Chocolatey sweets make special treats

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mars Bars Squares

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mars Bars Rice Krispie Squares

A few weeks ago I attended the opening of my artist friend Carol Wiebe’s first art quilt show. (The show is on until the end of October at the Greenwood Quiltery in Guelph if you want to see some unique and visually stunning art pieces.)

Prior to the show, Carol had mentioned the gallery would be providing refreshments at the opening. I enjoy baking so I offered to bring a plate of ‘something’. The days leading up to the opening were particularly busy so my contribution ended up being something fast and easy, NOT an example of fine baking skills!

I had picked up a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate cookie mix from Costco a few weeks earlier, curious to see how a cookie mix branded by a reputable chocolatier stacked up to homemade cookies. A batch of these cookies proved easy to whip up. (My assessment: the cookies tasted fine, but were thin and crisp/somewhat chewy – depending how long you baked them. My personal preference is a thicker, chewier chocolate chip cookie.)

I also brought Mars Bars Squares – a chocolatey version of Rice Krispie Squares. The recipe goes together very quickly and is always well received. An added bonus – it requires few ingredients – crisp rice cereal, margarine, chocolate chips and Mars bars (known as Snickers in the U.S.). I keep a well stocked pantry of baking supplies so I’m usually 3 for 4 on the ingredient list for these squares. I picked up a 4-pack of Mars bars on the way home from work one day, and was able to make these squares in minutes.

Here’s the recipe.

Mars Bars Squares
(Makes 36 squares)

The recipe calls for 50 g Mars bars, but Mars in Canada are 58 g bars. I made the squares without noticing the size difference (Has it changed recently? How unusual that the bar got bigger instead of smaller??) until I was just about to combine the melted bars and margarine mixture with the cereal so I tossed in another 1/2 cup (125 mL) cereal to balance out the ingredients. The squares turned out fine. You could do the same or reserve half of one of the bars for nibbling later – or while you’re baking!

I think the squares are chocolatey enough but for visual effect you could also drizzle white chocolate over top of the layer of melted chocolate chips.

4 (50 g/1-3/4 oz) Mars bars, sliced into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
1/2 cup (125 mL) hard margarine
3 cups (750 mL) crisp rice cereal
1 cup (250 mL) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (60 mL) hard margarine

Heat Mars bars and 1/2 cup (125 mL) margarine in a large saucepan on low, stirring constantly, until melted and combined. (Mixture may look greasy initially but keep whisking until it blends together.) Remove from heat.

Add rice cereal. Stir to combine. Pack evenly into a greased or foil-lined 9 x 9-inch (23 x 23 cm) baking pan.

Heat chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (60 mL) margarine in a small saucepan, stirring often, until smooth. Spread over top.

Let bars cool. Cut into squares.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Chocolate everything by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2000

Mars bar - an energy bar

Mars bar - an energy bar, not a chocolate bar

Did you know…?

Mars bars are called “energy bars”, not chocolate bars as we typically refer to them and other similar snacks in Canada, or candy bars as I hear Americans call them.


Pucker up, biscuit lovers!

Biscuit Lips
Biscuit Lips

No lip liner, botox injections or other enhancements needed to make these puffed and pouty babies! These hot lips are meant to be devoured as a fun, if not somewhat unusual, accompaniment (in appearance, that is!) to soups, stews or salads. Given a sensual slathering of strawberry or raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you prefer – red just seemed appropriate!), you could also serve them for dessert or tea.

These biscuits are slightly on the sweet side. I’d knock back the sugar to 1 tablespoon (15 mL) or eliminate it altogether if you don’t plan to serve the biscuits alongside a savoury dish.

To create the lip look, roll out the biscuit dough and cut out rounds. Score (cut a line across the diameter) each circle without cutting all the way through. Butter the surface (the next time I make this recipe, I’m going to spread the circle with a generous amount of jam), then fold one half over to form a half circle. As they bake, the lip shape will form.

Biscuit Lips
(Makes about 20)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/3 cup (75 mL) cold butter or margarine
3/4 cup (225 mL) milk
Butter or margarine, for spreading (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in or work in butter with a pastry blender or a couple knives until mixture is crumbly. Add milk; stir with a fork until mixture begins to adhere together. Gather into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 10 times.

With a rolling pin, roll out until 1/4-inch (1.5 cm) thick. Cut into approximately 2-3/4-inch (7 cm) circles. Cut through centre of each circle with a sharp knife just to barely score the surface. Spread with butter, if desired. Fold over, butter side in, and press edges together gently. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until biscuits are risen and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: Soups and Sandwiches by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 1987

Low-fat, 30 minute recipes

Prolific cookbook author Jean Pare and her Company’s Coming publishing company just keep churning out cookbooks! Since her early years as a caterer and the 1981 publication of her first cookbook – 150 Delicious Squares – Jean has sold over 26 million cookbooks. There are now about 60 cookbooks in her series. I must have about half of them in my personal cookbook library!

These days, the Edmonton (Alberta) publishing giant uses a test kitchen (known as the Recipe Factory) to help with recipe development and testing.

Jean has also published her autobiography (Jean Pare: An appetite for Life), a fascinating account of her life and how she created the Company’s Coming brand.

The following recipe is featured in one of the newest books in the series – Low-Fat Express. The cookbook contains over 140 healthy, tasty recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less.

You can find a list of all the cookbooks in the series, sample recipes from her books, and cooking tips on the Company’s Coming website – The cookbooks are widely available.

Thai Coconut Chicken
(Makes 4 servings)

1-1/4 cups (300 mL) prepared chicken broth
3 tablespoons (45 mL) lime juice
2 tablespoons (30 mL) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15 mL) finely grated gingerroot
1 tablespoon (15 mL) grated lime zest
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 to 6 oz/113 to 170 g each)
1/4 cup (60 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (30 mL) reduced-fat peanut butter
1 tablespoon (15 mL) sweet chili sauce
1/2 cup (125 mL) light coconut milk
2 teaspoons (10 mL) cornstarch

Combine broth, lime juice, soy sauce, gingerroot, lime zest, garlic and pepper in a medium frying pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Add chicken. Cook, covered, about 12 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until chicken is no longer pink inside. Transfer chicken to a plate. Cover to keep warm.

Whisk brown sugar, peanut butter and chili sauce into broth mixture until smooth. Bring to a boil. Stir coconut milk into cornstarch in a small cup. Slowly add to broth mixture, stirring constantly with whisk, until boiling and slightly thickened. Serve with chicken.

Per Serving: 304 Calories, 7.6 g Fat (2.7 g Saturated Fat), 22 g Carbohydrate, 35 g Protein, 1 g Fibre
Recipe Source: Low-Fat Express by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2008