Midnight Munchers

Last week I was asked to bring in treats for one of the staffs who had won an award earlier in the year.  The students asked for something ooey-gooey-caramel-chocolatey.  I was a little bit befuddled about what to make because I wasn’t feeling inspired.  However, when I was home with my family over Easter, I explored an old standby cookbook: Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran cookbook.  In it, I came across this recipe for the Midnight Munchers, labeled as a Senior Choir favorite.  And, I’m a sucker for anything that’s a favorite, so this recipe looked promising.  The cookie bottom portion was thicker than I expected and the middle frosting layer was thinner than expected, but I think they turned out well.  I haven’t heard negative comments from the students, at least.Midnight Munchers

Midnight Munchers


1 1/2 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 c butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 3/4 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
Dash salt
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled


1 can ready-to-spread caramel pecan frosting


1 c sugar
5 Tbsp butter
1/3 c milk
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream brown sugar and 1/2 c margarine together.  Blend in vanilla and eggs; mix well.  Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off.  Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt; mix well.  Divide dough into two parts.  Stir chocolate into half of dough.  Drop each dough by large tablespoonfuls randomly into greased 9×13 pan.  Spread evenly.  Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool.  Spread filling over bars.  Freeze bars for about 30 minutes.

In a small saucepan, combine sugar, 5 Tbsp margarine and milk.  Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in chips until melted and smooth.  Pour topping over bars.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Store in refrigerator.

Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Citronette

For this year’s Easter celebration at our house, I was put in charge of the vegetable.  After tossing around a few different ideas about what this vegetable might be, I landed on asparagus.  I’m always one to go a little outside of the box (sometimes a lot outside of the box) and since we served beef for the holiday, I thought I should bring the pork in somewhere.  So, when I was flipping through a cookbook from Food and Wine and came across this recipe for Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Citronette, I knew it was the one.  It was a little salty for my taste and I’m unsure whether that was the pancetta I purchased or the salt in the dressing, so in a future edition, I’d likely leave the salt out of the dressing and go with the basics.

Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Citronette.jpg

Pancetta-Wrapped Asparagus with Citronette

2 pounds medium asparagus
1/2 pound very thinly sliced pancetta
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons chopped thyme

Tightly wrap each asparagus spear in a slice of pancetta and refrigerate until chilled, about 20 minutes.

Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. In a small bowl, stir the orange zest and juice with the mustard and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill the asparagus over moderate heat, turning often, until they are just tender and the pancetta is crisp, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the asparagus to a platter and drizzle with the dressing. Sprinkle with the thyme and serve.

Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

After making some salsas as of late, and pulling out the Twin Cities Chef’s Table cookbook to throw together the Crusher Cookies, I was flipping through it and one recipe caught my eye.  This recipe for Brasa’s Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo looked ideal for a week when I had evening commitments and could eat on this recipe over and over.  The cookbook is a collection of recipes from different restaurants in the Twin Cities, this one from Brasa.  Click on the website and tell me you don’t want to go there today to eat.

Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

Brasa’s Pork Shoulder Roasted with Citrus Mojo

1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c minced onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 c fresh lemon juice
1 c fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp white vinegar
2 Tbsp garlic powder
2 Tbsp onion powder
2 Tbsp fresh ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
5 lb bone-in pork shoulder

In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the lemon and orange juices and simmer for 2 minutes.  Stir in the vinegar.  Transfer half of the mojo to a blender and let cool.  Refrigerate the remaining mojo.

Meanwhile, in a jar, shake together the garlic and onion powders, pepper, and cumin.  Add 2 tablespoons of this dry rub to the mojo in the blender, reserve the remaining rub.  Add Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon salt to the blender and puree until smooth.

Put the pork in a sealable 1-gallon plastic bag and pour in the marinade.  Press as much air as you can from the bag and seal.  Refrigerate pork for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours, turning occasionally.  Bring the pork to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack in a roasting pan large enough to hold the pork.  Remove the pork from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels.  Rub the meat all over with the remaining dry rub and transfer pork to the rack.  Roast pork for 3 hours, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 150 degrees.  Reduce the oven temperature to 275 degrees and roast the meat for approximately 3 hours longer, until very tender and an instant-read thermometer reads 180 degrees.  Remove the roast from the oven and cover with foil; let rest for 30 minutes.

Shred the meat, discarding the bones and excess fat.  Season pork with salt and pepper.  Serve with the remaining mojo.

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bagna Cauda

This came from the Twin Cities Chef’s Table cookbook and looked to be a recipe with a lot of things I love and a few things I would be nervous to eat (anchovy fillets), so with a goal of being a little adventuresome, I decided it was time to take this step.

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bagna Cauda

Charred Brussels Sprouts with Bagna Cauda

Bagna Cauda:

3 oz oil-packed anchovy fillets, rinsed (Scalia brand preferred, if you can find it)
1 c Italian parsley leaves
1/4 lb unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, peeled and grated


1-2 c kosher salt
1 Tbsp baking soda
1 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 c vegetable oil
1/4 c bagna cauda
1/4 c lemon juice
2 Tbsp chopped chives

To make the bagna cauda: Place all ingredients in food processor and puree until smooth.  This makes more than is needed for the brussels sprouts recipe; cover and chill leftover butter, or wrap and freeze for up to a month.

To make the brussels sprouts: Fill a large bowl with ice water and set aside.  Fill a dutch oven or other large pot with water.  Season water with enough salt “to taste like the ocean.”  Add baking soda and bring to a boil.

Blanch brussels sprouts in boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain in a colander and transfer sprouts immediately to ice bath to halt cooking.  When sprouts are cooled, after 3-4 minutes, drain once again in colander.

Heat oil in a 12-inch (or larger) saute pan over high heat until the oil is very hot and starts to smoke.  Carefully add brussels sprouts, cut side down, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.  Add bagna cauda, turn heat to low, and continue cooking until butter melts.  Add the lemon juice and chives, stir to coat the sprouts, and season with salt, if needed.

Monster Cookies

In addition to the six-in-one oatmeal cookies I made a few days ago, I found this monster batch of monster cookies and it seemed like a great way to use up a lot of things in my house — brown sugar, eggs, m & ms, etc. — and it seemed like a great recipe to keep ready to bake.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love a monster cookie — unless they have a peanut allergy.  This monster batch of monster cookies also came from the Moss Heaven cookbook.

Monster Cookies

Monster Cookies

2 lbs brown sugar
4 c sugar
1 lb butter or margarine
12 eggs
8 tsp baking soda
1/4 c vanilla

Cream the above together in a large roaster pan.

1 lb M&Ms
1 lb chocolate chips
3 lb peanut butter

Mix in, with a wooden spoon.  Add:

18 c oatmeal

Mix in with your hands.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees.  To make monster cookies, drop with an ice cream scoop and bake for 15-20 minutes.  To make normal size cookies, drop from a tablespoon and bake 10-12 minutes.


Six-in-One Oatmeal Cookie

When I was in graduate school in Fort Collins, my colleague and friend Sara and I would find moments to go and spread joy within our department, to our friends and colleagues, and to encourage delighting in the little things.  I took this into my first job after grad school and would, on occasion, walk around or drop off treats for folks.  Over the course of the last ten years, this has continued to evolve, and on my current campus, we often use the phrase “Make people matter.”  It seems a little cheesy sometimes, and in this times of higher education, there certainly is not a budget for this, but when it’s easy to become frustrated by the day-to-day or be reminded of the frustrations, one of my goals for the last eight weeks of the academic year is to do a better job of demonstrating to people that they matter and thank them for doing the parts of their job that are not always fun, but need doing.  And, while it’s nice to do things to acknowledge the work other people are doing because it helps them to know I see their work, it also helps me to maintain a positive attitude when I am intentionally recognizing the hard work of others across the campus.

In order to achieve this goal, I spent some time over spring break mixing up different cookie doughs and freezing cookies so that I could then bake a dozen cookies and bring them to someone when I see them doing something great.  When I came across this six-in-one oatmeal cookie recipe from the Moss Heaven cookbook, I thought it looked worth trying out.  For the batch photographed below, I incorporated a raisin, golden raisin, craisin mix from Trader Joe’s and grated orange peel into the recipe.

Six in One Oatmeal Cookies

Six-in-One Oatmeal Cookie

1 c margarine
1 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp soda
3 c quick-cooking oatmeal

Variations (mix in one of these):
1 c coconut
1/2 c chopped nuts
1 pkg chocolate chips
1 c cut up gum drops
2 Tbsp grated orange peel
1 c raisins
1 c cut-up dates

Drop from a teaspoon onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Maple Mustard Pecans

I was bringing some snacks into work for one of the departmenst that met a goal they’d been working on.  I knew that at least one of the individuals in the department didn’t eat carbs and ate a mostly paleo diet, so when I saw this recipe, I knew it was a great opportunity to make these pecans and make sure that this person also had a snack they could enjoy.  I found this in the Catholic Daughters Cookbook.

Maple Mustard Pecans

Maple Mustard Pecans

2 tsp dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/8 c maple syrup
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 c pecans

Mix together all ingredients except pecans.  Stir in pecans to coat evenly.  Spread on a lightly-buttered baking sheet.  Bake approximately 25 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring often.  Cool and break apart.