Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Our Daily Story: Cranberry Bliss Bars

Today we had our last MOPS for the year. It just seems so wild to me that we're almost in 2015. I guess I feel like it should still be June or something. Is this what having kids does to a person? I swear I feel like I should still be 24, in that Target bathroom with a positive pregnancy stick in my hand........and tonight was that guy's first kindergarten concert! Say what?!

Our last MOPS meeting of 2014 was really fun and laid back. We visited a lot, had a fun gift exchange and ate lots of yummy food. The gals at my table are so special to me. I hardly feel worthy to be their group leader. Most weeks the kids and I walk in at the last minute, me with bags hanging all over me and kids on each arm. I feel like a complete mess and yet, I still feel so welcomed in that room. The gals there are all so different and each bring something so special to our table. If I could of hand picked them all, I would have.

For our Christmas meeting, it was our group's turn to be in charge of food. I made these Cranberry Bliss Bars and I'm excited to share the recipe here. My husband gives them a 10 so, I'd say they're definitely worth trying!

Cranberry Bliss Bars
Adapted from Averie Cooks
Ingredients: For the Bars
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (1 stick)
1 large egg
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Ingredients: For the frosting and topping

1 cup white chocolate chips, melted and divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (whipped or light may be used)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups+ confectioners' sugar (I used about 2 3/4 cups)
1/4 cup dried cranberries, loosely packed (optionally, roughly dice them if the pieces are larger)

For the Bars - 
Preheat oven to 350F.
Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil, spray with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter, about 90 seconds. To the melted butter (allow it to cool slightly so you don't scramble the egg), add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla, and stir to combine. Add the flour, salt, and stir until just combined, taking care not to over-mix or the bars will be tough. Fold in 3/4 cup white chocolate chips, 1/2 cup cranberries, orange zest, and stir to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing it lightly with a spatula or offset knife if necessary.

Bake for 18 to 21 minutes, and center is set and golden or until edges begin to slightly pull away from sides of pan, or a toothpick comes out clean; do not overbake. Allow bars to cool before frosting them. While they cool, make the frosting.

For the Frosting and Topping - 
In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt the white chocolate on high power, about 1 minute, reheating in 10-second intervals, or until it can be stirred smooth. White chocolate is notorious for scorching so melt it very carefully, and slowly, heating in quick bursts, and keep a watchful eye; use a double boiler if that's easier.

To the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cream cheese, about three-quarters of the melted white chocolate (about 3/4 cup, just eyeball it), 2 cups confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Start by mixing on low speed so sugar doesn't spray, and then beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes. Mixture will seem stiff at first but will loosen and fluff up after 2 to 3 minutes of beating on medium-high; stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add additional confectioners' sugar (I used about 2 3/4 cups, I like it on the thicker side) based on taste preference and desired frosting consistency. Frost the bars.

Evenly sprinkle 1/2 cup cranberries over the top of the frosted bars. Evenly drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate, reheating for a few seconds in the microwave if it has set up. Allow bars to set up for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving. Bars may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

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