Thursday, December 10, 2009

Decadence During A Snowstorm: Caramel Bars (dedicated to my Aunt Judy)


We survived the first snowstorm of the season! Much to my husband’s dismay, Minneapolis was spared from the worst of it. He kept watching the scrolling school closings hoping to see that all of the Twin Cities metro area was closed and no one should go to work. No such luck. Instead he woke up early Wednesday to fire up the snow thrower and clear the driveway so that he could join the rest of the population in the parking lot on the highways.

The first real snow always makes me think of the beginning of the movie The Snowman when Raymond Briggs (the author/illustrator of the book the movie is based on) walks through a crunchy, frozen field with a twilight sky creating silhouettes of skeletal trees in the background and says:

“I remember that winter because it brought the heaviest snow I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I awoke in a room filled with light and silence. The whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day and it was on that day I made The Snowman.

(Click here to watch the clip)

It is one of my all-time favorite Christmas movies and the song Walking in the Air (sung by Peter Auty) is truly enchanting. Christmas isn’t Christmas without it. The other reason I love that introduction is that it’s always amazing to hear what inspired someone to create something (book, movie, song, etc…). Sometimes we are so quick to dismiss our ideas as “not good enough” and throw them away before we even give them a chance to breathe. It’s encouraging to know that something as simple as a snowstorm can inspire someone to create a magical story that will bring Christmas joy for many, many years.

I thought this snowy afternoon deserved something sweet so I made the Caramel Bars my husband requested for his pot luck at work on Friday. If you want a truly decadent treat that will literally make you drool as much as Murphy does on Taco Tuesday nights at our house, make these. I believe this recipe is pretty close to, if not exactly the same as, the one my Aunt Judy used to make for us when we were kids. We would beg her to make them when we saw her and always found reasons why she needed to send us a batch (we did well in school, we won a game, it was Friday). I’ll never forget the time she dropped off brownies and before we had time to devour them, our dog Buck snuck up on the counter and ate the ENTIRE batch. How he did not fall over dead of chocolate poisoning I will never understand. Although, this is also the same dog that once snuck into Easter baskets and consumed an entire chocolate rabbit, jelly beans, and several Cadbury Eggs complete with their tinfoil wrapping. He had a stomach of steel.

Although, I didn’t need these sinfully delicious bars to be reminded of my aunt, I always think of her frequently during the holiday season. When I was a kid, she and I had a tradition: every year she took me to Chicago to see either A Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker (we rotated every year). We got all dressed up, went to a nice dinner, and then the theater. I can still taste the duck dinner I had one year at The Drake. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had and to this day I think my mom is still jealous that I got to eat there. I loved those trips with my aunt and they are some of my most cherished memories.

My aunt and I are very similar: we both love to read, we both love horses, and we both love to travel. In fact, I think my aunt is partially responsible for my passion for horses. When I was a kid, she owned horses and would take me to the barn with her and in the summer we’d ride at her cabin in Door County, WI. Somewhere we have a picture of when we rode bareback over jumps – together…on the same horse (where did my sense of adventure go? I can’t imagine doing that now!). Having so much in common always makes getting together fun and we never run out things to talk about. Sadly, however, life gets busy and since I moved away I haven’t seen her as often as I’d like. But I’d like her to know that I’m thinking about her and that Caramel Bars never touch my lips without her memory popping into my head. And that every Christmas, when I see the advertisements for A Christmas Carol, I remember our trips and am so thankful to have had such an amazing aunt who shared those experiences with me.

Sometimes a snowstorm is so much more than a snowstorm. One might lead to the creation of a memorable Christmas book/movie. And another might cause someone to be thankful for taking a chance on an idea. I stared at this recipe box for over a month before I started this blog and even as I prepared my first post, I considered scrapping the idea. Now that I’m over a month into the project, I’m not only thankful I took the chance on it, but I recognize how much it has changed my life in a short time. Instead of wallowing in the misery of being broke, unemployed and feeling like my life is going nowhere, I’m making incredible food and being reminded of all the wonderful things in life, such as my Aunt Judy. Someday I hope to spend another Christmas with her in Chicago where we will go to a delicious dinner and see A Christmas Carol. Only this time it will be my treat as a thank you for all the amazing memories she has given me. And when my dream of owning a hobby farm with horses comes true (I’m still trying to convince my husband this is a good idea), I’ll invite her up for a ride and once again thank her for the memories. The tandem bareback jumping, however, I think will need to remain a memory.  


  1. Cool story and love the recipe, yummy carmel and chocolate! Merry Christmas!

  2. It always helps to have things to do when you're unemployed or if you choose not to work outside the home. I don't know what I'd do without my Etsy customers (thanks to you!). I'd probably have a very clean house and be bored stiff. Having something to give to others gives us a purpose in life. We enjoy reading your blog Molly, keep it up!

  3. The picture of your dog is priceless!