Tag Archives: cookies

Crispy Brown Rice Skillet Cookies

We went to a minor league baseball game the other night and it was apparently “Christmas in July” night.  The ushers were dressed as elves, Santa was there, and they had the big, inflatable snow globes running.  My kids were a bit confused when I told them that Christmas in July is just something that people … do.  I have no idea why.  I remember being a kid on a camping trip and everyone had their campsites decorated for Christmas.  I was probably just as confused as my kids were.

When you become a parent you know that, eventually, you are going to have to explain sex and death and astronomy.  But who the hell ever prepares to answer why we celebrate Christmas in July?  Well kids, maybe it’s because we are past the halfway point of the year — meaning that Christmas shopping needs to start?  Or maybe because we are so hot and are thinking about Christmas to cool off?  Or maybe because the stupid little Christmas shops in beach towns need a cash infusion?  The possibilities are endless and I really don’t want to spend any more intellectual bandwidth thinking about it.

But then I realized I made a Christmas cookie recipe the other day (*before* the game).  Why did I do it?  Was I subconsciously celebrating Christmas in July?  Maybe this stupid tradition is hardwired into people as they get older.  Maybe we realize that once you get to the 4th of July that it might as well be Christmas … Maybe Christmas in July is a deep, existential expression of the speed of *life* and our own mortality?

Or maybe I was just really hungry for these cookies.

Crispy Brown Rice Skillet Cookies

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
3/4 cup sugar (you can use up to 1 cup, but I find that to be way too sweet)
1 cup chopped dates
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups crisp brown rice cereal (or regular Rice Krispies)
Powdered sugar

1.  In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Add sugar and dates and cook for 4-6 minutes until bubbly and mixture is darkening and become caramelized.  Remove from heat.

2.  Take a few tablespoons of the butter/sugar/date mixture and stir into beaten egg in order to temper it (so it won’t scramble when you add it in).  Whisk egg mixture back into date mixture and and stir well to combine.  Put back on the heat and cook 1 or 2 minutes more until bubbly.

3.  Stir in vanilla extract and rice cereal with a wooden spoon.  Make sure cereal is completely incorporated into date mixture (sort of like rice krispy treats at this point).  Let cool a few minutes.

4.  Take a spoonful of the mixture and drop it into powdered sugar (this will help it to cool quickly and not be too sticky).  Using your hands, roll into a ball and cover in additional powdered sugar, if desired.  Repeat with remaining mixture. (You can also spread these into a baking dish and cut into bars to make it easier.)  Store in the refrigerator.

 

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

I remember being in about 3rd or 4th grade and getting a C in handwriting.  I was crushed.  The only grades that ever graced my report card were A’s.  But something about cursive writing wasn’t clicking with me.  My handwriting was ugly and awkward and certainly not the least bit artistic.  I received C’s in only two other courses during school:  1) Home Economics (during the sewing unit, which is not at all surprising considering I still can’t figure out how to thread my machine) and 2) Gym (during the basketball unit, which is not surprising considering I could only make 3 out of 10 free throws — a skill [or lack thereof] that thankfully hasn’t affected me in life . . . yet.)

I can distinctly recall bringing home that report card while my grandmother, Grace, was visiting.  We talked about it and she quickly told me that it didn’t matter.  This was crazy talk, from my vantage point.  She told me how her father once said to her that everyone develops their own unique brand of handwriting, and that making it perfectly beautiful according to one person’s definition was not only impossible, but not the least bit interesting.  I am blessed to still have my grandmother in my life at 96 years old.  Arthritis has crippled her imperfectly beautiful, but truly unique, handwriting — but I still get a chance to talk with her and that it something I treasure.

My mom recently gave me a stack of her recipe cards and I studied them for nearly an hour.  There were clues in that handwriting somewhere.  I could imagine any one of those cards being out on the counter when I was visiting her as a toddler. I could imagine her writing recipes down in her old house.  I could imagine her pulling them all out in anticipation of Christmas, or just a weekend visit.

And I didn’t have to imagine the memories of her making many of the recipes — I can remember coming into her kitchen at breakfast time as she was pulling her special meringue cookies out of a cold oven — a cold oven with a heavy door.  They were like a magic trick — you put them in a hot oven, turn it off, go to bed, and wake up to beautifully crusty meringues with a somewhat creamy interior, loaded with chocolate chips.

When I see in the recipe that she says to line a baking “tin” with wax paper, I remember she had the coolest wall mounted wrap dispenser that had three (I think) covered segments that held paper towels, foil, and wax paper.  Each one had its own little door and cutting edge.  I remember her glass jars (some of which I have on top of my cabinets now) filled with spices, and especially cinnamon heart candies.  I remember her geranium out front and the seemingly mile-long hallway to her bedroom.  I remember making paper dolls to count the days down until my parents would return from a trip.  I remember her making trip activity books with cryptoquips and crossword puzzles (that she would make herself) and riddles for me to solve.  I remember going to painting class with her and trying to be an artist — a skill she had, that I did not.  And I remember sitting with her at the piano and getting giddy with excitement as she would play Scott Joplin.

But mostly, I remember her telling me that I was me and that was the only person I ever had to be.  Eventually, my handwriting went from awful, to beautiful, and back to awful again — it seems now I am always too rushed to make perfectly formed letters.  But I think about those physical artifacts and wonder if reading a blog post will ever substitute for holding a grandmother’s recipe in your hands, studying the words that she wrote, and seeing yourself in her life.

White Chocolate Meringue Cookies

A few notes:  The original recipe calls for 3/4 cup of sugar, but I found 1/2 cup to be plenty.  Also, she always used regular chocolate chips, but I used white chocolate for a nice all white appearance.  Both are delicious.  And one food safety note, I am not a food scientist so I am not sure if these get cooked hard enough to eliminate Salmonella.  As with any dish where eggs are gently cooked, please only use the freshest eggs from responsible farms and take care to not serve to those who might be very young/old or immune-suppressed if Salmonella is a concern.

Makes about two dozen

2 egg whites
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cup of chocolate chips (white or semi-sweet, mini chips are nice too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2.  Beat egg whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.  Gradually beat in sugar until the mixture is very glossy and holding nice, stiff peaks.

3.  Fold in chocolate chips.

4.  Drop by the spoonful onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and place into hot oven.  Immediately turn the oven off and leave overnight, or at least 6 hours.  Remove and store in a tightly sealed container.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

This post is brought to you by summer camp.  Sweet, sweet summer camp.

After several weeks of kids at home all day and attempts to get real work done late at night, I have a bit of breathing space.   And you’d think after cooking three meals a day for three weeks that I might have some recipes to show for it.  I probably would have — other than the fighting.  Oh man, the fighting and bickering and whining between siblings is almost too much to handle.  My older sisters alluded to this a few years ago with not-so-vague comments like “Just wait until they start to fight.”  These comments probably occurred (and went right around my perfection force field) as I was praising how much my children love each other, what a great big sister my daughter is, and how my son just looks adoringly at his sister all day long.  Right.

But now my son goes crazy when his sister sings.  Which is always.  And she goes crazy when he ruins her stuff.  Which is always.  They started out sort of like roommates.  You think the person is super cool because she brought BOTH a boom box and a microwave; and then you realize she has very bad body odor and you want to pummel her when she schmoopy talks to her boyfriend at night.  I guess all you can hope for is that by the end of the year, they end up going to a kicking party, have an “I love you man” moment, and are BFFs forever.

So if you are able, take a moment today to thank your mother for putting up with all of your annoying shit.  You can bet she considered leaving you alongside the road at some point in your childhood — though she’ll deny it.  You can also bet that when she enrolled you in clarinet camp, she was more interested in her sanity than in your music skills.  She’ll deny that too.  And just to shatter the rest of your childhood, she made chocolate chip cookies because she had PMS cravings.

Luckily, these cookies will both satisfy the cravings and quiet the children.  They use coconut oil, making them dairy free and giving them just a hint of coconut flavor.  They also have a bit more salt than I would normally use, giving them a touch of that perfect salty/sweet combination.  Chilling the dough will keep them taller and prevent them from spreading too much.  We used ours for cookie ice cream sandwiches one warm evening, which was pretty fantastic.

Whole Grain Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Coconut Oil

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen

2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 t vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups of dark chocolate chunks or chips (from about 9 ounces of chocolate)

1.  Mix whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Using an electric mixer, cream the softened coconut oil with the brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in eggs (one at a time) and mix until incorporated.  Add in vanilla extract and mix.

3.  Add about a third of the dry ingredients mixture to the coconut oil mixture and mix until just incorporated.  Repeat with remaining dry ingredients (1/3 at a time).  Do not overmix.  With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in chocolate chunks/chips until mixture is thoroughly combined.  Chill dough for 45 minutes.

4.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Drop spoonfuls of the dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  Because they do tend to spread, I only put 9 on a single sheet.  Bake for about 10 minutes until just golden.  Allow to cool for a minute or two and then transfer to cooling racks and cool completely.  Repeat with remaining dough (keep dough in the refrigerator while baking other batches).  When completely cooled, store in an airtight container or freeze.

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

A few months ago, I decided to go off gluten.  While I haven’t been entirely faithful, I am still attempting to avoid it.  And like almost everything else, I am very bad at “all or nothing” eating.  I’m trying to eat less meat, but I don’t think I could ever be a vegetarian because beans have nothing on a seared medallion of filet mignon. I’m trying to eat less dairy, but how the hell is one supposed to give up heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella? And I’m trying to eliminate sugar, but you can’t make caramel without it, so there goes that. And alcohol?  Oh yes, one can give up alcohol and live many more years. But as the old joke goes:  you don’t actually live longer, it just feels like it.

I guess I’m not cut out for strict regimens of anything.  I start feeling sorry for myself.

So I have a pantry and refrigerator full of supplies based on my abandoned “regimens du jour.”  Here’s the brown rice flour.  There’s the coconut milk.  Back there (in the way back) is the goat’s milk yogurt.

Oh, and there’s the quinoa flour!  Aside from being a kick-ass Scrabble word, what might one do with quinoa flour?  I did some reading and found out that it can generally be substituted 1:1 for normal wheat flour in baking (except if you are making a yeast-leavened product, because it has no gluten).  It intrigued me so I decided to figure out a cookie recipe that would utilize all quinoa flour and be very allergy friendly (especially for kids).

As usual, I cut back on the sugar tremendously, so this recipe is not overly sweet.  It is another one of those cookie recipes that is more health food than dessert.  But you could easily add more sugar if you wanted to.  And the end result is pretty darn good — and a great allergy-friendly treat because it contains no wheat, no gluten, no dairy, and no nuts.  It does have eggs, but I bet you could substitute each egg with 2 T water, 1 T oil, and 2 t baking powder (that’s the “egg” combo I used in baking when my daughter was allergic to eggs).  If anyone with egg allergies tries this, let me know how it turns out.  Also, I used cocoa nibs to keep the sugar down even more, but feel free to substitute with chocolate chips if you like.

One VERY interesting side note, however:  I stored these cookies in our cookie jar and when I got some out for the kids today, the interiors of the cookies were green!  I have seen pumpkin seeds create a green tinge in certain things, but this was really green.  I am wondering if it was a reaction with the quinoa or the cocoa nibs.  Green food coloring without the chemicals, perhaps!  The ones stored in the freezer were fine, so if you don’t want greenish cookies, try that.  The kids thought the green color was pretty funky, however.   Any food scientists out there who could explain this one to me?

Quinoa Sunbutter Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Pumpkin Seeds

Makes 18-24 cookies

1 cup sunbutter (I used crunchy — and any other nut/soy nut butter would work)
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1 cup quinoa flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (or other nuts/seeds)
1/3 cup cocoa nibs (or chocolate chips)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sunbutter with honey in a large bowl.  Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.

2.  Combine salt, baking soda, and quinoa flour.  Stir into sunbutter mixture until just combined.

3.  Stir pumpkin seeds and cocoa nibs into dough.

4.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Flatten slightly with a fork if you like.  Bake for 7-8 minutes until just done.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Apologies for the lentil salad meltdown and thanks to those who sent words of support.  Ham bones have a way of making me crazy. Or maybe it’s motherhood and children.  Who the hell knows.  Anyhoo.  Life goes on and we still need chocolate, right?  So, I shall stay strong and carry on and only drink vodka when I *really* need it.

Recently it was a little rainy and I needed something to hold over my kids’ heads to ensure good behavior I wanted to engage in a meaningful life skills activity with my children.  So we decided to bake cookies and I thought I’d make something up with all spelt flour to see how it turned out.  I have done a lot of baking with sprouted spelt flour, but have rarely used it as a 100% wheat flour replacement in a recipe.

We decided to do a chocolate and coffee cookie with a creamy, sweet glaze to replicate some sort of 1000 calorie creation at Starbucks.  Except we used all sprouted spelt flour and cut back on the sugar.  And instead of hipster music, we listened to Hall and Oates.  Can I mention how much I have enjoyed listening to them lately?  It is an odd phenomenon and I attribute it to being almost 38.

The spelt flour actually worked quite well.  The cookie was moist and slightly cakey — partially due to the spelt, I think, but also because we used a lot less sugar than a normal cookie recipe.  They reminded me of a coffee- scented, cakey Oreo with a nice kick from the sea salt.  And that’s a pretty good combination as far I am concerned.

Chocolate Coffee and Cream Cookies with Spelt Flour

Note:  I didn’t do it, but I think that adding some chocolate chips or chunks would be delicious.

Makes 2-3 dozen

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups sprouted spelt flour
3/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t sea salt
2 T espresso powder

Glaze:

1 cup of powdered sugar, thinned with heavy cream until glaze consistency

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix sprouted spelt flour, cocoa, baking soda, sea salt, and espresso powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.  Cream together with brown sugar and honey for 1-2 minutes.  One at a time, add eggs and mix well.

3.  Gradually add dry ingredients to butter mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir with a spatula to finish mixing and make sure the flour is completely incorporated.

4.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 8-9 minutes until just done.  Let cool for one minute and remove to racks to cool completely.

5.  While cookies are baking/cooling, mix glaze and drizzle over cooled cookies.  Let harden a bit and then store in a sealed container or in the freezer.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies

So I was talking to a mother the other day and she mentioned that her 1 year old daughter had tested positive for anemia (actually at a severe level) while at a routine check up.  We haven’t signed HIPAA forms here at Cuizoo, so I can’t name names, but suffice it to say that she was freaked out and a little dumbfounded by the diagnosis. And as with many childhood medical situations, the pediatrician was rather matter of fact about it and forgot that MOTHERS FREAK THE F**K OUT when told something like this.  She was sent off with some rushed instructions about supplements and a two second statement about feeding the child dark leafy greens.

It instantly reminded me of when my daughter was diagnosed with severe food allergies.  The pediatrician gave us the test results, told me they were life threatening, and sent us on our way with an Epi-Pen prescription. And I was like, I’M FREAKING THE F**K OUT here and you are already next door checking on Timmy’s whooping cough.

At that point, I had very few friends who had kids (and no one with experience with food allergies) so I was pretty much on my own trying to figure out what to feed a child who couldn’t consume dairy, eggs, wheat, soy, or nuts.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), I became a specialist when it came to limited or special diets for children — which has been a good thing because I get questions from people needing advice on a daily basis.

When the unnamed person told me about the anemia, I started searching for iron-rich foods that wouldn’t require the child to chew on meat and bones all day long.  I told her that I would come up with a reasonably healthy, toddler-friendly snack that would be super rich in iron.  I decided to go the pumpkin and white bean route because they are great sources of iron — and what I ended up with is a great kid’s treat (that adults will probably enjoy too).  It is a very cakey and tender cookie and it definitely passed my kids’ taste test.  It could actually almost be a breakfast bar on the go if you skip the white chocolate (or don’t . . . your choice).

And if your family is not eating as much meat as you used to, it’s also good to remember iron levels for non-anemic children (and adults).  Legumes and dark leafy greens are great sources — and actually it seems like you can’t go wrong integrating them both into your diet for many reasons.   I ran this recipe through a nutritional analysis and it came back pretty strong with each cookie having 120 calories, 4 grams of fat (could easily cut back on that further by using applesauce), 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 4% of your daily Calcium, 20% of your daily Vitamin A, and 10% of your daily Iron.

And it seems to me that getting a one year old to eat one of these is going to be a hell of a lot easier than a bowl full of spinach.

Pumpkin White Chocolate Cookies

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen cookies

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg (preferably freshly ground)
1/2 cup of butter, softened (1 stick, could replace at least half with applesauce if watching fat)
1/2 cup of honey*
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1 cup of white bean puree (approximately one 15 ounce can pureed with 1/8 cup of water)
2 t vanilla extract
1 cup of old fashioned oats
1/2 cup of pumpkin seeds (finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)
1/2 cup of small white chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 cup of raisins, dried cranberries, or other dried fruit (Optional.  But once again, finely chopped if giving to small children or toddlers)

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside.

2.  Cream softened butter and honey together until light and fluffy.  Add in egg and mix well. Add in egg yolk and mix well again. Add in white bean puree and pumpkin puree and mix until incorporated.

3.  Slowly add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture. Mix until just barely combined.

4.  Finish mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, white chocolate chips/chunks, and dried fruit (if using).

5.  Drop by the tablespoon full onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Bake for 11-12 minutes until just golden.  Let cool on sheets for 1-2 minutes and then cool fully on racks.  (Can store in a tightly covered tin or freeze.)

*Remember that honey should not be given to children under one year of age.  You can substitute sugar or maple syrup for the younger crowd.

Whole Grain Orange Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Am I the only one who *hates* making cut out sugar cookies?  They are just so fussy.  And there is no instant gratification — make the dough, chill the dough, roll the dough, chill the dough, cut the cookies, re-roll the dough, bake the cookies, cut some more cookies, chill the freaking dough again, remove the cookies, cool the cookies, decorate the cookies.  I am just so much happier with a drop cookie that can be mixed and baked and thrown into the freezer before the children eat everything meant for Santa.

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In a different life, I think I might have been an OK chef … but pastry chef?  No way.  I am way too impatient, way too rammy, and definitely not into precision work.  I can do big bold flavors and I can make just about anything taste good, but I am not one for being meticulous — which would have made me a terrible surgeon too. Actually what would make me a terrible surgeon is my penchant for having panic attacks every time I’m in a hospital-like area.

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So, here’s a recipe for one of my favorite drop cookies.  This year I made them whole grain and cut back on the sugar a bit.  They are delicately flavored with orange zest and then drizzled with chocolate.  And they are fabulous for breakfast with a cup of coffee or on a platter for Santa.  You will find them right next to the cut out cookies.  Because you know I’m going to get guilted into making them anyway.

Whole Grain Orange Oatmeal Lace Cookies

Makes 2 to 2 1/2 dozen

1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup oats (not quick cooking)
3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 cup, plus 2 T butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup molasses
Zest of one large orange
1 t vanilla extract
1/8 t orange extract
5-6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350 F.

2.  Mix together sugar, oats, flour, and baking powder.  Add in melted butter, milk, honey, molasses, orange zest, vanilla extract, and orange extract.  Stir until well blended and let dough sit while oven preheats (5-10 minutes)

3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop dough in heaping teaspoons.  You will not want more than 6 cookies on a traditional baking sheet because they spread considerably. Flatten and smooth your heaping teaspoons of dough into circles.

4.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until golden.  They will get very crispy as the cool.

5.  When cookies are cooled, melt the chocolate and drizzle over the cookies.  Allow chocolate to harden and store cookies in refrigerator or freezer.

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Whole Grain Whirligig Cookies

When my grandmother died, I was lucky enough to receive a few of her hand written recipe cards.  They were divided up among the family and I got a handful that included many cookie recipes.  Of course, there are about five different ones for sugar cookies and I still don’t think I have her exact recipe.  I have never successfully recreated hers — which are drop sugar cookies and cakey rather than chewy.  And even if she had written it down, it probably would have said something to the effect of “Cream some butter with sugar and eggs.  Add a few handfuls of flour, a spoonful of baking powder and a pinch of salt. Bake in a medium hot oven for as long as it takes.”  Exact recipes were not her thing.

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While I was figuring out which Christmas cookies to bake, one recipe that caught my eye was called “Whirligig Cookies.”  At first, I thought the name indicated that these were pantry cleaning cookies — because in my family, the corner lazy susan cabinets were always called “whirligigs.”  And of course, that’s where all the baking supplies were usually kept in the days before giant walk in pantries.  But who knows — they are a pinwheel/jelly roll style cookie, so maybe that’s how they got their name.

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In the end, I don’t really even remember her making these, but they sounded interesting so I gave it a try.  I substituted sunflower seed butter for peanut butter (b/c of our peanut allergies), white whole wheat flour for the all purpose, and cut the sugar in half.  You could obviously use regular peanut butter and regular flour if you like — and feel free to up the sugar to 1 cup of each brown and white sugars.  It’s Christmas time baby.

Whole Grain Whirligig Cookies

Makes about three dozen large cookies

1 cup of butter, softened (two sticks)
1/2 cup sugar (can use up to one cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar (can use up to one cup)
1 cup of sunflower seed butter (or other nut butter of your choice)
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1.  In a large bowl, cream butter, sugars, and sunflower seed butter together with an electric mixer for about two minutes until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at at time, and beat until incorporated.

2.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

3.  In about 2-3 additions, add flour mixture to butter mixture — mixing only until just incorporated.  Finish mixing with a spatula or wooden spoon. Put finished cookie dough in the fridge for a few minutes.

4. Meanwhile, over low heat or in a double boiler, melt chocolate.  Let cool slightly.

5.  Remove dough from fridge and place on a large sheet of parchment paper.  Using either a rolling pin (it helped to oil my rolling pin a bit) or just patting it with your hands, flatten into a 12×14 inch rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  This is cookie dough, so be a little gentle with it because it is very tender.

6.   Pour most of melted chocolate on top of dough rectangle and spread evenly over entire surface.  Use more if needed (it will depend on the size of your final rectangle).

7.  Using the parchment paper to help, carefully roll up the dough rectangle jelly roll style in order to make one large “log.”  (Warning:  this will be messy and chocolate will probably ooze out.  Just be gentle while you are rolling it up and attempt to wrap it with the seam side down.)  Wrap parchment around it and place in fridge for 45 minutes to an hour, until dough and chocolate have hardened.

8.  Preheat oven to 375 F.  Remove dough from fridge and, using a very sharp knife, cut into 1/3 inch slices (or as thick as you want them).  Line a baking sheet with parchment and lay the slices on it cut side up.  Bake for 12-13 minutes until just barely golden.  Do not overbake or they will dry out.

(Alternatively, you can cut your large rectangle of dough into two skinny rectangles if you want smaller cookies.  As is, these cookies turn out rather large (about 3 inches across).

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Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Our rainy spring has turned into a rainy and cool summer here in the northeast.  So that means our pool days have become “ummm, what on earth are we going to do today?” days.  Because, you see, I have figured out the secret to staying sane with the kids at home over the summer:  you must never stay home.

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When you do, the leisurely breakfast that you’ve wanted to have all school year long gives way to bickering.  To be followed by: yelling, crying, a time out, requests to watch a movie, and a spilled drink. And the clock now reads 8:51 AM.  When you are lucky, they get involved with their toys or a project — which unfortunately always includes a deal with the devil on your part (i.e. the resulting clean up).  You have visions of providing an enriching, relaxing summer experience and you find yourself spending every moment breaking up arguments, cleaning up toys, and checking the radar on The Weather Channel for a break in the storms.

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It’s on days like this that I usually figure out a baking activity for my seven year old daughter while her brother (who is almost three) naps.  I love having the one-on-one time with her on a rainy afternoon — and we generally have a lot of fun doing it.  We’ve always done a lot of cooking together, but now that she is getting a little older I find myself really enjoying her presence in the kitchen.  We have silly conversations and chat like friends do.  I catch her licking the batter and she catches me doing the same.  And we both end up eating too much of the final product.

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So, a few days ago we decided to make chocolate chip cookies.  I’ve wanted to try a version with whole wheat flour and honey and this is what we came up with.  They are super chewy and you’d never know they were whole wheat.  And that is good when you realize that somehow a dozen cookies have disappeared from the cooling racks.  It’s a *very* good thing that those days do not include bathing suits.

Honey Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 2 1/2 to 3 dozen

2 1/4 cups of white whole wheat flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 cup of butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of honey
1 t vanilla
2 eggs, at room temperature
8 oz. of bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks (about 2 cups)

1.  Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

2.  Cream softened butter with a mixer until light and fluffy.  Beat in brown sugar and honey and mix on medium speed for a few minutes.

3.  Add eggs, one at a time, to butter/sugar mixture and mix well to incorporate.  If the mixture starts to look broken or lumpy, just keep mixing and it will re-emulsify (the reason is the eggs were probably just a bit too cold).  When both eggs are mixed in well, add vanilla and mix.

4.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three additions.  Do not overmix (you can even use a wooden spoon to finish up the job).

5.  Stir in chocolate chunks and make sure they are evenly distributed.  Chill the dough for 20 minutes before baking (and actually the more you chill the dough, the less the cookies will spread — yielding a taller cookie).

6.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 F.

7.  Drop about one tablespoon of dough per cookie onto parchment-lined baking sheets (you should be able to fit about a dozen per sheet).  Bake for 9-10 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sheets cool for 1-2 minutes and then transfer cookies to cooling racks to cool completely.

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Newtons Two Ways: Rhubarb Ginger and Fig Lavender

I am not a fussy cook.  I have great respect for those who are, but I just seem to lack the patience and precision to do fine, detailed work.  So, pastry chefs have my ultimate admiration.  If I make cookies, they are usually drop-style rather than rolled and cut out.  Any cake I make usually tastes great, but looks a little suspect.  (Especially if you were able to see it before I serve it.  I generally fly by the seat of my pants and figure out a way to make it look decent with a pastry tip and some shaved chocolate.  Garnishes are my friend.)  And my favorite desserts to make are crisps, cobblers, and anything “rustic.”  Rustic is my friend too.

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So, these cookies are definitely more fussy than I would like.  But I have wanted to make homemade fig newtons for some time.  Not sure why, but I am thinking it involved a dream with a fig tree and someone I went to high school with.  I’ll spare you the details, because we all know that there is nothing more boring than listening to someone describe their dreams.

I decided the time was right the other day when the grocery store had fresh figs (unfortunately, we can’t go local with figs).  My mind started to wander though … I definitely wanted to make a whole grain version, I wanted to use honey (and not too much), I wanted to dress the fillings up a little bit, and I wanted to make them seem summery.  So, I settled on two fillings:  one with figs and fresh lavender and one with rhubarb and ginger.  It ended up that I liked the rhubarb filling better than the figs.  And in my last batch, I actually combined the fig filling and the rhubarb filling to create “Rhubarb Fig Newtons” and that was great.  The tang of the rhubarb really balances the sweetness of the figs.

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Getting back to the fussiness factor… I made these on a very hot and humid day which made the job a lot harder.  The cookie dough must be thoroughly chilled to keep it firm, but just slightly softened to wrap around the fillings.  I’d suggest making them on a cooler day or turning the AC on.  Every time I’d take the dough out of the fridge it would warm so quickly that I couldn’t work with it.  Regardless of the weather, I think this is an easier job if you divide the work over two days — make the fillings and the dough the first day so they are nice and chilled, and then roll them out and bake them the next.  And I wouldn’t bake them way ahead of time because they seem to dry out easily.

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Because I am lazy, the next time I make these I am going to try them as a simple bar cookie — just roll out the dough, divide into two equal pieces and make a sandwich with the filling.  Then all you’d have to do is bake them and cut into bars.  If anyone tries going that route, please leave a comment with your experience.  And I also got thinking as I made these that a savory newton would make a great appetizer.  How about fig and goat cheese, or apple with a bit of camembert?  I am definitely going to figure that recipe out — because that is a cookie you could have with wine.

Rhubarb Ginger And Fig Lavender Newtons

Makes about 2-3 dozen, depending on how big you cut them

Rhubarb Filling:

2 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb (about 3 long stalks)
Zest of one lemon
3/4 t fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 cup honey
Pinch Salt
2 t cornstarch mixed with 1 t water
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients, except vanilla extract, in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes until completely smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.  Let cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender).  Chill for at least an hour or two (or overnight).

Fig Filling:

2 1/2 cups of fresh figs, stemmed and chopped
2 t fresh lavender, chopped and divided into two equal piles
1/4 cup of honey
1/4 cup of orange juice
Pinch of salt
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t vanilla extract

Combine figs, one teaspoon of lavender (reserve other one), honey, orange juice, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes until smooth and thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice, vanilla extract, and remaining teaspoon of lavender.  Let cool slightly and puree in a blender or food processor (or with an immersion blender).  Chill for at least an hour or two (or overnight).

The Cookie Dough:

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 cup of honey
Zest of one lemon
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 t salt
3 cups of whole wheat pastry flour

Cream butter with electric mixer until it is light and fluffy.  Add honey and lemon zest and  continue to mix for 2-3 minutes.  Add eggs, one a time and mix well to incorporate.  (I find that when baking with smaller amounts of honey, sometimes the eggs won’t emulsify with the butter – but just keeping mixing for a few minutes and it comes back together.  It helps if the eggs are at room temperature.)  Add salt and vanilla extract and mix.  Slowly add in the flour in three additions and mix until just coming together.  Finish mixing with a wooden spoon or spatula.  Place dough on one sheet of plastic wrap and cover with a second sheet of plastic wrap.  Pat the dough into a rectangular shape and wrap tightly with the plastic.  Chill for several hours or overnight.

The Assembly:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  In a cool place, roll out the cookie dough between the two sheets of plastic wrap until it is about 1/4 inch thick and the rectangle is about 13 inches by 15 inches.   Cut into four equal strips.  Slide onto a baking tray (with the plastic still on) and put in freezer for 5-10 minutes so it can firm back up.

Spoon a thin line of the filling down the center of each dough strip.  (If you have too much filling on it, it will ooze out like crazy — no big deal, just take some out.) Fold one side of the dough strip to the center, slightly covering filling.  Fold other side of the dough strip on top of that and gently pinch the dough together to seal it up.  (You will have one big “log”).  Repeat with remaining dough strips and filling.  Put all the logs in the freezer for another 5-10 minutes to firm up again.

Place the logs seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet and slice into individual cookies (about 1 inch each and don’t forget to remove the plastic wrap if it is still on!).  Space the cookies evenly for baking.   Bake for 15 minutes and if you have multiple trays in at once, rotate them half way through.  Remove from sheets and cool on racks.

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