Serious Eats for One Month- Bye Bye Baked Pasta

Oops, I forgot to blog last night.  Send the NaBloPoMo police.  I got caught up in things and I had a headache.  My migraine concoction was used and it worked, but I’ll tell you about that another time.

Do you like plays?  Musicals?  I’m thrilled that I raised three play-lovers.  Working in the heart of midtown Manhattan, I can walk through Times Square at lunch and happily point out plays I’ve seen or ones we need to see.  Instead of giving the girls more crap they really don’t need on their birthdays and Christmas, we give them play tickets.  Utah and her Kevin went to see The Lion King (again) for her birthday.  I sent all three of the girls in to see Aladdin for Christmas last year.  Beena and John want to see Matilda for Christmas.  If you recall, the girls gave me tickets to see Rock of Ages on my 50th and I turned around and gave the same thing to Utah for her birthday that year.

MR gave me my long-awaited for tickets to Kinkyboots for our anniversary.  And I didn’t even have to take him! lol!

It’s not only Broadway shows we love to see.  We haven’t missed a middle/high school production in about six years.  We will go to a church play is we see one.  We passed a High School in another neighborhood, saw they were putting on Seussical the Musical, bought tickets and loved it.  That was a talented bunch of kids.

Tonight the Middle School put on Bye Bye Birdie, and Zombiegirl didn’t even have to ask if I wanted to go- it was understood.  This play holds a special place in my heart because it was MY high school play, I think when I was a freshman.  I didn’t remember who I played until Kim McAfee and her best friend Ursula sang together. Bam! It all came back to me…I was Ursula.  I recited the lines right along with the (very talented) middle-schooler.  Yet I can’t remember to take the damn chicken out of the fridge in the morning.

All this is leading somewhere, promise.

I get home at 6 every night and the play started at 7.  I’ve been slacking in the cooking department so I enlisted MR’s help and made Crispy Baked Pasta with Mushrooms and Sausage in Creamy Parmesan Sauce.  They promised it would only take a half hour.

More or less.

Crispy Baked Pasta with Mushrooms, Sausage, and Parmesan Cream Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Panko-style bread crumbs
  • 6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced fresh chives
  • 2 small shallots, finely minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces Italian sausage (mild or hot), removed from casings
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (such as portobello, shiitake, and oyster), cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 12 ounces fresh or 8 ounces dried ridged pasta such as rotini or campanelle

Procedures

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and keep at a bare simmer. Combine bread crumbs, 2 ounces cheese, half of parsley, half of chives, 1/4 of shallots, 1/4 of garlic, and olive oil in a medium bowl and massage with hands until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (I really need to read through a recipe first.  I added all the cheese.  It’s okay, we like cheese.  I also didn’t use my hands- I was on my way out.)

Melt butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until foaming. Add sausage and cook, mashing it with a potato masher or a wooden spoon until broken up and well browned, about 7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to a small bowl, leaving fat behind. (MR’s job.  He’s meticulous.)

Increase heat to high, add mushrooms to skillet, and cook, stirring frequently, until moisture has evaporated and mushrooms are well-browned, about 10 minutes. Add shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add soy sauce and lemon juice and stir to combine. (Okay, we deviated big time here.  No one in this household likes mushrooms.  They’re poison.  Like the floor is lava.  I like a grilled Portabello sandwhich, but that’s about it.)

Add flour and cook, stirring, until a thin film begins to form on the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in chicken broth followed by heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes. Stir in remaining grated cheese until melted. Stir in remaining parsley and chives. Stir in sausage. Season to taste with salt and lots of black pepper. (Somehow, I forgot the cream, which pissed me off because I actually HAD cream from the Fettucine Alfredo.  I added a little more cheese because…it said to.)

Adjust rack to 10 inches below broiler element and preheat broiler to high. Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions, removing it when still just shy of al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of cooking liquid. Return to pot. Add mushroom mixture and stir to combine, adding liquid to adjust consistency. Pasta should be very loose but not soupy. Return to cast iron skillet and top with bread crumbs. Broil until golden brown, rotating pan as necessary, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately (I didn’t cook this in my cast iron pan because I have yet to season it from the last time I used it.  I didn’t want everything to taste like rust.  MR threw this in the oven and Z-girl and I ran out to the play.)

I sat through all the squeaky singing, bad acting, wonderful acrobatics (go Monster and Jamie!) and cute tap-dancer (Yay, Grace!) thinking about dinner.  It didn’t distract me enough not to hum the tunes under my breath, however.  They did a great job but damn, we needed to get home and eat.

This dish was really good.  I’m kind of glad the cream was forgotten- it was creamy enough without it.  I would have added more sausage and maybe a little less parmesan, it had a bite to it.  MR ate two helpings but Zombiegirl wouldn’t eat it…two things she hates, pasta and sausage.  And she’s 1/4 Italian.

What’s the story, Morninglory?  What’s the tale, Nightingale?

This one’s a keeper.

 

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Soup is Good Food

Those who know me can attest that my cooking abilities leave so much to be desired.  The minute I walk into the kitchen, I develop ADD.  Cooking is combined with cleaning, roasting with rearranging.  Much of the food coming out of the kitchen is burned well-done which, thankfully, is how my family likes it.

And they WILL like it.

Occasionally, I’ll get lucky and stumble on a recipe so easy that even I can’t screw up.  One that rushes my family up to give a standing ovation and throw roses at my feet.  One that makes me tell all my soccer peeps and innocent bystanders how good it is.

The girlies in this family love Panera Bread.  Beena has been going there for years with her friends and now can go more often since she’s working in a shopping center that contains one.  Zombiegirl and I have date night occasionally, and we go to Panera for dinner.  It’s unanimous that their baked potato soup is the reining favorite.

A little Google search found the recipe here.  I tried it the first time and it got rave reviews at the dinner table.  I tweaked it the second time and it got even better.  Leftovers lasted exactly one day, so now I have to double the batch so I stand a fighting chance to take some into work for lunch. 

For those innocent bystanders I told the soup about, here’s my tweaked recipe:

6 large baking potatoes
5 slices low-sodium bacon
1/2 cup butter
1 large onion, diced into really, really small pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 cups 2% milk
2 teaspoons coarse salt 
2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups (6-ounces) grated cheddar cheese
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Scrub potatoes well and prick several times with fork; bake until soft in microwave (I have a baked potato setting).  Remove from microwave and let cool. When cool, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out potato pulp; set aside. Throw skins into compost.

Cook bacon until crisp. Drain, reserving drippings, crumble, and set aside.

In a large soup pot over low heat, add reserved bacon dripping and butter. Add onion and saute approximately 4 to 5 minutes until soft. Stir in flour until well combined; cook for several minutes, but do not let brown. Gradually add milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until thickened. Add potato pulp, salt, pepper, crumbled bacon, and 1 cup cheese. Stir and cook until cheese is melted. Stir in sour cream. Add extra milk, if necessary, for desired thickness.

NOTE: At this point, soup may be refrigerated until ready to serve. When ready to serve, warm over low heat, stirring until hot. Remove from heat and serve in soup bowls. To reheat the next day, add a few teaspoons of water or milk before heating to thin.

To serve, serve in individual soup bowls garnished with the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Additional crumbled bacon, sliced green onions, and/or chives may be served to sprinkle onto the top of the soup.

Yes, I know there’s bacon in it.  And yes, I have to take a Lactaid before I eat this soup.  I feel the bacon-to-soup ratio is so small my conscience really doesn’t realize I’m eating meat.

And I have yet to find free-range bacon.

The kids all agree that it tastes a lot like Panera’s.  Served with a side salad, it makes the perfect meal.

Now to perfect my bread bowls.

If At FIrst You Don’t Succeed…Call It Something Else.

Finally. A blog post. Sorry, but it was a long, busy week. And too much to think about. And too many demons to wrestle…so…

Before I worked for The Bank, I worked for the City of New York for eight years as a Project Architect. The learning opportunities at the Housing Preservation and Development were great- not only did I get to design and build housing for lower income families, I learned the fine art of running a business out of a cubicle.

ALL the city workers do it…

I learned the tools of my trade at this job- Autocad. I also learned that not all architects are created equal. Especially if you’re male. If you’re male, you are naturally a much higher caliber individual. And smarter.

Of COURSEyou are…

But the most important lesson I learned while working for HPD was one my future husband taught me. He taught me to love different ethnic foods. Lunches at Indian restaurants. Dinners in Chinatown for Thai. Snacks at out-of-the-way Pakistani stands. He introduced me to spicy foods and now it’s one more thing I’m indebted to him for.

Working for the City was like working in the United Nations. I worked elbow to elbow with every nationality. And with those nationalities came the food.

Oh, yes. Bharti’s vegetarian lunches. Mike’s hummus.. Lily’s scallion pancakes. Ann’s spicy curdled milk.

Different folks, different foods. I tried all of them and loved it all.

One day, we had a brainstorm. Instead of going out one day, let’s all bring in something from home for a potluck. I always dreaded being on the supply side of a potluck- especially an ethnic one. This American white girl has no ethnic history. White girl usually brought cornbread. Or salad. I think on the day of the HPD potluck I brought in a huge bowl of lettuce. Oh so boring.

But on the receiving end? I was in heaven. All the homemade Russian, Greek, Polish, Indian, Middle Eastern, Jamaican, Italian, Chinese, Guyanese food…and salad…was wonderful. We ate and picked all afternoon. It was the first time I tried dishes like hummus, babaganoush, tabouli, saag paneer and kielbasa. My favorite? Our Egyptian engineer’s wife’s babaganoush. I remember taking the whole bowl back to my desk after lunch to nosh on with the toasted pita points. Heaven!

So I was craving this eggplant dish the other day and decided to document making it. Hey-all the big name bloggers are all doing it…so I figured I’d try my first photo recipe. Since I cleaned the fridge and threw out the tahini, I needed a recipe that didn’t include it. I remember Mike’s babaganoush to be tahini free, too, so I found the recipe here:

Babaganoush
2 eggplants
2 tbsp lemon juice
5 cloves minced garlic, preferably roasted
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp cumin (the stuff in the blue bowl)
1/2 tsp parsley

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
Slice eggplants in half and pierce with a fork in several places.

Roast for about 45 minutes, or until soft. Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out inside of eggplant, leaving skin behind. In a blender or food processor, process eggplant with remaining ingredients until smooth.

Easy, huh? One would think. I split the recipe in half and used the other eggplant to make this:
Chili Lime Babaganoush
2 medium eggplants
3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tahini
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin

Slice eggplant in half, and roast in 400 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes, or until soft.
Allow to cool slightly, then scoop out inside of eggplant, leaving skin behind.
In a blender or food processor, combine eggplant and remaining ingredients until smooth.

I don’t know if I processed the eggplant mess too much, but it didn’t have the consistency I’ve come to know as babaganoush. It came out more like a tapanade. Spreadable. Creamy. Not “ganoushy” at all. Or maybe too “ganoushy?”

So I call it eggplant tapanade. I’ve been spreading it on wraps and stuffing the wraps with baby spinach and sprinkling dried cranberries on top. Oooh, what a great tapanade. So spreadable! Delicious! Perfect for my new low-carb diet.

Yeah, that’s not raspberry jam and caramel sauce. It’s my wonderful new tapanade/babaganoush fail.
I’ll keep trying to perfect not only the babaganoush, but also my picture taking.

Because I like typing the word BABAGANOUSH!

It’s Getting Hot In Here…

I love lists. I love thinking things up and writing them down in a list. I love reading other people’s lists. If I find one in the supermarket, I love playing the voyeur and reading what other people need out of life. I love making shopping lists, to-do lists, Christmas lists, meal planning lists, even “100 things I love/hate” lists. Many, many years ago, my friend and I even wrote a “Pro/Con” list why I should get married to my future ex-husband. The “cons” totally outweighed the “pros” and yet I married him anyway. Yeah, young and stupid. That’s me.

Anyway, I came across a list today that I DON’T FREAKIN’ LIKE MUCH. This list scares the crap out of me! Like, HOLY SHIT, why did I even click on this? Damn you, Google, for even putting this out on the Interwebs

Try and guess what these are symptoms of:

1. Hot flashes, flushes, night sweats and/or cold flashes, clammy feeling
2. Irregular heart beat
3. Irritability
4. Mood swings, sudden tears
5. Trouble sleeping through the night (with or without night sweats)
6. Irregular periods; shorter, lighter periods; heavier periods, flooding; phantom periods, shorter cycles, longer cycles
7. Loss of libido
8. Dry vagina
9. Crashing fatigue
10. Anxiety, feeling ill at ease
11. Feelings of dread, apprehension, doom
12. Difficulty concentrating, disorientation, mental confusion
13. Disturbing memory lapses
14. Incontinence, especially upon sneezing, laughing; urge incontinence
15. Itchy, crawly skin (feeling of ants crawling under the skin, not just dry itchy skin)
16. Aching, sore joints, muscles and tendons
17. Increased tension in muscles
18. Breast tenderness
19. Headache change: increase or decrease
20. Gastrointestinal distress, indigestion, flatulence, gas pain, nausea
21. Sudden bouts of bloat
22. Depression
23. Exacerbation of existing conditions
24. Increase in allergies
25. Weight gain
26. Hair loss or thinning, head, pubic, or whole body; increase in facial hair
27. Dizziness, light-headedness, episodes of loss of balance
28. Changes in body odor
29. Electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head
30. Tingling in the extremities
31. Gum problems, increased bleeding
32. Burning tongue, burning roof of mouth, bad taste in mouth, change in breath odor
33. Osteoporosis (after several years)
34. Changes in fingernails: softer, crack or break easier
35. Tinnitus: ringing in ears, bells, ‘whooshing,’ buzzing etc.

Yes, it’s a list of symptoms of menopause. Lovely.
So…not to go too deeply into the realm of TMI, but DAMN, my armpits have been itching for weeks now! A really deep itch. Like the itch I had in my boobs about a year ago. Related? Probably. I’ve changed deodorant and detergent and I’m still walking around scratching like a monkey looking for a banana. And when I go to bed, I get all snuggly in my pajamas and comforters and put my feet on MR to warm them up. By morning? Fuck that! Too hot! I want to strip down naked and stand in front of the open refrigerator. I would, too, if my kitchen had curtains. I wake up in a puddle of sweat every damn morning lately. Thirteen of the 35 symptoms listed here have now made themselves known to me.

WTF.

Is this what I have to look forward to for the next 10 years- my body playing some hideously ridiculous tricks on me? Why can’t my eggs dry up nice and quiet like? Why do they feel like they have to have some huge going away party at my expense?
Yeah, so this is one list I’m not looking forward to completing. In fact, I’m planning on adding to this list. I’m going to blame EVERYTHING on menopause! Fever sore smack dab in the middle of my lip on Christmas? Menopause! Grotesquely calloused feet? Not because I live in my Uggs– it’s Menopause! Third degree burn on my index finger from molten caramel? Menopause caused it! Major heartburn the day after Christmas- it wasn’t the gravy- it was Menopause!

(Hey- I’ll be like that annoying mommyblogger when she got Shingles! Capitalize and exclamation the hell out of it!)
Now to continue showering you with the cookie recipes from the cookie party (those extra pounds were NOT from eating cookies- they were from Menopause!) here are Mia’s version of Uncle Anthony’s Sesame Cookies- a definite winner in my household. And Mia is now a cookie making monster!

2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 stick butter (left out of refrigerator for an hour to soften. Do Not microwave!)
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup of sesame seeds

Mix all ingredients so smooth. Add wet ingredients (egg/water/vanilla). Mix/roll until uniform. Roll into logs. Cut into 2 inch pieces. Roll in seeds. Bake 16-20 minutes at 350 degrees. Poke with toothpick. Remove when slightly moist. Cookies will cook a little more on cooling rack.
Makes 2 dozen.

Countdown to Christmas #11- Puppet Master

Finally! I’m done with my nieces and nephew’s puppet theater. I had pretty much finished yesterday but I still had to make the case. It was inspired by Amy Carol’s book “Bend the Rules Sewing” which I purchased last year. I started the puppet theater last year, but I never finished it for Christmas. I put a little bit of history into this thing…the curtains (which look a little scrunchy) are made from material my mom made for me and my brother when we shared a room at my old house. The room was done in a circus theme. We shared until I was around 5, and they put an extension on top of the house and added two bedrooms- one for me, one for my brother, Robbie. The black and white material is from an old sheet I kept over my dollhouse in my old home.

I picked up two sets of new puppets on eBay for them and when we go up when the new baby is born, I’ll bring three more puppets I plan on making from recycled dish detergent bottles. Now all they need is their imagination!

Continuing with my awesomeness (hah!) I’m posting pictures of one of my nativity sets. I have three out. I made this one around 15 years ago at ceramics. I started going to ceramics (hi Judy!) in 1984 to start making my first wedding favors. Aunt Anne, Mom, Diane and I would carpool to Merrick and go to classes in Judy’s basement. Some of my best memories are from ceramics. So getting back to the nativity (not creche, MR!) I cleaned and painted each piece (baby Jesus isn’t there yet) and Mom and Dad bought the stable for me. I still have two or three pieces I have to paint, and for some reason my shepherd is missing. Maybe he went for coffee. I’m planning on doing an artsy pictorial with this nativity set because there is so much detail.

We went to Walmart tonight. We had to pass the mall entrance and I said a silent prayer of thanks that we didn’t have to go to the mall. Walmart was all kinds of crazy- with the best of humanity shopping for last minute presents. I got a headache just trying to maneuver between the massive masses. But I almost finished. A few more odds and ends and I’m done!

Cookie recipe tonight- Beena’s no-bake Chocolate Coffee balls. These are really good when they’re stale!
2 tsps. Instant coffee powder
½ cup hot water
1 cup (6 oz.)semisweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp. light corn syrup
3 cups powdered sugar
1 3.4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup walnuts, chopped fine
Powdered sugar for rolling
Dissolve the coffee in the hot water. In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring until smooth. Stir in the corn syrup. Stir in the coffee. Remove from he heat and beat in the powdered sugar. Gradually blend in the graham crackers and walnuts. Pinch off 1-inch pieces of dough and roll into balls. Roll each ball in powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for at least 2 days before serving.

For cookies with more of a kick, use 1.2 cup of coffee liqueur in place of the
water and coffee.

Four more days!

Countdown to Christmas #10- Like an Elf

Being snowed in today with the first blizzard of the season, I actually got alot done. I was like Santa’s elves. Did laundry, made butter cookies (using my new cookie gun- thanks Kathy and Patty,) cleaned the kitchen, made peppermint bark with Z-girl and finally got my nieces and nephew’s puppet theater done. I need to make the case, but the gift is done. I’ll post pictures when it’s ironed and ready to be wrapped.

I didn’t take pictures of the snow! We got around 14 inches overnight. Zombiegirl was at Kendal’s birthday sleepover and I had to walk a few blocks to drop winter clothes off so she could play with her friends. It took me less time to walk than to clean off my car. MR shovelled us and the ladies next door out while I shovelled their walk and stoop. And I’m paying for it now. What the heck am I going to the gym for if a little physical labor knocks me out?

I still have several gifts to make by Christmas eve- hooded towels and a set of felt mustaches for

the nephew. I got a reprieve on the soccer kids gifts- we’re having a Christmas dinner on January 2, so I have until then to finish that sewing. I’ll finish everything, though. I’m pacing myself and I took Christmas Eve off. That day is going to be taken up making a croque en bouche and chocolate monkey bread for Paula and Ray’s.

Today’s cookie is my co-host’s and my favorite from the cookie exchange. It’s almost like a gingerbread cookie- and works great when dipped in tea!

Ronnie’s Molasses Sugar Cookie

1 1/2 cups shortening
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup molasses
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon ground cloves
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
Melt shortening and cool. Add sugar, eggs and molasses; beat well.
Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ground cloves and ginger. Add to the molasses mixture and stir until well combined. Chill dough for at least 3 hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Remove dough from the refrigerator and form into walnut sized balls. Roll balls in white sugar. Place balls about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 8 to 10 minutes for chewy cookies and 10 to 12 minutes for crisper cookies. Store cookies in an airtight container. Yields 6 dozen.

Countdown to Christmas #9- Cookie Exchange 2009

Okay, enough with the stupid crap that’s going on at the Dreamscape post. It’s been taken to Facebook. I’m keeping the comments up for one more day, then they’re being archived.
Soulspeak, baby. I love you. Thanks for saying everything I’ve been thinking.
So enough. Christmas is almost here!
Last Saturday we had our annual Cookie Party Exchange. I was smart this year and tried my cookies out in October because my cookies never come out like the picture of the recipe I use. The consensus was good so I stuck with that one. What’s not to like about Caramel Apple Cookies?
We moved the party to Ronnie’s house last year because it’s apparent that my house is way too small. We ditched the kids this year since all our guests had kids and it would have been too crowded.
What do we do at a Cookie Party, you may ask? To start, each guest is asked to bring six dozen cookies and a $5.00 gift beautifully wrapped. They have to email me the recipe beforehand because each guest goes home with a tray of cookies (tray provided by us) a stack of recipe cards, a gift and a favor (provided by us) usually something baking related.
We play Steal the Gift, that’s why the $5.00 gift has to be beautifully wrapped, to entice everyone to steal it. It’s hard to find a $5.00 gift, so next year we’re going to do Steal the Gift with ornaments or up the price of the gift.
Some of the games we play are;
  • Forbidden Words- each guest is given a necklace with a small cookie cutter attached. A group of five or six words are posted around the house. If you catch someone saying the forbidden words, then you get to take their necklace. The person with the most necklaces at the end of the night wins a prize.
  • Sit On Your Friends Lap- a list of questions is asked. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions, you move one seat to the right. If someone is sitting there, tough- sit on their lap. The person who ends up in their original seat wins.
  • Draw On Your Head- paper is placed on your head, and your given instructions on what to draw. The person who comes closest to the directions wins.
  • Left/Right Game- A modified version of “Night Before Christmas” is read and every time the word “right” or “left” is said, a stuffed Rudolph is passed around the circle in that direction. No hands allowed, though! Last one with Rudolph is the winner.
  • Guess What’s in the Stocking- items are placed in two stockings and without looking, guests have to feel and write what’s in them. The person with the most right answers wins.
Each day up until Christmas, I’ll be posting the recipes of all the cookies that made an appearance at the party. I’ll start with mine…it was originally found here.
Caramel Apple Cookies

1 cup butter
½ tsp salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
12 oz caramel baking bits
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups granny smith apples, peeled and finely chopped
2 cups flour
2¾ cup old fashioned oats, pulsed in food processor until finely ground (not quick-cooking oatmeal)
In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and eggs. Beat until combined. In a medium-sized bowl, stir the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda until combined. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture until combined. Stir in the caramel bits and apples. Save a few of each (the apple and the caramel) for dotting on top of the rolled cookie dough balls. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour. Roll the cookie dough into golf ball-sized balls.

Bake on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F, for 10-12 minutes. The sheet should be placed on the upper middle rack. Cool on the pan for 4 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.

Note: Dough is best the day of. In time, the apples add extra moisture to the dough, causing a wider spread on the baked cookies. Alternatively, you can pre-roll the dough into balls and freeze if you aren’t using it all the first day. Place the dough balls on a cookie sheet until solid, and then transfer to a labeled sealable freezer bag. Use within one month. Simply add an extra couple minutes to the baking time since the dough is frozen.
Yields 3 dozen

My Soccer Moms. Thanks Ronnie, for hosting the 6th (or it 7th?) Annual Cookie Exchange!