I'm not going to try to explain the "why" of this... The idea has been bumping around in the old rock tumbler for ages now.  They sell dolphin cookie cutters at Sur La Table for $1 and I took some pliers to one to make it m'orca.

Melt some dark chocolate chips or candy melts in the microwave at 50% for 30 seconds, stir and continue to microwave at 50%, stirring at 15 second intervals.  Spread some on each graham cracker as glue, then adhere a marshmallow.

Spread chocolate over the top of the whale, leaving the appropriate eye and belly markings uncovered.  Let rest on wax paper at room temperature to harden or eat immediately if you want to get messy.

Marshmallow Cut-Outs

It amazes me that clear sugar syrup can turn into chewy white marshmallows in a matter of a half hour.  Watching a gooey cloud grow in the mixer bowl feels like magic.  Homemade marshmallows are just really really fun to make.  If I had kids around I'd make them do this (If you do have kids around, be warned--240° sugar is too hot for little ones to handle). You could flavor or color them all different sorts of ways or coat them in decorating sugar or coconut or cocoa.  Here they are plain old vanilla, spread thin, and cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

Marshmallow Cut-Outs

  • 2 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 2/3 C cold water
  • 2/3 C light corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 powdered sugar
  • 1/4 C cornstarch

Sift together the powdered sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  Lightly coat a jellyroll pan with nonstick spray. Sprinkle some of the cornstarch mixture to cover the pan, shaking off and reserving the excess.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/3 C of water and let sit while you cook the syrup.   In a heavy saucepan, cook the sugar, corn syrup, 1/3 C water, and salt covered for 4 minutes.  Uncover and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240° F on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat.  Using the whisk attachment on the mixer at low-speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture.  Once all the syrup is in, up the speed to high and beat for about 15 minutes until thick, white and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla.  Spread the mixture into the prepared jellyroll pan, smoothing out with a spatula.  Do your best with that part--it's not so easy.  Sprinkle more of the cornstarch mix over the top, reserving the excess.  Let sit uncovered for 4 hours or overnight.  Dip a knife or cookie cutter into the cornstarch mix and cut into shapes, coating the sticky edges with the cornstarch mix.  Keep in an airtight container.

Graham Crackers

Summer is winding down. Kids in brand new backpacks are biking to school on wobbly bikes.  But here we are about to see the warmest part of the year.  I wanted to make one more summer-y snack on here in this last little spurt of freedom. It will happen in three parts.

I. Before this year I only really ate graham crackers if I was at camp and it was snack time or if there was a square left over when I was making a pie crust.  Embarrassingly, now I keep little packets of them in my pockets to stave off low blood sugar emergencies on long days.  While it's usually too late by the time I make it to a quiet corner to pop one in my mouth, I've learned how wonderful they are to scoop up cheap peanut butter, drizzled with honey from a packet, or dipped in instant coffee, tea, milk, or even orange juice.

Homemade ones are of course infinitely better than the ones I carry (which could be confused with the Saltines packs that come with your soup).  I combined a bunch of recipes to get this.  I wanted to make some with the "wholesome taste" of whole grains and molasses. The whole-wheat, bran, and germ combination should resemble the taste of graham flour.  If you like, you could substitute graham flour for the combo. You can find graham flour at some specialty stores or online and if you live in SF, you can buy graham flour in bulk at Rainbow.

Graham Crackers

  • 1 C whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C wheat bran
  • 2 T wheat germ
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 7 T butter, cut into small pieces and very cold
  • 4-5 T whole milk
  • 3 T honey
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Mix the flours, bran, germ, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a food processor. Add the cold chunks of butter and pulse until the mixture looks like crumbs.  Then mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Gather the dough into a ball and divide into 3 or 4 pieces.  Roll each piece to 1/8" between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper. Stack and chill the sheets for an hour or so.  Then either use a floured pizza wheel or knife to cut the dough into squares.  Or you can cut into shapes using a floured cookie cutter.  Poke gently with a fork. If you want, you can sprinkle the tops with cinnamon-sugar. Leave the cookies on the parchment and freeze for 20 minutes while you preheat the oven to 350 °F.  Then bake on the parchment lined cookie sheet for 15-25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.

Nanaimo Bar Pops

My mom just had a big birthday (45!!).  I usually make ice-cream cake, but thought I'd change it up this year.  I know if said it here a million times, but I really don't care for cake.  Especially birthday cake. I have some theories about which desserts get eaten and I see cake only go when it is served on plates and force-handed to people.  I also really don't care for the cake-pop fad (mostly because of how I dislike cake no matter how it's disguised. And because I hate to be part of fads), but cute, tidy desserts do get eaten.  Also, July 20th is National Lollipop Day, though a minor holiday compared to the birthday of my mother.  

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian treat that my mom misses from her time up north and laments not being able to find in the states. It is a layered bar cookie made up of a chocolate crumb crust, custard buttercream filling and topped with a ganache.  I thought I'd ride the pop train and make them festive for the special occasion.  Of course, my klutziness turned my effort to make an elegant white chocolate drizzle on the pops into a white chocolate embellishment on my entirely black outfit.  Feel free to go wild with decorating, if you are talented that way.

Nanaimo Bar Pops

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • egg, beaten
  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1 cup flaked coconut
  • 1/2 cup toasted and finely chopped almonds 

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons custard powder (Bird's is traditional and can be bought on Amazon or in import stores.  Jell-O vanilla pudding powder works fine)
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar

  • 3-4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or candy melts
    white chocolate, extra coconut, almonds, or sprinkles for decorating
  • lollipop sticks

In a heavy saucepan over very low heat, combine 1/2 cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Beat in the egg, stirring until thick, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds.  Press into rounds and place on a wax-paper lined cookie sheet.  Chill while making second layer.

For the middle layer, cream together 1/2 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Spread over the rounds. Push lollipop sticks firmly in the center. Chill in the freezer until firm.

Melt the chocolate chips or candy melts either in the microwave at 50% power, stirring at 30 second intervals, or in a double boiler.  Quickly dip/spread the pops in the chocolate, decorate as desired, and return to wax paper to set.  Keep in the fridge if you aren't going to eat them soon.

Jell-O Shot Cupcakes

Did I ever tell you I won a bellyflop contest? My skin matched my watermelon-pattern swimsuit for hours afterwards, but I got a ribbon.  Even as I collect the alphabet behind my name, it remains one of my proudest achievements.  For a kid who was a lousy athlete and a clumsy dancer (though I did win 6th place in a horse show.  Out of 7 riders), it was wonderful to finally be the best at something.  Who cares if it was just a ridiculous 4th of July game.  4th of July always feels like an opportunity to do things completely differently than usual---with a slight sense that's how "real" Americans are supposed to do things.  Put up a flag, wear the tackiest stars-and-stripes jewelry, pretend that I'd been practicing baton twirling all year, chase around a watermelon coated in Crisco, picnic in the middle of the week with real picnic food (fried chicken and potato salad instead of brie and baguettes).  I love 4th of July because it feels like a big redwhiteandblue game of dress-up and it is my only chance to make trashy food from boxes and feel OK about it.

So I clipped this recipe from a junky housewife magazine.  I do not think it was targeted to us blue state womyn. (Alas, you can never get a farmer's tan if you have to wear a polar fleece all summer.)  I have been saving it for the moment I had enough energy to add eggs to a mix.  Both cupcakes and Jell-O shots are childish shortcuts to getting things done (no offense to cupcake enthusiasts).  Seemed like a fitting treat for the celebration of the U.S. of A.   I adapted the recipe to make it patriotic and better.

Red White and Blue Jell-O Shot Cupcakes

  • 1 box Pillsbury Stars and Stripes Funfetti® Cake Mix (you could also red and blue jimmies to white cake mix)
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/3 C melted butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Jell-O Filling
  • 1 pkg red Jell-O (cherry or strawberry.  I did cherry)
  • 1 C boiling water
  • 3/4 C rum, tequila, or vodka (OK grain alcohol would seem more American, but I went rum and here's why)

Buttercream Frosting
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 C powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • blue food coloring
  • sprinkles

Bake the cupcakes as directed on the box, subbing in the butter for the oil, and the milk for the water, and adding in the lemon juice.  Bake in lined cupcake tins 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely.

 Mix the boiling water and the Jell-O in a bowl until completely dissolved, about 2 minutes.  Add the alcohol.  Let chill in the fridge until partially firm, about 35-45 minutes.

Using a knife, cut out a chunk (1 1/4" in diameter and 3/4" thick) from the top of each cupcake. Reserve pieces.  Spoon about 2 tsp of Jell-O into the indentation. Cover with reserved cake pieces. If you like, you can drizzle extra liquor over the cupcakes. Top with frosting and sprinkles. Chill in the fridge until set.


Beat butter, sugar and salt in a bowl until well blended.  Add vanilla, milk, and coloring and beat 3-5 more minutes until creamy.