In this video I am trying NOT to laugh, which I think you can tell. My very favourite part is the very end when I sing the high note and Chester the Singing Dog just stops and stares at me – clearly in awe of my musical prowess. Probably not because his ears hurt, right?
My cousin Kirsten posted a recipe for No Bake Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bars with the following challenge:
“I think that “Sandy”, Tony, and I should make these this weekend. It could be an international “baking” experience”
Ok – it wasn’t really a challenge so much as a suggestion, but if you’ve ever encountered a Kenyon before you’ll know that even saying ‘Good day!” can become a challenge depending on the specific Kenyon you are addressing. Unfortunately today I was That Specific Kenyon. Game ON!
When my husband and I went out to get groceries that morning I told him I needed to get some sweetened condensed milk and some chocolate chips. He looked at me, kind of confused. “um… why?” I arched a brow “I’m in a baking competition” I said airily, turning to peruse the mysteries of the baking aisle. “I’m sorry? What? You are in a baking competition?” confusion turned to amusement “You’re in a BAKING competition??” He crowed, a huge grin splitting his once handsome face “OMG! Is your entry the “what not to do” picture?” he was almost crying with laughter at this point “seriously… this is a joke right?” I was very miffed. Fine, so I’m no Wolfgang Puck, nor am I Martha Stewart… hell, my ‘food’ isn’t even on par with hospital fare, but surely a no bake square is not beyond my reach. I ignored him and took two cans of sweetened condensed milk off the shelf and dropped them into the cart. Don shook his head and reached in, snagging the cans and putting them back on the shelf. ‘What are you doing?’ I demanded indignantly ‘I need that for my recipe!’ Don shook his head again and reached for some cans on a different shelf. ‘Did you need evaporated milk” here he gestured with the can I had picked up “or sweetened condensed Milk.” he gestured with the can he chose, “They’re different. If it’s a square it’s probably the sweetened condensed milk” I silently cursed Kirsten for taunting me into this “baking” thing, then plucked the sweetened condensed milk from his hand and dropped it into the cart “Whatever”. Then turned my back on him and went in search of chocolate chips.
I found the shelves of chocolate chips at the end of the baking aisle we were in. Hmm… who knew there could be SO many different kinds of chocolate chips? dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, mini chocolate, mini chocolate chips with candy coating… for gods sake! Feeling Don’s amused gaze I pretended I knew what I was doing and took two bags of chocolate chips off the shelf. “So… you want dark chocolate and not milk chocolate chips?” he asked. If his tone hadn’t been so smugly patronizing I would probably have put them back and gotten the milk chocolate chips that I suddenly remembered the recipe called for (mental note, next time bring the recipe with me), however, Stubborn is my middle name. “Actually, I think Semi-sweet would make the recipe healthier” I said, putting the dark chocolate chips back and grabbing a package of semi-sweet chips. “Healthy cookie dough squares…ok” He shrugged “Will one package be enough?” Don asked. How the hell was a girl to remember all these things? I silently fumed “YES!” I said quite firmly, hoping against hope that I was correct. Then I grabbed one more bag and flung the chocolate chips into the cart. Quickly I retreated from the stupid baking aisle and off we went to finish the shopping.
Fast forward to two hours later: we are home, groceries unpacked. I stacked the unsalted butter, chocolate chips and condensed milk on the counter. “I’m going to go out and ride the horse….unless you need me?” Don suggested pointing at the ingredients on the counter “Off you go!” I sang, with a bravado I did not feel “They are just No Bake squares – easy peasy!” He tried to disguise his laugh with a cough but I knew. Oh ye of little faith! I thought.. just wait and see. He gave me a kiss and headed out the door.
I turned to the recipe on the counter and read the first step:
1) Line an 8×8 inch pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil and set aside.
I pulled out the aluminum foil and ripped off a piece about 2 feet long. Well. I tried to fit it into the pan but the darn thing was longer than it was wide… so the sides were bare. I took another piece off the roll and tried to fit it across the first piece. Nope. This piece was to short. Grrrr! Ok, it took about 40000 pieces of foil to get it the right size… and as you can see from the creases, it wasn’t an easy fit.. but it’s done and so that’s good.
2) In a large mixing bowl, mix together butter and brown sugar until it is fluffy. This takes about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and bet until combined.
“Bet” until combined… Bet what? Ha Ha… I crack myself up. The recipe called for 3/4 of a cup of light brown sugar. I retrieved the brown sugar from the cupboard and measured out half a cup. crap. That’s all there was in the bag. Panicking slightly I searched through the pantry. Nope, no more brown sugar. I checked my ‘Smart Chef’ app on my phone. According to the Owl (why would an owl know how to bake?) I could substitute white sugar and molasses for brown sugar. Huh. Ok, so I got on a chair and started searching for molasses in the top of the pantry. No luck. “Well” I reasoned “sugar is sugar and all good Bakers know that substitutions happen and it will be fine!” I measured out a 1/4 cup of white sugar and dumped that in on top of the brown sugar. Then, worried that maybe brown sugar was sweeter than white sugar? I plopped a bit more in just in case. “It’s sugar! how can more sugar hurt?” I dusted my hands on my shirt (oops, should have put an apron on!) and looked at the recipe.
Butter. I had forgotten to put the butter out to get soft. I put the hard bar of butter on the counter and found the half cup mark on the wrapper. Using a sharp knife I cut through the wrapper and sliced off a chunk. A sort of uneven chunk. Uh oh. I’m sure the butter should be a square or rectangle of some sort and this was clearly a trapezoid or something. Hmm. I got a bigger knife, and measured the same distance from the other end of the pound of butter. Carefully I sliced through the bar and Voila!! This piece was even! Ok, it was slightly bigger than the first piece, but I’d put some extra sugar in so I’m sure it would be all good, I reassured myself. I gathered up the remaining oddly shaped chunks of the bar of butter, deposited them in a plastic bag and put them back in the fridge. I’m sure it was fine.
‘bet’ until combined. I snapped the beaters into the mixer and plugged it in. Turning it to low, I pushed it into the butter and prayed. It made a really sad noise, then kind of stopped. The butter might be a bit too hard, I reasoned. BUT I knew that if I microwaved the butter it would get too soft (retained knowledge from another baking disaster) so I just forced the beaters into the butter again and turned it on. Eventually it started to smash up the butter into smaller chunks and spray sugar everywhere but it did start to combine. Persistence pays off!! suddenly it got REALLY easy to mix and I realized that this had happened :
All of the butter was now inside the beaters and most of the sugar was outside of the beaters… how to combine them both? I added the vanilla, reasoning that more moisture might help loosen things up and then fell back on my usual baking motto: When in doubt, use more power. I turned the beaters up to ‘high’ and held them about a half an inch above the sugar. For a few seconds nothing happened other than the butter filled beaters spun and spun. Suddenly a wee bit of butter came flying out and before you could say ‘Holy Crap!’ butter was flying everywhere! I jammed the beaters into the sugar only to add flying sugar to the flying butter. Good lord! Being a natural problem solver I grabbed the cord and unplugged the beaters. Silence filled the kitchen; Butter and butter/sugar dotted the backsplash on the counter and the sides of the mixing bowl. But SUCCESS!! The beaters were no longer jammed full of butter! I grabbed a teaspoon and started scooping the butter/sugar blobs back into the bowl.
3) Turn the mixer to low and alternate the flour and the sweetened condensed milk until combined. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
Once all the batter was back in the bowl, I measured out the sweetened condensed milk. Because we are a metric people, I once again pulled out my handy dandy smart phone and plugged in: 300ml converted to oz. It calculated that one 300ml can of condensed milk was 10 oz. Hmm. Ok, so then I needed 4 more ounces and luckily I had purchased two cans. I opened the second can and then realized that I didn’t have anything that would measure just 4 oz… rats. Well, 8 oz is a cup so 4 oz would be half a cup, I reasoned. I rummaged through the utensil drawer… no half cups. Hmm. Well, one can was 10 oz so half a can would be 5 oz, so 1 fifth less of half a can would be 4 oz. Silently congratulating myself on my advanced math skills I dumped the first can into the butter/sugar mixture and started to pour the second can in… oops! a bit more than half a can. No worries, I’d already put some extra sugar and butter in, it was probably actually good that I put a bit extra Condensed milk in there… I consulted the recipe again. Oh shit. ‘alternate the flour and sweetened condensed milk…” I looked dubiously at the contents of the mixing bowl… there is no real way to pull the condensed milk out of the ‘batter’ at this point
You know, I think alternating ingredients is a tactic people use when they are not very diligent in their mixing – so I decided to put all the flour in next and then mix it all at once. Really it was a more efficient way to combine things. I grabbed the flour canister and a measuring cup and scooped out a cup of flour. I dumped it into the bowl and started the mixer. Immediately a huge pouf of flour flew up and all over my shirt and the counter. Oh, right. I turned the beaters off and used the mixer like a spoon and slopped it around in the batter for a while till most of the flour was at least damp. Then I turned on the mixer again and, turning it up to High, mixed the batter for all it was worth. Once the motor in the mixer started to smell like melting plastic, I turned it off – clearly things were combined. I looked back at the recipe. Shit. Had I added One cup or Two of flour? Hmm. Well, I reasoned, since I’d added too much condensed milk I should probably add a bit more flour anyway so as a compromise I added another half cup of flour. Then decided I probably hadn’t added the second cup so added 3/4 again just to be sure.
Yep. That looked better. I put the mixer in and started it again… it was really groaning and smelled kind of bad. No worry, this was a good mixer and I had faith in it! After beating the flour in I stopped and measured out the chocolate chips and realized that they were supposed to be mini-chips. Huh. Whatever – chocolate is chocolate, right? I measured out two cups of chocolate chips and dumped them in the batter. Since I’d added extra flour I had better add extra chocolate chips as well – no one wants a square that has too few chocolate chips in it! So I opened the second bag and judiciously poured about 1/3 of the bag in. I abused my mixer again and got all the chocolate chips incorporated. It looked pretty good! Yes, it was both stiff and sticky, but since it was ‘no bake’ I was pretty sure that’s exactly how it should have been.
4) Press the cookie dough into the bottom of the 8×8 pan. It will be sticky so lightly flour your hands if needed.
I tipped the bowl over the prepared baking pan and scooped it out onto the foil. It was very sticky. Really. Like, when I used the spoon to smooth the batter out, it stuck to the spoon and pulled the whole mess and the foil away from the pan. Panicking I pushed it back with my fingers but I forgot to ‘lightly flour my hands’ so… they got batter stuck all over them. Ew. It was sort of like cement really but I managed to use the spoon to pry the batter off my fingers and smush the whole thing into the pan again. Good job Sandy!
5) Cover your bars with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight until firm
After washing my hands, I got the wax paper out and placed a piece over the squares. It looked pretty good! Now to wait three hours!
Three hours later….
Ok. It’s totally *not* three hours later. Or maybe it is? I forgot to note the time when I put the squares in the fridge. Sigh. Well, why do they need to be in there for so long anyway? I mean really – what is the big deal? They don’t get cooked… I went and poked the squares through the waxed paper. They seemed pretty firm… I’m sure it has been three hours. I consult the recipe:
6) To make the topping, combine the peanut butter and ½ cup chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl. Stir every 30 seconds until smooth. Pour and spread over the top of the chilled dough and chill at least for 1 hour until firm.
I open the peanut butter jar and look at the peanut butter. Luckily there is a LOT of peanut butter… but how do you measure half a cup without getting everything covered in peanut butter? Tablespoons. Tablespoons will be tidier than 1/2 cups of sticky gross peanut butter. I whip out my handy dandy smart phone again and consult the Conversion Calculator. 1/2 a cup is 4 oz, and 4 oz is the same as 8 tablespoons of peanut butter. Excellent. I grab the measuring spoons out of the drawer and start scooping peanut butter into a large pyrex measuring cup. I get to about 4 spoons when I realize I’m using a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon. For crying out loud! Grrrr… I hate baking. Even No-bake baking. sigh. I look in the bowl and realize that my little flight of frustration has now made me forget how many teaspoons I’ve put in already. Crap. I think it must be about 3 and I know that 3 is basically a tablespoon, so I just switch to the tablespoon and keep on scooping. 2, 3, 4, 5… and the phone rings. I pick it up and cradle it between ear and shoulder while I push the last scoop of peanut butter off with my finger. “You have been selected…” That’s as far as they get before I hang up. Darn telemarketers! I look at the batter and the small blobs of peanut butter sitting on top. Oh no… I try to count them… it looks like 4? Maybe 4. or 5. Ok, never mind, I start again at 5, 6, 7, 8. Done. 8-ish blobs of peanut butter. Of course I now have peanut butter all over the cup, my hands, the counter. Next time (like I’ll actually do this again…) I’ll use a 1/2 cup measure. I grab the chocolate chips and start pouring them in the cup before I remember I’m supposed to measure them. WHATEVER! I WANT THIS HELL TO BE OVER!! I throw in one more handful, cram a half a handful in my mouth out of frustration, and take the mess over to the microwave.
After about 400 half minute bursts, the peanut butter and chocolate chips morph into a melty goo and I mix them vigorously. Pulling the pan out of the fridge, I peel off the wax paper and a LOT of batter sticks to the paper. ok, it’s not that firm. I don’t care, I’m done messing around with this stuff. I pour the chocolate peanut butter topping onto the base and observe the lumps of unmelted chocolate chips marring the surface. Sigh. I throw the thing back into the fridge for one more hour. I’m telling you now, these better taste wonderful!
At exactly 9:00pm I pulled the squares out of the fridge. The top looked pretty set. I poked them with my finger. Not too bad, fairly firm. I pulled the foil up and took the whole thing out of the pan and set it on a wooden cutting board. I peeled the foil back.. it looked like this
It was a little sticky (ok, maybe I hadn’t left it as long as I should have) but so far, so good! I cut a slice off of one side and then into little squares (ok, big squares). it was a bit soft but not to bad… what was the end result?
I fed one to Andy and his response was “omg these are good! Did Don make them?” and then “I think my pancreas is hurting….” LOL I think it was a success! Aside from the fact that I will never make these again – I mean, who are we kidding? it is basically just a fluke that these turned out at all!
And what did I think? Well, it’s a really bad picture, but Nom Nom Nom sums it up nicely 🙂
Another blog moved over from my facebook page from April 2010.
well, this morning Cinder was still waddling about with an obviously full load of kittens inside. No excitement during the night so I’m glad I didn’t go crawling around the garage at midnight trying to see if there were babies… but tonight I haven’t seen her at all. Mind you, there is a freaking blizzard out there and if she has any sense (and I’m not sure she does) she’ll be cozied up somewhere kittens or not. I think about how harsh life is on a farm and how many animal babies we’ve had in our house warming them up from the winter.. there was one goat kid that we warmed in the oven to keep it’s body temperature up. I put a towel in our largest roasting pan and stuck the kid in the pan and into the oven with the door open. It didn’t help that Don kept strolling by making useful comments like “Best get used to it kid!” or “Throw some garlic and onions in!”. How crude. How could you even consider that when you look into the babies big dark eyes?
Andy reminded me that I was not without an insensitive streak – he says that one time at a petting zoo I kept picking up a lamb and pointing out the tastiest cuts… and that I apparently tried to smuggle it out and take it home for dinner. I have no recollection of this – I’m sure he must be mistaken. He was with me the night we brought Squiggy home..the piglet that was supposed to be a pot bellied pig, yet grew to be absolutely huge. We picked him up at a local farm and put him in a cardboard box, the kind that fruit comes in from BC. I was putting him into the backseat when the farmer we got him from said “lady, I don’t recommend that -the box isn’t water proof and pig smell is real hard to get out of the upohlstery.” Andy and I considered for a moment. It seemed cruel to put this wee animal in the trunk, but I didn’t relish the idea of having manure on my seat. The pig solved the problem by promptly emptying it’s bladder… the resulting aroma was enough to eliminate the back seat as a possibility. So we put the pig in it’s box in the trunk, then Andy got in the back seat and opened the pass through from the back seat to the trunk so we could see the piggy. It was barely a 10 minute drive home, but in that 10 minutes Squiggy managed to break out of his box and start running laps around the trunk. Andy was beside himself – thought this was the funniest thing ever – but apparently Squiggy hadn’t emptied ALL of his insides and promptly a new and familiar pig smell was reeking through the car. We got home in record time and as the car was rolling to a stop we both leaped out. Don ambled over from the garage “what’s happening?” he asked. He didn’t know about the pig. Without saying anything I popped the trunk release and went to the back and fished the hot and panicked pig out of the trunk. “oh.” he said. “it’s a pig”. At this point there might have been a long silence while we all digested the truth of this but frankly the pig was screaming it’s head off.. apparently it wasn’t happy about me holding it up in a strange yard in front of strange people after a strange ride in the trunk. Don reached over and said some thing that might have been “it’s ok little guy” but I never got to double check that. As he reached for the pig, the pig had apparently reached his own limit and he chomped Don right on the hand. Making my exit as quickly as possible and throwing apologies over my shoulder as I went, “I’m sorry he bit you, he’s upset – he’s had a difficult evening” I took Squiggy into the barn to get him settled into his new home. He loved the pile of fresh clean straw and was quite enthusiastic about his food, but he also was intrigued by the grunting coming from the next pen. We had, at this time, another pig named Cyrano – he was a wild boar and a rather nasty one at that. He was almost at slaughter weight so wouldn’t be around for much longer, but Squiggy didn’t know that. Hearing a familiar ‘language’ he was captivated – who knows what sultry lures the wild boar was enticing him with? But I knew immediately that if I wasn’t careful, Squigward would end up wild boar food.
The next day, we took squiggy out for a walk in our yard. Have you ever seen the movie Crazy Farm with Chevy chase and his Irish Setter? The one that shows up from time to time running in the distance? Well that was squiggy. The pig took off and we couldn’t catch him. Andy tried valiantly to catch the wee thing but ended up running himself ragged so Finally we just sat on the porch and watched.. from time to time we’d hear his little squeal and the pig would zip by, north to south… then a few minutes later he’d zip by again, east to west… then south to north.. then west to east. Eventually we lost sight of him completely and I figured our squiggy was gone. Later I went to check one more time in the barn and that’s when I heard some happy little grunts coming from the chicken pen… yep. he had climbed in through the chicken door and was chatting with the chickens. I opened the coop door and he strolled out and right into his pen like nothing had ever happened.
That evening Andy and I went in to feed Squiggy and see how he was doing and before you could say ‘holy cow!’ he zipped out of his pen and squeezed through the boards into the wild boar pen. Panic ensued. Andy started yelling at me to get the pig out but the wild boar was not an animal I wanted to tangle with. We watched in horror as Squiggy went from happy ‘how do you do?’ pig to “oh my god he’s going to eat me!’ pig. They raced around the pen and squiggy, by dint of his diminuative size, managed to keep well out of the boars way. The boar, however, was bound and determined to catch that pig and was slowly corralling Squiggy into the corner. Just as it seemed all was lost, Squiggy made a mad dive for the same hole he got into the pen through and popped out into the entry way. He was so freaked out he just let us pick him up and didn’t squeal even once. We put him back in his pen and I can honestly say he did not go near that boar again.
Well, it’s time for bed. I was just looking out the window into the storm and could see the warm glow of the heat lamps we leave on in the barns for the chickens. it seemed cozy enough..but I am glad I’m warm inside in my home. I hope that where ever animals are – coyotes, skunks, deer, rabbits – that they are tucked in somewhere out of the cold…
This is a post from my Facebook Blog that i posted in april of 2010… just thought i’d move all my blogs to one place 🙂
ok, so whoever decided that it should be called heart burn missed by a mile. ‘chest burn’, or ‘killer death discomfort of the upper body burn’ or ‘please shoot me now burn’ – any of those are way more appropriate! I had a cup of vanilla tea before bed (about 9:45) and let me tell you, the searing pain is just waaaay more exciting than the term ‘heart burn’ describes. So I’m here, on facebook, while everyone else in the whole world is sleeping…
My barn cat Cinder is getting ready to have kittens. She was mooning around outside tonight and then dashing (ok, waddling) back to her ‘secret’ nest in the garage only to come out a few minutes later to see if we missed her. I followed her back to her ‘secret’ nest and moved an old rocking chair so I could sit there with her. She would sit comfortably panting and staring at me but if I got up to leave she would come waddling and meowing after me. So I sat for a while to keep her company.. no one should have to give birth alone. At about 9:00 I finally had to go in as it was bed time and sitting in a creepy dark garage after dark, shining a flashlight on a cat that seemed to be in labour while spiders and things crawling around me was less pleasant than you might think. But still no kittens had arrived. I felt her belly and watched her and she didn’t appear to be in any difficulty…I’ll let you know tomorrow what happened. despite my heartburn, I’m not ready to go crawling around the dark old garage looking for kittens at 12:45 in the morning. I’m still having fantasies about sleeping… actually sleeping without ‘upper middle chest death burn’. sigh.
Our cats are pretty interesting creatures – each has it’s own distinct personality. Gizmo is the old uncle – affable, cuddly and always ready to listen to your problems. Gets along with both dogs and has a sort of a cosmopolitan air despite living in the country. Giz asks to go out every evening and does a thorough inspection of the whole farm. It seems no matter where you go, Gizmo is there watching you calmly from under a bush or beside the fence. He’s never in a hurry (well, sometimes will zoom into the house at the end of the day) and always retains his dignity. In the evening when Don and I go for a walk, he is always about 5 feet behind us. If we stop to look at him, he flops over on his side in the gravel or grass and gives us a ‘are you silly humans about ready to call it a day?’ look. If we continue on our walk he patiently gets up and walks along behind us. I often wonder what the neighbours must think of this… inevitably we have Sadie, our Jack Russell terrier along as well and sometimes she and Giz walk together. It must look like we are setting out on the first leg of The Incredible Journey 😉
Our other cat – Minnie – is exactly that: extremely small. At 2 and a half years, she still looks like a 10 month old kitten. She is ‘special’ in that it took her 2 years to realize that there were humans in the house. well, she knew there were humans but wasn’t sure how to react to that fact. have you ever been to a dinner party where someone has committed some sort of minor faux pas and there is suddenly this silence… this awkward ‘oh my goodness… now what do we do?’ kind of tension in the air and the people try to get past the awkwardness by doing little things – perhaps suddenly chatting about the weather or laughing inanely about nothing? Well, that’s minnie. She has this look about her that makes you believe she JUST this second realized you were still in the room and she is not exactly sure how she should be acting. If you call her name she does nothing. If you pick her up she looks right through you. If you pet her or cuddle her she kind of goes limp and ‘thinks of england’. It’s the wierdest darn thing. I told Don I thought she was Autistic.
Yet when Gizmo comes in the house she greets him with animated Meows and will curl up with him and lick his face and hug him with her long spider monkey like front legs as if to say ‘I can’t believe you left me alone with them again!’. Maybe she’s racist and has a thing against humans? Sometimes she will come to Don when he calls her but that’s usually in the morning before he feeds them. Once he’s fulfilled his purpose in life (feeding the cats) he ceases to exist like the rest of us. He insists that she’s getting better and that she’s starting to come around… I think that after 2 and half years, he needs to accept that the little cat is a snob.
Our fourth cat – Kovoo – (I’m not sure if that’s spelled right: she’s named after the hockey player) is a tank. she is a normal sized cat but has thick thick fur that makes her look like a giant kleenex box with a cats face, tail and legs. She’s the most self sufficient of all the cats. She hunts mice like a pro and can be found prowling through the long grass at the edges of the garden. She frequently leaves little ‘presents’ on the front lawn much to my dismay. It makes mowing the grass an adventure at times; nothing like a decomposing mole run through the lawn tractor to really keep things interesting. Kovoo likes us humans in the way that most humans likes thier own pets: we are fun to have around, but largely life is centered on other things. She will come when you call her, will let you pick her up for a while but inevitably she wiggles to be let down and off she goes again on the hunt. I think of all the cats I respect Kovoo the most. She doesn’t lose her dignity by following us around nor does she pretend we aren’t there – she knows we have our place in life and tolerates us benevolently 🙂
1:00 and the heart burn is almost gone… thank god. Sleep, glorious sleep is before me. I’m going to be really tired in the morning but what the heck.. it’s only work, right? I’m sure I can sleep at my desk. If only I were a cat I could curl up on my ‘in’ box and snooze in the light slanting in from the blinds…