Monthly Archives: January 2012

Poo Cookies

They were supposed to look like this.

They weren’t supposed to look like this:

It was getting kind of late and I had the house to myself, so I felt inspired to bake. I gotta start ignoring that urge.

It all started with a bag of mint chips, a remnant from our holiday baking. And I thought, “I’ve made those Deep Dark Chocolate Cookies before; I bet they’d be great with mint chips.” I didn’t have enough mint chips, so I added some bittersweet chocolate chips to the bowl and put it in the microwave.

Know what happens when you mix dark brown and mint green?

I don’t think there’s enough olive green chocolate out there.

But at this point, I’m committed. The rest of the batter was in the standing mixer, and it hasn’t got all day. I thought, “Well, maybe this olive green stuff will blend into the chocolate in the batter.”

Know what happens when you add olive green to brown?

Camouflage batter. That’s what. I wish I had a picture of it. But all I could muster was a photo of the mixing bowl afterward:

I have to admit I was kind of in awe of the whole mess. I thought, “Wow. Would you look at that? Camouflage batter.” And then that Brad Paisley song, “Camouflage,” started to play in my head and it’s kind of catchy and I thought, “There’s a whole demographic out there that would love a camouflage dessert.”

And yes, I just admitted that I listen to country music. But really, after what you’re seeing here, you have to agree that my taste in music isn’t my biggest problem.

The next step in the poo cookie-making process is to roll the dough into small balls, and coat them in powdered sugar. Take another opportunity to look at the example.

Here’s what my balls of dough looked like:

Poo cookies.

The dough seeped between my fingers when I tried to roll it into a ball, so I frantically glopped spoonfuls of the stuff onto my baking sheets (one lined with parchment, one without), threw the powdered sugar on top, and shoved them into the oven.

Even when all evidence points to the contrary, I often have this hope that something magical will happen in the oven. Sort of a, “Here, I messed this up. You make it work” attitude.

The cookies on the parchment shaped up okay. As you can see in the photo at the beginning of this post, the cookies on the baking sheet coated in cooking spray did not.

I can’t say that I blame them. Would you do anything nice for me if I called you poo?

These cookies–when made correctly–are divine–gooey, fudgy, decadent. They contain no butter or flour. You’ll probably have great success with them if you follow the Pho Girl Method (aka The Learn from My Mistakes Method):

1. Don’t bake late at night if you’re not fresh late  at night.

2. Don’t make substitutions simply because you want to clean out the pantry. What works for soups and casseroles does not work for cookies.

3. Do make sure the egg whites are stiff enough before you add the powdered sugar, and then make sure the egg whites-powdered sugar mixture is stiff enough (the original recipe says it should resemble marshmallow fluff). In other words, Don’t rush the process once you’ve started. (See Point 1 for why I rushed the process.)

4. Do make sure the melted chocolate chips have cooled enough before you add them to the batter.

5. Do use the powdered sugar sparingly when you’re coating the dough balls, or you’ll feel your blood sugar skyrocket after the first bite.

6. Do not call your food poo. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

7. And here’s the biggest Don’t, which I think should qualify for Resolution #4: Don’t stand over the pan, weeping and eating poo cookies because you’re desperate for chocolate and heartbroken that you’ve wasted the ingredients.

That’s just sad.

Which might make for a darn good country song.

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Root Beer Floats

This one’s for Nacho Man.

It actually was, for his birthday.

Nacho Man will, on very rare occasions, unexpectedly come home from work with vanilla ice cream and a bottle of root beer, and whip up his signature dessert. Afterward, he will wipe his brow as though he just catered a party for 200, but chances are I don’t care because it’s hot but I’ve got something to keep me cool.

So for his most recent birthday, I decided to do the hard work and treat him. At least that’s what I told him. Because it sounded so much more thoughtful than, “I spent all my spare time reading a novel and ran out of time to bake.”

Looks pretty good to me. Except that when I examined my profile photos of the finished product, I realized that the glass was less than half full. This is not necessarily the sort of thing you realize when you’re looking at something with your eye.

One point for the camera.

Now we don’t need to be having heaping glasses of root beer floats, on account of this nacho thing we’re kind of into, so my solution:

This time, with chocolate shavings.

Hmm. This time the camera is showing me that my vanilla ice cream looks like cubed potato.

Nacho Man could care less about the type of vessel we use to serve a root beer float. I could present it in a plant pot and he’d say, “Thank you.” Which is kind of nice, when you think about it in the abstract.

But only in the abstract.

For me, putting dessert in a long-stemmed wine glass or champagne flute makes it feel grown up and sophisticated, enjoyed by the kinds of folks who eat polite-sized portions and don’t scrape out the inside of the bowl or cup like they’re scaling a fish.

Which might have to become Resolution #3.

Root Beer Floats

Ingredients:

vanilla ice cream

root beer

whipped cream (we like Reddi Wip for these)

maraschino cherries (optional)

chocolate shavings (optional)

Directions:

Put 1 scoop ice cream in a glass. Add root beer. Top with whipped cream and cherries or chocolate shavings if desired.

 

 

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Roasted Garlic Soup, Or, The Passive-Aggressive Approach to Being Left Alone

I have a friend from my former job.

Just one.

Not really. I had more than one.

Anyway, we used to joke that Pacific Northwesterners are about the most passive-aggressive group of people you’ll ever meet. In other words, we’re painfully indirect, we never say what we mean, we sigh and shake our heads and complain behind someone’s back rather than confront them about what’s bothering us, and we have a million little ways of showing you know that something’s not okay even when we say it is.

I don’t know why we do this. The group shrug. Maybe it’s rain-induced. A vitamin D deficiency.

But hopefully we all have a few people that we can be painfully honest with, people with whom it’s safe to say what you feel. For me, Nacho Man is one of those lucky people. Take, for example, this recent exchange.

“What’s this?” Nacho Man asked, peering at something in the refrigerator.

“Garlic soup,” I declared forthrightly.

“Hmm,” he said as he closed the door. “Sounds interesting.”

Do you see what he just did?

But that’s his loss. This soup is wonderful. And it’s just the meal for you if:

1. You’re a busy mom with kids hanging on you all day and you don’t have it in you to tell your significant other, “Not tonight, honey.” It’s a safe word you don’t even have to say;

2. You’re so into Twilight that you’re casting paranoid–I mean rightfully suspicious–glances at your neighbors;

3. You’ve ever stared at a pantry that’s barren except for garlic, onions, and chicken stock and walked away, defeated;

4. You love love love garlic.

Check out the recipe at smitten kitchen, then whip up a batch and savor it for lunch for a few days. This soup is warm, earthy, and garlicky without being in your face.

It’s passive-aggressive that way.

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Gluten-Free Cheese Crackers, Or, Your Cats’ New Favorite Treat

Resolution #2: find ultimate fulfillment as happy homemaker by baking tasty kitty num-num.

Your family will love them, too. We had to hide ours because the cats were trying to eat through the plastic wrap to get to them.

Or what was left of them, as Nacho Man and the girls kept sneaking into the kitchen to swipe them from the baking sheet.

Lupe does a pretty impressive job of avoiding foods that contain gluten, unless it’s the holidays, in which case she has about as much will power as the rest of us. But now that those days are behind us, she’s trying to clean out her system.

Unless there are cheese crackers within a five-mile radius of her. She finds those irresistible year-round. Cheez-Its, Goldfish, you name it.

Like nearly every other woman in America, I spend a fair amount of time browsing a website called pinterest. (Please stop rolling your eyes, Nacho Man.) There are lots of interesting ideas, just as many pointless ones, and plenty of shirtless photos of The Two Ryans: Gosling and Reynolds. What fascinates me about pinterest (aside from the fact that you’ve got photos of heart-clogging recipes next to photos of thin, toned, and tan women that are the inspiration for weight-loss plans) is that it’s fueled predominantly by women.

Way to go, ladies.

I saw this recipe for homemade cheese crackers there, which was actually taken from someone else’s recipe, and so on. That’s life on the Internet.

Make the recipe just as it is and send them in school lunches or serve them after school. It’s awesome. And you can pronounce every ingredient which, unless you have an advanced science degree, generally isn’t possible when you read the side of a box of processed food. If you want to make the recipe gluten-free, substitute the weight equivalent of your favorite gluten-free flour (in my case, 4 5/8 ounces of this flour). Want to dress these up? Try a different sharp, dry cheese or add garlic powder or some chopped chives or rosemary.

Gluten-Free Cheese Crackers (adapted from New Nostalgia)

Ingredients:

weight equivalent of 1 cup of wheat flour

1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

4 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

pinch of cayenne (original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon, which was a little too spicy for the girls)

water

Directions:

1. Put the flour, cheese, butter, and spices in a food processor and pulse until it resembles fine crumbs.

2. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together. (For me, about 2 1/2 or 3 tablespoons)

3. Wrap dough in plastic and freeze for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

5. Roll dough to 1/4 inch thickness (the original recipe says 1/8 inch but I didn’t have the patience or arm strength for that, and the family loved the thicker crackers anyway) between 2 pieces of plastic, then transfer to baking sheet. Sprinkle with a little kosher or sea salt, if desired.

6. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut dough into 1-inch squares–they will still be touching. Bake approximately 25 minutes, then check for browning and crisping. I separate the crackers with a spatula at this point. Continue baking until crackers have browned and crisped to your liking. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheets, then transfer to airtight containers. These are best the day you bake them, but I’ve found that my people and felines are happy to tolerate them for a day or two after that.

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Momo’s Cookie Butter Blossoms

One resolution for 2012: spend quality time with people who are risk-takers in the kitchen. Just not the knife-throwing kind.

For me, that person is my sister. Momo, as she’s affectionately known by my girls, is a brilliant baker, and the rest of us are just lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to sample her divine creations.

And clean up after her. Have I mentioned she’s also an F5 tornado blazing through the kitchen?

How brilliant is she? Well, to give you an example, there’s pretty much nothing more perfect than a Peanut Blossom cookie–that peanut butter cookie topped with a Hershey’s Kiss. It’s great and you don’t mess with greatness…unless you’re Momo and you get it in your head to swap out the peanut butter for Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.

Do you know about Cookie Butter? I didn’t, until Momo enlightened me. It’s a spread made of speculoos, a type of shortbread cookie that’s a winter holiday treat in parts of Europe, sugars, oils, and other stuff that tastes good but is bad for you.

That this stuff isn’t gluten-free is the least of its sins. Doesn’t matter. With every bite, it moves higher on my list of favorite forbidden foods.

When you open a jar of this Naughty/Nice stuff, you’re hit with the aroma of something faintly gingerbready and warm. It’s delicious on bread, apples, the tip of your finger, you name it. And apparently it’s seasonal, which means I should have blogged this during the holidays, but my fingers were covered in Cookie Butter.

Thanks, Momo, for turning me into the Cookie Butter Monster.

Momo the Cookie Alchemist came up with the idea to replace the peanut butter with Cookie Butter (which shall always be capitalized because it deserves it) in the Peanut Blossom recipe. What I love about baking with Momo is that she doesn’t overthink it. She just goes for it. Where I would have weighed 1 cup of peanut butter and replaced it with the equivalent weight of cookie butter, she just dumped 1 cup of it into the batter.

Let go of your hand-wringing and gut-wrenching inhibitions or get out of her way.

Did I mention that she’s an F5 tornado in the kitchen?

So we went with it. And we’ll never go back.

Cookie Butter Blossoms are soft and chewy and spicy. They have a vaguely snickerdoodley taste.

They make you want to dash to Trader Joe’s after a Zumba class and buy up what’s left of the Cookie Butter…not that I did that. I’m just saying.

We don’t keep our Chistmas decorations up year-round, we don’t listen to Christmas music in July, and we don’t buy any holiday stuff when it first hits the market because those shelves represent consumerism and corporate greed.

Besides, if you wait until three days before the holiday, you can get everything for eighty percent off. Or so.

My point is that I don’t need to have this stuff in my face every day. As a reward, I would like to see Cookie Butter on the store shelves at all times so I can have my face in a jar of Cookie Butter at all times.

Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Blossoms

(basically this Peanut Blossoms recipe by Rosemarie Magee, with Cookie Butter substituted)

Ingredients:

1 cup shortening (for Momo, nothing beats a loaf of butter-flavored Crisc0)

1 cup Cookie Butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 extra-large eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white sugar (Turbinado sugar would also be nice here)

2 9-ounce bags of milk chocolate Hershey’s Kisses, wrappers removed

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Use a mixer to cream the shortening, Cookie Butter, brown sugar, and 1 cup white sugar until well incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until thoroughly combined.

3. Sift the floor, baking soda, and salt, and add to the Cookie Butter mixture, blending well.

4. Use a tablespoon to scoop out dough, roll into a ball, and roll in the 1/2 cup of white sugar or Turbinado sugar. Place on cookie sheet about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and gently press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie while still hot. Cool on wire racks.

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