Archive for October, 2011

Perfect for Halloween. Or Thanksgiving. Nut-topped pumpkin bars are luscious and so easy to make.

Are you surprised? Once again, we bring you a dessert that will never be recommended by the American Heart Association. But these pumpkin bars are perfect for Halloween parties, and I’m making dozens of them for my sister Allis’s housewarming Halloween bash. (I also made bunches of them for a recent Molly’s Mutts & Meows fundraiser.)

The original version of this bar cookie used a spice cake mix as the base. Just between you and me, I thought it was disgusting. So I replaced it with the world’s easiest bar cookie base, created by Alice Medrich and published in her wonderful book Pure Dessert, as the base for the best lemon bars ever. The topping does have one healthy item in it: pumpkin. The rest of it–cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs… Well, I suggest when people ask what’s in them, you just mention the pumpkin.

Here’s the recipe.

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Bars

This makes a 9×13-inch panful, and it is made in two stages: first you bake the base, then the filling with the base. Total baking time is about an hour.

The base:
2 sticks of butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour

The filling:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
16 oz. can pumpkin
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ginger)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup chopped walnut or pecans

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the sugar, salt and flour. Melt the butter and pour it into the flour mixture; add the vanilla. Stir it together and dump it into the pan and pat it out to the edges. (Notice the elegant simplicity of this approach: no hauling out the food processor and cutting up cold butter and whirring it together with the dry ingredients and then pressing the crumbs into the pan. This is easy.) Bake it for about 25 minutes, until it’s well browned at the edges and golden in the middle.

In the meantime, make the filling. Beat the cream cheese until it’s fluffy, then pour in the milk and beat again. Add the eggs, pumpkin, spices and salt. Mix well. Pour over the baked crust and sprinkle nuts over the top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until set. Cool and then refrigerate.

However, I think these bars are delicious warm, and I dig right in as soon I think they’ve cooled off enough that I won’t burn my mouth too badly.

For parties, I cut the bars about an inch square and put each one in a cupcake paper. There are lots of cute and seasonal cupcake papers around; I’m using black-and-white polka-dot ones for this holiday.


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Many years ago, as a not so young bride, I received a wedding gift–the ice cream maker attachment for our new food processor. I’d never made ice cream before, so I started by simply opening the manual that came with the ice cream maker and then my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook. My new spouse and I pored over the two sources of info and came up with coffee ice cream, which, under normal circumstances, we both loved. We chose the custard type and proceeded to follow all the instructions, which really were pretty simple.

The part that got us into trouble was the coffee.

All you need for coffee ice cream (plus the essentials - eggs & cream!

Being coffee press users, we always had fresh coffee beans of choice on hand. But the recipe recommended instant (instant? in my house? I think not!) espresso or coffee. Hmmm. What to do? Sure, you say, just run down to the market and get some instant. My closest market is two and half minutes from my house, but the lines are ALWAYS forever. So we did what any rational person would do – we fine ground coffee beans and tossed it in using the recommended amounts for instant coffee. It was delicious! A hit! Let’s write this variant down and make it again. Yay!

I woke, bright eyed, at 2:00 a.m. As I lay there WIDE AWAKE, I noticed my honey wasn’t snoring. So I whispered, “Are you awake?” He whispered back, “Oh yeah, I’m awake!” We gave up any notion of trying to go back to sleep, turned the lights back on and chatted for another couple hours until the coffee bean buzz finally wore off. There might have been wine involved too.

I’m a great one for changing recipes that I think I can improve. I usually try the original recipe first, and if I like it enough to mess with, I will. The next time I made that ice cream exactly as suggested and slept like a baby! I haven’t made ice cream in a while, because I have Handel’s right around the corner from me. There are only a few in the country, but lucky for me, I have one. If you’re ever near one, try their raspberry chocolate truffle ice cream – wow! Or make your own. I haven’t ever seen a recipe for it, but how hard could it be to invent it? Yeah, I thought so. I guess it’s up to me!


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Son of an Ice Cream Man

By Mel Gilden

I have a close personal relationship with ice cream. Though summer is officially over, I don’t require hot weather to enjoy the king of hot weather treats. I like to eat it no matter what the weather. I don’t think it’s all the fault of my father, but he probably helped. My father and his partners owned a fleet of Eskimo Pie ice cream trucks.

He started work early, and he came home early, and so we always had dinner at 5:00 p.m. Often the family would be sitting at dinner when we heard the sound of the enemy entering our domain: the Good Humor truck.

Mel says he never sold an Eskimo Pie to a woman wearing spectator pumps and an apron--but he wishes he had.

Forks were suspended in midair. Conversation stopped. Then my father would curse in Yiddish. Roughly his curses translated as, “Columbus should be so lucky,” and “He [meaning the Good Humor man] should have on his bones what he makes on this street.” As the Good Humor man truck’s music faded, we would begin to eat again, trying to pretend the whole situation had never happened

Every Good Humor bar the driver sold represented one fewer Eskimo Pie bar that one of our guys sold. The competition was terrific, especially during the winter when business was pretty thin for all.

I drove an ice cream truck myself one summer. Being the boss’s son, I was open to some gentle kidding. For one thing, most everybody called me Ace. But I didn’t mind. It made me feel like one of the guys — which was OK because during the summer some of the drivers were students and others were even teachers. One gentleman from England assured me that he liked “fast women and fast ice cream trucks.” Another gentleman was a cracker-jack salesman who sold more ice cream in a day than some drivers sold in a week.

Theoretically, each driver had a route where he would slowly roll the streets, watching for customers to wave him down, but sometimes there were arguments about who was supposed to drive where. I didn’t have this problem because, being the boss’s son, I was sent out to the good places, places that the other drivers might not even know about. I was sent to nice neighborhoods, and to Marina del Rey. In those days the marina was not so built up with fancy condos and restaurants, and I parked along the channel to service the men and woman who fished from the rocks. This was not only a pleasant way to spend a hot summer day, but it meant that I wasn’t using much gasoline.

For a while I sold ice cream at Roxbury Park, a fancy public space in Beverly Hills. A Good Humor man was also assigned to the same location, and we went round and round the park, chasing each other along an alley that ran behind it. Officially, each of us was supposed to stop only when actually doing business. But often one of us would stop and wait for business to come along. Though we both did this, only the Good Humor man had the lack of class and breeding to report me to the cops. I probably still have a police record buried in a file somewhere in Beverly Hills.

One of the problems with being an ice cream man was the tendency to eat up the profits. I did my best to limit my ice cream intake, but I found myself eating a lot of a novelty item called Papa Jino’s Italian Ices On a Stick. I ate a couple of these every day for a few weeks, and then one day I didn’t want another one. From that time on Papa Jino was safe from me.

My labors–and my restraint–paid off. I bought my first car, a used 1960 Chevrolet Belvedere, with the proceeds of my summer stint as an ice cream man.

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