Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sweet & Salty No-Bake Bars


Hee hee hee hee!

I love this time of year. A lot of people say that, and I'm one of them.  First of all, I'm totally a cold weather person. Us cold-weather people seem to be rare, but we do exist. I'd much rather snuggle up under a blanket, with my nose all froze and a cat on my lap and a good movie on tv, oh, like "The Princess Bride" or something.  Totally my idea of an awesome evening.

And there are so many good memories for me, that are somehow linked to this chilly fall weather. It reminds me of the start of the school year; when I was younger I loved school, because there was so much new stuff to put into my brain!  It reminds me of our Halloween trip a couple years back, getting to visit my best friend in Colorado and introducing my husband to my extended family. Heck, just the feeling late at night when it's all cold and dark reminds me of the many nights driving down from New Jersey to Virginia, when my husband & I were in the early months of our courtship.

For a lot of people, I guess cold weather signals the end: the end of bathing suits and flip flops and miniskirts and mani/pedis.  For me the cold weather is a beginning. It's the beginning of comfy sweaters and squishy comforters, of big stompy boots (mine are purple!) and big warm coats, of mostly rain and a little snow, and stew and homemade bread and Christmas shopping and that wonderful way the trees look at dusk when they're all dark and wet against a light grey overcast sky.
I love this stuff.

So anyways, we're gonna start you off with some Halloween treats. Admittedly, they're only Halloween treats if you stick some candy corn on top, but you can spook people by telling them that you made dessert out of Fritos. Heh heh heh!

With thanks to Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.


1½ cup of light corn syrup
1/2 cup of sugar
1½ cup of crunchy peanut butter
1 bag of Fritos, 10.5 ounce
Approx 2 cups of candy corn

1) Pour the Fritos into a large bowl and break them into medium pieces. I used a potato masher for this, and it worked pretty well. Make sure your candy corn is ready to go.
2) Grease a 9x9" square baking pan liberally with butter or coconut oil.
3) Pour the sugar and corn syrup into a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until it comes to a boil.
4) Lower the heat to low, and stir in the peanut butter. Keep stirring until it's completely combined.
5) Pour the sugar liquid over the Fritos and stir it up with a wooden spoon until well-covered.
6) Press this down into the 9x9 pan, and immediately press on the candy corn; don't wait, or else the bars will get too cooled for the candy corn to stick.

Voila! That's all there is to it. And honestly, it's pretty darn good.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Honey Spice Cookies

Something's been on my mind for a while.

It's an odd topic of conversation, but it pops into my head every time some new controversy comes out, and it's this:

Every major religion reminds us to love each other, because we can't seem to remember to do it ourselves.
Think about it. The great religious leaders of the world have never told us to to do the obvious things that come naturally.

Commandment #4: Eating is good. Eat something every once in a while.
Commandment #5: Go to bed if you're tired. Try to do this on a regular basis. Once a night is a good place to start.
Commandment #6: Dropping a hammer on your foot is a bad idea and may result in broken toes. Don't do it, unless you really like broken toes. Then, you know, whatever.

You know what I mean?

But they all tell us to love each other.  The Torah says to love your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18) and that the universe is built on kindness (Psalm 89:3).   Jesus said "love each other, as I have loved you" (John 15:12), and that that commandment to love your neighbor was the second greatest in the whole of the law (which was a pretty big law, by the way) (Matthew 22:39-40).  The Quran 'recommends us to patience and compassion' (Al'Quran 90:17-18), and the Prophet himself said "Kindness is not found in anything except that it adds to its beauty."

Those are the big three religions here in America, but there are more. You want more?
Lao Tzu said: I have just three things to teach:
 simplicity, patience, compassion.
 These three are your greatest treasures.

And the Dalai Lama said on Facebook just the other day, "if you cultivate loving kindness, compassion and concern for others, there will be no room for anger, hatred and jealousy."  I follow the Dalai Lama on Facebook. Those little reminders to peace and compassion are good.

But see? We need those little reminders. Compassion and kindness don't come naturally to humanity. And you may think that you're just fine, but how did you react to Miley Cyrus' on-stage performance? Hmm?

I dunno, man. It's kinda sad. So next time you get all ready to let fly some judgmental vitriol, maybe stop and remind yourself to compassion. You lose nothing in being kind. You know? You really don't.

Here. Have a cookie.

(Thanks to Averiecooks.com as always.)


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1½ tablespoons pumpkin pie spice
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspooon (a pinch) salt

1) Whisk together the flour, corn starch, baking soda, and salt in a bowl until combined.
2) In another bowl, with either a hand mixer or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together very well, for about 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
3) Add the egg and beat some more.
4) Add the honey, spices, & vanilla and beat some more, scraping down the bowl as necessary to make sure everything is well incorporated.
4) Now set the mixer to low/medium, and carefully add in the flour mixture. Only mix this until combined, about a minute or so.
5) With a cookie scoop or ice cream scoop, scoop out little balls of cookie dough and set them on a plate, then put the plate in the fridge to chill for at least 3 hours.
6) After the afternoon has passed, preheat your oven to 375º.
7) Place your cookie balls on a cooking sheet that has been covered with parchment paper. You can space these pretty close together, they won't spread much.
8) Bake at 375º for about 10 minutes, until the cookies are just beginning to set on top. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

If you want, you can finish these off with a glaze:
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar

Whisk together all of these ingredients, let them sit for a few minutes to thicken, and then pour over the cookies. Yay glaze!

Well, I started off this post feeling a little sad and thoughtful, but now I'm full of cookie happiness. I'm not a big pumpkin pie spice person (I'd much rather have a vanilla chai) but these are good stuff. They make you feel warm and happy. Full of compassion. Give your neighbor a cookie too.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Peach Streusel Bars

I just finished watching Season 10 of Project Runway.
Yes, I know, that's like 2 years ago. But I wanted to start a whole season from beginning to end, and Hulu doesn't have all of season 12. 
I've never been a watcher of Project Runway. Fashion design never really appealed to me, mostly because we've all seen those horrible... things pop up online. You know what I mean--pictures of a man with a bucket on his head and a giant eye appliqued across his chest and a weird tentacle skirt and barbed wire flip flops. You know, fashion. Ugh. I never understood that, and I kinda thought that's what runways were about. Runway shows were about people wearing buckets and eyeballs and wires and legos and frog entrails and high art, while in China other people were sitting behind sewing machines industriously turning out beige cardigans for the Target shoppers of the world.

But I work from home, and I need something innocuous going on the computer to keep me company, something that won't take a lot of attention but still affords some minor entertainment value. America's Next Top Model turned into The Tyra Show Where Some Poor Schmucks Humiliate Themselves In Public For Her Entertainment some years back so that's out, and Masterchef is over (yay Luca!). Ok. Project Runway. Whatever, I don't have to pay attention.

And you know what? It was actually really good!  I was rooting for Christopher the whole time, he seemed like such a sweet boy, and you have to love your hometown boy (woo LI FTW!)  if he's not a jerk. But he really did seem to lose his head at fashion week, so I'm glad Dmitri won. Dmitri was the jerk, for the first few episodes, but he opened up and became nice & respectful to the people around him and it was really nice to see. I liked him. I also agreed that he seemed the most ready to enter the field, so I agree that he deserved the win based on his ability.

None of this has anything to do with what we're making today. In fact, I guess that this little bar is more fashion backward--no chocolate, no sprinkles, no food-equivalent-of-glitter (whatever that might be).  Just a little hidden surprise.  Surprise! Peaches!


1 cup (2 sticks) butter

2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter (not softened)
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 can of peach pie filling, chopped
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups powdered sugar

1) Preheat your oven to 350º. Line an 8x8 baking dish with aluminum foil & spray it with cooking spray.

2) Combine first 5 ingredients in a mixing bowl until it completely pulls together into a cohesive dough.  Everything should pull away from the mixing bowl and even pull off of your fingers. When there's no crumblies left, it's good.
3) Press this out into your baking dish.

4) Using a spoon or your fingers, press indentations into the shortbread base. I used the back of a cookie scoop.  Then pinch and prod the dough until it looks like the inside of an egg carton, with 9 indents (3 across, 3 down).

5) Bake at 350º for 15-20 minutes, until brown & set.
6) While this is baking, make the streusel topping. From the second group, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon & salt.  Then cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or a couple of forks and combine until you get chunky crumbs. Put this in the fridge for now.
8) After 15-20 minutes, when you pull the dish out of the oven the dough will have puffed up. Using the back of a spoon, push your indents back down again.
7) Roughly chop up the peaches into small pieces. Spoon some of the peaches into each indentation.  Pour the liquid over the top along the ridges of the "egg carton" crust.
8) Pull the streusel topping out of the fridge and distribute it over each peach "cup". 
9) Back in the oven to bake at 350º for another 25-30 minutes. The edges will look golden brown and well-done in places.
10) Remove and let cool on a wire rack.
11) The glaze (optional, really, but pretty yummy): combine all the liquid ingredients of the final group, then whisk in the powdered sugar until you get a smooth, creamy consistency. Pour it over!

Note: When you cut the bars, you want to cut along the ridges that you made earlier, into 9 bars. This way, the peach filling doesn't spill out all over the place and make a huge mess--until you bite into it!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cheesy Mustard Pretzel Dip

OMG guys... my computer this week went all sorts of splodey. It all started with a video game, as thinkg are wont to do in this household. I was trying to play a video game and everything was laggy and jumpy (video game lag is what it's called when the game starts looking like a series of still photographs instead of a moving movie), so I decided to buy a new video card.

I get the new video card delivered, but it doesn't want to work with my monitors. I have old monitors. Well, okay then, let's order a new monitor. While I'm waiting for the new monitor to arrive, the mouse decides it no longer wishes to move the cursor left & right because up & down is the only way to go. Okay, order a new mouse.

Part of the problem with the mouse is that it was constantly getting cat hair stuck in the works, so I was always having to pull out the hair with tweezers, which scratched up the works inside. The cat hair was a problem because I had a fabric mousepad and the hair would weave itself into the fabric, then worm into the mouse.  Well I don't want this to happen with the new mouse, so I order a new mousepad.

New mouse arrives and the very next day, the power supply dies. The power supply takes the electricity from the wall outlet and distributes it to the various parts of the computer. If the power supply ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

So by Friday I've got a video card but no monitors, a mouse but no mousepad, and no power supply.  UPS guy delivers the monitor, (No, I don't want to discuss home-based coffee-selling businesses, thank you, you can go now Mister UPS Man), I run out to Best Buy to get a power supply, and when I come back Fedex gives me the mousepad. After a flurry of unpacking and 2 hours spent setting everything up, ("what do you mean, No Boot Disk Found????"), my house looks like Circuit City exploded all over it and I'm finally ready to go: new video card, new monitor, new mouse, new mousepad, new power supply.

Isn't that cool?

That your computer can break, that things can fall apart, but it's so easy to just go out and buy new parts and pop them in. Honestly, that level of self-sufficiency feels really cool. If you've never stuck your hand inside a computer's gizzards, I highly recommend you do so. Make sure you unplug it first.

Special shout-out to my friend Mike, who played the very important role of holding my hand via text, making me feel, well, less alone in my stress. ("Yes, I've checked the SATA cables twice, it's still not booting up!")

So here's some pretzel dip. It's easy, it's yummy, and if you like dipping food in stuff, it's really good! Recipe adapted from Jensfavoritecookies.com.

1/2 cup brown or spicy mustard (not plain yellow mustard nor dijon)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup greek yogurt or sour cream
2 tablespoons horseradish or wasabi
1/4 cup dark soda (cola, root beer, Dr Pepper...)
1½ cups shredded sharp cheese (cheddar, or cheddar jack mix)

1) Add all ingredients to a small pot and cook on medium/low, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and everything is combined. Bonus points if you let it sit too long and parts start to caramelize.
2) Serve warm with pretzels or breadsticks.

See? Isn't that easy? And pretty tasty too!