Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Who doesn’t love a good cookie? Warm, gooey, filled with yummy stuff and ready for a good dunk in a cold glass of milk.  I love cookies but I’m not a huge chocolate fan (sorry – it’s not a character flaw, just not my favorite). I don’t mind some chocolate in cookies but sometimes there is so much chocolate, the cookie is simply lost so I am always looking for great cookies that I can balance flavors in.   I’m big on symmetry and balance in general and for cooking and find that the balance of flavors is a critical part of making a dish successful.  Too much of one flavor or ingredient can ruin a dish and overpower everything else.  That’s where this specific cookie was born. 

Most oatmeal cookies have raisins and these were decent cookies with raisins but I decided to see how it was with chocolate chips.  In addition to replacing raisins with chocolate chips, I also tried regular sized semi-sweet chips and mini semi-sweet chips and the mini chips won hands down.  Better distribution of chocolate throughout each cookie and a better balance of flavors.   The other thing about balance is the size of the cookie.  I use a small ice cream scoop for each cookie to ensure every cookie is consistent and cooks evenly.  The other thing I do to make a great cookie is about five minutes before the cookies are done, I give the sheet pan a good whack on the oven or counter which cuts down on the puff and makes a denser cookie.  I don’t like hockey puck or meatball shaped cookies – if you do, just omit this step.  Either way, these are great cookies. It’s just a preference.

This is an easy cookie to make and every time I’ve made them, they don’t last.  Offices, parties, neighbors, family…gone in less than 24hrs.  But if you happen to make yours last more than a day, keep them in an airtight container and they will last for almost a week.  You can also make the dough, portion it out and freeze individually on a sheet tray.  Once they are frozen you can put them in a zip top bag and pull out anytime you need a cookie!   

Ingredients

1 stick   Butter plus six tbs, room temperature

¾ cup    Light brown sugar, firmly packed

½ cup    Granulated sugar

2            Eggs

1 tsp      Pure vanilla extract

1 ½ cup All-purpose flour

1 tsp      Baking soda

½ tsp     Salt

1 cup     Mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

3 cups   Old fashion oats (I like Quaker)

Directions

Heat oven to 350.

In a large bowl of an electric mixer, mix butter and both sugars until creamed.  Add eggs and vanilla and once combined, add flour, baking soda and salt. Mix until combined.  Add oats, slowly, and then chocolate chips.

Using a small ice cream scoop (mine is about a 3 tbs measure), place each amount onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Bake for approximately 10 – 12 minutes until light brown (depending on your oven) and the edges are just starting to show some color. If you want a denser cookie, about five minutes before they are done, give the pan a good whack to deflate the cookies.

Transfer to a rack and cool.

Chicken Pot Pie

Not many dishes elicit the kind of reaction that a bubbling hot chicken pot pie does, especially from my sister-in-law Mary Ellen. It’s food that’s good for the soul and while I make this throughout the year, it seems to taste even better on a cold, winter night.  There would be no complaints in my house if I made this every week. 

Truth be told, this really is a super easy thing to make especially with some shortcuts.  What shortcut you ask? A rotisserie chicken is a great go-to for this.  Yes, leftovers from a great roasted chicken dinner would do fine but if you are looking for a quick weeknight dinner, a rotisserie chicken is the perfect solution.  I usually put half the chicken in and then save the second breast for chicken salad or for a regular salad the next day.  My second shortcut is premade pie dough.  Not the frozen ones but the box of two rolled sheets in the refrigerator biscuit section.  I always have some in my fridge – they are great for pot pies, hand pies when there’s fruit about to be too ripe, and gallates when I have more apples than I can use.  Yes, you can make your own pie dough but honestly, it’s not my favorite thing to make.  Maybe that will be a 2021 New Year’s resolution. Speaking of shortcuts, there are some great products out there and I love trying new ones to add to my go-to list.  We’re all busy and there is no shame in getting a little help along the way. #noguilt

Anyway, the only thing you really need to “make” is the sauce and it’s not difficult at all.  After that it’s just pulling everything together in a large bowl (could it be any easier?) and waiting for it to cook.  If there is any left, it’s great reheated and I always save a little gravy/sauce to have on the side and for the next day. For the veggies I go traditional with peas, carrots, green beans and corn for mine, but you can certainly customize the mix based on what your family likes (or doesn’t!).  I fine the frozen veggies work best since they don’t get mushy while the pot pie cooks.  And the small bags are the perfect sizes for a large pot pie.  You can customize the rest of this too – more/less chicken, more/less sauce.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

Filling

4 tbs                 Salted butter

4 tbs                 All-purpose flour

3 ½ cups          Low sodium chicken stock or homemade chicken stock

Knorr’s Chicken Stock pod (see my favorite products) or ½ tbs Chicken bullion powder

Salt and pepper to taste

½         Boneless chicken meat (rotisserie or homemade), cooked and shredded into bite-size pieces (discard the bones).

1 12 oz. bag      Frozen corn

1 12 oz. bag      Frozen cut green beans  

1 12 oz. bag      Frozen peas and carrots  

1 box    Pre-made refrigerator pie dough/2 rolled sheets (Pillsbury or the store brand is good, I think Trader Joes and Wegmans are the best)

Large pie tin or glass pie plate.  I use an oval casserole dish sometimes too. Pie plate are usually 8 ½ – 10 inches and I like ones on the larger side for more filling!

1                      Egg, whisked with a tbs of water for an egg wash before the pot pie goes in the oven

Preparation

Preheat the oven on to 350.

The base of the filling is essentially a chicken sauce or gravy.  Start by making a roux by melting butter in a saucepan and then adding the flour.  Briskly whisk for two minutes to cook the flour.  The roux will start to get darker which deepens the flavor.  Add the stock while whisking and bring to a soft boil.  Cook and whisk for another three minutes, scraping the bottom to make sure the roux is completely mixed it.  Set aside one (1) cup of the sauce/gravy and then combine the frozen vegetables in a large bowl with the remaining sauce. 

Roll out one of the crusts between two sheets of parchment paper lightly to ensure it is larger than the pie pan if necessary.  Place the dough sheet into the pie pan and leave the excess hanging over the edge.  Add 2/3 of the filling – it should reach the edges but not overflow.  Depending on the size of your pie pan, you could add more but be careful not to overfill. 

Roll out the remaining pie dough lightly.  Brush the edges of the filled pie with the egg mixture and then place the other pie dough on top, pressing lightly to seal.  To finish you can either cut the excess off and press the edges with a fork to seal or fold the excess under the bottom later and crimp with your fingers.  Cut a few vents in the top of the pie and brush with the egg wash.  Place on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake for approximately 40 minutes but you will know it’s done when it’s until golden brown and bubbling. If the edges brown before the rest of the pie, you can cover it with tin foil, so it doesn’t burn.

Let the pie sit for at least 10 – 15 minutes before you serve.

Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

I am always on the hunt for easy, delicious appetizers to go with a glass of wine or cocktail.  When we have guests over (which we would frequently do when entertaining wasn’t discouraged) my goal is to spend as much time with them as possible and not in the kitchen cooking and preparing things. This appetizer is great anytime of the year, but especially good during the summer months when tomatoes are abundant and at their peak.  If you are grilling, this easy to make at the grill while you’re outside with friends and family.  And, if you have leftover tomatoes (why would you!?) they are great with pasta or fish.  For me this is a great example of a mouth full of textures. The sweetness of the tomatoes, the crunch of the toasted bread and flake salt along with the cool and creamy cheese is amazing. The freshness of the basil and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes on top makes it perfect. The other thing I love about this recipe is the way you can customize it based on your preferences and what the rest of your menu is.  You could even put the components out and let your guests make their own.  I’m a huge fan of topping the bread with ricotta cheese but you can use goat cheese for a bit more punch of flavor if you like.  Either way, you can’t go wrong with this easy to prepare and delicious to eat appetizer.  Enjoy!

Ingredients

1-pint               Cherry tomatoes (multi-color if possible), stems removed and rinsed

1 tbs                 Olive oil

2 cloves           Garlic, roughly chopped

1                      French baguette

½ cup               Ricotta or goat cheese (whatever your preference is)                 

Flake salt (I use Maldon)

Pepper

Fresh basil leaves

In a shallow casserole dish place the tomatoes in a single lager with the garlic and olive oil. Roast at 400 degrees until the tomato skins start to blister and split.  Remove the pan and let the tomatoes come to almost room temperature.  When you are ready to serve, cut the baguette into slices on a bias and place on a cookie sheet under the broiler to toast.  Turn them over and toast on the other side but being careful not to burn.  (I’ve walked away from many dishes under the broiler only to realize a minute too late I’ve made a huge mistake!). 

Spread a layer of cheese on each piece of toasted bread, spoon two or three tomatoes on top.  Roll your basil leaves like a cigar and cut into thin ribbons (otherwise known as a chiffonade).  Sprinkle some flake salt (and red pepper if you like some heat) and a few strips of basil on each and serve.  Enjoy!!!   

Shelburne Cheesecake

Growing up in Cleveland, my husband Mark has fond memories of his maternal grandmother, Anna Lipton, making this cheesecake.  She used to bring it to Mark and his family at their home on Shelburne Road in Shaker Heights, so he appropriately named it Shelburne Cheesecake.  It’s now the recipe all other cheesecakes are measured against in my house.  I’ve tried other recipes, but none come close to this in his mind and frankly he’s right.  The only one I’ve managed to get into the rotation is my pumpkin cheesecake but just for Thanksgiving.  I think one of the things he loves most about this cheesecake, other than the fond memories of his grandmother, is the sour cream topping that goes on at the end.  For this recipe, having some cracks on the top (see photo) only adds to how the sweetened sour cream seeps down into the cracks of the cheesecake.  Like most cheesecakes, it’s rich, creamy and worth the calories.  A little goes a long way so you can serve it to a group and still have some to spare which is good because it gets better every day.

Ingredients:

Crust

¾ stick             Softened butter

1 cup                Graham cracker crumbs

1 tbs                 Sugar

Filling

3 8-oz pkgs     Cream cheese, room temperature                     

1 cup                Sugar

5                      Eggs, large

½ tsp               Vanilla

Topping

1-pint               Sour cream

4 tbs                 Sugar

½ tsp               Vanilla             

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine butter, graham cracker crumbs and 1 tbs sugar into a bowl and pat into the bottom of a 9” springform pan.  Wrap the bottom in foil (depending on what kind of pan you use, some butter from the crust could leak out when you cook the cheesecake and since I hate cleaning cookie sheets, I wrap the pan to avoide it!) and place in refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Mix cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla and add one egg at a time till combined.  Carefully pour batter into springform pan and place on a cookie sheet.  Back for approximately 50 – 60 minutes.  The center should still be a little jiggly in the middle.  Let cool for 15 minutes.

Turn the oven to 425.  Mix sour cream, 4 tablespoons sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla and then pour onto the cooled cheesecake.  Back for five minutes.

Remove and cool before storing in the refrigerator overnight before cutting.

Steamed Mussels

Some of my favorite things about creating recipes is when I can incorporate good, relatively inexpensive ingredients, the prep doesn’t take too long, it’s low in calories and you can take the pot/dish from the oven/stove right to the table. Oh, and there are virtually no leftovers at my house. 

Steamed mussels check all the boxes for me.  Mussels are usually sold in a two-pound mesh bag at the fish counter and they can last in your refrigerator for a day if you put them in the coldest part of your fridge.  Prices can vary but a two pound bag runs less than $5.00 in my grocery store.  The other great thing about mussels is they are healthy! Per serving, they are on par with Salmon for omega-3 which is great for heart health and inflammation reduction.  They are also high in protein with a single serving clocking in around 20 grams.  But the best thing about mussels is they are delicious.  I am partial to the classic French preparation of steaming them with wine, butter and herbs but they are remarkably versatile.  I like to add some cherry tomatoes for a punch of color and sweetness, but you could add more of your favorite ingredients to the liquid before you add the mussels…chorizo, red sauce, more herbs.

Once they are cooked and you lift the lid, it’s like magic.  The smell is intoxicating, and you can’t get the pot on the table fast enough but discard any that didn’t open. A crusty loaf of bread, or sometimes I toast some slices under broiler with a little olive oil too, is key to sop up every bit of that delicious liquid.  A simple salad, a glass of wine and a steaming pot of mussels is a great meal.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 pounds fresh mussels

1/2 cup flour

3 medium shallots

2 tbs. olive oil

1 cup cherry tomatoes (any color)

1 cup white wine

1/2 tsp salt and hot pepper flakes to taste

loaf of crusty bread

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 8 minutes

Serves: 2

Put the mussels in the fridge till your ready to cook them. I usually make them the day I buy them but they are good for a day or two in a bowl in a cold part of your fridge.

When you are ready, put the mussels in a bowl of water with ½ c of flour and mix.  Let the mussels sit for about 10 minutes so they can eat the flower and spit the sand out. Move the mussels to a separate bowl by removing them carefully with a slotted spoon – do not to pour them out so the sand stays in the bowl.  Check to see if you need to pull off the “beards” (fibrous material that secures the mussels while they grows) off the sides with a paper towel, but these days mussels come clean these days. If there are any broken ones, discard. If there are any broken shells, discard them. Set aside.

Slice the shallots into rings and cook in olive oil on medium till translucent. (about 5 minutes).  Add salt and if you like it spicy, some red pepper flakes (I’m married to Captain Vanilla so no go here) and the cherry tomatoes.  When cooked and the tomatoes start to pop, add a cup or so (more or less!) of white wine (make sure it’s something you would drink) and then the mussels. Cover and cook on medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Shake the pot once or twice but dont remove the cover.

To serve, put the pot on the table with a loaf of crusty bread and dig in.  These are great over pasta too.  (if there are any that didn’t open, discard.)

ENJOY!