Listen, no one has to tell Martha, but we're probably not going to finish that whole bucket of cookies.
One of the highlights of every State Fair is standing shoulder to shoulder in a bustling, fast-moving line for a taste of sweet, chewy cookies from Sweet Martha's Cookie Jar. There's something about the sun baking down and the delectable aromas washing over us that culminates in ordering as many cookies as possible.
And it's worth it. That first luscious bite, where chewy meets gooey, is unmitigated heaven. But somewhere around the quarter-bucket mark, the shine wanes and just like the free yardsticks and paper pig ears, the plastic bucket with the smiling cookie becomes another Minnesota State Fair accessory.
But don't discard the cookies or the bucket. (In fact, you'll get major side-eye if you do.) Instead, bring them home and embark on some of these sweet leftover adventures.
For the cookies
If you're a purist: We get it, you want to enjoy your bounty as it is meant to be. Just pop the cookies, bucket and all, into the freezer as soon as you get home. Take three (or four) frozen cookies out at a time, pop them in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds and it'll be like time never passed.
Make Sweet Martha's cookie butter: You want a dry cookie for this, so stale two-day-old fair cookies are perfect. First, chill the cookies in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. (The chocolate chips should be firm). Blend in a food processor until you have about 1 cup of cookie crumbs. In a saucepan, heat 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, stirring until combined. Remove from heat and add the cookie crumb mixture, stirring to combine. If the mixture is dry or too pasty, add a few splashes of milk until it holds together. Finish with a pinch of Maldon salt if the spirit moves. Store in a jar in the fridge and eat by the spoonful when no one else is looking.
Cookie pie crust: With these sweltering temps, a good no-bake fridge pie is a smart treat to have on hand. Mix 7 ounces of crushed cookies (around 1 2/3 cup) with a stick of melted salted butter and press into a pie tin. Use in place of an Oreo crust for a Mississippi Mud pie, or just a shell for some pudding mixed with whipped cream. This is a judgment-free treat zone.
Cake pops/truffles: The secret that Starbucks doesn't want you to know is that those adorable little cake pops that grin up from the cases are ridiculously easy to make — or at least an approximation of the cake part. In a medium bowl, mix crushed-up cookies with store-bought vanilla buttercream frosting at a 2:1 ratio until it's a batter that can be formed into balls. Dip in melted chocolate and voilà! Let cool on a rack and then insert a stick (it is the State Fair, after all) or enjoy on their own.
No-churn cookies and cream ice cream: The internet is filled with several good no-churn ice cream recipes, but our favorite is from Minneapolis cookbook author Sarah Kieffer. Use her recipe to blend a can of sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, 2 ounces of cream cheese and 2 cups of heavy cream into a delicious base in a stand mixer. Measure your cookie mix-ins with your heart (and add sprinkles if you have them). If one were to use this ice cream to make petite ice cream sandwiches with even more leftover cookies, well, we've always been fans of gilded lilies.
It's fun to say 'parfait': Parfait is a fancy dessert to whip out for friends even though everyone knows it's just a bunch of stuff layered in a cup. Alternately mix cookies, whipped cream and ice cream in a cup. A little peanut butter softened in the microwave wouldn't hurt our feelings, either. Or add berries and coconut. Finish with a drizzle of chocolate syrup just to be fancy.
Icebox cake for keeps: A grandmother's best-kept summer secret: Icebox cake is really just another excuse for cookies and cream. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap the long way and the short way with enough excess that it drapes over the sides. Smear a layer of whipped cream on the bottom and then add a layer of cookies. Repeat the layers until you reach the top (or run out of cookies). Finish with one more layer of whipped cream and wrap. Store in the freezer until serving time. Unwrap and upend out of the tin to slice and serve.
But it's not all about the cookies
Check just about any Midwesterner's freezer and there's likely to be a repurposed ice cream bucket used for leftovers. We do not let a usable bucket go gently. Therefore, we offer these reuses for those adorable Sweet Martha's buckets.
Lunch caddie: It's back-to-school season, and think of the jealousy on your co-workers' faces when desk lunch includes a sandwich and apple produced from a Sweet Martha's bucket. It's the adult equivalent of a laser cat Trapper Keeper.
Sandcastle and snow fort mold: It's been hot enough that thinking about ice castles does bring some relief. Use the bucket now for towering beachy fun, or stow away for some epic snowy fort-making later in the year.
Booya carrier: In St. Paul, booya season comes soon after the fair closes and it's a good idea to bring all manner of stew vessels available to get extras for enjoying at home. (Caveat: Don't get the hot just-stewed booya — this isn't the sturdiest of plastic.)
Change jar for that vacation fund: We're not saying how we know, but we do know that a full Martha's bucket of change can equal at least a couple hundred dollars.
Halloween costume: Are you always getting dragged to trick-or-treating and hate pulling out the creative stops for costume shopping? We have you covered. Apply bucket to head as a hat and hot glue some store-bought chocolate chip cookies (but not Sweet Martha's — buy the ones we can spare for humor's sake) to a shirt and now you're a Sweet Martha (for kids) or a Minnesota State Fair Hangover (for adults). Done!