A Most Welcome Obsession: Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe updated September 4, 2011

I fell in love with this chocolate chip cookies recipe from the Orangette blog the first time I made it and the second time, I’m fairly sure a lifelong commitment has been made. The whole wheat flour part totally compelled me. We’ve been adding more and more whole wheat flour to our baking repertoire, but I’ve never tried it to make cookies without at least some all-purpose flour mixed in. A friend asked this morning when I offered up the goodies, “Is there lots of butter in them?” and the answer is a resounding YES. LOTS of butter – which results in soft, chewy chocolaty melt-in-your-mouth cookies that I’ve never managed to create at home before.

Baking these with Talia made for a fun afternoon on a stay-at-home-sick day.


Makes about 24 2-inch diameter cookies

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 stick (4 oz.) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp. white sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans if desired

Preheat oven to 350°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats, or  butter if no lining is available. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and mix together. Cream butter and sugars in a mixer until well combined – about 2 minutes. Add egg, beating well on low-medium speed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, 1/3 at a time, until just incorporated – be sure not to overmix. Add in chocolate and nuts and briefly mix on low speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and give the batter a final hand-mixing to make sure the add-ins are well distributed.

Scoop 1 tbsp. sized mounds onto two cookie sheets. Refrigerating or freezing part of the dough is also a good option – I’m curious to see how they’ll taste after the dough matures for a day or two.  Be sure to give the dough scoops a lot of space – they spread quite a bit as they melt. Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool for 1-2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Be sure to try one warm! And by the way, the raw dough is darn good too.

Homemade Burgers with Sweet Potato Fries

Who knew that burgers and fries are almost as easy to make at home as they are to eat out? This simple and delicious dinner only made it into our repertoire last year, when Ava suddenly decided she was cool with meat prepared this way. Once I realized that you can pull this together in 30 minutes flat, I would regularly stock the freezer with grassfed ground beef from the farmers’ market, which comes conveniently Cryo-Vac’d in 1 pound packages. Pull the meat out in the morning and its perfectly defrosted by dinner time. Pair the burger with baked sweet potato fries, regular potatoes, a vegetable, a salad, etc. I rarely bother to make real french fries but have tried on occasion (though the 30 minute meal factor gets thrown out the window anytime deep frying is involved).

We are still struggling with finding the right bun because no matter what we’ve tried so far, whether its sliced ciabatta, baguette, smaller whole grain buns, etc.,. the kids leave half uneaten (yet insist on the complete burger of course). Our local burger joint has these perfectly spongy versions that I wish were available for purchase. I suppose I could try making my own but that is beyond the scope of my life at this very moment!


Serves 4

  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs grassfed ground beef
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 buns
  • 2 large sweet potatoes
  • Good olive oil
  • chopped parsley for garnish


Heat an outdoor or indoor grill on high. Salt and pepper the ground beef generously with kosher salt, gently mixing it. Careful not to overwork the meat when mixing or shaping the burger – according to many sources, this is the key to tasty burgers. Gently shape the ground beef into appropriately sized patties and make a thumbprint in the middle.

This allows the burgers to end up flat after cooking as opposed to rounded, since they plump when they cook.  Cook on high heat for about 3-4 minutes per side for medium (adjust depending on preference). Sprinkle cooked burgers with salt and pepper to finish. Toast buns on the warm grill and serve.

Sweet Potatoes

Preheat oven to 400°. Slice the sweet potatoes in half cross-wise, then create about 1/4 inch think lengthwise slices. Finally, cut sticks out of the slices. Place on parchment or Silpat-lined baking pan, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with finely chopped parsley as garnish, if desired.

Favorite Lentil Soup

Lentils are an established “superfood” and lucky for us, a general favorite in our household for soups, daal (and salads for the adult crew). I started making this lentil soup, adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, when Ava was a toddler. I remember pureeing batches for Talia when she started eating solid foods, and she couldn’t get enough. It was the perfect way to include her into our family dinners without making separate “baby food.” Yes, that kid has an awesome palette and appetite but she’s turned into quite a carnivore as she’s getting older (loves nothing more than salami and cheese for breakfast, perhaps with a small cracker to appease Mom and Dad who are constantly striving for balance). So its exciting for me that she’ll still eat this simple, vegetarian soup with gusto.



Serves 4-6 + leftovers

  • Olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup finely diced celery
  • 1/3 cup finely diced carrot
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 cup French, brown, or beluga lentils (I prefer a mix)
  • 2-3 handfuls of chopped greens (spinach, kale, chard, etc.)
  • 1 cup of cooked penne or fusilli (optional) or 2 cups of smaller pasta (shells, orecchiette or other)



Heat olive oil in a soup pot, add onion and saute until it softens, about 5 minutes. In the meantime, pound garlic in a mortar with 1 tsp of salt until it become a paste. Add tomato paste to the onions and work until they come together.

Add garlic paste, celery, carrots, bay leaves, and parsley, then cook for about 3 minutes.



Add the lentils, 2 quarts of water, 1 additional teaspoon of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer partially covered until the lentils are tender. This takes 30-40 minutes. Toward the end of cooking, add the greens and let them wilt in the soup – spinach should take just a minute or two, chard and kale about 10, to soften. Toss in the pasta if using.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese – or mix in a couple teaspoons of soft chevre as Ava loves to do. It melts into the soup and adds a lovely dimension of flavor.Crusty bread and gruyere are also a favorite addition.

SLOW COOKER PREPARATION: Follow instructions above for sauteing the vegetables, etc. Once they are cooked in a regular pan on the stove, transfer to the slow cooker, add lentils and 7 cups of water. Cook on high setting for 3-3.5 hours.

NOTE: This soup freezes nicely and tastes better a few hours after it is cooked.


Chicken Soup

One of the rewards of roasting a simple, delicious chicken at home (see this post), besides the great leftover options, is that you can use the carcass to make a quart or two of wonderful broth that will elevate any future soup and stew you make. I can usually squirrel away some broth into the freezer but inevitably (and much to my delight, being the Jewish mom that I am) one of my girls will ask for a dinner of chicken soup as soon as they see it. Lately, we end up doing roast chicken one night, leftover chicken for lunch and possibly dinner the next day, and chicken soup another night the same week. Sounds like poultry overload as I write but it somehow works.

Broth Preparation

  • 1 roast chicken carcass, all meat and skin removed (reserve meat for leftover/soup, toss the skin)
  • 2-3 stalks of celery, cut in large chunks
  • 3 carrots, cut in large chunks
  • 1-2 leeks if desired
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • a small handful of peppercorns
  • 1-2 tbsp sea salt or kosher salt
  • 5-7 parsley sprigs

Combine the above in a large stockpot and cover with cold water. The chicken should be completely covered by 1-2 inches of water ideally. Bring to a boil then simmer for 1-2 hours, depending on preference. The longer you simmer, the richer the broth. I prefer my broth simple, but feel free to add other herbs and spices as you desire. Refrigerate overnight or for at least 8 hours, which allows the fat to collect at the top. Strain cold broth through a fine mesh strainer into either a new pot if you are making chicken soup right away or into storage containers. Refrigerate or freeze as desired.

Chicken Soup – Serves 4

  • leftover roasted chicken OR 2 grilled chicken breasts (about 1 pound) or equivalent boneless, skinless thighs
  • 2 quarts chicken broth/more or less depending on preference and need
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stock, finely chopped
  • noodles or rice
  • finely chopped parsley if on hand
  • avocado, cilantro, finely chopped onion if desired

I like to grill boneless cuts of chicken quickly on the stovetop to serve as the base for my chicken soup, though you could also poach the chicken, or stew it. Once the chicken is cooked, add the chopped carrots and celery to the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add your choice of rice or noodles (if using brown rice, cook it separately and add toward the end of preparation, once carrots and celery are desired softness) and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chicken, cook for another 5 minutes, garnish with chopped parsley and serve. You can’t go wrong with this simple treat but I especially love the Mexican version with chopped avocado, onion, cilantro and rice.

Serve with a good crusty bread for a simple weeknight dinner.

Pasta with Ragú Bolognese

Now that our most welcome February spring has yielded to a round of huge rainstorms, its time to start cooking comfort food again. And no comfort food is more welcome in our home than pasta with ragú Bolognese (also known as noodles with meat sauce for the younger set).  What separates this dish from a more typical (and admittedly quicker) meat sauce is time. It takes at least 1.5 – 2 hours to prepare, due to the slow cooking process which yields an incredibly delicious result. This is not the dish to start at 5PM on a weeknight. However, make a large batch on a weekend and you’ll never regret it. The ragú freezes beautifully, lending itself to easy weeknight cooking when all you have to do is defrost, make some pasta and veggies and indulge. Because the sauce is so versatile, you could also make lasagna with it, serve over polenta and vegetables, or other grains.

Before I delve into specifics, I will admit that there are hundreds, even thousands of variations and approaches to this classic Italian sauce. Feel free to search for more options or amalgamate a few, as I do here. You’ll likely find that the basic ingredients and techniques are similar but the nuances do vary.

One additional note: Though I could not find a written recipe for this Wine Spectator video of Mario Batali making Bolognese sauce, it is really helpful in terms of technique. He breaks down the basics beautifully.


Inspired by recipes from the Chez Panisse Café Cookbook, and Mario Batali via the Food Network

Serve 8-10

  • ½-1 cup sliced mushrooms, as available and if preferred OR 1/3 c. dried mushrooms*
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced fine
  • 2-4 ounces of diced pancetta
  • 3-4 ribs celery, diced fine
  • 2-3 carrot, diced fine
  • 1 pound ground beef or pork
  • 1 pound ground lamb or veal
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 4 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1- 1½ cups milk
  • 1 cup white wine
  • kosher salt, black pepper
  • Parmigiano-Reggianno cheese and chopped parsley for grating

If you are using dried mushrooms, soak them in boiling water for 15-20 minutes until soft, drain and reserve the liquid. Chop either soaked or fresh mushrooms finely and set aside.

Using a wide, heavy-bottomed pot (this would be a good time to bust out that Le Creuset pot if you have one. We just invested in a large one and I’m in love!), heat a few tablespoons of olive oil and add the diced pancetta. After it releases some fat, add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and a little salty. Cook until the vegetables are translucent and soft but be sure not to brown them – about 10-15 minutes.

Add the ground meat to the vegetables, season with salt, then cook on a medium to medium-low heat to render the fat and slowly brown the meat. This will take about 45 minutes, with frequent stirring. Move around the sticky bits from the bottom of the pan, then add tomato paste, stir it together with the meat and cook, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. At this stage, the meat and tomato paste will have combined completely in a caramelized mix.

Add the milk and cook until it evaporates completely and leaves the meat silky smooth, about 5 minutes. Then add the wine and reduce on a medium heat until the alcohol is cooked off (you’’ll know when that happens by the smell). After the alcohol has cooked off, add the mushrooms, bay leaves and thyme, and cover the pan. Simmer on medium-low heat for about an hour, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over pasta of your choice and enjoy!

White Bean and Greens Stew (What To Do with Beans, Greens and Grains?)

My kids love pinto and black beans, but have been reluctant to expand their repertoire beyond the Mexican food frame. But in the spirit of introducing foods many times over before giving up, I decided to try out a simple version of white bean stew, featuring kale and served over quinoa that happened to already be cooked and ready to go in the fridge.

Preparation (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Here’s the basic approach, and like most of my recipes, feel free to improvise with what you have on hand (suggestions will be offered):

Steam kale (or chard) until leaves are wilted but still bright green. If using spinach for this recipe, skip this step and add it directly to the stew.

Saute chopped carrots, onion, celery (+/- ½ cup of each, shallots OK to substitute for onions) and garlic (2-3 cloves). As an aside, I find that chopping carrots in preparation for cooking is a nice excuse to offer my little ones a carrot stick. Warm up about 2 cups cooked of white beans with some water and a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or thyme – about 15 minutes or so.

Once your flavor base (above) is soft but not brown, add about ¼-½ cup of dry white wine, bring to boil and lower heat to reduce the liquid by about ¾ and the alcohol smell disappears – you’ll be left with a sauce.

At this point, you are ready to add the beans. In this recipe, cannelloni works perfectly and is easy to find canned. Though I would encourage folks to consider making beans in bulk from scratch, given recent emerging concerns about the bisphenol-A that is found in the lining of canned foods.

Add 1-1.5 cups of chicken broth, bring the entire stew to a boil and simmer with the herbs (rosemary/thyme + 1-2 bay leaves) for 15 minutes. Add kale/chard/spinach and cook for 5 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve over a cooked grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, farro, barley, etc) and top with a fried egg or as is. Drizzle with olive oil and sherry vinegar for a dash of extra richness and flavor.

If there are leftovers, add more broth or water to turn the stew into a delicious soup!

Preschool kids know what they like: Salt, sugar and fat

Preschool kids know what they like: Salt, sugar and fat.

This recent article published in Science Daily really caught my attention. To me, it drives home the importance of prioritizing home cooking as much as possible and exposing kids from their early months to a variety of flavors outside the salt, sugar, and fat triumvirate. And though it does seem possible to think that if this hasn’t happened by preschool, it will never happen – don’t fret! Plenty of additional research on the impact of school gardens and improved school lunch programs shows that food preferences do change in older children if they are exposed enough to good food.