By People Staff
March 11, 2009 12:00 PM

25 FOOD & FUN IDEAS

DO-IT-YOURSELF DO-SI-DOS

Makes: about 48 sandwich cookies

Hands-on time: 45 min.

Total time: 1 hr. 30 min.

2 cups unsalted butter, softened and divided

¾ cup chunky peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking soda

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1½ cups uncooked quick-cooking oats

1½ cups creamy peanut butter

¼ cup powdered sugar

1. Beat 1½ cups butter and ¾ cup chunky peanut butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugars and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beating until blended.

2. Whisk together flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Stir in oats.

3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, 2 inches apart onto parchment-paper-lined baking sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 min. or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets 5 min. Using a large straw, make small holes in center of half the cookies while warm. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

5. Beat 1½ cups creamy peanut butter, remaining ½ cup butter and powdered sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy.

6. Spread 2 to 3 teaspoons of peanut butter mixture onto inside portion of solid cookies; top with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

TIP!

Bake cookies up to one month ahead and freeze in airtight container; thaw at room temperature before filling.

SAMOAS FROM SCRATCH

Makes: about 42 cookies

Hands-on time: 1 hr. 30 min.

Total time: 2 hrs. 30 min.

1 cup butter, softened

½ cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

Caramel Topping (recipe follows)

1¼ cups semisweet chocolate morsels

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended. Add vanilla and only enough milk to form a soft dough.

2. Divide dough into thirds. Work with one portion of dough at a time, storing remaining dough in refrigerator. Roll one portion between 2 sheets of waxed paper to ¼-inch thickness, adding additional flour, if necessary. Cut with a 1½-inch round cookie cutter and place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife or a large straw, cut a hole in the center of each cookie. Repeat procedure with remaining dough.

3. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 min. or until bottoms are lightly browned and cookies are set. Cool for 1 min. on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool.

4. Spread 2 to 3 teaspoons Caramel Topping on each cookie. Microwave topping for a few seconds if it becomes firm.

5. Microwave morsels in a 2-cup glass measuring cup at high for 1½ min. or until melted and smooth, stirring at 30-sec. intervals.

6. Dip the bottom of each cookie into chocolate; place on parchment paper until chocolate is firm. Spoon remaining chocolate into a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Snip a tiny hole in corner of bag; drizzle over Caramel Topping.

CARAMEL TOPPING

3 cups sweetened flaked coconut

1 (14-oz.) package caramel candies, unwrapped

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons milk

1. Place coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan; bake, stirring every 5 min., at 300° for 20 min. or until coconut is lightly browned. Cool, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

2. Combine caramels, salt and milk in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at high, stirring at 1-min. intervals, for 3 to 4 min. or until mixture melts and is smooth. Stir in coconut.

THE WOMAN BEHIND THE RECIPES

Nicole Weston is a food writer from Encino, Calif., and the blogger behind the baking Web site Bakingbites.com. “I was a Girl Scout growing up. I love those cookies,” says Weston of the childhood snacks. A few years ago she set out to create her own homemade versions. The end result? “My friends have been stunned—in a good way—when they find out that my cookies are homemade.” As for snackers who long for the originals, check out girlscoutcookies.org for cookie sales in your area.

HOMEMADE THIN MINTS

Makes: about 42 cookies

Hands-on time: 45 min.

Total time: 4 hrs. 15 min.

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup fat-free milk

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ teaspoon peppermint extract

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup cornstarch

6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

½ teaspoon salt

1 (24-oz.) package chocolate candy coating

1. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add milk and extracts, beating until blended. Mixture will look curdled.

2. Whisk together flour, cornstarch, cocoa and salt in a small bowl. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating on low speed until blended.

3. Shape dough into 2 12-inch logs, each about 1½ inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 1 to 2 hrs. or until dough is firm.

4. Slice dough into ¼-inch-thick slices and place 1 inch apart on parchment-paper-lined baking sheets.

5. Bake at 375° for 10 to 12 min. Cool on baking sheet 1 min.; remove cookies to wire racks to cool completely.

6. Microwave candy coating in a large microwave-safe bowl at high, stirring at 30-sec. intervals, 1 to 1½ min. or until melted and smooth. Using 2 forks to hold cookies, dip into chocolate to coat. Transfer cookies to parchment paper to cool. When chocolate is set, store cookies between sheets of waxed paper in an airtight container up to 1 week or in freezer up to 1 month.

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