When I lived in Georgia, my friend Jaqie and her son Hika would come over to my house for “cooking days.” A few days before each one, Jaqie and I would hop on our computers, peruse through Pinterest, and pick out a bunch of recipes to make. Then they would come over and we would spend hours cooking together, smiling, laughing, and enjoying one of the most wonderful comforts and pleasures of life I know…cooking.
Until I cooked with Jaqie and her adorable 4 year old son, I had never experienced the magic, joy, and excitement that children bring to the kitchen.
Still fresh in my mind are images of Jaqie and her son rolling out cookie dough, where she would gently lift his tiny hands, place them on top of the rolling pin, rest her hands gently on his, and together, slowly roll the dough out on the countertop.
Still fresh in my mind are images of Jaqie lifting Hika up to the counter, and letting him push the “pulse” button of the food processor, where I could see his eyes widen as a tornado of nuts flew “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” up into the air.
Still fresh in my mind are images of Hika peering through the glass oven door at a tray of cookies, then standing aside as the timer went off, staring in amazement at the cookies as they traveled from the oven to the countertop, making what I have concluded is some wordless version of “OH BABY. I’m hungry. Please feed me some of that. I helped, you know.”
Still fresh in my mind are memories of Jaqie, Hika, and I sitting at the table with our plates of food, Jaqie and I indulging in our lady conversations and munching on our afternoon’s labors…which weren’t even really labors at all. I always looked forward to those cooking days so much. It was just fun, spending time together, making wonderful food, and enjoying it all in each other’s company.
You see, cooking is not just about “food tastes good and I need to survive.” To me, cooking, whether for yourself or for others, is and always has been a form of love. It has always brought people together…holidays, parties…even just 6 o’clock dinner around the table. When I make a meal, my husband and I tune out the hustle and bustle of our world, sit down together with cell phones far away, and enjoy each other’s company and the food. These moments, which some may see as rather ordinary, are special to me.
One thing I have heard from parents is that children make you see the world through a different angle. From what I’ve seen just in the kitchen with Jaqie and Hika, it’s easy to see how this is true. I hope and pray that at least one of my children will love being in the kitchen with me, because it is and always will be my favorite place in the whole world. And I can’t wait to share more moments like this with my own children, and treasure those moments forever and ever. It breaks my heart that there are parents who have experienced these moments with their children, but won’t be able to anymore.
On Saturday I wanted to make something that reminded me of my childhood. Something that I know children love. Many of my friends love to make peanut butter cups with their kids, and I imagine they will love making these homemade Twix bars just the same.
I hope each and every day you find some time to spend with the people you love, whether it be at the dinner table, at the park, or huddled around a board game.
May each victim rest in peace, and I send my love and prayers to everyone affected by this tragedy.
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- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 5 oz (1 cup) flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tbsp)
- 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
- 12 oz bag semisweet chocolate chips
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- sea salt for sprinkling, if desired
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper.
- Start with the shortbread, and cream together the butter and sugar until there isn't any more loose sugar, and it has been incorporated into the butter. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until combined. Slowly add the flour and stop mixing once the flour has disappeared. The dough will be sticky, so use floured fingers to press the dough out into a parchment paper lined 8x8 pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the shortbread is golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
- Next make the caramel by melting the sugar and butter together in a saucepan. Once melted, add the sweetened condensed milk. Constantly stirring (this stuff will burn very easily if not stirred), bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat to medium low, set the timer for 5 minutes, and stir constantly, making sure to reach into the corners with a spatula. The mixture will thicken and turn light brown. Pour the mixture over the shortbread, then let this cool on a wire rack until the caramel firms up, then use a knife to cut into long strips, then cut each strip into thirds.
- Melt the chocolate (read this article if you don't know how), and stir in the vegetable oil until incorporated (this makes the chocolate more pourable and spreadable). Pour it over the bars, and use a knife to spread it evenly across the top and sides. Sprinkle the tops with sea salt if desired, and let the chocolate harden. Enjoy!