Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Have you ever watched your kids go from being semi-normal to bat-poo crazy after eating lots of sugar? I have seen my sweet little girl go from rainbows and sunshine to the Exorcist in about five minutes flat after she eats too much sugar.

But here’s the problem…

I’m a pastry chef. Making stuff with sugar is what I DO.

So, it’s kinda hard to NOT let my kids eat ANYTHING with sugar in it. The compromise? Well, I can either load them up and send them to Grammy and Grampy’s house until they crash, or make adjustments and not let them eat a pound of sugar at a time.

With these cookies, I really don’t feel bad at all letting them have a couple at a time. They literally contain HALF the sugar of a standard chocolate chip cookie, they’re made with whole wheat flour, have ground flaxseed, and are packed full of oats. Makes a great little lunchbox snack, too.

If your family is nutty like mine, throw in a cup of chopped pecans for some added crunch.

Let’s get real though, these are also great for breakfast. They go really well with coffee, and I have been known to pack a couple in a little plastic bag and take them to work. My new favorite breakfast of champions.

lactation 3

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies Recipe: (makes about 32 cookies*)

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup stevia (or other sugar substitute of your choice)

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (plus 2 tablespoons water)

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups old fashioned oats

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (or raisins if you prefer)

In a very small bowl or cup, stir together flaxseed and 2 tablespoons water. Set aside. Combine butter, both sugars, and honey in a medium size mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 1-2 minutes, until light and fluffy. Add flaxseed, eggs, and vanilla, continue beating for another minute. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, continue mixing until well combined. Add oats and chocolate chips, stir together well with a spatula.

Using a medium ice cream scoop, distribute dough on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Using your hands, form each ball of dough into a thick disk. Place back on sheet and into refrigerator for at least one hour. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cookies on another cookie sheet, about two inches apart. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until a very light golden brown. Remove from oven, let sit on pan for another ten minutes. Transfer to cooling rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

*If you want smaller cookies, use a smaller scoop and adjust the baking time by about 1-2 minutes.

**How do I make cookies soft? This may sound weird, but a great way to make sure your cookies are soft are to UNDERbake them. No seriously, I’m not kidding. This is a technique that takes some practice, so you know exactly when to pull your cookies from the oven. When you underbake the cookies, they still continue to bake on the cookie sheet after they’re removed from the oven. This is called carryover baking. If you don’t believe me, Google it. The internet never lies… Just before they’re starting to crack a little on the top and are still slightly soft in the middle, pull them from the oven. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 10-12 minutes. They’ll still be somewhat soft when you transfer them to the cooling racks, but will firm up more as they cool. If they’re falling apart when you are transferring them, they didn’t bake long enough. It just takes a little practice. I have faith in you.

FREEZER INSTRUCTIONS:  For a great way to have cookies on hand, you can freeze the cookie dough and use as needed. Even though these cookies are healthier than the usual cookies, eating a dozen at a time may cancel out that whole “healthy” aspect, you know? My freezer is packed with different cookie dough flavors, and I can bake them at the drop of a hat as needed. Kids need an extra snack in their lunchbox? Cookie. Unexpected dinner guests and you want to have a little dessert? Cookies. Wine just won’t cut it after a long day? Dozen cookies.

After the cookies have set in the refrigerator, transfer them to an airtight container lined with parchment paper. If you’ve got more than one layer of cookies, make sure you separate the layers with the parchment paper. Before baking, let them rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes before baking. If you need to bake them right out of the freezer, just add 1-2 minutes to the baking time.

It was a birthday cake kind of weekend.

You’d think I’d be busy enough with food while working as a pastry chef in a restaurant, but clearly that isn’t the case. Going from being covered in flour at work, I come home to get covered in powdered sugar. “You have flour on your face,” is a comment I receive regularly at work. “The day must end in Y!” is my typical response. They don’t always tell me though, and sometimes I’ll end up going around half the day with flour smeared all over my face and no one telling me. Sometimes I think the other chefs leave me hanging on purpose for their own personal entertainment. Touche, fellas.

One friend’s husband turned 40, and she wanted a birthday cake with humor and personality. She sent me a pic of something someone else had made that was on the internet, and the concept was filled with sarcasm. Naturally, I loved it.

fire cake

The firetruck even lights up and makes noise. I made sure to tell my friend to push the buttons when they lit all the candles for the full effect of the cake.

Apparently though, it wasn’t as funny as I thought it was, considering I had to EXPLAIN the humor behind it to both my dad and my husband. The conversations were almost identical.

“Is he a firefighter?”

“Uh, no. The firetruck is on call because there are so many candles on the cake. You know, because he’s 40. Over the hill. Because there are SO many candles. Get it? Do you not get it? Come on, you HAVE to get that. It’s funny!”

“Yeah, I get it.”

Men…

The other cake I made was for a set of adorable twin girls who were having their first birthday party. Mom wanted pink roses on their cakes, and sent me a picture of the faded color rose cake she found. The faded colors weren’t as obvious in the one I made, but if you look closely you can see that the top shade is lighter than the bottom.

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Every time I walked through the kitchen after they were finished, I’d stop and stare.

“They’re just so pretty,” I’d say out loud. No one was listening.

table shot

(Photo by Angela McCall, Happy Clicker Photography)

These little boards that Mom’s friend made were so cute and creative to go along with the cakes that have little tidbits of info on them.

smash cake

(Photo by Angela McCall, Happy Clicker Photography)

Cutest. Smash cakes. Ever.

baby girls

(Photo by Angela McCall, Happy Clicker Photography)

But the smash cakes aren’t nearly as cute and sweet as the birthday girls. They did a great job smashing them. Happy birthday, girls!

Cheese Fries

Any time I go to a restaurant, there are certain items that make me drool. Okay fine, so being a foodie means a LOT of foods make me drool, but some produce salivation that cause me to take a step back and say, “No, your belly can’t handle eating 2,000 calories before dinner. Don’t be silly. Plus, they have cheesecake for dessert.”

One of those items is Cheese Fries.

When we were in college, one of my close friends and I would frequent a restaurant that had amazing cheese fries. They were the crinkle cut (my personal favorite) smothered with melted cheddar, bacon, green onions, and served with ranch dressing. We always asked for extra ranch because it never seemed to be enough. Sometimes I wondered if half a gallon of ranch would be enough for dipping. And don’t even think about bringing us just one little cup of ranch to share. That ain’t happening. In fact, we’d usually be fighting over the fries that were smothered with the most cheese.

“Hey! That ONE fry has like a pound of cheddar on it!! Stop hoarding the cheese!”

It was usually me stealing the fries with the most cheese. God forbid she get up to go to the bathroom while the fries were in front of us. She knew better.

The only problem with those cheese fries was the lack of cheese. It also drove me crazy if all the cheese was not totally melted. Cold cheese on top of lukewarm french fries should never be considered Cheese Fries. You could get arrested for such nonsense.

When making cheese fries at home, the chef in charge makes sure that NEVER happens. She also makes sure there is at least half a gallon of ranch available for dipping.

cheese fries

Cheese Fries

1 (20 oz.) bag crinkle cut frozen French fries

1 (10 ¾ oz.) can cheddar cheese soup

1/2 cup milk

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese*

4-6 pieces bacon, cooked and crumbled

Cook fries according to package directions (baking or frying). While fries are cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. In a medium sauce pan, stir together cheddar cheese soup and milk, cooking on medium heat until hot. Add cheeses; continue to whisk as cheese melts. When fries are done cooking, place in a 9×13 inch baking dish or a serving platter. Pour cheese sauce over fries and top with crumbled bacon. Serve warm.

*Freshly grated cheese has a smoother, creamier consistency and melts better than the bags of shredded cheese.

This recipe is in my first cookbook, Party Time!

Poop Emoji Cake

Over The Hill birthdays give you the opportunity to go over the edge with funny gifts. Which is why this is one of my favorite sections in a party store to look at, because there’s usually something good enough to make me laugh out loud. This cake had the same effect.

Two sisters-in-law and my husband all turned 40 within one month of each other. What’s crazy about this is that my brothers are 6 and 9 years older than me, but we ALL married spouses born in 1977 within a month. All of them also have dark hair and blue eyes. Weird. Well, we’re weird, so it does make a little bit of sense.

Two days before a dinner gathering around the last birthday, my mom asked if I was available to make a cake. The idea of this cake had actually popped in my head a few days before, thinking of how funny it would be to make this.

Coincidence?

I think not.

This cake was meant for my sister-in-law. They’re soulmates.

If she did have a problem with it, we could always use the excuse, “Well, you married Michael, so we knew SOMETHING was wrong with you.”

She’s from New Jersey and is always willing to give you a very honest answer…even if you may not like that answer.

“Tracy, how did you like this dessert?”

“It was cheesecake. Eww.”

That’s when I knew something was wrong with her. Cheesecake is da bomb dot com, and I threatened to strap her up in a straightjacket and throw her in a padded room. She shrugged her shoulders and smiled.

Originally, we were going to get together at their house to grill out for dinner, but she preferred to go out to eat. When my brother told me this, I started laughing.

“So, I have to bring the cake in the restaurant?”

“Yeah…is that a problem?” he asked.

“No (starting to laugh hysterically), it’s not a problem.”

He had NO idea what the cake looked like.

“Is it a family friendly cake?” he asked.

“Um, yes?”

I laughed out loud for the next few hours, imagining walking through a very busy local restaurant with this cake. This was going to be fun.

We pulled up in the parking lot, and I turned the cake to face out so everyone could see it clearly. As we were getting out of the car, I saw a couple of ladies with their kids standing on the sidewalk. They were chatting away, until one of them saw the cake. She stopped mid-sentence, “Oh my gosh! Look at that cake! That is hilarious!” The lady she was chatting with turned and starting laughing.

This continued as we walked through the restaurant, and people started taking pictures of it before, during, and after dinner. I saw a few people roll their eyes, but the majority of people enjoyed a good laugh at this crappy cake.

poop-emoji

The top tier was made in a doll cake pan, and is a dark chocolate cake packed with mini chocolate chips, covered with chocolate icing (of course). The eyes, mouth, and letters are made out of fondant. The bottom tier was a 2 layer 9 inch pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing. I decided to make two of the birthday girl’s favorite cake flavors since she is officially over the hill.

Happy 40th Birthday, Tracy! You’re old as crap!

Sesame Street Birthday Party

Some days, it feels like the days and weeks drag on, and then… BOOM! My baby boy turns 2. This all goes along with my cousin’s perfect description of having young kids, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

He’s not 2 weeks old.

Not 2 months old.

TWO YEARS OLD.

Where has the time gone?

I’m sure the mothers whose babies are turning 40 would snort at me because I have NO clue what it’s like for time to go by so quickly. On my birthday last year, my mom told me how she just can’t believe that her youngest baby is having her 7th anniversary of turning 29. Fine, maybe it’s me who refers to my birthdays as anniversaries these days, but that’s not the point. The point is that she remembers when I was a cute baby. A curious child. A sarcastic tween. An incredibly moody teenager. A partying college kid.

When my daughter’s 7th birthday rolls around later this year, all of the same feelings will happen again. It’s a continuous cycle that happens multiple times a year, each time my husband and I looking at each other and saying, “They’re growing up SO fast,” with pure amazement like neither one of us has already said this 100 times before, even when it’s just five minutes earlier.

We also said this last year at his Pirate First Birthday Party we threw for him. Honestly though, getting through that first year is a major accomplishment, so you better believe there was a big party. “Who serves alcohol at a kid’s party?” my brother asked as I passed around a special cocktail to some of the adults. “I’m not serving the kids alcohol!” I yelled at him.

This year was more low key. In fact, the only person who wore anything relating to Sesame Street was me in my Cookie Monster t-shirt… Because Cookie Monster is AWESOME. I even made Cookie Monster Cupcakes a few years ago because he’s so awesome. My cupcakes were in the March 2017 edition of  Story Monsters Ink magazine because you can’t go wrong with Cookie Monster. Should I say Cookie Monster and awesome again in the same sentence? COOKIE MONSTER IS AWESOME. Moving on.

sesame-street

This year’s cake was MUCH smaller than last year, but it served its purpose…

To look ridiculously cute and fill our bellies with sugar so that we could all sugar crash later in the day. Mission accomplished.

This is a 4 layer 10 inch round Blue Velvet cake. What? Blue Velvet? What the heck is that? It’s Red Velvet cake with blue food coloring instead of red. Yes, you CAN do that. It’s covered with cream cheese icing. I ordered the Elmo and Cookie Monster cake toppers from Amazon, made the 2 out of chocolate using a chocolate mold and lollipop stick, and made the rest of the decorations out of fondant.

The birthday boy loaded up on bubble toys. I don’t think I have EVER seen so many bubble toys, and he loves every single one of them. They catch his attention for about two whole minutes before he moves on to something else, only to return to the bubbles thirty seconds later. The attention span of a toddler is always entertaining, and you never know how long it will last.

Maybe next year he’ll understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, but this year he’s happy with bubbles.

Ultimate Oreo Cake

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, unable to go back to sleep? Happens to me more than I’d like, but often that’s when a lot of brainstorming takes place in my noggin.

Sometimes I’d rather be sleeping, but that’s when an idea pops in my head that makes me want to start baking a massive dessert at 3am. That happens to everyone… Right?

Well, that’s what started this…

The Ultimate Oreo Cake.

oreo-dessert-front

As I was laying in bed in the middle of the night desperately trying to fall back asleep, Oreos were dancing in my head. Then came the cheesecake. And the chocolate.

Oh, the chocolate.

The end result was a three layer decadent dessert made for dreams. Two moist layers of chocolate cake surrounding a thick and fluffy Oreo cheesecake, covered with Oreo Cream Cheese Icing, chocolate ganache, and little baby Oreos.

Mmmmm, Oreos.

oreo-dessert

As my husband watched me layering all of this goodness together, he said, “Why would you want to ruin a cheesecake by adding cake to it?” I gawked at him. “That’s it, I’m locking you away in a padded room tied up in a straightjacket.”

It must not have been all that ruined since he ate an entire piece.

For the Chocolate Cake:

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 eggs

1 cup strong coffee

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium size mixing bowl and whisk together to combine. Add liquid ingredients and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed for about 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly combined. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans, pour batter evenly into pans. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove pans from oven and let cakes cool in pans for 12-15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto cooling racks to cool completely.

For the Oreo Cheesecake:

4 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium size mixing bowl, combine 1 package cream cheese, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup sugar. Beat at medium speed until combined. Add each package of cream cheese, beating after each one until fully incorporated, stopping to scrape down the sides. Add remaining sugar and continue to beat. Add vanilla and eggs, beat just until combined. Finally, add heavy cream and continue to beat just until the cream is mixed in with the cream cheese.

Spoon mixture into a 9 inch springform pan. Wrap aluminum foil around outside of pan twice, making sure the outside of the pan is fully covered. Place in a larger pan (I typically use a 12 inch round cake pan for this) and fill the larger pan with water, just until the water level comes halfway up the springform pan. Carefully place in oven and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, just until the middle is a little bit jiggly. Pull pans out of oven, remove springform pan from larger pan and place on a cooling rack for cheesecake to cool completely. When it has cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and place in freezer overnight.

For the Oreo Cream Cheese Icing:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, softened

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

5 cups confectioners sugar

1/2 cup Oreo cookies, crushed into crumbs (easiest to use electric food chopper or processor)

Combine butter, cream cheese and vanilla in a medium size mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add confectioners sugar, one cup at a time, continue to mix for another 3-4 minutes. Pour in Oreo cookie crumbs and beat for one more minute.

For the Chocolate Ganache:

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Dump chocolate chips in a small mixing bowl, set aside. Heat heavy cream in microwave safe dish in microwave for 45-60 seconds, until it just starts to boil. Pour over chocolate chips in bowl and whisk vigorously until chocolate melts.

Putting it all together:

Place one layer of chocolate cake on a cake board/stand. Spread a thin layer of icing on top of cake. Remove cheesecake from freezer and loosen the side. Carefully push the bottom up to remove from the side. Place a piece of wax paper on a hard surface (I typically use another cake pan) and turn top side of cheesecake down, so the bottom of the springform pan is facing up. Using a knife, loosen cheesecake from the pan all the way around. Since the cheesecake is frozen, it’s easier to handle. Once you remove the bottom of the springform pan from the cheesecake, place the cheesecake on top of the chocolate cake layer. Spread another thin layer of icing on top of cheesecake, then place other layer of chocolate cake on top. Cover the entire cake with the icing until smooth. Spread chocolate ganache on top, just pushing over the sides so it drips down. Place cake in refrigerator or freezer for the ganache to set. Pipe remaining icing on top, set baby Oreos on top of icing for added garnish. Store cake in airtight container in refrigerator for 3-5 days.

 

I’m not 19 anymore, and it shows.

Well, at least physically I’m not. Sometimes it’s fun to be a goofball- minus the obnoxious, totally clueless life perspective from when I was 19. No, I’m not saying ALL 19 year olds are like this, just reflecting on so many of the dumb things I said or did 17 years ago. There are too many to list.

No dwelling on past mistakes though, let’s talk about the physical aspect of it.

Fine, I’ve had two kids… and after that second kid, it was even harder to get back into shape and lose the baby weight (I’m still technically 20 pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy weight). You know what though?

It doesn’t matter.

What MATTERS is how out of shape I FEEL.

At the age of 19, I could exercise for one hour a day and eat WHATEVER the hell I wanted. The result? A flat tummy with lines. My diet? Bagels smothered with butter, cinnamon and sugar, Capri Suns, burgers and fries, chips, Hamburger Helper (don’t judge, we didn’t know how to cook back then), soda, pizza, and anything else unhealthy you can think of. I had a metabolism on steroids.

Well, things change.

Popping in an exercise video just five years ago and getting back into really good physical condition would take less than two weeks. These days, it feels like it takes a damn year.

Oh, and the injuries. In the past year, I’ve had a sprained ankle, sprained wrist, and strained hip flexor. How? I have NO friggin’ clue. Must be age related, and getting back into those workouts while trying to nurse a minor injury makes it even more fun.

It’s like a sloth trying to do jumping jacks during a T25 workout.

Seriously.

Modified exercises? Please. You know the girl who does the modified exercises is still in amazing physical condition and it’s a cake walk for her. Speaking of cake…

I work with food.

Not diet food.

PASTRIES.

BREAD.

DESSERTS.

PASTA.

Granted, the foods I make are for the customers and I don’t eat much of them, but I’m still surrounded by some of the most succulent aromas from the incredibly talented chefs I work for. Did I mention the food is AH-MAZING?? “I think I’ll have a salad for lunch.” The day may start out with those intentions until the “not-diet-food” is staring at me from across the kitchen. Sending its fumes over to my nostrils. It’s a conspiracy. Especially when the stomach starts singing that it’s hungry and the chefs make a family meal of hot pasta, freshly made sauce, and oven roasted chicken wings. It’s just not fair.

Time to compromise. It may take longer, but the feeling of being physically fit and having more energy to do pretty much everything is worth those 25 minute workouts. Forget the pounds, I refuse to watch everyone else around me indulge in amazing food while I stand by and say, “No, I’m not allowed to eat.” Most of what I eat is healthy, but I’m not missing out on dessert and wine if it’s not necessary.

I can deal with having a muffin top if being able to move around like a kitchen ninja is fueled by those workouts.

Compromise fulfilled.