Planting Sequoias

In which I blog about a life (hopefully) well lived.


What Does One Do with Strawberry-Flavored Marshmallows? (in which I present: a review)

It was a bright and sunny afternoon.

I was peacefully browsing Target last Wednesday when I came across an unmarked stash of 90% off summer goods. Among the (worthless-to-me) plastic glasses and child-sized watering cans I made an interesting find: A smooshy bag of fruity-flavored mallows, for $.14. I couldn’t pass them up, even though a part of my brain was screaming something at my subconscious about them “not being real food.”

(Aside: I am currently participating in a “wellness” program at my place of employment, and I think it is beginning to affect my brain.)

But seriously, $.14. I was practically obligated to get them. You know, consumerism and all that.

Kraft Jet-Puffed Strawberry Marshmallows

Once home, however, I faced reality. What was I going to do with my perhaps ill-fated purchase?

Sighing, I idly flipped the marshmallow bag over, and, conveniently, a recipe for Strawberry Crispy Squares stared back at me.

I immediately knew what I had to do.

So, I hauled out my store-brand “crisp rice” (complete with terrifying packaging) and apprehensively rolled up my sleeves (figuratively, of course; it is summertime).

creepy meijer brand crisp rice

I was hesitant and wary but yet strangely hopeful. Perhaps this red-dye and chemical-laden food could be turned into something…wonderful…after all.

However, the process was not very reassuring. My heart grew heavy as I stared glumly into a steaming mix of margarine and mallow. Ew, I thought profoundly.


Wanting to put this ordeal behind me, I began to work quickly. I deftly poured 6 cups of crisp rice into the dubious-looking mallow mixture and stirred vigorously.

Strawberry Marshmallow Rice Crispies

Once each grain of crispy rice was sufficiently coated, I ladled giant spoonfuls into my waiting 9×13. Spritzing a spatula with some canola oil, I pressed the sticky mass down, taming it.

Strawberry Marshmallow Rice Crispies

It is over, I thought.

But then I realized–it wasn’t over. I still needed to consume this strange concoction.

Trembling slightly, I hoisted a sticky morsel to my reluctantly-waiting mouth.

And you know what?

It was pretty good.

My enjoyment surprised me.

I took a second bite and a subtle berry flavor blossomed once again upon my taste buds.

Yes, I thought. This will do.

In summary: $.14 for Kraft’s Jet-Puffed Strawberry Marshmallows is an adequate price to pay. More? Perhaps not. There is, of course, no substitute for classic, pure-white mallows in all their rice crispy glory. But in a pinch (or in a situation where one has made a rash, impulsive purchase), strawberry marshmallows are just fine.



Disgusting-Looking Baba Ganoush (in which I successfully wrangle some slimy eggplant into the realm of edibility)

If you had told me when I was a wee one that I would not only PURCHASE eggplant voluntarily but EAT IT willingly I would have run screeching in the other direction.

Yet that day has come, and I am here to tell you about it.

I made some Baba Ganoush.

Before last week I had no idea what that was. As it turns out, it’s sort of like hummus but instead of chickpeas it uses eggplant.

So, after purchasing said eggplant at the farmer’s market, I embarked on an adventure-packed journey of discovery.

I will not show you a before picture of said eggplant, because it looked most unappetizing. Let’s just say that I had to cut a few areas away. I always choose the discounted produce at the farmer’s market because I am a glutton for punishment (and cheap like that).

After cutting off a few offensive areas and slicing the whole thing in half, I cooked that eggplant, which resulted in this slimy mass of “food.”

Anne manhandling slimy eggplant.

That, my friends, is the roasted innards of an eggplant. I had thought to spare you, but if I had to suffer, you do too.

At this point, I kind of figured I’d wasted a whole $.50 on this dumb eggplant. The consistency was gross and it was very very slimy.

But I kept following the directions (to waste MORE ingredients “just for fun”) and plopped it all in the blender.

Slimy eggplant with taste-masking ingredients.

Using the blender on gross-looking foods is kind of very satisfying. I was pretty pleased to see that gross eggplant be ground to a pulp.

Oh, and here’s the whole recipe, in case you have a spare eggplant lying around your house.

Tahini-free Baba Ganoush (adapted from here)

1 eggplant
1 T lemon juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (minced garlic clove would be better)
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
wee bit o’ parsley

Cook eggplant (halved and brushed with oil) in oven at 400. Let cool a bit and then peel it. Whirl all ingredients in the blender for a few minutes and cool fully in the fridge. Serve on pita chips, veggies, crackers, tortillas, etc. etc.

The end result was gross-looking. My photography skills and the late hour didn’t help either. But I DID sort of stage the photo with a Ritz cracker and some dried parsley. Nothing says delicious like that combination.

baba ganoush without tahini

And you know what? IT WAS ACTUALLY GOOD. It was very similar to hummus (maybe a little lighter consistency).

Between this and Ken’s excellent eggplant parm, I’m a believer. My apologies to my mother for my childhood complaints against this delectable vegetable.


Epic Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake (in which I make cake, mousse, and ganache and mash it all together)

SOMEONE is having a very special birthday today. Hint: It is Ken! Happy quarter century, buddy!

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff.

The good stuff, obviously, being THIS CAKE.

Note: not my picture. DUH. Source: here.

Let’s dissect this sucker. I never really liked dissection (frog innards=absolutely unnecessary to gaze upon), but this is the kind of science I can really get behind.

From the bottom up, that’s a cake layer, a peanut butter mousse layer, another cake layer, another peanut butter mousse layer, ANOTHER cake layer, and then, topping it all off, that’s some peanut butter chocolate ganache. I don’t even know how to pronounce that  last word…that’s how you know a recipe is REALLY good. I’m guessing “ganache” does NOT rhyme with “karate,” though I dearly wish it did.

You can’t stop me from pronouncing it that way in my head, though.

This is the cake that Ken requested for his birthday. The man was actually going to MAKE IT HIMSELF before I forcibly wrestled him away from the KitchenAid. It would perhaps have turned out better if I’d let him bake his own cake, but WHATEVER. It’s the principle of the thing.

Also, I’d show you my own pictures of my cake endeavors, but they’d look like this:

peanut butter mousse. I promise.

UHHHHH, YEAH. I know. In my defense, that is an actual unedited photo of the peanut butter mousse. I would apologize, but, well, this is reality.

Here’s the recipe…what you’ve all been waiting for.  The recipe is originally found here.

  • For the Cake:
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup hot coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup (2 1/4 ounces) cocoa
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • For the Peanut Butter Mousse:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup (3 ounces) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 cup cream peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • For the Peanut Butter Ganache:
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

(It should be evident by this point how much I love Kenny. My right eye normally starts twitching when I come across recipes that have more than 5 ingredients.)

For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, stir chocolate into coffee and set aside. In large bowl, whisk sugar, buttermilk, egg, yolk, oil, salt, and vanilla until combined. In small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder until combined. Whisk the dry ingredients into the wet until combined. Whisk in the coffee mixture until smooth.

Pour 1/3 batter in one pan and the remaining 2/3 in the other pan. Bake until just firm, about 20 to 25 minutes, respectively. Let cake cool in pans for 15 minutes, then invert cakes onto wire rack to cool completely before assembling cake.

For the Peanut Butter Mousse: In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat cream cheese with sugar, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until creamy and light, about 5 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Switch to whip attachment and beat cream on high speed to stiff but not dry peaks. Fold cream into peanut butter mixture. Keep chilled until ready to use.

Slice the larger of the two cakes into two layers. Place on serving plate and stack cake layers with peanut butter mousse. Keep chilled until ganache is ready to use.

For the Peanut Butter Ganache: Using the microwave or in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, heat the chocolate and cream until melted and smooth. Gently whisk in peanut butter. Chill until just firm enough to frost, about 30 minutes. Frost cake and serve.

So. We have yet to devour said cake (something about having to wait until after dinner? Boooo.), but I am drooling just writing the post. I am pretty glad Ken was born 25 years ago today just so we can eat this cake. There may be one or two other reasons why I am glad he was born, but let’s keep it in perspective. Go ahead. Scroll back up to that first picture. I understand.

Happy birthday, Kenny! And for all you regular peeps who are not having a birthday, happy Friday! Over and out.


Jam Cobbler Bars (in which I present a three-layer dessert with only 5 ingredients)

I’m always on the lookout for recipes that don’t have a long list of ingredients and don’t require a bajillion steps to complete it. This is why you will probably never see me make a cake pop…the very thought of all that work exhausts me. Besides, long recipes mean less time available for doing crafts, and that is, of course, a travesty.

So when I stumbled upon (well, pinterested upon) this dessert recipe about a year ago that had only 5 ingredients, I was sold. And then I tasted it….and I was even more sold. I signed on the dotted line and moved myself in and promised never to leave.

Here’s the recipe…I call these Jam Cobbler Bars.

Ingredients (note: I usually halve the recipe but this is the full version to fill a 9×13 pan):

1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter
2 cups oatmeal (either quick oats or old fashioned)
2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
16-18 oz (a medium jar) of jam or preserves

5 Ingredient Jam Cobbler Bars (butter, oatmeal, flour, sugar, jam)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 pan generously (make sure you grease the sides especially well). Mix together oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, and melted butter. Press down 1/2 of the mixture down into the greased pan, spread/pour the jam on it, and then crumble the remaining flour and oatmeal mixture over over it all.

Bake at 350* for 30 minutes or until the jam starts bubbling through the crumbles and the crumbles are starting to brown.

5 Ingredient Jam Cobbler Bars (butter, oatmeal, flour, sugar, jam). YUM.

Once they cool down a little, eat up! They’ll be crumbly and sticky, so these bars aren’t finger food–they’re more the consistency of a cobbler without the crunchiness. And the nice thing is that you can put in any flavor jam that you want…we’ve made this recipe with apricot/peach before, but these pictured use a blueberry cherry jam.

True confession: I like to eat these for breakfast…they have oatmeal and jam in them, so they’re basically a breakfast food, right?


Pesto Pepperoni Breadsticks (in which I go a little crazy for basil)

The other day, Ken and I had a hankering for some homemade pizza. This hankering quickly spiraled out of control (in the best possible way) when we decided to go all out and make our favorite Pesto Pepperoni Breadsticks as well.

They are delicious, and you should try them. Here’s the recipe.

Crust (this is the same crust we use for pizza):

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon onion powder


2 tablespoons olive oil (for pan and for crust)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons pesto
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Pepperoni Pesto Breadsticks

Directions: Dissolve yeast in water with sugar, 5-10 minutes. In separate bowl, mix oil, salt, basil, oregano, and onion powder. Add to yeast mixture with flour; mix well. Dough should be soft to touch but not sticky. Cover; let rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a 11″ x 17″ pan with olive oil and sprinkle garlic powder on it. Press dough onto pan until it’s 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Coat the edges of the crust with olive oil. Bake dough for 2-3 minutes. Spread pesto, add pepperoni, and sprinkle cheese. Bake for 8-11 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Pepperoni Pesto Breadstick Dough

We’re not sure exactly how or when we began making these, but they’ve been a favorite ever since Kenny’s East Lansing days.


Yes. Feast your eyes on that. I know we’ve already established that I’m no food blogger, but if you want to pin that image of cheesy, bubbly goodness, I understand.

It’s a good thing cheese is so expensive and bad for you; otherwise, we’d probably cook up a batch of these  per day. Sheesh. Delicious. Also, I’m going to have to advise my friend Laura to stay far, far  away from this recipe…basil allergies stink! 😉