After the Girls Scouts are gone…

To be clear, there is no replacement for bonafide Girl Scout thin mints. Also to be clear, thin mints are the only Girl Scout cookie. O.N.L.Y.

And while I think many of us have gotten wise and learned to squirrel away a box or two in the freezer, let’s be honest–even the most stalwart of thin mint hoarders never makes it through the year.

I’ve got a stop-gap for you.  These aren’t quite thin mint duplicates.  But, they’ll do during the long, dark days of summer when that neatly stacked roll of  crumbly minty, chocolate goodness is but a distant memory.

True thin mints are more cookie than chocolate.  These are about two-parts chocolate to one part cookie.  This is because unlike the Girl Scouts of America, I have to hand-dip.  And, I use real chocolate, not chocolate flavored dip mixture.  I mean, you can use those melt things you find at Michaels if you want.  I won’t judge.  Too much.

As you’ll see in the recipe, there is very little sugar in the cookie dough.  Two reasons for this.  First, you’re going to use an entire tin of crushed Altoids.  Trust me.  Don’t hold back.  Second, because they are enrobed  in chocolate, the cookie doesn’t really need to be sweet.

A word to the wise on dipping.  See how the cookies are neatly lined up on the rack below?  Don’t do that.  I made a complete rookie mistake in thinking this would allow the excess chocolate to drip.  It did not.  Instead it allowed the chocolate to fuse with the rack grid making it nearly impossible to free the individual cookies without ruining them.  Instead do what I’ve got going on in the corner: dip and then gently set directly onto parchment.

I made another grave mistake when making these.  Once complete, I photographed them, packed them up and immediately gave them away.

This means I missed the crucial step of setting some aside to freeze.  Seriously?  SERIOUSLY?  Is there any other way to eat them?

Speaking of Girl Scouts, I only lasted a year.  It was the third grade.  I was a brownie.  In retrospect, I should have loved the experience–they did all the stuff I liked to do: socialize, earn rewards for completing tasks,  arts and crafts.  There were snacks.  However, eight year old me had strong sartorial objections to the outfit.  I hated it.  And, so ended my career.

(Okay, I also switched schools between third and fourth grade which is probably the real reason my mom let me off the hook.  But as I remember it, it was just one in a string of fashion boycotts that shaped my participation in youth activities.)

Thinish Mints

Makes about 48

the cookie base is adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Cocoa-Cayenne Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 tin of peppermint altoid mints, finely ground
  • 1 1/2 C (204 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 C (42 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound, 8 ounces, 226 grams) unsalted butter at room temperature and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 12 ounces chocolate of your choice for melting and dipping

Directions

  1. Sift together flour and cocoa powder, set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and salt on low until creamy; about 2 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and ground Altoids and beat thoroughly until incorporated; about 2 minutes.
  4. Add in egg yolk and combine.
  5. Turn off mixer.  Add all flour.  If you are concerned about flying flour, cover mixer with tea towel and mix on low (skip the towel if you are flying particle carefree) until just combined.  The dough will be soft and crumbly.  That’s good.
  6. Divide dough in half and roll out each half to a bout 1/4 inch thickness in-between two pieces of parchment.  Freeze for at least an hour, better over night.
  7. After dough has frozen, preheat oven to 350 degrees. You’ll cycle through about 4 sheet pans but can do 2 and 2 or even 1 at a time, depending on your supplies.  Line what you have with parchment.
  8. With a 1 1/2 inch cookie cutter (I obviously used round but use what toots your horn), cut out cookies and place about a dozen on eat sheet.  Once you cut out all you can, form scraps into a ball and re-roll between parchment.  Put back in freezer for at least 10 minutes and then repeat until you’ve used all the dough (note, you can start baking–no need to wait until all dough is rolled).
  9. Bake, two sheets at a time for about 14 minutes, rotating pans halfway through.  You’ll know the cookies are done when they feel slightly firm to the tough (and they’ll spring back a little when touched).  Allow to sit on sheet pan for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely.
  10. If you are short on time like me, you can stop here, wrap the baked cookies well in a freezer ziplock and freeze for up to a month.  Or, just wait for the cookies to completely cool before dipping in chocolate.
  11. Melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl over a simmering pot of water (or use a double boiler if you have one).  Have a couple of sheet pans lined with parchment ready.
  12. Once chocolate is melted, dip cookies one at a time, flipping them in the chocolate and then gently set to Harden directly on parchment.  I find using a fork works well here: set cookie flat on fork, dip and then allow excess chocolate to drip into pot of chocolate before sitting on parchment.
  13. Allow chocolate to set until hard.

Gunga Galunga (Via Corona yard update)

After writing the final check to our builders in early 2018, we laid low with Via Corona for most the year.  It was nice to just hang out, let her settle (literally) and, you know, not hemhorrage money.

Our one major task for Via Corona in 2018 was to address the remaining strip of dirt that was our front and side yards.

Lest you have forgotten just how awful Via Corona’s yard began, allow me to refresh your memory.  Though there isn’t much to it, when we moved in, Via Corona’s yard was derelict.

Though we encountered its destitution every time we visited the house, we somehow completely forgot to include it in our renovation plans.

Which turned out to be okay since TD and I watched a ton of YouTube videos and learned how to do some yard stuff.

You can see the entire madcap adventure (montage included) in our Working Har Har Hard on the Yard Yard Yard post.

We gave ourselves some serious back pats for our landscaping accomplishments and have continued to do so while we’ve kept everything alive.

YouTube learning (actually, let’s be honest, TD and I) has its limits however and alas, a significant portion of the yard remained, shall we say, au natural.

A couple of things were keeping us from moving forward.  First, we needed an irrigation system and we needed to figure out if we could do it ourselves.  I’ll cut to the chase tout suite.  The answer was no.  Like, NO! With that out of the way we had a second obstacle: our neighbors.  We’ve got a leaning wall between the two properties.  They’ve got a leaning fence.  We wanted to pull down the wall and have a nice redwood fence built.  They had some “concerns.”  After several months and unsuccessful attempts at understanding their concerns in a way that would cost us less than $50,000, we gave up on that version of the plan.  We’ve got bigger, badder ideas for that wall down the road and have decided to play the neighbor long game.

Obstacles out of the way, we had the irrigation and sod installed in something like 48 hours. Almost over night we went from “dirt patch alley” to “pass me a beer, where’s the corn hole?”

Cool slider alert:

While we may have conceded (temporarily) on the long wall battle, we did win some view.  We’re quick learners and when it came to the short wall, we didn’t consult with anyone and had the nice professionals open things up a bit for us.

Another cool slider alert:

 

Via Corona has wrap-around grass.  All my life’s wishes I didn’t know I had have been fulfilled.

Final cool slide alert:

Of course, no good deed goes unpunished.  The sod had been down less than a week before the gophers moved in.  And then the skunks and raccoons started taking advantage of the worm-rich soil and regularly aerating the sod.

So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Mula Pie

Growing up in San Diego my family had a tradition of visiting Jake’s in Del Mar for special occasions.  Part of the TS Restaurant Group (think Kimo’s and Dukes), Jake’s edges right over the surf and is a favorite spot for watching the sunset while enjoying excellent seafood and fresh sourdough bread.

As much as we’d ooh and ahh over the the tenderness of the sea bass or buttery ahi, the whole meal was just prelude for the dinner’s denoument: the hula pie.

If you haven’t already been inducted (and you’d know if you were), hula pie is a concoction of mounds of macadamia nut ice cream perched on top of a cookie crust and drenched in hot fudge.  While meant to be shared, even a slice of the slice is enough to put you into a deep sugar coma in the very best way.

Since my parents moved to Montana full time nearly 10 years ago and Dukes in Malibu is a hearty drive, I decided to make my own version for my folk’s visit last month.  My parents live just outside of Bozeman Montana.  According to Sunset magazine and more than a handful of best places to live rankings, Bozeman is a happening place.  While this may be true, they still don’t have a Trader Joe’s and so as an homage to my mom’s favorite state’s away grocery, I used as many Trader Joes ingredients as I could muster.

The original hula pie I made with an alarming amount of academic nut ice cream.  This version has that in additional to a layer of coffee ice cream elevating the hula to a mula: the hula and mud pie love child.

I started with a nine-inch pie tin.  I quick baked a Joe Joe’s chocolate crust and painted on a thin layer of hot fudge.  To this I added a leveled-off layer of coffee ice cream.

Since macadamia nut ice cream can be hard to find outside of Hawaii, I came across an easy fix (that I really should have come up with on my own): soften the ice cream and then beat-in the macademia nuts.

The trick with the macadamia nut ice cream (that I somehow didn’t photograph) is to use a bowl with the same diameter as the inside of your pie tin.  Line that bowl with plastic wrap and then fill it with the softened ice cream.

This next part is important: freeze both the bowl and pie tin of ice cream over night.  The pieces need to be really, really frozen for what comes next.

Once everything is frozen and the pieces are fit together, it’s time for the fudge.  I’ll tell you, I had a hard time with this.  My suggestion is to have the fudge ready at room temp.  Then place the pie tin on a larger plate and working very quickly, pour out the fudge and “ice” the dome with an off-set spatula.  You are going to have some drippage over the side.  You may have more than some.  Don’t worry about it.  Just know–there will be chocolate all over your kitchen.

When you are ready to serve, heat up the leftover hot fudge, cut a thick slice.  Smother in the warmed fudge, sprinkle some macadamia nuts and garnish with whipped cream (if you dare).

It took four of us five sittings to get through the entire pie.  It was rough, but we’re not quitters.

Mula Pie

Ingredients

for the hot fudge

  • 6 ounces chocolate chips (pick your type)
  • 14 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 C corn syrup
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1/4 tsp salt

for the pie (this makes a nine-inch pie, adjust ingredient volume as needed)

  • One column plus two cookies of your favorite chocolate sandwich cookie (Oreo’s, Joe Joe’s, Hydrox etc)
  • 4 TBS butter
  • 1 Quart coffee ice cream (strongly recommend Trader Joe’s version) [you probably won’t use all…]
  • 1/2 Gallon vanilla ice cream [you won’t need all of it]
  • 4 + 1 ounces of macadamia nuts (I prefer roasted and salted) separated
  • Hot fudge sauce
  • Whipping cream (optional)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If using a 9-inch pie tin, find a bowl that fits just inside the inner rim of the tin.  It’s okay if the bowl is just under the diameter (up to 1/4 inch) but it shouldn’t overhang.
  3. Using a food processor or by hand (a ziplock and rolling pin will work), finely grind chocolate sandwich cookies until you’ve got chocolate dirt.
  4. Melt butter.  Combine with ground sandwich cookies and press into pie tin.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
  5. While crust bakes, pull ice creams from the freezer and allow to soften.
  6. Chop macadamia nuts.
  7. Once vanilla ice cream is softened to soft serve consistency, place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Add-in four ounces of the chopped macadamia nuts and mix on low until nuts are combined.
  8. Line your pie-tin fitting bowl with plastic wrap so that there is enough allowance around the edges to wrap across the top of the bowl once it is filled.
  9. Fill plastic-lined bowl with the macadamia nut ice cream.  Press ice cream into the bowl so that it is densely packed.  Wrap top of bowl with edges and freeze over night.
  10. Fill cooled chocolate crust with coffee ice cream so that the ice cream is densely packed and level with the top of the crust (I know there is a layer of fudge in the pictures–my recommendation is to wait until you are ready to cover the dome with fudge to make the sauce–it will be easier to work with than attempting to reheat and spread).  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze over night.
  11. To make the fudge sauce, in a medium, heavy bottomed sauce pan, warm corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk, whisk to combine.  Remove from burner and add-in chocolate (chopped if not using chips) and butter.  Allow to sit for five minutes to melt.  Once chocolate is melted, add in salt and whisk until smooth.
  12. Pull pie tin and bowl of ice cream from freezer and unwrap. Fit ice cream dome on top of unwrapped pie.  The dome should fit level with rim of the tin (or just below).  Place pie tin on plate with enough lip to catch overflowing hot fudge.
  13. With the fudge sauce at room temp and starting at the top of the dome, quickly pour and spread 2/3 of the fudge with off-set spatula.  Work quickly and don’t worry if you have an occasional bald spot.  Place pie in freezer and allow to freeze for at least an hour.
  14. Check pie.  There is a good chance that some of the fudge will have migrated off the pie and onto the plate.  If so, scoop up and add to the top of the pie.  Freeze until ready to serve.
  15. To serve, gently heat remaining fudge sauce.  Cut pie, drizzle warmed fudge, sprinkle with remaining macadamia nuts and garnish with whipped cream.