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Mississippi Mud Cookies

You know that family member who makes that one dish that’s always perfect? The thing everybody requests, season after season?

In my family, it was my grandmother, with her ooey-gooey Mississippi Mud cake. She’d make it for only very special occasions, and how did my family crow for it! A layer of thick chocolate cake covered with marshmallows, chocolate chips, walnuts, drenched in a divinity-sweet cocoa topping? Why, you’d’a crowed, too.

My grandmother, who we called Mawmaw, passed away last fall. To my knowledge she didn’t leave a recipe behind, but I think I came pretty close with these cookies.

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Mawmaw’s Wide-as-the-Mississippi Mud Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 1/2 cup best-quality, fair-trade cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 generous tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vanilla or plain almondmilk (can use soy if you have nut allergies)
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup apple sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup Dandies mini marshmallows, plus extra for decorating
  • Baking sheets with parchment paper
    • I used a greased Silpat, here, but that’s unnecessary unless you have one. I was simply out of parchment paper.

Directions

In a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, combine almond milk, flax seeds, canola oil, apple sauce, sugar, vanilla, and chocolate extract. Mix thoroughly until smooth.

In another bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Use a dry whisk to aerate the mixture after sifting.

Pour dry into wet and combine well.

Add chocolate chips, walnuts, and mini marshmallows. Stir well.

Drop big spoonfuls of cookies on the sheet, leaving an inch or two of space between them. They will spread! You’ll be able to get about six cookies on an 18″ x 13″ half sheet. Dot with additional marshmallows.

Bake a sheet at a time for 10 minutes at 350. Let cool on baking sheet, on rack, for a few minutes before removing to rack to complete cooling.

Kitchen notes

If you love to bake, I recommend leveling up in the following ways:

  • Equipment. Head on over to a Restaurant Supply Store (or Webstaurant Store, if you don’t have one local) and buy:
    • 2 stainless steel 18″ x 13″ half sheet pans
    • 2 16″ x 24″ full size footed cooling racks
      • I’ve had mine for over a decade, used commercially as well as at home, and they still cook like I just got them.
  • Ingredients.
    • The best-quality, fair-trade, organic cocoa powder you can find. One, because you don’t want to use chocolate produced by slave labor. And two, you can truly taste a difference. Real cocoa is deeper, cleaner, more purely chocolate. I’ll say more on this in another post, but yes, home bakers, I can always tell when you used Hershey’s.
    • Chocolate extract. My little secret for brownies, chocolate frosting, and the like is a half a teaspoon of chocolate extract, added along with the vanilla. You’ll be surprised at the flavor boost.
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Summer greens

Do you associate greens like collards, mustard, and kale with cooler weather? For a long time, I did. I leave my collards simmering on the stove for hours, steam cozying up the kitchen and doubling as a heating bill hero. I like to serve them alongside hearty casseroles and cornbread. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve heard brassicas taste best after bitten by a frost.

Just as Cookie Monster remains unconvinced that cookies are a sometimes food, so do I that we should confine greens to the bookends of the year. Let’s have greens in the summertime, too!

Here’s a light, colorful recipe that incorporates familiar summer flavors and gets us out of that hot kitchen fast.

Savory mustard greens with peppers and pintos

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 16oz bag washed and chopped of Mustard Greens* (I used Nature’s Greens)
  • 1 large red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, or a combination, chopped
  • 2 cups double-strength vegetable broth (this stuff is amazing!)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup cooked pinto beans, drained, and rinsed (canned is fine!)
  • 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • juice of half a lemon

Instructions

  • Heat a large soup pot on medium/medium-high and add oil
  • Add onions and sauté 5-7 minutes, til soft, stirring often
  • Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds
  • Add peppers, sauté 1 minute
  • Pour in broth and bring to a strong simmer (just short of boiling)
  • Pour bag of mustard greens on top.
    • Note: Pot will be very full. It’s okay. Just put the lid on and leave at medium heat for 5-6 minutes. The greens will cook down to less than half their original volume.
  • Toss pintos on top. Stir thoroughly.
  • Let cook, covered, 10 minutes.
  • Season with pepper and sugar. Stir thoroughly.
  • Let cook two more minutes, simmering.
  • Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice. Stir well again. Serve!

Cool story: A serving of mustard greens has 180% of your daily vitamin A, 100% of your vitamin C, and 530% of your vitamin K. 😎

*You could also use collards, but I would recommend chopping them up a bit more finely before adding them to the pot, and simmering longer. Kale would work fine, too.

 

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Saturday mornings are for homemade waffles

So yesterday I made what feels like the weightiest career decision of my adult life. I’ll be ready to share the specifics on Tuesday afternoon, but for now, please know that your kind thoughts are very appreciated. I’m not intentionally trying to keep you in the dark, either – just waiting on things to be finalized. ❤️


To prepare for the big things to come, I got up early and set up my laptop, journal, and to-do list book. Right now I’m more anxious and scared than excited. When I feel this way, it’s helpful to remember all the many good things I have in my life: friends who care, a safe and comfortable home, food to eat, and so on. Writing it out makes it real.

Also, I just looked out to my porch to see two teensy black-capped chickadees enjoying some of the sunflower seeds I put out. They sang a little song and fluttered off. Nothing like a happy birdsong to make you feel like things are gonna be okay.

Or waffles, right?

A decent breakfast can go a long way with nerves.

Yesterday I was in a hurry and relied on some tasty boxed waffles, but Saturday mornings are for the real thing. Here’s a recipe. It feeds one extremely hungry person (even then, they’ll have leftovers) or two people happily. Since I’m flying solo this morning, I ate well.

Note: this recipe requires the use of a waffle maker. If you don’t already have one, I highly recommend it. An investment of $25 will feed you many, many, many brunches. And since waffles only take about a half hour to make, you’ll be inclined to make them more often than not. Just think about how many times you’ve gone out and spent $25 on a single brunch – once you count the mimosa, the sides, the fancy coffee. Treat yourself to a gift that will keep giving!

I have a cheapo Proctor Silex “My Morning Baker” that I bought off Amazon. The name makes me giggle.

Dry:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 tablespoons sugar

Wet:
1 cup soy milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp neutral oil (canola, veg)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Optional but recommended, if you have it: 2 drops maple extract

Instructions:

Preheat waffle iron.

In a small bowl, combine soymilk and apple cider vinegar. Whisk with a fork.

Place a sifter atop a mixing bowl and add dry ingredients. Sift well. If all ingredients do not totally sift, dump remnants into bowl from sifter. Use a wire whisk to aerate mixture.

Return to soymilk mixture. Add oil and extracts. Mix vigorously with fork.

Pour wet into dry and whisk to combine.

Cook according to your waffle maker’s instructions. I just spray canola oil on mine, pour in batter, close, and wait till the light clicks off.

Top per your preference, noting that it has a sweet and, if you use the maple extract, a gentle maple flavor as is. You may find it needs less than you expect! This one is also good for sandwiching things – a little veggie sausage, some tofu scramble… you get the idea.

Go forth and waffle!

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LPTHW: Exercises 11 & 12 and a kale recipe

In exercises eleven and twelve, we move on from simple (and boring?) things like printing to getting data into our little programs.

Exercise 11: Asking questions

ex11
Zed explains that software is mostly 1) taking input from a person; 2) changing it; and 3) printing something to show how it changed. So far I’d just been printing strings, not getting any input from the user. In this exercise, I use raw_input to ask questions (…of myself) about basic facts.

Exercise 12: Prompting people

ex11aa
Exercise 12 demonstrates a new way to write the material covered in eleven, as shown above.

I also used the pydoc command to learn about raw_input, open, file, os, and sys, as directed. It’s certainly faster than Googling!

Finally, I wrote another little “form” to ask questions using the new style:

12bpyFunny that the day I move on from simplest concepts, I’m sharing one of my easiest recipes! In fact, I’m not even sure you can call it a recipe, but rather a series of guidelines for success with kale. Yesterday I demonstrated how to prep it, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t already.

Today’s recipe is for kale with “four flavors”: hot, sweet, sour, and salty.

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Pictured above: organic vegan cane sugar, apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, fresh garlic, and soy sauce.

Kale with four flavors (serves two or one very hungry person)

  • one bunch kale, prepped as directed
  • as much chopped or minced garlic as you desire. I used four giant cloves.
  • tablespoon of oil
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • apple cider or rice vinegar, to taste
  • soy sauce, to taste
  • sugar, to taste

Warm oil in pan. Add garlic. Quickly cook til fragrant, about 30 seconds – 1 minute. Partway through, toss in some red pepper flakes. If garlic is cooking too quickly, remove from heat. Do not overcook and do not allow garlic to burn.

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Add cleaned kale and toss thoroughly to coat with garlic and red pepper flakes. Some of this garlic got a little browner than I would have liked because the pan was hotter than I realized, but I decided to share the image (and story) anyway to show you that even folks who have been cooking for a long time occasionally slip up. When this happens, just put a descriptive adjective in front of the noun when serving it: voila, it’s kale with crispy garlic!

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Sprinkle kale with apple cider vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar to taste:

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If you’re completely uncertain about this, start with a tablespoon of vinegar, two teaspoons of soy sauce, and a teaspoon of sugar. Mix well over medium, medium-high heat; kale should be wilting and releasing juices, cooking down significantly:

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Continue to toss thoroughly so that flavors combine. Taste for seasoning and add more of what you think is missing. This is your chance to experiment with strong flavors and discover what works for you!

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And there you have it: a lovely little bowl of kale that you seasoned to your own taste. Well done!

Bonus lesson: you can treat swiss chard and collards the same way, just vary the cook times. If kale takes about ten minutes to cook down, swiss chard will finish in 6 – 8 (it’s tender!). Collards will need around 30 (tougher!), and you might have to splash in a few tablespoons of vegetable broth. Make it happen!