yes, as in baby food! It offers a sumptuous, custardy texture.)
  • 8 Frozen Cherries

Place in a single-serving blender in this order. Blend for 30 -45 seconds.

 

And may your cup always be filled to the rim.

 

Yellow

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Sunflower .  .  .

Bee Pollen .  .  .

School Bus .  .  .

M & M  .  .  .

I don’t know how to name it; that deep, saturated, syrupy, golden-yellow that hitchhikes in on a slant of late summer and gifts the world with the profound, happy wisdom of a primary color.

When I gaze at the word “primary” and rotate it around on the lazy Susan of my mind, I think of it as meaning: First. Original. Source.

It’s a beginning. A piece of purity. It stands in contrast to the mangled creations of my imagination. The ones tainted with memories and habitual reactions to those memories.

The chaff I’d like to rake out from my fields of mental-thought, so that I can live in the cleanliness of pure yellow. In all its happy innocence.

But somewhere along the riverbanks of life, I lost a lot of my innocence. And I began to dwell in melancholy.

It was comfortable. In a strange way, it felt like home. As though I’d lived there before.

I knew the protocol and the inflections. I could walk the gait of the lonely along the moors.

This is the onset of my private Blue Period. It arrives like a marauding uncle without much warning .  .  . a drifter sad and blue.

The antidote is: Yellow.

When I’m conscious enough to catch myself hoboing into the silky arms of melancholia – that train without a track – I halter myself with images of yellow.

Yellow ascends.

And I follow like a Velcro balloon craving attachment. Once we connect, I feel a lighter beingness. I begin to settle into the coven of contentment. I start to peel my sagging countenance up from the sidewalk and stand in the spotlight of a loving, happy force that applauds my discipline.

I’m at war in these moments. A quiet inner war. With the blue note in my soul that I was born to wrestle in this lifetime. With the minor keys I’m destined to play on the piano of my universe.

My peace is to huddle next to a yellow wall. An entire wall of blossoming, rising happiness – the warm air of love on a vacant street corner.

Woman - Walking Against Yellow Wall

This wall is especially seductive as the world turns tortoiseshell.

As October marbles into November.

As colors swirl from gold to brown.

As the browning of late autumn signals the advent of burrowing in for winter.

As musing twirls to mocha.

As I peek through the lacework of naked trees, it’s the cozy of yellow I chase.

 

 

Lemon Chiffon

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It was early morning. I wandered out into the front courtyard garden and was greeted by a late-blooming lily of exquisite delicacy. Flower - Lily

 

Like a parachute at dawn, this lily had silently landed – petals spread aghast – in a color impossibly soft.

 

Made of flouncy fabric with ruffled edges, so like a trill of tiny pie shell scallops that I jolted.

 

“Lemon Chiffon,” I thought.

 

Yes. The lemon silk pies my mother baked in the moist summer heat of her cherished kitchen.

Pie - Lemon Meringue

Attributed to BettyCrocker

 

The kitchen designed in tones of mocha icing: big brown blocks of linoleum knitted the floor together in a spray of geometric patterns. Countertops were speckled with confetti inlays of chocolate and bronze-metallic.

 

Why, I wonder, was tidy splatter ever appealing as décor in the 1960s?

 

Was it the mirror of a rebellion brewing in the human heart, or, something simpler: camouflage for crumbs?

 

My mother’s kitchen was, always, well-scrubbed with elbow grease. She had little to hide. Perhaps just a few . . .

 

Stealthy crumbs like pie crust crystals left behind after the rolling pin ironed the dough ball flat and the pewter knife trimmed the jagged ends and the crooked knuckles of my mother’s hands had crimped the 9” diameter of a tenderized tin plate.

 

The hot clammy summer weather soothed her crippled fingers, while its weight caused the pastry ruching to droop.

 

The process always looked futile.

 

Until she poured molten lemon custard from a stainless steel double boiler into the slumping, buttery pie shell.

 

And slide the tarnished pan onto the oven’s middle rack, baking it at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Tangy Lemon Chiffon Pie Photo by Taste of Home

Although this routine raised the already sweltering heat of the kitchen, she produced an animated, flaky-crusted, glossy-skinned meringue that floated cloud-like atop a lemon silk pie.

 

Impossibly soft in color.

 

Tartly refreshing in flavor.

 

Bordered with crisp, fluted edges.

 

Just like the perfect lemon chiffon summer.

 

And as the dog days of summer relax their bark and collar their bite, a slice of nostalgia seems so fitting to me.

 

A vision carried from childhood on the breath of God.

 

A snapshot of mother-magic.

 

To boost me forward on my earthwalk.