Lisa on November 26th, 2014
Cranberry & Orange Chutney

Cranberry & Orange Sauce

Looking to upgrade your cranberry sauce from the wiggling stuff that comes slurping out of a can? Whether you want cranberries to go with your fresh turkey on The Day or with your leftovers, this recipe is an easy crowd-pleaser. Also it’s a lot prettier than the ridged can-shaped cranberry stuff.

And making your own cranberry sauce means you won’t be drowning in sugar. Point of interest: jellied cranberry sauce from the can has 84 grams of sugar per cup. A cup of Coke has 24 grams. So cup for cup, canned jellied cranberry sauce is nearly four times as sugary as soda. Not a health food, folks, not a health food. But if you make your own fresh cranberry sauce, you can tone down the sugar content considerably. Example: to sweeten this, I used the juice and zest of an orange and also a single date and a single dried apricot. If that still isn’t sweet enough, you could stir in a small drizzle of maple syrup.

Cranberries always go on sale this time of year and they freeze beautifully, so stock up! Then you can make cranberry sauce whenever you like. Not only is it divine with any kind of meat (lamb and pork included), you can use the sauce as a base for dressing — just whisk in some extra-virgin olive oil to thin it. It’s a year-round condiment!

Cranberry & Orange Sauce
Makes about 1 cup.

1 small onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 pitted date, minced
1 dried apricot, minced
2 T. red wine OR apple cider vinegar
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Dash of cinnamon
4 oz. fresh or frozen cranberries

In a medium skillet, saute the onion with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until the onions are starting to turn translucent. Stir in the garlic and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Add the dried fruit and vinegar and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes or until the vinegar has mostly evaporated.

Stir in the orange juice and zest and add the dash of cinnamon. Stir in the cranberries and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. By then the cranberries should have softened enough to allow you to easily mash them with a spatula. Mash them thoroughly to release their pectin and continue to cook for a final 3 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. (The natural pectin will cause the sauce to thicken quickly.) Remove from heat to prevent the sauce from overcooking and drying out.

Serve the cranberry sauce with whatever you like, from freshly sliced turkey to turkey sandwiches to mashed potatoes. The sauce can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for a month.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on November 24th, 2014
Cottage Pie

Cottage Pie

If you’ve eaten at an Irish pub, you’ve probably seen Shepherd’s Pie on the menu. While the name of the dish is an authentic one, chances are the main ingredient isn’t: classically, Shepherd’s Pie is made with lamb and Cottage Pie is made with beef. Stateside, though, Shepherd’s Pie is usually also made with beef. But whether the meat is lamb or beef, the dish is called a “pie” because of its mashed-potato crust.

For this rendition, I used purple sweet potatoes to lend the beef a hint of natural sweetness … and yes, I used beef rather than lamb, which is why I’m calling this Cottage Pie. But you could just as easily swap out the ground beef for ground lamb and make an authentic Shepherd’s Pie. (After all, shepherds herd sheep, not cattle.) This is a great dish to make for company — it’s deceptively simple, yet amazingly satisfying, plus it makes great leftovers. The ideal cold-weather dish!

Cottage Pie
Makes a deep 9″ round pie or an 8″x 8″ square pie.

2 large sweet potatoes, scrubbed and ends trimmed, cut into 1” cubes
5 oz. pearl onions (if they’re frozen, thaw them first)
4 medium carrots, scrubbed and chopped
4 stalks celery, trimmed and chopped
4 oz. frozen peas, thawed
1 lb. ground beef
2 T. thyme
2 T. basil
2 tsp. sage
3/4 tsp. sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
2 T. brown rice flour
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt for garnishing (optional)

Place a large sheet of foil on the lower oven rack. (This will prevent any juices from dripping onto the bottom of the oven as the pie cooks.) Preheat the oven to 375F and generously grease a deep glass 9” pie dish or an 8”x 8” glass pan with butter or coconut oil.

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 10 minutes or until you can easily pierce the potatoes with the tip of a knife. Drain well, place back in the dry pot, and use a potato masher to mash the potatoes. Stir in a tablespoon of coconut oil and set aside.

Melt a generous dollop of ghee or coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pearl onions, carrots, and celery. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the peas, beef, herbs, salt, and pepper. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the beef is lightly browned. Stir in the broth and flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, or until the broth has thickened slightly.

Transfer the meat mixture to the prepared pie dish and top with the mashed sweet potatoes. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until the potatoes are lightly browned on top. Serve piping hot. If you like, garnish the pie with yogurt and a sprinkling of thyme. Leftover pie can be refrigerated for 5 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on November 21st, 2014
Cream of Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice

One of the few good things about chilly days is warm soup, especially luxurious soup like cream of [fill in the blank]. Mushrooms are one of my favorite fall/winter veggies, so I like to feature them in this soup, but you could make cream of celery soup if you’d prefer, or cream of potato. Most veggies pair well with onions, cream, and herbs. (And for the record, mushrooms are grown year-round. They’re one of my favorite spring veggies, too.)

I particularly like the combination of mushrooms and wild rice since they both contribute a hearty texture along with full, almost-earthy flavors. And wild rice is in a separate and unique category despite “rice” being half of its name. (It looks like elongated grains of rice.) Wild rice is far less starchy than rice, so it doesn’t absorb liquid the way rice does. That means you can simmer wild rice into soups and stews without needing to add so much more liquid. True, wild rice takes about 50 minutes to soften and cook, but that’s okay — longer simmering results in a richer, more flavorful soup. Just add the cream at the very end to prevent it from curdling.

Cream of Mushroom Soup with Wild Rice
Makes 4 light lunches or 2 hearty servings.

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs. cremini OR button mushrooms, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 green onions, trimmed and minced
1 T. thyme
Dash of sea salt
2 cups vegetable broth*
1/2 cup wild rice
1 cup whole milk*, preferably from grass-fed cows
Drizzle of cream, preferably from grass-fed cows

Melt a generous knob of ghee or butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are starting to soften. Stir in the mushrooms and cook, again stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until the mushrooms have shrunk to half their size. Stir in the garlic and green onions and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium-low and stir in the thyme, salt, broth, and wild rice. Cover and let simmer for 40 minutes or until the rice is just shy of its desired tenderness. (If the simmer becomes a boil, reduce the heat to low.) Stir in the milk, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook another 5 minutes.

Stir in a drizzle of cream, heat through for 1 minute, and remove from heat. Serve immediately. Leftover soup can be refrigerated for 3 days.

Enjoy!

* If you want a more brothy and less creamy soup, use 3 cups of broth instead of 2 cups of broth and 1 cup of milk.

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Lisa on November 18th, 2014
Tahini Cookies

Tahini Cookies

You’ve probably made cookies with peanut butter, or maybe almond butter or sunflower butter. But have you ever tried using sesame butter, a.k.a. tahini? As is the case with most nuts and seeds, you can grind sesame seeds to create a rich, buttery spread that makes a unique-tasting cookie. (Or you can buy pre-ground tahini.) And if you have someone coming over who’s allergic to nuts, seeds are the answer.

Given that sesame seeds are about four times richer in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats than sunflower seeds are, I’d rather use tahini than sunflower seed butter in my cookies. Also I prefer the flavor of sesame, which is more pronounced and distinctive, but that’s just my taste buds speaking. That said, a caveat: enough people are allergic to sesame seeds to make them a top-ten allergen in Canada and Europe. (The U.S. only focuses on the top eight, which does not include sesame seeds, at least not by U.S. reckoning.)

When making these cookies, you can opt for tahini made with roasted or raw sesame seeds; likewise, you can top the cookies with roasted or raw seeds. Roasted seeds have a much stronger flavor, whereas as raw seeds are creamier. The decision is yours. I used roasted tahini in the cookie dough and rolled them in raw seeds since the oven heat will toast the exposed seeds on the outside. Also make note of whether you’re using salted or unsalted tahini and butter — if either of those is pre-salted, there’s no need to add salt to the dough.

Tahini Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies.

3/4 cup buckwheat flour, preferably raw buckwheat*
1/4 cup teff flour*
1/2 cup palm sugar
1/4 pine nuts, toasted or raw
4 T. butter, preferably from grass-fed cows
1/4 cup tahini, made with either roasted or raw seeds
Dash of sea salt IF neither the butter nor tahini is salted
Sesame seeds for rolling the cookies

Preheat oven to 350F and cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place flours, sugar, and pine nuts in a food processor and twirl briefly to grind the pine nuts. Add the butter, tahini, and salt (if using) and process until the dough goes whump! and forms a ball.

Roll the dough into small balls, making each one about the size of a regular teaspoon. Sprinkle the seeds onto a plate and roll each ball gently in the seeds to coat it. Arrange on the baking sheets and gently press each ball down to flatten it slightly. Bake sheets one at a time, baking each for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies are lightly brown around the edges. Let cool on a wire rack.

Completely cooled cookies can be kept in a tightly closed container for a week on the counter top or two weeks in the fridge. For an extra-decadent treat, try dipping them in dark chocolate and then chilling them to set the chocolate. That’s an elegant dessert for the holiday table!

Enjoy!

* These are gluten-free flours. If you’d rather make wheat-based cookies, substitute 1 cup of kamut, spelt, or whole-wheat flour.

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Lisa on November 12th, 2014
Cape Gooseberries

Cape Gooseberries

Looking for an usual new fruit to try? Cape gooseberries are exotic, yet easy to eat — just separate the papery outer skins from the round fruit inside, rinse it well, and eat it. (Discard the outer skin.) The flavor hovers somewhere between floral and tart/sweet. You might recognize the distinctive papery skin — aside from looking like a Chinese lantern, it also resembles the outer skin of its close relative, the tomatillo. Much like a tomatillo has nothing to do with tomatoes, Cape gooseberries have nothing to do with gooseberries. (Although tomatoes, tomatillos, and Cape gooseberries are all members of the larger nightshade family.) The use of the term “Cape” most likely traces back to it having been historically grown in the Cape of Good Hope after having been brought from South America to South Africa, and it’s probably called a gooseberry since it’s about the same size and general shape as gooseberries are, albeit a solid color rather than faintly striped.

No matter what its etymological origins, Cape gooseberries make a striking garnish inside or outside of their exotic “skins.” Like tomatillos, they contain numerous tiny seeds that are perfectly edible, so you can chop fresh Cape gooseberries and add them to salads, desserts, or whatever you’re making that would benefit from their floral/sweet/tangy flavor. You can find dried Cape gooseberries, too, if you want to add them to trail mixes or granola. They’re usually called “golden berries” when they’re dried, or sometimes they’re referred to as “physalis” in reference to their botanical name. (I’m fairly sure now that the box of enchanting dried berries I found in Stuttgart marked Physalis was a box of Cape gooseberries…)

So the  next time you’re at the market and you spot what looks like miniature yellow tomatillos, buy them! Cape gooseberries make an accessibly exotic snack. Enjoy!

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Roasted Strawberries with Buckwheat & Macadamia Streusel

Roasted Strawberries with Buckwheat & Macadamia Streusel

If you’re like me, you don’t want to have to spend much time making breakfast … yet sometimes you still want something special. Enter this triple-layer treat! You can bake the streusel and roast the fruit ahead of time, then just layer them onto your plate and top them with a dollop of plain whole-milk Greek yogurt. The fruit provides a natural sweetness for the savory streusel and creamy yogurt, plus the layers look gorgeous. And you can customize your layers to your taste buds’ content by roasting different fruits and using various nuts in place of the macadamias. Since the roasting softens the fruit and creates an automatic syrup, it’s okay to use frozen fruit in place of fresh — just thaw it first. The result will be more tender and juicy than fresh fruit, but it’ll be equally delicious.

Roasted Strawberries with Buckwheat & Macadamia Streusel
Makes 2 generous portions or 4 snack-sized portions.

1 pound strawberries, stems removed and berries cut into equal-sized pieces (you might have to quarter the really big berries), preferably organic
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats (be sure to use gluten-free oats if you’re making gluten-free streusel!)
2 T. palm sugar
4 T. well-chilled butter, preferably grass-fed
1/4 cup roasted macadamia nuts, chopped
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt for topping

Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the berries out on the sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until juicy and soft. Slide them into a bowl and discard the parchment.

Place the buckwheat, oats, and palm sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into rough chunks and add to the bowl, then use a pastry cutter or two knives to cross-cut the streusel into coarse crumbs.

Cover the baking sheet with a fresh piece of parchment paper and spread the streusel onto it. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes or until streusel is turning golden. Slide into a bowl and stir in the nuts.

To serve, top a spoonful of roasted berries with the streusel and a generous dollop of yogurt. The berries can be refrigerated for 3 days and the streusel for a week.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on November 4th, 2014
Shrimp Curry with Purple Rice

Shrimp Curry with Purple Rice

Most people think of rice as a humdrum ingredient. But as soon as you move past the basic brown rice, you’ll find red, purple, black, and many shades in between. (Note that white rice is non-whole-grain and stripped-out; green rice is white rice dyed green with bamboo juice. It’s best to pass up those two varieties in favor of the more nutritious and tasty whole-grain varieties.)

And of course you’ll find all of those colors in various grain lengths: long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. What’s the difference? The longer the grain, the more separated and fluffier the cooked rice will be. If you’re making a pilaf, you’ll want long-grain rice, but if you’re making sushi and want the rice to be sticky, go with short-grain rice. Risotto is meant to be somewhere in between — creamy, but still with a little texture — so that’s when you’d use medium-grain.

Different varieties of rice have different names of origin, too: basmati  comes from India and jasmine from Thailand. All of these factors make rice incredibly varied … and often downright exotic! For this recipe I used sticky (read: short-grain) purple rice from Thailand, but feel free to use whatever variety of brown, red, black, or purple rice you have on hand.

Shrimp Curry with Purple Rice
Makes 4 to 6 servings.

1/4 cup whole-grain rice (brown, red, black, or purple)
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1/4 tsp. cloves
Dash of Aleppo pepper OR cayenne
3/4 cup whole unsweetened coconut milk
2 small purple potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 lb. shrimp, preferably wild U.S.-caught shrimp
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped

Place the rice and 1/2 cup water in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes or until rice has reached its desired tenderness, adding more water if the rice is looking too dry. Set aside.

In a large skillet, melt a generous knob of ghee or coconut oil over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes or until it’s starting to turn translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, spices, coconut milk, 1/4 cup water, and potatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the shrimp and cooked rice and cook 3 to 5 minutes over medium heat, flipping once or twice, until the shrimp have curled and are pink and opaque all the way through. Stir in the cilantro and warm through. Serve immediately. Leftover curry can be refrigerated for 2 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on October 30th, 2014
Coffee Ice Cream

Coffee Ice Cream

Having recently landed an article assignment for a magazine about cold-brewed coffee, as you can imagine, I’ve been trying cold-brew in various ways. First I tried it as a sparkling beverage (mixed with plain sparkling water and a slight drizzle of vanilla) and thought it was surprisingly good — it reminded me of chocolate pop. Then I tried blending it 50/50 with chai tea, which was also a hit. I haven’t tried adding cold-brewed coffee to batters yet, but I did make coffee ice cream with cold-brewed coffee, and it turned out to be perfectly coffee-flavored: just enough and not too much. Also, because cold-brewed coffee is a cold infusion and is never heated, it tastes a lot less acidic and therefore sweeter … which again makes it all the more suitable for ice cream. I added some cinnamon, too, and used maple as a sweetener. Three very complementary flavors!

You could simply blend your ingredients and freeze them in an ice maker without simmering them into a custard first, but the custard method results in smoother, richer-tasting ice cream. Just be sure that the custard is completely cooled before you pour it into the ice cream maker — if it isn’t chilled, the freezer won’t be able to churn and freeze it, and your ice cream will be crystallized and rock-hard once it’s been in the freezer for a few hours. Forcing air into the ice cream as it freezes (which is what the churning action of the ice cream maker is doing) gives the ice cream a lighter, more pleasant consistency.

Coffee Ice Cream
Makes about 2 1/2 cups (20 ounces) of ice cream.

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, preferably from grass-fed cows
4 egg yolks, preferably from pastured hens
1/4 cup + 1 T.maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup cold-brew coffee*
1 shot good-quality, unflavored rum, optional (this will lower the ice cream’s freezing point and make it less likely to turn rock-solid)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place the cream, yolks, maple, and cinnamon in a medium pot. Heat mixture over medium-low for 3 minutes, whisking occasionally. When tiny bubbles form, continue to cook gently for another 5 minutes, whisking more often and keeping a close eye on it. You don’t want it to come to a full simmer since that could overcook the egg yolks and make your ice cream chunky.

Remove from heat and scoop into a cool bowl. Whisk in coffee, rum (if using), and vanilla. Taste and see if you’d like it sweeter; if so, add a touch more maple syrup. When mixture is completely cool, place in an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer instructions. If you want to cool the cream quickly, fill a larger bowl with ice water and place the bowl with the ice cream inside the larger bowl, being careful not to get any water into the cream. Whisk for several minutes to rapidly chill the cream, testing occasionally to see if it’s chilled yet.

Freeze churned ice cream in as small a container as you have — headroom will make the ice cream crystallize all the more quickly, and you don’t want that. If I know I’m not going to serve all of the ice cream at once, I like to freeze it in several small containers to minimize air space at the top. Try to eat your homemade ice cream within a week.

* Cold-brewed coffee is made by letting fresh coffee grinds sit in cool water for 12 to 24 hours. The resulting batch is considered “concentrated” and is always diluted before serving, whether with ice cubes or milk or cream. In this case, the coffee is obviously diluted by cream, yolks, and maple, so you want to start out with the concentrate, not cold-brewed coffee that has already been diluted.

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Lisa on October 27th, 2014
Creamed Spinach with Yogurt & Bacon

Creamed Spinach with Yogurt & Bacon

It’s fall, and that means it’s time for cool-weather crops like spinach and other leafy greens. But because it is fall and not winter, you might still have a few tomatoes on the vine, too. This fall-friendly version of creamed spinach combines savory spinach and bacon with still-sweet cherry tomatoes. The “creamy” part comes from whole-milk plain Greek yogurt, but you could also stir in some cream if you like, especially if you want a smoother texture. (Yogurt tends to form tiny curds when you stir it into hot foods.) Or you could run the cooked spinach through a food processor.

Creamed Spinach with Yogurt & Bacon
Makes 4 side servings.

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 to 8 strips of cooked bacon, chopped
10 oz. curly spinach (not baby spinach)
7 oz. plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
Double handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered

Melt a generous knob of ghee or pat of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until onions are turning translucent. Stir in garlic and bacon and continue to cook for another 3 minutes or until the garlic is softened and fragrant.

Stir in spinach, adding it in handfuls to allow it to shrink and fit into the skillet, tossing it often with a large spatula or tongs. You want it to wilt evenly rather than having the bottom layer wilt and burn while the top layer remains unwilted. Constantly shifting the leaves will ensure that there is no “bottom” or “top” layer. After a few minutes, the spinach should be wilted and it should all fit into the skillet.

Stir in the yogurt and remove from heat. Continue to stir constantly to coat all of the spinach. At this point, you can stir the tomatoes into the spinach or garnish individual servings with them. Serve immediately. Leftover spinach can be refrigerated for 5 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on October 23rd, 2014
Double Chocolate Cookies

Double Chocolate Cookies

Buckwheat flour  has become my go-to flour for everything from cakes to crepes to cookies. It’s actually a seed, not a grain, and is consequently much less starchy than grains are. Roasted buckwheat flour is called kasha and has a darker, more nutty flavor than raw buckwheat does. Whenever I tried buckwheat pancakes as a kid, I thought I didn’t like buckwheat … but that was because I’m not so keen on the roasted flavor. Raw buckwheat is much milder and lends itself to nearly any dish. (Whole simmered groats make an ideal stand-in for bulgur, which is especially great if you’re a gluten-free fan of tabbouleh. Buckwheat to the rescue again!)

The only tricky part about using buckwheat flour is finding it in unroasted form — most buckwheat flour is made of kasha. If you have a flour mill or high-powered processor like a Vitamix, though, you can grind raw groats into flour in about 20 seconds. Such mills ain’t cheap, but if you’re a big baking fan, you’ll wind up saving a lot of money by grinding your own flours. Buckwheat groats, for example, are about $3/pound; pre-ground buckwheat flour is twice that. And you can’t beat the convenience of being able to grind flour on the spot whenever you need it. So perhaps a flour mill should be on your holiday list this year! Especially considering that buckwheat is low-glycemic and alkaline, which means your holiday baked goods made with buckwheat flour will taste better AND be more nutritious.

Double Chocolate Cookies
Makes 32 cookies.

3/4 cup buckwheat flour (preferably raw buckwheat flour, although if you prefer the flavor of roasted buckwheat flour, use that)
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably non-Dutched
1 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup to 1/2 cup sucanat or palm sugar, depending on how sweet you like your cookies
1 stick butter, preferably from grass-fed cows (you’ll note that grass-fed butter is soft enough to beat right out of the fridge; conventional butter will have to sit at room temp for an hour to be soft enough)
1 egg, preferably from pastured hens
1 tsp. vanilla
3.5 oz. (100 grams) 85% dark chocolate, melted*

Preheat oven to 350F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and sucanat. In a large bowl, cream the butter for at least a full minute or until it’s fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla, then beat in the melted chocolate. Add the dry ingredients and beat well to combine.

Scoop the batter into small mounds (about a tablespoon-sized dollop) and place on the baking sheets, making 4 rows of 4 cookies on each sheet. Bake sheets one at a time for 12 minutes each. Let cool on wire racks. Completely cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container for several days on the counter or for a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

* To melt chocolate, break it into pieces and place in a small pot over the lowest heat setting. Melt, stirring occasionally, and remove just before the chocolate is completely melted. Continue stirring with a fork to finish melting it. That way, you won’t risk scorching the chocolate.

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