It’s (Almost) Girl Scout Cookie Time [thin mint brownies]

I posted an Instagram the other day, in which it was revealed, that yes, I still have two boxes of Thin Mints in my pantry.  Two boxes!  People were shocked.  The truth is, Tagalongs are my great weakness in life, but I can take or leave a Thin Mint.

Until you tell me they can be crushed up and made into icing for brownies.  Brownies!  I just got that.

img_6730To make a batch, you will need:

  • 1 (16.5 oz) box Devil’s Food Cake mix
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 (9 oz) bag mint chocolate chips
  • 1 (9 oz) box Thin Mints (about 30 cookies)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 (12 oz) bag mini chocolate chips*
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×13 baking dish with aluminum foil and coat generously with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. With a mixer, beat cake mix, eggs, and melted butter until well combined. Then stir in mint chocolate chips until evenly distributed. Press into the bottom of prepared pan, and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes until the edges have just set. Allow to cool completely.
  3. For the frosting, crush the cookies in a Ziploc bag into fine crumbs. With the mixer again, beat the cookie crumbs, powdered sugar, and softened butter for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Spread over cooled brownies and top with mini chocolate chips. Cut into squares and serve.

*By the time all was said and done and I got these made, I didn’t think the extra chips on top were necessary.  I love these with just the brownies and icing.

This New Thing We’re Doing [cranberry apple cake]

Dear readers, I didn’t mean to abandon you, especially not during this, my most epic food week ever.
Except it seems that’s exactly what I’ve gone and done.
I have done 0 work to prepare for Thanksgiving.  And it’s Wednesday!  Thanksgiving is tomorrow!  I need to go grocery shopping. I’m on dessert duty at my in-laws on Thursday, and then I’ll make our little family a mini Thanksgiving on Friday (turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and whatever leftover dessert we walk away with from the afternoon prior).
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If you need a little something different on your Thanksgiving dessert table, may I suggest Ina’s easy cranberry and apple cake?
My husband has taken to making a little something each weekend, and this was on the agenda the other day.  We devoured it.  It’s like pie filling with a simple cake on top.
Hope your Thanksgivings are filled with whomever it is you’re most thankful for.
To make cranberry apple cake, you will need:
12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

All of Our Dinners [tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons]

Over the past couple of weekends, my husband and I have been poring over Ina’s cookbooks (more on this later).  This is a first for him, but not so much for me.  At one point in his perusal, he remarked, “These are all of our dinners!”

Astute observation, honey.

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Our most recent Barefoot Contessa dinner was her tomato and orzo soup with grilled cheese croutons.  I first enjoyed it on a lunch date with my longtime friend Sarah, and was so pumped to find I had all the ingredients I needed (save for saffron) to make it at home.  It was on the table only two evenings later.

To make soup for 4, you will need:

3 tablespoons good olive oil
3 cups yellow onions, chopped fine (2 onions)
1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
Large pinch of saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orzo
1/2 cup heavy cream
Grilled Cheese Croutons (see below)

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the chicken stock, tomatoes, saffron, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, fill a medium pot with water, add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a boil. Add the orzo and cook for 7 minutes. (It will finish cooking in the soup.) Drain the orzo and add it to the soup. Stir in the cream, return the soup to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve hot with Grilled Cheese Croutons scattered on top.  This is a simple as making your favorite grilled cheese, and cutting it into bite-sized pieces.

Currently

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Making: lists, so things get dumped out of my brain (and remembered).
Cooking: lots of meals, but never quite on the day I think I’m going to.
Drinking: OJ to combat the sniffles.
Reading: You’ll Grow out of It, by Jessi Klein.
Wanting: what else? To spruce up the house in a couple of places
Looking: at floating shelves (see above)
Playing: the Hamilton mixtape songs
Deciding: whether or not the flowers on the counter will last a couple more days
Wishing: my Facebook feed would settle down already. 
Enjoying: Sugarfina treats from AGOMYR.  She’s too good to me.
Waiting: for a chance to catch up on Jane the Virgin and Barefoot Contessa
Liking: that I’ve still got the windows open in mid-November!
Wondering: the best way to start organizing the pantry.
Loving: getting dressed in the morning. I can’t even believe I said that. 
Pondering: what Christmas will look like. 
Considering: a party where I invite people to come over to use up all my leftover disposable paper plates, cups, and napkins from other parties.  Does this happen to anyone else?
Watching: Jane the Virgin. I’m behind a couple of episodes. 
Hoping: I can pull off all the new dishes I want to try this Thanksgiving. 
Marveling: at the way all my holds come in at the library at the exact same time and then I have three weeks to get through 47 books.
Needing: deep breaths.
Smelling: nothing, because of those aforementioned sniffles.
Wearing: sneakers, always.
Following: the flow, a la Jess Lively
Noticing: that food brings people together. 
Knowing: this year the Christmas sheets will go on the bed early.
Thinking: of gift ideas already. 
Feeling: content. 
Admiring: patience in others.
Sorting: baby clothes.
Buying: baby clothes.
Getting: posts together for a meal planning series – 2017, dear readers!
Bookmarking: recipes, always. 
Disliking: how when I read multiple books at once, I rarely finish any. 
Praying: for families who aren’t looking forward to the holidays. 
Opening: too many tabs online. 
Giggling: over every last Joe Boden meme out there. 
Snacking: on sour cream and onion chips, my true weakness. 
Coveting: M.Gemi shoes. 
Wishing: for a couple new kitchen tools. 
Helping: organize a couple of events. 
Hearing: 

Adding Sweetness to your Day [donut bread pudding]

If you’re ready for something to completely coat your teeth in sugar, then dear readers, a glass of milk is your happy home today.

I hosted a baby shower for AGOMYR this weekend, and as a result, ended up with a half dozen leftover Krispy Kreme donuts.  Donuts are a rare fried food that I can (usually) walk right by and pass up, so they just sat in a container on my counter for a couple days.  Until I remembered Pinterest had recipes for donut bread pudding.

Bingo!

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This was breakfast this morning.  It’s probably the most indulgent thing I’ve ever eaten.  You know that fuzzy feeling on your teeth when you’ve consumed more sugar than should ever be allowed?

You don’t?  Nah, me neither.

To make a small casserole, you will need:

  • butter for greasing the pan
  • a half dozen donuts, chopped into sixths
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 C milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 can sweetened, condensed milk

Butter an 8 x 8 casserole dish.  Add donuts.  In a bowl, beat eggs, milk, vanilla, and condensed milk till combined.  Pour over donuts and let that goodness get soaked up a bit (I left mine covered in the fridge overnight).  Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

Thursday Check In – Something New I’m Trying

Earlier this summer, Apartment Therapy told us that we should never ever say we’re sorry when we have guests over.  And then their sister site, The Kitchn went and jump started everyone’s fall with a crappy (on purpose!) dinner party.

cookies and cream puff pastry donuts.:

i really want this.:

And so I did it.  I stopped saying I was sorry.  I had friends over for coffee and I didn’t say anything about the volume of Gooplet’s toys still on the floor.  The dinner I had to order for a group didn’t work out exactly the way I planned, but I didn’t apologize for bringing what was my second choice. I ordered a crazy caloric dish at brunch*, and made no comments about it being a cheat-day, or having a salad for dinner, or some such nonsense.  I ran into someone at the grocery store.  I wasn’t dressed.  I didn’t immediately bring it up.  It’s kind of freeing.  Dare you.

*And while we’re discussing indulgent brunch dishes, let’s discuss Jessica’s Cookies and Cream Puff Pastry Donuts, or Love and Olive Oil’s Fruit Loops French Toast, shall we?

Slices of Internet

she's my everything.
(She’s my fall goals. She’s from Tuckernuck.)

  1. Food 52’s cooking club tips weren’t what I expected them to be.  Love this idea. (via Joy the Baker)
  2. I’m simultaneously cracking up, and adding a couple of these books to my Amazon cart.
  3. Happiness.  Schools.  Yes, yes, and yes to this.
  4. Shutterbean led me to Motherwell, and I’m down a rabbit hole of articles.  So fascinating.  So real.
  5. And speaking of Shutterbean, she’s doing some good television watching.
  6. Just added kettle chips to my grocery list so I can make cacio e pepe potato chips.  Simple and brilliant.
  7. These are my fave (SJP forever, duh)
  8. John and Sherry just mentioned this book on the Young House Love podcast.  I had passed it by before, but now I’m intrigued.  The author basically had a panic attack live on The Today Show, and took a series of small steps to chill out.  And then wrote a book about it.
  9. Two words: Dannon Sprinkl’ins #memories
  10. Just skip right down to the part with grilled cheese crumbs.
  11. Putting this on next week’s meal plan, just to make sure I’m leaving no noodle unturned.  Or something.

Halloween Beans [frankenbeans]

Just about a month ago, I made How Sweet’s slow cooker bourbon baked beans, and they left me wanting something a little more timeless.  And then shortly after that, my new favorite book ever, How to Celebrate Everything arrived, and within the first couple of pages, out popped the classic baked beans recipe everyone needs in his or her arsenal.  She makes hers on Halloween for her great launching of the children, and we used ours in much the same vein.

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I followed Jenny’s recipe in terms of ingredients, but took her oven baked beans to the stove top.  She calls for these to sit in the oven for 5 hours, which sounds so dreamy, but I wasn’t going to be home for 5 straight hours on Halloween.*  As you can read in the recipe below I kept my pot on the stove all day, turning it on and off as I came and went.

These are a classic, and a new Halloween staple in our house, to be sure.

To make beans for 4-6 people, you will need:

  • 1 lb. dry navy beans
  • small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 C maple syrup (the real stuff, please)
  • 1/4 C ketchup (why yes, I did use this)
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 T spicy brown mustard
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 thick strip bacon
  • boiling water
  • 4 hot dogs, cut into rounds

At least one day before you need the beans: Soak beans overnight (cover with water in a pot and leave them on your counter).

This next step can be done the day before, or the day of: Bring water to a boil and let beans cook till tender, about 1 hour.  Drain.  If you’re not using them right away, put them in a container, seal it tightly, and refrigerate till you need ’em.

The day of: Bring a pot of water to a simmer.  In another large pot, combine onion, maple syrup, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, salt, pepper, bacon strip (yes, uncooked!) and whisk around a little bit.  Add beans, and just enough simmering water to cover.  Let that cook on the stovetop.  For as long as you want.  Keep adding water to keep everything just covered.  I probably simmered mine about 2 or 3 hours in the morning, another hour in the afternoon, and even another hour or two before we enjoyed them.

*Side note: Halloween as a parent?  Holy fun!  But holy exhausting!

Cookies and Kindness

I wanted so badly to have a cookie recipe to share today, but I made these cookies, and they were a total bust.  They weren’t Dorie’s cookies, hers would never be a bust.

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I will still tell you about Cookies and Kindness, this campaign that Dorie launched just in time for her cookie cookbook to come out.  It’s so simple, and so brilliant.

Bake cookies.

Spread kindness.

The end.

While I won’t be surprising anyone with these bummer peanut butter cookies, check back in here between now and New Years and we’ll see if I can’t come up with a couple of ways to participate.

Thursday Check In – Two Things

I’ve talked at length about my love of Whitney English and her Day Designer.  She ran a series on planning on both Periscope and Facebook Live that I enjoyed over a series of nap times.  I highly recommend it if you’re someone who is either a) already super into planners and schedules and systems, and that kind of thing or b) someone who maybe wishes they were, but needs more information.

Regardless of where you fall on that continuum, Whitney said two things that I couldn’t get over.  Like, already changing my life, couldn’t get over.


(via)

If it takes more than 20 minutes, it’s not a to-do, it’s a project.  Holy moly, people.  As a lifelong list maker, this one is a game changer.  And perhaps the answer to why a lot of my to-do’s remained undone at the ends of my days.  Twenty minutes is a reasonable amount of time for me to dedicate to almost anything on a given day.  Your number of minutes might be different.  But figure out what seems like a good amount of time to cross something off your list, and call anything that takes less time a to-do.  If it will take longer than that time, it’s a project, and you’ve gotta break that **** down.

I needed to order dinner for a group of 25 for an upcoming evening, and I knew exactly where it would come from and the specific foods I wanted.  I put the call in and it was done in 20 minutes.  To-do.  And I know that my on-going kitchen/pantry/dining room reorganizing is a project.  It’s a huge task, and would never make an appearance on a daily to do list.  But.  There are some in-between sized tasks that masqueraded as to-do’s, but were actually projects once I snapped awake and listened to Whitney.  So when I write “swap out Gooplet’s closet” on my to-do list, I’m setting myself up to fail.  I don’t have the uninterrupted time it takes to get that done.  I need to break it down.  Sort T-Shirts, sort pants, get out long sleeved outfits, store summer outfits, size up in PJs, etc.  Those I can do here and there, and with enough smaller chunks of time, the project will be done.

Schedule 30 minutes into each day to work on a project you’ve been avoiding.  Which for me, right now, is the ongoing struggle to get things that don’t belong in certain rooms out of said rooms.  It’s daunting.  It involves a million more trips up and down stairs than I care to take. It’s completely overwhelming.  This little sparkly piece of advice kicked my butt into gear, and also made me think of Elise.  Just start.  Also Mary Poppins. “Well begun is half done.”

Now, each day, I set my phone timer for 30 minutes and walk around the house, moving crap from one room to another.  That’s so much less daunting than thinking, I really should work on that giant project I don’t want to spend hours working on. About half the time, that 30 minutes ends and I am over it.  I move on with my life.  And the other half of the time, I keep going, not too much longer, but long enough to make a bit more headway.  And after only 7 days of chipping away, I’m so much farther along than I imagined I’d be at this point.

Got any other tips on making projects happen, dear readers? You could give me my next life-changer!