Frittata-friendly Coconut Congo Bars (aka Monkey Bars)

image

Mat had never had a congo bar before(?!?!!!), and we had all the ingredients, so I had to try a frittata version. Here’s the original Congo Bar recipe. For Monkey Bars, as Mat so aptly titled them, just sub the following:

· Condensed milk= Sweetened unflavored almond milk
· Butter = Earth Balance
· Milk chocolate chips = Dairy-free chocolate chips

INGREDIENTS

For the Crust

1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the pan
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (from about 10 whole crackers)
1/3 cup light brown sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the pan

For the Topping

1 1/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup chopped pecans or any other nut you fancy, if desired

DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter an 8×8″ baking pan, dust with flour, and tap out the excess.
  2. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the graham cracker crumbs and light brown sugar and mix well.
  3. Work the butter into the crumb mixture with your hands until the crumbs are evenly coated with buttery goo. Spread the crumb crust in the prepared baking pan, pressing down gently with your hands. You don’t want to make the crust too dense or compact. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is slightly golden. Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the topping but leave the oven on.
  4. While the crust is cooling, mix together the coconut, both chocolates, and the condensed milk. Add the pecans or other nuts, if desired.
  5. Spread the mixture evenly over the warm crust. Return to the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the top is set and light brown. Watch carefully toward the end of the baking time to make sure the top doesn’t become too bubbly or dark.
  6. Let the pan of bars cool on a wire rack for 2 hours or so, until chocolate is no longer soft. Cut into whatever size or shape you fancy.

Eat It or Beat It – Butternut Squash

It’s Friday!  Which means some R&R from the grind and some R&D in the kitchen.  Yes, friends, it’s time to empty the fridge and use up the week’s forgotten food purchases that are on their way out.  Today, the lucky fridge inhabitant up for experimentation is BUTTERNUT SQUASH.

I always fall into the trap of boiling, mashing, and brown sugaring butternut.  It’s fast.  It’s delicious. It’s predictable, which accounts for a lot of the reason the squash has been sitting lonely in my produce drawer for so long.  So it was a perfect candidate for tonight’s experiment.  With the help of a few other items that needed to be eaten ASAP (we’ll call them “secret ingredients” to add some whimsy), butternut is predictable no more!

ButterWHAT? Soup

**makes 5 servings**

  • Mirepoix
  • 1 butternut squash (peeled, seeds scooped out, chopped—peeling and chopping = sucks)
  • 1 Granny Smith (peeled, cored, chopped)
  • 3 cups chicken broth (I made broth from bouillon cubes and water)
  • 1 cup water
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Sauté your mirepoix in large sauce pan and add broth, water, butternut, and apple (you should have about a 3:1 ratio of the last two).  Boil.
  2. Once boiling, turn heat down to a simmer and cook until squash and carrots are forkable (about 30 minutes).
  3. Pour into blender and puree until smooth.
  4. Add nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
  5. Put it in your mouth.

Mirepoix – Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Mirepoix.  You may not be able to say it (“meer-pwah”–and don’t forget the French accent).  But believe me, you sure as heck want to eat it.  Not by itself but in every sauce, soup, braise, roast, stew, risotto…essentially any savory homestyle dish you can think of.

According to the foremost resource of culinary knowledge, Larousse Gastronomique, mirepoix has been a staple since the 18th century when a duke’s cook dreamt it up.  It can be served “au gras” (with meat), although it’s typically prepared “au maigre” (just veggies).  Fat or lean, these aromatics are always used as a flavor base for a main course.  The simple and affordable combo of onion, celery, and carrot  has a surprisingly huge flavor payoff that can transform a dish from amazing to unforgettable.  Seriously.  Try it.

Mirepoix

**makes enough for one main dish**

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 rib of celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, skinned and chopped
  • 2 tbsp butter substitute (as you know, Smart Balance is my frittata-friendly go-to)
  1. Melt butter in sauce pan on medium-high heat for about a minute.  Watch it and stir when needed to keep it from turning brown (very difficult for an incessant multitasker like myself).
  2. Add onion, celery, and carrot and sauté for 5 minutes*.  Turn down the heat if they’re looking ready to turn brown.
  3. Put it in your dish.

*If main dish recipe calls for tender mirepoix, cook until vegetables are forkable (about 20 minutes).

Frittata Mashed Potatoes

As you know, my BF is gastronomically challenged.  The poor guy can’t eat dairy products.  And, no, he’s not lactose intolerant.  He’s allergic.  He’s allergic to dairy.  His nose runs, his throat tickles, his eyes water.  Because he is a frittata who cannot physically enjoy the simple comfort of a warm lump of mashed potatoes.

Until now.  We’ve cracked the code for killer mashed potatoes that actually taste like…MASHED POTATOES!

Frittata Mashed Potatoes

**makes 2 servings**

  • 7 red mini potatoes
  • 1/4 cup organic unflavored soy milk (I used Nature’s Promise)
  • 1 tbsp butter substitute (I LOVE Smart Balance)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tsp rosemary (optional)
  1. Wash and cut potatoes, keeping skin.   The smaller the pieces, the faster they’ll cook.
  2. Put potatoes in sauce pan and cover with water.  Put pan on stove to boil.
  3. When potatoes smoosh easily with a fork (about 10 minutes), drain water and return potatoes to pan.
  4. Mash potatoes with a masher or fork until all chunks are gone.  Mash in butter substitute.
  5. Stir in soy milk.
  6. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary.
  7. Put it in your mouth.

Even Gangnam Style Can’t Keep Sandy from Spiking Food Prices


PSY, may I just say, that you have made it. Not only have you conquered the international music charts, you’ve infiltrated an international natural disaster. And for that, I thank you.

It’s nice to have some comic relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.  Although, I’m admittedly getting a bit worried about what effect the storm will have on the price of food.  Haiti is already anticipating increases after the significant losses in crops across the country.

Sure, Haiti is Haiti.  In other words, it ain’t the US.  But let’s be serious, Sandy did a great job of rearranging our main ports and slapping around the Northeast’s farmland.  I’m hopeful that the Earth is just trying to find a happy medium.  First, it was the drought this past summer–the worst in a quarter century–that was rumored to make food prices explode beyond the reaches of my modest purse strings and now this, the biggest Atlantic hurricane on record.

Oh, the irony.

For now, I’ve decided to let all this food price business sit on the back burner while I blissfully (and deliberately forgetfully) continue to put delicious food in my mouth.  As long as I can afford to.