The Bells of Dr. Pepper

The baking bug fell upon me, as it is wont to do when I have much that I should be doing but also have a severe deficit of productivity. And lack of wherewithal. And stuff.

I toyed again with macarons making, as I do when the temperature and the humidity both hover in the 90s. I relish a challenge. But once I dried out the almond flour, the whole monumental macaron making process smacked of effort. Too much.

So I needed something simple. Well, simple-ish. And with little clean-up.

A woman at school always makes a superb Southern specialty: Coca-cola cake. It’s chocolate-y and Coca-cola-y and, best of all, alliterative. I couldn’t live up to her recipe, so I decided to tweak that ol’ recipe in a few ways.

First, let’s make it more Texan. Dr. Pepper instead of Coke. Yeah. (If you don’t know why Dr. Pepper is more Texan than Coke (which is Georgian!), go here.)

Then, a DP flavored buttercream icing instead of a cocoa glaze. Oh, yeah.

So. For the cupcakes, I found a Coke cake recipe online that consisted of ingredients already living in my cupboard and into which I substituted in that Whataburger staple, Dr. Pepper. (In case I haven’t made it clear, this was one lazy Sunday. Like a four-hour-nap, stay-in-pajamas-all-day lazy Sunday. Going to the store was not an option.)

The cakes came together wonderfully. Fluffy and chocolaty and a hint of Dr. Pepper.

ignore the splatters, please...

ignore the splatters, please…

The rest of the Dr. Pepper went in a pan where it bubbled away until it was a thickish syrup.

This was about a cup of Dr. Pepper...whatever was leftover from the recipe went into the pan.

This was about a cup of Dr. Pepper…whatever was leftover from the recipe went into the pan.

For the frosting, I found a Coke frosting recipe on the iCoke mobile website (I KNOW!), and subbed in that Dr. Pepper syrup and a bit of vanilla extract.

I even broke out my frosting tips to decorate these babies and experimented to make it look “frothy” like a bubbly head on an ice-cold DP.

Three frosting style examples...

Frosting style examples…

I gotta say, together, it’s a lot (A LOT) of sweet and a bit of cocoa. Sort of a Dr. Pepper float sort of thing. The recipe needs some tweaking for it to really ring that elusive flavor bell, but for a first shot, it’s pretty good.




Contemplating My Blue(berry) Period

In addition to making things, I like me some sleep. Spring Break boils down to nine whole days of gently waking to howling dogs galloping across the bed and hitting the dog door at breakneck speed in order to holler at the neighbors, who are revving engines of some sort. Much preferable to the screech of the alarm clock.

Last night, I had the presence of mind to move a wee Mason jar full of frozen blueberries from the freezer to the fridge, where they peacefully thawed out overnight and made their way this morning into a lovely batch of blueberry pancakes.

Now, you may think that I visited my foodie guru, Alton, for a recipe, but that’s not true. In this case, I went for my copy of Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. The one I pilfered from my mom’s house. The one with little gold stars and splotches of food on the really good recipes.

It falls open (and sometimes apart) naturally to certain pages, and the pancake recipe is one of them.

Pancakes a la Betty!

Pancakes a la Betty! Notice the batter splotch.

This makes a hefty, thick batter. I thinned it. With some half and half. (don’t judge me)

And I added cardamom. Because I love cardamom, and it goes superbly with berries. Just awesome.

Just pour the batter out into a heated pan and drop the berries in as it cooks.

Photogenically dropped berries, no?

Photogenically dropped berries, no?

Here’s a shot of my whole breakfast cooking: pancakes and coffee and all. Taken because I got bored while waiting for the pancake to bubble…

Yes. Two types of coffee. The regular stuff needs...fortification.

Yes. Two types of coffee. The regular stuff needs…fortification.

The clock reads 9:43, but it feels earlier. Curse you, Daylight Saving Time!

A dot of butter, and my day can begin!



So, to sum up:

  • Sleeping until you wake up: GOOD
  • Remembering to thaw fruit the night before: GOOD
  • Super-duper, old-timey recipe from childhood cookbook: AWESOME
  • Sitting on the couch on a Monday morning with cuddly doggy girls and leisurely enjoying pancakes and coffee: PRICELESS

But it may be time for a nap now…



Please, Sir, Can I Have Samoa?

I deserve a treat. After spending the day with ten teen robotics competitors, I deserve a treat. (I no longer need a drink: we took care of that after the 10-hour competition day. I’m okay there.)

So I deserve a treat. One I can have without leaving the couch. Or my pajamas.

I want cookies. My favorites, though, are Samoas. You might know them as Caramel deLites. The Girl Scouts renamed them. Why, I can’t say, but I do know that I’d rather nosh on cookies named for a lovely, warm, sunny country than a stripper. (Gentlemen! On the center stage! Caramel deeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeLite!)

But I digress. Sue me. It’s pajamas-on-the-couch day. My problem now is that the Girl Scouts, whose presence is ubiquitous at the entrance of grocery stores, do not deliver to my door.

Lucky that I plan ahead. In my fridge: a bag of shredded coconut and a carton of heavy cream. So I can make me some of them there cookies.


They’re nothing more than shortbread cookies with holes in them (Read: Jammy Windows tops!) covered with caramel, sprinkled with coconut, and drizzled with chocolate.


So. Make up a batch of the Jammy Windows shortbread. Cut them ALL into rings, though, and bake them according to the recipe. (But only let the dough rest for an hour or two…this is a cookie emergency.)

While they’re chilling, toast up the coconut. Don’t be alarmed if an alcohol-y, piña-colada-y fragrance wafts tantalizingly from the oven. But keep those eyes on the prize. Burned coconut is no one’s treat. I used a sweetened variety, and so I checked it every two minutes. It browned all of a sudden, just like the good peeps at Bon Appétit warned on their website… Be warned.

Bake up the Jammy Windows rounds…let’s call them shortbread from now on, yes? No jam in these wonders.

Shortbread rounds

Wee lone stars in each. For Texas. Yee haw!

Whilst they cool, make a batch of caramel. I used Martha Stewart Classic Caramel Candies recipe, but only because Alton’s recipe had soy sauce in it. WTF and I’ll make that later.

Almost to the Firm Ball stage. Tee hee.

Almost to the Firm Ball stage. Tee hee.

Mix the toasted coconut into the caramel and let it sit until it reaches a thick, spreadable consistency.


At this point, melt some chocolate and dip the bottoms of the cookies in it then put them on wax or parchment (or a silpat sheet) to set.

Spoon, pour, or spread a thin layer of the coconut/caramel mixture onto each of the shortbread rounds (Remember? We’re not calling them Jammy Windows any more. We decided that earlier. Check if you don’t believe me.) and place them on parchment paper or waxed paper (or silpat) to cool and set.

Once the caramel has set up nicely, melt some chocolate chips — semi-sweet, bitter-sweet, whatev. Drizzle horizontal lines across the cookies. Or just splatter them any which way. You’ve worked hard and waited enough.

Let the chocolate set up and then voilá! Tons of (much cheaper than the boxed variety) lovely, caramelly, coconutty, chocolaty, buttery fabulosity for your pajamas-on-the-couch day. Or breakfast. Again, whatev.


And it was a good plan. I was so confident in my plan that I wrote out the entire process before starting anything!

However. Pride goeth before and all that.

A combination of my new super-heating restaurant-quality pan and a less-than-accurate candy thermometer left me with a thicker, chewier coconut/caramel combo than is easily spread. So I spread it on as many cookies as I could…

It looks, well, Samoa-ish.

It looks, well, Samoa-ish.

…before it seized. Not wanting to throw it all out — it WAS tasty still — I began to roll it into small sticks. Creating something horrifying and wonderful all at the same time!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you (DRUM ROLL)…



Yes. Coconut Turds. Tasty, tasty turdy-looking hard caramel and coconut.

The stuff spread on the cookies hardened into crunchy, tasty disks that popped right off the cookies. So my teacher peeps will be getting plain, tasty, caramel- and coconut-less shortbread cookies tomorrow. Ah, well.

To conclude on a positive note: when you get the itch for some nostalgic, coconutty loveliness, make these cookies. But learn from my mistakes:

  • When you’re making that caramel, heat it ALMOST to the Firm Ball stage (BWAH HAH HAH!!!!) or risk crunchy coconut turd candies.
  • Call the properly make cookies whatever you want.
  • Save considerable money by making them instead of buying the Girl Scout version…then donate all those savings to the Girl Scouts. Win-win.

Now, back to the couch and the Samoas and some serious Netflixing.



Insert Peter Gunn Theme Here…

So I’ve been an absentee blogger lately. But there’s a reason. For real and for true.

But it’s secret.

I’m working on top-secret recipes. Realio, trulio secret cookie recipes. Chocolate cookie recipes. With special ingredients. And patient, honest, understanding victims…er, tasters.

But I thought I could post a follow-up to some of the previous recipes. So here goes:

  1. The applesauce works crazy well with a mix of Braeburn and Pink Lady apples — for applesauce AND butter.
  2. The shortbread part of the jammy windows travels superwell if you freeze them first.
  3. About 5% of the jammy windows don’t form a seal and sort of bleed out. It’s gross but still tasty.
  4. Thanks to the fabulous Stephanie at 52KitchenAdventures and her awesome advice, her Nutella macarons ALSO travel superwell if you freeze them first. (seriously. i took 4 dozen each of the jammy windows and the macarons in my carry-on on a flight from Houston to Pittsburgh and nary a cookie was squished!)
  5. Cookie tables at weddings are the most superlativiest, best things ever and I think they should be incorporated into EVERY get-together, celebration, and meeting EVAR. (see the proof below)

It’s 96 dozen cookies of awesomeness!

Okay. To follow up with five things I added to the recipes and pages, I present to you stuff I’m doing that keeps me away from, well, here:

  1. Those super-secret recipes.
  2. I’m doing NaNoWriMo this month, theoretically with RouBarb as a buddy, though I have 4,048 words to her 0. (not bragging. just a fact. yeah. okay. bragging just a little.)
  3. I just attended one of the most fabuloso weddings I’ve ever seen. Just stupendous.

Just three. In my head, that list seemed MUCH more dramatic. Boo. And with that anticlimactic non-explanatory list, I’m off to write some more, cook some more, and purposefully ignore all predictions on election returns until I wake up in the morning and know for reals who’s president tomorrow.

Laters. And in case you don’t know the reference in the post’s title, I give you the best version of all time. It gives my actions an air of clandestineness…or clandestinity. Not sure. Enjoy.




C is for Macaron*

I’m a bit of a Hermione. I like to learn things. And get them right. And be a bit show-offy about them. Then move on to something else.

So, macarons have recently come to my attention.

Not macaroons, those flavorous lumps of coconutty sweetness.

Macarons. Light, crispy, chewy, soft, luscious, buttercream-sandwiched pillows of heaven. Poncy. Exquisite. Difficult. Well, let’s say difficile, because they are, of course, French. And they are trés difficile.

But I’m a girl who relishes a challenge. Tell me something is near impossible, and I am all over it.

At first, I was mildly intrigued. Saw them on TV. Saw them on Pinterest. Saw them on Martha Stewart’s website. (don’t judge me!) I said to myself, “Hmmm. That might be a hoot.”

Then I tasted one. After that first eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head bite, I was hooked. No longer mildly interested, I now craved these puffy pleasures with a blinding lust. Yes, lust. Have you ever had a sweet little cloud of heaven melt on your tongue? No, you haven’t. But I have. Oh, I have.

But the making of them smacks seriously of effort. After trolling the ‘net for hours and hours, I finally settled on what I found here for a recipe and here for a (FABULOUS) troubleshooting guide and here for a how-to video. I gathered and prepped all my elements and hardware beforehand (thank you for the great advice, video chick!) and voila! Disaster…

Disappointment. No feet. All crackly. *sigh*

The visual hallmarks of a perfect macaron are a shiny, sleek shell and a “foot,” or a pretty, ruffled base. Yeah. Not happening this first time.

Three (sort of) passable cookies.

Three came close…well…close-ish. Meanwhile, I started the second batch.

I’m wary but hopeful…there are wee feet appearing!

Not a total success yet, but better! A marked improvement.


They sort of resemble the top half of a McDonald’s hamburger, but they’re shiny, and they’re smooth, and they have feetGigantic spreading Sasquatch feet, but feet nonetheless!

I made a Nutella buttercream filling for these lovelies that I found here. Yeah, I’m just cannibalizing tons of sites tonight. But it’s worth it for food porn of this quality — look at these!

Ready to pawn off on my teacher peeps!

Next time: lemon macarons with strawberry filling. Oh. Yeah. My new obsession.



*Oh, and here‘s why C is for Macaron. Careful, though. It’ll eat into your brain…

Batten Down the Hatches!

It’s Hatch Chile time here in Texas. Earlier than the rest of the country, apparently. That’s the trade-off for triple-digit heat.

They are dirt cheap. DIRT CHEAP! 97¢ a pound. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t help it. They needed to be cooked and baked and roasted and, of course, canned.

Pretty, pretty pepper (and blurry…)

Two things made up my mind: their dirt-cheapness (versus Dr. Nancy’s info that plain ol’  jalapeños cost $2.79 for a pack of FOUR peppers way up in Canadialand) and their sweet, spicy tastiness that I discovered quite by accident.

I had grabbed a couple on a whim when at my local HEB grocery because they looked to be the perfect size and shape for a recipe I found for Black Bean & Sweet Corn Stuffed Peppers. And they were sweetly hot and smoky and perfectly nom.

Ignore the messy plating. I had some issues transferring it…was purty in the cooking vessel.

This pepper needed to be jellified. Many ways. This morning, I jumped out of bed (figuratively) and ran (again, figuratively) to buy scads of the Hatches.

First: a double batch using the three-pepper lime jelly recipe, sans lime and avec only the Hatch peppers. The plus side is that these lovely peppers are such a gorgeous color — ranging from pale chartreuse (look it up) to a rosy Kelly green — that you don’t need food coloring.

Bubbling and boiling merrily

Not that I’m so inclined. Not a big day-glo green pepper jelly fan.

A couple of notes:

These peppers have only a few seeds, but MAN, they were potent. I had to stop a couple of times because I inhaled while de-seeding and, well, just don’t.

Also, these suckers FOAM. I’ve never made a jelly with so much foam!

Mad dog! Mad dog! GRRRRRRR!

Just make sure to scoop it all away. All of it. This will assure you a lovely crystal green jelly worthy of any occasion.

Pretty, pretty jelly!

Off to roast some of these suckers for a new and different jelly now.



Back in the (curried) Saddle Again

While visiting with Dr. Nancy in the lovely seaside village of St. John’s, we snacked on something called Curried Vegetable Spread. Every afternoon.

She found it at the local Farmers’ Market. This was seriously good stuff. Made by a sweet lady doing business under the name of Soups, Spreads, and Such – St. John’s.

The puzzle

Now, since I came to expect this wonderful mélange of veggies and tastiness AND since I can’t fly almost nine hours to retrieve some, I decided to deconstruct the ingredients and make my own.

There aren’t recipes for this on the web, my friends. At least not where I can find them. Perhaps they hide in dark corners of the Internet, showing themselves to only the most expert of searchers.

Either way, the day after I arrived, I rushed to the store and collected all the ingredients listed on the lid. Then I napped. For about 18 hours. Then, today, I felt the curried monkey on my back. I was jonesing for my afternoon hummus and spread snack… So I made hummus and prepared to attempt the veggie spread…

No more chickpeas. Used them all in the hummus.

Which was tasty…but I needed that curry tastiness. I wanted that spread.

So I began:

Sliced the eggplant on a mandolin first to assist in speedy dicing

See? MUCH easier to dice after the mandoline slicing

Cauliflower chopping — vair difficult to make it uniform

Tomatoes? Much easier to dice to perfection

Cremini? YUM-ini!

I used 1/4 of this seriously ginormous onion

BLORP! Love that sound…

The end result? Just as fresh, just as satisfying despite the differences. Spicier than the original, but tasty nonetheless. Veggies a bit crisper in texture, but fabulous nonetheless.

Here’s the original inspiration:

Super-terrific spread, no? Look at those COLORS!

And my copycat:

The end result! Awfully close, no?

Dr. Nancy, here’s the recipe! I’ll need another obsession now. Besides beer. Ice cider. Yellowbelly. Kayaking…remind me why I left again?



An homard in every pot

Lobster day today. It’s dirt cheap here, and just sitting there in the store, waiting for us to cook it and dip it in butter and suck it down noisily.

Off to the store. Walking. What’s that? WALKING. Seriously. Walked up to the store to get our dinner bugs:

Lobsters in their version of a gladiator’s den…

you shall…BE DINNER!

The choosing finished, our lovely wee lobsters were hospitably collected into a plastic bag…

Hospitably confined…

and taken home to chill in the chill drawer while we gathered supplies.

Sel toujours sec, claw cracker, butter, Quidi Vidi beer, and chocolate: all necessary lobster-cookin’ tools

Time for more prep: 2 1/2 quarts of water in a pot with 5 tablespoons of the sel (that’s salt in French), set it to a boil, then grab the lobsters from the chill bin…

Stunned by the chill and ready to become dinner

…and drop them in head-first…

Thank you to my hand model and co-chef, Dr. Nancy

and boil them for 15 minutes. Unless they’re male. Then cook them for 17 minutes. Good luck to you in finding out before the fact.

A lobster in every pot (this place only had two sort-of-large pots…)

Run them under cold water (ironically, didn’t have ice) to stop the cooking process.

How awesome is this shot, may I ask? Just freaking awesome, I may answer.

All set up with Dr. Who on the telly and tasty lobster dinners on the table. And beer.

Almost didn’t get this shot in. Too excited. Dr. Nancy reminded me.

How gorgeous is this claw?


Did I mention the beer?

Fighting Irish Red: the most non-PC likker in all the land!

And the aftermath…

Oh! The humanity!

And now off for British Butter ice cream at MooMoo’s. Yes. You heard me. Butter ice cream for dessert. Jealous much?



Garbage Day Mung Bean Noodles

Since Dr. Nancy magnanimously bestowed upon me a ticket to Newfoundland, I’ll be winging my way to a magical land where the high temps make Houston lows seem hellish. To be fair, Houston temps don’t need help to feel diabolically hot, but then I’d be sans metaphor, as they say.

I’ve been in a frenzy of buying things and making lists and generally relishing all the anticipation because, well, that’s the best part of visiting a place you’ve never seen before. A place that has icebergs and puffins and whales and lobster sandwiches at Subway.

Let me repeat that last part.


Courtesy of Dr. Nancy

I’ll give you a second to *ahem* digest that.

It just so happens that today is the Day Before Garbage Day (the last garbage day before the vaycay), so I started cleaning out the fridge. All too many things in there had started fuzzing over or evolving into sentient lifeforms since I’ve pretty much been living on yogurt (ever so tasty with a dollop of CrackJam!) and Jell-o pudding cups while waiting for my wisdom tooth-shaped hole to heal over. As usual here in the home of all things ironical, the split second the fridge was empty, I got hungry. But what to do? I didn’t want to buy groceries with the trip a-loomin’, so I took stock of my supplies. Some passable vegetables. One good lime out of seven. (And what’s up with that? Seven limes? What was the thinking there?) A sort-of-desiccated knuckle of ginger and a bulb of garlic seconds away from sprouting roots and flowering. A pack of tofu.

At this point in the list, I’ll pause to mention that the tofu is an anomaly. It is not a typical citizen of Fridge, but a hopeful purchase meant to inspire me to cook and eat more healthful foods. But it was there and within the expiry date. So up on the chopping block with it!

In the pantry, I usually have some noodles of random shapes, sizes, and ethnicity. Right on top of the stack lay a big bag of mung bean noodles, purchased on a whim during a visit to the local Asian supermarket with ChrisTina, La Donna, and Madame JoJo.

So. Stir fry it was.

Drain the tofu. I left mine on a few paper towels to soak up more of the bean curdy juices. Don’t think about that. Tofu is like eggs. If you think too hard about where it comes from and what it is, you’ll probably end up at the drive-thru.

Hello. I’m tofu.

Start soaking the noodles in hot (not boiling) water. I weighted mine down to ensure sufficient toothsome texture and yumminess.

Make the sauce: the leavings of the brown sugar bag (ran out of oatmeal before sugar) – about two tablespoons, the rest of the soy sauce – about three and a half tablespoons, half the ginger knuckle – about 1” – crushed and minced, and one clove of garlic – crushed and minced. To be fair, the garlic clove I picked out was gi-normous. HUGE. Squeeze the lime in there and stir it up.

Sauce fixins

Cut up the vegetables into one inch pieces. I ended up with celery and green onions but no carrots because the carrots had a white, gross, fuzzy texture. They looked like mummy fingers.

Peace out, sez Carrot Mummy Hand

Julienne the tofu. Strip it. I like it that way. Tofu has this tendency to lie there appearing for all the world to be the bastard child of a Dobie scrubber and cottage cheese, and thus it needs help. Toss it into a hot pan with some veggie oil – I opted not to dig in the cabinet for my wok due to the final throes of a screaming migraine that set up camp behind my left eyeball AND because of extreme, hot-summer-day-induced laziness. Let the excess water cook off, then scoop out a bit of the sauce you made. I scraped out the ginger and the garlic to cook up with the tofu. It also tastes a bit like a Dobie scrubber/cottage cheese mutant by itself, so once again, help it!

Help us!

Cook it up until it has some color and is heated through.


Throw in the usable veggies and the rest of the sauce. Stir it up and cook it a bit.

Tasty greens; grotesque carrots

Put in the noodles.

Aren’t they just gorgeous?

Stir it up, put a lid on, and let it cook until everything is heated through.

Then eat it.

Oh, yeah!

I’ve got about four servings left for the next few days…just enough to tide me over until the trip…

Now to heat up the oven so I can bake up a batch of shortbread with the dough I found in the freezer.

Don’t judge me.