April 12th, 2010



I'm not really a cook, I just play one on TV (in the perfect-family-sitcom that airs in my head, of course). When I lived with roommates after college, in Chicago, I could barely boil water for rice. I made a lot of buttered noodles, as I recall. One didn't NEED to cook, living in downtown Chicago...there were take-out places of every stripe and color on every street and corner. You didn't have to eat the same cuisine twice in 2 weeks if you didn't want to! When I wasn't eating out, I subsisted mainly on Campbell's soups and the occasional artichoke, and I called my mom whenever I had questions about cooking things.

After I moved to Sweden and joined/formed the AWC, we had a cooking club activity that really jumpstarted my prowess adequacy as a chef. What it really helped with was figuring out how to follow recipes, and more importantly, how to wing it. How to pull together items into an appetizing meal and how to judge my comfort level with the recipe on hand: was it too hard or complicated for me to manage? Did it require ingredients I had no hope of finding? Was the prep time several days in advance? Did it require constant stirring (hello! attention span defici—SQUIRREL!) Of course, I STILL call my mom when I have cooking questions, especially if Anders isn't home to ask or I can't find the answer in my trusty BHG red-and-white-plaid cookbook (which my mom gave me, naturally).

When Debbie started the Wonders evenings of dinners with my First Friends, I was able, for several turns, to pull out tried-and-true favorites that I knew I could make and serve with relative ease, and that I knew were crowd-pleasers, but now, 3 or so years in, I'm finding that I have to be more creative, and more on the lookout for meal plans that will still fulfill my criteria: relatively easy, no hard-to-find-or-prepare ingredients and no constant-stirring. I hosted twice in a row (for reasons that are complicated to get into now) so this time I was at a bit of a loss and started ransacking cookbooks to find an entree, a side dish, veggies and a dessert that would make mouths water and that I would be able to pull off without ending up in tears or total stressball freakout.

Years of ripping out recipes from various magazines, asking for recipes from friends who had just served me something delicious and copying from online friends has given me a veritable plethora of untried recipes crammed into my bulging clipbook, but the operative word there is "untried." They all SOUND good and they LOOK good, but many of them have never actually been attempted so I was wary of trying something that I wasn't sure WOULD be good. But hey! that's what optimism and planning and a pinch of salt are for, right!? I found a meal plan from a magazine that sounded easy and pretty good: steaks with a crème fraîche mushroom sauce, blanched baby asparagus and oven-roasted mandelpotatis with rosemary & seasalt. I can't find an English translation for mandelpotatis...literally, it's "almond potato" but it doesn't taste like almonds, and Wikipedia says the name probably comes from the shape, though it does have a slightly nutty flavor.

But I was stumped on dessert.

I like fruit-and-dough (mmm...pie) and Angie is a complete chocolate fiend, though I can take it or leave it. Emily isn't real big on cream-based desserts, and Kelly & Debbie are up for anything. Usually I go with something simple and as close to fruit-and-dough as I can get. Most of my sweets-experimenting is in the form of cookies, since I'm a complete cookie monster and cookies are such fun and you get a lot of them when you bake them and you can make them quickly and easily and they freeze well. So the vast majority of the recipes in my dessert section are for cookies...which had me at a bit of a loss, because I don't really think of cookies, much as I love them, as a meal-ender when you are having a dinner party. But then! I had a cookie EPIPHANY! I pulled out the Caramel-Filled Chocolate Cookie recipe that I got from ms_hackman several years ago. This was the cookie recipe that we re-dubbed "Moose Poop" or "Reindeer Poop" when made at Christmas time. And I thought, "I can make a CAKE out of this! A giant chocolate caramel-filled cookie CAKE!

And I did. And holy chocolate cookie monsters, it was GOOD. I took a photo of it before baking, but it didn't last long enough afterwards for me to take another photo. To make a cake instead, make the cookie dough (I melted the butter instead of using softened), and put it in a greased pie form, pressing the candies upside down into the dough. I used 3 rolls of Center candies, half milk & half dark chocolate. Then I baked the whole thing for approximately 20 minutes, checking to make sure the center cooked. NOM NOM NOM! I served it with really good vanilla ice cream, and then I died and went to heaven.

Nom Nom Nommity Belated Birthday Wishes to reebert and kissekat and Rée!
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