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The Cook in Me: Peace on Earth. . . Or At Least Between Brothers!© Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons & Almond Joy Bars
I don't generally talk about my children in my posts. As parents of adult children will appreciate, this is primarily because they would kill me if they knew that I did. However, once in a while I feel it's worth making an exception and because we're approaching Christmas and I have lots of memories of their younger years, today I'm going to do just that. I'm not sure if they even read my posts because they don't discuss them with me. I think they think this is my little hobby (as in, "isn't that cute? Mom has a little hobby,") and in a way that's true. I also do it because it's a way to record my memories and leave something permanent for my grandchildren, great-grandchildren and future generations by which they can remember me and learn something about their parents and ancestors. This is not that my life has been so great and filled with events worth remembering. I simply think it's interesting to learn how others view the same memories in light of the personal spin they might put on the events. So I'm just going to assume that my boys don't read them and let it rip!
I have two sons, Scott who is 41 years old (that can't be possible!) and Jonathan, who is 37. Scott lives here in Florida and Jonathan lives in Minnesota. As their current residences indicate, they are as different as two brothers could be. Scott and his wife love hot weather whereas Jonathan and his wife love the colder climates. Scott has always been athletic, outgoing, and a definite extrovert. Jonathan, on the other hand, is more of an introvert, artistic, and mild mannered. In his not-so-spare time Scott coaches fast pitch softball for his daughters' teams. In his not-so-spare time, Jonathan likes to write and do his artwork. Scott has more of my personality traits and Jonathan has more of his father's behavioral characteristics. Scott is a born salesman and bull shi - - er and Jonathan is straight as an arrow. Scott was a towhead as a child; Jonathan was a redhead at birth and still is today. There is no doubt that Scott takes after my side of the family, especially my father, and Jonathan is much more like his father's relatives. Scott is so much like my father that if I'm sitting in another room and hear him speaking, I would swear that my father has come back to life and is carrying on a conversation within my earshot. Jonathan says things that I would swear came right out of his father's mouth.
It's uncanny how, as our children age, we can see so much of ouselves and their grandparents in them. However, as different as they are in behavioral traits, people generally think they both look more like me. I'm not sure that's a good thing. One thing they both have in common, in addition to their parents, is that they are both over six feet tall which they get from their 6'3" father. On a good day when I stretch really tall, I'm about 5 foot 1 and ¾ inches. I can't help that. My paternal grandmother was only 4 foot 9 inches tall. Fortunately for them, they got some of their father's height.
Oil and Water
When they were growing up, they fought from the time they woke up until they went to bed, seven days a week. They drove me crazier than I already was by fighting all the time. Scott was always the more physically aggressive of the two, but Jonathan was always bigger. Both boys were about the same height by the time they were in grade school despite the fact that they were four years apart in age. While Scott always fought with his fists, Jonathan fought with his mind and his mouth. I say that because he knew exactly how to provoke his brother. He knew every button to push and did it almost silently. They would both be riding in the back seat of the car and before you knew it, Scott would lay into Jonathan, and of course he would get reprimanded. "He started it," I would hear, and many times that was true. I started watching and listening closely and sure enough, Jonathan knew just what to say and gestures to make to get Scott riled up, and Scott would lunge. Of course, because Scott always got physical first, he was the one who got reprimanded most of the time. I always told Scott to be careful because I thought the day would come when Jonathan would grow bigger than he was and then he would have to watch out. Alas, that didn't happen. Jonathan just didn't then, and doesn't now, have the physical aggressiveness that his brother did back then.
My favorite memory of the boys fighting has to be when they were about 9 and 13 years old. It was a Saturday morning in the fall and I was at the law school, where I was teaching that year, for an open house for prospective law students. I was only going to be gone for about 2 hours for my presentation and I left the boys home alone for that short period of time with instructions not to call unless it was an emergency that the neighbor (who was keeping an eye out for them) couldn't handle. No more than 15 minutes after I arrived at the law school, I received a telephone call from Scott. It went something like this:
"Scott, you know I'm busy."
"I know, but Jonathan broke a window."
My blood pressure skyrocketed. "Is he hurt? Is he bleeding?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yeah, mom, he's all right."
"How on earth did he do that?" (Knowing full well that there was more to the story than he was telling me.)
"I threw the broom at him and he moved." Bingo.
"Excuse me? He moved?"
"Yeah. He moved and the broom went through the window."
"And Jonathan broke the window?"
"Well, yeah. If he hadn't moved, it wouldn't have gone through the window."
I grew up with three sisters. We didn't do stuff like that. We teased each other mercilessly. When my parents were away for the day or the evening, we'd lock each other out of the house without critical pieces of clothing. We'd hide things on each other or tell my sister, Janet, that she was adopted. For some reason that was a popular method of torturing her. She'd cry, we'd laugh. (We were cruel.) We didn't get physically aggressive, so I wasn't used to the constant fisticuffs. I think that's when I first began getting gray hair.
I'm not really sure when they outgrew the fighting stage. It seemed to last as long as they lived under the same roof. I don't know if that's normal for boys, or if it's normal for boys who are that far apart in age with seemingly nothing in common. Maybe I should have had them back to back so that Scott would not have had a memory of times before his brother was born. I can vividly remember Scott asking me when he was completely frustrated with his younger brother, "What'd you have him for? We were fine before that." I can also vividly remember the trying times Jonathan endured when Scott was a difficult teenager. I remember telling him that one day Scott would be going away to college, and that he would have the house to himself, something he had never previously experienced.
For all the crazy, hectic, trying times that the boys went through growing up in a single parent home, we did enjoy wonderful Christmases together. Their father and I divorced when they were 6 and 10, so they alternated Christmas Eves & Christmas Days with each of us. If they spent Christmas Eve at my home with my family and friends, then they spent Christmas Day at their father's house with his family. After their father's mother died, I began inviting their father, his brother and their father to my home for our Christmas Eve celebration with my family and friends. I always felt it was better all the way around for the boys. I, and I hope they have great memories of those holidays, whether they were the lavish years or the years we scrimped. I hope they remember the good times and the weeks of preparation baking Christmas cookies, shopping for gifts, decorating the house, going out in the country and chopping down the largest Christmas tree we could find, and playing Christmas Carols for probably way too many weeks.
I don't really know what their favorite part of the holiday season is, or what their favorite memory is. I should ask them sometime. Back then, for me I know it was having a house full on Christmas Eve for a special dinner and the joy of my friends and family all being under one roof. Today I have to say it's the time when we get together and share each other's memories of family times together. Scott has started that tradition with his family and we sit out on the lanai Christmas Eve for hours with a couple bottles of wine and tell stories. It's amazing what we learn about each other. It's open season and we can ask each other anything. Many secrets have been revealed in those late night and early morning hours. Sometimes they want to hear the same stories over and over from year to year, and sometimes the kids are ready to expose a long-kept secret.
Despite all their differences, the one thing that my sons have in common to this day is their love of the Christmas cookies that have been a part of our family since that first Christmas in 1972. There were years when they were young and as adults when they put aside the boxing gloves and came together to help me bake the delicious treats. Last year I shared several recipes with you for cookies that were part of both of their father's and my family's traditions.1 I'm going to share two recipes that both of my boys still love today. For Scott's tropical side, they both include coconut. For Jonathan and his wife's chocoholic tendencies, they both include chocolate. The recipes are simple and can be made in the same day without expending a whole lot of time or effort. They ship well, so I can send them up north to Jonathan without worrying about them cracking or crumbling in transit. The bars store or freeze well so they will last long into the New Year if you want to portion them into small pieces to prolong their goodness. Whether you're a lover of the tropics or a cooler weather fan, I hope you will enjoy these selections. And they make a sufficient amount so that there shouldn't be any fights about whether everyone gets to enjoy them!
I will post a few other holiday recipes before the month is out so stay tuned. As always, if you would like to comment, please do so below. I welcome your input! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from my family to yours.
©2013 by Kathy Striggow
This article may not be reproduced or reprinted in whole or in part without the express written permission of the author.
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Active Prep Time: 20 min.
Cook Time: 30 min
Yield: About 2 dozen cookies
14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.
3. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
4. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons.
5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown.
6. When completely cooled, dip in glaze.
7. Cool completely and serve
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into cubes
2 tsps. corn syrup
4 ozs. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. In a small saucepan, combine cream, butter, and corn syrup. Stir over medium-low heat until melted and smooth.
2. Remove from heat and add chopped chocolate. The residual heat should be enough to fully melt the chocolate. If not, return to low heat for a minute at a time, blending until mixture is smooth.
3. Remove from heat and quickly dip cooled cookies into glaze. You can either dip one half, as shown above, or you can dip both sides, or drizzle on top.
4. Return to baking sheet and let sit for 30 minutes until glaze is set.
5. If you have extra glaze, it makes a great ice cream topping. Or better yet, use it to dip some fresh strawberries.
6. Cookies will keep, covered in an airtight container, for up to 1 week.
Almond Joy Bars
Cook time: 25 Min
Prep time: 45 Min
Yield: 36 pieces or more, depending on how large you cut the bars
10 Tbsp. unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
28 oz. sweetened condensed milk
28 oz. shredded coconut
1 tsp. vanilla extract
5 cups bittersweet chocolate baking chunks (loosely placed in cup)
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and coat with canola or vegetable spray. Use a baking sheet pan or a 13x9 inch pan if you prefer them thicker. You can adjust the size of the pan to your preference. You can use 1/2 the recipe if you do not want to make as many.
2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until combined. Add the flour and salt. Carefully mix to combine until it resembles chunky bread crumbs.
3. Transfer into the prepared pan and press the batter into an even layer. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire baking rack while preparing the coconut topping. Do not over bake or they will be difficult to cut into pieces.
4. In a large bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, coconut, and vanilla. Spread the mixture over the crust and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until it begins to brown.
5. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Stir until completely melted and smooth. Pour over the baked cooked coconut bars and spread into an even layer.
6. Allow to cool then refrigerate until hardened, about 1 hour.
7. When completely cooled, cut into 36, or desired number, of squares or bars.
**NOTES: Use chunks not chips, and at least 60% (70% preferred) Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chunks.) Bittersweet chocolate is available in several forms, including bars, chips, and chunks of various sizes. It is used in baking, cooking, and is eaten out of hand.
You can top with whole or sliced almonds before spreading with chocolate.
If you're not a dark chocolate lover, use milk chocolate instead.