Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies

This mound of a cookie is a peanut butter and chocolate lover’s dream. It’s a thick peanut butter cookie loaded with bits of peanut and chunks of chocolate. They actually taste best when warm, right out of the oven.

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Makes about 2 dozen

2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup (4 oz. or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup creamy natural (unsweetened) peanut butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1 bag (11 oz.) semisweet chocolate chunks or jumbo morsels
1 cup dry-roasted peanuts, chopped

Heat oven to 350F degrees. In a medium bowl, blend flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

Cream together butter and peanut butter until smooth. Add both kinds of sugar and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. On low speed, beat in vanilla.

Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Stir in chocolate chunks and peanuts. Drop by scant 1/4 cupfuls onto baking sheets. Bake for 18 minutes and let cool on wire racks.

Note: If you miss your chance to eat them warm, you can microwave them on a paper towel for 15 seconds.

This recipe originally appeared inĀ Family Circle magazine.

Overnight Fridge Berry Oatmeal

20160307_083606(0)Oh my goodness. You have no idea what you’re in for with this breakfast. It’s absolutely delicious.

I came across the recipe when I was looking for a way to use up some bags of frozen berries. You make this the night before, with yogurt instead of milk, and you eat it cold in the morning with a sweetener like honey or agave syrup. I had my doubts about the cold part but they flew out the window once I tried it. The oatmeal did not last long after the first spoonful.

The especially nice thing is that it’s so healthy! Nothing is processed and it’s all low-fat or fat-free, depending on the yogurt you use. Whole oats, yogurt, fruit, and a bit of juice are all that’s in it.

Credit to the Busy Mommy blog for the recipe.

3 cups old-fashioned (whole) oats
2 cups vanilla yogurt (low-fat or fat-free)
1-2 cups frozen mixed berries*
1/2 cup apple juice

Mix all ingredients in medium sized storage container with lid. Keep in the fridge overnight. Top oatmeal with a drizzle of honey or agave syrup. Also try mixing in cinnamon, chopped nuts, or coconut. Serve cold.

*I used a mixture of frozen raspberries, which break apart when mixed, and whole frozen strawberries, which held their shape and simply became soft.

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomatoes

At our house we try to have a Meatless Monday each week, where we forego typical protein in favor of vegetarian options (though sometimes with our busy schedules, it ends up being a Meatless Tuesday or Wednesday). Aside from the health benefits, a meatless night forces us to be creative in planning our dinners.

But that’s not always easy. The vegetable section of my three-ring recipe binder has mostly side dishes. And the stir-fries that I love to eat will quickly get boring for the rest of the family.

An Internet search a few weeks ago yielded this recipe from Bon Appetit, which was a great success, especially with the soft, warm naan bread I served with it. Even with the curry seasoning, the children loved it. It also kept well in the fridge for a few days.

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Serves 4.

2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves
1 red jalapeno, coarsely chopped (I left this out to keep the dish mild)
1 Tbsp. chopped ginger
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, any tough stems removed
Salt and pepper
1 onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. chili powder (I left this out too)
2 15-oz. cans chickpeas, rinsed
1 24-oz. whole peeled tomatoes
Naan bread or basmati rice for serving

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic, jalapeno (if using), and ginger; cook until fragrant and softened, about 4 minutes.

Working in batches, add spinach by the handful, tossing to wilt between additions. Cook until fully wilted and bright green, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Transfer mixture to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until softened, 5-6 minutes. Add curry powder and chili powder (if using) and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas, tomatoes with liquid, and 1/2 cup water. Season with salt and pepper.

Simmer about 10 minutes, breaking tomatoes apart with the side of a wooden spoon, until the mixture is thickened and tomatoes are soft. Fold in spinach puree. Serve with naan bread or rice.

Watermelon Slush

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The summer may be winding to a close, but there is still time to enjoy a fresh, cool drink like this. All you need is a blender and some watermelon, ice, and honey. It’s a delicious and different way to enjoy one of the best tastes of summer.

Makes 2 servings

8 ice cubes
2 cups seedless watermelon cubes
Honey or agave syrup

Put the ice cubes in the blender and turn it on high to get the ice thoroughly crushed. Add the watermelon and honey or syrup to taste, then blend well. Serve immediately.20150815_130644

Strawberries & Cream Ice Cream

Strawberries Cream Ice CreamStrawberry ice cream was my favorite kind for a long time growing up, and it was the first kind I ever made in our ice cream maker. The recipe I used came from the user’s manual and tasted fantastic. I have made it several times since then. But this is not that recipe.

This one came from The Sunday Times in London back in 2004. It was actually a recipe from the restaurant Inn the Park and was featured alongside others from their menu. I clipped them all because they all looked delicious, but I never got around to making them.

When I saw the recipe in my cookbook the other day, I decided I would finally test it to see which one I liked best. The verdict: They are definitely similar, both creamy and full of the flavor of fresh fruit, but this one has the edge. The ice cream turns out pink all over (rather than white with pink here and there) and strawberry bits are in every bite. And this one is even creamier.

Served in a white bowl, it looked delectable — and was very quickly gobbled down.

Some notes:
– The amounts may seem small, but don’t be tempted to double them. The mixture will fill the ice cream maker as is.
– The strange weight amounts reflect the conversion from metric.
Check out this recipe for a way to use up the leftover egg whites.
– Remember to freeze the bowl of the ice cream maker ahead of time!

5 1/2 oz. fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
6 1/4 oz. sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
5 egg yolks
13 fl. oz. heavy cream

In a small pot, place the strawberries and about a third of the sugar. Cook over medium low heat until strawberries are soft. Remove from heat and puree, then set aside.

In a saucepan, gently heat the milk and half the remaining sugar. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar in a bowl until pale yellow. Pour the egg mixture into the milk on the stove and cook over a gentle heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. You will use this to quickly cool the custard mixture.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the heavy cream. Pour into a medium bowl and then set the bowl in the ice water until cool. Churn in the ice cream maker until very thick, then transfer into a plastic container and place in the freezer.

Butter Caramel Cereal Clusters

cereal clustersI had lots of sweetened condensed milk in the pantry ever since I stocked up before the holidays. I wanted to use it up to clear some space, but I was surprised that the only recipes I had for sweetened condensed milk were for key lime pie and some custard tarts.

So I poked around online and mainly found recipes for frostings and little else. I found one recipe for a lemon meringue pie, but I have a recipe for that already that I’m quite happy with, and it doesn’t call for sweetened condensed milk. I also tried a butter cookie recipe but it turned out dry and not so tasty (my colleagues, who finished the batch, disagreed — but I know I can do better!).

Finally I found this recipe for cereal clusters, apparently popular in Latin America, and it was delicious. Easy to make, too — all you need is a pot on the stove, and there’s no baking involved. And it’s a good way to use leftover sweetened condensed milk because you can easily scale the recipe according to how much you have.

1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp. (2 oz.) unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
7 cups corn flakes

Line 2 baking sheets with well buttered foil or parchment paper. Place corn flakes in a large bowl and set aside. Have a bowl of water ready for your fingers later.

In a pot over medium heat, melt the sugar until it becomes deep amber and just begins to smoke. Add butter and salt and stir with wooden spoon until completely incorporated. Remove from heat. While constantly stirring, add sweetened condensed milk and stir until completely incorporated.

Quickly pour it over the cereal and mix gently until all flakes look covered. Using a soup spoon, scoop mixture out into approximately 2 Tbsp.-sized balls. Wet or butter your fingers and lightly press the clusters together, then place them on the foil or parchment to let cool.

Allow the clusters to set at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

(I adapted this recipe from seriouseats.com.)

S’mores Bars II

20150303_144157[1]Back in 2011, I published a recipe for S’mores Bars using Golden Grahams cereal. It’s a no-bake recipe that was very popular. I recently came across this s’mores bars recipe in my binder from about 15 years ago. Like the other one, this recipe uses marshmallows and chocolate — but instead of using the cereal as a shortcut, it has a baked graham cracker crust. You add melted chocolate and marshmallows, then briefly brown them in the oven.

The two recipes end up having the same s’mores taste and are equally scrumptious. I’m not sure I have a favorite, so which one I make will probably depend on how much time I have (baking or no baking?) and what kind of dessert I want — big, crunchy squares in the style of Rice Krispie Treats, or crumbly layer bars with toasted marshmallows. Which one would you pick?

14 graham cracker rectangles, crushed finely
1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. semi-sweet chocolate (do not use milk or dark chocolate)
4 heaping cups mini marshmallows

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

In a bowl, mix together the first four ingredients, then press into the bottom of a 9×13-inch pan with the back of a spoon. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.

Heat oven to 450F/230C degrees. Melt the chocolate and spread over the cool crust. Cover with marshmallows. When the oven is ready, place the pan inside and bake until the marshmallows are just browned, about 5 minutes.

Important: Let cool completely — preferably overnight — for the best taste. It’s not easy to wait, but it’s worth it!