December 8: J-Dub’s Toffee Grahams

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J-Dub’s Toffee Grahams

(from Gooseberry Patch’s Old Fashioned Country Cookies)

  • 24 square graham crackers
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1 c. chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325. Arrange cracker squares on a lightly greased cookie sheet with edges around it. In a saucepan, bring the butter and sugar to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Pour over crackers, covering them well. Sprinkle with nuts and bake for about 10 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into 24 squares or 48 “fingers.”

If there’s an easier cookie out there, I don’t know what it is. Aside from buying a pre-made roll of cookie dough or the individual raw sugar cookies with pictures on them, there probably isn’t one. If there is, let me know! I want to see!

If you’re one of my regulars, you know I make this every year. Seriously, every year. Why? Because it’s easy and I can be unbelievably lazy for someone that runs a crazy cookie endeavor each year. But also because these are always popular with my cookie-eaters. Young and old alike love these. I make enough cookies that are weird and specialized as it is; it’s good to have an old standard that I know will please most people.

Today, I’m at Man Friend’s while he watches sportsball on TV. We ran to Trader Joe’s (I love you TJ’s) and I asked if he minded if I made cookies here. He did not, and I came back with the ingredients for today’s cookie.

Now, Man Friend is a man living by himself. While he’s a neat freak (more on this later) and a great cook, my kitchen has more general stuff in it than his. I attribute that to me living with three growing kids, and also, you know, running this cookie blog. He doesn’t have a cookie sheet, so we made do.

He’s Italian and he calls this a lasagna dish. Because I’m a little bit of everything and nothing all at once, I call this a 9×13 pan. I like his name for it better.

Him being a neat freak is something that scares me, mostly because I’m…not. Scroll back through the pictures of my kitchen during cookie season for evidence of this. I knew I couldn’t make his kitchen look like this. At all. Not even a little.

I asked for a sauce pan and he hands me a small saucepan. I flip it over to see how big it is.

Okay, 1 quart. With two cups of butter and 1 cup of brown sugar, that’s three cups. This should work.

Or not.

Right after I took this last picture, I said, “Honey, how many cups are in a quart?” He answered “Four,” which is right, so now I have a beef with Circulon and will be writing them next, asking how long it’s been since their cookware has been regulated by the Department of Weights and Measures. But I digress.

The last thing I wanted in my neat freak’s kitchen was a mess. And unfortunately, thanks to Circulon’s version of a quart, I had one.

This is once we poured it into a different–and bigger–sauce pan.

That’s a small spillover mess there. But in the terms of my baking messes, we all know this is minor.

I tetrissed the graham crackers in the lasagna pan, as well as in another smaller square pan and poured the toffee mixture on top of it.

Added the nuts and put it in the oven for 10 minutes. Actually, because I wasn’t using cookie sheets, I left them in the oven for 15 minutes.

December 7: Sour Cream Cookies

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Yeah, I took the lazy way out this time in putting this recipe up. But, I think there’s a lot of character here too. As I was with Man Friend at his parents’ home for his birthday and his mom and I talked about cookies, she pulled out this recipe and let me take a picture of it. She said (if I’m remembering correctly…again, there was some wine involved) that this was an old one she remembers her mother making. “I mean, this was typed,” she said to me.

For those of you that don’t know this, before computers, there were typewriters. You might see some with bearded men wearing skinny jeans at Starbucks. But before they were retro-cool like that, they were just…necessary.

Anyway, I made these and remembered the importance of reading ahead. More on that later.

First of all, this recipe starts with a pastry blender. If you don’t have one, you can use a couple of forks. You cut the butter into the flour, making tiny little crumbs of butter covered with flour, if you’ve done it right. You do the same thing for biscuits, some pie crusts, basically anything with high amounts of butter in it.

Butter and flours successfully combined.

I cube my butter first, which essentially means I make a cut down the length of the stick of butter, then flip it on its next edge and do the same thing. Then I cut the stick like I would to get a pat of putter. Ouila. Butter cubes.

This recipe is called sour cream cookies for a reason. As you’d imagine, there’s sour cream in it. I love sour cream. It’s probably my favorite food. A half cup of sour cream and an egg yolk mixed together goes into the flour and butter crumbs. Butter’s also a favorite food; so far, this recipe has allllll the right moves.

Once it’s all combined, it goes into the fridge. I didn’t do overnight, nor did I split it into 4 different sections. When I was mixing together the fillings, it took me longer than I’d like to admit to understand that this recipe lists three different types of fillings. Not all together. Reading: it’s not for everyone!

I pulled it out of the fridge and rolled it to a 10 inch circle. Then I tried to put all of the brown sugar mixture in it on one go. Note: don’t do this.

When in the oven, some of the cookies expanded and unrolled and, while super tasty, aren’t quite what you are supposed to get.

Man Friend’s mother said these are almost like Rugalach cookies, and that was important when I was rolling them up. I used a pizza cutter instead of a fluted pastry cutter, mostly because it’s 2019 and even I don’t have a fluted pastry cutter.

I rolled them up like crescent rolls and put them on the tray.

And then I tried it with the other fillings. The one with apricot and nuts was exceptionally good, especially since I wasn’t planning on liking it. It’s definitely an old school filling.

INTENSE Apricot!

There’s no sugar in this dough, so the filling makes up for it. In the brown sugar, it’s evident. But in the apricot preserves it’s not as apparent. But there’s a good amount in there, which I was worried about.

However, I will also warn you, dear readers, to not try to use regular old strawberry preserves, straight from the generic aisle at the grocery store. I did. And those cookies looked like a homicide. I ate the evidence. There’s just not enough fruit in there to make the cookies hold together and not bleed. Bleed strawberry jelly, of course.

A sprinkle of sugar on the tops and they go in the oven. I would make these again, happily, and would do so knowing my kids won’t touch these with a 10 foot pole. Those are my favorite kinds. They just don’t know what they’re missing!

December 5: Salted Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. dulce de leche
  • 2 T sea salt

Instructions:

  • In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and egg yolk.
  • In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt. Stir with a whisk. Gradually stir the flour into the butter and mix just into blended.
  • Shape the dough into a ball, cover, and chill for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Shape the dough into 1 T size balls and place them 2 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using your thumb or the back of a teaspoon, press a slight indentation in the center of each ball. Take care not to press too hard down. If the edges crack while make the indention, simply pinch them back together to smooth them out. Otherwise cracks are okay.
  • Fill the indents with 1/4 teaspoon dulce de leche. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the bottom edges are slightly browned.
  • Cool the cookies on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Sprinkle the tops lightly with sea salt.

My man-friend had a birthday (shocking!) and a mom (even more shocking, considering he had a birthday) that shared with me some cookie recipes she’s made over the years. This was taken from a print out I took a picture of while we were at his mom and dad’s place for a birthday celebration. I can’t quite remember if she said she made this cookie often or not, because she and I split a bottle of chardonnay before (and a little during) dinner.

But I took the fact that I had pictures of recipes in my phone the next morning as a good sign that we had a lovely conversation about Christmas cookies.

The dough came together pretty well. I put it in the fridge for an hour, and when I got it out, I realized my fridge may be set a little too cool.

When I went to ball the dough, I had to sort of chip away at it. But it worked and eventually all the dough thawed out.

I like thumbprint cookies, and I definitely like dulce de leche, so this is one I was looking forward to.

And I really can’t believe I’ve never baked with dulce de leche. Or bought it before. Or bought two before, opened both and ate the first one while I baked with the other.

Just add spoon.

At the end of the recipe, you’re supposed to put sea salt on these. I don’t have sea salt. And it was 1 a.m., and I was in my pajamas and not about to leave the house for sea salt.

But they are pretty good, even without sea salt.

December 2: Swedish Butter Cookies

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Today I made this wonderful recipe from my friend Michele, that she shared with me a few years ago. I have a lot of work to catch up on today, so I needed something that wouldn’t take a lot of time. Swedish butter cookies are pretty quick while also being impressive. When I put the cherry on each one, my daughter saw them and said, “Oh yeah! I love these kind!”

The dough is a standard butter, sugar, vanilla base, with an egg yolk instead of the whole egg. The egg white is kept for later, when it needs to be whipped. Once the flour and half-and-half is incorporated, it should make a ball in the mixer. For me, that generally means it all congregates on my paddle attachment and brings the top of the mixer down with a big thud. 

I whipped the egg white in a tiny little bowl with one whisk attachment of my hand mixer. I also chopped a 1/2 cup of pecans with my old Pampered Chef chopper. I ended up needing more, because I wasn’t being stingy with the pecans. 

I like to dry the maraschino cherries a bit, so the juice from it doesn’t stain the cookie. I also like to swat the little girl that keeps stealing maraschino cherry halves from my bowl when I’m not looking. You dip a dough ball in the egg white, and then the pecans, and put it on a cookie sheet. When the tray is full, put half of a maraschino cherry in the middle of each cookie, pressing down slightly.

Into a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes they go. Keep an eye on these. A few years ago, I burnt a batch of these because I got distracted by a cool looking spider that I wanted to take a picture of. I got the picture of the spider, but at the expense of a tray of cookies. It was a sad day. 

I love these cookies, and they look so pretty with the cherry in the middle. Truth be told, I love maraschino cherries, and I always think about the episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall has a coworker that does all this crazy stuff, including eating a jar of maraschino cherries for money. I never understood that, because I’d totally do it for free. And maybe actually have. 

Swedish Butter Cookies(

(courtesy of the fabulous Miss Michele!)

  • ½ lb. butter or margarine (2 sticks)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 c. flour
  • ½ c. sugar
  • 1 egg yolk (save whites to whip)
  • 1 T. half & half (I always use milk)
  • ½ t. baking powder
  • ½ c. chopped pecans
  • 1 bottle maraschino cherries

Cream butter, add sugar; add egg yolk then vanilla and mix well.  Next, add the flour with the baking powder mixed in.  Alternate adding the flour with the half & half.  Form dough into little balls the size of a walnut.  Whip egg whites stiff.  Dip dough balls into whipped egg white and roll in pecans.  Place a half of a cherry in the center and push it down lightly.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15-20 min. in a 350 degree oven.  Watch them so they don’t over brown.  Yum, yum, yum!

December 4, 2017 — Soft and Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I’m in the throws of finishing a beast of a paper, so instead of telling you how I made something, I’m just going to post a few pictures and the recipe. It’s that sort of week around here.

The Best Soft & Chewy Cranberry White Chocolate Chip Cookies (from thedomesticrebel.com)

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract (I like to use Madagascar Bourbon)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter, brown sugar & white sugar with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and egg to combine. Lastly, beat in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda and pinch of salt until a soft dough has formed. Stir in the cranberries and white chips by hand.
  2. Refrigerate the cookie dough for AT LEAST 1 HOUR. You can chill it overnight if you’d like, but one hour chill time is mandatory to prevent cookies from spreading and to create that light, soft and chewy texture.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with silicone liners or mist lightly with cooking spray. Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into Tablespoon-sized balls. Place onto the cookie sheets about 1-2″ apart from one another.
  4. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time to ensure an even cook. Cookies may appear slightly undone, but do not over-bake them! They will continue to set up more as they cool. Allow cookies to set on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes or so before carefully transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. If you’d like to make them prettier, garnish cookies with additional white chips on top of still-warm cookies before serving.

December 3, 2017–Cherry Divinity

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In every cookie blogger’s life, a little sugar must fall. Or in my case, Cherry Divinity.

I’ve never made this before, but I had some marshmallow fluff leftover from the night before (it’s a long story) and google was there for me this morning with the answer to “Christmas Cookie with Marshmallow Fluff.”

Enter Cherry Divinity.

I supposed Divinity is more a candy than a cookie, but I make allowances for butter mints and toffee, so Divinity is given a pass.

The recipe seemed simple enough, though there was a glaring typo that I was ready to pounce on. Joke’s on me though, because this one didn’t quite turn out the way it should have.

I did everything right up until the 10 minutes of mixing, when I left to go write some of my research paper. When I returned, the substance in the mixer looked a little grainy. But I thought maybe it would be okay.

It wasn’t really.

Divinity isn’t supposed to look like this. I don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like, but this is SUPER sweet. However, my kids have been snacking on it all day long, which tells me maybe there’s a market for this treat. I’m just not it.

And Dixie Sugar, it’s “loses” not “looses,” but after my experience, it’s clear that maybe I’m the loser on this one.

Cherry Divinity (from Dixie Sugar)

INGREDIENTS

DIRECTIONS

  1. Line countertop with wax paper.
  2. Place marshmallow fluff in stand mixer bowl and attach the paddle attachment. Set aside.
  3. In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, combine sugar and water whisking constantly. Bring to a boil and let boil for 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and slowly pour sugar mixture into the marshmallow fluff with the mixer on medium.
  5. Bring the speed up to medium-high and beat until the mixture thickens and looses it’s glossy sheen (and looks more matte), about 10 minutes.
  6. As soon as it’s the right texture, stir in vanilla and candied cherries. Working quickly, drop the divinity onto parchment paper using two large spoons: one spoon to scoop it and one spoon to push the candy off the other. Place a cherry onto the top of each piece of divinity.
  7. Allow to cool completely. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

December 2, 2017–Snickerdoodles

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Today is Aaron Rodgers’ birthday. Now, I’m not a big football fan, but many of my friends are, which is how I know today is Aaron Rodgers’ birthday. I lived in Wisconsin for 14 years, home of the Packers, and when I think of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, I think of my friend Nichole, who is from Wisconsin. And when I think if Nichole, I think of Snickerdoodles, her favorite cookie.

a rod

This one’s for you, Nichole.

(Like how I went from December 2nd to Snickerdoodles? I’m smarter than your average bear.)

So Aaron, Pack, Wisconsin, and Colie, this cookie is for you.

I made this cookie years ago (at Nichole’s house, actually) and it was Trisha Yearwood’s recipe. Today, when I wanted a Christmas-fied up version of a snickerdoodle, Trisha’s recipe again popped up…in someone else’s blog. I guess Mrs. Garth Brooks isn’t just a country singer given her own Food Network show because of her name…she is actually pretty legit!

Now, the recipe calls for sifting together the dry ingredients. Because it’s only December 2nd, I did it. But had I waited until like December 16th to make this cookie, it would be just a regular measure-and-dump. I hope the recipient of these cookies enjoy the extra effort taken.

I mixed it all up and went hunting for my colored sugars. Thankfully, I always seem to have those in abundant supply. And because it’s Christmas, I stuck with the traditional red and green…no black or lavender today!

Now when I moved into my new place earlier this year, I ordered some new bowls from Amazon. They were white! They were cheap! They came in a pack of six! And…when I got them…they were super tiny. Not what I needed for morning cereal. Thankfully, my laziness in returning them meant they were still in my cabinet, and ready to fulfill their destiny.

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Seriously, the tiniest ceramic bowls you’ve ever seen.

Because I love you all and want to make a good impression right now, I put them on my cookie sheet in alternating order. So pretty, but truth be told, after I snapped this picture, it was every colored-cookie for themselves. I don’t have time to prettify my cookie sheets.

In and out of the 400 degree oven, and my house smelled like Christmas.

Trisha Yearwood’s Snickerdoodles

(from http://www.foodnetwork.com)

Ingredients

1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 medium eggs
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups sugar and the eggs and mix thoroughly with an electric mixer on medium speed until creamy and well combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Sift together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt, and stir into the shortening mixture.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar (*I used colored sugar) with the cinnamon.

Shape the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls (1 tablespoon per ball), and roll each ball in the cinnamon-sugar. Arrange the dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake two sheets at a time until the edges of the cookies are set but the centers are still soft, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through. Transfer the cookies to wire racks for cooling. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Store in an airtight container.

December 1, 2017–Italian Sand Cookies

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Whoa, is it that time of year again? My tree is up, Elf is on prime time, and I have a pile of final exams to grade. Yup, it must be December!

It was a little up-in-the-air whether or not I’d do this, and in the spirit of openness, the way I was feeling in December, I didn’t know if I could ever get in the Christmas Spirit again. But I’ve prevailed against the doldrums, and here I am.

I’m starting the season off with one of my favorites–Italian Sand Cookies. I got this recipe a few years ago off the internet and they are always a crowd-pleaser.

Tonight, as I was starting to bake, I couldn’t find cornstarch. So, despite my best efforts, I was not prepared, and back to the store I went. Sigh.

Mixed it all together and piped it on a cookie sheet (I also didn’t have parchment paper, which I discovered after I got home from the store for the second time today. I was not about to return for a third.)

Now, when I lived in Wisconsin and made these, the piping came through a lot better.

See?

Now, I don’t know why it is that these have spread out so much the past few years, but my inclination is that it has something to do with humidity and general Louisiana-ness. (50th in everything, except humidity.) If you happen to know the real reason, please let me know.

To celebrate my first day (night?) of holiday baking, I picked up a little something at Albertsons when I went for corn starch.

No, not the cat. That’s Zelda, and she’s a new addition. I’m talking about the glass of Prosecco, also a new addition of sorts.

When they were cooled, I melted some milk chocolate with a little coconut oil and dipped them, and then added the mandatory sprinkles.

My best friend once caught a glimpse of all the sprinkles on my shelf via FaceTime and made me count them for her. There were 20 different kinds. This was a few years ago, and the collection has indeed grown. I don’t have a problem; I can stop any time I want!

Welcome to December friends. Now would anyone like to write a 20 page paper for me this weekend?

SAND COOKIES

(from www.cheftessbakeresse.com)

1 1/2 cups flour (we used AP)
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar *
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs
*(we also liked 3/4 c. conf sugar & 1/4 c. granulated which made them a slight bit sweeter)

Creaming method. Put through bag with large star tip. Bake @ 375 F for 12-15 minutes or until lightly brown. Decorate with choc chips, sprinkles or leave plain and dip half in melted choc., etc.

Soft Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

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When I think of the flavors I love, the top two are lemon and caramel. (What, you don’t sit around and think what two flavors you would want if you could only have two flavors for the rest of your life? Yeah…me either…) And since I live in the south now, sometimes I am blessed with a bag of lemons straight from someone’s tree. img_0028

(You can grow LEMONS and other citrus fruit down here! It still blows my Northern Girl mind!)

Mini- Me’s friend’s grandma gave us a bag of lemons and satsumas before Thanksgiving, and I thought there had to be a recipe out there for a deliciously lemon cookie.

I found one on Pinterest and went to work. Though as tasted the dough, I realized that it was not lemony enough for my liking. And then this Northern Girl realized that the lemons that grow down here are Meyer Lemons, and not as sour as your everyday lemons. Oh well.

To try and rectify my sourpuss sensibilities, when it came time to make the lemon icing, I improvised a little. Instead of just powdered sugar and water, as the recipe calls for, I tried to make a sour lemon icing with the juice from the Meyer Lemons and sugar, boiled and reduced in a pot, and then added to powdered sugar.

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The result? Lemony icing, but still not sour enough. Oh well. They still taste good to the non-lemon flavor purists out there, and that’s a success in my book.

 

Soft Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

(from Swankyrecipes.com)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 – 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Icing (as they wrote it, not my 24daysofcookies.com variation)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons water
  • 3/4 cup to 1 cup powdered sugar

Combine butter and cream cheese in a bowl fit with a paddle attachment of a mixer. Cream together for about 1 minute. Add granulated sugar and continue to mix. Add egg and vanilla extract and continue to beat on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add half the flour, all the baking soda, salt, cornstarch and lemon zest. Add lemon juice and the remaining flour. Mix to combine until the dough starts to form like a ball. Add a little more flour until slight ball starts to form. Cover and refrigerate dough at least 2-3 hours or up to a few days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare baking sheet and spray with cooking spray or parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop, scoop about 1 1/2 tablespoon cookie dough. Roll cookie dough between hands to get a nice round ball and place on prepared cookie sheet.Bake for 8-10 minutes, removed from oven and while still hot, slightly press down if desired. Allow cookies to cool down completely before transferring. Cookies will slightly harden overnight a little more so don’t bake them much longer.

To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar and water together in a small bowl. Whisk fast until ingredients are combined with no lumps. Dip cookies upside down into icing or drizzle icing over the top and allow to harden.

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

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Greetings and Salutations! So for those playing at home, baking generally involves the oven. Okay, technically it ALWAYS involves the oven. But what if you don’t have an oven? Or any aptitude to work an oven? (I’m looking at you, J-Dub.)

Or, what if you’re like me and it’s not the oven issue you need to overcome, but that you maybe run a cookie blog and your KitchenAid mixer bowl is in the fridge because you have another recipe that needs to chill in it for a few hours and you have a few spare hours that you could squeeze in another recipe?

I know there are a lot of you with this exact situation.img_0025

Anyway, no bake cookies exist, and this is a good one to try. I like to ask my friends what their favorite cookie is (I get a lot of great ideas from this, actually) and this is one friend’s favorite.

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

  • 1 cup sweetened coconut
  • 3 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. In a large bowl, stir the coconut and oats and set aside.
  2. In a pot over medium heat, stir the sugar,cocoa, butter and milk together. Stir constantly until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil for about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  3. Immediately pour into the bowl of coconut and oats mixture.
  4. Working quickly, drop spoonfuls onto wax paper and let stand until cool.