Cookie Madness 2014

We are HORRIBLE bloggers. Not only have we not posted new recipes in three months (I KNOW), but we almost let March Madness go by without a pool. Almost, but not quite! So here it is. Get going, though, because tournament play begins March 20th, and this pool will close on that date at 1am (so, really, get your picks in by March 19th).

For a reminder, here’s the deal:

Enter our March Madness bracket (recap for the uninformed: March Madness is a tournament of college basketball teams, mmmmkay?) If you win the pool, we will bake you something yummy and portable based on your personal preferences. You will get two different selections of baked goods: Alison will have baked one and Jess will have baked the other. Then YOU choose which one of us has won your heart and stomach. Then that person will have home bragging rights for the year.

Seriously, potential winner of this bracket, you have the interpersonal dynamics of our marriage resting in your future hands. Don’t f*ck it up.

Anyway, here’s how you enter:

1) Like us on facebook! (We’re greedy)

2) we will post our bracket location and password on facebook.

3) Log in and fill out your tournament bracket by March 19.

4) Watch some basketball, drink some beer, eat some pizza (try our recipes: here, here, here, and here). Check your bracket once in a while to see where you rank.

5) Win! (Or hope to).

But what if I don’t follow basketball???
Don’t fret. You can pick based on colors, names, or out of a hat and you might have the same luck as those of us who watch. But if you want more systematic guidance, here are some helpful guides to picking a bracket on slate, espn, and bleacher report.

What kind of baked goods would you be willing to make?
Anything that can be shipped. So no pies or other delicate products. But don’t worry–there are a ton of other options.

And finally, as you are counting down the days until the tournament begins, peruse some related links:

Sarah won both the men’s and women’s contests last year (we went for gender equality, but we just can’t follow through with that this year–sorry, women’s basketball). Her preferences were posted here. Since she won twice, she kindly handed one “win” to Claudia. Alison won the contest over Sarah’s heart with her mint madness cookies and I won Claudia’s undying love (or something) with these peanut monsters. The year before, Amy chose Jess’s almond and tar heel cookies.

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Almond buttercrunch toffee– a great last-minute gift!

I am at the end of the second year of a 3-year postdoc, and one of my colleagues recently lamented that I was going to leave soon, and she suddenly smiled, finding the bright side of my remaining year: “we still have TWO seasons of your Christmas cookies!”

As I have spent more time in my postdoc, I’ve made more friends and I now have a core group of colleagues with whom I socialize– which is fantastic– but that means an additional 4-5 people for whom I need to make holiday treats. This year, I decided to make candy. I have made caramels in the past, although they are temperamental and time-consuming to wrap. I’ve also made chocolate truffles, which are also messy and time consuming. I decided to branch out and make fudge, and this delicious toffee.

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I went straight to our baking guru, David Lebovitz, and decided not to toy with his recipe, as experiments with candy can often be disastrous. It is simple, and the only special equipment you need is a candy thermometer. Otherwise, it’s a super easy and quick recipe, and the results are delicious.

As a bonus, when you chop the toffee into pieces, you get little shards of toffee, nuts, and chocolate. Don’t let them go to waste! They would be awesome as an ice cream topping or sprinkled on top of your morning yogurt.

Next year, I may substitute the almonds for pistachios. Or I’ll cut back on the almonds and add chopped dried cherries to the top. The possibilities are endless!

Peppermint & cookie ice cream

I don’t miss a lot about college. But one thing that I was introduced to in college (do you hear me, fellow Wellesley alums?) was peppermint stick pie, a peppermint ice cream pie that was served at “Holiday Dinner”– who knows what it’s called now… probably Holiday Dinner is now not inclusive enough, so it’s just called Winter Festival or End of Semester Dinner, or something like that.

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While I am not a big eater of candy canes, the use of peppermint around Christmas is appealing (okay, I know I am a hypocrite, as many of you who are friends of mine on Facebook know of my vendetta against all things Pumpkin Spice), so I have to say that I appreciate a good peppermint ice cream at the holidays. We also had leftover Thin Mints in the freezer that we had purchased from a sweet little Girl Scout in the summer. I’ve been waiting to find a great use for these cookies, and this was definitely a great mix-in for the peppermint ice cream.

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