Crispy Coconut Cookies.

Oh, look. A recipe not involving chocolate or peanut butter.

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Coconut is one of those foods most people either love or hate – I’ve never met someone who is on the fence about it. Some of my friends vehemently detest its existence, while others would top any dessert with coconut and be happy.

I’m a fan of the coconut. It’s tropical, unique, and delicious. Coconut oil is incredible, not to mention mind-boggling (solid at room temperature…but it melts so easily? Tastes absolutely dreadful when eaten straight out of the jar, but adds a beautiful sweetness to baked goods? What is this magic?); shredded coconut, straight out of the bag, has become one of my go-to snacks if I just need a little something sweet; toasted coconut is absolutely divine.

Speaking of toasted coconut, toasting is the secret to these wonderful cookies. Simply toast the coconut before you make the cookies. Heat often brings out the best in food (hmm, can we say the same about humans, perhaps? Ok, no more philosophy).

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What is it about coconut, though? It’s so different. Its taste is matchless, so unlike any other flavor. It’s distinct and capable of taking a dish from good to great. Just like people. (Ok, now I’m done with the philosophy.)

My father wanted macaroons, but he got these instead. And, by some weird twist of fate, he hasn’t stopped raving about these since I made them. Then again, neither have I. Coconut is so simple and incredibly complementary to other ingredients brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond (any recipe involving almond extract gets me excited). They’re crispy, they’re sweet, they won’t let you down.

One minor mishap: I had problems with the dough. Like, big, sticky problems. Even after I added extra flour, they wouldn’t roll out, they wouldn’t cut out, they wouldn’t stay together, even after I refrigerated them for quite some time. Being the incredibly impatient human I am, I just went with the tablespoon-drop standby and smashed them flat into thin circles. If you have the patience, go ahead and roll them out or figure out what I did wrong. Mine still turned out delicious.

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Besides, these aren’t just any flawlessly shaped, boring circles. Imperfect cookies have a lot of character. Just like you.

Crispy Coconut Cookies
from Joy the Baker

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the coconut evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, stirring two or three times, until coconut is evenly golden. Make sure to keep an eye on it because coconut will burn easily. Set aside to cool.
  2. Increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and almond extracts; mix well until blended.
  5. Add flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated together. Stir in the toasted coconut.
  6. Divide the dough into two portions. Roll out the portions of dough between two pieces of wax paper. Cut cookies into preferred shapes after removing the top sheet of wax paper.
  7. Transfer the cookies to the baking sheets (if you have trouble with this, you can try putting the dough in the fridge for a few minutes to harden). Bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until edges and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer for a wire rack to cool. Devour.

Double Chocolate Cookies [with Homemade Oreo Creme Filling].

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My dear reader, I pray you have more self-control than I do. And if you don’t, I beg and plead and implore you with all my heart (and – groan – stomach) to keep your fingers out of the damn bowl. Not just for my sake, but for your own. I know how tempting it is to take a spoonful of dough, to scrape a finger down the side under the guise of mixing all the ingredients equally, to lick the spoon after you finish mixing. Oh, believe me, I understand that temptation all too well (maybe Eve was tempted by cookie dough, not an apple).

Now, here I sit, two water bottles and three green-tea-with-lemon tea bags later, nursing a cookie dough hangover. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about, don’t pretend like it’s never happened to you. If only I hadn’t eaten those last two spoonfuls! If only I had been nibbling on fruit while I was mixing everything up! If only I had kept my hands clean! If only I had steel-plated temperance!

What on earth possessed me to do such a ridiculous, unhealthy thing? Well, it was partially stress-eating. It was partially my need for security and comfort. But mostly? I was seduced. Heartlessly, utterly seduced by the irresistible combination of cocoa powder, sugar, butter, and chocolate. And more chocolate. Can you blame me?

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I should have known better. By the age of 19, I should be deaf to the cries of, “Eat me! Eat me! Ruin your dinner, eat me! You won’t get salmonella, eaaaaaat me!” You’d think I’d have built up a cookie-dough-stomachache tolerance. Nope. I was wrong then, yet I’m still tottering on the fence between, “Do I really regret this?” and “I REGRET NOTHING.”

Okay, let’s cut to the chase. These babies are ridiculously good. Gooey, chewy, sweet…and full of chocolate. Chock full of chocolate (oh, I take that phrase back. I detest any usage of “chock full”). You need these in your life to bring you up on sad days and share in all your triumphs and joys. Just one will satisfy the most severe chocolate craving. Two will have you running for a glass of cold milk. Or whatever it is you use to wash down cookies.

If you decide you’d like to send all your loved ones into a sugar coma, you can make some creme filling and make chewy chocolate chip Oreos.

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I leave you with one thing: when you endeavor to make these, guard your heart. Guard your hips and thighs. These things will steal your soul faster than you can say, “Ooh, cookies!”

Double Chocolate Cookies
from Inspired Taste
makes 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 cups chocolate chips (any kind)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Add sugars and butter to a large bowl; mix until creamy. Beat in first egg, then beat in second egg with vanilla extract. Mix until well incorporated.
  3. In a separate smaller bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Slowly add dry incredients to the creamed butter and sugar mixture. Mix until combined. Mix in chocolate chips.
  5. Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto baking sheets. If you want flatter cookies, press them down a little with a knife or fork. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely on a cooling rack. Devour, or fill with creme.

Homemade Oreo Creme
from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Place butter in a mixing bowl. Using a hand mixer on low speed, gradually beat in sugar and vanilla.
  2. With the mixer on high, beat for 2 to 3 minutes, until creme is light and fluffy.
  3. To assemble the cookies: place about a teaspoon of creme on the bottom of one cookie. Place another cookie on top of the creme and lightly press down until creme is evenly distributed between the two cookies. Repeat with the remaining cookies and creme.

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Incredibly Versatile Granola Bars.

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Waiting for a call to schedule a job interview is probably one of the more stressful waiting games I’ve played. Last week, the manager of the bakery (yes, bakery!) I applied to told me he’d call me back yesterday. Yesterday, I missed his call because I was driving and couldn’t call him back until a few hours later. When I finally called him back that evening, he wasn’t there. After waiting all morning and part of the early afternoon to see if he’d return my message, I called him instead, and left another message. Needless to say, I’m a little stressed. Especially because I hate talking on the telephone.

Stressful situations call for stress-baking.

There’s something comforting about nearly upsetting everything in my cupboards as I root around for measuring cups and mixing bowls. The familiar rhythm of pouring and stirring is comparable to giving a fussing child his favorite pacifier. It’s a sort of sedative, which is why I instinctively reach for a cook book in times of anxiety.

Enter the glorious homemade granola bar.

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Quaker Chewy granola bars have never been my favorite. I know, I know, I must have malformed tastebuds or something. Honestly, they’re not as flavorful or satisfying as, say, a Kashi bar. Maybe that’s the health freak in me preferring whole almonds over weird crispy things (what ingredients make up a Chewy bar, anyways?), but I honestly think it’s just the fact I prefer my granola bars to be…well, chewy. For real chewy. With identifiable ingredients.

The great thing about homemade granola bars is that you can add basically anything you want – different types of dried fruit, nuts and seeds (pecans, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds…the list goes on, and on, and on), flavorings and spices, nut butter, honey or maple syrup…it goes on forever. If it’s small enough to mix in, go for it.

The cinnamon comes through perfectly, and for once, I can say that I wouldn’t add any more. Unless you prefer to up the cinnamon. The more, the merrier.

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Perfect for breakfast (I’ve been crumbling mine up like cereal & eating it with milk), snack, post-workout, whatever. The world is your…granola bar.

Homemade Granola Bars
Based off this recipe
Makes 12-16, depending on the size you cut them

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cup dried fruit of your choosing (I used golden raisins and mixed berries)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, optional
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, optional
  • 3/4 cup nuts and seeds (I used pecans and almonds)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8 1/2 x 11 baking dish with parchment paper or grease it. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together until creamy. Add egg and beat well. Stir in flax and honey.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour, cinnamon, and baking soda; stir into creamed mixture until just blended.
  4. Stir in fruit, nuts, and other add-ins.
  5. Press firmly into the baking dish. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until middle is set and edges are lightly browned.
  6. Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into bars. Devour.

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake: A Mother’s Day Treat.

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[Yes, yes, I’m a week late, I know. Job hunting has been excruciating, not to mention the massive amount of house cleaning, preparations for a garage sale, and less-than-stellar internet connection.]

Every mother has a favorite dessert – blueberry pie, lemon cake, walnut brownies, strawberry mousse. My mother’s just happens to be cheesecake.

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Even though she is a self-professed chocoholic, one bite of chocolate cake will cause her to sit back in her chair, smack her lips, and proclaim, “Too rich!” Usually, she can’t make it through a whole brownie because it overwhelms her.

But all that is put aside when she is given cheesecake.

Since my childhood, I’ve witnessed my mom crushing graham cracker crumbs, beating sugar and cream cheese, carefully scraping the batter into a fancy pan, and bake for hours. The waiting was always agony and I was usually sentenced to tip-toeing around the house in case I accidentally managed to upset the baking cheesecake. Oftentimes I wouldn’t even get to try the finished product because she’d take it to a get-together with her friends or some grown-up party.

Then again, she usually didn’t get to try it, either.

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Being away from my mom all year was difficult, so I wanted to make sure I did something extra special for Mother’s Day. What do you get for the mom who already has everything, whose taste in jewelry is far beyond your price range, whose husband groans whenever she receives another sentimental “knick-knack”, and who insists she wants nothing for Mother’s Day except the presence of you and your father?

Cheesecake.

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I’ll spare you from the boring details and enthusiasm received when this was set on the table. All you need to know is that this recipe is delicious. You make the curd, you make the cheesecake, let it cool and refrigerate. It’s important, though, to refrigerate it overnight!

Don’t be intimidated by the curd, either. It’s basically a thick jam. You could even double the curd recipe if you want your cheesecake extra strawberry-y…which is what I’ll do next time. I tweaked the original recipe a little bit, using fewer graham cracker crumbs because the crust ended up being higher than the actual cheesecake and far too crumbly. Fortunately, my family cares more about taste than presentation and the crumbs were generously sprinkled over the slices.

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Best when topped with fresh strawberries.

And love.

Strawberry Swirl Cheesecake
from Chocolate Moosey

Ingredients
For the strawberry curd

  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1-2 tsp sugar (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 tsp corn starch

For the cheesecake

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 8 oz. packages of Neufchatel, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1/2 cup strawberry curd

Directions

  1. To make the strawberry curd: Combine strawberries and sugar into a blender or food processor; puree until smooth.
  2. In a small bowl, whick together lemon juice and corn starch; add to strawberry mixture and puree until as smooth as possible.
  3. Strain the mixture into a small sauce pan; discard the seeds.
  4. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture starts to boil. Cook a few more minutes until the mixture thickens.
  5. Strain again into a heatproof container. Let cool to room temperature.
  6. To make the cheesecake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch springform pan and set aside.
  7. In a small bowl, mix together graham cracker crumbs and melted butter. Press into the bottom and sides of the greased pan; place on a cookie sheet and set aside.
  8. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
  9. Beat in lemon juice and extracts. Make sure there are no lumps left in the batter.
  10. Pour the batter into the pan. Add spoonfuls of the strawberry curd to the top and swirl with a knife. Bake for 60 minutes or until center is mostly set.
  11. Cool for ten minutes on a wire rack; run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen it. Let cool completely on the wire rack, then refrigerate overnight. Devour.

Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins.

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One of the best feelings I’ve experienced in my short life: coming home after a long year at a college six hours away from home. No more shower shoes, no more paying $2 for each mound of laundry, no more small, confined space. Real food, access to a car…and my very own clean, well-stocked, well-equipped kitchen.

It took a lot of self-control not to fall on the floor and kiss it, let me tell you. Home, sweet, sweet home.

I’ve been itching to use the mini-muffin tin my mom bought me for my birthday. Mini-muffins are (pardon the word) super cute and perfectly porportioned. Don’t get me wrong, I adore the enormous, sugar-covered muffins sold at bakeries, but sometimes, they’re a lot to handle. It’s a big commitment.

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Never before in my life have I used “cute” to describe food. In grade school, I was the tomboy who scoffed at the other girls at my lunch table who referred to baby carrots as “adorable” or my small Tupperware containers as “cute”. “How can food or plastic be considered cute? ‘Cute’ is reserved for cats and puppies, not tiny vegetables.”

Obviously, things have changed.

Cuteness factor aside: the actual excellence of these muffins lies in their flavor. It’s reminiscent of unbaked cookie dough. One ingredient I couldn’t resist adding was almond extract. It’s a staple in my house, bought almost as often as vanilla extract; ever since I was a child, it’s been added to recipes from pancakes to cookies to cheesecake. You only need a little bit, but it makes a difference, taking these muffins from good to great.

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Yes, I know they’re oddly shaped. For some reason, my brain calculated 3 dozen to 24. Whoops.

Anyways. Another contributing factor to this greatness? Buttermilk. On principle, I use buttermilk in any recipe calling for milk. It makes the end product more tender and flavorful. It’s also easy to make if you don’t have any buttermilk on hand – simply add replace one tablespoon of one cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or distilled white vinegar, stir, and then let sit 5-10 minutes. Et voila, buttermilk!

The original recipe calls for mini chocolate chips, but I used regular-sized ones and they turned out fine. They’re best when warmed up before serving…or eaten straight from the oven.

You’ll never even know there’s whole wheat flour involved.

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Chocolate Chip Mini Muffins
Adapted from Taste of Home
Makes 36 mini muffins or 12 normal-sized muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour (or 1/2 whole wheat, 1/2 all-purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup chocolate chips, preferably miniature

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease or line a mini muffin pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter until light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in egg, followed by milk and extracts.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  5. Add to butter mixture until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  6. Spoon 1 tablespoon of batter into mini-muffin tin. Bake for 10-13 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Cool in pans for about 5 minutes, then place on wire racks to cool completely. Most delicious when served warm. Devour.

Egg-free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffle Balls.

[FYI: this post has been in my drafts for about a week. It’s taken a while to get ahold of the pictures I took, since I took them on someone else’s camera. They’re kind of shoddy, due to the fact I took the pictures during quiet hours when all the lights were off in the dorm lobby. Anyways, here you go.]

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Happy finals week!

HA. That’s a contradiction if I’ve ever heard one.

Finals, oddly enough, have been known to cause stress. Lots of stress.

And stress can only be remedied by stress-eating.

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Particularly by eating no-risk-of-salmonella cookie dough.

If you’re patient, these become neatly chocolate-coated and refrigerated truffles. If patience is not one of the traits included in your gene pool, you can eat the dough straight out of the bowl. Straight. Out. Of. The. Bowl.

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This recipe is simple to whip up, especially if you’re pressed for time or need want something sweet in a hurry. Sweetened condensed milk takes the place of where the egg would be in a normal chocolate chip cookie recipe, and the salt and baking soda give the balls that special cookie dough flavor.

Deliciousness completely devoid of turning on the oven. Or your mother yelling at you for eating raw dough.

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Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffle Balls
Slightly adapted from this recipe
Makes about 48 (depending on the size you roll the balls)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (preferably miniature; coarsely chopped chocolate works too)
  • additional chocolate for melting & dipping

Directions

  1. Beat butter and brown sugar together in a mixing bowl until smooth.
  2. Beat in vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda. Add flour, alternately with sweetened condensed milk, to the sugar and butter, mixing well after each addition.
  4. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Roll the dough into balls and place onto baking sheets lined with waxed paper. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
  6. Melt chocolate in microwave or saucepan over medium heat. Dip dough balls in chocolate, place back on baking sheets, and refrigerate again until firm, about 15-30 minutes. Store in the refrigerator until all are devoured.