Loaded Festive Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are obviously a holiday classic. But this version, loaded festive chocolate chip walnut cookies, are overloaded with festive and colorful chocolate chips. If we’ve got to eat cookies, they might as well be pretty!

Loaded Festive Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

The holiday season means chocolate chip cookies are absolutely imperative. I know Christmas is really overloaded with cookies everywhere. But chocolate chip cookies are the most classic, the most desired, the first to disappear from every plate. You can’t go a holiday season without whipping some up. It’s just fact.

But even the most traditional of cookies and treats can use just a little tweaking now and again. For years, we used the recipe straight from the package of Nestle Tollhouse. It never failed, was always good and was easy enough to accomplish. But lately, we’ve been playing around with some cookie recipes in our house. A well-intentioned science fair project spurned this quest to find the ultimate in chocolate chip cookie ingredients. Batches were tested with cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and any mixture of the three. It was a hard experiment but someone had to do it.

Loaded Festive Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

 What we’ve found is one leavener alone doesn’t do the trick. The baking soda yielded some crispy cookies, perfect for those who love the crunch. But it didn’t stand the test of time. The cookies were hard two days later. Cornstarch alone left our cookies fluffy but a bit dry. Baking powder worked out better than the rest, giving us cookies that were soft and long-lasting. But once we started playing around with the cornstarch/baking powder combo, we were wowed. These cookies were our favorites, by far. Soft and fluffy, a little chewy, perfectly tasty three days later. This is the recipe we’re using now and it doesn’t fail.

Of course, it’s Christmas so we had to go a little nuts with these. We tossed in some chopped walnuts for a great textural difference. And instead of standard chocolate chips, we used festively colored ones in red, green and swirls. But that’s not where the craziness ends. We made sure these cookies were packed to the absolute brim with chocolate chips. It is not the season for moderation, after all. And so we went with two cups of chocolate chips, plus additional swirled chips to stud the tops. Every cookie is filled with a ton of chips, allowing for maximum chocolate. What more could you really ask for at Christmas (well, except a Matthew Mcconaughey Dazed and Confused t-shirt)?

Recipe Adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction 

5.0 from 2 reviews

Loaded Festive Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies
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Serves: 2 dozen
 

Ingredients
  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1½ tsp. cornstarch
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, combine butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar. Mix until fluffy.
  3. Add in egg and mix to combine. Add in egg yolk and vanilla and mix until combined.
  4. Add in the flour, baking soda, cornstarch and salt and mix slowly until just combined.
  5. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips.
  6. Set the mixture in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes.
  7. Using a cookie scoop, scoop out the dough and place it on the parchment paper, 1 inch apart. Place additional chocolate chips on top of the dough, pressing down lightly.
  8. Bake 12 minutes until lightly golden. Cool completely.

 

Pomegranate Cupcakes

Pomegranate Cupcakes

I’m not a big fruit person. As much of a sweet eater as I can be, I’d typically choose vegetables over fruit in a heart beat. So much of it has to do with texture. I hate the texture of most fruits. Melons are always grainy. Grapes can be sometimes mushy. An apple has to have just the right amount of crunch and sour flavor for me to be on board. And yet even though I don’t love most fruits, I’m always a fan of pomegranates.

My mom used to buy them when we were kids and I have loved them ever since. I don’t think I ever realized what a pain they were to peel and seed. But once you crack that baby open, those little ruby red jewels are worth it. They’re a bit tangy, a bit sassy and definitely delicious. I wanted to make a dessert with them but was stuck on what. So I just went the easy way and made cupcakes.

I used a classic vanilla cupcake recipe that I keep on hand and filled it with some of the little jewels. Just a third cup so they don’t overwhelm your dessert. A healthy dollop of cream cheese frosting and a pretty sprinkling of pom seeds on top and you are good to go. These cupcakes are as stunning as they are tasty!Pomegranate Cupcakes

5.0 from 2 reviews

Pomegranate Cupcakes
Recipe type: dessert, fruit, cupcakes
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Serves: 10
 

These simple vanilla cupcakes are studded with ruby red pomegranates and taste as good as they look.
Ingredients
  • For cupcakes:
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅔ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1½ cups flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
  • red food dye (optional)
  • For icing:
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • additional seeds for garnish

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
  2. In the bowl of a mixer, cream together butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. Add in eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  3. In a bowl, combine flour and baking powder. Add in flour mixture and milk, alternately, beginning and ending with flour, until well mixed. Add in red food coloring if you choose. Fold in pomegranate seeds.
  4. Divide batter into muffin tins, ¾ to the top of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes until cooked through.
  5. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  6. To prepare frosting, cream butter and cream cheese until completely combined.
  7. Add in powdered sugar and mix until completely combined.
  8. Once cupcakes are cool, transfer frosting to a piping bag fitted with a circle tip.
  9. Starting on the outside of the cakes, frosting circles going up as you pipe. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

 

Pomegranate Cupcakes

Vegetarian Chili

Vegetarian Chili

I never want to be that cliched food writer. You know the one, always sharing what’s super trendy or posting 2 million cookie recipes around Christmas or having million recipe collections of pumpkin recipes. But sometimes, you really just need to share something at just the right time. It makes sense and your readers will thank you for it. Hence this chili.

If you’re in my part of the country – or many other parts as well – then you know this week brought an extreme chill not felt for years. I was lucky enough to be inside for most of the time but there are others who aren’t as lucky. Kids walking to school, the guy I saw on the highway changing his tire, the dog who needs to take a good five minutes to find a potty spot. No matter how you’ve spent the last week, you still need something to warm up your bones. Chili is a great, hearty option.

I went for vegetarian chili mainly due to lack of thawed meat. But really, I didn’t miss it at all. Two different kinds of beans – both red kidney and black – make this soup incredibly hearty meaty without actually adding any meat. A great kick of spice lends tons of flavor and the quinoa? Well that might just be my favorite part. It adds a great heft, a nice filling quality, without making this chili heavy.

Top if all off with a helping of jalapeno cornbread and you are set. The cornbread is essential here. You could skip it but why?

Vegetarian Chili
Recipe type: vegetarian, dinner
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Serves: 10
 

Vegetarian chili will warm you to the bone, even on the coldest of days.
Ingredients
  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1½ cups frozen corn
  • juice of one lime
  • optional: shredded cheese, sour cream, diced red onion for topping
  • For cornbread:
  • 1 cup white cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced

Instructions
  1. In a large sauce pan, heat vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds.
  2. Add onions and toss to coat. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, sugar, cayenne, water and quinoa and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes.
  5. Add in beans, corn and lime juice and simmer an additional five minutes.
  6. Portion into bowls and top with shredded cheese, sour cream or diced red onions. Serve with jalapeno cornbread.
  7. To make cornbread, Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 9X11 baking dish with non-stick spray.
  8. In a bowl, combine cornmeal, flour and baking powder. In another bowl, whisk together oil, milk and egg.
  9. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.
  10. Fold in jalapenos. Pour into baking dish and bake 20 minutes until golden.
  11. Remove and allow to cool. Slice into squares.

 

Pizza Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Pizza Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

Here’s the thing about spaghetti squash. You can’t go into it expecting it to taste anything like spaghetti. So get that thought out of your head now. In fact, stop calling it spaghetti squash. Just call it stringy squash because that is essentially what it is. Once you roast and cut open a spaghetti squash, you are left with stringy, somewhat crisp flesh that is delicious and totally adaptable to basically anything your heart desires. But it does not taste like spaghetti.

I think because it is called spaghetti squash, it is most often treated as such and served with meatballs and sauce. That is fine and dandy, since it is definitely tasty that way. I took mine, however, and turned it into a crustless pizza. I scooped all of the tender yellow flesh out and tossed it in a bowl with copious amounts of mozzarella and pizza sauce as well as a little basil and just a touch of red pepper flakes for heat.

And the result was excellent. I love the texture of spaghetti squash. It’s crisp and fresh. If you’re in that post-Christmas detox mode, this will fit the bill. It’s healthy while filling and incredibly flavorful. Give it a whirl if you’re still craving pizza without the added guilt!

Pizza Stuffed Spaghetti Squash
Recipe type: dinner, vegetarian
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Serves: 2
 

Pizza stuffed spaghetti squash is a great, low-carb vegetarian alternative to classic pizza. All the flavor, no guilt!
Ingredients
  • 1 medium-sized spaghetti squash
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
  • ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Carefully slice the squash in half lengthwise. Place it in a baking dish, cut-side down, and fill the dish with about ¼ to ½ inch water.
  2. Bake for 60 minutes until the squash is tender. Allow it to cool until it can be handled.
  3. Once the squash is cool, use a fork and run the tines along the squash. The tender flesh will begin to pull away from the skin in ribbons, almost like spaghetti.
  4. Continue to score the flesh until it is all pulled from the skin. Take the flesh and place it in a bowl, reserving the skin for later.
  5. Add the pizza sauce, mozzarella, basil and red pepper flakes to the squash flesh and mix well to completely combine.
  6. Take the two squash skins and divide the flesh mixture between them. Top with an additional sprinkling of mozzarella cheese.
  7. Place the squash halves on a baking sheet and place in the oven for an additional 5 to 7 minutes until the cheese has fully melted.

 

Root Beer BBQ and Caramelized Onion Crostini

Root Beer BBQ and Caramelized Onion Crostini

The Christmas season is definitely a time for appetizers. Flitting back and forth between parties leaves little time for full meals and lots of time for small bites. I’m perfectly content with that, since appetizers are my favorite. I like their ease, their versatility, their small size.

I made these apps a while back and I’m not sure I waited so long to share them. Remember the time I made that root beer BBQ sauce? I loved it and knew I wanted to use it in multiple dishes. I slathered it on pork, put a little on a grilled cheese. Then I thought, why not pair it with caramelized onions? Caramelized onions are one of my favorite foods but I was unsure how they’d work with the root beer. Well, the result was great! The root beer BBQ is a little sweet and the onions are a little salty. It’s that perfect sweet salty balance.

This recipe calls for root beer BBQ sauce, so I’ve linked back to that recipe here to make life a little easier for you. Consider serving these at one of your upcoming holiday bashes. They’re pretty quick to make and are a great one-handed appetizer!

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Serves: 6 to 8
 

Ingredients
  • 3 onions, sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cups beef stock
  • 1 loaf french bread, sliced into ½ inch thick slices
  • root beer barbecue sauce

Instructions
  1. Set the oven to broil. Place the bread on a baking sheet and broil 1 to 2 minutes until crisp. Set aside.
  2. Place the butter and olive oil in a sauce pan over medium high heat. Once the butter melts, add the onions to the pan. Cook for about 5 minutes until they soften.
  3. Add in 1 cup of beef stock, then cover. After five to ten minutes, check on the onions. Give them a stir then add another cup of stock.
  4. Cover again and let sit for five to ten minutes until the stock has absorbed. Add in the final cup of stock and cover.
  5. In ten minutes, check the onions. If the sauce has been absorbed, the onions will be finished. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Put a generous swipe of barbecue sauce onto each crostini. Top with a heaping spoonful of caramelized onions.