Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sometimes I think I am the human incarnation of the Cookie Monster. “Me want cookie” all the time.

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I don’t just like eating cookies, I like baking them. They don’t take much time, but keep me occupied for long enough to clear my head. My mind has been racing for the past few weeks as I completed another round of auditions, accepted a new job offer, and re-entered the dating scene. All of these experiences and changes have given me lots to think about… and stress about… so I needed to zone out for a bit!

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Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery has an incredible Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip cookie. I like to pretend it is healthy (duh… oats and wheatgerm are good for you!), even though it’s loaded with sugar and is about the size of my hand. For my cookie therapy Monday afternoon, I decided to re-create this tantalizing treat.

After a successful first experience baking with coconut oil a couple weeks ago, I decided to use coconut oil instead of butter. The combination of coconut oil and wheatgerm gave the cookies a delicious nutty taste. Whole wheat flour, a dash of cinnamon, and Madagascar vanilla extract added more complexity. This is possibly my new favorite cookie recipe!

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Oatmeal Wheatgerm Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields 5+ dozen cookies

  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheatgerm
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup melted coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease large baking sheets and set aside.

In a large bowl, stir together oats, flour, wheatgerm, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. In another large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugars together with an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the oat mixture until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Shape dough into 1-inch rounds and place on prepared baking sheets. Bake on center rack for 12 minutes. Cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Unless you have a lot of people to share these with, I recommend halving the recipe. Having 5 dozen delicious cookies on my hands is really challenging my self-control! I’ve split the remaining cookies into packs of 6 to give to friends/co-workers/random strangers tomorrow.

What are your favorite cookies?

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Since Easter is right around the corner, I busted out my bunny apron while I was baking and included it in my photos. As you may notice, this is the same apron Lindsey used in the Buckwheat Granola post. Shout out to Mama T, the giver of the bunny aprons!

Happy Eating!

-C

Touring and Tasting San Francisco

Last week, two of my best friends from Texas finally came to visit.  I’ve talked San Francisco up quite a bit over the years, so I knew they were arriving with high expectations.  One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the diversity of the city.  Each neighborhood is distinctly different, and I wanted to show them as many areas as possible.  We ate our way through the city, taking in the sights as we went.

San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco, from the Golden Gate Bridge

Day 1: Come Fly With Me

Before picking my friends up at the airport Wednesday night, I made a batch of banana muffins, using Jenna’s banana bread recipe as a guide.  If you have not yet read her book, White Jacket Required, I highly recommend it!  These little muffins were great to have available for breakfast or snacks while my friends were in town.

Banana Muffins

Banana Muffins

The girls arrived hungry after a long flight.  We dropped their luggage at my apartment, then went straight to the Blue Jay Cafe for dinner.  This colorful little spot serves up hearty comfort food at low prices.  They have an extensive side list, full of tasty options, so 2 of us ended up ordering plates of sides.  Our favorites were the mac and cheese and brussels sprouts, with sweet potato fries close behind.  We chatted the night away, finally falling into bed in the wee hours of the morning.

Day 2: Coffee, Carne, and Cacao

Cafe Au Lait

Cafe Au Lait

Thursday morning I had a client to see in the Financial District.  My friends came along and stopped at Coffee Bar, a small cafe that I frequent, while I went to the studio to teach.  As soon as I was through, we hit the ground running!  My roommate, another friend from Texas, joined us as we walked to the Ferry Building and grabbed lunch at Il Cane Rosso.  All 4 of us ordered the sunchoke soup.  I paired it with half a pork sandwich, and the girls both had half a beef brisket sandwich.  It was all delicious!

Pork Sandwich and Sunchoke Soup

Pork Sandwich and Sunchoke Soup

After perusing the shops at the Ferry Building, we continued up the Embarcadero to Tcho, my favorite chocolate maker in San Francisco.  I loved the chocolate tasting at Tcho after my tour a few months ago, and I was excited to experience it again.  The second tasting did not disappoint!  My friends liked the milk chocolate best, while I was partial to the “Nutty” dark chocolate.  This stop reminded one of my guests of a visit to Ghirardelli when she was a little girl.  We decided to make it a chocolate day, and continued walking to Ghirardelli Square.  We checked out the views from the square, rested briefly by a fire pit, then got some ice cream at the cafe.

Ghirardelli Square

Ghirardelli Square

I had planned to take the girls to Absinthe, but after a day of rich, sweet food, we were craving something a little lighter.  We ended up going to Lers Ros, also located in Hayes Valley, for Thai food instead.  We shared a green papaya salad with prawns, pad thai, and red curry with chicken.  By the time we walked home, we were all worn out!

Red Curry with Chicken

Red Curry with Chicken

Day 3: Around the World in 12 Hours

Anxious for something “normal”, I started Friday with coffee and a bowl of oatmeal at home before going to ballet class at ODC.  One of the Texas gals joined me, and we had a great time dancing together for the first time in 3 years.  The three of us teamed back up after class and went to lunch at La Boulange.  This French bakery has a number of locations in San Francisco.  It has good coffee, delicious pastries (almond croissants… mmmm), and nice salads and sandwiches.  My Nicoise salad was great, and the girls enjoyed their egg salad sandwich and quiche/soup combo.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

We were joined by another dancer friend of mine, and journeyed through the Gates to China Town.  Spotting a familiar sign for free tea tasting, I led them into Vital Tea Leaf.  Lindsey and I had an amusing visit to this little store during her first visit to SF years ago.  Our favorite teas of the day were a rose green tea and lychee oolong.  The young woman helping us was full of information, and also full of smiles.  We hit the street again, taking in the sights and sounds of Chinatown.  Turning right on Jack Kerouac Alley, we ended up outside the famous City Lights Books.

Tea Tasting

Tea Tasting

We continued walking on Columbus Avenue, into North Beach.  After a little pick-me-up, AKA gelato, at a sweet shop, we walked up to Coit Tower.  We opted not to go inside, but we enjoyed walking around the tower, seeing the beautiful views of the City and the Bay.  Walking back down the hill, we stopped at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana, arguably the best pizza in SF.  We shared a Cal Italia and a Margherita pizza.  All I can say is “YUM!”  The tour continued as we walked across Lombard Street to see the crooked block, consisting of 8 sharp turns.  Fun fact: Vermont Street is actually the most crooked street in San Francisco, though it is less of a tourist destination.

Cal Italia at Tony's

Cal Italia at Tony’s

The day concluded at the War Memorial Opera House, where we watched our friend perform with the renowned San Francisco Ballet.  The highlight of the program was Yuri Possokhov’s new Rite of Spring.  After the performance, we went to get a drink at Dobb’s Ferry with a couple dancers.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

Day 4: It’s Always Sunny in the Castro

I had to neglect my post as tour guide on Saturday morning and go to work!  I met up with my friends to see the matinee performance of San Francisco Ballet’s Program 4.  I thought Scotch Symphony looked more solid than when I saw it last season, but my favorite piece of the day was Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour.  I was feeling restless after working at a desk all morning and sitting through the performance, so I was happy to move as we walked to the Castro.

Cosmos and Food

Cosmos and Food

My SF girlfriends and I used to frequent Cafe Flore to take advantage of their Saturday 2-for-1 special on Cosmos.  I was happy to share this spot with my Texas girls.  Cafe Flore has a a beautiful outdoor patio (with heat lamps), good food, and an entertaining staff.  After a drink and a late lunch/early dinner, we moved on to Hot Cookie.  As we ate our cookies, we continued wandering.  I gave a brief history lesson when we passed Harvey’s, but mostly stayed quiet as the girls took in the sometimes odd, but mostly awesome, neighborhood.

We ended the day at Cafe du Soleil, chatting over wine and coffee with a good local friend of mine and her out-of-town guest.  It was a great place to wind down!

Coffee

Coffee

Day 5: International Orange

Breakfast

Breakfast

The one thing my friends really wanted to do was walk across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Sunday morning, after grabbing coffee at Mojo Bicycle Cafe and pastries at the Divisadero Farmers’ Market, we made the trek to the bridge.  It was my first time to actually walk on the bridge!  I’ve biked across twice, but never have tackled it on foot.  It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we had a lovely walk across.  We wandered down through the Presidio, stopping to play around in Crissy Field, then went to the Marina.  Our first stop was lunch at The Grove.  After fueling up, we went window shopping.  We stopped at Kara’s Cupcakes for a treat before heading home to rest.  I had the special Bailey’s flavor, and my friends both had red velvet.  I want to play around with Bailey’s baked goods now!  It was so good.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

My roommate joined us for dinner.  Tapas and sangria at Picaro!  We ordered calamares fritos, broccoli con almendras, pollo al ajillo, tortilla de patata, and patatas aioli.  The broccoli and tortilla de patata were my favorite dishes.  We had a great time catching up all together, and laughed a lot.  I’ve had some great nights at this restaurant, but Sunday will join the ranks as one of the best.  We moved on to Lion Pub, where we enjoyed some delicious margaritas.

Bailey's Cupcake

Bailey’s Cupcake

Farewell

We stopped at Cafe Abir Monday morning before driving to the airport.  I was sad to see them go, but was happy to have had so much time with them.  I hope they understand now why I love San Francisco!  We laughed a lot, ate a ton, and walked a grand total of 23 miles.  It was a wonderful few days!

San Francisco

San Francisco

Happy eating!

-C

Luscious Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

Lemon Bars

I spend a majority of my time with fellow twenty-something artists.  We have interesting conversations, go see the wonderful cultural offerings in the city, and offer moral support when we feel creatively blocked.  We are also frequently strapped for cash.  For this reason, we tend to give each other edible gifts, rather than dishing out precious dough for a nice store bought present.

A good friend got a group together for birthday drinks the other night.  I didn’t want to arrive empty handed, so I decided to bake her a little something.  I ended up making some zesty lemon bars, per her request.

Mmmhmm

Mmmhmm

Shockingly, I had never made lemon bars before!  I once made lemon bars from a mix that Mom had, but I don’t count them.  This recipe was really simple, and the result is delicious!  The only adjustment I made was adding a bit of whole wheat flour to the crust, which, honestly was because I ran out of all-purpose flour.  I recommend the change, though.

Lemons

Lemons

Lemon Bars

Recipe from The New Cookbook, Better Homes and Gardens

Makes 20 bar cookies

For crust:

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

For filling:

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 350F.  In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for about 30 seconds.  Add the 1/4 cup of sugar, and beat until combined.  Beat in the flour until mixture is crumbly.  Press into a 8x8x2in baking dish, smoothing with the back of a spoon. Bake until golden, 15-18 minutes.

Prepared crust layer

Prepared crust layer

While the crust is baking, combine eggs, sugar, flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and baking powder.  Beat until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

Pour filling mixture over hot baked layer and return to oven.  Bake for 20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges and set in the center.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Sift powdered sugar over the top, if desired.  Cut into 20 bars.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

While digging out my apron, I also come across a package of doilies.  I was so excited to be able to present my bars on something prettier than just a tupperware container!  I’m trying not to read into the fact that I had doilies lying around… What a little housewife (minus the whole husband thing)!

Notice the doilies!

Notice the doilies!

The bars were quite a hit.  We were also lucky enough to have a batch of brownies, provided by another friend.  We were that super cool group with homemade goods at the bar.  We got a few dirty looks, but I prefer to think people were just jealous.

I’ll need to remember these next time I feel like baking, but don’t want chocolate (it happens once in a blue moon).  They were smooth, sweet, and tangy!  Yum!

Happy eating!

-C

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

I love biscotti as an afternoon or after dinner snack, especially with a latte or a glass of almond milk. I went through a phase when I lived in New York where I ate biscotti on pretty much a daily basis. Trader Joe’s makes a tasty chocolate dipped variety, and almost every coffee shop sells biscotti. But I had never made my own until this weekend.

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Biscotti are twice-baked cookies. If you sample them after the first phase of baking, they taste just like a typical crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside cookie. The second phase of baking makes them super crunchy and perfect for dipping.

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

Slicing the log after the first phase of baking

As part of my New Year’s Resolution to learn more about the ingredients I use, my first rule is “no assumptions.” I will not assume I know about an ingredient, but rather, I will research all key ingredients to really learn about them.

For example, I know that pistachios are those little green nuts that typically come in shells (unless you have bulk bins that sell them already shelled!), and are lower in fat than other nuts. But how do they grow? What vitamins and minerals do they contain?

Pistachios

Lovely pistachios

Pistachio: Cultivated in California, Turkey, Italy, and Iran, pistachios are an important culinary nut that has been used for thousands of years, as far back as 6750 BC. In the U.S, pistachios have been cultivated as a commercial crop since the 1930s. The pistachio nuts we eat are the seed of the plant, contained within the hard, whitish/beige shell of the fruit. When the fruit ripens, it splits open, revealing the seed. Compared to other nuts, pistachios have one of the highest amounts of protein and fiber. They also contain important vitamins and minerals including copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, Vitamin A, thiamine, and Vitamin B-6.

cherries

Chewy cherries

Dried Cherry: The cherry tree was named after the Turkish town of Cesarus, and is said to date back to 300 BC. Cherries come in two varieties: sweet and sour, both of which can be dried and eaten as a snack or used in baked goods. The red pigment in cherries, anthocyanin, is being studied for its antioxidant properties.

A perfect pair

A perfect pair

I was surprised to see that Culinary Artistry does not list cherries and pistachios as a common flavor pairing. In my opinion, they are quite a complimentary pair.

In addition to the lovely flavor combination of pistachios and cherries, these biscotti have a hint of orange due to a little bit of zest added to the batter. I love the subtle complexity that this hint of citrus provides. It keeps the biscotti feeling light and refreshing, while the whole wheat flour and oats also ensure that they are slightly heartier and more filling than the average baked good.

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Ready to be baked again!

Whole Wheat Pistachio and Dried Cherry Biscotti

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1  cup organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted
  • 2 Tablespoons orange zest (I used clementines)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted, shelled pistachios
Biscotti!

Biscotti!

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with  parchment paper. Combine first 6 ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted  with a paddle. Blend on low speed for 30 seconds. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl,  whisk together eggs and next 3 ingredients. Add egg mixture to flour mixture;  beat on low speed until combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Fold in cherries and  pistachios.
  • Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; divide in half.  Using floured hands, shape each dough half into a 16″-long log. Brush off excess  flour; transfer logs to prepared sheet, spaced 5″ apart. Flatten each log into a  2″-wide strip. Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until browned and set,  about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to  250° and arrange 1 rack in top third of oven and 1 rack in bottom  third.
  • Line a second baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer  biscotti to a work surface. Using a serrated knife, cut each strip diagonally  into 2/3″-thick slices. Arrange slices, cut side down, on baking  sheets.
  • Bake biscotti, rotating baking sheets halfway through, until crisp, about 40 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to racks; let cool.
Tasty treats

Tasty treats

My only complaint against homemade biscotti is that they have to bake for quite a long time, so you have to plan ahead when making them. However, the hands on work is simple, so they’re perfect for making on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I’ll be making more soon, potentially dipped in chocolate ;-).

Do you like biscotti? Any favorite flavors or drinks to dip them into?

-L

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Gingerbread Cookies

To be honest, baking is not really my “thing.” Casey is much better at it than I am, and enjoys it more (I am more prone to random kitchen experiments and breakfast explorations). But Casey’s cookie brittle, along with the blog-world Christmas cookie take-over, had me itching to bake a mess of Christmas goodies.

Gingerbread Cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

I planned to make gingerbread cookies, pistachio and cherry biscotti, and something minty and chocolatey last weekend. I even bought the ingredients.

But then, Friday’s tragedy happened, and instead of spending Sunday in the kitchen baking up a storm, I spent it on the couch, snuggling close to my husband, for once not worrying about a to-do list but instead enjoying the comfort of the moment. I hope that you all have had a similar chance to hug your loved ones extra tight this week as we all struggle to comprehend the tragedy in Newtown.

But last night, as I prepared to leave town and spend the holidays with family, I finally got around to making cookies! I’ll be sharing these with one of my best friends today when we meet up for lunch, and with my husband’s family when we arrive at their house tonight.

Gingery Goodness

Gingery Goodness

These crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle little cookies include not one, not two, but three types of ginger (ground, freshly minced, and crystallized)!

crystallized ginger

Crystalized Ginger

I can’t use crystalized ginger without thinking of our dad… One year we were making something that called for crystalized ginger. We sent my dad to the store to pick up a few things, and asked him to get the ginger. When he returned home, he was beaming from ear to ear, carrying a 3 pound bag of crystalized ginger he had personally scooped from the bulk bins.

3 pounds of crystallized ginger is more or less a lifetime supply… I think we still have some of that bag left left in the freezer…

But I digress… back to the cookies!

Christmas cookies

Christmas is for cookies

Gingerbread Cookies

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup raw turbinado sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup blackstrap (robust) molasses
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 cup raw sugar

Method

  • Preheat to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Whisk flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat brown sugar and coconut oil in a large bowl, about 3 minutes (this will not get fluffy like it would with refined sugar and butter).
  • Reduce mixer speed to low. Add egg, molasses, grated ginger, and vanilla; beat just to blend.
  • Add flour mixture; beat on low speed just to blend. Mix in crystallized ginger (dough will be soft and sticky).
  • Place raw sugar in a shallow bowl. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop out dough. Using a second spoon, scoop dough from tablespoon measure into bowl with raw sugar; turn to coat well. Roll into ball. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with half of remaining dough and sugar, spacing balls 1 1/2″ apart.
  • Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are firm and centers appear cracked, 10–12 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. Repeat with remaining dough and sugar, using cooled baking sheets and new parchment.
  • Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature between sheets of parchment or waxed paper.
Served with Eggnog

Served with Eggnog

These cookies are absolute perfection. So much ginger flavor, such a great texture, and, thanks to the blackstrap molasses, they are somewhat healthy (blackstrap molasses is very high in iron. Read more about its nutritional benefits on Gena’s blog).

I enjoyed my cookies last night with a glass of eggnog, my indulgence of the week (eggnog as coffee creamer = fabulous). Change the rain that was pounding on the roof to snow, add a gently roaring fire, and it would have been the perfect Christmas-time evening. But even without the snow and the fire, the cookies and eggnog have me feeling much more in the holiday spirit.

We will be taking a break from the blog over the holidays. You can follow me on instagram (@lindzjane115) for photographic evidence of my holiday eats and adventures.

Before we go, however, it’s time to announce the winner of the Awesome Bars Giveaway!

Awesome Bars winner

Congratulations to Val, my Foodie Pen Pal from October!!

See you back here in 2013.

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

-L