The trials and tribulations of a scatter-brained kitchen junkie.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Week 9 (Baking) - Samoa Bar Cookies

Week 9 of the baking challenge was cookies. I make lots (and lots and lots and...) of cookies so I thought I'd take this chance to try out something new and fancy.

Girl Scout Cookie season is upon us but with my excessive arsenal of cooking supplies I have to admit, I feeling guilty buying cookies, so I'll make them to satiate my palate instead. This is another one of those recipe that I snagged off the internet but never put to use. 52weeksof, you really are broadening my horizons, even if it is by force. ;)

Samoa Bar Cookies
Recipe is from

Cookie Base
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 c butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
  2. Either grease or line a 9x13 cake pan.
    You can line with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
  3. Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. 
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
  5. On low speed gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly.

  6. Pour/scoop the dough into your greased/lined 9x13 pan and pat down evenly to form the crust.
    This part takes patience, it does take a long while to get the crust even and smooth, but practice makes perfect. 
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes (mine took all 25 minutes) until the base is set and just starting to brown.

    The finished crust
  8. Cool completely before adding the topping. 


  • 3 cups shredded coconut
  • 12 oz chewy/soft caramels
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp milk

  1. Preheat/turn oven to 300°. 
  2. Spread coconut evenly over a parchment lined baking sheet.
  3. Toast 20-30 minutes, stirring ever 5 minutes or so, until the coconut is evenly browned and crispy.
    Cool coconut completely before moving on to the next step.

    Look at that crunchy deliciousness.
  4. Unwrap the caramels and place in a microwave safe bowl with the milk and salt. 
  5. Microwave on high in 1 minute burst, stirring in between, until caramels are melted and mixture is full combined.

  6. Fold coconut into the caramel mixture.
  7. Smooth the coconut & caramel combination over the crust.
    This takes a lot of patience, the mixture is super sticky and rough to move about. Breathe slowly, yelling at the coconut does nothing, trust me.
  8. Allow topping to cool until set.

Base Coat & Drizzle

  • 10 oz dark chocolate

  1. Once the topping has set, cut the bars to desired size. I kind of guessed at this and came up with awkwardly sized/shaped bars. Though still delicious, I will be a bit more careful next time for presentation purposes.
    Pro-tip: I used a pizza cutter to zip through these and it made cutting a breeze.

    My not-so-symmetrically-cut cookies.
  2. Melt the dark chocolate either:
    In the microwave on 1/2 power (or defrost mode) in 30 second bursts, stirring after each session, until melted. Make sure the dish you are using is large enough to allow you to thoroughly dip the base of each cookie.
    Or in double boiler, stirring regularly, until melted. Transfer to a bowl large enough to dip each cookie.
  3. Tear sheets of wax paper and set near where you will be finishing the bars.
  4. Dip each bar into the melted chocolate, allow excess to drip off, and place on waxed paper.
    Repeat for each cookie.

  5. After all of the cookies have been dipped, drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies.

  6. Allow chocolate to set completely, plate, and enjoy.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Week 9 (Cooking) - Coffee Rub Pork Tenderloin

Week 9's challenge was coffee. I've had this recipe from budget bytes kicking around for a while and though I'd give it a go. Unfortunately I was not a fan of this flavor at all and most of the cut of meat has been scrapped to the dog. I don't know if I made a wrong turn somewhere, or if coffee and pork just don't work for me, but this one was a bust. I'm documenting this occasion for posterity's sake but I see no need to share the step-by-step on a failed recipe.

The Rub looked tasty

The finished product however was very meh.

Suggestions? Thoughts?
Leave a comment or email me at

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Week 8 (Cooking) - Slow Cooker Chicken Sloppy Joes

Week 8's challenge was slow cooking which elated me because I am all about slow cooking. Being a full time employee, part time student, full time crazy dog owner... I love my slow cooker. I love tossing things together in the morning and not having to worry about it again until the evening. I love that the house smells like delicious food all day. I love not feeling rushed to throw together an evening meal.

The original plan for the week was for turkey sloppy joes, but when the grocery store was out of ground turkey I went for the next best thing. What a happy surprise this turned out to be.

After slow cooking for 8 hours this slightly healthier sloppy joe mix was indistinguishable to me from traditional beef slop. Hoorah for healthy options!

Chicken Sloppy Joes

  • 2 lbs ground chicken
  • 1 onion
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red/orange pepper
  • 1 can (10 3/4 oz) reduced sodium tomato soup
  • 1/4 c yellow mustard
  • 2 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 c ketchup
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Hamburger buns, rolls, etc. to serve

  1. In a large skillet combine the ground chicken, onion, and peppers; cook over medium-high heat until chicken is cooked thoroughly and no longer pink. Using a heat safe spatula, break up any large chunks of chicken as you go.

  2. Transfer chicken mixture to slow cooker; add all other ingredients, and stir to combine.

    It isn't pretty to start with, but it sure is tasty in the end.

  3. Cook on low setting 6-8 hours.

  4. Portion onto hamburger buns or hoagie rolls and serve with your favorite sides. I made sweet potato fries. Mmm mmm mmm.

Delicious and hearty, this simple slow cooked meal was a big hit. This one is a keeper!

Week 8 (Baking) - Raspberry White Chocolate Blossoms

Week 8 of the baking challenge was candy decorations which was a bit of a stumper for me -  not because candy is hard to add to baking because you can pretty much stick candy on the top of any cookie, cupcake, etc., and make it pretty - the challenge for me was, what could I do that was at least somewhat practical and also new or unique. Also I wanted a recipe that would use up some of the ridiculous amount of Valentine's day candy I had in the house from binge shopping the post holiday sales.

I decided to work on a recipe to utilize the raspberry white chocolate kisses we'd purchased but were just too sweet to chow on like other candies. I thought I'd do a play on traditional peanut butter blossoms and make raspberry sugar cookie blossoms instead. Unfortunately, these did not turn out as I had hoped, the problem wasn't the flavor - the taste was interesting and, dare I say, yummy - but the cookies spread out and were flaaaaat so the inserted kiss in the middle wasn't so cute.

The cookies were a basic sugar cookie with a raspberry twist, rolled in a mixture of pink sprinkles and sugar. The flavor and color were perfect, but the presentation was less than stellar. Perhaps I will give these another shot in the future but for now we'll have to let flavor win out over aesthetics.

Raspberry White Chocolate Blossoms
Recipe adapted from hershey' candy cane blossoms

  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet raspberry crystal lite
  • 1/4 c butter, softened
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp milk 
  • 1/8 tsp/pinch baking soda
  • 1 cup flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • Extra granulated sugar for rolling
  • Pink sprinkles for rolling (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. Beat the butter, sugar, egg yolk, crystal lite, and vanilla on medium speed until well blended.
  3. Stir together the flour, salt, baking soda.
  4. Add the flour mixture and stir until completely combined.

  5. Add the milk and stir again until fully incorporated.
  6. In a small cup/bowl, stir together a small amount of granulated sugar and sprinkles.
  7. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls and roll in the sugar/sprinkle mix.
  8. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

  9. Repeat with remaining dough, allowing plenty of room between cookies.

Recipes yields approximately 12 cookies.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Week 7 (Baking) - Valentine's Day Treats

Week seven's theme was Valentine's Day and since I am not a lovey dovey Valentine's Day celebrating sort of gal I used this theme to share some love for strangers.

The Setup from one of the happy couples

Seriously, how cute are they?
As I believe I've mentioned in previous posts, I like to send out treats to strangers over on reddit. This month instead of giving out treats through RandomActsofCookies I decided to offer up Valentine's Day care packages to couples with the best/most interesting story. This opened the flood gates and when I thought I'd send out one, maybe two packages, I wound up fighting just to narrow down my selections to three deserving candidates.

My selection included; the most adorable high school couple I have ever seen, a young couple with a baby who's expenses were obviously tied up with thing less frivolous than the Hallmark holiday, and a college student who was down on her luck and solo for the holiday of love.

Each package was a little different based on my whims, but the goodies were as follows:

    • Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffles
    • Crunchy Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Truffles
    • Cake Batter Truffles
    • White Chocolate Covered Pretzels 
    • Red Velvet Cookies
    • Crunchy Pink Heart Sugar Cookies 
    Alone on Valentine's Day? More treats for you!

    Dark Chocolate Espresso Truffles 

    I've actually posted this recipe once before, for my Halloween 2011 post.  However, since that was when the blog was just starting to get off the ground and few people actually were reading at that time, I'll re-share the recipe here. 

    • 8 oz Ghiradelli Intense Dark Espresso Escape
    • 1/4 c heacy cream
    • 1 tsp coffee powder (use a heaping teaspoon if you really love coffee flavoring, which I do)
    • Approx. 1/2 c cocoa powder for rolling the truffles
    1. Finely chop the chocolate, either by hand or in a food processor.
    2. Combine the chocolate, cream, and coffee powder over a low flame, stirring often. Do not whip/over-stir this, just gently continue to mix as the chocolate melts. 
    3. Once the mixture is fully melted and smooth, remove from heat. 
    4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 4+ hours, or freeze for 2. 
    5. Remove from fridge/freezer, let stand at room temperatire until pliable, 20-40 minutes.
    6. Pour cocoa powder into a bowl.
    7. Dip hands in cocoa powder.
    8. Scoop by generous teaspoon and roll into balls.
    9. Roll ball cocoa powder until coated. Set on a baking sheet or flat plate.
    10. Repeat for the remaining ganache*.
    11. I forgot to take picture of the truffles,
      so here's a pic of one of the happy couples instead. 
    12. Refrigerate until ready to use, allow truffles to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature prior to serving.
    Yields approximately 20 truffles.

    *Ganache is any frosting, filling, etc. created from a mixture of cream and chocolate. 

    Crunchy Peanut Butter Milk Chocolate Truffles

    • 8 oz milk chocolate
    • 1/4 c heavy cream
    • Approx. 1 c crunchy peanut butter
    • Approx. 1 1/2 c salted peanuts, ground up
    • Approx. 1/4 c cocoa powder, for your hands
    Notice how the truffles doubles in size?
    1. Finely chop the chocolate, either by hand or in a food processor.
    2. Combine the chocolate and cream over a low flame, stirring often. Do not whip/over-stir this, just gently continue to mix as the chocolate melts. 
    3. Once the mixture is fully melted and smooth, remove from heat. 
    4. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for 4+ hours, or freeze for 2. 
    5. Remove from fridge/freezer, let stand at room temperatire until pliable, 20-40 minutes.
    6. Pour cocoa powder into a bowl.
    7. Place crunchy peanut butter in microwave safe container and cook in 30 seconds intervals until soft and liquidy. Do NOT let the mixture get hot, otherwise the truffles will start melting. Eek!
    8. Dip hands in cocoa powder.
    9. Scoop by generous teaspoon and roll into balls.
    10. Dip the truffle in the melted peanut butter, allow to drip for a few seconds.
    11. Place the truffle in the ground up peanuts and roll around until coated. Set on a baking sheet for flat plate. 
    12. Repeat for the remaining ganache*.
    13. Refrigerate until ready to use, allow truffles to sit for 15 minutes at room temperature prior to serving.
    Should yield approximately 20 truffles.

    Cake Batter Truffles

    Recipe from chef-in-training

    Sadly for the time being I cannot access this recipe, the site is listed as fraudulent and my work computer is just not having it. They were delicious and very cute and I hope to rectify this in the near future, but for now I'll have to settle for some pictures.

    The "truffles" before coating

    Sprinkled and dipped
    The delicate inside

    White Chocolate Covered Pretzels

    You don't really need a recipe for this, right? Well, just in case...
    • White Chocolate 
    • Pretzels
    • Sprinkles
    1. Melt the white chocolate. 
    2. Dip the pretzels in the white chocolate, allowing to drip for a few seconds. 
    3. Place on a grid cooling wrack over paper towels or wax paper.
    4. Sprinkle.
    5. Allow chocolate to set before removing. Store in an airtight container - if you can resist the urge to eat them right away.

    This is the chocolatey sprinkled aftermath of the pretzels.
    Red Velvet Cookies
    Recipe from

    I'm sharing this recipe in hopes that someone else may find a way to tweak it/make it more delicious. These cookies were kind of a bust, at least in my opinion; they managed to be simultaneously dry and moist, and were quite lacking in the flavor department. Oh well, we can't win 'em all.
    • 1 box red velvet cake mix
    • 1/2 c vegetable oil
    • 2 large eggs
    • Approx. 1 c confectioner's sugar
    Attractive looking batter, isn't it?
    1. Preheat the oven to 350°.
    2. Combine the cake mix, vegetable oil, and eggs in a large bowl. Dough will be very thick and heavy.
    3. Stir by hand just until combined.
    4. Dust hands with confectioner's sugar and pinch off roughly 1" balls from the dough.
    5. Roll each ball in the confectioner's sugar.
    6. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
    7. Repeat for remaining dough.
    8. Bake 8-10 minutes. 
    9. Remove from oven, allow to rest on cookie sheet around 2 minutes. 
    10. Remove from cookie sheet to cooling wrack.
    11. Allow to cool to room temperature, and store in an airtight container. 

    Crunchy Sugar Cookies 
    Recipe from

    This is a crispy delicious cookie that can be made in any shape using a cookie gun/press.

    • 1 1/2 c butter, softened
    • 1 c packed brown sugar
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 1/2 tsp almond extract

    • 3 1/2 c all purpose flour

    1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
    2. Beat butter until fluffy.
    3. Add in sugar and baking powder, beat until combined. 
    4. Beat in egg, vanilla, and almond extract until combined. 
    5. Mix in the flour slowly. 
    6. Scoop dough into cookie gun with desired shape inserted. 
    7. Follow the directions for your cookie gun to make shapes.
    8. Bake 7-10 minutes, until a light golden brown.
    9. Cool on the pan for 1 minute, then transfer to a cooling wrack to cool completely.
    10. Finish with sprinkles or icing. 

    In addition to the treats, my besty over at ThunderCrafts donated a handmade card and some spare PartyLite tealight candles to really romance up the care packages. I threw in some red streamers,, $1 heart table clothes, and heart shaped plates and Presto! Valentine's Day in a box.

    In my excitement to pack the perfect Valentine's Day date box, I forgot to take pictures of most of the items. Luckily the receivers picked up my slack and sent me adorable pictures of their Valentine's Day festivities.

    To see the entire Valentine's Day Album, click here!

    Monday, February 13, 2012

    Week 6 (Cooking) - Pudim de Coco (Brazilian Coconut Pudding)

    Week six of the cooking challenge is upon me and wouldn't you know it, this run of the mill white girl doesn't know a thing about Brazilian food. To the internet!

    As per what seems to be a developing cookiecrumbles tradition, I had originally opted for a very different recipe. But, as luck would have it I could not get a proper translation of it at home. The recipe I had found for pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls) translated fine at work, but when I pulled up the same recipe at home it kept telling me that I needed 4 cups of candy as the first ingredient; as exciting as that sounds, it just wasn't right. It turned out this was a magnificent misfortune as about 1/2 of the other 52weeksof participants seemed to have opted for the same dish and I like to stand safely outside the norm.

    Pudim de Coco

    Be sure to absolutely mangle the can while opening it.

    • 1 can (13.5 oz coconut milk)
    • 13.5 oz milk
    • 6 tbsp sugar
    • 3 tbsp corn starch
    • 3 tbsp coconut flakes
    • Additional coconut flakes for serving (optional)

    Recipe comes from

    1. Combine all of the ingredients in a medium size pot over medium heat.

    2. Cook 10-15 minutes (I pulled mine right at 12), stirring regularly, until mixture becomes very thick. . Make sure you're scraping the bottom as you are stirring otherwise the coconut will settle to the bottom and burn.

      The pudding will bubble and boil so keep stirring.
    3. Transfer to a pudding mold that has been rinsed in cold water. I don't own a pudding mold so I divided the pudding into 4 large muffin cups.

      No pudding mold? No problem! Muffin tins are close enough.
    4. Allow to cool to room temperature.
    5. Refrigerate until the pudding is somewhat solid and retains it's shape.
    6. Unmold, plate, and sprinkle with coconut flakes.
      The unmolding didn't turn out quite as pretty as I would have liked - one transfered neatly onto the kitchen floor though - so I mashed it up a bit before sprinkling. No one will ever no. Unless, you know, you post it on the internet.

      No quite a perfect mold, but flavor has no shape.

    I opted not to make the plum sauce listed in the original recipe not because I hate plums, but because I just didn't have any in the house and there was absolutely no way I was dragging myself to the store for them. The pudding was delicious without it, I can't imagine adding a sweet sauce over this dish.

    Do you have any experience with Brazlian food? How'd I do?
    Have a recipe you want to share with me/the rest of the world?
    Questions? Leave a comment or email me at

    Week 6 (Baking) - Chocolate Stemware Cakes with Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

    The theme for week six was elegant. Much like the previous weeks, I started the week off with good intentions, but as the daily stresses of my life weighed upon me, I found myself pressed for time and with even less patience. In addition to the problems that plagued my week, I couldn't find my digital camera so I got to take all of my photos with my tablet. I explain this as a slight off-handed apology for the lackluster quality of most of the pictures. But hey, at least there are pictures.

    My original plan was to make beautiful individually portioned chocolate souffles. I found a suitable recipe, bought all of the ingredients, ... and dropped the ball. Perhaps sometime in the not too distant future I will get around to those and post my results accordingly, but for now I will offer up what I do have; chocolate mug stemware cakes.

    Everything served in a any stemware is fancy.
    True Story.

    Mug cakes have always intrigued me, but I've never gotten around to attempting one; baking in the microwaves seemed a bit crude, for lack of a better term. But, I had gotten myself into a jam and wound up at 4pm on Sunday wondering how the hell I was going to make a souffle, pudim de coco, and get dinner on the table. I had a mini-breakdown followed by a moment of genius. Just because the challenge needed to be elegant didn't mean it had to be time consuming, and really, what's fancier than stemware? Thankfully I had whipped up a batch of homemade mint chocolate ice cream earlier this week to satiate a craving the BF had been having. I figured I could justify having baked my weekly submission in the microwave if I doused it in creamy delicious goodness. It worked.

    Mint Chocolate Ice Cream
    • 1 cups skim milk
    • 3 cups heavy cream
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1.5-2 tsp vanilla extract 
    • 1 tsp peppermint extract
    • 1 1/4 c dark chocolate & mint baking chips
    Recipe courtesy of Darryn Briggs from

    The original recipe called for 2 cups 2% milk and 2 cups heavy cream. I had plenty of heavy cream on hand that I needed to use up and we only skim milk in the fridge. So I changed things up to account for the lack of fats from the skim and to use up the last of the heavy cream. The first night while the ice cream was particularly soft, it tasted like a bowl of thick, minty whipped cream. A bit overwhelming for the BF, but I was more than happy to help down his share. However, after the ice cream set up overnight I think the texture was divine, perfectly silky and smooth with a rich minty finish.

    As far as directions go, this one is fairly self explanatory provided you're using an ice cream maker; put all of the ingredients into the basin of your ice cream machine and follow the directions from there. My machine took about 40 minutes to whip this up, but it was a better consistency after sitting in the freezer overnight. No real surprises there as my machine is just the bare-bones essential to stir and chill the mixture. I have no real experience making ice cream by hand so YMMV if you go that route. If you do make ice creams by hand, I'd love to hear your results; successes and failures alike.

    Chocolate Mug Stemware Cake

    • 4 tbsp flour (cake flour if available)
    • 4 tbsp sugar
    • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
    • Pinch salt
    • Pinch baking powder
    • 1 egg
    • 3 tbsp milk
    • 3 tbsp oil
    • Few drops of vanilla extract
    • Extra chocolate for drizzling (optional)

    1. Mix it all together in a mug or small bowl. Seriously, I didn't  even bother to separate wets & drys; when baking in the microwave, I think all formal baking techniques are out the window.

    2. Divide the mix between two wine glasses.
      This part is important.  I originally thought that I would be making just one serving of mug cake (in case it didn't turn out so great) but the recipe had other plans. I didn't realize just how much this cake would expand while "baking" so about 40 seconds in I had to stop the microwave and divide the mixture into two glasses and finish cooking. This made the results a little less attractive than I would have liked, but there was no way around it, the cake was hitting the top of the microwave - which thankfully I had just cleaned, otherwise, ewww.

      40 seconds in the cake was HUGE!

      Also make sure the wine glasses fit in your microwave before you begin, mine just barely squeezed in there because I didn't think to check that first. 
    3. "Bake" on normal power for 1:30. Cakes should be springy and cooked all the way through.

    4. Allow to stand for one minute before removing from the microwave. Stemware gets hot!
    5. Scoop ice cream on top of cakes.

    6. Put chocolate (chips), - I used the leftovers from the mint chocolate ice cream - in the microwave on medium/defrost mode at 30 second increments, stirring after each round, until melted. Use a fork or spoon to drizzle across the the top of the ice cream.

      Drizzling is messy work, do it over a paper towel to save yourself the cleanup heartache.

    7. Grab spoons and enjoy.
      If you're anything like us, it will be pre-dinner since I didn't know if this was going to be a success. Dessert can precede dinner when you're a grownup.

      This dessert was totally worth the effort. All 3 minutes of it. 

    Do you have a go to dessert recipe when you need a sweets fix but don't want to put in a lot of effort?
    Have a recipe you love and want to share with me/the world?
    Questions? Leave a comment or email me at