March 3, 2014

We most often think of mint as a flavor of the holiday season, but there's not need to reserve mint for Christmas as it is delightful any time of year.

According to Wikipedia, it is estimated there are 13-18 species of mint. This highly aromatic herb grows in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and North America. The leaves have a warm and sweet flavor with a cool aftertaste. Mint is often used in cocktails and salads, but its refreshing zing can really perk up a delectable dessert.

Top Secret Shamrock Shake

In 1970 McDonald's introduced a smooth and creamy concoction called the Shamrock Shake. Over 40 years later, the green shake is still sought-after and sold at all American and certain Canadian stores during the month of March. Additionally the Shamrock Shake is sold in Ireland around St. Patrick's Day.

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1¼ cups milk

¼ teaspoon mint extract (not peppermint extract)

8 drops green food coloring

Combine all ingredients and blend in a blender at high speed until smooth. Stop blender and use a spoon to stir ice cream if needed.

Pour into two tall glasses, top with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry and serve with a straw.

Andes Mint Brownies

Brownies and mint? Yes, please! Bakerette's brownies have three luscious layers. The middle layer is creamy and green. The triple layers take a little bit of patience, but in the end, it's all worth it.

Bottom Layer:

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

3 eggs, beaten

2½ teaspoons vanilla extract

4 (1 oz) squares unsweetened chocolate

1 cup all-purpose flour

Middle Layer:

½ cup butter softened

4 cups powdered sugar

2-4 tablespoons milk, or as needed

1½ teaspoons peppermint extract

green food coloring

Top Layer:

1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

6 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Bottom layer:

With an electric beater, mix together 1 cup butter and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time beating thoroughly with each addition. Add the vanilla extract. Beat until fluffy.

In a microwave safe bowl, melt the unsweetened chocolate. Stir every 15 seconds until chocolate is melted. Transfer to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the flour and stir until well blended and smooth.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the sides of the brownies appear dry and pull away from the edges. The cake may slightly jiggle slightly in the center. This is normal. Remove and cool thoroughly.

Middle layer:

With an electric mixer, beat together 1/2 cup butter and powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add milk and beat until mixture is the consistency of frosting. Add more milk if needed. Add peppermint extract and enough green food coloring for desired color. Spread over the cooled brownies and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to set.

Top layer:

In a microwave-safe bowl melt the chocolate chips and butter together. Stir every 15 seconds until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in the vanilla extract and spread over the chilled brownies. Place back in the refrigerator until set and firm. About 20 minutes.

Cut into 15 large squares or 30 small squares and serve.

Easy Cookies 'N Mint Ice Cream

Dorothy Kern found a speedy and easy way to make ice cream without an ice cream maker. Oreos and peppermint pair perfectly to make a cold and sweet treat.

10 Cool Mint Cream Oreos

1 tablespoon butter spread (or butter, softened)

1 can (14 oz) fat-free sweetened condensed milk

½ teaspoon peppermint extract

8 oz fat-free Cool Whip, thawed

green food coloring

Pulse Oreos in a food processor until you get a fine crumb. Add butter and pulse until chunks form. Set aside.

Stir together sweetened condensed milk and peppermint extract in a large bowl. (I like to do this in a freeze-safe bowl, so that it can go straight to the freezer without me having to wash anything!) Fold in Cool Whip gently. Add 3-5 drops green food coloring, if desired, to get the green "mint" color you want.

Add the Oreo crumbs to the ice cream and gently fold them in. Don't mix too much or there won't be chunks of them to bite into.

Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours, but overnight is best.

Note: You can substitute regular Cool Whip for the fat-free and regular sweetened condensed milk for the fat-free kind. If you prefer not to use Cool Whip, you can use fresh whipped cream by beating 2 cups cold heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form and sub it for the whipped topping.

Thin Mint Cookies

We all love Girl Scout cookies and we are sad when they're gone. Now you don't have to wait another year to have your favorite cookie. You can make your own, and it's up to you if you want to share.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup butter, softened

1 cup white sugar

1 egg

½ teaspoon mint extract

3 (1 oz) squares semisweet chocolate, chopped

¼ cup butter

In a large bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter or margarine until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until mixed well. Beat in egg and mint extract.

Sift flour, cocoa, and salt together into a small bowl. Add flour mixture by halves into creamed mixture, beating well after each addition.

Divide dough in half. On lightly floured surface roll dough into two 1½ inch diameter cylinders. Wrap each cylinder in waxed paper, and refrigerate 5 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thirty minutes prior to baking, place both cylinders in freezer.

Remove one cylinder at a time, and slice 1/4 inch thick pieces with very sharp knife. Place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

Melt 1/4 cup butter or margarine and the semisweet chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Drizzle over warm cookies. Place on wire racks, and let cool and harden completely.