Oreo Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

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When I was in high school, John Mayer came out with a song called Stop the Train. It wasn’t a hit single, and I doubt it ever played on the radio, but it is still a song that I relate to even now. It touches upon the fear of growing older and drifting further and further into the unknown of the future. I’ve had quite a few moments that I quietly dubbed “stop this train” moments. Times in life that are so wonderfully perfect that you wish you could hold onto them…but in the back of your mind, you know they can’t last. And that might be a bit sad, but the fleeting property of those moments is what makes them so sweet. The first time I ever experienced a “stop this train” moment was only a few months after I had first heard that song. It was the summer before college. The summer I had spent every waking moment with three of my best friends. I remember sitting in the car with the three of them, days before we were to head our separate ways in college, and just wishing I could hit the “pause” button and stay in that period of my life forever. Young, naive, and surrounded by those three kindred spirits. But time went on, and life happened. Two of those wonderful friends now live across the country and we only get to see each other a few perfect times a year. And sadly, I lost touch with the third friend years ago. But I like to think that our friendship, with all four of us together, lives on in that perfect memory. And as life continues to move forward, I’ve experienced more and more “stop this train” moments. Late night conversations while eating Ore Ida french fries with my best friends from college. The last Christmas my family had with my Grandpa. Countless moments from our wedding day, when Eric and I were surrounded by every person that we love. Moments like that don’t happen often. And as much as we long to hang on to them as long as we can, they pass quickly. But that’s ok. Because if every moment in life was a “stop this train” moment, those special memories wouldn’t be as special, perfectly preserved in the backs of our minds.

This post doesn’t perfectly tie in with one of my recent recipes. It’s just a collection of thoughts that came to me while baking cookies. Oreo Peanut Butter Chip Cookies to be exact. My coworkers had pointed out that it had been quite a while since I brought baked goods into the office, so I knew I couldn’t come into work on Monday empty handed. This recipe uses a classic chocolate chip cookie base, but has an extra sweetness with the addition of crushed Oreos and peanut butter chips. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 24 cookies

  • 1  1/4 cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened
  • 2  large egg whites
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 6-8 crushed Oreo cookies
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter chips

Preparation:

  1. Cream butter & sugars together
  2. Add egg whites (one at a time) & vanilla extract
  3. In separate bowl, combine flour and baking soda
  4. Gradually combine wet & dry ingredients
  5. Add in crushed Oreos and peanut butter chips
  6. Place tablespoon sized portions of the dough on a greased cookie sheet.  (Make sure the dough is evenly spaced, as the cookies do spread a bit while baking)
  7. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes

 

 

Greek Yogurt Muffins

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Before I landed my current position in Hotel Sales, I worked as a wedding & event planner. I worked at a private club and later a hotel, planning and coordinating weddings. I worked with a number of brides and mothers-of-the-bride from the beginning phases of booking their wedding to the actual wedding day itself. This included small intimate affairs and lavish 300 person weddings, but for some reason all of the brides had one thing in common. They were all at some point, completely stressed out. And I just didn’t get it. Maybe it was the hundreds of chair covers I tied or the thousands of escort cards that I painstakingly alphabetized, but I sort of became immune to the details that stressed so many brides out. I always had the idea that when it came to my own wedding, I wouldn’t care about the details.

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My philosophy has always been if I end up married to my best friend at the end of the day, the wedding will be a success. Sure, I’ve had fun planning cute little details for our big day,(I’m not letting those years in the industry go to waste!) but when it comes down to it, the only thing I really care about is the actual getting married part of the wedding day. So because of this, I always thought I would be the exception to the “stressed out bride” norm. And for the most part I have been. Even though so many brides-to-be go on some sort of crazy crash diet to look their very best on the big day, that just isn’t my style. Because it’s a wedding, not a beauty pageant. And even though I kind of hated the way they did my hair for my “bridal hair trial” I’m not too worried, as I’d much rather just do my own hair anyway.

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But the type of stress I didn’t expect to take on was the guilt. The guilt of having family members and friends spending so much time to throw not one but four bridal showers for me. And the guilt of asking my best friends to fly into town and wear a dress I picked out so they can stand by my side at the alter. And the guilt of running into people I went to high school with that might possibly expect an invitation despite the fact that we lost touch years ago. So even though I promised myself I would be cool as a cucumber when my big day rolled around, certain types of stress are inevitable. And for me, this has resulted in terrible stomach aches that my doctor attributed to “wedding stress.” As a former wedding planner, I’m a little embarrassed. But I guess that’s life. So to combat my “stress induced stomach pains” I was told to relax and avoid a few food groups to see if it helped at all. And one of these forbidden food groups was dairy. And since I had just purchased some Chobani Greek Yogurt, I decided I needed to use it in a different way. And that is how this muffin recipe came to be. The muffins have a slightly tangy flavor from the key lime flavored yogurt which I think pairs really nicely with the sweet blueberries. Just make sure you add the blueberries in while they are still frozen or else they will bleed and result in some ugly blue muffins.

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins

  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 6oz container Key Lime Greek Yogurt (or the flavor of your choice)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, beat milk, applesauce, yogurt and egg until well blended
  2. Stir in next 4 ingredients (flour through salt) until just combined
  3. Gently fold in frozen bluberries
  4. Divide batter between 12 muffin liners
  5. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle

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Blueberry Bread

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One of my high school friends recently pointed out to me that it has been 10 years since we entered our first year of high school. It just seemed so odd to me that 10 years have already passed since we were those gawky 15 year olds stumbling our way through 9th grade. And this got me thinking…if 15 year old me could see where I am now, would she be happy with where I ended up? My immediate answer was yes. I have a very happy, full life, so of course the 15 year old version of myself would be happy to see that. But I also think she would be pretty surprised and perhaps a bit confused when learning about the career I chose. When I was fifteen I flip flopped back and forth about “what I wanted to be when I grew up.” Some days I wanted to be a chef and other days I wanted to go into musical theatre. But no matter how many times my “dream job” changed it always involved either food or music. If you’ve read this blog for a while, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that food always had a part in my future ambitions. But perhaps the music part is a bit of a surprise. Yet once upon a time, music was a huge part of my life. I started singing when I was 5 years old, and couldn’t really get enough of it.

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My high school days were spent in choir practice and voice lessons and there weren’t many things I loved more than singing in front of a big crowd. A pretty odd hobby for someone as shy as I always was, but somehow it just worked. Eventually I retired from my short lived singing career, but my love of music never went away. So I’m sure the fifteen year old me would be surprised that I ended up not as a singer or a chef…but a hotel sales manager. But even though I always scoffed at the idea of working in a hotel and even worse, working in sales, I truly love where I ended up. Because as strange as it may sound, my job actually allows me to be surrounded by both food and theatre. I get to spend half of my time planning catered events and creating menus for my clients. And because my hotel is located in the heart of Detroit’s theatre district, the other half of my time is spent working with the company managers of all of the Broadway musicals and plays that come into town. I even get to attend many of the new shows that visit the city. So I’m hoping fifteen year old Colleen wouldn’t be too disappointed with her 25 year old counterpart.

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And even though the “food” part of my job doesn’t exactly involve cooking, I think I make up for that on the weekends. Last weekend I whipped up this sweet blueberry bread, with a few simple ingredients I already had in my kitchen. The bread is cake-like and would be delicious drizzled with a simple lemon glaze. I kept mine simple, but feel free to add a glaze or frosting to sweeten things up a bit.

Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Adapted slightly from AllRecipes

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and drained

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together until smooth
  2. Beat in milk and oil until well incorporated
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt and baking powder together
  4. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture until well combined
  5. Fold in blueberries
  6. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 for 50-65 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the loaf

Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins

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When I was 12 or 13 I wrote down a list of goals I hoped to accomplish in life. Some of them were simple and have already been checked off the list. Write a letter to my 7th grade teacher and thank him for teaching me so much about literature and life. Check. Travel somewhere I’ve never been, completely on my own. Check. And then there were a few goals that will take a lot more work and patience. One of these goals is run in the Detroit Marathon. It’s a bit funny to me that I had this ambition so long ago when running wasn’t even really a part of my every day life. Sure, I ran fairly regularly to stay in shape but I didn’t enjoy it. And running any distance longer than 2 miles seemed absolutely miserable. But over the years, running became so much more than a way to stay in shape. As crazy as it might sound, I think it’s become a big part of who I am. I’ve always been a chronic over thinker, over analyzer and, well, all around spazz. But running somehow balances me in a way I can’t quite explain. Starting every day quietly with only the sound of my feet on the pavement calms me down and settles my over active mind.  So for the last 3 months I have been working at achieving this particular life long goal. I’ve suffered sore muscles, frigid ice baths and 7am Saturday wakeup calls from Eric, encouraging me to get the long run in before the heat and humidity set in. But overall, I’ve really enjoyed the training process. Getting to increase my mileage each week and walk away with the knowledge that I ran 9, 10, 11 miles all before 9am has been an amazing feeling.  In a few days I will run the Detroit Half Marathon.  I may not run the race quickly or perfectly paced but I’m confidant that I will cross that finish line with a flurry of endorphins and sore muscles. So what, you may ask, does this have to do with muffins? Well, one of the things I’ve learned from half marathon training is the importance of proper fueling. I never like to eat before I run, but I started realizing running anything over 6 miles on an empty stomach didn’t leave me feeling too hot. Enter these muffins. They are slightly sweet and chock full of wholesome ingredients. And at only 90 calories a pop, they aren’t so filling that you feel like you’re running with a brick in your stomach. Key for a good run. I started making a batch of these per week, and they are so delicious I may continue baking them even after my half marathon training is done. So whip up a batch of these babies on Sunday, and send me good vibes so I can cross the finish line in one piece!

Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from from Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans

  • 1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup nonfat milk
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon, divided
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a small bowl, soak the oats in the milk and let sit for at least one hour
  2. Combine the oat mixture with the applesauce and egg whites until just combined
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together (whole wheat flour through salt)
  4. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon into dry ingredients, set remaining 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon aside
  5. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients until just combined
  6. Scoop muffin batter into a muffin pan lined with muffin liners
  7. In a small bowl, combine sugar and remaining cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over muffin batter
  8. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes

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Pumpkin Muffins

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I’ve come to realize that my love of baking is very reflective of my personality. The process of baking is steady, quiet and requires quite a bit of patience. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that the addition of flour and baking soda will make bread rise, and the right amount of sugar will make it sweet. I think it is that steady dependability that has always made me consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Because much like the process of baking, I too am about as careful and calculated as one can get.  Cooking, on the other hand, is much more spontaneous, loud and full of adventure. When cooking, you can throw a bunch of ingredients together on a whim and it often results in a perfectly harmonious dish. Yet with baking, the measuring of ingredients is key, and one must be precise and careful.  And though I love the spontaneity of cooking, time spent baking is when I feel most at home in the kitchen. So when the weather starts to cool down, I jump at any chance to turn on the oven and spend the night whipping up some magic in the kitchen. And while many people my age spend every Friday nights out at the bars, I’m perfectly happy spending Friday evening in front of the oven. And that is just what I did last weekend. And starting off the weekend with a delicious batch of pumpkin muffins is about as good as it gets. I found this recipe over on SkinnyTaste.com and love how decadent these muffins taste despite its healthy ingredient list. They make for a perfect snack any time of day.
Ingredients: Makes 12 muffins, Adapted slightly from SkinnyTaste
  • 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  •  1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour though salt)
  2. In a large bowl, place pumpkin, vegetable oil, egg whites and vanilla; Beat with and electric mixer until just combined
  3. Slowly add dry ingredients into wet ingredients, beating until just combined
  4. Scoop batter into a muffin pan, lined with muffin liners
  5. Bat at 350 for 25-30 minutes

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Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies

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Recently my dad has had to make some changes to his diet. His doctor let him know that steak dinners should be a rare occurrence and those high cholesterol snack cakes he loves may have to fall by the wayside. So far he has been a very good sport with his sudden diet overhaul. He didn’t cringe when I threw away his potato chips and he hasn’t complained about swapping red meat for fish. But one of the items I’m sure he’s been missing is his beloved Bumpy Cake. There was a time in his life that he would polish off an entire bumpy cake each week. By the way, he somehow managed to never put on a single pound during “The Bumpy Cake Diet” which my mom and I found extremely annoying. But nowadays, despite his speedy metabolism, the bumpy cakes are no longer a diet staple. But, since I hate to see the man go without dessert completely, I went searching for a sweet substitute. Initially I bought him a box of whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, but they turned out to be pretty dry and tasteless. So to the blogospehere I went. And I stumbled upon this recipe for Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies that is devoid of flour, butter, sugar and oil. The result was an incredibly soft cookie that tastes deceivingly decadent.  Chocolate cravings= satisfied. Now to somehow get him to eat kale….this might be a tough one.

Ingredients: Makes 18 cookies, from Ambitious Kitchen

  • 1 cup all natural creamy almond butter (or natural peanut butter, if desired)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3.5 oz dark chocolate bar coarsely chopped
  • sea salt, for sprinkling

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, place almond butter, honey and egg and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy
  2. Add vanilla, baking soda and sea salt and beat until well incorporated
  3. Chop up dark chocolate into coarse pieces and stir into batter
  4. Drop batter by the tablespoon onto a greased cookies sheet
  5. Sprinkle each unbaked cookie with a touch of sea salt
  6. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes

Almond Bread

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Before I started my massive cookbook collection and before food blogs stormed the internet, my main source of recipes was Cooking Light Magazine. I used to carefully scour page after page of this monthly magazine and rip out recipes even when I was in grade school. I remember making their marshmallow peanut butter brownies for my 4th grade birthday treat (with a little help from my mom, of course). And here we are,15 years later and I am still a huge fan of Cooking Light. From easy dinner recipes to decadent (but healthy!) desserts, I am pretty much a lifelong fan. And this recipe for Almond Quick Bread is yet another Cooking Light Recipe. The bread tastes rich and decadent and is full of almond flavor, yet it is low in sugar, fat and calories. That’s a win-win in my book. I recently made this bread for “my big girlfriend” Alexandra, because she just had her adorable new baby, Alex…who by the way, is pretty much the cutest baby in the world. This recipe is great to give as a gift and a perfect feature at a Sunday Brunch. So next time, skip the decadent bakery bread and try out this recipe- you definitely will not regret it. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 1 loaf, Recipe from Cooking Light

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 7oz package of almond paste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preparation:

  1. In a medium bowl, combine first 3 ingredients (flour through salt) and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, place cream sugar, butter and canola oil together until just combined
  3. Add almond paste to sugar mixture and beat until well combined (about 3 minutes)
  4. Beat in egg, one at a time
  5. Beat in vanilla extract
  6. Alternate adding flour mixture and milk into sugar mixture, beating well after each addition
  7. Pour batter into a greased loaf pan and sprinkle with slivered almonds
  8. Bake at 350 for 50 minutes

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Chocolate Chip Macaroons

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There are billions of food blogs on the internet and hundreds of cookbooks on the shelves of the bookstore, but sometimes I’ll find a favorite recipe in the simplest of places. Like the newspaper. And I don’t mean the online version of the local paper. I mean the good old fashion black and white paper that is delivered to your doorstep a few times a week. When I was little I went straight for the comics. (Did you really expect a 10 year old to go for the finance section?) Later on I starting skimming through the Life & Home section to read the restaurant reviews and recipes. I still love relaxing on Sunday mornings and leisurely going through all the different sections of the paper. There is something wholesome and comforting about reading the actual newspaper rather than scanning the headlines online. It makes me sad to think the newspaper may soon disappear completely. But while the paper is still being delivered to my doorstep, I plan on taking advantage of the delicious recipes you can often find in it. Like these Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroon Cookies. My mom saw these in the paper and we immediately decided to whip them up. And with only 6 ingredients and 15 minutes of baking time, they came together in a flash. The cookies are very sweet and chewy with a delicate crunch. And if you are a fan of the chocolate + coconut combination you will love these cookies. Enjoy!

Ingredients: Makes 2 dozen, from Detroit Free Press

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded coconut
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt

Preparation:

  1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, egg whites,chocolate chips, vanill and salt
  2. Dampen hands with cold water
  3. Roll the batter into 1 inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper
  4. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown

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Sweet Potato Cupcakes

One more day until the most food filled holiday of the year! I hope you are all busy in your kitchens baking and cooking your way to a Thanksgiving feast. I’ll be whipping up a classic sweet potato casserole later tonight, but I thought I would actually share another recipe that centers around this quintessential autumn ingredient. On Tuesday we had a Thanksgiving potluck at work and I decided to bring along a batch of these Sweet Potato Cupcakes.  I found this recipe over at TheBakingPan and decided to top them with a classic cream cheese frosting.  And I’m happy to report that this recipe was quite a hit. My coworkers were big fans of these cupcakes, which is great, because I’m a big fan of all of them. Finding a job that I love is another thing I’m very thankful for this year. My first year out of college was a bit of a bumpy road and for a while I started to think I would never find a good fit. But somehow, I stumbled upon a job that I actually love going to every day. It’s challenging and interesting and fun every single day. Not everyone can say that about the place the spend 40+ hours every week, so I am incredibly thankful that I found such a great place to work. And they let me bring cupcakes in whenever I want. Major plus. Happy Thanksgiving!

Ingredients: Makes 12 cupcakes

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup mashed sweet potatoes (about one large sweet potato, cooked, peeled and mashed

Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 4 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preparation:

  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg)
  2. In a large bowl, place butter and sugars and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time
  4. Stir in vanilla
  5. Alternate adding dry ingredients and mashed sweet potatoes into butter mixture until well incorporated
  6. Scoop batter into 12 cupcake liners and bake at 350 for 20 minutes
  7. For the frosting, beat cream cheese & butter together until well combined
  8. Slowly beat powdered sugar into cream cheese mixture until just combined
  9. Stir in vanilla and pipe onto cooled cupcakes