March 2009 archive

Make your own Girl Scout Cookies

The other day, I realized we hadn't gotten any girl scouts knocking on our door this year.  I have very fond memories of Girl Scouts and I still think they're a great organization.  They're much more inclusive than their male counterpart organization and I love how they teach young girls to stand on their own two feet.  My mom was a Girl Scout leader and I had the greatest time selling cookies each year.  I sold the shit out of those cookies.  I could sell dead people Girl Scout cookie I was so good.  My poor parents were forced to drive miles because I insisted on venturing into distant neighborhoods to peddle my product. Boxes upon boxes of cookies would have to be delivered and I thought it was awesome.  My poor parents. 

One thing I don't like about Girl Scout cookies is that they still contain trans fats in them, even though according to the package, they don't "measurable" trans fats.  However, if you look at the list of ingredients, partially hydrogenated fats are listed which means they've used the trick of making the serving sizes small enough that the trans fats are just under 0.5 grams – that way they can market them as having 0 grams of trans fats per serving, even when they contain trans fats.  And seriously, when was the last time you ate two cookies?!!  For an organization that promotes good health, it's really time the Girl Scouts required their bakeries to leave out ALL trans fats.

So this year, I'm going to make a donation to the Girl Scouts – that way my local troop will get to keep 100% of that money, rather than the 16% of cookies sales.  It will be tax deductible as well.  And because I don't want to deny myself the quintessential summer treat of Thin Mints straight from the freezer, I'm going to try some of the recipes below.  These all are healthier, cheaper and probably tastier than traditional Girl Scout cookies.

Thin Mints(From what I've read, the secret to these is to use peppermint oil, not peppermint extract):
Homemade and All Natural Thin Mints at 101 Cookbooks – I have two of Heidi's cookbooks and the recipes are amazing.  These would be my bet to make first.
Chocolate Mint Cookies at Epicurious
Homemade Thin Mint at Baking Bites

Samoas at Baking Bites 
Samoas Bar at Baking Bites
Homemade Samoas at Chicken in the Road

Tagalongs at Baking Bites 
Homemade Tagalongs at The Recipe Box

Do-Si-Dos by Baking Bites  

Sometimes simpler really is better

We had a Mardi Gras party this year.  For some odd reason, we ended up with a leftover keg of Yuengling beer after the wedding.  I am not the drinker I used to be, nor is Marcus.  Our friends can't put them back like they used to either so a small, intimate party was not going to get rid of all the beer we needed to drink.  So we decided a planned out kick butt soiree was needed.

I tend to get in over my head when it comes to party food.  So I made a conscious effort not to go crazy this time and kept things simple.  I made vegetarian gumbo and chicken & sausage jambalaya with a big pot of rice for our main dish.  We had S'mores for dessert (along with some delicious cookies that our friend Mary brought!).  Munchies were tortilla chips and homemade salsa, potato chips with homemade french onion dip and homemade bread with a butter & cream cheese spread.  I would never have made bread for a party like this but the no knead bread is so easy that it actually was a cinch to make.  Everyone raved about it and the spread I made was so good I was eating it with a spoon.  Here's the recipe:

Cream Cheese Butter Herb Spread:
Equal amounts of softened butter and cream cheese (I used a pound of each)
Minced garlic to taste
Minced herbs to taste (I had rosemary and parsley in the garden so that's what I used)

Stick in the mixer and whip together.  If you make this before the party, make sure to take out a couple of hours before so it's easy to spread.

Ga Nuong or Vietnamese Grilled Chicken

I'm still trying to buy as much local meat as we can afford but our budget won't allow for as much as we'd like.  We're eating a lot more vegetarian dishes but those can be expensive in the winter.  One way we're trying to save money is by only buying chicken or pork(we never buy CAFO beef) when it's on manager's special.  This usually means you have to use it that day or freeze it which is never an issue for us because we have two chest freezers.  Last Friday, I went to Ingles and we were able to pick up seven 5 lb packs of boneless chicken breasts for $2.99 each.   $23 for 35 pounds of chicken which works out to around 67 cents a pound.  I rationalize this CAFO purchase by hoping that both the store and producers lose money on me – you don't need to tell me how dumb that logic is.  Chicken breasts aren't my favorite but they're really quick and easy for salads and such.  We also have several packages of chicken thighs we got for 45 cents a pound.  I LOVE chicken thighs.  It's a much juicer cut of meat and I think it grills amazingly well.  Kim from A Mighty Appetite posted this recipe a while ago and it intrigued me but for some weird reason, I never got around to making it.  The recipe includes fish sauce which is one of those ingredients that I never feel entirely confident using because it…well, smells kind of gross.  You'd think by now I'd learn how awesome stuff using this always turns out.  This recipe is a keeper.  I think some tinkering is in order (a little more lime juice and maybe add some garlic) but this makes a really lovely, easy dish.  I served it with a green salad with a Asian-style vinaigrette(rice wine vinegar, canola oil, garlic, fresh ginger and enough sugar to make it slightly sweet).


Grilled Chicken(Ga Nuong)
From "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" by Andrea Nguyen

1/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Canola or other neutral oil
2 3/4 pounds chicken thighs, skin and extra fat removed

In a bowl large enough to accommodate the chicken, combine all ingredients except the chicken and mix well. Add chicken and use your fingers to massage marinade into the meat, distributing the seasonings as evenly as possible. Marinate at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours
(Note from Kristina – I also am going to try a longer marination time).

Prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill to medium.

Place chicken on grill rack and cook, turning every five minutes, until browned on both sides, with clear juices. If necessary, transfer meat to a 400-degree oven to finish cooking. You are looking for an internal temperature of approximately 165 degrees.