“Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies

cookies1“What’s your favorite cookie?” is a question that will always get a mixed response. It seems as though there are a lot of die-hard peanut butter cookie lovers, a fair share of oatmeal-raisin fanatics, and a handful of sugar cookie devotees. Then there are those with the more unusual responses such as snickerdoodles, molasses crinkles, white chocolate-macadamia, and shortbread. And of course there is the chocolate chip cookie crowd, which may be the largest of them all.

Personally, chocolate chip cookies are several spaces down on my list of favorites, but I have lots of friends and family members who love nothing more than a “really good chocolate chip cookie.” That may mean thin and crunchy, thick and chewy, soft and cakey, or crisp-around-the-edges-chewy-in-the-middle depending on the person. Believe me, some people are pretttty darn specific when it comes to their cookies.cookies2

After my last class on Friday, as I stared out the window at sheets of rain, I deemed it the perfect afternoon to bake cookies. Knowing that many of my friends love good ole’ chocolate chip cookies, I set out to make just those. But then…stuff happened. It’s becoming clear to me that I am basically incapable of baking “good ole’ chocolate chip cookies” with no bells and whistles. I certainly have nothing against regular (delicious!) chocolate chip cookies, but because this is a baking blog and because I like to experiment, I had to add in my own little touches. And so commenced these “Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

First of all, I found a recipe that used browned butter as the base. My obsession with browned butter is becoming somewhat comical–I honestly can’t remember the last time I made a recipe with regular butter. It’s just so easy to make browned butter, and the flavor is so phenomenal! Since browned butter+cinnamon=amazing, I spiced things up even further with a pinch of cinnamon. (<–Pun alert! Spice…cinnamon…ha.ha.ha?) And finally, instead of using normal chocolate chips like semisweet or milk chocolate, I pulled out the big guns, aka Milk Chocolate Morsels with Caramel Filling. Browned butter and cinnamon is fantastic enough, but adding caramel to the mix? Gah.cookies5

I was also quite impressed with the recipe I used for the base of these cookies. The extra egg yolk, extra vanilla, high brown sugar:white sugar ratio, and precise amount of flour made for super-thick, super-chewy cookies. I chose to make them a bit larger than your average cookie (think in between bakery-sized and mom-made sized) which was a good life decision. They ended up with that great crisp-around-the-edges-chewy-in-the-middle texture that seems to please almost everyone. The trick is to take the cookies out of the oven when they’re just barely done, so they can finish cooking on the baking sheets. That way the centers stay nice and soft!cookies3

If you’re like me and enjoy adding a little something extra to old-fashioned favorites, try out these Extra Special Chocolate Chip Cookies. They’re kicked up a notch in flavor and were loved by everyone who tried them! Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to bake a good old fashioned batch of chocolate chip cookies, but today is not that day. And honestly…who’s complaining?cookies4

“Extra-Special” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1.5 sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg + 1 egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

10 ounces chocolate chips (I used caramel-stuffed milk chocolate chips)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the butter is amber-brown and fragrant (about 5 minutes). Be careful not to cook for too long, or the butter will burn!

Pour the browned butter into a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

After the butter has cooled for a few minutes, beat in the sugars until smooth. Add in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, beating until well-combined. Gently stir the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, mixing just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough into 2-tablespoon sized balls. Place on the prepared cookie sheets 2 inches apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until edges are slightly golden and centers are set. (If making smaller cookies, decrease baking time.) Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from Take a Megabite)

Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Stew3It’s finally beginning to look like autumn in northwest Oregon. After a long, drawn-out summer of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s (not that I’m complaining), the mornings are getting chillier and the weather prediction for this week is rain, rain, rain. I have to admit that I love the crisp autumn weather, but after a day or two of rain I’m ready for sun again. I think I was spoiled with an unusually sunny summer at home in Washington, and I’m dreading all the the bleak, gray days to come.

The clear, cool days are my favorites. My college campus has a huge variety of trees, and this time of year is so beautiful. I love walking to class under a canopy of shocking red trees, or sitting on a bench and having a leaf fall onto my head. On my morning runs I like to look at all houses decked out in spooky Halloween decorations, and our little apartment is covered in pumpkin/ghost/witch/skeleton paraphernalia. Fall also signals the beginning of soup season, and I’ve been loving my little red Crock Pot more than ever!Stew2

This Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew is the most perfect fall meal. Despite being vegetarian, it’s packed full of hearty protein and fabulous flavor. The recipe makes about 8 servings, and since I’m only one person I got to enjoy it for 8 meals. You’d think I’d get tired of eating the same lunch and dinner for 4 days in a row, but not with this stew! I actually looked forward to eating it again and again and was sad when it was all gone. The combination of chickpeas, lentils, sweet vegetables, spicy jalapeño and warm curry spices is wonderful, and the longer you cook the stew the thicker it gets. It’s comfort in a bowl, I tell you!

Last Thursday my car battery decided to die, and after a long day of racing back and forth between Les Schwab and classes it felt awesome to walk into the door to a fragrant slow-cooker full of hot stew. Sometimes a good meal is all it takes to brighten up a hard day. Add this fantastic crock-pot meal to your dinner repertoire! It’s great any time of the year!Stew

Crock Pot Chickpea, Lentil, and Butternut Squash Stew

Makes 6-8 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 large carrot, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon garam masala (or curry powder)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes

1 cup brown lentils

1 28-oz can diced tomatoes

2 15-oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

32 ounces vegetable broth

Salt and pepper, to taste

Cilantro, for serving (optional)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot, and jalapeño for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Add in the garlic and sauté for another minute or so. Stir in the garam masala (and cayenne pepper, if you like spice).

Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker. Add in the butternut squash, lentils, diced tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth. Stir to combine. Cover and cook on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and top with chopped cilantro if desired.

(Recipe adapted from Eat Live Run)

Banana Flaxseed Muffins

muffins1At the beginning of each October, my university has a so-called “fall break” which is actually nothing more than a 3-day weekend. I’m totally on board with the idea of this mini-vacation, but its actual application seems pretty half-hearted. If you’re going to call it a break, make it a break! Three days was just long enough for me to make the 7-hour journey home, collapse into relaxing familiarity for 40-some hours, and then tear myself away to drive all the way back to school. It felt more like a teaser than anything else, especially for a homebody like myself. Still, I’m grateful for my brief recharge at home, and I need to keep reminding myself that relaxation often morphs into boredom after too many days. Okay, maybe not 2 measly days, but let’s stay positive!

One of my projects during my time at home was to re-stock the freezer with easy grab-and-go breakfasts for my mom. She’s not exactly a morning person, and I know for a fact that breakfast is virtually the last thing on her mind as she gets ready for work. You know someone like that, too? Good. Make them these muffins!muffins2

These Banana Flaxseed Muffins are perfect for a quick, healthy breakfast. I like to make a full batch ahead of time and store them in the freezer for those busy mornings. They can be made gluten-free, but you can also use a mixture of whole wheat and all-purpose flour if gluten isn’t an issue. Unlike so many muffins that are basically frosting-less cupcakes, these are full of healthy ingredients to give you an energy boost without the crash. Bananas serve as the main sweetener, and they also lend the muffins a soft, moist texture. Flaxseed brings in some heart-healthy fat, and warm spices give the muffins extra flavor. You can even make them vegan by using agave nectar and soy or almond milk!

I love knowing that my mom now has a few weeks’ supply of muffins for breakfast, settled right next to the chili I made for my dad (which he will most likely not eat for breakfast, just so we’re clear). I’m sure they’re capable of fending for themselves (after all, they managed just fine until I came along) but I also know how much they miss my cooking and baking! Make your own friends and family happy by baking them a batch of these Banana Flaxseed Muffins. There’s nothing like a pre-made, homemade, healthy, on-hand breakfast to show them that you care!muffins4

Banana Flaxseed Muffins

Makes one dozen standard-size muffins

1 & 3/4 cups gluten-free flour blend (or all-purpose flour)

1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if using gf flour)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 medium ripe bananas, mashed

1/2 cup milk (I used soy milk)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup agave nectar or honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons ground flaxseed

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line or grease a 12-cup muffin tin and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the mashed bananas, milk, oil, agave, vanilla, and flaxseed. Using a rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until no flour streaks remain. Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tins.

Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 13-17 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack.

(Recipe adapted from Anecdotes and Apples)

2-Ingredient Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies

Chocolate pumpkin1I’m sure I sound like a broken record by now, but lately I’ve been all about simple recipes. My only excuse is that I’m a college student…which is pretty much the best excuse for anything. Caught wearing yoga pants and Ugg boots for five days in a row? I’m just a frazzled college student focused solely on comfort while trying to get through the school week. Seen leaving a $9 tip in nothing but loose change (after a grueling 15-minute process of determining exactly how much each person owes)? We’re just poor, penny-pinching college students. Questioned as to why you’re cutting your cherry tomatoes in half with your teeth instead of using a knife like a normal human being? Actually, that one can only be attributed to nonsensical laziness…I do happen to own several knives, but I decided it would be far too strenuous to actually wash one. Please don’t laugh. Moving along…Chocolate Pumpkin3

I challenge you to find a cookie recipe that’s easier than this one! We’re talking two ingredients, one bowl, one spoon. The most difficult part of the entire process is opening a can of pumpkin (which, if your can opener is anything like my ancient rusted one at home, can actually be kind of difficult). But aside from any incidental can-opening struggles, there’s no reason not to try these! Who would’ve known that a box of chocolate cake mix and a can of pumpkin could come together to produce such soft, moist, chocolatey little cookies? Due to all the pumpkin, these cookies will stay tender for days, and their texture is actually more like a cupcake than a cookie. The combination of chocolate and pumpkin is fabulous, and I like to throw in a dash of pumpkin pie spice for a little extra flavor.Chocolate Pumpkin5

If you’re ever short on time, cash, and/or ingredients yet have a hankering for delicious cookies, these are the perfect solution! They taste way too good to be this embarrassingly easy. Whether or not you’re a lazy busy student, you should definitely try these out! There’s nothing not to like :)Chocolate Pumpkin4

2-Ingredient Chocolate Pumpkin Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

1 box chocolate cake mix

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together the cake mix, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice (if you like) until well-combined. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 9-12 minutes, or until the tops of the cookies are no longer glossy. Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets before removing to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Slow-Cooker Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Chili2Last weekend I logged onto my school account with the intention of tackling my Intro to Philosophy homework. It was a Saturday afternoon, and doing homework sounded about as appealing as ripping off my fingernails one by one. Sorry for that not-so lovely image. Anyhow, I scrolled down to the assignment feeling oh-so-motivated, and what to my wondering eyes should appear but….the totally completed, already submitted assignment! I suddenly recalled that I had done the assignment right after class a few days prior to avoid the torture of doing homework on a Saturday. Way to think ahead, Wednesday-version-of-me! I felt like giving myself a hug right then and there. Best. Feeling. Ever.

Who doesn’t love that spectacular feeling of setting out to complete some dreaded task and then realizing that you already did it? It’s like a gigantic birthday and Christmas present all rolled into one. The only problem is that you have to forget the original event in order to be happily surprised later on, which is something that doesn’t happen to me all that often. Sucks to have a good memory, right?! Hah.

The great thing about slow cookers is that you can prepare dinner at an earlier point in the day (with a broad time span, since you can choose whether to cook on high or low) and then walk in the door at dinner time to a hot, homemade meal. When I’m hungry, I’m hungry, and it’s so nice to have food waiting for me when I can’t make it home until later in the evening.Chili4

This Turkey Pumpkin Chili is wonderful for so many reasons: not only is it a fantastic, flavorful chili (one of my favorite foods in the world), but it’s also quite healthy and requires very minimal prep work. You just have to brown a pound of turkey and then throw all the ingredients into the slow cooker. I suppose there’s also a slight bit of chopping involved, but for all intents and purposes this is a highly-doable meal for any busy weekday! Since I cook for one and the recipe makes a fairly large batch, I had leftovers for dayssss, and the chili also freezes really well. You can go the more traditional route and serve it with cornbread, or you can do what I did and spoon it over half of a roasted sweet potato. That combo=heaven in a bowl!

Maybe you’ll even get lucky and forget that you have a Crock Pot full of chili waiting for you, and you can experience that awesome feeling of having one fewer thing on your to-do list! Just don’t forget about the chili completely, because then bad things could happen….I feel I should include that as a disclaimer so you don’t go blaming me for your melted Crock Pot or something of similar nature.

I highly recommend adding this Turkey Pumpkin Chili to your dinner rotation! Its warm spices and plethora of hearty beans/turkey/veggies make it the perfect meal for chilly fall evenings, and it practically makes itself. Enjoy!Chili3

Slow-Cooker Turkey Pumpkin Chili

Makes about 6 servings

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound lean ground turkey

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

1 medium onion, diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes (with liquid)

1 15-oz can pure pumpkin

1 & 1/2 cups water or broth

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the ground turkey, garlic, and jalapeño, and cook until the turkey is browned on the outside (it’s fine if the inside is still pink). Transfer the mixture to a slow cooker.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. Give it a few stirs to break up the pumpkin, and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. Top with shredded cheese, avocado, and/or sour cream if desired.

Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. The chili also freezes beautifully.

(Recipe adapted from Table for Two)

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars

Pumpkin bars1Much of the world makes no sense to me. You may be thinking Thank you, Captain Obvious, but I’m talking about all the little facts and rules that just don’t seem reasonable. For example, in school you can get an A, B, C, D…or an F. I have never understood why there isn’t an E. Also, why do “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing, when they clearly sound like opposites? The teeny tiny candy bars are the “fun-sized” ones, and the numbers 11-13 have special names that completely ignore the pattern. Senseless, I tell you!

One of the things that always stumped me when I was little was the dates of the seasons. If it was up to me, summer would be June-August, fall would be September-November, winter would be December-February, and spring would be March-May. Of course, now I know that the “official” seasons do have a bit of legitimate reason behind them (“equinox” was not a term I was familiar with at the innocent age of 5), but I still find it strange to think that the coldest days in early December are actually “autumn” days and that the first three weeks of March are technically winter. Right now, for instance, we’re still on the tail end of summer. I can’t say that the weather down here in Oregon is disagreeing (we’re expected to reach 93 degrees today!), but with the start of school and the first orange leaves appearing on the trees outside my window, I can’t help but consider it to be autumn. September 15 just doesn’t make you think “summer!” Am I right or am I right?Pumpkin bars8

I’ve decided to officially declare it fall on Emma’s Baking Addiction and break out the pumpkin! One of my favorite times of the year to bake is during these autumn months, during the harvest season of giant juicy apples and bright orange pumpkins. I love baking with warm fall spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves, especially when paired with apple or pumpkin baked goods. There’s nothing like the smell of pumpkin snickerdoodle bars or apple-cinnamon bread baking in the oven and filling the house with the scents of the season. I’ve been known to go a little pumpkin-crazy throughout September, October, and November, so expect more pumpkin recipes to come!Pumpkin bars5

Pumpkin is making its first debut of the year in the form of these Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars. At first, the combination of pumpkin and chocolate may sound a bit odd (if it doesn’t, then hooray for you and your natural ability to recognize a good combo when you see one!) but it’s really fantastic. The soft, sweet, spiced pumpkin bars studded with pockets of rich chocolate are heaven! Also, don’t confuse these bars with snack cake or sheet cake…they’re a lot more like blondies in texture, and are supremely chewy and moist. There’s a time and a place for crumbly, fluffy pumpkin cake, but this is not it! These bars also stay soft for days, and I find that they taste best on the second or even third day when the flavors have melded and the spicy pumpkin flavor is enhanced.

Welcome fall with open arms by making a batch of these Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars! I’ve already been asked for the recipe, and they didn’t last long around these parts. I’m so glad I didn’t wait until the official fall equinox to bake these…they’re just too good!Pumpkin bars2

Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Bars

Makes about 16 bars

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 large egg

3/4 cup canned pure pumpkin

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice*

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 & 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chocolate chips

*Instead of pumpkin pie spice, you can use a mixture of 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp each of nutmeg and cloves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper, leaving a slight overhang. Spray or grease lightly and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, egg, pumpkin, vanilla, cinnamon, spices, and salt until smooth. Gently stir in the flour just until combined. Fold in the chocolate chips, reserving a tablespoon or so to sprinkle on top.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Smooth the top with a spatula and sprinkle evenly with reserved chocolate chips. Bake for about 30-34 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean or with just a few moist crumbs. Cool completely before slicing into squares.

(Recipe adapted from Averie Cooks)

Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

IMG_0245So. Let’s overlook the fact that this recipe might possibly be interpreted as cheating, since I already have two variations of these cookies here on the blog, and just roll with it. Because seriously, guys, these cookies are good enough to be posted three times! They’ve always been one of my go-to recipes for their a) minimal ingredients, b) quickness, c) easiness, and d) gluten-freedom (I was gonna say “freeness,” but “freedom” has the upper hand of actually being a word.)

While you can stick to my original 3-ingredient recipe and make these with 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 egg (yes, that’s all!!!), I prefer to use this recipe with its little adjustments. It goes against my nature as a baking addict to just leave a good recipe alone, so naturally I’ve come up with some tweaks. First of all, using half brown sugar and half white makes the cookies especially chewy and flavorful. Brown sugar FTW! Secondly, I add vanilla to pretty much everything (including my oatmeal while it’s cooking–if you haven’t tried it, DO!), so of course I had to include it in these cookies. The baking powder is just for a little extra lift, and I’m sure the chocolate chips need no explanation. Chocolate should never need an explanation–remember that.IMG_0242

These cookies are the perfect recipe for a college student with a limited budget, limited time, and a limited kitchen (namely myself), or anyone else who wants cookies that are fast, easy, don’t require a grocery store trip, and/or are gluten-free. Despite their lack of flour (and other usual cookie ingredients), they’re some of the best cookies I make. In fact, they’re the only peanut butter cookies I ever make! What more could you want than a perfectly chewy, slightly-crisp-around-the-edges, ultra-peanut buttery cookie with chocolate chips? Actually, I can think of quite a few things, but for all intents and purposes the proper answer here is “nothing.”IMG_0250

Flourless Peanut Butter-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 large egg

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or baking mats and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together all ingredients except for the chocolate chips until well-combined. Fold in the chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoons onto prepared cookie sheets. (At this point, if you like thinner cookies, you can slightly flatten each ball of dough or make a criss-cross pattern with a fork.)

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookies are set around the edges and the tops are no longer shiny. Err on the side of underdone! Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the sheets before transferring to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.