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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Samoa Bars

By this point in the spring you're going through Girl Scout Cookie withdrawal symptoms. The crunch of the cookie, the smooth caramel, texture of the coconut, and the rich drizzle of chocolate. What's not to love???

Sadly, I don't have any neighborhood Girls Scouts in my area. I did stop a group at the grocery store but without cash or check handy, I couldn't buy any (they won't trade a box for a stirring rendition of their choice of camp song). Lame.

So its been a year or two since I've had a Girl Scout cookie. Therefore, I decided I'd have to make my own.

Samoas Bars
Cookie Base:
1 cup butter (cool, not rock hard, not soft)
2 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
12 oz chewy caramels
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
10 oz dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips)

To make the cookie base, mix the cookie base ingredients together until they stick (I use a pastry cutter). Press it into a 13x9 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes (lightly golden).

Lower the oven temp to 300. Spread the coconut evenly into an edged baking sheet and toast the coconut for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Continue until all the coconut is golden. Cool and set aside.

Unwrap the caramels (make sure you get all of them!) and place into a microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stopping to stir a few times, making sure everything is heating evenly. When smooth, fold in the coconut with a spatula.

Put dollops of the topping all over the cookie base. Use the spatula to spread it into an even layer. Let the topping set until cool (you can put it in the fridge or freezer to speed this part along). Lick the bowl of caramel and coconut (this is important).

When cooled, cut the bars into ~30 bars with a sharp knife. Once cut, melt the chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave in 45 intervals, stirring to prevent scorching. Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate (I used the back of a spoon to scoop the chocolate and ran it across the bottom of each bar to get a thin, even, layer). Place onto a clean piece of parchment or waxed paper. Remelt your chocolate (you may need a little more) and put it into a piping bar or ziploc bag with the corner cut off. Drizzle the bars with the chocolate and cool to finish. Enjoy!

Look at these beauties!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Cabbage Rolls

I decided to make cabbage rolls for two reasons: I wanted to make something new that I had never tried, and I wanted to use cabbage in a recipe. 

Just before simmering for an hour

Neither of these were super exciting reasons, but around St. Patty's day I got it in my head that I wanted to make cabbage rolls because it was an nice traditional Irish meal (turns out its more Eastern European, but yummy all the same).

After extensive internet perusal, I found a good looking recipe on the Taste of Home website. It looked easier than most, I had everything it called for already (yay! No 4 item run to the store), and had decent reviews. In the end, I had a good time making them (even if the cabbage wasn't cooperating as well as I had hoped), I really enjoyed them, but Chris wasn't a fan (he said they were bland which is crazy). I would make them again if Chris liked them.

Don't worry about too much of a cabbage-y taste. The darker outside leaves are more cabbage-y, but the inside leaves are milder and melt more into the flavors of the filling. Serve accordingly.

Cabbage Rolls:


  • 1 medium head cabbage (The ingredients in red are if you want to make the tomato sauce yourself. Otherwise, just use a jar of your favorite marinara sauce. Much faster)
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onion, divided
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (90% lean)
  • 1/4 pound bulk Italian sausage (I used a pound of breakfast sausage because that's what I had in the fridge and I like sausage)
  • 1/2 cup V8 juice, optional


  • In a large pot, cook cabbage in boiling water for 10 minutes or until outer leaves are tender; drain. Rinse in cold water; drain. Remove eight large outer leaves (refrigerate remaining cabbage for another use); set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, saute 1 cup onion in butter until tender. Add the tomatoes, garlic, brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the rice, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and remaining onion and salt. Crumble beef and sausage over mixture and mix well.
  • Remove thick vein from cabbage leaves for easier rolling. Place about 1/2 cup meat mixture on each leaf; fold in sides. Starting at an unfolded edge, roll up leaf to completely enclose filling. Place seam side down in a skillet (don't worry if it doesn't look perfect. It doesn't change the taste). Top with the sauce.
  • Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 1 hour. Add V8 juice if desired. Reduce heat to low; cook 20 minutes longer or until rolls are heated through and a thermometer inserted in the filling reads 160°. Yield: 4 servings.
Look at how tasty these are!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Bang Bang Shrimp

Here is one of our favorite dinner items, Bang Bang Shrimp. I found a recipe for these shrimp about a year ago and have been making them ever since. From what I read, this recipe is a staple on either Bonefish Mack's or Bonefish Grill (I can't keep them straight), but I've never eaten there so I can't tell you if these are anywhere close to theirs. I've been told they are usually served over lettuce or on tacos.

But its an easy recipe. It takes less than 20 minutes, I usually have all the ingredients on hand, and I can sneak a bunch of veggies in it.

Here is how I make Bang Bang Shrimp

~1 lb peeled and de-veined shrimp (any size, I get what's on sale)
~1 cup light or fat-free mayo
~1 cup sweet chili sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot Sweet Chili, its cheap and easy to find)
~1 tbsp srircha hot sauce (adjust depending on your heat tolerance level. This stuff is lava hot)
~1 cup of corn starch
~1/4 cup oil (I like light olive oil)
Optional: Rice, noodles, veggies, soy sauce, garlic, ginger

First, mix up the Bang Bang Sauce by combining the mayo, chili sauce, and hot sauce, set aside.
Dredge the shrimp in the corn starch. The easiest way I do this is after I peel them, I pat them dry, and put them on a plate and sprinkle the corn starch on top. Move them around until completely covered but without a bunch of extra. Heat the oil in a large fry pan. When hot, add the shrimp and cook until they are cooked through, golden and crispy (less than 5 minutes).

At this point, I usually move the shrimp onto a plate while I stir-fry some noodles/rice with veggies (broccoli, peas, corn, mushrooms, water chestnuts, etc). I add soy sauce and the rest of the bottle of chili sauce to coat the noodles. Then I add the shrimp back in and add the Bang Bang sauce. Stir it up and serve!

Dinner is served!