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Dessert, Snack

CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CHERRIES + PECANS

I'm fresh off a girls road trip to Napa, California. We stayed at a wonderful hotel in Calistoga called Solage, rode bikes to local wineries, ate, laughed and participated in a self led water aerobics class. We think we're so funny, the lounging pool folk may attest otherwise. We enjoyed a personal tour and tasting at Kelly Fleming's vineyard, and chatted around her big farmhouse table. I get so inspired when I watch people pursue what they love. It is absolutely gorgeous up there. As a Southern California girl, I am awe struck by the landscape that is a mere 8 hours north.

My kitchen has been quiet the past few days, so we're sharing a recipe we had posted on The Kitchn earlier this week. Tara at Seven Spoons posted a version of this recipe quite a ways back, and her images haven't left my mind since. I knew that when I next committed to make a decadent, buttery, serious business cookie, this would be the one. Her post was about a year ago, which goes to show I don't have the self control to make 'serious business' cookies very often. They certainly met my expectations. After a year of thinking about them, they materialized into the soft centered, slightly crisp exterior I had hoped they'd be.

CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES WITH CHERRIES + PECANS// Makes 24 cookies

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated

If you like a salty bite to your sweets, I would suggest giving them a sprinkle of sea salt just before you put them in the oven. Pairs perfectly with cold milk or some vanilla bean ice cream.

1 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

3/4 tsp Baking Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp Salt

1 1/4 Cups Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats

1 Cup Pecans, toasted and chopped

1 Cup Dried Cherries, chopped coarse

8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate, chopped into small pieces OR chocolate chips

3/4 cup Unsalted Butter, softened but still cool

1 1/2 Cups Muscavado/Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 Extra Large Egg

1 tsp Real Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C)

1. Use parchment paper or a silpat* to line several standard baking sheets and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2.In another bowl combine the oats, pecans, dried cherries and chocolate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer or with a whisk and a strong arm, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Slowly add the egg and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.

3. Gently sift, or with the mixer down to low, add the flour mixture to the bowl. Stir until just combined. Finally incorporate the oats, nuts, fruit and chocolate. Do not overmix.

4. Roll these portions lightly between your hands in about 1/4 cup portions, then place on each baking sheet, spaced evenly. You can make them small, but adjust your baking time a few minutes less. Wet your hands and lightly press the dough to a 1-inch thickness. Bake the cookies, two trays at a time, in a preheated oven for 12 minutes. Rotate the trays top to bottom and back to front and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cookies are uniformly golden, but still wet in the middle. They should appear slightly undercooked.

5. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

* You can find a silpat at Bed Bath and Beyond or Amazon. They keep the bottoms on cookies or biscuits from burning, while also creating a non-stick surface. They come in a few sizes, so be sure it fits the measurements of your cookie sheet!

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Dessert, Snack, Gluten Free, Winter, Chocolate

CHOCOLATE & PUFFED GRAIN MORSELS

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I appreciate that there is a day to honor your love, but I am cynical as to what Valentines is as an adult. It seemed so fun to exchange candies in grade school and overdose on conversation hearts. In my younger years, my Dad would come home from work with those GIANT greeting cards (do you know what I'm talking about? They are seriously gigantic and sometimes I still see them at gas stations) and mylar balloons for my sister and I, or maybe a new set of cotton pajamas with hearts on them. My mom, the art teacher, made, and still makes, beautiful hand crafted cards with thoughtful messages of how we, as daughters, have changed her life. It feels pretty great to be loved. What I gathered from those gestures, was that this holiday isn't about the bloated flower prices, waxy chocolates and pre-set dining menus that make me cringe, it is best celebrated not for one person, but valuing love for the sum of it's parts.

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This chocolate morsel experiment was kind of a shot in the dark, but I think they are just precious in their crafty glass jars. I cleaned old jars I have held on to from sauces, jams, fancy yogurts and what not. These morsels travel better and last longer than a baked good, which would also make them an excellent wedding favor or thank you gift. I am giving my measurements, but this recipe is extremely adaptable. You could use any kind of puffed cereal (they are inexpensive at a health food store) and the nuts and fruit are yours to choose. Next time I'll try toasted pistachios and dried cherries, or maybe chewy candied ginger and sliced almonds. Whatever your way, show love.

CHOCOLATE AND PUFFED GRAIN MORSELS // Makes 24

When melting the chocolate, I suggest using a larger glass bowl than you think you'll need. This way you can put all the goodies in that one bowl to make less of a mess.

12 oz. Dark Chocolate Chips (milk if you prefer)

1 1/3 Cup Puffed Millet, Rice, Kamut (found in the cereal isle)

1 Cup Dried Cranberries, Chopped

1/2 Cup Toasted Pecan Pieces

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Sea Salt

1. Place chocolate it in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Do not let the bottom of the bowl touch the water. Allow it to melt slowly, giving it a stir to distribute the heat. In the meantime, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.

2. Remove the chocolate from the heat and gently add in the puffed grain of choice, dried fruit and nut and fold everything to combine. Allow everything to sit for about five minutes to cool.

3. Using a spoon and your fingers, dollop hefty tablespoons of the chocolate mix onto the baking sheet. Repeat, washing your fingers every now and then because it will be easier to work with the chocolate. This step gets messy, but as they cool you can form their shape better. Sprinkle them liberally with sea salt.

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4. Put the tray in the fridge for about 15 minutes for the morsels to set completely. Put them in cute packaging for a charming presentation!

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Snack, Breakfast, Bread, Fall

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS

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I could have sworn up and down that I hated maple, until I met these mini muffins. I find that maple is one of those particular flavors that people love or hate. Like black licorice, grape candy, the consistency of cottage cheese or fennel. The fact that it's a natural sweetener, makes me feel like I should like it, but it's just not for me. Hugh is pro-maple so I figured if we made these and I hated them, at least someone would eat them. I hoarded a majority of them.

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There is an entire cup of real maple syrup in the recipe, which sounds like a lot, but with all the dense flours, the strength of it dissipates. I used a pretty lengthy list of ingredients, but if you don't think you'll ever use a whole bag of buckwheat flour, try to find a store that sells flours/grains in bulk and you can buy just what you need by weight. Or, as I've suggested before, make extra and give some away. I mean, they taste pretty healthy for a muffin, but it's January, people are into that sort of thing.

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS// Makes 12 or 24 Minis

1/2 Cup Buckwheat Flour

1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Wheat Bran

1/2 Cup Oatmeal (plus extra for garnish)

1 Tbsp. Cinnamon

1 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg (if you have it)

1 Tsp. Salt

1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger

1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda

2 Large Eggs

1 Cup Real Maple Syrup

1 Cup Buttermilk

2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Lowfat Cottage Cheese (I blended mine up a tad, but this is optional)

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1 Cup Pecan Pieces, divided

Oven at 350'

1. In a large mixing bowl, sift all flours, the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Grate the ginger right on top. Spray or butter your muffin tins and set aside.

2. In two other bowls, seperate the egg yolks from the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the maple, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk to combine. Beat or use an electric mixer to whip up the egg whites until they just start to hold shape.

3. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of the pecan pieces and gently fold in. Lastly, just before you're ready to put batter into the tins, fold in the whipped egg whites. Because the dough is somewhat heavy, try to fold from the outside of the bowl in, to not deflate the egg whites.

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4. The mini tins hold about two spoonfuls of mix, if using larger tins, fill them about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with a few chopped pecans and a few oat flakes. Bake on the middle rack for 20-23 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on tin). Remove and cool. I recommend a little spread of plain greek yogurt.

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