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Better late than lucky?

A few days after I sent my St. Patrick’s Day care package to Jonathan, I found out he’d soon be moving away from the address I sent the package to, to a different base in Afghanistan. So it’s a good thing I didn’t include anything super yeast-y and likely to mold while it searched for him, like brownies made with Guinness.

Even though the package took more than a month to find him, the super-human Ziploc and aluminum foil skills I’ve been cultivating during this deployment paid off; even the gooey, yeast-y, Guinness-glazed brownies made it to Jonathan’s stomach without crippling side effects. (Although technically he just got the package, so the vomiting might not come until later.)

Since St. Paddy’s marked my last care package of this deployment (no; it did not go by fast, and I have the baking scars to prove it), I wanted to go out with a bang. And by “bang” I mean “beer.” So, first up, if you haven’t guessed yet:

Guinness Brownies. Recipe from Gastronome Tart.

Guinness Brownies recipe from Gastronome Tart.

This recipe, while extremely rich and delicious, was high on my recipe-difficulty scale; mostly because to do it properly you need a real or makeshift double boiler, and a lot of patience. My lack of the latter explains why I did not throw together a makeshift double boiler, and did all my melting in the microwave like a college student.

Guinness Brownies Step 1

Hint: this recipe doesn’t even use a full bottle of Guinness. If you’re like me and bought a six-pack, once you’ve finished reducing the beer and combining the wet ingredients, you can take a well-deserved break and figure out what to do with the leftover Guinness.

Drink it. You drink the Guinness. You’re trying to become Irish. It’s going well.

Since my previous care packages seem bound to a death-by-butter theme, I figured this one might as well not deviate. The recipe calls for melting several jumbo-size bars of dark chocolate with a stick or two of butter. Then go ahead and add some stout beer. Your heart attack will be very delicious.

Guinness Brownies Step 2

While the brownies were baking, I actually moved onto a cookie recipe I wrote myself (which I’ve included at the end of this post, because I’m one of those people who refuses to read blog posts about recipes and just scrolls to the end to get the facts, and I’m assuming you are too…which means you’re not reading this…and now I’ve created a glitch in the matrix). But I also had time to use some reserved Guinness reduction to make the glaze the recipe called for, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that I licked it straight from that whisk. If my roommates are reading this, I washed the whisk very thoroughly. I promise.

Brownies with Guinness Glaze

Finished Guinness Brownies

I attempted to package these an hour or two later (because I like to be as exhausted as possible), but the gooey, glaze-y brownies threatened to crumble apart and glob to my fingers, so I had no choice but to eat the one I ruined, and then wait until morning when they were a bit firmer. (That’s what she said. I’m sorry. I had to say it before my mom did.)

Brownie Packaging Step 1

I was particularly worried about these brownies molding, so I individually wrapped them in foil, put two foil-wrapped brownies in a Ziploc freezer storage bag with as much air sucked out as humanly possible, wrapped that little Ziploc package in another good dose of foil, then smashed that Ziploc-foil package into another Ziploc bag. This deployment has made me SUPER wasteful.

Brownie Packaging Step 2

Pack those luscious brownie masses into some sealed containers, and make sure to let the soldiers know this dessert doesn’t violate an army regulations. Apologize for following the rules. Allow deployed fiancé to explain how much he loves these brownies, and try to pretend you don’t already know how good they are because you almost immediately ate two of them.

I’m throwing you a curve ball and deviating from chronological story telling, so rewind to the previous weekend when I finally found a care package idea (adapted from something I found on Pinterest, of course) that I could assemble whenever I had the time, instead of relying on the fast-paced make-the-night-before-to-save-freshness method that leaves me rushed and panicky and eating butter for dinner.

A double Skittle rainbow, leading to a pot of Hershey's gold nuggets, chocolate gold coins, and also some plastic gold coins that I really hope Jonathan bites into thinking are chocolate.

A double Skittles rainbow, leading to a pot of Hershey’s gold nuggets, chocolate gold coins, and also some plastic gold coins that I really hope Jonathan bites into thinking they are chocolate. Which would technically mean this doubles as an April Fools care package as well. I AM SO EFFICIENT.

This is one of my favorite care package pieces, both because it was alarmingly easy to assemble, and because not all the Skittles could fit in those bead containers I got from the little-girl-jewelry section at Michael’s, so again I was forced to eat the extras. Making care packages is hard.

Double Rainbow Materials

I made most of this process up by hoping for cheesy inspiration when I went to Michael’s pre-St. Patrick’s Day, and boy did they deliver.

Double Rainbow Assembly

Indigo always gets shafted.

Pot of Gold

Obviously the leprechaun I stole this from is a really shitty leprechaun, because I had no luck in getting this pot of gold to Jonathan in time for it to be relevant. My lawyer and I are already in discovery on a professional negligence case against that leprechaun. I can’t discuss the case details on social media.

Double Rainbow with a Pot of Gold

Photo shoot on zebra rug is optional but recommended.

Positive side effect: I kept this out in the middle of my floor all week, and it was delightful both to look at and to trip over constantly.

Because I’ve had success with pistachio cookies in care packages several times (using Jell-O instant pudding mix in cookies keeps them fresh, chewy, and moist longer), I decided to take it a step further and write my own St. Paddy’s day cookie recipe.

Mint chocolate chip cookies

These cookies. Were so good. Which I know because I ate at least four of them.

The recipe isn’t perfect yet, but scroll down a bit if you’d like the ingredients and directions to replicate. I based the method on my favorite easy sugar cookie recipe that has worked as a great base for cookie experiments. But for now, enjoy these step-by-step baking photos that are very annoying to take at 9:00pm on a Friday night when you’ve got three hours of baking ahead of you and the post office closes at noon the next day. So I hope you are all extremely grateful. You can be a little less grateful because I took the photos on my iPhone instead of my thousand-dollar DSLR. Why do I even have nice things.

Mint Cookies Step 1

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box.
Just kidding. Unless you’re Justin Timberlake.

Mint Cookies Step 2

That green M&M is such a slut.

Much like a bee sting, the puffiness will go down a bit after a few minutes. There have already been enough innuendos in this post, so I’m not turning this into another one. I know my limit.

Mint Cookie Packaging

I’ve actually sent variations of this pistachio cookie to Jonathan without documenting it on this blog (I didn’t want you to be worried about my growing Bill-Cosby-like obsession with Jell-O pudding), so I know that, thanks to the pudding mix, these cookies stay fresh for a while without intense packaging. Individually wrapped, a few at a time in a Ziploc, Ziploc the Ziploc, then seal in plastic containers. I guess it’s sad that this process is considered tame as far as packaging goes.

Now it’s 9:00am and I’m sufficiently hungry for cookies. Why would I do this to myself during Passover.

________________________________________________________

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 package (3.4 ounces) pistachio Jell-O instant pudding mix
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • A few splashes (~1/8 – 1/4 cup) milk or soy milk
  • 1 bag (8 ounces) Mint Dark Chocolate M&M’S

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, combine the dry ingredients (not the M&M’S). Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar with a hand mixer until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
  3. When the batter becomes crumbly, add a few splashes of milk (I used light vanilla soy milk) and blend to thin the batter just until soft.
  4. Fold in the M&Ms (I used a wooden spoon). Roll into teaspoon-sized balls, spot-checking to make sure each cookie contains at least 2-3 M&M’S, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.
    Tip for fellow neurotics: I tried to make sure the M&M’S were evenly dispersed, and not directly on the bottom of the cookie; this avoids the chocolate melting onto the pan instead of into the cookie.
  5. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until slightly golden. Let stand for two minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool. (Or if you’re me, put them on cutting boards, because you haven’t gotten any of the wire racks from your wedding registry yet.)
Mint cookie sample

The mint flavor from the M&M’S is so strong that, after baked, the whole cookie tastes slightly minty. In the future, I may add mint extract to the recipe to boost the flavor (though probably a scant amount). And by “in the future,” I mean only around St. Patrick’s Day, because a few days after the holiday the green M&M’S had disappeared from store shelves. Stop taking away the things I love, America.

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