Baker’s Delight: Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

We are pleased to welcome back Sarah Pulliam Bailey with this guest post! These would be great for you weekend and summer picnicking!

Chocolate chip cookies provide the ultimate comfort food. If you’re serving chocoholics, consider baking double chocolate chip cookies, which offers a rich, moist, chewy dessert.

The cookies did not turn out terribly even because I was in a hurry and grabbed rounded spoonfuls of dough, which made them puffier. If you prefer more uniform, flattened cookies, you could roll the dough up on parchment paper in a log, refrigerate for two hours, and cut individual cookies. You could also substitute white chocolate chips for peanut butter chips and chopped peanuts. Some of the reviews suggested using 1 tsp. of baking soda and 1 tsp. of baking powder, so consider experimenting. The recipe takes about 30 minutes and makes about 3 dozen cookies.


(Adapted from
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1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of vanilla
2 cups white chocolate chips or chunks (12 oz. bag)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease cookie sheets. In a large bowl (I used my KitchenAid), cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating each one well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the cocoa, flour, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir the mixture into the other bowl. Fold in white chocolate chips. Drop rounded spoonfuls onto the cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes (9 minutes was perfect in my oven). Allow cookies to cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to finish cooling. If you have a smaller kitchen, consider investing in a tiered cooling rack.

Guest Post: International Cuisine

We are so pleased to welcome Sarah Bailey as a guest blogger today. She is a recently married writer who aspires to be home chef extraordinaire! Her international recipes look wonderful and we are glad to have her join us this week!


Greetings, fellow foodies. By day, I am online editor for Christianity Today magazine and blog 2-3 times a week at By night, I turn into a wannabee foodie, like many aspiring cooks in America. And in my spare time, I read books and magazines, play board games with friends, and pick up the violin/viola.

Last year, I married my college boyfriend and moved to Green Bay where beer, brats, and cheese create the perfect Wisconsin dish. I grew up with a love for baking because–let’s be honest–that’s where cooks tend to get the glowing reviews. Cooking was something that just had to be done to survive, but a few circumstances created the perfect storm for my relatively recent excitement for the culinary arts. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food eloquently argues for the value of food as more than energy, Julia Child’s My Life in France offered an inspiration for cooking, and regularly reading and reviewing recipes on sites like helped me adapt recipes to my tastes. Finally, armed with new kitchen toys (wedding gifts), I became queen of my own kitchen after sharing a fridge and garage-sale utensils for so long. Sites like also combined my love for blogs and cooking, giving me an extra appetite to continue my culinary experiences.

A few months ago, some of my friends and I signed up for a weekly international cooking class to expand my cooking horizons. Intimidated by the thought of handling foods I had never seen before, I was pleasantly surprised by the lineup that ranged from your average Greek salad to the French creme brulee. Each week, we focused on one particular cuisine–Thai, German, French, and Greek–and cooked everything from the appetizers to the main courses to desserts, to get an idea of what buffet style might look in that particular country. When the course was over, we held a dinner party where each of us made two items from the course. I chose the French Clafouti and the Mediterranean chicken and fennel with couscous.

(Adapted from Ina Garten)

1 Tb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. plus 1 Tb. granulated sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
6 Tb. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tb. brandy
2 to 3 firm but ripe pears
Confectioners’ sugar (to sprinkle on top)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Butter a 10-inch round baking dish and sprinkle the bottom and sides with 1 Tb. of the granulated sugar. Shake out the extra sugar.

Beat the eggs and the 1⁄3 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. On low speed, mix in the flour, cream, vanilla extract, lemon zest, salt, and brandy. Set aside for 10 minutes.

Peel, quarter, core, and slice the pears. Circle the pears around the baking dish. Pour the batter over the pears and bake until the top is golden brown and the custard is firm, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

(Adapted from the Food Network)

4 to 6 chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds), bone in with skin
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 Tb. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small bulb fennel, halved, cut into 1/2-inch wedges, fronds reserved
1 small red onion, sliced into thin wedges
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/3 cup kalamata olives

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Season the chicken thighs generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet (I used a cast-iron skillet) over medium-high heat, add oil, and heat until shimmering. Cook chicken skin side down until golden and crispy, about 8 minutes. Turn chicken and brown for another 2 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Pour off 1 Tb. of the pan drippings and reserve; leave just enough oil in the skillet to cover the bottom, discard the rest.

Add the fennel, onions, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes to the skillet and cook until the vegetables just begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and olives. Arrange the chicken, skin side up, on top of the vegetable mixture and bake, uncovered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 20 to 30 minutes.

1 1⁄2 cups uncooked couscous
3 cups chicken broth
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 orange, zested
1/4 cup roughly chopped or whole flat-leaf parsley
2 to 3 Tb. water or chicken broth

Rinse the couscous in a sieve under cold water until the water runs clear. Put the couscous into a medium bowl and set aside. In a small saucepan add the chicken broth, reserved drippings, the 1 tsp. salt, nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper and bring to a boil. Add the broth to the couscous and cover with plastic wrap, setting aside until the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes.

Toast the pine nuts in a small skillet over medium-high heat, tossing in the pan until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes (be sure to keep them from burning). Add the orange zest, fennel fronds, and parsley to the couscous.

When ready to serve, fold the parsley mixture into the couscous and fluff with a fork. Mound the couscous on a warm serving platter and arrange the chicken around the couscous. Stir 2 to 3 tablespoons water or broth into the fennel mixture for a glazed look. Adjust seasoning and spoon fennel over the couscous and chicken; scatter the toasted pine nuts on top.

Guest Post: Grilling

We are delighted to have a good friend share a guest post today on charcoal grilling. Christine has made charcoal grilling her hobby for many years and knows what she’s doing! She has a recipe for grilling pork shoulder posted on her personal blog which you may enjoy as well. Thanks Christine!

While most people associate grilling with hamburgers and hot dogs, in the last few years the realm of grilling progressed to fine dining. In Chicago and Indianapolis, restaurants serving only food grilled over charcoal exist and entire cooking shows on the Food Network are devoted to this emerging medium. What I love most about grilling is how basic it is –  coals plus protein or vegetables equals a great meal. If you’re new to grilling there are only a few essentials you need. For charcoal grills, I highly recommend a chimney starter which starts the charcoal with newspaper and coals, eliminating the need for lighter fluid which can leave an aftertaste on the food. A good spatula and a timer are all that is needed to complete your grilling kit.

This recipe for hickory smoked herbed chicken thighs is one of my all time favorites. I’ve adapted the ingredients to feed both small and large (20+) groups of people and I think this is one of the best no fail recipes that I’ve ever cooked. Hickory chips are available at almost any store that sells grilling equipment. Be sure to buy wood chips and not wood chunks which are too large to use for this recipe, however wood chunks are easily split into 1 inch pieces with a hatchet.

(adapted from Weber’s Big Book Of Grilling)
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For the marinade:
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

8 chicken thighs (with bone and skin), about 4 oz. each

1 cup hickory wood chips

To make the marinade: In a medium bowl whisk together the marinade ingredients.

Trim the chicken of any excess fat and place in a resealable plastic bag with the marinade. Refrigerate 6 to 8 hours. Thirty minutes prior to cooking chicken on the grill remove the chicken from the marinade and allow chicken to rest at room temperature, discard the old marinade.

Prepare the grill. Soak wood chips in cold water for 30 minutes prior to grilling. Ensure that coals have ashed over then spread wood chips over coals. Put the cooking grate on the grill and allow to heat for 2 minutes while the wood chips begin to smoke. Sear the thighs skin side down over direct medium heat with the grill covered for 10 minutes (until the skin crisps), then turn the chicken over and cook 20- 25 minutes more until the chicken is no longer pink at the bone. Remove from grill and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Serves 4.

Note: using woodchips will turn the meat a pinkish hue, this is normal when smoking.

Guest Recipe: Wheat Bread

As long as I can remember, my mom has baked bread from scratch. It’s wonderful and the house smells amazing when it’s baking. One of my favorite memories growing up was having hot, fresh bread and homemade soup for lunch. We would devour an entire loaf with butter melted on each slice. Her recipe has changed a lot over the years but I asked her to share a basic recipe with her notes here at The Cooks Next Door.

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2 pkgs. active dry yeast (or 4 tsp. bulk active dry yeast)
1/2 c. warm water (105-115)
1//3 c. honey
1T. salt
1/4 c. oil, butter, or shortening
3 c. unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
3-4 c. whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 c. warm water in large mixing bowl. Stir in honey, salt, oil, rest of water and the white flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough whole wheat flour to make dough easy to handle.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in a large greased bowl; turn greased side of dough up. Cover with a lightweight cloth (tea towel); let rise in a warm place until double’ about and hour. (Dough is ready if an indentation remains when touched.)

Punch down dough; divide in half. Flatten each half with hands into a rectangle (9×12). Roll dough tightly starting at the 9 inch side. Pinch edge firmly to seal; fold ends under.

Place loaves seam sides down in 2 greased loaf pans, 9x5x3 or 81/2×41/2×21/2 inches. Cover again and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 375. Place loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire rack.

Mom’s  notes: Bread dough is pretty forgiving. You can easily adjust the amount of honey or oil according to diet needs and end up with a good product. I have made this completely by hand.

After adding the white flour to the liquids, beat with a sturdy wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, until the batter slips off the spoon in a sheet, sort of. Then add the whole wheat flour a cup at a time and beat in until the dough is easy to handle for kneading. When you knead, you will work in more of the whole wheat flour as you keep the dough from sticking to the kneading surface. Making the bread without equipment to mix or knead will build your muscles and get your heart rate up–good aerobics. 🙂

A note about whole wheat flour: Use the freshest whole wheat flour you can. The oils in whole wheat begin to deteriorate (get rancid) when the grain is ground. Whole wheat should be stored in the refrigerator (or freezer for a longer period of time). If you have a grain mill, you can grind a mixture of several grains (millet, barley, rice, quinoa, kamut, groats, etc.) having the majority of the grain being wheat (for the gluten). This will produce a multigrain bread. Also if you prefer to use all whole wheat or multigrain to improve the nutritional quality of the bread, add about 1/3 c. gluten for some of the flour. Gluten is a necessary protein for the texture of the bread. The initial beating of the dough and the kneading both help to activate the gluten.

This bread freezes well and the batch can easily be doubled. It’s an even better workout!