Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

My husband and I love Food Network and really LOVE watching The Best Thing I Ever Made. That is where this YUMMY recipe came from. These are by far our most favorite chocolate chip cookies. A little bit SWEET and a little bit salty. Mmmmmm!

Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
(From Best Thing I Ever Made on Food Network)

8 tablespoons butter, softened but still cool
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, cream together the butter and brown and granulated sugars until smooth but not over mixed. (I do this by hand, but if you use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a handheld mixer, beat on medium speed for 1 to 2 minutes, and then scrape down the sides of the bowl before continuing.) Add the egg, vanilla, and salt and stir just until combined.

Sift in the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and stir gently just until combined. Add the chocolate and nuts if using and stir just until evenly distributed throughout the dough. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put 1-inch scoops of dough onto prepared pans and bake for 8 to 9 minutes. Check and see if done, then bake a couple minutes more if needed. Let cool on racks and enjoy!

TIP: Remember when you are baking that the cookies will continue to cook as they cool on the pan and rack. Take them out when they are just starting to turn golden around the edges or they will be overdone! (I am guilty of this all of the time!)


Easy Mint Brownies

Did someone say brownies??? Mmmmmm! We LOVE brownies, especially mint ones! This recipe couldn't get any EASIER either. The trick is a good store-bought or pre-made mix. The MINT frosting makes it taste homemade and delicious. Oooooh, and don't forget to top it with the CHOCOLATE ganache. That part makes them extra special!

Easy Mint Brownies 
1 bag Betty Crocker Fudge Brownie Mix, prepared as directed in an 8 x 8 pan
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temp
Dash of salt
1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 cup + 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
1 1/2 tablespoons milk 
Green or blue food coloring
1/2 cup or so milk chocolate chips
3 tablespoons whipping cream

Prepare the brownies and then let them cool in the pan completely.

In a bowl, beat together the butter, salt, corn syrup, powdered sugar, mint extract, and milk until smooth. Stir in the food coloring until desired color is reached. Spread mint frosting over cooled brownies.

In a small bowl, combine the chocolate chips and cream. Heat in the microwave for 15 seconds and stir. Heat for 10 to 15 seconds more and then stir until smooth. Spread over mint frosting and then refrigerate until ready to serve.

TIP: Cut brownies with a plastic knife to avoid ripping them all to pieces! You can also use flavorings other than mint. Try raspberry, strawberry, orange, or even coconut. All will be delicious—just make sure to color them with food coloring accordingly!


Chopped Mango Salad

As many of you know, I LOVE salads! Obviously, since I have a couple cookbooks that focus only on SALADS. Anyway, this yummy mango salad is a gem! I found a new dressing that sounded pretty SCRUMPTIOUS, so I needed a tasty and REFRESHING salad to go with it. Here it is!

Chopped Mango Salad 
1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
1 head red leaf lettuce, chopped
1 ripe mango, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1 cup frozen super sweet white corn, thawed
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
6 to 8 ounces extra sharp white cheddar cheese, cubed into small pieces
1/2 cup craisins (I used cherry-flavored)
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 (8-ounce) bottle Kraft's Chipotle Mango Salad dressing

In a pretty large bowl, combine all of the ingredients and toss with the dressing to coat. Serve immediately. Makes a ton, roughly 18 to 20 servings.

TIP: I think that chopped salads should be full of crunchy things! Feel free to add or take away anything you want to make it your own. I think cashews would be yummy in place of the sunflower seeds, or even some fried wontons broken into pieces. A bit of diced up pineapple would also be super YUM!


Blackened Salmon Salad

OK, so I'm slightly obsessed with blackened SALMON, especially when combined with my FAVORITE basil dressing. (Just check out previous posts!) Sooooo, simply put, this SALAD is to die for. And that's ALL I'm sayin'!

Blackened Salmon Salad
Blackened Salmon (just follow salmon prep)
Leafy green lettuce, chopped
Iceberg lettuce, chopped
Cucumber, quartered and sliced
Red bell pepper, chopped
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Sunflower seeds
Green onions, sliced

Creamy Basil Dressing
1/2 cup light mayo or nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup white vinegar (I like apple cider vinegar with the Greek yogurt)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 to 1/2 cup fresh basil
Dash of dried oregano, parsley, and garlic powder

Prepare the salmon as directed; break into small pieces. Layer all salad ingredients on a plate and top with the dressing. Enjoy!

TIP: The bell pepper could be replaced with tomato if you prefer! I love sunflower seeds on a salad, but some chopped cashews or chopped dry roasted almonds would also be nice. And, I prefer the dressing with the yogurt—it definitely cuts calories that way and I can hardly tell the difference!


Coconut Cream Cheese Pie

Mmmmm. This is my take on the regular COCONUT cream pie. I think it turned out pretty TASTY. It is pretty decadent, and super RICH and CREAMY. Hope you like!

Coconut Cream Cheese Pie
1 small box coconut cream instant pudding mix
1 3/4 cups milk
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
Dash of salt
2 to 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
Graham cracker pie crust (store-bought or homemade)
Fresh whipped and sweetened cream
Toasted coconut

Whisk together the dry pudding mix and milk for 2 minutes; refrigerate for at least 5 minutes.

In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla, coconut extract, salt, and powdered sugar until smooth and slightly fluffy. Fold into the pudding mixture and then scoop into the prepared pie crust. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Top with the cream and coconut, then serve. Makes 8 servings.

TIP: If you don't have coconut extract, it will still taste yummy if you leave it out. The coconut flavor just isn't as strong. This would also be delicious in an Oreo crust. YUM!