Meatball Bombs

Tried this recipe for dinner last night. We didn’t have any toothpicks, so I made do with some wooden skewers. I also ran out of bacon, so I stretched two pieces per bomb rather than three. All the seasonings I winged because I was far too lazy to actually look up proper meatloaf seasonings. Basically your favorite meatloaf recipe will work. I did butter crisp oven potatoes with it. The original recipe called for BBQ sauce baked on top, but I totally forgot and I don’t think it needed it.

 

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Meatloaf Bombs

Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 egg
Salt
Pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Garlic or onion powder
3 onions
1 package bacon
Toothpicks (necessary)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a 9×13″ pan with foil.
Combine ground beef, bread crumbs, cheese and egg together. Season. I just winged the seasoning, it’s not exact, just don’t be super shy. Ground beef needs a decent amount of seasoning to give flavor.
Cut tops and bottoms off of the onions. Cut in half from top to bottom. Peel the individual layers off for the until you reach the small inner layers. Put small handfuls in each half onion, place the matching piece on top to close. Wrap with 2-3 pieces of bacon and use toothpicks to hold in place.
Place in prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Once cooked, I thought about crisping up the bottoms in a hot pan on the stove, but I didn’t

Optional, spread bbq sauce over top and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

I’ve seen versions of these that had cubes of cheese inside the meatloaf. I’ll have to try that next.

 

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Crispy Breakfast Potatoes

So, yeah. I love crispy potatoes and these are pretty darn near perfect. This recipe is for 1 serving.

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Crispy Breakfast Potatoes

Ingredients: 
1 medium red potato
2-3 teaspoons butter
Salt and pepper
Directions:
Wash potato, stab it a couple times. Wrap in a wet paper towel. Microwave for 2-3 minutes or until almost cooked. Cut into small cubes.
Heat a pan on high and add about a teaspoon of butter. Salt and pepper the potatoes. Remember potatoes need a lot of salt for flavor. When butter is completely melted and pan is HOT, add potatoes. They should start sizzling. If the pan is too hot, the potatoes will begin to burn. After about a minute, gently toss the potatoes. Continue to cook over high heat tossing potatoes occasionally. When the butter is completely absorbed, add another teaspoon and continue to cook until golden brown and crispy.

Chocolate Muffins

So I was in the mood to bake. Chocolate muffins sounded wonderful and just challenging enough to cure my baking mood. The recipe that had the best pictures and best looking recipe was from Bright Eye Baker. Elsa and I started by putting on aprons. She has a darling little apron with with her little checkered shirt and braided pigtails. She did a great job of lining all the muffin pans with liners, stirring together the dry ingredients and adding them to the mixer and adding chocolate chunks (one for the batter, one for her mouth, one for the batter…)

Anyway, my favorite way to eat these is to warm them slightly in the microwave so the chocolate chunks melt, then eat with fresh strawberries and milk. Delicious!

 

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Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients:
8 1/2 ounces (or 2 level cups) all-purpose flour
3 1/2 ounces (or 1 level cup) cocoa powder
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
8 3/4 ounces (1 1/4 cups) sugar
1/2 cup oil
12 3/4 ounces (1 1/2 cups) sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla
10 1/2 ounces chocolate, whatever kind floats your boat. I did chocolate chunks…

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line muffin pan.
Whisk together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In the bowl of a mixer, beat eggs. Slowly add sugar while beating and continue to beat until the mixture is pale and thickened.
Beat in the oil until fully incorporated. Add sour cream and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add about 8 ounces of chocolate or if you’re me, add more. Taste the batter. It’s amazing.
Scoop into prepared muffin cups. Top with remaining chocolate chunks, M&Ms, sugar sprinkles or whatever you want.
Bake muffins for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely.

Yield: 12 (I got around 18 muffins)

 

Chicken Pot Pie

So while in Tennessee, this is the recipe for chicken pot pie that Lisa used. It was always amazing! It is well worth it to completely cool the mixture before putting the puff pastry on top because it makes the pastry cook evenly, including the bottom! If you want to do these in individual, just cut out pieces of puff pastry the side of the dishes you are using, press around the edges and egg wash before baking.

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Ingredients: 
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrots, diced
4 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons chicken base
1 cup peas
1.5 lbs chicken (Or however much you want), cooked and shredded or diced (I prefer shredded)
2 sheets puff pastry
Directions:
Melt butter in a pot. Add vegetables and cook until almost completely done. Add flour and salt and form a roux. Add milk, chicken base and cream. Bring to a boil and simmer for about five minutes or until thick. Add chicken and peas.
Dump into a 9×13 inch greased pan. Refrigerate until cool.
Cut puff pastry into 1/2 inch pieces and form a lattice across the top of the cooled filling. Brush pastry with egg wash. Bake at 425 degrees until the top is puffy and golden brown and the base is hot.

 

Mushroom and Chicken Risotto

It wasn’t perfect texture wise. At least I think. I’ve never had risotto other then the stuff I’ve made. It was delicious, though!

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Mushroom and Chicken Risotto

Ingredients: 
1 lb mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion or shallot, small dice (I didn’t have onions, so I used Tastefully Simple Onion Onion blend )
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 cups arborio rice
6-8 cups chicken stock, simmering
1/2-3/4 lb chicken breasts
1/4 cup cooking sherry (or white wine)
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan cheese (to taste, but at least 1/2 cup)
Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken with salt and pepper and bake until done. Shred into coarse bite-sized pieces with two forks. Keep warm.
Melt 3 tablespoons butter in a decent sized pot. Add onions and garlic and saute until aromatic. Add rice and stir to coat rice in remaining butter. Add sherry or wine. Stir and let cook off. Add chicken stock one ladle at a time. The mixture should simmering gently. Wait for chicken broth to be absorbed before adding another ladle full.Should take about 25-30 minutes to cook the rice this way. You may use all the broth or you could need to supplement with water or more broth.
Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter and cook mushrooms with salt and pepper to taste. I like my mushrooms more on the caramelized side, so I let them cook for quite a bit.
When rice is cooked, add cooked chicken and mushrooms. Stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately with parsley garnish and more cheese if desired.

 

Croissants

I’ve always wanted to make croissants, but found it to be an intimidating task. After eating delicious turkey and Swiss cheese sandwiches on pretzel croissants with honey mustard dipping sauce (from Sam’s Club), I made up my mind to finally try it. The first batch of dough didn’t rise due to expired yeast and (I think) a faulty recipe. Finding a different recipe proved to be a hard first task. Every recipe was different or had something weird about it, so I finally called home and asked my sister to look up one from my culinary book. On Cooking had a basic recipe. All I can say is croissants take FOREVER to make! I made some of them pretzel and the rest just plain.

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Croissants
Ingredients:
Notes about weighing ingredients below.
2 lbs 4 oz bread flour
1 oz salt
6 oz sugar
21 oz milk, heated to 90 degrees
1 oz yeast
1 lbs 8oz butter
1 egg for egg wash (mix with water)

Directions:
Stir flour, salt and sugar together in the bowl of the mixer with a dough hook.

Mix warm milk and yeast mixture together. Add to dry ingredients and stir until combined. kneed on medium speed for about 10 minutes.

Place dough in a large greased or floured bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.

Prepare butter while dough is rising. Place the butter in between two large pieces of parchment or wax paper to approximately 8×11″ and chill.

After dough has risen, punch it down and roll out into a large rectangle about 1/2 inch thick and large enough to enclose the butter. Place unwrapped butter in the center and fold the dough around the butter, enclosing it.

For the next part, I highly recommend watching a few Youtube videos on how to laminate croissant dough. Sorted was the one I decided to follow. It made the process much less intimidating to me.

Roll out the block of dough into a long rectangle (about 1″ thick). Fold dough in thirds, a single book fold. This completes the first turn. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for approximately 20-30 minutes. Repeat two more times. Chill overnight before shaping and baking.

To shape croissant rolls, cut off 1/4-1/2 of the block at a time and keep the rest in the fridge. Roll each section of dough into a large rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into uniform triangles. Starting with the large end, roll each triangle into a crescent and place on a paper-lined sheet. Make sure the ends are well under the roll. I bent my edges in to form more of a crescent for some.

Brush with egg wash. Proof until doubled (this takes forever), but not in a warm place, so the butter won’t melt.

Make at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown .

To make Pretzel Croissants:

Bake 1/4 cup baking soda in a 250 degree oven for 1 hour. Store indefinitely.

Mix 1/4 cup baked baking soda with 8 cups cold water. Once croissants have risen, dip into the baking soda water, letting excess drip off. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with salt, sesame seeds or poppy seeds if desired.

Warning: this makes 60 croissants (as if you couldn’t tell by the mass amounts of butter) I halved the recipe and it still worked and made about 20 or more.

Weights: (for a half recipe) 

These are the rough estimates that I used. Just remember, not all ingredients have the same mass.
1 lb 2 oz of flour is about 3.5 cups
3 oz sugar is 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon salt
10.5 oz milk (1 1/4 cups)
1/2 oz yeast (or two packages)
12 oz butter (or 3 sticks of butter)
 

 

Cascade Falcon XX

I had intended on writing and posting this sometime in September or October, which would have almost been reasonable. To be honest, I couldn’t really think about it until now, which is about the time I usually get excited for the next Cascade Falcon… So I’m writing this now about one of last summer’s camps.

13Custom aprons

Customized Aprons

10 days of cooking and serving a total of 3960 individual meals. All done in the most tiny and pathetic military kitchen I’ve ever seen, complete with no hand-washing sink, no air conditioning and no indoor dry pantry. Yup, it pretty much sucks. And do I get paid? Nope, it is all volunteer work. I absolutely love it. This last year was my fourth year working at Civil Air Patrol‘s Cascade Falcon Encampment. I went from an extra set of hands to leading the kitchen to planning and ordering all the food.

14One of our guidons

DFAC stands for Dining Facility

Let’s start at the beginning…

Preparations:

For the two months leading up to the activity, I spent a good deal of time coming up with a menu that was simple enough to work in the pathetically small kitchen I knew I was working in and with the limited equipment we had available to us. At the same time I knew for that I needed something that would push me and challenge my cooking and leadership skills and fit in my budget.

2Menu

Example menu. Excel became my best friend.

My sister (12) and I traveled around town to price items and research serving sizes to minimize waste and ensure that we would have enough food. It was a fun adventure, from sneaking into Costco with Mom’s card to price things, to snacking on my favorite Asian candy, Milkitas.

From the pictures I was able to calculate how many bags I would need to get and the price per serving. Lots of the time I would have to recalculate everything to do a larger or smaller portion.

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My price shopping buddy

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Lynnwood Business Costco

Next came the master shopping list, divided into multiple categories to include different deliveries and stores. This was a lot harder then it seems. I doubted my calculations for many things, but the one that sticks in my mind the most was the sliced cheese. Go through it with me:

Sliced cheese:

2 (meals) x 70(servings) x 1 (slice per meal)= 140

2 (meals) x 180(servings) x 2 (slices per meal) = 720

Means I need 860 slices of cheese. Each package of cheese has 30 slices, so 860/30= 28.667. I think I did the math six or seven times to get a proper answer. Even then, I bought 30 packages to have extra on hand. Imagine doing that for almost every single ingredient and that was my life for a few days.

1Planning

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Hotel pan sizing chart

After the list was completed, I typed out directions for each meal and printed out two notebooks. One notebook had all the directions, recipes and the menu in it and was colorful for my staff to look at and use. My version had all the allergy information, shopping lists, pricing and leadership ideas. This year I even found a chart with hotel pan sizes which helped eliminate the running back and forth with incorrect pans.

Throughout the planning from mid June to the start of encampment (August 12, for staff training) I emailed back and forth with my staff of three seniors members and five cadets getting their input and ideas.

The Facilities:

We stayed in temporary WWII barracks on Fort Lewis. We were the second to last group before all the building were to be demolished, so that right there should give you an idea for what we were working in. Everything was old. The kitchen has five different sets of fridges and freezers, no hand washing sink and has an outdoor pantry. We weren’t allowed to use the kitchen range because it was fragile or something, it was a relatively new piece of equipment.

Disposable packed oven

Disposable pan packed oven

16working the griddle

Sauteing on the flat top

Almost every meal we have both ovens completely filled. Buying disposable pans is the BEST item you can buy when cooking for 200 people. We took turns manning the griddle because it was everyone’s favorite. My cadet got really good at scrambled eggs and sauteéd vegetables.

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Did I mention there was no air conditioning in the DFAC? Yeah, well that in the summer, the three refrigerator units and the ovens all made for a rather miserably hot kitchen. Our hottest temperature in the DFAC was 105 degrees. Needless to say we left the dishes and ditched the kitchen as soon as we could and limited our work time to 15-30 minutes on and then 10 minutes off with plenty of water and Gatorade. Oh, and watermelon, Otter Pops and ice cream sandwiches. Our back porch became a life saver with camp chairs and the most comfortable cement ever. More on that later…

My Team:

Full staff

Full staff picture

All the cooks. We had an additional two who did all my errands, cleaned and did whatever I needed done, but usually stayed out of the way during the cooking. These cadets worked incredibly hard. They worked an average of 10 hours a day, had 2.5 hours of break (although 1 hour included team sports). Some worked longer, coming in early with me and staying until I left. Can you believe that theses guys get to say they’ve cooked for 170 people for a week? I don’t know many teenagers who could pull that off.

I was lucky enough to have a fellow senior member who is also my best friend, Gracie Hacking, work along side me. Although I worked her hard and we had a few differences (she didn’t exactly enjoy the 10 days…), we’re still good friends. She worked hard, knowing her way around the kitchen.

I had a really good team of cadets, two officers and three NCOs. Lt. Vangelder took charge of everything front of the house (or the actual dining room) from taking care of cadets who needed things to cleaning spills, refilling the salad bar and managing our 4 KPs (kitchen patrol cadets who came before every meal). Lt. West managed everything kitchen related, usually with me. She did a wonderful job, she was very organized, efficient and a good cook. She was always high energy and helped the rest of the team keep on track.

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Homemade potato salad

The other person I could not have done the activity without was Justin Nolet. He always arrived early to the kitchen. Like, how early I usually went in. When he didn’t have a job, he stood by me and took over whatever I was doing or waited until I gave him a job. He was honest with me. He told me when I was too tough on someone, when I made mistakes, when I fixed problems. He kept me on track during the week. Nolet usually stayed until the lights went out and I locked the doors and never complained about any of the work we asked him to do. I appreciated his efforts and attitude the entire time.

We had problems in the kitchen. We always do. One cadet refused to drink water, one could not figure out how to do anything, my OIC got overly excited… It’s always a challenge to deal with, but we made it work.

The Deliveries:

Costco made two deliveries over the course of the 1.5 weeks we were there. The first of our deliveries was scheduled to get to our tiny little DFAC the day after we arrived. But it didn’t. One of my amazing grocery shoppers did some calling and they had lost our order. She did her magic and the order was placed again and would be delivered the next morning at 8am. The same time I was supposed to teach a class, right after a breakfast service.

My morning started with a massive thunderstorm followed by the Costco truck getting to the kitchen at the same time I was supposed to give instructions on how I needed the students to run through the dining room. Let’s just say it was the fastest I’ve probably ever talked before running out to check through the order.

The driver dropped off pallet after pallet of food and paper products. It was like a reality check to see all the food. We really were going to feed 170 people.

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Our Costco delivery driver looked like Simon Pegg. I didn’t tell him that. He was incredibly patient with us as we tried to get more organized and inventory all the product.

Cooking and Leadership:

The kitchen had me as as the director. Under me, I had one cadet officer in charge (OIC) who had done a year of preparation for this position, but two officers.  Since both were experienced, I was able to split the load my officer in charge had into two officers in charge. One to manage the dining room and one to manage the kitchen. It worked brilliantly and gave both more of a leadership opportunity working and communicating with each other, me and the rest of the staff.

Pancake maker

Safety basics were taught, but even so, we still had cuts and burns. Knife skills were improved, although slow. Everyone learned how to read directions on packaging or recipes. The more experienced staff got hands on experience in troubleshooting and problem solving.

21Afteraction

One of many after action meetings

We had after-action meetings for almost every single meal. Good changes were made or celebrations over a smooth meal service and we had fun getting to know each other. Sometimes we got personal and brought up issues with the staff, which is always the hardest subjects to discuss. Most of the time if my staff had problems with each other, we would discuss it one on one on the back porch before talking with the “problem” cadet(s). I had a hard time dealing with the aspect of having a team a couple years ago, but it was a little easier this year. Some after actions happened as we ate our meals, other times on the back porch during breaks or sometimes just before the next meal’s preparations were made.

17Stacking plates

Stacking the plates this way was one of the mid-course adjustments we made. Service became slow trying to separate each rough cut edged plate. Stacking them this way helped speed things up and kept track of how many people we had served. Who ever had spare minutes before or during meal service would stack plates in stacks of 25.

The line

Students waiting for the meal to start

We got pretty good at getting everyone fed in a reasonable amount of time and for the first year since I’ve been doing it, my staff gave more even servings of food.

Breaks from the Kitchen:

We got breaks. Occasionally. My team participated in team sports every night and had a blast playing with the rest of the students and cadre. We also got to go on tours on Fort Lewis, including exploring blackhawks and chinooks. We also got to go to the confidence and obstacle courses.

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Convoy of CAP vans

Every CAP van is given a name, this year is was super heroes. Our official van was Alfred, Batman’s butler. Since we ran the kitchen, we changed the name with the picture of Alfred to Alfredo. More kitchen related and funny!

The rest of the time, it was hanging out around the quad. Watching the students drilling, talking with the cadre, harassing the logistics team and taking naps (which we did the most of). Like I said before, that cement on the back porch is really comfortable.

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The majority of the DFAC team napping

Visitors:

Every day during classes (break time for the cadre), we would have a dozen or more cadets come up to the DFAC. Mostly, they were looking for food, PJ&J, leftover pizza or whatever leftovers we had around, Gatorade and of course chocolate milk. I learned quickly to keep leftovers for at least a day and someone would usually eat it.

20The additional meal

My kitchen mice. 😀

I loved having these guys in my dining room. They energized my staff and loved us. We even got given a new salute as you can see some of the cadets doing in the picture. They were always courteous, cleaned up after themselves and those who had prior DFAC experience would don an apron or a chefs coat that didn’t belong to them and help out. They gave my staff a break by doing dishes, making Gatorade and helping with whatever else was asked of them.

And they had fun doing it. They’d sing, laugh, tell jokes, vent a little, get advice from each other AND get the work done!

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Cadre helping out during their breaks

Pack Up, Cleanup and Saying Goodbye:

This year, I had a decent plan for cleaning the kitchen that I figured wouldn’t work. The day before the encampment ended, we served a normal breakfast and for lunch, filed everyone through to get food and had them eat outside, the cadets loved it because it was different and got them out of the hot DFAC and we loved it because it meant I could close off the dining room completely. We consolidated the fridges and freezers and pushed everything towards the kitchen. Every year there is a banquet the night before the activity ends, so by the time we got to the banquet, the entire dining room was cleaned, mopped, waxed and rearranged to the original set up. We basically finished cleaning half the building a day early! 11934977_717289315042129_4192155956865975521_nAfter attending the graduation ceremony, we got back and finished cleaning the kitchen. I am quite proud of how fast my team cleaned and how sparkly new it looked when we left. Our building manager, Bill, who had been quite hard to please in the past, apparently appreciated the job we did! That culinary cleaning I learned in school sure came in handy!

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After a celebratory dinner out with most of the staff from the entire encampment, I got home with my siblings, relieved the week was over, but looking forward to doing the same thing next year!

Cold Spicy Asian Noodles

One of my favorite summer dishes. Add cold marinated chicken, fish, imitation crab or shrimp to make it a main dish, or serve as a side.

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Cold Asian Noodles

Ingredients:
1/2 box of spaghetti noodles
1-2 carrots, sliced very thinly on bias
1/2 English cucumber, medium dice
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced and no longer than 1/2 inch
1/2 bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1-1 1/2 teaspoon siracha
1 pinch garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
Directions:
Cook pasta according to directions on box. Rinse thoroughly with cold water to stop cooking process.

Combine sauce ingredients, adjust according to taste. Toss sauce, vegetables and noodles and chill until service.

Note: I made this recipe up, so I’m still working on sauce/pasta ratio, so more sauce may be needed.

Homemade Samoas

So, I needed to cook. I had bought the ingredients for this recipe (originally from Just A Taste) last weekend. Okay, that’s not quite true. The ingredients I had bought were to make coconut macaroons (I think I’m craving coconut), but when a package from home had homemade caramels in it, I knew I had to try this recipe. Basically, I think I have a new favorite cookie recipe. I used leftover holiday caramels and they worked perfectly and eliminated the artificial flavor in store-bought caramels. Mine turned out a similar size to doughnuts, but I used makeshift cookie cutters, so at least they were all the same size. I didn’t quite have enough caramel, so I have some leftover shortbread cookies to do something else with. I’ve also been having a blast learning how to take better pictures.  I absolutely love the lighting and backdrop in my brother and his wife’s house. Any time from about 9-2ish has great lighting on their dining room table. I really should take advantage of this for the remaining two months I’m living here…

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Homemade Samoas
Ingredients: 
For Cookies:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons half and half (or milk)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
For Topping:
3 cups coconut (shredded, sweetened)
15 ounces caramels (I used leftover homemade ones from Christmas)
3 tablespoons milk (plus additional milk or half and half)
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Chocolate (dark was recommended, but whatever you want)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugar together. Combine flour, baking powder and salt and add to creamed mixture in two or three increments. Add milk and vanilla and blend until combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and press into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Toast coconut in the oven, stirring literally every 2 minutes at first and then every minute for about 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Dump out on parchment paper to cool and stop cooking process. Transfer to bowl once cooled.

Roll out cold dough to 1/8 inch and cut out doughnut style, I didn’t have my nice cookie cutter set, so I had to find makeshift cookie cutters… Bake for 10 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool completely. Seriously, this makes a difference because the cookies won’t fall apart.

Melt caramels in a double boiler with half and half and salt until completely melted. Stir all but about 1/4 cup into the coconut and stir.

Spoon cookies with remaining caramel sauce. If caramel sets too much, return to heat and add a little more milk or cream. With a spoon or your fingers (fingers are easier, but stickier), spread the coconut over the caramel and press down until evenly distributed. Let set for about 30 minutes.

Melt chocolate. Dip the bottom of the cookies in the chocolate and place them on wax paper-lined baking sheets. Transfer leftover chocolate into a Ziploc bag and drizzle chocolate over the top of the cookies. Let set until chocolate hardens (haha, this takes FOREVER!!).