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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strawberry-Mint Spritzer

When it comes to alcoholic beverages, I'm a pretty simple person.  Just give me a beer or a vodka tonic with a splash of cranberry, and I'm happy.  No overly-sweet, fruity cocktails for me!

However, a few weeks ago, I was actually craving a fizzy, sweet drink, and I immediately remembered a strawberry-mint cocktail that I ordered from a restaurant a long time ago.  However, I can't remember which restaurant served this drink!  I vaguely remember drinking it, and enjoying it, but the restaurant name is not coming to mind.  Keep in mind, the visit to this restaurant was a LONG time ago.

Luckily, I've recreated the drink and no longer need to remember this un-named restaurant to enjoy it.  It's very simple to make at home and is so refreshing!  This concoction of Prosecco, sake, strawberries, and mint results in an slightly bubbly, refreshing cocktail.  I may not be a huge fan of sweet, fruity drinks, but I could definitely get used to this one!

Strawberry-Mint Spritzer
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Yield:  4 drinks

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Fresh strawberries, greens removed
About 24 mint leaves
2 cups ice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup Prosecco
1 cup sake

Stir sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Increase heat and bring to boil.  Remove from heat and let cool.

Slice strawberries thinly; place 1/2 cup of strawberry slices in the bottom of a glass pitcher.  Using your hands, tear mint leaves into small pieces and add to the pitcher.  Using a large wooden spoon, muddle the strawberries and mint together.  Add ice.

Pour in lemon juice, Prosecco, sake, and additional sliced strawberries.  Stir briefly to combine; add simple syrup to taste.  Divide among 4 glasses and serve immediately.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chicken Caesar Florentine

We are big spinach fans in this house.  We always have fresh baby spinach on hand for adding to dishes or throwing together with other vegetables to make a salad.  Most of the time we keep it pretty healthy, with a few random veggies, such as tomatoes, cucumbers (on my salad only; Tony hates cucumbers), or avocados, topped with a light dressing.  However, every once in a while we'll enjoy a salad that's a little heartier; we'll add chopped chicken, croutons, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, topped with a low-fat Caesar salad dressing.

When I saw this recipe for Chicken Caesar Florentine, I had no doubt in my mind that Tony would enjoy this.  He's a fan of most stuffed chicken recipes, so this version seemed perfect for him.  With so few ingredients and easy preparation, I was able to whip this meal up after getting home from work, and still eat dinner at a reasonable time.

It's a bit of a messy task to stuff and coat this chicken, so just be prepared.  Despite this small issue, it's REALLY easy and so good!  This chicken was incredibly flavorful and the breading was so crispy.  Tony absolutely loved this meal and said he would eat this every night if he could.  I think that comment speaks for itself; I can confidently say that this recipe is a keeper!  Since I took these photos at night, right before we devoured the chicken, they might be a little dark and not the best but this is just too good of a recipe not to post.  Trust me; the flavor of this dish will not disappoint.  If you love Caesar salad, you will love this recipe!

Chicken Caesar Florentine
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Recipe from Taste of Home magazine - Dec 2011/Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  4 servings

2 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 cups Caesar salad croutons, coarsely crushed, divided
1 cup fresh baby spinach
1 cup creamy Caesar salad dressing, divided
4 bone-in chicken breast halves, skin removed (8 oz each)

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup cheese, 1 cup crushed croutons, spinach, and 1/2 cup salad dressing.  Cut a pocket in the thickest part of each chicken breast; fill with cheese mixture.

Place remaining dressing and crushed croutons in separate shallow bowls.  Dip chicken in dressing, then roll in croutons.

Transfer to a greased 13-inch x 9-inch baking dish.  Bake, uncovered, at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese; bake 10-15 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 170 degrees.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chicken with Cranberry-Port Sauce

Who's ready to watch the Oscars tonight?

I am!

Well...sort of.  If we're talking about watching the celebrities walk down the red carpet, seeing the beautiful dresses, and watching Billy Crystal host the show, then I'm ready.

BUT if we're talking about having watched any nominated films and being prepared enough to predict the award winners, then no.  I am definitely not ready.

I haven't had an opportunity to watch very many movies this year.  In fact, I can't remember what the last movie I saw in a theater was.  So unfortunately, other than Bridesmaids, I haven't seen any of this year's Oscar nominees.  There are several that I want to see though--Moneyball, The Artist, The Help, and The Descendants, just to name a few.

Regardless of my lack of movie-watching, I will still be tuning in to watch The Oscars, and excited to see my favorite celebrities walk down the red carpet!

In honor of such a fancy event, it seems appropriate to share a recipe for Chicken with Cranberry-Port Sauce.  This dish is fancy in flavor and presentation, but is incredibly easy to prepare.  Best of all, it all comes together within 30 minutes!

To make this dish, simply coat the chicken breasts with bread crumbs and sear for 2 minutes on each side.  Then add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the chicken is cooked through, remove the chicken, and continue to cook until the mixture thickens to a sauce consistency.  And that's it!

This recipe results in a juicy, flavorful chicken breast with a perfectly sweet cranberry sauce.  It would be a great partner to various sides; I enjoyed mine alongside a serving of brown rice and Trader Joe's "Cauliflower Romanesco Basilic."  With such an easy method, it's hard to resist making it again and again.  I know I will definitely be making this recipe again soon!

Chicken with Cranberry-Port Sauce
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Recipe from Cooking Light magazine - Sept 2003 issue
Yield:  4 servings (4 chicken breasts)

2 tsp olive oil
Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 1/2 Tbsp Italian-seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup tawny port or other sweet red wine
1/4 cup cranberry-chutney
1 tsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 tsp dried rubbed sage

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat.  Dredge the chicken in breadcrumbs.  Add to pan, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until lightly browned.

Combine broth and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk.  Add to pan, reduce heat to medium.  Cover and cook 10 minutes or until chicken is done.

Remove chicken from the pan.  Bring broth mixture to a boil, and cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 1 minute).  Spoon sauce over chicken.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sauteed Chicken with Wild Mushrooms

I'm so glad the weekend is here!  I definitely feel ready for it, after such a long week.  Since school has started again, my weekdays have been pretty full, and on top of that, I've been busy with preparations for applying to nursing programs.  Thankfully, I don't have any major plans this weekend so I'll have plenty of time to RELAX!

Another thing about my weekends that I look forward to is being able to spend time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes.  While I'm a little more cautious about what I eat on the weekdays, on the weekends I tend to gravitate toward recipes that seem comforting, and occasionally, indulgent.

This Sauteed Chicken with Wild Mushrooms recipe is the definition of comfort food.  It's chicken, coated in porcini mushroom powder, cooked with mushrooms, beans, garlic, and rosemary, served with a Marsala-based sauce over a bed of orzo. 

It's delicious.

Oh, and did I mention, it also has truffle butter?  How could it NOT be good?!

I found this recipe in my Bon Appetit magazine (Jan 2012 issue) in a section featuring recipes from other restaurants--this particular recipe coming from Pearl Bar & Dining in Bellevue, WA.  So far, everything I've tried from Bon Appetit magazine has not disappointed me.  I guess it's pretty safe to say that I will definitely be renewing my subscription next year!

Sauteed Chicken with Wild Mushrooms
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Recipe from Bon Appetit Magazine - Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  2 servings

8 oz. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
1 tsp porcini powder
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup assorted sliced mushrooms (such as crimini and oyster)
1/4 cup drained canned white beans
1 garlic clove, minced
Pinch of minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 Tbsp Marsala
2 Tbsp truffle butter
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
Orzo or steamed rice

Season chicken with porcini powder, salt, and pepper.  Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Saute chicken until golden and almost cooked through, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp oil in the same skillet; add mushrooms, beans, garlic, and rosemary and cook, stirring frequently, until mushrooms are golden brown.  Stir in chicken broth, Marsala, and chicken strips; simmer until reduced by half, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in truffle butter and unsalted butter. 

Serve chicken and sauce over orzo or steamed rice.

  • Porcini powder can be found at specialty food stores; if you can't find the powder, you may purchase dried porcini mushrooms and grind into a powder using a spice mill or mortar and pestle. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies

Finally, we've made it to another much needed weekend, and I'm so glad it's here!  This past week has been a long one, with Valentine's Day to begin, followed by my first week back in school.  After sitting through lectures and diving straight into our studies, I'm ready for this time off.  I also have no school on Monday because of the holiday (President's Day) so I'm very happy about that.

Since the last two posts have involved some pretty decadent treats, I figured I'd lighten things up today by sharing a cookie recipe that's actually pretty healthy for you!  These Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies are delicious and nutritious.  I originally found the recipe in my Bon Appetit - Jan 2012 issue.  As soon as I laid eyes on this recipe, I knew I would be making these soon!

The recipe contains a multitude of healthy ingredients, such as whole wheat flour, oats, almonds, cranberries, and quinoa.  Quinoa is the superfood of all grains:  it provides a complete source of protein, is great for cardiovascular health, and boosts antioxidant levels.

Although these cookies are healthy, they also contain honey and brown sugar to lend them their subtle, sweet flavor.  It's just enough to satisfy your sweet cravings without feeling guilty.

The result of this recipe is a light, cakey cookie with just the right amount of sweetness.  The various ingredients add an interesting texture to this cookie, with a nutty crunch provided by the quinoa.  If you're craving something sweet but can't justify indulging in a cupcake, why not make these cookies?  They may be just what you need!

Almond-Cranberry Quinoa Cookies
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Recipe from Bon Appetit magaazine - Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  about 2 dozen cookies

1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup cooked quinoa, cooled
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup slivered unslated almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a medium bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat butter, both sugars, and honey in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add eggs and extracts; beat until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Beat in flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time.  Stir in quinoa, oats, craberries, and almonds.  Spoon dough in 2-tablespoon portions onto prepared sheets, spacing 1-inch apart.

Bake cookies until golden, 12-15 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.


  • Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 1 day, or frozen for up to 1 month

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes

As promised, I'm sharing with you the second cupcake flavor in our recent Valentine's Day bake sale:  Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes!  And let me tell you, the "ultimate" part of the name doesn't lie; these really are some rich chocolate cupcakes!

These cupcakes begin with an rich, moist chocolate cake.  With the inclusion of coffee, bittersweet chocolate, and dark chocolate cocoa powder, the chocolate flavor in this cupcake is INTENSE!  But it doesn't stop there! 

These cupcakes are also filled with a bittersweet chocolate ganache, and then piped with a chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream frosting and topped with a tiny red candy heart (how-to for the candy heart briefly discussed in the previous post). 

If you are a chocolate lover, then you definitely need to try these cupcakes!  The chocolate flavor is deep and rich without being too overly sweet.  That's the main reason why I love Swiss meringue buttercream--it doesn't contain a lot of sugar like traditional buttercream frosting, but has a smooth, silky texture that can take on many different flavors. 

I wish I had a better picture of these Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes to show you the chocolate ganache in the middle, but I finished these in the evening when there was no more daylight left for good pictures.  I ended up taking these pictures then next morning at our bake sale, while they were sitting in our cupcake tower display.

Although this is a perfect treat for Valentine's Day, this would also be suitable for any other occasion.  You could easily replace the candy heart with an alternate decoration, or even top this cupcake with chocolate jimmies (sprinkles).  I think this would be a great dessert to share with a special someone after a date, or to make for a chocolate-lover's birthday. 

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes
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Recipe adapted from Pink-Parsely, original recipe from Cook's Illustrated, May/June 2010
Yield:  about 24 cupcakes (for 12 cupcake recipe:  click here)

Ganache Filling:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp confectioners' sugar

Chocolate Cupcakes:
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2/3 cup Hershey's special dark cocoa powder (or Dutch-processed cocoa if you can find it)
1 1/2 cups hot, strong-brewed coffee
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs
4 tsp white vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract

Chocolate Swiss Meringue Frosting:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into Tablespoon pieces
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled to 85-100 degrees
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the ganache filling:
Place chocolate, cream, and confectioners' sugar in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Cook on high power until mixture is warm to the touch, about 20-30 seconds.  Whisk until smooth, and transfer to the refrigerator.  Let stand just until chilled, no longer than 30 minutes.

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with liners.  Set aside.

Place chocolate and cocoa in a medium bowl, and pour hot coffee over the mixture.  Whisk until smooth, and transfer to the refrigerator to cool completely, about 20-30 minutes.

Whisk flour, sugar, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl; set aside. 

Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and vinegar into the cooled chocolate mixture until smooth.  Add flour mixture and whisk until batter is smooth.

Divide batter evenly among cupcake liners, filling each 3/4 full.  Place one slightly rounded teaspoon of the ganache filling on top of each cupcake.

Bake until cupcakes are set and firm to the touch, 17-19 minutes.  Allow to cool in pans 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
Combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heat-safe bowl.  Set over a small saucepan of simmering water, and whisking constantly, cook until the mixture is slightly thickened, foamy, and registers 160 degrees on an instant read thermometer.

Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer, and with the whisk attachment, beat at medium speed, until mixture is the consistency of shaving cream and cooled, 1-3 minutes.  Add butter 1 piece at a time, until smooth and creamy.  The frosting may look curdled halfway through, but it will smooth out eventually.

Once all the butter has been added, pour in the cooled chocolate and vanilla.  Mix until well combined.  Increase speed to medium-high and until light and fluffy, another 30 seconds to a minute.

Frost cupcakes as desired.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Wow, this week has been BUSY!  I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day.  The last few days for me have been pretty hectic!

I know I posted a red velvet cupcake recipe a few months ago, but since I made them again recently and have MUCH better pictures this time, I figured I'd post it again. Kind of like a do-over.
I recently made these after committing myself to make 100 cupcakes! 50 of these red velvet cupcakes, and 50 of another special flavor, which I'll share with you in the near future.

So, why you ask, did I make 100 cupcakes?

...for a Valentine's Day-themed bake sale!

A friend of my supervisor's is running in an Iron Man marathon soon, to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). We (my supervisor and I) decided to help him raise money for this cause by holding a bake sale, just in time for Valentine's Day. 

We offered the cupcakes in two different ways.  Some were being sold fresh off the cupcake tower, for those who wanted to eat theirs right away.  We also sold some in individual boxes, tied with ribbons, for those who wanted to take theirs to-go or give as a gift.  I think the boxes turned out so cute!  Don't you?

I can honestly say that the red velvet cupcakes were a huge hit.  Everyone loved the moist, flavorful red velvet cake.  The cream cheese frosting tied it all together, making it an irresistible treat.

I used Merckens red candy melts to create the little hearts on top of each cupcake.  I melted the candy melts in a microwave-safe plastic squeeze bottle, and piped out little red hearts onto waxed paper.  Once they were dry, they could easily be peeled off the paper and placed on top of each cupcake.

I think the simplicity of the tiny heart decoration was perfect for our event.  It added a nice touch to the visual appearance without being too distracting.  And best of all, this red velvet cake recipe is amazing!  It results in a super moist cake, with just the right flavor to blend perfectly with the cream cheese frosting.  I highly recommend trying this recipe if you are a red velvet cake lover!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
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Recipe from Annie's Eats
Yield:  about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbsp (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp clear vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Reduce speed to low, then mix in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between prepared liners.  Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until incorporated, then increase speed and beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

  • The boxes seen in the photos were purchased from BRPBoxShop.  Their boxes are good quality, they have the fairest prices...and did I mention, FREE ground shipping?!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spiced Roasted Carrots

Here is another side dish that would be a perfect partner for Friday's pork tenderloin recipe, or anything else you might be serving on your table!  These Spiced Roasted Carrots have a warm, comforting flavor. The addition of onions and walnuts also add a nice textural variance.  You can add raisins to this dish if you like;  I left it out because Tony isn't a fan of raisins, but I think it would be a nice addition.  In fact, I think golden raisins would look beautiful among the bright orange carrots and golden brown walnuts!  I left it in the recipe below as an optional step.  Let me know if you try it with raisins; I'd like to know how it turned out!

Spiced Roasted Carrots
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Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine - Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  4 servings

8 carrots, cut into 1-inch sticks
1 red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp walnut oil
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 lemon
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp dill

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Toss carrots with oil, allspice, and salt.  Pour into a 8" x 8" baking pan; roast for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, soak raisins in 1/4 cup water (if desired).  Add raisins and walnuts to the carrots; stir and continue roasting, 10 more minutes.  Toss with the juice of 1 lemon, chopped cilantro, and dill.  Add salt to taste.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Curried Apricot Couscous

Curried Apricot Couscous is a great dish to serve alongside yesterday's Rosemary-Pork Tenderloin.  The  lightly spiced couscous pairs wonderfully with the sweet apricot glaze of the tenderloin, and brings an incredible warmth to the meal.

I prefer to use whole wheat couscous when making this dish, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand.  This side dish is quick to prepare, so it would be a great last-minute option to accompany many other main courses.

Curried Apricot Couscous
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Recipe from Taste of Home magazine - Dec 2011-Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  5 servings

1/3 cup chopped onion
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 tsp curry powder
1 cup couscous (uncooked)

Saute onion with butter in a small saucepan.  Stir in chicken broth, apricots, and curry powder.  Bring to a boil.  Stir in couscous.  Cover and remove from heat; let stand for 5-10 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with a fork.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rosemary-Apricot Pork Tenderloin

There are two main things that I look for in a weeknight dinner recipe:

1.)  It has to be healthy (and I'm not talking SUPER healthy here, because I don't believe in restricting myself from foods I enjoy...but it should at least be well-balanced and have some nutrition).

2.)  It has to be quick!

This is really important, since Tony and I both work and I go to school some nights, so I don't always have a lot of time for prep work.  I definitely don't want us to be eating dinner too late at night, and want to spend minimal time in the kitchen since I'm usually pretty exhausted.

That's why this Rosemary-Apricot Pork Tenderloin recipe is a perfect dish for weeknights.  It is really quick and easy to prepare, and you can have this ready to eat in under 30 minutes.  I made this last month, after receiving my first month's issue's of food magazines.  This particular recipe came from the Taste of Home Dec-Jan 2012 issue.

I'm a big fan of Taste of Home.  Although it's not as commercial and "high-end" as some other popular food magazines, it's the very first food magazine I ever remember myself reading.  I remember helping my grandma move out of her home quite a few years ago, while I was still in high school.  Throughout the years, it had become difficult for her to live on her own.  It was a long, steady process to help her go through all of her things, deciding what to throw away, what to donate, and what to keep.  During this process, I remember discovering her HUGE collection of Taste of Home magazines.

I had never heard of Taste of Home magazine before (at that point, I was still reading things like Cosmogirl and Teen Magazine) but I was immediately intrigued by all of the recipes.  The recipes in the Taste of Home magazines are mostly submitted by home cooks, so you really get a warm, comforting feel as you read. A lot of the recipes reminded me of the types of foods my mom would cook for us, so I was tempted to try them!

Every day when my mom and sister would go to my grandma's to work on the house, I would come along and sit on my grandma's sofa, reading through all of her old Taste of Home magazines, cutting out the recipes I wanted to keep (with her permission, of course!).  I'd put all of the cut-out recipes into a shoe box, and then throw away the remainder of the issue.  I realize now that I may not have been the most helpful when it came to getting my grandma ready for the move (sorry, Mom), but I am really glad I took the time to save those recipes!  In fact, I STILL have that shoe box of recipes, and a lot of those recipes found so many years ago are still recipes that regularly show up on my dinner table.

This Rosemary-Apricot Pork Tenderloin recipe will join them, and will show up regularly on the table.  It couldn't be any simpler to make.  The apricot glaze gave it just enough flavor, and the recipe results in tender, juicy pork.  It also gets Tony's approval, so it's definitely a keeper!

Check back tomorrow for a few side dish options to go along with this dish!

Rosemary-Apricot Pork Tenderloin
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Recipe from Taste of Home magazine - Dec 2011-Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  8 servings

3 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary, or 1 Tbsp dried rosemary, crushed
3 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 pork tenderloins (1 lb each)

For the glaze:
1 cup apricot preserves
3 Tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced

In a small bowl, combine the rosemary, 1 Tbsp oil, garlic, salt, and pepper; brush over pork.

In a large ovenproof skillet, brown pork in remaining oil on all sides.  Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the glaze ingredients; brush over pork.  Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees, basting occasionally with pan juices.  Let stand for 5 minutes before slicing.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Molasses-Oat Banana Bread

I love banana bread.  It's such a great thing to snack on, and....it's...healthy?


I mean, it has bananas in it.  And bananas are fruit.  And fruit is good for you.  Add oats and whole wheat flour to that equation, and then there's no denying that this bread is healthy.  At least, that's what I've convinced myself.

I really love my Cooking Light magazine that I first mentioned a few posts ago, because it had a big picture of banana bread on the cover.  Inside the issue, there was a feature entirely on banana bread.  And not JUST banana bread, but all different kinds of banana bread!  There was classic banana bread, coconut banana bread, orange banana-nut bread, cardamom banana bread with pistachios, and more.

Last week, I found myself with two overripe bananas, so rather than let them go to waste I decided to try one of the Cooking Light banana bread recipes.  I chose to make the Molasses-Oat Banana Bread, because I happened to have all of the ingredients on hand.

I really enjoyed this variation of banana bread, because the molasses gives it a such a rich, deep flavor, and the addition of oats creates a nice texture.  I also liked the fact that this recipe used whole wheat flour, along with all purpose flour, so it seemed like a healthier choice.  The recipe was very simple to follow, and after baking for one hour, I had a delicious, warm loaf of banana bread.  It's old-fashioned flavor was such a treat, and I will definitely be making this bread again.

Molasses-Oat Banana Bread
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Recipe from Cooking Light magazine - Sept 2003 issue
Yield:  1 loaf (about 14 servings/slices)

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup regular oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife.  Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar, butter, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended, about 1 minute.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended.  Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist.  Spoon batter into an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350° F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan.  Cool completely on wire rack.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Rice Pilaf Amandine

Here you go, as promised, the second part of my retro meal:  Rice Pilaf Amandine.

This rice pilaf was a perfect partner for the chicken kiev.   The sliced almonds and haricots verts took it from a boring rice dish to something I really enjoyed!  The almonds provide a little bit of texture and nutty flavor, while the haricots verts add nutrition and beautiful color to the dish.  The dish is completed with lemon juice and lemon zest, adding just a hint of citrus flavor.

This rice dish was incredibly simple to make.  I slightly adapted the Food Network recipe, using brown rice instead of the parboiled white rice that the original recipe called for.  I rarely use white rice unless absolutely necessary, and in this dish, the brown rice was a fine substitution.

Rice Pilaf Amandine
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Recipe adapted from The Food Network Magazine - Jan/Feb 2012 issue
Yield:  6 servings

1/3 cup sliced almonds
Kosher salt
1/2 pound haricots verts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup uncooked, brown rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 wide strip lemon zest
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake until golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to a small bowl and let cool.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the haricots verts and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain and rinse under cold water.  Wipe out the saucepan.

Melt the butter in the saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, season with salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 4 minutes.  Add the rice and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 1 to 3 minutes.  Add the chicken broth, bay leaf, and lemon zest and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to low; cover and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes.  Remove from the heat; add the haricots verts, cover and let stand 5 minutes.  Uncover and stir in the lemon juice,  half of the almonds, and pepper to taste.  Remove the bay leaf.  Transfer the rice to a serving bowl and top with the remaining almonds.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Chicken Kiev

Today I'm sharing with you a retro dinner, courtesy of The Food Network Magazine!  I found this retro dinner feature in my Jan/Feb 2012 issue.  The dishes I made were Chicken Kiev and Rice Pilaf Amandine.  I'll share the pilaf recipe with you tomorrow.  As for the rest of the retro recipes, there was also Baked Alaska for dessert and a Dirty Martini recipe.  These two things I excluded from my own meal, but I'll provide the links to the Food Network recipes, in case you want to attempt the entire thing!

Chicken Kiev is pretty simple:  it's a rolled up chicken breast, stuffed with butter and various herbs, then coated in a layer of crispy breadcrumbs.  The chicken is fried, but very briefly, then transferred to the oven where it can finish cooking.  It doesn't contain any strange ingredients, so you can feel safe serving this dish to even the pickiest of eaters.

Clockwise from left:  thyme, tarragon, parsley, and chives

I love the fact that this recipe used panko.  Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) is so much crispier than regular breadcrumbs, and work well with this dish.  It creates a beautiful golden-brown coating around the chicken, and looks so perfect on a plate next to rice pilaf.  I think having a retro dinner is a fun way to eat a meal. Sometimes it's nice to have a theme when you're cooking in the kitchen.  The outcome of this meal is nostalgic, but best of all, delicious!

Check back tomorrow for the second part of this meal:  Rice Pilaf Amandine!
Get the Baked Alaska recipe from Food Network
Get the Dirty Martini recipe from Food Network

Chicken Kiev

Recipe from The Food Network Magazine - Jan/Feb 2012 issue
Yield:  6 servings

2 sticks unsalted butter
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
2 tsp finely chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds)
1 cup all purpose flour
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 cups panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
Canola oil, for frying

Mix the butter, tarragon, parsley, chives, thyme, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Scoop the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and roll into a 1-inch thick log.  Wrap and freeze until firm, at least 3 hours and up to 3 days.  

Slice the frozen butter into 6 equal pieces.  Lay a chicken breast between 2 pieces of plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thick with a heavy skillet or mallet.  Transfer to a clean piece of plastic wrap and season with salt and pepper.  Put a piece of herbed butter in the center of the chicken; using the plastic wrap as an aid, tightly roll up the chicken starting at a long side, tucking in the short sides as you go.  Tightly wrap the chicken in plastic wrap.  Repeat with the remaining chicken and butter.  Refrigerate the rolls at least 2 hours or overnight.  

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Set a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet.  Put the flour in a shallow dish.  Whisk the eggs and mustard in another shallow dish.  Put the panko in a third dish.  Unwrap the chicken rolls and generously season with salt and pepper.  One at a time, dredge the chicken rolls in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture and roll in the panko to coat.  

Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Fry the chicken rolls in 2 batches, turning, until golden, 6 to 8 minutes.  Transfer to the prepared rack and bake until cooked through, about 10 minutes, or when a meat thermometer inserted in the chicken reads 160 degrees F.  

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Linguine with Crab, Lemon, Chile, and Mint

I'm a big fan of carbs.  Bread, rice, pasta...you name it.

So when I learned that my non-carb-loving boyfriend, Tony, was coming home from work late one night, I decided it was the perfect time to try a new recipe I had bookmarked in my January 2012 Bon Appetit magazine:  Linguine with Crab, Lemon, Chile, and Mint.

Clockwise from top left:  minced garlic, red jalapenos, lemon zest, mint, butter, lemon juice/lemons

Crab is probably my most favorite food.  Ever.  I remember my sister and I going to dinner with our family for our birthdays every year, and we'd always request the same thing.  Red Lobster.  Just so we can order a big plate of Alaskan king crab legs.

And I know many foodies may scoff at the idea of Red Lobster being a "quality" seafood restaurant...but hey, I'm from Northern California...in the valley!  So we love our Red Lobster; it's pretty much all we've got up there, unless we feel like driving over an hour to get to the bay!

I remember one year when my sister and I went, Red Lobster had a special promotion:  endless bucket of crab.  Let's just say my sister and I definitely had our money's worth.

No wonder why they don't do that special anymore....

This recipe was just what I needed to satisfy my craving of carbs and crab.  It's not often that I spend  dinner without Tony, so I needed to take advantage of the opportunity (of course, don't get me wrong, I loooooove when Tony is home for dinner).  In fact, in a few weeks, the scenario is going to be the other way around.

My school semester will be starting soon, which means after work, instead of coming home and making dinner, I'll be stuck in a classroom til 9PM!  So Tony will have to manage dinner on his own, and I'll be missing spending time in the kitchen.  Hopefully I can still fit in enough time to cook up simple things, and then there's still always the weekend...so don't worry, I'll do my best to keep the blog posts on schedule!

For now, enjoy this recipe from Bon Appetit.  The lemon and mint provide a fresh quality to this dish, and it was just what I needed.  I also took the leftovers to work for lunch, so I can honestly say that this pasta tastes just as great the next day.

Linguine with Crab, Lemon, Chile, and Mint
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Recipe from Bon Appetit magazine - Jan 2012 issue
Yield:  2 servings

8 ounces linguine
Kosher salt
4 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided
2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tsp minced garlic
1-2 red jalapenos, seeded, sliced into thin rounds
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, divided, plus 2 tsp (packed) finely grated lemon zest, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cooked, shelled jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, gently torn, divided

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.  Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbsp butter with 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add shallots and stir until just soft, 3-4 minutes.  Add garlic and one chili, and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice and 3 Tbsp pasta water to shallot mixture; add a pinch of pepper.  Stir until the liquid is almost evaporated, about 1 minute.

Transfer pasta to skillet and add 1/2 cup pasta water, increase heat to medium-high.  Cook, tossing pasta or stirring with tongs, until liquid is almost evaporated and pasta becomes glossy, about 2 minutes.  Add the remaining 3 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp oil, 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, crab, half of mint, and more chile rounds, if desired.

Stir pasta until butter melts and pasta is well coated, adding more pasta water if dry.  Divide between bowls, top with remaining 1 tsp lemon zest and mint.  Sprinkle with more lemon juice, if desired.  Serve with extra lemon wedges on the side.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pork Chops with Apples

Okay, so I know that pork chops and apples is not an entirely new phenomenon.  They go hand in hand, almost like salt and pepper, or peanut butter and jelly.  However, I think every food blog needs to post the basics, along with new, inventive recipes...and so, I present to you, pork chops with apples!

It's not the most creative recipe of all time, but it is definitely a good, classic recipe!  Plus, it came from The Pioneer Woman, so I knew it would be a success.

Have you heard of The Pioneer Woman?  Ree Drummond is the mastermind behind the blog, and now a TV show on The Food Network.  She's also the author of a cookbook, with another one on the way, so don't underestimate anything made by her!

Back to the pork chops...

These pork chops were really easy to whip up after work, and were extremely flavorful.  Ree made hers with Creamy Bacon & Cheese Grits.  I left that part of the recipe out, since I made these as a quick weeknight meal, but I'd recommend including the grits if you have time or plan ahead.  You can click the link below to access Ree's version with the grits included.

Pork Chops with Apples
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Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Yield:  6 pork chops

6 whole boneless pork chops, about 1/2-inch thick
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp butter
2 whole Gala apples, diced
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add olive oil and butter, and heat until butter is melted.

Season both sides of pork chops with salt and pepper.  Add to the skillet and brown on both sides, until nice and golden.  Remove from skillet and put pork chops on a plate and set aside.

Reduce heat to medium.  Add apples, and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Pour in wine and vinegar, then whisk, scraping the bottom of the pan to deglaze it.  Cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Pour in the maple syrup and add a dash of salt and pepper.  Stir, then return pork chops to pan.  Cover the pan and simmer on low for 20 minutes.  Serve pork chops with sides of your choice, and spoon the apples and sauce over the top.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pasta with Turkey Ragu

This Pasta with Turkey Ragu was another recipe from my Food Network magazine.  I chose it because it was in the "Weeknight Cooking" section, which is made up of quick, healthy meals.  This recipe is titled "Penne with Turkey Ragu" in the magazine, but I had no penne pasta in my pantry and was not about to go to the store just for that, so I've decided to simply call it Pasta with Turkey Ragu.

This recipe was a great pick because it allowed me to cook with leeks, a vegetable I've, surprisingly, never worked with before.  It also called for San Marzano tomatoes.  San Marzano tomatoes are, by far, the best tomatoes to use for cooking and sauces.

Although this recipe was very simple, it was full of flavor, and the sauce tasted much better than any store-bought sauce ever could!  The ground turkey gave it enough heartiness without being too filling, and by using whole-wheat spaghetti, I kept the carbs at a fairly low level.

According to the Food Network magazine, one serving of this dish has only 493 calories, so...eat up!

Pasta with Turkey Ragu
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Recipe slightly adapted from The Food Network Magazine - Jan/Feb 2012 issue
Yield:  4 servings

Kosher salt
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks (white and light green parts only), finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 ounces ground turkey
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup basil, chopped, plus more for topping
3 Tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
12 ounces pasta of your choice
2 Tbsp half-and-half

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the leeks, garlic, and turkey and cook, stirring, until the turkey browns slightly, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, 2 cups water, and 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper.  Increase the heat to high, bring the sauce to a boil and cook 5 minutes.  Reduce the heat to medium, add half of the basil and the parmesan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook as the label directs.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Stir the half-and-half, the remaining basil, and 2 Tbsp cheese into the sauce.  Add the pasta and toss to coat, adding some of the reserved pasta water to loosen, if needed.  Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the pasta among bowls.  Sprinkle with the remaining 1 Tbsp of cheese and garnish with more basil.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Vanilla Butter Cookies

Can you believe it's already almost Valentine's Day?  I feel like the first month of the year went by in a blur!  Thankfully, I found time to share a great Valentine's Day idea with you!  Today, I'll be sharing an amazing vanilla butter cookie recipe.  I shaped these cookies into hearts to make them a perfect cookie for Valentine's Day, and for the Dollhouse Bake Shoppe Virtual Valentine's Party!

Lindsay Ann of Dollhouse Bake Shoppe organized this virtual party to collect recipes, crafts, and other Valentine's Day ideas from talented bloggers and share them with others.  I was happy to participate, because not only is it a great way to get involved with the blogging community, but I'm also a big fan of Lindsay Ann's business and blog.  I'm happy to be a part of this virtual party, so thank you, Lindsay Ann!

This cookie recipe was originally shared by Annie, from Annie's Eats, as pretzel cookies.  I first made them over the holidays, and included them in my annual cookie gift boxes.  These cookies got some of the best feedback and were a favorite of many of the recipients.  They have a light, crispy texture unlike any other cookie recipe I've made before, and the rich vanilla-y, buttery flavor is irresistible! I knew I had to find an excuse to make these again!  I decided to modify the shape of the cookies, and make them into hearts instead.  This makes a perfect little treat for Valentine's Day!

The recipe is pretty simple, with the only unusual ingredient being the yolk of a hard-boiled egg.  Once the dough is made, it's a pretty simple process to shape the cookies:

Just take small scoops of dough and roll into a log shape.  Then you can roll up the ends until they're almost about to meet in the center.

Pinch the bottom of the shape like so...

...until you make a point.

Then use a spatula to carefully transfer your hearts to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Brush the cookies with an egg-white wash, sprinkle with sugar, and they're ready to bake!

When they're done baking, they'll be a beautiful golden-brown color with a nice, glossy appearance from the egg-whites.  Don't they look amazing!?

I won't judge you if you eat them all yourself.  I may or may not have done that...

...but, if you have the willpower to resist, then these cookies would make cute little gifts for Valentine's Day!

Toss a few in a treat bag and tie with a pretty red ribbon, and it will be a perfect surprise for that special someone!

Or, pile them on a platter and share them with your co-workers, friends, or whoever else might appreciate these cookies.  Just don't expect them to last for long!

Vanilla Butter Cookies
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Recipe adapted from Annie's Eats
Yield:  about 40 cookies

1 large egg
10 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 large egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tsp water
Turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

Place the egg in a small saucepan and cover with 1-inch of water.  Bring to a boil.  Once boiling, remove from the heat and cover.  Let sit for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, fill a small bowl with ice water.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to the ice water and let stand 5 minutes.  Crack the egg and peel away the shell.  Separate the yolk from the white; discard the white.  Press the yolk through a fine mesh sieve into a small bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, salt and cooked egg yolk.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.  Turn the mixer to low, add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.  Add the flour and mix on low speed just until combined, about 30 seconds.  Use a spatula to press the dough into a cohesive mass.

Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log about 6 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter.  Wrap each log in a piece of parchment or wax paper.  Twist the ends to seal and firmly compact the dough into a tight cylinder.  Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.

To bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a chef's knife, slice the dough into 1/4-inch thick rounds.  Form each round into a ball.  Roll into a long rope with tapered ends.  Carefully roll each end of the rope until almost meeting in the middle.  Pinch the remaining middle section of dough into a point, creating a heart shape.  Using a spatula, transfer each shape to the prepared baking sheets, placing 1-inch apart.  Brush lightly with the egg white mixture and sprinkle evenly with turbinado sugar.

Bake until the centers of the cookies are pale golden and the edges are slightly darker, about 15 minute, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking.  Cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Oatmeal-Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are not your average oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.  They are BETTER!


Because they contain ground flaxseed, so these cookies are actually nutritious!

Flaxseed is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, and has been proven to reduce blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol levels.  It doesn't have a very strong flavor, so you could throw ground flaxseed in practically anything, and never know the difference!

Ground flaxseed can be included in many baked goods, so it's no surprise that they were included in this Oatmeal-Flax Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from my Jan/Feb 2012 issue of The Food Network Magazine.

I was glad to find a cookie recipe that would provide some nutritional benefits while satisfying my sweet tooth!  These cookies have an amazing texture and buttery flavor; just what I like in my chocolate chip cookies.

I took some of these to work (where they were gobbled up in no time), and now I'm wishing I kept them for myself!  I'm craving these again!  I should have stored them in the freezer for whenever I need a quick snack.  I guess I'll just have to make them again.  DARN...   :)

Oatmeal-Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies
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Recipe from The Food Network Magazine - Jan/Feb 2012 issue
Yield:  about 32 cookies

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup flaxseed, finely ground in a spice grinder, or pre-ground flaxseed
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the flour, oats, flaxseed, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a bowl.

Beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the vanilla.  Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the flour mixture and beat until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart.  Bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes.  Let the cookies cool 3 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.