Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Trick or Treat

Happy Halloween! For me, this holiday has a routine all its own. I clean the house, decorate with orange and black, strategically place pumpkins around the house, move the "Sit a Spell" chair to the front porch, put the treats in a bowl, and turn on all the lights so people know we welcome trick or treaters. And I wait. And wait. And wait. Until I finally realize that we're probably not going to have trick or treaters. Fast forward one year and repeat. However, this year I did have a break in the routine. One little lion came to visit right before the sun went down. Piper, in her "tricks for treats" shirt, was quite excited to see the little lion and gave him a big lick (which resulted in her being sent back into the house, even though she was being very nice about it) to go with the goldfish crackers.

Fully knowing the Halloween routine, I made some special treats so I wouldn't be tempted to eat goldfish crackers and butterfingers all evening while I wait. Fortunately, there was a new post on Orangette this week for Chewy Cocoa Cookies, which Orangette's author, Molly, describes as "kind of low-fat." Perfect.

And perfect they are. The Orangette version look a little nicer than mine, so I decided some powdered sugar would help. I also made a few adaptations to the recipe (I used vanilla yogurt and kosher salt . . . this recipe isn't the best candidate for kosher salt, unless you really like salt).

Yesterday, I got a little pre-Halloween treat from Ken's Aunt Marie. She gave me three plates that belonged to Ken's grandma . . . just in time to use them to show off my cookies. And my mom made me a little care package, which included the ghost towels in the picture. When you are blessed with great family and you have a plate full of perfect chocolate cookies, who needs trick or treaters anyway?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Friday Night Football

Tailgating is a big part of fall. Across the U.S., on Saturdays and Sundays you'll find parking lots full of fans eating, drinking, and cheering on their favorite college or NFL team. In Palmyra, the tailgate starts one day early - on Friday. They tailgate for high school football games (all the great food and fun, sans alcohol). When I first learned about the Palmyra tailgate tradition, I have to admit I thought it was weird. I remember asking "You watch the game from farm trucks parked along one side of the field and cook pork loin for anyone who cares to stop by?" I think the answer I got was something along the lines of "Oh yeah, you've got to come to a game, it's great."

Fast forward a couple of years . . . if there's a home football game, that is where I'll be on Friday night. Sitting in the bed of a dumptruck normally used for . . . farming . . . cheering for the Panthers. I now think the Friday night tailgating tradition is one worth hanging on to. It is a great opportunity to catch up with family, friends and neighbors, and to show pride in the school and the community. If you stand back and observe, the tailgates also demonstrate the rich agricultural heritage of the area, evident from the farm trucks and straw bales used for seating to the beef and pork cooked on the grills.

Of course, you need more than beef and pork, and I can't show up empty handed. Last night I took candy corn mix that we called "Theta mix" at Mizzou and rocky road chocolate bars. (the pictures are from home, I didn't serve them at the game this way! I'll try to add some pictures from the actual tailgate, they're on a film camera)

Rocky Road Chocolate Bars

Cookie base:
1 bag Betty Crocker double chocolate chunk cookie mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp. water
1 egg
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 1/2 to 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups miniature marshmallows

1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/3 cup milk
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
Directions: 1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x13 baking pan with foil, then spray with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, mix together cookie base ingredients, set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together cream cheese, sugar, butter, flour, vanilla, and egg on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Stir in pecans, if using.
4. Press cookie base evenly into pan, then spread cream cheese mixture over top. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over cream cheese mixture.
5. Bake 27-28 minutes, or until filling is set. Sprinkle marshmallows evenly over top. Bake 3 more minutes.
6. For frosting: In a saucepan (2-quart works best), melt butter over medium heat. Stir in cocoa and milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Gradually whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Stir in pecans, if using. Immediately pour over marshmallows, spreading gently to cover. Cool bars 30 minutes.
7. Refrigerate bars at least two hours before cutting and serving. Save leftovers (if there are any!) covered in the refrigerator.

These bars got rave reviews at the tailgate. They are very sweet, so I recommend serving small pieces. Recipe adapted from Betty Crocker Fall Baking. Go Panthers!