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God Bless America

May 7, 2010

Time.  It’s one of those things everyone complains about.  How many times have you heard someone complain that there’s never enough time in a day?  How many things have you not done because you didn’t think you’d have time?

I’m guilty.  I’ve thought along those same lines and held back from participating in things I wanted to for fear of not having the time, adding more stress to my sometimes-chaotic-already life, and fearing the repercussions when I did run out of time, but not projects/commitments.

“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.”
-H. Jackson Brown, author

One of the blogs I follow has mentioned Operation Baking GALS before, but I always scanned through Jen’s posts about it.  Of course I wanted to participate;  the men and women who’ve chosen such a noble line of duty as the Armed Forces touch my heart every time I think of them and their selflessness. And I love baking for others – there’s almost no greater joy in my life than feeding and caring for those I hold near and dear.  So why didn’t I sign up?

I didn’t think I had the time.  I feared I didn’t have the time, or wouldn’t be able to manage it.

But no American soldier has ever had the luxury of saying “I don’t have enough time to protect my country today.”  Instead, they repeatedly lay aside the familiarities and comforts of home that you and I consider commonplace.  They dedicate themselves and their time to the country we’re all so proud of.  They make the country we’re so proud of possible.

After this idea rattled around in the back of my head for what might’ve been months, I brought it up to Mr. S.  He, of course, supported me 100%, because he’s like that.

Which brings me to my very first Operation Baking GALS to Richard for Round 19:

  • A package of AA batteries (thanks to my brother for the suggestion),
  • Two packages of baby wipes (thanks to my co-worker, Ewa, for surprising me with the second pack.  Sorry it’s not pictured!),
  • Samoa Bars,
  • White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies,
  • Peanut Butter & Jelly Bars,
  • last, but not least, Mr. S’s Caramel Brownies.

Over the next week or so, I’ll be happy to share where I found the recipes for Richard’s care package.  Except Mr. S’s Caramel Brownies…that’s a highly classified piece of information.  Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t share pictures!  

On to what I can share with you. 🙂  

When trying to figure out what to include, I browsed through my Google Reader.  I’d had these Samoa Bars starred for some time, but never really had a reason to make them.  (Like I really need a reason… I’ll use the wind blowing right to justify baking! LOL)  

On my honor, I will try:
     To serve God and my country,
     To help people at all times,
     And to live by the Girl Scout Law.  

The Girls Scouts are a fairly patriotic organization.  They try to instill all the right American principles into girls. (How the selling of cookies teaches them to serve God and country, I’m unsure.  The consumption of their cookies helping people at all times is a stretch, unless of course they’re helping us all get fat since you can’t eat just one or two of those cookies!)  

So it seemed a natural fit.  And who doesn’t like Girl Scout cookies?!  

Side note: bravo to Kraft for realizing what a pain in the butt it is to unwrap an entire bag of caramels; Kraft now sells them unwrapped, in bit form:

 SO MUCH EASIER!!

Samoa Bars

Source: Originally Baking Bites (via Christine’s Cuisine, which found it on Joelen’s Culinary Adventures)

Cookie Base:

  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 t. vanilla extract
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 t. salt

Topping:

  • 3 c. shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
  • 12 oz. good-quality chewy caramels
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 3 T. milk
  • 10 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (chocolate chips are ok)
  • Extra dark or semisweet chocolate, for dipping and drizzling

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare a 9″x13″ baking pan (grease or line with parchment paper.)

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy in the bowl of a stand mixer (using paddle attachment.)  Add egg and vanilla extract.

With the mixer on low, gradually add flour and salt until mixture resembles wet sand (it doesn’t have to come together entirely.)

Press crumbly dough into an even layer in prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until set and lightly browned around the edges. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

While the base is cooling, preheat a dry non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the coconut (I did this in batches) and toast.  (Watch the coconut carefully; mine took a while to get going, but once it did, it toasted quickly. It can burn easily.)  Set aside to cool and move on to melting caramel.

When the cookie base is thoroughly cooled, place unwrapped caramels, milk, and salt in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cook on high for 3-4 minutes, stirring a few times.  Stir until smooth and mixed thoroughly, then add the toasted coconut, folding with a spatula to evenly coat the coconut.

Drop dollops of the coconut-caramel topping onto the cooled shortbread base and spread into an even layer with a small spatula.  Let topping set until cooled.

When cooled, use a large knife or pizza cutter to section into 30 bars. (I only got 28 bars: 7 rows along the wide edge, 4 along the narrow edge.)

Melt extra chocolate in a small bowl on high in the microwave (45-second intervals, stirring thoroughly to prevent scorching.)  Dip the base of each bar into the chocolate and place on a clean piece of parchment or wax paper.

If necessary, melt more chocolate (or use remaining chocolate left after all bars have been dipped.)  Fill a piping bag (or a plastic food storage bag with the corner snipped off); drizzle chocolate over bars to finish.

Let chocolate harden completely and store in an airtight container.

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