S’mores Cookies & Ginger Snaps

Every year around the holidays I have this list of things I’d like to do during the season. And one thing that is always on my list is to make Christmas cookies. To me, Christmas cookies don’t have to be decorated just so, but there have to be enough to share. And ideally, I’d put them in bags, tie pretty bows on them and give them to my neighbors. Well, it liked to kill me, but mission accomplished!

I have to thank Brogan for this feat, because first thing this morning, he started asking for us to make cookies. Since the hub’s new job means he works every weekend, anything I want to tackle Saturday and Sunday is done with the crazies. Brogan suggested we make chocolate chip, but found marshmallows in the pantry (that he wanted to snack on) and it made me think of s’mores cookies. So I took a chocolate chip recipe, subbed some of the flour for crushed graham crackers, added marshmallows, diced Hershey’s bar (and mini chocolate chips) and called it a day. The marshmallows ended up being pulverized by my KitchenAid Mixer, so next time I’ll probably keep them bigger (I cut the mini ones in half). The taste was still there, but you couldn’t really see them. Anyways, they turned out great, and I’ll definitely be making them again.

S’mores Cookies

2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
4 tsp corn starch
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup crushed graham crackers
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 cup diced Hershey’s bar (about 9 rectangles)
1 cup mini marshmallows

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) Cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer. Add eggs and vanilla and mix until fluffy.
3.) In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt. Slowly add to mixer until fully incorporated.
4.) Slowly pour in graham crackers, chocolate chips, Hershey bar and marshmallows, until mixed throughout.
5.) Spoon onto cookie sheet and bake for about 12 to 14 minutes, or until edges begin to brown. Let cool on a wire rack.

Yields about 4 dozen cookies

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Smores cookies2

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Smores cookies Brogan

Smores Cookies

Next I made ginger snaps. These just feel like the holidays to me. Turns out that Brogan liked these the best. And between the cookies I gave him and the ones he stole when I wasn’t looking, this kid may have had a dozen or so today. And then of course he didn’t eat well at meal time. Oh well, we’ll eat vegetables tomorrow.

Ginger Snaps 

3 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp ginger
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
Sugar (for rolling the dough balls in)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, molasses and maple syrup.
3.) In separate bowl, mix flour, salt, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Slowly add to mixer and beat until fully incorporated.
4.) Roll spoonfuls of dough into balls about 1 inch in diameter. Roll in a plate of sugar and place on a cookie sheet. Take a fork and make two perpendicular impressions. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until sides are brown. Let cookies cool on a wire rack.

Yields a whole lot of cookies… I got about 60 but my first 24 were way too big (and ran into each other). If I had to guess I’d say between 72 to 80. 

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Ginger snap2

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Smores cookies Beckett

 

And so I bundled the boys up, put them in their wagon and we went door to door saying Merry Christmas and handing out cookies. What fun! Brogan didn’t understand why he couldn’t say trick or treat… but he finally came around.

 

Cookies for neighbros

Maple Peanut Butter Cookies

Brogan and I decided to make some cookies this morning so I thought we’d try out a peanut butter cookie recipe from Pinterest.  The recipe was for Honey-Peanut Butter Cookies,  but I was low on honey.  I decided to improvise and go with my go-to sweetener, maple syrup.  So I subbed butter in place of shortening and maple syrup in place of honey and these cookies were delish!  The maple really adds something great to the flavor, however it’s very subtle.

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Maple Peanut Butter Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar, placed in shallow bowl  (for rolling dough balls)

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2.) In a bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3.) In a stand mixer, cream butter, maple and peanut butter until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs and vanilla, beating on medium speed until well combined.
4.) With the speed on low, add in dry ingredients about a cup at a time until flour is fully incorporated.
5.) Scoop about 2 tbsp of dough and roll it in your hand to create a ball.  Roll the balls in the sugar and place on a stone or baking sheet about 3 inches apart from each other.  With a fork, make two perpendicular imprints on each ball. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, or until they are golden brown.

I had to cook these in batches and on my first batch I made the cookies too big.  I ended up cooking them for about 15 minutes and they still turned out really chewy.  They were good, but I prefer my peanut butter cookies on the crispier side, so on the next batch I made the balls smaller, cooked them for 13 minutes, and they were perfect.  This recipe will yield about 50 cookies.

Adapted from My Baking Addiction’s Honey-Peanut Butter Cookies

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My Go-to Marinade

After years of experimenting, trying store-bought sauces and making dozens of recipes, I’ve finally found my go-to marinade!  It’s pretty simple – Dijon, maple syrup and garlic – and it goes great on pork tenderloin, chicken and salmon.

I have long been a fan of Dijon in or on almost anything, but the maple syrup idea came from the Pinterest-famous Man Pleasing Chicken.  Add some garlic and some salt and pepper, and voila! you’ve got some really good tasting meat!

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Dijon Maple Marinade

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
2 cloves garlic (or the equivalent in minced garlic)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Yes, I use minced garlic.  It is a huge time saver when you are trying to cook from scratch every night.  It’s all natural – just garlic and citric acid.  I buy it at Costco and a jar that size will last me about 6 months.  Another one of my work-arounds is to use gallon Ziploc bags to marinate my food in – one less big dish to try and squeeze in my already full dishwasher.  Beyond marinating, anytime I need to toss food (potatoes or veggies in olive oil, chicken in flour, whatever) I use a Ziploc bag.  I go through a lot, so I get these at Costco too.

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When I use this marinade on salmon, I’m typically cooking it in the oven; when it’s pork tenderloin or chicken breast, it’s on the grill.  There is something about the sweetness of the maple that pairs well with salmon, as well as with the smokey flavor from the grill.  So good!

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To make this pork, I used two pork tenderloins and marinated them in the Dijon Maple marinade for 15 to 20 minutes.  I grilled it on each side for 7 to 8 minutes and I let it rest for about 10 minutes before I cut it.  Perfection!

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Caramel Corn Cupcakes

I am not a baker – I am a wanna be baker.  I feel like I’ve got the cooking thing down, but baking is such a different animal.  There’s too much science involved – you can’t just add a little of this or that; the measurements have to be exact.  But nevertheless, I want to bake.  Especially cupcakes – I love everything about cupcakes!  I should also add that we found out a couple of months ago that my oldest son Brogan has tree nut allergies, so no more baked goods from a bakery (unless it’s a nut-free bakery). This means that anytime someone at his preschool brings baked goods for the class, his teacher lets me know and I send him in with his own.  So I really need to figure this baking thing out.

I will be experimenting through this blog.  Some things will work (like these caramel corn cupcakes!!) and I’m sure some things won’t. I’ll spare you all the failures (unless they’re so bad it’s funny).

Now on to these beauties I made yesterday… driving home from work last week I was trying to think of an original cupcake idea – something that I love in it’s natural state that would make a good cupcake.  Caramel corn. I love caramel corn! I could eat myself sick with that stuff! This had potential – incorporate a corn flavored cake with a caramel flavored frosting, delish!  So I went to Pinterest and realized my original idea wasn’t so original.  But I didn’t find exactly what I was after so I decided to get brave and modify. It got a little rocky when I was mixing the batter and it broke, but I got really, really lucky and the cupcakes were still amazing!  Still not sure why it broke (I’m sure there is a scientific reason), but I guess no harm, no foul.

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Caramel Corn Cupcakes

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted (if you can’t find your sifter (like me) just use a little less flour)
1/3 cup cornmeal (make sure it’s not self-rising)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels (about 2 small/med cobs)
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
4 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with paper liners.
2.) Sift the flour, baking soda and salt together; set aside.
3.) In a food processor, puree the sour cream and corn. Set aside.
4.) Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and syrup together until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes.
5.) Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.
6.) Add the vanilla and sour cream/corn mixture and mix until fully combined.
7.) With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, scraping down the sides between each addition. Do not over mix.
8.) Scoop batter using an ice cream scoop into cupcake liners until they are 3/4 full. Bake for 20-22 minutes. Cool completely before icing.

Yields 24 cupcakes.
Modified from Sweet Corn Cupcakes

Brown Sugar Buttercream Frosting

2 sticks of butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 box powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 to 2 tbsp half and half

1.) Cream together butter, brown sugar and salt.
2.) Add powdered sugar slowly, scraping down sides as needed.
3.) Add vanilla and half and half 1 tbsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.

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I also got ambitious and made the caramel corn to go on top. This didn’t turn out as great as I had hoped – I think I used too much popcorn, and I didn’t add the caramel sauce immediately (so it started to harden). The taste was fine, but it just didn’t get evenly distributed throughout all of the popcorn.

The quote of the day came from Brogan:

Brogan: “What are you making?”
Me: “Caramel popcorn”
Brogan: “Yum, [very confidently] it comes from camels!”
Love. this. kid.

Caramel Popcorn

1/2 to 1 gallon of prepared popcorn (I used two bags of natural, lightly salted microwave popcorn – may have been just a little too much)
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla

1.) Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
2.) Prepare popcorn and set aside.
3.) In a sauce pan, bring brown sugar, butter and syrup to a boil. Reduce heat and boil a slow boil for 5 minutes without stirring.
4.) Remove from heat and add baking soda, salt and vanilla. Stir well. Pour over popcorn immediately.
5.) Lay popcorn out on greased cookie sheets and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes.
6.) Store in large ziplock bags.

Caramel sauce boiling

Caramel sauce done

Caramel popcorn

Original Recipe