Chocolate Chip & Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies


Chocolate chip cookies are delicious but some days you just need a slightly different type of cookie. And there are so many variations to the traditional chocolate chip cookie that are equally as good and worth discovering. I am also a huge fan of buttery shortbread cookies so this recipe Savory Simple immediately struck chord with me.

These cookies combine three of my favorite cookies into a single bite of baked deliciousness. Chocolate chips, buttery shortbread and chewy oatmeal combine for a simply yet tasty treat that is sure to be a hit and disappear in no time. Go ahead and double the recipe so you can be sure to have enough.


1¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon kosher salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed and at room temperature

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Set aside.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes, until light and fluffy.
  • Turn the mixer speed down to low and add the vanilla, followed by the flour mixture and then the oatmeal.
  • Once all of the ingredients are incorporated, tun the mixer to low speed ands slowly add the chocolate chips.
  • Use a wooden spoon to ensure that the chocolate chips are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1-tablespoon cookie scoop, portion out the dough evenly onto the baking sheet. Using the bottom of a glass, slightly flatten the balls into discs.  Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden on top.
  • Allow to cool to room temperature.

Yields 3 dozen cookies

Cashew Kung Po Chicken


It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I love Chinese food and often resort to getting take out in order to fulfill my cravings. But more often than not I am disappointed. The food arrives soggy and lukewarm and lacks the real flavors I’m craving. But the reality is that so many Chinese dishes are incredibly easy and quick to make so there really isn’t any reason not to make them yourself.

Case in point is this kung po chicken dish from Noble Pig. It is fast, delicious and because you are making it yourself you can adjust the spiciness to your liking, which in my case is very hot. The key to ensuring that your dish is fresh and flavorful is to prep all of your ingredients before you begin cooking. Do this and not only will your meal be great but it will be done and on the table in a flash. Enjoy!

1-1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ pieces
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons  rice vinegar
2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons cooking oil
3/4 cup cashews
4 scallions, white bulbs and green tops cut separately into 1/2″ pieces
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, more or less depending upon your preferences

  • In a medium bowl, toss the chicken with 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of the sherry and 1 tablespoon of the cornstarch.
  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar, vinegar, sesame oil, water and the remaining 4 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of sherry and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch.
  • In a large wok, heat  1 tablespoon of the oil over moderately high heat.
  • Add the cashews, stirring until light brown, about 30 seconds.  Remove from the pan.
  •  Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the wok.
  • Add the white part of the scallions and the red-pepper flakes to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds.
  • Add the chicken with its marinade and cook, stirring, until almost done, 1 to 2 minutes.
  •  Add the soy sauce mixture and the scallion tops and simmer until the chicken is just done, about 1 minute longer.
  • Stir in the cashews.
  • Serve over steamed rice.

Serves 4


Chocolate Banana Streusel Muffins


Maybe it is just me but in my kitchen bananas seem to go from inedible green to perfectly golden yellow then to brown in a matter of days. This leads to the never ending kitchen question is what to do with bananas that are beyond their eating prime. So what is a banana loving cook to do? Enter these tasty banana muffins from Food 52.

Now these aren’t your ordinary banana muffins. Using overly ripe bananas ensures that the muffins are sweet and filled with banana flavor. The batter is then spiced with both cinnamon and ginger but the best part of the muffin, in my opinion, is the streusel topping. Not only does it add a delicious crumbling topping to the muffin but it contains chocolate chips which add a sweetness all their own. So yes you can eat chocolate for breakfast. After all it is paired with bananas.

For the muffins:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar


1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 medium bananas)

cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 


For the streusel:
1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips 

  • Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  • Stir in the egg, vanilla, and banana and mix well to combine.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and ginger.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix just until combined.
  • Divide the batter into the prepared muffin tins.
  • In a small bowl, combine all the streusel ingredients except for the chocolate, mixing with a fork or your fingers until combined.
  • Add the chocolate and mix well.
  • Crumble the streusel topping over the muffins.
  • Bake for 18 to 25 minutes. The tops should feel just set and the edges of the muffin should be starting to turn golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan until cool enough to remove.

Yields 9 muffins

Creamy Ravioli w/ Squash, Lemon & Chives



It is Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing you want to do to cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat.  The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes.  Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

I absolutely love this pasta dish from Noble Pig. The ingredients are quite simple–pasta, either fresh or frozen, summer squash and bit of cheese and cream. But when these ingredients are pulled all together the results are truly delicious. The secret is the combination of cream and parmesan cheese combined with bright and tangy lemon zest. It is unexpected yet so welcome. And as an added bonus you truly get a balanced meal in a single dish thanks in part to a generous amount of squash. What a perfect end of the week meal. Enjoy!


16 to 18 ounces cheese ravioli
1 Tablespoon olive
1 shallot, chopped
3 summer squash (zucchini and/or yellow squash; about 1-1/2 pounds), thinly sliced
Kosher salt and black pepper
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

  • Cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water; drain the pasta and return it to the pot.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Add the squash and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper to the skillet.
  • Cook, tossing often, until the vegetables are just beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes.
  • Add the cream and lemon zest and cook until the vegetables are tender and the cream is slightly thickened, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add the squash mixture, grated cheese and 1/4 cup of the reserved cooking water to the cooked ravioli and toss gently to coat. Add additional reserved water if the sauce is too dry.
  •  Serve sprinkled with the chives.

Cambodian Noodle Soup

photo 2-37

With the exception of my travels through the Balkans, I have yet to visit any metropolitan area where I didn’t stumble upon a pho shop.  With their steaming bowls of noodles, broth, and an endless variety of add-ins, these Thai noodle soup shops have a cult like following that make them both universal and hard not to like.  In grad school my favorite lunch was a steaming bowl of pho from the student union.  The options were endless so I could eat there every day without repeating the same bowl of soup twice.

I had never made pho before but decided to give it a try when my craving for the hot broth covered noodles got the best of me.  In browsing through recipe options I came across one in The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, The Splendid Table is my favorite radio program on NPR.  I can even stream their broadcasts online meaning I can get my Lynn Rossetto Kasper fix while living overseas).  I was set to give the pho recipe a try then I turned the page and saw the Cambodian twist on the soup which sounded even more intriguing.  Unable to decide which version to make, I combined the best elements of both recipes to form what I present here.  You can also add or substitute ingredients as your palate or pantry dictates.

The verdict?  This soup is delicious but a lot more work than popping into your local pho shop. But if you don’t have one in close proximity to you, make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.


For the broth:

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 two inch piece fresh ginger, thinly sliced

6 whole cloves

1 star anise

Freshly ground black pepper

7 cups chicken broth

2 tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce

For the soup:

8 ounces linguine-style rice noodles

6 ounces thinly sliced top round steak

1 1/2 cups winter squash, diced

1 cup unsweetened pineapple chunks

1 medium tomato, diced

For the table salad:

10 sprigs fresh cilantro

8 sprigs Thai or other fresh basil

8 mint sprigs

Generous handful bean sprouts

2 Serrano chiles, thinly sliced

1 large lime, cut into wedges

Add-in sauces:

Asian hot sauce

Hoisin sauce

  • Place a rack 4 to 6 inches from the broiler and then pre-heat the oven.
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and evenly distribute the onion, garlic, ginger, cloves, star anise, and five grinds of black pepper over the baking sheet.
  • Broil for 5-6 minutes until the spices are fragrant and the onions begin to brown.  Scrape the mixture into a large soup pot.
  • Add the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and squash to the pot.  Cover the pot tightly and bring the entire mixture to a simmer.  Cook for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender.
  • Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large pan and cover with very hot tap water.  Allow to soak for 20 minutes or until the noodles are tender.  Drain, rinse with cold water, then divide evenly between two large soup bowls.
  • Thinly slice the steak into bite sized pieces.  (Hint:  For easier slicing, place the steak in the freezer before you begin making the soup.  Allow it to sit for 20 minutes then remove it from the freezer and slice).  Evenly divide the meat between the two soup bowls.  The hot broth will cook it to a medium-rare
  • Arrange the table salad ingredients on a medium-sized platter and place on the table.
  • When the squash is tender, add the pineapple and tomatoes to the broth and stir well to combine.  Cook for 1 minute to allow the broth to return to a simmer.
  • Ladle the broth over the noodles and meat and serve immediately topped with the table salad and sauces of your choice.

Serves 2

Brandied Chicken


Here is a fun twist on a classic chicken marsala. To me, with its rich and spicy undertones, brandy is a winter liqueur. So what better way to dress up a chicken breast than bathing it in brandy? Like chicken marsala this dish is fast. The brandy adds a spicy sweetness to the onions and mushrooms making it a meal that the whole family will love.


4 chicken breasts sliced in half or 8 chicken breast filets

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, sliced lengthwise

1 tablespoon sugar

2 cups button mushrooms, sliced

3/4 cup brandy

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet set over medium high heat.
  • Combine the flour, salt and pepper on a shallow plate and dredge the chicken breasts on both sides with the mixture.
  • Working in batches if necessary, add the chicken to the skillet and cook for 4-5 minutes per side. You want the breasts to be browned and mostly cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the skillet along with the sliced onion and the sugar.
  • Saute, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened and have caramelized slightly, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Add the mushrooms to the onions and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Turn the heat to high and deglaze the skillet by adding the brandy to the onions and mushrooms, scraping up any stuck on brown bits.
  • Stir in the chicken broth.
  • Return the chicken to the pan and cook for an additional minute or until the chicken is cooked through.
  • Off the heat, add the butter to the skillet and stir until it has melted.

Serves 4

South African Chocolate Pepper Cookies


Who doesn’t love chocolate? I know I do and since moving to Belgium my love of it has only increased. After all, there are so many delicious quality chocolates to be had. And quality is the key word here. I would rather have a single bite of a great piece of chocolate than unlimited amounts of a mediocre one. And the same rule applies for cooking with chocolate as it does for eating it straight up. If I wouldn’t eat it plain I certainly won’t use it in my cooking.

And as these cookies from Food 52 demonstrate, chocolate can be paired with surprising ingredients to create delicious treats. In this case freshly ground black pepper, yes black pepper, enhances the chocolate providing these cookies with a surprising pop of spice. The cookies are soft, slightly chewy and filled with flavor in every bite. And to increase the flavor quotient in them I use two types of chocolate, a bittersweet and a semi-sweet. These cookies are so good that you might want to make a double recipe.


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped and divided
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped and divided

12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup brown sugar

large eggs

cups all-purpose flour

2/3 teaspoon baking soda

tablespoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Melt 4 ounces of the bittersweet chocolate and 4 ounces of the semi-sweet chocolate and set aside.
  • Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the butter until light and airy.
  • Add the sugar and beat until completely incorporated into butter.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda.
  • With the mixer set on low speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to to butter mixture, beating until just incorporated.
  • Add the melted chocolate into the butter mixture and beat until just incorporated.
  • Stir in the remaining chopped chocolate and the ground pepper.
  • Cover and refrigerate until dough is cool and firm.
  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Drop the batter by the tablespoonful onto the baking sheet, about 1 inch apart on sheet.
  • Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until crisp on outside but still chewy inside.

Yields: 40 cookies

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