Sunday, November 1, 2020

Chewy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie Bars

I'm kind of a cookie snob. If it's a chocolate chip cookie, it HAS to be chewy. Crispy is fine every once in a while, but cakey is not an option. This time of year, everything has been pumpkin-ified, whether it is by the addition of real pumpkin or just pumpkin pie spices. Unfortunately, pumpkin has a high water content, and when it's added to baked goods, it can seriously affect the texture. In terms of cookies, that means it will make them so cakey that they are basically muffins in the shape of a cookie.

Almost a decade ago (!!!), the creative genius of How Sweet It Is shared a CHEWY pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe, and it quickly became one of my favorites. I even shared it once already on this blog seven years ago! It is perfect every single time I make it. However, sometimes I don't feel like waiting for multiple batches of cookies to bake. And without fail, I always end up with chip-less batter in the end. I decided I wanted to turn her recipe into cookie bars. And you know what? I didn't even need to do anything to it! I compared her recipe to some cookie bar recipes, and the amounts of flour and butter were basically the same, so I threw the whole thing into a 9x13 pan (lined with parchment paper), baked it for 30 minutes, and it turned out perfectly

Since then, I have made this recipe as bars countless times. I actually prefer this to the original cookie recipe, since you get thicker and chewier cookies with half the work. I have also made this in two 8x8 pans and that works really well, especially if you want to make one for you and one for a friend :) 

  • As with the individual cookies, the bars will seem underdone when you take them out, but that really is the trick to a chewy cookie.
  • The cookie bars cut very well once they are cool, so please resist the urge to eat them immediately (unless you're okay with a big mess, which is probably worth it for warm cookie bars). 
  • Once the bars are all cut, I like storing leftovers (if there are any) in the fridge. For long-term storage, put them in the freezer!
  • They store well for a week (I honestly haven't had them last longer than that), and you can definitely make them in advance. I would just recommend letting them warm up to room temperature before serving, because not everybody likes cold cookies. 
  • If you're feeling really indulgent, these are incredible when topped with a dark chocolate ganache. 
  • I originally always made these cookies with homemade pumpkin butter, but it also works perfectly with pumpkin butter from Trader Joe's - just make sure to stock up when they have it! 
  • As I mentioned in my previous post about the cookies, I really like adding some cinnamon chips in with the chocolate chips - also, use dark chocolate chips if you can find them.
  • It's a lot cheaper to make your own pumpkin pie spice - here is a good recipe

Chewy Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cookie Bars
Yield: 24 medium or 32 small bars
Adapted slightly from How Sweet It Is

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (312 grams)
1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 (heaping) tbsp pumpkin pie spice 
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup packed brown sugar (200 grams)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (100 grams)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup pumpkin butter (144 grams)
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup cinnamon chips (can use more chocolate chips if you can't find these)

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line a 9x13 pan (or two 8x8 pans) with parchment paper.

Mix flour, salt, cornstarch, pumpkin pie spice, and baking soda in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the melted butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and stir until well mixed. Stir in the pumpkin butter until smooth.

Add the flour mixture gradually and mix until a dough forms. It might look crumbly at times, but I promise it will all come together. Resist the urge to over-mix it. When the dough is almost together, fold in the chocolate chips.

Dump the dough into your prepared pan. If you are splitting into two pans, try to split the dough evenly - using a scale helps, but isn't necessary. 

Using an offset spatula (or your hands), press it down evenly and make sure it gets into all of the corners. If desired, top with a few extra chocolate chips and cinnamon chips. 

Bake for 30-35  minutes, or until lightly golden and the edges are starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. The top will have a crackly crust and the middle will seem underbaked, but it will setup once it cools.

Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for 30 minutes, then lift the bars out of the pan (using the parchment paper) and cool on the cooling rack until completely cool.

Melted butter mixed with sugars

Egg and vanilla mixed in, with pumpkin butter just added

Dry ingredients were gently folded in

Dark chocolate and cinnamon chips added to dough

Dough split between two 8x8 pans

Dough spread out evenly

Baked perfectly - crackly on top but still gooey in the middle

This was a 9x13 batch

Chewy centers!

They sink a little bit in the center because they are so gooey

Thursday, June 18, 2020

One Pot Orzo with Beans and Veggies

When I find something that Emily will happily eat for lunch, I make a giant batch and freeze it for later! I tried a few variations of this recipe, but finally made a version that makes Emily grab by the handful to shove in her mouth. I freeze in these silicone trays and heat up 2 cubes for Emily's lunch. 

Recipe: One Pot Orzo with Beans and Veggies
Adapted from The Kitchn

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1/2 lb dried orzo pasta
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 can beans, rinsed and drained (chickpeas, kidney, black, small red - all work well)
1 cup spinach, chopped (frozen or fresh)
Optional: 1/2-1 cup chopped cooked veggies

Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook onion until translucent, about 10 minutes. 
Add orzo and garlic and cook for 1 minute. 

Stir in broth, tomatoes, and beans - bring to a boil. 

Cover, reduce to a simmer, and stir frequently to prevent sticking. Cook until the liquid is all absorbed and the pasta is cooked, about 10 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cooked veggies, if desired. 

Serve warm, or cool completely and store in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. 

Instant Pot Rice and Beans

We originally made this recipe to go with fajitas - adult dinner. We tried giving some to Emily for dinner the next day and we were shocked by how much she liked it. It is now part of her dinner most nights! I froze cubes of it in this silicone tray - I honestly lost track of how many cubes we got! We just microwave them for ~30 seconds. The best part is we can add a ton of veggies to mix in and Emily just keeps on eating it - she sees them but honestly doesn't care. 

Recipe: Instant Pot Rice and Beans
Adapted from: From My Bowl
Yield: ~12 servings (adult) 

1 tbsp oil
1 onion, diced
1 1/4 cups dried beans (we have used small red beans, black beans or kidney beans)
1 1/2 cups brown rice
5 cups liquid (water or broth is fine)
1 cup salsa

Turn Instant Pot onto saute and add oil. Cook onion until it starts to turn translucent. 

Add rice and beans. Pour in water/broth and stir to mix well. 
Pour the salsa on top, but do not mix! If the salsa gets on the bottom it can burn. 

Close the Instant Pot, set the valve to seal, and use manual mode to set to 28 minutes at high pressure. 
One the cook time finishes, let the Instant Pot release pressure for an additional 10 Minutes (leave the “Keep Warm” feature on).
Move the valve from Sealing to Venting to release all remaining pressure. 
Sometimes, the beans that ended up on top look a little dry. If that is the case, stir well, replace the lid, and wait another 10-15 minutes. 
Serve warm, or let cool completely and store in the fridge for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months.