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Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars or Billionaire Cookie Bars

7.22.2014





Listen, on Christmas Day (2013) my friend Stacy, in all her creativity, came to join us for a spotter of the Christmas Bubbly. In so doing, she presented me a treat box full of goodies unmatched. One of the treats in that box was such a hit that later that evening I called her to ask for the recipe. She quite simply denied the sharing of said recipe. In fact she won't even share the recipe with her mother. But wait, there's more! She wouldn't even tell me the name of these rich, delightful morsels! NO NAME!? I have been hunting and experimenting to find a match ever since. I haven't been 100% successful in the search so I've created some that, while not the same, will do until next Christmas! I've used my own nomenclature so I don't have to called them, "Those Yummy Cookie Things That My Friend Gave Me On Christmas Day." For search purposes, I call them Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars but at home I call them Billionaire Cookie Bars because they are priceless!



This is not an "easy to make" dessert bar, but when you taste them you'll realize it's worth every moment of work involved.






Chocolate Caramel Cookie Bars or Billionaire Cookie Bars



Ingredients - Shortbread
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup butter (cold) cut up into pieces
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • pinch salt 
Instructions - Shortbread

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. In an 8x8 baking pan, create a sling out of parchment. Place one piece of parchment across the pan one way with an overhang and do the same alternateley. If you were to take it out of the pan, it would look like a plus sign...(see photos above for reference).
  3. Put all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the dough looks like wet sand with little clumps that look like Garbanzo beans.
  4. Press a thin layer of the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. (You will have leftover dough. I make a big batch so I can freeze the rest to use in other recipes).
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the shortbread is golden brown. The outer edges of the shortbread will be darker than the center.
Ingredients - Chocolate Caramel
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup, high quality, milk chocolate chips
Instructions - Chocolate Caramel
  1. Pour 1 can (14 oz.)  Sweetened Condensed Milk into medium sauce pan.
  2. Cook Sweetened Condensed Milk over a medium heat stirring constantly. 
  3. When the milk turns a tawny color (the color of caramel, say) add the heavy cream.
  4. Whisk the egg yolks in a separate, heat proof bowl.
  5. Add a bit of the caramel/cream mixture to the eggs and whisk vigorously (you are tempering the eggs so they do not scramble).
  6. Continue adding the caramel to the eggs and the eggs to the caramel until they are combined.
  7. Lower heat and whisk for 1 minute.
  8. Remove the caramel from the heat and add the chocolate chips, whisk until melted.
  9. Once the chocolate chips have melted, pour immediately over the shortbread.
  10. Chill in the refrigerator until completely cool.
  11. After cooled, remove bars from the pan by using the sling you made for the shortbread.
  12. Gingerly cut into mini Twix size bars.
  13. Store in the refrigerator.
  14. NOTE: You can create many variations on this: The Heritage Cook has a similar recipe that is Gluten Free with Dark Chocolate and Gourmet Magazine has a recipe that uses pre-made Dulce De Leche and Dark Chocolate.





Oatmeal Cookies - The Real Kind

7.20.2014







It's been a big food week around here at our house. This week the husband made his pickles (it's own post I'll save for later) and I have been a baking fiend because it's the birthday season (Dad, Husband and Brother in Law) not to mention it's our Anniversary today!

My husband loves those Mother's Brand Oatmeal Cookies. But I don't love it when he eats them because they are full of preservatives that he really doesn't need. Also, the un-frosted ones are difficult to find.

So I made some for him from scratch today and they are off the charts! They are raisin free (not everyone loves raisins) and great with coffee or tea.

I adapted the recipe from Smitten Kitchen for my taste buds. The recipe she uses and adapted from "Good to the Grain" cookbook, uses icing which I omitted. The measurements are funny because everything in "Good to the Grain" is in grams.

Raisin Free Oatmeal Cookies
Ingredients 
  • 2 1/2 Cups + 1 Tbs. quick cook oats
  • 1 1/2 Cup all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbs + 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 Cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 Cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 Cup butter, melted (she calls for unsalted butter but instead I omitted the salt in the recipe and used what I had in the fridge - plain 'ol butter.)
  • 2 large eggs
Instructions 
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Line cookie sheets with parchment.
  3. Sift all dry ingredients together.
  4. In a separate bowl, cream together butter, sugar, vanilla extract and eggs.
  5. Fold in dry ingredients.
  6. Round into balls that equal 2 Tbs. or use a cookie scoop (she uses a #40 scoop).
  7. Bake at 350 for about 15-18 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and transfer cookies to cool on a wire rack.






Pickles!

7.09.2014

It's pickle season!

Tomatoes, Peppers and Cucumbers! My husband challenged me to a pickle off so I made a batch last night.

It's the easiest recipe and they are quick fridge pickles, BONUS. No toiling over the stove on these hot summer nights. Eat them within a week or so, unless you do a traditional water bath and then they'll last on the shelf without refrigeration for up to a year. Directions are below:


Ingredients:
  • 1 pound cucumbers
  • 6 large cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch dill
  • 2 Tbs. black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. salt
  • 1 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Cup water

Directions:

  1. Collect 1 pound of cucumbers from the garden or get them at the farmer's market. We grew "Mercury Persian," in our garden this year. They're small (between 6" and 8" long), seedless, completely burp-less and very tender, with a thin, mild skin. But you could do equally well with any Persian or Persian Hybrid which are similar to the English variety of cukes, such as "Sweeter Yet."
  2. Wash a large mouth pickling jar and lid/band with warm soapy water.
  3. Let the jar air dry.
  4. While the jar is drying, cut the cucumbers and the garlic cloves into quartered pieces.
  5. Place half the peppercorns, garlic cloves and dill in the bottom of the jar.
  6. Add half of the cucumber slices.
  7. Add the rest of the peppercorns, garlic cloves and dill.
  8. In a separate jar with a lid, mix the apple cider vinegar, water, sugar and salt. Shake jar until salt and sugar are dissolved.
  9. Pour pickling solution over the cucumbers.
  10. Place lid on the pickle jar and refrigerate overnight.
  11. Enjoy!

Summer Salsa

7.08.2014

I hate it when I am so busy with work and housekeeping and merry making that I cannot find the time to sit down to write a post (Joan, I'm sorry!).

So to keep myself accountable, let me say that I have a couple good ones on their way which include: Santa Cruz for the 4th of July and Nectarine Plum Preserves with Cardamom.

Today it is my summer salsa.

The garden is brimming with Cilantro and tomatoes and while I love salsa anytime of the year, it is especially good in the summer with tons of Cilantro. I truly cannot live without my chips and salsa. Plus, we live in California! Let's represent! Not just for our farm to fork culture but the embracing of the diversity we share.


Summer Salsa



Ingredients
  • 5 medium very ripe tomatoes (skin and seeds removed)
  • 5 large cloves of garlic 
  • 3 green onions chopped
  • 1 ENTIRE bunch Cilantro (Coriander) including stems - wash bunch well.
  • 2 roasted Anaheim peppers - To roast peppers: put in broiler for 10 minutes turning often or if you have a gas stove put the peppers directly on the flame and turn frequently.
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • Salt generously and pepper to taste 


Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in the blender or food processor 
  2. Blend well very well, scraping down sides of processor or blender
  3. Chill for an hour to meld flavors
  4. Serve cold with your favorite chips, or use in eggs or put on grilled chicken or make a steak sandwich and use this as the condiment!

Chia Pets

5.09.2014

I love Chia Seeds. They are something I learned to incorporate regularly into my diet from Tara. You know Tara; I have blogged her bathroom re-model and her little North West Cottage and a host of other cool things that her spirit has touched. The next post I will do with her will be about home economics. Keep your eyes peeled if your interested in saving money and diminishing your carbon footprint - she is a maven!

In any case, when I went for a visit to Portland last month, she made smoothies every morning with Chia Seeds. I have had many a Kombucha with Chia, my friend Kendra said once that it's great before a workout - she was right. But I had never actually considered Chia as a nutritional supplement until Tara and I discussed it. Chia seeds mixed with a drink will help you sail through cravings with hardly a notice. Here is a recipe: 1 Tbs. Chia Seeds, 2 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar, 1 Liter water mixed with lemon juice to your taste and stevia for sweetness: and I promise - YOU WILL NOT BE HUNGRY!

Chia seeds also grow into cute tiny sprouts that the whole family loves including the cat! I discussed the possibility of growing Chia Seeds (as in Chia Pet) with Tara. During my last day in Portland, my sweet friend took me to an antique shop. She spied a tiny ceramic duck and showed it to me, exclaiming that all I'd need is a cheap sponge inside the duck and a daily watering.

Here are the results:
The materials: Cheap sponges (you'll discard after each sowing),  cute planter, and chia seeds (Costco $13.99).

Cut the sponge so that it will fit inside the planter.

Insert the sponge so it creates a little planting mound.

Mix 1 teaspoon chia seeds with 1 tbs water.

Here is a better angle so you can see consistency.

Day 2

Day 3

Day 5

Day 7


WARNING - EXPLICIT - Fun, Exciting, and Unusual for Poppies

4.25.2014

But I had to share this. It's a music video some friends shared on Facebook and while I am not on Facebook (I have an account but can't be bothered to engage), my husband often shares things with me, especially when it might evoke a giggle. He showed this to me just this morning and giggle I did! It involves a party. It starts with a tiny earthquake which rolls into a full out emotional, rageful, sexy romp coupled with a catchy beat. The video/song is DJ Snake and Lil Jon, "Turn Down for What."

I'm not heavy into rap per se, but every once in a while, something turns up which becomes (to quote German phraseology) an ear worm. This is one such "song." And the video is how I feel inside sometimes. I hope lots of people feel this way otherwise (and unfortunately) I suspect I may be certifiable.

Enjoy!


"The Women"

4.20.2014

I have some really talented friends.
Stacy is a music maven who is well equipped to rock a turntable. She is the type of hostess who plays just the right playlist for every gathering and finds creativity in all kinds of music.
It was our latest book club meeting that inspired this post with her as a guest blogger. I hope you love this mix as much as I do. Her words below match this playlist epically and I recommend listening to this as she would, "Laying on the living room floor,  next to the speaker."



"The Women"
1.  Painful Like by Austra
2.  Wolf & I by Oh Land
3.  If Looks Could Kill by Camera Obscura
4.  Marilyn by Bat for Lashes
5.  Landfill by Daughter
6.  Falling by Haim
7.  Iota by Angel Olsen
8.  Running Up That Hill by Chromatics
9.  Silver Soul by Beach House
10.  Sprawl II by Arcade Fire
11.  Call Out by Kaskade featuring Mindy Gledhill
12.  I've Been Let Down by Mazzy Star

Night driving.  Needing just 5 minutes away from the kids,locked in my room, with my headphones on.  Going through a divorce.  Running at 6 AM.  Crazy, addictive love.  Singing without reservation in the car.  Laying on the living room floor close to the speakers, feeling desperate and lost. Late nights with a lover.  Feeling feelings!  It's all in this emotional roller coaster of a playlist.  Enjoy.