Sunday, February 26, 2017

Life is Peachy.

I was talking about the visual superiority of Texas sunsets the other day (as you do when you're a Texan), and I was immediately met by the pangs of homesickness. I know everyone experiences a longing for their home state from time to time, but when we say everything is bigger in Texas, we're also talking about feelings. Don't believe me? Google Friday Night Lights or football in West Texas, and you'll see what I mean about the unwavering passion that emanates from most Texans. I was so hard up to experience home again that I begged my husband to drag me to the nearest Chili's so I could get Tex-Mex know, where the meat actually gets seasoned and marinated and the guacamole doesn't look like soylent green paste. Clearly you all know by now my emotions are best described  as "awake" or "asleep" with the occasional hunger-anger thrown in, and this is because instead of experiencing a wide array of exhausting human emotions, I just eat my feelings instead. The world would be a better place if we all ate more cake and didn't get so upset about things in my opinion. And since I was allowing my homesickness to meander, it took me to the next logical step: making a traditional Texas dessert but with my usual flare for health consciousness. My Texas-sized eating habits are constantly at war with my desire to stay thin, so you gotta do what you gotta do to stay looking sharp in a pair of tight jeans. Enter skinny peach cobbler:
It looks deceptively fattening, I know.
This is the lazy cook's approach to skinny cobbler. It literally takes two minutes to throw together, and then you get to reap the benefits of healthy dessert eating. This entire 9x13 pan of peach cobbler amounts to a total of 1900 calories...I'm pretty sure just looking at a normal cobbler will cost you about the same, and then you can divvy up your servings. I found 12 servings to be the perfect size since I knew we couldn't very well eat cobbler without a heaping of vanilla froyo on top of each piece, so before the addition of milky frozen goodness, each chunk of cobbler is only 158 calories. You can't even eat a bowl of cereal for 158 calories, people. This is the real deal, but thankfully, it doesn't taste like 158 calories of thin air. Oh no...peachy, vanilla, creamy...this is everything you want in a cobbler minus the muffin top. While it lacks the intensely crispy crust that results from ample amounts of butter and sugar in a regular cobbler, it's still got a nice, crumbly crust that gives way to luscious peach chunks...and it is most definitely a cure-all for a homesick Texan. The first bite was met with images of bluebonnet fields and clear blue skies. Definitely a "died and gone to Texas" moment.
With only three ingredients!!!
I wasn't kidding when I said it was a lazy cook's cobbler. You only need:
  • 2 16-ounce bags of frozen peaches (still frozen and not thawed)
  • 1 12-ounce can of diet creme soda or diet citrus soda
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix. You could cut calories even further by using a sugar-free cake mix.
Hold on to your butts, here comes a quick crappy photo montage:
"Movin' to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches."
 While your oven preheats to 350, grease a 9x13 baking pan. Take both bags of frozen peaches and dump into the pan. Try to spread these out to form even layers without any empty spaces.
Don't sneeze.
I decided to be supremely lazy and dump the cake mix on top of the peaches with a few dusting motions of the open cake mix bag. Later, I decided I should have mixed together the soda and the cake mix first to ensure even baking. So don't be Kate-lazy. Mix the cake mix and the soda together in a bowl and then pour it evenly over the peaches.
See those extra white spots?
Yeah, I didn't have enough soda to cover all the cake mix, so those white spots stayed as is...dry and dusty. Take the extra thirty seconds and mix your ingredients so your cobbler looks pretty. Cover it with foil and bake for 20 minutes in the middle of your oven. Then, remove the foil and bake for 40 more minutes.
See, these white spots won't mock you and your baking abilities if you just mix...
I had some spots of dry cake mix, but Dear God, my house smelled like the inside of what I imagine Texas heaven smells like. It took the personal restraint of knowing (again, as you do when you're a Texan) that cobbler requires a 30-minute window to properly set up to keep me from taking a pint of frozen yogurt, dumping it directly on top of the pan of cobbler, and eating the entire thing in one sitting. Thank those lucky stars at night that are big and bright (Deep in the heart of Texas!) I was able to squash my ravenous hunger with that preexisting knowledge.
Because I mean, really, look at that oozy goodness.
 Take heed to my warning--you do want to let it cool and set for a bit. Cobbler should be a little messy, but it should not burn the inside of your mouth off. And while those peaches went into the oven frozen, one hour at 350 turns them to peachy molten magma.
Still weighing out whether or not the medical bills would be worth it, though.
 Once you've let your cobbler set for a half an hour, slice it up and serve! I told you, extremely lazy and easy. As lazy and easy as it is delicious and low cal. If you prefer, you could also top this with something a little healthier like fat free Cool Whip, vanilla bean Halo Top, or even a few extra slices of peaches. I have a steady supply of Kemp's frozen yogurt on hand for those days when I want to eat like a monster, but a monster with a nice physique. And as a Texan, I don't believe cobbler is really cobbler until it's topped with ice cream or frozen yogurt. Instead it's just crumbly cake with fruit. Not that that's a bad thing, it just doesn't meet the fervent criteria of proper Texan-ing.
Also, presentation is key.
I miss home a little less with each helping. I imagine if I actually ate this while standing in the state of Texas, I might have a small aneurysm experiencing so much happiness and joy all at once. But I'm stoked I tried out this lazy cobbler route because it made me realize there are actually endless possibilities for when I'm not homesick and just want a damn good crumbly cake with fruit. You could dump raspberries together with chocolate cake and Coke Zero, or cherries together with chocolate cake and Cherry Coke Zero. You could use strawberries with strawberry cake and fruity diet soda. Blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries with white cake and diet Sprite...seriously, the possibilities are limited only to the kind of cake mixes that exist in this world, so if you've ever wondered why boxed carrot cake mix exists, throw it together with some walnuts and diet creme soda and get back to me. As for now, I'm gonna enjoy this until my baking pan is licked clean. And then I'm going to gear up for one of my favorite baking months of the year: everything is literally going green for March and Saint Patrick's Day!!! Top o' the baking to ya, and 'til next time, my fellow eaters!
I may even try to make a green cobbler. Who knows.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Lemon is for Lovers

I know I’ve told you all plenty of times that I’m not into Valentine’s Day. So when you see that I’ve created heart-shaped cakes this week, I don’t want you to question your (or my) sanity. You see, today, February 15—the day AFTER Valentine’s Day—marks eight years since my husband and I started dating. I figured this was a fairly large deal worthy of celebrating because for eight consecutive years, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed his company and the adventure my husband brings into my life. I haven’t even liked myself for eight consecutive years, so he is owed some cake for both the putting up with and actual enjoyment of my insanity. 

I refuse to celebrate Valentine’s Day to the point where I’ve even fudged our dating anniversary date slightly to the right a few hours. How we started dating is a gaggingly romantic story, really. We happened to run into each other by complete accident on Valentine’s Day…in the same bar where we met for the first time at a friend’s going away party the previous August. He was calling me (see, so dated people still used phones for talking) as I was walking into the room; I took it as a sign considering he had moved away for pilot training several months prior and just so happened to be literally standing right in front of me. But if you ask, I’ll tell you this happened after midnight on February 15 because otherwise it sounds like a chick flick plot.

I’m not a normal woman—romance is for the birds. I mean, the moment I knew I fell in love with my husband was at a McDonald’s in Corpus Christi. I stood there, pumping ketchup into five or six tiny little cups, grumbling about the lack of space for burger dipping. I turned around to see Derek, a large drink lid in hand that he had flipped upside down, filling the giant surface area that created with ketchup. My heart skipped a beat, and my head exploded a little—I had found a logical, creative man who loved ketchup as much as I did. The rest, as they say, is history. 

Moral of the story ladies—love doesn’t always come in grand, sweeping gestures or diamond-encrusted jewelry. Don’t be mad at the man who waited to buy your flowers or chocolates until the day after Valentine’s Day when they were all on sale for dirt cheap. He could be saving up to buy something better, like a car or a house or a cruise to Alaska you’ve been begging him to go on because you crave to surround yourself with a tundra as frozen as your heart (thanks, lovey!). Instead, make him cake to let him know you get it, but you don’t have to make a big deal about it or anything. Let the sweet delicious taste flow where words would otherwise fail you…these lemon lava cakes can do just that.
I only get the warm fuzzies when cake is involved.
I have wanted to make lava cakes for ages. But surprisingly, I don't own ramekins. Not a one. Instead of buying a set, I just wanted to wait until it was appropriate to test out my four cavity heart-shaped pan I bought back in 2015 and haven't used since then when I made heart cakes (and my views on Valentine's Day very clear). Whoops. Two years I could've had ramekins or come up with an excuse to use this pan for lava cakes, but I'm stubborn and my personal symbol should probably be a stick in the mud. It's most definitely not a heart. Anyway, the pan worked OK for lava cakes, but my two 6-inch cake pans definitely worked better. So I'll use those in the future or perhaps become a real girl and buy some damn ramekins.
This is about as romantic as I get with minimal self loathing.

Y'all. These. Cakes. They aren't too terribly sweet, but the lemon ooey gooey goodness that slowly pours out of them is to die for. I'm honestly scared to make the dulce de leche lava cakes I've been crafting a recipe for because it may actually kill me. I did try to make a few adaptations to make this a healthier cake, but the calorie content still comes in a little on the high side. You must spoil yourself and the ones you love on occasion, though. This makes 4 large heart cakes (definitely cannot eat one heart alone--these babies are 2 servings per heart!) and an additional 2 individual servings for a total of 10 servings at 308 calories a piece. Adding on a few slivers of strawberries and fat free Cool Whip will only add about another 10-15 calories, but it is totally worth it. You go could extra fat kid and add a drizzle of warm lemon curd on top. Just don't accidentally eat half a jar of lemon curd if you go that route because it is dangerously enticing.
Yet it looks so unassuming in that little jar...
This is a Land O'Lakes recipe that I adapted to make heavier on the lemon flavor. To make, you will need:
  • 1 stick of cold butter
  • 1 4-ounce Baker's white chocolate bar
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • All. of. the. eggs. Seriously:
    • 4 whole eggs
    • 4 separate egg yolks
  • 3/4 cup lemon curd (I usually use Dickinson's brand, but now that I'm living in Florida, this was not a brand I could find. Apparently, Mackay's corners the panhandle market)
  • 2 heaping teaspoons of lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (not pictured)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon bakery emulsion. If this is not something you have, I find it at Hobby Lobby or Walmart. Also, you could try replacing this with juice from a lemon.
  • Optional toppings: Cool Whip Free, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, lemon curd, powdered sugar, etc.
I own four sets of measuring spoons, so this was easy for me.
 Let me give you a few life-saving, patience-making tips about this recipe. You gotta move fast. So you want everything measured out and ready to roll. Once you add the chocolate and the flour, things get really thick, really fast, so having the rest of your ingredients at the ready will keep this batter from turning into concrete. Also, don't make these cakes until you're just about ready to eat them. Like, "I could go for cake in a half hour" ready. Otherwise, if you make them ahead of time and put them in the fridge or let them cool too long, you're gonna lose your ooze. No one wants that. I actually made my batter and then left it in the fridge all day until we were ready for cake. I did make all mine at once last night (and we totally ate at least one), but we'll see if I can heat them up and maintain some ooze in the microwave later. But for two people, you could just try making two ramekins at a time so the cakes are hot and fresh and save the rest in the fridge.
Such fickle, yet delicious, cake.
 If you're going to make these right away, preheat your oven to 425 and grease the bottom and sides of your pans or ramekins. Get a medium bowl and break up the chocolate bar and cube the cold butter. Melt at 30 second intervals, stirring between each session, until everything is fully melted. This took me about 2 minutes total. While the chocolate and butter are melting, measure out the rest of your ingredients and gather a large bowl. Dump the flour and sugar into it. Once the chocolate is done, let it cool off for a few minutes (hot batter + cold eggs = breakfast, not cake). Dump the melted chocolate and butter in with the flour and sugar mixture and whisk well. Once this stiffens up, dump in the lemon curd, lemon zest, extract, emulsion/juice, and all the eggs and egg yolks. Whisk until smooth and runny like it is above.
Literally the worst impulse purchase I've ever made. Stupid heart pan.
 Once you're ready to bake, fill your ramekins or pans 2/3 full. I was able to place a little less than a cup of batter into each cavity and then each small baking pan. Since I wasn't using ramekins, I literally stood in front of my oven and watched cakes bake to ensure they weren't going for too little or too long. I will now no longer use the phrase "like watching paint dry," but instead, "like watching cakes bake." I'm almost positive that would cure even a severe case of insomnia. If you use ramekins or small pans, place them onto a baking sheet before they go in the oven. Cooking time will vary from 12-18 minutes...the key to knowing when these are done is in the edges. Once the edges of the cakes start to turn golden, they're pretty much there. As long as the tops are not completely runny but instead slightly jiggly, your cakes are complete.
See, jiggly.
 I used way too much Pam and my edges got super dark because of it...but live and learn (or throw away the heart pan), I suppose. I ended up baking these for 16 minutes, but to be honest, I should have pulled them out at 14 minutes. I was just nervous the tops weren't set enough, and something between the 14 to 15 minute mark happened (I probably fell into a brief coma or something shiny distracted me), and by the time minute 16 hit, they were cooked a little too long.
Nothing like the sweaty terror of trying to remove four cakes from a pan at the same time.
 Let these cool in the pan for 10 minutes before you even think about looking at them, let alone removing them. When 10 minutes have passed, use an angled spatula or a butter knife and run it along the edges of the pan or ramekins. Once you can successfully wiggle these away from the edges of the pan, they are ready to come out. I placed a towel on top of my cooling rack and then a sheet of Parchment paper on top of the towel to catch any leakage (such appetizing word choice). I then placed this set up on top of the pan, and slowly inverted until the rack was on the bottom and the pan was upside down on top. Thankfully, I didn't pass out while I held my breath the entire time, and all the cakes came out without issue. This would be way easier to do with individual servings. When my smaller pans were done in the oven, each was easy to flip over and remove the cake from.
Slightly burnt, like me after five minutes outside.
Like I said, for my oven, 16 minutes was literally just a minute or two too long. So they were a little dark, but what had me worries was whether or not they'd have any molten lemon lava inside because of it. Then I would have had to come up with an entirely different blog or eaten all 10 servings in a quiet, social media-free zone. I let the cakes cool for about 20 minutes before adding my toppings. If you're going topping free or using something simple like additional lemon curd and powdered sugar, by all means, eat fresh from the oven. Since I was using Cool Whip, I didn't want it to get melty and weird. For my garnish and decorations, I used an Ateco 879 tip and pipped a mound of Cool Whip Free on top of a few cakes. Then I garnished with thinly sliced strawberries. And then, I prayed for the first time in my life that hot lava would pour out of something inside of my very own home. Dante's Peak pretty much ruined volcanoes for me...I see the words "magma," "eruption," or "molten," and if they aren't immediately preceded or followed by the words "cake" or "chocolate," I get a little twitchy and panicked.
Literally the only time I've ever been happy to see lava.
At first, there was only a small ooze. I thought I had ruined them for sure. Even if I had, at least the screw up was a damn tasty one. But the further in we excavated with our forks, the more lava kept pouring out:
This is still the only lava I want to come this close to.
And then there was lava all over the plate. And we licked up every last bit. Best experience I've ever had with lava. Chili's molten lava cakes are pretty good, but last time I checked (which now that we don't live in Clovis where this was our only dining option, is never), they weren't offering me a lemon version. While I'm okay with chocolate molten lava, I wasn't making these cakes for me (okay, so a little was for me); I was making them for my husband--my devout sour dessert lover. So much so that I let him have the last bite. Of dessert. Willingly. Because this is what you do when you're incapable of public displays of affection or showing romance worthy of a Shakespearean sonnet. You bake. And you bake what you know your loved one likes best. And you let said loved one have the last bite. Because Lord knows, without them, you'd be a ship in the night with 10 servings of lemon lava cakes to eat all by yourself, and you're not familiar with the idea of portion control, so there goes at least 4 servings in a single sitting. Basically, you'd be a giant disaster of a human being. So bake cakes for the person you love that accepts you in all of your disastrous, somehow endearing to them, glory. Remember, flowers and diamonds aren't edible, friends. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
Something tells me no one ever looked at Mount Vesuvius this longingly.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Say Aloha to Flavor

I'm a huge fan of fruit-based pies. Mainly because you can eat them for breakfast because there's literally no difference between a slice of cherry pie or a cherry turnover. I like my desserts versatile, and I may or may not have any control whatsoever over my sweet tooth. And much like my sweet tooth, I also have literally no control over the weather here in Northwestern Florida. It's February 12 and currently 75 degrees outside. I was outside for two and a half hours yesterday at my husband's rugby game, and my body is rocking a love shade of crimson today because of it; mind you, I even had on SPF 8000 made for kids because my skin is pasty and translucent and burns even if you just look at me for too long. It's full on spring merging into summer down here, but instead of pitching a fit, I'm trying to adapt the best way I know how: culinarily. You see, youthful 20-something Kate may have moaned, groaned, and pulled the shades shut, but older, wiser, 30-something Kate has decided to turn those lemons into lemonade, or in this case, fruit-based pie. Maybe moving to Florida in our 30s was a good plan. AARP jokes aside, I see why people might want to retire here. It's literally so warm and humid year round that it preserves you from the inside out. Perhaps it should be called the self-preservation state instead of the sunshine one. All this talk of preserves leads me back fruit and, in turn, fruit pies. I decided our warmer weather warranted a delightfully light and fluffy summery pie. And where there's a will, there's a Kate, and she's almost always baking desserts...this time in the form of a pineapple pie with homemade graham cracker crust.
A new favorite, thankfully appropriate all year around here!
So some of you might be experiencing snow, cold, blustery winds, etc., all the joyous aspects that come with winter that I miss terribly. But do you have pineapple pie?! No. No you do not. But you can. Quite easily, might I add...this is about as simple as it gets in the dessert department. And then you, too, can at least eat a slice and let your mind drift into warmer, sea-breezy climates where drinks come with umbrellas and skin is a lovely shade of bronze (or red, if you also suffer from an inherent Canadianesque inability to tan). If you're worried about winter weight, I've even figured out how to make this pie health conscious. It's only 240 calories a slice. Considering a slice of most pie will set you back anywhere from 500-800 (get it together, pecan pie) calories, this is minuscule in comparison. But it is certainly not lacking in flavor. We've been nibbling on this pie for a few days now, and each plate is served with a side of satisfied ooh's and aah's. It is light, the topping is heavenly, and the crust melts on your tongue. We adore the sweet tang of pineapple, and when you top it with a thick layer of Cool Whip, it only gets better.
I own the world's most adorable food processor.
 Real talk, you could make life even easier and buy a low-fat premade crust, but my husband bought me a 4-cup food processor I had been eyeing for ages for my birthday, so I wanted to make my own pie crust. It's a super easy process, still, so if you are interested in a low-fat pie crust recipe, gather up:
  • 6 sheets of low-fat graham crackers
  • 3 TBS of butter (still cold and cut into chunks)
  • 2 TBS of sugar or sugar substitute 
  • 1 TBS water
Otherwise, feel free to skip to the filling recipe below if you buy a premade crust. For you diehard food processor owners, start by pulsing together the graham crackers, butter, and sugar until it forms a nice crumb. Then add in the the water and pulse until you've got thick crumbs:
Like so. Love the wonder that is the tiny food processor.
Then press into a 9-inch pie pan. I am marveling at the fact that it was cool enough to wear ankle boots when I made this crust. It must have been a chilly (65 degree) day.
 Now, to prevent the crust from crumbling when you serve it, place it into the freezer for 15-30 minutes to firm up. I went for the full 30 just to be safe. When time is almost up, preheat the oven to 375. Bake your crust for 10 minutes; it should be a nice shade of know, like the color I wish I could tan to without the help of sunless tanner:
"I wish I had a skin tone best described as freshly baked pie crust."
Now, let your crust cool fully before adding in the filling. I placed it on a rack and put it into the fridge for a half hour. Literally the most annoying thing about making this pie is that the actual time spent in the kitchen making it is about ten minutes, but when you add in all the time to chill and set, it's more like four hours. The price to pay for tasty dessert is a minor inconvenience, so it's still a winner in my impatient book.
Yep, this is really all you need.
So, this is an extremely lazy pie. Like, wearing pajamas in the airport level of lazy. All you need for the filling is:
  • One 20-ounce can of crushed pineapple (reserve a tablespoon of juice)
  • One 8-ounce tub of light sour cream
  • Two packages of sugar free/fat free vanilla instant pudding
  • Whatever size tub of Cool Whip Free you feel is necessary to top your pie. I just happened to have a 12 ouncer in the freezer in the event of a dessert-related emergency.
Buckle up, here comes the hard part:

Dump the pineapple, reserved juice from the can, sour cream, and pudding mix in a bowl. Blend until everything is mixed together and a lovely shade of yellow...think "Easter" yellow. Then dump this into your chilled pie crust or premade crust and smooth out.
Kinda looks like potato salad.
 Now, take your pie and place it into the fridge to set for two-four hours. You just want it firmed up enough that spreading a layer of Cool Whip on top isn't going to interrupt the settling process. Alternately, you could place it in the freezer for an hour if you're in more of a hurry.
I enjoyed several spoonfuls of Cool Whip to help pass the time.
 Now, you can slather on the Cool Whip however you like. You could use a 1M or 2D tip and pipe stars on the top of the pie in Cool Whip or use the same tips to make rose swirls. I decided to go for a more classic and meringue look. It was effortless to achieve. I simply plopped a large mound of Cool Whip on top of the pie and smoothed it out with a spatula.
This was not an easy photo to take one-handed.
 Then I took the back of a spoon and swirled it around a few times and pulled up and away quickly. Repeat this all over. This forms the circular, peaked look of a meringue pie.
And it's pretty awesome.
I mean, check out those peaks!
 At this point, you could cut and serve if you've left your pie in the fridge or freezer long enough to set. I ended up placing my pie back into the freezer for two hours in order to make really clean slices for photo ops. If you're not a food blogger, this is not something you need to worry about...but remember, it is a sacrifice I make for you every week. Feel sorry for me while you eat your pie. This is definitely a pie you want to keep refrigerated for the very short while it survives before it is completely devoured. I promise you it won't last long. It's simply too good. The sweet-to-sour ratio is absolutely perfect with this pie. It reminds you if you're stuck in winter that warmer temperatures are on the horizon. It reminds you if you're stuck in permanent summer that one of the few benefits of an 80-degree day in February is that frozen drinks and cold fruit pie are a benefit you get to experience 365 days of the year. It's literally the most optimistic dessert I've ever made. It's bordering on divine. Even if you're not a fan of pineapple, you could easily sub any other can of fruit your taste buds prefer. Adaptable and easy...I'm really serving this one up for you (literally). Now I'm off to slather myself in aloe vera and dream about a day when my skin is pie-crust bronzed and not sea-crab red. 'Til next time my fellow eaters!
Thankfully this pie also soothes the pain of a sunburn!

Monday, February 6, 2017

An Exercise in Yumminess

Ahh the wonder that is Super Bowl Sunday, or as I lovingly refer to it, "America's Cheat Day." Between fistfuls of food smothered in cheese or chocolate, there's yelling at the TV like a crazy person over a game that literally has no impact on your day-to-day life (Hi, I'm a Vikings fan. I don't even know what this...Super?...Bowl? is). Since I limit myself to junk food very sparingly, I won't lie, I went very kid-in-a-candy-shop over what is most definitely the only day of the year I put away the food journal app and just live. You've never felt truly alive until you've inhaled half a bag of Doritos followed by immediately using more chips as a rudimentary plate to transfer a ten-layer dip into your pie hole. Perhaps this is because right after, you kind of want to die a little due to gastrointestinal distress coupled with shame. But c'est la vie! Those greasy football foods don't eat themselves! And naturally, I had to make sure I really, truly lived up to my stretchy pants' expectations and ate at least five pounds worth of food in one night--to include a massive amount of dessert. I tried my best to make dessert at least a little "light," but let's face it, even I didn't count calories with this recipe. Instead, I counted blessings that Target's jeggings allowed me to breathe after eating half a football. Let me explain...
It was clearly edible.
This cute, somewhat deflated (probably a Pat's fan) football is actually made of Reese's Pieces peanut butter dessert dip...while I will try to respect the fact that the Pat's won the game last night, remember, the keyword there was try. I mean, as divided as this country is on most issues, I think we can all agree it's hilarious watching Tom Brady go boneless to avoid a sack. That was more entertaining than most of the commercials. I mean, did companies everywhere just decide, collectively, that America has literally gone too dark for stupid Super Bowl commercials anymore? Have we lost the ability to laugh at Doritos? I was alarmed by the amount of adverts for freemium games, and I was saddened that only the Christopher Walken and the Melissa McCarthy ads were worthy of an actual laugh and not a disgruntled chuckle. You know, the kind of chuckle full of equal amounts disappointment and hope...the next one has to be funnier, right? Wrong. It wasn't. So it was a good thing I had a giant football made of peanut butter and chocolate to drown my sorrows in. Let's just say my football fandom has taught me a thing or two or thirty about dessert-based coping.
As an added bonus, you're gonna have leftover Reese's Pieces hanging around.
I realize the football season is over, but this dessert dip was just too damn good not to share. Besides, there are other sports (yes, America, it's true), so you could easily mold a hockey puck, a basketball, a baseball, tennis ball, etc. by using the right colored sprinkles. Or you could make life even easier on yourself and just make the dip in a bowl and be done with it all. And after last night's game and the first thirty-some-odd days of 2017, I feel like that's the appropriate level of "trying." So to make the dip, gather up:
  • 1 cup peanut butter of choice (gonna judge you though if it's not JIF. Get your life together!)
  • 1 8-ounce block of reduced fat cream cheese at room temp
  • 8 ounces of Free Cool Whip (this is the insanely good fat free version)
  • 1 cup of Reese's Pieces
  • 1 1/2 containers of Wilton's chocolate sprinkles
  • For eating: a spoon, preferably, or graham crackers, Nilla Wafers, Teddy Graham's, pretzels, etc.
To start, cream the peanut butter and cream cheese for a few minutes in a stand mixer. While this is taking place, take a few spoonfuls of Cool Whip and place into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip:
I used a #12.
If you don't have a piping bag or round tip, just place the Cool Whip into a plastic baggy and snip the corner. Put this into the fridge for later. Dump the remaining Cool Whip into the peanut butter and cream cheese mixture. Mix until incorporated, and then add in the cup of Reese's Pieces and mix slowly. Once everything is blended nicely, grab a cutting board or large tray/plate and line it with cling wrap...that is, if you're making this into a ball of some sort. If not, congratulations, you've made the world's easiest dessert. Dump into a bowl, chill for an hour in the freezer, and enjoy the fact that small miracles really do exist, and they always include chocolate. If you're making the football, however, you've got some legwork left...but if you're as vain as I am, presentation is key!!!
At this point, I may have tried a spoonful for myself.
 You want enough plastic wrap that you can easily plop the ball of dip into the middle and wrap it up.
Like so.
Once you've folded the plastic wrap over the dough, flatten it out with your hands, or if you're feeling particularly fiesty, a rolling pin. You want to make the layer about an inch thick.
I have a love/hate relationship with cling wrap. Nine times out of ten, it leaves me perturbed about it's overall inability to cling to what I want it to.
 But this was the one instance it worked in my favor. Once you've got the dip flattened out, take the edges of the cling wrap and spin them shut to the point where it will take your rectangle of dip and smoosh the edges into a point to form your football. I also used my hands to help shape the edges. Now, place the football into the freezer for an hour to harden up and keep its shape.
And prepare for chocolate sprinkle explosion in your kitchen.
 Once the dip has solidified enough to where it will retain shape but is still tacky to the touch, unwrap it all the way, but leave your plastic wrap under it! Take the chocolate sprinkles and dump them all over the top of the football. Use your hands to press the sprinkles into the dip.
And thank God for cling wrap for the first time in your life.
 To cover the sides, dump a bunch of sprinkles on the side of the football, and then lift the plastic wrap up the side of the football. Press the sprinkles into the side gently with your hands over the cling wrap, all the while using it as a guide.
Kinda looks like a major ant problem from this far away.
Now, remember that Cool Whip from a million years ago? Grab that out of the fridge. Use your piping bag or plastic bag to draw a line down the middle of the football and create vertical laces:
 Once you've covered your football in sprinkles and created laces, it's freezer time again. I would NOT skip this part because otherwise transferring it to a serving plate will be nearly impossible due to the dip not being frozen. I left my football in the freezer overnight because I'm the queen of prepping the day prior, but if you're in a pinch, I would think two-four hours would allow enough time to freeze to where you can handle it without issue. But again, think was the keyword there. I've been entertaining third graders all day at work by collecting creepy-crawlies and categorizing them, so my brain is about as mushy as a common garden slug. Mmm.
Back to a much more appetizing image.
Once the football is frozen, remove from the plastic wrap/cutting board and place on your serving tray. Since peanut butter is always a little greasy and/or buttery (totes appropes), I placed Parchment paper on my serving tray first. I then left it in the fridge for the entire day to soften up. If your football is totally frozen and you needed it sooner rather than later, your Hail Mary pass here would be to leave it on the counter at room temp. Things will soften up in an hour or two, much like Atlanta's defense...
Resist urge to make reference to this dip being a touchdown when it comes to flavor...
 Finish off by adding in your favorite spoon-like dessert devices to your tray, and you are ready to enjoy a dip that was more enchanting than Lady Gaga's Spiderman interpretation at half time. If you're even remotely interested in chocolate + peanut butter, you will love this dip. It's light and fluffy but still packs a wallop of  flavor. It was so delicious that unlike the actual footballs being thrown around, it was finished during regulation playing time. Much like Eli Manning to Tom Brady, this dessert was my weakened my ability to make sound choices about portion sizing and control. Seriously though, the moment Manning left that stadium after receiving his award was the moment Brady actually started playing football. Say what you will about his derp face, but old Eli's got his number. And while your team may or may not have won or even made it to the big game, I think we can all come to terms with the fact that the greatest cheat day of the year should include copious amounts of chocolate. So make a big bowl of this Reese's Pieces dessert dip to deal with the fact that we have to wait til September to (most likely) be utterly disappointed by our favorite teams again. 'Til next time, my fellow eaters!
The Vikings made me do it.