My Nana, she knew how to bring the house down with simple desserts. She was a woman from a time when pre-dinner drinks were the norm and marshmallow salad was a great accompaniment to any summer meal. She looked the part of a perfect 50s housewife… impeccably dressed in beautiful dresses and skirts with blouses on top, nails manicured, and hair curled and coiffed. She hosted beautiful parties and drove a convertible with fins on the back.
But she shook knew how to shake it up. A trademark white streak that ran through the front of her dark hair that she never coloured and always seemed to take pride in. And those dinner parties I mentioned, they were hosted in the living room of her house in Nassau, not Ontario. When someone broke into her home and she saw him standing behind her in a mirror, rather than hide or run, she picked up a broom and chased him out. And my Grandpa had to order that convertible with a bigger engine than the standard, because if she was going… she was going fast. She was a housewife, a mother, and a grandmother, all of these roles flavoured with a bit of gumption and determination and colour.
As my Grandma she and I spent days at her cottage, paddling the boat about and swimming. This woman could do the side stroke so exactly that she succeeded in never getting a perfectly curled hair on her head wet. We would pick raspberries, and cook and visit her family. She was an amazing sister. She and her sister were best friends for their whole lives. She visited her brothers and invited them to her cottage for parties on the patio. She always always made time for people. She would make a point of calling or just dropping in on friends she had not seen for too long or friends who were sick or mourning. Her people always felt welcome and loved. While I would like to be beautifully put together, and I really would love that white streak to grace my head, the thing I would most like to imitate of hers was her ability to always include, always welcome and always love… with her own polished style.
These delightful squares were one of the things she and I made. I associate these and meringues with her so much that I almost can see her standing on her swirled blue kitchen floor making them. I will make her desserts and share them again, but for now here is an easy sweet that will ‘bring the house down.’
Sweet Marie Bars
Recipe from Leona Duffield
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup brown rice syrup (she used corn syrup and honey would also work)
1/2 cup peanut butter (I use natural so there is no extra sugar here)
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup salted peanuts, chopped
2 cups Rice Krispies
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
a dash more peanut butter
Butter a 9×9 square pan, cut a piece of parchment to fit the base and butter this as well.
In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, mix the sugar, syrup and P.B., just until they could boil but remove from heat before it boils. Off the heat stir in the butter until it melts and then add the peanuts and rice krispies. Once combined use a spatula to press the mixture into the prepared pan and try your best to even it out. Place in the fridge to harden. Remove from fridge and let warm up for half an hour before un-molding and removing parchment. Heat the chocolate chips and dash of P.B. in a water bath until melted. Spread over the sweet maries and allow to set. Cut and serve. These are delicious, someone actually referred to them as “crack” – they are that addictive.