dirty leprechaun & thin mint s’mores

Homemade chocolate (with a hint of mint) cookie coated marshmallows! That’s what the Dirty Leprechaun is all about. I can’t think of anything more perfect right now then being on a camping trip at the close of a full day, sitting around a campfire and toasting one of these babies over hot embers. They really need nothing more than a little heat to be thoroughly enjoyed. But since I could, I put it between two Girl Scouts Cookies. Thin Mints to be exact. Now there’s a St. Patrick’s Day S’more if I ever saw one.

chocolates and succulents

My living stones are outgrowing their egg cups! Isn’t it just when you think something is not going to change, you blink and it has? If nothing else, time changes things. Even when it’s misty and foggy, things grow, reproduce, or die. So I am propagating my succulents in the spirit of growth. If all goes well, I will share them with those of you who like the little muted water retainers as much as I do. If only chocolates could be propagated…

s’more soul cookies

The honey graham dough I made over the weekend was a sort of “healthier” version of shortbread. I added fresh ginger to the recipe and sprinkled demerara sugar over the tops before baking them off. Honestly, I would have been happy stopping there, but remember the mallow bits? I melted some chocolate over the stove in my homemade double-broiler, drizzled it over the grahams, and stuck the mallow bits on top. They turned out to be easy-to-package, simple self-contained s’mores.

Honey-Ginger Grahams, adapted from Cooks.com

2 C whole wheat flour
1 C unbleached flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter
1/3 C honey
2 t freshly grated ginger
1 t vanilla
1/2 C milk

Sift together first 4 ingredients & set aside. Cream together brown sugar and butter until smooth. Add honey, ginger, and vanilla. Beat until fluffy. Add dry mix to creamed mixture, alternately with milk. Chill dough. Roll out onto well floured surface, cut into shapes, and score cookies with a fork. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for about 12 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.

The ancient Greeks maintained that the seat of the soul was in the stomach. If I had a cookie cutter in the shape of a stomach, I would use it.

munchy mallow bits

One of my instant hot cocoa dreams has come true!  Jet Puffed now sells those little crunchy marshmallows (that there are never enough of) inside cocoa packets.  They come in a container that looks something like coffee creamer packaging, and so far I have seen them in vanilla, chocolate, and peppermint varieties.  The mallows aren’t puffy at all and seem more like space food to me.  They were super in my mug of chocolate pudding.  If you also prefer crunchiness to squeakiness in your Rocky Road, wait to add the mallow bits until just before consuming.  Otherwise, they rehydrate in the pudding.

Have you seen these yet?  I don’t have any grand plans for them, so far I just like to munch them (like tiny meringues).  Let me know if you have any ideas!

maltesers brownies

That’s me with the chocolate batter beard. I am still wild about batters of all kinds, and this time I added a few tablespoons of malted milk powder to a batch of brownies and threw in some Maltesers. Why is this my first time making chocolate malt brownies? It will not be my last.

Maltesers (or Whoppers) in the batter not necessary… they get chewy during baking. Stick with mixing in extra malt powder and munch the balls on the side!

***Exciting news: I am a FINALIST in the “So You Wanna Be a CakeSpy” Contest!!  If you like my treat (#29), you can help me win by leaving a comment at the end of the contest post, commenting on Flickr, or clicking “like” on FacebookI have been a CakeSpy fan for years, and I am thrilled to be in such sweet company. The thought of winning a trip to Seattle is unreal!

my, my pumpkin mocha pie

I like the pumpkin/coffee/chocolate combo and have been working on a pie of that nature for a while now.  Here it is!  What’s great is the unassuming mocha taste amid the pumpkin custard, and this version also has a hard chocolate layer between it and the decadent chocolate espresso shell.  Once baked, the color reminds me of the last crispy brown leaves lingering on the trees this time of year.  Pretty simple to make, my steps are recorded below.

preheat oven to 425-degrees

crush 24 chocolate wafers / mix with 2 T sugar, 1/2 t instant espresso, 4 T melted unsalted butter / press into buttered up pie pan / bake 10 minutes

melt 5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (or 1/2 C choco bits) / pour over baked chocolate shell / set in freezer

beat 2 eggs in large bowl / stir in 1 (15 oz.) can of pure pumpkin / add 3/4 C brown sugar, 2 T cocoa, 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 t salt, 1/2 t instant espresso powder / slowly add 1 (12 oz.) can of evaporated milk / mix until combined / pour over chocolate shell pan

bake in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes, then reduce oven to 350-degrees and bake about 35 more minutes  (or until set and fork inserted in the center comes out clean)

whip up 2 C heavy cream, 1/2 C caster sugar & 1/2 t vanilla


extra notes: Nabisco’s Famous Wafers are best for crust.  Any kind of sweetener works for the whipped cream (I just like the minuscule granules of caster sugar).  You can use a blender, food processor, or lots of pent up frustration to crumble up the wafers.  The butter for the crust can be soft or totally melted.  Valrhona unsweetened chocolate is my favorite for the hard choco layer, but use choco bits if you already have them.  When storing the pie in the fridge, place a towel or paper towel over the top before covering it with plastic wrap to prevent condensation on top of pie.  I think it’s fun to use a cookie scoop for the whipped topping dollop.

desserts & installations

Just a few of my favorite things! I met up with my old college roommates and summer camp counselor friends in Grand Rapids Friday. It was the last weekend of ArtPrize 2011 filled with treats visually & gastronomically in good company. These desserts are from San Chez in downtown Grand Rapids, including Empanada de Chocolate (chocolate fudge filled pastry, dolce de leche ice cream, brandy caramel, raspberry sauce), Pastel de Queso de Cabra (vanilla goat cheese cheesecake with shortbread crust, lemon curd, blackberry caviar & pecan tuile), and Tarta de Chocolate al Whisky (whisky soaked cake, caramel pecan ice cream, brownie & white chocolate mousse), respectively. The dishroom didn’t have much work to do once we were finished.

chocolate caramel pretzel sandwich stand-off

Rolos will always be an autumn candy to me. Like the shiny wrapped chocolate caramel mound, the season is covered in new golden colors and filled with sweet treasures. I first enjoyed one of these little Rolo pretzel sandwich treats courtesy of my friend Sara when I lived in Middlebury. What a simple and perfect combination of salty/sweet/chewy/crunchy. We took it to another level yesterday and had a contest to find the best variation, and besides, kitchen experiments and fine motor skills practice go better with chocolate candies in my opinion! The variables included flat pretzels, mini pretzels, Rolos, Riesens and Caramel Creams. The Caramel Creams barely melted, so they ended up being an open-faced variety. After testing, deliberation, a glass of milk and voting, first place went to the Rolo with the flat pretzel (we also thought it looked like a Koala pumpkin face)!

To make your own, just place the candy on top of a pretzel. Pop it in a 250-degree oven for 5 minutes, then lightly press another pretzel on top to complete the sandwich. They are messy if eaten right away but firm up in an hour or so. If you use Glutino pretzels and Rolos, these treats can also be gluten free.

no bakes yes

I never knew Vola Simpson, but she is dear to me for one reason: the no bake cookie recipe in her compiled text stands the test of time. She was a professor of Home Economics at Ball State Teacher’s College, and her book of recipes was required when my mom studied Journalism and Home Ec. there in the 70’s. I have never passed up a no bake, whether from Crestview Middle School’s Cafeteria or Indiana University’s Student Union, but I grew up eating the best ones at home courtesy of Professor Simpson and my mom. Perfect for a cold and rainy night or on an autumn camping trip – they are warm, fudgy, hearty and quick to make. Thank you to Ms. Simpson and my mom for passing on the love to generations.

Here’s the 1/4ed recipe: Boil together 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons cocoa, 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup milk in a saucepan for 3 minutes. Take off stove and add 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla. Optional: 1/4 cup coconut. Stir well and drop by spoon on waxed paper. Have milk on hand and save at least two for breakfast in the morning.

Yearbook image from The Orient 1956 Vol. 38. Also note that what no bakes lack in appearance they far surpass in taste. Let’s face it; they look just like the patties left by our horse Sunshine that were great for fertilizing the strawberry patch but not for looking at. I found my new tea towel and parchment paper to be more photogenic in this instance.

three is magical

My sister does such a good job at making occasions magical and so do her relatives.  She sewed my niece a new dress, Great Grandma made a special princess blanket and “Aunt Bef” sent her the sweetest fairy outfit that she had to change into right away.  Also ethereal was the surprise Oreo in the middle of that chocolate cupcake topped with raspberry marshmallow fluff buttercream frosting (another genius recipe from Everyday Food that was well executed).  What’s all the fuss?  This little girl inspires us all with her giant heart and zest for life.  She makes our lives magical by just being her.