Fluffernutter Cookie Sandwiches

Fluffernutters are my childhood. Literally, my entire childhood. If I had to choose one thing I loved as a kid, it would be fluffernutters. (Well that would be my sweet pick, if I had to choose a savory it would be tater tots. Tater tots all the way). If you’re not familiar with fluffernutters, allow me to explain this marvelous invention to you. They are sandwiches made with white bread, peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. Delicious right? I think I’ve mentioned on several occasions that my mamma isn’t much of a baker. Somewhere out there, at this very moment, my mamma is saying, “Yes, Jonathan. You’ve already mentioned that I didn’t bake anything for you and your sisters when you were little, on several occasions. Any chance you get. Stop telling the whole world I can’t bake!” I’m sorry mamma, but it’s true, and if it makes you feel any better, it’s not really the whole world. It’s like a few people here and there. Anyhow, my mamma didn’t really bake when my sisters and I were kids. Have I told you that? She didn’t at all. Cut and bake cookies, do those count? Anyhow, she did however, make us a few treats here and there, like jell-o (hmmmm), Rice Krispies treats (yummm) and lastly, flutternutters (coma inducing deliciousness).

The fluffernutters that my mamma would make my sisters and I, however, weren’t the traditional kind I described earlier. Unfortunately she didn’t make us whole sandwiches because I think she knew it would basically be a sugar rush and we’d be jumping off the walls for hours if she had. Whomp whomp. She’s a smart woman. She knew what she was doing. Instead, she’d take two ritz crackers, spread creamy peanut butter on one, and marshmallow fluff on the other, and then sandwich them together. It was the best thing on the planet. I could eat like fifty of them. I even think one time I challenged myself to see if I could actually eat fifty in one sitting. I only got to like eight, but needless to say, I’m still trying to challenge myself. I’m up to like nine now. It’s going to take me a while. 

This past week, I wanted to bring back a bit of my childhood, so I came up with these cookie sandwiches. Mostly I just wanted an excuse to eat marshmallow fluff and peanut butter straight out of the jar without getting caught. I did that for a while before I realized I needed to save some for the cookies. Darn you cookies (but not really because you’re super delicious and I just want to keep you all to myself). I’m trying to devise a plan that would allow me to eat all these cookie sandwiches without giving my mom or doctor a coronary. So far, I got nothing. Until then, if you need me, I’ll be tucked away in a corner sneaking a cookie sandwich here and there, trying my best to outdo my record for most fluffernutters eaten in one sitting. 

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Gingerbread Cookies

When I was a kid all I really wanted to do was eat gingerbread cookies. Like all the time. Gingerbread cookies, night and day. It wasn’t because I loved gingerbread cookies so much that I just had to have them. The truth was, I just wanted to bite their heads off. And then eat them. But definitely not in the weird way that it sounded just now. Sometimes I’d go easy on them (I was a reasonable kid) and start with an arm, or a leg and then work my way up. Okay, that does sound weird, now that I think about it, but come on, I was a kid. You can’t blame me. What child doesn’t get pleasure out of torturing cookies by eating them, limb by limb? I think that’s totally normal, right? Doesn’t everyone do that? Nothing screams “Happy Holidays” like a cookie massacre, and by massacre I of course mean feast. A cookie free for all. A buffet of cookies. A never-ending supply of cookies. I envied Santa Claus (maybe because of his red suit) but it was mostly because of the fact that he got to eat cookies and drink milk all night long. ALL. NIGHT. LONG. Talk about a dream job. Professional cookie eater sounds like the kind of thing I would be great at. I can eat cookies for a living. I would’t mind. I’d do it like my life depended on it, and as if every cookie I ate, saved a life. I’d save a million lives, in that case. It would be a tough job, but one I would hesitantly excel at, you know, for the good of the people. I’m saving lives after all.

It’s fun sometimes to just forget about everything and decorate some cookies. Especially during the holidays. There’s something about gathering everyone together in the kitchen and getting all those creative juices flowing. The holidays can be so stressful at times, brought on by the pressure of fighting the crowds and purchasing gifts, but if you really think about it, it isn’t about the gifts but rather the good times and the memories you create with those you love. Those are the things we carry with us throughout our lives. Material items come and go, but memories, those will last a lifetime. No assembly or batteries required. Just the willingness to have fun. It doesn’t even matter how old you are, you can still have a good time at any moment of your life. I mean, I’m a quarter of a century and I still get a kick out of biting the heads off of gingerbread men. Some things never change. Especially my love for gingerbread. That will always be there.

As a child, I often wondered if Santa Claus had a favorite cookie. It would keep me up at night. “What if he doesn’t like sugar cookies?” I would ask my mom, (which were the ones we always left for him). I felt bad, as a kid, for forcing him to eat just the one type of cookie, year after year. What if the man loved gingerbread and I had no idea? Of course it was impossible to leave a variety for him because my mom wasn’t much of a baker, and the cookies we left Mr. Claus were from out of a tube. It wasn’t until I was older when I saw the red markings left behind on the glass of milk and the leftover cookie pieces one year and I thought to myself, “Santa Claus wears lipstick?!” Who am I to judge? Whatever floats your boat Santa. Whatever floats your boat. Of course it was then that I realized it didn’t matter what cookies we left behind because my mom (aka the best Santa in the world) was just like me. We don’t discriminate against a cookie. We welcome each and every one of them. I’ll never say no to a spicy gingerbread cookie that’s for sure, and something tell me, Santa wouldn’t either.

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Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cookies

This morning I woke up with chocolate all over my face and caramel in my hair, and I don’t even know why. It’s the spookiest thing if you think about it, because I know I didn’t go to bed in that state. Or at least I don’t think I did. To be perfectly honest, I can’t really remember. Maybe I was attacked by some kind of jumbo chocolatey-caramel Easter bunny while I was sound asleep (let’s not talk about those dreams) or maybe I just woke up in the middle of the night and dragged myself into the kitchen and scarfed down a few cookies when no one was looking. That could be it. Then I just lazily walked back to my room and slipped into bed without bothering to wipe off my indiscretions. That’s what they call sleep eating right? I hear it’s a thing, or maybe I’m just making it up. Either of those explanations are plausible really. You’re right though, my bets are totally on the chocolate bunny. It makes complete sense. Although I did go to bed craving said cookies and they were on the counter last night before I knocked out, and by some weird coincidence, it just so happens that the cookies are now nowhere to be found. Where are those cookies? Where did they go?! Yeah, that chocolate bunny must have eaten them right before going into my room to attack me. Damn that chocolate bunny. It’s the only logical explanation. I’m glad we figured that out together. I wouldn’t have been able to sleep tonight, wondering what on earth happened to me, but more importantly what in the world happened to my cookies. Thanks for solving that mystery with me, I really appreciate it. So, chocolate bunnies love dark chocolate cookies with salted caramel drizzled on top just like me. Who would have thought? Not me, friends. Not me.

It takes a certain kind of cookie to really flip my world upside down and get me to forget about my love of doughnuts. It also takes a certain type of cookie to wake me up in the middle of the night and fight off a chocolate bunny for them. You might ask what kind of cookie could ever do that? What kind of cookie has that kind of power over me?! If you weren’t going to ask, let’s pretend you were, just for the sake of this post. Okay so you asked me the important question, oh thanks for asking! I’m glad you did. I’ll tell you, it would have to be the kind of cookie that is chocolate upon chocolate upon chocolate. And not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. With dark chocolate chunks all throughout, melted, all gooey and warm. Said cookie would also have to have salted caramel drizzled all over the top of each and sprinkled with coarse sea salt because salty and sweet is the way to do it, in my book. It would have to be the type of cookie that would be easy to make and even easier to eat all of them without ever realizing you just ate all of them. It just so happens that I’m going to share that type of cookie with you now. That way you can make some for yourself, just be careful though. These cookies come with a warning. You’ll wake up in the morning with chocolate all over your face and caramel in your hair, but don’t fret about it because we all know how it got there.

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and we are all running around like mad people trying to check off items on our long to-do lists. The Pre-Thanksgiving tasks have begun. No amount of mental planning could have prepared us for all of this. Although our lists are nicely organized we cannot help but still feel overwhelmed and anxious. It does not matter how much time we spend mapping everything out, to the last detail, we somehow still do not feel super confident about all that goes into this big event. Everything that has yet to be done. From all that needs to be prepped, cleaned and cooked, to the table setting and anticipation of our guests’ needs. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Of course there are some of us who live for these moments. Big gatherings and celebrations where we can cook ridiculous amounts of food in a short period of time and not feel an ounce of pressure. Unfortunately, not all of us our lucky to be that way. For the most part, we fall into that percentage of people where preparing a big Thanksgiving feast just sounds completely daunting to us. We are nervous and worried that we will not be able to get everything finished on time. All the worst possible scenarios run through our heads, and we shudder at the thought that we might have forgotten something, so we run through our lists about twenty more times within the hour. Then the worst does happen. You are in the middle of cooking something and you realize that you are out of a certain ingredient, or that you completely forgot to get an item at the grocery store. That occurs even to the best of us. There is so much on our minds, it seems only natural that we will forget something, or that we thought we had a certain ingredient but come to find we ran out or were mistaken.

When those moments of panic arise, it is best to just relax. Nothing will get solved by panicking and getting upset. We must run through our options in our minds. Do without the ingredient? Use a substitution? Or go to the market for a quick trip and brave the madness with the rest of the forgetters and the last minute shoppers? Perhaps the ingredient is not that important and you can just omit it. I have done that before. In which case, just laugh it off and continue cooking without it. If the ingredient is important but you do not feel like putting your shoes and coat on, hopping into your car, driving to the market, braving the craziness of the last minute shoppers and the long lines at checkout, well then perhaps a substitution will work for you. Surely there is something in your pantry or fridge that will give your recipe the same taste or effect without going out of your way. To help you on your substitutional journey, here is a handy dandy holiday substitution resource put together by my friend Russell over at Chasing Delicious. It is an “informational potluck” with tips and tricks submitted by a variety of food bloggers and cookbook authors, including yours truly. And last but not least, if you cannot skip the ingredient all together or even find an adequate substitution for it, well then your last resort is to put on your brave face and go to the market. Go with your goal in mind. No fuss no muss. Walk in there like you own the place. Shoot straight for the aisle, grab your ingredient, and go pay. If you convince another brave soul to go with you, have them wait in line while you retrieve your item, that way you can get out even faster.

With all the planning and work we put into this holiday, or any holiday for that matter, we all fail to realize one thing. The holidays are not about impressing people, or busting our chops to try and make the “perfect” everything. Life is not perfect. Sometimes things do not go as planned and we need to accept that that is okay. Thanksgiving should not be stressful or overwhelming. Although at times, it seems inevitable when planning a big meal for family and friends. We want to impress and make a great feast that everyone will enjoy, but it is important to stop, take a step back, and breathe deeply. This day is about being around loved ones and enjoying yourself. It is about being thankful for everything around you. It is a day for appreciating those people that we do not get to see often and for giving thanks for the opportunities that have arisen and been given to us.

You can spend the entire day stressed, cooking all sorts of complicated dishes that will surely impress your guests. However, that does not sound fun at all. Or you can also just enjoy the day, stress-free and having fun. Laughing and playing games with your family and friends. Make easy, yet delicious, dishes that you have cooked countless times before. That way, you know it will definitely come out right. Aim for easy recipes. Dessert should be just as carefree and fast to whip up. One that does not take precious fridge space. For we all know how hard it is to arrange everything in the icebox, on this day especially. A cookie of some sort seems to fit the bill. Not just an ordinary cookie, no that will not suffice, but a seasonal cookie. One that brings together all those classic Thanksgiving dessert flavors into one tiny package.

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Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème

The light that illuminated the vacant school playground—the same playground that a mere few hours ago was filled with hyper children dressed in costume—has now gone away. The sun has drifted off beyond the mountains leaving in its absence an eerie glow of darkness. Cups, streamers, decorations and candy wrappers litter the empty school; remnants on the ground of a parade that took place earlier in the day. Night has fallen upon the neighborhood. No sounds can be heard for miles away. Not a soul is stirring, for the sun has just disappeared. Children are still getting ready. Still eating dinner. Holding in their excitement and anticipation of what is yet to come. It is not a complete and total darkness, for sporadically, lanterns and pumpkins with faces light up sidewalks and pathways into people’s driveways. The jack o’ lanterns are signals. Beacons inviting the youth and their gracious parents to come up and ring the door bell or knock on the door for some candy. Flashing strobes and creepy sounds begin to stir and rise up from homes. A rolling fog erupts from certain houses, creating a spooky mist amidst the sidewalks and pathways. An invisible curtain is lifted as if to say, “the show has started.” Doors begin to open and you can feel the excitement erupt from tiny creatures and characters, as they leave their homes and embark on their Halloween adventures, bags, buckets and baskets in hand.

One house on the block, however, has yet to open its door. As ghouls, goblins, vampires, wizards and mermaids fill the sidewalks with a kick in their step, this house remains silent for some reason. Deep inside, a mother warns her children of the outcome of not finishing their dinner. The kids hear their mother. They hear her loud and clear. But try as they might, the peas and carrots still linger on their plates even after they open their eyes. Feeling defeated and completely excited they gobble down their vegetables, as fast as they can forgetting about their terrible flavor, and make a run for the door. It opens with a loud bang and out comes a witch, a pumpkin and a pirate, mother in tow. The family of four make their way down the path leading to their fence. It creaks as they push past it, one at a time, in line. They travel down the friendly neighborhood, avoiding the haunted houses and screaming kids. Instead they knock on quiet homes with not-so-scary decorations and friendly faces. “Trick-or-treats,” are said as candy is dropped into treat bags along with the rest of the evening’s treasures. House after house they continue on, but the night begins to grow weary. The pumpkin is limp, the witch is cranky and the pirate is sleeping on his mother’s shoulder as she carries him back home, his fist still tightly clenching his goodie bag.

Back home the children forget about their sleepiness. Their tired faces are long gone and are jovial once more. The dining table is cleared to make room for all the goodies. On the count of three they all empty out their buckets. Candy flies out onto the table in their own little corner—forming a mound in front of them—making sure that none of their pieces have gone astray into one of their siblings’ piles. Suddenly they hear their mom call out. They argue and complain but to no avail. No one is allowed to touch a single piece of candy until it has gone through inspection. “Check mine first. Check mine first. No mine!” The witch, pumpkin, and pirate all yell out at once. She decides to do the reasonable thing and goes in order from oldest to youngest. The witch goes first. The mother immediately throws away anything “homemade” and self-wrapped, picking through each of the kids’ loot. When the candy has passed the inspection, they are allowed one candy each. Per day. The excitement leaves their faces once again, knowing that she will, no doubt, hide the buckets and only bring them out once a day when they are allowed to pick one candy apiece. Lucky for them, the pumpkin knows where their mother hides the bucket, as she has picked the same hiding spot for the last two years. They each pick a moderately sized candy for the evening knowing that they still haven’t eaten their halloween dessert. Each year it changes. Is it candy apples this year? No. Coffin brownies perhaps? Nope. Ghost cupcakes? Not a chance. It’s something much more decadent and spooky. Something much more fancy.

“Graveyard Pots de Crème,” the mother says as she sets the tray on the now cleared table.

“Graveyard huh?” the pirate responds.

“Oh it’s chocolate pudding,” the pumpkin answers.

“It’s custard,” the mother says, thinking of how this fancy dessert is lost on her children.

“It looks like pudding to me,” the witch replies as she digs her spoon into the cup and taking a bite of her tombstone cookie.

“Just eat it,” orders their mother.

Next year she’ll make something easier. Like cookies. From a tube.

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New York Black and White Cookies

New York City is a city that everyone must experience at least once in their life. The bustling feel of it is like energy that feeds into your soul, mind, and body. The cabs racing by honking at anything and everyone, suddenly stopping and braking making you feel as though you are aboard a ride at an amusement park. This amusement park, also has seas of tourists but with native New Yorkers sprinkled in, all in a rush to get somewhere important.

The tall skyscrapers rising above and beyond your head, shielding the sun from hitting the concrete pavement. Smoke billowing from down below, underground, where hundreds of thousands of people also travel in unison with those above. Running in and out of subways that take them from point A to point B in a matter of minutes, and then back again. That feeling of constantly needing to move is something that is very prevalent in New York. Women do it in high heels, dressed to impress, while men do it in suits or hip and trendy style. Everyone is always rushing down the streets, running late to a meeting, or appointment. There is a buzz that lingers all throughout the day, the chatter of people all around as they walk and walk and walk. People jumping in and out of taxis. People crossing the streets when signals tell them not to. People on cell phones speaking to loved ones or clients or assistants. Horns honking at all times. Traffic stopped bumper to bumper. Amidst all that chaos, you somehow miraculously feel cool, calm, and collected. You feel at peace with the city and those around you, which is weird, because if it was any other place, you would not think so. But somehow the bustling city life, intertwined with a few out of place trees here and there, and of course the mass greenery that is central park, makes you feel one with nature and society all in one. The untouched stretch of land that expands over 51 blocks is a cacophony of color. One you cannot find anywhere else, especially in Autumn.

Even though the days might seem hectic and the concrete jungle might appear like it will swallow you whole if you do not move about fast enough, as soon as the sun sets and the orange and crimson glow spreads among the city, you cannot help but feel a sense of happiness. That calming sereneness of the setting sun and the cooling air allows you to slow down. It demands it. The evening takes over and you are forced to leave work behind. Night life is actually prevalent in New York. Not like in LA where on weekdays, everything closes early. LA is a faux New York. New York continues to growl, even after hours. That glow is still present even then, only this time, the glow comes from something else. It emits from the lights, billboards, and signs that illuminate the streets. People are no longer rushing around, but rather they are looking forward to dinner dates, evenings at the theater, gatherings with friends at their favorite hang out spot. They are taking their time.

Restaurants are even more crowded in the late night, filled with all sorts of different people. New Yorkers, get a bad rap for being rude and blunt. But the thing is, when you are among the natives in a restaurant, standing next to them waiting for a table, seated beside them scanning the menu, laughing and talking to them as you each wait for your food to arrive, drinks in hand, you will see that they are not rude or blunt at all. Sure you will encounter one or two who are in fact rude and blunt, but those people are everywhere. They do not only hail from New York. No, they are next to you in your small town. They are the employees in your local supermarket back at home. They are the distant relatives you grew up seeing on holidays and special occasions. They are all around you.

New Yorkers are just as warm as those locals in any other state, city, and town. Warm like a coffee shop or small bakery down on 1st and East 87th street. Home of the best New York treat; black and white cookies, that of which are a must in this extraordinary city. A combination of vanilla and chocolate, you get the best of both worlds. See, in New York you do not have to decide on one or the other, they have made the choice easier for you. They have created a cookie where you do not have to choose, rather, the only decisions you have to make are which side to eat first, the chocolate or the vanilla, and whether or not you should eat another on your walk back home? This Manhattan snack will change your life. Eating it will only confuse you, but in a good way. You will think to yourself, “Am I eating a cookie, or a small handheld cake?” This cake cookie, will make you happy. It will make you jump for joy. Yes because of the moistness. Yes because of the taste. But mostly because once you try it, you will be excited that they are made so big. More to eat. A cookie with substance, the way all cookies should be. Have no worries, for you do not have to travel to New York City to get these cookies. You do not have to maneuver around all the people, you do not have to deal with the traffic and subways. All you have to do is follow these pictures and recipe and you can bring a little New York to you.

We start by making the cookie batter.

This is probably the easiest batter ever.

Here’s what you need.

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