April 8, 2012

Something Sweet (Wannabe Tagalongs)

Today I'm going to let you in on another one of my secrets.... I have a slight addiction to Girl Scout cookies. Lucky me, they only come around once a year!

It seems everyone has a favorite Girl Scout cookie. I'm torn between two... Tagalongs and Samoas. Oh, and Thin Mints. And the Shortbread. And Do-Si-Dos. Plus my new favorite, Lemonades (shortbread with lemon icing, nom...)

This is the first year I've bought Girl Scout cookies somewhere other than the East Coast. I'm probably the only person in America not to know, but there is more than one baker of Girl Scout cookies. What does that mean? Well, out here in the wild west, Samoas are not Samoas, they are Caramel Delites. Tagalongs are not Tagalongs, they are Peanut Butter Patties.

Uhn. Not cool.

The troop leader outside our local Walmart assured me that the cookies all tasted the same. Either she's never tasted a real Samoa, or she flat-out lied to me. Totally not the same. AT ALL.

So, what can I do about this travesty? The way I see it, I have three choices:
                1. Eat the dang cookies and let it go. For anyone that knows me well, we know that is        
                    unlikely to ever happen.
                2. Persuade someone to ship me cookies from the real cookie factory. Now, this idea has
                    merit. All I have to do is bribe my kid sister and have her ship me boxes of cookies. This
                    will likely cost me three times as much as the cookies are worth, since sibling child labor
                    doesn't come cheap.
                3.  Find a way to make my own. BINGO! Best idea yet. Not only will I (hopefully) have
                     great tasting cookies, but I can have them whenever I want. Year round. No more Girl Scout
                     pushers taking away my fix after they get me hooked.

The only decision left to make... what cookie do I test out first?

I naturally wanted to begin with Samoas, but I was a little intimidated. Then, during Christmas, I tasted a scrumptious holiday treat which could easily pass as a Tagalong. I immediately wanted to re-create the confection.

And that's what I did.

Wannabe Tagalongs

This is my version of a 'fake' Tagalong. Only four ingredients are necessary. For the price of one box of Girl Scout cookies, you can make dozens of these little babies. The only downside? You can also eat dozens of these babies!

Which I also did. But that's besides the point.

The ingredients are so simple, you probably already have them in your pantry. Go ahead, you can run and check if you want. Here they are:

The Ingredients 

I'm obviously making very, ahem... "healthy" cookies, since I'm using whole wheat crackers. The regular ones work just as well, but this is what I had on hand. How much of each ingredient you have determines how many cookies you'll consume (Trust me, you will eat them all. Don't delude yourself). I used about 2 sleeves of the Ritz crackers.

Ready for the really hard part? You sure? Ok, here it is... spread peanut butter on one cracker and then top it with another one.

Whew! That was rough, huh? Repeat until you've made as many 'cookies' as you want.

Alright, let's face it, right now these are not cookies. They're peanut butter sandwiches. Soon, they will be cookies. The most wonderful, magical cookies you've ever tasted. Well, maybe not magical. But you get the idea. 

Only one secret applies to this all-important, peanut-butter-spreading step: Make sure the peanut butter doesn't squish out the sides. This is very, very important for only one reason.

It bugs me.

Ok, so that's not true. You don't want the peanut butter squishing out, because in a minute you're going to dip these babies in chocolate. If there's too much peanut butter squishing around, then it mixes with the chocolate, and total chaos ensues. You need to trust me on this.

You can melt your chocolate in one of two ways:
        1. In a microwave safe bowl. Heat for 20-30 seconds at a time, stirring in between, until the  
            chocolate and shortening are combined and smooth.
        2. Use a double-boiler or create one. This is my preferred method. I don't own a double-boiler.
            You can make one by placing a bowl over a pot of barely simmering water. Add the chocolate
             and shortening to the bowl, stirring constantly until melted and smooth.

In this case, I used about 18 ounces of semi-sweet chips to 2 tablespoons of vegetable shortening. Why the shortening? The consistency of the chocolate is nicer with the addition of shortening, plus it makes the chocolate all shiny and smooth. All good things.

While your chocolate is melting, get out a couple of cookie sheets and cover them with waxed paper. We don't want our cookies to stick to the pan. Then, the rest is simple. Dip each cracker into the chocolate and cover it completely. I use a fork for this, but you can also buy special, handy dandy 'dipping tools'. Waste of money if you ask me, but whatever floats your boat.

After the glorious dipping, resist the urge to stuff your face with the chocolate and peanut butter confection. This will be very messy. Instead, gently tap your fork (or fancy dipping tool) against the side of the bowl to help remove any excess chocolate. Then, place the cookie onto the wax paper.

It should look a little something like this:

Repeat this step until all the sandwiches or chocolate is gone. Feel free to lick the bowl. I won't tell anyone.

The rest is easy. Just place the cookie sheets into the fridge, wait impatiently, hop from foot to foot, maybe whine a little bit... and at the end of thirty minutes, viola! You've got Wannabe Tagalongs.

Try not to eat them all at once.

You can store these in any covered container, either on the counter or in the fridge. I like mine chilled, so I keep them in the fridge. If your house is a little warm, I'd be careful leaving them on the counter in case the chocolate begins to melt.

One day soon, I'm going to tackle the Samoa. For all my fellow Girl Scout cookie addicted friends: Don't worry, help is on the way!

So, what is your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Which ones do you wish you could make at home, and which ones could you do without? Inquiring minds want to know!

The Standard Form:

Wannabe Tagalongs


2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
Creamy peanut butter
18 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons shortening, like Crisco
Optional: Sea salt, for sprinkling


With the Ritz crackers and peanut butter, create sandwiches. Spread a bit of peanut butter on one cracker, then top with another one. Be careful that the peanut butter does not squish out from the edges.

Line 2 cookie sheets with wax paper.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt together the chocolate chips and the shortening, stirring often. Once melted, dip each cracker sandwich in the chocolate to coat completely. Let the excess chocolate drip off. Remove to the wax paper. If desired, sprinkle each chocolate dipped peanut butter sandwich with some salt before the chocolate sets.

Place the cookie sheets in the refrigerator to help set quickly, about 30 minutes. Enjoy! 

April 1, 2012

The Conquering of Cardiac Hill

One of the many activities the Hubs and I enjoy together is (drum roll please…) hiking. The weather in El Paso allows for hiking nearly year round, although the summer months can be quite challenging.  On a good weekend, we wake up early and load our packs full of… stuff. While the Hubs’ pack would include such items as water, food, and first aid supplies, mine mostly consists of camera equipment and dog biscuits. I am ever prepared!

Thank goodness I hike with those more competent than myself. Otherwise I’d wind up lost in the wild, with no human food or water. But, I’d have some magnificent photos.

Sadly, the Hubs and I have not been able to participate in our favored weekend activity for some time, due to our own medical issues. Two months with no hiking? Inconceivable! (Quick, name that movie!) Something must be done to correct this abnormality immediately. The Hubs isn’t cleared yet for serious hiking, and I am obviously incapable of doing so alone. Really, who needs food? Or water? Or first aid supplies? Not I! 

........ if you want to see how I survived this latest adventure, read the rest of the post at 1,000 Miles On My Own Two Feet. I'm guest blogging this week for my good friend, Abby. This hike was a great adventure, I hope you love it as much as we did!

Abby and I