BLUEBERRY CHOCOLATE CHIP OATMEAL COOKIES

I set out to make Cherry Chocolate Chip cookies but discovered a cache of dried blueberries in my pantry–temptation. Yes, I bypassed the dried cherries, which turned out to be a good move. Another good move was cutting back on the flour so I could toss in a bit of oatmeal (love oatmeal cookies). The result: one of those rare cookies that tastes terrific hot, warm, or cold. To wit, had I not foreseen their popularity and stashed half in the fridge for lunches this week, there might not be any left. Score!

3/4  cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1-1/4 cup granulated white sugar

2 eggs

2 tbsp milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1-1/4 cups old-fashioned oats

2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole dried blueberries

3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees

2) In large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy; on medium-low speed, add eggs, milk, vanilla extract, baking soda, and salt; mix until combined

3) On low speed, add oats; gradually add flour and mix until just combined

4) Stir blueberries and chocolate chips into cookie dough

5) Drop cookie dough by overly generous tablespoonfuls onto non-stick cookie sheet; bake 14-16 minutes until cookies begin to go gold; remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on cookie sheets; transfer to wire racks; enjoy hot, warm, or cold

Makes: 36 palm-sized cookies (that would be my girlie palm, not senior’s)

CHICKEN-BISCUIT BAKE

Wonderful winter fare! The bacon in this dish adds a nice note to the chicken, peas, and carrots, and who can resist biscuits (in this case, the ultra-convenient Pillsbury)? Thumbs up again 🙂

Chicken Bacon Bake

6 slices bacon, chopped

1 large red onion, chopped

1 cup chopped carrots

2 celery stalks, chopped

3 cups chopped deli-roasted chicken

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

6 tbsp butter

6 tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup half-and-half

3 tbsp sherry (yes, I used cooking sherry)

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 can biscuits (I used Pillsbury 8-count Flaky Layers)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees; lightly grease large baking dish

2) In large skillet over medium-high, cook bacon 5-6 minutes until crispy; add onions, carrots, and celery and cook 5 minutes until veggies soften; remove from heat

3) Evenly spread chicken over bottom of baking dish, followed by cooked veggies and peas; set aside

4) In same large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; whisk in flour and cook 1 minute; gradually whisk in chicken broth and cook 4-5 minutes, whisking often, until sauce thickens; whisk in half-and-half and, whisking often, cook 3 minutes; whisk in sherry and nutmeg and remove from heat

5) Pour sauce over chicken-veggie mixture; separate biscuits horizontally into 2 layers and arrange on top of chicken-veggie mixture (I used 5 of the 8 biscuits and also halved them vertically); bake in oven 20 minutes until filling bubbles and biscuits are browned; remove from oven and serve; yum!

Servings: 6

CINNAMON-BROWN SUGAR-CRAISIN PORK CHOPS

Most unusual, but tonight’s dinner was not planned. You see, boneless pork chops were on sale–big time–and so I deviated from my menu and poked around my fridge and pantry for ingredients to transform my chops into something incredibly tasty. Enter butter, cinnamon, brown sugar, and Craisins. Score!

Cinnamon-Brown Sugar-Craisin Pork Chops

4 tbsp butter, divided

4 boneless pork chops (about 1″ thick)

sea salt

ground black pepper

ground cinnamon

1/2 cup Craisins

1/4 cup brown sugar (not packed)

1) To large, nonstick skillet, add 2 tbsp butter (reserving 2 tbsp) and melt over medium-high heat; before butter browns, add pork chops; lightly season with salt, pepper, and cinnamon and cook each side 4-5 minutes until slightly pink in center; push pork chops to sides of pan

2) Reduce heat to medium and add remaining 2 tbsp butter to center of skillet; when butter has melted, scatter Craisins over butter and brown sugar over Craisins; stirring continuously, cook Craisins 3-4 minutes until pork chops are no longer pink in center

3) Place a pork chop in center of each of four plates and spoon Craisins and sauce over pork chops; serve

Servings: 4

PEAR-CRAISIN-PECAN TUNA SALAD

Junior Too was in the mood for tuna salad, so the two of us teamed up in the kitchen and added pear, Craisins, and pecans to cans of Albacore tuna. Since he isn’t keen on Dijon mustard, we left that out of his portion. However, with or without Dijon, the result is a hearty yet refreshing salad–and no leftovers for lunch tomorrow. Sad…

Pear-Craisin-Pecan Tuna Salad

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

2 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 pears, peeled, cored, and diced small

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/4 cup Craisins

1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tbsp chopped parsley

4-7 oz cans Albacore Tuna, drained

4 cups baby spinach

Optional dressing (Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette is a lovely addition)

1) To large bowl, add mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and mix well

2) Stir pear, celery, Craisins, pecans, and parsley into mayonnaise mixture

3) Gently stir tuna into mayonnaise-pear mixture

4) Divide spinach between four plates and top each serving with tuna mixture; serve with or without dressing and enjoy

Servings: 4 hearty dinner-sized portions

FIESTY VEGGIE BURGER CHILI

Why “fiesty”? The red pepper flakes, chili powder, and hot chili beans give this veggie burger chili a nice little kick. As for that chopped veggie burger that replaced the usual ground beef… Not a peep of dissent from my guys who were none the wiser for their meat-less meal 🙂

Fiesty Veggie Burger Chili

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup diced red onion

1 cup chopped carrots

10 oz pkg veggie burgers, chopped (I used Morning Star brand “Grillers Prime”)

1-12 oz bottle beer (I used O’Doul’s non-alcoholic)

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1-15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

1-15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1-15 oz can hot chili beans

Optional toppings: grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and sliced scallions

1) To large soup pot, add olive oil and heat over medium high; add onions and carrots and cook 5 minutes; stir in chopped veggie burger and cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally

2) Stir in beer, soy sauce, chili powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, red pepper flakes, fire-roasted tomatoes, pinto beans, and hot chili beans; reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally; remove from heat and serve with optional toppings if you like; enjoy!

Servings: 4 hearty dinner-sized portions

APPLE-BACON GRILLED CHEESE

I love to fancy up a grilled cheese sandwich, and that I most certainly did by adding thinly sliced Granny Smith apple, turkey bacon, and Dijon mustard to this lunch treat. Wonderfully yum (though, in Junior Too’s case I was asked to “hold the Dijon”).

Apple Bacon Grilled Cheese

4 slices bread (I used our favorite sourdough from Panera Bread’s bakery)

1 tbsp Dijon Mustard

4 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 small Granny Smith apple, sliced thin

6 strips turkey bacon, fried

1 tbsp butter

1) Assemble each of 2 sandwiches as follows: spread mustard on both sides of bread, top bottom slice with one-fourth the cheese, one-half the apple slices, one-half the bacon, one-fourth the cheese, the top slice of bread

2) Melt butter in skillet over medium heat; add sandwich to skillet and cook 4-5 minutes each side until golden brown and lightly crunchy; remove from skillet and serve immediately

Servings: 2

PORK AND CHIPOTLE BEAN NACHOS

It’s been too long since I made this recipe and, let me tell you, it’s been missed. What makes it stand out is the chipotle chiles and the tomato-avocado-lime topping. Super yum!

Pork and Chipotle Bean Nachos

4 slices turkey bacon

1 lb ground pork (or beef or chicken)

1 tsp sea salt, divided

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1-16 oz can fat-free refried beans (great alternative: 1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed)

3 tbsp water

3 tbsp fresh lime juice, divided

2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced

1 tsp chili powder

1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered

1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced

2 green onions, sliced thin

1 tbsp olive oil

5 cups tortilla chips

1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Optional toppings: chopped cilantro, salsa, sour cream

1) Preheat oven to 500 degrees

2) In large skillet over medium-high heat, cook bacon until crisp; remove from heat and chop fine

3) To same skillet over medium-high heat, add pork, 1/2 tsp salt (reserving 1/2 tsp), and pepper; cook 5-6 minutes until just cooked through; remove from heat, drain, and transfer to bowl; set aside

4) To same skillet over medium heat, add refried beans, water, 1 tbsp lime juice (reserving 2 tbsp), chipotle chiles, bacon, 1/2 tsp reserved salt, and chili powder; stirring often, cook 4-5 minutes until warmed through; remove from heat and set aside

5) To medium-sized bowl, add tomatoes, avocado, green onions, 2 tbsp reserved lime juice, and olive oil; gently mix to combine; set aside

6) Spread tortilla chips in large roasting pan and drop refried bean mix evenly over chips (you may need to add a bit more water to beans); scatter pork over beans, followed by cheese; bake in oven 5 minutes until cheese is nicely melted; remove from oven and evenly scatter tomato-avocado mixture over top; if you like, serve with optional toppings

Servings: 6-8 as an appetizer

TUNA STEAKS WITH PEACH SALSA

I was on a roll writing today–1,500 words of The Kindling: Book Four, which is a big deal for un-prolific me–when dinner time rolled around. So I extricated myself from the middle ages and hung up my pen and paper (or something like that) to make dinner for my guys. Though I overcooked the tuna a bit, the peach salsa made up for my wandering mind that couldn’t fully shake free of the sticky situation in which I had placed my poor hero and heroine. But after dinner…

Tuna Steaks with Peach Salsa

1 large peach, pitted and diced

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 tbsp minced jalapeno

1 tbsp minced cilantro

1 tbsp honey

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

4-6 oz tuna steaks (or other fish)

1) 30 minutes prior to preparing fish, combine peach, tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, and honey in a medium-sized bowl and refrigerate

2) To shallow bowl add cornmeal, salt, and pepper; set aside

3) To large skillet, add olive oil and butter and heat over medium-high; dredge tuna steaks in cornmeal mixture and place in skillet; cook 3-4 minutes each side or until fish is just cooked through; remove from heat, top each tuna steak with peach salsa, and serve

Servings: 4

NOVELIST QUICHE

This recipe started off as Ree Drummond’s Cowgirl Quiche, but veered sharply off the page once I started considering the ingredients and my family’s likes and dislikes. So, I suppose I should claim this recipe as my own. It’s delicious and the texture is wonderful. Enjoy!

Novelist QuicheNovelist Quiche 2

1 deep dish ready-made pie shell (I like Marie Callender’s brand)

8 oz white mushrooms, cleaned, sliced thin, and chopped

5 slices turkey bacon chopped

1 tbsp butter

4 slices thin ham, chopped

1/2 bunch scallions (4-5 stalks), sliced thin

5 eggs

1 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees; prick pie shell on bottom and sides and bake pie shell 8-10 minutes

2) Spread mushrooms on baking sheet and bake in oven 10-15 minutes until golden brown; remove from oven and set aside

3) While mushrooms are baking, in large skillet over medium-high heat, fry bacon pieces until just beginning to crisp; reduce heat to medium, add butter and, when melted, toss in ham and scallions; cook 4-5 minutes; remove from heat and set aside

4) Add eggs and half-and-half to a medium bowl and whisk to combine; stir in mushrooms, bacon-ham-scallion mixture, Swiss and Mozzarella cheeses, and salt and pepper

5) Pour egg mixture into prepared pie shell; to prevent quiche from getting too brown, loosely place a sheet of aluminum foil over top (I forgot to do this) and bake at 400 degrees 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean (if you use aluminum foil, remove during last 10 minutes of baking for a lightly browned top)

6) Allow quiche to set 10 minutes before serving (makes it easier to cut)

Servings: 4

NOTE: This is a “repeat” recipe featured on my original “Kitchen Novelist” blog 04/03/12

BERRY-BERRY-MANGO CHICKEN SALAD WITH APRICOT VINAIGRETTE

This salad started out as Mango Chicken Salad, but when I collected the mangoes from the fridge, the fresh strawberries and blueberries on the bottom shelf caught my eye and I envisioned a colorful (and tasty) salad. And that’s exactly what my guys sat down to this evening–and devoured. It was like dessert for dinner.  Junior Too’s Testimonial: “This salad is to me like Chinese Hot and Sour Soup is to bro.” Translation: Big Time Keeper.

Berry-Mango Chicken Salad

4 cups deli-roasted chicken, shredded

2 ripe mangoes, peeled, pitted, and cubed

3/4 cup fresh strawberries, quartered

1/2 cup fresh blueberries

1/2 red onion, quartered and sliced thin

2 stalks celery, sliced thin

4 cups chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup apricot preserves

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 cup champagne vinegar

1 tbsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Thai Style Chili Sauce (optional, but gives a nice nip)

1/4 cup cashew halves

1) To large bowl add chicken, mango, strawberries, blueberries, red onion, celery, and romaine lettuce; toss well to combine and set aside

2) To small bowl add apricot preserves, olive oil, champagne vinegar, Dijon mustard, and chili sauce; stir well and pour over salad; toss to combine

3) Divide salad between 4 large plates, scatter cashews over top, and serve

Servings: 4 hearty dinner-sized portions