Her Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cousin Tami has quite a reputation. She is known (at least by me...and now you) for her FANTASTIC treats. Seriously. We get together for book clubs, craft nights, cousin nights...and her assignment is always: "cookies, please".

They always have the perfect flavor and texture. And she makes them bite size so you can just pop them in your mouth. You can easily eat 5 or 6 before you know it.

I warn you, you won't stop at 6.

She entered these little beauties in the 2010 Fest and ended up taking home the trophy for "best classic with a twist".

Her Chocolate Chip Cookies*
1 C sugar
½ C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
¼-½ tsp almond extract (depending on tastes--I used 1/2 tsp of course)
¾ C shortening
3 C flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1-2 cups of chocolate chips (Use any kind you like, Tami's winning combination was a mixture of dark, milk and white chocolate chips)
Preheat oven to 350°.
Cream sugars, eggs, vanilla, almond and shortening. Add flour, salt and soda. Mix in chocolate chips.
Form the dough into teaspoon size cookies (they will look tiny, but will puff up into the perfect bite size cookie). Bake for 6-8 minutes, until they just barely start to brown. Cool on a wire rack.

*Not to be confused with His.

Thai Chicken Pizza

This pizza is incredible. Reminds me of one of my favorite "out-to eat" meals.

Thai Chicken Pizza
From Rachael Ray's Book of 10

1 pizza dough (we used store bought)
1/2 cup duck sauce or plum sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups (10 oz) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons Tamari
1 rounded tablespoonful peanut butter
2 teaspoons hot sauce
2 teaspoons grill seasoning
4 chicken breast cutlets, 1/2 pound
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 seedless cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
4 scallions, chopped
1 cup bean spouts
Palm full cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, 2 ounces

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Form pizza crust on pizza pan or cookie sheet. Top with duck or plum sauce - spread it around like you would pizza sauce. Sprinkle the pizza with some crushed red pepper flakes then top with cheese and peppers. Bake until golden and bubbly, 15 to 17 minutes.

Preheat the grill over medium-high heat. Combine vegetable oil, soy sauce and peanut butter with hot sauce and grill seasoning. Use the microwave to loosen up peanut butter if it is too cold to blend into sauce, about 10 seconds. Add chicken and coat evenly with mixture. Let stand 10 minutes then grill chicken cutlets 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until firm. Slice chicken into very thin strips.

While chicken cooks, mix honey and vinegar and add the cucumber. Turn to coat evenly.

Top the hot, cooked pizza with chicken, scallions, sprouts and cilantro. Drain cucumbers and scatter over the pizza. Garnish pizza with peanuts, cut into 8 wedges and serve.

You may remember that my sweet husband doesn't eat most meats. We brushed a fillet of smoked salmon with a little of the marinade, grilled it a minute to seal in the flavor, and topped a pizza for him.

Strawberry Shortcake Cookies

Cousin Linsey brought these tasty strawberry cookies to the cookie jamboree. They are just what their name implies: a buttery biscuit, strawberries, and cream baked into a tidy little cookie.

I was the vote counter and, while I probably shouldn't divulge confidential matters, I will tell you that these gave the prettiest cookie a run for the money!*

Lin's Strawberry Shortcake Cookies
from Martha Stewart

  • 12 ounces strawberries, hulled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine strawberries, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining 7 tablespoons granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, or rub in with your fingers, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in cream until dough starts to come together, then stir in strawberry mixture.
  2. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment, spacing evenly apart. Sprinkle with sanding sugar, and bake until golden brown, 24 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool. Cookies are best served immediately, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.
I added a glaze of 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 4 T heavy cream and a splash of vanilla. They are delicious with or without.

*(It WAS a legitimate vote...don't go thinking the cyclist's win had anything to do with his looks or charm).

Maple Salmon on the Grill

This is one of the easiest and tastiest salmon dishes we make.

Four ingredients total!

3/4 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
coarsely ground black pepper

Mix syrup and soy sauce in plastic bag. Arrange salmon in marinade making sure all fish is covered. Marinate in fridge, turning periodically, 4-48 hours--the longer the better (I generally start marinating the night before). Before grilling, season generously with pepper.

To marinate more fish, no need to double or triple the recipe, just make enough to cover the fish in proportions of 3 parts maple syrup to 1 part soy sauce.

Jill's Peanut Butter Cookie Bars (People's choice winner at the 2010 cookie fest)

So Jill brought the best cookie this year.

I know why... that peanut butter and chocolate combination just can't be beat!

I baked up a batch of these this afternoon. They will certainly go on my list of treats to take to picnics and pot lucks.

Jill's Peanut Butter Cookie Bars

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup creamy PB
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups oats
1 1/2 cups flour
1 bag of milk chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugars. Add PB and eggs. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla, soda, salt, oats and flour and press into a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes at 375. Place chocolate chips over hot bars and melt in oven for a few minutes. With a knife smooth out chocolate chips. Allow to cool completely.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup softened butter
1 - 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar (add until it's at a desired consistency...I used 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T milk

Mix all ingredients together and spread over cooled bars.

To add some color, I grated a little semi-sweet chocolate over the top.

These are best if served completely cooled.

Anna Marie's Molasses Cookies

Anna Marie brought a tasty cookie this year. I heard a LOT of people talking about these spicy little numbers. They are from The Silver Palate Cookbook. This is an excellent cookbook. Filled with all sorts of delicious recipes (I'm obviously partial to the cookie section).

"The Silver Palate Cookbook"

12 Tbsp. sweet butter (sweet=unsalted)
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Melt butter; add sugar and molasses, and mix thoroughly. Lightly beat egg and add to butter mixture, blend well. Sift flour with spices, salt and baking soda, and add to first mixture; mix. Batter will be wet. Lay a sheet of foil on a cookie sheet. Drop tablespoons of cookie batter on foil, leaving 3 inches between the cookies. These will spread during baking. Bake at 350 degrees until cookies start to darken, about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven while still soft. Let cookies cool on foil, but remove foil from cookie sheet. Makes 24 very large flat cookies. These soft, chewy, spicy cookies will stay moist, in an airtight tin, for at least a week.

Note - It is easy to overbake these cookies. Remove them from the oven earlier than you think.

Marbled Banana Bread

I love a good banana bread. THIS is a good banana bread.
Delicious warm out of the oven. Just as tasty cold from the fridge two days later. Next, I think I'll try it toasted and slathered with peanut butter.

Marbled Banana Bread

Recipe adapted from The Best of Cooking Light

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/2 cup egg substitute (I don't stock egg substitute, so I used 1/2 cup of egg whites...about 6 eggs)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt (I didn't have any in my fridge, so I pureed some low-fat cottage cheese...worked great)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, divided
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add banana, egg substitute, and yogurt; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.

Place 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH 1 minute or until almost melted, stirring until smooth. Cool slightly. Add 1 cup batter to chocolate, stirring until well combined. Add remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to chocolate batter.

Spoon chocolate batter alternately with plain batter into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Swirl batters together using a knife.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Mandarin Pasta Salad

This is one of my favorite pasta salads. The colors are vibrant, the flavors are fresh. Perfect for a summer get-together.

(Isn't it summer yet?)

Mandarin Pasta Salad

1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, diced
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
2 tsp sugar

Mix well and refrigerate.

8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked
1/2 of a cucumber, seeded and sliced
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped red onion
6 oz. baby spinach
11 oz can mandarin oranges, well drained
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (350 for 8 minutes)
Toasted sesame seeds (optional, I think they go well with the sesame oil in the dressing)

Toss and serve immediately.

To make this salad more of a meal, add 2 cups cooked diced chicken.

Coconut-Almond-Crusted Brownies

Here is another recipe from COOKIE PARTY 2010. This was brought by Jacqui. She is an excellent cook. Her salads are incredible.

And these brownies...to DIE for! The salty, sweet, crunchy topping...I now crave it fortnightly.

Coconut-Almond-Crusted Brownies

adapted from Gourmet, 1996

For topping
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
3/4 cup almonds (or pecans, walnuts), chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt (I add a tiny bit more for a saltier bite)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4-1/2 c. mini-chocolate chips

For brownie layer
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
More mini-chocolate chips, to taste

Preheat oven to 350°F. and butter and flour an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan, knocking out excess flour.

Make topping:
In a bowl stir together topping ingredients EXCEPT chocolate chips until combined well. When topping has cooled, add chocolate chips.

Make brownie layer
In a 1 1/2-quart saucepan melt butter over moderately low heat--or melt butter in large glass bowl in microwave. Remove pan from heat and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Into a bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt and stir into butter mixture until just combined well.

Spread batter evenly in pan, sprinkle with additional mini chocolate chips and topping. Bake brownies in middle of oven 30 to 35 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. DON'T overcook. They will seem a little gooey due to the melted chocolate pieces and the topping will be browned. Cool brownies completely in pan on a rack before cutting into small squares. Brownies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper in an airtight container at cool room temperature, 5 days.

These are excellent served hot with a scoop of high-quality vanilla bean ice cream.

P.S. This is another one of those great recipes that tastes delicious, looks impressive, but requires no "special ingredients". You might just have everything you need in your pantry right now.

If you do, get crackin'!