CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My husband and I just survived our first two semesters as empty-nesters. The adjustment from playing parents to a high school senior and a frantically busy schedule to quiet evenings without practices, games and meetings was fairly smooth. We'd had a preview when his older sister headed to college several years ago.
Take heart, weepy moms of seniors everywhere. Their departure won't be quite as bad as you might think.
I didn't really adjust my dinner-for-four repertoire to dinner-for-two. Although the number of diners at our table was half, I continued to cook for a family of four as I had for the past 22 years. It meant tasty leftovers for lunch the next day instead of sandwiches and wraps.
They're both home for the summer and the only real dinnertime change is the empty leftover containers. Well, that and the disproportionately larger quantity and variety of food purchases and resultant grocery bills.
Another return-home adjustment came in the form of the largely empty cookie jar. I didn't bake many cookies this school year. They went stale quickly without the cookie monsters in residence. Husband Reed made do with ice cream after dinner.
The reproachful looks are getting to me, though. I broke out the mixing bowl, as did my daughter who is really the baker in the house. Time will be tight for both of us, though, she has a summer job. We'll probably go for easily assembled, bake-in-one-batch bar cookies.
This weekend I made Tequila Lime Coconut Bars from a Southern Living recipe. They were a tangy, tropical twist on classic lemon bars and would be a light (in taste, not calories) addition to a spring brunch or shower.
My daughter, Katie, made Almond Joy Bars from a recipe she found on Pinterest. She made a half recipe, which was more than enough for a weekend with her friends at a WVU graduation celebration. They're a rich combination of coconut, chocolate and almonds. Delete the almonds, and you have Mound Bars because, "Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't."
Tequila Lime Coconut Bars
Yield: 36 bars. Source: Southern Living, April 2011.
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups sugar, divided
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons tequila
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Garnishes: powdered sugar, lime rind curls
HEAT oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of a 9- by 13-inch pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, allowing 2 inches to extend over sides; lightly grease foil.
STIR together 1 3/4 cups flour and 1/2 cup sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until crumbly. Press mixture onto bottom of prepared pan.
BAKE 20 to 23 minutes or until lightly browned.
MEANWHILE, whisk eggs in a medium bowl until smooth; whisk in coconut, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar. Stir together baking powder, salt and remaining 1/4 cup flour; whisk into egg mixture. Pour over hot crust.
BAKE 25 minutes or until filling is set. Let cool 1 hour on a wire rack. Lift from pan, using foil sides as handles. Remove foil, and cut into bars. Garnish, if desired.
Almond Joy Bars
Yield: 36 bars
10 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
28 ounces sweetened condensed milk
28 ounces shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 cups bittersweet chocolate baking chunks, loosely placed in cup
HEAT oven to 350°. Line a sheet or 9- by 13-inch pan (for thicker bars) with aluminum foil and coat with canola or vegetable spray.
CREAM butter and brown sugar in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour and salt. Carefully mix to combine until it resembles chunky bread crumbs.
TRANSFER mixture into the prepared pan and press the batter into an even layer. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool on a wire baking rack while preparing the coconut topping.