Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

I'm so upset that I nearly forgot to tell you about this recipe, because it really is SO GOOD. So Taylor's birthday is today, but as chance would have it I am in Bloomington and he is in Nashville. Not fair, but that's another story. After Taylor was shipping off to Belmont I found some time in the days before I headed to IU to put together a small package that contained a birthday treat :D.

I saw these once while I was running at the Monon Center and watching the Food Network. Let me just say Ina Garten is frickin brilliant. Peanut Butter Jelly Bars. If you like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, these will shoot you to the moon. If you don't like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, these will shoot you to the moon. They are so delicious that thinking about them is making me wish I had a kitchen on my floor. By the way, I DON'T HAVE A KITCHEN ON MY FLOOR. Now I'm just going to have to bake a ton every time I go home for a weekend!

When I made these for Taylor about half the tray made it into the box I sent him, the other half went straight to my mouth. I actually used to make these all the time, they're one of my favorite recipes, but I stopped when I realized that I could not make them without eating them in large quantities. These bars are the kind of thing you make and keep. Taylor's lucky he got any at all ;)

So the basic idea of these bars, the recipe for which I'll give you in a bit, is a peanut butter shortbread with jelly in the middle and chopped peanuts sprinkled on the top. Sound delicious? That's because IT IS. Shortbreads are pretty simple, this one is the best though because you have to use an entire jar of peanut butter. AN ENTIRE JAR!

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

That's right, I used that whole thing. And as if that wasn't enough peanut for you, I used all these chopped ones, too.

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

But we'll get back to that later. So you make this peanut butter shortbread and you spread about two thirds of the dough on the bottom on a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Then you spread on top of that a jar of jam. Not jelly. Jam. Or preserves, I guess. Just not jelly. In case you were wondering, jelly is thinner than jam and doesn't have the seeds and such, the texture of jam in exponentially better and if you ruin this recipe by using sub-par fruit spread I will find you. So after you spread on the jam that you bought because you refuse to use crappy jelly, you put the rest of the peanut butter short bread dough on top. Now this part is a little difficult, but I believe in you! I like to take chunks of the dough and press it between my palms or the pads of my fingers to flatten it out and then evenly disperse pieces of the flattened dough on top of the jelly, looks something like this...

Peanut Butter Jelly Bars

Then you add all those peanuts you chopped up, pop the whole layered mess in the oven and nearly an hour later you open the oven door and find heaven.


The recipe for heaven, by the way, can be found at the Food Network website: Just type "peanut butter jelly bars" in the search bar and it should be the first link. Really, this is one of the best recipes I will share with you, and I promise they aren't too difficult at all.

Well, I have to get back to college now, classes start tomorrow. See you, I don't know when, I'm running out of things to write about. Did I mention my floor has no kitchen?


Monday, August 24, 2009

The Last Supper

Amidst rice, potatoes, tomatoes, shrimp, and arrays of spices, jumping from burner to burner frying, spicing, stirring, reheating, when my dad asked me if I'd gotten myself in over my head I chuckled and replied no, of course not. Inside my head I was screaming, "YESSSSSS!"

Although we were considering going to St. Elmo's tonight for a "farewell dinner" of sorts, I told my parents I would just make dinner tonight. Save a trip downtown and whatnot. Plus, at my last visit to Half Price Books I had snagged an Indian cookbook that I was dying to open before leaving for Bloomington. With my brother's blessing I selected a prawn curry for a main dish and figured potatoes with a yogurt sauce would make a nice side. All of this sounded very easy last night.

So I trucked to Meijer this morning, which makes like the fifty thousandth time in the past week, and came out with a bag full of what I hoped would be the right ingredients. (Black mustard seeds, fresh coriander, and green chillies all proved annoyingly impossible to find...) After that it was errand after errand, turns out I need A LOT of stuff for my dorm room. And, conveniently enough, everything I need comes from a different store. When I finally settled into kitchen mode at 4:30, armed with a couple cups of highly caffeinated tea, I had a bad feeling I was going to be in a bit of a time crunch. I cranked out the first recipe of the day, nothing to do with dinner actually and something you'll hear about later, in about an hour. That gave me another hour to hit the dinner time I was aiming for: 6:30.

I decided to tackle the potatoes first figuring I could have them ready in the pot and just give them a minute to reheat on the stove once the curry dish was done. Ok, "Potatoes in a Yogurt Sauce," I can do this. I boiled little gold potatoes while I peeled and de-veined shrimp. You can buy fresh shrimp either in the shell or peeled and de-veined, but since Marsh had the first kind significantly cheaper I figured I could do the dirty work myself. IT TAKES FOREVER. I had just a pound and a half of shrimp and it took me nearly twenty minutes to free them of all their various casings. It's not that it's hard, it's just time consuming. To de-vein a shrimp you have to, after of course removing the shell, run a knife down the center of the shrimp, right along the curl, and scrap out the thin black cord that's nestled in there. Interestingly enough, although most people refer to this cord as a "vein," I'm pretty sure I heard from Alton Brown that it's actually a digestive tract. So what makes it black? Well, I believe you can imagine...

With shrimp prepped and potatoes ready to go, I embarked on recipe number one, which is as follows:

Potatoes in a Yogurt Sauce

12 new potatoes, halved
1 1/4 cup natural low fat yogurt
(I used a Greek, non-fat version)
1 1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp soft brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
(left this out, couldn't find it for the life of me)
2 green chillies, sliced
(I couldn't find these so I used one large mild green pepper)

1.) Boil the potatoes in salted water with their skins on until they are just tender, then drain and set aside.
2.) Mix together the yogurt, water, turmeric, chilli powder, ground coriander, ground cumin, sugar and a little salt in a bowl. Set aside.
3.) Heat the oil in a medium heavy-based saucepan and stir in the cumin seeds. Fry for 1 minute.
4.) Reduce the heat, stir in the spicy yogurt mixture and cook for about 3 minutes over a medium heat.
5.) Add the chopped fresh coriander, green chillies and cooked potatoes. Stir everything together and cook for an additional 5-7 minutes, stirring from time to time. Serve hot.

Voila! Right? Um... after the potatoes and chillies, minus the elusive coriander, had been hanging out for a while in my sauce I realized my yogurt appeared to be separating a bit from the rest of the mixture. It was kind of clumpy and the smell coming from the pot was less than appetizing.


Oh well, I had curry to worry about. I'm just going to go ahead and give you the recipe for this, then we'll talk.

Prawn Curry
serves 4

1 1/2 lbs uncooked tiger prawns*
4 dried chillies*
1/2 cup desiccated coconut*
1 tsp black mustard seeds*
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil
4 bay leaves
1 in piece ginger root, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
4 tomatoes, finely chopped
plain rice, to serve*
(all the * are things I altered or had trouble with, we'll get back to those)

1.) Peel the prawns and discard the shells. run a sharp knife along the center back of each prawn to make a shallow cut and carefully remove the thin black intestinal vein.
2.) Put the dried red chillies, coconut, mustard seeds and onion in a large heavy-based frying pan and dry-fry for 8-10 minutes or until the spices begin to brown but not burn. Let cool for a few minutes then put into a food processor or blender and process to a coarse paste.
3.) Heat the oil in the frying pan and fry the bay leaves for 1 minute. Add the chopped ginger and the garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
4.) Add the coriander, chilli powder, salt and the coconut paste and fry gently for 5 minutes.
5.) Stir in the chopped tomatoes and about 3/4 cup water and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes or until the sauce has thickened.
6.) Add the prawns and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until they turn pink and the edges are curling slightly. Serve with boiled rice.

Indian Food

Really, this recipe isn't that difficult. I think I got a little in over my head because I had so many pots going at once... the potatoes and rice and curry, the food processor was out, I had just made bars... the kitchen was feeling my presence. On it's own, this really is a pretty simple dish, and it tastes fantastic, but before you decide to give it a go, let's discuss some of the problems I encountered.

First, this is prawn curry. I actually had a bit of trouble finding prawns, but that's an easy fix. Prawns are just a larger version of shrimp. I picked up 1 1/2 pounds of raw shrimp instead and it was practically the same delicious dish.

Second, what the heck is desiccated coconut? When I posed this question to my brother his response was somewhere along the lines of coconut that had already gone through your digestive system, but I decided not to give that theory much attention. A really quick glance at some website gave me the impression it was basically dried coconut and gave me directions on how to take shredded coconut and use my oven to make a good substitute. Well, I was kind of lazy. I shoved the coconut into the oven at 250 degrees for as long was convenient and that was good enough for me.

Thirdly, I could not find black mustard seeds. The store had regular mustard seeds, but to save you from a long story I didn't end up with those either. I'm sure you could use whatever mustard seeds you have and be fine, I just threw in some mustard powder, whatever, I make it work.

And lastly, the plain rice issue. I don't like white rice, especially that instant stuff. Not only is it nutritionally void, the flavor is bland unless you kick it up with butter (making it more unhealthy) or infuse it with something which, at this point, is just more work. We usually have brown rice on hand, so I reached for that. I don't even know if instant brown rice exists, but if it does DON'T BUY IT. I know regular rice takes around 45 minutes to cook, but it's worth it. You're going to be in the kitchen anyway, just throw it on the burner and let it hang out while you do your thing. Instant rice is partially processed which is why it cooks so quickly. Unfortunately, that process strips it of some of it's nutrients. For a better fill and a more heath conscience meal, always opt for the brown rice. Plus it just tastes so much better.

I happened to have some whole wheat naan, a bread often served with Indian dishes, on hand. I took a few pieces of that and threw it under the broiler for a few minutes then flipped it over and let it toast on the other side, too. I cut that into quarters and let my family dig in. In the end, my plate turned out like this...


The potatoes, though I had my concerns, were actually pretty good. The aroma was fairly pungent, but the taste was very mild, needed a little salt actually. My dad started mashing them, which was a really brilliant plan. That way you could get more of the slivered green pepper and yogurt sauce in the mix, a definite plus. The curry was delicious, but not very spicy at all. I took most of the seeds out of the dried red chillis I used, if you like a kick leave them in, I think I'll do that next time.

I feel like I've been typing forever so I'm going to go ahead and let you get back to your life now. As the title of this entry implies, this is the last meal I'll be cooking before I head to college, sad, I know. I've got one more recipe up my sleeve to share with you, we'll save that for later this week, but after that I don't know what will happen to my poor blog! I'm thinking I'll try to find time to right about food in Bloomington, but if you have any suggestions/requests leave a comment, let me know!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Let the Fun Begin

Today has been a long day. My roommate and I arranged for an early move-in time for our dorm room so today we hauled A TON of stuff down to campus. Really, how we managed to fit two bed, two fridges, two desks, a couch, microwave, teapot, storage units, and impressive amounts of clothes into one room is beyond me. I guess miracles do happen :).

After a few hours of unpacking, stacking, hanging, rearranging, and recharging with gyros, my parents and I headed home. At some point during the car ride my parents reached the mutual decision that it would be an awesome idea for me to make cinnamon rolls. Well that's really great, but cinnamon rolls are a piece of work. Mixing, rising, rolling, rising, baking, frosting... my enthusiasm died after reading through a few recipes and recalling my last not-so-super encounter with cinnamon rolls. Fortunately my brother decided he'd much rather have something else.

After he suggested scones or strawberry shortcake I presented an option to my brother that he immediately agreed to. The Kitchen Sink always has delicious looking recipes and the strawberry cake I pulled up was a winner for Nick. Not to mention, SO MUCH EASIER THAN CINNAMON ROLLS.

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Sauce

So I went to work. As a general rule, anything made in a pie pan is fantastic, and this cake was no exception. A basic cake recipe really, but the kicker is the fresh strawberries pressed into the top of the batter topped with a generous sprinkling of raw sugar.

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Sauce

So rustic, so gorgeous! And it only looked better and better as it baked. A light, puffed cake with strawberries barely buried under the golden brown crust, could it get any better?


Turns out it can. I didn't have vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, the two things the recipe insisted should go with this delicious cake, so I improvised! I whipped up a quick, half improvised vanilla sauce using a vanilla bean from a private stash I've had hidden in the cupboard for quite some time. Personally, I think vanilla ice cream would be the ideal thing to pair with this cake, especially if it's like French Vanilla... a little melted... oh yes. But, what can I do?

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Sauce

Oh yeah, and when digging out my vanilla beans I came across a bag of slivered almonds and immediately decided that I would find a way to work them into the finished dessert! I popped a handful onto a piece of aluminum foil and let them sun tan in the oven until they were light brown and fragrant. According to dad the almonds were a good flavor combination with the strawberry cake, and I have to agree. I was tempted to sprinkle them onto the top of the cake before I put it in the oven, but was afraid in the hour cooking time they'd be a little over done, but who knows. Whether you top this cake with vanilla sauce, ice cream, or whipped cream, the almonds really are a wonderful addition.

Strawberry Cake with Vanilla Sauce

Well, I'm about to fall asleep, apparently carrying boxes and moving beds and couches has taken it's toll on me. But before I go, I should tell you tomorrow I'm making dinner :D. I may have taken some books to Half Price Books... and I might not have walked out with any of the cash they paid me... I might have walked out with a couple cook books... one might be an Indian cook book... maybe ;). Tomorrow should be a delicious day.

Oh yes, and you can find the recipe for strawberry cake here:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Do-nut Miss Out on This Recipe!

A week from tomorrow I move into my dorm room. AND I'M BORED. Everyone's starting to pack up and leave and now that I'm not working I feel like half the day I'm usually twiddling my thumbs or coming up with random errands to run. This morning I was bored out of my mind so, naturally, I flipped open one of my cookbooks and started thumbing through pages for a recipe that I hadn't tested yet.

I flipped through page after page making mental notes of things I might come back to, but when I found a recipe for French Cruller Doughnuts I was sold. I wanted something that was reasonably quick and easy, but different, and these are just that.

My brother tried to argue that these are not doughnuts, but the recipe says so and that's good enough for me. Better yet, there was no frying involved! They aren't as heavy as a typical American style doughnut, which I think works brilliantly in their favor, and the dough puffs up to a texture similar to that of a cream puff. In short, delicious! The dough is a combination of flour, water, milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla, cooked on the stove top before beating in 8 eggs. My favorite thing about these doughnuts is that the big blog of dough is piped! I bought that fifty something piece piping set last spring and I've hardly had a chance to pull it out of the closet, but the recipe requested a large star tip and so pipe I did! I couldn't help but laugh a little bit at my piping bag, I always use ziplocks instead of real bags because they are a) cheaper and b) disposable, which I think looked like an obese fish...

French Cruller Donuts

But anyway... I piped the dough onto a large cookie sheet, two circles stacked on top of one another and came up with these, popped them in the oven to bake, and came out with these beauties:

French Cruller Donuts

So cute! The lines are from the star tip on my piping bag. You can use a spoon to shape the dough into a simple circle on the sheet, but this looks so much better! My pretty piping job was masked a little bit by the frosting, but I guess that's a sacrifice I just had to be willing to make. The actual glaze recipe for these doughnuts calls for a bunch of melted butter, which I made, but quickly ran out of since the recipe yielded about twice as many donuts as it told me it would. I was feeling kind of lazy and my second batch of glaze was a simple mixture of powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla, and tasted, I hope, just as good.

French Cruller Donuts

The plateful I gave away seemed to be well received and my family really liked them. My dad even toted off a plateful to work which he claims were gone within a couple hours. I know I say this all the time, but they really are super easy. I'm sure they'd be great company for a cup of coffee or tea and they are delicious for breakfast, dessert, or even just a snack. The recipe is from The Joy of Baking, basically my Bible, and goes as follows (I added in a few notes of my own ;) ):

French Cruller Doughnuts
Makes 12 to 15 doughnuts, depending on size

Choux Paste Doughnut Base
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 8 large eggs

Creamy Vanilla Glaze
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups confectioners' sugar (aka powdered sugar)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 to 4 tablespoons hot water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (I would also recommend using a liberal amount of non-stick spray, these things clung to my aluminum foil for dear life).
For Choux Paste Doughnut Base, in a medium saucepan, stir milk, water, sugar, and slat together over medium heat. Stir in butter and allow it to melt. Increase heat and bring mixture to a rolling boil. Stir in flour all at once. Blend well with a wooden spoon, adding vanilla and beating briskly until mixture forms a ball that leaves the sides of the pan. Beat vigorously for 1 to 2 minutes before removing from burner and turning out into a mixer bowl. Allow mixture to cool for 5 minutes.
Using a wide whisk or a wooden spoon, add eggs, 1 at a time, until mixture is smooth and glossy (I actually gave up on the spoon idea and immediately used a hand mixer and was golden :) ). Spoon choux paste into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch star tip (or a large Ziplock with a hole cut in one corner). On prepared baking sheets, leaving some space between each pastry, make a 4-inch circle of batter with another circle on top (concentric circles). If you don't have a pastry bag you can also use a soup spoon to spread out a ring of batter as best you can.
Bake pastry 15 minutes; then reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees and bake another fifteen minutes or until doughnuts are light in texture and medium brown all over. Let cool slightly.
To make Creamy Vanilla Glaze, whisk everything together in a medium bowl to a thick glaze consistency, mixing in more confectioners' sugar or water, if needed, to achieve a gloppy, thick glaze. Dip each doughnut once, let excess drip off back into bowl, let set, and then glaze again (mine were so thickly coated that I only dipped them once). Let doughnuts set on a wire rack.

After making these I couldn't help but wonder, "Why 'doughnut'?" I mean, I get the dough part, but whoever though these resemble a nut is... well... a nut. So I Googled it quick! Turns out the idea of a doughnut was brought to American by pilgrims from Holland who called them olykoeks, or oily cakes. These original doughnuts were balls of dough fried in pork fat. Although delicious, the olykoek presented a problem: the middle of the ball was usually a little undercooked. In order to prevent this from happening, apples, prunes, or raisins were often inserted into the middle of the dough. These ingredients needed only to be reheated, not cooked, and therefore solved the undercooked dough issue. Rumor has it, in 1847 a woman named Elizabeth Gregory of New England was known to make some impressive olykoeks. What was her secret? She spiced the dough with a hint of nutmeg and filled the center with hazelnuts or walnuts, calling it a dough-nut! The story continues to describe the way the doughnut evolved to the shape it is today. One variation claims that Elizabeth had a sea captain for a son named Hanson Crockett. Mrs. Gregory would send him off to see with a batch of doughnuts and provided the cook with her recipe. According to the legend Hanson Crockett didn't care for the nuts in the center and after repeatedly poking the middle out finally ordered his cook to prepare them without any center at all. And there you have it!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The RIGHT Way to Eat Your Veggies!

I wish I had realized sooner what a wonderful resource the Monon Trail is. You really can get just about anywhere you would want to go ON A BIKE! I had discovered earlier that I could get to the Clay Terrace shopping center via the Monon, but when I accompanied a friend on a ride to Broad Ripple a few weeks ago I realized I could have ridden my bike to work, to school, to various friends' houses, and, of course, to Broad Ripple. AWESOME. Especially since my brother has found a new interest in claiming the car we're supposed to be sharing... :/.

But on this particular day I was going to Broad Ripple, a fairly leisurely 60 minute ride from my house, to meet a couple friends for lunch at Ripple Bagel Deli. If you haven't been there, you need to go. Stop reading, start driving, it's delicious. They have about a dozen types of bagels and countless combinations of sandwiches that you can make out of them. Not only are there like four giant blackboards covered with all the combinations that form their menu, but anything that could have been mistaken for free space has been covered by customer concoctions drawn on sheets of printer paper. A dangerous place for the indecisive, but I make do ;). For any sandwich your bagel obviously houses all the ingredients and can be served as is, toasted, or (what they're known for and I definitely recommend) toasted.

I had picked out a really delicious sounding veggie sandwich, something loaded with tomatoes and sprouts and hummus and avocados and other goodness, but when I saw that their soup of the day was gazpacho I changed my mind. What is gazpacho you ask? I had no idea! I looked it up on my ever faithful iPhone and wikipedia told me it was a cold raw tomato based soup. Which sounds kinda gross... but being me I decided, what the heck, and ordered it!

IT'S SO GOOD! It was really hot that day and this chilled soup is frickin delicious. I didn't think pureed tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers or whatever they put in their could be so fantastic but it was delicious and I was hooked. (Better yet, I order a funky bagel type roll called a bialy, steamed of course, that paired with it perfectly.) As I mentioned in my last blog entry I'm going to Turkey Run for a day trip with some friends, tomorrow actually, and not only am I taking the oreos I made yesterday, but I'm also bringing along... you guessed it! Gazpacho!

I didn't think a soup was the greatest of all ideas, but never fear! It comes in salad form! :D So I went to work chopping tomatoes, little cucumbers, peppers, and garlic I picked up at the Carmel Farmers' Market this morning and then powered through fennel, celery, and green onions I resorted to picking up at Meijer this afternoon. I tossed this ridiculously large pile of veggies with a lemon vinaigrette and voila! Gazpacho Salad!

Gazpacho Salad

Oh yes, and I added a can of garbanzo beans (aka chickpeas), an idea provided by my mother that I thought was brilliant.


One of the best parts about making Gazpacho as a salad rather than a soup is the croutons. Homemade from ciabatta bread, these little cubes were pan toasted in olive oil and Italian seasonings. They soak up the dressing on the salad and add fabulous flavor and texture.

Gazpacho Salad

If you're fine with chopping vegetables, this is a really simple recipe. It's a great summer salad, especially if you have a Farmers' Market nearby or a vegetable garden. If you're not a fan of a particular vegetable, simply omit it! And if you'd rather go the soup route just add some light chicken broth or water to your vegetables and give it a quick buzz in your food processor. This is a great recipe to make a day in advance because the flavors blend while the vegetables sit in the fridge, it's also a great option because it's light, healthy, and SO GOOD!

Gazpacho Salad

- 6 plum tomatoes, chopped (I seeded beefsteak tomatoes because that's all I could find at the
market, just make sure you take the seeds out of whatever kind you choose to use)
- 1 English cucumber (or 2 to 3 small cucumbers), seeded and chopped
- 1 or 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 6 green onions, finely chopped
- 1/2 small bulb fennel, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 2 colorful peppers, chopped
- 1 can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

- 4 slices ciabatta or 1 to 2 ciabatta rolls, diced
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 tsp mixed herbs (I used Italian seasoning)

- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice (about one fresh lemon)
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- pepper to taste (I used just a pinch of white pepper)

Toss the cubed ciabatta with the olive oil and herbs then pan fry them until browned and crisp. Set them aside to cool. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss together the chopped vegetables, garlic, onion, and garbanzo beans. Pour the dressing over the vegetable mixture and gently toss. You can add the croutons in whenever you like, I have mine reserved in a ziplock because I like them crunchy, but you can put them in the salad well ahead of time if you'd prefer, they'll be a little soggy, but they'll absorb more of the dressing and taste fantastic!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Milk's Favorite Cookie

I still can't believe I'm leaving for IU in 13 days. Oh god, 13 days. At the beginning of the summer 3 months felt like they would last a lifetime, but lo and behold the trips to London, Arkansas, and New York, along with all the other small happenings I had to look forward to this summer have come and gone and the days left in my vacation from school are waning fast. Now I feel like my last two weeks are a frantic attempt to cram in as many activities as I can. What people do I want to see before I move out? What restaurants do I want to visit for what seems like the last time? What foods do I want to knock of my mental list of 'Things to Bake' before I'm hopelessly kitchenless?

Finally, as time runs short, some friends and I have scheduled a day trip to Turkey Run that we talked about before school even let out but have thus far failed to actually follow through with. We were all recruited to bring different food items to refuel between bouts of canoeing, hiking, and swimming. Naturally, my brain immediately thought 'DESSERT!' :D Unfortunately I can't take my favorites, neither layer cakes, pies, or cheesecakes sound very camping-friendly. I was forced to consider more finger friendly options: cookies, bars, brownies, cupcakes.

Bar and brownies are just fine, especially for the less than enthusiastic baker in a time of need. Directions are generally as follows: mix, pour, bake, cut. So simple. (Unless you're me, then brownies and bars are a game of 'how many extra ingredients can I fit in this batter without it exploding in the oven?') Drop cookies can be ok, cut-outs are time consuming, and my obsession with detail and eagerness to go over the top on everything make cupcakes a nightmare. I've made countless variations of all of the above, but ended up finding one that I had never tried before.

Sandwich cookies. I think my favorite thing about these is you get two cookies in one package! I had been surfing for inspiration and discovered a recipe for homemade oreos. I immediately decided I need not look any further! Who doesn't love oreos? So I went to town crafting thin chocolate cookies, doubling the recipe so that my family would have their own plateful to snack on while I tote the rest to Turkey Run this weekend. So... many... cookies. And the worst part was I couldn't just spoon them on the cookie sheet! No, I was forced to roll out and flatten teaspoon sized balls of my cookie dough. Turns out there were a whole lot of teaspoons in two batches of the chocolate stuff. Luckily, lots of batter means lots of cookies!!!

Homemade Oreos

Everyone knows the best part of Oreos is the filling in the middle and my cookies would certainly not be complete without big dollops of vanilla creme. I whipped up a batch of what essentially was vanilla butter cream frosting to pipe onto half the cookies.

Homemade Oreos

I topped the dolloped cookies off with another cookie (to complete the whole sandwich effect) and ended up with a plateful of wonderfully rustic 'Oreos.' Yum.

Homemade Oreos

I only assembled half the cookies at first, waiting to add frosting to the other half until closer to the Turkey Run venture. On the first batch I used the recipe provided on the smitten kitchen site (which by the way is... but refused to eat any myself because the creme contains one of my least favorite ingredients. Vegetable shortening. Ewwwwwwww. In my house, where Oreos come, peanut butter follows, so on the second batch I decided to experiment a little and replace the shortening laced vanilla creme with peanut butter butter cream frosting. I think they turned out the better of the two and would highly recommend trying any version of a peanut butter filling. Then again, I'll put peanut butter on anything...