Posts Tagged ‘coconut’

Within minutes of cracking my eyes open and my feet hitting the chilly carpet, the morning sunshine was overshadowed by gloomy sadness—it’s the same tinge of grief that creeps in every September 18, the anniversary of my best friend’s unspeakable death.

Since 22 years of heartbreak can’t be mended with a bottle of Patrón and Duct tape, the next best thing for me is baking. So after I got off the phone with Darya’s dad, Darryl, I wiped my tears with a lotion-y Kleenex and cranked the oven to 350°.

6 and a half layer bars

I recalled a story her mom, Carmen, told me recently. One time, Carmen put a pan of 7-layer bars in the oven and had to leave the house so she asked Darya to turn the oven off when the timer was done. Well, Darya did just that. She turned the oven off but she didn’t take the bars out of the oven. The bars continued to bake and caramelize and as Carmen puts it, “…best bars we ever had and we can’t seem to duplicate that.”

In sweet memory of my friend, I tried to recreate what she had done so many years ago. I changed up the recipe a little because I thought adding caramel, milk chocolate toffee bits, and salty pretzel crumbs could only make the bars better. I was right.

Just remember to turn the oven off and let them sit in there for a while.

6 and a half layer bars

What makes these eight-and-a-half layer bars? I swapped (pretzels for nuts) and added a few ingredients (caramel and toffee bits) from traditional 7-layer bars and, because I’m not a raging fan of coconut, I only use half the coconut most recipes call for. A sprinkling really.

Eight-and-a-half layer bars

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup pretzel crumbs

11 tablespoons (1 stick plus 3 tablespoons) butter, melted

1 cup butterscotch chips

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup milk chocolate toffee bits

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping (such as Mrs. Richardson’s butterscotch caramel)

1/2 cup (or your desired amount) shredded coconut

1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9×13 pan with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  2. Stir together cracker and pretzel crumbs with melted butter. (I use a blender to make the crumbs and then add the butter.)
  3. Dump and firmly press the crumb mix into pan.
  4. Evenly scatter butterscotch chips, chocolate chips, and toffee bits onto crust.
  5. Drizzle on about 1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping.
  6. Sprinkle with coconut, reserving a tablespoon or two.
  7. Pour condensed milk over coconut. Sprinkle with last bit of coconut.
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn off oven. Leave bars in oven for about 15 minutes before transferring pan to a cooling rack.
  9. Cool completely before cutting into bars. Store in airtight container.

With sweet memories of my BFF,



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Before I tell you the conversation that led me to the discovery of nutmeats, let me give you the background on our Orange Chewins. Straight up, these brown-sugared, orange slice candy-filled, coconut, crackly crusted bars are not my favorite. But they are one of my sister Heidi’s favorite Christmas treats that my mom makes.

Orange Chewins Bars | Random Sweetness Baking

My sister travels a lot in her corporate trainer job and doesn’t get much time to spend at home, this means no time to bake and a lot of time being exposed to candy bars with a 7-year gas station shelf life. So, being the (sorta) nice sister that I am, I wanted to bake Orange Chewins for Heidi one weekend when she was coming home.

But I didn’t.

Then during our family Christmas, my mom asked me if I had made them for Heidi that one time a couple of months back.

With my sisters, mom, and step-mom sitting around the tables, I said, “No, I didn’t make them because there was an ingredient in the recipe that I didn’t know what it was.”

My mom asked me what it was and I said I couldn’t remember – just that it was something that I wasn’t familiar with.

Perplexed, my mom said, “There’s not anything unusual in them – brown sugar, eggs, orange slices, coconut…”

But I knew that there was something on that recipe card that stopped me from baking Orange Chewins for Heidi that weekend. So I dug into my cupboard and pulled the card from my wooden recipe roll-top file.

“Nutmeats!” I exclaimed. “There are nutmeats in there and I don’t know what that is.”

“Those are nuts. Just the insides of nuts,” my mom said.

“Oh, THAT’S what they are. You can tell it’s an old recipe because they are just called nuts now,” I said trying to recover an ounce of scratch-baking pride.

pecan nutmeats

Pecan Pieces (a.k.a. pecan nutmeats)

A few weeks later, I baked Orange Chewins for the first time. But by that time, the coconut I had was gone. So I substituted oatmeal and sent them off to Heidi’s. She liked them that way so much that she said she’ll bake them that way from now on. I liked them this way too because I don’t like coconut, which is probably why I never really like these. Either way, coconut or oatmeal or a little of both, these could become a favorite at your house.

I thought it would be nice to share a family recipe that isn’t as widely recognized as grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.

But secretly, I’m hoping there’s at least one person out there who reads this and says, “Ha, I wouldn’t have known what nutmeats are either.”

Orange Chewins Bars

3 eggs well beaten

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups orange slices (Heidi uses floured kitchen scissors to cut them easily into bite sized pieces. I toss the pieces with sugar to keep them from sticking to each other.)

1/2 cup chopped nutmeats (pecan pieces, chopped walnuts, etc.)

1/2 cup coconut OR 1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal

2 cups flour

  1. Beat eggs until foamy with the water.
  2. Add vanilla, gradually add brown sugar  and salt. Beat well and then add orange slice candy pieces, coconut, nuts & flour. Mix well.
  3. Pour into greased 15 x 10 x 1 pan. Bake at 375° for 20 minutes.
  4. Cut before completely cooled.

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My love for Andes Crème de Menthe baking pieces and my recently established obsession for Andes Crème de Menthe cookies inspired this recipe.


The bottom layer is a mix of Andes cookies and chocolate graham crackers. I only had one box of the Andes cookies, or I probably would have used all cookies and no graham crackers. These would be just as fantastic if you could spare yourself a couple of boxes of Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies for the bottom layer.

There’s no substitution for Andes Crème de Menthe baking pieces. If you read my cheesecake story, {There May be Andes Mints Under My Pillow}, you’ll see just how long ago this sweet affair started. And the price my sisters paid for it. You may also like using Andes baking chips in these {Brownie Crunch Mint Crispy Bars}.

To give these bars a little crunch and a hint of salt, I added pistachios and coconut. I’m not a fan of coconut, but I like it when it’s toasted. That’s why I add the coconut as the top layer, so it crisps as it bakes.

{Chocolate Island Mint Bars}

7-ounce package Andes Crème de Menthe cookies, crushed to fine crumbs (If these are not available, use Mint Oreos or Thin Mint Girl Scout cookies)

1 package chocolate graham crackers, crushed to fine crumbs (Not a box, just one package from a box of three. If using Thin Mint cookies, you could use all cookies and no graham crackers.)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1/2 cup finely chopped pistachios

1 to 1-1/2 cups Andes Crème de Menthe baking chips

3/4 cup white chocolate chips

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup coconut

Preheat oven to 350˚. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch pan or line with parchment paper.

Mix the cookie and cracker crumbs with the melted butter. Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle with finely chopped pistachios, Andes baking chips, and white chocolate chips. Poor the can of sweetened condensed milk over the white chips. Top with coconut. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or just until coconut starts to turn light brown. Cool completely before cutting into bars.

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What ingredients inspire you to make new recipes?


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