Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Bars

I was invited to a gigantic BBQ for memorial day, so I needed something impressive to bring. After crowdsourcing suggestions, I stumbled upon this recipe after someone suggested a different recipe from this site. I’m a BIG fan of salty sweet combo, and we’re a dark chocolate house, so it seemed like a good fit. But pie didn’t seem like the most practical thing to bring to a BBQ. I figured I could switch the recipe into bars fairly easily. I also doubled the recipe due to the number of guests 

Crush the Oreos in the food processor, or by hand. I had to do it in two batches because two packages of Oreos won’t fit in my food processor, but it was still quick work.

  Cut two sticks of butter into chunks and melt them in a microwave safe dish for 30 seconds. Stirring should melt any remaining pieces, but, if some remain, microwave for 15 seconds until melted.

  Mix the melted butter into the cookie crumbs until incorporated.

 Line a 9”X13” cake pan with parchment paper, making sure the sides of the pan are covered as well as the bottom. I used baking spray to grease the parchment paper. Pour the cookie mixture into the pan and pound it flat with the bottom of a heavy glass. Then freeze the crust for 10 minutes.

Cut two more sticks of butter into chunks and throw them in a small sauce pan. Add 1 1/3 cups of brown sugar and mix over medium heat until it begins to bubble. (As I write this, I wonder if I actually let it bubble – I don’t remember bubbles.)


Cook for one more minute, then remove from the heat and stir in half a cup of whipping cream.

Let it sit for 15 minutes and then pour it on top of the cookie crust. Spread the mixture evenly and put the cake pan back in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Now this is important – make sure the pan is flat in the freezer. Otherwise, the caramel will pool in a corner. Not only will your caramel be uneven, but the structural integrity of the bar will be fucked up.

When you’re almost ready to take the pan out of the freezer, put 24 OZ of dark chocolate chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Melt the chips at 30-second intervals, stirring in between.


When the chips are melted, add two cups of whipping cream and stir until it looks chocolatey and shiny. Pour the chocolate over the caramel and freeze for another 30 minutes. Then place the cake pan in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve.

  
Slice into bars of desired size. They are very rich, so I’d go small and let people have seconds. Right before serving, sprinkle some sea salt on top. Table salt will work if that’s all you have, but it won’t give the same visual flourish.


These were a huge hit at the BBQ. One guy called them life changing! Just so you know, I was speaking from experience when I wrote about freezing the caramel on an uneven surface. The bars fell apart that were cut from the side where the caramel pooled. The chocolate slid right off as the caramel oozed out. Still delicious, but less impressive… And we all know how important it is to be impressive. Also, as far as BBQ food goes, these are not the ideal dessert to have out in the sun. I’m sure the people who got to them early had a cleaner experience. If I did this over again, I’d probably make mini pies in cupcake wrappers, so that you get the hand held dessert, but with a little more protection from it dripping down your hand. Also, mini pies would be much easier to transport in my awesome cupcake caddy—which is also very impressive.

 

Watermelonade

We’re potty training! My kid proved his readiness by just refusing to pee on day one. Not in the potty, not on the floor. He went five hours. It was clear I needed to push liquid to move the learning along, but there was a problem. We mostly give water because, you know, that’s what they tell you to do now a days, and juice isn’t something we typically keep in the house. I’m not pretending we’ve got perfect nutrition. In fact, the main reason we don’t keep juice around is because drinking it would really cut into my diet soda and coffee time. As a result, we’ve been pretty good at the the no juice thing…so good, that my kid won’t drink it. He won’t drink milk either, just water. So pushing liquid was pretty much just me offering water, which he mostly rejected.

I had the brilliant idea – what if mommy made an extra special yummy juice? This is less a recipe than an experiment determined by ingredients in my fridge. It started out as a lemonade, but I only had 3 lemons. I also had 3 limes, so lemon/limeade? Why not. I had entirely forgotten about half a watermelon in my fruit drawer that was still good.

  My kid gobbled up a few pieces of the watermelon I had cut up, so I cubed the rest of it. I juiced the lemons/limes and forced the juice through a sieve into the blender.

 Then I threw in a bunch of watermelon, poured in enough cold water to mostly cover it, and blended.

 I  added half a cup of sugar and blended more. Then I poured it all through the sieve again into this glass carafe that makes me feel like I’m playing restaurant (fancy!).

 I topped it off with  carbonated water to give it a little fizz…

 And a few shakes of salt to bring out the sweet. (Also, if the salt made my kid thirsty, he’d drink more, right?)

End result: my kid hated it!

But I liked it. So serve this at some fancy BBQ. Maybe put some liquor in it? Don’t tell anyone this drink was born out of potty training desperation.

 And the potty training, it’s going ok.

Ingredients

  • 3 lemons
  • 3 limes
  • ¼ watermelon cubed
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • cold water
  • carbonated water
  • pinch of salt

Tools

  • Citrus juicer
  • Sieve
  • Blender

Juice lemons and limes. Pour juice through a sieve into the blender. Add watermelon and enough water to blend. (The amount of water needed will depend on the quality of your blender.) Blend to a puree. Add sugar to taste, and blend again. Pour juice through the sieve into a pitcher. Add carbonated water to taste. Shake in salt, and stir. Enjoy.

Oscar the Quiche

My son’s second birthday party is barely a week away and I have so much to do. It is a lot of work to host a Pinterest perfect birthday party, especially when you can’t start any projects until after 8:00PM. Frankly, it’s not a great idea. If you have any other way of fulfilling yourself creatively and personally, I suggest you do the other thing and order a cake from the grocery store. If you insist on going all out, you’re going to need food—themed food.

Now, sweet themed food is easy. You can decorate cakes and cookies with icing, build characters out of fondant, modeling chocolate, or marzipan, mould candy, or wrap store bought candy bars in decorative paper; you’ve been on Pinterest, you know all this. But you can’t just serve sweets at a party full of toddlers. It doesn’t matter how cool your mom friends are. There’s going to be some judgement if you don’t at least throw a carrot stick in there.

Savory food is harder to make on theme, double so for something healthy (ish). So I’m really proud of how this came out.

I present to you

BAM BA BA BAM

Oscar the Quiche

I’d love to give you a tutorial, but honestly, I did so many things wrong that it’s a wonder it came out. I went wrong trying to make a spinach quiche with a layer of cheese and egg on top. I wanted a nice white background so you could really see Oscar. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, the layers mixed. To smooth it out, I just kept adding eggs, milk and cheese. I stopped measuring. The cheese formed a crust on top that made it impossible to get the spinach to stay on. Because it took so long to cook, I was up until 2:00AM. It’s a good thing my kid likes Sesame Street, because he watched a lot of it the next day. Yay super mom!

Instead of telling you what I did, I’ll tell you what I wish I did.

Blind bake a roll out pie crust according to directions on the box. Or, you know, use homemade if you’re fancy. Cut a scrap of dough for Oscar’s eyebrows and bake on a lined cookie sheet along with the crust.

 

 Find a recipe for a white quiche and prepare it. If it’s just too weird to serve a plain quiche with spinach toppings (is it weird? It feels weird, but I can’t really articulate why), layer spinach leaves at the bottom of the crust before pouring in the filling. That should work, right?

Fill the crust and bake for 10 minutes less than the recipe suggests. While it’s cooking, blend a cup of spinach in the food processor, and beat one last egg. Take the quiche out and arrange the spinach and olives into Oscar’s face. After sewing a dozen Oscar puppets, I’ve become fairly familiar with the features. Use small amounts of spinach for more control. Place the crust eyebrow in place and carefully brush the egg all over. Bake for the remaining 10 minutes.

 

 That should be it.

Oh, and I also made this far less impressive bacon snuffleupagus quiche.

Practice Cheater Donuts

I fucking love brunch. To be clear, what I really love is breakfast food, and sleeping in. I’ll take pancakes for lunch or dinner any time. Still, there is something extra fancy about brunch. I used to be able to tell you when every restaurant around me stopped serving Sunday brunch, so I could still go no matter how late I woke up. Now I have a child and this information is useless. First, because I rarely sleep past 8 (which is pretty good with a 2-year-old) and second, because my kid is not good at restaurants. So, I haven’t been to brunch in a while. To make up for it, I’ve been hosting more brunch parties. One thing I’ve been dying to try are beautiful themed donuts, decorated to match the party.
What’s been stopping me? Donuts must be served fresh. Donuts are fried*
, and though I have many talents in the kitchen, frying is NOT one of them. Every time I try to deep fry, at least one thing goes wrong, usually way more than that. I’ve managed to fry a batch of chicken, burning half the pieces, and undercooking the other half. It’s almost impressive. Store bought donuts are delicious, but you can’t order them custom decorated like a cupcake. Or, if you can, I’m sure it’s a fortune, which would turn a fun casual treat into a crazy extravagance.
So let me introduce to you my experiment with Cheater Custom Donuts! The gist is that you buy donuts and decorate them yourself. Simple enough, but I wasn’t sure it would work. I have a brunch party coming up and it seemed like a poor idea to try this out for the first time on the morning of the party, so this was mostly a test run. 
First things first, I got some donuts. For the actual party, I will go to a local bakery with AMAZING donuts, but for this experiment I went to Dunkin’ because they have a drive through and my toddler was asleep in the car. Because I didn’t buy them until afternoon, they were out of glazed donuts, and I had to run my experiment on plain and chocolate glazed. After I bought the donuts, I hid them in my purse till after bedtime, so by the time I got to work they looked like this.

  
The glaze is simple:

1.5 cups of powdered sugar

3 Tbsp of melted butter

3 Tbsp of milk

1 Tbsp of vanilla extract (I assume other flavors would work as well)

Food coloring  
Put the sugar, butter, and extract in a stand mixer with a wisk attachment. Slowly mix so that the sugar does not turn into a cloud of smoke. Slowly add the milk until it’s the consistency of frosting. Add the food coloring. I suggest you use less than I did. I was actually going for a pastel sea foam, but hey, this is good too. Remember these are practice donuts.

  
When the glaze is fully mixed, transfer it to a shallow dish for dipping. Stick it in the microwave for 30-45 seconds until it bubbles a little and then stir it smooth. 

  

  Next, start dipping ASAP. If the glaze cools down too much, it won’t stick properly, at which point you can always stick it back in the microwave. Just drop the donut strait down and twist. If you don’t twist, you’ll get sad and incomplete coverage, and since we’re doing all this work for purely aesthetic reasons, twist.

  
If you want to add sprinkles or nonpareils, you have to work even faster. Once the glaze is on the donut, it dries very quickly and you don’t have the option of reheating. What you can do is paint a layer of corn syrup if you run out of time, but I’d try to use that sparingly, because these donuts are already pretty sweet. Next time, I think I’ll skip the glazed donuts and only use plain to cut the sweetness. 

 

I let them dry on a wire rack lined with paper towels, and they’re gorgeous. For the party, I plan on making the glaze and decorations the night before and forming an assembly line. If you’d like to see how they turn out, I suggest you subscribe to keep reading. Unless of course they are a disaster, in which case we will never speak of this again.

  

* Yes I know you can buy donut shaped pans to make baked donuts. But 1) everything’s better fried 2) baking AND decorating them fresh for an 11:00 am party while preparing for the party does not seem practical 3) if I buy one more piece of kitchen equipment with one use, my husband might have a heart attack