A cookie maybe better than a ’smore and without the campfire

The Free Press WV

S’mores may conjure memories of warm nights and sleep-away camp, but it doesn’t need to be summertime to capture the flavors of this treat; the combination of wheaty graham crackers, rich chocolate, and sweet, gooey toasted marshmallow is good any time of year.

We wanted to package s’mores into a neat blossom cookie, one that would give us all the flavor without the sticky, burned fingers. We made a basic butter cookie dough for the base and proceeded to boost its flavor by mixing in graham cracker crumbs.

To really highlight the sweet, whole-wheat flavor of the grahams and to add some crunch, we also rolled the balls of cookie dough in more crushed graham crackers. A halved marshmallow sat neatly on top of the baked cookie and, once melted, took on the same size and shape as the cookies.

To get a brulee on the marshmallows without the burn, we ran the baked and topped cookies under the broiler until the marshmallows developed a toasty-roasty top. At last we turned to the crowning touch: the chocolate.

Rather than use bar chocolate as with traditional s’mores, we thought we’d follow the dressed-up vibe of this cookie and top it with a Hershey’s Kiss hat for the same chocolate flavor with a touch of flair. This cookie might just be better than the classic s’more_and there’s no campfire required.


Servings: 24 cookies

Start to finish: 30 minutes

1 1/4 cups (6 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) sugar

8 whole graham crackers, crushed into fine crumbs (1 cup)

1 large egg, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

12 large marshmallows, halved crosswise

24 Hershey’s Kisses, unwrapped

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl.

Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat butter, sugar, and 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Reduce speed to low, slowly add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.

Spread remaining 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs in shallow dish. Working with 1 tablespoon dough at a time, roll into balls, then toss in graham cracker crumbs to coat; space dough balls evenly on prepared sheets. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until just set and beginning to crack on sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes.

Adjust oven rack 10 inches from broiler element and heat broiler. Place 1 marshmallow half, cut side down, in center of each cookie. Broil cookies until marshmallows are deep golden brown, 30 to 45 seconds, rotating sheet halfway through broiling for even browning if needed. Transfer sheet to wire rack and immediately place 1 candy in center of each marshmallow, pressing down gently. Repeat with remaining cookies, marshmallows, and kisses. Let cookies cool completely before serving.


Nutrition information per serving: 126 calories; 52 calories from fat; 6 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 74 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 10 g sugar; 2 g protein.

The secret to keeping chicken moist on the grill is brine

The Free Press WV

Barbecuing is the perfect method for cooking fatty cuts of pork or beef, but relatively lean chicken is another story. For barbecued pulled chicken with a smoky flavor and moist, tender meat, we’d have to come up with some tricks.

Brining the birds kept the white meat moist and juicy, and arranging the chickens on the grill with the breast meat farther from the heat source than the dark meat evened out the cooking times.

We tweaked our favorite barbecue sauce to better complement the chicken, increasing the vinegar to balance the sweetness and swapping the root beer for coffee to boost the smoky flavor.


Servings: 8 sandwiches

Start to finish: 1 hour and 30 minutes, plus 1 hour to brine chicken and 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare sauce


1 cup salt

2 (4-pound) whole chickens, giblets discarded (We prefer to halve the chickens ourselves, but you may be able to buy halved chickens from your butcher.)


2 cups wood chips, soaked in water for 15 minutes and drained


2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1 onion, chopped fine

4 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups cider vinegar

1 cup brewed coffee

3/4 cup molasses

1/2 cup tomato paste

1/2 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons brown mustard

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke

Dissolve salt in 4 quarts cold water in large container. Remove backbones from chickens and split chickens in half lengthwise through center of breastbone. Using metal skewer, poke 20 holes all over each chicken half. Submerge chicken halves in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove chicken halves from brine, pat dry with paper towels, and season with pepper. Using large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, wrap soaked wood chips in foil packet and cut several vent holes in top.

Meanwhile, heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Whisk in broth, vinegar, coffee, molasses, tomato paste, ketchup, mustard, hot sauce, and garlic powder and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture is thick and reduced to 4 cups, about 65 to 75 minutes. Stir in liquid smoke; reserve 1 cup sauce for serving. (Sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

— For a charcoal grill: Open bottom vent halfway. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into steeply banked pile against side of grill. Place wood chip packet on coals. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent halfway. Heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 5 minutes.

— For a gas grill: Place wood chip packet over primary burner. Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot and wood chips are smoking, about 15 minutes. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).

Clean and oil cooking grate. Place chicken halves skin side up on cool side of grill with legs closest to heat source. Cover and cook until breasts register 160 F and thighs register 175 F, 75 to 85 minutes. Transfer chicken to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Remove and discard skin. Pull meat off bones, separating dark and light meat. Roughly chop dark meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Shred white meat into thin strands.

Add chicken to pot with sauce and cook over medium-low heat until chicken is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve on hamburger rolls, passing reserved sauce separately.


Nutrition information per serving: 320 calories; 56 calories from fat; 6 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 115 mg cholesterol; 894 mg sodium; 26 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 21 g sugar; 37 g protein.

Make delicious Boston baked beans slowly - very slowly

The Free Press WV

The deep flavor and creamy texture of Boston baked beans is the product of simple, yet judiciously chosen ingredients and slow_very slow_cooking. It seemed a natural recipe to adapt to the slow cooker and, given our location, we were under pressure to get this recipe just right.

We wanted our slow-cooker “baked” beans to have all the flavor and texture of the real deal and began by determining the correct ratio of water to beans. Once we had evenly tender beans throughout we focused on building flavor with traditional ingredients_salt pork, onion, molasses, brown sugar, and bay leaves went into the slow cooker.

The flavor was decent but not deep enough and the texture of the salt pork was not appealing. We decided it was necessary to pull out a skillet to render the fat from the salt pork and soften the onion first, which made the salt pork palatable and greatly intensified the flavors of the dish.

To brighten things up at the end of cooking, spicy mustard and a splash of cider vinegar went in, along with a touch more molasses to round out the acidity. Don’t use dark or blackstrap molasses, which will become bitter tasting in the slow cooker. Be sure to let the beans sit and finish thickening for 10 minutes before serving.


Servings: 6

Start to finish: 8 to 9 hours on high

Slow cooker size: 4 to 7 quarts

1 onion, chopped fine

6 ounces salt pork, rind removed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

Salt and pepper

6 cups water, plus extra as needed

1 pound dried navy beans (2 1/2 cups), picked over and rinsed

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon molasses

1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon soy sauce

4 teaspoons cider vinegar

2 teaspoons dry mustard

Microwave onion, salt pork, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in bowl, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to slow cooker. Stir in water, beans, 2 tablespoons molasses, 2 tablespoons sugar, and bay leaves. Cover and cook until beans are tender, 8 to 9 hours on high.

Discard bay leaves. Drain beans, reserving 3/4 cup cooking liquid. Return beans to now-empty slow cooker. Stir in reserved cooking liquid, soy sauce, vinegar, mustard, remaining 3 tablespoon molasses, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover and cook on high until beans are thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.


Nutrition information per serving: 532 calories; 194 calories from fat; 22 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 21 mg cholesterol; 820 mg sodium; 67 g carbohydrate; 12 g fiber; 22 g sugar; 19 g protein.

Teen Ends Up in Burn Unit After Cutting Down ‘Weed’

The Free Press WV

The “giant horror plant” that recently popped up in Virginia sent a teen working his summer job to the VCU Medical Center burn unit in Richmond, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Alex Childress, who plans on attending Virginia Tech in the fall, was weed-whacking around Fredericksburg on Tuesday when he stumbled across a plant he thought was just that—a big weed. He cut it down and discarded it in the forest, but not before it had slid across his arm and face. When his father came home later that day, he was met with a shocking sight. “The top layer of skin on the left side of [Alex’s] face basically was gone and appeared to be like a really bad burn that had already peeled,“ Justin Childress says, noting that Alex thought he’d gotten a bad sunburn. That night, when he took a shower, Alex tells People, “big chunks of my face were falling off.“

It was Alex’s mother, a nurse, who made the connection with the giant hogweed plant, and he confirmed when she showed him a photo. (See one HERE.) The 17-year-old received intensive treatment for second- and third-degree burns for three days. Because the plant was tossed away, botanists have not been confirmed it was a giant hogweed, but Alex’s ailments are in line with its dangers. The plant has turned up for the first time in at least three Virginia counties so far this year. On a GoFundMe to pay for his medical bills, which has so far raised $7,000 or so, Alex writes that he had a full scholarship to Virginia Tech through the Army ROTC, but “I may end up [losing] it now because of medical disqualification,“ adding, “I am not one to ask for help I am always helping other people whenever and wherever I can, but now I am in need of help.“

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