Category Archives: Caro

Caro: Almond-Crusted Chicken Breasts

***I’m catching up on old posts! This was my intended contribution to almond week.***

Hello, and welcome to the easiest meal ever. Like… started and served in less than 20 minutes. Simple as can be, and so good that I ate it for four days in a row and still craved more. Season some chicken, food-process almonds, garlic, and olive oil, top the chicken breasts with the resulting savory almond crumble, and bake. Dinnertime!

almond-crusted chicken breasts

This chicken is so fuss-free and foolproof that it seems wrong to spend an entire blog post talking about it. So I’m going to talk about other things instead. Humor me.

1. I have a huge crush on Kid Cudi (even when he’s wearing a Hendrix wig).

2. Have you heard of this project called You Are My Wild? Every week, 14 photographers each take a picture of their child(ren), and the resulting images are gathered and posted to the project’s page. It’s suuuch a moving project… the collections of photos are gorgeous, and it’s fascinating to see how the different photographers choose to capture their little ones. Go ahead, look through some of the shots. Isn’t it kind of amazing, how much of a kid’s spirit can come through in just one picture?! It makes me want to develop photography skills just so I can have kids and take pictures like this of them.

3. I’ll probably fall in love with all 14 of the YAMW photographers as I check ’em out, but for now I’m already head over heels for Shelby Brakken. I like the travel section of her website, but it’s her photographs of people that totally sparkle. Oh my gosh. They’re inspired and bursting with the kind of beauty and emotion and personality and LIFE that photography should be about all the time. Stunning!!! I want to print these pictures and show them to everybody and hug all the people in my life for their uniqueness. I think I’m crazy.

4. If you know me, you know my love for sequins knows no bounds… so why will I never be able to afford these two dresses? And why will I never have an occasion that requires a floor-length sequin-covered gown? Sighhh.

5. Mika, who’s made top 3 in my list of favorite people of all time, teamed up with director Cristián Jiménez to create a short film in place of a typical music video for his song “Origin of Love.” It’s one of those songs that just feels so big and anthemic, but not in a cheesy, “Imagine Dragons” kind of way—Jiménez says “it almost feels like you can touch [the song]”—and I really didn’t think it could get any better, but the film brings it to life, and vice versa, and it’s just super beautiful. I keep watching it and getting teary-eyed, right at the bridge of the song. It’s love! I don’t know if this couple is in love in real life, but I 100% believe they are. Gah. Go watch it!

6. EASTER CANDY is in stores! And Easter is about to pass us by, which means Easter candy is about to go ON SALE!!! Sorry in advance, pants. It’s gonna be restrictive-waistband-free clothing up in here for a while.

That was fun! Now back to the chicken. I love this because you don’t have to worry about over-browning or burning one side of the chicken on a temperamental skillet. Just pop it into the oven, and come back to flawlessly cooked chicken in 15 minutes. (There’s an audience of people yelling “Set it, and forget it!” in my head.) I also love this because oven-baked chicken has always failed me in the past… dry and odd in texture. But this one bakes up so perfectly juicy, it’s insane! I think the almond topping must seal in the juices somehow. I also love love love the crunch of the almonds coupled with the chicken… texture party!

almond-crusted chicken breasts

Serve it alongside rice or veggies, or be like me and serve it with mac and cheese. Any way, it’s one of my favorite new weeknight dinners. Make it one of yours!

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: “The Ultimate Macaroni and Cheese” (Panera at Home)

***I’m catching up on old posts! This was my intended contribution to mac and cheese week.***

Omgomgomg. YOU GUYS.

Have you ever made mac and cheese at home from scratch? Does the same thing happen to you that happens to me where no matter how much cheese I add in, it always kind of just tastes like pasta in a vaguely cheese-flavored cream sauce that is wholly unsatisfying? Is that something that only happens to this girl? I don’t know… I don’t know.

I’ve only made plain mac and cheese from scratch a couple of times, but I’ve never found a recipe worth repeating. I did hit a jackpot of sorts when I made that jazzed up pumpkin mac and cheese in the fall, but I’ve never triumphed with a straight cheese and pasta recipe devoid of other ingredients to punch up the flavor. I always end up disappointed by the lack of that perfectly sharp cheesy flavor that makes me crave my favorite restaurant mac and cheeses by the bucketful. Womp, womp.

(For the record, my favorite mac and cheese of all time comes from Mr. Moes in Coconut Grove. The service sucks, and the tables and floors are always kind of sticky, but I keep going back, because HOLY GOODNESS have they nailed mac and cheese at its very best. A bowl of half-melty, half-stringy cheese with a handful of noodles swimming in it. It’s super rich and tastes cheesy beyond belief and is absolutely perfect, and I’m always fully satisfied after a helping. Dang, now I want some…)

Aaanyway. So this is how my mac and cheese creation attempts usually go. I’ll desperately crave mac and cheese, get all ambitious and excited, and try a new recipe, and then I’ll be like, “Why did I do that? That was a waste of time and cheese that I very well could have eaten straight.” After lamenting the poor use of perfectly yummy cheese, I’ll think of where I can go to get my mac and cheese fix as quick as possible (a.k.a. not from a sit-down restaurant), since you can’t leave a mac and cheese craving unsatisfied. When I was in St. Louis, I’d go to Noodles & Co. cause it was super close to campus, but since we don’t have those around here, I usually end up at Panera, which is cool cause I LOVE Panera.

Their mac and cheese is about as simple as it gets… no bread crumbs, no baking for crispy corners, no extra cheese on top. Noodles and sauce. But you know what? It’s still one of my favorites ever! I mean, really, when I crave comfort food, that’s all I want. Cheese and carbs and warmth, no frills.

SO. Imagine how excited I was when I thought I should look up copycat recipes for Panera’s masterpiece for mac and cheese week, and I found their recipe… on their website… from their head chef! It doesn’t get more legit than that, so I had a feeling I was on my way to my first truly successful (in other words, worth making again) at-home pared-down mac and cheese.

Guess what. I was right!!!

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Ok, so maybe this doesn’t taste exactly like the mac and cheese you get at Panera. But that’s because restaurants use crack or something in their dishes to make them addictive enough for you to keep spending your cash monies on them. This is as close as you’ll ever get to Panera at home… and it is le awesome. Why? 1. It actually tastes like CHEESE! Glorious. 2. It reheats better than any mac and cheese I’ve ever made. 3. It’s so easy… no oven or fancy garnishes or anything complicated. One saucepan (two if you wanna get fancy and make the cheese sauce while you boil the pasta), one bowl, one cheese grater, one measuring cup. Minimum effort, maximum payoff.

Success! Mac and cheese at home that is simple, hits the spot, and is worth making again, and again, and again. At last!

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Get. On. This.

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: Chocolate Raspberry Truffles

***Sigh. I disappeared again 😦 …

I don’t want it to be this way. But something about working 11-hour days at the office and trying to make the most of Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays with people I will only be with for a few more weeks robs me of both my time and my motivation to cook/bake, clean up, photograph, write… but I’m trying, really. The kind of funny part is that I’ve kept up with the creating and “photographing” (with Camera+ on my iPhone, as I may or may not have misplaced my parents’ fancy D-SLR…) for every single week, but then I realize I have yet to edit the pictures (for whatever that’s worth) and I have yet to write the post, and, well, it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough time. I know, I know, people juggle a lot more than what I have on my plate… but I’ve never been known for my time management skills, and somehow the hours escape me. “I’ll do it tonight” becomes “I’ll do it tomorrow” becomes “I’ll have more time for this over the weekend” becomes a fridge full of food that has yet to be shared with the world via our little corner of the internet.

But anyway. All that rambling to let you know that I’m still alive, and I’m still cooking and baking, and hopefully there’ll be a lot more of me around here as my Tampa adventures wind down.

And, if it helps make up for my absence at all, today I bring you chocolate. (Yay!)***

Are you a fan of the combination of chocolate and raspberry? Truth be told, I used to hate it. HATED every raspberry-flavored thing I tried for years and years, so I eventually stopped trying raspberry-flavored things. Raspberry and I spent years apart before we were fatefully reunited one day…

(*Cue flashback initiation sequence*)

Lauren and I were lucky enough to go to pretty much a “foodie” university. Our dining halls had Indian, Mexican, Chinese, comfort, etc. food stations, and all the food was way awesome. But despite all this variety, my favorite part of the Wash. U. dining experience was the dessert case in the cafe (no surprise there!) that came as part of the new construction that went down while we were students. I would walk by it every single day just to see if there was anything I needed to try. Lauren and I spent so many nights with three desserts spread across a table, taking bites of and judging each one.

And one day, I spotted this slice of a chocolate pound-cake/loaf kind of deal that I HAD to have. It looked impossibly moist and just totally irresistible. So I bought a slice, duh, (maybe two…), and ventured home, nestled into bed, took a bite.

Well, it was so super amazing, obviously. I kept thinking it was chocolate and something else, and I couldn’t even pin down what the other flavor was… until my fork hit a little pocket of jam. I tried the jam alone, and that’s when it hit me. Raspberry! And chocolate! Chocolate raspberry, and I loved it. Converted!!!

And so, when I was thinking of what to make for Valentine’s week, chocolate raspberry something was a no-brainer. I settled on truffles pretty quickly, since I’ve always wanted to make them and spending $10/mall visit on Godiva truffles was really putting a dent in my budget, considering how often I go to the mall.

chocolate raspberry truffles

Ok. Here’s the thing. These were AWESOME. So, so awesome. So very wonderful, in fact, that my friend would not believe me when I told him I made them. (As if the fact that I offered them to him in a Tupperware container wasn’t enough of a hint…) So, they’re probably almost as good as the best truffles you’ve ever had unless you live in Belgium or something. Maybe.

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BUT… they are a LOT of work. At least they were for me. First they were too soft to roll into little truffle-y shapes, so I refrigerated the chocolate blob for an extra hour… which led it to harden to a rock-like consistency, which made it impossible to scoop any shapes out at all. So I ended up microwaving that blob until it was manageable… and then I used a knife to, in ruthless caveman-like fashion, carve out chunks of chocolate, which I then had to let sit and soften until they could be rolled into truffles, which I then had to freeze. AHH! So much temperature particularity to make these handle-able! It was a little too much for me.

So as good as they were, I probably won’t be making them again soon. The value of a recipe like this, though, is that you can adapt it any of nine billion ways… so next time some crazy chocolate combo pops into my head, I might whip up a batch of these just to say I made my own peanut butter potato chip truffles or white chocolate strawberry basil truffles or something. You know? Yep.

Anyway. Try these if you need a kitchen project to keep you busy! Maybe you’ll have more luck than I did at making the whole process manageable… but in any case, you’ll end up with perfect truffles, or goofy-looking little chocolate blobs, or a bowl of raspberry-infused dark chocolate goodness. Win, win, win!

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: Banana-Nut Muffins… with Spinach

Umm, you guys… I did something weird. I mean, I do strange things all the time, like put my jeans in the dryer on high heat intentionally, but this was especially strange, even for me.

banana-nut muffins with spinach

Yeah. I put spinach and banana together in a muffin.

In my defense, though, I wasn’t the first or only person to think about doing this. Sometimes, my mind puts together some pretty unusual combinations of ingredients… but, in every case so far, a Google search has proved that someone else has put those ingredients together before in one form or another. So when I Googled “spinach and banana recipes,” I wasn’t surprised (okay, maybe I was, a little bit…) when I found a whole bunch of recipes for muffins containing both the leafy green and the super-sweet fruit.

Why was I Googling spinach and banana in the first place? Hmm. Well, I had big plans for spinach week… I was thinking of fancy frittatas, or spiffed-up-with-spinach grilled cheese sandwiches, or maybe spinach chips (like kale chips, but probably better, since spinach is amazing, and kale, for some reason, kind of freaks me out).

But it’s busy season at work (11- and sometimes 12-hour days!), and I really only have time to make one legit thing each week. And I had bananas on the counter that were seriously on their way out… so I already had plans to make banana nut muffins when spinach week came around. Aaand… I was not about to cancel those plans in favor of some spinach-dominated health food. So instead, I thought, “Is there any way I can put the spinach and banana together, and make something wonderful?”

Enter spinach-speckled banana-nut muffins.

banana-nut muffins with spinach

It’s pretty hard to explain the appeal of these… It’s weird, because I actually liked them, a lot, and I would definitely make them again, but NOT to replace a straight-up banana muffin. Almost every blogger that posted a recipe for spinach and banana muffins had the same claim… “I promise, you won’t taste the spinach! These taste EXACTLY like an indulgent awesome dessert banana muffin!” Well, imma burst some bubbles here: They don’t taste like an indulgent awesome dessert banana muffin. I don’t know if my spinach was especially flavorful, or if perhaps I was a little heavy-handed in my measuring out of said spinach… but I could definitely taste it in the muffin. Funny thing, though, is that I thought that was good!

I’ll apologize for being so bad at describing what the spinach adds to these guys… they just taste like a slightly… greener muffin? Yeah, I don’t know. All I know is they made a yummy breakfast for the four days they lasted. (Relax; there were only six muffins in the batch.)

Oh, and to burst one more bubble: Don’t make these thinking they’re “healthy” ’cause they have spinach in them… at least not as I made them. Really, they’re just muffins… normal, sugar-laden, sweet, and dense muffins. Everyone’s all like, “It’s so great to sneak greens into your baked goods!” But you’re getting, what, a fraction of an ounce of spinach per muffin? Negligible nutritional value. Sorry 😥 !

So. Best thing ever? Nope. Unique recipe worth trying? I sure think so. If you like both spinach and bananas, give these a shot!

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: Chickpea (!!!) Fritters

Sigh.

Every time I think I’m done being stressed and I’ll have a couple of weeks of relative ease, something somewhere picks up and things go crazy all over again. So obviously, I’ve been trying to spend a fair amount of my free time with and around stuff that makes me happy. If you’d seen the enthusiasm I responded with when Lauren suggested chickpea week (which has passed, I know, I’m sorry 😦 ) for the blog, you’d know that chickpeas make me very, very happy.

In the interest of keeping this post positive and sharing some of my joy with all of you, here are a bunch of other things that make me happy:

  1. Falling asleep during a thunderstorm
  2. (Often irreverent yet amusing) Cyanide and Happiness comic strips
  3. Leaving the office for lunch on long days (and getting to eat at fun, new-to-me restaurants!)
  4. Splitting an almond right down the middle (It’s the little things!)
  5. Some of my most-loved R&B jams from the 90s
  6. My favorite music video, ever, of all time
  7. Sangría and champagne (not necessarily at the same time, though I don’t see how that could hurt)
  8. My favorite commercial from Superbowl XLVII (and my second favorite, too!)

Alright, now that some smiles have been smiled, let’s get back to chickpeas.

My love affair with the little legumes began with my stumbling upon this post by Molly Wizenberg on her blog Orangette (also known as my favorite [food] blog of all time). Molly can make anything sound beyond lovely, and while a meal of only chickpeas, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and cheese would in any other context have gone completely unnoticed by me, Molly’s writing sold me on it. I made it the day after reading the post, and now it is one of my top 3 lunch options on any given day. It’s perfect, especially when you take the time to find the best ingredients you can afford. It’s simple turned special 🙂 .

But it’s not what I made for chickpea week. I just wanted to tell you about it, in case you need a new favorite lunch. I went for something totally different, reminding myself that Cooking with Copy is supposed to be about trying new things and whatnot. I was worried I might be disappointed by my choice, fearing nothing could live up to my beloved five-ingredient chickpea salad… but I was WRONG! I made chickpea fritters, and they were AMAZING.

chickpea fritters

Amazing, like, I would call them the most delicious savory things to ever come out of my kitchen if it weren’t for that pumpkin mac and apple-smoked cheese I made and shamelessly devoured in November. So we’ll just have to call them the second-most-delicious. OMG, I don’t even know where to start with these. They’re like these adorable little chickpea patties, lightened up with the brightness of lemons and scallions, made even more flavorful by the addition of garlic and parsley (though the original recipe calls for rosemary). Oh, sorry, was all that not enough for you? Well, they’re also FRIED. So there. Try and say no to them now.

chickpea fritters

Haha, you can’t! And really, you shouldn’t. They’re a cinch to make, since you just have to roughly chop everything and toss it into a food processor, then form and fry the patties for a couple minutes. They end up all crispy and beautiful, and they manage to be light and filling at the same damn time, and they taste bright and fresh, and they’re just great. So really… get to it. Have them for dinner with some grilled chicken or steamed veggies, or eat them alone out of the pan while suffering mild burns from the hot oil, like I did… whatever. SO good!

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: Easy, Customizable, No-Bake Granola Bars

Oats! I know to most this will probably seem like the single most boring ingredient we could have chosen to get people excited about a new year of food blogging, but I love oats, and I was totally super pumped when we picked them for our 2013 debut.

I’m pretty sure this is because, while my body is 22 years old, my self is actually grandma-aged. I have lots to back this up with.

For instance. Friday, I was out for happy hour with some friends, when some guy turned around and said he thought he’d spilled something on my shirt, which prompted my buddy from work to turn around and say, “What, you mean on that shirt my grandma also owns?” Uhh, mean. I defended my shirt, all like, “I think it’s cute, and it makes me look put-together for work, and I bought it at a hip young-people-clothes store, blah blah blah,” until some other guy backed me up (I think) by saying, “Yeah! It’s stylish in a practical and minimalist way,” which I didn’t completely understand but took as a compliment anyway.

I held on to that compliment as an odd form of assurance that my style is cool and age-appropriate, which was working out just fine for me until I got to work the next day and realized my 50- or 60-something-year-old manager and I were wearing the same. exact. pair of shoes. What?! Old lady. It’s who I am.

Stuff like this happens to me all the time. I dress like a grandma (or so I hear from people I’m pretty sure are at least 70% wrong). I love, love, LOVE soup. Especially split pea. I watch TV Land shows… on DVD (as in, I pay for them). Yep.

So anyway, now you know all this stuff about my old soul or whatever, all in my attempt to justify my love for oats. I love em. Oats week is exciting.

It’s funny that Lauren mentioned Joy the Baker, ’cause the first thing I thought to make as I penned oats week onto my calendar was my favorite riff on her baked oatmeal. I take her recipe, dial up the cinnamon, and trade the dried cranberries, fresh raspberries, and pistachios for fresh strawberries and cacao nibs. It’s seriously delicious. It’s the kind of breakfast I dream dreamy dreams about. But my oven decided it was not going to turn on on my designated baking day.

So no-bake it had to be… and suitable for breakfast, since I wanted to actually be able to eat what I made (instead of ending up with 47 oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies to force-feed my coworkers). Granola bars were the perfect back-up plan.

peanut-butter-pretzel-chocolate-chip granola bars

When your camera’s been broken for months, you have nothing to offer people but subpar artsy iPhone pictures. Better than nothing!

Two Peas and Their Pod was the source of the recipe that won my no-bake granola bar search. I usually mess with recipes to suit my tastes, but I pretty much went with this one to the letter, except that I tossed in some cacao nibs. (I’m obsessed with them.) Like a lot of other recipes, this one’s expensive the first time around if you don’t have the right ingredients on hand… but the good news is that once you buy the ingredients, you can make a whole buncha batches without having to buy anything else. So I won’t be one of those people who tries to tell you making your own granola bars is cheaper than investing in a $2.50 box of Nature Valleys at the grocery store, but I will tell you that over time the cost pretty much evens out, and if you make your own bars at home, you have the added benefit of putting whatever you want in them!!!

And, on that note, the beauty of this recipe is its customizability. Allergic to peanut butter? Almond butter, Biscoff spread, Nutella. Don’t like pretzels? Corn flakes, nut of choice, potato chips. Chocolate chips too boring? Cinnamon chips, toffee bits, sprinkles?! Ok, fine, sprinkles in a granola bar may be weird. But you get my point. Make this the granola bar of your dreams!

By the way, these are much better than any store-bought granola bar I’ve had. I could just be biased… but I have my parents on my side, and they dislike most of what I make, so I’m going to guess it’s just that these are actually super yummy. And they’re easy, quick, and customizable, so there’s not much of an excuse for settling for the boxed variety. I’d much rather take the time to make my own & adapt ’em to whatever I’m in the mood for in a given week. In other words, these’ll be a repeat creation in my kitchen. I hope you try them and feel the same way!

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Three cheers for granola bars. The breakfast of champions.

Click here for the recipe!

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Caro: Pumpkin Mac and Apple-Smoked Cheese

Oh. My. GOODNESS. You guys.

This is SERIOUS.

This post today… it is about my new second-favorite pasta dish… ever.

(My favorite pasta dish currently is, and I’m pretty darn sure will forever be, the gnocchi in tomato sauce at Charlie Gitto’s on the Hill in St. Louis, MO. Oddly enough, it does not appear on their online menu… I just said seven prayers hoping that this does not mean they have stopped making it. That gnocchi makes up at least 58% of the reason I am dying to go back to STL. But anyway…)

Do you have any idea how much I looove pasta? (Very, very much.)
Do you have any idea how much pasta I eat? (A lot. A lot of pasta.)
Do you have any idea how many truly amazing pasta meals I have devoured in my lifetime? (Quite a few… lucky me!)
Now. Do you understand how much love I have to have for this pumpkin mac and cheese to place it on a pedestal above almost all the pasta I have eaten in my life?! I mean… whoa. It must be good, right?!

It’s so. SO. good.

pumpkin mac and apple-smoked cheese

Please note how I have made no attempts to cover up the real-life state of my kitchen. The only difference between this photo and my current kitchen is that the bananas are gone.

Can I still call this mac and cheese if I actually used orecchiette? I think so. “Orecchiette and cheese” just does not roll off the tongue as nicely.

Lest you think I’m trying to glorify my cooking abilities and going all “I utilized my culinary expertise to craft the most delectable pasta experience imaginable” on you, let me tell you that the deliciousness of this mac and cheese is attributable not at all to me but rather entirely to the types and amounts of cheese I used.

I was at Walmart when I decided I was going to make pumpkin mac and cheese for pumpkin week—thank you, iPhone, for allowing me to Google “creative pumpkin recipes” when my computer is nowhere near me!—and so I figured I’d buy ingredients there. Naturally, I hit up the cheese section first. The original recipe uses fontina, so I was on the lookout for that… no dice. I did, however, find the absolute makers of this mac and cheese… Red Apple Cheese’s Apple Smoked cheeses!

I had never seen or tried these before, ever. They caught my eye, though, and I ended up picking up apple smoked cheddar and apple smoked Gruyère to replace the elusive fontina. I had a feeling the smokey apple flavor of the cheese would blend well with the pumpkin in the mac and cheese… and boy, was I right. The flavors were incredible together.

pumpkin mac and apple-smoked cheese

There is one thing y’all may object to about this recipe… after everything, it really doesn’t turn out like much of a mac and cheese at all. It ends up more as a dish of pasta covered in an incredibly rich, thick, cheesy, and totally spoon-able sauce (like a spiffed-up alfredo, if you will). I promise, you will not miss the traditional feel of mac and cheese once you take a bite of this pasta. I ate the entire dish in two sittings… I’m pretty sure that was actually eight servings. Whatever. No regrets. I mean… YOLO, right?!

(If you’re one of those people who is super tired of hearing everyone say YOLO every five seconds, you probably shouldn’t hang around me much. I’m totally not over it.)

pumpkin mac and apple-smoked cheese

Ok. This recipe has: pumpkin (seasonal!), cheese (amazing!), whipping cream (decadent!), sage (fancy!), pasta (carb-o-licious!)… I don’t really have any selling words left. If you’re not already running to make this ASAP, who are you?

Continue reading

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Caro: Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

Mints.

Last week was tiny food week. I could have made anything… tiny s’mores, tiny tarts, tiny cookies, tiny tea sandwiches… and I made mints.

Kind of a stretch, yeah?

Well, let me explain why I couldn’t not make them.

I’ve been getting out of work pretty late these past weeks. Not 10-p.m. late, but definitely 6:30- or 7-p.m. late. When this happens, I usually end up picking dinner up on the way home. There’s just too much going on for me to think about stopping at Publix for ingredients, cooking something legit, and doing dishes. I mean, sometimes I’ll make a quick pasta or something, but real talk… Chick-fil-A and I have become great friends.

So, one day, as almost usual, I stopped by my favorite fast food restaurant for dinner. Confession: I tend to go the drive thru route… (Getting out of my car and walking the ten steps to the door? Umm, too much. Please.) However! On this night, I decided to park and actually walk into Chick-fil-A for my food. Want to know why I did this? I did this exclusively so that I could steal a handful or two of the delicious individually wrapped butter mints that sit in a basket by the door (sometimes by the utensils).

Uhh, yeah. Guess what. They had NO MINTS left. I even asked at the register. As politely as possible. “Oh, hmm, I was just wondering if you had any more of those little mints left…”

“Sorry. All out.”

NO. I headed back to my car, defeated, and realized I should probably think of a tiny food week recipe and pick up ingredients for it on the way home.

Then it hit me. Mints are tiny. I wanted mints, dammit… and so, a Google search for “after-dinner mints recipe” happened. I found a yummy-looking version on Averie Cooks, and as soon as I realized the only ingredients missing from my apartment were condensed milk and powdered sugar, it was settled. Mints for dessert!

I came home and whipped up the “batter” according to the recipe using my beloved KitchenAid mixer, which someone recently named Betsy for me. I kind of like it. After mixing was complete, I took a teensy spoonful of the sweet, slightly minty pillow of goodness sitting in my mixer’s bowl. Then I took another teensy spoonful. Then I took a bigger spoonful… and another… and I said, out loud in my empty apartment, “Why does anybody ever BUY mints?!”

old-fashioned butter mints

After eating half the dough (Batter? Mixture? What do I call this?) I rolled out the rest and tried cutting it into tiny mint-like pieces. After a minute, I got hopelessly frustrated, rolled everything back into a ball, and just broke off pieces in small sizes and dropped them onto a parchment-covered pan.

Now, the problem… they never hardened. I’m not sure if they were supposed to… Averie never mentions it on her blog. But I was hoping they would, just like the Chick-fil-A mints. I saw another recipe with egg whites and one with cream of tartar, both involving different methods. Maybe those would have hardened. But these really just remained all soft and pliable. (EDIT!: If you read Averie’s comment below, you’ll see that hers did in fact harden, and she suggests adding a bit more powdered sugar than I did. She mentions it’s dry where she is, so I”m thinking the typical-even-in-“fall” Florida humidity might have affected the ability of my little minties to solidify. Oh, well… this just means I DEFINITELY have to give this another shot!)

I’ll tell you what, though… I didn’t even care that they didn’t harden. These definitely satisfied my mint craving that night. They were quick, super easy, and incredibly yummy. I’d make the dough again any day and just sit in front of my TV eating piece after piece of the melt-in-your-mouth minty deliciousness.

old-fashioned butter mints

In fact, I think I hear the remaining ones calling out to me from the fridge…

Click here for the recipe!

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An Apology. And a Promise!

Hey, world. Caro here.

I thought I’d write up this little post to tell you all I’m sorry for my total disappearance from the blog for… all of October.

The first month of work unexpectedly brought with it way too many 10- to 11-hour days, all of which left me passed out in bed immediately following dinner (which I usually didn’t even have the energy to cook… ❤ you, Chick-fil-A). And you know what? If I had a couch in my apartment, I probably wouldn’t even have made it to the bed. Who knew real life could be so draining?

Add to this the fact that my mom was visiting one weekend, a dear friend was visiting and another was in town the next weekend, and the weekend after that involved a Friday night that kicked off a two-week emotional rollercoaster that is just now slowing down… yeah.

It might not seem like much, but it’s been hard for me to adjust to Tampa living with so much going on. Laundry? Not gonna lie… it’s been a solid three weeks. Grocery trip? Hasn’t happened in at least 12.6 days. Vacuuming? Let’s not even talk about it.

I’m not going to say I’m feeling any calmer or less tired or more adjusted… but I am going to say I’m not putting this blog on the sidelines anymore!

Commitment renewed. I’ll be back every week… I promise.

And! I have been cooking/baking/making for the blog this whole time… so today through Thursday of this week, in addition to Lauren’s and my POMEGRANATE WEEK (!) posts going up, the posts for the past weeks I’ve missed will be published. Better late than never… right? That means pumpkin week, Halloween week, “make what you want” week, and tiny food week posts from me are all on their ways 🙂 . Though not in that order. Gotta keep y’all on your toes.

First one to be up by this evening! (A.k.a. when I manage to figure out what’s wrong with my camera.)

Stay tuned! I’m glad to be back.

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Caro: Epic Apples

I made a big old mess this weekend.

Actually, I made a whole bunch of big old messes.

I made a mess of…
– dishes in (fine… and around) the sink.
– rejected Saturday outfits on the floor.
– new purchases in the trunk of my car. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s too tired after a day of shopping to lug her treasured finds upstairs when that can so conveniently be left for the next day.)

Et cetera, et cetera. (For some reason, when I just wrote et cetera, I said it in my head in a British accent.) (I feel like noting that as I write things—from essays to text messages to blog posts—I totally say them in my head. Out loud sometimes, if no one’s around. Like a narrator? Kind of?) (I’m crazy. I’m aware of this. Moving right along…)

So, I know I should be responsible, and I know dirty dishes and invisible-due-to-being-covered-with-clothes floors aren’t exactly acceptable in the real world, and blah blah blah. BUT. One of my weekend messes was absolutely, definitely, entirely excusable.

Because it involved apples, chocolate, caramel, sprinkles, nonpareils, and M&M’s. So my kitchen is covered with the last three, and there’s chocolate on the walls, and all but one of my utensils are coated in caramel. Best mess ever?! Uhh, yeah. So, whatever, don’t hate.

Besides, I deem the current apocalyptic state of my kitchen to be so worth what I got out of it. Granny Smith apples, submerged in rich caramel, double-dipped in milk chocolate, covered in varied colorful and texture-enhancing toppings.

epic apples

I had a specific goal in mind while I was making these. I was trying to recreate the first dipped apple I ever truly loved.

I’ve never liked candy apples. (You’d think my crazy-intense love of cinnamon would extend to cinnamon-flavored candy, but it does not. I firmly reject cinnamon-flavored candy.) I’ve also never liked caramel apples, because I’m really not a big fan of caramel without chocolate. So the dipped apple creations that are so definitive of fall flew under my radar for most of my life. Until…

My freshman year of college. I went apple-picking (now seriously my favorite activity) at Eckert’s Orchards in Belleville, Illinois, and with 10 pounds of fresh-from-the-tree apples in tow, I set off to peruse the on-site country store for goodies like fudge and apple-themed home decor. But what really caught my eye was the most beautiful dipped apple my eyes had ever beheld. It was seriously half the size of my head. It boasted a layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate, and a generous coating of crushed mini M&M’s. All this over a freshly picked apple. (PEOPLE, you have NOT had an apple unless you have had an apple straight off a tree. Actually life-changing. Really, really. I can’t even properly express how much more amazing they are than supermarket apples. At least 816 times more amazing.)

I brought that apple home with me and ate it for dinner alone that very night. And it was every bit as amazing as I had been daydreaming it would be during my entire ride home. I was lucky enough to be able to return to Eckert’s each next year until I graduated, buying (at least) a couple of these apples each time. So I decided… since this is my first year away from my beloved St. Louis with no Eckert’s access, what better recipe for apple week than a recreation of that magical jazzed-up apple of my dreams?

epic apples

These babies aren’t quite the same as the Eckert’s ones, of course, mostly due to the fact that my apples came from Walmart (no apple orchards in Tampa 😦 ), and also due to the fact that my disastrously sloppy apples look almost nothing like the crisp, clean, perfectly dipped ones on display at the country store. Still, though. One bite transported me right back to the fall days of my college experience. Even with supbar apples, these are still special. And who cares what they look like if you’re just going to eat them anyway?! (Really, though, you won’t even think about gifting these. I promise, once you try a piece of one, there will be no way you will let the rest of the batch leave your house.)

These are seriously indulgent, unbelievably delicious, and the very best approximation to my apple muse that I could come up with. It makes me giddy to think that I can now have a little slice of my STL life whenever I want, from a distance, and relive some delectable memories. Happy happy 🙂 .

epic apples

Well, what are you waiting for?! I believe you have some apple bliss to create!

Click here for the recipe!

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