If ever there was a time of the year to be spontaneous, it’s summer. Free from the pressures of school schedules, impromptu entertaining becomes a happy possibility. Whether you’re hosting a backyard cookout, a cottage party, or a picnic at the beach, you want things that are easy to prepare but still show that you care enough to dish up something tasty. I like to keep a stockpile of goodies in the freezer along with some shelf-stable foods to make my summer entertaining a breeze. My summer staples are:
Of course, what’s a party without a few sweets? I make sure I always have a stash of baking ingredients in my pantry as well so I can whip up treats whenever a party plan gets hatched. One of my must-haves is Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk.
Condensed milk is such a versatile product and I've found all kinds of great ways to use it, such as:
When it comes to baking with sweetened condensed milk, these incredible squares are my new favourite summertime treat. This magical recipe is actually a mash-up of three of my all-time favourite desserts: Hello Dollies, Coconut Cream Pie, and Banana Splits. In my opinion, the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.
These squares are decadent and fabulously delicious, hitting multiple highs for flavour and texture. The best part? All the ingredients (except the eggs, butter and bananas) are shelf-stable. The second best part? Because these squares are so rich, you can cut them into small portions — so one pan goes a long way. The third best part? Because these squares get frozen after baking, they’re super portable and won’t fall apart in transit.
Hello Dolly Layer Ingredients:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1 (14-oz.) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (regular or low fat)
Coconut Pie Layer Ingredients:
1 large egg
1 can (14 ounces) Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (regular or low fat)
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
Banana Split Layer Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups thinly sliced banana (about 1 large banana)
1/2 cup chopped dried cherries
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350F.
Line a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper, making sure that the paper hangs over the sides by at least 2 inches, and set aside.
Combine graham crumbs, butter, and sugar in a medium bowl. Press mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 8 minutes.
Remove pan from oven and scatter pecans, chocolate chips, and coconut evenly over top. Drizzle Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk over everything as evenly as possible.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbling at the edges.
While base layer bakes, prepare coconut filling by beating egg in a medium bowl. Add condensed milk and coconut extract. Beat well then add shredded coconut.
After base layer has finished baking, remove pan from oven (don’t turn the oven off) and spread the coconut mixture on top. Top with sliced bananas, dried cherries and chocolate chips, pressing down on them slightly so they’ll stick to the coconut layer. Bake 20 minutes more.
Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes on a wire rack, then refrigerate for 30 minutes to allow squares to firm up before cutting.
Once firm, lift the entire block of squares out of the pan by grasping the edges of the parchment paper and place on a work surface. With a sharp knife, cut into small squares, trying not to cut the parchment paper if possible. Pick up the parchment edges again to pop the cut squares into a storage container with a tight lid and put into the freezer. Squares can be stored for up to 6 months.
Serve squares frozen or thawed. Brace yourself for the applause.
Keep calm and entertain on!
Whether you’re grilling for a crowd or chilling out with a few close friends, these are the recipes, tips, and tricks that will set the stage for an effortless, outdoor get-together.