Friday, July 6, 2012

my kind of smores bars and coleslaw pt 1

So i actually felt a little pang of guilt having provided the two recipes in the last post with taunts of "i have better but here is this mediocrity."  I don't really like posting recipes without accompanying pictures because as a mostly visually-based learner i hate non-pictured recipes myself, when i want to know what it's all supposed to look like in the end so i know if i passed or failed.  And i just so happened to finish the last three potato chip cookies for breakfast this morning and i'd just die if i was forced to eat the other very disappointing cheese danish i picked up from sprouts for breakfast tomorrow.  What would be a better excuse to ignore the freshly laundered wrinkling-as-we-speak towels than to share some delicious recipes with my friends especially since it comes with the added benefit of smores bars for breakfast?  It's only a bajillion degrees in my kitchen today.

Also, luckily, i still have a single packet of graham crackers left over from the fourth of july smores bars i made and this recipe turns them into a real cookie, which i prefer over any cracker any time.  I really don't like crackers.  I try to, i honestly do, by topping them with cheese and spreads and peanut butter because the grocery store allures me with all sorts of new and interesting kinds, but they all suck the moisture out of your mouth like woah, resulting in that terrible cement-like sludge that attaches itself to the very back upper gums until you are forced to uncouthly dig your finger back there and dislodge it, making your company uncomfortable when you reach over towards the tray to grab another cracker right afterwards before you realize what you are doing. Or is that just me?

And it will distract me, temporarily at least, from the burning desire of leaving this godforsaken apartment forever, where i breathe dust and fumes every day from constant leafblowers and wait anxiously for the next hellminion child to inevitably move in next door as management gets less and less picky about tenants, or maybe they just hate us with our ever-growing mountain of complaints/maintenance requests and they purposely place the noisy ones near our windows.  Where we have an impossibly tiny kitchen, and the most hideous muddy greyish olive green "accent walls" that give us the exact cave-dwelling look i was going for in every room.  In fact i think the actual name of the color is "Soul Crushing."  And don't you just love the babbling brook sounds?  Except we are not by one of the several manmade creeks on the property--it is just our constantly running, apparently unfixable toilets.  And they just raised the prices on the laundry machines but half of them don't work because people do things like put tennis shoes in there and i have to clean lumps of dry detergent out of the washer because nobody seems to be able to read the sign that says liquid only and then i check for gum in the dryers--the dryers that don't even dry towels all the way through for $1.10 per dryer load, but by far the most annoying thing is the inconvenience of having to retrieve the laundry on time lest we risk it being manhandled by somebody else.

i get irrationally annoyed at this. a bicycle pump and manicure kit are among the items featured. (later i swiped that change)
but then i turn to see this and i am like, oh, yeah that is all me
orange cat, activate!
 don't you feel your happiness being destroyed by that putrid hue? this picture doesn't do it justice.  also this is our vitamin store, in the hallway
monkey in another box

We really liked this place, with all the foliage and wildlife and noise ordinances, for the first five years.  Objectively it is a pretty great complex and certainly one of the nicest ones around.  But after five years of needing the screens replaced annually because the friendly yet crafty squirrels have hungrily chewed through them (after already overturning the bird feeder and digging up my potted plants) as my cats just sit and watch, and us slowly outgrowing our two bedroom place but refusing to buy things like new and necessary furniture because "we're getting a house soon, we'll get some then!" and david uses the wine cabinet as a valet stand and i use the dining room table as a mail-sorting station, and we eat off of tv trays in the living room because after our long hard day (of david doing real work and me just nervously making sure the cats don't escape through the squirrel holes or strangle themselves on blinds cords, while slowly building up resentment for this overpriced dungeon until i finally crack, ahem) we want to sit on the lumpy, torn-up, cat hair-embedded couch and watch (more) law and order and simply relax.  But i digress.

Graham cracker cookies, marshmallow fluff, sugary goodness.  Wiiiine.  Happiness.

I'm afraid i can't properly credit this recipe because it's from the pre-actively-blogging time when i copy/pasted into word documents and then printed for my own personal use without worrying about plagiarism.  If anyone knows the originator i will edit in to credit them.  I'll post the written recipe, even though on this occasion i used nutella instead of chocolate bars (which google says is very unoriginal, sigh) and i accidentally made them upside down because i guess i was too eager to get my hands covered in marshmallow fluff to read the directions again.  I only made a half recipe because i already knew how dangerous these are.  Below is the full recipe.

Smores Bars - makes one serving 
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 king-sized milk chocolate bars
1-1/2 cups marshmallow creme/fluff (not melted marshmallows) 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease an 8 by 8 baking dish. 
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking powder, and salt.  Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture at a low speed until combined. 
Divide the dough in half and press half of the dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared pan.  Place the chocolate bars over dough, breaking if necessary to fit a single layer no more than a quarter-inch thick.  Put the marshmallow fluff in a plastic ziplock that has been coated on the inside with nonstick spray.  Pipe the fluff out onto the chocolate.  Place the remaining dough in a single layer on top of the fluff (most easily achieved by flattening the dough into small shingles and laying them together) (i pressed it into another similarly sized pan and then turned it out on top of the fluff layer.) 
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until lightly browned.  Cool completely before cutting into bars. (or eat with fork as is)

second layer of dough

right out of the oven

i did not wait for it to cool completely this time

I know i sort of promised to supply the other, better coleslaw recipe but i have to continue that as a part two, because i've worn myself out today and the sirens of the smores bars are calling me.  Plus i think today's post is long enough and if you made it this far you deserve some of this:

 warm and gooey

 a new slice after it cooled completely

i worry there will be little left for breakfast

They have made me forget all about the wretched little kitchen from whence they came, and the worryingly darkening freckle on my shoulder, and about the maybe-arthritis that i think i am getting in one of my big toes.  All my woes, disappeared into sticky marshmallow melty-ness.

At this time i feel i must defend  my cookie breakfast and then batch of smores-eating.  like i said before i fully expected to eat ice cream for every meal when david was gone.  I like to occasionally indulge my five-year-old self without any pretenses of eating something healthy first, like i normally try to do every day just to feel like i took in enough vitamins to "earn" the entire batch of cookies i want to eat at the end of the evening.  But you, normal people, would be proud of me today because of this:

i ate about two cups of this purpley goo for lunch. purple goo consists of blackberries and greek yogurt
artichoke salmon and steamed broccoli for dinner, courtesy of a ready-meal and my fantastic silicone steamer thing.  admittedly i WAS planning to (finally) purchase and eat some black raspberry limited edition ice cream that i have had my eye on but i finished the birthday cake oreo carton too late, and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, for my pants seams) all that was left on the shelf where the black raspberry was supposed to be was a lone, mangled-looking carton with a smashed lid and smudged ice cream residue (more purple goo!) down the side that i decided to pass for now but i will check the other target for tomorrow's dinner.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

S'more Nut Bars and Lemon Poppyseed Coleslaw

Still recovering from the pool party, fourth of july snuck up on me.  I mean, it was only a few days away and i spent two of those sleeping.  My house is still in mild disarray (i have no idea how to disassemble the rockem sockem robots to get it back in the box) and i have been eating leftover cookies and whatever riffraff from the fridge i could scrounge up (it is currently mostly condiments) because david will be gone this weekend and i know i will probably just eat ice cream for every meal so it has seemed pointless to grocery shop.  Except that i did grocery shop, but just to make some food for the fourth of july party we were invited to yesterday.

I have a really awesome recipe for smores bars that i made last year for another fourth of july party.  I did not make them again this year.  Breaking rule number one in Making Food for Others is my specialty.  So instead of making something tried and true i made something completely new and potentially terrible, like usual.  This is the first recipe i have made out of Baked, after being terribly disappointed with it upon receipt, feeling like i was tricked by david lebovitz who recommended it on his blog or website or something, and loving his taste in other things (especially his chocolate almond buttercrunch recipe) i trusted him and got it.  But i felt it was filled with mostly uninspired recipes, such as german chocolate cake and lemon lime bars and monster cookies.  I knew the recipes were probably sound and good but i was expecting awesome innovative and challenging things that i would kick myself for not thinking of first or something.  At any rate i figured for this event i could test and review one of the bajillion cookbooks that i normally use as very expensive dust displays. I actually did that for two cookbooks but that in a minute. dessert first.

S'more nut bars are an example of something i considered meh.  But i wanted something quick and new and plus i already had most of the ingredients on hand.  They are a layer of thick graham cracker pie crust topped with chocolate ganache that has peanuts and marshmallows mixed in.  As simple and straightforward as they are they were a huge hit at this party. I ended up being introduced to everyone new who arrived as "the girl who made these."  So i present to you the recipe that david says tastes like a nougatless snickers bar, adapted from Baked.

S'more Nut Bars - makes 24 bars 
2-1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (about 17-20 crackers)
1 Tblsp firmly packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
7.5 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
7.5 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72% cacao), coarsely chopped
1-1/2 tsp light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
10 marshmallows, cut into quarters
1/2 cup lightly salted whole peanuts
1/2 cup chopped lightly salted peanuts 
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Butter the sides and bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan or spray it with nonstick cooking spray. 
In a large bowl, stir together the graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar.  Add the butter.  Use your hands to combine the mixture, then turn it out into the prepared pan.  Using your hands, press the crust into an even layer along the bottom and up the sides of the pan (i did not put it up the sides).  Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust. 
Bake the crust for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack. 
In a large heatproof bowl, toss the chocolates together.  Drizzle the corn syrup over the chocolate and set aside. 
In a medium saucepan, bring the cream just to a boil.  Remove from the heat and pour the cream over the chocolate mixture.  Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes.  Starting in the center of the bowl and working your way out to the edges, whisk the chocolate mixture in a circle until completely smooth.  Fold in the marshmallows and the whole peanuts.  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and use an offset spatula to spread it as evenly as possible.  Sprinkle the top with the chopped peanuts. 
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or until set.  Cut into squares and serve.  The bars will keep in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 3 days.

i crushed my graham crackers with a meat tenderizer mallet.  i could have used a food processor but if i did that i wouldn't have that little muscle on the back of my arm that makes my elbow look round instead of pointy. 


The other recipe i made is coleslaw.  Again, i have a ridiculously good recipe that i love to use from another recipe book but i went with something new from a cookbook i had yet to use.  I got this book from the kitchenaid party where i won that mixer a few months ago.  It's called Cristina Ferrare's Big Bowl of Love.  The recipe i tried is Crunchy Coleslaw with Creamy Poppy-Seed-Lemon Dressing.  It wasn't bad but it wasn't anything to write home about either.  I think i am spoiled with my other recipe.  I am kind of sad i used about a cup and a half of my condiment of choice, hellman's bestfood mayo, in this when it was so watered down with lemon juice and vinegar, which in turn wilted my cabbage to no longer very crunchy, and i even had dressing to spare.  I will post the recipe anyway because some of you out there might like it just like everyone liked the smore nut bars when i was just okay with them.  I say i am not really picky but i guess i am.

Crunchy Coleslaw with Creamy Poppy-Seed-Lemon Dressing - makes 6 to 8 servings 
1 head Savoy (Napa) cabbage (i used a giant one and it all wilted down to half the original amount)
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
2 Tblsp fresh lemon juice
2 Tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tblsp apple cider vinegar
1/8 tsp cayenne
1 Tblsp poppy seeds
2 tsp kosher salt
Cracked pepper 
Chop the cabbage into small pieces and place in a bowl. 
In another bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegars, cayenne, and poppyseeds.  Pour the dressing over the cabbage, and mix well. (i put this in the fridge overnight to let the flavors meld as recommended by the cookbook author.  then i assembled everything just before bringing it to the party) 
Add the salt and pepper to taste, cover, and chill at least an hour before serving.

I have to admit that i also attempted a red, white, and blue layered jello shot thing.  I have a few flavored vodkas from smirnoff that are terrible.  Truly unpalatable to me.  I bought them before i discovered the amazing three olives brand.  I didn't really want to foist half-used bottles onto someone else as my rejects (like i have a ridiculously insulting habit of doing that i'm trying to break) and in lieu of dumping them out to make room for good stuff in my liquor cabinet i thought maybe i could mask their disgustingness with more artificial fruit flavoring and a lot of sugar.  I used real sugar jello because i am pretty sure my friends are tired of me tricking them into eating/drinking sugar free stuff.  Except the only container of cool whip i had on hand was sugar free, so i used that in the white layer.  I didn't use any recipe for it and i also wanted it to be more like jello jigglers than regular jello shots so i just made up my own thing.  It came out kind of sloppy, mostly due to trying to make this in half the time i should have allotted and once i messed it up in the slightest i sort of gave up from there.  I would have served it anyway except it was AWFUL. i am dumping the smirnoff. The cool whip layer with the knox gelatin and pinnacle whipped cream vodka was pretty good but the other two layers... no matter how drunk my friends were expected to be at any point in the night i was not going to serve them that crap.

oh, this doesn't look so bad, does it? what was she talking about?

this is what i was talking about.

How about a flag cake my friend made:

And some cats:
monkey has a compulsion to hide in things

orange cat is not fooled

one of their more civil moments

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

working title - I'm giving up the goods. or, The Whoopie Pie Recipe

Be prepared for pretentiousness, the whoopie pie is my thing. Also be prepared for a lot of commas.

There has been a sweeping trend of whoopie pies over the past few years, going along with the bigger trend of general handheld mini desserts like cupcakes and macarons, but to my dismay so many of the so-called whoopie pies disappoint.  Most of them are made like little cupcake sandwich cookies, and while better than regular cupcakes (since my main upset with cupcakes is that the ratio of frosting to cake is underwhelming and really, the frosting is the whole reason why i'm eating a cupcake in the first place) they should be ashamed of themselves by claiming to be whoopie pies.

I only lived in maine for a few years but some of those years were one of the several fatty mcgoo periods i've had in my life and aside from dunkin donuts vanilla creme-filled doughnuts, whoopie pies satisfied the sugar-and-shortening-shaped hole in my heart during that time.  I don't claim to be an expert on most things but, well, I ate a lot of them.  I still do.

With macarons you either make them right or they simply aren't macarons, and with cupcakes there are no real rules deciding what's considered a cupcake except that it has to be an individual serving of both cake and frosting (unless you are on Cupcake Wars and apparently individual cheesecakes can be considered "cupcakes" but you probably won't make it to round three) (i mean your frosting could be made from avocados for goodness' sake), and it seems that most of the nation has a similar idea about what constitutes a whoopie pie as they do cupcakes which is "anything goes" and that is sort of okay for the rounds part so long as they are cakey yet not too sweet, like instead of traditional chocolate you could have carrot cake or something, but you have to have the right filling.  There are a couple variations bastardations of the filling out there, and the filling is really what sets a whoopie pie apart from everything else.  If you use just a buttercream or regular frosting they are no better than an oddly put together cupcake. If you use marshmallow creme in the center then you basically just made a moon pie.  In my opinion a real whoopie pie has a thickened milk* and shortening/butter filling, and in my family if you make and eat them the day of it can have a wonderful grainy sugar texture too, probably because we made it wrong once and liked it the way it turned out.  I have vague memories of us once reading the recipe and just seeing "sugar" in the ingredients, and my dad just saying let's use half powdered half granulated so we can be at least half right. 

I am about to share with you a family secret, more secret than Secret Sauce which i have likely already explained to everyone i've made it for.  It is even a secret within the family because i think only myself and my dad has the recipe, which was originally clipped from a Portland Press Herald newspaper article**.  I have been dragging my feet in posting this because holding the key to such an amazing creation makes me feel special, important, and if i give up the secret then what good will i be? Why keep me around anymore? What else will be my contribution to the world if anyone and everyone can easily make these?  I am willing to take the risk of obsolescence because apparently i have been (probably drunkenly) promising to post this for some friends and i like to live up to promises made so long as they are actually doable, and not like "make the bed everyday" or something else impossible or illogical.  Posting a recipe i think i can manage alright.

Whoopie Pies - Makes 12 giant pies or a billion little ones 
For Cakes:   
1 cup shortening
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 c plus 2 Tblsp cocoa, sifted
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
2 tsp salt
2 cups milk
For Filling: 
2 Tblsp cornstarch
1 cup shortening
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups milk
1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar (i usually use just over half powdered, half granulated but all powdered is good too, without the grainy sugar texture)
For the cakes: cream together shortening and sugar until light.  Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until just combined, then add vanilla.  Separately, stir together the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to shortening mixture while alternating with milk in small amounts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.  Mix until just combined. 
Using a 1/4 c measuring cup, spoon batter onto parchment lined sheet pan, spacing about two inches apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Removing pan and reversing position in oven after 7 minutes of baking helps keep cakes more uniform.  Cool on pan, then fill.
For the filling: heat milk and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Cook while stirring constantly until mixture boils and becomes thick.  Refrigerate until completely cooled. (after this is fully cooled you can press this through a sieve in order to remove any cornstarch lumps you might have). Separately, cream butter, shortening, and sugar until light, then add vanilla.  Stir in the cooled milk mixture and beat until smooth and creamy.  Fill cakes.
Since i don't have any "making of" pictures (which i think is key when you have something vague like "mixture becomes thick") here are a million and one pictures of these defrosted but still incredible whoopie pies, showcasing my penchant for blurry focus and bizarre lighting!

look at those beautiful saran wrap indents

*This recipe's milk is thickened with cornstarch, but a few Tablespoons of flour can be subbed in for the cornstarch if preferred.  According to the article, most traditional would be made with flour-thickened.
**Recipe originally credited to Amy Gullicksen of Aurora Provisions in Portland, Maine.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

pool party goodies

So just like i said i would i am making a post about the potato chip cookies i baked for the pool party tomorrow.  I also made my own red, white, and blue bars, some golden graham smores bars, and some dark chocolate honey nut chex bars and  i will also include recipes and pictures for that stuff.

I thought martha stewart was going to be totally inventive but it turns out she is just like me. as in, she takes the recipe for nestle tollhouse cookies and then (probably) uses it for everything which is why i thought i'd never make it as a food blogger but if martha can do it so can i. Basically today i made that recipe twice with two different variations and entirely different results as you will see.

I followed the potato chip recipe pretty exactly except for the salt and the pecans. i used 1 tsp regular salt instead of the coarse salt because i don't know what she meant by coarse salt since i have about three different kinds of it and the tollhouse recipe just uses 1 tsp regular.  Also i omitted the pecans because eating pecans usually makes my gums feel like i've been chewing shards of glass (except for trader joes sweet and spicy pecans. i seem to be able to handle those just fine, of all the healthy nut products available i can only ingest the worst, oil-fried ones.) and because the pecans i had on hand apparently were "best by" april 2011, and i only noticed because when i pulled them out of the pantry i thought to myself, "these pecans smell like they have been expired for a year." You're welcome, party guests, for catching that. I think they taste great sans pecans at any rate, though i limited myself to only one since potato chips also have a way of feeling like a cheese grater to my gums.  This is probably not a recipe i'd make for myself as you can see and i am pretty sure the only reason i chose it was for the novelty.

the expired nuts, as proof

They came out crunchy, chewy, sweet, and salty just like martha said they would. and they were potato-y.

Well i waited too long to press publish and now today is the day after the party.  I have been spending most of the day nursing my sore, sun heated-pebble burned feet and trying to rehydrate myself unsuccessfully. If i can't really hobble anywhere i might as well finish the post.

I made these golden graham smores bars, and a gluten-freer was meant to attend so i made a dark chocolate honey nut chex version as well.  I am not used to making rice krispie treats with corn syrup in the recipe but i am no expert in cereal bar making so i figured it was probably for the chocolate's sake. Or maybe it helped keep the marshmallow gooey?  For the honey nut chex ones i subbed some honey for the corn syrup but i couldn't tell by taste, maybe i would have noticed better with milk chocolate.

The eggs are just there because that is where i keep them.

This is the dark chocolate one.  I got a real arm workout trying to stir everything up. I think the corn syrup made it extra tough to combine.

smores ones

honey nut chex ones. i think they were missing something extra oomphy, like peanut butter maybe.


My red, white, and blue bars come out muffiny because of all the fruit moisture despite using a cookie recipe.  The first batch i made last year i am pretty sure i used fresh raspberries and blueberries and hand stirred them but because of the less than stellar selection of raspberries at sprouts this year i decided just to go with frozen.  However, i also used the mega mixer and not realizing the brute strength of it turned my bars into purpley mush in the few seconds i stepped away from it.  But i still liked them and that is really what matters most since i am the one usually stuck with leftovers that i end up eating for every meal until it is all gone.  And i have done exactly that today because of my current crippled situation, it was pretty much the only thing within reach.

I don't have a proper recipe for this at all, as an intuitive cook i like to just dump stuff in until it looks right.  In this case it was a whole bag of nestle white chips, a couple of cups of rinsed frozen wild maine blueberries, and almost a whole bag of frozen raspberries i got at trader joes.

a picture of my pinterest trollfeet, pre party. It is probably just the way i am holding my foot but i think living in flipflops has permanently made my toes space that way.