Monthly Archives: July 2012

Gooey Cookie Butter Funfetti Mash-Up Bars

I love sprinkles. Sometimes I love sprinkles so darn much, I think it might be an addiction. You know, like something might be wrong with me that can be actually diagnosed by one of those white-coated people carrying around apples and their (too-)high-minded(-for-Ala) intelligence who look at you through their sleek prescription lenses. One of my med student friends told me that half or more in the profession wear fake glasses because it makes you look like you know what you’re doing even when you don’t–and apparently, the “don’t” part is a pretty frequent thing, especially for new residents. My trust level for doctors has plummeted exponentially since I learned this little fact.

Huh. I wonder why.

Anyway, sometimes my sprinkles addiction gets almost as bad as my stuffed animal addiction, and then it turns into something like this:

I still want to finish watching that movie, by the way. My family had the good grace to turn it off 15 minutes before the end because we had a Thanksgiving meal to carve into. Like, seriously? What do we have to be thankful for if we can’t find out what happens to the cutest girl and fluffiest unicorn in the world?!

Only kidding. I love my family. But I also love sprinkles and stuffed animals, to a possibly indecent extent.

And there’s just so many of them!! Okay, so I’ll admit that I went a little crazy. I went a lot crazy. In fact, if you aren’t starting to get the nagging feeling that something about this post is uncharacteristically Wolfe-ian stream-of-consciousness, you probably need to wake yourself up with a bite of these amazing, scrumptious, gooey, deathly-sweet, it’s-so-sprinkly!!! funfetti cookie butter bars. Because that’s definitely what my nerves are strung up on at the moment, and let me tell you–it’s feeling pretty darn good for a sugar rush.

Have you ever seen the photos from the Threadless Shirt Company? If you haven’t, you absolutely need to. My entire wardrobe is stocked with these little beauties, and if I had a choice (and no semblance of preserving dignity), I would buy the two following shirts that smartly deal with the concept of rainbow-colored foodstuffs:

Title: The Morning After

Title: Marshmallow Factory

Real high humor, I know. And appetizing, isn’t it? I try. I really, really do. Fortunately, these bars are so freakin’ good and sweet that I could probably post a picture of–well, use your imagination–and you’d probably just shrug and reach for another melting, rainbow-packed funfetti cookie butter mash-up bar.

This recipe deserves a big shout-out to my friend Bob, who was the chef de cuisine today in my kitchen and really did a stellar job baking up a storm. We sort of winged it with this recipe based on an amazing post from Averie Cooks and made it our own. Gooier, more insane, and–of course–more sprinkley!! And we had a fantastic time doing it. I even got a killer veggie spaghetti into the bargain! We made the mistake of enjoying our pasta over a showing of Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this film, involves a lot of pasta-like demon-substances that basically gorge the soul and body of whatever host body it happens to inhabit at the time.

Yeah, more appetizing stuff. I’m just filled with that today, aren’t I?

Well, to get your mind of potentially appetite-ruining visuals and/or thoughts, how ’bout a few, er, related and appealing and appeasing pictures instead?

Here (our dinner, courtesy of chef Bob!):

A veggie-packed soy chorizo spaghetti dish in a light marinara basil sauce.

And here:

Feeling better yet? I hope so! Because in about two seconds, your family/roommate/significant other is going to walk into the room, see these pictures, and demand that you get up immediately to whip up a batch. And seriously…do you even need another excuse to want to try these?

Oh, these also contain “cookie butter”–if you’ve never heard of this before, don’t worry! It’s basically just like Christmas in a jar. Imagine crushed gingersnaps being blended into the creamiest, most lightly spiced creamy butter ever, and you have cookie butter. Trader Joe’s now stocks it for those of you who have access to the store, and for those of you who don’t, it goes under several other pseudonyms, including Speculoos spread and Biscoff spread, like this:

So are you hanging onto your seats? Ready to embark on a magic carpet ride that would make Aladdin and Jasmine’s look like a putt-putt car in a children’s fair? Then get ready for this gooey, melty, messy, mind-blowing funfetti cookie butter bar recipe!

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Gooey Cookie Butter Funfetti Mash-Up Bars

Adapted from the lovely recipe by Averie Cooks.

Ingredients:

  • 1 box Pillsbury’s funfetti cake mix
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup cookie butter
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (feel free to substitute peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, or M&M’s to taste! I’m sure M&M’s would add great color to the bars!)
  • 1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • Sprinkles, for decorating

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine funfetti cake mix, egg, and butter. Mix until every is well incorporated; your dough may be thick, but just work through it until everything is mixed completely! Pat mixture smoothly into prepared baking pan.
  3. Sprinkle chocolate chips and coconut flakes evenly over the funfetti cake crust. Add other ingredients to sweeten or brighten it up as desired! The more color, the better, I always say, and I believe my clown and unicorn friends would agree.
  4. In the now-empty bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk and cookie butter. Lick spoons and/or take “sample tests” as necessary. (Hey, I believe in a free kitchen, okay?) When you’re done being guilty of double-dipping, spoon the mixture evenly over the funfetti/toppings. Spread into a smooth layer.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes. Don’t worry about it still being gooey–that’s what you want (if the recipe name didn’t give it away)! It’ll set up a bit more as it cools, if you can wait that long. Cut through with a knife that has been run under hot water for clean cuts, and bam! Killer sprinkle-filled bars. Store in the fridge for up to a week.

So you’ve assembled all of your ingredients, and you’re ready to go? Off to a good start! You’ve got your butter and your eggs…

Add in that funfetti mix!

Mix well, then pat into a greased 9×13-inch baking pan.

 

Time for some wild spoon-lickin’! Go crazy with that cookie butter and sweetened condensed milk!

Layer up your toppings as desired. Notice the lurking criminal at the top of the picture…ready to strike at a moment’s call.

Pour on that cookie butter mix! (I apologize for the inadvertent and kind of repulsive product placement featured in this photo. I swear, they don’t pay me. Not that I would mind it if they did, of course…)

Top it with an onslaught of sprinkles, pop it in the oven, and you’re ready to go!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars

Won’t Stop Snackin’ White Chocolate Snack Mix

Do you ever:

1) Need a snack for on the go?

2) Want to be known as that parent who packs the best school lunches, and whose child every other kid asks to swap snacks with?

3) Run out of time?

4) Crave a delicious dessert that takes less than 10 minutes, start to finish?

5) Care about somebody and want to show them? Seriously. Like, ever?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions…well then, my friend, this snack mix is for you!

“Can’t stop, won’t stop,” is one of my friend’s favorite mottoes–but once you try even the tiniest taste of this addicting snack mix, you’ll find that you not only can’t or won’t want to stop–you won’t want to be able to stop.

Your fingers will reach for a second, third, and fourth fistful before you know it.

All willpower will fly out the window like a plague of forgotten locusts that are trapped inside your house for I know not what reason.

It will be like setting an entire chocolate-ganache fudge-swirl ice cream cake in front of you and your dangerously-thin wallet, and telling you that anything you can finish in the first 3.257 minutes is free.

You will no longer want to stop eating this food of the gods. In fact, you will find yourself wondering as you chew thoughtfully whether or not you’ve died and gone to heaven. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s a perfectly normal response. It’s just your taste buds talking–so keep chewing.

You’ll suddenly realize how the name of this delicious snack came about, pause for a moment…then shrug your shoulders and throw back another handful as your mind goes blissfully blank.

And that’s good, because you can make as much of this as you want or need–say, a pound to lure away your nosy hubby and gleeful kids, and a pound for yourself–to keep everyone happy. It takes less than 10 minutes to assemble, so even if every single member of your household manages to make away with a substantial portion of your not-so-hard-earned treat, you will still have the resources to sneak into the kitchen on the pretense of doing an “intense cleaning” (that’ll keep others out of the way), lock the door for safe measure, whip up a batch, chow it all down, and be back out before anyone can say, “Clean?”

Am I starting to sound like a terrible influence? Good. The internet wouldn’t be the internet without some solid, community-based egging-on. So what are you waiting for? Less reading, more making! I do have a fantastic story about the amazing Disney Archives Exhibit I visited today with my friend, but that will have to wait until we officially celebrate with some intensely fudgy and souped-up brownies tomorrow.

In the meantime, happy eatings!

Won’t Stop Snackin’ White Chocolate Snack Mix

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups assorted cereal (I used Special K yogurt + fruit, and Fiber One honey clusters, but any variety of cereal will work)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 oz. white chocolate chips (half a regular-sized package)
  • 3 tablespoons shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine cereal, nuts, and dried cranberries. Feel free to add anything else you’d like to the mix–chocolate chips, sweetened coconut flakes, and M&M’s are all great ideas!
  2. Melting white chocolate on the stove: Place white chocolate chips and shortening in a small pot and heat over low flame. Stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove immediately from heat. Microwave method: In a microwave-safe bowl, place white chocolate chips and shortening. Heat at 20-second intervals on medium-low power (I use level 4 for my microwave), stirring in between each interval. Heat until white chocolate is melted and smooth when stirred. (Tip: Be careful not to overheat your white chocolate! Because white chocolate isn’t “real” chocolate, it will seize much more easily if you heat it for too long. Shorten the intervals to 10 seconds when your chocolate seems about finished melting; it should take about 2 minutes total, depending on your microwave power.)
  3. Stir vanilla and cinnamon into melted white chocolate. Pour mixture over dry ingredients and toss until completely coated. Transfer everything to wax or parchment paper and allow to cool before packaging, serving, or–better yet–snacking that won’t stop!

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Filed under Snacks

Did You Know? August is National Eat Dessert First Month!

…And I’m hosting a theme challenge in honor of it!

So in America, we apparently have something called “National Eat Dessert First” month. These are the 31 blissful days during the year when the sugar on all the grocery store shelves suddenly vanish and national happiness levels skyrocket. Each day in August has a different themed dessert–the month kicks off with national raspberry cream pie day, followed by national ice cream day, and so on and so forth. Are we seeing a completely delicious, delectable idea brewing here? I hope so!

My idea is to muster up as many forces as I can from all around baking and cooking communities to help me accomplish this challenge. The goal: Find at least one participant–either another or myself–to make a recipe featuring each themed dessert day in August. 

Yes, you read that right, and you know what that means–I NEED YOUR HELP!

I will be featuring a different theme recipe every day for the month of August on this blog. Proper credits and links will definitely be set up, and nothing will be used without your permission. But what better way to create a community and cook up a storm while we’re at it? Plus, you’ll have another outlet for readers to learn about your cooking skills every time you’re in the spotlight. Pretty nifty, eh?

HOW TO PARTICIPATE:

Continue reading

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, National Eat Dessert First Month

Tofu Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Honey Peanut Dipping Sauce

I still remember my cousin telling me a while back about how I would go trumpeting around when I was younger on my high horse, informing anyone and everyone in the family house that I was not going to eat animals when I “grew up”–because going vegetarian, obviously, was not something one simply did as a kid. It was a big deal. It was a responsibility. It was a way of stalling on something that I knew even at the tender age of nine and a half would mean lots of personal sacrifices. What can I say? I’m a natural procrastinator–born, bred, raised. My parents deny that they have anything to do with it, but of course you always have to take what they say with a grain of salt: for example, when I accused my mom of this incurable procrastinatory disease last week, she vehemently denied it–as she played a round of Mah-Jong matching tiles instead of doing her work.

So about three years ago, when I started seriously considering for the first time going “all-out vegetarian,” the prospect frankly frightened me a little bit. Located in the heart of good ol’ liberal Berkeley, I had been in a prime place for the slow food movement, and it wouldn’t be a typical day without receiving a polemic-laden flier on animal cruelty and the current state of factory farms, not to mention the abhorrent sorts of “regulations” that govern what makes it to our plates.

I was also reading Michael Pollan for the first time around then. He’s a prolific journalist and writer who has done some of the best investigative journalism–not to mention amazing reporting in general–about the current state of American attitudes towards food, the love-hate relationship we have with it today, and why we should care. I could go on and on about his profound work, but I feel like it’s more fair to let him speak for himself.

The two books you should know about if you’re at all interested in the topic of food reporting and culture are The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. Not to go on a sappy sentimental tangent (which I realize I’m doing anyway), but these books changed my life. Seriously. You remember that line from Barrington’s Peter Pan where a fairy is born every time a new baby laughs for the first time? For every person who picks up a copy of Michael Pollan’s books, I’m pretty sure a new foodie is born. And not just your run-of-the-mill, Yelp-monsterific foodie. Foodies who are really passionate about not only what we eat, but why we care about what we eat, too. Foodies, I’d like to think, like me.

I seriously think Michael should just redirect all of his online book summaries and reviews to this page. Forget the canned words of praise from high and mighty editors of Tit-for-Tat Periodical–I’m practically doing his advertising for him, and with good reason. Did I ever tell you that I tried to get an interview with him for a journalism class I took? Yeah. I got a very sweet email from his secretary telling me that he was off being famous and doing book tours, which, you know, sounds like a perfectly good excuse to me.

His books thoughtfully discuss the problem that we living in developed countries face with food surplus–specifically, cheap, processed, and mass-produced food. “Food,” I should also say, with big fat quotation marks–know that Wonder Bread you get from the store? Ever wonder what goes into it, or why it’s wonder bread? Hmm…

Anyway, I said that I would let you read that one on your own, and I’m not keeping my promises. The point about all this is that after reading Michael Pollan’s thought-provoking work, I decided that I’d give it a shot.

For more than a year, I yoyo’ed between being a full-fledged vegetarian and not. It wasn’t that I missed meat at all–in fact, it’s always been relatively easy for me to skip it, to the point where my parents have come up with ingenious measures to slip in meat where I least expect to find it, like pork in my tofu or beef in my soup. But I am very much concerned about the unbounded and unscrutinized tyranny of factory farming practices, especially when we consider how much time people spend investigating and advertising other causes, like animal adoption and animal testing. (Not to say these aren’t great causes–they absolutely are–but when you consider how many Sarah Mclachlan commercials we see touting animal shelter adoptions, it seems cruelly unfair to think about how many born-to-be-slaughtered animals are dying in the most miserable, lonely conditions ever seen–or, rather, unseen.)

One of the things I love about Pollan’s books is his conclusion: unlike a lot of the look-at-us-we’re-so-green or the-only-interaction-I-will-henceforth-have-with-animals-is-petting-the-fluffy-chickens-I-raise books, Pollan concludes after all that it’s okay for him, personally, to be omnivorous. Sustainability and health are important, and making wise choices about our food is critical–but it shouldn’t be about limiting. Food is about living. You hear about people hating their jobs, or leaving their marriages–but food is a natural go-to for all of us when that happens. As the saying goes–and I subscribe heavily to this one–“Forget love–I’d rather fall in chocolate!”

Fast-Forward to Today:

Even now, three years later and in an entirely new city, I’m still struggling with the idea of vegetarianism. I no longer call myself a vegetarian–I am a “pseudo-vegetarian,” a “flexitarian,” whatever you want to call it. I’d like to think that I think about labels like “vegetarian” or “vegan” less, but the truth is that I don’t. I still feel guilty every time I go home and sit down to meat dishes with my family–it’s a huge part of my life and culture, and I realize that meat is still something that I eat because it’s associated with so many fond memories for me. I haven’t given it up entirely, even if I eat so little I could pass for a vegetarian by most lenient definitions.

I do, however, make a conscious effort to make smarter choices, like explaining to people about why I do what I do, as well as take more time to shop for food, prepare it, and share it. That’s how this food blog–like many other food blogs out there, maybe even yours–was born. I’m a tried and true foodie, or “the biggest foodie many of us know,” as my friend told me jokingly over dinner last night. But I don’t consider myself a foodie for foodie’s sake, or health’s sake, or even my own sake, as I do for awareness’ sake. People deserve to know, to share, to learn, and to learn to love learning about food. So that’s where I’m at now.

Of course, super-serious posts and thoughts also make me have a super-monstrous appetite, which is where this next recipe comes in handy. (I made it for a “healthy food” potluck while my friends and I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives, and it went over like a maelstrom, blew everything out of the water. The boys brought pizza. Vegetarian pizza. Boys will be boys.)

Anyway, hope that’s enough food for thought for the moment–happy reading, and happy eatings!

The ingredients to a successful spring roll: rice wrappers, tofu, pickled carrots and daikon, vermicelli noodles, and lettuce.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Throw in the dried vermicelli noodles and cook until al dente (approximately 3-5 minutes).

Meanwhile, in a non-stick frying pan, heat up some oil and fry your tofu on all sides.

When you’ve finished preparing all of the ingredients, fill a medium bowl with hot water. Quickly dip in the rice wrapper so that all parts of it are wet, but be sure not to dip it so long that it gets soggy. It will continue to soften as you make the wrap.

Place the dipped wrapper on a plate, leaving about an inch or so hanging off the edge. (This will make it easier to pick up without ripping.) Layer your vegetable ingredients: lettuce, carrots, daikon, and cilantro. Make sure you leave at least 1 – 2 inches on each side for easy rolling.

Slap on your vermicelli noodles. Almost there!

Finally, add the grand finale–fried tofu! To roll: Carefully fold in the two flaps opposite each other on the plate (not the flap that’s hanging over the edge). These will be the ends of your roll. Then take the hanging flap and roll it tightly over the filling. The dampness of the rice wrapper should keep it sealed nicely together.

Ingredients for a fantastic honey peanut sauce! (Note about this peanut sauce: It is my absolute favorite sauce of all time. I make it for just about everything: sauteed rice noodles, vegetable stir-fries, appetizer dips…learn this one by heart and you’ll never be short on a great meal again!)

Tofu Vegetarian Spring Rolls with Honey Peanut Dipping Sauce

Yield: 12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium carrot, julienned
  • 2 – 3 oz. daikon, julienned
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (for tofu marinade)
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar (for tofu marinade)
  • 2 tablespoons honey (for tofu marinade)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes or 1/2 teaspoon chili sauce (for tofu marinade)
  • A few leaves of cilantro, to taste
  • 4 oz. dried vermicelli noodles
  • 12 rice wrappers, 8-inch diameter
    For peanut sauce:
  • 1/2 cup chunky peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup rice vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil (or any oil you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine distilled vinegar and white sugar. Place daikon and carrots in bowl to pickle; store at least overnight, or multiple nights if you can to let then soak up the flavor. (If you’re making this recipe on the day of the meal, don’t worry! Just cut up your carrots and/or daikon and include them in the rolls as they are, or give them a quick stir-fry to soften them up first.)
  2. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add vermicelli and cook over medium heat until al dente-soft, or about 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain noodles and set aside.
  3. Cut tofu into twelve slices and pat dry. In a medium, flat-bottomed dish, combine tofu marinade ingredients (soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, and red pepper flakes or chili sauce). Marinate tofu for at least 30 minutes, flipping once halfway through.
  4. In a non-stick frying pan, heat up oil and fry tofu until outer edges become crispy. Flip tofu when each side browns, making sure to brown the outer edges as well. When finished, remove tofu from pan and pat dry to remove excess oil. Set aside.
  5. Fill a medium bowl with hot water and gather up the rest of your ingredients. It’s time to assemble your spring roll! Quickly dip wrapper in hot water until all parts are wet. (Be careful not to dip too long, otherwise your wrapper will get soggy. It will continue to soften as you make your roll.) Place spring roll wrapper on a plate, leaving one edge hanging about one inch off the edge. Layer lettuce, carrots, daikon, cilantro, vermicelli, and tofu.
  6. Carefully fold up the two opposing edges that are completely on the plate. These will be the ends of your spring roll. Then grasp the side that is hanging over the edge and bring it over the fillings. Tightly roll the wrapper until your roll is completely sealed. Voila! It’s spring roll eating time.
  7. For the peanut sauce: Mix all of the peanut sauce ingredients in a medium bowl. Serve with spring rolls. Can be stored for up to 24 hours before flavors begin to meld in possibly funny ways.

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Vegetarian

White Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Granola Bars and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Cookies

To me, hiking was always something that people did when they didn’t feel like doing real sports. You know, sort of like ping pong, or chess. Not to say that any of these are illegitimate pastimes, but something about the idea of meandering up a hill at a glacial pace over a stretch of several hours seemed, well, anti-climactic.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I went “real hiking” for the first time this summer back home with a friend. By the end of the first quarter mile up what I had previously dubbed a “little hill,” my legs were screaming (although thankfully I was out of breath enough not to muster up a vocal scream myself–one of the few perks of being completely unused to hill work) and I felt muscles working in my glutes that I never knew I had before.

Now, I’m by no means out of shape, but it was a real shock when–4000 feet in altitude and nearly 3 miles later–we reached the top, and I realized that I had had to fight my way up, caveman-versus-saber-tooth style. Think fire and sharpened sticks. It was a true battle.

In fact, every time I go hiking, it feels a bit like this (no joke):

Since then, I’ve given hikers a bit more credit than they’re due to make up for my previous lack of admiration. Heck, I’m even thinking about climbing Half Dome with my friends this summer, if you can believe it.

Of course, every good hiker needs a snack in her pack, so that’s where these granola bars kick in. They’re good for everything from the day-long hike to just a snack-on-the-go for those busy teaching days, or even a great light meal sub if you’re looking for that sort of thing. There’s no limit to the places you can take this bar, and what’s even better, you can fiddle around with the recipe to suit your own tastes. As our good old friend Theodore Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) would say, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

So now it’s a Seussian granola bar. But I digress.

I used a really basic (but incredible!) recipe for the base and then built my way up from there. Here, we have two variations: a peanut butter chocolate chip granola bar “cookie” (it came out tasting a bit like a PB oatmeal cookie bar, probably because the addition of peanut butter made it much denser), and my personal preference, the white chocolate cranberry coconut granola bar.

Aren’t they just adorable?

I also call these my theme park lifesavers, a.k.a. the key to surviving an entire day at Disneyland without ever once having to step out of line and stop for food. Because let’s face it–who has an appetite when there’s so much to be seen and done?

Okay, that was clearly a rhetorical question. I have a huge appetite at theme parks, and I’ll bet you do too, which is why I’m sharing this handy-dandy, snack-in-the-line recipe for your next mouse-eared outing! My roommate and I both agreed that these were probably the best granola bars we had ever tasted, and I’m just sad that I didn’t actually bring these along with me to the happiest place on earth (I started with another “set” recipe that turned out to be a half-dud. This one, on the other hand, is by far my favorite!)

I didn’t do a magnificent job documenting the process step by step–I’m still getting used to juggling a camera while my hands are coated in grease and other camera-wrecking substances–but there’s enough here by way of photo to get you through relatively well…

Chop up your almonds and toss them in with 3 cups of oats. Any nuts will do fine in this mix–walnuts, pecans, even peanuts–but I prefer almonds for granola bars, personally.

Stir in vanilla extract, 2 tbsp melted butter, and 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk until mixture is completely coated.

Split the mixture into two or more bowls for different flavors of granola (not pictured). Add ingredients as desired to each bowl–I did white chocolate chips, dried cranberries, and sweetened coconut flakes for the one (amazing!), and peanut butter and chocolate chips for the other.

Press granola flat in the pan, until about 1/2 to 2/3-inch thick, depending on how thick and chewy you like your granola bars. I like mine thicker and chewier, so I don’t pat the bars to the edge (this keeps them from getting too crispy).

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 17-25 minutes, depending on your oven and how crispy/chewy you like your bars. Check periodically to prevent the granola from burning.

And voila! We have our fabulous peanut butter chocolate chip granola bars, which I’ve drizzled with a light peanut butter chocolate mixture.

I would also highly recommend this beautiful, tropical-style white chocolate cranberry coconut granola bar. I’ve never been a huge coconut fan, but it really does something wondrous to the bar’s texture and really heightens the flavor of the white chocolate chunks.

I’m including the base recipe, as well as the individual recipes for each the peanut butter chocolate and the white chocolate cranberry coconut. Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Granola Bar: Basic Recipe

Yield: 1 9×13-inch baking pan

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 (14 oz.) container sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1.5 cups chopped almonds or other assorted nuts
  • 2 to 2.5 cups “other ingredients” (see below for recipe ideas)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, condensed milk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add in chopped nuts. (At this point, if you want to make different flavors of granola bars, separate the mixture into different bowls.) Add other ingredients as desired; stir until mixture is completely coated.
  3. Press mixture lightly into bottom of greased pan. Leave 1 inch on the sides between the granola and the pan if you like chewier granola bars; this will prevent them from getting too crispy.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 – 25 minutes, depending on your crispy scale preference. Once the edges start turning golden brown, remove bars from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Quickly turn granola onto a cutting board and cut into bars.

For White Chocolate Cranberry Coconut Variation:

Add the following ingredients to your “basic” granola bar recipe (this is for the entire 9×13-inch baking pan):

  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut

For Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Variation:

Add the following ingredients to your “basic” granola bar recipe (this is for the entire 9×13-inch baking pan):

  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chunky peanut butter

For the peanut butter chocolate drizzle, melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips in the microwave on medium power for 20 seconds. Add 1/4 cup peanut butter and heat for another 20 seconds on medium power, or until peanut butter and chocolate is melted when stirred.

Remember: You can be as innovative as you want with this recipe–add M&M’s, raisins, butterscotch chips, or whatever else strikes your fancy! I’d love to hear your stories and creations!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars

Nut Brittle

Do you ever stop to think about how weird some words sound? My friend and I were having this conversation on the tram at Disneyland on Friday, and–

Oh, what’s that? You’re asking where I was when we were having this conversation?

Let me back up and try again…

I was at Disneyland!!!

The happiest place on earth, filled with happy kids, unhappy kids, super grumpy kids, frumpy kids, scowling kids, and howling kids. And then there was my friend and me with our double-scoop dipped waffle cone ice creams from Gibson Girl’s ice cream parlor, laughing at equally grumpy, frumpy, scowling, howling parents who had paid exorbitant amounts of money to get in and have their share of “fun…” Sigh. What great times.

At any rate–phew! Now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can focus. And can I just say, without any further distractions…

Did I mention I was at Disneyland, the happiest place on earth?

(So sue me. I’ve never been much of a girl for cue cards, anyway.

And isn’t that beautiful nut brittle? Apparently I’m not much of a girl for a prolonged attention span, either…)

Anyway–words. Right. So my friend and I were having this conversation at only-the-happiest-place-on-the-freakin’-globe when we started discussing the sounds of words, and how weird some of them can be. For example, think about the word moist. Got that in your head? Now look at it on the screen really, really hard while saying it out loud (or under your breath, if you’re in a public space that’s unconducive to muttering to yourself in a slightly mad fashion).

Moist.

Moist.

Moist.

After a while, I start feeling icky just typing it. “Moist” is one of those words that almost sounds and reads like it connotes. You know the moist feeling of someone’s sweaty arm pressed up against yours on a crowded bus on a Sahara desert-esque afternoon? If you say “moist” out loud enough, you can almost feel the beads of sticky perspiration oozing up against you, can’t you? Or if you didn’t before, you probably can now. Yeah. Sorry about that…

I have a strange habit of associating words with different feelings. There have been documented cases of people with synesthesia, a condition in which individuals can readily associate numbers and other things with colors–so a six might be a pale tan, while a fraction might be a rainbow fusion of colors. (I recently read The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, possibly one of my favorite childhood authors of all time, and he apparently had the same ability–makes sense! Anyone remember that amazing scene with Chroma the Great and the silent, colorful symphony? Pure genius.) I actually spend an inordinate amount of time making the strangest sorts of associations, as my previous blog-work over at Simply Scrumdiddlyumptious has made evident.

Icky words aside, one of the weird associations I’ve always made is with the word “brittle.” Nut brittles, in particular, since I’d never properly had any until relatively recently. So every time somebody said the word “brittle,” I’d think, for some random reason or anything nobody cares to explain,

or even…

(God, I have so much affection for this guy.)

You’re thinking, First it’s sweaty pits on a bus, and now old men in a nut brittle? What is with this girl, and why is she plaguing us with these ramblings?

I’ve been trying to trace the association, and here is my theory:

Step 1: Language does not make sense. A deconstructionist lens is applied to everyday life, without irony.

According to our good friend and by-no-means-the-bane-of-a-graduate-student’s-existence man, Ferdinand de Saussure, language is by no means intuitive or referential. In laymen’s terms, this means that a word like “cat” does not actually have anything to do with what we actually think of or see when we think of or see cats. The word “cat” doesn’t look, smell, sound, feel, or (dare I say it?) taste like a cat, not that I know what a cat tastes like. But I’m pretty sure it doesn’t.

Therefore, the word “brittle” is not inherently related to the concept of nut brittle. It’s just nut brittle, without being called that. If I’ve lost you, don’t worry–I’m pretty sure Saussure meant for that to happen. All theorists do.

Step 2: My overworked mind mis-associates words and their referents. Theory is (indirectly) to blame.

Having worked my buns off this entire past year in graduate school in order to keep up with the ridiculous amounts of literary theory that have been piled on us, my mind is fried. Think state fair, funnel cake deep-fried. Even after a month of summer and all that stuff they’d like for you to believe is “vacation time,” my mind is still in a haze. It becomes, in other words, vulnerable to mistaken associations. For example, the word “brittle” in the phrase “nut brittle” becomes associated, not with the sugary confection, but with the brittleness of old people’s bones. I’m not even kidding. I wish I were.

Step 3: I publicly post my extremely weird, slightly pointless anecdote for the world to see/read. (See Step #2, sentence 2 for the reason.)

Still brain-fried, I make the probably misinformed decision to write an entire post about this and then hope that somebody will reply with some sort of reassuring insight, or maybe just a comment that will tell me how much they liked my anecdotal recipe. Wishful thinking is another one of my greatest strengths.

Step 4: Sit and wait. Eat grotesque amounts of nut brittle while I wait for comments to appear, and sulk around when the refresh button takes more than 3.2 seconds to resubmit my page request.

Only kidding. But I am definitely sulking right now about the fact that, while trying to (rather smartly) show my friend my smoothie through the webcam, I spilled the drink over my laptop keyboard, and now the numbers 1-4 and 7-0 don’t work. Not a high point of my intellectual prowess.

All the more reason to eat some more nut brittle, I say.

So here’s the recipe! (Photos to follow, when WordPress isn’t being a moody blah-face.)

Happy reading, and happy eatings!

Nut Brittle

Yield: 1 small cookie sheet full

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup nuts (almonds or peanuts, raw)
  • 1.5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Directions

  1. Generously grease a cookie sheet. Put in an oven and turn on the heat; you’ll want to leave the pan in long enough that it gets pretty warm, and pull it out with about two minutes to go on your brittle boiling so the pan isn’t too hot to handle when you’re spreading the brittle.
  2. Measure out softened butter and baking soda into a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a medium or large-sized heavy pot, over low, bring the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water to a boil. Stir in nuts. (If you’re using roasted nuts, you can mix them in near the end of the boiling process.) Stir frequently, making sure to keep a close eye on the liquid to keep it from burning. Allow it to continue boiling until the mixture is pretty thick and has turned a nice golden shade, then remove from heat. (Note: A good key to knowing when it’s done is if you lift up your stirring spoon about a foot or two up above the pot and the mixture “threads”–that is, if a long thin thread dangles from the end of the spoon. Mine doesn’t always do this, so make sure you watch for the color change in your mixture to tell when it’s “done.” It should turn a light brown, and while this might sound odd, you should be able to smell when the nuts are pretty near done cooking. Remove the mixture from heat before the nuts begin to actually smell burnt.)
  4. Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda, just for 5-10 seconds, until the mixture is pale and frothy. Pour at once onto cookie sheet and tilt it quickly so that the brittle spreads. Spread it out with your spoon if necessary to form a thinnish layer. Having a warm pan should help prevent the brittle from hardening before it is spread completely.
  5. Allow to cool. Remove from pan with a spatula, and break into pieces. Enjoy!

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Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie, A la Wallflower

It’s my philosophy that all good wallflowers need to have a good wallflower drink–you know, the kind you can clutch onto desperately at a party when you find that your ability to hold a conversation that is both intelligent and lively in the gesticulation quarter is limited. It’s my crutch, and I’m about to make it yours, too. Unfortunately, like any socially-awkward wallflower, I tend to shy away from the alcoholic beverages. Juices, preferably with a label like Capri-Sun or Hi-C emblazoned on them, are my drink of choice. Of course, even I know that hosting a party featuring only drinks with target consumer base ages two to 7.5 years old is a big no-no, so I had to come up with a solution that would please on all levels. My first thought was that it had to be serve-able in a glass. Glass means class, right? Hmm. My second observation was that it needed color. Something that would suggest, Hey! I’m flirty and fun! but minus, you know, the real flirtiness. Fun, though, I can do. My third thought was that it should be a mix. A blend of sorts. That way, I could say it’s a “mixed drink” as I hand it out without actually telling a lie. Sneaky, huh? Finally, it had to be something delicious. Something that would knock people off their stilettos (why are they wearing these to my dingy apartment, anyway?) and have them saying, in their best un-drunk voices, “I want more!” I thought. I looked around the kitchen, scuffed my toes on the linoleum, and thought some more. I reached for the strawberries in the fridge to aid my thinking. My hand was actually closing around a fresh strawberry leaf. And then it hit me. Bingo. And that’s how the strawberry oatmeal smoothie, a la wallflower, was born. I’d never really made a smoothie myself before, but I knew the concept, and so I went about throwing things together and praying that nothing would explode. It didn’t, and about 15 minutes later, I had something that would be as big a hit as a grown-up party as at a Chuckie Cheese bonanza for 5-year olds. Let me tell you, this drink was made for the wallflower lifestyle. I now make one for breakfast in the mornings because, believe it or not, it’s no longer acceptable to bring my entire parfait tray with me to classes and/or work and snarfle it down as somebody else is lecturing. Not a very wallflower-esque thing to do, if I say so myself. It’s also a fantastic alternative, as I mentioned before, to the alcoholic drink scene at parties. Whip one of these creamy, foamy smoothies up, and people will be raving about it–and besides the people who come up to ask you for a recipe, you’ll be left entirely alone, and with a delicious drink to boot. So! Intrigue? Mystery? Flavor? Fun? You bet! And I’d better check out now–I’m craving one of these wallflower smoothies, and I think the blender is calling my name. Strawberry Oatmeal (And Peanut Butter?!) Smoothie, A La Wallflower Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 1/3 cup vanilla yogurt
  • 6 cubes ice
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey
  • 3-4 tablespoons oatmeal
  • 1.5 tablespoons chunky peanut butter (if you like it)

Directions:

  1. Place ice in blender, then add remaining ingredients. Cover blender and pulse “ice crush” about 5-7 times.
  2. Blend ingredients together under creamy, smooth, and slightly foamy, or about 15 seconds. For more of a foamy texture, blend a few seconds longer.
  3. Adjust honey and/or oatmeal as desired. Also, you can add a few sliced strawberries at the end and blend for only a few seconds to get that chunkier texture.
  4. Serve in a glass, and enjoy!

Update: I just tried making this smoothie with chunky peanut butter as a post-workout protein boost, and I just have to say–It. Was. Amazing! I would definitely recommend trying it–it adds such a delectable texture and hint of peanut butter, and reminds me of when I was five eating pre-packed lunches my mom made for me.

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Panda (Devil) Bread

It’s like a Rorschach test–quick! What do you see?

Yup, it’s a panda all right! I knew you’d guess it.

…Okay, I admit–it does look sort of possessed. But at least it’s a possessed panda, right? That could potentially still be cute. Its pet name is Frankie the Panda (Devil) Bread loaf.

How did this Shelley-esque nightmare come into being? Let me tell you…

Our story begins on a cold, stormy winter night, when the wrath of the oven gods decided to wreak their havoc and get revenge on the mortals below…so they sent…

PANDA DEVIL BREAD!! Muahahaha!

The end.

Good story, no?

This bread actually emerged from a skewed desire to make something unbearably cuddly and cute for our weekly book club. I’m hosting this week, and so setting aside for a moment the slightly bizarre inclination to eat the face of an endangered animal for lunch, I decided to make this recipe.

Did it turn out the way I wanted? Probably not. But I still think it makes an adorably possessed panda, don’t you think? I’m having my second slice for lunch today with hummus and Greek yogurt, and I’m so looking forward to it. Plus, it’s (surprisingly) one of the best white (or green) bread sandwich loaf I’ve ever made. Soft, airy, slightly chewy, and just a tad of that nice firmness on that outer crust.

Unlike some food bloggers who put out only the very best of their work–we all know those beautiful, amazing photos of jaw-dropping cakes and who-knows-what-went-into-that-cream-puff–I don’t mind sharing, not recipes for disaster, per se, but my own disastrous encounters with good recipes. In fact, I think it’s more fun that way. Possessed panda bread instead of cute, cuddly panda bread–why not, right?

And if you’re still in doubt as to Frankie’s devilishness, take a look at this snapshot from the center of his loaf:

Hehe, that’s my favorite one. Frankie in all his center-of-loaf glory. You can even see the horns sticking out of his cuddly panda head, aww.

Anyway, the girls at the book club will be eating this today while we discuss the Rootabaga Stories written by Carl Sandburg, which is appropriate since they’re children’s nonsense stories, and my bread is nonsense bread.

If any of you want to make nonsense bread, or actually attempt to make this bread the right way (although, until I do so myself, I’m going to be naturally inclined that think that “normal” is overrated), visit the original recipe translation at this site!

When I make this bread again–and I will definitely do that, since the bread is worth eating even if it’s not necessarily aesthetically pleasing–I will repost with the results. Wish me luck! And until then, as always…

Happy eatings, and happy reading!

Photos from my Panda-Devil-Making Adventures

Microwave the milk and eggs.

Add sugar and yeast to the mixture; stir briefly, and allow yeast to do yeasty things. (i.e. this is the “proofing” stage to make sure your yeast is active.)

Cut your dough into three pieces–two that are roughly the same size, and one that is 1/3 the size of either of the other two. These will be your three colored pieces.

Place one of the large pieces in a lightly-greased bowl and cover with warm, damp towel. Set aside in a warm place. (I placed mine in the oven, which I had allowed to heat for just a few seconds before this.)

Work green gel food coloring into your other large piece of dough. I would used a considerable amount of food coloring (at least 15 drops for this dough–you’ll probably want to use even more to achieve a brighter green color). When you finish, set aside in another lightly-greased large bowl, cover, and place in warm spot.

Work the cocoa/water mixture into your final small piece of dough. If your dough gets sticky, add a bit more flour as needed. When you’ve achieved a nice dark brown color, cover in a lightly-greased bowl. Allow all of your dough to double in size (approximately 1 hour).

When your dough has all doubled, take out the plain dough and cut into three pieces (2 of the same size, and then 1 about half the size of the other two). This will be your panda face!

Chop your chocolate-colored dough into four equal pieces. Roll out two of the pieces into logs and stick them on top of a log-shaped large piece of plain dough. Then stick the smaller piece of plain dough between the chocolate ones; these are your two panda eyes and the forehead.

Using the remaining large piece of plain dough, stretch it carefully around the rest of the dough so that it locks everything into place. Divide your green dough into two pieces (1 about half the size of the other). Place remaining two chocolate logs on top of the plain dough–these will be your ears! Then place the small green log in between to keep them in place.

Finally, stretch the last piece of green dough around the whole thing–it’s a panda in a bundle!

Place your dough into a greased loaf pan and cover with damp cloth. Allow to rise for an additional 45 minutes, or until doubled in size (like this).

After baking in preheated oven for approximately 30 minutes (or until golden brown on outside), let it cool–this is important to keeping all of your bread parts together! Otherwise, the various colors might fall apart.

And there you sort of have it! Next time, I definitely need to keep better track of where I position my dough. I’m also pretty sure I flattened it at one point while I was panicking over the time (I had a dinner plan to keep in the next hour, so my dough got a little panda-handled.) I’d also use just a tad more tough for the chocolate parts, to keep the eyes and ears looking like little devilish slits.

Otherwise, I hope all of you have better luck than I did for a first try–I’ll let you know how the next attempt goes!

Panda Bread Recipe

(My experience is a severely-butchered account of a perfectly good recipe from girlversusdough)

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup milk w/ 1 egg yolk (both should total 1 cup together)
  • 3/4 tbsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tbsp green tea (matcha) powder mixed w/ 2 tsp hot water, OR green food coloring
  • 3 1/2 tsp cocoa powder mixed w/ 1 1/2 tsp hot water
  • 2 1/4 tsp (or 1 standard packet) active dry yeast

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, microwave milk and egg yolk for about 30 seconds, until warm to the touch but not scalding hot.
  2. Add yeast and sugar, then stir in slightly. Allow your yeast to “proof” for 5 minutes; it should start to foam and smell like bread if your yeast is active. (If your yeast is not active, you will have to throw it out and start again with a fresh package. Make sure your milk mixture is just warm enough that it will activate the yeast, but not so hot that it kills it.)
  3. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add in butter and salt, then stir until well-combined.
  4. Add flour 1 cup at a time, until it is incorporated and the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl and place on a lightly-floured cutting board. Continue to knead the dough for another 5 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
  5. Divide dough into three pieces, two about equal and one about 1/3 the size of the other two.
  6. Place one of the large pieces in the stand mixer bowl and mix with green tea/water mixture OR green food coloring until desired color is reached. If your dough gets sticky, add a bit of flour.
  7. Remove dough from bowl and place in a lightly greased bowl, covered, to rise until doubled.
  8. Clean stand mixer bowl, then place smallest piece of dough in stand mixer and combine with cocoa powder/water mixture until color is blended through. Remove dough from bowl and place in a separate, lightly greased bowl, covered, to rise until doubled.
  9. Place plain piece of dough in a separate, lightly greased bowl, covered, to rise until doubled. All pieces should double in about an hour.
  10. Once dough is risen, on a floured surface, divide plain dough in thirds, with one piece being half the size of the other two (as you did before). Use one of the larger pieces to form the face. Divide the cocoa dough in quarters and use two quarters to form the eyes. Wet your fingers with water and brush it over the dough to keep the pieces sticking together.
  11. Quickly place the smallest piece of plain dough between the eyes to keep them in place. Stretch remaining piece of plain dough over the whole bread to lock everything in place.
  12. Take last two quarters of cocoa dough and form the ears.
  13. Divide green dough in two pieces, one twice the size of the other. Take the small piece to fill in the space between the ears. Brush adjoining pieces with water if needed. Take the larger piece of green dough and stretch over the whole bread to lock everything in place.
  14. Place dough in a lightly greased loaf pan, cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  15. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  16. Once dough is risen, bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown on the outside (the inside should register 190 degrees F). Allow to cool completely on a cooling rack before slicing or serving.

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Raspberry Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Over dinner on Friday night, my friend made a well-meant but snarky comment about how blogging about lesson plans that are related to baking is essentially useless. Needless to say, the only things he got to eat after that were his words–none of these delicious, to-die-for raspberry cheesecake-filled chocolate truffle cookies for him!

(Plus, after he heard how many people said they were borrowing the lesson plan for their own use from my chunky cheesecake brownies post, he probably lost his appetite anyway…which was all the better for me, since we had ordered an entire plate of dulce de leche churros that absolutely fantastic.)

They say that when you don’t have an excuse for something–say, for example, to bake an entire batch of chocolate truffle cookies–you’ll be surprised at how readily you invent a real, plausible excuse–say, hypothetically speaking, the need to fill your sample blog with more posts to show your students when you start teaching class next week. Fortunately, I didn’t have to make up an excuse; I had a solid, set-in-stone reason. I, er, needed to fill my sample blog with more posts to show my students. Obviously.

Reason or not, I am so, so, so glad I made these. Not only are they perfectly festive for the summer and berry season–I didn’t get to cut one open to take a photo, but they’re filled with a light pink raspberry cheesecake filling–they’re also possibly the best chocolate cookies I have ever had/tasted/made:

Every good recipe also comes with a story or words of some kind. They say a picture’s worth a thousand words, but having a picture with a thousand words to go along with it sometimes makes the picture even more palatable.

My contribution for today is dedicated to my memes lesson plan for the new media class, which I have been working on for over 4 hours on this godforsaken day of days. We’re learning about content sharing and viral memes, so the goal for the students is to do a meme of their own and write a “10 things” list: 10 things ___ do, 10 things all ____ know, 10 stereotypes about ____.” My spin?

10 ways to tell you’re a baking addict, which are as follows:

  1. Whenever the word “potluck” comes up, everyone immediately turns to you and asks what dessert you’re bringing.
  2. Every personalized coupon that your grocery store sends you is for something in aisle 10: Baked Goods.
  3. The ads in your Google side bar all relate in some way to sales for colored fondant and tiered-cake dowels. You’re not sure why.
  4. Your day looks bleak and prospects for improvement dim when, by 11:49 PM, none of the food blogs you follow has been updated.
  5. Licking the bowl when you’re finished is not only permissible–it’s a rule.
  6. Your main form of frustration relief is punching down the dough.
  7. When somebody asks for “proof,” you ask them to supply the “yeast.”
  8. You laugh when somebody asks if butter and margarine are the same thing.
  9. “Softball” is no longer primarily a sport–it’s a state of fudge-making.
  10. Only the weak are scared of raw eggs. Salmonella has nothing on you.

As I mentioned before, I had been eyeing this chocolate truffle cookie recipe for ages on Allrecipes, but I wanted to do something fun and summer-ish with them, and what better to celebrate than with berries? I found one recipe for something along the lines I was looking for–raspberry cream cheese chocolate cookies–but they seemed sort of lackluster (the “cheesecake” filling only had cream cheese, jam, and confectioner’s sugar), so I went ahead and made my own. At any rate, I think it’s high time that something other than a single recipe dominated the web for such a great dessert idea. I also adapted the truffle cookies recipe to make it richer and (dare I say it? Yes, I do!) even more sinfully delicious than the original.

And so, without further ado, I introduce to you…

Raspberry Cheesecake-Filled Chocolate Truffle Cookies

Chocolate Truffle Cookies Recipe

Yield: About 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

Directions

  1. In the microwave, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips with butter on medium power, taking the mixture out every 20-30 to stir until smooth chocolate is smooth. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whip eggs and sugar until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. Stir in the vanilla and the chocolate mixture until well mixed. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; gradually stir into the chocolate mixture. Fold in remaining semisweet chocolate chunks. Cover and chill (or freeze) for at least one hour.
  3. Remove dough from fridge and roll into 1-inch balls. With your thumb or index finger, create a deep indentation in each ball and fill with cheesecake mixture (recipe to follow), making sure not to poke a hole through the bottom of the ball. Gently seal the ball by folding the dough over the filling, and pinching the top shut so that you have a nice round chocolate dough ball. When you have finished making and sealing all of the cookies, pop them back into the freezer for an additional 10-15 minutes before baking.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake cookies for 10-11 minutes in the preheated oven, taking care not to let your cookies overbake. (They should be glossy and only slightly crinkled when you remove them from the oven; they will firm up but retain their gooey inner texture after you let them cool.) Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then carefully pull the parchment paper (with the cookies still on it) off and allow them to cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t attempt to peel them off the parchment paper until they have pretty much set, otherwise they will cave into their gooey centers.
  5. Serve warm, and store any leftovers in the fridge.

Raspberry Cheesecake Filling

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • ½ tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon raspberry jam

Directions:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat all of the ingredients together until smooth. You can use these to fill your cookies with; store leftover cheesecake filling in the fridge, or bake it in small cupcake liners for a delicious creamy snack!

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Cookie Balls

You know those times when you do something disastrously wrong, and everything turns out miraculously right?

Welcome to my world! My kitchen, to be more precise. These cookie balls are the offspring of precisely that odd, paradoxical paradigm:

I literally could not keep these safe from all the grabby hands.

I passed out about a quarter of them at our book club yesterday with my fingers crossed and they were instantly gobbled up. Just vanished. Even Harry’s Invisibility Cloak would have been jealous of just how vanished they were.

At that point, I was thinking to myself that could have been a blip. After all, these were a mistake recipe, right? I’d make them up on the fly because I had dried-out blondies (story to follow!) and nothing to do with them except sit, close my eyes, and pray that they wouldn’t fatally injure somebody if they were thrown (they were, at this point, pretty near rock hard).

When I passed them out this morning, though, it became clear pretty quickly that I hadn’t been mistaken. Am I not making myself intelligible? Let’s see how I can put it:

It was sort of like being in the middle of the battledome from The Hunger Games.

The kids ate them so fast I barely had time to blink and then lunged at the leftovers. It took nothing less than all the prowess, effort, and cunning of a brand new middle-school instructor–which is, I have to admit, more than I ever thought it would be!–to fend them off from the two cookie balls that happened to be left over. I was pleased. Scared, yes, but pleased nonetheless. And all this over a perfectly innocent “mistake.” I don’t think I’ve ever had such a, well, strong reaction  to my baking before!

So what’s the deal behind these cookie balls anyway, you ask? Well, let me tell you a story…

Once upon a time, there was an oven that had the temper of a 3-year old but all the heat, fire, and life-ruining capacity of a deadly bulldog. As each day passed, this oven would grow more and more discontent with its duty heating things up and cooking them through. “Drudgery, drudgery, and fiddlesticks!” it cried every time someone turned it on.

One day, the master of the oven turned it on to preheat while she was making some delicious, wonderful blondies. But today was not the oven’s good day. In fact, it was a very bad day, for the oven felt very used at the moment–it had been used the day before, used the day before that, and probably (although nobody was keeping track) the day before that. And being used by people is never quite a good feeling, especially when you don’t get anything in return except maybe some dirty singe marks and cookie crumbs.

So the oven decided it had had enough. And when the master put the blondies into the oven, it declared to itself in a silent roar of inferno, “You want heat? Fine–I’ll give you heat!”

So that when the poor, unsuspecting master pulled the blondies out of the oven a full 10 minutes before cooking time had finished to check them, they were already dry to the core.

“Ha, ha, ha!” the flaming oven chortled. “How do you like that? Use me, will you? Well, I think not!”

And so the poor master was left to deal with an entire panful of dried-out cookie bars, and even to this day, the temperamental oven can’t control its temperature.

The end.

Fortunately–although it has not been recorded by the scribes of yore–this story does have a happy ending, which you’ve already heard. The oven-master ended up crumbling up the blondies, making a wonderful cream cheese frosting (leftover from the carrot cake!), and blending the whole thing together to make cookie balls. Then she popped the whole pan in the freezer, waited patiently, melted chocolate the next day, and dipped them all and decorated them into wonderful chocolate-covered cookie balls, as you see here:

So there you have it. It’s the story of the wicked temperamental oven, and the master’s eventual triumph over it. Want to see the recipe for the fruits of this long, laborious victory? You can have that, too.

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