You guys, this comic right here is my whole life right now. It’s been circling the interwebs for a few years now, but I’m really feeling it this week. I could elaborate on the latest sads, but I’d rather just direct you to that beautiful, powerful, perfect comic. Even if you don’t come back here– though, um, please come back, we have sweets– please read that lovely piece of work.
Today’s post is going to be short, because maaaaaaaaan do I have a lot to think about thanks to good old Bill Watterson, and also because this is such. an easy. recipe. I actually whipped it up this morning while waiting for my tortillas to warm up (breakfast tacos FTW!). Let’s say you’ve got a whole lot of pumpkin laying around and you don’t feel like going the pie route, or you just don’t have the time to melt chocolate for pumpkin cups, or you just… really like dips. All good man, I love everything (except Stamos and mint in my desserts). Oh, or you’re having a Halloween party and need to feed a crowd, because you’re a cool person who has parties and hey, I’m delightful at parties. I bring pumpkin dip!
Pumpkin Dip (makes a big old bowl)
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup of ricotta cheese
1/2 mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup plus two tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Mini chocolate chips, for garnish
Cocoa powder, for garnish
Okay, ready? In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon, mix together pumpkin puree, cinnamon and brown sugar until combined. Add in cheeses and blend until fully incorporated, then whisk in confectioner’s sugar and vanilla extract until you’ve got your dip. Sprinkle with mini chocolate chips and dust with cocoa powder, if desired, then chill until ready to serve.
Wait… that’s it?
Yeah dudes! Easiest dessert ever! In terms of stuff to dip into it, fingers are a good option, as long as they are yours or those of someone you trust and are definitely attached to working hands…though Halloween is approaching, and who am I, really, to judge you and your parties, cool people of the web? I actually threw some leftover pie dough into the waffle iron on a whim and ended up enjoying these as mini pumpkin pie bites, but pita chips, cookies or fancy crackers would be yummy, too.
I know, I know… these are regular chocolate chips, but *someone* ate all the minis in the pantry so I had to make do.
This is so easy, so fast, so yummy, and perfectly party-appropriate. I’ll prove it at your next shindig, which I’m totally invited to, right?
And no, I did *not* make my birthday cake this year. Though I have made rainbow cookies in the past, I decided to take a break from baking for myself this year. Also, my boyfriend strictly forbade me from doing so, because he’s nice, and also because I think last year I got a little scary whilst making this delicious monstrosity.
How was the birthday overall? Bittersweet might be the best word. Sweet because, well, see above, bitter because well, see me. But as I’ve heard time and again, thirty is weird. When I was ten, thirty seemed like *it.* It was the age when I’d have everything down pat, when I’d be acting opposite Mark-Paul Gosselaar in a hit feature film (nope, not elaborating), when I’d be poppin’ out perfect babies and livin’ phat in the hills. Which hills, I do not know. The Beverly ones seemed interesting, because OH HAYYYYY Dylan McKay. It should be noted that when I was ten, I had trouble separating television from reality. That may or may not still be the case.
Instead, thirty feels like the age where an invisible hand decided to hold a mirror up to my life, and DAMN. DAMN DAMN DAMN has it been hard to look. Of course, if it’s not obvious, I do feel lucky. Lucky that I’m still able to write and bake, lucky that I’m working, lucky that I’ve got some love in my life, lucky that I still have a few folks I can count on to whine and wine and dine with. But I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not taking this particular birthday as well as past ones, for various reasons. Maybe that’s necessary. Reflection is hard, but I’m hoping to come out of this funk feeling wiser, stronger and healthier.
Speaking of healthy, this dessert is anything but. BUT! It’s got pumpkin, you fall freaks! (I, too, am one of these. No shame, friends). Also, it’s no-bake, for all of my I-CANNOT-BAKE-FOR-SHIZ homies. Let’s do this!
Pumpkin Peanut Butter Cups (makes 12 big cups or 24 mini cups)
1 15-ounce can of pureed pumpkin*
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 cup of mascarpone
1 cup of natural unsweeted salted peanut butter
3/4 cup of confectioner’s sugar, more if you’d like the peanut butter portion sweeter
3 cups of semisweet chocolate chips/chunks/chocolate chopped into small pieces, melted and kept warm
Set aside either a 12-cup muffin tin or 24-cup mini muffin tin, and line the tin with cupcake wrappers.
Also, before we start, and before people start yelling at me over that article we all saw claiming canned pumpkin wasn’t real pumpkin… IT ABSOLUTELY IS. Snopes for the win!
In a medium-sized bowl, using a stand mixer on high speed, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar and cinnamon. Beat in the mascarpone until fully incorporated, and set aside.
In a separate medium-sized bowl, combine peanut butter and confectioner’s sugar, adding more sugar to taste if you like it a bit sweeter.
Now, you can either just totally go crazy and combine your pumpkin and peanut butter mixtures full-on, OR, if you favor one flavor over another, add a bit of one mixture to the other until you’re happy with the taste. Really, you cannot go wrong, and if you have extra of one or both mixtures, they’re INCREDIBLE with french toast, waffles, or just totally naked. Originally, my plan was to have this be heavily-PB with a hint of pumpkin, but every time I brought a spoonful to Jimmy, he’d ask for more pumpkin. I finally settled on the measurements above, which will give you a perfectly balanced peanut buttery and pumpkin-y cup. Set aside this mixture for now.
To assemble your cups, coat each cupcake wrapper with a thin layer of chocolate. If you’re using full-sized cups, I’ve found it’s easiest to use a small rubber spatula to coat the bottom and sides. If you’re using mini cups, the back of a teaspoon is better. You want the bottoms and sides of your liners to be completely opaque with chocolate, but not terribly thick.
Once you’ve coated all liners, refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Once the chocolate has hardened, place even scoops of pumpkin-peanut butter mixture into each cup.I made regular-sized cups and added a heaping tablespoon and a half to each cup. Cover each cup with more chocolate, and chill in the refrigerator again for at least fifteen more minutes, until the cups have hardened. Let them sit in room temperature for a few minutes before serving.
So I figured I might as well continue the tradition of absolute junk at all possible hours of the day, so these were enjoyed at breakfast. Pumpkin’s a fruit, peanut butter has protein, I am woefully under-educated about nutrition and will do anything I can to justify my sugar intake, you get how it is.
But how were they? They. Were. Perfection. My lazy ass also loved how quickly these cups went from being a mere rumble in my belly/twinkle in my brain to being actual, delectable desserts. These were fast, easy, and SO AUTUMN, you guys. MUST MAKE!
It’s been, as the kids say, a minute. Or, as this overgrown baby would say, it’s been a freaking month, Sad Shibow, you swine.
Blue period. I don’t know what else to say, guys. There are entire weeks where I cannot handle bad combos of bad badness, or even meh mehness, or sometimes, just, you know, days in general. The holidays are hard as it is, and much of the past month could be described as “baby steps halfway up the mountain, then Donkey Kong comes out of nowhere and kicks my brown butt all the way back down to the sharp, rocky bottom.” That’s about as good as it’s going to get in terms of articulating this latest awesome sad segment. Maybe this time the magic mixture for my Crap Pie was 1 part holidays, 2 parts weather, 4 parts financial probz, 3 parts friend/family bull, and equal parts David Bowie isn’t here anymore and Trump is still talking. All of these things combined to create a great disturbance in the force.
Speaking of The Force… who saw The Force Awakens?? I SURE DID, the day it came out, and I’ve got the videotape to prove it! That’s right, folks, Sad Shibow was on the ol’ picture box, being a total nerd. And for those of you wondering why I look so spaced, a. I HAD JUST SEEN THE FORCE AWAKENS YOU JUDGMENTAL BUBS! and b. I’d had many many drinks of the bourbon nature the night before and was still recovering. Also, if you happened to see me commuting home that night, drunkenly air-drumming to Bollywood tunes alone on the F train and holding back tears (because hammered Shibow is SAD Shibow), I’m sorry. Also also, if you have film evidence of these happenings, I will pay handsomely to keep it under wraps. Just kidding. I’m broke, you all know this. But we can have a viewing party at my place if you’re in the market for a new friend. I know I could always use a new homie.
So how were all of your holidays, if you celebrate such things? Mine were simple and quiet, just how I like them, and made so much happier by…
Those of you who know me IRL know how much I love, love, love Robicelli’s Bakery, a friggin’ boss sweet shop that just recently closed its Brooklyn post. While I was at work one day, Jimmy snuck off to Bay Ridge (which is a TREK for those of us without a car, guys) to get Allison Robicelli to sign my copy of the Robicelli’s cookbook, mere days before the bakery closed. How wonderful is this? Is he?! And even though the clouds haven’t exactly lifted over the House of Shibow, every time I crack that book open and read Allison’s wonderful, profanity-laden note and think about what a pain in the ass it is to ride the local R a bajillion stops and how impatient Jimmy is with our transit system anyway, I remember: I am loved. And when you’re sad and wondering if most of the people you used to know hate you or if you’ll ever find your way in the world or if you’ll ever learn to contour your face properly like those Youtube geniuses, feeling loved matters.
Speaking of feeling loved, how often does a stellar chocolate chip cookie make you feel cared for and happy? What, you say it’s unhealthy to eat feelings? You say it’s abnormal to feel strong emotions for a cookie? Have you never had a Jacques Torres Chocolate Chip cookie before? The self-proclaimed “Mr. Chocolate” found his way into my probably-clogged heart one day while I was on my lunch break and looking for a nearby, temporary panacea for whatever blues I was experiencing at that moment. I found such a cure at the Jacques Torres shop at Grand Central Station, and direct everyone I know who is feeling happy, sad, hungry, or anything at all to said shop’s chocolate chip cookie. Big as your face and probably just as delicious (you hottie, you), these cookies will solve all of your problems, as long as your problems are that you need cookies. And, if you unfortunately don’t live near a location, or will be trapped at home during Snowmageddon 2016, here is the recipe of your dreams, people.
Jacques Torres’ Gigantic Chocolate Chip Cookies (makes 15 cookies)
4 cups of bittersweet chocolate discs (I used these which are pricey but the real deal and absolutely worth it, but use any discs you’re comfortable with– each is about the size of an American quarter)
Coarse sea salt, for garnish
In a medium-sized bowl, sift together your flours, baking soda and powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl and using a hand mixer on medium speed, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth and pale yellow in color, 3 to 5 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating until well mixed, then stir in vanilla. Reduce mixer speed to low and slowly add in dry ingredients, mixing just until combined, about 10 seconds.
Carefully fold chocolate discs into dough (I use a rubber spatula and go slowly to prevent breaking the discs). Cover bowl with plastic wrap, pressing wrap directly against the dough, and refrigerate for at least 3 and preferably 8 hours. You can also freeze the dough at this point for up to a month, but if I know there is cookie dough nearby I shamelessly use it/eat it. Yes, raw. I’M NOT A ROLE MODEL DAMMIT.
Once chilled, preheat your oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop out 5 fist-sized mounds onto each sheet, about 3 inches apart (you will likely need to use one sheet twice, as we’re making 15 cookies and…math). Lightly garnish with coarse sea salt and bake for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through baking. The cookie’s edges should be lightly browned and the centers should still be soft. Cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. Repeat until all cookies are baked.
So… I don’t really want to talk about these.
I kind of just want to keep showing them to you.
They are, by far, my new favorite Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I have been spoiled. There is no going back from this.
HOLY BLEEPITY BLEEP BLEEP THE FORCE IS NIGH THE FORCE IS NIGH THE FORCE THE FORCE THE FORCE GAHHHHHHH.
How badass does this trailer look? I can’t stop watching it. Even my boyfriend, who actually saw Episodes 5 and 6 in theatres as a wee little lad, and is super psyched to experience the latest installment, is somewhat worried about me. As well he should be: see that BB8 in the sidebar under “Things I <3,” guys? I OWN IT. I know, I cannot believe it either. I purchased it during my “retail therapy is a legitimate form of therapy, stop judging me Jimmy” phase. Do I love it? Unconditionally. Unhealthily. Completely. Did it do its job in curing me of the sads? Is this blog still called what it’s called?
And speaking of that, I’m going to warn you: this post is about to get kind of heavy, and kind of very long. But there are pop tarts at the end of it so it will all be worth it. In case you’re impatient or low blood-sugary, you can totally scroll past all of this. For those of you who’ve stuck around, I kind of feel like it’s time to talk heavy. We’ve known each other a while, right? We’re past the weirdness over who pays for what, if we’re Facebook official… hell, I used your toothbrush yesterday! Real talk about the sads, in a list format:
1. Originally I wanted to post this during Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from October 4th to the 10th, but a. I was too scared and b. it [Freudian] slipped my mind. But, I have a close family member with a mental illness and have seen all of the misunderstanding, confusion, pain and stigma that comes along with it. We need to talk, guys.
2. I am ashamed to say I was too scared to write this because I’ve already faced some… I guess interrogation is the correct word, regarding the title and theme of this blog. I’m certainly open to talk about the stigma surrounding depression, but I’ve been caught off guard by the many–and I do mean many— people who have, especially recently, tried to “cure” me of it. And it’s not something that can be cured, unfortunately. If it were, I’d be shakin’ my rump-aa to Beastie Boys tunes on an unhealthy loop instead of dealing with this ish. And while I know that there are many, many people out there who struggle with it every second of every day, I am fortunate not to be one of them. But when it hits, it hits. This essay by the amazing Sarah Silverman does a much better job of explaining all this than I ever could.
3. On that note, we need to stop asking the question “What could you possibly have to be sad about?” My rational brain knows how bad some people have it, and it pretty much hates my irrational brain for being super selfish and thinking only of my own sadness (thus compounding the sadness, vicious cycle and all that). But, with that said, and believe it or not, I’m sort of obsessively private. When I started this blog, my original plan was to be the Batman of the internets, never revealing my true identity, forever in the shadows, with a killer fancy ride to roll through the mean streets of Queens. But, I was also hell-bent on using the name Sad Shibow, which is very unique to me, and blah blah blah people in my real life know I write this and then ask me that question in the first sentence, and then I have to answer it, but since I’m private I mostly squirm and bite my lip and hold back the ugly cries.
4. I don’t know if I’ve become sadder as I’ve gotten older or if I’ve just become more open about it. If I had to guess, I’d guess the latter. A whole hell of awful situations rained down on me and those around me in my early twenties, and mercifully this time in my life is nowhere near as dark as that was. But as I get older, tough times do seem to hit me harder. Losing a best friend, losing a few friends, being disappointed in where I am professionally, the FOMO, (OH THE FOMO!) and the weight of knowing I’ve disappointed other people I love can all routinely send me into very unattractive bawling fits. It happens. It creeps up on you. Some days I feel like I can handle all of the garbage and more, and sometimes I feel like burrowing into a hole I dug for myself in the shady park behind my building. It’s scary to talk about, but I’m talking about it in the hopes that other people will, too. At the risk of sounding nauseatingly corny, sometimes you send signals out into the universe in the hopes of locating your tribe. Sometimes, instead of “buck up and stop your whining,” you want to hear “I understand, and I can relate. Let’s be friends, despite your weird Resting Bitch Face and affinity for nerd stuff.”
5. Different things get different people out from under that dark cloud. For some people, it’s medication. For others, it’s exercise. For me, it’s writing. And baking. Oh, yes, this is a baking blog isn’t it? This is the part with the Homemade “Pop Tarts.” The ones filled with homemade pumpkin butter.
Homemade Pumpkin Butter-Filled “Pop Tarts” (makes about 20 tarts)
12 tablespoons of cold butter, cut into small chunks or grated
1 egg, beaten, mixed with enough cold water to produce 1/2 cup
Now, let’s start with that pumpkin butter, yes? You could go the store-bought route, but this is a crazy easy recipe and you’ll be so damned proud of yourself for going DIY. Place all pumpkin butter ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a rolling, bubbling boil, stirring frequently.
Bring heat down to a simmer for at least 20 minutes, then pour into a heatproof container. Let cool before refrigerating until ready to use.
Now let’s work on our tart shell. We’re basically using a pie dough. If you’d like, you could halve the above recipe and use the other half of your dough for a kickass pie at a later date. In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, salt and sugar. Add in the butter, then mix in with a pastry blender or fork. Use your fingers to continue to mix everything together just until it feels like wet sand. Stir in your egg mixture with a fork until a dough begins to come together.
Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead it until it holds together. Divide the dough in equal halves, then wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to one week (dough can also be frozen for up to 6 months, for those emergency pie sitches that I KNOW we all have).
Working with one half, roll out dough into an 11 x 13 rectangle, then cut into smaller rectangles, about 5″ x 3″ or, you know, Pop-Tart size, and lay on a baking sheet. Spread about a tablespoon of pumpkin butter onto a rectangle.
Top with another rectangle, and crimp the edges with a fork. Pierce the tops of your tarts with a fork to allow heat to escape, unless you like your tarts exploded and unavailable. Sprinkle a bit of sugar on top of each tart if desired. Cover and freeze for at least 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 375°F. When your tarts are fully frozen, send into the oven for 25 to 30 minutes, until the tops are fully browned. Allow to cool for ten minutes on baking sheet, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.
I know what you’re thinking…LOLOLOLOL. It’s the glaze, guys. I won’t even get into it. It was hell on earth– delicious, but messy, messy hell. If I were you, I’d top these with powdered sugar and call it an evening.
BUT if you can also see the giant bite in that picture, you know I could not resist trying these. And damn am I happy I did. If I were you, I’d toast these before munching on them, just like the real deal. Use The Force. Or, um, a toaster. Whatever floats your houseboat.
As many of you probably know by now, I tend to become obsessed with, and then unhealthily attached to, certain pop culture phenomenons which I seem to have trouble moving on from– see: Hologram Tupac, Hobbits. My latest? ROAD HOUSE. Was anyone ever going to tell me about Road House, or was I just supposed to stumble upon it one humid, lazy Saturday night, and then stumble upon it again the following Sunday, and then rewind certain key scenes throughout the week until my Netflix account mysteriously stopped working?! (Fine. Jimmy found the tai chi moves I borrowed from the movie to be endearing, but the attempts to suplex him, not so much. He took away our router until I promised to give the movie a rest, and it is the single greatest act of kindness he has ever bestowed upon me.)
Speaking of kindness though, originally I was going to post that mellow, heart-tugging meme that you’ve likely seen on LinkedIn about being kind to everyone because we’re all facing our own battles, but then I realized that A ROAD HOUSE IMAGE WAS AN OPTION. And this one is so much better in so many ways. This week alone (it’s only Tuesday guys, I know) I’ve been offhandedly insulted three different times by two people very close to me and one person I barely know, and none of these people seem to have taken that sweet little viral meme to heart. So maybe it’s time to stop being polite, and start getting real (that’s Swayze too, right?).
It’s definitely better than trying to throw money at my problems until they go away, which is sort of my MO these days. Retail therapy is quite possibly the worst type of panacea for depression when you’re kind of broke. (It’s probably super unhealthy for rich/normal people as well, but maybe ya’ll are buying yourselves into unending bliss, IDK.) I seem to have fallen victim to some serious sadness AND some wicked end-of-summer sales at exactly the same time, which is provoking some really deep thoughts. Should I get this mason jar that I can have my name engraved into because it’s on sale? Then everyone in my household (Jimmy) will know which mason jar is mine. I should. Of course I should. What about a monogrammed Lazy Susan? Who even is Susan? That seems like the worst thing to have named after you. Sucks for you, Susan. Now the whole world knows what a disaster you are.
I ended up buying a t-shirt that says “Happy Thoughts” (LOLOL) and knee-high Smartwool socks. I know we’re in a heat wave. They were cheap. I was sad. I have no segues for what I baked today.
Preheat your oven to 350ºF and line a 8×8″ square pan with parchment paper. Butter and flour the parchment and set aside.
For the crust, in a food processor or blender, pulse together sugar, lemon zest and salt (if using unsalted butter). Add in butter and pulse until somewhat incorporated. Add in flour and pulse until you’ve got a crumbly mess. Really. Though it is sweet messy fun to press this into your parchment-lined pan, I promise. Press it as evenly as you can along the bottom, and bake for 15 minutes, removing when the edges are lightly browned. Keep your oven on while working on the topping.
For the topping, beat together eggs, sugar and lemon juice in a large bowl until smooth. Puree raspberries in blender until liquid, or liquid-y. Strain out seeds with a sieve, and then stir puree into lemon mixture. Because I am lazy, I strained the puree directly into my lemon mixture, and I encourage other lazy people to do the same.
Stir flour into mixture and pour mixture over your crust. Send back into the oven until the top jiggles just a bit, about 25 to 30 minutes (mine took about 25). Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer parchment to a rack to allow to cool completely before cutting.
I forgot the powdered sugar on mine 😦 which may work out for those of you who are happy with not-too-sweet treats.
As you can see, these bars have a nice, thick, buttery crust which sort of turned them into an automatic WIN for me. The topping? Totally tasted the pink lemonade and LOVED it. Together crust and topping make for a happy, buttery, super lemony treat that is definitely worth the [oven] time, and is CERTAINLY a better use of your/my time than suplexing your partner and buying nonsense with your name on it.