No matter what the temperature on the day you read this column, please note that as I write, it is hot. I have been gardening in upper 80 and lower 90-degree weather. I’m not complaining as we need some very sunshiny, warm weather so all of our gardens and most importantly Midwestern farmers’ crops can grow.

I don’t remember a year when I’ve still been planting in the second week of June. All of my kale, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini are in and finally growing well in the warmth, but some of my herbs are still in pots as I don’t like mudding them into the ground. I’m hopeful that all of them will be safely planted by the end of this week.

The heat of summer changes the way I function in the kitchen. I attempt to keep the oven turned off. That means when I’m asked to bring a dessert or two for family gatherings, I’m looking for recipes for non-baked goods that are delicious.

I must not be the only one thinking of keeping the oven off because last week I got an email from my friend, Loretta. It featured a recipe for Salted Peanut Bars. I used to make this recipe in the summer, but I haven’t for several years as I had quite frankly forgotten about it. Thank you for the reminder, Loretta!

Salted Peanut Bars are delicious and taste very similar to a Pay Day candy bar. They are easy and best of all, they don’t need to be baked. I melt the chips and margarine (I use butter because I can’t tell you the last time I had margarine in my house.) in the microwave oven. When I first started cooking, it was recommended that chips should be melted in a double boiler or over low heat. Microwaves changed that method and made our lives easier.

Loretta’s email made me think of other recipes that are no-bake. The first no-bake treat that comes to my mind is always Rice Krispy treats which I’m not going to share with you because you will find that recipe on almost every box of cereal and bag of marshmallows in your home. However, Fudgy Crispy Rice Bars are a version of these treats you may not have tasted before. Any time I make them, chocolate lovers are very happy.

Mixed Nut Bars also make good use of that easy microwave melting method and keeps the oven off. These bars are similar to the peanut bars, but if you have butterscotch lovers in your family this is the treat for them.

I recently saw giant marshmallows on our grocers’ shelves marketed as a way to make deluxe s’mores. I thought they would be perfect for an old family recipe from Gregg’s grandmother, Gladys Jensen. I sampled these crispy puffs for the first time when Grandma Gladys brought them to a family function when I was a new member of the Jensen/Lund family. They were so simple yet delicious. I’m going to grab some giant marshmallows and make these again in her memory.

Salted Peanut Bars

1 package (12-ounce) peanut butter chips

2 tablespoons margarine (or butter)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

16 ounces miniature marshmallows

16 ounces salted peanuts

Melt chips and butter, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in condensed milk and marshmallows, stir until smooth. Grease a 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch pan. Put half of the peanuts in bottom of pan. Pour mixture over and press down. Pour other half of nuts over top and press down again. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

Crispy Rice Fudgy Bars

1 package (11-ounce) milk chocolate chips

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar

4 cups crisp rice cereal

Combine chips, butter and corn syrup. Melt over low heat or in the microwave. Remove from heat. Stir until smooth. Stir in extract and sugar. Add crisp rice cereal and mix thoroughly until cereal is well coated. Spread evenly in a greased 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch pan. Chill until firm. Cut into small squares because they are very rich.

Mixed Nut Bars

1 package (12-ounce) butterscotch chips

1 package (12-ounce) chocolate chips

1 cup peanut butter (chunky or creamy)

2 cups salted mixed nuts

1 package (10.5 ounces) miniature marshmallows

Melt butterscotch chips, chocolate chips and peanut butter together. Mix marshmallows and mixed nuts; spread in a buttered 13-inch-by-9-inch-by-2-inch pan. Pour melted chips and peanut butter mixture over the nuts and marshmallows and chill. Cut into bars.

Crispy Marshmallow Puffs

1 can condensed milk

16 ounces caramels, unwrapped

1 stick butter

Large marshmallows

Crisp rice cereal

Melt caramels, butter and condensed milk in microwave. Mix until smooth. Dip marshmallows in caramel mixture. Roll in crisp rice. Chill until firm.

Quote of the Week: Summer afternoon – summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language. — Henry James

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Ellen Lund of Fremont is a freelance food columnist.


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