It's only right to give all the adorable Brownies and Junior Girl Scouts out there advance warning.
The days may be numbered for one of your most popular Girl Scout cookie brands ever - especially if very many more people hear about the alternative version Bowling Green's Robin Crusa Spoores has dreamed up.
"I made it up based on those peanut butter Tagalongs, probably 15 years ago," she said of her recipe for chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies.
Her motive was understandable.
"It was Christmas time, so no Girl Scout cookies available, and I wanted that flavor."
The recipe she came up with is brilliant, tasty, but embarrassingly simple - so much so that Spoores insists on providing Cook's Corner readers with a bonus second recipe for her "loaded carrot cake."
So today's column is a two-for-one and a fantastic deal for anyone with a sweet tooth.
However simple Spoores may feel the cookie recipe is, it's also ingenious. The secret ingredient that she uses in place of a wafer-style cookie base is Ritz crackers!
Don't think for a minute that the salt on the cracker will overwhelm the sweet flavor. Instead, it enhances both the peanut butter and chocolate tones.
And don't go trying to substitute some other brand of cracker. Ritz is the most buttery, and that makes a difference.
Her original version of the cookie had a milk chocolate coating, but in more recent years she has been serving a white chocolate version as well.
"Shaun likes the white," she says of her 18-year-old son.
The cookies "can be for any holiday or season" based on the choice of colored sugar or sprinkles used.
For Halloween, go with orange and yellow.
"For Christmas use the red and green sprinkles, or sometimes I use colored sugar on the white ones."
Spoores said she always uses the chocolate melting wafers from Ben Franklin for either the white- or milk-chocolate version.
Her loaded carrot cake, in contrast to the cookie recipe, is a recent addition to her collection and was acquired for a very special reason.
"I was looking for a carrot cake recipe - something a little different - for my wedding."
Looking online, she found a version that sounded good at allrecipes.com and tweaked it a bit.
"It was one of my side cakes. I had two, this and lemon."
Spoores actually made her own wedding cakes.
"I had taken cake decorating classes in the past and I've done cakes for other people" so it seemed reasonable.
Four years as a widow followed the untimely death in May 2004 of her husband Frank Crusa. She feels blessed to have found love again with local resident Jack Spoores, culminating in their July 19 wedding at Prout Chapel.
Their guests were delighted with the rich, very moist cake and let Robin Spoores know it.
She had tried the cake out for the first time on her Beta Sigma Phi Sorority sisters. They all loved it, so it passed muster for the wedding.
"I try out my recipes on them first a lot of the time," said Spoores, a 20-year member of the organization.
For those planning to replicate her carrot cake, she advises using carrots purchased from the supermarket already-shredded. "It gives the batter a little more consistency, with the nuts and the coconut."
Unlike the frosting suggested online, she uses a buttercream frosting with "all butter, not half and half butter and shortening."
The resulting warm ivory color was a perfect match for her wedding gown and besides, the flavor was "a little richer - appropriate for a wedding."
Like any good Girl Scout — and Robin Crusa Spoores was one many years ago — she makes it a point to keep her “regular customers” satisfied.
Son Shaun is currently a freshman in college but she still delivers a tray of her chocolate and peanut butter sandwich cookies to his former elementary school — St. Aloysius — every year at Christmas. The staff would miss them too much if all of a sudden one year they disappeared off the radar screen.
And her late husband Frank Crusa’s Aunt Anne “always, every Christmas, still asks: ‘Will you make those peanut butter things?’”
Of course she will.
Visitors to the Wood County Fair have also been able to form a long-term habit of looking for Crusa Spoores’ entries in the baked goods competition.
She had 15 separate items entered in a single year, awhile back.
“Maybe next year I’ll enter the loaded carrot cake, if they have a carrot cake category.”
Loaded carrot cake
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts
8 oz. can shredded pineapple (drain about 1/2 the juice)
2 cups shredded carrots (or finely chopped)
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round pans. In medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon, and set aside.
In a large bowl, combine eggs, buttermilk, oil, sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Add flour mixture and mix well.
In a medium bowl, combine coconut, walnuts, pineapple and carrots. Add to batter and mix well. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 10-15 minutes and invert onto wire rack to cool completely.
Frost with buttercream icing and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Keep refrigerated.
1 cup softened butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk (or to consistency you'd like)
In a large bowl, cream the butter and vanilla. Add the sugar one cup at a time, beating well after each cup. Blend in the milk and beat on high until light and fluffy.
Chocolate peanut butter sandwich cookies
1 box Ritz crackers
1 18-oz. jar peanut butter (I use Jif)
1 pound milk chocolate melting wafers or chocolate bark
1 pounds white chocolate melting wafers or chocolate bark
Colored sugar or sprinkles
Line cookie sheet with wax paper.
Place pound of milk- or white chocolate in medium size microwave safe bowl. Microwave, 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each 30 seconds, until chocolate is melted and smooth.
Spread 1/2 to 1 teaspoon peanut butter between 2 Ritz crackers. Using tongs, dip cracker sandwiches, one at a time, in chocolate, completely covering sandwich. Tap off excess chocolate.
Place about 1 inch apart on prepared pan. Sprinkle with sugar or sprinkles. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes.
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