June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:14 PM
"More than a few decades ago, when I was treading the sidewalks of my neighborhood and knocking on doors, there were only 3 or 4 kinds of Girl Scout cookies and most people I knew had very firm favorites. I could always count on Nurse Buffington, who lived right next door, to buy at least a half-dozen boxes of the chocolate mint cookies. Old man Gunther, whose long, straggly beard and bushy eyebrows had all the neighborhood kids scared silly, never failed to buy a couple of boxes of Shortbread cookies, once I'd gotten up nerve enough to ring his doorbell. My mom always bought two boxes of each sort because even though my cookie-loving Dad didn't care, we four kids squabbled over which kind she should buy, so she just bought some of everything and let us fight it out. According to the bit of Girl Scout history I read, Juliette Low started it all in the 1920s, as a way for the Girl Scout troops to make enough money to cover their own activities. The first cookies were sugar cookies baked at home by the girls and their moms. They wrapped them in waxed paper, put them in paper or cellophane bags (remember cellophane?) sealed them with Girl Scout stickers (which they undoubtedly had to lick; no peel-offs then) and sold them for 25 cents a dozen.Well, things have changed, of course, and Girl Scout Cookies are now $3 a box. They're made in huge quantities by three licensed national baking companies, and these days you have eight different kinds of cookies to choose from, including the all-time best seller, Chocolate Thin Mints, which most people I know freeze before they eat. One thing hasn't changed, however, and that's the popularity of Girl Scout Cookies. They were an instant success more than 80 years ago, and today the annual cookie selling is one of the most well-recognized, traditional events of the year. It's going on right now, in case you hadn't noticed, and you have until March 11 to lay in enough of your particular favorite to last you until about this time next year. And if a young girl dressed in green or brown doesn't come knocking at your door, you may still be able to get your cookie fix at a neighborhood supermarket, as our local Girl Scouts usually have a member posted near or inside the entrance, probably after school or on weekends.I hope you didn't decide to give up cookies for Lent, because it's time to forget the diet for a bit, get out your wallet or checkbook and look for a Brownie or Girl Scout to sell you some old-fashioned flavor. It's for a good cause, of course, which is all the reason I need to restock my freezer with Chocolate Thin Mints and Peanut Butter Sandwiches. And now I don't have to fight my siblings for them. RecipesThere are a lot of recipes floating around that use Girl Scout cookies, quite a few of which you can find on the Internet by going directly to the Girl Scout Cookies site and clicking on Recipes. However, the following recipe using Thin Mints came from a pastry chef at a restaurant called Las Olas in Florida who is a Thin Mint freak herself. If you haven't already eaten your stash of the cookies, this recipe puts them to good use. One word of caution: It's rich.Thin Mint Big ChillFor crust: 6 T. butter, melted 1 box Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies (37 cookies), crushed into crumbs Filling1 3/4 cups sugar 14 egg yolks (yes, I mean 14) 1 qt. heavy (whipping) cream 2 t. vanilla 2 1/4 cups (18 oz.) white chocolate, chopped and melted 24 Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, quartered (use a sharp, thin-bladed knife) Topping:4 oz. (1/2 cup) semisweet chocolate chips, melted1. Make crust: Mix butter with cookie crumbs. Spread evenly into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Refrigerate until ready to fill.2. Make filling: In top of a double boiler over simmering water, whisk sugar and egg yolks until they reach 130 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Whip cream until soft peaks form, add vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form; set aside. When the yolk mixture reaches 130 degrees, transfer them to a bowl and with electric mixer, beat for 5 minutes or until cool and very light. Quickly mix in the melted white chocolate and then gently fold in the whipped cream.3. Fill prepared crust half full with filling mixture; layer half the Thin Mint cookie quarters over the top then layer with the remaining filling mixture and again the remaining cookie quarters. Freeze at least 12 hours.4. When ready to serve, remove springform pan from freezer and drizzle melted semisweet chocolate over the top. Remove side from pan and slice dessert into wedges, serving when slightly thawed. Serves 12-16 depending upon size of wedges. Don't even ask about calories on this one. Here's an easier but just as rich and delicious dessert using my other favorite Girl Scout cookie, Peanut Butter Sandwiches. It's a real kid-pleaser.Peanut Butter and Jelly Ice Cream Sundae Pie1 box Girl Scout Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies 5 T. butter, melted 1 qt. vanilla ice cream, softened 2/3 cup strawberry topping 1/3 cup peanuts, chopped Chocolate fudge topping, homemade (see Feb. 14 column) or purchased, optional1. Place cookies in food processor or blender and process to fine crumbs. Combine cookie crumbs with melted butter and set aside 1/2 cup of the mixture. Press remaining crumbs onto bottom and sides of an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Freeze until firm.2. Spread 2 cups of the ice cream in an even layer of the cookie crust. Drizzle with 1/3 cup of the strawberry topping and sprinkle with 1/4 cup of the reserved crumb mixture. Spread remaining ice cream in an even layer, drizzle with remaining strawberry topping and sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture, then chopped peanuts. Freeze until firm.3. To serve, cut with sharp knife into 8 wedges (dip in warm water first if it's difficult to make clean cuts). Top each with a drizzle of fudge topping (hot or not), if desired, or have a small pitcher of hot fudge topping available on the side.Another very quick and easy and this time low-fat dessert, perfect for the warm summer evenings we have to believe will come:Lemon Crunch Parfait12 Girl Scout Reduced Fat Lemon Pastry Cremes1 qt. frozen Reduced Fat or fat free vanilla yogurt1 jar (15 oz.) scalloped apples1/2 t. cinnamon1. Place cookies in a small self-sealing plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crumble into small pieces; set aside. Spoon half the yogurt into 6 parfait glasses or small dessert dishes.2. In a small bowl, combine apples and cinnamon. Layer 2 T. of the apple mixture over the yogurt in each dessert dish then sprinkle with half the cookie crumbs. Spoon remaining yogurt over cookie crumbs and layer remaining apple mixture on top. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs and serve, or chill until ready to serve. "