Category Archives: Recipe Reviews

Recipe Review: S’mores Bark

J’ever notice how some things — no matter how fantastic they look at the get-go — just aren’t that fantastic? Hmm.

Last night I made a turkey pot pie and biscuits to take to my stepdaughter and her husband (he is recovering from surgery, so a bunch of us wanted to cook for Simone so she could focus on being Florence Nightingale). I know they are chocolate lovers, so I looked for something really fun. On Pinterest, I ran across S’mores Bark. I thought, perfect! 

Well…notsamuch. And this from a lifelong chocolate addict, trust me when I tell you. Anyway, more on the final verdict after you click through the picture show.

S’mores Bark

3.5 cups milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup marshmallow creme
3 rectangular sheets Graham crackers


  1. Melt 1.5 cups chocolate chips, and spread over a wax paper-lined pan. Be careful not to make the layer too thin. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  2. Melt the white chocolate chips, then add in the marshmallow creme. Microwave until heated — about 30 seconds. Stir together, then quickly spread the mixture over the hardened chocolate layer.
  3. Crumble the Graham crackers and press them into the marshmallow layer. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  4. Melt 2 cups of chocolate chips, and gently spread it over the Graham cracker layer. Freeze for about 2 hours. Take it out and break apart into bark.

(Click on first photo to advance through slide show.)

The really good part? Only four ingredients, and no baking.

The really good part? Only four ingredients, and no baking.

The recipe says to melt in the microwave, but I do enjoy the slower double-boiler method.

The recipe says to melt in the microwave, but I do enjoy the slower double-boiler method.

The instructions warned against spreading the melted chocolate too thin. I used the better part of a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan.

The instructions warned against spreading the melted chocolate too thin. I used the better part of a 9 x 13 jelly roll pan for the recipe, and it seemed the right size.

Melt the marshmallow creme and "white chocolate" together, and pour over the hardened initial layer.

Melt the marshmallow creme and “white chocolate” together, and pour over the hardened initial layer.

Instead of breaking up the graham crackers by hand, I ran them through my trusty coffee grinder because I thought it would look nicer. Turned out to be an unwise move.

Add the graham crackers and press into the marshmallow. (Instead of breaking up the crackers by hand, I ran them through my coffee grinder because I thought it would look nicer. Turned out to be an unwise move.)

Put it in the fridge; wait 30 minutes.

Put it in the fridge; wait 30 minutes.

Melt remaining chocolate, pour over the lot, and pop into the freezer for two hours.

Melt remaining chocolate, pour over the lot, and pop into the freezer for two hours.



While I absolutely do not rule out chef error, I noticed a few niggling things about this recipe:

  • If the words “marshmallow” and “bark” seem contradictory to you, it’s because they are. Frozen marshmallow is an undesirable texture. The creator of the recipe said, “Keep refrigerated for a more solid bark; leave it out for slightly more delicious, but slightly more squishy bark.” Squishy bark? I initially couldn’t penetrate the layers with my sharpest chef’s knife. After waiting a while so the knife could sink through the marshmallow, the texture of it was somewhat like taffy, but more, well, squishy. Chewy. Bad marks for mouth feel.
  • The top layer wouldn’t adhere to the cracker layer. This could, of course, be due to my using crumbs instead of individual pieces of cracker pressed into the marshmallow mixture. If I made this again, I’d still want to experiment with reversing the cracker/marshmallow order. The cracker pieces (or crumbs) would definitely stick to the bottom chocolate layer, and I think the melted marshmallow would have a much better chance of adhering to the top layer of melty chocolate.
  • It is cloyingly, overpoweringly, altogether utterly over-sweet. Not that I was expecting savory, mind. But with this dish, there’s no balance. You’re all in, and where S’mores are concerned, that’s pretty much what you’re stuck with, which is fine on occasion. But this dessert differs from traditional, over-the-campfire S’mores because the ratio of cracker to marshmallow and chocolate is completely off. Think of a traditional S’more; what’s the overriding ingredient? Graham crackers. Generally, it’s a sandwich of Grahams, with a thin slice of chocolate and one marshmallow. This ain’t that.
  • The chocolate. Milk chocolate chips by Hershey are not Hershey bars chopped into little morsels. The chemistry is totally different, and the taste bears that out. While it’s plenty chocolaty (overly so), there’s just a hint of artifice — especially in that heavy a concentration. It may not bother some people, but I noticed it right away.

Bottom line: This recipe is more work than necessary, and the extra time didn’t justify the resulting taste and texture. If you want to have a bark-like S’more experience, just pour some melted chocolate on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with Graham cracker pieces and miniature marshmallows, and let set. *Bing* S’mores on the fly.

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give S’mores Bark:

Recipe Review: Easy Vegetable Soup

This recipe is tried and true by Yours Truly. Every time I want to “detox” (I really do hate that word, but it somewhat fits here) by losing pent-up water weight, I’ll make a batch of it and eat it for two meals a day for three days in a row. The results are quick and visible, trust me. The jeans feel different.

Easy Vegetable Soup 

8 cups mixed vegetables
1 small cabbage, chopped
4 carrots, sliced (I love cooked carrots, so I add them. You can use however many fun veggies you can think of.)
2 14.5-oz. cans diced or stewed tomatoes (diced are cut up smaller, which I prefer)
1 32-oz. box chicken broth
1 envelope Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix
4 cups water
Ground pepper, to taste


  1. Chop up the cabbage and carrots, and put them in a stock pot, along with the frozen mixed veggies and both cans of tomatoes.
  2. Pour the chicken broth into a medium bowl or 4-cup measure. Mix in the Knorr soup envelope, and pour it over the vegetables in the stock pot. Add ground pepper and stir it all up.
  3. Cover the lot with the 4 cups of water, or enough so that the liquid covers the veggies.
  4. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a bit, so the flavors have a chance to dance together.

Makes one gallon of soup, and freezes well.

Mix the Knorr with the chicken broth.

Stir the Knorr into the chicken broth.


Mix it all together.

Add it to the pot and mix it all together.


Add water to cover.

Add water to cover, bring to boil, then simmer.


That's pretty and yummy.

Colorful and yummy.


There’s no magic to this recipe and what it does. Put simply: it’s a lot of watery vegetables that fill you up till your next meal. That, and it’s also a great calorie bargain, at about 75 per serving, so you can chow down on it, if cabbage doesn’t bother you. The best part is that it’s absolutely savory-delicious — and that’s something, coming from a lifelong vegetable hater. In fact, I still have to force myself to eat vegetables, even in this comparatively tasty format. I wish I weren’t this way.

You would hate being me, seriously.

This recipe is “easy.” That is, minimal effort is the focus. I use frozen vegetables. It’s fast and convenient, although I have used all fresh in the past. The part I never exclude is the Knorr veggie soup mix. I have experimented with my own spices, and to me, it just never comes close to the Knorr combination. Of course, you can substitute and experiment to your delight. Hard to go wrong with vegetable soup made from chicken stock. (You can also use vegetable stock, or just plain water.)

To those concerned about the sodium content of the Knorr: while it is on the high side, the mix-to-liquid ratio is twice that of the package directions, so the greater volume reduces the sodium-per-serving by half.

Adding chunks of chicken is a fun variation, and adds some protein kick. Although it’s not something we’d eat every week, it’s a welcome change of pace around here. Highly recommended.

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give Easy Vegetable Soup:


A new category

I see dozens of recipes on Facebook and Pinterest. I’ve tried a few: some with great results, and others, well, notsamuch. If we’re talking “the BEST Paleo chocolate cookies EVER — you’ll NEVER MISS THE EGGS AND FLOUR!” — yeah, shame on me. If it sounds too good to be true (it did), it probably is (it was).

Truthfully, it’s all about personal taste, isn’t it? What I think is magnificent, you might think is boring or even unpalatable, and vice-versa. Still, it’s worth mentioning for the greater good if something is a complete disaster, or if it has promise and might be worth another try later on, wearing a different shirt.

So in the interest of unbiased review, I will cook, photograph, write about and rate some of these allegedly revolutionary recipes that your family will rave about and henceforth demand. The first:

Crock Pot Lasagna


1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, diced
1 T. minced garlic
1 26-oz. jar pasta sauce
1 c. water
1 15-oz. container cottage cheese (I dislike it, so I used ricotta here)
2 c. shredded mozzarella
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1 egg
2 T. parsley
1 t. pepper
Salt to taste


  1. Brown beef in large skillet. Add onion and garlic; mix. Drain excess fat.
  2. Add pasta sauce and water.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix cottage cheese, 1.5 cups mozzarella, 2 T. Parmesan, egg, pepper and parsley.
  4. Spray crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. Scoop approximately 1 cup of the meat sauce into bottom. Top with one layer of uncooked lasagna noodles (do your best to break up the pasta so it fits the shape of the cooker). Next, add a layer of the cheese mixture.
  5. Keep adding layers, ending with meat sauce (I got three layers total).
  6. Put lid on, and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours. (Mine was done in 3 hours.)
  7. Turn off crock pot and add remaining cheese on top. Replace lid and allow to melt.
Layers before cooking

Layers before cooking

After three hours

After three hours


I think I’ve found how companies like Banquet and Stauffer’s do their frozen lasagna, because this tasted exactly like those. It was, to our palates, extremely bland and somewhat dry. We both had to heat up pasta sauce and pour it over the top. Of course, it could have been my ricotta substitution that caused some dryness (cottage contains 79% moisture, as opposed to ricotta’s 72%), but that wouldn’t have affected the overall taste, which we thought was quite lacking in energy.

So if you prefer an unassuming, frozen-food-aisle flavor, this would be a good recipe for you to try. As is, it’s a one-and-done for me. I’d have to jazz it up quite a bit for it to pass muster. The plan is to stick with my standard recipe, unless I’m in a terrible hurry.

On the Rat-O-Meter scale of five cheeses, I give Crock Pot Lasagna: