Chocolate Chip or Else!

I am always excited to try a new cookie each month. Especially because for years all I baked were chocolate chip cookies for my husband and son.

Well, with November’s cookie, I got a, “You know, you can never go wrong with chocolate chip cookies,” from my son.

Then I made the December cookie, the Mexican Wedding Cookie, and my son said, “What is this?! I told you, you can never go wrong with chocolate chip!”

Then his father quickly joined the conversation saying, “Yeah, what’s with all the foo-foo girly cookies?!”

Fearing that they were planning to mutiny, I made sure they got some chocolate chip cookies for Christmas.  Today is my husband’s birthday, so with another batch of chocolate chips, I (hopefully) have appeased the men in the household and have kept the peace for at least another month.

These are truly THE family favorite in the Johnson household.  This is the recipe I have used for 20+ years.

I have strong opinions about chocolate chip cookies.  Here are some rules I expect you to follow:

Rule # 1 – use unbleached flour (this is a general cookie rule).

Rule #2 – use ONLY Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips – true chocolate chip cookies call for the contrasting flavor of dark chocolate and sweet cookie.  Regarding this chip, I have done taste tests, and this is the one you want.  It is large, and a bit flat, and creates a wonderful layering of chocolate in your cookie.

Rule #3 – under-bake slightly and let the cookie set on the pan for a minute or two before removing to a cooling rack.

Annita’s Chocolate Chip Cookies      375 degree oven, 8-10 mins

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (if these were for me… and not my boys)
  1. Cream butter and sugar
  2. Add egg and vanilla, mix
  3. Combine flour, salt and baking soda
  4. Mix dry into wet
  5. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts
  6. Bake 8 to 10 minutes
  7. If nuts are omitted, add an additional 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips.

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Mexican Wedding Cookies

Busy, busy, busy!  And a little tired!  I meant to post this recipe earlier.  I meant to bake cookies for the neighbors before now.  I meant to send Christmas cards (ok, since I haven’t actually done that for years, maybe I didn’t really mean that one).  I will keep the blog short today as I need to get baking on this Christmas Eve Eve!

This is my all time favorite Christmas cookie.  Over the years when ever one has crossed my lips, I have thought, “Oh, MAN!  Cookie Heaven!”  I have never made them before, and in looking for recipes, I saw many that were made with shortening or lard.  I don’t always have those ingredients.  I ALWAYS have butter.    And with thoughts of butter we always turn to…. Paula Deen!  Ya just gotta trust a woman who loves butter that much.

Paula made them into crescents, but I think the less we handle the dough, the better, and I am lazy so I rolled them into balls.  But the crescents are cute…

Roll in powdered sugar… I think the word “dredge” fits better.  I like lots of powdered sugar!  Fill a plastic bag, and made sure they are really covered.  The butter soaks through and the sugar becomes like frosting.  A dusting on top once they have set for a while is nice, that way they won’t stick to your fingers.  And a dusting on the bottom of the cookie tin is a good idea, too.

Merry Christmas!!

Mexican Wedding Cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet, or line with parchment (parchment also keeps your pans in better shape).

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low-speed until it is smooth.

Beat in the vanilla.

At low-speed gradually add the flour.

Mix in the pecans with a spatula.

With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent or ball.

Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies.

Place onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 40 minutes.

When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners’ sugar.

Cool on wire racks.

Sugar n’ Spice Coffee Slices

You don’t know how wonderful these smelled coming out of my oven!  With just the aroma of espresso and cinnamon, I knew they were good.  I could still smell them in my sleep last night!  So delicious I could barely stop taste testing (it’s in the job description).  With the first bite, I could have stopped, knowing this is one of the best cookies I have ever had, but I had to have another, and another; each bite a confirmation that this may be my favorite cookie ever.  

Just out of the oven, a bit chewy, the coffee bean warmly wrapped in the center was a nice surprise as its bitterness mixed with the sweet cookie.  Then this morning, I needed to try one cold…ok, two.  Still good.  Now they are crisp and delicious.  The trick will be to stop eating them!

For this cookie we make the dough into logs and chill for a couple of hours.  I love the process of slicing and dipping the tops into the sugar and espresso mixture.  I did not measure my slices, and I definitely cut them too thin.  The crisp cookie is beyond delectable, but my heart still wants a bit of that chewy texture to come through, thicker slices would do it.  Either way, these are not going to last long!  My son also gave his seal of approval this morning – although he prefers the ones without the coffee bean.  (Fine by me!)

In gathering ingredients, look for a finely ground instant espresso to use.  To decorate the cookie, find beautifully oily espresso beans that boast a dark, sweet, caramel flavor. 

I like to do taste tests, so I bought two varieties of instant coffee.  The Starbucks Via and a cheaper variety called Megadaglia D’Oro (found at Winco in the NW).  Both make a great cup of coffee!  Starbucks is more finely ground, so it will work better for the outside of the cookie.  While I shudder at spending almost $1 per cup for the Starbucks Via instant coffee, that $1-ish ($6.50 per 8 pack) is easy to spend on a really great batch of cookies.  On a side note, I am also thinking the Via would be a great stocking stuffer, it is really good coffee… it would be great for camping… or if you need “emergency” coffee to carry in your purse… but that is off the subject.

I will run out of these cookies soon!  I may have to make another batch for Thanksgiving.  After all, pie and coffee are a perfect combination.

Sugar n’ Spice Coffee Slices    375 degree oven, 7-9 mins per batch

  • 2 T. instant espresso coffee powder
  • 1 T. hot water
  • 1/2 C. unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 C. shortening
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar, packed
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1 t. instant espresso
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • coffee beans (optional)
  1. Combine the 2 tablespoons of instant coffee and water, stirring until dissolved.  Set aside.
  2. Combine butter and shortening.  Beat on medium to high for 30 seconds.  Add sugars, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.  Beat until combined.  Beat in egg and coffee mixture.  Add flour.
  3. Divide dough into thirds.  Shape each portion into a  7 inch log.  Wrap with plastic or wax paper.  Chill about 2 hours, or until firm enough to slice.
  4. Preheat oven to 375.  Mix 1/4 c. sugar and 1 t. instant espresso powder, pour onto a plate for dipping the tops of cookies.  Slice dough into 3/8-inch slices.  Dip tops and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, 2 inches apart.  Press coffee bean into center of each slice.
  5. Bake 7-9 minutes.  Let stand for 1 minute on cookie sheet.  Cool on wire rack.

Makes about 48 cookies. 

Per cookie:  102 calories, 4 g total fat/2 g sat fat  (I usually count calories on Monday morning, then give up by about 1 pm)

Squirrel Cookies

I love everything nutty, chocolate and nuts, nuts and berries, nuts and nuts… I even like life to be a bit nutty.  My husband might go as far as to say I am nuts!  I am a kindred spirit with the squirrels in my backyard.

Growing up in Michigan, there were squirrels everywhere.  There were black squirrels, gray squirrels, and red squirrels, and even the occasional gray squirrel with a red tail.  I would watch them from my upstairs bedroom window as they played high in the branches of the towering maples that dwarfed our two-story Victorian home.

After college, I married and moved to Oregon with my sweet husband.  That was 25 years ago!  Where we first lived, I did not have squirrels in my backyard.  I really don’t recall a squirrel at all.  Maybe I was too busy starting my life to notice.  In 2000 we moved to Washington, and I was thrilled to make the acquaintance of three squirrels who had claimed my backyard as their own.  As I watched them play, I felt as if they were saying, “Welcome home.”

Squirrels are a constant blur of activity.  As I see how busy they are, I know I need be busy, too.  Scurry!  Scurry!  I am so happy with a day that is full of accomplishment.  I do often wonder how they find the nuts that they hide everywhere.  Then I laugh at myself.  After 10 years in this house, my treasures are also buried everywhere!

Our dear beagle, Chipper was with us when we first moved here.  We lost him a few years ago.  It gives me a chuckle to remember how the squirrels would play and tease Chipper.  They would get close, allowing him the thrill of the chase. As he bayed at them in the trees, they laughed back, twitching their tails.  I like to tease and play also.  Gently teasing my husband and son brings joy and laughter to our days.

As the squirrels are gathering nuts for the winter, they remind me to be preparing for what life will bring.  I am dependent on the Lord’s provision.  We all face hard things in life.  Whatever the battle is, experience has taught me that the Lord will provide, and the strength I need for those moments is in a constant gathering.  Each morning, I am gathering wisdom for my day and seeking God’s direction for my life.  His provision will be more than enough.

Be busy, be joyful, trust God for his provision, gather his wisdom for your life, and let me know what you think of the cookies!

My cookies, and the little squirrel hubby gave me when we were dating. 

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“Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”  Acts 14:17

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Squirrel Cookies       375 degree oven, 10-12 minutes

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon Mapleine flavoring or 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1  1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut (island squirrels)
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup finely chopped hazelnuts
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (honest, they like these)
  1. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy
  2. Add next eggs and maple flavor, beat until smooth
  3. Combine dry ingredients
  4. Add dry to wet
  5. Stir in coconut, oats, hazelnuts and butterscotch chips.
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet
  7. Bake 10-12 minutes or until brown
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool

Makes 3-4 dozen

Peanut Butter Honey Cookies

Years ago, my friend Sherri sold a bottomless cookie jar at a church auction.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, and so did my husband.  He bought it.  Now, you have to understand, I have always been a baker, and a pretty good one at that.  My husband buying the cookie jar from Sherri seemed kind of silly to me.  There may have even been a flare of jealousy!  Sherri is an amazing cook and baker, and I always love a homemade cookie wherever it may come from.  So it was pretty easy to just look forward to Sherri’s cookies, and put my jealousy behind me.  I know she was excited to share her talents with us, but, alas, my dear husband only wanted chocolate chip cookies, month after month.  If I remember right, she threw in a few others once in a while.  I know we got peanut butter blossoms once for sure, because I loved them!

When the opportunity to donate to the school auction came up a few years ago, I quickly remembered Sherri’s bottomless cookie jar, and put one of my own up for auction.  Elvin, a friend from church spotted it, and every year since then he has watched that item like a hawk, being sure to go home with it.  It is a silent auction item.  Last year, he just put in the maximum bid first thing!  It has been a joy to make cookies for Elvin.  His one request was that I NOT make chocolate chip cookies.  So, I have enjoyed trying new recipes out each month.

Elvin missed the auction this year!  His stiff competition from years past won the bid!  I am now making cookies for Bob and Marvalene, and they will get some of my chocolate chips!

My deliveries start with the school year.  The September cookie is always peanut butter.  Peanut butter cookies  just says back to school to me.

Here is my favorite:

Peanut Butter Honey Cookie            375  degree oven

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • granulated sugar
  1. Beat butters together for 30 seconds
  2. Add sugars, baking soda, baking powder
  3. Beat until combined
  4. Beat in egg and vanilla
  5. Add flour
  6. If necessary, cover and chill until dough is easy to handle
  7. Shape into 1-inch balls, roll in sugar, place on ungreased cookie sheet
  8. Flatten in criss-cross shape with tines of a fork
  9. 375 degrees, 7-9 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned
  10. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, c.1996

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