Tag Archives: coconut

(Hello Dolly!) Swalty Chocolate Bars

Well hello there, thanks for stopping by!

I spent the last week in Vegas for a company trip, and upon returning home late on Friday night I knew I probably wouldn’t have the energy to do much on Saturday except catch up on sleep.  When a friend invited me to her house for a BBQ, I wanted to accept but knew I couldn’t go empty-handed.  I did a quick survey of my fridge and knew I would have to decide between either (a) going to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to make a dessert, or (b) making do with what I had on hand, even if that meant making something without butter, eggs, or fresh fruit.  I’m never one to back down from a challenge, so I darted into my walk-in pantry (aka storage room) and contemplated my options.  Besides, I wanted to have a nap and going to the grocery store would cut into my precious sleeping time.

You should also know that this dilemma was further complicated by the fact that the hostess of said-BBQ was my lovely hairdresser Wendy, which meant that I couldn’t just show up; I had to show up and look half-decent.  In other words, I couldn’t spend long cooking; I had to do my hair!

Hmm…what to make, what to make.  I started grabbing random pantry ingredients, since the contents of my fridge were rather pathetic – a cake mix (embarrassing but true; I’m a hoarder, remember?), some marshmallows, and chocolate chips for good measure.  A can of petite diced tomatoes rounded out the mix, and with my arms full I sauntered into the kitchen ready to create something edible without having to change out of my sweats to go to the grocery store.

Once in the kitchen, I surveyed my goods, and made the executive decision to make a pan of gooey bar cookie/brownies/whatchamacallits.  Everyone loves chocolate, I reasoned, and a pan full of something would be less finicky to make than drop cookies.  I needed all the time I could get for my nap and hair, after all.

I vaguely recalled that Hello Dolly bars are always a hit at parties, and wondered if I could replicate something similar using what I had on hand.  I scrummaged around and found some shredded coconut and a bag of chopped walnuts in the freezer, and unearthed a can of sweetened condensed milk from the pantry. How this stuff gets here, I’ll never know, but on occasions like this one I’m always grateful to not have to leave my house or pick up TimBits.   I preheated the oven to 350 degrees, ditched the marshmallows and tomatoes, armed myself with an apron and spatula, and got to work!

I began by mixing the dry cake mix with 1/2 c of canola oil, until it formed a dough.  As a sidenote, have you ever made cookies using a cake mix?  I would have probably done that, if I had eggs or butter or the desire to get dressed and leave my house.

Next, I ate 1/4 of the dough patted the dough into a 9×13″ pan that had been lined with parchment paper.

If the dough looks glossy greasy, its because it is.  No way around that one, folks.  This was NOT a situation where I was trying to make something healthy; it was a situation where I was trying to make something quickly so I could do my hair.

It’s all about priorities, after all.

Once I made peace with the grease, I then sprinkled 1 c each of coconut, chopped walnuts, and chocolate chips on top of the chocolate base…

…and then poured a can of sweetened condensed milk, otherwise known as nectar of the South, evenly on top.

Sweet, sweet, goodness.

It was at this point that I stared at the pan that was before me; the pan that contained enough sugar to put anyone into a diabetic coma, and wanted to add another layer of complexity.  Since I adore anything that is sweet and salty (or swalty), I recalled the chocolate covered caramel pretzel rods that I love so dearly (and therefore never make), and knew instantly that I needed to add a salty element to these bars.  I dashed into my pantry again, and emerged exactly 11.27 seconds later with a bag of these beauties:

Oh happy day!  I smashed up 10 or so, using the bowl from the chocolate batter base and the jar of coconut since I try to avoid doing dishes at all costs.

I put the pretzel pieces over the sweetened condensed milk, and gently pressed them in so they’d stay put. And not end up on my hips by way of my mouth, since we all know that pretzels like to travel.

I popped the whole lot in the oven, jumped in the shower, and in 25 minutes pulled a pan of pure goodness out of the oven.  I left them to cool, and quickly got ready to head out.

A few hours later, after we were all stuffed with grilled chicken and fabulous side dishes, it was time for dessert.

(I’d show you a picture of the pan when it just came out of the oven, but it looks almost identical to the pre-oven shot so just use your imagination, ok?)

I nervously cut into the pan, not sure what to expect.

They cut cleanly; that was a good sign.

With the disclaimer that this was a last-minute throw together type dessert, I quickly summoned the children to do some quality control prior to placing the bars on a plate and bringing them to the adult table.  The children approved – 6 year olds have discerning palates, in case you weren’t aware – and deemed them “safe” for the grown-ups.

You guys.  These.Are. Awesome.  They are sweet, salty, rich, and decadent.  They are serious. Cut them into small pieces, or have insulin on stand-by. They were referred to as “the best dessert I’ve ever had”, and R told me the only time I could make them again was for special occasions, like winning the lottery.  Yes, they’re THAT good.  Make them for your next BBQ with your hairdresser, or your sister, or your neighbour, or The Bachelorette.

And while you’re at it, don’t forget to make sure your hair looks good!

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Carrot Coconut Curry Soup

If you’ve been reading this blog for longer than 1 week, you may have picked up on the fact that I love soup – it’s like a warm hug on a cold day.  Wait a minute – am I confusing soup and hot chocolate again?  Hmmm – quite possibly. Well, cheesy tag lines aside, soup is one of my favourite things to make and then enjoy the leftovers all week long.  I suppose if you have a family you might be expected to share with them, but I don’t have that problem.  Aren’t I lucky?

I want to share one of my favourite soups with you – my blog family – today.  It’s creamy, rich, complex, and filling. It’s easy, healthy, a crowd pleaser, and pretty too.  Sounds like a winning combination so let’s get cooking!

Go to your fridge and pull out everything you see in the picture below:

In case you don’t have your glasses on, that would be carrots, red onions, oil, ginger, chicken broth, curry powder, cilantro, and coconut milk.

To get the party started, slice up 2 red onions. Bonus points if you don’t cry while doing so.

Chop off a knob of ginger – don’t you just love the smell of fresh ginger? I sure do.

Peel the ginger, and then chop it up.  This soup is going to be pureed so no need to get out your trusty calipers; a coarse chop is just fine.  I’m going to add 2 TBSP I think.  I didn’t measure, since I like to live on the edge.

Saute the onions and ginger in a drizzle of oil. So pretty!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Oops – wrong audience. Sorry.

Peel and chop up some carrots.  Again, no need to be precise so please don’t try to show me up by chopping your carrots in perfectly even pieces.  I don’t need another complex, thank you very much.

Time to go check on the onions and ginger, me thinks!

Lovely…it’s amazing what 5 minutes will do.

Time to add the curry powder.  Do you know why I’m adding it right now instead of later?  Spices taste better toasted, so by letting it cook with the onions and ginger for about 30 seconds  it will help release its oils and intensify its flavour. Add about 2 teaspoons and be prepared for a scent-sational party to happen in your kitchen.

I like the looks of this already…

Throw your carrots into the pot, along with a handful of cilantro – yes, stems and all! If you want to get all fancy on me you can make a bouquet garni so that you can easily remove the cilantro when the soup is done, but I personally enjoy the challenge of fishing herbs out of hot liquid.  It’s a favourite pastime of mine, in fact, and if you’ve never tried it this may be the chance you’ve been waiting your whole life for. Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this – just ask any American Idol Iron Chef contestants.

What are we missing here? Oh yes, chicken broth. Or veggie broth if you’d prefer. Add about 6 cups total of liquid and it should work out. Oh yes, and add some salt and pepper too – but be careful of the salt if you’re using a salty broth.

Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for a few hours while you have a pedicure and massage and then eat chocolate do your taxes, ironing, and clean your bathrooms.  If you feel so inclined to face the rest of the world and leave your house while making this soup, just stick the whole thing in your crockpot while you’re out.  I usually use my crockpot, but I feared the Tupperware avalanche that would fall on my head should I attempt to unearth it from the cupboard.  I’m sure no one can relate to me – I’m probably the only person in the world that has a Tupperware cupboard that has a mind of its own.  Please don’t tell Martha.

After a few hours, I was hungry.  So I walked into the kitchen, and here’s what I found:

It smells better than it looks, but it doesn’t matter because it’s time for me to play Remove The Cilantro! I’ve been waiting for 2 hours to play this game.

Jackpot! That should redeem me from the bonus points I didn’t earn while chopping the onions.

Grab your immersion blender – and pray it isn’t in the same cupboard as the Tupperware – to purée the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender you can use a regular blender, but be VERY careful that the blender doesn’t explode on you.

I suppose I could just serve the soup at this point in time, but I’m a glutton for punishment. Go grab that can of coconut milk…

…and empty it into the soup. If you’re feeling more healthy than me, you can use “light” coconut milk.  The soup won’t taste as rich, but it will still be delicious.

Whisk it in, and then taste the soup for seasoning.  If it needs any salt or pepper, now is not the time to be shy.

Garnish with some cilantro if you’re feeling festive, or if you just want to use up the rest of the bunch of cilantro. It’s ok to be practical sometimes, even when it comes to garnishing.

Oh la la! I would tell you all about how this soup will delight your taste buds and warm  your spirit, but I want you to make this soup for yourself and experience the same things that I am. Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have a hot dinner date that I don’t want to keep waiting.