Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

It’s the day before Thanksgiving and we are all running around like mad people trying to check off items on our long to-do lists. The Pre-Thanksgiving tasks have begun. No amount of mental planning could have prepared us for all of this. Although our lists are nicely organized we cannot help but still feel overwhelmed and anxious. It does not matter how much time we spend mapping everything out, to the last detail, we somehow still do not feel super confident about all that goes into this big event. Everything that has yet to be done. From all that needs to be prepped, cleaned and cooked, to the table setting and anticipation of our guests’ needs. We have a lot to do in a short amount of time. Of course there are some of us who live for these moments. Big gatherings and celebrations where we can cook ridiculous amounts of food in a short period of time and not feel an ounce of pressure. Unfortunately, not all of us our lucky to be that way. For the most part, we fall into that percentage of people where preparing a big Thanksgiving feast just sounds completely daunting to us. We are nervous and worried that we will not be able to get everything finished on time. All the worst possible scenarios run through our heads, and we shudder at the thought that we might have forgotten something, so we run through our lists about twenty more times within the hour. Then the worst does happen. You are in the middle of cooking something and you realize that you are out of a certain ingredient, or that you completely forgot to get an item at the grocery store. That occurs even to the best of us. There is so much on our minds, it seems only natural that we will forget something, or that we thought we had a certain ingredient but come to find we ran out or were mistaken.

When those moments of panic arise, it is best to just relax. Nothing will get solved by panicking and getting upset. We must run through our options in our minds. Do without the ingredient? Use a substitution? Or go to the market for a quick trip and brave the madness with the rest of the forgetters and the last minute shoppers? Perhaps the ingredient is not that important and you can just omit it. I have done that before. In which case, just laugh it off and continue cooking without it. If the ingredient is important but you do not feel like putting your shoes and coat on, hopping into your car, driving to the market, braving the craziness of the last minute shoppers and the long lines at checkout, well then perhaps a substitution will work for you. Surely there is something in your pantry or fridge that will give your recipe the same taste or effect without going out of your way. To help you on your substitutional journey, here is a handy dandy holiday substitution resource put together by my friend Russell over at Chasing Delicious. It is an “informational potluck” with tips and tricks submitted by a variety of food bloggers and cookbook authors, including yours truly. And last but not least, if you cannot skip the ingredient all together or even find an adequate substitution for it, well then your last resort is to put on your brave face and go to the market. Go with your goal in mind. No fuss no muss. Walk in there like you own the place. Shoot straight for the aisle, grab your ingredient, and go pay. If you convince another brave soul to go with you, have them wait in line while you retrieve your item, that way you can get out even faster.

With all the planning and work we put into this holiday, or any holiday for that matter, we all fail to realize one thing. The holidays are not about impressing people, or busting our chops to try and make the “perfect” everything. Life is not perfect. Sometimes things do not go as planned and we need to accept that that is okay. Thanksgiving should not be stressful or overwhelming. Although at times, it seems inevitable when planning a big meal for family and friends. We want to impress and make a great feast that everyone will enjoy, but it is important to stop, take a step back, and breathe deeply. This day is about being around loved ones and enjoying yourself. It is about being thankful for everything around you. It is a day for appreciating those people that we do not get to see often and for giving thanks for the opportunities that have arisen and been given to us.

You can spend the entire day stressed, cooking all sorts of complicated dishes that will surely impress your guests. However, that does not sound fun at all. Or you can also just enjoy the day, stress-free and having fun. Laughing and playing games with your family and friends. Make easy, yet delicious, dishes that you have cooked countless times before. That way, you know it will definitely come out right. Aim for easy recipes. Dessert should be just as carefree and fast to whip up. One that does not take precious fridge space. For we all know how hard it is to arrange everything in the icebox, on this day especially. A cookie of some sort seems to fit the bill. Not just an ordinary cookie, no that will not suffice, but a seasonal cookie. One that brings together all those classic Thanksgiving dessert flavors into one tiny package.

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Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Now that school is back in full swing, and three weeks into it at that, each week seems never ending. Monday drags through Friday at an alarmingly slow pace. Day’s filled with school haunt my every waking hour. Breaks between classes seem like ten hours, when in reality it’s only six, and I’m left to find things to occupy myself with until my next class starts in the evening. The prospect of spending all day in school during the week scares me every morning, as I get ready for the day that lies ahead. I fear Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ve grown to despise them, knowing that I’ll be stuck in school from eleven to nine, with a gaping six hour gap in the middle and nothing to do in between classes. My first class ends just as the afternoon becomes prevalent, and I’m left to wonder, “Why was the class that I wanted so badly, only offered in the evening?” My afternoons are flooded with laughter from a few friends, comfort from the warmth of the library, random trips to Trader Joe’s, and constant phone vibrations throughout the day that make it easier  to go on once I see that familiar name scroll across the small digital screen. Who would have thought that seven simple letters could make a world of difference, and the unbearable bearable? A friendly comfort and warmth that is unattained by any amount of heat, sweaters, coats or scarves.

Miraculously I make it through each day alive. Unscathed and only somewhat jolted. As I walk out of class at night, zombie-like with only the comfort of my bed in mind, I look back on the things I’ve learned. After all, it is a class that I enjoy, even more so as new friends, and a hilarious well-informed teacher, enter my circle and break through the wall that my introverted self puts up. I reflect on the content of each lecture and demonstration as I leave the campus and head for my car. Strobes, flashes, C-stands, grips, reflectors, grids and umbrellas are the words floating in my mind as I drive home. Memorizing and visually recounting each direction step by step, knowing that eventually I’ll have to work with a fellow student to step it all up correctly. Suddenly I’m delighted with the prospect of having to partner up for our projects relieved that anything I didn’t catch, or quite understand my friend must know. I continue my long trek home, the day’s scenarios replaying back in my head and content that I was able to pair up with someone I actually will enjoy to work with and get to know, as we’re in three classes together. I look forward to whatever the semester has in store for me.

I embrace each weekend with all the joy in my heart, and the happiness I can’t seem to grasp during the week. Cooking and eating become fun again. Holding up a camera to each step of a recipe seems comforting and even relaxing. Shooting, editing photos, and writing each post is now my only form of escape from the things I have to do on a daily basis; aside from spending time with my family of course. The things I don’t have time for during the week are now the most important on the weekend’s to-do list, such as breakfast. A quick bowl of cereal and an extra toasted english muffin, as I rush out the door, running late for school, isn’t a situation I find myself reliving during the weekend. No. Saturday and Sunday I take my time. I prepare a hot breakfast and enjoy it with those I love all around me. Weekend traditions of family meals gathered around the dining table are the memories that I can’t seem to let go. A sister telling jokes, while another reads our Sunday paper horoscopes, a brother-in-law waiting for the food to arrive observing the crazy family he got himself into, a mother enjoying seeing her three children back home, and a son bringing a feast to the table for all to enjoy. Even simple recipes as jazzed up pancakes, are devoured within a matter of minutes, and referred to as the perfect breakfast. Saturday and Sunday fade faster than a Southern California “winter” and I’m left to face another week of school, projects, homework, reading, and shooting. But I look onto it with a smile on my face knowing that a weekend is always at the end of all the hard work and long hours. A weekend filled with pancakes, peanut butter, banana and chocolate chips.

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Moist Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Once a month I have the lovely opportunity to visit the incredible people over at Harry L. Dougherty Jr., D.D.S., M.S. For over a year and a half now, I’ve had the pleasure to be treated by this group of friendly individuals, who just make my monthly, sometimes, and especially lately due to my surgery, bi-monthly, visits that much more pleasant and enjoyable. With each visit, I like to bring them something to enjoy as a token of my appreciation. To thank them for everything they’ve done and continue to do for me. This whole jaw surgery has been quite the journey.

As each month draws near, I start to think “What should I make them this time?” I scour my mind, remembering, or at least trying  to remember what I made the month before. I like to keep it fresh, often trying out new recipes for them to sample out. But alas sometimes I end up making some repeat recipes. My memory sucks sometimes. This month, however, I came across a great Chocolate chip recipe online and knew I just had to try it. I made it my own by taking it to the next level, combining Banana Walnut Bread with Chocolate Chip cookies, and lucky for them, they came out great.

Here are the players, in a game I like to call, Where is the Moist Cookie?

The first thing you want to do is chop down the walnuts into smaller pieces. This ingredient is optional, but this cookie is a cross between banana walnut bread and chocolate chip cookies after all, so they’re kind of important.

Chop Chop. Use a knife. It’s easy. Of course if you’d like to dirty another kitchen electric, grab your food processor. But why would you want to wash a multi-pieced piece of equipment?

That’s right, think again…..put it down and just grab a knife. You’ll thank me for it later.

Chop them down into smaller cookie sized pieces. Depending on how chunky you’d like them. Set aside for later.

Mix the dry ingredients. Grab a medium bowl, and add the flour.

Throw in some baking soda and salt. Whisk together and set aside.

Now, grab a large mixing bowl and a wooden spoon…we’re about to do the unthinkable.

Every so often (on easier recipes) I like to pay a little homage to the olden days and mix a batter/dough by hand. **Gasp** I know I know. But its a little exercise I like to do in order to not take my stand mixer for granted. I so easily forget the basics in the kitchen, often because I rely on the ol’ kitchenaid for everything.

So this recipe I made by hand, but please feel free to use a mixer.

To this bowl add a stick of butter. A room temperature stick of butter.

You know what? Let’s be bad and add another stick of butter. Live a little.

Paula Deen would be so proud of us right now.

Add some brown sugar.

And some granulated sugar. Both?!?!? You’re probably screaming right now. But yes, both. I want both in it.

Its like a waterfall of granulated sugar. These are very healthy cookies.

Mix with the wooden spoon. It helps if you have a sturdy spoon.

I know, I’m tired already and we’ve barely started…but no! No! I will not use any electronic kitchen helper. I am devoting myself to doing it manually.

Continue to exhaust your arms until the butter and sugar are creamy.

2 hours later…..

Okay not really 2 hours. More like 5-10 minutes. Okay okay, 4 minutes.

Add an egg and mix. Again.

Mix until well incorporated and add another egg.

Now add some vanilla extract and mix well.

And now for the secret ingredient. The trick to the moistness of these cookies…..shhhhhh. Come close.

Closer.

Closer.

A small box of Jell-O instant pudding mix. Sounds crazy. But it works. At first I was hesitant too….and then I became a believer.

No one needs to know, its our little secret. I wont tell, if you wont.

Add it to the batter and stir. Now for some fresh bananas. Mashed.

Once it is fully mixed. Its time to add our dry ingredients we set aside earlier.

Add it slowly and a little at a time.

Try not to over mix the batter at this point. Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, its time to add the goodies. The treasure bejewels.

Semi-sweet chocolate chip. Lots and lots of chocolate chips.

Fold the chips into the batter. You can switch over to a spatula for the folding technique.

Speaking of spatulas….

…Please give a warm welcome to the newest member of The Technicolor Kitchen family…

Just about the best rubber spatula out there. He’ll be making weekly appearances now, for sure.

So back to folding the chocolate chips.

Next ingredient is our chopped walnuts, which we so carefully worked on and set aside earlier.

Toss them in and fold as well.

The cookie dough is now complete and ready to be baked off.

We’ll need two things, a small ice cream scoop; to uniformly shape our cookies and ensure they are all the same size. This way they will bake evenly.

And we’ll also need a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. To make sure our precious cookies, that we worked so hard on, wont stick to the pan. Its like those PAM commercials, except the saving ingredient here is parchment paper. You know what I’m talking about? Yes? Yes? No? Okay, okay.

Scoop out six cookie mounds and make sure they are evenly spaced.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.

Once golden brown and cooked through, remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking pan for about 5 minutes.

After five minutes, transfer cookies to a cooling rack and allow to completely cool.

At this point you may store them in an airtight container, or cookie jar. You can put them out on a plate and share with people. (I guess, if you’re feeling friendly, you could share).

Or you can keep them all for yourself, and hide them.  Yea I like this idea better.

You can serve yourself a glass of milk and enjoy one or two or three.

WAIT!! Put the milk away. I have a better idea. You know what will make these cookies even more delicious? Beyond great? Pure amazingness?

Grab two cookies.

Turn them over. “What are you doing Jon? You’re talking like a crazy person.”

Trust me.

This is good.

Run over to the freezer and….

Oh yea….I took it there.

I’m a bad influence, I know. But we only live once.

Top the cookie, you know you want to.

Yup, that’s the best way to enjoy these cookies. Don’t believe me? Try it. I dare you to.

That was easy, quick, and delicious. Make these cookies the next time you are craving a moist chocolate chip cookie. Sandwich them together with some ice cream in the middle, be naughty. You deserve it. Enjoy.

 

Moist Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Tastykitchen.com. I made them my own by adding the bananas, feel free to change it up as well.

Ingredients:
  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, At Room Temperature
  • ¾ cups Brown Sugar
  • ¼ cups White Sugar
  • 3-½ ounces, weight Jello Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix (4-serving Size Box)
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Mashed Fresh Bananas
  • 2-¼ cups Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup Chopped Walnuts (Optional)
Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.

In the bowl of your mixer, combine the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy.

On medium speed, beat in the pudding mix, eggs, vanilla extract, and mashed bananas.

On low speed, mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Be careful to mix only until combined (do not over mix!).

Stir in the chocolate chips and walnuts (if using).

Use a measuring tablespoon to scoop out the cookie dough onto the lined baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the cookies are just turning golden and the centers are just set.

Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, before cooling completely on cooling racks.

Enjoy!

Makes about 3 dozen cookies.