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Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Fine Line Between Love and Hate

Super Bowl Ready
I have sort of a love/hate relationship with Martha Stewart.  I say that as though she and I actually have a relationship.  Clearly, Martha and I don't know one another, but I feel like we have a relationship because well, Martha is omnipresent.  She's everywhere.  Even while Martha was in jail, she was still everywhere.  And, like clockwork,  Martha Stewart Living continued arriving in my mailbox, further insuring that Martha was still lurking, even if just from her digs at the federal pen.

My point is that I'm not really sure how I feel about Martha Stewart.  So, me being me, I made a list to evaluate.  (Please note that this list took about 20 seconds to compile.)

A Few Good Things About Martha:

She's a strong, successful woman, (albeit a convicted felon which is decidedly not a good thing).
She has lots of good ideas to enrich what I suspect she thinks are our somewhat mundane lives.
She's very organized.
She can decorate a whole jail cell for any holiday using just a hot glue gun and origami paper.

and A Few Things I Don't Really Like About Martha:

She calls aromatics like rosemary and thyme "herbs", as in "This is my friend Herb Greenberg".  Everyone knows that "Herbs" are people, and "erbs" are food.

She has a lot of great ideas but they always seems to require a trip to the lumber yard, a jigsaw, tubes of hot glue, and a welders mask.

She gets very angry at Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show when they don't follow her directions to the letter.  I mean, come on.  It's a three minute segment, and Martha may be able to whip up platters of Super Bowl Snacks in the allotted time, but she also has a team of low paid semi-professionals on standby who make it look effortless.

While Martha's ideas are certainly impressive, her recipes sometimes fall short.

Such is the case with this recipe for Chocolately Pretzel and Peanut Cookie Bars.  Really good idea, but the execution.... not so much.

Martha's original recipe calls for a crust made of ground up pretzels, butter and sugar.  The resulting cookie bar was sticky and didn't hold together well.  After sampling the results to the tune of half the pan, I tried again.  This time I substituted in a nice, thick graham cracker crust which provided a solid base for all the pretzely goodness that was to follow.  I also scattered on a little additional graham cracker crumb to "tie the whole thing together".  The resulting bar was not only delicious but easy to cut and eat.  (And pack.  I sent them off to Kate at college where I am sure they were met with a great amount of enthusiasm.  These are college students, after all.  Stale sandwich cookies from Costco would be met with great enthusiasm.)

Maybe Martha was just better at making these bars using her recipe than I was.  Who knows?  All I do know is that the idea was good, Martha's execution so-so, and my adaptation, positively yummy.

Chocolatey Pretzel and Peanut Cookie Bars
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January/February, 2014)


12 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
31/4 cups graham cracker crumbs, divided
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups salted mini pretzel twists
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
1 1/3 cups lightly salted cocktail peanuts
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, preferably 61 percent cacao, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan and line with parchment, leaving a 1-inch overhang on long sides. Butter parchment.

Place 3 cups graham cracker crumbs in a large bowl and stir in sugar and butter until well combined. Transfer to pan, spreading evenly, and pack down flat with the bottom of a measuring cup or small roller.. Drizzle condensed milk evenly over crust. Sprinkle evenly with peanuts, chocolate, remaining graham cracker crumbs, and pretzels, gently pressing them into milk.

Bake until chocolate melts and condensed milk bubbles and becomes golden, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack, then refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 30 minutes. Run a paring knife between bars and short sides of pan. Using parchment overhangs, transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 20 squares.

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