Thursday, January 17, 2008

Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Caramel Bars

My sister says I am high maintenance. She even went as far as to warn my husband before he married me that I was trouble. What exactly did that mean?? Crikey...

I think as a person I am pretty self sufficient. I have come to the point in my life that if I decide I need to have something, that I had better come up with an ingenious way of getting it. On my own. **cue in Pussycat Dolls, "I don't Need a Man".

Yes, I like the indulgences life has to offer...who doesn't?? Like that leather couch I had to wait almost 20 years of marriage for because we couldn't afford anything more than second hand?? Or the Kitchen Aid Convection dream oven that also was 20 years in the making. ***Fond memories of my avocado green double oven**. Good things come to those who persevere.

Also topping my "List" are gourmet food stores, kitchen gadgetries, shoes (insert heavy sighing here), clothes, skincare, hair products and purses (more sighing, only heavier). **Pausing to think of a few more**. Oh yes...Ikea is now on the "List". Man...that place is LETHAL!

But, through all of this love of life's GOOD THINGS comes one basic, simple and unadorned favorite. Where cosmetics and perfumes and Christian Louboutin's never existed. A place where the only good smells that you will find are when you walk out the door. This wonderful place is the GYM!!

I have always enjoyed the weight training part of working out. Yes, the running and walking and elliptical stuff is good, but what sets my heart on fire are the weights.

This all started about 13 years ago, when my neighbor, a power lifter, convinced myself and a few friends to come work out at his gym. Since then, I have had my on and offs with the weights, but now I am feeling the love once again.

It is a feeling of empowerment, not just for your body but for your mind. I never...even back in high school, wanted to be thought of as one of those weak, simpering, helpless types. I always wanted to feel strong and sure that I could do anything. I have decided that life has so much to offer...why not go out and get it??? !! That is how I roll!

I have also decided that the next time my sister comes to visit (love you, N), she ISN'T getting any of that stuff she calls high maintenance. Nope...not one oooey, gooey square will touch her lips....not one bite of the meal that cost a weeks worth of groceries (not often, but is does happen). Zero....ZIP!!! I will snatch it from her faster than the Grinch does the Who's decoration's. OKkkkkkkkkkkk...so only in my mind will this happen, but it was a nice dream while it lasted.

What REALLY will happen is I will cut her some of my Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Caramel Bars, make her some hot chocolate and I will listen to her tell me yet one more time how she warned Scott about me.

To quote the wise rapper, Kanye, "N-n-now th-th-that don't kill me,
Can only make me stronger".


Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Caramel Bars
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Crust Layer:
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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) cold butter, cut into pieces

Macadamia Caramel Layer:
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1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups whole macadamia nuts, toasted*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate layer:
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1 1/2 bags of Special Dark Chocolate chips, melted

DIRECTIONS:
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Make the crust:
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1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Place flour, cocoa, brown sugar and butter in food processor bowl. Cover and pulse until fine crumbs form. Press firmly into bottom of 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

3. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Make the macadamia nut layer:
Combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth. Simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until mixture turns golden. Remove from heat and stir in macadamia nuts and vanilla. Pour over crust.

Make the chocolate layer:
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1. Place chocolate in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium (50% power) for 1 minute. Stir. Microwave 30 seconds more or until chocolate is softened. Stir until smooth.
2. Spread melted chocolate evenly over macadamia nut layer. Refrigerate until chocolate sets. Cut into bars.

*To toast macadamia nuts, spread on baking sheet. Bake at 350°F. for 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted.
**I used President's Choice Bag on Macadamias, which I might add are the size of footballs, so I snapped those bad boys in two on the seam. If you use smaller ones, keep them whole.

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