I can be kind of a trainwreck sometimes. I don't mean a lose-my-pencil or knock-over-my-milk trainwreck (although I can be those too). I mean a National Lampoon trainwreck.
Christmastime always reminds me of this fact, mostly because of something that happened a few years ago. My parents had decided to travel to South Korea for the holiday to visit my sister, who was living there at the time. I was sullen about having to spend Christmas alone, and on top of that, I had been appointed petsitter.
Magical, magical Magic Bars
Everything would have been okay if this position merely entailed taking care of my parents' toy poodle, Abbey, who -- while getting crotchety in her old age -- is still a little scoop o' sweetness. But no. Petsitting meant taking care of the dog, the finch, the very animated Roomba, and THE RABBIT.
THE RABBIT, y'all, who -- I KID YOU NOT -- eats two freshly made salads per day. I don't even eat two freshly made salads per day! Or, uh, even one freshly made salad per day.
THE RABBIT, who snuggles and kisses everyone EXCEPT ME, because he hates my guts.
THE RABBIT, who attacks me whenever I'm within range.
THE RABBIT, who was THIS CLOSE to being turned into a stew and not making it out of the experience alive.
Don't worry -- no rabbit in the Magic Bars.
It was clear from the very beginning that this was going to be an interesting week, but I had no idea what kind of shenanigans were in store for me. I thought the worst of my troubles was THE RABBIT. Not even close. Because:
1. In the middle of one of my first nights at my parents' house, I woke up to a waterfall raining down from the living room ceiling. There was apparently a leak in an upstairs bathroom. Over the next few days, what started as a tiny crack in the downstairs ceiling became a gaping hole.
2. The Roomba stopped working after a few days. It already required daily maintenance to manually clean out the gobs of bunny hair it had to consume, but halfway through the week, it gave up the ghost. I barely fiddled with it before giving up, which meant being buried in bunny fluff the rest of the week. It was EVERYWHERE. Covering every article of clothing, stuck in my eyelashes, garnishing every bite of food.
3. Abbey decided to start spontaneously bleeding from her head midweek, staining the couch and sheets. Still no idea what happened there.
4. Speaking of Abbey, she and Byrd (my toy poodle) were mortal enemies all week long. Byrd likes to pester Abbey. Abbey wishes Byrd would fall into a hole and get swallowed by the earth. This makes for interesting interactions, including what I like to call "the great potty war," during which each dog was determined to out-pee the other.
5. That $#@*% RABBIT attacked me and almost broke my hand as I was cleaning up his gross cage. Apparently he's territorial about his hay. Noted.
6. The bird died. IT JUST UP AND DIED. I promise I fed it, watered it, milleted it, cooed at it, kept the temperature steady. Mom later assured me that it was an old bird. At this point I kind of felt like telling her that she was an old bird. Just kidding, Mom. Love you!
7. The day had finally arrived when I was supposed to pick my parents up from the airport after school. Everything was going to be okay! I was on my way to work, gleeful at the prospect of leaving the demolished ceiling, bleeding dog, dead bird, and vicious Monty Pythonesque bunny behind -- when I totaled my car. TOTALED. Some dude pulled out in front of me leaving me no room to stop, and bang! Cue the airbags, the traffic jam, the police report, etc.
All of this occurred without a reliable way of contacting my parents since they were, you know, across the globe and all. I picked them up from the airport that night in Mike's car, and I'll bet you can imagine how well that went: "Hi guys. Your ceiling's destroyed, your bird is dead, your house is one giant furball, your dog may or may not still be bleeding, and I just totaled my car. How was your trip?"
Anyway, I can be a trainwreck of epic proportions. That's why when I received a copy of Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook to review a few weeks ago and promptly failed at the first recipe I made from it, I knew I needed to give it another go.
My first try was the Lemon Wafers. They're described as "cake like," but mine were thin, crisp, and burnt around the edges. They still tasted amazing (I may or may not have eaten half a batch by myself), but they were quite the ugly ducklings. With no photographs of some of the recipes, it was hard to decide how they were supposed to look; nevertheless, I'm pretty sure they weren't supposed to look like that.
I'm so glad I tried again, because the next recipe was a winner. Magic Bars consist of pecans, bittersweet chocolate, and coconut bound by sweetened condensed milk on a graham cracker crust. They were so simple and quick to make, but were definitely magical! I took them to a crafting party (I feel so hip to have gone to a crafting party - did you see how deftly I slid that tidbit into this post? Am I ruining it now? Oh.) and they were a huge hit.
Book Stats: 156 pages, $25.99 list price (~$18 on Amazon), indexed.
Accessibility: Perfect for a beginning baker!
Examples of Recipes: Mocha Pecan Muffins, Ginger Scones, Zvi's Cinnamon Swirl Bread, Double Chocolate Almond Cookies, Peanut Butter Squares, Apple Cream Cheese Tart, Hummingbird Cake, Raspberry Charlotte, etc.
Overall Impression: I love the simplicity and accessibility of the recipes, but I would've preferred more photos -- particularly to see how things were supposed to turn out.
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Kathleen King, the author of the cookbook and owner of Tate's Bake Shop in the Hamptons, has received recognition from Ina Garten, Everyday with Rachael Ray, The Gourmet Retailer, and The Boston Globe for her simple handmade treats. The cookbook is filled with easy, accessible recipes perfect for whipping up at a moment's notice. In addition, the lovely folks at Tate's sent me some buttery, thin and crisp cookies to sample. I loved them, and can't wait to make some of the famous chocolate chip cookies to share with family.
Would you like to try some Tate's Bake Shop goodies? One Willow Bird Baking reader will win a gift-pack of cookies including oatmeal raisin, white chocolate macadamia nut, and chocolate chip, as well as a copy of the Tate's Bake Shop Cookbook. To enter, leave a comment on this post answering the question, "What's your favorite cookie?" To receive up to three extra entries:
1. Become a fan of Tate's Bake Shop on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so (or if you're already a fan, just say so in your comment!)
2. Become a fan of Willow Bird Baking on Facebook and leave a separate comment telling me you did so (or if you're already a fan, just say so in your comment!)
3. Tweet about the giveaway using this message: "Just entered to win a Tate's Bake Shop gift pack and cookbook at Willow Bird Baking! Enter here: http://bit.ly/eFtQi6 @julieruble" and leave a separate comment telling me you did so.
This contest will run through December 28, 2010 at noon EST, but even if you don't win, you can still enjoy some cookies! Tate's Bake Shop is offering a 15% discount for Willow Bird Baking readers on tatesbakeshop.com from now until December 31. Just use the code "cookie" at checkout. Enjoy!
Recipe by: Kathleen King of Tate's Bake Shop
Yield: 24 bars
1/2 cup salted butter
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 1/3 cups dessicated shaved coconut (unsweetened)
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chunks (I use Ghirardelli)
1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 x 13 inch pan, mix the melted butter and graham cracker crumbs. Press the mixture evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle the coconut over the crumb base. Sprinkle the chocolate chunks over the coconut. Sprinkle the pecans over the chocolate chunks. Drizzle sweetened condensed milk evenly over the top. Bake it for 25 minutes. Cool it completely and cut it into bars. I like these magic bars served cold.