Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

In which I confess to eating truck stop cookies.

There is just something about a macaroon.  Not those fancy French macarons.  (Although my friend brought me back some from Paris that were amazing.  That little caramel one…)  But an almost overly sweet, slightly gooey coconut cookie.  There is a truck stop we know that has the most amazing chocolate dipped macaroons.  They are beautiful dense balls of coconut robed in dark chocolate.  All of their baked goods are amazing, but the macaroon is my favorite.  (This sounds like it should be on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.)Chocolate Coconut Macaroons top

So what do you do when you are craving one of those cookies, but are not going to drive 45 minutes just to get one?  You scour all of great-grandma’s recipes because you know you saw a macaroon recipe in there somewhere.  (It was in the cookbook I made for my grandma of her mom’s recipes).Chocolate Coconut Macaroons on Wedgwood

These ingredients do not seem like they would make a cookie.  They kind of don’t.  The end result is a lightly held together ball of coconut and chocolate.  I’d recommend using mini chocolate chips instead of the chopped chocolate. And definitely use a Silpat or whatever sort of non-stick cooking mat you have.  Chocolate Coconut Macarooons

I’m not going to lie.  These are not as good as the macaroons at the truck stop, but that didn’t stop me from eating at least my share of them.  I doubt these store well.  It’s probably best not to even try.  Kind of like kringla.  Chocolate Coconut Macaroons Cutting board


Chocolate Coconut Macaroons

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
2 cups shredded coconut
1/3 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract

Combine milk and coconut.  Add chocolate, vanilla, and almond extract.  Mix well.  Drop by teaspoons on greased baking sheets 1 inch apart.  Bake in moderate oven, 350°, 10-12 minutes.  Remove from pan immediately cool.  Makes 24.

Sky Rockets at Night, Tropical Delight (Salad)

In which I settle on Jell-O as a more practical option.

You know those days where you just feel like a tropical vacation would cancel the subscriptions to all of your issues?  Where you just sort of want to run away and be responsible for nothing and no one? I don’t.  I’ve never had one of those moments in my entire life.  I have never wanted to sit on a sunbaked beach with nothing around but the sound of waves crashing.  Never wanted to relax with an icy drink in my hand brought to me by a super cute cabana boy with a slim, tanned body, who I know is not just something pretty to look at, but should be respected for his mind and his hustle.  Never have I ever not wanted to get up early every morning, make sure that everyone is doing what they are supposed to do while I try to get myself ready and do what I can to prepare us for the evening.  The very idea of not having to commute and…I can’t go on.  If someone told me that I was going to be trading all of this for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, I might hesitate while I decided if I really wanted to go swimsuit shopping.  I’d probably try to find a bunch of excuses as to why I really shouldn’t, but I don’t think I would pass it up.  Tropical Delight Salad top

As I stare out at my snow covered yard and see my children cuddled up on the couch in matching blankets, I realize that while I would love to get away, the closest I may come for a while is probably going to be in something like the Tropical Delight Salad.

I have always been attracted to tropical flavors.  Pina Colada and I have been hitting it pretty hot and heavy since I was a young girl.  When picking out yogurt with my mom, I would always opt for the pina colada fruit on the bottom yogurt.  It seemed like a special treat.  After realizing that the red food coloring in Jolly Good Fruit Punch and Faygo Red Pop made me throw up, I discovered Jolly Good Pina Colada soda.  They don’t even make it any more, but there is something about that sickly sweet pineapple coconut combination that satisfies me.  Sadly this recipe does not call for coconut, but it would be a nice addition, especially if it was toasted.Tropical Delight Salad gnomesAnd now I have an idea for a roasted pineapple and toasted coconut something…cocktail? Bread?  Meringue Pie?  This is an ongoing problem.  I start out doing something and then get majorly inspired by something completely different and get too excited to start that and want to forget about what it was I was doing in the first place.  I am working harder at trying to finish things before I start something new.  It’s killing me in my knitting right now.  The biggest problem I have is that I have too many ideas and there is only me that can carry them out.  It’s all just time and money, right?Tropical Delight Salad Chinese LanternOk, back on track.  A couple of things to note.  Pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple probably works better than pineapple chunks.  And if you haven’t read the Jell-O package (and these are small ones, not big ones in this recipe), do not attempt to use fresh pineapple.  Most tropical fruits contain enzymes which counteract the gelling property of gelatin.  If you want something like a slimy soup, that’s probably fine, but even despite my protests of not caring for Jell-O, I still prefer it to be gelled.  The enzymes are useful for other things, though, like tenderizing meat (mmmm…al pastor). But this is also the same thing that makes some people very sensitive to eating too much raw fruit. Tropical Delight Salad angleAlso…The topping of the Tropical Delight Salad is really good.  Don’t skip that step.  Even if you decide you want to change the flavor of the Jell-O, or decide not to use bananas, or oranges, do not change the topping.  Tropical Delight Salad

If you are hardcore on Jell-O recipes and want to see what else I’ve done, check out these posts.  Cooked Cranberry Salad and Frosty Lime Salad.  If you really want to gelatinize everything check out the Peach Cottage Cheese Loaf.  (Although I don’t actually recommend making it, but you should see that this exists.)

Party Cookies for the Super (Punch) Bowl

In which we prepare for the Big Game.

As most of you know, the Super Bowl is on Sunday.  For those of you who don’t know (like a lot of my family), there are a bunch of great commercials on TV on Sunday interrupted by a sportsball game.  Whatever your plans, whoever your team, chances are people are going to want to eat.  (Just a hint, people always want to eat.) M&M Party Cookies on plate

I have punch recipes.  I have a lot of punch recipes.  I have more punch recipes than I have occasions to have punch.  I’m going to need to start having more occasions. Maybe I need to celebrate small things like learning a new Spanish vocabulary word or not falling down the stairs.  Lime Punch BowlA few years ago, I bought a double drink dispenser for the kids’ birthday party.  I served both iced tea and lemonade with flavored simple syrups so that party guests could have whatever combination they wanted to drink. The only reason I bring this up is because the dispenser works equally well for holding a single beverage, like Lime Punch.  I hesitate to even refer to this as a recipe.  It’s something small children can make easily and probably have made a version of it at a soda fountain at some point.  Heck, these days, there are those dispensers that will do it for you.  It’s limeade and lemon-lime soda.  I suppose someone could get all fancy and use ginger ale, except as my mom experienced, ginger ale is not available in all parts of Iowa.  Use ginger beer and you have the non-alcoholic version of a Moscow Mule.  You could even serve it in fancy copper mugs.  (We didn’t.  I think we used red solo cups.) (We also didn’t use ginger beer.)Lime PunchOk, about those cookies.  When the boys were little we took them out to a restaurant on a Friday night.  The kids meals came with a choice of dessert.  One boy ordered a chocolate chip cookie before he was told the options and the other chose an M&M cookie after listening to his choices.  In order to prevent a jealous fight (which was more common in those days than it is now) we asked if the waitress could please just bring us 2 M&M cookies.  She did as we asked and the younger boy started crying.  “I don’t like M&M cookies.”  We struggled to console him.  “I thought you did.”  “I don’t…except on Fridays” he wailed.  “It is Friday,” we told him gently.  Immediately the tears dried up.  “Ok,” he said and happily munched his M&M cookie as we looked on bewildered.  You’d think after that sort of quick mood shift I’d be more ready for their preteen hormones.M&M Party Cookies close upWhether it’s Friday night or Sunday afternoon, dry your tears and make these cookies.  If you buy a big bag of M&M’s you may be able to pick out your team colors for the cookies.  (which means you also get to snack on all those other colors.) For those of you who are aware of such things, I made this recipe some time before “our” team was eliminated from the Super Bowl.  (You can probably even guess which team we cheer for).  M&M Party Cookies (2)

M&M Party Cookies

Mystery Cookies

In which Nancy Drew appears.

When I was very young (probably between 4 and 6) my mom walked in on me reading two Nancy Drew books at the same time. I would read one page of one book and then one page of the other book and then turn both pages at the same time.  I have a vague memory of this.  I explained to her that the stories were too formulaic and boring and therefore needed to be spiced up.  (Not quite in those words, but that was the thought.)Mystery CookiesFrom a very early age, I loved a good mystery.  More often than not, the books I have checked out in Overdrive are mysteries.  The really good ones have twists that you never see coming.  The silly ones are fairly obvious from early on and I spend most of the book waiting for the characters to catch up to where I already am.There was one book I read a few years back where the main character knew who the killer was by asking for them for an answer to a cryptic crossword.  I was confounded at the time, but have since learned to do cryptics.  Not nearly as well as my friend that takes existing crossword puzzles and then writes his own clues to the answers.  Also, not nearly as well, as our other friend who just has the sort of brain that overthinks everything (Yes, mom, even worse than I do.)  I do best when I have someone else with whom I can discuss the possibilities.  Mystery CookiesI am usually pretty good at sussing out secrets.  Not always to my benefit.  Occasionally, though, there are things that I just never see coming.  Like when my half-brother became my half-sister.  Never saw that coming.

Some of these recipes are like that.  Where I just have no idea what it is that I’m supposed to expect.  Like “Japanese” Chicken or Deviled Hot Dogs.  Then there are others that give me an idea, but don’t give me a lot of details.  Unbaked Cookies is a good example, as are most of the cake recipes.  I spend a lot of time assessing what I know about cooking and applying that logic.  That’s part of the appeal about doing this blog for me.  Solving the mystery of these recipes, taking some pictures, trying them out so people know what to expect.  It’s so easy these days to search for a recipe online.  Most of them have explicit how-tos and pictures.  It wasn’t always quite so easy.  Mystery CookiesThis recipe was an easy one.  It just didn’t have a title.  Or instructions.  It’s probably a good thing that the thing I like to read best after mysteries is cookbooks.  Yep.  Just read them like novels.  It’s a great way to see how ingredients are supposed to go together and which foods pair well with other foods.  It gives you an idea of the culture and values of populations.   Shows you how much time people have to cook or bake.  It’s an anthropological study (read: mystery).  DSCN2619

Another note about these cookies, I don’t like creamy peanut butter.  I know, I know, it might call one to question all sorts of things about me, but I said it.  Peanut butter without nuts is just like paste.  Texture needs to happen for me.  It needs some crunch.  It needs to be more than just glue that sticks to the roof of your mouth.  You may point out that this recipe calls for cornflake crumbs and that should provide the texture I say I need, but that’s crisp, not crunch.  Incidentally, these cookies are delicious.

Mystery Cookies

Mystery Cookies

I cup margarine (2 sticks) creamed with 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar.  When while creamed, add one egg and 1 tsp vanilla.  Add 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1 1/3 cups of flour, 1/4 tsp salt.  After everything is mixed together, gently mix in 1 cup of cornflake crumbs.  Bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°.  Yield is 4 dozen.


Cherry Dessert

In which I explore some literature.

I have this view of Iowans as practical people.  People without a lot of nonsense.  Straightforward, honest, and hardworking.  It’s a stereotype to be sure. But then again, some of those stereotypes are reinforced by literature.  So maybe I’m not totally off-base.

In college, I would take weekend visits to my grandparents’ house.  I usually brought along homework of some sort.  One weekend I brought along a book I was reading for one of my classes.  It was called Making Hay.  Grandpa picked up the book, studied it for a minute and turned to my grandma.  “Dorothy, look at this. Verlyn Klinkenborg.” “Who?” I asked.  “Oh, he used to play with your uncle when they were kids.”  I almost asked if they were sure it was the same guy, but then I realized that the chances of two people having that name were slim.

For Christmas this year, my husband got me the book Prairie Fires since I have been a fan of the Little House books since I was young.   In it, the author discusses both Laura Ingalls Wilder and Hamlin Garland‘s connection to Burr Oak, Iowa.  My grandparents introduced me to Hamlin Garland’s books when I was young.  We went on a tour of his house.  I can barely remember the trip, but my copy of Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly has moved with me for nearly 30 years.  DSCN3362The practical people that named some of these recipes were not nearly as eloquent as the writers which is why we have recipes named things like “Darned Good Candy” and “Cherry Dessert.”

So what is Cherry Dessert?  It’s a nut and cherry filled cake topped with a jammy cherry sauce and whipped cream.  It is delicious and addicting.


The first time I made it, I mixed everything up together (with cherries from my trees) and put it into a prepared 9×13 pan.  Before I even got it all into the pan, I realized that I probably should’ve used a smaller pan.  The cake layer was about equal to the whipped cream layer.  The bad part about this was that it took a large piece (or two) to leave me feeling satisfied and the cherry dessert would call my name as it sat in my fridge.  DSCN3368The second time I made it, I had much better results in a smaller 8×8 pan.  I neglected to let the cake cool completely before adding the whipped cream to the top.  The results were a bit runny and messy, but nonetheless incredible.


The sweetness of the cake, the tartness of the cherries, and the creamy layer all combine to make a dessert that satiates every dessert craving except chocolate.  It’s cool and a bit crunchy.  This is going to be a staple at my house during cherry season.   Cherry Dessert

Cherry Dessert

1 c sugar
1 egg
1 TB butter, melted
1 c flour
1 t soda
1/4 t salt
1 c sour cherries (reserve juice)
3/4 c nuts

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes

Cool.  Cover with whipped cream.

Heat juice, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 TB flour, 1 TB cornstarch.  Cook until thick.  Add 1 T butter. Chill, spread over cream.