Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Indulgences: Cranberry Bliss Bars

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So according to my midwife, I lost a pound and change over the past two weeks.  She wrinkled her brow and looked at me, asking, "are you sure you're eating well?"  Mostly well, I thought.  Except for the fact that I'm eating cookies from the freezer and peanut butter off a chopstick at night ... but that should make me gain weight, not lose it, right?  (An aside: I wish that less emphasis would be placed on "proper" weight gain, and more emphasis placed on healthy eating for pregnant women.  Most of us already obsess over our bodies even when we're not pregnant; we don't need yet another reason to feel like we're doing it wrong.)  In any case, I told her not to worry, and that I'd likely gain back that much and more by my next visit.

I made good headway on this promise yesterday: there was a technology showcase (run by my favorite office/division of the IT empire), and the division head bakes over 6,000 cookies for public consumption (it takes her a few months to do this, so don't go feeling all inadequate about your holiday cookie preparations!).  And tonight I'm hosting a cookie swap and holiday prep/wrapping party for the working moms group I founded for women in my county who have young children and work part or full time.  Doubtless, I have too much food: cheese and crackers, hummus and carrots, salsa and chips, shumai, spanikopita, lemongrass chicken spring rolls, and ... of course ... cookies.  I have one more batch to do for the event at school next week, and I didn't want to make any of the "usual" cookies, so I decided on these. They don't take as much time as drop cookies, and the payoff is pretty significant.

If you've ever gazed longingly into the Sta.rbucks dessert case, or broken down and actually purchased one of these for yourself, you'll recognize these: a buttery blondie base with tart cranberry, spicy ginger, sweet white chocolate, and cream cheese. They really do feel like holiday treats, and they're an impressive dessert to bring to a holiday get-together or to include on the cookie plate you're making for your friends and neighbors.  Unfortunately, they don't mail well ... but that means there are more for you to eat.  After all, you need to make sure they taste good, right?

Go ahead.  Indulge a little bit.  It only happens once a year.

Cake Base
2 sticks butter, softened (or use 1 1/2 ... they'll still come out OK)
1 1/4 c. brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
1 t. ground ginger
1 t. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. dried cranberries, minced
1/4 c. high quality white chocolate (chopped or chips)
3 T. minced candied ginger

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 1/4 c. powdered sugar
1 T. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
2 t. lemon juice
1 T. orange zest

1/4 c. dried cranberries, minced
1/3 c. white chocolate, melted

Preheat oven to 350 and lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

Beat butter and sugar together for the cake base, and add eggs/vanilla beating until fluffy. Sift together flour, ground ginger, and salt and then add to the butter/sugar mixture beating well. Fold in the cranberries, chocolate and candied ginger. Spread thick batter in pan and bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden.

When cake is cooled, mix all frosting ingredients together and spread a thin layer over the cake. Immediately sprinkle with the minced cranberries. Then use a pastry bag of melted white chocolate with a tiny decorating tip (like the size used for writing on cakes) and drizzle the chocolate over the cake.  You can also dip a fork or small whisk into the melted chocolate and use that to drizzle if you don't have a pastry bag.

Cut into bars immediately because the white chocolate hardens quickly and makes cutting messy.  Store these in the refrigerator ... that is, if they last that long.  I like to cut these into squares first and then triangles, because they're pretty that way ... you can cut them however you like, and make them as big (or as small) as you need to, depending on just how much bliss you need.
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  1. You hit the nail on the head. They always have to call my name two or three times at Starbucks because I’m hypnotized by these bars. I'm totally going to try to make them myself.

    BTW - you can find my husband eating peanut butter, chips, etc. with chopsticks any given night of the week so you're in good company!

  2. Oh man those look tasty. My pregnancy with babe was weird. I gained a pound a week (even in the 1st trimester) and then started losing weight around 8 months and then couldn't put a pound back on for the entire rest of the pregnancy. My docs never looked at my weight then or now, then just measure the babies which I agree with you, woman do enough scale watching in their lifetime to not need assistance from others. I've done well this time and have only stood on the scale once.

  3. I'm shaking my head at you because I cannot help but shake my head at anyone who accidentally loses weight.

    Have you heard of the Brewer diet?

    You have the option of refusing weight checks if it's the kind of thing that gives you stress.

  4. Oh, those look amazing!!! Thanks for sharing. Also thank you for the lovely Holiday card...beautiful family!

  5. Oh my stars those look heavenly. Seriously. I think I might be drooling a little...

  6. These look SO yummy!

    BTW the obstetrician I went with Blobby didn't weigh me at all. Just asked if I'd been eating healthily and exercising. His emphasis was definitely on healthy living rather than weight obsession; I don’t know what approach the midwives at the hospital take though (Blobby died just before my 1st hospital appointment).

  7. Those look amazing! I might be giving them a try for my husband's Christmas!!

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