Spicy double chocolate caramel cookies and … turtles

Chili chocolate cookie recipe with caramel

Let me start by saying thanks to April at Silverflux for helping me clean up my site! She’s awesome. You guys like the new look?

Now, let’s get down to business. I’ve been champing at the reindeer bit to do a Christmas post. You may remember that last year I made Christmas-tree cookies (with actual bits of tree) and also cooked up some Rudolph meat. That kind of seasonality demands follow-up. But I struggled with how to one-up myself, if that’s a thing. What could I make that was Christmas-y and weird? Should I serve up Frosty the Snowman? Although that would fit the seasonal bill, I’m not sure that it would leave my guests very satisfied. The exception might be a carrot nose, but purists would correct me and make it a button nose, which is not at all edible. I’m sure some of my friends would make the best of a bad meal by taking advantage of the corn-cob pipe.

But luckily, Stephanie at Kitchenfrolic.ca came along just at the right time looking for guest posts for her annual cookie advent calendar. Fun, and festive! I’ve really loved seeing each day’s cookie reveal, and mine finally had its turn today. Don’t worry, it’s not too strange. My kids even fought over the cookies, so you know they were dangerous in a good way. Hop on over to Stephanie’s blog and check out how it went down, here.

Spicy double chocolate chili cookies

And then came festive attempt #2 that I was going to try on my own. I was at T&T recently (my multicultural with a capital M dangerous food store playground) on the hunt for something Christmas-y and different. I lingered by the live eels, and considered them, remembering that I think my buddies at Zeppolis include eels as an Italian Christmas delicacy. But I was fuzzy on details — I recall temporary eel lodgings in the bathtub, and my sister is about to stay… Might not result in the optimal version of a Christmas surprise.

And then I saw this guy

Soft-shell turtle

That’s his head, btw (and don’t worry, he came to me frozen). Here’s a better look at his nostril. You know, in case you were wondering what a soft-shell snapping turtle nostril looks like.

Soft-shell turtle

Still doesn’t look much like a nostril. Here are his toenails. I found his toenails super interesting. Dinosaur-like.

Turtle toes

And then things started to get gross. You know, when your dinner’s toenails are the most appetizing part of what you’re preparing, that’s saying something.

The first job was to clean my poor friend, who was frozen whole. Imagine a whole fish being frozen, and then you have to find the meat for yourself. Well, this was the same way — except that a turtle is attached to its shell. And the shell, top and bottom, is attached to itself. And the descriptor “soft-shell” might just be an ironic term. The extraction process was not pretty. Please take a moment to thank me for not taking pictures.

My goal was to make turtle soup, a delicacy in many places throughout the U.S., including in New Orleans where you may remember I recently tried it. There, it tasted chewy, like seafood, and the broth was spiced with clove, drowning a few hard-boiled quail eggs. It was homey. Almost Christmas-y, you could say. I found this recipe that seemed similar. Mine wasn’t similar.

I finally broke into the turtle and cleared out whatever innards I could figure out. I popped whatever was left into my pot and covered it with water, throwing in a few bay leaves and peppercorns, as per the recipe. It was supposed to boil like that for two hours to make the broth, and then I was to extract the cooked meat and build up the broth with further ingredients. After 10 minutes, my turtle stunk. And my father-in-law was on his way over. Thank goodness he knows I’m usually a good cook. My husband started gagging. The smell was like I had boiled up a week-old lobster. I must truly be a food optimist, because I still thought, “Maybe it will taste better than it smells, I should persevere.” But when I took off the pot lid to see what was up, it smelled so bad that my husband said never to do that again, and that he would have to leave the house while I cleaned it up.

My poor turtle didn’t make it past that point in the recipe. C’est la vie. When you are an experimental cook, you often come out ahead, but you’re also bound to have some epic fails. I’ll have to whisper to the turtles in our bay at the cottage that they’re safe from me forever, and tell them that they can go back to threatening my toes instead of the other way around. I’ll leave the turtle soup to New Orleans and this guy.

Thanks muppet.wikia.com

Thanks muppet.wikia.com

Oh, and why did I decide that turtle soup might be Christmas-y? It wasn’t just the clove. It was this. Did everyone grow up on these commercials every December? Maybe this is why I craved chocolate and caramel for my cookies?

 
Anyway — at least I gave you one recipe to try this week. I meant to say fifteen, actually, if you should bake the whole advent calendar so far, which you should (plus I made you crave chocolate Turtles, which isn’t a terrible thing). Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! And thanks for hosting a fun idea, Stephanie!

Oh, and PS, I need your help! My annual “cousin night” of debauchery is coming up. It’s awesome to party with people who have to continue being your friends the next day because they’re related. This year I suggested we hold a cocktail contest. Don’t you wish you were my cousin? So please comment with your favourite cocktail, because I haven’t landed on mine. I think I might take pictures and break the whole “what happens at cousin night, stays at cousin night” rule, just for you.

Comments

  1. Leave a Reply

    Aly
    December 15, 2014

    Good looking site! This post made me laugh. Too bad about the recipe fail, but I’m kind of glad the turtle didn’t turn out. It feels wrong.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      December 15, 2014

      Thanks! Yes, it does feel wrong, but I had to keep telling myself that was psychological. I think if left to my own devices I’d be more likely to tackle the take-down of a turtle than a cow or pig. Look out, I may just become vegetarian yet!

  2. Leave a Reply

    Stephanie
    December 15, 2014

    Hmmm… I shop at T&T regularly, but I must not be looking for the outrageous ingredients that you seem to find! LOL. The turtle looks beyond weird and I’m so impressed that you tackled that shell! Sorry it stunk up the joint, but this post was fantastic and made me laugh out loud.

    And thank you so much for taking part in my Cookie Recipe Advent Calendar (and double thank you for keeping it ‘tame’)! πŸ™‚

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      December 15, 2014

      Yes, tame was good — chocolate turtles with real turtle wouldn’t have been good for anyone. And my goal IS to always make something delicious, even if it’s unconventional!

      Thanks again for hosting! Tons of fun.

  3. Leave a Reply

    April
    December 15, 2014

    I’m glad you like the new look.

    This post was hilarious. I actually laughed really hard at the Turtle commercial. I’m sorry your recipe didn’t work out!

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      December 16, 2014

      Yes, you might be too young to remember that one, but they played it every Christmas for at least 10 years. Like, every commercial break.

      Know what made me laugh reading your post? I wondered if you had commented from within the site, and then I started thinking of scary movies — something like me discovering that the lines have been cut to the outside, and then someone whispers — she’s talking from inside the house. But if the horror movie person sneaks in and re-designs and cleans up the whole place, it kind of stops being scary. Ha!

      Thanks for all the blog compliments, and BIG thanks for the beautification! And I hope you’re feeling better.

  4. Leave a Reply

    Trevor aka The Burger Nerd
    December 16, 2014

    Loving the new layout, looks great.

    I’m completely impressed with you right now. You’re pretty much up there with Chuck Norris….and if you don’t know how bad a** he is here are a few examples I’ve prepared.

    Chuck Norris never has to go to the grocery store because for Chuck Norris, everything in the world is edible.

    Chuck Norris makes onions cry.

    On Christmas Eve Santa leaves a plate of cookies out for Chuck Norris.

    Commissioner Gordon has a Batman signal, Batman has a Chuck Norris signal.

    But I digress….back to turtles πŸ™‚

    Never tackled cleaning a turtle (had a pet turtle when I was 9’ish named Charlie) but I’ve seen it done before and as a guy who’s handled his fair share of dead things, seeing a turtle cleaned isn’t pretty so my hat off to you.

    Sorry to hear the soup didn’t turn out. Wonder if it was an old turtle or if that’s just how turtles smell when you boil them? I always appreciate when a foodie and food blogger shows not only the success stories, but also the not so successful stories…especially when they do it in such an entertaining way. Thanks for sharing another one of your fun culinary adventures.

    Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year πŸ™‚

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      December 16, 2014

      I have to say I’ve never been compared with Chuck Norris before, but I like it! Might just have to practice some round-houses in my living room.

      The turtle may have been old when it was frozen. Even though I find T&T usually sells quality stuff, I did have a bad experience with frozen seafood there before — salmon cheeks. I also read some things saying removal of innards was important because it flavoured things, so I tried, but maybe missed some?

      And I like it when people are honest about cooking challenges too. Would you ever watch a TV show that didn’t involve struggle? Do we care about characters without flaws? BO-ring! The failures make the successes that much sweeter. Plus, that’s where you learn a thing or two! Like, not to try to cook turtle. Ha. And sorry I cooked something along the lines of Charlie. This was a snapping turtle, so let’s tell ourselves it was mean.

      Thanks for your long comment! Made me laugh while I was shovelling Advil into my daughter in the middle of the night.

      • Leave a Reply

        Trevor aka The Burger Nerd
        December 16, 2014

        Sorry to hear one of yer wee ones is under the weather.

        I think maybe people should start comparing Chuck Norris to you instead of vice versa…..bet he never cleaned a turtle before….though maybe he’s round housed a few.

        I’m also surprised at T & T….never had a bad run in with any of their products….then again, I’m not quite as adventurous as you. I completely agree with what you said, failures do make victories that much sweeter and the best teacher in my life has always been the vast amount of mistakes I’ve made.

        Anywhooo, looking forward to your next adventure. TTYL πŸ™‚

        • Leave a Reply

          Ann Allchin
          December 17, 2014

          Thanks! I find mistakes especially important with cooking. That’s how you become that wise old grandparent who can cook anything. Takes a lifetime of challenges to get good!

  5. Leave a Reply

    Christina
    December 17, 2014

    Well! I’m impressed! You had the nerv to clean a real turtle!! I wouldn’t even have imagined it! Even though I have heard stories not of fancy turtle soups but of people that during WW 2 had eaten all the turtles of Athens and the suburbs!! Meanwhile, now that all of the above settle down easier in me, I cannot stop thinking that there are 4 turtles going around in my garden. Actually a whole family of turtles. Very fresh!! Alive! Hmmmm!!! Let me go check my knives and I’ll be back…….;))

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      December 17, 2014

      You know, if you had told me when I started this blog that it would result in a lady chasing turtles around her garden in Greece with a butcher knife, I might not have believed you. But I like it. πŸ™‚ So interesting (and sad) about people eating turtles in WWII. Especially considering how I now know how hard it is to access any meat. Thanks, as usual, for your great comment

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