I Didn’t Have Any of That So… (Sweet Nothing but Something; Desperation Dessert.)

I giggled because… yes.

You may have never heard about this COVID Cuisine adventure, but a friend FB posited: what is one of the weirdest food combinations that you’ve eaten during sheltering?? (be honest. lol)

I’ll tell you what I told her. It’d be completely dishonest for me to claim my COVID cuisine concoctions differ from my regular, um, creative cooking.

Honestly, though. About a week ago, I stared longingly into my cabinets of mostly health. My general rule is – if I don’t have it, I can’t eat it.

In any case, my jumble of left-over baking bits was mostly from Christmas. 2019.

I had to bring up the stool to reach the high shelf where I put all the should-be-inaccesible temptations. I found partials of: graham cracker crumbs, marshmallows, semi-sweet chocolate chips, vanilla, brown sugar, self-rising flour, regular flour, a box of vanilla pudding, a1/2 bar of Bakers white baking chocolate, two different types of cocoa powder and three different types of sprinkles. 

Among the rediscovered hidden treasures were Tastefully Simple brown sugar salt and blueberry vanilla salt. I was also in possession of an overripe banana, cream cheese, almond milk, butter, two baby apples, honey roasted peanuts and sour cream.

Considered seemingly viable choices lead me to a dismal Google exploration conclusion.

I had almost all the ingredients to make something. Unfortunately, these particular ingredients made nothing. (Nothing normal, anyway.)

Banana Pudding? No wafers

Banana Bread? Not enough bananas.

Cheesecake? No eggs or heavy cream or any type of cream.

Chocolate chip cookies? Sigh, no eggs.

Apple cobbler? No white sugar. Besides the pitiful apples might not even make a cup, leaving more cobbler than apple.

S’mores? No graham crackers, but I did have a couple cups of pre-crushed crumbs.

Where my mind went after about an hour of recipe search:

I can almost make a cheese cake. I don’t have eggs, but I do have an overripe banana. Didn’t I read somewhere once that bananas could replace eggs? Hmm. Suppose I mashed the fruit to replace the eggs? Mashed banana has a tighter consistency than eggs, so it seemed logical to me. Plus, banana cheesecake didn’t sound too bad.

Suppose, I added some chocolate chips? Ooo, banana chocolate chip cheesecake! “Now, we’re getting somewhere,” I announced to Blu. I received a yawn and a “why-did-you-disturb-me?” slow blink of indifference. “Maybe not,” I thought.

“Well, how about a S’mores pie?” If I used the vanilla pudding and powdered cocoa, made a graham cracker crust and plopped some chips and mallows on top? Maybe. Then, I had second thoughts about making a pie because I’d have to eat it. All. By myself.

Aha! I can make mini cakes in my 6-cup pan. There’s some portion control, right there. So, that’s what I did, sort of.

I made graham cracker crust cupcake shells. While those were baking, I slid back to the cheesecake idea. Yeah. That was it. The perfect tasty experiment. I mean, you know, all the pieces were yummy, so…. Banana Chocolate Chip Almost No Bake Cheesecake.

On my quest, I’d come across a tip that indicated using marshmallow fluff in a cheesecake batter helps it firm. I didn’t have any of that. I did have some humidity-melded marshmallows and the forethought to halve the closest recipe I could locate.

Crust (from the box): 1.25 cups graham cracker crumbs, 4 tbs butter

Filling (adapted): 4 oz cream cheese, 1 mashed overripe banana, 1 cup of brown sugar, 1 tsp vanilla.

Topping: 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. (Because that’s all I had.)

I placed each graham cup in one of 5 Pampered Chef small prep bowls. Remember, portion control. I planned on eating the 6th.

Flopped some filling in each, sprinkled chips and considered. Seemed to be lacking something. I still had a hankering for s’mores. So, a glob of mushy marshmallow landed on top.

When I was done assembling, a 15-second microwave run heated the taste-test. For some ridiculous reason, I saw the bowl of gooey goodness and decided to  mix it all up. It wasn’t baaaaaddd. There just weren’t any clear-cut flavors, and the brownish, lumpy presentation was lacking. I ate it.

I tried being a bit more reasonable on Sunday. Heated for same 15 seconds, let cool for a minute and spoon scooped through the layers. There’s no logical reason why it tasted so much better. In fact, I ended up eating two on Sunday. Not back-to-back, though. Portion control.

I’ve got this one on the counter waiting for me to nuke after I finish blogging tonight.

Quote for the Week:

Quarantine Things + A Quarter & A Carrot

  1. According to Imperfect Foods a “conventional carrot” is roughly the size of three quarters round, and equally lengthy as a 12 oz squeeze of honey. Bonus size veggies make me happy to help reduce food waste.
  2. When it comes to HBlu’s cuddle customs– one of us is usually more comfortable than the other. However, Sir Harley of Perpetual Surprise has the most gorgeous saucer greens, so I indulge him.
  3. Fu played “Whatev” for 30 points. Words with Friends seriously isn’t Scrabble.
  4. Oddly, COVID-19 spurred the musical creatives of social media to happily offer personal glimpses, unlimited private room shows and surprising collaboratives.
  5. Food folly. My ugly attempt at Bibimbap was tasty. Trying to pronounce the dish left me amusingly Hanson ear-wormed for two days.
  6. Sweet Un-Success. Picture perfect S’mores cups were absolutely faulty and certainly not the recipe’s. Self-rising flour isn’t fab for cookies. Or Chocolate Chip Cheesecake Bars, either. Texture/Taste: 2 out of 10. Only because you can’t really ruin a marshmallow.
  7. My bulbs bloomed without my help. I did that which I despise: gardened. Over-grown Hostas are split and scattered. Hopefully, they’ll overtake every open space and everything weedy.
  8. There’ve been a plethora of Porch Patrons. A COVID-19 drop and run Wendy’s Frosty from a friend. A new orange suspected stray friend for Blu. I tried to make him stick around by feeding a bit each evening. Then, one Sunday morning around 10:30 AM in broad daylight…. Harley Blu, bless his heart, thought the black and white fellow was another ‘friend.’ For which I am tremendously thankful.
  9. Having a “Let me try and explain this” attitude which other people analogically completely nailed better and with 100% more humor than I would have, since I don’t find the No-Mask morons humorous, at all.
  10. Finally, 16 weekend hours of multiple Acrylic-Pour art fails – last minute salvaged into squared quarter-sized 3/4” mini Rorschach masterpieces with a punch and a skewed eye.

Quote for the Week:

The Way the Crinkle Crumbles

Back to the Crinkles:

The first issue, was that I proceeded to try and puncture the cookie with the toothy strength needed to break through our family tradition of over-caramelized undersides and dry snappy hardness.

As a result, I overly chomped right through the softness and took a mini-chunk out of the inside of my bottom lip. Reflexively, I attempted to shout like hurt people do, “Oh, ow!” Instead, on the inhale, I vacuumed some of the powdery topping (which, being unfamiliar with Crinkles, I didn’t realize was powdered) into my mouth and throat and very upper bronchials.

I spewed forth a spattering cloud of exhaled wheezing, followed by immediate tears; continuing with a deep barking coughing spell that seemed like it was never going to end. Jeff handed me a cup of presumably water, which turned out to be milk. Not fond of straight-up milk, I unhappily expectorated it before it got too far. Jeff’s eyes bugged wide, eyebrows rising toward his hairline in astonishment.

He grabbed a kitchen chair, rolled it over to me and pressed down on my shoulders until I was seated. Firmly patting me on the back, his face mere inches from mine, Jeff alarmedly asked if I was ok. I shook my head ‘no’ at first, but eventually, croaked out that I thought I would be. “Ok.” Jeff bobbed his head, clearing his face of concern. With my hands in his, hope in his eyes, and an adorable earnestness, Jeff took a deep breath, then asked, “So, how’d ya like it?”

He never did make me an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie, but believe me: the ones he made were surely enough. Snickerdoodles and Sour Cream cookies. Buttery Sugar Cookies and melt-in-your-mouth Spritz.

Soft Peanut Butter and rich Scotchies. Potato Chip cookies and Billy Goats. Almond Crescents and Thumbprints. Perfectly spiced Gingerbread, both, soft rounds and firm, but not tooth-breaking, rolled.

Anise Stars, which, without fail, he would purposefully mispronounce, then laugh out loud at his own  joke. No-Bakes, which I firmly argued against calling a cookie.

Later on, and only for us, Jeff spiced cookies with various degrees of heat. Habanero shortbread; dark-chocolate cake-based cayenne. Spicy icing and mini-cheesecakes flavored with an awesome heated line of dessert hot sauces called Toad Sweat. 

Oh, and what turned out to be one of my favorites – Crinkles. I would safely lick most of the sugar off of the pretty tops, before delicately biting to ensure injury-free enjoyment.

Quote for the Week:

2018 12 25 For good measure, the proper ratio of sugar and spice jakorte

Cookie Season

I like cookies. I’d say I love them, but that wouldn’t be fair to cake. Especially, since cookies actually fall third to my super love: donuts!

Oh, who am I kidding? Unless it’s got a walnut or pineapple in it, I’ll eat any cookie that comes my way. It’s Cookie Season, now. I’m plumping up a bit, but that’s what New Year’s resolutions are made of.

Cookies weren’t really varied in my youth. Standard homemade choices were chocolate chip, peanut butter and oatmeal. All crispy, all crunchy, all of the time.

With the exception of rarely made and ridiculously rigid sugar cookies, holiday cookies were softer. Concocted of a cream cheese enriched dough; featuring some sort of jelly, preserves or fruit butter. The same ingredients, just presented differently, depending on the celebration.

I had no complaints as a kid, but Jeff taught me about other confections. My contented hard-cookie horizon expanded to a galaxy of undiscovered soft and chewy treasures.

Jeff made marvelously moist Oatmeal Raisin cookies, often. I once (and only once) requested the addition of chocolate chips. He stared at me in confusion for a beat, then simply stated, “There’s not supposed to be chocolate chips in ’em.”

He didn’t understand rather involved Rugelach, but he made them for me, anyway. Minus walnuts, plus my chocolate chips. As far as I’m concerned, he invented the stunning combination: chocolate & unseeded-raspberry rolls of delight.

I’d never heard of a Crinkle Cookie, until Jeff made them for Christmas. They looked so pretty on a tray: gently sloping, round mounds of contrasting dark dough and a bright white, crack-emphasizing topping.

“Try one,” Jeff encouraged.

“What do they taste like?” I wanted to know.

“Like a chocolate cookie,” he answered matter-of-factly. “Try one.”

Death by Chocolate can be a very real thing. That pastry almost killed me.

Quote for the Week:2018 12 18 What's normal for one is novel for another jakorte

Cookies brought to you by J, T, V & Me.

It’s good to know folks who make cookies. Those who makes cookies are usually good folks!

 

Gingerbread with Broccoli Trees

One of the requirements was that the house be only constructed using edible items.

We’d already purchased chili-shaped red cherry gummies, so I ran down to our store. Of course, as long as I was there, I eyed the stock; evaluating each item for inspiration. Super-Hot Tamales, spicy Red Hots, old-fashioned Fireballs, cinnamon flavored licorice twists and mango-habanero gum, and dried chili peppers piled up on the kitchen counter. I also grabbed a few packets of blueberry habanero cookies and two spicy chocolate bars, for dinner.

Next stop was Country Market. In the baking supply section, I basketed powdered sugar and food coloring. Intending to pick up a few cute mini-tubes of icing, I saw an easier way. Colorful packages of hard icing letters! I grabbed two sets of those, thinking I’d use them to add ‘Michigan Hot Sauce Club’ to the roof.

In the candy aisle, I slowly evaluated every red or green item in the candy aisle. It was disappointing to determine there wasn’t anything especially unique or anything I didn’t already have. I’d seen some adorable trees made by stacking Hershey Kisses, though. I thought they’d be cute even though they weren’t ‘hot’, I picked up one bag of white chocolate peppermint kisses . Just in case I came up creatively short, later. And, in case, I felt like eating some.

“Ok,” I thought to myself. “What food looks like a tree?” Years ago, a young lady who recently became engaged, used to call broccoli ‘little trees.’ When I got to produce, I stopped in front of a bin full of green stalks and crowns. I stood there a while wondering if broccoli would hold up for a week or so, or for however long the house would be on display.

Thinking it probably would wilt, or worse, I also realized I hadn’t come across any broccoli trees on any of the many, many gingerbreads I’d found online. Logically, that made sense. I mean, no kid’d want vegetables on their candy-covered house, right? Still, since my mind was already headed that way, it leaped to jalapenos.

Jalapeno peppers seemed to sturdy. We bought them in large quantities and they lasted a long time at our house. I contemplated that pile and figured out that jalapenos look nothing like trees. I couldn’t even imagine a way to make them into trees, so I sighed and turned the carriage around. That’s when I had an ‘aha’ moment. If I drizzled white icing on them, the wrinkly little habaneros in front of me could turn into snow-covered pine trees. Yeah, it was stretch.

I miss judged how much décor a candy house would need. So, I ran a little short on the idea of using the licorice ropes to resemble logs. I arranged, rearranged and shuffled candies around on the kitchen table for a few hours before I came up with a sweet plan. Done with the decorating, I stood back and shook my head. The Hot House looked nothing like I’d imagined. I knew I wasn’t going to be entering it into any contest, that was for sure.

When I revisited the mess the next evening after work, it honestly didn’t look as horrible as I thought it had. The structure had held together, was kinda cute and definitely unique.  I knew there wasn’t going to be another theme’d like it. I knew it wasn’t likely I’d be winning any awards for construction or beauty, but, maybe, it would at least be amusing. I know Jeff would’ve laughed, so I took my entry downtown.

Somewhere amongst my belongings, is a red ribbon that reads, “People’s Choice Award” and an old camera card with a color picture…

Jeff Hot House Gingerbread House