So much catching up to do!

I “won” National Novel Writing Month and am now trying very hard to prepare for Christmas. That involves a lot of crafting. Otherwise, here’s what we’ve been up to:

  1. No Advent calendar here. We do a gingerbread sacrifice manger: whenever you offer something up to Jesus, put a “straw” (strip of yellow paper) into the manger, and that will make a nice, soft bed for Jesus when he is born.
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  2. For the eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas, our Wednesday Dessert were some well-intentioned but badly executed “Saint Nicholas Miter Cupcake.” I used this recipe for vegan white cake, and then I added red food coloring too late in the recipe to make anything but a pink marble cake. Then, somebody on Pinterest said that if you put marshmallows on top of you cupcakes in the last five minutes of baking, you’ll have self-iced cupcakes. Again, well-intentioned but badly executed, to the point that I’ve considered submitting the results to Pinstrosity.
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    Well, they were ugly as anything, but they did taste good.

  3. I’ve been known to go through cooking phases. The current phase seems to be called How to Stretch One Can of Black Beans Across Two Meals for Five People. Last week we made a black bean spread for lunch (black beans, minced garlic, some olive oil and lemon juice all smashed together), then mixed the leftovers all up in lieu of the refried beans in our Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie, and we served that for dinner. We had some friends over, and even my self-proclaimed “picky hick” friend liked it.
  4. Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the day that you can honor Our Lady’s first visit to the Americas by eating chocolate. I told the kids the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe while making hot chocolate.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Heavenly Hot Chocolate

approximately 3/4 c chopped chocolate
3 T butter
3 c whole milk
Optional: marshmallow creme, blue and yellow sprinkles

Melt the chocolate and butter together in a saucepan over low heat to make a ganache, stirring constantly. Whisk in milk until blended and heated through. Pour into mugs and top with a dollop of marshmallow creme, representing Mary’s purity, come to Earth to be the Mother of God, and come later to the home of chocolate to be the Mother of the Americas. Sprinkle with blue and yellow sprinkles, representing Our Lady of Guadalupe’s blue mantle with the yellow stars.

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This was so rich that even I couldn’t finish mine, and that’s saying something. It reminded me of how heaven is so rich that we need to trust that God will give us only as much of it as we need here for our lives now.

 

Black-and-white “Magic” Cupcakes for St. Albert the Great

We’re a Dominican household: a bunch of rosary-praying nerds who can never choose between silence or blabbermouthing, so all Dominican saints, especially great ones, are cause for celebration around here. St. Albert the Great has a special place in my heart because my Dominican name is Thomas Aquinas; we all cultivate a special affection for our favorite teachers. St. Albert Magnus is also pretty special to us because Mr. Mackerelsnapper is a scientist by trade.

We used this recipe here for “Black Magic Cake.” I halved the recipe for starters, eyeing up the flour and cocoa powder so we had enough dry ingredients. Even halved, this recipe made 18 standard size cupcakes, so keep that in mind. Alors, comme ça:

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They were done in 15 minutes baking at 350F. Cool before icing. The icing is just your basic Betty Crocker Cookbook White Mountain Frosting. It’s the only kind of icing that Middle Dumpling will eat these days. So between making the cupcakes, the icing, the fried rice for dinner, the NaNoWriMo-ing, and then dashing out to choir, the kitchen looked like some sort of set for a disaster movie.

Thank you, Mr. Mackerelsnapper, for remedying that situation. And believe me, it was quite a situation.

Now, you ask, why would a good Dominican mom, faithful to the Magisterium, feed her children something called “magic” cupcakes, for heaven’s sake? Because, my friends, St. Albertus Magnus was called a “magician” by those who didn’t understand science. These cupcakes are “magically” light and fluffy. How? Through the MAGIC of SCIENCE! The acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda and creates essentially the same froth that you saw when you made your grade school papier mache volcano, trapping those tiny bubbles in a web of rich, chocolately goodness. St. Albert didn’t have time for magic. He learned and taught science as a way of appreciating God’s creativity.

The Dominican colors are black and white. Why? I mean besides the dog thing. Because when you have God’s light in your life, you don’t need to fear the darkness. Science is just the study of how things work, not the meaning of why they work or what they mean.

Thanks, Catholic Memes.

 

Wednesday Dessert: Ss. Cosmas & Damian Healer Cookies

Phew! Where did this week go?

First, another request to vote regarding the Lent 2013 Challenge if you haven’t already done so:

Last Wednesday’s dessert night took place on the feast of Saints Cosmas & Damian. I asked First Shift for ideas on what dessert we could make that would honor a pair of twins who were doctors. They said “made [insert brand name bandage here]-shaped cookies.” So we did. We took a shortbread cookie recipe, molded the dough into a square on a baking stone, dragged a knife across the middle of the raw dough, then slowly dragged the knife perpendicular to that, making narrow bar shapes. Then the kids poked forks repeatedly in the middle of each bar.

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Like this

We baked the bars according to the recipe directions, allowed them to cool, then broke them along the score lines.

What do I love about Cosmas & Damian? They were doctors who healed the poor for free. So often, I feel like gung-ho Catholics think that, unless I’m doing, you know, ministry, then I’m not doing ministry. Saints Cosmas & Damian weren’t priests. They didn’t have a music ministry. They weren’t preachers. They didn’t have any money (in fact, they were called “the silverless”). They just did their rather secular jobs in an extraordinary way. That drew people to God’s love.

Do what you love with love, and that is ministry.

“So… is that the good Korea or the bad Korea?”

Don’t mind me. In my little world, there’s no such thing as a gratuitous Lost reference, even less so a gratuitous Hurley reference. I love how Sun handled that, too.

Today is the feast of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions. St. Andrew was the first Korean to be ordained a priest. I like the story of Catholicism in Korea because it was started not by a bunch of rabid priests who were in it for the money or something, as our culture would like to have us believe. Catholicism was brought to Korea by laypeople. I’m reasonably confident they were not rabid. Laypeople make a difference. You don’t need a collar to proclaim to all nations.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon was captured for the crime of being a Catholic, refused to recant, and so we celebrate his courage. Our family celebrated the eve of this feast yesterday with a Korean-inspired dessert porridge. I’ve only ever had Korean food once; it was fantastic, but I don’t remember any sweets at the end. What I do remember is poor Mr. Mackerelsnapper being served an octopus beak, and the Chinese-Canadian in attendance laughed at him for it, remarking something about, “What is it with Caucasians not wanting to eat anything with a head still on it?” Hey! Is that any worse than Brazilians thinking that eating meat off the bone is barbaric? But I love chicken wings! We’re all a little weird here on this globe.

That brings me to how weird I felt about making a dessert… soup. I’ve never made Korean anything before, so I had to do some research. Googling “Korean desserts” led me to Beyond Kimchee, a blog of Korean cooking. On there is a recipe for hobaak jook, a pumpkin porridge thickened with rice. As it’s just starting to turn seasons here, the flavors seemed perfect, but not only had I never made Korean food before, I’d never made a dessert porridge. I was intimidated to say the least. But as I read the recipe, I realized it was similar to Chinese congee, which I have made before. Once I got past that fear, the rest was easy. So, inspired by Beyond Kimchee’s recipe for hobaak jook, I bring you:

St. Andrew Kim Taegon Slow Cooker Pumpkin Porridge

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1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced into 1/2″ slices
1 cup cooked rice (all we have is jasmine, so I used that; if you have sweet rice available, I bet that would rock)
3 thin slices of peeled, fresh ginger root
2 tablespoons shredded sweetened coconut
5 c water
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Place the first give ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low 5-6 hours.

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Add the sugars, then puree all ingredients together; if you have a stick blender, use that, but if not, pour it into a large food processor.

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If you don’t have either, and you also don’t have arthritis, according to our friend at Beyond Kimchee, you can mash it all together with a fork or other hand-masher.

The coconut and vanilla were additions of mine to the original recipe, as was the slow cooker method. Both cooking and faith have that in common: we can add flavors of our own cultures but still have true nourishment. I love the  statue of St. Andrew Kim Taegon that wiki shows. If my memory of Chunhyang is correct, the hat St. Andrew wears is the hat worn by noble scholars. St. Andrew was surely a courageous and noble priest. We all need more of those in our world, regardless of where we live.

 

 

 

Wednesday Dessert: Miryam Cookies

Last Wednesday was our first choir night and Wednesday Dessert of the year. It was also the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. First Shift of Kids had also requested to find a kind of cookie that Second Shift (who just turned 2 1/2) could help make without endangering herself or driving them crazy. That’s a tall order and a lot of ground to cover with one recipe.

What cookie can a toddler help make? Aggression Cookies came to mind, but how would one tie that in with the Blessed Mother? The Holy Spirit knows how. Since he let me in on it, I’ll let you in on it, too. Thanks to TMCHAPMAN for sharing the link above. I’d rate the recipe on sparkpeople if I had the time to get yet another login to yet another site.

Miryam Cookies for the feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary

First, gather your ingredients

1 c butter, softened (if you’re really looking to make your kids work, give them frozen butter–ha!)
1 c whole wheat flour
2 c quick oats
1 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips

Then, talk to your children about how the first girl in the Bible named Mary was not the Blessed Mother! It was Miryam, Moses’ big sister, the one whose job it was to watch over the savior of her people. Then spend a minute daydreaming with your kids about how Sts. Joachim and Anne named their daughter Miryam; did they just like the name? Did they get direct divine instruction to name her Mary? Or did they intentionally name their daughter after a girl whose job it was to protect and nurture the savior?

Next, preheat your oven to 350F. Then have the kids wash their hands and dump the first five ingredients above into the biggest bowl you can find (keep the chocolate chips for later). Now its the kids’ job to pound, smash, smoosh and moosh all the ingredients together in a bowl, just like Miryam and Moses’ people had to smash ingredients together to make clay during their enslavement (charoset, anyone?). Once all those ingredients are mixed together, roll into 1″ balls and place on baking sheets, about 1″ apart. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven but allow to cool COMPLETELY on the cookie sheets before removing. When I say completely, I mean COMPLETELY, or you’ll have a hot, crumbly mess of molten, sugared oatmeal on your now-blistered hands.

No, I’ve never ignored that direction in the past. Why do you ask?

While all these things are cooling, tell your kids that the name Miryam means “bitter.” Bitter! That’s not a very nice name for your baby girl! Well, remember, when Moses’ big sister was born, life for the Israelites was pretty bitter. They weren’t free. I’ve also read (years ago) that the Miryam “bitter” translates to something more like “bitterly desired.” Miryam’s parents bitterly desired freedom for their children. Anne and Joachim desired that and, well, just a child to begin with.

Both Miryam and the BVM covered up the savior of their people. So now we’re going to use semi-bitter chocolate (read: semi-sweet) to cover up our cookies. Transfer cooled cookies to either silicone mats, parchment or waxed paper.

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Melt the chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 second until the chocolate drips slowly from a spoon.

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Or a knife.

Allow chocolate topping to cool before eating. Enjoy! And enjoy celebrating the name Mary!

PS: Gluten free? Try subbing more oats for the flour. Vegan? Use your favorite vegan margarine and make a rice milk and cocoa glaze.

 

 

Perseverance Ice Cream

I read this idea ages in some family magazine, and I’ve been waiting for ages to try it.  The opportunity came with our Little Flowers Girls Club meeting this afternoon.  Our saint for the meeting was St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and our virtue was perseverance.

You’ll need:

2 gallon-sized zip top bags
enough ice to fill one of the bags about 2/3 full
1/3 c salt
1/2 c milk
1/4 c sugar
1/2 t vanilla extract

This might be obvious, but put the ice and the salt in one bag.  Pour the milk, sugar and vanilla into the other bag.  Place the ice cream bag inside of the ice-salt bag, removing as much air as possible from each bag.  Have a child shake, squish and roll the bag around until the ice cream solidifies inside.  Discard the ice-salt bag and either pour the ice cream into a bowl or, if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous than that, eat it right out of the bag with a spoon.

This is a great lesson in hanging in when things get tough (or when your hands get numb), as long as we keep in mind that all our troubles and pain will result in something sweet and wonderful–a good lesson for the Christian walk.

Ash Wednesday Seitan Parmesan, and Feeding the Really Hungry

Originally we were going to do pretzels and cheese, so we could start Lent with our annual family Pretzel Catechesis. But we have people coming over for dinner on Saturday, and those people requested pretzels for dinner (!), so I had to shift a few things around. It feels a little weird to be frying something on Ash Wednesday, but it’s perfectly legit as far as I know. Then again I’m a hypoglycemic who hasn’t eaten much today, so forgive me a little brain fog?

Seitan Parmesan
6 seitan “cutlets”, patted dry and cool to the touch
1/2 c flour
2 t paprika
1 t salt
1 t garlic powder (optional)
pinch black pepper
1/2 c milk
3 T oil of your choosing (we’re down to a whisper of EVOO, so I had to use palm shortening & butter)
1 c tomato sauce
1/2 c shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine flour, paprika, salt, garlic, and pepper on a plate. Dredge cutlets in flour, then dip in the milk, then dredge back in the flour and let dry on a rack for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy skillet, then panfry cutlets until golden brown on each side. Place browned cutlets on a baking sheet and spread each with some of the tomato sauce, topping with cheese. Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.

To veganize: dip cutlets in rice milk while breading, panfry in EVOO and palm shortening, use nutritional yeast or other cheese substitute for the topping.

Review: we’re having power struggles with the toddler right now, but she ate several bites. Oldest kid said she liked it but didn’t eat more than one bite, filling up on spaghetti instead. Middle child cleaned her plate and split the last piece with Mr. Mackerelsnapper. I liked them, but I had one of those brain-cloud things where my brain was unhappy that my eyes were saying “veal parmesan” but my tastebuds were saying, “nope, not veal.” So I was wigging out very slightly on some level. Oh, and after dinner, we had our Wednesday Just Desserts:

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Now, a question for those who make their own seitan more often than I have (this is my third attempt). I make my own vegetable stock from leftover vegetable parts, heavy on the broccoli stems. Is the broccoli the explanation why my house stinks to high heaven on stock-making days? Ugh. It smells like an armpit, only without the charm.

King Cake and Queen Pasta

Last night’s dinner was our “farewell to bacon” meal.  The kids voted for Pasta Carbonara (aka “bacon noodles”) over Breakfast for Dinner.  I did things a little differently than usual, because I wanted to use up egg whites left over from the King Cake.  Speaking of King Cake, I started that first and let it all rise before getting on to the cooking of dinner, so I should should probably start with sharing the recipe for…

Bread Machine King Cake

1/2 c warm milk
1/4 c melted butter
2 egg yolks (save the whites for carbonara!)
2 c bread flour
1/4 c white sugar
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1 T instant yeast

Add all the above to your bread machine and set on dough cycle.  When cycle is completed, roll dough out into a log about the length of your forearm and join into a circle.  Cover and let rise 30-45 minutes, then bake at 375F for 25-35 minutes, or until it makes a nice, hollow sound when tapped firmly.  While it cools, make your….

Pasta Carbonara
Enough pasta to serve four (sorry, I tend to eye this up)
2 egg whites at room temperature
1 egg at room temperature
1 T milk
1/2 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
8 strips of bacon, crisp & crumbled
1/4 c shredded parmesan cheese (don’t be shy–use more if you like)

While pasta is boiling, whisk together egg whites, egg and milk.  Immeditately upon draining cooked pasta, pour egg mixture into the same (empty) pot used to boil the pasta, then immediately dump the still-hot pasta onto the egg mixture.  Stir briskly until the egg congeals (put the heat back on low for a bit if necessary).  Add pepper, bacon and cheese and toss before serving.

After you’re done eating, mix together 1 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar, 2 T lemon juice, 1 T water,  and 1/2 t vanilla extract until smooth.  Drizzle this over your cooled king cake.  Then sprinkle yellow, purple and green sugar over the glaze.  Don’t have those colors?  Put one T of plain white sugar into a plastic baggie, add a few drops of your desired food color, and have the kids shake it like a Polaroid picture (while you explain to them what a Polaroid picture is) and voila!  Colored sprinkling sugar on the cheap. 

I’d enlighten you all about the history of the New Orleans king cake, the colors thereon, and how to do the “bean” thing inside it, but the baby just woke from her nap, so go make friends with Google.

T-minus 5 days: The Lent 2012 Schedule

I’m getting ready to go shopping for my first (well, partial) week of the Lent 2012 Challenge. I’m posting this here for two reasons (that I can think of). One: it’s going to help me get my head together for this wholly unfamiliar way of grocery shopping. For instance, out here in the far eastern branch of the Bible Belt, the week leading up to Ash Wednesday is the week of the THREE DAY MEAT SALE EXTRAVAGANZA!!!!! So I have to reset the brain to turn down that bulk pack of 99cent/pound chicken breasts (ouch!) and instead pick up vital wheat gluten, eggs and so on. Two: What I’m hoping to do is regularly update this post with links to each recipe, so if you want to try this at home, but not on the same schedule, you can just click the link and get the recipe you need.

This “schedule” is by no means written in stone. Expect changes. I’m telling you that as much as I’m telling myself

Also, here’s the thing about Wednesday “Just Desserts.” For those of you just joining us, our family can’t have dinner together on Wednesday nights because First Shift of Kids has choir practice around the time Mr. Mackerelsnapper gets home from work. So we usually eat dinner separately and then share dessert (the “real” most important meal of the day). Much to my surprise, First Shift of Kids really wants to keep to the PreVII rules, to the point that they have volunteered to skip snack time at school. So we put our heads together and came up with “Wednesday Just Desserts.” Each Wednesday, we will still eat our dinners separately, but after choir, instead of eating dessert together, we will work on a family service project focusing on one of the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy.

  • Saturday, February 18: Last Hurrah Weekend Challah Donut Breakfast!
  • “Fat” Tuesday, February 21: Bread Machine King Cake Dessert
  • ASH WEDNESDAY, February 22: Seitan Parmesan & Spaghetti
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Feeding the Hungry
  • Thursday, February 23: Eggplant Curry Couscous
  • Friday, February 24: Stromboli bake-n-take (with our Little Flowers Girls Club)
  • Saturday, February 25: Pretzels & Cheese
  • Sunday, February 26: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, February 27: Breadbowl Thing
  • Tuesday, February 28: Falafel & Pita
  • Wednesday, February 29: Good Friday Soup
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Give Drink to the Thirsty
  • Thursday, March 1: Tuna Alfredo
  • Friday, March 2: Shrimp Risotto
  • Saturday, March 3: Potato-Cheese Bake
  • Sunday, March 4: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 4: Eggplant Parmesan
  • Tuesday, March 6: Mediterranean Garlic Shrimp
  • Wednesday, March 7: Baja Fish Tacos
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Clothe the Naked
  • Thursday, March 8: Roasted Veggie Penne
  • Friday, March 9: Fisherman’s Catch Slowcooker Chowder
  • Saturday, March 10: Leek & Mushroom Quiche
  • Sunday, March 11: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 12: Pancakes
  • Tuesday, March 13: Calzones
  • Wednesday, March 14: Wild Mushroom Soup
    Wednesday Just Dessert: House the Homeless
  • Thursday, March 15: Ratatouille
  • Friday, March 16: Grilled Salmon
  • Saturday, March 17: Feast ofSt.Patrick! McMeatfeast TBD
  • Sunday, March 18: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 19: Feast ofSt. Joseph! Meatfeast TBD
  • Tuesday, March 20: Linguine & Clams
  • Wednesday, March 21: Black Tie Taco Beans
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Visit the Sick
  • Thursday, March 22: Pizzas
  • Friday, March 23: Obatzda
  • Saturday, March 24: Omelets
  • Sunday, March 25: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday, March 26: Vegetable Lasagna
  • Tuesday, March 27: Crumb Salmon
  • Wednesday, March 28: Alfredo Pizza
    Wednesday Just Dessert: Visit the Imprisoned
  • Thursday, March 29: Shrimp-n-Grits
  • Friday, March 30: Fish’n’chips
  • Saturday, March 31: Seitan Burgers
  • Palm Sunday, April 1: MEATFEAST TBD
  • Monday of Holy Week: Chickpea Rice Pilaf
  • Tuesday of Holy Week: Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup (finally, right?)
  • Wednesday of Holy Week: White Pizza
    Wednesday Jus Dessert: Bury the Dead
  • Holy Thursday: Stuffed Shells
  • Good Friday: Tuna Noodle Casserole
  • Holy Saturday: Popcorn Shrimp
  • EASTER SUNDAY, ALLELUIA!!!! (Ham, ham, and yet more ham)

So… who’s with me? Even for some of it? What’s the point of a meatless Lent, anyway?

Once a Scout: or, Siena Bars, A Work-In-Progress

“When mean girls want you to join in some low fun, when you think it is not right, ask yourself if mother would like to see you doing it; be brave, and have courage to say it isn’t right. You will feel twice as happy afterwards. Every time you show your courage it grows; it becomes easier to be brave after every time you have tried to be courageous.” How Girls Can Help Their Country, The 1913 Handbook for Girl Scouts by W. J. Hoxie

This is extraordinarily difficult to write and post, because I never intended this to be an apologetics blog. I was a Girl Scout for a very long time, much longer than was considered “normal” in the time and place in which I grew up (up in which I grew? hmmm…). I sold those blasted cookies all the way up until my sophomore year of high school. I remember enduring the taunts of coworkers—yes, by that time I had a part-time job—who thought “nerd” didn’t cover it: they thought I was…well, a word my kids certainly don’t hear me say. But I sold those cookies anyway. Why was it worth being called names I cannot repeat here? Because Girl Scouting gave me some of the best, sometimes only, good memories of my otherwise unpleasant childhood.

Girl Scouting also messed with my perception of reality. The GSUSA of the 70s and 80s fed us some of the worst of feminism. Thus, I got a really poor idea of what makes me valuable as a woman. That idea made being a mother who did not work outside the home (we had twins—I couldn’t afford a “real job”) a far more dreadful experience than it ever needed to be. Mothering is hard enough without dealing with feelings of my own worthlessness for not living out those Dreams to Reality: Adventures in Careers I’d been taught to desire over being “just a wife and mother.” Dreams to Reality is now tame, compared to what GS sells its girls these days. A bit of research revealed to me that the Girl Scouts of today mock my faith, the faith that taught me how to value my whole self, body and soul, no matter what other people say, think, or believe about my value as a human woman.

There’s more, but… frankly I’d much rather get to dessert.

There is a certain type of GS cookie that I adore, but I no longer feel comfortable giving my money to an organization that overtly mocks my faith and actively encourages young women to poison their bodies and call it “health.” Will our family’s boycotting of that fundraiser have much impact? Doubtful. Then why are we sacrificing something so good when it won’t make a difference in the big picture? If you’re asking that question, then you’re not seeing The Big Picture. I’m a terrible apologist, mostly because I was raised in an environment where I was always wrong, no matter what I said. I was taught that if I stood up for what I believed to be right, I was guaranteed a good mental smackdown, plenty of humiliation, and usually some kind of enlightenment on how everything in the whole world was my fault. So honestly, if you’re going to harangue me for this post, knock yourself out, but if you want a fight, go to Catholic Answers.

And it’s not just the conservative nutjobs. Some are boycotting an organization that sends girls out to sell cookies loaded with transfats.

I miss those cookies, but it’s not impossible to come up with something, dare I say—better? I’m not there yet, but we’re working on it. Below is what we have so far. It’s not even trying to be a copycat recipe, because I value intellectual property, even of those who think I’m an idiot. Even though this was our third try at Siena Bars, there are still some problems, but see the end of this post for my plans for future improvements.

Siena Bars: A Work-In-Progress

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Cookie base:

1 c AP flour
¼ t baking soda
¼ t salt
1 stick of butter
½ c granulated sugar
1 T dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
½ c chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla, then add dry ingredients, mixing until combined, about 30 seconds on medium speed. Chill dough in the freezer, covered, for about 30 minutes. On parchment-lined baking sheet, spread dough into a square, approximately 6”x6” and bake at 375F for 15-20 minutes (your time may be less, because I used a stoneware baking pan) until square is still soft but no longer “jiggly.” Turn the oven off. Transfer the cookie base to a cooling rack BUT SAVE THE PARCHMENT. Place the parchment back on the baking sheet. Spread the chocolate chips on the outline of the cookie base, then place the sheet back in the oven (DO NOT turn the oven back on). Let the chips soften while you work on the next step.

Caramel-Coconut Topping

24 semi-soft caramels
1-2 T milk
½ c pre-toasted coconut

In a small saucepan (double boiler if you have one), melt the caramels with one tablespoon of milk. Once the caramels are melted, if they’re loose but not smooth, add up to another tablespoon of milk and stir until smooth. Add coconut and spread this mixture on top of the cookie base.

Take the chip-covered baking sheet out of the oven and spread the softened chips into a smooth “chocolate tile,” using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula if you have one. Place the cookie base lightly on top of this tile. Some of the chocolate will ooze out from the sides. Scoop that up with a spoon and spread it on top of the cookie. Remove the now bedecked square, parchment and all, from the baking sheet and place on top of a wire cooling rack in a cool, dark place (a fridge will work if you don’t mind your chocolate getting white flecks in it, due to the whole distempering process). Once cool, peel off the parchment and cut into squares. Serve with milk or coffee because, wow…. rich rich rich.

My notes for next time:

  • I’m looking for slavery-free chocolate to use from here on out. This has been on my heart lately, thanks to a number of prods from a number of places. We are thinking of a way to have our Little Flowers Girls Club hold a bake sale to benefit some charity that reaches children in chocolate slavery-prone countries.
  • Each bar tended to fall apart a bit, between the weight of the topping and the chocolate base. Next time I’ll spread the caramel topping onto the cookie base, then cut into squares, then place the squares individually on the “chocolate tile,” with a little space in between each. I think the chocolate oozing up the sides of each individual bar should help “glue” them together vertically.
  • I’m hoping to scoop up the chocolate “spread” from the sides, spoon it into a piping bag, then pipe on top of each square. Having both top and bottom slathered in chocolate sounded good in theory, but it totally upstaged the caramel-coconut.

So, whether you’re looking to get a conscience-friendly vanilla/caramel/cococonut/chocolate fix, or whether you’re just looking for that taste after all the cookie booths have closed for the year, give Siena Bars a try. I hope you like them. If you don’t, come on back here and check for future improvements.

Dessert before dinner? In my blog-world, yes. Tonight’s dinner was buffalo-bleu seitan-sliders. I’m really, REALLY hoping that I digest them easily this time and that last time was just a fluke.

“Be who you are, and you will set the world on fire.” —St. Catherine of Siena