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COOKING WITH JESSICA KARLEY: Lime works as a good base for cool treats

Refreshing margarita bars are a perfect dessert for summer picnics. (Photo by Accent contributor Jessica Karley)1 / 2
Margarita dip and fresh cut fruit makes a cool and creamy treat to help beat the summer heat. (Photo by Accent contributor Jessica Karley)2 / 2

On a hot summer day, there are certain flavors that sound more refreshing than others. A couple of my favorites are ice cold margaritas and key lime pie. Obviously, some of what is so refreshing is the ice in the margaritas and the pucker-inducing freshly squeezed lime juice in both items. I like to keep various fruit juice concentrates in my freezer because they are a great way to add a flavorful punch to foods in a hurry. One of my staples is frozen limeade concentrate, and today, I am going to share two delicious ways to use it.

As I was figuring out what to bring to a picnic the other night, I decided to attempt my Creamy Margarita Bars. They are a spin on the classic lemon bars that everyone loves with a hint of cool, creamy, key lime pie, and the popular tequila based adult beverage. I would love to tell you that this recipe is foolproof, but as I found out, it’s not … but it’s close. It turns out that baking, carrying on important adult discussions, potty training, and a three kid game of tag in the kitchen can be a little distracting. That is perhaps why ovens have timers on them? The first pan started out perfect, but turning off the timer and leaving the pan of bars in the oven was not what I was supposed to do.

Apparently, if you want the bars to stop cooking, you should actually remove them from the oven and not just turn off that annoying beeping timer that is distracting you from your adult conversations, potty training, and playing tag referee. (Hopefully, you are picking up on my sarcasm.) Oh well, so it goes. Pan number two turned out great and, as long as you only have a few minor distractions, they couldn’t be easier! The filling is made from a combination of sweetened condensed milk, thawed limeade concentrate, eggs, lime and orange zest, and freshly squeezed orange juice. The crust is made from finely crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted butter. Yum. That part alone sounds good enough, right? After the bars are done baking, they get a light dusting of powdered sugar. One trick to help getting the powdered sugar into that perfectly, snowy looking layer is to place it in a metal colander and gently tap the sides to get the sugar to gently fall onto the cooled margarita bars. The only problem with these bars is that they disappear too quickly.

My second margarita related recipe is for Margarita Fruit Dip. This is another easy and quick recipe that is perfect for making ahead and keeping cool in your refrigerator until you are ready to serve. Its ingredient list is small but packs a flavorful punch. Whip together softened cream cheese, lime zest, orange zest and thawed limeade concentrate in your food processor. When it’s smooth, gently fold in lite whipped topping and chill. Your adult guests will love the margarita flavor, and the kids will love the cool, light, and creamy lime dip for their fruit or vanilla wafer cookies.

Creamy Margarita Bars

2 cups finely crushed salted pretzels. (they should almost look like whole wheat flour)

1⁄2 cup granulated sugar

1.5 sticks or 3⁄4 cup melted butter or coconut oil

2 cans sweetened condensed milk

1 - 12 ounce can thawed limeade concentrate

1⁄4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh lime zest

1 tablespoon fresh orange zest

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl combine crushed pretzels, sugar, and melted butter. Stir with a fork until well combined. Firmly press mixture into a prepared 9x13 pan. Bake for 7 minutes. Remove from the oven let cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Pour into crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or just until the center is set. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve chilled.

Margarita Fruit Dip

1⁄2 cup thawed limeade concentrate

8 ounces 1⁄3 fat cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons fresh lime zest

1 teaspoon orange zest

2 tablespoons tequila, optional

1 cup thawed whipped topping, lite


In a food processor, combine cream cheese, tequila, limeade lime and orange zest. Whip until smooth. Pour into a medium bowl, and add in first 1⁄2 cup of whipped topping. gently fold together until evenly combined. Repeat with remaining whipped topping. Chill until ready to serve.