Leslie’s Favorite Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal and Cranberry Cookies

And now a guest recipe from my friend Leslie. I made these cookies for snack day at preschool today and couldn’t resist snitching one before packing them up. These cookies have a very respectable amount of whole grain goodness and just the right sweetness – but most importantly, they’re just plain delicious. Thanks Leslie!

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I love cooking for boys!  They like to eat and devour good hearty food and then love you for it.  Our family motto is balance and that means as the Kale, Broccoli and Brown Rice go down so does dessert.  Who can resist?!   If there is one cookie I bake that will literally pull my boys off the Wii without a request or warning it is this recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.  I use dark chocolate as my boys love it most likely because I started them in utero.  I have never been a fan of raisins interfering with an oatmeal cookie however, I have tried dried cranberries and they pair quite nicely with the chocolate.  As always I use organic ingredients.  I now double this recipe especially if friends are on the way over!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

  • ½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Take out of the fridge and let warm up to room temp)
  • 2/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar (I love the dark brown sugar from the brand Wholesome Sweeteners)
  • 1  Egg
  • 1 Teaspoon High Quality Vanilla
  • 1 cup Whole Wheat White Flour (you can find this from the King Arthur brand) — or substitute ½  Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour  and ½ Cup Whole-Wheat Flour
  • ½ Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • ¼ Teaspoon Salt
  • ¼ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 Cup Thick Rolled Oats
  • Chocolate Chips, Bits (My latest favorite has been Scharffen Berger Chocolate Bits)
  • Dried Cranberries (optional)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Cream butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the Egg, Vanilla and beat well.  Stir together flours, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Fold dry ingredients into butter mixture until dough comes together.  Stir in Oats and Chocolate.

Drop dough in tablespoons or desired size onto prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 8 – 10 minutes.  Let cookies set on baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer with a spatula to a cooling rack. Serve with glass of milk!

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A few cookie notes:

** If you forgot to soften your butter like I did this morning, check out this handy little trick for softening (not melting) butter in a jiffy.

** When I can, I like to chill most unbaked cookies after placing them on the baking sheet. This keeps the butter from melting out too quickly and guards against excessive flattening and drying out. You can chill them an hour or two or up to a couple of days. You can also freeze cookies in a single layer. Once frozen you can move them to a freezer bag, then bake a few cookies right from the freezer when you need a sweet treat. Just a few minutes to the bake time.

You might also like some of our other snack time favorites: Orange Creamsicle Smoothie, Banana-Avocado Bread, Jamie Oliver’s Mini Egg Cupcakes, Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins

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DIY Instant Oatmeal

Both my little guys love oatmeal for breakfast, and for that matter so do their parents. There’s something about eating a warm meal to start your day that just can’t be beat. And it’s nice to know that you’re feeding your children something that will stick with them… at least until snack time. I do love the convenience of those little oatmeal packets — especially on days when I am called upon to make breakfast while still half asleep — but I don’t love all the sugar and what-cha-ma-call-it contained inside. Take a look at the ingredients sometime, you might be pretty surprised.

It turns out that making your own super yummy, customized, much better than the store bought stuff, instant oatmeal at home is a pretty darn easy. I’ll call this one “an hour and you’re done”- type activity which makes it perfect for an afterschool project or a weekend quickie. It would also be a great one to do as a foodie playdate with a few buddies. Even though ziplock bags or old yogurt containers will do just fine for storing your awesome artisan oats, we highly recommend going the extra mile and making your own groovy DIY packets from recycled lunch bags — that is if you don’t find a few zips on a sewing machine off-putting. We loved the oatmeal we made, but in the end I think we loved our handmade packets even more.

Gather your ingredients:

  • Oats — plan on 1 cup of oats per ~8 packets . Quick oats will be most like the instant oatmeal you know and love, but you can use rolled oats too. We found we needed to give rolled oats a little zap in the microwave after adding hot water to really soften them up to our liking.
  • Dry nonfat milk powder
  • Other no-cook or quick cooking whole grains and seeds (optional): puffed rice or wheat, whole wheat couscous, bulgur wheat, amaranth seeds, flax seeds, etc.
  • Dried or dehydrated fruit, chopped nuts, shredded coconut, etc. Scissors work great for snipping larger pieces of dried fruit into small slivers.
  • Spices and Sugar (we like a sugar with some flavor like turbinado or vanilla sugar made by storing a vanilla bean in  small jar of sugar)

If you are making your own packets:

Grab some old lunch bags and for each packet, cut a rectangle 10″ x 7″. Fold the rectangle in half so you have a 5″ x 7″ rectangle doubled over. [We used a 4″ x 6″-sized packet which worked for the amount of oatmeal described here, but it was a little tight.]  Sew a straight stitch along 2 of the open sides, leaving one side open so you cal fill your packet (this took me less than a minute per packet). Decorate your packet and then fill it up. To close up your filled packet, push the oatmeal away from the open side and hold it there while you make a quick seam along the open end (sounds harder than it is). You’ll be able to tear into the un-sewn side when it’s oatmeal time.

Mix up the oatmeal base for each packet:

After some tinkering, we decided that we like this base for for our oatmeal packets. This is just the right size for a kid-sized portion:  1 TBL whole oats, 1 TBL oat powder, 1/2 TBL dry milk powder, 1 TBL whole grain of your choice (we used a combination of bulgur wheat and puffed wheat). To make oat powder, just pulverize whole oats in your blender or food processor.  If you like more texture, just increase the ratio of whole oats to oat powder. Definitely mix one up and doing a taste test before assembling the rest of your packets.

To each packet add your favorite extras. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Tropical Fig: slivers of dried fig, toasted coconut, toasted sliced almonds, turbinado sugar, a pinch of ground ginger (pictured below, topped with cara cara oranges and a splash of milk)
  • Apricots, Apricots: tiny slivers and bigg-ish chunks of dried apricot, vanilla sugar
  • Strawberries n’ Cream: dehydrated strawberries, brown sugar, and a little extra dry milk powder
  • I Love Apples: tiny pieces of dried apple, cinnamon, teensy pinch of allspice, brown sugar (mix in apple sauce and a dash of apple cider syrup after adding hot water)
  • “Hi Mom/Hi Luca”: dehydrated strawberries, dehydrated blueberries, vanilla sugar, chopped up dried cherries (and a tiny pinch of coconut thrown in while Luca wasn’t looking)

Hungry for more? You might also like these other breakfast favorites: Granola-yogurt Fruit Towers, Snack Attack (or Anytime) Granola, Orange Vanilla Creamsicle Smoothie, Becky’s Carrot Zucchini Pineapple Muffins

Cozy Up with Apple Cider Syrup

Apple Cider Syrup by A Little Yumminess

Here’s an easy little cooking project to start the new year that will sweeten up your pantry: old-fashioned apple cider syrup. It’ got all the cozy, sweet-tangy flavor of apples wrapped up in a gorgeously glossy, caramel-colored, drizzle-y package.

We love apple cider syrup as an alternative to the usual sweeteners because it satisfies our sugary cravings while packing in a lot of rich flavor. We’ve been loving this as an accompaniment to oatmeal and on our pancakes (mixed with maple syrup or on it’s own). It’s delicious swirled into yogurt or as a sugar substitute in our favorite muffin recipes. We’ve used it to sweeten our granola and have even called it into service in a sweet- sour reduction (alongside dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar) for pork chops. As I write this I’m imagining an apple-cider-salted-caramel dipping sauce for apples or pears, and apple cider syrup dappled on one of Anya’s Farmhouse Cheddar Muffins or brushed over the top of a tarte tatin. This would be a great foil for a sharp, salty cheese on a cheese plate on tucked into a grilled cheese sandwich. I’m officially drooling now!

Apple Cider Syrup

This one is so easy, I don’t think it even qualifies as a recipe. Buy a jug of apple cider. Bring the cider to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer it slowly until you have a thick syrup. It will take anywhere from one to two hours. You don’t have to hover over it, but do give it stir every 20 minutes or so to avoid any scorching on the bottom of the pan.

That’s all there is to it. Starting with 8 cups of cider you will end up with about one to two cups of syrup depending if you want something the consistency of honey, or more like jam. It will keep in your refrigerator in a well sealed container for at least a month.

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