Cherry Chipotle Oatmeal Cookies

I developed this recipe over the last couple of years based on my absolute favorite oatmeal raisin cookie recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, In the Sweet Kitchen : The Definitive Guide to the Baker’s Pantry by Regan Daley. This author’s oatmeal raisin cookie becomes the base for an ice cream sandwich in the end, but the cookies themselves are fabulous on their own.

I change up the raisins for the sweet-tart taste of dried cherries, also as a nod to one of our great Michigan towns, Traverse City, which is known for its great cherries (…and wine!). I also love a sweet and spicy contrast so I experimented with adding a bit over ground chipotle chili powder to give them a kick. For non-adventurous types, and when serving to kids, feel free to leave out the chipotle powder and you’ll still have a great cookie.

These cookies have a rich caramel flavor which contrasts nicely with the tart cherries and spicy chili powder. They have a golden brown crisp exterior and soft chewy interior. They also freeze very well for several months.

Cherry Chipotle Oatmeal Cookies

Inspired by In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

  • 1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 c. tightly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tblsp. honey
  • 1-1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground chipotle chili powder (or, to taste)
  • 3 c. old-fashioned oats
  • 2 c. dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the butter and both sugars. Mix on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and honey and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and fold in until the dry ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in the oats and cherries. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.

Bake, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven for 15 to 18 minutes, rotate halfway through baking time. The cookies are done when they are deep golden brown and set around the edges but still puffy and soft in the center. Cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.

Makes about 4 dozen

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake when looking for ways to use up some leftover canned pumpkin in my fridge. I am personally not a big cheesecake fan, but the description indicated that it would taste more like pumpkin pie with extra creaminess so I was happy to give it a go.

As promised, the filling had a very pumpkin-pie-like flavor, but with a smoother consistency, which I really liked. It was also a hit with my husband, who is both a pumpkin pie and cheesecake fan all-around.

I made some adaptations to the recipe based on what I had on hand. I substituted low-fat cinnamon graham crackers for standard crumbs in the crust. I used only 1/3 less-fat cream cheese in place of the original combination of fat-free cream cheese and 1/3 less-fat cream cheese. The recipe also called for an 8-inch springform pan, but I used a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom and adjusted the cooking time a bit to compensate. I had worried that the filling might overflow because of the shallower pan so I put it on a cookie sheet just in case, but there were no spills.

I think this one will make a great addition to your holiday table. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 8 servings

  • cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup low-fat cinnamon graham cracker crumbs ( about 4 sheets)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 12 oz. 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 large eggs
  • reduced fat whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 325°. Coat an 10-inch removable tart pan with cooking spray, and press bottom of pan evenly with crumbs. Combine the sugars and cream cheese in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin and next 9 ingredients (through eggs), and beat well. Pour the cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until center is just set. Turn oven off, and partially open the oven door. Cool cheesecake in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven, and cover. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight. Serve with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie Streusel Bars

I hadn’t quite gotten around to making something truly “fall” yet this season until last week when I came across a recipe on the Bakers Royale food blog for Pumpkin Pie Streusel Bars. I love pumpkin desserts and this was a nice change from making a pie, bread or cookies. I adjusted the recipe a little to size it down to fit in a 9×9 pan for our two-person household and left out the pecans in the crust and topping so that my husband would be willing to share. I also upped the sugar a bit for the pumpkin filling since I wanted it to be a little bit sweeter.

These bars were yummy and even with my adjusted sugar levels weren’t overly sweet. They made for a nice portion controlled pumpkin pie flavor (if you cut them into small enough pieces!). I would probably bump up the amount of oats in the topping next if I leave out the pecans again.

Pumpkin Pie Streusel Bars

Adapted from Bakers Royale

  • 1 c. flour
  • 1/4 c. + 3/8 c. sugar
  • 3/8 c. dark brown sugar, packed
  • 3/8 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 c. old fashioned oats
  • 4 oz. cream cheese
  • 2/3 c. (7.5oz.) canned pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. ground allspice
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 c. butterscotch chips

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9×9 pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl mix flour, 1/4 cup of sugar and brown sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the oats. Place 3/8 cup of the flour mixture in a small bowl and add butterscotch chips. Set aside to reserve as topping. Press remaining flour mixture into the pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

Mix cream cheese and pumpkin with an electric mixer at medium speed until blended. Add remaining sugar, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves and vanilla; mix at medium speed until well blended. Spread pumpkin mixture over baked crust and bake for an additional 15 minutes. Sprinkle reserved oat mixture over the filling and continue to bake for another 15 minutes.

Cool in pan on a wire rack completely before cutting. Refrigerate leftovers.

Makes 16 bars.

Jeni’s Ice Cream, Columbus, OH

Jeni’s Ice Cream is a must for visitors and locals in Columbus. Every time I’m in town visiting my in-laws for a long weekend I go to one of the Jeni’s locations at least twice. My preferred stop is the one in the Short North because it seems to be less hectic than the one inside North Market, plus it’s open late! They now have five locations in the Columbus area and they distribute to a few outside locations. Lucky for me one of the places that stocks pints of their ice cream isn’t too far away at The Produce Station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, but you’ll pay an arm and a leg here at $10/pint (yes, for a PINT!). It’s much cheaper to get it when you’re in Columbus, or you can order it online, too.

Jeni’s has a signature list of flavors that are available year round along with a rotating choice of seasonal concoctions. They do a great job of selecting local ingredients to make fantastic ice cream flavors for all types of palettes. Most of their selections are a bit more on the unusual side, like Cucumber Sake or Bangkok Peanut, but they have more kid-friendly choice like Honey Vanilla Bean or Belgian Milk Chocolate. They let you sample plenty of flavors before making your final choices and you can mix two or more flavors based on the size you choose.

On one recent visit I tried a scoop of seasonal Ohio Sweet Corn with Black Raspberries on top of my favorite, Gravel Road (a salty caramel flavor with smoked almonds mixed in). Who knew that corn would work so well as an ice cream flavor? I guess Jeni did! The taste of the corn was really pronounced and was great with the natural sweetness of the local black raspberries. The Gravel Road is always rich and smoky sweet with a nice crunchy texture from the almond pieces; I haven’t tired of it yet!

When a friend of mine drove from Akron to meet us this past weekend I told her that she had to be initiated into Jeni’s, she didn’t have a choice. I was proud of her for trying some interesting seasonal flavors like Lemon and Blueberry and Backyard Mint. She wasn’t certain about the combination, but in the end was really happy with how well they complimented each other.

On this visit I tried the Buckeye State seasonal flavor I missed the day before, and on top added the Brown Butter Almond Brittle which I was told went over well with Gravel Road fans. Yum! The Buckeye State was a peanut butter ice cream with chopped dark chocolate pieces throughout. How can you go wrong there? The counter server was absolutely right about the Almond Brittle flavor, definitely a hit with me! It reminded me of a sophisticated version of the Good Humor Toasted Almond ice cream bars from when I was a kid.

I often wish there was an actual Jeni’s Ice Cream store in the Ann Arbor area, but it’s probably safer for my waistline if they keep their locations in the Columbus area. Although, I was happy to hear that they’ll be opening a new location in the Clintonville section of Columbus in the near future which will be just down the street where we visit my in-laws. I’m looking forward to it!

Peanut Butter Cup Cake

I had been collecting a number of chocolate and peanut butter dessert recipes on Foodgawker over the last few months in anticipation of my husband’s birthday this year. Last weekend I asked him to pick one for me to make for an early birthday treat. He chose this Peanut Butter Cup Cake.
This was a very simple recipe that starts with a boxed devils food cake mix, eggs, buttermilk with chopped miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups mixed into the batter. The “frosting” is a chocolate and peanut butter ganache that is poured over the cake and sets for a minute before adding more chopped peanut butter cups for decoration. I didn’t go overboard with the decorative candy pieces. The cake had plenty mixed into the cake itself and I felt that really piling up the candy on the sides of the cake would overdo it here.
I usually prefer to bake a cake from scratch, but the buttermilk that was added gave the cake less of an “out-of-the box” taste. As if you couldn’t guess from the name, this cake was very rich and begs for a glass of milk to go with each slice. I’m not much of a chocolate cake fan myself, but I have to admit, this one was pretty darn good, even for non-chocoholics. Those that do love chocolate cake gave it rave reviews when I brought it to a barbecue this weekend. I think it also develops better flavor when it’s in the fridge for a couple of days. I seemed to like each slice better as another day passed.
I don’t want to think about how much each slice weighed in at calorie-wise, but for a once-in-a-while treat it’s worth the nutritional price!

Check out the recipe here: Peanut Butter Cup Cake recipe

Cherry Chocolate Oat Bars

I adapted a Cooking Light recipe for Raspberry Oat Bars to use up what I had on hand, so they turned into Cherry Chocolate Oat Bars made with cherry preserves and bittersweet chocolate chips. Using preserves instead of jam I needed to add a bit more than what was called for in the original recipe, but the chunks of cherry were a nice addition. I also loved the contrast of the bittersweet chocolate with the sweetness of the brown sugar and tartness of the cherries. I think this one is a keeper:

Cherry Chocolate Oat Bars

Adapted from Cooking Light

Yield: 16 servings

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 5 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)
  • 15 oz cherry preserves

Preheat oven to 375°. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Set aside. Combine sugar and butter in a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add the flour mixture to butter mixture, and stir until well blended (mixture will be crumbly.) Remove 3/4 cup of dough; toss with chocolate chips. Set aside. Press the remaining dough into an 8-inch square baking pan, and spread evenly with preserves. Sprinkle with chocolate chip mixture. Bake at 375° 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Molly’s Cupcakes – Chicago, IL (Lincoln Park)

A friend of mine recommended we stop at Molly’s Cupcakes in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. I was pleasantly surprised to find them open at 9:30pm on a Sunday night. They have an option for you to “create your own cupcake” while you wait (they actually do the ‘making’ for you), but we each chose one of their famous pre-made center-filled selections. I opted for a Cookee Monster — a vanilla cupcake filled with an artery (not just a vein!) of chocolate chip cookie dough and a light buttercream frosting with mini chocolate chips and a  mini chocolate chip cookie! Very messy and gooey, but sooo good!