How I ended up on BBC News + Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Well, 2014 certainly got away from me. And we’re only 11 days in.

I had all these lovely blog post ideas floating around in my head. Food photographed, recipes marked, a schedule set up, and then BAM, the world goes nuts.

Why?

Because it got crazy cold in Minnesota. Local news cold. National news cold. International news cold. Live interview on BBC News cold.

Live Interview on BBC News

In my non-cooking hours, I handle the communications for a nonprofit in Minneapolis called YouthLink, we work with homeless teens and young adults, 16-24. And if there’s one thing that makes a human interest piece human, it’s insanity that is being homeless when the wind chill is -40 degrees below zero. Continue reading

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Two Smart Cookies Taste Test and Review

I have this terrible habit of window shopping the Flirt lingerie boutique on the corner of Snelling and Selby whenever I am stuck at that light. Which happens more often than you might think.

The light turns green, and I do not notice, because I am scoping out the gorgeous bras, slips, etc. currently on display in the window. And it changes every week, so really, I am not solely to blame here.

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But this review is not about underpants. It is about cookies. Two Smart Cookies to be precise. And don’t let my terrible photography (I was in a hurry to get to a ladies-only Vampire Diaries marathon night) sway your decision. These cookies are worth checking out. Continue reading

Last Minute Gift Idea – Holiday Cookie Mix!

So, I had all this holiday baking planned. Post after post after post of snowman cupcakes, gingerbread houses, santa brownies, and more.

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Then I got the stomach bug. I’ve spent some prime Christmas goody-making time huddled under the covers, avoiding anything edible, and cursing my work schedule for packing 3 late nights on top of my already precarious condition.

Best laid plans, right? Continue reading

Melted Snowman Ginger Cookies

I had planned to make these melted snowman ginger cookies all weekend. It was just fate that it happened on the day we had a foot of snow dumped on us.

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Hello, Minnesota Winter. I see you’ve decided to join us this year. Lucky for you I have a kitchen full of candy melts, flour, sugar and spices.

Snow all you want to. I will sit inside and eat so many cookies that I become big enough to be my own snow plow. Who’s winning now, Mr. Snow? Continue reading

Monster Cookies!

It’s almost Halloween, and I couldn’t be more excited! I’ve got an amazing costume planned (sorry, no spoilers here!), a surprisingly booked Halloween weekend, and plenty of Halloween treats to consume!

I love Halloween. Despite the fact I am easily terrified by scary movies and nearly died via axe murderer in a haunted corn maze, I love love LOVE all the creepy yet adorable themed candies, cookies, cupcakes and more, right down to their orange and black wrappers.

So, to celebrate the occassion, I’ve got a lovely Halloween series for you all! In the days leading up to Halloween, you can expect lots of treats (and a few culinary tricks) coming your way! Yesterday, Sweet potato cupcakes with maple buttercream, and today….Monster Cookies!

This is my own spin on monster cookies. I know they typically have peanut butter, and all the candy but the kitchen sink sort of feel, but I wanted to try something a little different. They still have peanuts, but in the form of………..Snickers!

Yep, that’s right, Snickers. These cookies are oatmeal, snickers, M&M, amazing morsels of deliciousness. These are perfect to bring to a casual Halloween party at work, if your coworkers are awesome enough to do that sort of thing, or to a family get-together or kid’s party.

Ingredients: (This recipe makes a LOT of cookies!)

  • Approximately 2 cups of Snickers, chopped and frozen
  • 16 oz. of M&Ms
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Prepare two baking sheets.
2. Chop your Snickers, line a baking tray with wax paper and spread out the Snickers. Pop it in the freezer for about an hour. Freezing the candy first will help it keep it’s shape and prevent gooey messes while baking!
3. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
4. In another bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium(ish) speed, cream together the butter and brown sugar until smooth. (Tip! If your butter is fresh out of the fridge and not room temperature, place it in the microwave and heat it for 5 seconds, then rotate 90 degrees and repeat until you’ve heated all 4 sides.)
5. Add the eggs and the vanilla to the butter and sugar and mix to combine, reduce the speed to low and add the flour in batches.
6. Pour in the oats, one cup at a time and mix to combine. Add in the candy and mix on low speed, or fold in by hand to prevent crushing the candy.
7. Scoop out golf-ball-sized bits of dough, and place them on the cookie sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges are just turning golden brown. Take them out of the oven, and let them sit for 2-3 minutes before moving them to a cooling rack.
8. Pour a big glass of milk and toast Halloween!

Minnesota State Fair – The Fair Strikes Back

You really can’t do the Minnesota State Fair in one day. You can try, but how could you ever take in all the awesomeness there is to be had when you’re too full of cheese curds to walk over to the animal barns and commiserate with the state’s largest pig? The trick, my friends, is to space out all the joy over multiple days.

For anyone not living in Minnesota, or even you Minnesotans who have yet to experience the fair, this might sound insane. Why would you want to spend a day on your feet, fighting the crowds, dodging animal doo-doo, and walk away (hopefully!) five pounds heavier?

Because the Minnesota State Fair is THAT much of a spectacle. For Minnesotans, our state fair is a Big Deal. And yes, you walk a lot, but really that only keeps you from gaining ten pounds instead of five. Yes, it’s usually crowded, but those crowd members are sporting mullets, tattoos, belt buckles and fishnet stockings (only sometimes on the legs) with glorious abandon. You will have to dodge the poo, but you can’t really blame the animals for that, and every person at the fair has their own unique dodge-the-droppings dance. And finally there is the food. Yes, you will be heavier at the end of the day, but it is worth it for the amazing variety and tastes happening at the fair.

So, without further ado, here is my list of top Minnesota State Fair must haves!

Deep Fried Cheese Curds from the Mouse Trap inside the food building

Do not get your cheese curds anywhere else. We’ve tried them, they are not this good. These cheese curds are so fresh you can almost get a squeak out of them as you take a bite. The batter is crispy and thin, really all that’s necessary to carry the gooey cheese from the paper curd boat to your mouth. They’re always piping hot due to their popularity; you get them right out of the frier because they’re handing them out as fast as they can make them. I don’t know their secret, but somehow they make these little bundles of hot melty joy better and better each year.

 

Onion Rings from Danielson & Daughters Onion Rings

These are by far the most delicious onion rings I have ever had. Ever! My boyfriend came back with these on a previous trip to the fair and when I demanded to know where these little bites of heaven came from I was shocked when he pointed to a tiny, very nondescript, little stand outside the food building. It could have been any stand at any local fair or festival, but these onion rings have forever made this stand a stop on my state fair route.

As you can see from the picture, these onion rings aren’t your typical breaded and fried rings. You don’t run into the problem of taking a bite out of one of these and having the whole onion slice slip out of it’s coating leaving you with a fried (but still tasty) semicircle. The batter on these rings is sweet which is a nice change to counter the bite of the onion. They’re wonderfully light, crispy, and can satisfy a craving for fried foods without the feeling that you’ll need to be rolled out of the fair like a barrel.

Frozen Custard from Custard’s Last Stand

Most people pass right by this tiny stand under the bridge leading to the Grandstand. I like to think of it as the fair’s best kept secret, and I am probably doing myself no favor by writing about it here since I love that I can usually walk right up and no line 40 people deep is standing between me and this amazing, thick, creamy, unbelievably satisfying frozen custard. There really aren’t many places in Minnesota where you can find frozen custard. Obviously Culvers corners the market on this ice cream alternative, but this stuff blows Culvers out of the water. The first bite I took of this custard had me wide-eyed with amazement followed by quick demands that everyone in my skeptical party try it immediately. This is the thickest, most decadent frozen custard I have ever found. That said it’s not overly rich, and I managed to eat that entire cone sans tummy ache while still looking fly in my state fair swag.

 

Apple Cider from the Agriculture Building

While this is neither the best picture of me, or the cider, the fabulous fair-goer in the background really goes with the general feel of the fair. The fair is a strange mix of urban and rural. We urbanites go there to stuff ourselves and oogle animals that the more rural crowd has brought there as a part of their livelihood. They’re competing to be the best in the state with their livestock, baked goods, vegetables, you name it! This apple cider is a great example of the hybrids that come from such an environment. When I think of apple drinks in general I picture saturday morning cartoons, me in my jammies, cereal bowl in hand and a big glass of apple juice. This cider is reminiscent of those mornings, but in a farm fresh, just picked, best of the crop sort of way. You can tell this cider is made with whatever apples were just picked because it tastes different every time. The cider featured here was undoubtedly made from granny smiths and was a bit tarter than my previous visit to the stand. This is a great way to sneak in your fruits at the fair and a full glass is only $1!

 

Sweet Martha’s Cookies and All-You-Can-Drink Milk

Cookies! The reason these chocolate chip cookies are on my must have list isn’t because they’re the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. They’re good, don’t get me wrong, really good in fact, but it’s more that they come hot out of the oven and into my hand that makes these a necessity. Yes, chocolate chip cookies are an odd thing to get at the fair, but can you ever really pass up freshly baked cookies? I think not. Is an entire bucket necessary? Depends on who you ask. It’s great for large groups of course, but my favorite way to eat a bucket is shared with someone I love while we watch the annual talent show, but there is something to be said for the family of four who each sported their own bucket.

And what do you need to wash down all those melted chocolate chips?

You guessed it! Because nothing goes better with chocolate chip dimples than a milk moustache. All you can drink milk for a dollar. Cold, frothy, and unbelievably refreshing on a hot day. Enough said.

 

Carnita Fajita from Juanita’s Fajitas

A new entry to the list of must haves! I didn’t think it was possible to expand this list further (only because I didn’t think I could eat anything more) but I somehow managed to make room for this fajita. Let me just say, I never imagined myself eating, or even wanting to eat Mexican food at the state fair. I don’t know why, maybe it just wasn’t fried enough for me, but for whatever reason I was prejudice. I had walked by Juanita’s Fajitas often enough before, it’s also located just under the bridge to the grandstand (a possible deliciousness connection???) and looked like your average fajita vendor at these sorts of events.

Well I was wrong. SO wrong. The stars aligned that fateful Sunday at the fair, it was too early for the cookies, but I was looking for something substantial after not eating anything but apple cider for the past 3 or so hours and I suddenly had a craving for Mexican. Luckily I was close by to Juanita’s or the whole thing could have ended much differently. I randomly selected the carnita fajita (because it’s fun to say) and it was love at first bite. I didn’t even see it coming. The meat is a tender juicy pork mixed with three types of beans, black, pinto and chick peas (do those count as beans?), as well as your standard pepper and onion mix with pico de gallo thrown in for a colorful masterpiece. This fajita was wrapped more like a burrito and thank goodness it was because that sucker was juicy! I’m talking dripping down your fingers juicy, so I suppose it was a win-win that it was also finger licking good!