Über Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t even recall how many failed attempts I’ve had in all my years of baking and searching for the “Ultimate Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie.” I eventually—I am ashamed to admit this—bought store-bought baked cookies (always a great disappointment) or the Pillsbury or Tollhouse packages that you just pop in the oven. Folks, I am happy to say my search is over and this recipe is JUST.SO.DARN.DELISH. to not share it with the world…and *SHHH*, this stays between us “health nuts” and adults…I am using organic whole wheat flour! YES. Mwahahahahaha -insert purple smiley devil face emoji-.

INGREDIENTS

Makes about 12 large cookies.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TSP sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (one 4oz stick) unsalted butter ~ soft, room temperature (iIMPORTANT: NOT hot or melted)
  • 1 large free range organic egg
  • 1 TSP vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups organic whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 TSP baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cup (12oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Leave the wrapped butter in a dish, at room temperature, for a few hours.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, salt, and soft butter, until you get a smooth light yellow paste.
  3. Whisk in the egg and vanilla.
  4. Sift in the flour and baking soda, then very gently fold the mixture with a spatula. Do not overmix the dough, as this will result in cakey cookies. 
  5. Fold in the chips and gently distribute evenly with a spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Scoop out 12 cookie dough balls and place them on parchment, allowing about 4″ between each cookie and 2″ from the edges.
  8. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the edges start to turn light golden brown.
  9. Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving with a nice tall glass of cold milk OR a cup of hot tea. ENJOY!

Orange Creamsicle Cheesecake (NY Style)

One of my absolute favorite desserts ever since I discovered its existence in college (YES, can you believe my mom never baked cheesecake for us?!) is NEW YORK STYLE CHEESECAKE. Yum, yum, and YUM.  I remember my first few cheesecake flops years ago. The process seemed so daunting and foreign to me. Fast forward many moons and seasons…I now know why my cheesecake endeavors all tasted like “quichecakes” rather than cheesecake. Meh, live and learn. 🙂

I found a recipe on the side of a bulk cheesecake box purchased from Costco and thought I’d give it a try. I thought it was perfectly creamy and easy. The following recipe is the one I modified ~ making a crustless cheesecake, with a hint of lemon. If you’d like to try the original recipe found on the box, scroll all the way to the bottom. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 (8 ounce) packages full fat cream cheese ~ room temperature
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/4 TSP salt
  • 2 TBSP+ orange zest ~ adding more is better!
  • 1 TBSP lemon zest

Instructions

  1. Wrap outside of 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil to make it waterproof.
  2. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese. Add sugar and mix.
  3. Scrape down the bowl; add Greek yogurt, mixing thoroughly.
  4. Add eggs to mixer one at a time, mixing thoroughly on low speed.
  5. Scrape down the bowl add salt and lemon zest.
  6. Mix on low until well combined.
  7. Pour cheesecake batter into pan.
  8. Bake in a water bath at 325°F for 60-90 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Original “New York Style Cheesecake” Recipe

CRUST

  • 1 cup graham crackers crumbs
  • 2 1/2 TBSP unsalted butter. ~ melted
  • 1 1/2 TBSP sugar

FILLING

  • 6 (8 ounces) packages full fat cream cheese ~ room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 7 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 TSP salt
  • 2 TBSP lemon zest

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Wrap outside of 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil to make it waterproof.
  2. Butter the bottom of pan.
  3. In mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter and sugar and mix well. Press into bottom of pan.
  4. In a stand mixer, beat the cream cheese. Add sugar and mix.
  5. Scrape down the bowl; add sour cream, mixing thoroughly.
  6. Add eggs to mixer one at a time, mixing thoroughly on low speed.
  7. Scrape down the bowl add rest of ingredients.
  8. Mix on low until well combined.
  9. Pour cheesecake batter into pan.
  10. Bake in a water bath at 325°F for 60-90 minutes until the cake sets.
  11. Remove from oven and chill completely before serving.

Blueberry Zucchini Bread

If you LOVE blueberries, blueberry muffins, blueberry pancakes, etc., then you’re in for a treat! This dense-but-moist bread is packed with mouthfuls of bursting blueberries! I tested out a few recipes and modified through trial and error, omitting, replacing, and adding as I went. This final recipe has the perfect balance of density, moisture, and sweetness. The grated zucchini provides moisture and you wouldn’t even know that someone had the nerve to sneak in…*gasp* zucchini!   🙂

So—why on earth would someone want to put zucchini in a sweet bread? It’s a vegetable. I’m not a food expert so I will share the information I learned from research. It’s because once upon a time successful farmers and home gardeners would have pounds upon pounds of zucchini and did not know what to do with them all…so they added them to baked goods. Zucchini is very prolific once it starts to thrive (assuming your zucchini crop was spared by the sesiid moths, Melittia Satyriniformis, that lay their eggs on the base of young zucchini plants, thus producing vine-boring larvae that destroy the entire plant, living and growing inside the tubular vines). Zucchini has a mild flavor and is high in water content, providing moisture to baked goods.  That’s the longer than necessary short answer. 🙂


NOTES

Always try to use organic ingredients when possible. The grocery bill can add up quickly and not all produce are covered in harmful pesticides. As a general rule, I follow the Dirty Dozen, Clean 15 list. I have been a loyal fan since 2004, when they first started. FYI, blueberries are listed as #15 and zucchini squash is #27. The lower the number, the higher the level of pesticides.


INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups light brown sugar ~ can substitute with granulated white sugar 
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups finely grated or shredded zucchini ~ about 3 medium zucchini; I like to use an old-fashioned mandolin
  • 2 pints fresh blueberries

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Lightly grease 2 large loaf pans.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together eggs, oil, yogurt, vanilla, and sugar. Whisk in flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Do not overmix the batter.
  3. Gently fold in zucchini and blueberries with a spatula. Pour into the prepared loaf pans.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool about 20 minutes on cooling racks. Serve warm with butter and a hot cup of tea. ENJOY! 🙂

Chia & Flax Seeds Kefir “Pudding”

luluesque_chia-flax seeds kefir pudding

Kefir is a cultured milk product, rich in probiotics. It is a great yogurt substitute for the lactose intolerant. It tastes slightly tart and looks a lot like drinkable yogurt. You can make it at home or buy it in various flavors. I especially love the raspberry, which is what I’m using as the base for this pudding. SIMPLE, HEALTHY, and DELICIOUS! It’s my kind of recipe! 🙂 It’s great as a breakfast or mid-morning/day snack.

Chia Seeds

These tiny mottled seeds are so much fun! And anytime I say or hear the word “chia,” I’m automatically picturing a terra cotta critter with green “chia fur.” Chia seeds are from the Saliva Hispanica plants that have been cultivated since the Mayan and Aztec days. These tiny seeds pack a giant punch of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids!

Flax Seeds

Flax seeds are another great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. However, unlike chia seeds, which can be eaten whole, flax seeds need to be ground in order for our bodies to digest and reap the health benefits. Left whole, they simply pass through. Both chia and flax seeds form a mucilaginous layer and expand when they are soaked in liquid. These seeds do go bad quickly, so it’s recommended you purchase these in small batches and refrigerate or freeze the remainder in airtight containers.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1-1/2 cups kefir ~ flavor of choice
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup fresh organic blueberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh organic strawberries ~ cut into small pieces
  • 1-2 teaspoon organic agave nectar, to taste  ~ optional

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Pour the kefir into a mason jar or container with a seal. Gently stir in the seeds.
  2. Cover the mix and allow it to set for about 1 hour or overnight.
  3. When ready to eat, add your fruit (fresh or dried) or oatmeal of choice. VOILA!

 

Cranberry-Lemon Muffins with Lemon Zest Glaze

luluesque_cranberry-lemon muffins

It is official. I am on a cranberry binge. In the past few weeks, I have made four (yes, 4!) batches of muffins, all containing cranberries. Although, in my defense, I have varied them a bit. 🙂

If you’re interested, here are a couple of the recent cranberry-related recipes:

INGREDIENTS: Yields 12 small muffins

  • 1 & 1/2 cups organic unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup organic lemon yogurt
  • 1 cup organic evaporated cane sugar
  • 3 organic eggs
  • 2 tablespoons grated organic lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh organic lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup organic vegetable oil & 1 tablespoon for greasing the tins
  • 2 cups fresh (or frozen) cranberries ~ rinsed

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla, and oil.
  4. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
  5. Gently fold in the cranberries.
  6. Grease your muffin tins with oil by using a silicone brush.
  7. Fill the muffin tins. 
  8. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean.
  9. Drizzle with Lemon Zest Glaze. Optional.

Citrus Zest Glaze

luluesque_citrus zest glazeIcing is one of those things you either love or love to hate. 😉 I suppose I’m the oddball that neither hates nor love it. I sometimes like it and sometimes dislike it, depending on how it’s made and what it’s enhancing.

The GREAT thing about this recipe is you can use lemon, lime (yes!), orange, grapefruit, tangelo, pomelo, or whatever heavenly citrus fruit you can get your culinary hands on!

TIP: Anytime you are using citrus juice, either in another recipe or your tea, and will not be using the zest, be sure to grate the zest before juicing the fruit. Zest freezes well in a tightly-sealed container.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 & 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons organic juice ~ citrus fruit of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon organic zest ~ citrus fruit of your choice

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Combine all the ingredients together until smooth.
  2. Drizzle over your pastry of choice.
  3. Allowing the glaze to harden is optional. I prefer my glaze to be thick, but not hard. 🙂

Fried Sweet Plantains

plantains-b

Plantains belong to the banana family and resemble large, sturdy bananas; however, they are quite different than their smaller cousins. You cannot eat plantains without cooking them. They are quite possibly the most versatile produce you may ever come across in terms of using it as a fruit or a vegetable. They also have a very lengthy shelf life, making it convenient to purchase ahead of time to keep until you are ready to cook.

Green plantains are treated much like a vegetable, a potato to be precise, because of its high starch and low sugar content. Plantains are very popular in Latin, Southern Asian, Western African and Caribbean cuisine, usually baked, fried, boiled, or steamed.

When ripened, you can treat the sweet plantains like a hearty dessert. I love pan frying ripe plantains and serving them with sunny-side-up eggs and fresh-squeezed orange juice! It’s the perfect breakfast.

It doesn’t matter what stage you purchase the plantains, but it’s best to have an idea how you want to cook it. If you need the plantains to be sweet, it will take about 3-5 days to turn this color (see image below). The blacker the skin turns, the sweeter the fruit inside, which is how I like my platanos. Perfection.

plantains-a

 INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2 large plantains ~ let them ripen for about 3-7 days
  • cooking oil

PREPARATION:

  1. Using a sharp paring knife, cut off both ends. Remove the skin by making a long slit down the side, then peel away the skin.
  2. Slice the plantains about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. You can cut them lengthwise or into medallions like I did.
  3. Heat some cooking oil in a large pan.
  4. Lay the plantains flat in the pan, making sure they are not touching.
  5. Fry them on both sides until they are golden. Some folks prefer them almost charred. Enjoy! 🙂