Cook of the Week: Karen Massa recipes

Adam Robison | Daily Journal Karen Massa's candied bacon knots.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Karen Massa’s candied bacon knots.

Saltine Candy Cookies

11⁄2 sleeves saltine crackers

2 sticks butter

1 cup sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla

1⁄2 cup salted nuts, chopped*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 10×15-inch jelly roll pan with heavy duty foil, then spray foil with cooking spray. Line the pan with a single layer of saltines, covering whole pan. Set aside.

In a saucepan, bring butter, sugar and vanilla to a boil on medium-high heat. Boil exactly 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Pour mixture over crackers as evenly as possible. Sprinkle with nuts.

Place pan in middle rack of oven and bake for 10 minutes. Cool pan on wire rack. When cooled, peel off foil and break candy into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

*Note: Karen Massa uses pecans. She warms chopped pecans in the microwave, then tosses them with 2 tablespoons of butter and 1⁄4 teaspoon salt.

“Sonny” Carrot Cake

21⁄4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

21⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking soda

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

11⁄4 cups vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups shredded carrots

2 cups flaked coconut

1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained

1 cup chopped pecans

Cream Cheese Icing

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

11⁄2 sticks butter, softened

11⁄2 teaspoons vanilla

2 boxes powdered sugar

1⁄4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, soda and salt. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer until light and frothy. While beating on medium speed, add oil in a stream, then beat in vanilla. At low speed, beat in the flour mixture just until batter is smooth. By hand, fold in carrots, coconut, pineapple and 1 cup pecans.

Divide batter among three greased and floured 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool layers 10 minutes in pans, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

For the icing, cream together the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Add vanilla and enough powdered sugar for spreading consistency. Spread icing between layers and on top and sides of cake and sprinkle top with 1⁄4 cup chopped pecans.

Candied Bacon Knots

11⁄2 cups packed light brown sugar

11⁄2 pounds sliced bacon (not thick-sliced)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a broiler pan with foil for easy cleanup. Position broiler rack on top of pan and coat with cooking spray. Place brown sugar in a shallow dish. Tie each bacon slice into a loose knot, tucking the ends underneath. Press one side of bacon into brown sugar to coat well. Arrange in a single layer, sugared side up, on prepared broiler rack.

Bake until bacon is crisp and sugar is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Transfer to plate to cool. These can hold for up to 3 hours at room temperature. If they get cold, reheat in 350-degree oven or microwave.

Crock-Pot Pepperoncini Beef

1 (3-pound) beef chuck roast

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (16-ounce) jar sliced pepperoncini peppers

Put roast in Crock-Pot. Add garlic and peppers, including the liquid. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Serve on hoagie rolls plain or with Provolone cheese, shredded lettuce and mayonnaise.

Candy Bar Brownies

2 packages brownie mix (for 8-inch pans)

5 to 7 chocolate candy bars (3-4 ounces each)*

Prepare each brownie mix in a separate bowl according to package directions. Line a 9×13-inch cake pan with a piece of foil large enough to flap over ends so you can pick up baked brownies when cooled. Spray foil with cooking spray.

Put one bowl of batter in pan and smooth out. Place unwrapped candy bars over the top to cover the layer of batter. Add second bowl of batter to the pan and smooth it over the candy bars. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Cool on metal rack. When cool, lift foil out and put brownies on cutting board to cut into 1-inch squares. Dust with powdered sugar or frost with your favorite icing.

*Note: Karen Massa used four 4-ounce Hershey’s Cookies & Creme bars. She also likes to use Hershey’s Symphony Bars. Use whatever kind you like.