Hoping everyone is surviving the Holidays, by whatever means necessary. As someone without too many vices, my survival depends on Sweets, lots and lots of sweets. I haven't fully come to terms yet with the fact that I live somewhere with perpetually warm weather, so my body still craves and hoards food as if it is going into hibernation. I baked several batches of cookies over the past week, but they were all shipped to the Mainland as gifts, much to the chagrin of my ever-patient family. Seriously, they were pretty miffed when they came home looking for cookies only to be told I'd boxed them all and shipped them all away. So I whipped up a fresh batch of cookies today.
This is a super easy recipe, with not many ingredients, but there are a few secrets to these yummy M & M cookies. For starters, I don't use actual M & M's. Instead I prefer the Dark Chocolate M & M Baking Bits, which my beloved Target carries right there in the same aisle with the chocolate chips. The flavor of the Baking Bits is a richer, less sweet chocolate-perfect if you're a fan of dark chocolate. Regular M & M's will work just fine, but try the Baking Bits if you can find them.
Like most recipes, this one works best if your ingredients are room temperature before you get started. However, I am very impatient, and I'm not always the best planner, so I've found a few shortcuts that work for me. For the butter-fill a glass with very hot water and let the water heat the glass. Then dump the water and place the glass over your stick of butter until it's softened. You'll know your butter is the right temp. when you can easily press a finger into it, leaving behind an imprint. You can always throw your butter into the microwave for a few seconds, but my cookies always turn out greasy when I do that.
So if you follow my Instagram then you already know that I recently made a batch of vanilla extract with Bourbon for an upcoming cookie recipe. What you may not know is that due to my inability to pass up a good sale, I bought a large bottle of Jim Beam rather than a small bottle, or even a couple of airplane bottles, for a recipe that required, at most, a cup or two. You may also not be aware that I don't drink. Although not for lack of trying. I'm just a cheap drunk, the first to pass out (or worse). And occasionally I've been known to have strange allergic reactions to booze, even to my favorite champagnes, wines, and vodkas. I know, total bummer, right? So this left me with quite a quandary: what to do with this three-quarters-full bottle of bourbon?
Facing a pantry recently stocked with Holiday baking supplies, my eyes alighted upon the brown sugar. I love a rich, decadent caramel sauce made with brown sugar. Any homemade caramel is amazing, but I especially love the depth of flavor you get with brown sugar.
Making Caramel Sauce can be intimidating. Never mind the danger of burns, (both a finger and a tongue were sacrificed to the Caramel Gods today) but at a certain point in the recipe you have to be able to sit back and let the caramel do its own thing, no stirring allowed. And let me tell you-passiveness is not my strong suit.
In making caramel there is also a very fine line between not done enough, which leads to an overly sweet, gritty caramel, and burned, which means you'll have to throw it out and start over. So before starting this recipe please be sure to read it all the way through at least twice, have everything on hand, and be ready to dedicate at least 45 minutes to an hour of your life to the process. It will be worth it in the end, I promise.
Everyone has a favorite Christmas movie, and there are so many to choose from. My personal favorite happens to be National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. I find it amazingly relatable because I grew up in a very Griswald-ish family. But, for me, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas also rates pretty high on my list. After all, he's pretty relatable too. It isn't so much Christmas that he hates; it's the people. (This is so me!) And then there's also the nostalgia factor. After all, who among us hasn't teared up year after year when the Grinch's too-small heart grows. So this is why these cookies have become my go-to Christmas Cookie. These Green Velvet Grinch Cookies are delicious, and super cute. I get tons of requests for these cookies every year.
A few tips:
As usual, this recipe starts with softened butter. Lately I've been using Country Crock's new unsalted Buttery Sticks. They have been a lifesaver since I usually don't have the foresight to set out my butter ahead of time to soften. I often end up microwaving my butter to speed up the process, and then the butter and sugar don't cream like they should. These new Butter Sticks are made from Sunflower Oil, and they're ready to use straight out of the fridge. LOVE IT!
For the food coloring, I highly recommend using gel food coloring, and my favorite brand is Americolor. You can buy them on Amazon, and I promise you will never want to use any other food coloring again. The colors are always bright, vibrant, and true, and easy to blend. You don't have to use as many drops as regular food coloring to achieve your desired color, which means no yucky taste. I've used them in cookies, frostings, royal icing, and fondant with great success. They come in many different size sets. As you can see, I have the Student Kit. In this recipe I actually used a touch of teal to keep the color from becoming "muddy" because I was using melted chocolate instead of cocoa powder. Don't you just love last minute substitutions when you're out of an ingredient?
December 4th is National Cookie Day, and I could let the opportunity pass by without trying out a delicious new recipe: Marshmallow Stuffed S'mores.
I have tried all manner of S'mores-related recipe, and they have all been delicious. I mean, really, it is impossible to go wrong when combining graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate. For starters I love camping and no camping trip is complete without a good, fire-roasted marshmallow s'more. Two summers ago I discovered Kraft Jet-Puffed Stackermallows, a flat square marshmallow designed for easier stacking. This was also around the same time we started experimenting with other chocolate options: Rolos, Reese's Cups, and Dove Sea Salt Caramels ranked as our favorites.
I have also made S'mores Cupcakes with Toasted Marshmallow Meringue, S'mores Dip (the best mess-free way to enjoy the otherwise sticky treat), S'mores Chex Mix, and about a million other cookie recipes. And don't even get me started on Ben & Jerry's S'mores Ice Cream!
But this one is my new favorite, in part due to my secret ingredient: Graham Flour. Graham Flour was named after Sylvester Graham, whose teachings on dietary reform emphasized vegetarianism and eating whole-grain bread. It is similar to whole-wheat flour, and contains all of the wheat berry's elements- germ, endosperm, and bran. I love Bob's Red Mill Graham Flour (which should be able to find in your local Health Food store). It is very coarse, with a flavor that is slightly nutty and sweet.