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Banana Muffins of Perfection

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I got this recipe from my friend, Staci, and have made them twice in the last month. They were originally called “Banana Nut Muffins” but Dennis insisted on this new title and since it makes me laugh, I obliged him.  They really are perfect, so much so that I’m thinking about turning this recipe into a loaf and entering it into the fair this year.  Such a nice, soft, texture!

I shared them with an old co-worker and she deemed them the “best muffins ever.”  The base recipe is a good one that results in a tender, moist muffin with great banana flavor.  These are now my favorite thing to make with bananas!

Banana Muffins of Perfection

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2 cups (9 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter
1 cup (7 oz) granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups mashed ripe bananas
1 cup mix-in’s

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Stir in mashed bananas. Add dry ingredients all at once, stirring just enough to moisten. Gently stir in mix-in’s. Spoon into greased muffin tin, filling 2/3 full. Bake in 350F oven for 18-20 minutes or until golden. Makes 15-18 muffins.

Staci’s & V’s favorite mix-in’s: chopped nuts, diced prunes, chopped strawberries, blueberries, dried cranberries, chocolate chips. Staci also likes to add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom, but doesn’t measure so you’ll have to figure out how much you like if you add them. I’d add a teaspoon total of spices (max) if it was me, but you might like more or less.

I make mine nut-free to keep them easy to chew for Joshua. My two favorite ways (so far) are with blueberries (above) and dried cranberries (first picture)! I can’t wait to try them with FRESH cranberries come fall. Oh my!

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Baked Oatmeal

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I like keeping things simple and easy at meal time, especially breakfast, so when I discovered how much Joshua enjoys baked oatmeal, I decided to make more of it.  A pan lasts several days and it’s so nice to be able to just take out a square and heat it in the microwave. Bam. Breakfast is done. He takes care of the rest.

I made this in an attempt to make a baked oatmeal that really would be reminiscent of cookie dough, since the pumpkin didn’t really have that feel to me (granted, I may have over baked it a tad, as I tend to do a lot these days). And wow, you guys, I nailed it.  *pats self on shoulder* ;) This stuff is warm and gooey and melty and soft and creamy and really, a lot like a thick, warm cookie dough. Dennis even ate it for dessert after dinner one day, with some whipped cream on top. It’s that good. And low in sugar, or sugar-free if you want to leave the chocolate chips out. You would never guess, it’s just so good, but feel free to use sugar if you prefer. This one is definitely worth a try.

Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Oatmeal

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2 cups quick-cooking oats
4 packets stevia*
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup milk
1 (4 oz) snack cup of unsweetened applesauce (heaping 1/3 cup)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil or melted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ cup chocolate chips, plus more for top if desired

Mix all ingredients together well until blended. Pour batter into an 8×8 pan sprayed with oil. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes.

*If you want to use sugar, I’d recommend brown sugar for a more cookie dough-like flavor. I’m not certain on the amount, but I’d try 1/3 cup and add more to your taste if needed.

***

I have to show you guys what this looks like with the flash – the photo is cheaper-looking but this really shows off how cookie dough-like it is. It’s soooo soft and I just couldn’t capture that gooey softness as well with natural light. Honestly, sometimes the flash is the only way to show the true colors & textures. Amateur photographer problems. :)

Chocolatey Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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Back when I made the super-fantastic Double Chocolate Banana Bread, I also made a loaf of chocolate zucchini bread, hoping it would turn out as good as the banana bread.  It was a huge, miserable disappointment.  Dry, and hardly any chocolate flavor.  I didn’t mention this on that post, but out of the blue, reader Caren K. mentioned she had a chocolate zucchini bread recipe that was to die for.  Of course I had to ask her for it, and she thankfully obliged.

This bread totally met my expectations!  As you can see in the pictures, I barely had half a loaf to photograph the next day because we couldn’t help but dig in, and dig in some more, while it was cooling the night before.  It is so incredibly moist, to the point of being fudgy, and I love the hint of cinnamon – it really adds some warmth and mystery to the bread.  You don’t taste the instant coffee, and I suspect it is there to enhance the chocolate flavor.  If so, I think it does its job well, as this bread is perfectly chocolatey!

Chocolatey Chocolate Zucchini Bread

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2 cups grated zucchini, measured after draining
1 ¼ cups (5 ¼ oz) all-purpose flour
¼ cup (3/4 oz) unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup (5.25 oz) sugar
1 large egg
6 tablespoons melted butter
¼ heaping teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup semisweet chocolate chips
Mini semisweet chocolate chips for top, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray the bottom of an 8×4 loaf pan with oil; set aside. (I have an excellent nonstick pan, so you might want to spray the sides too, or use Miracle Pan Release if your baked goods tend to stick to yours.)

Grate zucchini and place in a colander in the sink to drain while you continue with the recipe. After it has drained, squeeze it to get out the extra liquid before measuring. Don’t pack the cups too much or your bread might be a little soggy the second day.

Whisk together the flour, unsweetened cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Whisk until well combined. In a separate larger bowl, whisk together the sugar and egg until smooth. Add the melted butter, instant coffee granules, and vanilla extract and whisk until well combined. Add the shredded zucchini into the sugar mixture, then add the flour mixture in small sections, stirring to combine after each addition.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool completely on a rack.  If desired, sprinkle some mini chocolate chips over the top while it cools. The heat from the loaf will make them soften and melt a little and stick well to it.

Recipe source: Caren K.

You may also be interested in…

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Double Chocolate Banana Muffins (healthy!)

Double Chocolate Rum Amish Friendship Bread

 

Turtle Cookies


Since this is my second cookie post in a row, and I have enough cookie recipes to share every day this week*, I’m officially declaring it “Cookie Love” week on Veronica’s Cornucopia!  Next to dog love, this is the best kind of love there is. ;)

*Except for Thursday, of course, when I will be doing my Thankful Thursdays feature.

These are the cookies I made for The Postcard Project Cookie Swap.  I had purchased a bag of Kraft Caramel Bits on sale, because I couldn’t resist the 75-cent sale price, even if I had no specific purpose in mind for them.  As with the Snickers and the Sneaky Snickers Cookies, thought maybe I could use them in my cookies for the swap.  My first idea was to use them in a vanilla dough with chocolate and pecans, and it turned out to be a great one!  These are now in my top five favorite cookies, for sure.

I based the dough off the recipe for these blue-ribbon chocolate chip cookies and just stirred in chocolate chips, toasted pecans, and the caramel bits.  I was surprised how something so simple (no browning of the butter, no toasting & grinding of oatmeal!) could be so wonderful.  Soft, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, gooey with caramel and studded with chocolate & pecans.  Just soooo wonderful.  If I do say so myself. :)

Turtle Cookies

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1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
½ teaspoon white vinegar*
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup caramel bits
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped**

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats to prevent the caramel from sticking.

Cream the butter, sugar, salt, vanilla, and vinegar together until light and fluffy, five minutes. Add the eggs and baking soda and beat until combined. Add the flour and mix just until combined. Add the chocolate chips, caramel bits, and pecans, and either stir them in or beat just until combined.

Using a cookie scoop, portion the dough out onto the cookie sheets, leaving an inch between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes or just until the cookies are beginning to get golden brown around the edges. Remove and leave on pan for 5 minutes before removing cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

*The vinegar helps make the cookies tender. You can not taste it, as the extra baking soda neutralizes its flavor.

** To toast the pecans, place them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between with fingers, until toasted and fragrant, 1-2 minutes total. Set aside to cool. Chop before using in recipe.

***

I wanted to share the cookies I received in this swap like I did yesterday for the ones I received in the blogger cookie swap.  Amber sent me four each of three kinds in a holiday tin (I had no idea you could ship in a tin–very cool!): gingerbread cut-outs, chai snickerdoodles, and spiral slice-and-bake cookies.

And check it out–I even got a stocking with my name on it! :)

The chai snickerdoodles were fantastic–they were (were because they have long since departed this world through my belly) all-butter snickerdoodles and instead of a plain cinnamon-sugar coating, there are other spices in the mix to give them a chai flavor.  I can’t even imagine how great these must be fresh from the oven!  However, despite their yumminess and being Amber’s favorite, I have to say my favorite in the tin was the spiral sliced cookies. I know, I’m so boring, but I just love a good sugar cookie (much like my favorite cake is white with white icing!) and these were perfect–nice and soft with a kiss of almond. Yum! Thanks, Amber!

Katie sent me two kinds of cookies, both recipes from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe.  I was so tickled when Katie wrote that is her favorite baking blog because it is one of my favorites too–in fact, I think I trust Mel more than any other food blogger!  Her recipes have never failed me.

Katie sent me cranberry white chocolate cookies that she adapted from Mel’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut:

These were nice and soft and chewy and I really loved the white chocolate and cranberry combo.

However, the other cookies Katie sent are the ULTIMATE and my favorite of ALL COOKIES SENT IN BOTH SWAPS.  Yes, I needed caps for that statement, that’s how strongly I feel about these cookies.  These are Mel’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies, and they arrived tasting so fresh, I doubt they were any better the day she made them.

Seriously, just like with the Sneaky Snickers Cookies, I have been dying to make this recipe ever since I first laid eyes on it over a year ago.  But I was able to steer clear for the sake of my thighs.  Do you even understand how wonderful it was to receive just six of these cookies, the best cookies perhaps of all time, and maybe, just maybe, even better than my favorite cookies, so that I could savor them without risking my health by eating an entire batch made in my own kitchen?!?!?!  Thank you Katie, you rocked my world. :)

I haven’t received my third dozen yet, but as I wait patiently, I have a few cookies stashed in my freezer to keep me happy until it arrives.  See you tomorrow for a cookie that is perfect for shipping!

Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

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I like to have an arsenal of easy emergency recipes on hand for gifts, and recently added this one because I happened to have a caramel cake mix and dulce de leche in my cupboard when I was scrambling to get something ready for a friend with a birthday, who I was going to see later in the day.  If you can’t find caramel cake mixes in your grocery store, you can request them at your customer service counter like I do, or purchase them online.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Bars

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1 (18.25 oz) Duncan Hines caramel cake mix
2 eggs
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup butter
¼ cup water
1 (12 oz) package semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 (14 oz) can dulce de leche

Preheat oven to 375 ºF.. Spray a 9×13 dish with oil. Combine cake mix, eggs, water, brown sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir until thoroughly blended. Mixture will be thick. Stir in chocolate chips. Spread in greased pan.

Bake for 24 to 27 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. While it’s still hot and fresh from the oven, spread dulce de leche over the top and sprinkle chocolate chips over that. Wait five minutes, then use a butter knife or spatula to swirl the chocolate into the caramel. Cool completely in pan. Cut into bars.

Recipe source: adapted from Duncan Hines

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Update: I won a blue ribbon for these cookies at the 2011 Kansas State Fair!

Cookies are my favorite food group and I’ve never met a cookie I didn’t like, but never had a favorite until fairly recently.

And the winner is… [drumroll]

chocolate chip cookies {insert sheepish grin here}

But these aren’t just any chocolate chip cookies, people.  These are chocolate chip cookies made with brown butter, toasted & ground-up oatmeal, toasted nuts and just enough vinegar to make an extremely tender cookie without adding any flavor.

I suppose I always knew that chocolate chip cookies would eventually beat out all the rest for me, because I have made countless batches of them in an effort to find the perfect recipe.  I’ve never done this with anything else. All were good, but none left me with the feeling that I’d found the best.  Until I found this one.

Allow me to introduce you to the creator of this recipe, Laura Flowers: culinary genius and food blogger extraordinaire.  (If you use that to title your autobiography, Laura, I want 10% of your profits!)  Every week she posts new recipes–most of them her own–for everything from cookies to pizza (those are my favorite) to salads & pasta dishes.  I have tried several and have yet to be disappointed.  And I’m eternally grateful to her for bringing the torture of my endless search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie to an end!

Today I made them for Laura’s “Project Cookie” and mailed them to her friend Ted & his platoon in Iraq.  Well, I mailed most of them (minus the usual dozen I can’t keep from eating every time I make them!)

Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

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1/2 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon real vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (You won’t taste it, I promise.)
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional, but add 1/4 cup more flour if omitting)
1 (12-oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a nonstick skillet, melt 1 stick of the butter over medium heat until foamy and golden brown. You’ll know it’s ready when the solids have separated and the bottom has lots of brown specks and it starts to smell so wonderful that you get light-headed when you catch a whiff. Pour into a bowl to cool and wipe out the skillet.

3. In the skillet over medium heat, toast the oatmeal, stirring often, until fragrant and some of the oatmeal is light golden in color. About 3 minutes. Transfer the oatmeal to a food processer and grind until fine and powdery. I usually just turn it on and leave it alone for a full minute. Set aside.

4. If using, spread the nuts onto a plate and microwave in 30 second increments 2 or 3 times until toasted, stirring in-between. Set aside to cool.

5. In a stand mixer, beat the softened butter, browned butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, vanilla extract, and vinegar low to combine, and then on high speed until fluffy and lighter in color. I beat mine about five minutes so that there’s plenty of time for all those sugar crystals to force air into the butter. (Alton Brown has convinced me this is crucial to making good cookies and since I do this and my cookies are always good, you should believe us both.)

6. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Add the oatmeal and baking soda and beat for another minute. Next, add the flour half at a time and mix on low speed just until incorporated.

7. Add the chocolate chips and toasted nuts. Mix on low until incorporated.

8. With a size 50 cookie scoop or a generous tablespoon, drop the dough onto parchment paper 3 inches apart.

9. Bake for 11 minutes or until golden around the edges. I use an airbake pan and usually bake mine about 10 minutes, but oven temps vary so just keep an eye on the first pan to judge the time yours needs. Remove from oven and let set on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before moving to a cooling rack. *I prefer to take my cookies out of the oven when they are puffy & still a little raw looking because the residual heat from the pan continues to bake them and this yields a cookie that is slightly crisp on the outside and very soft & chewy on the inside.

Makes about 45 cookies.

Note:   These cookies are best baked shortly after mixing the batter together. There is no need to refrigerate the dough.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer, with some slight modifications by me

Now it’s time for some fun! If your favorite cookie isn’t listed below, feel free to leave it in a comment.  You can also leave links–I can never have enough cookie recipes.  Like I said, cookies are my favorite food group. :)

Secret Recipe Club

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