chocolate chip yumminess indeed

Hello, all. I hope you enjoyed your Kentucky Iced Tea from last week’s post. If you’d like another, I’d be happy to pour.Moving on, we turn our attention back to Great-aunt Helen’s recipe box. But. Instead of the box, we have a … Continue reading

boozy baker bourbon brittle cookies

This gallery contains 4 photos.

Imagine this: You find bars of Ghirardelli Dark clearanced out at $2.50 at your local grocer. Do you grab the last bars off the shelf? Does your mind automatically go into must-bake-chocolate-chip-cookie lockdown? If yes to both, we clearly have … Continue reading

wakame wha’?

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Those bloggers in the Cooking Through the Alphabet gang are wild folk. First, they tested me with T for Tofu (I jumped in late); next, U was assigned to udon. With V came vanilla beans, which seemed a simpler ingredient. … Continue reading

2 oatmeal cookies–one traditional, one not so much

A fellow WordPress blogger set a lofty goal for herself in committing to read 52 books in 2014. An avid reader as well, I pledged to join her. While I read a fair amount of food-related fare (culinary mysteries are faves), I enjoy genres of all sorts.

Take my most recent read: Before Green Gables. The prequel to the series of Anne and her adventures on Prince Edward Island, it covers the span from just before her birth to her arrival on PEI. It’s a tale that speaks to the spirit of the underdog as well as how hard life was in earlier centuries.

Though there was no direct food connection, Anne’s story made me crave cookies. Molasses, oatmeal, and other old-school favorites were mentioned in its pages. I wanted a plate of old-school, from-scratch, homemade cookies. Oatmeal seemed the thing and despite a disdain for raisins in baked goods (which I’ve learned many of you wholeheartedly share), I had to have me some oatmeal raisin cookies.

yes, they have raisins, but they're so good!

yes, they have raisins, but they’re tasty!

The recipe came from Susan G. Purdy’s The Family Baker. I followed directions for the extra-chewy version, soaking the raisins in beaten eggs and vanilla for an hour before stirring into the batter. Note that this version replaces 1/2 cup butter with an equal amount of shortening, though coconut oil works if shortening isn’t happening in your kitchen. These are lovely cookies, chewy and sweet. Pair them with a glass of milk and call it breakfast.

And the other oatmeal cookie? This one was found in Bartender’s Black Book, purchased ten or so years ago as my first foray into cocktails. I remember well the winter weekend my husband and I were snowbound with a sick baby. We watched movies to pass the time, but my recently purchased spiral-bound bar guide called to me and I flipped through, imagining the cocktails I could create if only I had the booze.

The following weekend we were still snowbound and baby was still sick. Tired of winter, tired of sick, it was time to make my cocktail dream reality. After making notes of recipes I wanted to try along with spirits to buy, I ventured out the few blocks to a local liquor store and came home with ingredients for an Oatmeal Cookie.

oatmeal cookie squared

an oatmeal cookie served with oatmeal cookies

In the spirit of cocktail evolution, I more recently dressed this drink up after Attempts at Domesticity posted this marvelous concoction on deLizious facebook. A cap of marshmallow fluff and brief spin in the microwave made for a steamy and sweet cookie cocktail. No surprise that it pairs perfectly with treats that Anne (with an “e”) would most certainly have enjoyed.

before heating

before heating

30 seconds later

30 seconds later

what a way to drink!

what a glorious drink!

Extra-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats

In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Add raisins; stir to coat. Let soak 1 hour.

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon.

In mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening, and granulated and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add soaked raisin mixture; beat to blend. Slowly beat in flour mixture just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Stir in oats.

Drop batter inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool on baking sheets 1 minute; transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely. Makes 5 dozen cookies.

Oatmeal Cookie Cocktail

  • 2 ounces half-and-half
  • 1 1/2 ounces Irish cream liqueur
  • 1 1/2 ounces butterscotch schnapps
  • 1 ounce Jägermeister
  • 1 ounce cinnamon schnapps
  • Large spoonful marshmallow fluff

In microwave-safe drinking glass or mug, stir together all ingredients except marshmallow fluff. Top with fluff, spooning to seal rim of glass. Microwave, watching carefully, 30 seconds or until warm and fluff is puffed but hasn’t yet overflowed.

cookbook travels and banana bread squared

A show of hands here–who brings cookbooks home from their travels?

Even with the rise of the electronic recipe (my 11-year-old daughter Googles recipes, despite her mother’s large cookbook collection), paper cookbooks remain popular vacay take-homes. They give travelers return trips, even if just in mind and taste buds.

Opening Makers Mark® The Special Touch cookbook, a Kentucky purchase, I smell the bourbon of distillery tours. When the pages of Savoring San Diego are flipped, I see the ubiquitous flowers of that fair city. The Montana Cookbook brings back a sense of open land and Simply Colorado invites visions of rocky mountains.

While relatively close to home, the city of Duluth was another vacation spot worth remembering. (Culinary details from last summer’s camping trip recorded here.) An especially impressive restaurant stop was The Duluth Grill, and their cookbook told the tale of evolution from Ember’s franchise to one-of-a-kind comfort-food haven. The parking lot garden speaks volumes to their emphasis on fresh, locally sourced, and sustainably raised ingredients.

The book’s $30 price tag gave me pause and I left without, knowing I’d find it online for far less. Except I didn’t. The Duluth Grill Cookbook was available only on the restaurant website. I kicked myself (and certainly deserved a kick for not supporting small business when I had the chance), but found redemption in a friend who was making a quick trip that way. She, too, is a big fan of this much-loved restaurant and agreed to bring the cookbook back for me.

sauce with bookJust last week, then, I finally held a copy of this beautiful and lovely book in my hands. To prove its worth, I immediately set out to make Tofu and Walnut Marinara (taking a pass on the walnuts). It was hearty, flavorful, and packed with good-for-you veggies. Two days later it tasted even better and I know I’ll be making this sauce again.

now THIS is a tofu marinara sauce

now THIS is a tofu marinara

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

beet lemonade and it was really quite good

I have my eye on the Ratatouille recipe as well as the Buffalo Tofu Strips, both dishes I enjoyed while there. I’d also love to make their Beet Lemonade, though will have to riff on their standard Lemonade recipe as they do not share the beet version I was so enamored with during my visit.

Minnesota’s bitter cold winter called for a baking recipe, so I also made TDG’sr Chocolate Chip Cookies. In the same manner as an earlier cookie adventure, I experimented with each baking sheet, sprinkling some unbaked cookies with chocolate salt, some with vanilla salt and also mixing in marshmallow bits and even leftover movie popcorn that was sitting on the counter just asking to be poured into the remaining batter. Even without my improv, these cookies were amazing and hit all the right sweet, salty, tender, crisp notes.

cookies

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

because one photo of these amazing cookies would not have been enough

So here’s to cookbooks and here’s to travel and here’s to those cookbook gems we find when we travel. If you’re looking for the recipe for either the sauce or cookies, let me know in comments or at deLizious facebook and I’ll pass them on your way.

And speaking of sharing recipes, I’ve been on a bit of a banana bread binge lately after finding two renegade recipes on favorite food blogs that demanded to be made. The Cottage Grove House rocked my world with Rye Whiskey Banana Bread

there's rye whiskey in my banana bread!

there’s rye whiskey in my banana bread!

and Shanna over at Curls and Carrots kept my spirits up with Rum-a-Dum-Dum Banana Bread. Thanks, ladies, for two fabulous loaves!

rum-spiked banana bread

rum-spiked banana bread

giving you mo’ crunch

Food for fun is celebrating, folks! This was guest-post week over at Blog of Funny Names and, not only was it a crazy-fun post to write, but it connected me directly to my superstar subject.

My funny-name pick is a food-tv host, but also famous for his work in politics, Hollywood, and journalism. (I won’t name this famous gent here, so I strongly recommend you click over for a read.) When I tweeted him the link to my post, he tweeted back with a thanks, kind words, and share of my link. His simple act put me over the moon and I’m honored and humbled to have someone so public read my homage to him.

To celebrate, I made another round of Momofuku Milk Bar‘s “crunch.” If you’ve not seen their book–and if you’ve made peace with processed sugar–you need to give it a read. It’s drawn me in like that proverbial kid in a candy store. Everything in it is so naughty!

Cereal milks, ice cream made from cereal milks, crack pie™ (yes, they ™ed their crack pie), confetti cookies, candy bar pie, cinnamon bun pie, peanut butter nougat, chocolate malt layer cake, graham ice cream, carrot cake truffles, nut brittles–this list goes on. And then there’s the Crunch chapter. Here’s pastry chef Christina Tosi’s take on The Crunch.

The crunch is all about filtering our snacking spells…making crunchy textural elements all our own. Never too far from the familiar cornflake, pretzel, or cracker, we’ll make crunch out of almost anything the supermarket sells and then use it in something as fancy as a plated dessert or as simple as a cookie dough.

Each crunch recipe has a balance of salt and sugar as well as melted butter–the glue–and milk powder, which seasons and helps bind the mixture once baked. The beauty of the crunch, besides the obvious sugar, butter, and snack-attack allure, it the way it’s baked. Slow and low in the oven yields the most amazing tender caramelization in every crunchy snack-ridden handful, cookie, pie crust, or garnish.

If that doesn’t make you want to whip up a batch of Crunch.Right.Now., there’s no need for you to read further. 😉 But for those still with me, here’s how it went down.

First up was the Ritz cracker version, which I then used in Momofuku’s recipe for cornflake-chocolate-chip-marshmallow cookies, subbing in Ritz Crunch for the cornflake version. These cookies were wicked good. Stopping at just one–something I can usually do–was not an option. Adding Crunch to cookie dough–whether Momofuku’s or another favorite recipe–means you may down at least three or four of these crunch-ified cookies in one sitting. You’ve been warned.

pretty? no. irresistible? absolutely.

pretty? no. irresistible? absolutely.

Today’s celebration batch was all about color: Fruity Pebbles Crunch. (Other options include cinnamon toast, pretzel, and cornflake, though Tosi’s point is good: you could use pretty much anything for the “crunch” ingredient.)

haven't had these on my table since I was 7

haven’t had these on my table since I was 7

To avoid too much of a calorie disaster, I made only a half-batch: 1 1/4 cups fruity pebbles, 1/4 cup nonfat dried milk powder, 1/2 tablespoon sugar, pinch coarse salt, and 3 tablespoons melted butter stirred together, then spread out onto a silicone mat-lined baking pan. Baked 20 minutes at 275ºF, then cooled, it can be sprinkled on ice cream, stirred into batter or dough, mixed with yogurt, or eaten in all its rainbow glory as-is.

spread out before baking

spread out before baking

Next time you want to celebrate (heck, this works when you need to console yourself as well), add “make Crunch” to your to-do list. Sure, do a few crunches afterward if it makes you feel better, but you’ll need to get back to the Milk Bar cookbook eventually as there is more celebrating to do.

fruity pebbles Crunch à la momofuku milk bar

fruity pebbles Crunch à la momofuku milk bar

another funny name in food and how the cookie crumbles

Because last summer’s family camping trip went far better than expected, my husband and I committed to doing it again. We stayed closer to home this year, hitting Duluth for a few days, then traveling north to camp at one of the mind-blowingly gorgeous state parks on Minnesota’s North Shore. I’d taken a page (literally, I tore out a page) from our local paper’s Taste section featuring dining musts in Duluth, so with a car crammed with kids, camping gear, and plenty of food, we hit the highway.

Great fun (and food) followed and I’d hoped to post a recap this week. But re-entry has been tough, so instead I’ll simply ask you to (please) hop over to the latest Funny Names in Food installment for the story of sweet treats.

Though don’t think I’d leave you without at least a little bit more. I offer another story here, this one of crazily crafted cake pops.

cookie "cake" pops

cookie “cake” pops

A recent batch of chocolate raspberry cookies impressed me greatly and I added the two dozen or so that were left to our stash of camping food. They were soft cookies, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when they crumbled into cookie dust during transport. (Ziploc bags only provide so much cushion.) I briefly considered throwing the lot, but remembered the spendy chocolate and fresh berries they contained. Surely there was a use for them.

And there was: cake pops! A cup or so of leftover chocolate frosting waiting for me at home was just enough to moisten the cookie crumbs. The mixture was then formed into balls, dipped in melted chocolate that had been thinned with coconut oil, and rolled in sprinkles and sugars. While not “pretty” à la Martha Stewart, they’re cute in their own rough and tumble way. And more importantly, they taste phenomenal. Combining cookie crumbs, homemade buttercream frosting, and melted chocolate could never be anything but knock-your-socks-off dreamy.

I’ll sign off now as I imagine you need to find some cookies to crumble so you have an excuse to make cake pops. Please return next week as we’ll be showing Food for Fun: The Camping Edition. 🙂

suspension of disbelief or making cookies from chickpeas

Last post mentioned that my food science schooling involved lots of science and no cooking. Yet it wasn’t all hard work. Classes like Music 101 and General Theater helped me satisfy department requirements and also gave me insight into subjects completely outside of my major.

It was in the theater class that I learned about “suspension of disbelief.” In a good stage production, the audience suspends disbelief; limitations of live theater don’t prevent folks from believing what they see on stage. And it’s this phrase I thought of when deciding to pursue today’s recipe.

While my jury is still out on the merits of facebook, I’ve come to enjoy posting to my deLizious business page. Family, friends, clients, and even complete strangers have been pestered encouraged to sign on with a Like as well as to help make it more of a community by sharing their own fun food (and drink) finds. It’s gratifying when someone takes me up on this, so I was thrilled when my friend Kristine brought Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites to the deLizious party. This recipe, found all over the internet, promises “NO FLOUR, NO OIL, NO WHITE SUGAR.” And it contains chickpeas.

I shared the post and was surprised to see it prove popular, generating a healthy discussion on whether it might taste good (I had my doubts, having been burned before with those beet brownies) and whether it truly was sugar- and oil-free if it contained chocolate chips.

Noting that Dinner of Herbs had made these same cookies and given them thumbs-up via her facebook page, I decided to go for it. I’d suspend my disbelief that legumes don’t belong in baked goods.

Of course there were changes along the way. It made more sense to use the entire 15-ounce can of chickpeas instead of measuring out the 1 1/4 cups called for. A jar of nutella beckoned from the pantry when I reached for the peanut butter. (And when I emptied it before having the amount needed, cashew butter provided the balance.) Peanut butter chips and chopped chocolate stood in for the chocolate chips, and you know I used more than the 1/2 cup called for. Finally, instead of hauling out my food processor, I put everything in a bowl and whirred it (mostly) smooth with my stick blender.

canned chickpeas etc.

canned chickpeas etc.

And? I’ll agree with D of H and give them that thumbs-up. They’re a bit mealy, though not enough to bother. I can tell they contain chickpeas, but only because I know they’re there. Named well, they taste a lot like raw cookie dough even after baking. But to call them cookies seems a stretch. (That said, for gluten-free, they’re phenomenal.) No one will mistake them for Mrs. Fields‘ latest.

dough balls

dough balls

just baked

just baked

cooling

cooling

Do I not love them because I know what’s in them or are they just not that amazing? Can’t say. They’re tasty enough, but still strike me as a bit odd. Bottom line: I have trouble suspending my disbelief. Chickpeas shine in salads, hummus, pasta dishes, soups. But to puree them into a cookie seems sacrilege and I’m unable to get past that enough to rave about these treats.

If you’re in the mood, I challenge you to make these chickpea cookies and report back. Do you like them or no? How adept are you at suspending your disbelief when it comes to baked goods?

Mickey is back!

Mickey is back!

stack of gooey

stack of gooey

raw cookie dough?

raw cookie dough?

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed well and patted dry
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons peanut butter (or any combination of nut butters )
1/4 cup agave nectar (original recipe called for honey)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease baking pan or coat with cooking spray.

In large bowl, combine all the ingredients except chocolate chips; blend with immersion blender until smooth. (Or process in food processor.) Add chocolate chips; stir to mix.

Scoop mixture into small mounds on baking pan. Bake 10 minutes or until just set. Cool on wire racks. Makes about 30 dough bites.

ann and the three cookie recipes

Last post promised the story of my 20-year friendship with amazing Ann along with recipes for cookies served at her 80th birthday party. That promise will now be kept. Setting the time machine back two decades…

My first job out of college was “food scientist,” which was ideal as I had trained to be exactly that with my Food Science degree. The less than ideal part was that I really didn’t like the job. Test tubes and lab coats weren’t my thing, though I wasn’t sure what my thing was quite yet either.

That same year I was given a Betty Crocker cookbook for Christmas and I remember my fascination while turning its pages. Ironically, I had not learned to cook in college. A degree in Food Science requires plenty of science: reading, lab work, discussions, tests, but cooking is not required.

But with a cookbook in front of me (and Betty’s at that), I became enamored with the concept of sharing recipes and other food ideas. My career goal began to crystallize: I wanted to be a food writer.

Living in a small town in southern Minnesota, I shared this information with my grandmother. She knew of a local woman who owned a b&b and also wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune Taste section. I dutifully called this woman and was invited over for an informational interview. And that’s how I met Ann.

The day of our interview changed the course of my life, I’m convinced of this. Ann was friendly, warm, and encouraging, but the kicker was her no-nonsense, down-to-earth outlook. I already had a solid support system with friends and family, who were all kinds of “friendly, warm, and encouraging,” but Ann was the first to offer practical career advice.

She listened to my story, then suggested I offer to write a food column for a local paper. My initial response, “what if they say ‘no?’,” was countered with advice I still carry with me today: “Assume they’ll say ‘yes’.” Ann also suggested I volunteer at a local food co-op. Because Ann was the kind of person whose orders you simply obeyed, I followed both suggestions. Not only did I land the food column gig, but ended up working at that co-op as well, where I (finally) learned to cook and bake.

Ann supported me in so many ways: My husband and I b&b-sat when she was out of town. I assisted Ann when she taught cooking classes as well as tested recipes for her cookbook projects. Ann helped me believe in myself as a food professional. And with that confidence, I was able to move forward in my career and eventually find courage enough to start my own business.

We’ve both since moved from that small town to the same metro area. We see each other occasionally for lunches, dinners, and meetings, and she’s always generous with her gifts, time, and advice.

It’s been fun to watch Ann’s career evolve as well. Since we met back in the mid-90s, she’s published cookbooks (A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota and Hot Dish Heaven are her two most recent) and also was invited to serve as Comfort Food Ambassador to celebrate Creamette’s 100th birthday. How can you not love this woman?

So when Mary, a mutual friend, asked if I wanted to co-host a party for Ann’s 80th birthday, I immediately said “yes.” Not only would planning the party be fun, but we’d be celebrating a woman to whom I owe so much.

We sent out the invites, made plenty of food, took care of party favors (small booklets with the cookie recipes), and added Ann’s special touches: napkins she’d used at the b&b, egg salad made with the recipe from the co-op I’d worked at, dates because she always had a stash at her desk when she worked at the paper, fresh strawberries as she’s originally from a town called Strawberry Point, and the three cookies she’d requested. We were ready to party.

And party we did. Folks seemed to enjoy the event and most importantly, Ann was pleased. She was surrounded by people from her years at the newspaper and in the Betty Crocker Kitchens (did I mention that Ann had worked on Betty’s cookbooks?); others she had mentored; friends from church; neighbors; her daughter. Folks shared stories about what Ann had meant to them and it was clear that mine was not the only life she had changed with her practical, no-nonsense advice as well as her fierce loyalty to friendships.

My hope is that we all have an Ann in our lives–someone to encourage us in professional endeavors. Someone who knows what it’s like on the inside and can help us get where we don’t yet know we want to go. And someone who will celebrate with us when we do. Thank you Ann, for everything you are.

And now let’s talk cookies!

Strudel & Nudel’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookiesstrudel

Ann fell in love with this recipe when she wrote about Erich Christ who ran both The Black Forest and, next door, a deli called Strudel & Noodle. He sold homemade apple strudel and noodles besides these great cookies.

  • 2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 + 3/8 cup shortening or butter
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 4 cups + 2 tablespoons rolled oats
  • 1 1/4 cups raisins

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In bowl, cream together brown sugar, shortening, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, eggs, and vanilla. Mix in milk. Add cake flour, oats, and raisins, mixing smoothly.

Drop batter by large spoonfuls on baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until almost no imprint remains when touched with finger. Cool on rack. Makes 30 large cookies.

Fudge BrowniesBrownies

A favorite of Ann’s.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts, optional

Heat oven to 350°F.  Grease 13×9-inch pan.

In 3-quart saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over very low heat, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat; stir in sugar. Cool slightly. Beat in eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.

In small bowl, mix flour and salt; stir into chocolate mixture. Fold in nuts, if using. Spread batter in pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack. Cut large or small as desired.

Small-pan Brownies:  Use half of each ingredient; mix and bake in 8-inch square pan.

Maple Chocolate Chip Cookiesmaple walnut

Here’s the recipe for Ann’s signature cookies, baked for her b&b cookie jar by a succession of excellent bakers. From Ken Haedrich’s Maple Syrup Cookbook.

  • 1 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered instant coffee
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with kitchen parchment.

In bowl, cream butter with electric mixer, slowly drizzling in maple syrup. In small bowl, dissolve instant coffee in hot water; beat coffee and vanilla into butter mixture.

In separate bowl, toss together whole wheat and all-purpose flours, walnuts, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture, in several batches, until flour is just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Let batter stand several minutes to allow whole wheat flour to absorb moisture in syrup.

Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until edges begin to brown. Transfer to rack to cool. Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

a very long introduction, three recipes down, one to go

Needing a topic for this post, I thought back to starting food for fun. With so many great food blogs already out there, I knew I needed a niche. While I didn’t know what that niche would be (still not entirely sure, btw), I jumped in and started writing. Topics have been chosen solely because they inspire or excite me enough to want to share.

A backward glance, though, tells me that I often jump over inspired and even excited to arrive at obsessed. (About an hour after having this thought, I read a friend’s post which highlighted this very word–nice.)

You’ve read of obsession with all things marshmallow (here and here). You’ve read a post outlining obsessive stalking following of The Weary Chef’s Happy Hour. (A much earlier post had offered only four cocktail recipes.) You’ve seen batch after batch after batch of homemade ice cream, one even damaging my phone. Then there were the four batches of caramel sauce (in. a. row.) to achieve a dark enough color. And the most recent “project” using 24 overripe bananas in as many hours? Yes to obsessive. With the banana post in particular, more than one facebook comment suggested that I was possibly a bit bananas myself.

So here’s my question: Do folks blog because they are obsessed enough about a topic that they absolutely have to write it up and put it out there for others to read? Are all bloggers bananas?

Everyone writes for their own reason, so I wouldn’t presume that all come from a place of obsession. But I know absolutely that there’s oodles of passion behind a blogger’s reasons for writing, no matter the topic. And maybe your blog serves the purpose that mine does for me: to legitimately attend to my obsessions.

And with this thought, I return to my original question (feel free to head up to the top again as it’s likely been forgotten during this long-winded intro): What to write up next? I didn’t like the idea that came to me as it seemed repetitive. But. What’s an obsessed food writer to do? It seemed that food for fun was to go bananas AGAIN. (Sorry guys. I really fought this one.)

You’d think the smoothie, roasted puree, and cake made last week would have satisfied my banana fever, but the siren call of four bunches of browned bananas clearanced out at 99 cents was too much for me to resist. I snapped the bananas up and roasted them Perky Poppy-style, using brandy instead of last round’s rum. (I also skipped the butter and the resulting puree was as divine as the last batch.)

The puree went into Barefoot Contessa’s Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, which could pass for dessert as easily as they could breakfast. The bananas are added to the top of the ‘cakes before flipping, adding a flavor hit bar none. (“Bananas in a basket!” read one facebook comment.) Thanks, amb, for pointing me toward a killer recipe.

Barefoot Contessa's were prettier, but they couldn't have tasted any better than this stack

Barefoot Contessa’s were prettier, but they couldn’t have tasted any better than this stack

Though some would have stopped at one banana recipe, I had Trace in the Kitchen’s Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies to make. Only changes: upping the 3/4 cup chocolate chips to 1 cup as that last 1/4 cup was begging to be used and adding a dot of Marshmallow Fluff to each dough ball just because I could. These cookies were as tasty and soft and dreamy as Trace had promised.

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

little banana dough balls with a spot of fluff

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Thanks, Trace in the Kitchen, for a fun recipe!

Next up was Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread, which included the extra step of draining thawed frozen overripe bananas, then reducing that liquid by half and stirring it back into the puree. It calls for whole wheat flour–a plus–and its crowning touch is a layer of shingled banana slices sprinkled with caster sugar. The cupboard bare of caster sugar, I grabbed a bottle of coarse pink sugar (found in the cupboards of moms of young girls everywhere), though next time will use coarse sanding sugar as the pink didn’t do it for me. But the banana bread itself was a winner. Removing some of the water from the mashed bananas heightened their flavor, making the final bread richer and more darkly banana-y.

not sold on the pink, but Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

not sold on the pink, but Saucy gander’s Ultimate Banana Bread is indeed Ultimate

Also on my list were these delicious-looking peanut butter banana chocolate bars from Kelli’s Retro Kitchen Arts, though a closer look revealed banana cake mix, not fresh bananas. The photo looks so amazing, I’ll eventually find a way around the cake mix dilemma and come up with a version for my brandy-roasted bananas.

And that, I hope, is the end of my banana tale. I raise a (Weary Chef) cocktail to bloggers everywhere, celebrating our obsessions, passions, and willingness to share. Thank you for reading about mine.

foodforfun’s guide to irreverent cookie wisdom

Mentioned here before is my delight at meeting like-minded folk in the blogging community. Often, these bloggers write about food, but just as often I’ve enjoyed learning about nonfood topics from experts in other fields. Movies and TV, humor and travel. I’ve even (unwittingly) picked up a bit of sports trivia. (Still looking for a music blog–please recommend!)

Then there’s the “fiction” blog, which took a bit of getting used to. But Fannie Cranium and her adventures pulled me in. Stand-alone “chapters,” each post recounts an episode in (mostly) fictional Fannie’s life. The first paragraph on the About page welcomes readers “to Fannie’s world where she explores the adventures of married life, on the intersection between “I Love Lucy” Way and “Erma Bombeck” Avenue.” This has to be good, right? Even better, Fannie’s stories are authored by a talented (and soon to be famous, I’m sure of it 😉 ) writer who has an eye for detail and a way with words.

And here’s the food connection (you knew there had to be one, didn’t you?): One of Fannie’s stories involved a plate of mint-chocolate chip cookies. I sent off a comment (jokingly) asking for the cookie recipe and darned if author Tracy didn’t send me her cookie recipe! Talk about a class act.

So with many thanks to Tracy–and an urging to you all to check out her fun-to-read stories, which follow the life of Fannie Cranium, husband Richard, friends Bunny and Clarissa, and other assorted and colorful characters–I bring you Mint Decadence Cookies.

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mint Decadence Cookies à la Fannie Cranium

Mind you, I made changes along the way, but what food blogger worth his or her (chocolate) salt wouldn’t? For starters, instead of grating a large Hershey bar, I gathered leftover chocolate Easter bunnies (about 14 ounces worth) and chopped them into chunks. Also, wanting to apply some of the “irreverent wisdom” found in Tracy’s blog, I tried to get more mileage out of the cookie dough by treating each baking sheet a bit differently.

The first batch was rolled in powdered sugar before baking, the second sprinkled with vanilla salt, and the third with chocolate salt. At this point I was down about two-thirds of the dough and my eyes happened upon a bottle of rum sitting on the counter (you can’t enjoy that Derby Day mint julep without rum, folks). Before I knew it, a splash or so (thinking about 1/4 cup) of rum went into the leftover dough, as did about 3 tablespoons baking cocoa to balance out the extra liquid. These cookies were sprinkled with either vanilla or chocolate salt, then dusted with powdered sugar as soon as they emerged from the oven.

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

rolled in powdered sugar prebake

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

sprinkled with chocolate or vanilla salt before baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

rum in the batter, dusted with powdered sugar after baking

No matter how they were topped, the cookies were deep, dark, and yum. The mint flavor wasn’t so much a wallop as it was a subtle backnote rendering these cookies Decadent with a capital D. I imagine Fannie and Richard Cranium would approve and I’m hoping Tracy does too. So here’s to friends made while hanging out in the blogosphere. I thank you all for your reads and likes and comments. May you always enjoy chocolate decadence as you continue to write and read about your favorite topics.

Mint Decadence Cookies

1 (10-ounce) bag mint-flavored chips
1 (12-ounce) bag chocolate chips
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 giant Hershey’s candy bar, grated (I used 14 or so ounces chopped assorted chocolates)

Heat oven to 375°F. Grease baking sheets.

In top of double-boiler set over simmering water, melt 3/4 cup each mint chips and chocolate chips over hot, stirring until smooth. Cool to room temperature.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla; beat until creamy. Stir in melted chips and eggs; beat well. Gradually blend in flour mixture. Stir in grated chocolate bar and remaining mint and chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until just set. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

carb cravings: the cookies and bread edition

The better part of my weekend was spent developing no-carb recipes for a client who is assembling a cookbook. This was a tough project for me as guidelines called for essentially zero carbs other than vegetables. The allowed foods list contained a fair amount of meats, dairy, nuts, seeds, and oils along with limitless non-starchy veg. Fruits? Lemons, limes, berries, and apples, and then only “in moderation.” Even dried beans were given the cold shoulder and limited to occasional consumption. Whole grains? Not even on the Allowed list. (Quinoa and a few others were occasionally acceptable, but anything wheat-related was a no-no.)

While I was up for the challenge, it hurt to shun grains, legumes, and fruits as they add variety to a daily diet and have so much to offer nutritionally. But working for a client, I pushed personal feelings aside and stepped up to the no-carb plate. While I made some progress (Venison-stuffed bell peppers? Salmon salad? Winners both.), there were a few recipes I just couldn’t like. (Talking to you, spinach bread and kale smoothie.) More tweaking lies ahead, but by the end of the weekend my kitchen needed some carb karma.

Oatmeal cookies seemed a good choice, so I put together a batch using a recipe clipped from the newspaper years back. Chocolate chips were replaced by a handful of leftover red and pink m&m’s, another small amount of red “chocolate” chips (must have hit the day-after-Valentine’s rack at the grocery store), and a much larger amount of pretzel m&ms. The cookies were fantastic and loved by all; just by baking them I started feeling better about my no-carb recipes.

oatmeal m&m cookies

oatmeal m&m cookies

My husband, a willing if wary no-carb taste-tester, must also have been scarred by my project as he announced today that he was going to bake bread. While not completely out of character for him, it’s been ages since he’s made bread and his declaration cracked me up. He, too, must have sensed the kitchen’s need for carbohydrates. His chosen recipe was a no-knead oatmeal loaf and when time came to put the dough into pans, he happened upon my new loaf pan. Sold as a three-slot lasagna pan, this “kitchen toy” was recommended by a friend who uses it to bake multiple types of quick bread at once. Hubby’s bread dough filled two of the three slots, giving us two spectacularly amazing soft, fragrant, and golden loaves of carbohydrate bliss.

dough starting to rise

dough starting to rise

just-baked bread is very near the top of my Favorite Things in Life list

doesn’t get much better than just-baked bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

golden homemade oatmeal bread

I get that consuming excess carbs can pack on the pounds. I get that protein and fat satiate in ways that carbs cannot. But I also believe that there’s room in a healthy diet for carbs–especially the whole grains that provide fiber and lots of B vitamins. While I’m not fond of the mantra “everything in moderation” (everything? really? there goes the moderation, then), it does apply to most food situations. No-carb diets may be important for folk in critical health situations and may also help jump-start weight loss. But I’m all for including some of (almost) everything in what I eat. Kale and spinach. Cookies and bread. I’ll gladly make room for all of it. If you feel likewise, here are two rock star carb recipes.

Oatmeal-Candy Cookies

adapted from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups m&ms (the pretzel variety is an especially fun cookie stir-in)

Heat oven to 325°F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray.

In bowl, beat together butter and brown and granulated sugars with electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla, beating until combined.

In separate bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and powder, and salt; mix well. Add to butter mixture; beat on Low speed until blended. Stir in m&ms.

Drop tablespoons of dough at least 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 13 to 16 minutes or until cookies just begin to brown at edge. Cool briefly on baking sheets; transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 60 cookies.

No-Knead Oatmeal Bread

adapted from a recipe found in 2010 Minneapolis Star Tribune Taste

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  •  1/2 cup honey or light molasses
  •  1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour

In large bowl, combine boiling water, oats, honey, butter, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add yeast, mix well. Blend in eggs. Add flour until well blended yet still a soft dough. Place dough in greased bowl; cover. Refrigerate until needed, at least 2 hours.

Grease 2 (9×5-inch) loaf pans. On well-floured board, shape dough into 2 loaves. Place in pans; cover. Let rise 1 hour or until double. Bake at 350°F 1 hour or until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when removed from pans and tapped on the bottom. Makes 2 loaves.

inspiration from a friend and a cookie

I met up with a foodie friend for lunch today who believes–as I do–in empowering others to cook. (Jen’s business is aptly named Catalyst Cooks.) I enjoy our visits because she doesn’t limit her ideas. Time with Jen is always inspiring.

We ate at a popular Minneapolis cafe-style bakery, Sun Street Breads, and my gobbler sandwich (piled high with moist, tender, herb-flecked turkey) was yum. But I had a feeling the cookies I bagged to take home would be the real superstars. I was right. The Domino (Belgian chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips) was divine, though the big hit–for me–was the Crusher. The ingredient tag read chocolate chips, crushed pretzels, and broken up sugar cones. Combining chocolate and pretzels isn’t new, but the addition of the sugar cone struck me as brilliance. Why hadn’t I thought of it?

I loved the idea, so went home to bake up a batch of cookies using chocolate chips, crushed sugar cones, and pretzels. A recipe for Monster Marshmallow Cookies listed several nuts, chips, and types of cereal, so seemed a good fit for this project as the pretzels and crushed cones could easily replace some of the stir-ins. I also liked the idea of using mini marshmallows.

As usual, I played it fast-and-loose with measurements (for the stir-ins anyway) and ended up with more chocolate chips, marshmallow, etc then intended. More lacy than solid, the cookie’s structure–the word “craggy” comes to mind–had been stretched thin by the many stir-ins. Replacing half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour also made for a slightly different chew. But in the end, the many ingredients–marshmallows, chocolate chips, m&ms, oats, pretzels, crushed cones–made for a crazy and crazy good cookie packed with contrasting textures and flavors. They weren’t Sun Street’s Crushers, but that had not been my intent. I had only wanted to make cookies that combined chocolate chips, pretzels, and sugar cones.

I’ll stretch a bit here to say that my cookie find and subsequent baking project was a bit like my conversations with Jen. I’m encouraged to look at things from a completely different perspective, then inspired to work those new ideas into my own projects. My hope is that everyone has a friend like Jen as well as a pantry full of fun cookie ingredients for the next time inspiration strikes.

monster crushers

monster crushers

Crusher Marshmallow Cookies

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup each all-purpose and whole wheat)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups stir-ins (any combination of pretzel pieces, crushed sugar cones, chocolate chips, m&ms®)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats (I used old-fashioned)
  • 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows

Heat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

In bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, and baking powder. In separate bowl, beat together butter and sugars with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in remaining ingredients. Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden and set. Let cool slightly on baking sheets. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

politics and pot roast and c. c. cookies

In honor of Election Day in the good old U. S. of A., I pulled two cookbooks off my shelf. Politics and Pot Roast, subtitled A Flavorful Look at the Presidency, and White House Chef have been a part of my collection for years. Though entirely different books, they continue to be fascinating reads.

Politics is an odd little book I found advertised in a newsletter years ago. Sarah Hood Salomon “compiled, collected, and collated” this book of presidential recipes and trivia way back in 2004. Her small paperback includes a listing of 1894 Etiquette Rules for State Dinners and assorted menus (Lincoln’s Inaugural Luncheon and Menu from Monticello are two), then dedicates one page each for every president from Washington to George W. Bush. A recipe reflecting that presidency (often a favorite recipe of the First Lady, though one is credited to George Washington’s mother) is given along with details on why that recipe was chosen and what it says about the man in office.

The one recipe I’ve made from Politics is Mrs. Bush’s Cowboy Cookies, though I’ve read it cover to cover more than once. It’s a delightful journey through America’s history, one dish at a time.

White House Chef was written by Andrew Friedman and Walter Scheib, Executive Chef at the White house through all of Clinton’s and half of George W’s terms in office. Scheib offers great insight into each man and is more than frank—though always tactfully so—about which boss he preferred. (You’ll have to read the book to learn which.) His book is well-written and full of fun-to-read history and social commentary. Many of the 100 or so recipes are better suited for a State Dinner than they are weekday dinnertime fare (Vodka-Marinated Salmon with Cucumber Salad and Kasha Pilaf?), though I did give Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies a whirl when my daughter made cookies for a school project. (Do you see a pattern here with the cookies?)

Political convictions aside, both of these books are worth reading (and owning, in case you want to read them multiple times–I do) as they explore American presidents on a very human level. When you come to the table, your political party doesn’t matter. We all need to eat. With that thought, I offer you Scheib’s wonderfully buttery chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Chelsea’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Walter Scheib and Andrew Friedman’s White House Chef

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 3 baking sheets.

In large bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar; beat with electric mixer on High 2 to 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; mix well.

In separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda; gradually stir into butter mixture until blended. Stir in chips. Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2 inches apart onto baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool briefly on pans; transfer to wire racks to cool completely. (Though let’s not kid ourselves–they’re really good warm and you’ll want to have at least one before they cool.) Makes about 32 cookies.