Basic Granola Cookies

A FEW weeks ago, I was telling a few friends about my dream of running a small bed-and-breakfast, which would cater to artists and other wanderers.  My friends, far from being impressed (we’re at an age where being impressed is for awed preteens and for true acts of redemption), told me I better learn how to make granola.  “You can’t have an artists’ retreat without serving your own blend of granola,” they proclaimed, and proceeded to throw out recipe suggestions.

At the time, I’d never actually tasted granola.  I spent college avoiding the stuff.  People talked about it as a health food, and I was decidedly and very determinedly unhealthy in college (aside from my freshman year moratorium on carbonated beverages).  After graduating, I had no cause to try it out: granola is not exactly a gourmet standard in the Middle East.  And when I returned to the States, well, I wasn’t exactly moved to try it out.

But last week, browsing in the co-op grocery store by work, I decided enough was enough.  I brought home a bag of Bear Naked Granola and, in a fit of despair, decided that the only thing to do was to bake it.

Because, let’s face it, I’m not a huge fan of granola by itself.  Trail mix never captured my attention, just like granola still remains a mystery to me.  If I want to eat something with milk or yogurt, I’ll just pour myself a bowl of cereal.

This cookie recipe is what came out of that frustration.  I wanted to use the extra butterscotch chips I had lying around, and I needed to make good use of that granola.  The thing I appreciate most about these cookies is that they have crunch.  It’s not just the granola, but the cookie itself; it’s a bit firmer, a bit hardier.  You feel like you’re getting fiber, dessert, and some vestige of healthiness all in one great package.  But go ahead and experiment: raisins, chocolate chips, toffee bits, m’n’ms….

Knock yourself out!

Basic Granola Cookies

  • 1 cup all purpose four
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar (+ 1/3 cup granulated sugar, optional)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup granola (chop clusters if large)
  • 3/4 cup butterscotch chips or semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F.

In small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together butter, sugar(s), vanilla until pale and fluffy.  It might be easier to use an electric mixer, but I did it by hand and it turned out fine.  Beat in egg until well combined.  Add flour mixture and mix until just combined.  Stir in granola and butterscotch/chocolate chips.

Drop rounded tablespoons onto an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake until pale golden, about 13 minutes.  Remove, cool, and enjoy!



The Best Damn Chocolate Chip Cookies. Ever.

I KNOW, I know, that’s a huge claim.  But in this case, it might actually be true.  Ask the ladies in the office: they clamored for more.  The recipients of my generosity?  They quickly got back to me with “ooohs” of appreciation.  Need a stocking stuffer, or a convenient care package cookie?  This is the one to go for. Ridiculously easy to make, ridiculously fast to bake, and deliciously moist when done.  Perfect!

Unless you’re one of those people who likes their cookies burnt.  But you, you I do not understand.

Now, I’m not usually a cookie maestro.  The first batch of cookies I ever made was for Mother’s Day, somewhere in the mid 1990s, and they came out of the oven swimming in an inch of butter.  I was horrified, ashamed, and very very repulsed.  I vowed I wouldn’t make cookies ever again.

Thank goodness I’m terrible at keeping promises that involve the word “ever.”

Anyway, this particular cookie recipe was introduced to me about four years ago by my then-boyfriend, who proceeded to take over my best friend’s Chicago kitchen one blustery spring day and bake me 5 dozen soft cookies.  At the time, I did not  appreciate his skill.  In my defense, though, I was trying to win a Scrabble game, and he kept leaving the board to go “take the cookies out of the oven” or “put the cookies in the oven” or “bring me a plate of joy.” Seriously.  He was losing, and the best he could come up with was edible distraction.

He still lost.  But with this recipe, we’re all winners.*

The Best Damn Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2 packages instant vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the flour and baking soda; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, and white sugar.  Beat in instant pudding mix until blended.  Stir in eggs and vanilla extract, then the flour mixture.  Finally, stir in chocolate chips (and the nuts, if you’re using them).

Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 10 – 12 minutes, until edges are golden brown.

Remove, and enjoy!

I know: the sheer amount of flour is daunting.  But this is for a batch of, say, 72 cookies, so feel free to downsize at will.  The key here is the pudding mix: it makes the cookies moist and fluffy, and will make them incredibly gooey (and prone to separating gently) when you remove them from the oven.  To avoid the fatal separation, then, let them cool just a few moment.  But don’t deny yourself for too long; these babies were made to be eaten warm!


*Oh dear God, was that ever cheesy!  Apologies–I only got 4 hours of sleep last night: the Oscars.  I mean, Dustin Lance Black!

Full Complement · Lunch

Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, Philadelphia: “Accept the Inevitable”

THERE’S nothing like a NJ Transit train ride from Newark to get a girl in the mood for a giant, overwhelming, monstrous meal in a low key Brooklyn-style corner Philadelphia delicatessen.

ChallahLucky for me, the day was beautiful and crisp; the kind of day that makes you hunger for robins and home-made movies and open-toed sandals. D was sick and wrapped up in a comforting white scarf, carrying 480% of her daily required intake of Vitamin C in the shape of an enormous thermos of Tropicana. She had broken her fever the night before and had a powerful need for nourishment.

So there we were: two hungry girls at the intersection of 20th at Market, with two different appetites, and with a will to make it to south 4th Street for the famed Challah French Toast.

Today, Philadelphia was a kind lady who knows her own worth. She led us into sunny by-streets and across green-lighted intersections; she pointed out historical buildings, blew confectioned pastry-shop scents at us, and sang glorious birdsong. She took us on a winding path through the throbbing line at Jim’s Steaks, and walked us personally up to the stoop of Famous 4th Street Delicatessen to hold the door open.

We found ourselves in a cozy corner table overlooking the street. From here, we looked out on the passers-by who, wearing boots and coats and pushing perambulators, didn’t know the treat they were missing. Holding our breath in both delight and the horror of indecision, we ordered: the Challah French Toast ($11.00) and the Corned Beef Reuben Sandwich ($12.50). My orange juice came in a clean Nantucket Nectars bottle (did you know the average water temperature in Nantucket in July is 73F?) and was accompanied by a palate-whetting pickled cabbage salad loaded with three giant pickles. Mmmmm.

The Feast

The French Toast was enormous. The Reuben was daunting. The fries were mountainous. And the Onion Mashed Potatoes…ah, love. Add a spattering of ketchup, and you’ve got heaven on the end of a fork.

AngstNew Jersey always gives me an appetite, and Famous 4th (established 1923, so they certainly know their craft) is exactly the place to conquer it. We could only eat half of our meal; the leftovers (2/3 of the french toast, half the reuben, and almost the entirety of the mashed potatoes) were donated to Toby. After heating them in the oven, he licked up every morsel and collapsed in his chair with the New York Times Book Review. “What a fabulous pile of meats,” he murmured when he could catch his breath. “For this, I’ll sprain my jaw any day.” (The reuben does indeed give your mandible an extensive workout if you abstain from using your cutlery.)

To adapt Garret Freymann-Weyr, “A good [meal] is a reflection of some kind of truth.” Indeed, we found a profound epiphany at Famous 4th: when ill, in transit, or otherwise hungered, sometimes your eyes do grow larger than your stomach. But if you surround yourself with laughter, friends, and shared interests, one large meal can extend into two or even three, and can take on an epic life of its own. Much like a childhood memory or a favorite book, spine creased and paper worn by rapt fingers, a satisfied stomach has its own heartbeat.