Monday, March 2, 2015

Sometimes you just can't bake it

There are times when life is good.

Work is interesting and productivity is high.  Your teenager smiles at you for real.  Your bank account balance is surprisingly fat, and your thighs are surprisingly thin*.

At times like these, one can tackle epic, multi-step dessert recipes with aplomb. Store-bought ice cream?  Caramel from a jar? Puh-lease! In fact, I'll just be making my own damn mascarpone cheese and zabaglione for that tiramisu, thank you very much.

Then there are times when life is just plan f$@%ed up.

People who are supposed to love you are impossibly cruel and the cat barfs on the carpet and despite your best intentions, your email box is the one on the right.

From this posting on Twitter

For those days, and for someone I love very much who is having a particularly cat-barf-y time of it right now, there are these No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Nut Butter Instant Happiness Treats.

Chocolate Oatmeal Nut Butter Treats | Cheesy Pennies

I found the recipe online, and made a batch almost on a whim.  But the minute I took a bite, I was immediately transported back to a summer during elementary school.  I'd been sent away to a science and nature camp for city kids with a bunch of people I didn't know and they were all really mean to me.  I hated everything about it...the dingy bunks, the creepy-crawly woods, and the smelly labs, but more than anything, I loathed the girls I was grouped with. I was utterly miserable the entire time, except for one day, near the end of camp, when the cafeteria ladies served these exact same treats at lunch.  I vividly remember the taste and how happy I was, just for a minute, to be eating something so delicious in the midst of that horrible place.  I swear these saved me by making the experience, if not good, at least bearable.

I polished off my treat. Only the happiness and none of the hurt came back to me.  Life really is good sometimes.

Believe me, I do not wish the horrors of pre-teen peer ostracism or any other kind of emotional turmoil on anyone**, but just in case, it's good to be able to make your own instant ray of hope out of chocolate, peanut butter, and sugar***.   While you're waiting for the pain to fade away with time (and getting that inbox cleared out) these will definitely tide you over very nicely.

Chocolate Oatmeal Nut Butter Treats 2 | Cheesy Pennies

P.S.  If you are truly having a tough day, I found watching this video made me ridiculously cheerful.  As in, howling with laughter. Via Kottke.

No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Nut Butter Treats of Joy

by Sharon Graves
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 2 minutes, plus cooling time
No oven, no flour, no eggs and all kinds of goodness in about 10 minutes.  That's when you can begin spooning the stuff straight into your mouth from the pan.  If you actually wait for them to cool, add maybe 10-15 more minutes, tops. These are less of a cookie than they are like oatmeal-laced nut butter fudge, and that is truly a wonderful thing. Recipe adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.
Ingredients (about 30)
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, cut into smaller pieces
  • 1/2 c. milk (whole or 2% is fine)
  • 4 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt (if you are using an unsalted nut butter, add a bit more. If your nut butter is salty, use a bit less)
  • 1/2 c. smooth or chunky nut butter (almond, peanut, cashew!)
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • dash of almond extract (optional)
  • 3 c. rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking)

Line a countertop or several sheet trays with parchment paper or silicon baking mats. The recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies, so be sure you have room to hold them all.

Combine sugar, butter, milk and cocoa powder in a 3-4 quart saucepan.

Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted, stirring often to combine as it warms up, then allowing the mixture to come to a full boil. Stop stirring, and allow the mixture to keep boiling for an entire minute.

Remove from the heat.

Add in the nut butter and salt, and stir until the nut butter is completely incorporated.

Stir in the vanilla, the almond extract, if using, and the oats, making sure all the oats are coated and no big dry clumps remain.

Using a small ice cream scoop or a spoon, drop rounded portions onto the prepared parchment/baking sheets. The mixture may spread a little as it'll still be warm, but if you want flatter cookies, you can go back and press them down a bit with your fingers after you've scooped them all out.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes.

The treats will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for several days.

* I say this in theory, because this particular combination of joyous tidings has never actually happened to me.  I'm sure there are blissful people experiencing this thrilling situation out there somewhere, but please do not leave any confirmation notes about your unexpectedly skinny thighs in the comments.
** Except the jerk who is messing with my loved one.  That person can go straight to hell and stay there.
*** Plus, with apologies to my sister, in addition to her favorite combo of chocolate and peanut butter, they have oatmeal in them, so they are healthy and good for us. I think that's why the lunch ladies were allowed to serve them to emotionally wrecked child campers in large quantities.

God bless lunch ladies.  

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