Sit. Stay. Cook.

Cook to live. Live to cook.

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received coupons for some Duncan Hines products in the mail last week. Part of my commitment to being a better cook includes not cooking anything that comes from a box, but I bent my rule a bit for this. Rather than making a cake according to package directions, I decided to make some of my all-time favorite (and all-time easiest) cookies: Chocolate Crinkles.

How easy are these things?

Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Crinkles
Servings: about 30 cookies

1 (18 1/4 ounce) box devil’s food cake mix
1 (8-ounce) tub Cool Whip (thawed)
1 egg
Confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together. Batter will be sticky. Pour some confectioner’s sugar into a shallow bowl, coat your hands with it, and roll the cookies into 1-inch balls. Place cookies 2 inches apart on Silpat-lined sheets and bake for 7 to 9 minutes. Cool a bit on the cookie sheet before removing to wire racks to finish cooling.

See? Easy like you wouldn’t believe, right? Perfect for last-minute gifts, snacks for work, or just because you want something chocolaty. I shared these with my office last week and they were a big hit.

As I mentioned during my Donation Day post, I watched an episode of America’s Test Kitchen wherein the chefs made “the best blueberry muffins.” Usually skeptical of such claims, I vowed to reserve judgement regarding the “bestness” of these muffins until I could make them myself. However, I know from experience that America’s Test Kitchen recipes usually are as great as they claim.

We got back from Colorado on a Friday, and Sunday I whipped up some blueberry muffins.

I stuck fairly close to the Test Kitchen recipe, although I did make a modification in that I used some pre-made blueberry jam.

The finished product looked like this:

Lynn’s Best Blueberry Muffins
Servings: 12 muffins
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

For the Lemon-Sugar Topping:
1/3 c. sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
1 1/2 tsp. finely grated zest from 1 lemon

For the Muffins:
1 c. fresh blueberries (about 10 ounces), plus 1 Tbsp.
1 c. Trader Joe’s Blueberry Preserves
1 1/8 c. sugar (8 ounces)
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (12 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. table salt
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
1/4 c. Canola oil
1 c. buttermilk (see note)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined; set aside.

For the muffins:
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray standard muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Bring 1 cup blueberry preserves and 1 Tbsp. blueberries to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened slightly, about 5 mi. Transfer to small bowl and cool to room temperature, 10 to 15 minutes.

Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl. Whisk sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter and oil until combined. Whisk in buttermilk and vanilla until combined. Using rubber spatula, fold egg mixture and remaining cup blueberries into flour mixture until just moistened. (Batter will be very lumpy with few spots of dry flour; do not overmix.)

Use a large spoon to divide batter equally among prepared muffin cups (batter should completely fill cups and mound slightly). Spoon teaspoon of cooked berry mixture into center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into batter using figure-eight motion. Sprinkle lemon sugar evenly over muffins.

Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating muffin tin from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffins in muffin tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool 5 minutes before serving.

The result? These really are the best blueberry muffins. Hands down. For reals. The topping is crunchy and a little sticky, the texture of the cake is not too dry and not too moist, they’re not too sweet and not too tart. These are the Mary Poppins of blueberry muffins – practically perfect in every way.

I ate one, Frank ate one, and I shared the rest with my co-workers for Treat Monday, who want to know when I’m bringing in muffins again. :)

I have a camera full of pictures of the cookies I made last night, but I haven’t unloaded them and won’t until maybe tomorrow. Normally, I’d post about something else, but these cookies are so good, I have to share them with you right now!

Instead of a picture of the cookies, here’s Grizz’s cute little Grizzlepuss nose.

It's smooch-worthy.

How cute is that? I mean, doesn’t it just make you want to fall over from the cuteness?

Grizz loves helping with projects. He oversees cooking projects from his place in a dining room chair. Sometimes, he gets more involved. He especially likes embroidery:

He's so helpful.

Once you get off the floor, you should replenish yourself by making my ginger molasses cookies. They’re a little sweet, a little spicy, a little crisp (around the edges) and a little chewy (in the middle). Even better, they’re not terrible for you – I just had one, and I’m considering having another!

…considering…

…considering…

It’s been decided. Another one will be consumed very soon.

Ginger Molasses Cookies
Servings: about 20 cookies
WW Points: 1.5 per cookie

1 1/4 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/3 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1 Egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 1/2 Tbsp. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. white sugar (for rolling cookies)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium mixing bowl, blend flour, baking soda and spices together and set aside.
In another bowl, cream together butter and 1/2 cup of sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg until well mixed. Then add the molasses and mix to combine.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the butter mixture. Mix to combine, then stir in the crystallized ginger until blended into the dough

Using rounded teaspoonfuls (or not quite full tablespoons), form dough into balls and roll them in the extra 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet, lightly flatten with the bottom of a glass and bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

Allow to cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to wire rack to cool completely.

Some things to keep in mind as you make these. One, feel free to adjust the spices to your own tastes. I like the clove flavor, so there’s a bit of it in here. Two, rolling the cookies in sugar, then flattening the cookies with something flat (like the bottom of a drinking glass) are very important for the texture and appearance of these cookies. Take the time and you will not be disappointed!

Finally!

Autumn has full-on arrived and I couldn’t be happier. I love the colors, the cooler weather, and (of course) the food. What’s not to love about pumpkin, butternut squash, sage, turkey, cranberries and Brussels sprouts?

All of these delicious flavors can lead to major temptation around the holidays and that can mean trouble for people who haven’t mastered the art of moderation. For me, it’s not an option to simply avoid holiday food – I love it too much. But, I can practice moderation, which is what I did with this week’s Treat Monday.

Behold – the most delicious pumpkin cookies ever to come out of my kitchen:

These are big cookies. Big, tasty cookies.

That pan up there, holding 8 cookies? That’s a standard 9×13 pan. As you can see, these cookies aren’t slouches. They are some serious cookies.

The texture is cake-like and moist, but not sticky. The pumpkin and chocolate and spices and cream cheese all go together like some symphony announcing the arrival of fall. Not to mention, these things are versatile. Leave off the icing or the chips or both, add nuts or raisins or dried cranberries, make them smaller – consider these the Hand Turkey of cookies – you start with a base and make them what you want.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings: 18 big cookies
Adapted from The Joy of Baking

For the cookies:
2 c. flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 c. light brown sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. canned pumpkin puree
3/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the frosting:
8 ounces neufchatel cheese (low-fat cream cheese), room temperature
1/4 c. butter, room temperature
1 c.confectioners’ (powdered or icing) sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the cookies:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray two cookie sheets with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, and salt.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until light and smooth (about 2 minutes). Beat in the oil, vanilla extract, and pumpkin puree. Add the flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using 1/4 cup of batter (can use a small ice cream scoop or measuring cup) place small mounds of batter onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. The cookies won’t spread much during baking.

Bake for about 15 – 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cookie comes out clean. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese and butter until soft and creamy. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until the frosting is soft and creamy.

I still haven’t bought a pumpkin for the front porch yet. Last year, we bought three, and someone stole all of them. Pumpkin-stealing jerks.

I’ve considered rubbing Vaseline all over the outside of a pumpkin, figuring I’d rather have a messy porch than a stolen pumpkin, but I can’t commit. I suppose I should carve it before setting it out on the porch, to make it less tempting. I’m not exactly a pumpkin artist, so it would be sort of flattering if someone stole a carved pumpkin.

Maybe I’ll decorate some pumpkin cookies instead.

I have a confession: I love sweets. Eating them, cooking them, staring longingly at them.

That’s not really a secret. I mean, you don’t get to be almost 240 lbs without having something of a sweet tooth.

One of the challenges of changing my diet for the better has been finding ways to satisfy my sweet cravings in a realistic way.

Enter Treat Monday.

What is Treat Monday, you ask? Good question.

A few weeks ago, I got the urge to bake something decadent. Not just cake mix + pumpkin puree baking, or whole-wheat carrot muffin baking, but ooey, gooey, butter and flour and eggs baking.

Serious baking.

Seriously fattening baking.

What’s a trying-to-be healthy girl to do when this kind of urge strikes? The only thing I could do – give in. But not completely.

I decided to find a recipe for something that I wanted to try a little of, make it on Sunday evening, and take the rest to work on Monday.

Thus, Treat Monday was born, out of a craving for a gooey chocolate chip cookie.

Sunday rolled around and I made some of the best chocolate chip cookies to ever have come from my oven (my Awesomesauce cookies are delicious, relatively healthy, and you can eat more than one without feeling guilty – these should be one and done).

I got the recipe from an America’s Test Kitchen cookbook and followed it to the letter.

I'm a sucker for cookie dough.

The result was a cookie that was as visually appealing as it was tasty.

Did I mention that these are really big cookies?

Do not adjust your screen - these are enormous cookies!

That’s a standard sized cookie sheet, and only six of these bad boys fit at a time.

Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Servings: about 20 large cookies
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

3 1/3 c. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
16 Tbsp. (2 sticks) butter, melted and cooled
1 1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Adjust the oven racks to the upper- and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beaters as necessary.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporated.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2 1/2 inches apart. Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, about 17 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cook on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

I’m not going to bother putting Weight Watchers points on recipes for Treat Monday. These cookies, and the other recipes I choose to make for Treat Monday are about moderation – eat one and share the rest.

And with these, you can really only eat one:

One is all you'll be able to eat!

Eat half, take a break, eat the other half. Or share one with a friend. And then share another one with another friend later.

Healthy living is all about moderation, which is why I love being able to make what I want, enjoy a little and share the rest.

Hopefully, my co-workers will remember to enjoy in moderation, too :)

Working at a university has its ups and downs. The downside is that every August and September, we get ridiculously, insanely busy. It’s not completely a downside, though – being busy can be really rewarding. Not to mention, it makes the day fly by.

Keeping on the healthy track is both easier and harder when I’m nutso-busy. Easier, because I don’t have time to eat anything but lunch. Harder, because people tend to bring in treats to appease the troops when we’re under intense fire.

Today, I was the bearer of temptation. I brought these:

Do not adjust your screen – that is a seriously big cookie. A quarter cup worth of cookie. A monster cookie, if you will. And I made 24 of them, then ate two (one yesterday, one today).

I got the recipe from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I love love love America’s Test Kitchen, and plan on picking up their Healthy Family Cookbook when it comes out in October.

I was jonesing to bake something, and decided that I would share whatever I made with my office. This opened up possibilities that I wouldn’t have had if I was planning on keeping the cookies to myself. Possibilities like butter. Possibilities like chocolate chips. Possibilities like making enormous cookies.

Check out the cookbook for the recipe – it’s worth it for that one, and dozens and dozens more.

I’m pretty proud of myself for only having eaten two of these things. Then again, I don’t think I could have put more than two in my belly. Did I mention they were huge?

Yeah.

I found some whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies in the freezer that I made a while back. To salvage my healthy reputation, I’ll probably bring those to the office on Wednesday.