Sterno Inferno

Marc and I hosted a dessert and coffee party at our house last night. It was the ultimate result of an idea I had late this past summer, and I was glad that we actually pulled it off. Usually, we say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to do [insert any variety of social gatherings]?” but it never comes to fruition. In typcial Marc and Karen fashion, however, we were busting our butts at the last second to get everything in order…literally. Marc was still out buying ice and cups when our friends, Molly & Kendrick, arrived with their unbelievably cute son, Carter.

Thankfully, our friends are gracious! No one really seemed to mind when they walked through the door that I had dish towels wadded up on the countertop and a saucepan soaking off its layers of chocolate in the sink. I know that I’m always harder on myself than I should be about having the house in tip-top shape, but it doesn’t seem to stop me from stressing out before our friends arrive…just ask Marc, who spent the better part of his weekend cleaning instead of studying. There is definitely a corner saved in heaven for him after all of that furniture vacuuming; which, by the way, he claimed to be one of his least favorite things to do in life! I have the loveliest husband…

I’m not sure what planted the seed for our shindig. Maybe the fact that I love baking (especially for friends). Or maybe that we love getting folks together and don’t do it often enough. But my guess is that it was probably the union of the two. So out went the invitations, in came the friends and neighbors, and we had ourselves a party. It seems that as stressful as planning a get-together can be, there’s something so delightful about having your house filled with people laughing, chatting, meeting, and enjoying each other’s company. I wish that I would have taken pictures, but I was too darn busy to try to find the camera.

Speaking to the true procrastination Marc and I embrace in our lives, we raced out to Bed Bath & Beyond at about 2:00 (the party started at 6:00) for mini-Sterno gel-flame canisters. Mind you, I’ve never used one of these contraptions. But I was dying to make Chocolate Coconut Cream fondue, and nothing, not even a tiny metal flaming can of gel-fire was going to stop me. I made the chocolate dip without much ado, sneaking a few tastes and letting Marc lick the spoon afterwards. Then I set aside the liquidy-Mounds-bar-tasting goodness while I worked on the cobbler. When the time came, I carefully poured the chocolate into the fondue pot, relinquished the matches to Marc, and went about ironing out the finer details of the dessert spread. At one point, I noticed that the flame had gone out, so I scurried over to grab another canister. I loaded it up, lit the gel, and nearly died one minute later when Kathy said, “Ooh, it’s really bubbling,” followed by, “Oh, no it’s burnt!” Ahhh! One and a half pounds of Ghirardelli chocolate down the drain…or more truthfully into the garbage. It was a sad night. The fondue wasn’t going down without a fight, though, as Barkley (our 75 pound black lab) decided to resurrect the chocolate from the garbage can…a feat that left Marc calling the emergency vet service at about 10pm to make sure Barkley wasn’t going to kick the bucket. The technician reassured us that it would take much more cocoa than what he ate to “take down a dog that size.”

The “Biggest Hit of the Evening” Award went hands-down to the Turtle Cookies, followed closely by the Blackberry-Peach Cobbler. I also made a Pecan Pumpkin Spice cake that is actually shaped like a pumpkin. The real recipe calls for a stem and leaves made out of marzipan…too bad the marzipan box actually points you to a website for instructions on how to use it. I’m not sure what that is all about [marketing, probably], but there was no way that I was going to find time to get online for the how-to’s. So I just stacked some extra cake scraps into the middle of the cake top, and voila! Makeshift pumpkin stem!

Everyone seemed to have a good time, and I’m sure that most of the folks had a major sugar crash just in time for bed. Unfortunately for Janeen and De’Amon, our friend Troy realized a bit too late that it isn’t always a good idea to feed extra cookies to a four year old just before bedtime. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it either, but maybe that’s because I’ve never had to try to get a little one to bed on five pounds of sugar. Maybe next time I’ll use Splenda!

Oh-so-Yummy Turtle Cookie Recipe

2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt (may omit if using salted butter)
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened (I prefer to use butter flavor Crisco sticks)
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c. half-and-half
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
8 oz. Mini-Rolo Popables (or regular Rolos cut in half)
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2-1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, soda and salt; set aside.
2. Beat together butter and both sugars, until well blended.
3. Mix in egg, half and half and vanilla.
4. Blend in flour mixture until smooth.
5. Stir in, by hand, rolo candies,pecans and chocolate chips.
6. Drop dough by tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheets (you must use parchment or the caramel will stick like cement to your cookie sheets).
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-13 minutes until edges are golden brown and center is still slightly soft.
8. Cool on wire rack for a few minutes to allow caramel to set. Enjoy!

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