Barb’s Cookies: The Secret-Ingredient Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I almost didn’t want to post this recipe, since it is such a treasured one. Here’s why:

18 years ago, my family moved into a new house. The neighbors across the street, Bob and Barb, brought over housewarming cookies. They were so delicious that we asked for the recipe. We’ve since given a batch of these divine treats to almost every new neighbor, including most recently a young couple up the street.

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Now, what makes these cookies so damn delicious? Coffee.

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And two kinds of coffee!

Instant espresso dissolved in water, as well as ground coffee. Sounds gross, or overwhelming in flavor, but believe me (and the other 8 neighbors) that the minute amount of coffee actually brings out the chocolate flavors.

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Here’s the treasured recipe:

Makes 5 dozen cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp instant coffee, dissolved in a few droplets of water

1 tsp ground coffee

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips [splurge here! I used Ghiradelli]

1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets. 

Cream butter, sugars, egg and vanilla. Beat in flour, salt, powder, soda, and coffees. By hand, mix oatmeal, chocolate and walnuts into the dough. 

Place tablespoon-sized drops of dough on greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to cookie rack.

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Drivin’ the Keys

Please excuse my tardiness in posting. I was driving down the Florida Keys this past week:

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And if you know me well, you know that the first thing I do when traveling is research where to eat.

Cue: Sparky’s Landing, in Key Colony Beach, at US 1 mile marker 53.5.

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The mojitos were fresh, but the conch fritters stole the show:

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Fried shrimp, a fish sandwich, and grilled shrimp salad were also enjoyable, and a fitting welcome to the Florida Keys:

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Of course, before we sat down to eat, we had to make a pitstop at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada at US1 mile marker 77.5. Whether ecologically-sound or not, feeding tarpon and getting attacked by pelicans was the most entertaining $2 of my life:

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After a long morning of eating, and watching tarpon eat, it was time to take a nap at Bahia Honda State Park. Despite being too windy to snorkel, it provided a great spot to rest in the sun:

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We arrived in Key West just in time for the perfect finale to our day:

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Healthier Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

I distinctly remember carving pumpkins as a child: the smell of the wet newspaper protecting the kitchen table, the rawness of your skin after hours digging around the orange goop, the sweet yet mild odor, the anticipation of putting a candle in the finished product, and the saltiness of baked pumpkin seeds.

Pumpkin, like banana and applesauce, is moist and acts as a healthier binding agent in baked goods than butter or oil. These Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies use only a quarter cup of butter mixed with a quarter cup of pumpkin, making this recipe a great way to use up the rest of an opened can of pumpkin. Of course, with the sugar and the chocolate, these are still “treats.” But hey, everything in moderation, right? The oatmeal insures a true cookie dough texture, and the spices help bring out the autumn flavors.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Baking Bites

Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

1/4 cup pumpkin purée

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. In medium bowl, mix flour, powder, soda, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugars until fluffy. Then add in egg, pumpkin, and vanilla. Slowly add in flour mix to wet mix until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop tablespoonfuls of dough onto sheets. Bake for 11-13 minutes until edges turn golden. Allow to cool on sheet and then transfer to wire rack.

Mamma Maria, Boston

For Mother’s Day, I treated my mom to a wine tasting tour of the North End. My whole family ended the tour with a spectacular dinner at Mamma Maria, which is one of my parent’s favorite restaurants. This was my first visit and from the impeccable service, to the fabulous food, I can’t wait to go back. We were seated in a private dining room, since my mom had called earlier that week requesting a table near the window. They ended up seating us in a small room with just a four-person table–an awesome surprise.

The bread was fresh, and the pesto homemade:

We ordered the Antipasto Tower, which was a hefty $56, but oh-so-worth it. I tasted my first oysters ever, which were mind-blowing. The mozzarella is imported from a farm in Italy. The cheese was the creamiest, most delectable piece of mozzarella I’ve ever eaten.

Scallops cooked with blood orange were also a favorite part of the “antipasto tower.” Perfectly cooked, with a little crunch and citrus flavor.

My entrée was wild-mushroom ravioli:

My parents both ordered the Clam and Crab pasta:

The take-away message: wow.

If you are in the North End (and are willing to spend some dough on a meal), eat here. You will not regret it.