My order is in

Five tractor-trailers delivered more than 100,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to Southern Maryland this past week. So, that’s my order . . . didn’t y’all want any?

samoa_cookietrefoil_cookieAh, Samoas . . . and Trefoils, and Tagalongs! All the mouth-watering chocolate deliciousness . . . It’s easy enough to politely decline to order a few boxes from friends and coworkers in advance, but when the Girl Scout cookies are actually right there in front of you, all lined up on tableclothes and being sold by intrepid, dewy-faced children, you have to be made of stone to refuse any. My dad and I share similar thoughts on this matter, and we’ve both resolved to eat better, drink less (or no) soda and try to cut out the sweets. But we might just be living in a fantasy world . . . I say save the lectures and pass the box, already.

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Happy inauguration day!

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Happy inauguration day!

Because you can’t celebrate any momentous occasion without food, I present the famous Obama cookies we picked up at Charles Street Bakery. They’re almost too good looking to eat, though I have a feeling I’ll force myself into it!

Here’s to a hopeful, exciting, scary, invigorating and ultimately prosperous four years. It may get worse before it gets better, but we’re all in this together. God speed, President Obama!

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Big baking plans — butterscotch gingerbread cookies

In my mind, I have unlimited time and energy to do so many things — read a book a day, work on my novels, catch up with old friends, bake cookies, watch movies . . . and so forth. And somehow, of course, this just never seems to happen — we spend most of our time working, and then find ways to squeeze in other fun activities in between everything else.

So this Christmas I decided I was going to make time for many of those important activities — especially the baking! I managed to squeeze in a batch of peanut butter blossoms recently and want to make a few more batches in the near future. My friend Sandy told me about an awesome batch of butterscotch cookies she made — and printed me out the recipe. I have it at the ready, but I think I might kick it up a holiday notch and try these over the weekend — butterscotch gingerbread cookies! For all of my talk about my pumpkin obsession, I have an equally far-reaching lust for gingerbread.



Butterscotch Gingerbread Cookies

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Ingredients
• 3 cups all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
• 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup butter or margarine
• 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
• 1 large egg
• 1/3 cup light molasses
• 1 (11 ounce) package Nestle Toll House Butterscotch Flavored Morsels

Directions
1. PREHEAT oven to 350 degrees F.
2. COMBINE flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt in small bowl.
3. BEAT butter, sugar, egg and molasses in large mixer bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture until well blended. Stir in morsels. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.
4. BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Cookie layout extraordinaire

Every now and then I come up with an exceptionally cute layout for the paper — or what I consider to be an exceptionally cute layout, anyway. In one of our recent holiday gift guides published in Southern Maryland, I put together a recipe page for cutout cookies. Complete with an actual cookie cutout graphic! I’m so crafty!

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It makes me happy just to look at it. My graphic skills are slowly improving!

I’m all about the rainbow sprinkles

This was ingenious — and perfect for a 12-year-old (or a 23-year-old, but who’s asking). I couldn’t resist the rainbow sprinkles, though I really just like to look at them. It’s “make your own cookie,” a little dessert experience at Boston’s. We didn’t really make it so much as decorate it, but still pretty fun. And Ciara actually ate her confection; I’m impressed.

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Peanut butter paradise!

I can scarcely believe this myself, but I actually made peanut butter blossoms on Sunday! All by myself! From scratch. And I had to use a mixer! A real mixer, with moving pieces that could have potentially hurt me!

But they didn’t hurt me — everything went beautifully. They even artfully “cracked” the way they were supposed to when I pulled them from the oven. I did have a few terrifying moments of, “Oh my God, am I going to splatter dough all over myself?!” but those passed.

The recipe I used is here, and I’ll gently recap . . .

img_4790As with most cooking, I’m sure, I had to gather together my ingredients before I could start anything. I read and re-read the recipe a few times to make sure I had everything within grasp, then set about getting everything together. The peanut butter and shortening had to be combined first and, in a moment of sheer terror, I actually took out the hand mixer and held it for a few seconds in my hand. While I gathered the courage to turn that baby on, I set about unwrapping all of my Hershey kisses — hot cocoa flavor! And I may have stolen a few . . .

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And made a mess in the process . . .

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Once I felt confident enough to tackle the mixer and my peanut butter/shortening combo, I took a deep breath and went for it. Everything blended together pretty easily and I didn’t sully my borrowed apron!

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I mixed in the remaining wet ingredients — including brown and white sugar and vanilla extract — and, somehow, this all began to blend into something vaguely resembling dough. Adding in the flour, salt and baking soda and it really liked like dough. I was already feeling proud of myself!

I recruited my sister to help me roll up our peanut butter mixture into one-inch balls, then rolled them around in a bowl of sugar; that was probably my favorite part of the experience. Kate suggested we do sugar shots when we were finished, but I passed — for now.

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Once they were all rolled up and onto an ungreased baking sheet (two, actually — this made a ton of cookies!), the blossoms had to bake for about eight minutes. We could smell them after only five, so I watched them like a hawk! And rescued them just as a few were starting to brown a little too much around the edges.

After the sheets come out of the oven, the kisses have to go right into the center of the cookies. As the recipe warned me, they did “crack” — but that’s part of what gives them such a cool appearance! The chocolate started to melt immediately, and I carefully transferred them to separate plates to cool down. Our cooling racks were MIA.

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And then we just had to be patient! It wasn’t easy to do with the lovely peanut buttery aroma wafting all over the kitchen and living room . . . but I set about cleaning up the massive mess I’d made until they were ready. An entire sink-full of dishes later, I couldn’t take it anymore! And yes, they were quite delicious. I feel ridiculously excited that I pulled this off!

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Peanut butter blossoms ahoy!

Oh. My. GOD. I found the recipe for my favorite cookie ever! I’m sure I could have easily scoped this out months — if not years — ago, but I stumbled across it in my Internet travels today. My mother usually makes these around Christmas, and I pretty much begged her to whip up a batch this year. I had no idea this is what they’re called — I usually just call them, “Mom, you know that cookie with chocolate in the middle I like?” — but I’ll roll with it.

I present to you . . .

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Yield: 4 Dozen Cookies

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Ingredients:
• 1/2 cup Crisco® Butter Shortening
• 1/2 cup Jif® Creamy Peanut Butter
• 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 large egg
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• Sugar
• 48 foil-wrapped milk chocolate pieces, unwrapped

Directions:
1. HEAT oven to 375°F.
2. CREAM together shortening, peanut butter, brown sugar and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Beat well.
3. STIR together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture. Beat on low speed until stiff dough forms.
4. SHAPE into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
5. BAKE 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.
6. TOP each cookie immediately with an unwrapped chocolate piece, pressing down firmly so that cookie cracks around edge. Remove from cookie sheets to cool.

Recipe courtesy JIF

UPDATE 12/15: I made them!