By Mary Angela
The holidays are a time for food, friends, and family. But when you can’t be with the ones you love, homemade treats show you care. What better way to express your affection than a plate of cookies? If you’re like me, you enjoy filling platters with lots of different options, so today, I’m sharing my recipe for Cowboy Christmas Cookies. They’re a nice change from traditional cookies and the perfect cookie to introduce you to my new Happy Camper cozy mystery series.
Zo’s Happy Camper giftshop is located in the Black Hills National Forest, which is as cowboy as it gets in South Dakota. I’ve driven across the state many times, and after passing Chamberlain and the picturesque Missouri river, I note the changes. Prairie grasses are replaced by hills, farms are replaced by ranches, and shoes are replaced by cowboy boots. Even for a native South Dakotan like me, the difference is striking.
So striking, that when I was a kid, I loved “vacationing” on the other side of the state. I can still remember my first cowgirl hat with pink feathers. I wouldn’t dare to wear something like that back home. But in the Black Hills, cowgirl hats are common, even stylish.
Mind you, not everyone in the Black Hills has an affinity for hats, spurs, and rodeos. Spirit Canyon, the fictional city in my series, is a trendy town filled with nature enthusiasts. People come here for its granola vibe. Favorite activities include biking, hiking, and canoeing, not to mention fishing, which is a very popular pastime in the area.
While Zo wears Ray-Ban sunglasses and carefree flip-flops, preferring colorful scarfs to hats, the town sheriff likes his black cowboy hat and boots. Brady Merrigan is the law and order in Spirit Canyon and clashes with Zo on several occasions, especially sleuthing occasions.
In Open for Murder, they have words when Zo gets involved in solving a murder at her friend’s lodge. She and Brady Merrigan have tangled before, when she was young and out after curfew. But this is different. He suspects her friend of murder. This time, she’s not going away with a warning—even if it comes with a plate of his family’s famous cowboy cookies.
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 c. brown sugar
- 1 c. white sugar
- 3 tbsp. dried blueberries
- 1 stick butter
- 4 oz. red and green M&Ms
- ½ tsp. vanilla
- 12 oz. crunchy peanut butter
- 4 ½ c. oatmeal (Put 2 cups of this through the blender.)
- Cream together sugars and butter.
- Add eggs. Then mix in the vanilla.
- Add peanut butter.
- In a separate bowl, stir together oatmeal and baking soda. Fold in M&Ms and blueberries.
- Gradually add the mixture to the other bowl.
- Roll dough into small balls. Flatten slightly.
- Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes.
Deep in the heart of touristy small-town Spirit Canyon, South Dakota, former journalist Zo Jones runs the Happy Camper gift shop, where she sells everything from locally made souvenirs to memorabilia. She even rents out mountain bikes, and dabbles in the adventure industry—and sleuthing . . .
It’s Memorial Day weekend in Spirit Canyon, and for Zo that means the return of summer shoppers. It also means the return of her good friend Beth, who’s moved back to the area to reopen her family’s premier hotel, Spirit Canyon Lodge. Beth and Zo spent many childhood summers there and Zo can’t wait to reconnect and celebrate the Grand Opening. But the festivities go from bad to worse when a power outage knocks out the lights—and morning reveals a competitor’s dead body found on the premises . . .
Soon enough, Beth is the prime suspect in the suspicious death. Fortunately, Zo isn’t afraid to put her investigative skills to work and prove her friend’s innocence. To start digging for information, she appeals to Max Harrington, a local Forest Ranger and unlikely ally. Though they’ve argued about Happy Camper’s tours, in this case they agree on one thing: Beth isn’t a murderer. Stranger things have happened than their collaboration. After all, this is Spirit Canyon. But as the list of suspects grows, Zo will have to keep her guard up if she doesn’t want to be the next lodge guest to check out . . .