|My Auntie (L) and my mom, September 2010|
Three weeks ago today, the world lost an amazing woman - my Auntie - after a several year long battle with cancer. It was absolutely heartbreaking and gut wrenching to see her in so much pain in the last several years, and excruciatingly sad to lose her. She was much beloved by all us, and touched so many lives as a sister, aunt, friend, teacher ... she is truly missed.
My aunt lived her life in the healthiest way that she knew how, filled with vitamins and meditation, years of being a vegetarian, etc. I remember a conversation I had with her years ago, in which she exclaimed, "I wish I had eaten more cookies!!" Now, she meant this in the most literal sense possible, but it can also be translated as a statement to advise all of us to live life to the fullest.
My aunt's passing is a somber reminder that nothing in life is a guarantee. You can live your life by the books, and make decisions that you think are great, but there's never a promise that tomorrow will come. All you can do is to enjoy the time you have today, with the people that you love, doing things that you enjoy and enhance your life happiness - in other words, eat more cookies (perhaps literally and figuratively!). And if you are able, please, please, please, consider donating your time, energy, and/or money to cancer research organizations. Every little bit helps - together, we can make a huge difference.
Taking her words literally, my next several blog posts will be all about cookies, and will be dedicated to my Auntie. The first recipe I'll share with you reminds me of my days as a Girl Scout - Samoa Bar Cookies! These bars are chewy and delicious, and are pretty darn close to the real thing. Making them in bar form makes them really easy to put together - far less labor intensive than replicating the original look.
Homemade Girl Scout Cookies: Samoas BarsYield: Approximately 30 bars
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup butter, softened (1 1/2 sticks)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
- 12 oz good-quality chewy caramels
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 12 oz dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)
Prepare Cookie Base
- Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan, or line with parchment paper (I prefer to line with parchment paper, leaving enough overhang to allow you to lift the bars out of the pan once assembled; this will allow for easier cutting).
- In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
- Reduce speed to low, and gradually beat in flour and salt until mixture is crumbly. The dough does not need to come together. Pour crumbly dough into prepared pan and press into an even layer.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until base is set and edges are lightly browned. Cool completely on a wire rack before topping.
- Preheat oven to 300F.
- Spread coconut evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and toast 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until coconut is golden (watch the coconut carefully as it begins to brown - it can go from golden to burned very quickly). Cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- Unwrap the caramels and place in a large microwave-safe bowl with milk and salt. Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stirring every minute, until caramel is melted. When smooth, fold in toasted coconut with a spatula.
- Put dollops of the topping all over the shortbread base. Using an offset spatula, spread topping into an even layer. Let topping set until cooled.
- When cool, carefully life bars out of the pan (if using parchment paper with overhang), and cut into 30 bars with a large knife.
Dip & Drizzle
- Melt chocolate in a small bowl, stirring often to prevent it from burning.
- Dip the base of each bar into the melted chocolate, and place on a piece of parchment paper to set.
- Transfer remaining chocolate to a piping bag or squeeze bottle and drizzle bars with chocolate to finish. Let the chocolate set completely before storing in an airtight container.