Thursday, December 22, 2011

Joy to the World of Cookies!

As soon as I heard we were to be hit with snow I ran out to the store and stocked up on all my baking supplies so I could spend all day inside baking. Doesn't get much better than listening to Christmas music, lighting yummy holiday scents, and watching the snow fall while baking delicious goodies that in just a couple days my friends and family will be enjoying. :)

First up are Andes Mint Cookies. I got this recipe awhile back from one of my teammates (thanks Jennie!) and have heard nothing but rave reviews every time I make them. What I love about these cookies is that the Andes mints become the frosting! 

To dress them up for the holiday gift giving I thought it would be fun to use Peppermint Crunch Andes Mints instead of traditional ones. 

I must say, while they are nice and festive...I do like the traditional mint better, as it blends in so nicely with the chocolate cookie.

Andes Mint Cookies
3/4 c. butter or margarine
1 1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T. water
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
36-48 Andes mints

Melt butter, brown sugar and water in a saucepan over med. heat until melted. Then add chocolate chips, stirring until completely melted. Cool for 10 minutes. Pour into a mixing bowl and beat in eggs. Add flour, soda, and salt. Mix together and chill for about 45 min. Roll into balls (1-1 1/2 in.) flatten slightly, and place on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 min. Don't over bake. When cookies come out of the oven, place an Andes mint on top of each coolie and allow to melt for a few minutes. Swirl the melted chocolate with the back of a spoon like icing. Allow to cool.

Next mouth-watering treat is another new favorite....Cranberry Crunch Cookie Bars!
We are quite often surrounded by tempting snacks at school and have tried to use our best self-control technique of asking someone else who has already given in, "Is it worth it?" Well my friends, there is no need to even ask with these babies...THEY ARE SO WORTH IT....ever calorie! They remind me of a healthier blondie brownie.

Cranberry Crunch Cookie Bars

1 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 eggs
1 t. baking soda
2 1/4 c. flour
3/4 bag of white chocolate chips
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. craisins
3/4 c. chopped pecans (I made a batch with and without these)
4 c. Cascadian Farm Maple Brown Sugar Granola

1) Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and eggs with an electric mixer on low until light and fluffy. Beat in flour, baking soda, and salt until well mixed.

2) Stir in granola, craisins, pecans (if using), and white chocolate chips. Spoon mixture into a well greased 9x13 pan and spread out (about 1/2 in thick.)

3) Bake for 8-13 minutes or until lightly browned on edges. Middle with still be gooey.

4) Let cool, cut into squares, and eat up!

Christmas Playlist-
Tennessee Christmas- Amy Grant
Carol of the Bells- Destiny's Child
Jingle Bells (Robbie Hardkiss Remix)- Duke Ellington
Mistletoe- Colbie Caillat
Hark the Herald Angels Sing- Hot Toddy
Man with the Bag- Kay Starr

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lights! Camera! Action! Here Come....Junior Mint Cupcakes!

WOAH! I don't know how long it has been since I have made a post. Life has been very busy these past couple months. Lots of weddings, holiday gatherings, and family events have taken over any spare time. All of which have been a blast, but wow...I'm starting to become quite exhausted. 

I have been promising my husband I would make these suckers for awhile as Junior Mints are his favorite movie time candy. I have already done a bunch of holiday baking (many of which I promise to post once I am on Winter Break) but these just could not wait! They were pretty much "smellicious," the lovely new phrase coined by one of my 1st graders. Oh, how I love them. :) 

I wanted to make my teammates a special treat to say "Merry Christmas!" and thought Junior Mint Cupcakes would be perfect. Classic holiday mint flavor without the repetitive red and white stripes.

Junior Mint Cupcakes
Chocolate cake:
2 2/3 cup flour
1 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cup of brewed coffee, cooled (I used Starbucks Christmas blend)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 sticks of unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 tsp vanila extract
2 eggs
Mint Buttercream:
2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp natural mint extract
Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup dark chocolate chunks
2/3 cup heavy cream
Garnish with Junior Mints if desired.

Preheat the oven to 350. in a large bowl, add the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sift to combined. in another bowl, add the buttermilk, coffee and oil. In a stand mixer, add the butter and cream until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and while the mixer is on high, slowly add the sugar and cream until well combined. Add the eggs one at a time. With the mixer on medium speed, alternating between the wet and dry ingredients, add each a bit at a time until all three are well combined in the stand mixer. If you are using the cute brown floret baking cups, just place them on a baking sheet, they don’t need to go in a muffin tin. If you are using standard cupcake papers, just line them in the muffin tin as normal. Fill standard cupcake papers 2/3 of the way full and cute floret papers only 1/2 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20-25 minutes.

Mint Buttercream
In a stand mixer, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Your butter needs to be softened, cold butter won’t work. With the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the powdered sugar until all combined (you can add less if you prefer a less sweet frosting). Then add the milk and the extract and beat until well combined.

Chocolate sauce
Place the chocolate in a heat safe bowl. Heat the cream until hot and steam, but not boiling (microwave is fine but you can also heat on the stove) and pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Stir for about 3 minutes or until well combined.

To present them I used white cupcake boxes with cute Christmas Bakery stickers that I purchased from Cupcake Social and my sister had gotten me some really cute boxes from The Cupboard in Fort Collins to gift single cupcakes with.

Today's Christmas Playlist:

All I Want For Christmas Is You- Mariah Carey 
O Come Emanuel- Haste the Day
Someday At Christmas- Jack Johnson
Baby It's cold Outside- Willie Nelson ans Norah Jones
Oi To The World- No Doubt