Just the other day I convinced you all (except Mavis) that chocolate covered pretzels were the perfect potluck food.  This summer we attended a ham radio field day (yes, The Husband is a ham geek but a damn sexy one if you ask me) and I brought my new go-to potluck food. Here’s what was left of them after the first pass.

Plate pretzels RW

Yes, the first pass.  They fared well.  Quite well I think – aside from one guy complaining (joking? it’s hard to tell with ham geek humor sometimes) about mustard pretzels being on the dessert table that is, although I’d like it noted he still took one.  The Husband went back to field day after the kids went to bed for the night and he watched a guy snatch the very last pretzel.  So I guess I was totally right about them being the perfect food to sit out for extended periods of time.

Here’s Sweetey Petey enjoying one in case you need more photographic evidence they were popular.

Plate Pete RW

If you recall I also promised to share the rest of the potluck food. I focused solely on the dessert table for the post.  Yes, yes I did risk looking like a crazy fool in front of a bunch of people who have no idea I have a blog just to snap pictures of half eaten trays of food for you.  Because I love you all.  Or at least like.  I at least like you all.  Or at least most of you.

Anyway, here’s a breakdown of the dessert table.

The generic brownie.  Somebody always brings brownies.  They did okay. Not great, but solidly in the middle.

Plate Brownies RW

Store bought cake.  These did not fare well at all.  Nobody goes to a potluck for store bought cake people, so stay away from bringing these.  They sure were pretty though weren’t they? 

Plate store bought RW

I have no idea what these were.  Some sort of pastry?  It appears to have been pretty popular despite being purchased.

Plate Pastry RW

Apple pie.  Let’s face it, apple pie is always a winner no matter where you go or who you are with. So if you have the time, feel free to make one of these (message me your address if you need a taste tester mmmm K cause I love pie.)

Plate Pie RW

This was some sort of dump cake I think.  It was popular . . .

Plate dump cake RW

. . . so was the chocolate cake with caramel frosting.  Nothing beats a good homemade caramel frosting if you ask me (and apparently all the other folks who devoured this.)

Plate caramel cake RW

Fruit.  I’m tossing this into the dessert category here because it was with the desserts.  I devoured the cherries because cherries are expensive.  Must.  Get.  Money’s.  Worth.  From.  Free.  Potluck.

Plate cherries RW

For the record, the pre-sliced cherries made me look less like I’d been gutting chickens.  I had some blood red fingers after pulling pits out for Sweetey Petey.

Plate fruit salad RW

Watermelon is a classic and somebody always brings it.  It also always gets eaten.

Plate watermelon RW

This used to be cheesecake.  Clearly it was popular.  I bet Paula Deen’s mini cheesecake recipe would be a great option.  You all know that one right?  Quick, easy and already portioned.  I’ll have to keep that in mind . . .

Plate Empty RW

There were chocolate chip cookies too.  I forgot to snap a picture but I tried one.  Despite their claim of being “famous chocolate chip cookies” they were meh if you ask me.

So there you have it.  The potluck dessert table.

– Joanna

P.S.   My mom called me out on my lackluster blogging schedule the other day (over the phone of course since she has no clue how to leave comments.)  So, for the official record here are the reasons I’ve been a bad blogger lately:

1)  I’ve been painting the half finished wall in the Don Draper room (that’s what we call our family/play/TV/bar room.)

2)  I’ve been stripping painted over wallpaper again.  This is actually going faster than the last time I attempted this.  Possibly due to lack of blogging.

3)  I bought a carpet cleaner and have been cleaning the carpets (the Mother-in-Law will be happy about this because she noted the state of my carpets last time they visited.  Yeah, they are bad.  I have two kids and two dogs so they are bad.  Less bad now though thanks to my new Hoover baby.)

4)  I’ve been working on Sweetey Petey’s birthday party.  I am having Chipotle cater it so a lot of the food stress is gone, but I picked a pretty random theme (Giraffe’s Digging) and have not only created my only image for invites, but am also attempting one of those giant plywood cut-outs you stick your face through.  It’ll be of Giraffe’s.  Driving a construction digger.  And it’s gonna be awesome.

5)  I’m 95% sure that 90% of my readers these days are friends or relatives that I’m friends with on Facebook so they know the haps already.

I do still have lots to say and a ton of drafts started and some fun house projects to share eventually.  Very soon I’ll be starting a new series called The Patrick Project as well.  I’ll leave you to ponder on what that might be . . .

Question of the Day:  What do you think The Patrick Project is?? 

Pretzels in the Pan Crop R

Until recently I would have advised you NOT to invite me to your potluck.  I stink at bringing food other people like.  Let’s review my past potluck contributions:

cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut

brushetta with goat cheese

greek yogurt cucumber salad

marinated feta cheese, olive and cucumber skewers

I thought they were all perfectly yummy, and best of all healthy . . . but no one else ate them.  Any of them.  It’s not that they weren’t tasty or that I’m a bad cook, they were just out of the norm.

I was chatting with my friend Amber a few months ago and she noted she has this same problem.  She’s 100% Paleo and super excited for the food she brings to get-togethers.  Her contributions are super healthy, super within her diet and . . . super unpopular.  Or so she tells me – I go NUTS for her food because she’s an awesome cook.  We commiserated and I explained how I was done sharing food I like and was set on sharing food everybody likes.  Let’s face it, more people share the culinary tastes of my Father-in-Law than me.  It’d be a frigid day in H-E-double-hockey-sticks before I could get my Father-in-Law to eat a cold quinoa salad with raisins and toasted coconut and let’s not even discuss the goat cheese.  I shudder to think what he’d say if I served that to him.

After much debate I’ve recently come up with a solution to my potluck woes.

I’d like to introduce you to the perfect potluck food . . . dun dun duuuuuuun . . .

CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS!

Pretzels Crop R

I have reasons people, oh do I have reasons!

Pretzel Title RW

One.  Who doesn’t like pretzels?  Nobody, that’s who.  Pretzels even come in gluten-free versions if that’s an issue.

Two.  Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Nobody, that’s who.  Chocolate even comes in vegan versions if that’s an issue.

Three.  They are fast and easy to make.  Melt chocolate.  Dip pretzel.  Top if desired.  Done.

Four.  They can be made last minute.  Keep a bag of pretzels around the house and some chocolate and you are always ready to go, no special trip to the grocery required.

Five.  They are completely customizable to any and every occasion.  That’s right.  Every occasion.  Wilton candy melts come in a ridiculous amount of colors to account for every holiday, graduating seniors class colors, birthday theme, season and more!  For formal occasions or to appear fancy, use more expensive chocolate.  Dip your pretzels in a mix of white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate and you’ve got every type of chocolate lover covered.  And toppings!  Yes, let’s discuss toppings.  Crushed peppermint for Christmas.  Toasted pecans for Thanksgiving.  Green sprinkles for St. Patty’s Day.  Yellow sprinkles for summer.  Orange sprinkles for fall.  Red and blue sugar on white chocolate for Fourth of July.  I could go on but there isn’t enough room on the internet  to list all the options.

Six.  They are portable.  They store well, travel well, there’s no messy sauces to deal with and they are easy to grab a serving off the picnic table.  They won’t go stale, get soft or slimey or squishy and they have a shelf life that makes them just as tasty for a second helping when that fabulous party extends late into the night.  Plus, if by some miracle, there are any left and you take them home there’s no need to be concerned about contracting botulism from them sitting out on a table for hours and hours.

Seven.  They are pretty.  Yes, pretty.  Presentation is half the battle and the better they look the more likely they’ll end up on that disposable plate instead of that plain old generic brownie default.

Eight.  If you have kids, they can help! Get them dipping and rolling and you’ve not only got your potluck portion covered, but you’ve gotten your kids in the kitchen, kept them entertained and covered craft time.

Nine.  They really aren’t that bad for you.  Sure, chocolate covered pretzels aren’t exactly on par with eating a salad, but the pretzels themselves are low in fat and if you use a super dark chocolate they can be low in sugar too.  Topping with crushed peanuts even offers a protein boost.  Take that generic brownie.

Ten.  I don’t actually have a tenth reason, but nine reasons chocolate covered pretzels are the perfect potluck food sounded less cool than ten so how about you just take my word for it okay?

Pretzels in the Pan RW

Stop back in later for a post on how well these pretzels did at our last potluck . . . as well as how well other dishes fared!

– Joanna

P.S.  If you are asked to bring a side dish to your next potluck . . . well, ignore the request and go ahead and still bring these mmmm K?  No one will be mad once they eat them.  Besides, pretzels are carby and carbs are side dishes so WIN!

Question of the Day:  What’s your go-to potluck dish?

Remember that one time I talked about iguanas and alluded to a blog post I never shared?  Yes, well in that post I never shared I suggested I might mix things up around here and stop playing it so safe (aka not worry about ticking people off and just say what I want to say.)

On that note I’d like to get something off my chest.  No, I need to get something off my chest.  Or out of my underwear. That really would make more sense if you’d read the post.  Sigh.  Let’s just move on shall we?

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but . . .

THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN JUST CHOCOLATE!

You heard me.

THERE IS MORE TO LIFE THAN JUST CHOCOLATE!

Say it with me.  Let’s not scream it this time, just say it nice and matter of fact like.

There is more to life than just chocolate.

Once more, with expression.

There is more to life than just chocolate.

Specifically I’m talking to my husband and his folks.  Calling them out if you will.  Challenging them to broaden their horizons.  Take a risk, take a gamble, step out of their safe little cocoons and experience ALL there is in life to experience.

Let’s set the scene.

My in-laws came into town (with a ten foot yellow slide and a hideously framed fish picture but those are different stories entirely) for a visit the other day.  We had dinner one night and plans for ice cream the next.  There were three options for ice cream locations.

Option A – The local dairy whip.  Yes, a town favorite but pretty basic soft serve and nothing distinguishable from any other dairy whip.  What it has going for it is location, location, location.  It’s five minutes from home and when you have a baby that gets the fuss in the evenings and a two a half year old that gets a case of the crazies in the evenings this really is a strong selling point.

Option B – Fancy soft serve fro-yo.  Fun flavors and toppings.  The big selling point here (besides the points card which earns me free fro-yo) is all the options.  You can add as many different flavors and toppings to your cup as your hungry heart desires! The possibilities are endless (okay, not really endless but statistically really high)!  Option B is more like ten minutes from home.  Not too shabby.

Option C – Local, French pot ice cream. It’s pretty much the all time best, stick to the roof of your mouth creamy goodness that is worth every dang pants tightening, cellulose inducing calorie.  Its only drawback . . . it’s more like 15-18 minutes from home.  Not bad, but go too close to bedtime and it’s the longest 15-18 minute car ride ever.  Plus it’s kind of on a busy road and Sweetey Petey is a runner.

My husband wanted Option A.  The in-laws tend to get Option C on their own when they visit.  So I pushed for Option B – moderately close to home and with loads of options.  The perfect compromise if you ask me.

Here’s the problem.  Despite the fact that the frozen yogurt came in fun flavors like Orange, Pineapple, Peanut Butter, Brownie Batter, Coconut, Coffee, Cheesecake, Vanilla, Pistachio, Strawberry, Chocolate, Birthday Cake, Blackberry Greek, Salted Caramel and even pre-mixed smoothies . . . my husband and his entire side of the family only got chocolate.  Chocolate.  Just chocolate.  Mike added a few toppings to his chocolate, but his parents?  They were toppingless.  As in without any top.  No sprinkles or nuts or crushed candy or fruit or gummy bears or Swedish fish or marshmallows or coconut or iced graham cracker cookies or brownie bits or nerds or sauces of any kind.

Just.  Plain.  Chocolate.

I’ll admit I myself didn’t go hog wild with toppings, but I never do when I’m letting new to me frozen yogurt flavors shine though.

Yes, you read me right, flavors.  Plural.  With an s people, an s.  That’s the point of these places, to try new flavors!

In my bowl was a combo of cheesecake, coconut and pistachio.  I sprinkled some rainbow jimmies on top for funsies.  Because these places are supposed to be fun.  My fav?  The pistachio!  Followed closely by the coconut and coming up last, the cheesecake.

Fro Yo RW

That’s Sweetey Petey’s cup above mine.  The Husband *gasp* gave him some peanut butter as well.

There was no plain chocolate in my cup.  Because plain chocolate at a fancy fro-yo place is just so vanilla.  I’ll admit the in-laws aren’t notorious for trying new things (remember the kohlrabi debacle) but if ever there was a chance for them, I’d like to think it starts with fro-yo.

I know my M-I-L doesn’t read my blog but my F-I-L does and so do some of their friends.  I say we all band together.  We all band together and double dog dare them to get something other than chocolate next time.  And toppings?  At least one??  Maybe even *gasp* a sauce???  Can they do it????  With a little encouragement I do believe there could still be hope for them yet.

– Joanna

What’s your favorite frozen yogurt topping?

DSC_0530 RW Title

I don’t always have a back story for my recipes, but today I’ve got one.  Maybe not a crazy exciting one, but a back story nonetheless.

Once I hit the super pregnant stage I started having weekly appointments with my doctor.  Back in the day we all went as a family in the late afternoons, but I then switched to early mornings instead.  Morning appointments are always faster since there’s been less time for the office to get behind.  I’m in and out and the toddler gets some extra alone time with his dada.  Since I’m gone before Sweetey Petey wakes up, dada gets him dressed and fed and takes him to work till my appointment is over.

One of my last appointment before Charwee was born went faster than normal so I actually beat my boys to work.  Dada had already promised The Pete he could come into his office to color on his white board, but it was an extremely short visit.  When after a few minutes I tried to put The Pete in my car to go home, well . . . let’s just say he was less than pleased.  There’s no question about it, he’s a dada’s boy all the way.  I asked The Pete what would make him happy (other than dada of course because that was his first answer) and his response was “COOK!”

“Alright,” I said, “how about we make cookies?”

“Okay,” said The Pete.

“What kind would you like to cook?” I asked.

“Choc chip!!” The Pete said excitedly.  “Choc chip!!”

“Choc” chip cookies it was then.  Considering my toddler’s love for “choc” chips and his propensity for shoving things in his mouth, I immediately knew they had to be egg free.  As much as the toddler loves looking for eggs in the chicken coop and helping to stir the scrambled eggs in the mornings, I certainly didn’t want him nibbling the “choc” chips out of raw egg filled cookie dough.

Pete Cook 2 RW

I lean toward gluten-free desserts and normally I would attempt an almond flour cookie first, but I was out and my Honeyville order hadn’t arrived yet.  I had plenty of coconut flour but coconut flour needs eggs.  Gluten-filled cookies it would be then!

I did a quick Google search when we got back to the house and landed on this recipe.  I had most of the ingredients and knew I could modify it slightly enough to fit my taste preferences.  Also, I added rolled oats to help ease the guilt of making cookies in the first place.

And I gotta say, this recipe turned out awesome.  Seriously.  These cookies don’t need eggs and I don’t need to worry if my kid (or I) want to nibble on the dough.  Which we both did.  I will be adding these cookies to our family’s recipe binder and we will be making them again.  And you should too.

DSC_0525 RW

Egg-Free “Choc” Chip Cookies

slightly adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/3 cup white granulated sugar

1/2 cup white granulated sugar (No this is not a mistake.  The original recipe called for 1/2 cup of brown sugar which I thought I had but turned out I didn’t so I added molasses to compensate.  And I think the flavor turned out even better than had it been brown sugar.  So just go with me here, mmmmm K?)

1 tablespoon blackstrap molasses

1 1/2 cups cake flour (The original recipe called for all-purpose but I was out of that too.  So you could probably use all-purpose and be fine if that’s what’s in your pantry.)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon roasted cinnamon (Okay, okay, I know.  You probably only have regular cinnamon.  I get it, but I would HIGHLY suggest you splurge on the roasted cinnamon because it’s AMAZING and you will never go back to regular cinnamon again.  Ever.)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla (Make it the good stuff people, not the imitation junk.)

3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted

1/2 cup “choc” chips (Feel free to add some extra here because little hands may pick a few out before you get the cookies baked.  And by may I mean will.)

1/3 to 1/2 cup rolled oats (Oats are good for you so thus these cookies are good for you.  Right?  Right.)

The Haps:

This is a kid friendly recipe so if you have children, let them help!  I let the toddler do most of the stirring, but did pull out the hand mixer and stepped in to get the dough ball rolling.

Pete Cook 1 RW

Cream butter, sugar and molasses.  Mix in flour, baking soda, roasted cinnamon and salt in three parts.  Mix in coconut oil and vanilla.  Once combined, stir in chocolate chips and rolled oats.  Eat some dough because you can.  It’s alright.  I give you permission.  In fact, I insist you do this.  Drop whatever is left by rounded tablespoons onto a Silpat or parchment lined cookie sheet.

Silpat RW

Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes.  Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for several minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Cookies RW

My best guess is that this recipe makes 2 dozen cookies.  That’s if you don’t eat any dough first.  Which we did.  So again, 2 dozen is my best guess.

DSC_0520 RW

If guilt isn’t something you struggle with and you are simply looking for a straight up “choc” chip cookie recipe to keep in your back pocket, just omit the rolled oats.

Also, please heed my previous warning on baked goods and the great outdoors.

DSC_0529 RW

Despite the fact I know it’s a delicate balancing act to photograph food outside, a thin tightrope to walk balancing a heavy camera and a heavy lens all the while keeping your eye on the cookie prize . . . I still managed to drop an entire plate of cookies in the snow.

DSC_0536 RW

I still managed to eat them too.  Fortunately this accident happened while I was still pregnant and still had my snow craving.  Now that Charwee has joined us, I’ve lost all appetite for the fluffy white flakes that fall from the sky.

DSC_0538 RW

I think both the cookies and I are ready to say farewell to winter for awhile.

– Joanna

P.S.  It’s nap time as I typed this post up and just as I finished I heard the toddler wake up and start chattering over the monitor.  What’s he saying you ask?  He’s saying “I cook!”  So maybe we’ll be making these cookies again sooner than I’d thought.

Question of the Day:  What’s your favorite thing to cook with kids?  If you don’t have kids, what’s your favorite thing to cook with your spouse or your friends?

All bark and Bite RW

So now that the Christmas season is upon us, every blogger and their mother is making bark.  Most of them are making peppermint bark because peppermint is to Christmas as pumpkin is to Thanksgiving.

Channeling my inner SAT’s there for a minute.  Sorry.  No, I’m not really sorry, but I am sorry for apologizing when I wasn’t really sorry in the first place.

Moving on.

I have no problems with bark.  Unless it’s the dogs’ incessant barking, which I swear they do these days non freaking stop.

Anyway, moving on again.

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The good.  The bad.  And the chocolate.

I probably should have started with the chocolate to keep your attention but oh well.

1. The Good

I’ve been planning the nursery lately and it’s been all kinds of fun.

I ordered a neutral rug for the room that can be used elsewhere in the house if the babe demands a Pepto Bismol pink pad someday.

Tree Pic R

There is a lot going on with the art I’ve picked and I didn’t want the rug to compete.

There’s a dimensional balloon piece, a Fox and The Hound print from my room when I was a kid . .

Balloons RW

as well as four fox prints . . .

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Chocolate malted Milk Cupcakes RW

Okay, so we’ve got our cupcakes that were dabbed with Chocolate Malt Ovaltine Soak.  Let’s put these puppies together once and for all.  Seriously, my lazy arse has been dragging this cupcake series on waaaaaay tooooooo looooong. Visit all the links below to see all the previous steps!

Ovaltine Soak RW 4

So, the next thing ya gotta do is microwave the Chocolate Malt Fudge Sauce for just a few seconds.  You want it to flow, but juuuuust barely.  It still needs to be thick.  Top each cupcake with a spoonful and put them all back into the fridge to set up.  There may be some drippage.  No worries, that’s what spoons were made for.  At least I think that’s what happened to the tray after the party . . . mom, you wanna fess up to scraping all the tasty bits off???  (Next time I might try piping the fudge sauce INTO the cupcake to see how that goes.)

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This is it.  The final recipe.  The final component in making a five year old boy smile.

Chocolate Malt Frosting!

Chocolate Malt Frosting RW Title

 

Chocolate Malt Frosting adapted from Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook’s Birthday Cake Frosting page 107.  Buy the book.  Thank me with cupcakes.  

This recipe liberally frosts two dozen cupcakes.

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Phase Three.  Mission: Birthday Party Cupcakes.

In case you’re catching up, Phase Two was Chocolate Malt Fudge Sauce.  Phase One was Chocolate Malted Milk Crumb.

Up today . . . Chocolate Cake!!!

My pal John says I can still use Woot so I’m using it now.  Woot.  Woot.  Woot.

Heck, let’s really sell it here.  Woot.  Woot.  Woot.  Woot.  A fourth woot.  I know, I know.  The excitement.

Chocolate Cupcakes once again BARELY adapted from the Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook . . . if you like this recipe then BUY THE BOOK! 

Chocolate Cupcakes Title

Ingedients:

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DSC_0096 enh RW Title

I realized over the weekend that my last post made it sound like I used all the items from my Foodie Pen Pal box to make rice pudding.  Yes, that would include Kelp Granules.  That’s not entirely true.  I actually made two recipes from the box of goodies.  It was a necessity because it turns out Kelp Granules don’t taste very good in rice pudding.

I’m going to focus on the rice pudding today so the second recipe will have to wait till later on in the week.

Sorry to be a blog tease.

Back to the pudding.

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If you recall, I received the following box of goodies from Sonya in the Foodie Pen Pals exchange.

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