chocolate chip cookies

My family loves cookies. Especially chocolate chip cookies.

For decades I was faithful to the Toll House recipe. But then I found other recipes where people would say “best ever” or “better than the typical” or other similar compliments. Made me wonder if there really could be a better chocolate chip cookie recipe. Well, I’ve since found a few.

This recipe was printed on the package of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. I do not feel guilty at all for not being faithful to Nestle. These are amazing, as you would expect from Ghirardelli.

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

1 cup sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 eggs

2 cups Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 375F.

Stir flour with baking soda and salt then set aside.

In mixer, beat butter and sugars until creamy. Add vanilla and eggs — one at a time — mixing on low until incorporated.

Gradually blend dry mixture into creamed mixture.

Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by tablespoons onto parchment paper, silicone baking mats, or ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, until golden brown.

fruit (and veggie) smoothies

This is not so much a recipe … more like a miracle.

My daughter won’t eat a piece of raw fruit unless it’s an apple. And until a couple years ago it had to be a peeled and sliced Granny Smith apple or nothing. She’s since branched out to other varieties of apples, and doesn’t peel them any longer, but that’s still it as far as whole fruits go.

Banana? Only if I pay her. A peach? Never. Strawberries? No way. Not even chocolate covered strawberries! What’s wrong with this girl?!??!

But somehow, and I truly don’t remember when this miracle occurred, but somehow this same girl will make a fruit smoothie every single day. Yes, a smoothie made with fruit. Every. Single. Day. Makes me cry just thinking about it.

Into a blender she’ll put a cup of orange juice, a scoop of plain yogurt, and frozen fruit, and sometimes ice cubes. Usually the fruit selection includes frozen strawberries, peaches, and blueberries. Sometimes she’ll add raspberries,pineapple, and mango if we have them.

One of my best mom moments — you know, when you get that imaginary pat on the back, knowing you’ve done something right — was when my daughter said these words: Mom, next time you go to the store, please buy mangoes and raspberries and any other fruit that looks good. Thanks!

To make this even better, she started tossing in raw veggies into the daily smoothies. And if you think she was picky about fruit, she was even pickier with veggies!

In her smoothies she’s tried different veggies, but usually it’s a few slices of raw carrot. So now my non-fruit and non-veggie eating daughter is consuming fruit and veggies every single day. This is huge people! If you had any idea how many months (*cough* years *cough*) went by when this child ate nothing that wasn’t a nugget or a fry, you’d be as shocked as I have been. To go from #1 Picky Child in America, to having a fruit and veggie smoothie very day, well, that’s a miracle!

hummus

My husband loves to eat. He loves all foods, especially flavorful foods. And spicy. Anything tasty. The man just really loves food!

Ages ago … over a dozen years ago … we purchased a cookbook and healthy lifestyle book written by a health guru who had a radio show at the time that we both listened to. I tried a few of the recipes and most of them came out well. My husband made the hummus and loved it. Years and years went by and we forgot about this cookbook, until a few weeks ago. I suddenly remembered a fish recipe that we liked, and knew it came from this cookbook. That’s when we remembered the hummus. So my husband got out the ingredients and made a batch.

This kind of recipe is perfect for him because there are few ingredients, you put them all in a blender (no cooking or additional pots and pan needed), it is a healthy snack, and he can make it exactly the way he likes it. And the best part, for me, is that the blender and all its parts go right in the dishwasher. Everyone is happy.

*Note: The original recipe came from Dr. Gabe Mirkin’s book, Fat Free, Flavor Full

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Hummus

1 can chick peas, drained

1 onion, chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup tomato puree

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 teaspoons cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

black pepper

cilantro

In a blender, puree the chick peas, onion, garlic, tomato puree and lemon juice. Stir in the spices and pepper. Taste. Adjust as needed (my husband spends about 5 minutes adding and tasting, adding and tasting, until it’s exactly the way he wants it). Garnish with cilantro and additional black pepper.

My husband toasts flour tortillas in a toaster oven. Once toasted, he breaks them into pieces to serve with the hummus.

a favorite ingredient — chicken broth

No recipe today. Instead I’m telling you about one of my favorite pantry items. An ingredient I use in many, many recipes — I always have some in the house. Pacific Natural Foods Organic Free Range Chicken Broth.

My mom makes her own broth and stock. And she regularly tells me I should do the same. Not going to happen. This is too easy. It’s available in my local grocery store. I can even buy it online at amazon and have it set up for regular shipments. This chicken broth comes in a 32 ounce container that has a resealable cap and in a four pack of 8 ounce containers.

Here’s a tip. When I open the 32 ounce container, if I’m not using it all that day, back in the refrigerator it goes. But first I use a permanent marker to note the date on the top. My life is crazy busy sometimes, and because I use this product so often, there’s always some in my refrigerator. But what if it got stuck in back, behind the orange juice? What if it’s past its 7-10 day life? Well, worry not! The date on top alerts me to when I opened it. So simple, yet so helpful!

turkey meatloaf burgers

The house I grew up in has a door on three of the four sides. Door #1 is off the bottom driveway and requires using a flight of narrow curvy stone stairs. Door #2 is on the “front” of the house, and used only by strangers, such as a solicitor or flower delivery person, since you have to walk through the grass or mud or snow to get to it. And door #3 is off the upper driveway, which was created back in the mid-70’s when an addition was put on the house. Everyone we knew went to door #3 — the back door — which led directly into the kitchen. And hardly anyone ever knocked. I’m one of six children and we (and our neighborhood friends) went in and out that door about a hundred thousand times a day. My mom used to call it Grand Central Station.

the back door … come on in!

I have such fond memories of walking into my mom’s kitchen from that back door and inhaling the tempting smells of whatever she was cooking or baking. In my memory my mom was always in the kitchen. Always. Sorry mom! I’m sure she did other things, but so much of her time was in the kitchen, and we all spent so many hours in that large room, that many of my childhood memories include mom with an apron on in her kitchen.

One of the best smells was that of meatloaf. Now, my mom may have burnt green beans or undercooked the baked potatoes, but she knew how to make meatloaf. Not sure exactly what she put in her version, and knowing her, it was different every time, but it always made the house smell amazing and so welcoming.

I haven’t been able to recreate my mom’s meatloaf aroma, but truthfully, I haven’t really tried. I make meatloaf using ground white meat turkey. And because it’s made of turkey I worry about getting the inside to cook to the correct temperature, without drying out the outside, so I gave up on making loaves. Instead I form the turkey meatloaf mixture into burgers. These have become a favorite in my family. They’re easy to make, not expensive (I love meals that are around $10), and come pretty close to recreating that wonderful meatloaf aroma I remember so well from my mom’s kitchen.

*Note: I made these for a friend the other night, and she and her children loved them! Yahoo!

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Turkey Meatloaf Burgers

olive oil

1 pound ground white meat turkey

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (or panko)

1 cup pasta sauce (store bought or homemade), divided

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

garlic powder (to taste, I use about 1 teaspoon)

pepper

salt

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350F.

Put meat, egg, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, 1/2 cup of the pasta sauce, oregano, basil, garlic, pepper and salt into a large bowl and stir with a fork (I don’t like to put my hands into raw meat, and have found that stirring with a fork incorporates all the ingredients well).

In a shallow baking dish, coat the bottom with a thin layer of olive oil. Form the meat mixture into 6 hamburger-sized patties (or 9 mini-burgers if serving young children).  Place them in the baking dish.

Bake uncovered for 15-20 minutes, then flip each burger and cook another 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and top each burger using the remaining 1/2 cup pasta sauce (about 1 tablespoon on each). Then, distribute the mozzarella cheese on top of the sauce. Return to the oven for a final 5 minutes, until the cheese has melted.

turkey tenderloin with honey sage gravy

turkey tenderloin with honey sage gravy

 

I eat a lot of chicken. A lot. I like chicken very much, but sometimes I just need to have something different. I also like turkey but usually only make the huge bird at Thanksgiving. Turkey is a nice change from chicken, without being too different. So in order to enjoy turkey on any given night, without having the whole bird in my oven all day, I came up with this recipe using turkey tenderloins.

The first few times I made turkey tenderloins, I didn’t make gravy. That didn’t sit well with my husband. He just didn’t understand. Turkey. Gravy. They go together. He expects them together. So it occurred to me that I should just make gravy then. It’s not hard — only takes an extra 5 minutes, which is a good amount of time to let the meat rest after removing it from the pan.

From start to finish these turkey tenderloins only take about 30 minutes. Perfect for a busy weeknight. Perfect for a Sunday dinner. Perfect for any time you’re craving the flavors of Thanksgiving turkey. And a perfect alternative to chicken.

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Turkey Tenderloins with Honey Sage Gravy

3 turkey tenderloins

olive or canola oil

2 teaspoons sage

garlic powder

black pepper

salt

3 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon flour

1 cup chicken broth

Coat the bottom of a large saute pan with oil. Once heated (cooking over medium/high heat), place the tenderloins in the pan. Sprinkle them with the sage, garlic powder, pepper and salt. Cook until brown on each side.

Reduce heat to low, add the honey, and place a lid on the pan. Cook on low for about 5-10 minutes (depends on how hot the pan stays, and how thick the meat is).

Remove the tenderloins from the pan. Strain the liquid and reserve this for the gravy.

Place the butter in the saute pan over low heat, and as it melts, whisk in the flour. Once you have a smooth, thick paste (this will only take a minute or two), whisk in the reserved liquid and the chicken broth. Continue to whisk this over low heat until it thickens. You might need to increase the heat to medium for a short time, but only do that after the liquid is combined well into the butter/flour mixture.

Serve over the turkey tenderloins.

*Note: I don’t always include exact measurements of items such as garlic powder, salt and pepper, because I never measure them myself, and what I find to be the perfect amount might be too little or too much for someone else. In this recipe, use the amounts you prefer.

***Edited to add that this makes a very nice — and very quick — Thanksgiving meal. Short on time or only serving a couple people? Still want something special for your Thanksgiving meal? This is it!***

banana muffins with chocolate chips

My kitchen currently looks like a bakery exploded. Magic cookie bars. Sugar cookies. Banana muffins. And as I type this my daughter is making a pudding pie.

We don’t always have this many baked goods in the house at once. The pudding pie is for a friend, to go with the meal I’m delivering to her house tomorrow night. The other cookies and muffins are being sent to three college campuses — two in Virginia and one in NYC. When my oldest son went back to school after the winter break, he specifically requested that we send sugar cookies in our next care package. This week I took inventory of my baking cabinet and found I had more than enough chips to make magic cookie bars. He loves those! And yesterday I had two bananas that had seen better days, so banana muffins were made last night.  All these goodies are being packaged up and sent to him, and to three of his friends that I saw over the break and who happened to mention they love baked goods.

As I was making these banana muffins, I thought back to when I first got the recipe. My oldest son, the one now in college, was a newborn. Yes, it was 19 years ago when I had my first newborn and my wonderful cousin brought over warm banana bread for us. Up until then I hadn’t been a banana bread fan, but her version was melt-in-your-mouth yummy. I can’t remember if that one had walnuts and/or chocolate chips (you can make this recipe with either), but I’ve always made them with chocolate chips. And I prefer to make these in muffin pans rather than bread pans. I’ve also changed the recipe just a tiny bit, by using both regular flour (I prefer unbleached) along with whole wheat (or white whole wheat).

Nineteen years of making banana muffins. Wow. Time really does fly!

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Banana Muffins with Chocolate Chips

1 ½ sticks butter, softened

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 or 3 bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork

3 ½ cups flour (2 cups white unbleached + 1 ½ cups whole wheat)

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 to 2 cups chocolate chips (I prefer to use mini-chocolate chips)

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Heat oven to 350F.

Beat butter and brown sugar.

Add eggs, vanilla and banana.

Add dry ingredients gradually.

Stir in chips.

Use paper muffin liners.

Bake 18 to 22 minutes for regular size muffins (makes about 30), or 12 to 15 minutes for mini-muffins — great size for a snack for toddlers!

all packed up and ready to mail!