Noms: Girl Scout Thin Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Girl Scout Thin Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. Recipe at cinenoms.wordpress.com.

Confession: As I was making these, I couldn’t shake this weird feeling that I was doing something terrible. I mean, you get Thin Mints once a year, maybe twice if you’re lucky, and there I was, smashing up half a box of them, turning them into a different cookie entirely. I felt like a monster.

But you know what? If making these makes me a monster, I’ll take being a monster. These might be the most amazing cookies I’ve ever made.

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Holiday season, baking season

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Every holiday comes with some baking, but I think that Thanksgiving and Christmas come with the most. For Easter or the Fourth of July or any other holiday, you can eat whatever dessert you want — cake, ice cream, pie, tons of chocolate, anything. But for Thanksgiving, you have to have pumpkin pie. For Christmas, you have to have cookies. Those are just the rules.

A cranberry cake, made from a Chicago Tribune recipe, sits on a platter.

There was a pumpkin dessert at my Thanksgiving this year — admittedly, a roll cake, not a pie, so I guess we bent that rule — as well as this amazing cranberry cake that my mom found and we made together. Cranberry sauce is my favorite Thanksgiving food, and I loved getting that flavor in our dessert, with some orange thrown in. Check out Leah Eskin’s recipe in the Chicago Tribune if you’re a cranberry fan, too.

Three kinds of cookies — chocolate with m and m's, chocolate chip, and peanut butter — sit on a christmas placemat.

For Christmas, we made many, many cookies. My mom likes to teasingly remind me that when I was growing up, I hated the cooking and baking parts of Christmas preparation — it just “wasn’t me,” I said, probably with some overly dramatic tears. These days, I get into it gleefully — this year, I was up working on cookies until at least 2 a.m. two nights in a row. I made:

  • Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies. The classic, though I somehow managed to mess them up this time, ending up with two trays of flat cookies that were simultaneously burnt and underbaked before fixing the dough by adding flour. Blame 2 a.m. baking.
  • Chocolate cookies with mint M&Ms, using these Inside Out Chocolate Chip Cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction as a base. Delicious, though they didn’t come out as fluffy as I wanted them to be — I’ll try again soon! Even flat, they were still chewy.
  • Peanut butter cookies, again using a Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe. I tried Sally’s PB cookie recipe this year because I was unhappy with the recipe I’ve used in past years, and after this first try, I am never going back to that old recipe. These came out perfect beyond my expectations — tasty, fluffy, a hit with every relative and coworker who tried them. Yum.

I didn’t get a picture, but I also made these Homemade Jingles from Shugary Sweets. Have you ever had Jingles, also known as Santa’s Favorites? I grew up eating them at Christmastime and assumed they were a standard thing, but when I talked about them at school in Missouri, no one knew what I was talking about, so maybe they’re a Chicagoland thing. They’re cookies flavored with anise, a spice that tastes kind of like black licorice, and they were always sold topped with red and green sugar sprinkles, cut into Christmas shapes like stockings or wreaths. I just learned that they have been discontinued by Keebler, which is sad news, but I guess that means I found this recipe just in time. I’ve tried a few sad copycat recipes in years past, but this one is the real thing. Fans of the classic cookies will be satisfied.

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And I know this isn’t a dessert, which breaks my theme, but these brussels sprouts with cranberries are too pretty not to share. After I found the recipe, from Rachel Schultz’s Household Almanac, on Pinterest, I showed it to my mom, who is brussels sprouts’ No. 1 fan, and she put it on our Christmas menu. I can’t tell you about the taste personally — sorry, Mom, I’ve never liked brussels sprouts! — but everyone who ate them seemed to enjoy them.

I’m not quite done yet with holiday baking — my high school friends and I celebrated a few baking-heavy New Year’s Eves, and although everyone is spread out this year, I intend to carry that on. But it’s been a fun few weeks of tasty eats, and it’s put me back in baking mode after a few months off. I’m all stocked up on candy mix-ins thanks to after-Christmas sales, and more frequent baking (and blogging!) is on my New Year’s Resolutions list. Stay tuned. 🙂

If you baked something great this holiday season, please share! What are the traditional treats around your house? Did you try anything new this year that you loved?

Noms: Pasta Salad with Chicken, Grapes and Cashews

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This pasta salad contains pasta, chicken, grapes and cashews.

In college, you hit a bunch of milestones that make you feel like you’re growing up. Signing your first apartment lease. Traveling on your own. Graduating with a degree.

But I’ve always felt that it’s not the big things that make me feel like I’m on my way toward adulthood as it is the little things, the ones that your parents always did for you, like taking your fancy clothes to the dry cleaner or using Draino and boiling water to fix your sink.

A recent “Oh my gosh, I might sort of be a kind of adult” moment? Making my mom’s pasta salad, a delicious combination of chicken, pasta, grapes and cashews coated in a semi-sweet dressing.

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Noms: “Skinny” Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins

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I’ve had my eye on Sally’s recipe for Skinny Strawberry Chocolate Chip Muffins for a while, but the combination of words in their name had me a bit wary. Strawberry + Chocolate Chip? All day, every day. But Skinny + Chocolate Chip? Nope. I’m all for healthy foods, and you know I’m all for sweet foods, and I’ve just always been generally opposed to mixing the two. I guess I was worried the low-calorie label would lead to a low-flavor recipe.

Of course, I should have known better than to doubt Sally! I made these last week for an Easter brunch, when I wanted something that would be sweet but not a full-out dessert, and of course they were flawless. Moist and soft and full of flavor, from the strawberries to the chocolate to the touch of cinnamon. And they were easy, too! I’m already planning to mix up another batch this weekend to eat throughout the week ahead. Yum.

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Noms: Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies are the perfect combination of salty and sweet. Recipe at cinenoms.wordpress.com.

It’s no secret by now that I love sweet things of all shapes, flavors and sizes. But something I’m starting to love even more? Desserts that are both sweet and salty.

It started when I tried brown butter sea salt cookies from the Brown Butter Cookie Company in Cayucos, California. I was instantly hooked by the taste of the sea salt. Nom. Since then, I’ve picked up or baked salty/sweet treats whenever I could. Chocolate sea salt ice cream from Sparky’s. Ghirardelli’s various sea salt squares. Sally’s Baking Addiction’s Triple Chocolate Pretzel Brownies. YUM.

This week’s recipe was inspired by Brown Eyed Baker’s Peanut Butter-Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I made — and loved! — last summer. I wanted that salty-sweet taste but wasn’t in the mood for peanut butter, so I kind of combined that recipe with the original Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookie recipe. The end result? Delicious!

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Nom Flashback: How I Met Your Mother’s Sumbitches

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I’ll admit that I got a super-late start in watching How I Met Your Mother. I don’t watch much TV, but I decided to give HIMYM a shot in mid-2012 after being told to do so by several friends I knew from different activities. I thought, “If all these different people like it, it has to be good, right?”

Right.

Thanks to Netflix, I burned through seven seasons that summer, watching an episode or two while I got ready for my internship and then a few more when I got home. I was so hooked. I love the characters — don’t ask me to pick a favorite! — and I love the continuity of the show, all the little inside jokes that you can see running throughout the seasons. It’s a funny, funny show, but it’s so smartly written.

I am going to be so, so sad when it ends tonight.

In honor of the series finale, I’m recommending a recipe for a treat that show fans will recognize. Link — and mild spoilers — after the jump!

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