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Monday, August 1, 2016

Spinach and Feta Pizza with a Semolina Crust


                                   

Aah, pizza! Is there any food more universally adored? Chocolate, perhaps, but ask any teenager what they would choose if they could only eat one food for the rest of their lives and my money is on pizza.

We’ve just returned from visiting our daughter in New York City. No trip to the Big Apple would be complete without heading to Brooklyn for world-class pizza.  We stood in line over an hour for a table at Juliana’s to try their signature Pizza Margherita and, yes, it was worth the wait. An ultra-thin crust, topped with a light sauce of imported San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella (made right in Brooklyn to founder/owner Patsy Grimaldi’s exacting specifications), and whole basil leaves all baked in an 850 degree coal-fired oven to crispy-chewy-savory perfection -- this is food worth waiting for. Simple ingredients of the highest quality, prepared with skill and passion, are the secrets to Juliana’s success.   

                                   

The pizza recipe I’m sharing today is not “world-class” by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s truly, incredibly good. Topped with sun-ripened tomatoes, a mountain of greens (don’t worry, they cook down quickly in the heat of the oven), a sprinkling of onion, feta and kalamata olives, and a drizzle of olive oil, this dish is nutrient-dense and much lower in saturated fat than standard take-out. Did I mention that it’s really, really good?

About the ingredients

Semolina is milled from hard durum wheat. It has a golden color and a sandy texture. It’s used to make pasta, but also makes wonderful bread and pizza dough when combined with unbleached all-purpose or bread flour. I use it in place of cornmeal when I need to dust a pan or peel to keep dough from sticking. Bob’s Red Mill brand is easy to find or you can buy semolina from the bulk bins.

Roma or plum tomatoes, also known as paste tomatoes, are meatier and less juicy than slicing tomatoes, which keeps the crust from getting soggy.

Tools of the trade

A peel is used to load and unload bread and pizzas into and out of a wood or coal-fired oven or onto the deck or hot baking stone in a gas or electric oven. A wooden peel with a tapered edge is used for sliding the unbaked dough (sometimes with parchment) into the oven. A thin metal peel is generally used for removing the baked loaves or pizza, but a wooden peel works, too. Lacking a peel, you can use the back of a sturdy cookie sheet. Don’t forget your oven mitts!


Spinach and Feta Pizza with a Semolina Crust
(inspired by Jillian Michael’s recipe for Mediterranean Pizza in Master Your Metabolism)  
Serves two


This is pizza for grown-ups, with vine-ripened tomatoes, loads of leafy greens and a modest amount of cheese. It’s best baked directly on a baking stone, but the pan version is excellent, too.

For the crust: (enough dough for two pizzas. Use half/freeze half for later)

1 ½ cups semolina
1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast (aka bread machine or “rapid-rise” yeast)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup water (cold if using a food processor, lukewarm if mixing by hand)
1 tablespoon olive oil

If using a food processor: Place semolina, flour, yeast, and salt in workbowl and process to combine. With the machine running, add the water through the feed tube and process for 60 seconds. Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand for 30 seconds. If mixing by hand: stir the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl, add the water, stir to combine, then knead until smooth and elastic on a floured board, 8 to 10 minutes. 

Pour the olive oil into a medium bowl. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1-1 ½ hours. (At this point it is ready to use or you may deflate it, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight. Let come to room temperature before using.)

Halfway through the rising period, begin preheating the oven to its highest setting for 45 minutes with a baking stone set on the center rack. (If you don’t have a stone, preheat the oven for at least 15 minutes prior to baking.)

When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and divide in half. (You can freeze half in an oiled ziptop bag for up to one month. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.) Gently stretch or roll the dough into a large, thin rectangle, about 10 by 14 inches. Place on a sheet of parchment that has been sprinkled with semolina. Transfer to a large wooden peel or the back of a cookie sheet. (If you’re not using a baking stone, place the parchment and dough on the right side of the cookie sheet.)

Brush the surface of the dough lightly with olive oil. Add the toppings in the following order:

4 Roma tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2-3 cups (about 2 oz.) baby spinach
10 to 12 fresh basil leaves
½ of a small red onion, very thinly sliced
½  cup crumbled feta cheese
⅓ cup sliced, pitted kalamata olives
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil, drizzled on top

After topping, slide the pizza with the parchment directly onto the hot baking stone. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes at the highest temperature, until the edges of the crust are deep golden. Remove carefully to a cutting board and serve immediately. (If you’re not using a stone, place the pizza in the pan on the center rack. Reduce heat to 450 degrees and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.) 


Mexi-Wraps

                          

I came up with this recipe years ago as a way to use up leftover black beans and rice, one of our staple vegetarian dinners. Cooking the beans from scratch is easy in a slow cooker and allows me to control the sodium content, though canned beans work equally well. Two ears of leftover corn-on-the-cob yield the 1 cup of corn needed. The filling can be made a day in advance. The wraps can be assembled and refrigerated a few hours before serving if they are kept tightly covered so they don't dry out. They can also be wrapped individually in waxed paper to go in a sack lunch.


Mexi-Wraps

6 large wraps (any flavor) or large tortillas
1 ½ cups cooked black beans or 1 (15 oz.) can, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked corn (leftover or canned corn, drained)
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon onion powder
a few grinds of pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
Optional additions:  shredded lettuce, black olives, diced tomato, red bell pepper, salsa,
sliced avocado or guacamole.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, rice, and corn. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream and seasonings. Add the dressing to the bean mixture and stir gently. Refrigerate until ready to use. Prepare the optional ingredients. When ready to assemble, warm the wraps one at a time on a hot griddle or in the microwave for about 20 seconds to make them easier to fold. Spread a layer of avocado along the bottom two or three inches of one edge, leaving a one-inch border on the sides. Add shredded lettuce, olives, tomato, as desired. Spoon 1/3 to ½ cup of the rice/bean mixture on top and roll the wrap over once to enclose the filling. Fold the sides in to seal the ends and continue rolling tightly to the end. Place seam side down on a platter while preparing the remaining wraps. If not serving immediately, cover tightly and refrigerate. When ready to serve, cut each wrap in half diagonally and place on a bed of lettuce. Makes six large wraps.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Janet's Tomato, Basil, and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches

                         

Janet's Tomato, Basil, and Roasted Red Pepper Sandwiches

My dear friend Janet invited me out to go kayaking recently and served these delicious sandwiches before we hit the water.  They are a favorite with her children and grandchildren.

This is less a recipe and more a method of assembly.  Use the very best quality ingredients you can find and adjust amounts for the number of sandwiches you want to make.  You can use whatever cheese you prefer; Provolone, fresh mozzarella or even Parmesan, but Janet's favorite is Pecorino-Romano.

For each sandwich you will need:

1 fresh ciabatta roll or a 5-6 inch length of baguette
freshly minced or pressed garlic
extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
tomato slices
fresh whole basil leaves
paper-thin shavings of Pecorino-Romano cheese
 or slices of fresh mozzarella or Provolone  
roasted red pepper pieces, homemade* or from a jar, drained well.

Begin by heating the minced or pressed garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil over very low heat just until it begins to soften, three or four minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Slice the rolls or baguette pieces lengthwise.  Brush the cut side of each piece with the garlic and oil mixture.  On the bottom half, layer the remaining ingredients in the following order:  sliced tomato, salt, basil leaves, cheese, roasted peppers.  Cover with the top piece of bread and serve immediately.

*You can roast red peppers easily on your backyard grill.  Wash the peppers well and leave them whole.  Place directly on the grill over a medium flame. Using tongs, turn the peppers  often until they are black and blistered all over.  Be patient; this will take 15 to 20 minutes.  Place the charred peppers in a plastic bag and close tightly to let them steam.  When cool enough to handle, use your fingers to peel off the blackened skins. (To preserve the most flavor, rinse your fingers under running water, but not the peppers.) Lay the peeled peppers on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut the stem off.  Slice the pepper open and use the back of your knife to scrape out the seeds and any membrane. Cut each pepper into three or four pieces.


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Decadent Raspberry-Walnut Brownies for your Sweetheart

(Originally published in The News Review on February 2, 2016)



I’ve eaten more green smoothies, salads, roasted root vegetables, beans and tofu in the past month than ever before in my life. I enjoy the flavor, nourishment, and variety they bring to my table. My enthusiasm for beets and Brussels sprouts continues to blossom. I’m keen on kale, both green and purple varieties, which I keep on hand, washed, stemmed, bagged, and ready to be tossed into soups, salads, and casseroles.

But February is upon us, and that calls for a little Valentine’s Day indulgence. Not just any treat will satisfy my ever more discriminating sweet tooth. No grocery-store cake for me. No “chocolatey-flavored” candy. If I’m going to spend my hard-earned calories, I’ll make darn sure I get fair value. When I indulge, I’ll do it mindfully, with gusto, and I’ll savor every bite.

If you’ve got a special someone to bake for, might I suggest a batch of dense and fudgy homemade brownies? Brownies are easy enough for even a novice baker. A few additions to the standard recipe and some colorful packaging transforms them into an impressive gift.

There are four brownie recipes on my blog, all variations on a decadent, dark chocolate theme. Picking a favorite is no easy task. The Peanut Butter Brownies have sweet, salty, peanut butter crumbles baked into the surface. The MintBrownies are studded with Junior Mints candies and frosted with mint buttercream. The Caramel-Pecan Brownies have faultlines of gooey caramel running throughout them. Last, but certainly not least, the Marionberry-Walnut Brownies were created to showcase two popular, locally grown ingredients that I always have on hand.

All of these recipes make a huge batch (half-sheet pan) because I used to bake them in quantity to sell at the Umpqua Valley Farmers Market. Most home bakers don’t need quite so many brownies at one time, so I’ve come up with a scaled-down version that fits a 9-inch square pan perfectly. This recipe for Raspberry-Walnut Brownies makes 16 (2 ¼-inch square) brownies. You can cut them even smaller for “two-bite” treats. A giant heart-shaped brownie is also an option, if you have the right pan.

As always, start with the best ingredients. I use unsalted butter, farm-fresh eggs, and good-quality chocolate. Store-bought raspberry jam is fine if you don’t have homemade. If you can only find jam with seeds, that’s okay too. Lining the pan with parchment makes cutting the cooled brownies easier because you can lift it in one piece out onto the counter. Place each cut brownie in a paper cupcake liner for a pretty presentation.

These brownies freeze beautifully, but don’t count on that as a way to moderate your consumption; they taste great straight from the freezer!

Raspberry-Walnut Brownies

These brownies are deliciously dense and fudgy, with pockets of dark chocolate and puddles of raspberry jam in every bite. All the melting and mixing is done in one saucepan, so cleaning up is a breeze.

½ cup unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
⅛ teaspoon salt
⅔ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup Ghirardelli 60% Cacao chocolate chips
⅓ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
about ⅓ cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking pan* with parchment. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over low heat, melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate, stirring constantly. Add the sugar, turn off the heat and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and stir with a wooden spoon or wire whisk until smooth and glossy. Gently fold in the flour. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Scatter the chocolate chips over the surface, then carefully smooth the batter over them with a rubber scraper. Sprinkle on the chopped walnuts. Using two spoons, drop small “blobs” of jam all over the nuts and batter.

Place the pan on the center rack of the oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean, (but be sure you’re not poking it through a melted chocolate chip!).

Remove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack. (When cool, you can cover the pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or several hours for easier cutting.) When ready to serve, lift the parchment out of the pan and place on the counter. Cut into squares of desired size. These brownies freeze exceptionally well.



*If you have a heart-shaped pan, you can make one giant brownie for your special someone. You may need to bake it a few minutes longer if the volume of the heart pan is less than that of a 9-inch square pan.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New Challenge

(Originally published in The News Review on January 5, 2016)


Creamy Tomato & Kale Pasta 

It’s a new year and I’m up for a challenge. Often I set a goal to accomplish some physical feat that will force me to up my game in the exercise department. I enjoy learning new skills and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. We’re not talking marathons here, as I am definitely not a runner, but setting my sights on climbing a mountain or trekking through the wilderness for a few days gives me something to shoot for.

For 2016, I’ve decided to take on a culinary challenge. We’ve been gradually moving toward a more plant-based eating pattern for several years. I switched to purchasing locally raised beef and chicken quite a while ago and because they’re more expensive than meat from factory farms, I cut back on how often I serve them, choosing quality over quantity. Still, I’d like to reduce my consumption of animal products, including dairy and eggs, even further. I want to incorporate more vegetables into our diet at every meal of the day. With that goal in mind, I’ve been researching and testing vegetarian and vegan recipes the past few months to find dishes my husband, my son and I all enjoy eating. Anyone can make food taste good with enough butter, cheese, cream and/or bacon. Can I learn to create mouth-watering meals using only grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds?

I don’t intend to become a full-fledged vegan or even a vegetarian, but I’m excited to see how far I can go in that direction without sacrificing flavor and enjoyment. There are environmental and health benefits to replacing even a portion of the animal fat and protein we consume with plant-based options. Armed with two new vegan cookbooks, YumUniverse by Heather Crosby and Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon, as well as my copy of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, I’ve been chopping, slicing, dicing, roasting, blending and steaming my way through dozens of inspired, hunger-satisfying recipes like Portobello Mushroom Fajitas, Chickpea & Cauliflower Curry, Sweet Potato-Peanut Stew, Tofu Chocolate Mousse and Chia Seed Pudding. Not every recipe I’ve tried has been a winner (I’m still struggling with quinoa!), but the vast majority are keepers that have earned their place in my culinary repertoire.

The dish I’m sharing today, which I’ve dubbed Creamy Tomato & Kale Pasta, has won my family’s stamp of approval, including my parents. The first time I made it, my son had two helpings, took leftovers in his lunch the next day and polished off the rest as an after-school snack. He said if I hadn’t told him there was tofu in it, he would have thought it was chicken. So, yes, it’s that good! If you prep all of the ingredients before you begin, this dish goes together very quickly.

About the ingredients:

Tofu, also known as soybean curd, is most commonly sold in blocks packaged in water in the refrigerated section of the supermarket or in aseptically sealed (no refrigeration needed) boxes in the health food aisle. It comes in several textures, soft, firm and extra-firm. Soft tofu is great for adding to smoothies or dishes that require a creamy consistency. Firm and extra-firm tofu work better for slicing and dicing to sauté or use in stir-frys. Freezing extra-firm tofu and then thawing overnight in the refrigerator before using gives it a chewy texture much like cooked chicken. Soybeans are one of the most common GMO crops, so I always buy organic tofu to be sure it was not made from genetically-modified soybeans.

Nutritional yeast is sold as golden, powdery flakes in the bulk foods section or health food aisle. It’s a good source of B vitamins and several minerals and adds a cheesy, nutty flavor to vegan dishes.

Creamy Tomato & Kale Pasta
Serves 4

This is adapted from the recipe for Luxurious Tomato-Basil Pasta in Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon. I’ve added the tofu for protein, switched out kale for the spinach and changed the directions significantly.

½ cup raw, unsalted cashews
8 ounces organic, extra-firm tofu*
1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, hazelnut, soy)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
3 ounces (half a 6 oz. can) tomato paste
½ teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
4 ounces rotini or other small pasta
1 ½ teaspoons olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can petite-diced tomatoes or 1 3/4 cups fresh tomatoes, diced
2 cups (packed) chopped kale
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
½ teaspoon dried oregano

In a small bowl, cover the cashews with cold water and let soak several hours or overnight. (Optional, but it makes the nuts more digestible.)

Remove tofu from packaging and place it on a plate lined with a few layers of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels and place something heavy on top to press out part of the moisture in the tofu. A heavy pot or a brick works well. Let stand while you prepare the sauce.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta according to package directions just until al dente. Drain, return to the pot, cover and set aside.

For the sauce: Drain and rinse the cashews. In a blender or food processor, combine the cashews, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Blend until smooth. Toss a small amount of the sauce with the drained pasta to keep it from sticking together. Set the rest aside while you cook the vegetables and tofu.
In a wok or large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onion and garlic until almost translucent. Cut the pressed block of tofu into into half-inch cubes and add to the onion and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes, kale, basil and oregano. Cook, uncovered, 5 - 7 minutes, until kale is wilted. Stir in the cashew sauce, cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 - 10 minutes. Combine with the drained pasta, season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve warm. Leftovers reheat beautifully in a toaster oven or microwave.

*Freezing the tofu in its container and then thawing overnight in the refrigerator before using will give it a chewier, more meat-like texture, but this step is entirely optional.

Wilting the kale







Monday, November 30, 2015

Whole Grain Floriani Cornbread

When it came time to make the cornbread for our traditional Thanksgiving dressing last week, I remembered I had a bag of stone-ground, Willamette Valley-grown, organic Floriani Red Flint cornmeal from Camas Country Mill in my freezer. It’s a lovely, coarse cornmeal with red and brown flecks and I just knew it would bake up into a flavorful pan of cornbread.




I started with the corn cake instructions from our McDaniel Family Cornbread Dressing recipe, but I made a few adaptations. I replaced the white flour with freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour and I soaked the cornmeal in the egg and milk for a few minutes to let the bran and germ soften. I also substituted unsalted butter for the oil.

I used an 11-inch well-seasoned cast iron skillet to give the cornbread a nice, crusty edge, but a 9 x 13 pan will work, too. Either way, this cornmeal makes superb cornbread. I served it with a hearty soup and saved the rest for the cornbread dressing.


Whole Grain Floriani Cornbread

This recipe will fill an 11-inch cast iron skillet or a 9 x 13-inch glass or metal pan.


2 eggs
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (I used freshly ground soft white wheat)
2 cups Camas Country Mill Floriani Red Flint cornmeal
2 tablespoons Sucanat sweetener (or brown sugar)
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sea salt
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat oven to 450 degrees. If using a cast iron pan, place it in the oven and allow to  preheat for at least 10 minutes. Otherwise, butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and set aside.


Beat the eggs well in a large mixing bowl. Add the milk and cornmeal and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir together the whole wheat flour, Sucanat or sugar, baking powder and salt in a small bowl.


Whisk the dry ingredients into the cornmeal mixture just until combined and no dry spots remain. If using cast iron, carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and brush with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Gently whisk the rest of the butter into the batter and pour into the prepared pan.


Bake 20 - 25 minutes, just until set and golden brown on top. A toothpick or wooden skewer poked in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 - 10 minutes before cutting and serving.




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Perfect Pie Crust Video Tutorial



My first video tutorial, just in time for your holiday pies. If you're nervous about rolling about the perfect crust, this demo will build your confidence. Here's a link to the pastry recipe and some of my favorite pies.

I use the recipe on the pumpkin can for Pumpkin Pie or I make Butternut Squash Pie instead.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Fresh From the Oven

(Originally published in The News Review on September 1, 2015)

Recipes links: My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies, Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies, and Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies


Think what a better world it would be if we all – the whole world – had cookies and milk about three o'clock every afternoon...” Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten.

I've baked thousands of cookies in my lifetime. You could call me a cookie-baking fanatic. I haven't yet reached Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour threshold to master the craft, but I practice passionately. When cookies are requested, I'm the first to volunteer. For scouting events, class parties, school lunches, church activities, board meetings, potlucks, picnics, funerals, weddings or daylong hikes, if cookies are called for, I'm your gal.

I bake cookies when I'm happy. I bake cookies when I'm sad. I bake cookies when I'm stressed (and then stress about how many cookies I ate). I bake cookies when I'm procrastinating and when I'm nervous. As I type this, I'm anxiously awaiting the birth of my first grandchild, who is past her due date...and I'm baking cookies.

Cookies are always best while they're still warm. With a well-stocked pantry, I can have a dozen cookies in the oven in five minutes flat. I rarely bake the whole batch at once. I scoop the dough onto wax paper-lined cookie sheets, freeze until firm and then store in plastic bags. 

A fresh plate of cookies is always a welcome gift, but that's not the only gift-giving option. For Father's Day and his birthday, I keep my dad supplied with a variety of frozen cookie dough balls so he can bake them himself whenever the craving strikes.

My daughters are old enough to remember my brief foray into “healthy” cookies, made with prune purée and applesauce to replace the fat. It was the early nineties and butter was the enemy. I quickly decided that “real” homemade cookies are one of life's simple pleasures, an indulgence I'm not willing to give up.

Tips for baking the very best cookies

I use unsalted butter in my cookies. Many butter manufacturers add flavoring to unsalted butter to mimic that of cultured cream. If that bothers you, two brands made without added flavoring and available in local stores are Kerrygold and Rumiano. Kerrygold is imported from Ireland and rather expensive. Rumiano butter is made in Crescent City, California and costs about the same as other national brands.

Use good quality chocolate chips. I'm a compulsive label-reader. If vanillin (synthetic vanilla), or “natural flavors” is listed in the ingredients, I put them back on the shelf. I like Ghirardelli and Guittard chocolate chips.

I always bake cookies on unbleached parchment paper. Each sheet can be used many times; just wipe it off with a paper towel, if needed, and store it on the cookie sheet between uses.

Frozen cookie dough balls take a bit longer to bake but there is no need to defrost them first. I bake dough balls at 350 degrees for 12 to 14 minutes in a standard oven or 10 minutes using the convection setting.



Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies
This is my favorite cookie to take along on hikes. The combination of dried fruit, nuts, oats and sugar(!) gets me up those hills. I always bring plenty to share.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour*
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.** Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugars and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and blend well. 
 
In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and sea salt. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Stir in the oats, walnuts and cranberries.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool 1 minute on cookie sheet then transfer to a wire rack.
 
*You can make a whole grain cookie by using whole wheat pastry flour in place of the all-purpose flour.

**If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 325 degrees and bake cookies for 9 minutes.
Makes about 5 dozen cookies.


Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Cookies
(with or without chocolate chips)

This is adapted from my mother-in-law's recipe. Rosemary was the first person I met who used whole wheat flour in her baking and peanut butter that had to be stirred.

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup natural peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups (1 pkg.) semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.*  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs and peanut butter and mix until well-combined.  In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add to peanut butter mixture just until all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Stir in chocolate chips, if using.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. (No need to criss cross with a fork.) Bake at 375 for 9 to 11 minutes, just until center is puffed and beginning to set**. Remove from oven and let cool on the pan for one minute before transferring to a wire rack. 

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake for 8 minutes.

**This makes chewy cookies.  If you want them crispy, increase baking time by one to two minutes.

My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

A cookie-loving friend once shared a recipe that was said to be for Mrs. Fields® famous chocolate chip cookies. I was never able to find it in any Mrs. Fields® cookbook, but I've adapted the recipe over the years to make what I consider perfect chocolate chip cookies, soft and chewy with crispy edges. This makes a huge batch of dough and the recipe is not easily halved, as it calls for three eggs. Bake a dozen or two cookies and freeze the remaining balls of dough for the weeks to come.

3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated white sugar
1 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 pkg. (10 oz.) Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Chocolate Chips
1 pkg. (11.5 oz.) Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.* Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a heavy-duty stand mixer, cream together the sugars, softened butter and vanilla until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix well to combine.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking powder. Add to the creamed butter and mix just until all of the flour is incorporated and there are no dry spots. Add the chocolate chips and nuts (if using) and mix briefly to distribute.

Drop by tablespoons or a small cookie scoop two inches apart onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, just until the edges begin to brown. Remove pan from oven and allow cookies to cool for one minute, then transfer to a wire rack.

Makes 10 to 12 dozen cookies, depending on size and whether or not you add nuts.

*If you have a convection oven, preheat it to 350 degrees and bake cookies for 8 minutes. For frozen dough balls, increase baking time to 10 minutes.



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