Take 5 Cookies

I found this recipe on cookiemadness.net and it sounded like a great combination of flavors and textures. Crunchy, creamy, sweet and salty. The cookie is a tribute to the Hershey’s candy bar “Take 5” which is peanut butter, caramel and pretzels covered in milk chocolate…delicious. The original recipe is on the cookiemadness site. This recipe is basically the same with a few changes I made. I was pleased with the way they came out. The caramel was tough. I would probably make my own caramel the next time so that it is easier to drizzle. Simply melting the store bought kind never got smooth enough to make a pretty drizzle, more like clumps which isn’t too pretty.


Take 5 Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 Cups creamy or chunky peanut butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chunks (your choice of intensity, just use good chocolate)
1 cup of pretzel sticks lightly crushed (good and salty) plus more for garnish
soft caramels to melt and drizzle

Preheat oven to 325. Line baking sheets with parchment.

Stir together flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.
In medium bowl, cream together butter and sugars until creamy. Add corn syrup and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the peanut butter, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the flour mixture. Mix in half of the chocolate and the pretzels.

Drop dough by soup spoon full onto cookie sheets. Add 3 or 4 more chunks of chocolate on top and a few nice size pieces of pretzel so that they will show nicely when baked off.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until they are lightly golden around the edges. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.

When cool drizzle with caramel.

Yield: approximately 40 cookies

Steak Dinner…without a grill

Ben and I have were forced by our apartment complex to get rid of our grill a few months ago. It’s some ordinance of the city of Waco. Anyway, one of Ben’s favorite meals (and the one thing he cooks) is steak. How can you make a good steak without a grill? Well, last night was our second attempt at searing the steaks in a hot pan on the stove and then finishing them off in a 500 degree oven for about 3 minutes. The verdict: not as good as a steak from the grill, but it turned out to be pretty good. We also had brie and crackers, a nice salad with feta cheese and pecans, and bread. The red wine we had was something we hadn’t tried before, a cabernet and shiraz blend from Pechuga. It wasn’t incredible, but it was good.


Texas A&M @ Baylor Basketball

I had the opportunity to attend the Texas A&M Men’s Basketball game against Baylor last week. I’m an Aggie living in Waco, so I knew I would be in enemy territory. But I also knew that there would be quite a few Aggies at the game since College Station is so close to Waco. So, I figured it would be safe…I turned out to be very wrong about that. My Dad (a UT alum turned Aggie fan) came up from Round Rock to go to the game. As we walked up to the Ferrell Center I expressed my opinion that the Aggies were going to get killed. My Dad, however, was under the opinion that we were going to pull it out. I won’t go into all the details of the game…I am no sports writer. The Ags ended up winning the game 71-57. It was a tense game and emotions ran high. “Aggies Suck” chants from Baylor echoed in the stands, old bald Baylor fans got into arguments with young Aggie fans, and popcorn and cokes were hurled in anger onto the court with just a few seconds left in the game. It was invigorating! I had never attended such an exciting game, and I imagine I never will again. The Baylor fans had bad manners and so I felt OK about cheering pretty loud, clapping at every little positive thing and punching Baylor fans in the face. Allright, I didn’t punch anyone…but there was this guy a few rows down from me who deserved it! I love college basketball and I love A&M. I think Josh Carter is adorable.

Josh Carter

A New Signature Scent?

For the past few years I’ve been switching off loyalties between Dolce and Gabbana’s Light Blue and Babydoll by Yves Saint Laurent. I’ve some flings along the way, but I’ve always come back to those faithful few. I recently tried Angel by Thierry Mugler and it was nice, but not worth committing to. But now, I may have found something promising! It’s called Lolita Lempika and not only is the bottle one of the coolest and most fun things to spray (the sprayer is like an apple stem!) but it smells just delicious. It’s sweet but musky at the same time. Anyway, if you get a chance to try it on, take it. Better yet, go to Sephora and they’ll make you a little sample that lasts a few wears so you can tell how it smells on you. A very yummy perfume…I’m liking it.


Pizza Party

Making pizza from scratch has always been one of those things that I’ve wanted to try but had been pretty intimidated by. This weekend I decided to face my fears and take on this challenge. I got my recipe for pizza crust from The Best New Recipe. I love this cookbook because it explains so much about what to do, what not to do, and what could go wrong and why. PIZZA1PIZZA2PIZZA3PIZZA5The book even includes diagrams showing how to shape the dough! Of course, even with diagrams I managed only one well shaped pizza. The dough was easy with the help of a food processor and stand mixer. The dough rose well in about an hour and a half. The question of sauce had the lazy part of me and the foodie part of me at odds with each other. Do I use jarred sauce for ease, or do I make sauce for better flavor? That question was answered when I checked in The Best New Recipe cookbook and found a super simple sauce that had 5 ingredients, took all of 20 minutes to make and was delicious. My wonderful sister Sarah drove up from College Station for the night to help with the rest. (more…)

Surprising Stuffed Food!

A few weeks ago I came across a recipe for “Twinkie Tunnel Cake” and was intrigued.  If you have not already figured it out, this is a chocolate bundt cake with…you guessed it…TWINKIES stuffed inside!  I just had to try this thing out.  I did something I never thought I would do, I bought a box of Twinkies.  The cake turned out ok, but not something I would make over and over again.  The idea was fun though and my co-workers got a kick out of it.

Just yesterday I found yet another recipe with something stuffed inside.  What do you get when you combine cupcakes and cookie dough?  Cookie dough stuffed cupcakes!  Again, a recipe that I couldn’t resist trying.  This recipe comes from the Cake Mix Doctor so I felt justified in making it since it wasn’t a waste of a lot of butter, flour, sugar, etc…just a cake mix.   Once they came out of the oven I had to rip one of those puppies open and expose the cookie dough!  There it was.  A little bit of gooey cookie surrounded by moist yellow cake.  Adorable!  I frosted them with chocolate buttercream as recommended and brought them to work today.  Much to my dismay the cookie dough inside some of the cupcakes deflated somehow leaving an empty cave inside the cupcake the walls of which were covered in not so delicious cookie dough goo.  The adorableness of these cupcakes has been lost…but the wonder remains.  Food with food stuffed inside…amazing.


My principal asked me to make some goodies for a staff meeting we had last week. I was thrilled because I had a cupcake at Buttercup Bake Shop in New York…a peanut butter and jelly cupcake that I really wanted to try to make. That’s right. A yellow cake filled with a little bit of grape jelly and topped with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. I found the recipe here. I figured I needed another cupcake just in case people in China Spring, Texas weren’t quite ready for such a daring cupcake. So I decided on devils food (from a box…don’t tell) with a rich caramel frosting from More from Magnolia Bakery. I highly recommend that you purchase the book, but here is the recipe:

2 cups softened butter, 5 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 2 T dark corn syrup, 2 t vanilla

Cream butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat on low for 2 minutes. Add the milk, corn syrup and vanilla, and beat until creamy and smooth, 3-5 minutes.

Both cupcakes got rave reviews from the teachers and staff. But the chocolate had a slight edge on the PB & J.


CAUTION: Do not leave the caramel frosting in a car in Texas for more than 20 minutes…your cupcake may suffer the same fate as mine.

When good cupcakes goes bad.


Wedding Bells in New York

My sister Lisa married Randy Kim on September 21 and it was incredible! I love being in the city…it’s a pretty fast paced environment and I find it invigorating. Ben finds it irritating, so I wouldn’t bet on us making New York City our place of residence anytime soon…or ever.

cab benandme bridge

It was a whirlwind weekend. Ben and I flew up with my Dad and Sarah on Thursday morning. We arrived at the Cosmopolitan Hotel around 5 o’clock and got ready for the rehearsal dinner at Dekk. Yummy food and great company. Friday morning we met up at Mandy’s new apartment in Brooklyn to get mani-pedis and get beautiful. How convenient that Jacques Torres chocolate shop was just a 5 minute walk down the street 🙂 Chocolate covered cheerios are delicious!!

sisters bride cake

The wedding and reception were at Smack Mellon…an art gallery that they completely transformed with beautiful lavender and green flowers and cool lighting. The food was delicious; traditional roast chicken, Korean bbq and some Swedish touches…Swedish meatball hors d’oeuvres and rice pudding for dessert. The wedding cake was a bit Swedish too…cardamom cake with lingonberry filling. The outside of the cake was covered in folded white chocolate. Everything was amazing. It didn’t hurt that you could look out the window and see the Brooklyn bridge and the lights of Manhattan in the distance.

In summary, the wedding weekend was spectacular. I had an amazing time. It was special to be there and for so much of our family to make the trip.

My First Real Dinner Party

The idea came to me on Thursday evening. My husband Ben and I sometimes have special dinners on the weekends since I actually have time to cook an entire meal instead of reheating lasagna 3 nights in a row. We were planning such an evening for Saturday, but then thought about inviting our friends Jason and Carrie over for dinner. I started searching for recipes and found something that would be more ambitious than anything I’ve tried before…but I was ready for a challenge. Pan seared venison with blackberry ancho sauce and sweet potato pine nut polenta. I replaced the venison with pork tenderloin. Cinnamon ice cream (from scratch) with Mexican shortbread cookies for dessert. Jason and Carrie offered to bring some cheeses and a salad.

The plan had been made….but not executed…yet. Saturday morning at 8 am I head to the grocery store. I return with quite a few HEB bags and a bouquet of flowers…no dinner party would be complete without flowers. I start with the blackberry ancho sauce…a 4 step process. Then I start the cinnamon ice cream…also a time intensive effort. Then the polenta. Then the marinade for the pork. A quick house cleaning and I was pretty much prepped and hitting the showers by 4:30 pm.  I was ready…

Carrie and Jason get to the house at 6 pm and Jason sets out the cheeses, crackers, bread and fruit.  I discovered that I have a deep love for Port Salut…creamy French wonderfulness.

With Carries’ help, dinner was tasty and dessert was terrific.  The 90’s Trivial Pursuit game was good for the Hartmans…not so good for the Zinneckers.  The pressure of hosting a dinner party has been lifted.  What challenge will be next…hosting family Thanksgiving?!!?!

Min tripp till Sverige…

I would not be writing this blog post if I had not received my passport…thanks again kind woman at Chet Edwards office!!

July 12:  I departed from Austin with my mom and my sisters Lindsey and Sarah for the homeland…Sweden!  We met my sister Lisa in London a mere 14 hours later.  From there we head to Stockholm…

July 13: We pick up our Volvo S70 from Hertz and drive to the Hotel Diplomat for our first night.  It was 8pm Sweden time, but since the sun doesn’t set until 11pm we had plenty of daylight left for sightseeing!  Lisa led us on a mini-tour around Stockholm to Gamla Stan (Old Town) to do a little shopping and get some dinner.  We found a place to eat and shared some Swedish meatballs, steamed mussels, and fried scallops and shrimp.  We followed dinner with some dessert…ice cream!  Some of the best I’ve ever had.  Off to bed at 11:30.

July 14: No better way to start the day than a breakfast buffet of smoked salmon, caviar, bread, cheese, yogurt, muesli and wonderfully strong coffee.  We visited Skansen, the oldest open air museum in the world, and the Vasa Museum before driving 5 hours south to Smaland.

July 15: Our first day at the little red cottage in Ljungby!  We visited Rydaholm to see the church where my mom’s grandmother went.  From there we went to a flea market and a cute cafe in Ohr.  Grocery shopping for 5 people in a foreign country is interesting…

July 16: Our 4th cousin Samuel and his family live in Jonskoping, so we spent the day there.  We got to see the houses where my great grandma Tina Sundbeck and great grandpa Ernest Johnson were born.  We had dinner on the pier with Samuels family.  I tasted a freshly picked cloudberry!!

July 17: The House of Emigrants and a beautiful double spire church dedicated to Saint Sven are in Vaxjo.  We spent most of the day here with a little side trip to have fika (coffee and cookies) with Bertil and Lisa at a cute cafe.  Some people have a hard time polishing off a cinnamon bun, 7 small cookies and a piece of cake….those people are weaklings.
July 18: A relative on my mom’s side of the family lives about 2 hours from our cottage, so we drove there to see them…Stellan and his wife Lisbeth.  We went to a military base and got to see a few boats come through the locks on the Gota Canal.  We had a picnic in the park that afternoon and a wonderful home cooked meal of smoked fish, potatoes, carrots and bread and cheese before heading back to the cottage.  Oh, ice cream and fresh berries from the garden for dessert.  You don’t get berries from your garden for dessert in Texas.

July 19: A day in the “Kingdom of Crystal” brought us to 5 different glasswork.  The things we saw were amazing.  My big souvenir from the trip was a clear and white vase from Pukeberg….seriously, that is the name of the town.

July 20: Helsingborg, Sweden in on the southwest coast.  We did quite a bit of shopping here and saw Denmark from the fortress Karnan in the city center.  We got back to the cottage and had time for a rowboat outing on our semi-private lake.  Sarah and I managed to get the hang of the rowing after a few good minutes of rowing in circles…thanks for your help, Mom!

July 21: We left the cottage and headed back to Stockholm.  We stopped to see Byrtil and Lisa where we had a lovely lunch of fresh chanterelle mushroom soup, bread, cheese and an amazing rhubard tart.  In Stockholm we did a little more shopping, had pizza at an Italian place and got ice cream…again.  Everyone seemed to be eating ice cream all the time in Sweden, so it was only natural 🙂  I finally got my Tunnsbrodsrulle (a swedish hotdog wrapped in flatbread, filled with mashed potatoes, ketchup, mustard and relish…I kid you not)  It was an experience.  Let’s just say that after a bite you’re pretty much satisfied.

July 22:  Goodbye Sweden!!  Back to Texas…31 hours of birthday celebration for me thanks to the time change 🙂  A Cinnabon at O’Hare makes a nice birthday cake…thanks mom and Sarah!

I highly recommend a trip to Sweden in the summer.  I don’t know what it is, but the grass seems greener, the sky seems bluer, the air cleaner, the sun brighter and the godis (candy) sweeter.  I think it has something to do with Socialism…