February 14, 2012

Sweet Valentine's Treat: Lucia's Amazing Walnut Bars

There are some things that are genetic.  Loud laughter.  Blue eyes.  Dark hair.  An insatiable love of figs. 

And then there are some things that, sadly, are not.  Being organised, for instance.  My oldest sister Lucia, despite her claims to the contrary, is the most organised person I know.  Label maker: check.  Jewlery sorted by colour and type: check.  Pantry laid out to a T, shopping list at the ready to capture an item that needs replenishing: well, of course - check. For all my semblance of a well-ordered life, I missed out on that particular part of the gene pool.

I was reminded of this recently when we gathered for our family Christmas celebration. The beach house she found for all 11 of us was perfect.  Christmas dinner was served on her special holiday china, carefully packed and brought just for the occasion.  The informal open house she hosted so her friends could meet her far flung family was planned to the last hors d’oeuvres.  And she baked up several batches of her delicious walnut bars, at once sweet and chewy and crunchy; a holiday tradition and family favourite.

Best of all, she made a tin for each of us to take home: a sweet reminder of a wonderful week together, beautifully orchestrated, the hard work and planning evident only in the lists occasionally glimpsed throughout the week.  As I carefully tucked the precious tin in my bag, I realised I had gotten it wrong.  Lucia was right to say that she wasn’t organised.  Organization makes things happen.  Love and thoughtfulness makes things great.  

So, as you celebrate Valentine's Day with your favourite sweetie, whip up a batch of Lucia's walnut bars.  Four simple ingredients, almost sure to be in your house.  To make them especially good, add her secret ingredient: loving kindness.  It will put them over the top.   
The dark hair is gone but the blue eyes and love of figs remain! 

Lucia's Amazing Walnut Bars
makes 25-30 squares
1½ sticks butter (either salted or unsalted)
1 cup brown sugar (slightly packed)
1½  cup finely chopped walnuts (or pecans) 
20-24 whole graham cracker wafers

1 Preheat oven to 350F

2.  In a medium sauce pan, Heat until all is melted.  Set aside to cool slightly.

3.  While mixture is cooling, place foil on a 9x12 rimmed cookie sheet.  Spray lightly with non stick spray.  Lay whole graham crackers on the cookie sheet, ensuring that there aren’t any spaces between each cracker.  You may need to trim some crackers to have the whole tray set flush.

4.  Spread nut mixture on and level with a spoon or spatula, making sure to reach all of the edges of the crackers.

5.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until mixture is bubbling.  Be careful not to bake too long, so that the sugar doesn’t burn.

6.  Carefully lift foil out of pan from one side and slide on to counter/cutting board.  Cut into 1½ squares.  These cool very quickly so it’s better to cut while still hot. Let cool completely.  Place in airtight container, using wax paper between layers. 

Can be made ahead although they won’t last for long!