Friday, September 30, 2011

Movie Theater Popcorn

Have you ever wondered why movie theater popcorn tastes so good, while popcorn that you make at home just doesn't?  Microwave popcorn is a great convenience, but you will be surprised how fast, easy, and cheap it is to make your own movie theater popcorn at home.  You will also want to get your torches and pitchforks and go after the guy at the movies who has the nerve to charge $6 or more for basically $0.10 of popcorn ingredients.

I have been on a quest to make good popcorn at home for awhile now.  Movie theater popcorn is one of my favorite snacks, and I have even been known to stop by the theater, buy the popcorn, and take it home to watch a movie.  It was great, but a hassle and pretty pricey.  I foolishly tried multiple varieties of microwave popcorn and owned an air-popper at one time.  It turns out that the secret is in the oil.  Movie theaters use coconut oil, which is hard to find and which makes all the difference in taste.  Once I discovered this, it was so easy to get good results.

Like I said, you need to start by getting ahold of coconut oil.  Unless you happen to live on Gilligan's Island, this is not an item that your local grocery is going to carry.  I bought my supplies online at the Popcorn Supply Company (  For about $25, I have enough supplies to last several years.  It would have been even cheaper if I hadn't bought the unpopped corn from them, enough to last the rest of my life and to leave in my will to Sean.  The corn doesn't matter so much, so if you have the jumbo bag that you bought from the Boy Scouts in 1988, just use that.

You do need to buy two things:

  1. A jar of "Real Theater Coconut Oil" (the 1 lb. jar should last you around a year) ($7.95)
  2. Flavacol Butter-Flavored Seasoned Salt (this is what makes movie theater popcorn yellow, even before you add butter) ($2.25 for a quart, which will last you the rest of your life)
Once you have your supplies, it takes little effort to crank out delicious popcorn at home.


3 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp Flavacol butter-flavored salt
1/3 cup unpopped popcorn

First, you will need to melt your coconut oil.  It is a solid at room temperature, much like Crisco, so set it in a warm place until it is liquid.  I used my sunporch in the summer and tried to use the "warm" setting on my oven last time.  Not my best idea.  I almost melted the plastic jar and would have spilled all of the oil into the oven.  You can sit the jar in a bowl of hot water, too.

Put the oil in a medium saucepan for which you have a lid.  Heat it over medium heat for about 10 seconds, then add the Flavacol.  Stir to dissolve the flavacol in the oil.

To test the oil for the perfect popping temperature, put 5 kernels of unpopped corn in and close the lid.  Just let it sit there until all 5 kernels have popped.  Now you can add your 1/3 cup of popcorn.

Close the lid quickly and gently shake the pan on the burner.  Shake, shake, shake while the kernels pop.  My measly 1/3 cup of kernels expanded to completely fill up this pan.  Just like microwave popcorn, you are done when the popping sounds are about 2 seconds apart.

You can see that the popcorn looks like the pricey kind you buy at the theater.  We have been having "at-home date nights" with this popcorn and movies for awhile now and find that the experience is just as good at the theater and definitely cheaper.

If you are looking for a good snack to feed hungry crowds for any reason (my husband is getting ramped up for college basketball), this is definitely a hit.  You will be amazed at how cheap and easy it is to get great results.  You will never buy microwave popcorn again, I promise.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"I Have to Kill You All Now" Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you are wondering about the title to this recipe, no need to worry.  I have not suddenly stopped taking meds or started listening to strange voices in my head.  This is my mother's super-secret world's-best cookie recipe and I am cringing a bit to be sharing it with the world.  I used to joke that I would share it with people, but I would have to kill them right after.  This is the recipe that won my husband's heart and that has the power to bring peace in the Middle East.  You can thank me later.

1/2 cup shortening (consider buying Crisco sticks)
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup plus 2 tbsp sifted flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (6 oz.)

To start, measure out your shortening.  As I was making this, I went to the pantry to reach for my handy Crisco sticks only to find that I was out.  The horror!  I did have a tub of Crisco, so I did this one old school.  Start by putting 1 cup of water into a 2-cup measuring cup.  Now add Crisco, pushing it down under the water, until you are at the 1 1/2 cup line (or the 2-cup line if you are making a double batch, as I did).  Crisco that is sticking above the water doesn't count towards the measurement, so cram it down in there.  See, now you can really appreciate the Crisco sticks.

Drain the water off and add the Crisco to your bowl.  Add both of the sugars and the vanilla and cream it together.  You can do this with a mixer, but I prefer to do it by hand because I think that the consistency is fluffier.  Just squash it with the back of a spoon until it is all smooth and the same color.

Add the egg to the creamed sugar mixture and mix well.  Now you do want to use your trusty hand mixer.  Add the flour, baking soda, and salt and mix again.  Now it's starting to look like cookie dough.

Stir in the chocolate chips by hand.  If you use the mixer at this stage, you can nick your chocolate chips.  While it is definitely not going to hurt the taste to have bits of chocolate chips in there, they will look prettier if they are whole.  Now taste it.  You know that you want to.  I have been tasting this for years and have never once been sick with Salmonella, but if you are antsy about that, you can always buy pasteurized eggs.

Drop your cookie dough by spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-12 minutes at 375 degrees.  Knowing when to remove them from the oven takes practice and is basically what will make or break your cookies.  Keep in mind that these will continue to get darker as they cool, so pull them out when they are not quite as dark as you like.

Let them rest on the cookie sheet for 1 minute, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Here's what the bottom should look like after cooling:

Enjoy with a big glass of milk.  Figure out a spot to hide them or they will be gone quickly.  Prepare for the parade in honor of you and your magnificent cookies.

A single batch of this recipe yields roughly 18 cookies, using about 1 tbsp of dough for each cookie.  Your yield may be slightly higher, but I can't resist grazing on this delicious dough while the first batch is in the oven.  The only caveat with these is that they are only good for about 3 days after baking, after which they become hockey pucks.  See, a ready-made excuse to just go nuts as soon as they come out of the oven.

This may be the best recipe in my whole box.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as my family and I have.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Lasagna Roll-Ups

For someone who loves to cook and bake, I don't really spend much time watching the Food Network.  In our house, we watch a lot more "Dora the Explorer" and "Blue's Clues" these days.  Still, one of my favorite cooking shows is "Semi-Homemade" with Sandra Lee.  And I have to admit, it's not even about the food.  I just love the way that she changes the entire look of her kitchen for every episode, from valences to dishes to her apron.  The part of me that wants to make crafts is intrigued, but the bigger part that is just lazy doesn't seem to get around to doing that in my own home.

I recently bought a copy of Sandra Lee's newest book, Semi-Homemade: The Complete Cookbook, and have become enthralled with her recipe for Chicken Lasagna Roll-Ups.  It got two thumbs-up from my husband, whose comment was, "Can we have this every week?"  It can be mostly done ahead and makes a great meal for busy weeknights.

12 lasagna noodles
15 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp parsley
24 oz. jar of marinara sauce
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, unless you are making this in the morning to cook at night, in which case this is a bad idea.  Boil a large pot of water and add your lasagna noodles.  I usually throw in 2 or 3 extra noodles because no matter how thoroughly I stir them, one or two seem to stick to the bottom of the pan while they cook and tear when I drain them.  Once the water returns to a boil, set the timer for 8 minutes.  At the end of the cook time, drain the noodles and rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking and to keep the naughty noodles from burning your fingers in a bit.

Now make the filling.  In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, egg, Italian seasoning, garlic, and parsley.

Take a 9x13" pan and spread about 1/2 cup of the marinara sauce in the bottom to keep the noodles from sticking later.  Now place a piece of waxed paper on your counter for a work surface (trust me, this next part is messy and you do NOT want to try to use a paper towel for this).  Lay one lasagna noodle on the waxed paper and spread about 3 tbsp of ricotta on it.  Just eyeball it, using roughly 1/12 of everything with each noodle.  Top with about 3 tbsp chicken and 2 tbsp mozzarella.  Again, just guess.

Now roll it up like you were rolling cigars in Cuba.  Some of the filling will try to escape out the sides, but this is okay.  Just poke it back in and keep going.

Put the little rolls into your prepared dish.  It will hold exactly 12 of them.  This rolling stage is somewhat time-consuming, taking me 15-20 minutes to roll 12 of them, so factor it in if the queen is coming to dinner and you don't want her to have to wait.

Pour the rest of the marinara sauce over the top of everything and cover the whole thing with foil.  If you are making this in the morning for later that day, just slide it into the fridge now.  If you just can't wait and want to have it right now, bake it for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and sprinkle it with the Parmesan cheese, then bake about 10 minutes more to get a little crispy on top.  Serve it hot (duh).

This recipe has become a staple in our household but would also work as a meal that you bring to a potluck or to someone in need.  It is a quick, easy, and delicious meal for any night of the week.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake

Today is the first official day of fall, and here in Hagerstown the leaves are starting to change and the air is definitely more crisp.  Time for apple recipes!  Today's was the cover of Southern Living magazine recently.  It was so pretty that we had to give it a try.  Take a look and tell me if you could have resisted.

Yeah, I think not.


Apple Cake Batter:
1 cup finely chopped pecans (see if your store sells "candy pieces" -- these are perfect)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples (about 3 apples worth)

Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla

Praline Frosting:
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pecan halves (for garnish)

Whew!  Hang in there.  I know that it is a lot of ingredients, but this cake is so worth it.

Start by preparing the pecans for the apple cake batter.  Put them in a shallow pan and bake them at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring at the halfway mark.  These smell great when they are done!  Let them cool while you prepare the cream cheese filling.  Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar.  Add the egg, flour, and vanilla and beat it until it is just combined.  See, that wasn't so bad!

Now peel, core, and chop the apples.  You are going for little pieces here.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda for the cake batter.  Add the sugar, brown sugar, and spices.

Stir in the eggs, canola oil, applesauce, and vanilla, just until moist.  Too much stirring will lead to a dense cake, and believe me, that's not what you want here.  Mix in the apples and pecans.  The cake will be pretty chunky by this point.

Next, grease and flour a 14-cup Bundt pan.  You probably got one for your wedding and just stuck it in a closet somewhere, so go dig for it.  Sadly, this will not work with the pretty Bundt pan that looks like a flower or castle or whatever -- its simply too much cake.  Go for the plain Jane pan.

Next, spoon 2/3 of the cake batter into the pan.  Dump all of the cream cheese filling on top.  Attempt to swirl it.  I say "attempt" because the cake batter is pretty dense, as is the filling, and they just won't swirl well.  Try not to worry about it.  It's not the end of the world.

Top with the remaining 1/3 of cake batter.  Into the oven it goes, baking at 350 degrees for 1 hour - 1 hour fifteen minutes.  Mine was done at the one hour mark.  You want to poke it with a toothpick to determine if the middle is done, but a toothpick is way too short.  I ended up improvising and using a shish-ka-bob skewer.  Once Mr. Cake is done baking, take him out of the oven but leave him in the pan for 15 minutes.  Just put the pan up on a wire rack to let it cool a bit (about 15 minutes).  Then you can remove him from the pan to finish cooling.  It will take about 2 hours for this big boy to completely cool, so get out your patient pants.

When the cake is finally cool, you can make the frosting.  First, put your cake onto its permanent home, which in my case is a cake stand.  I like to put a strip of waxed paper under each side of the cake before frosting it.  Then when you are done, you can gently pull the waxed paper out and your cake plate looks clean and pretty, like in a magazine.

Put the brown sugar, butter, and milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly.  Boil it for 1 minute.  This will boil off some of the water that is naturally in butter and milk and make your frosting thicker and creamier.  Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla.  Gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.

Now I have to admit my mistake.  Here you are supposed to stir it gently for 3-5 minutes, letting it cool and thicken, before pouring it over the cake.  That gets the nice chunky brown frosting that you see in Southern Living's picture.  But my toddler was whining, my husband was hungry, and I was trying to make dinner at the same time, and I completely missed this step.  My frosting was thin and runny but still tasted fine.  Forgive me!

Finally, sprinkle it with pecan halves for garnish.

I was really pleased by this cake.  The spices were reminiscent of hot apple cider and the chopped apples gave it a really nice consistency.  It made a large amount of dessert, perfect for a fall get-together, and lasted over a week without changing consistency.  I will definitely make it again.  It was a wonderful treat to welcome fall.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Apple Gorgonzola Salad

To those of you who see the word "salad" and cheer, thinking that it was all going to be unhealthy (but tasty) dessert recipes, I am super happy for you.  For the rest of you, those screaming, "NOOOO!", bear with me.  The next post will be a cake, I promise.

My friend Jimi (  brought over this very tasty salad for a get-together, and I actually liked it.  This is practically a miracle, since I am decidedly not a salad person.  So here it is, the one and only salad recipe that is likely to come across this blog for awhile.

Ingredients Part 1 (Spiced California Walnuts)
1 egg white
1 tbsp water
2 cups California walnut halves and pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

Ingredients Part 2 (Buca di Beppo Red Wine Vinaigrette)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dry mustard (from the spice aisle, not the condiment aisle)
1 tsp salt
1 pinch black pepper
1/8 cup red onion, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped
3/4 cup olive oil

Ingredients Part 3 (Apple Gorgonzola Salad)
1 Granny Smith apple (half chopped, half sliced for garnish)
8 oz. Romaine lettuce (chopped)
2 tbsp Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
2 oz. Spiced California Walnuts (chopped)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Buca di Beppo Red Wine Vinaigrette

I know, its a lot of ingredients.  Bear with me.  Do you want to impress your in-laws or not?

Part 1:  The Walnuts

To start, don't buy your walnuts in the baking aisle with all of the other nuts in tiny bags unless you have a Swiss bank account to tap into or recently sold a kidney on eBay.  I got mine from a grocery store with a bulk bin section and only paid about $3.50 for all of them, a substantial savings.

You can prepare the walnuts in advance, so don't feel like you need to do this the day of the salad extravaganza.  Preheat your oven to 225 degrees.  Combine the egg white and water and beat it until it is foamy.  This is your "glue."  Add the walnuts and toss to coat.  Pour it into a strainer and let it drain for a few minutes.

Yes, that is a sippy cup in the sink.  I am often lazy about dishes.  Combine the sugar, allspice, and cinnamon in a big Ziploc bag and shake it to get all of the spices mixed.  Add the walnuts to the bag and shake, shake, shake.  Dump them onto an ungreased cookie sheet pan and make sure that they are in a single layer.  Bake them for an hour, stirring them every 15 minutes so that they don't weld themselves into one giant nut.  By the third stir, they should be smelling pretty good.  Cool them completely on the pan, break up any that are trying to hug, and store them in an airtight container.

We almost didn't manage to have any nuts left for the salad.  My toddler discovered them and really, really, REALLY liked them.  He grazed all afternoon.  These would be great in a little care package just by themselves, without any of the salad part of the salad.

Part 2:  The Vinaigrette

This is also pretty easy and fast, but you can't do it too far in advance.  It is ideal to do it about 30 minutes before you serve it -- long enough for the flavors to combine, but not long enough for things to try to separate out.  You will need your blender for this one.

Combine the red wine vinegar, oregano, dry mustard, salt, and pepper in the blender.  Dump in the garlic and onion.  Hit "puree".  Watch it go round and round for a bit.  If your blender has a "hatch" in the top (and even my cheapo blender has one), open the hatch, trying not to hose down your kitchen in vinegar, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil.  Blend until it is smooth.  Like I said, let it sit a bit before using.  The red onion and red wine vinegar give this a pretty pink color.

Part 3:  Salad Assembly

At last, the moment has come to assemble the salad.  To prep the apple, first peel it.  Next, slice off two sides along the core and then cut those two sides into long slices for garnish.  Chop up the rest of the apple, minus the core.  You will need to wash and cut up the lettuce, drying it in a salad spinner.  Or you can take the lazy route, which is what I did, and just buy a bag of "thoroughly washed" lettuce.  Add the vinaigrette to the lettuce in whatever proportions make you happy.

Almost done!  You want to add the chopped apples, 3/4 of the walnuts, and 3/4 of the gorgonzola, then toss the salad well.  When you put it into bowls for your adoring crowd, garnish it with the rest of the walnuts, the cranberries, and the cheese.  Then decorate the edge of the bowls with the sliced apples.  Stand back and bask in the compliments.

This wasn't nearly as difficult or time-consuming as it seems, trust me.  It was also delicious, and you can take that from someone who is decidedly not a salad person.  I hope that you have a chance to impress your own friends and family with this crisp and tasty salad.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zucchini Bread

Here in Maryland, gardens are turning out bushels of zucchinis.  I was fortunate to be given one by a nice couple in my church that was big enough to club someone to death with.  I have never seen one that big, and I regret that I didn't get a picture of it before we attacked it like wolverines.  The problem was that I didn't have any recipes requiring zucchini.  My friend Marina was nice enough to send me a recipe for Zucchini Bread that she had found on, and it turned out to be a real winner.

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil (I said that it was tasty, not that it was good for you)
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini (1 decent-sized zucchini)
1 cup chopped walnuts

Start out by greasing and flouring 2 8x4" loaf pans.  These are the normal-sized ones, so don't feel the need to get your ruler out.  I actually chose to go with 4 smaller pans for this, since my husband and I can't go through a whole loaf of bread before it goes stale.  The pan is made by Wilton, and you can probably find it at about any store that sells cake decorating stuff such as Michaels.  I also opted to use Pillsbury's "Baking" spray, which is basically grease and flour in a can.  Trust me, this worked just as well and is by far easier and less messy than the old method.

Sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon (basically all of the dry ingredients except sugar). I have recently been using a new sifter.  It is just a fine wire mesh strainer that I picked up at Bed, Bath, and Beyond and I really prefer it to my old one with the hand crank.  The only problem is cleaning all of those tiny holes.  The hand-cranked ones were also hard to clean and it took much longer to get the ingredients through them.  Just beat this one against the side of your hand and it is done.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together, then gradually add the dry ingredients.  Beat it well.  It deserves it.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and mix well.  Now its time for the star of the show, the zucchini.  I like to just wash it, whack the ends off, and feed it through the food processor with the shredder disk on it.  Done and done in about 10 seconds.  If you don't have a food processor with a shredder disk, feel free to spend about 6 hours manually shredding it.  I weep for you.

I decided not to peel the zucchini because the peel is a good source of dietary fiber and besides, you will never know that its in there.  In case you're wondering, zucchini is also high in potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, the B complex vitamins, and folate and is low in calories.

I had no earthly idea how many zucchinis to buy to equal two cups, so I ended up shredding 2 medium-sized ones.  That yielded about twice as much as I needed, so I simply froze the other half.  Now the next time that I want to make this bread I will have pre-shredded zucchini that was in season, all ready to go.

Stir your shredded zucchini and the nuts into the batter.  Pour it into the prepared pans and stick it in the oven.  My recipe says to bake it for 40-60 minutes, but it took 60 minutes in the mini pans, so expect at least an hour for full-sized loaves.  Basically leave it in there until a toothpick comes out clean.

When it comes out of the oven, leave it in the pan but put the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes or so before you take it out.  Then you can remove it in one piece.  It will still need to cool a bit, so you will have to continue to be patient.

This bread is so tasty that my picky toddler will even eat it for breakfast, which is practically a miracle since he seems to be living on crackers and air most of the time.  We ate one of the four loaves in the first few days and wrapped the others up for the freezer.  It freezes extremely well in case you want to get ahead on your holiday baking.  Just wrap it up tightly in Saran wrap, then in aluminum foil.

If, like me, you are looking for a good use for zucchini, or if you simply want to try something that is good-tasting but has sneaky veggies inside, try this out.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding

I love to collect recipes.  I am getting a little obsessive about it now -- I have 4 3" 3-ring binders full of recipes that I have found online, in magazines, etc., that I haven't tried yet.  I will have to live to be 135 just to try the ones that I already have, and more are added daily.  The system is that they stay in the binder until I try them.  If they are good, they get copied to a recipe card and go in the box in the kitchen.  If bad, trash can.

I was looking for a new dessert to try when my in-laws were here for Labor Day weekend, and found Paula Deen's "Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding".  Let's just say that it made it to a card.  My husband, unfortunately, did not try it.  He had a bad experience with banana-flavored medicine as a child and can't stand the things now.  But the rest of us loved it, so all's well.


2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessmen cookies
6-8 bananas, sliced
2 cups milk
1 (5 oz.) box instant French vanilla pudding
1 (8 oz.) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12 oz.) container Cool Whip

Line the bottom of a 13x9" dish with 1 bag of cookies.  Voila!  Instant crust.  Can't be easier than that, my friend.

Next, cover the cookies with a layer of sliced bananas.  I just did a single layer, and it only took about 2 bananas, but if you want to use all 6-8 bananas in the recipe, knock yourself out.

Now for the filling.  In one bowl, mix together the 2 cups of milk and the pudding mix (that is, make pudding).  Use an electric mixer to make it creamy and non-lumpy.  In another bowl, combine the cream cheese and condensed milk (which is not the same thing as evaporated milk, but should be near it on the shelf).  I had never used condensed milk before, but it is super sticky, so use a long-handled spoon to get it out of the can or be prepared to stick to everything for the rest of the afternoon.

Now fold the Cool Whip into the cream cheese/condensed milk bowl.  To "fold" something means to combine it in such a way that you don't squash all of the air out of the puffy part, which here is the Cool Whip.  So don't just grab a spoon or mixer and manhandle it.  You want to dump the fluffy layer (the Cool Whip) on top of the more dense layer (the cream cheese/condensed milk).  Then take a spatula and slice down the middle, like Moses parting the Red Sea, from top to bottom.  When you get to the bottom,  flip the spatula over to just turn over a bit of the layers.  Give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat, again working from top to bottom.  I know that this seems like a pain, and those of you who are lacking in patience will give up about 2 folds in and just go at it with a spoon, but it really does help keep a fluffy consistency.

Almost done.  Add the cream cheese/condensed milk/Cool Whip mixture to the pudding mixture and stir it all up.  Pour it over the cookies and bananas.  Top with the other bag of cookies.  Try not to curse too much when you realize that some of these cookies are broken and your masterpiece is going to look flawed.  Just remember that broken cookies taste the same as whole ones.

Slide the whole thing in the fridge until you are ready to eat it.  We ended up waiting a day or two before we got to try it and I think that it actually improved the taste.  The cookies had had time to absorb some of the filling and had softened a bit, tasting just like a nice buttery crust.

This recipe was super-easy and didn't involve heating up the kitchen with the oven.  It is also a sneaky way to get bananas down a picky 2-year-old if you are desperate and don't care that they are covered in pudding.  I think that it would be interesting to try with Girl Scout shortbread cookies instead of the Chessmen, but you do whatever sounds good to you.  Enjoy!