Category Archives: Cookies

A Few Of My Favorite Things – Holiday Goodies!

A couple of months ago, I teamed up with two of my cousins and we had ourselves a bake-a-thon.  The thought was to finish all of our holiday baking in one fell swoop!  We each came armed with recipes and ingredients for 4-5 things, and we made double batches of everything, which we divided into freezer bags, took home and piled in the freezer to be brought out as needed for holiday parties and such.

Well, as you can imagine, most of it didn’t make it to Christmas.  But it sure was nice to have on hand for company, last minute things to take to a potluck, and family dinners.  And of course, some just called to us in the evenings and had to be eaten.  I was very happy to discover that EVERY SINGLE THING froze beautifully and tasted fresh when thawed out.

Although I have a few things left up in freezer town, I am going to do a little more baking this weekend for Christmas.  So I thought I would put together a few of the recipes I will be pulling from for the holidays, in hopes of helping those of you in need of ideas.  Merry Christmas to each and every one of you out there!

Simply click on each recipe to go to the post.  Any of these will make a wonderful gift or a welcome addition to any holiday party.  Happy baking!

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Rich and indulgent, I love these!

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Incredibly easy and only a few ingredients!

Classic Chocolate Brownies

My go-to foolproof brownies.  I make these all year long.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Always a holiday favorite.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Decadent, chewy, and gluten and dairy free (and you won’t miss either one)!

Flourless Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

I know it sounds weird, but these were delicious!  They also come down on the healthier side of holiday treats at a fraction of the calories of regular brownies.

Banana Chocolate Chip Bread

My bumped-up version of banana bread.  So good!

Chocolate Chunk Cookies with a Twist

My favorite cookies, soft, rich, with a twist of orange and cinnamon.

Lemon Zucchini Bread

A delicious twist on an old favorite!

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Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

I got a speeding ticket this morning.  And broke a nail.  One might suppose that this was the start to a rough day.  But I’m sitting here munching on a fabulous granola bar, one that transcends most granola bars as we know them.  And drinking a perfect mocha.  And watching a few rays of sun breaking through the clouds as I get ready to head to yoga class.  And I’m thinking life is pretty darn good.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs and thought, “oh those look good, and healthy too!”  And then when I was making them I thought, “hey, what if I add a cup of mini chocolate chips to them?” So…maybe mine are a little less healthy.  But you could still do worse.  I made some changes in the original recipe, based mostly on what was in my cupboard and a few flights of fancy.  And was also reminded that you should always read the recipe all the way through before starting.  My mini chocolate chips seemed like an inspired idea until I realized I would be pouring hot liquid on the mixture.  Um. I didn’t really think that through.  My chips melted.  Which really turned out to be wonderful, since the chocolate permeated the bars rather than staying in chip form.  It was unanticipated but quite delicious, and a contributing factor in the “gooey” description to be sure.  The end result is a chewy, gooey, indulgent (and still somewhat healthy) treat.  So take a moment, slow down, and eat one.

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars

Chewy Gooey Granola Bars
(adapted from Chewy Cherry Granola Bars by Canyoustayfordinner.com)

2 cups rolled oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup puffed rice (or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Puffs, which I happened to have)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tbsp. butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Heat oven to 350˚.  Spread oats out on a cookie sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.  In a large bowl, stir together oats, almonds, puffed grain or rice, cranberries, and chocolate chips.  Lower oven temp to 300˚.

In a small saucepan, combine butter, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla extract, almond extract and salt.  Bring to a boil, cook and stir one minute.  Remove from heat and pour over grain and fruit mixture.  Mix well until all ingredients are combined.  Line a 13 x 9 baking dish with foil and spray with cooking spray.  Put mixture in the pan.  Wet fingers and press evenly and firmly into the pan.  Bake at 300˚ for 20-25 minutes.  Cool at least 2-3 hours (I know!  But seriously, you need to wait) before cutting into bars.  Cut into bars and store in airtight containers, using wax paper to separate the bars so they don’t stick together.  Makes 24 bars.  187 calories per bar.

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

A giant granola bar (or 24 smaller granola bars)

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Peanut Butter Granola Bars

In my search for healthier snacks that aren’t rabbit food, I came across a simple recipe for granola bars.  This is what I would call a “guideline” recipe.  Take the basics here and add and subtract stuff you like.

I did two batches of these.  In one batch I was a little more generous with the peanut butter, and I added some extra peanuts and dried cranberries.  In the other batch I used chocolate peanut butter in place of the regular stuff, and added mini chocolate chips.  When I cut the bars I did have some crumbling, which resulted in some bars and some loose granola that was perfect for tossing on top of oatmeal or yogurt.  Adding a little oil to the recipe would probably help with the crumbling, but I was shooting for healthy here so I didn’t bother with it.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Homemade granola bars, two different ways.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used natural PB with no sugar, I also did one batch with natural chocolate peanut butter – they make that!)
1/4 cup honey

Other mix-ins such as dried fruit, nuts or chocolate chips!

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Melt peanut butter in microwave or on the stove.  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well, using your hands if necessary.  Add a little more honey or a drizzle of oil if it seems too dry.  Spray a pan with cooking spray and press mixture into the pan firmly.  Bake for 10-15 minutes (bake a little longer if you like them really crunchy).  Let cool a bit and cut into bars or crumble for loose granola.

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions...

Which one to eat first? Decisions, decisions…

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April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I don’t have any cookies in my house at the moment.  If I had them, I would eat them.  I have no self-control when it comes to cookies.  So I don’t make them often.  When I do, they do a very quick disappearing act, because they are (if I do say so myself) spectacular.

These are one of my favorite cookies to make.  My little spin on your basic chocolate chip cookie.  I used to use half butter and half margarine or butter flavored crisco to make them a little fluffier.  But these days, I’m using less and less “fake” food, which margarine is in my book (did you know it’s chemically very similar to plastic?) so now I use all butter.  I think they taste better, but they do tend to come out a bit more flat.  I don’t really have a problem with that, although they are not quite as pretty.  But they still taste wonderful and I would happily sit down and eat a whole plate of them, were they here.  It might be time to bake another batch.

Right now, I’m craving a cookie.

A stack of cookie love.

A stack of cookie love.

April’s Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks, slightly softened)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
6 squares Bakers bittersweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 – 1 cup walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 375˚.  Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, salt & cinnamon) in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a large bowl beat or stir butter, sugar and brown sugar until creamy.  Add eggs, vanilla, and orange rind.  Beat until combined.  Gradually beat or stir in flour mixture about 1/3 at a time.  Fold in chocolate and nuts.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate.  You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method.  Some big chunks, some tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to flavor the dough.

Chopped bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate. You could use chocolate chips if you want, but I love how you get varying sizes of chocolate bits with this method. Big chunks, tiny slivers, and a little chocolate dust to permeate the dough.

Drop by spoonfuls onto an ungreased baking sheet.  If you prefer you can line your baking sheets with parchment for easier cleanup.  Bake 8-10 minutes until just barely brown around the edges.  Remove from oven.  Using a spatula, transfer cookies to wax paper or cooling racks to cool.  Try not to eat them all at once.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

The perfect addition to any tray of treats.

 

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Chocolate Mint Snow-top Cookies

I bought a little paperback Nestle cookbook long, long ago as an impulse buy while waiting to pay for my groceries.  It was one of the best and most-used purchases I ever made.  It’s now so stained and stiff you can barely turn the sticky pages but I still get it out once or twice a year and bake one of my favorites.  These cookies are one of my regular Christmas cookies but I make them the rest of the year too.  The original recipe called for Nestle chocolate mint semi-sweet morsels, which sadly are no longer available.  I just use the regular ones and add mint.  If you don’t like mint in your cookies…well, just leave it out.  They are still delicious.

It took me a couple of weeks to lose the few extra pounds I put on at Christmas time, but let me assure you…if I were to do it all over again (and I will next year) I would still eat every one of these cookies.  They are one of my favorites and the perfect addition to any gift basket, potluck or dessert tray.  Or just to eat hot off the cookie sheet.  Your choice.

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies

Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies (along with a few friends)

Chocolate Mint Snow-top Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips (divided)
1 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup sugar
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
Powdered sugar

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.  In a microwave safe bowl add 1 cup of the chocolate chips and the peppermint extract.  Microwave for 30 seconds, stir until smooth (microwave a little longer if needed).  Set aside.

In a large mixer bowl, beat granulated sugar and butter until creamy.  Beat in melted chocolate and vanilla extract.  Beat in eggs.  Gradually beat in flour mixture.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap.  Freeze until firm, about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Coat with powdered sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper).

They don't look like much, but they blossom like magic.

They don’t look like much, but they blossom like magic.

Bake about 10 minutes until tops appear cracked.  Let stand on cookie sheets for a minute or two.  Remove from cookie sheets and cool.  Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

chocolatesnowtopcookies2

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Cranberry Bliss Bars

The holidays are over, my waistline is a tiny bit bigger and now that I’m watching what I eat again I thought I would wistfully post about the wonderful goodies I made for Christmas.  Luckily, there are always occasions where you need a little treat, so I’m sure these will appear sometime again before next Christmas.

I love the Cranberry Bliss Bars at Starbucks.  They are only found around this time of year so I was thrilled to spot a recipe for them on Pinterest so I can make them whenever the mood strikes.  While these are not exactly the same, I thought they were quite similar and every bit as wonderful.  Maybe a little fluffier, less dense in the bar part, but I liked it.  Crystallized ginger was an odd ingredient that I hadn’t used before.  You may find it with the dried fruits (at my store it was in the natural foods section).  I took these to two parties and they were a huge hit.

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars

Cranberry Bliss Bars
( from Your Home Based Mom – http://www.yourhomebasedmom.com/)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground powdered ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup minced dried cranberries
1/4 cup quality white chocolate (I used Baker’s, 1-2 squares chopped up)
1/4 cup minced candied (or crystallized) ginger

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp grated orange rind

1/4 cup minced dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Grease a 9×13 casserole dish.  Beat together butter and brown sugar, then add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until light and fluffy.  Add flour, powdered ginger and salt.  Beat well.  Fold in the cranberries, white chocolate, and candied ginger.  Spread batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.

Cranberry Bliss Bars - bottom layer

Cranberry Bliss Bars – bottom layer

After cake cools, mix all frosting ingredients (except cranberries) and spread over the top of cake.  Sprinkle with cranberries.  Cut into squares or triangles.

cranberryblissbars2

Cranberry Bliss Bars, all ready to slice up into fancy triangles.

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Inside Out Peppermint Patties

When I think of Peppermint Patty, I think of the Peanuts Gang.  She is one of my favorite characters, even though she doesn’t show up very often.  She’s got attitude, and I love that.  And she is one of the only characters who is nice to Charlie Brown (at least sometimes) and that’s pretty cool in my book.

Speaking of Peppermint Patty…peppermint and chocolate together make one of the happiest combos in chocolate land.  I never really thought about making them myself until I came across a recipe one day.  And even then I may not have made them right away but I was fortunate enough to be asked to mentor a lovely girl in her candy making project for school.  Funny how events coincide.  You find a great recipe, and then somebody asks you to do something that involves making that very thing.  Wonderful.

I liked these so much that I have made them twice this week.  These are more of an inside out peppermint patty.  It makes for a pretty presentation.  Could you dip them in chocolate instead of putting the chocolate in the peppermint?  Well, sure.  If you want to, go right ahead.  Me?  I’ll go for the option that’s easier to execute.  I love the way they look, and I also like to eat the white part around in a circle and get the little chocolate center at the end.  Life’s little pleasures.

Inside Out Peppermint Patties

Peppermint Patties
(from She Wears Many Hats)

1 pound powdered sugar (about 2 cups)
4 oz. cream cheese (1/2 package)
1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
6 oz. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In a mixer, blend the powdered sugar and cream cheese on low to medium speed.  Once the mixture is started you can toss in the peppermint extract and continue blending until you have a cohesive ball of stuff.  If you don’t have a blender, you can do this with a spoon or your hands.  You want a mixture that is about the consistency of play dough.  Not crumbly but not sticky either.  If you need to add a little extra sugar or cream cheese to get the right consistency, do so.  Roll into 1 tsp. size balls.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or wax paper.  Make a depression in the ball so it looks like a little bowl.  Work quickly so the mixture doesn’t dry out (it helps to have more than one pair of hands). Put in the fridge to cool off and set up (at least 30 minutes).

Making the peppermint molds. A little cooking spray on your hands helps if the mixture is sticking to you.

In a small bowl, microwave chocolate chips for 1 minute.  Stir until smooth.  Put in a ziplock bag and push down into one corner.  Snip off the corner and pipe into the peppermint molds.

Filling the peppermints. Start out with a very small snip because it comes out pretty fast!  You can always make the opening bigger if you need to.

Put back into the fridge to set up for at least an hour.  Remove from trays and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them.

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Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

For a brief period last year, my family went on a gluten-free diet.  This was as a result of a doctor telling me that my son, Luke, was allergic to about 10 different foods, including wheat and some other grains.  Thankfully, it was a misdiagnosis and we all happily returned to our old eating ways after a few months.  But during that period I learned a lot!

First off, we all lost about 5 pounds each so I learned that gluten-rich foods are fattening!  No big surprise there.

Secondly, I learned that buying alternative foods masquerading as foods with gluten (cookies, pretzels, pasta, bread, etc.) is not only very expensive ($8 for a bag of pretzels!!) but most often, quite disappointing.  Although brown rice pasta isn’t half bad if you have a mad craving.  After a few attempts we stopped trying most of this stuff and just ate foods that are naturally gluten-free for the most part.

Thirdly, and by far the most surprising, I found some gluten-free recipes that I absolutely love, that I probably never would have tried otherwise.  One of those recipes was for these cookies.  Chewy, fudgy, rich and decadent, they are everything a chocolate lover could ever hope for.  Plus they are quick and easy to make and have surprisingly few ingredients.  You have to make these.

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies

Flourless Double Chocolate Cookies
(from Chocolate & Carrots) 

3 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/8 tsp. salt
2-4 large egg whites at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups 60% cacao chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli bittersweet chips)

Preheat oven to 350˚.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  In a large bowl whisk together powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt.  Whisk in vanilla and 2 eggs whites.  Whisk until batter is just moistened.  If batter is too thick to get the whisk through, add another egg white and whisk some more.  You are going for a thick, brownie-batter consistency here.  If it’s still too thick, add a 4th egg white.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop in 1 tablespoon scoops onto lined cookie sheets.  Leave room for them to spread.

They don’t look like much, but trust me, one tablespoon is all you need.

Bake approximately 10 minutes until tops are firm and glossy.  Remove from oven and slide parchment sheet with cookies on it onto the table or cooling rack.  Let cool a few minutes and the cookies will peel off the parchment easily.  This recipe makes about 3 dozen cookies.

10 minutes in the oven and magic happens.

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