My Pop was a wily, practiced thief — a food thief, that is.
He was particularly adept at pillaging and plundering, unnoticed, ingredients awaiting use in a recipe my Mom was preparing. He sneaked Mom’s Easter Eggs off of the trays as we rolled them to await their chocolate coating every year throughout my entire childhood. Mom got to the point where she rolled some eggs and put them on a separate tray for Pop’s stealth attacks thereby protecting the “main stash”.
But his biggest score was pilfering maraschino cherries any time he could get his hands on them. Of particular note, my Dad was not particular about the source of the cherries; they were all fair game.
As we know, the maraschino cherries in canned fruit cocktail are few and far between, even in the latest versions of “extra cherry” mixes, at least compared to the other varieties of fruit in the mix.
So, imagine my mother’s dismay when she asked my Pop one day to open a can of fruit cocktail for her as she scurried around gathering other ingredients for this recipe only to find, as she poured the can’s contents into a bowl, there were no cherries to be found!
“Harry!”, she bellowed, “What did you do?” Pop smiled meekly, shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’ll be just as good without them, it’s your magic that makes them delicious.”
Not quite sure how to handle the back-handed conpliment along with the missing cherries, mom just grimaced, looked at me, shook her head, rolled her eyes, and set about making these Fruit Cocktail Bars.
But she never again asked Dad to open the can of fruit cocktail after that. She did start buying an additional jar of cherries to add to the top of these bars as garnish; and — knowing how much he loved them — set aside a little bowl of maraschino cherries that sat waiting on the kitchen counter for his snacking pleasure.
Now I know why their marriage lasted 43 years ending only when Pop died in 1989 and Mom followed 6 months to the day after.
The recipe cards in my Mom’s handwriting for both this recipe and Fruit Cocktail Cake (to be shared here at a later date) are now lovingly protected in plastic sleeves. Even though she’s gone 30 years, I can hold one of those cards and feel her next to me. Thank you, Mom, for the life lessons you taught me and the unconditional love you gave. From a very appreciative daughter.
Fruit Cocktail BarsCourse: Recipes, Sweet ThingsCuisine: Retro, Coal EegionDifficulty: Intermediate
Moist and delicious bars made from canned fruit cocktail, sprinkled with coconut and nuts, then glazed after baking.
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 can (15-ounce) can fruit cocktail, un-drained
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts, medium chop
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup salted butter, cut in 6 to 8 slices
1/4 cup evaporated milk (NOT sweetened condensed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
OPTIONAL 1 small jar maraschino cherries, cut in half length-wise, well-drained, for garnish on top.
- Pre-heat oven to 350F
- In a large bowl, beat granulated sugar and eggs until well blended. Stir in un-drained fruit cocktail and vanilla.
- In another bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture, stir until well blended.
- Pour into a greased and floured jelly roll pan (10 x 15 x 1-inch pan). Sprinkle evenly with coconut and chopped walnuts. Bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, add the sugar, butter and evaporated milk and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Drizzle the hot glaze evenly over the cooling cake. (Add additional drained maraschino cherries for garnish to the top if desired on top of the glaze) Cool completely. Cut into bars to serve.