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.


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 in Family Circle magazine.

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!

Holiday Cornflake Wreaths

20141211_220232[1]These are like Rice Krispie Treats, only with cornflakes. They are a fun dessert to make at Christmastime, and very easy, too. Plus, they have only five ingredients.

Makes about 18

6 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine
10 oz. marshmallows
1 tsp. or more green food coloring
Small red cinnamon candies (Red Hots)*

To prepare, butter two or three baking sheets — you will form the wreaths on them later. Put the cornflakes in a large bowl.

In a medium pot over low heat, melt the margarine. Add the marshmallows and stir constantly until completely melted. Add the food coloring, starting with 1 tsp. but adding more as necessary until the mixture is dark green. (The ones in the picture above aren’t as dark as I intended.) Pour the marshmallow mixture over the cornflakes and mix carefully with a spoon until completely coated.

With buttered fingers, take out a small handful of the coated cornflakes (just enough to fill your palm). Put it on the buttered baking sheet and form into a wreath. Put four or five cinnamon candies on the wreath to look like berries.

Refrigerate the wreaths for several hours before serving. Use a spatula carefully to lift them off the baking sheets.

*I found the Red Hots in the baking aisle, next to the bottles of sprinkles — not in the candy aisle.

Blueberry Harvest Squares

Alma, Georgia, is the state’s blueberry capital with an annual blueberry festival at the start of June. Diane Carter, a magistrate in Bacon County — where Alma is located — won the festival’s annual cooking contest with this recipe. I don’t know what year that would have been, since I clipped this from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution more than 10 years ago, but I give Diane full credit for coming up with a delicious dessert. I didn’t alter a thing when I made this recipe today and it managed to earn lots of raves.

This is a wonderful recipe for the summer, when blueberries are fresh and you may be looking for a new way to use them. It’s the kind of dessert that would be great for a bake sale or pot luck — though I warn you that it’s very gooey. The cooler they get, the easier it is to lift the bars, though you still have to be careful. And even then, it will still be gooey.

It’s easy to make and you can do each step while waiting for the previous one to finish. The hardest part is waiting until it cools to cut into it. And if you can’t wait, then forget a knife — just grab a spoon and dig in.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
3/4 cup margarine

2 cups blueberries
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup chopped almonds
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

For the crust:
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and butter the bottom and sides of a 9×13-inch baking pan. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and chopped nuts. Cut in the margarine until it resembles fine crumbs. Press it into the bottom of the pan, coming slightly up the sides. Place it in the oven and bake about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and increase temperature to 375F degrees.

For the filling:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine blueberries, lemon juice, and flour. Place blueberries on top of the baked crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Return pan to oven and bake for 20 minutes.

For the topping:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine sugar, evaporated milk, egg, vanilla and almond extracts, nuts, and coconut. Mix well. Spoon over the baked blueberries. Return to oven and bake for another 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool before cutting.

Coconut Macaroons

IMAG1990Easy and quick to make, these macaroons are just right for Easter or Passover, or as a special, light treat any time of year.

You mix the ingredients in one bowl and the macaroons bake for just 20 minutes. They stay chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside for days.

These are also nice to make if you find yourself with leftover egg whites from another recipe. I had one egg white left over from cooking last night, so on a whim I decided to make these to use it up — I just divided the recipe by four. I think I’ll do that again in the future. (It’s a good excuse for a treat!)

Makes about 62

14 oz. (1.16 kg) sweetened shredded coconut
6 Tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
4 egg whites
1 tsp. almond extract

Heat oven to 325F/160C degrees. Lightly grease and flour a couple of baking sheets.

In a large bowl, mix coconut, flour, and salt. Stir in egg whites and almond extract until well blended. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet (use a round tablespoon measure, if you have one, for the best shape).

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Immediately remove them from the baking sheets and let cool on wire rack.

*For Passover macaroons, substitute matzoh meal for the flour.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Fun and easy to make. The surprise ingredient here is instant chocolate pudding mix, and the friend who gave me this recipe actually called them “Chocolate Pudding Chip Cookies.” These cookies definitely don’t have the look or taste of dark chocolate; they are light-tasting and chocolatey sweet.

Makes about 40

1 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 pkg. instant chocolate pudding
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 375F/190C degrees.

Mix butter, sugars, pudding, and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs one at a time. Mix until creamy and light.

Add flour and baking soda. Mix until batter is stiff. Add chips and nuts.

Drop cookies in dollops about the size of ping pong balls on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Ice Cream-Brownie Dessert

When I first tried these brownies, I decided I didn’t like them on their own — the instant coffee in the recipe made them just a touch too bitter for my taste. But that flavor is a perfect complement to something sweeter and smoother, like vanilla ice cream. And the thick brownie also holds up well to the ice cream on top. I don’t think a regular brownie — or a slice of chocolate cake, for that matter — would work as well.

6 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (like Baker’s)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsweetened butter
1/4 cup water
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Microwave chocolate, butter, water, and instant coffee in a large microwavable bowl for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Remove from microwave and stir until chocolate is completely melted.

Beat sugars with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and vanilla and beat 2 minutes. Add flour, almonds, cinnamon and salt; beat until well blended. Add chocolate-butter mixture and blend well.

Spread in a greased, foil-lined 9-inch square baking pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out with fudgy crumbs. Let cool in pan, then cut into squares. Top with vanilla ice cream before serving.

Thumbprint Cookies

These are classic cookies distinguished by big jam-filled circles in the middle. They are cute for children, and you can use different types of jam for a variety of colors, but they’re also nice “grown-up” cookies that go really well with tea or coffee. The cookies themselves are dry and crumbly, which sets off the jam very well.

I think these taste best a day or two after baking. A note about the filling: Avoid jelly, as it doesn’t melt enough to fill the center. And orange marmalade is especially delicious — the slight bitterness is wonderful with the sweetness of the cookie.

Makes about 40

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ (icing) sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2/3 cup jam (try to use seedless varieties)

Heat the oven to 350F/175C degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixture, using the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, then add the flour and mix until just combined.

Put flour on your hands and pinch off pieces of dough, then roll them around with your fingers to make 1-inch balls. Space them 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. With a floured thumb, make an indentation in the center of each ball, then fill it with 1/2 tsp. of jam. Be careful not to get jam anywhere except in the center of the cookie.

Bake for about 10-12 minutes or until lightly golden around the bottoms. Remove them from the baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.

Banana Cookies

Baking is by far the best way to use overripe bananas, especially because they mash so well. I always use them to make my tried and true banana bread, but this time I wanted something different, and I thought of banana cookies. I’d never heard of them before, but I was sure that’s what I wanted to make. Then I found a great recipe here. The writer says the recipe came from her grandmother and is more than 70 years old. Here is her recipe, slightly tweaked based on my baking this morning.

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup mashed bananas (about 2 1/2 bananas)
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup pecans, finely chopped (walnuts and chocolate chips are fine alternatives), plus extra whole pecans for topping

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which in turn will give the cookies their lift and rise.

Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture and mix until just combined.

Fold into the batter the pecans or chocolate chips if using. Drop in dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Try to make the dollops as evenly round as possible. Press a pecan piece into the top of each one.

Bake for 11 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Crispy-Chewy Truffle Brownies

I tasted these delicious brownies last week when a colleague brought them in to work. They were so good that I made them a few days later for a New Year’s Eve party, and they seemed to be a hit. I’m embarrassed to say it includes a packaged mix, but these were pretty darn awesome.

Makes 2 dozen

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 box devil’s food cake mix (15–18 oz.)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup roughly chopped pecans or walnuts
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided
1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Line a 13×9-inch baking pan with foil and wrap it over the edges. Melt butter in microwave or on stovetop.

Combine in large bowl the butter, cake mix, egg, and vanilla. Blend with electric mixer 1–2 minutes or until crumbly. If you have it, use a flat beater, like this one:

Transfer 1 cup of mixture to medium bowl, stir in nuts and 1 cup morsels, set aside.

Press remaining crumb mixture firmly into baking dish. Bake 15 minutes.

Place in small saucepan the remaining 1 cup morsels and condensed milk. Cook and stir on low heat 2–3 minutes or until smooth; pour over crust.

Top with nut mixture; bake 20–25 minutes or until topping is firm to the touch. Let stand 30–40 minutes or until completely cooled. Remove foil from baking dish and cut into bars. Serve.

(This recipe is originally from Publix, with some minor changes.)