Last week was busy with plenty of telephone calls, emails and letters from readers, which I always enjoy.
It's the readers that make writing a column an extra-special experience. And my thanks to the many well wishes for my parents' 60th "Diamond" Wedding Anniversary celebration at the farm over the weekend.
Today's Sept. 11 date is also an anniversary date we all remember, for so many different reasons. It's also one of the reasons this weekly farm column was "born," launched just a few months later, as a way to share a weekly window into a world less threatening and far simpler than what is faced by so many each day in our ever-changing society.
Last week, I received the following kind letter from reader Sue Crisman of Crown Point.
"I will take this opportunity to tell you how much I look forward to and enjoy reading your columns. I especially appreciate reading about your parents, their forthcoming 60th anniversary and the special memories associated with past milestones in their life together. How perfectly charming. I know you will have a wonderful time in Las Vegas and then enjoy celebrating with your family. It is a treat to read about 'good things' in the paper. The front page is mostly filled with the horrible events that are far too frequent in our community of Lake County. Thank you. Sue E. Crisman"
Another letter I received is from Dorothy Pazanin of Munster with a recipe request.
"Philip: I enjoy you columns and cookbooks. I do a lot of baking for family and friends, and a while ago, got a great recipe from your column for gluten-free peanut butter cookies. Now, if possible, do you or your readers happen to have a good gluten-free chocolate chip cookie recipe you might be able to publish in a future column? Thank you in advance. Keep up the good work. Sincerely, Dorothy Pazanin."
Thank you to both readers for writing to share your thoughts and the recipe request. If any reader would like to contact me with a recipe that is a fit for what Dorothy is looking for, I would be pleased and honored to share it with the readership.
For this week, I have a sweet treat recipe that comes from family friend Amy Scamerhorn, who is a high school Spanish language teacher in Indianapolis. It is her Pretzel Toffee Bark and it's a perfect "clip and save" for the approaching holidays.
The Scamerhorn Family were among the guests at our weekend farm gathering and Amy's older sister Ann, helped me do the Sunday church readings at my parents' anniversary mass.
"I'm going to bring some of this recipe for you to sample this evening," Amy wrote.
"I made it for my friend's birthday party that we threw last month and everyone loved it. People were scrambling for what little was left over to take home for themselves!"
Amy's Easy Pretzel Toffee Bark
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 of a (1 pound bag) of pretzels, broken into small pieces
1 (12 ounce) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons solid shortening
Sea salt (optional)
DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a 13-inch by 9-inch pan with parchment paper. Add crushed pretzels and distribute into an even layer; set aside. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and add brown sugar. Stir mixture constantly until it comes above a simmer but below a rolling boil. Pour mixture over pretzels (work quickly – mixture sets up fast!) and place in preheated oven. Bake for 5 minutes. In a double boiler, melt together chips and shortening. Pour over pretzel toffee and spread the chocolate mixture evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired. Chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until chocolate layer is firm. Break toffee into pieces and store in an airtight container. Makes 12 servings.