Friday, July 23, 2010

Choco-Coco-Pineapple cookies

Grandma Frost's Chocolate Chip Cookies are rapidly becoming my go-to recipe! I like the ones with coconut so much that I made another batch early this week. In half, I chopped up dried pineapple, which was a lovely touch. Pineapple is a rare item in this house, but last January I found some deeply discounted with Christmas baking products and snatched them up. It was a great addition, but makes the name rather long. Have to change it to something tropical.

I had a problem baking these. I had originally intended to make them the day before and set out butter to soften. But I forgot and it got hot so I didn't want to. But then I had the idea to mix up the batter that night so that I could make them while it was still cool in the morning.

That part went just fine. But it took a lot longer to bake coming straight from the fridge. And each batch took a little less time than the one before. So every one of them came out a little overdone. None burned, thankfully, but it was still annoying to have to watch them so carefully. The first sheet took at least 4 extra minutes, maybe 6!

Better Than Reese's bar

Nutmeg's favorite treat at the farmer's market is Better Than Reese's Bars. I figured I could make them far cheaper--they sell for $1.50 for a 3x2" bar! The ingredients for a whole batch might cost 4x that (because I usually buy fresh ground PB at about $4/2 cups). So I set out to try a recipe earlier this week.

I realized that I essentially made the same thing I made last Christmas, except at Christmas time I was trying to duplicate PB cups and went through a heck of a lot more work, making them in a mini-muffin pan with chocolate on top and bottom. I looked at a bunch of recipes online and chose the one that sounded the best and included graham cracker crumbs (healthier than straight sugar, I hope). But it was way too sugary, so I added even more PB. Here's what I came up with:

Better Than Reese's Bar
  • 2 1/2 c crushed graham cracker crumbs (18 full crackers)
  • 2 c peanut butter
  • 3/4 c butter, softened
  • 2 c confectioner's sugar
  • 2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 c peanut butter (opt)
Mix together the crumbs, pb, butter, and sugar. Spread in a 9x13 pan. Melt chocolate chips (90-120 seconds in microwave, stir every 30 seconds, hold back 1/4c to temper after rest are melted). Add 1/2 c pb if desired for more pb taste. Spread on top. Cool for a while and cut into squares before chocolate hardens.

Based on comments on the recipe, I'd already reduced the butter and sugar. But when I was done, it tasted like sugar only, so I double the PB (to 2 cups). I still wasn't sure, but after they cooled it tasted peanuty enough. I liked the idea of the pb in the chocolate, especially since I wasn't sure about the pb taste of the main portion. But that ended up tasting more PB-y as well, so I think it was a bad move.

I crushed the crackers by hand. First, it took forever. Second, I couldn't get every crumb fine. Well, I could have, but I didn't want to spend another half hour doing it (imperfection is the key!). But this is one recipe where fineness matters. I would actually consider sifting out the larger pieces to crush by themselves. The small pieces make the bars feel like a Reese PB cup since it has little bits of nuts (or maybe crackers, too) in them. But the big pieces make it seem like you are eating pb on a graham cracker. (Which, by the way, is a lovely treat, but not what I was going for here.)

I put most of them in the freezer and look forward to seeing what Nutmeg thinks of them. Perhaps she'll pay be $1.50 each Saturday for one? Well....I should at least give her a discount...say $1/bar? What better way to teach her that making it from scratch is cheaper than buying?

On the other hand, she doesn't have a concept of money yet, so I'm not sure if that's what she'll learn. Maybe if I sell her two for the same price it would click? [Mine are a bit smaller, too. Maybe 4 for $1.50?]

Oh, and I don't think these are better than Reese's mini peanut butter cups. It would be pretty hard to get better than them. But a close second that's far cheaper and I can make from scratch!

Benedict Bars

Special K bars were another favorite recipe from college. And one day, the recipe was published in an alumnae newsletter. But I improved it a bit, so I changed the name, in honor of my schools, The College of St. Benedict and St. John's University. This is probably my favorite dessert. I don't make it often, however, since I have to buy the main ingredient--cereal--as we almost never buy cold cereal.

Benedict Bars

Grease a 9x12 cake pan. Put in
  • 8 c cereal such as Special K, puffed grains, Cheerios, etc.
In a small saucepan stir together
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c white corn syrup, honey, molasses or simple syrup (1/2 c sugar, 1/4 c water)
Over medium heat, bring to a boil. Remove immediately. Stir in
  • 1 c peanut butter (I prefer fresh ground creamy)
Pour over cereal and mix thoroughly with a spoon. Appears impossible, but just go slowly and eventually the syrup will coat all the cereal. Spread evenly and press down firmly with waxed paper, cereal bag, or butter wrapper.

  • 11-12 oz chocolate and butterscotch chips (I usually go about 2/3 and 1/3, but do it to your own tastes). 
In microwave, takes about 90-120 seconds; stir every 30 seconds. Keep a dozen chips or so to stir in at the end (helps temper the chocolate). Spread over cereal and let cool. Cut into bars before chocolate hardens. These freeze well (thank goodness. Otherwise I think I'd eat them all in two days they are so fabulously yummy).

The syrup should be stirred almost constantly so it doesn't burn. However, it's slow enough in the beginning that you can probably put it on while greasing the pan, measuring the cereal, and getting the PB ready.

Original recipe called for corn syrup, which I never use. (I know it's not high fructose corn syrup, but it's still corn syrup. And another ingredient I'd have to buy special for this recipe, which I hate doing. So I experimented and found honey and simple syrup work just fine. I'm guessing molasses would, but I haven't actually tried it. I used honey today as I have a jar that sugared, so it's perfect for use in recipes that require heating the honey.

I experimented with the recipe until I had too little syrup and too little chocolate (and then upped the amounts). These amounts seem almost right. Today, I think I could have used more syrup as some of the cereal fell off as I cut them into bars. But maybe I just didn't stir it together well enough. Some days I wish I put more chocolate on top, too. ;-)

Eric found Chocolate Special K (regular cereal with chocolate chunks in it) and got it for me for these bars (he's so sweet!). Many of the chunks melted when I poured the syrup on. It's nice to have the extra chocolate in, but I won't bother again since I could just put more chocolate on top or throw some chocolate chips in.

I like to imagine these are a healthy dessert with all the good for you cereal and the peanut butter. And honey--honey's better for you than corn syrup, right? But you have to cut the bars small, too!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Scottish scones

It was a beautiful sunny day, so I wanted to bake something in the Sun Oven. I had a lot of other things on my to-do list, so I didn't want to try something new so went back to an old favorite, Scottish Scones. I adapted this to have the least sugar and butter that the recipe could stand and we still loved.

This is what I compare all my other scone recipes to. This is what I think of when I think of a scone.

Scottish Scones (adapted from Pillsbury)
  • 1 1/2 c flour (ap, mix whole wheat and ap, or up to 50% ww pastry flour)
  • 3/4 c rolled oats
  • <1/4c packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 c raisins, chopped apple, or other dried fruit (if cranberries, add extra sugar)
  • 1/2 c milk
Combine dry and mix well. Cut in butter until crumbly.  Add milk all at once. Stir just until moistened. Knead 5 or 6 times. Will be very sticky. Place on greased/Silpat cookie sheet. Press in 6" round, 1" thick. Brush with milk and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Cut into 8 wedges.

375 25-30 minutes or Sun Oven ~45 minutes (unless the sun goes behind clouds and then it takes longer, like this morning). Cut out a scone and check for doneness (will be nearly dry).

Apple Cheddar: 1 chopped apple, 1/4c shredded cheese

I almost always make a double batch, which just barely fits on one cookie sheet. Can do with only 13 Tbs butter.

With all whole wheat pastry flour, they are too crumbly. Half works just fine.

Note: I gave in and edited the scone picture. In keeping with the Imperfect Kitchen, I told myself I was not allowed to do anything special when taking photos and no fixing anything on the computer. I forgot to take pictures when they were still in the pan. I couldn't get close enough without getting a shadow on the scone, so the picture was mostly not scones. So I quickly cropped it. I also took these and the granola outside--but it was dark in the house due to shades being closed from the sun.


I can't stand hot oatmeal, one of Eric and Nutmeg's favorite meals (any time of day, nearly any time of year). But I adore granola (which Nutmeg also loves, but Eric oddly does not). My Mom made an awesome granola when I was a kid, but I have not been able to replicate it (I think it had more sugar or oil than I wanted, too). A few years ago, I adapted a recipe from Alton Brown's Good Eats along with my Mom's, that has become a favorite. It's quite adaptable, too. It's a flaky granola, not chunky. (I LOVE chunky granolas--that's what Mom made, and what I love at restaurants/farmer's markets. I don't know what makes it that, but I'm guessing using sugar instead of honey, baking on a cookie sheet, and not stirring. But I prefer honey and molasses to having to cook sugar and honey on the stove.)

  • 3 c oatmeal or other rolled grains
  • 1-2 c chopped nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc)
  • pinch salt unless nuts or seeds are salted
  • 1/2 c coconut
  • 1/2 c wheat germ
  • 1/4 c sesame, flax, or sunflower seeds
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon or other spices depending on nuts and dried fruit
Put in 9x13 baking pan and toss with hands to mix well. (This can be done hours in advance.) Pour on top:
  • 1/4 c oil + applesauce OR 3/4 c applesauce (increase time by at least 15 mins)
  • scant 3 Tbs molasses (scant 1/3c for double batch)
  • heavy 3 Tbs honey (1/3 c for double batch)
Mix well using hand. AB says to wear a disposable glove, but I just wash my hand afterward.

250 oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, stirring and shifting oven position every 15 minutes. When cool, add dry fruit to taste.

Walnut orange: 4 Tbs orange peel (although I make my own and its not very strong as I don't take much pith off; YMMV).
Peanut butter: Substitute 1/2 c peanut butter for oil, shorten bake time to 1 hour.
Sun oven: 1 hour with lid on, stir once. I didn't care for the taste as it doesn't dry out as much as in the oven.
Misc: If I don't have nuts, seeds, or coconut, I leave them out. If it's all of the above, I put in more oats to replace the lots bulk. I've used wheat bran instead of wheat germ since I had it once. If you prefer honey or molasses, they are interchangeable; I love molasses but I did not like it when I did more than just under 50% molasses.

Since we eat so much and it stores well in the freezer, I usually make 2-3 batches at once. Either size will fit in 2 9x13 pans or a roasting pan (increase time by 15 mins).

This morning, I forgot the coconut as when I prepped the dry last night, I wanted to grate it fresh. But I didn't leave a reminder out and remember after it had been cooking. I did it with all applesauce, which I've surely done before, but it seemed much moister than usual and I baked it at least 30 minutes extra, maybe an hour. I made orange-walnut, with clementine zest from early spring.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

7 Layer Bars

One of my favorite desserts from childhood is 7 Layer Bars. I was first introduced to these by Cindy Soukup, in either 4th or 6th grade. We had the same teacher both years, and she had a fabulous long-term assignment related to the local newspaper. One possible assignment was to take a newspaper recipe, make it, and bring it to share. Cindy brought 7 Layer Bars. I think my Mom still has the original recipe card Cindy or I made. I had been thinking about these anyway, but with the fresh coconut, it was an even easier choice.

7 Layer Bars
  • 1/2 c butter, melted in a 13x9 pan (put in preheating oven)
  • 1 c crushed graham cracker crumbs (9 large crackers) mixed into butter and spread evenly
  • 1 c coconut
  • 1 c butterscotch chips
  • 1 c chocolate chips
  • 1 c chopped walnuts
  • 1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Layer. Bake at 350 for 30 mins (or less; mine burned).

I didn't have SCM, and instead of buying some, I decided to try a powdered milk recipe I came across a while back (see below). I think it worked okay. I'm not sure if the problems I'm having are due to the SCM variation or overcooking: I can't get them out of the pan in one piece. The butter/crumbs tends to stay behind. I tried while they were warm, I tried after cooling them down then letting them sit out (although they might have gotten too warm again; it was warmed than I thought in the evening). I tried straight out of the fridge. Will also try setting them out in the morning for only 15 minutes. In the picture, what looks like two bars to the right of the knife? That's one that looked perfect until I tried to pick it up and it split into two. The coconut layer split in half (was it the coconut?)

The bottom also seems stickier than I recall these bars being; again is this due to the overcooking, the SCM, or something else?

I used some special chocolate. As a treat for baking this week while Eric and Nutmeg are gone, I picked up some Icelandic chocolate bars at Whole Foods. I put almost $3 of chocolate in these, so I'm extra disappointed that I burned them. They still taste good, but the edges and corners aren't so great. And I don't think I can share them with anyone. And they might end up in tiny pieces eatable only with a fork or spoon!

Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1 cup powdered milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1/2 cup hot water
 Blend very well in a blender. Or, mix milk and sugar, put soft butter on top, pour on hot water, and blend very well with a stick blender. It was grainier than from a can, but I think it would be fine in baking where that doesn't matter.

Food Storage Made Easy has a handy chart with this recipe (PDF) as well as others with powdered milk. I keep mine on the inside of a cupboard door.

Quick apple crisp

There was one left over apple from something at work, which I didn't want to eat, so Nutmeg made an apple crisp for breakfast. (Which, it turns out, I'll be eating as she wasn't very hungry, didn't even ask for a snack, and they are now gone...and it's still on the counter.) I think next winter she'll be able to make this for herself, except for cutting the apple as she can reach everything with her stool--including the microwave!

Quick apple crisp (by Nutmeg)
  • one apple, more or less, sliced or in pieces as desired, in a bowl
  • some oats
  • some brown sugar
  • some cinnamon
  • (some butter--I skip this for her, but it's more like real apple crisp that way)
Simply sprinkle each on top, mix if desired, zap in the microwave for 30 seconds at a time until done. It took a minute this morning for a good sized yellow delicious apple. If it were winter, I'd probably do another 30 to get it really hot and soft. But it's summer in Maine and I wouldn't eat a hot apple crispy anyway. But Nutmeg loved it. (I bet it would be good with some nutmeg in it, too.)

That's a hat she and Daddy made on Thursday; it was hat day at day camp. She wanted it in the picture. I asked--just the hat, not her!

Choco-Coco cookies and using fresh coconut

Nutmeg and I made another batch of Grandma's Frost's chocolate chip cookies this weekend. A few weeks ago, Nutmeg said she wanted to try a real coconut. They picked one up at the store right away, but we didn't get around to cracking it open. Earlier this week, we finally did and it was rotten. We tried one of those easy to crack ones--I think they cut all the way through then glue it back together. We should have opened it immediately. So last weekend, Nutmeg and I got one and cracked it open on Friday.

We grated a cup and replaced the nuts called for in the recipe. I think they are FABULOUS with coconut. Eric thinks they are okay but nothing special. Nutmeg likes them, too. I almost threw in some dried pineapple, but these were mostly to send along to the beach house and I thought just coconut might be weird for some people. Next time!

A few coconut tips
  • Don't let a 5 year old grate. She sliced her thumb knuckle quite quickly. :(
  • Eric started with a drill top open a hole to drain the coconut water. He used a very large bit, but that meant we only needed one hole. Neither Nutmeg nor I liked the coconut water.
  • Then he cracked it open with a chisel and hammer. Did not see that tip anywhere online. Much easier than with a hammer alone and didn't need a towel to keep the bits from flying around.
  • Place the pieces attached to hull on a cookie sheet and put in a 350 oven for 15 minutes. They will be easier to pry off the hull now. I let them cool for about 5 minutes; they were still hot so I had to hold the shell with a towel while I pried the coconut meat off. I used a small paring knife to get between the meat and the shell.
  • Then I used a vegetable peeler to get the brown inner shell (?) off. It was so easy with a peeler. Except my hands cramped so it took me a few hours off and on (maybe 30 minutes hands on, if that).
  • I used the smallest holes on my box grater. Never used these before but they are the perfect size for coconut.
  • I considered toasting the coconut, but Nutmeg said to put it in raw. I wasn't sure that it would matter in cookies anyway.
I also used the coconut in 7 layer bars and hope to make granola soon with the rest of it.  I might make another batch of Choco-Coco cookies, too; I sent all but 6 (and the two or three I had right away) along to the beach house.

I wish we lived near coconut trees. I really enjoyed having fresh coconut. So much nicer than the dried stuff from bags in the store. :(

Oh, and for some reason 15 minutes at 350 was a wee bit too long this time. Nearly burned the cookies. Perhaps it was the pizza stone--I put the it on the bottom of the oven this time, as it had preheated and I had nowhere to put it in the kitchen. Sometimes I leave it on the rack. I'll have to keep note of how it affects things.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cinnamon swirl biscuits

Decided to throw in another try at Swedish rolls this morning. Last week's scones were disappointing, until I ate them again a day or two later. They definitely had a similar density to what I remembered, so I decided to try again. This time, they look like SRs, but nothing else was similiar. Of course, I did a few other things differently this time, too. Like, last time, I had some half and half leftover and used that instead of skim milk. And I used the sun oven, which only goes up to about 350 instead of the oven at 450. But those two items may be the ticket. Next time, I'm using half and half (or something heavier than skim milk at least) and baking them at a lower temperature. I decided I better start writing down what I've tried to keep track, even when it doesn't work, so that I don't try the same thing twice.

Sweet Milk Scones (American biscuits)
adapted from From Celtic Hearths
  • 1 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • ~3/4 c milk/cream/half and half
Sift dry (or mix well in a bowl). Cut in butter until it looks grainy. Make a well and pour in milk. Mix well. Add milk or flour as necessary to a soft, elastic dough (I don't know what that is, I just went till it looked like I could nearly roll it; last time, I needed more milk, this time, more flour). Knead dough lightly on a floured surface. For regular biscuits, pat about 3/4" thick, don't go too thin or they won't rise. Cut into 3" rounds. Bake at 450 for ~10 minutes. Or 350 for 20 minutes?

For cinnamon swirls, roll into a rectangle until about 1/3" thick (I didn't measure). Spread with softened butter and coat heavily with cinnamon sugar. Roll up and cut into about 16 pieces. (Or less--these are pretty thin). Bake at 450 for ~10 minutes.

Swedish rolls look rather like this, but heavier and with a lot more cinnamon sugar (or possibly cardamon, since that's an often-used Swedish spice).

I also baked bread yesterday, but it looks just like the others I've posted so I didn't take a picture. Didn't bake anything else because it was over 70 at 6am, and even checking on the bread at 7am it just felt icky getting blasted by the heat. 

Yogurt Dip/Dressing

This is my favorite salad dressing and dip (especially for pretzels and potato chips. And veggies. I guess for anything). I found it a couple years ago when I was looking for something to use up a lot of spinach. I make it all year round now as the spinach doesn't add all that much flavor anyway. No picture as it's just a white blob with some green bits from the herbs.

Yogurt Dip/Dressing
1 c chopped fresh spinach (optional)
1 c yogurt and mayo (I like to use 2/3-3/4c yogurt as I make nonfat yogurt so this is almost no calories; original called for an equal split)
3/4-1 tsp season salt (I make my own)
1/8 tsp each dried parsley, basil, and oregano OR 1+ Tbsp fresh basil, and a large pinch each parsley and oregano OR to taste
2 or so cloves of garlic, minced

It's very forgiving. I just used a bunch of fresh herbs picked from the back deck and the bit of garden out the front door; I didn't measure any of them. I love basil and garlic so usually go pretty heavy on them. Nutmeg would prefer I used less garlic. Last summer, she was eating entire cloves of raw. This summer...can't stand it. (Same goes for lemons and salads in general. ::sigh::)

I made yogurt yesterday especially for this. Good thing as Nutmeg and I finished the previous batch with pretzels for lunch.

I also baked bread yesterday (looks pretty much just like all the others I've posted).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Weekend baking

Besides the nut rolls, I didn't do anything special this weekend. Spent much of the weekend on the couch. On Friday evening, Nutmeg stepped in front of me at Target, and I hit the floor with my knees. But first, I hit her head with my stomach and had all the breath knocked out of me. She must have hit the floor beneath me, but she didn't get even a bruise. Since I could breathe and my knees were in great pain, I curled up on the floor, causing at least two people to think I'd fainted and trying to call for an ambulance. Eric convinced them the wait, i managed to gasp out that Id had the air knocked out of me and then waited till i could breathe again to start crying over my knees. To finish it up quickly, my knees are fine though bruised and I simply took it easy all weekend.

I baked bread Friday morning, banana bread in the sun oven yesterday, and some more "scones" today in the sun oven (once again, they are biscuits, very lovely ones, though not what I'm looking for). I did not undercook the banana bread this fact I may have overcooked it which is hard to do in a solar oven. Either that or we over beat it, which since Nutmeg did all the mixing wouldn't surprise me. Wait, could also be the 1/2 c of oats I threw in since everything's been so moist lately.

Salted nut rolls

Uncle Monkey, hold your horses! Yes, we'll make these for you some day. But not until we perfect the recipe. Ooops, nothing's perfect around here. So, let's say, till we make it a little better.

Last week, I received a sample issue of Cook's Country. On the last page is a recipe for salted nut rolls, my brother's favorite candy bar and one that I rather enjoy as well. When Maggie said she wanted to bake cookies yet again, I suggested making candy instead. She thought that would be fabulous, but had no ideas. So I suggested the nut rolls and she thought that sounded great, as she loves peanuts. Had to buy nearly all the ingredients, which made it rather expensive, but worth it if they were better than Pearson's Nut Rolls.

Made far more than called for. But I couldn't imagine making them any thicker. Had leftover caramel but barely enough nuts. Nutmeg mixed a bit of food coloring into her piece and it turned out quite nicely (can you see the pink on the third roll?). Would be fun to make all sorts of colors and maybe even add some flavoring in.

They taste like sugar + sugar + a little bit of peanuts. Rather disappointing, although Eric and Nutmeg think they are fabulous. Only after I had already chopped the nuts did I remember that Pearson's has fairly large pieces. So this morning, I set one roll out to soften the caramel and broke some remaining nuts into large pieces. Managed to get them to stick, and it tastes much better. Eric suggested dipping them in chocolate--always a win--or drizzling something on top. Could Lao redip them in more caramel then back in nuts. I have some caramel left so may try that.

Want to get this posted but don't have the recipe with me. Will update later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Scones? Biscuits? Who knows?

I am on a quest--just begun--to replicate a favorite recipe from college, Swedish Rolls. I've search online, but only come up with recipes for what is essentially a cinnamon roll with cardamon in addition to cinnamon. But the Swedish rolls from CSBSJU were not cinnamon rolls. They're more like a biscuit or scone, although they are shaped like a cinnamon roll. Not yeasted, either. I can't imagine rolling my favorite scone recipe, as it's so sticky and heavy I can barely press it into a round for baking. So I decided to try the scone recipe from Confections of a Closet Master Baker.

Boy was I disappointed! I ended up with baking powder biscuits! So I searched to find out the difference between scones and biscuits. Depending on who you listen to, there are all sorts of differences, some of which are contradictory! (First, I should note I live in the United States, so I'm using the American terms.) One is that scones have egg while biscuits don't. My favorite scone recipe? No eggs. This recipe--which I think tastes just like "my" biscuit recipe--has an egg. Some say just adding sugar and fruit to a biscuit recipe makes it a scone, but I do that to the biscuit recipe all the time and still call them biscuits. My scone recipe has oatmeal (making it Scottish) and half the baking powder. I'm going to have to do this more systematically, I suppose, and compare things very closely. Not this morning, however. But I will be experimenting to find the right consistency for Swedish rolls so expect to see more biscuits and scones this summer.

Since I was unimpressed, I shan't include the recipe. Extra disappointed because the other recipes in this book are fabulous and unusual. This isn't even the slightest unusual. Unless you count calling it a scone! Also, it made 12 instead of the called-for 8 and I used a much larger biscuit cutter--called for 1.5 inches which is tiny! I used a 2.5" one.

Also baked bread this morning. still experimenting with buns. These are turning out better-shaped, and I like them as rolls, but they aren't light weight. But the bread isn't, either.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

PB choc chip cookies made as bars

Maggie also wanted to make M&M cookies last weekend. I only had mint M&Ms which I didn't really want to waste in cookies, so I asked her if she'd like to make choc chip cookies with the special caramel/choc swirl chips. She happily agreed. Then we decided to put in peanut butter, too. Again, it was her choice between that and oatmeal.

We used Grandma Frost's Recipe again, which includes the possibility of an optional 1 cup of peanut butter. We also put in chopped walnuts. Maggie chopped them in my awesome nut chopper--it's the one my Mom had when I was a kid. Not having anything with which to chop nuts as an adult, I dreamed of finding a chopper like her's at a garage sale. Never did. Then it occurred to me that she probably never used it anymore, between having a food processor and arthritis in her hands. So a couple years ago, I asked. And voila! I now have the nut chopper. It holds great memories because I usually chopped the nuts for Mom (and for myself I guess), and now Maggie is doing it "Just like Mom did when she was a little girl like me!" I was surprised that it took her the entire mixing time to chop the nuts. Then later, when we were telling Eric about making them, she added in that she had eaten a lot of nuts and I asked if that's why it had taken so long. She laughed and said yes.

Rather than making 5 sheets of cookies and having to be in the kitchen with the oven on for more than an hour, we made bars. I put a Silpat in my jelly roll pan (slightly larger cookie sheet); it doesn't quite cover then entire pan, but the dough doesn't go under and everything turns out just fine. I intentionally cut them small--portion sizes are out of control around here and I was shooting for the original sized cookie. The recipe makes 5 dozen if you make them the right size. I think I got 6 dozen! I've found that I will want to eat 2-4 cookies no matter what size they are. So making them smaller...I eat less but am nearly as satisfied.

They are lovely. Two problems--the caramel swirl chips don't add much flavor. I though the PB overwhelmed them, but Eric said they didn't taste very caramely on their own, either. Second, although they looked great in the pan, in the bag their dryness became evident as at least a cookie's worth of crumbs was left from about 1/3 of the cookies. The tasted fine, but very crumby. I can't wait to try these with regular choc chips since I love pb and chocolate.

Rhubarb mini pies

Last weekend, Maggie decided we should make something with the rhubarb we bought the previous weekend from our farmer. I wasn't quite sure this should be "her" thing, as last time we had it, she did NOT like the rhubarb (I made rhubarb compote). But she insisted, since the rhubarb had been her choice at the market. So we did it.

She didn't help a whole lot, but you can tell she's growing up: She still hung out near the island and talked with me, helping just a little here and there the entire time. In the past, she'd get bored or annoyed and leave. We based it on the banana mini pies, again using the crust recipe from Joy of Cooking. I didn't put plastic wrap over the bowl in the fridge, which I think made the crust dry out. (With the banana ones, I divided the dough in two and put each in a plastic box, since I'd originally made the crust the night before. This time, I just stuck the bowl in the fridge. So, anyway, the point is: Cover the dough in the fridge, just like they say!) The top pie in the pic is very good evidence of the problem with a dry crust. Using rhubarb also didn't help, as it's hard and pokey, so I think every single pie had at least one hole in it. The holes also meant that the nice juicy part of the filling seeped out. Thank goodness for Silpats! Maggie really enjoyed the caramelized spilled filling, so it didn't go to waste.

I used the rhubarb pie filling from Joy of Cooking as well. It called for 5 cups of rhubarb. I think I used no more than half of what I made, even though I used an entire recipe of dough for a double crust pie. Wait, I did have a ton of crustie cookies at the end. But maybe enough for only one more pie. (I cooked the remaining filling in the microwave for about 5 minutes until it was like compote, but stickier. Then put it in the freezer since I had the fresh pies to eat.)

I tried a 7-8" crust diameter, using one of my plates for a cutting guide. It just looked too darn big (for individual servings that is). So the others I used a bowl, making them between 5 and 6". That was just about right.

The rhubarb pie recipe said the brush the tops with milk or cream and spring with sugar. This was far easier than with egg yolk (which the banana's called for). I used the leftover 1/2 and 1/2 from the banana ice cream. And plenty of sugar since I wasn't sure how sweet the filling would be. It was sweet--at least sweet enough for me but then I love rhubarb (with sugar).

For some reason, Maggie didn't try one until Tuesday night. I offered her a taste before giving her an entire pie. We made an initial mistake: I broke the pie to make sure she had an inner bite, not just crust. She got a bite almost entirely of filling and that was too sour! I convinced her to try a second bit that included crust and she LOVED it. (I tried to get Eric to try it then, too, but he refused. He doesn't even like the smell of rhubarb. I guess I understand, since I feel that way about coffee, ketchup, and alcohol.)

I put half of them in the freezer, and can't wait to make more next year. I hope it will be with rhubarb from our backyard that time.