Erin Go Bread

Author: Kirsten K., Breakfast, Dessert, Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Recipes, Snacks, Sweets

My version of this recipe defies all raisin.

For as long as I can remember, my mother has made Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day. She is not Irish, nor is anyone on either side of my family (as far as we know), but every year in mid-March, I receive a freshly-baked loaf from her kitchen.

The recipe was found in a church cookbook compiled years ago from favorites submitted by parishioners as a fundraising effort. The Irish Soda Bread entry is credited to Pat O’Connor, whose name inspires confidence in the authenticity of the recipe, but neither the shape nor the texture of this bread resembles the traditional raisin-studded, round loaves with a cross cut into the top that I typically see for sale at this time of year.

That suits me just fine, though, since—unlike most Irish Soda Bread I’ve tried—this version is super m-word (I’m not allowed to write or say it!), with a light, sweet flavor and an unusual texture that I’d describe as slightly, though not unpleasantly, “rubbery.” In any case, it’s SO easy to make that why would you buy one of those dry, rustic-looking loaves when you can pull this church-sanctioned knockoff from your oven in no time?

Like St. Patrick driving the snakes out of Ireland, my mother drives the raisins out of my Irish Soda Bread each year and replaces them with chocolate chips, so I ask you: who’s the real saint? It may not be traditional, but it’s tradition in my family. Every March 17th, along with the wearing (and sharing) o’ the green, my mother and I enjoy an Irish coffee with a slice from this recipe. Erin Go Bread!


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IRISH SODA BREAD

1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups sifted flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins (or chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°. Cream sugar and egg. Add sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix in buttermilk. Add raisins (or chocolate chips!). Bake for one hour.

 

It’s Pickle Time!

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Starters

When I’m at the farmer’s market and see that yellow beans are in season, as they are now, I rejoice! That means it’s PICKLE TIME!

I’m a big fan of homemade pickles. First, because they are delicious, but also because they are easy and quick to make and people usually lose their shit over homemade pickles. Another great reason to make pickles is that you can make one big batch, which will keep you in pickle supply for a few weeks. And, better yet, you will still have enough left over to give as gifts.

There are so many vegetables that are perfect for pickling: yellow and green beans, carrots, beets, asparagus, cauliflower, cucumbers, fennel—almost any firm veggie will work. Go to the farmer’s market, see what’s fresh, and pick yourself a peck. Peter Piper won’t care.

Another great thing about pickling is that you can use the bones of the recipe and riff on it. If a Grateful Dead song was a snack food, it would be pickles. Sometimes I like to throw a little curry into the pickling liquid; sometimes it’s all about the dill, a few cloves of smashed garlic, and a healthy sprinkling of red pepper flakes. If I’m using cucumbers, I usually add more sugar than if I’m using beans. You really can’t mess them up as long as you have water and vinegar and a few spices, and showing up to your friend’s house with a jar of pickles will definitely earn you rock star status.

I know some recipes call for sterilizing the jars, yada yada yada…but the pickles never last long enough at my house to go through all that trouble. If you are planning on storing them in your cellar along with salt pork, preserves, and potatoes to get you through winter, then, by all means, please sterilize your jars. Otherwise, consume within three weeks and it’s all good, ’cause, you know—vinegar!

I like to serve pickles in a pretty dish as part of my appetizer spread. They go nicely with some salty nuts and a creamy, mild cheese to cut the vinegary tang. And when you are going to visit your friend, tie a ribbon around a jar of those beautiful pickles and bask in the glow of their delight!

Here are some tips for using different veggies:

BEANS – Wash and trim. Drop them into boiling, salted water for about four minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath before pickling. They will still be crunchy, but won’t have that raw flavor.

CAULIFLOWER – Wash and cut into florets, then follow directions above for similar results.

ASPARAGUS – Wash and trim ends so stalks are the size of your jar. Drop them into boiling, salted water for about two minutes and then plunge them into an ice bath before pickling.

BEETS – Roast before pickling. To roast beets, preheat oven to 400° F, wash and trim ends,* wrap beets in foil with a little water and place in a baking dish to roast until a knife pierces easily (about 45 minutes for four medium beets). Once cool, slip off skins with your fingers and slice into rounds or wedges. *If the greens are fresh, save and sauté with a little olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper—delicious!

CARROTS – Peel and cut carrots in half and then half again (and half again if your carrots are large). Trim to the size of your jar. Carrots can go in the pickling liquid raw. If you boil them, they get flabby. Nobody likes a flabby pickle.

FENNEL – Wash fennel and trim fronds (which can be put in the jar along with, or instead of, dill), remove any wilted outer layers. Cut bulb in half and slice crosswise.


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BASIC VEGETABLE PICKLE RECIPE
2 lbs. veggies
2 cups water
2½ cups distilled white vinegar
¼ cup kosher salt
⅛–¼ cup sugar (optional)
2–3 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
2 tsp. whole peppercorns (optional)
2 tsp. whole coriander seeds (optional)
1 tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Bunch fresh dill

EQUIPMENT
You will need three half-liter canning jars. I like Weck 742 half-liter Mold jars. They have a really nice shape. (Sold in sets of six only. They are cheaper here than at Amazon. You can also get canning jars at World Market, Target, and most grocery stores.)

Combine water, vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic, peppercorns, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes in a large sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pack veggies into about three half-liter jars and add several sprigs of dill. Remove garlic from pickling liquid. Fill jars with hot liquid and cap immediately. Admire the majesty of your pickles!

Wait until jars have reached room temperature, then refrigerate the pickles. You can start eating a few hours after pickling, but they’re best if you can wait 24 hours.

Keep one, give two away!

.
Other variations to try (aka channeling your inner Jerry Garcia):

  • Add 1 tsp. curry powder.
  • Replace dill with fresh tarragon, basil, parsley, thyme, oregano, or mint (or a create a combo).
  • Include several strips of lemon peel.
  • Substitute whole fennel or mustard seeds (or try half and half) for coriander seeds.

 

And the Oscar for Best Snack Goes To…

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertainment, Food, Food & Drink, Movies, Pop Culture, Recipes, Snacks, Television

Oscar night is my favorite night of television. For as long as I can remember, Kirsten has come over and we settle in on the couch for a long night of eating, drinking, and yelling at the television.

I love seeing all the beautiful dresses on the red carpet while I’m in comfy clothes on the couch with my dog in my lap. I was lucky enough to go to the Oscars once and, while it was a spectacular evening (Faye Dunaway cut in front of me in the bathroom line), it was super stressful.

As much as I love watching the show, (The monologue! The winners! The montage!) I look forward to our snacking tradition just as much. Every year it is the same: champagne (natch) and popcorn. And not just ANY popcorn…Oscar-worthy popcorn! Yes, friends, this snack should be on every table at the Governor’s Ball. Heck, if they gave out this popcorn in a gold-plated bowl instead of the Oscar, I think there would be zero no-shows.

So, set your DVR for Live from the Red Carpet, chill your champagne, and make yourself a big bowl of this game-changing snack that will make your microwave* variety popcorn as boring as the Price Waterhouse portion of the Oscars ceremony.


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TABASCO PARMESAN POPCORN

½ cup unpopped popcorn kernels
2 Tbsp. canola oil
½ stick salted butter, melted
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp. (or to taste) Tabasco sauce
salt
pepper

Get out your big pasta pot and heat canola oil on high heat until shimmering. Swirl it around so it coats the bottom of the pan. Add popcorn and put the lid on the pan. Once you hear the popcorn start to pop (this will take a few minutes), turn heat down to medium high and shake the pan a few times. When there are several seconds between pops, remove from heat. There are usually some kernels that don’t pop. That is O.K.

While popcorn is popping, melt the butter and mix in the Tabasco.

Put the popcorn in a big bowl and toss with the butter/Tabasco mixture. Add the parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste, then toss again until mixed well.

Immediately start the second batch of popcorn, because the first bowl will be gone before Giuliana Rancic asks Greta Gerwig who designed her dress.

 

*Note from Kirsten: Kirsti has always insisted on making stovetop popcorn, which takes a little more time and effort than using the microwave, but which makes a HUGE difference. You haven’t lived until you’ve tried popcorn popped in hot oil on the stove. Don’t take shortcuts with pre-Oscars popcorn!

Second note from Kirsten: for those who don’t like spicy foods or want to put a different spin on this recipe, replace the Tabasco with 5-10 drops of liquid smoke.

 

Get Into Your Divvies

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Snacks, Sweets

For months, whenever I walked through the bakery section of my local market, I’d glimpse rows of cellophane bags standing at attention, each holding three perfectly stacked cookie sandwiches. Being a Double Stuf person, what caught my eye through the clear wrapping was a thick layer of white frosting in between each set of generously proportioned cookies. They were slightly more than I wanted to spend, but I was prepared to put a bag (or two) of these Divvies cookie sandwiches in my basket when I saw that they were made for people with dietary restrictions. Equating those words with boring and tasteless, I quickly moved on.

(Coconut) Milk and (vegan) cookies.

But that clear bag is diabolical.

Every time I went grocery shopping (usually on an empty stomach—the ultimate marketing no-no), I would stare at those cookies…and they would stare back. So I finally broke down and bought a bag.

Uh oh.

Sometimes it’s better NOT to know. I was safe when I thought they’d be stale and bland, but once I discovered their soft, chewy texture, abundance of chocolate chips, and rich, buttercream-like frosting, I knew I was in trouble.

A tragic case of mistaken identity.

Calling on hidden reserves of self-control, I only allow myself to indulge on occasion, so I almost snapped when a recent snafu caused me to pull a bag of oatmeal raisin cookie sandwiches out of my grocery bag when I got home. For those who know me, this is a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. Raisins are always an affront, but when you’re expecting chocolate chips? We’re talking Et tu, Brute?-level betrayal. I thought about rushing right back to the store, but it had been a long, tiring day. Plus, I hate returning food items, since I know they can’t be resold, so I did what any reasonable person would do: I got a pair of tweezers.

If you love raisins, good news! These cookies are LOADED with raisins. (Bad news: you and I can never be friends.) By the time I’d cleaned house and sent the Sun Maid packing, my oatmeal cookie sandwich was FUBAR (fouled up beyond all raisin). I was feeling cheated of a rare indulgence, so I checked carefully the next time I went to the market and saw several bags of Divvies chocolate chip cookie sandwiches grouped together on the display table. I was about to grab a bag when I noticed that one appeared to have more frosting than the others, so I eagerly popped it in my basket…only to pull out another bag of oatmeal raisin cookies when I got home.

Shaking my fist at fate and the fact that chocolate chip cookies and oatmeal raisin cookies look disastrously alike, I vowed to stick with brownie cookie sandwiches from now on.

The last time I bought a bag, the checker asked if I was vegan. I said no, although I try to avoid animal products as much as possible, but we both agreed that Divvies stand toe-to-toe (and bottom-to-bottom) with any other gourmet cookie sandwiches on the market. So vegans and people with nut, egg, and dairy allergies, rejoice! You can indulge like all the rest of us “civvies”…just make sure to check your bags first so you know what you’re getting into.


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Divvies Cookie Sandwiches

 

Divvies are available at Sprouts and other markets, coffee shops, and specialty food stores nationwide. Click here to find a location near you.

 

5/27/18 update:

Divvies has a new Sugar with Lemon Cookie Sandwich! It has the same chewy texture and creamy filling as Divvies’ other allergy-free and vegan cookie sandwiches with a squeeze of bright citrus flavor and a golden color that means there’s no chance of mistaking it for any other sun-ripened fruit (ahem). Enjoy one for afternoon tea accompanied by a cup of Earl Grey with a slice of lemon, or as a summertime snack with a tall glass of iced tea, lemonade, or a mixture of both. Pucker up!

 

Poppin’ Mad

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Pop Culture, Savories, Snacks, Sweets

When popcorn lover Josh Chaney mastered his great grandmother’s secret 100-year-old vegan caramel recipe, he got a crazy idea: what if you made caramel corn…and froze it? The result was an extra crispy treat that could be stored in the freezer and remain fresh-tasting indefinitely. Along with his partner Sulmaz Rahimpour, the “Mad Popper” began experimenting with a variety of sweet and savory combinations, which culminated in the opening of California Frozen Poppers.

california-frozen-poppers

shabang

The whole ShaBang: cheddar, chile and lime.

The first thing you notice upon entering is the large chalkboard that lists the shop’s profusion of popcorn choices. I was given a chilly reception—in this instance, a good thing—with samples taken from a case typically used to serve ice cream. Spicy flavors like ShaBang, featuring cheddar cheese with chili and lime, are equally enticing frozen as candy-coated versions like Caked, a colorful confection that lets you freeze your cake and eat it too.

caked

“Let them eat Caked!”

Josh told me that his corn is air-popped and contains no oil or water, so only the topping freezes when it’s put in cold storage. This means that the popcorn can be thawed and refrozen a virtually unlimited number of times and will still taste crisp and delicious. When I asked how long the popcorn would last in the freezer, he didn’t know, because he’s had a batch on ice for six years and counting that continues to taste as fresh as the day he made it.

omg

“Like, OMG!” You’ll like OMG!

California Frozen Poppers sends its popcorn all over the country, but no special shipping or cold packs are required. It can be enjoyed at room temperature, or frozen upon arrival for an icy indulgence that will—theoretically—far outlast your restraint. In fact, your primary predicament will be choosing from their overabundance of offerings, including sweet, cheesey, nutty, and seasonal flavors. Standouts are Hefty Melons, which tastes like a spicy watermelon Jolly Rancher, and OMG!, a jaw-dropping medley of chocolate, caramel, sea salt, and peanut butter M&Ms that is NSFW (Not Safe For Waistline).

With specials and samplers, vegan and gluten-free options, and a constantly evolving lineup of flavors, you’d have to be mad not to pop over to California Frozen Poppers and get a taste of this cool concept.

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California Frozen Poppers

 

 

Pickled French Plums – The Condiment You Didn’t Know You Needed

Author: Kirsti Kay, Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Recipes, Snacks, Starters

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-1I remember the olden days when fig jam and quince paste were exotic additions to a cheese plate. I used to really feel like an adult serving guests these fancy-pants confitures. It didn’t matter if your cheese platter was from Trader Joe’s or curated by a man with a handlebar mustache and bushy beard from the hipster cheese store—it was elevated. Now, even kids know what quince paste is, and fig jam is no longer special. You can buy it at Ralphs.

On this blog, we’ve written about rose petal jam and Jimmie’s Chipotle Pepper Jam as we quest for tasty additions to our plateau de fromage, but it has been a while since I’ve found something new that was worthy. Recently, I was visiting the cheese stall at my local Farmer’s Market and they introduced me to my new favorite: Boat Street Pickled French Plums.

boat-street-pickled-french-plums-2Made by acclaimed Seattle chef Renee Erickson, these Frenchie fruits will make your mouth sing. A winning combination of sour, sweet and spicy—the taste triumvirate—this spread creates a perfect storm when layered on top of some creamy, rich, soft cheese. Made with French plums, cider vinegar, cane sugar, coriander, mustard seed, arbol chili, orange peel, and bay leaf, it’s a complex explosion of flavor. It’s also amazing on sandwiches (grilled cheese—hold me!) or ice cream. Trust me, you will need several jars. Boat Street also makes pickled cherries, apricots, figs and raisins. So scratch that—you are going to need a boatload (see what I did there?).

There is nothing quite like a cracker spread with runny French cheese and a dollop of some magically fruity, smoky deliciousness and a chilled glass of Sancerre. Your mouth (and your guests) will say merci.

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Boat Street Pickles

 

Living on Liège

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Snacks, Sweets

Liège Waffles 1For the past week I’ve been rooting for Team U.S.A. while binge-watching the Olympics, but for most of the summer I’ve been supporting Team Belgium by binge-eating Liège waffles. Liège (lee-ejh) is a city in eastern Belgium that’s considered the birthplace of a dense, sweet waffle made with brioche-based dough and pearl sugar. It has a slightly chewy texture punctuated by crunchy bits of sugar on the inside that caramelize into a crispy coating on the outside.

My friend Mika is a pastry chef who turned me on to Liège waffles when she developed a mini obsession with this “technique Belgique” before moving to France last year, leaving the less talented bakers among us to resort to pre-made versions. While nothing compares to those gaufres in Liège that are hot from a food truck, I’ve come across some goodies in lieu that are bought from a freezer. Julian’s Recipe Sweet Belgian Style Waffles are individually-wrapped, ready-to-eat breakfast treats that can be found among the frozen items at many natural foods markets.

Liège Waffles 2When the cool weather of fall arrives, I’ll dust off my waffle iron and start making hot, hearty breakfast fare from scratch, but during the infernal heat of summer, I barely have enough energy to use the toaster. Fortunately, Julian’s Recipe waffles can be eaten right from the package—no cooking or syrup required. Those who like their waffles hot and crisp can toast them for a few minutes and enjoy a taste of European street food without setting foot on a plane.

I used to work with a Belgian lady who once brought me some pre-packaged pastries from Brussels when she returned from visiting her family. Among them was a Liège waffle that looked and tasted remarkably similar to those from Julian’s Recipe, which come in flavors like Cinnamon, Maple, Salted Caramel, and Vanilla. The satisfying crunch from the pearl sugar has me wolfing down these waffles the way athletes polish off protein bars (I’m carbo-loading for the marathon of Olympic coverage that still lies ahead).

With the world making an appearance in my living room this summer for the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, I’m enjoying a staycation in front of the TV. The only Grand Tour I’m planning is through the freezer aisle, so as the athletes take their chances in Rio, I’ll be playing it safe at home and living on Liège.

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Julian’s Recipe Sweet Belgian Style Waffles

 

Julian’s Recipe waffles can be found at Whole Foods and Sprouts markets or purchased online from the Julian’s Recipe store and The Betty Mills Company.

 

Culture Cache

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food, Food & Drink, Savories, Snacks

Culture Cache 1Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to entertain guests who have a variety of dietary restrictions and preferences. You yourself may be gluten-free, lactose intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan. It can be challenging to create a menu of foods to serve that will cater to all tastes and requirements, so you might find yourself returning to the same old standbys again and again. While many people are gonzo for garbanzos, I am sick of chickpea dips, so it’s time to ditch the ho-hummus and try something a little nutty.*

When chef Miyoko Schinner became a vegan decades ago, she focused her culinary talents on creating gourmet dishes without the use of animal products. However, like many people who transition to a plant-based diet, she missed the dairy cheeses she used to enjoy and sought to recreate them in her kitchen. The result is Miyoko’s Creamery: a range of aged, artisanal vegan cheeses that look and feel like they came from the dairy case and have flavors that are reminiscent of familiar favorites.

Culture Cache 2Made from a base of organic cashews and miso, these cultured nut products (labeling laws prevent Miyoko’s Kitchen from referring to its creations as “cheese” on the packaging) have a smooth, creamy texture and a piquant tang. While other vegan cheese alternatives often contain processed soy and long lists of additives, Mikoyo’s Creamery combines wholesome ingredients with a sophisticated presentation that will give you the wow without the cow.

The Fresh Loire Valley variety is wrapped in a wine-soaked fig leaf and brings a soupçon of French refinement to even casual get togethers when served with dried fig and olive crackers and a bottle of crisp Chardonnay. For a bit of dark drama, offer guests a noirish nosh of Mt. Vesuvius Black Ash on a platter of black grapes. The ash imparts a slightly smoky flavor, but for those (like me) who prefer a more intense per-fume, try the Aged English Smoked Farmhouse.

Culture Cache 3The online cheese shop at Miyoko’s Kitchen has an ever-revolving and evolving lineup of flavors, which often sell out quickly. I am fortunate to have a local market that carries a large selection from Miyoko’s Creamery, but those who have trouble finding certain varieties and are adventurous in the kitchen can make their own cultured nut products by following the recipes in Miyoko’s book, Artisan Vegan Cheese.

Whether you or your guests have food allergies, ethical concerns, or simply a desire to reduce your consumption of dairy products, get some culture and squirrel away a cache of vegan cheese from Miyoko’s Creamery for your next gathering of (health) nuts.

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Miyoko’s Creamery

 

Artisan Vegan Cheese can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble , or get an autographed copy from Miyoko’s Kitchen.

 

*Unfortunately, those with nut allergies are still left holding the hummus.

Hidden Jem

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Snacks, Sweets

Hidden Jem 1As I mentioned in a previous post, I dabbled with a strict raw food diet a number of years ago. While I didn’t stick with it for long, I discovered a few hidden gems among the store shelves and websites catering to raw foodists that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. One of these was an actual Jem: the Coconut Cardamom Almond Butter from Jem Nut Butters. This product has since been discontinued and replaced with a Cashew Cardamom spread, but it is just as swoon-worthy as the original.

Jem sprouted almond, hazelnut, and cashew spreads are full of enzymes and nutrition, but you won’t be thinking about the health benefits as you devour them by the jar, because these nut butters are true gourmet food items. Stone-ground at slow speeds for up to 48 hours, their texture is silky smooth with no separation of oils. They are sweetened with ingredients like coconut sugar and lucuma, which are nutrient-dense and low glycemic, yet have a richer, more complex flavor than refined cane sugar. Each product is raw, gluten-free, vegan, and 100% certified organic, so everyone* can love the spread and spread the love.

Hidden Jem 2The company produces four flavors of its sprouted nut butters—including Cinnamon Red Maca, Hazelnut Raw Cacao (move over, Nutella!), and Superberry Maqui Camu—but I still go nuts for the Cashew Cardamom. While there are a variety of ways to enjoy these spreads with sweet and savory foods alike, I have never managed to get past the phase of eating them straight from the jar with a spoon.

Other than online, I’ve only found Jem products in one natural foods store in my area. Like a precious gemstone, these delicious Jem stone-ground nut butters are a rare find, but it’s worth the effort to unearth them. In addition to larger jars, Jem offers a sampler pack containing each of its flavors in petite sizes. So whether you’re a raw foodist or a just a foodie, strike the mother lode and appraise all four of these scrumptious spreads.

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Jem Nut Butters

 

 

*Except those with tree nut allergies.

Der Commissary’s in Town

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Snacks, Sweets

Commissary 1Although my sister is no longer married, she is still good friends with my former brother-in-law David, who joins our family for most holidays and stops by my house on occasion for a chat. On one such visit a few months ago, he held out a plastic-wrapped square and told me to take a taste. His knowing look put me on guard, because he can be a prankster, but that first ambrosial bite revealed that he was letting me in on a delicious secret.

He had discovered the salted caramel krispie treats from Commissary, a bakery and café in Burbank, California, that clearly doesn’t realize the salt mine it’s sitting on, or it would be selling these scrumptious squares far and wide. I have tried my share of salted caramel in everything from ice cream to waffles, but these caramel commissars have achieved the perfect balance of salty, sweet, crispy, and gooey in one compact confection.

Commissary 2

Now, every time David visits, he brings me a krispie treat or two, which is a problem, since he’s gotten me hooked and doesn’t visit nearly enough (David, call me!). In fact, I was somewhat reluctant to post about this delectable dessert, because none of Commissary’s four locations around Los Angeles ships its sweets by mail. Unless you live in L.A., you are S.O.L. (Salt Outta Luck), but if you happen to march into a Commissary and seize this salty-sweet treat, you’ll find yourself ordering three squares a day.

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Commissary Salted Caramel Krispie Treat

 

If you don’t live in the Los Angeles area and want to sample this salty sweet, I suggest you contact the company and try to swoon talk someone into sending you one. Or a case.

 

Alles klar? For those who don’t get ’80s musical references, enjoy.