MangiaMore: set the BAR

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Not only do we like to roll out (Christmas cookies, that is), we also make bar cookies, layered, filled, and topped with delicious goodies that only mean the holidays. Each of the bar cookies we make, Lemon Squares, Cranberry Bars, and Seven Layer Bars, remind me of memories or someone special. I love these kinds of cookies because they are super easy, super quick, with a pretty high yield to effort ratio. They mostly involve slapping some kind of crust at the bottom of the pan, filling up or layering on the delicious ingredients and throwing it in the oven. What's not to love?

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Lemon Squares
These little lemony treats were a favorite of my grandmother. She would request them every year, and my sister and I would answer the call. Sometimes it even required us to make a double batch to accommodate the demand. Now, it is my boyfriend who favors Lemon Squares (he likes most anything lemon), so it continues to be a must. They are tangy, rich, buttery and sweet, and the floating coconut adds a hearty texture. Delicious and addictive. They may be my favorite this year.

basic scottish shortbread crust
1 1/4 cups of flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup butter

In a bowl, mix four and sugar. Cut in butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

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coconut- lemon squares
1 recipe basic scottish shortbread
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon lemon peel
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup coconut 

Prepare the basic scottish shortbread crust. Press the mixture into the bottom of a 9x9 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
In a bowl beat eggs until they are foamy. Add the rest of the ingredients except the coconut, and beat the mixture until it is slightly thickened. Stir in the coconut. Pour the lemon mixture on top of the already cooked crust and bake 20 to 25 minutes more until golden brown. Top with powdered sugar, though this is optional.
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Creative Ideas: Christmas Cookies 1990

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Cranberry Bars
My family fondly calls these bar cookies "Cranberry O Bars," because they are absolutely amazing. They are sweet and the cranberries bring a little bit of tartness, and they are so chewy the bars are almost like candy. These cookies came from a recipe that my Aunt gave us years back. These cookies became a staple in our house at first taste. Remember how I used the left over cranberries after Thanksgiving here... this is the full recipe!

cranberry sauce
4 cups fresh/frozen craberries
2 cups of sugar
1/3 cup Brandy

Place cranberries in a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees. After removing the pan from the oven stir the cranberry mixture and then stir in the Brandy. Store in jars or containers in the refrigerator. Makes 3 cups.
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cranberry bar cookies

1.5 c oats
1.5 c flour
1.5 c brown sugar
1 tea baking powder
1 c softened butter
1 cup of Cranberry Sauce

Blend the dry ingredients with the butter until the mixture is crumbly. Press about two thirds of the oat mixture in to the bottom of a 9 inch square pan (we usually do a 9x13). Add the cup of cranberry sauce to coat the oat crust. Sprinkle the remainder of the oat mixture over the cranberry layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting the bars.

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Seven Layer Bars
These Seven Layer Bars or called Magic Bars, come in many different varieties and combinations, but they all have the same main components; graham cracker crust, sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, nuts and coconut. You can add and subtract as much as you want. 

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I tend to subtract, using far less chocolate chips that prescribed. And my mother, who is a chocolate lover despises that I do that. One year, there was the battle of chocolate chips when making these sweet goodies. I put as many chocolate chips as I deemed necessary, and as I was baking the cookies, I had the control, until my mother came in and saw the paucity of chocolate. She grabbed the bag, and doused the already completed cookies with an alarming amount of chocolate chips (well, at least to me). And from that year on, I have been careful (and wise) to add more chocolate chips. These sticky sweet bar cookies are basically the only cookies we make during Christmas that add a chocolate punch. I am not fond of chocolate, but sometimes a little chocolate does add some special cheer. Check out Eagle Brand's recipe for these sweet textural adventures. 

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What kind of bar cookies do you make during the holidays or even all year round? I am always open to suggestions for sweet thangs. Help me set the bar and mangia more!
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