Sunday, September 28, 2008

Just Desserts

If you love to cook like I do and come from a mostly Midwestern family, then you've probably inherited or have been given lots of church cookbooks. You know, those cookbooks filled with casserole and dessert recipes written by grandmas who loved to cook with cream soups and lots of cheese? I absolutely love my church cookbooks. Most everything in them is fast, easy, and/or can be thrown into a casserole or slow cooker and just left alone for a while to cook on its own. Also, most of them utilize "convenience items" from the grocery store. Just open a bunch of boxes and/or cans, toss everything into a pot or pan, cook, and enjoy. My husband and I both grew up on meals like that, so I tend to cook that way myself, though I will go through stints where a meal full of fresh veggies and pasta sounds much better. This past week, we did a lot of entertaining, mostly for our two gaming groups. I made lasagna on Wednesday (inherited from my mother-in-law, another fast and easy casserole-like recipe), which received rave reviews from family and guests alike. Plus, I made a double batch and had enough left over to last us the rest of the week. Last night, Hubby tried out his new grill, so I didn't have to really cook at all. One thing I made sure we had at both get-togethers was my latest favorite quick dessert: Caramel Brownies. The recipe came from one of my church cookbooks, courtesy of my best friend and matron of honor. In fact, the very first meal I'd ever made for my husband came from that cookbook! I made one batch of brownies for Wednesday night's get-together, and they were pretty much gone before last night, so I just whipped up another batch. Here's the recipe in all it's glory and with a few modifications I've made along the way:

Caramel Brownies
1 Bag Kraft Caramels*
1 small can (5 oz.) evaporated milk**
1 box German Chocolate super moist cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 a bag of milk chocolate chips
1 small pkg. of pecans (optional)***

Mix together cake mix, butter, and 1/3 cup evaporated milk. It'll be thick, almost like cookie dough.
Spread 1/2 of cake mixture into a 9x13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 6 minutes.
Sprinkle chocolate chips and nuts over top of baked cake mixture. Melt caramels and 1/3 cup evaporated milk in microwave and pour over the chips and nuts.
Take the remainder of the cake mix and dot all over the top of the melted caramel.
Bake an additional 15 minutes.
Let cool before cutting.

*It can be hard to find caramels in the grocery store sometimes. Look for them in the bulk candy aisle. Now that it's fall, you can also find them amongst the Halloween candy or possibly near the apples in the produce section for making caramel apples. For my first batch, I couldn't find caramels, so I just substituted a 16 oz. tub of caramel apple dip and heated it in the microwave with the evaporated milk. It worked wonderfully! For my second batch, I actually found something called "caramel bits". Basically, they're tiny bits of solid caramel that melt very quickly in the microwave. No plastic wrappers to contend with means less time, less mess, and less waste. I bought three bags of those to keep on hand! ;)
**The original recipe calls for a small can of Milnot. I had no clue what that was when I first read it, so I looked up possible substitutions on-line, and found that it's basically just an older brand name of evaporated milk. My mom remembers her mother and grandmother using it back in the day. I'm sure it can be found somewhere out there, just not in my current grocery store.
***I've never added the pecans before. I'm sure they make the brownies taste even better, but with the multitude of nut allergies around today, you can never be too sure. Oh, and apologies to all of you with chocolate, milk, and other related allergies. These brownies are wonderful, but definitely not healthy. ;)

Have a great rest of the weekend!

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