Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Reading Rainbow Bars

Butterfly in the sky!  I can go twice as high! Take a look, it's in a book - Reading Rainbow!  Okay, how many of you immediately started singing that song when you saw the lyrics?  I knew it wasn't just me.

I was thinking about Reading Rainbow the other day, and all the awesome stories I remember because of it.  Perfect the Pig, Imogene's Antlers, Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain, Sam the Sea Cow... I get so excited when I hear a line from those books because I remember the first time I heard them, and the voice I heard them read in.  (Say it with me, now! "A feather... that would change the weather.")

So, for the few people out there who have never experienced Reading Rainbow, please let me explain.  It was a television show that was produced from 1983 until 2006, hosted by LeVar Burton (who was also the executive producer), dedicated to promoting the love of reading for kids.  Each episode would have Mr. Burton talking about a specific topic, such as teamwork, or experiencing rites of passage (like losing a tooth), or being different (having to wear glasses), or.... well, anything.  And then a story that works within the theme would be read, usually by a celebrity - including, by the way, such awesome names as Bill Cosby, Gilda Radner, Julia Child, and Jerry Orbach.

[Edit because I forgot to include...] And then at the end of each episode, Mr. Burton would say that there were lots of other great books out there - "But you don't have to take my word for it!" and three lucky kids got to tell about a book they liked that could be found at your local library.  I used to want to be one of those kids SO BAD.  I'm not exactly sure why, but it seemed glamorous and exciting.

I love this show.  I loved it long after it was socially acceptable for me to be watching children's television or reading picture books, and if it was on right now, I'd be watching it as I write this.  I'm going to have to start saving my pennies, because I just looked it up on Amazon to find that episodes are available on DVD!  I even started watching Star Trek TNG because LeVar Burton was on there.  (Well... plus, it's an awesome show.  But I didn't know that at the time.)

Anything that can inspire such a love of reading deserves an entire freakin' cookbook, but as my time is limited, I am going to give you one very awesome recipe instead.  This is my mother's recipe for Rainbow Bars - I'm pretty sure it came out of a magazine or off the can of condensed milk, but don't be fooled by its humble beginnings.  This is an awesome cookie bar, and I can't think of anything that would better deserve it.

Reading Rainbow Bars
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 stick butter
1 can (14 oz.) condensed milk
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups M&Ms

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Melt the butter in the microwave and pour it into the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.  Pour in the graham cracker crumbs and mix with the butter until well-blended.  Then press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan to make a solid layer of crust.
2. Pour the condensed milk over the crust and spread as evenly as possible.  Top with the coconut, chocolate chips, and M&Ms, in that order.
3. Press the toppings into the condensed milk with your palms.  The tighter you make this, the less likely it will be that the finished product will fall apart when eating, which is the #1 complaint I've heard about Rainbow Bars - don't skip this step!  It will make your hands messy for a minute, but it'll make things easier to eat in the end.
4. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes.  The coconut will be lightly browned, and the condensed milk will be bubbling right up between the chocolate and all that yumminess will just melt right togehter.
5. This is the hardest part of the whole recipe - wait for the bars to cool completely before cutting, or you run the risk of them breaking apart and being a big gloppy mess.  A delicious gloppy mess, but still.  As you can see from the photo, I didn't wait until they were completely cool - mostly, but not completely, so the edges are ragged.

There are lots of variations to this recipe - substitute butterscotch chips for the M&Ms, and they are Magic Bars or Magic Cookie Bars.  Adding walnuts to Magic Bars makes them 7-Layer Bars.  I've also used peanut butter chips or some combination of the above... but Rainbow Bars are my favorite, perfect for my favorite tv show.

So, tell me!  What's your favorite episode?

1 comment:

  1. Bringing the rain to Kapiti plain. I loved that one! I still remember the one where it was his birthday and he was sent on a scavenger hunt by someone sending him a bunch of balloons with a message inside. I thought that was just the coolest idea. lol

    Reading Rainbow was an awesome show! They have "Between the Lions" now which reads books for the kids, but it's just not the same.