Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies


My daughter came home from school the other day with friends and they wanted to make cookies….a lot of cookies!

This recipe for Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies has an interesting story behind it ( says it is an urban legend with a long history) and it makes 5 dozen cookies—just what they wanted!

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup dark brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

2 and 1/2 cups blended oatmeal (measure and blend in food processor or blender to a fine powder)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

12 ounces chocolate chips

4 ounces milk chocolate, grated

1 and 1/2 cups chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cream butter and both sugars in a mixer. Add eggs and vanilla.   Mix together flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Add to the creamed butter mixture.  Add chocolate chips, grated chocolate and nuts, mixing in with a spoon.  Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Makes about 5 dozen cookies.



Jake’s Banana Cake


When  I was visiting my daughter in January, she made this delicious cake. It is her husband’s grandmother’s recipe.  Banana Cake.

I  have several banana bread recipes that my family loves, but I did not have a banana cake recipe.  I don’t ever remember eating Banana Cake before.

I had some overripe bananas the other day, so I tried making it myself.  The cake is moist, delicious and very easy to make.   Try it!

Jake’s Banana Cake

3/4 cup butter

2 and 1/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

3 cups flour

3/8 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 and 1/2 cups mashed bananas (that is about 2 medium bananas–very ripe are the tastiest!)

3/4 cup sour milk (sour the milk by first putting 1 teaspoon of white vinegar into the measuring cup, then fill to the 3/4 cup line with milk–stir–the milk will thicken)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Cream together with a mixer the butter, sugar and eggs.  In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir with a fork.  Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture alternately with the mashed bananas.  Combine completely, but don’t over-mix.  Stir in the vanilla.

Pour the batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool and serve with a sprinkling of powdered sugar over the top.

Yummy Short Ribs!

We know it is March when the highs this week range from the 50 degree mark down to a low 8 degrees this morning on my thermometer!  It’s so cold today that I knew we had to have something warm and comforting.


And not just any ribs but Short Ribs from the Penn State Meat Lab.


They are fresh, like all the meat at the Meat Lab, they are tender and they are inexpensive.  $3.50 per pound.  Compared to a local grocery store that had them on sale last week for $5.50 per pound, that is a good deal.

My favorite recipe for Short Ribs is this one from The Pioneer Woman:


This recipe for Short Ribs makes moist, tender ribs, with a killer sauce to boot!  (The Pioneer Woman’s pictures of this dish are much better than mine — you can see how moist they are)  The ribs are baked in a broth that is made from diced carrots, onions and shallots with fresh herbs in a wine/water/apple juice (whichever you prefer) and beef broth liquid that makes your home smell so good your family and friends will want to dig in as soon as they come through the front door.

A disclaimer:  I did not have bacon or pancetta.  I just used bacon grease that I had in my fridge for browning the meat, etc.

I served the ribs on top of mashed potatoes, but The Pioneer Woman suggests polenta too,  and that is also delicious.

Remember that the PSU Meat Lab is open every Friday from 9:30 AM until 3:00 PM or until the meat runs out.  They are closed this Friday, March 14 for spring break but will be back next week and every Friday until the end of Spring semester, May 9.

The Cooking Grandma

..or Nannie, or Nonna, or some other name that little Alice Catherine will call me in the future.  Yes, the little one arrived in late January, healthy and happy, with a head full of brown hair.


As the little family was settling in to this new life of changed schedules and sleep deprivation, I was shopping and cooking to keep their strength up.  My favorite grocery store in Utah Valley is Sprouts Farmers Market and I found good prices there to nourish a new mommy and daddy.  Just before the Super Bowl, all sausages were on sale so I made Pasta with Braised Sausages and Ricotta, which makes enough pasta sauce to freeze for later use.  I used chicken sausages and the dish was delicious!

The new mom was back on her feet in no time.  Between taking care of Alice and attending two classes for graduation in April, she decided it was time to bake some whole wheat bread,


and then hold her cute baby!


Wheat Bread (this made using a Kitchen Aid Mixer with a dough hook)

(adapted from a recipe on the blog Most Uncivilized Adventure)

2 cups warm water in the mixing bowl

1/4 cup oil (olive is good, canola is too)

1/4 cup honey

1 rounded Tablespoon yeast

1 and 1/2 cups bread flour

scant ¼ cup gluten flour

Pour all ingredients in mixer, mix well, and let sit about 10 minutes

Then add:

3/4 Tbs salt

3 cups whole wheat flour

Add in 2 cups of the wheat flour and let it knead with the dough hook for a bit. Then add in the other cup as needed.  The dough is supposed to be pretty sticky.

Knead (with the dough hook) for about 12-15 minutes. cover, let rise until double – about 30 min.

Punch it down and divide dough in half.  Put in 2 greased loaf pans and let it rise until the dough is past the top of the pan.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for 32 minutes.

Back in Happy Valley, you can still buy fresh, local food during this never-ending winter at several farmers markets in the area.  A list of winter farmers markets is here where you can find local veggies, fruits and other products.

Happy 2014!


Black Bottom Oatmeal Pie

Since I last posted on this blog, I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner, a welcome home dinner our daughter Rachel and new son-in-law, Jake;


Loaded with Good Stuff Loaf

cookies and sweet breads for Christmas gifts;


our traditional Christmas Eve buffet, Christmas brunch and dinner;


lots of royal icing for our gingerbread house competition;


 Marcella Hazan’s Focaccia 

New Year’s Eve buffet, our New Year’s Day pasta, not to mention most of the favorite foods of our visiting children for the holidays;


(Tiramisu using Orzo instead of coffee)

an Italian birthday dinner for our youngest daughter on her 18th (!)



and party food for the birthday celebration;

not to mention all the dinners in between!!


Hot Cocoa Cookies

Elizabeth  has been a great help to me during this time as well as cooked her share of recipes including– a Secret Santa Cookie Exchange with her friends at State High and a dynamite Red Velvet Cake for a friend’s birthday.

Wow, I’ve just realized how much food has gone through my kitchen in the last 2 and 1/2 months, now that I have written it down!   I’m sure that I’ve forgotten something, but now, I really need to stop cooking and deep clean my kitchen.

There are lots of recipes to share from these months.  Here are a few:

Broccoli-Wild Rice Casserole–from Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, so you know it will be hearty.  It is packed full of broccoli, carrots mushrooms, celery and onions with wild rice in a cream sauce.  You could eat it as a main course.

Goat Cheese Poppers with Honey–these take a bit of time but a fun, different appetizer.

Sugar Cookies–I have many recipes for sugar cookies.  This is one of the best and it really holds up cut out, iced and decorated.

Michael Symon’s Basic Stuffing–Basic but very yummy.

Beef and Black Bean Chili–2 Tablespoons of cocoa, 2 Tablespoons of hot chili powder, some cumin and smoked paprika makes this chili great for a cold day.

Now, after deep cleaning my kitchen,


 I’m off to cook  in another kitchen,

but most of the time I will be holding a sweet little baby girl.

Just call me grandma!

Turkeys and Brussels Sprouts

It’s November and time to think TURKEY, and other culinary delights.

First, a reminder to mark your calendars for the annual Penn State Poultry Science Club’s sale of Thanksgiving turkeys.  The sale is not usually advertised to the public, but somehow last year, it was featured on a local TV program, and all the turkeys were sold within the first few hours!  There is no pre-ordering, just get in line BEFORE the sale starts.  Last year I wandered over to the Poultry Education Center for my turkey a couple of hours after the sale began.  I do this every year, but last year I did not know of the report on the news about the sale.   I came home with the very last turkey they had!!!  This turkey had just ONE leg, but I bought it anyway, as it was only a PSU turkey that was acceptable at our Thanksgiving table.

The turkey sale is Monday, November 25 from noon until 6 PM and Tuesday, November 26 from noon until 5 PM.  Trust me, the turkeys will probably be gone by Monday afternoon!

To go with that turkey on Thanksgiving day, or for any day of the week, try this new recipe I found for Brussels sprouts.  You say, “yuck—Brussels sprouts!”  I say, like your mother when you were young, “just try it first before you decide you don’t like it.”  Brussels sprouts sauteed in olive oil are a delight and so much tastier than those that are steamed, boiled or even roasted, as far as I’m concerned.  They are nutty and caramelized!


Shredded Brussels Sprouts

(from the book Too Many Cooks by Emily Franklin)

Brussels sprouts

Olive Oil

Sea salt–I use Kosher salt

Wash the sprouts.  Peel and discard the first outer leaves, and cut off the rough bottom.  Slice the rest somewhat finely, keeping a few bits larger for texture.  Drizzle olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and sprinkle sea salt into the pan.  With the heat on high (watch closely–don’t let the oil burn), add the sprouts.  Cook for about 8 minutes, lowering the heat to medium after 3 minutes, letting the greens wilt and semi-caramelize until the bits are brown and toasty.

S’MAC for a Party


There was a party last weekend at the Holland house to celebrate Rachel and Jake’s wedding in Salt Lake City  in August.  We wanted to share the happiness here in State College.  It was an open house with lots of food!!

We had many friends come for the party from out of town, so I decided that the food needed to be a combination of sweet….


….and savory.


Rachel and Jake met in Salt Lake City 2 1/2 years ago.  But as life goes, they both accepted jobs in different cities after dating for just one month.  They decided to keep in touch — and obviously  —  they did!


I wanted the food to represent some of their favorite places.  We had tomatoes and bocconcini salad, roasted veggies and a wonderful Italian pasta that is a cinch to make ( I forgot to take a picture of it, but take my word for it, it could not be easier or more delicious—click on this recipe for Chicken and Tomato No-Boil Pasta Bake) to represent Rachel’s love of Italy.

Because Jake was living in NYC, and Rachel spend many vacations visiting him there, I made a pasta dish that is from one of their favorite restaurants, S’MAC–a restaurant that serves many kinds of macaroni and cheese.  The couple’s favorite?  Cheeseburger S’mac!  I googled the recipe and found it from a Good Morning America program from 2010!


I made it a couple of week’s ago for a try-out.  Then I asked  Rachel to tell me what she remembered about the dish.  I decided I needed to up the flavors a bit. Here is the recipe that I came up with.

Cheeseburger S’mac


2/3 lbs. elbow macaroni

Boil the macaroni according to package directions; drain–You should have 4 cups when cooked.  Put a bit of olive oil on the macaroni so that it does not stick together.  Set aside.


1 pound hamburger

1/2 cup diced onion

1 Tablespoon garlic

2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 Tablespoons ketchup

1 teaspoon Montreal seasoning

Fry the hamburger and onion on medium heat until cooked throughout. Take off the heat.  Add the garlic, Dijon mustard, ketchup, Montreal seasoning and stir. Set aside.


1 and 1/2 Tablespoons butter

1 and 1/2 Tablespoons flour

1 and 1/2 cups whole milk

6 ounces American cheese, grated

6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat, add the flour and stir until dissolved but not brown, slowly add the milk, stirring constantly, and let the mixture heat up and thicken.  Take the pan off the heat.  Add the cheese, portions at a time, and stir to let melt into the sauce.

Mix the macaroni, hamburger mixture, and sauce together in a large bowl. Transfer to a greased 9 x 13 pan or other comparable casserole dish.


1/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

3/4 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Mix together in a bowl, and sprinkle on top of the macaroni.

Bake the S’mac at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until it is heated throughout.   Then broil for 3 minutes if the topping is not browned a bit and crispy.

Serves 4 generous portions!  Enjoy—-and pretend that you are in NYC!

A Cake for the Fall Crowd

We’re having a party soon.  I needed a cake to feed many.  Here it is:


Missy G’s Sweet Potato Pound Cake.  Baked sweet potatoes, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, pecans, butter!!!!  All of those ingredients just say “fall” to me!  And deliciousness!!

This is a cake that does take some time to make.  You have to bake the sweet potatoes first and let them cool before you can even begin to prepare the cake batter.  It is worth it.  It feeds 20-32 people, depending on how large the slices are, and since this is a very dense cake, a small slice is enough for most people. Remember that the time listed for baking might not be right for your oven.  My cake took 15 minutes longer than the time on the recipe to be completely baked (when the skewer comes out clean).  Use a LONG cake tester (I used a wooden skewer)  so that you can poke it all the way to the bottom of the pan to test if the cake was done.

Whipped cream or ice cream and a cup of Way’s Apple Cider (hot or cold) and you have a wonderful fall treat.  Pick some up this weekend at their annual fall festival!


Classic Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter–a Tribute to Marcella Hazan


Before I lived in Italy, Italian cooking meant spaghetti covered with bottled sauce.

Then I moved to Lerici, Italy and the offerings in the grocery stores inspired me to cook like an Italian.  But the cookbooks were in a language I could not read.  My American friend, Julia, introduced me to Marcella Hazan.  She told me that her recipes were easy to follow and delicious.   Traditional Italian Food.  Exactly want I wanted to learn.

Last week, the icon of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan, died.  This New York Times article was a wonderful tribute to a woman that taught America to cook Italian food correctly—NOT lasagna made with cottage cheese!

I decided to pull out my copy of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and make Mrs. Hazan’s classic Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.


Of all the recipes I have made in her cookbook, this is one that I missed.  But so many people commented on this one recipe when asked “what is your favorite Marcella Hazan recipe?” in a companion New York Times article, I knew I had to try it.  And I only had a few minutes to prepare dinner.


I was not disappointed!  You HAVE to try this recipe!!

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

“This is the simplest of all sauces to make, and none has a purer, more irresistibly sweet tomato taste.  I have known people to skip the pasta and eat the sauce directly out of the pot with a spoon.”

2 pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped  OR 2 cups canned   imported  Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

5 Tablespoons butter

1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half

A pinch of Salt

1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds pasta

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese for the table

Put either the prepared fresh tomatoes or the canned in a saucepan, add the butter, onion, and salt, and cook uncovered at a very slow, but steady simmer for 45 minutes, or until the fat floats free from the tomato.  Stir from time to time, mashing any large pieces of tomato in the pan with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and correct for salt.  Discard the onion before tossing the sauce with pasta.

–May be frozen when done.  Discard the onion before freezing.

Fall is Here with Roasted Pork Loin

Yes, it is still feeling like summer out there!!!  Hot Days!  But with the promise of cooler ones coming.  We know this is true since all the fall events are starting up. Last week was State College Area High School’s homecoming weekend.




The winning float!

Roasted pork is very much a fall feeling, smelling food to me.  It’s also COMFORT food at it’s best!  And so easy to prepare.  The smell of rosemary, sage and garlic whafting through your kitchen as the pork is baking will make you happy that the summer is over.  I bake this pork loin resting on a layer of peeled and sliced potatoes and carrots.

In Italy, roasted pork can be found as a sandwich in a food truck at the local outdoor market, sliced and stuffed in a good hearty roll wrapped in white paper. But, you don’t have to go to Italy for panino con la porchetta, you can just use your leftovers.

Market Style Roasted Pork
Arista di Maiale al’ Mercato
From the Book:  In Late Winter We Ate Pears
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
8 to 10 fresh sage leaves
8 to 10 medium cloves of garlic
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 3- to 4- pound  pork loin (shoulder or belly can be used)
Kosher or other large-grained salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Wine or water

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Chop or process (in a food processor) together the rosemary, sage and garlic with several generous pinches of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper.

Arrange the pork in a roasting pan.  I use a rack in the pan, and if you want a complete meal, put peeled and sliced potatoes and carrots around and under the meat.  If you are using a shoulder or whole loin, make 3 inch deep incisions into the meat with a sharp knife, stuffing the seasonings into the incisions.  If using a pork belly or loin that has been butterflied (it lays flat) then spread the seasonings over the whole interior surface, roll up the meat and tie it with butcher’s twine.

Season the exterior with salt, lightly blanketing the surface, drizzle the olive oil over all and add some wine or water to the pan, at least 1/2 inch deep.

Roast the pork for 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours or until the internal temperature of the pork reads at least 130 degrees (medium) on a meat thermometer.  As it roasts, watch the liquid in the pan, adding more if needed to keep the meat moist.  If the meat begins to darken to much as it browns on the outside, tent foil on top of the meat to prevent burning, although a certain amount of crustiness is yummy!

Once the meat is out of the oven, let it rest for about 15 minutes so that the juices can reabsorb into the meat before you slice it.  You can use the pan juices for serving the meat, or in the Italian way, drizzle olive oil over the slices when served.

  • "I see cooking much more as art (and magic) than as science, and I really believe it should be fun. If more people saw it that way -- instead of as a chore -- they'd be inclined to do it much more often."  --Winnie Abramson, Nutritionist, Cookbook Author, and Contributor to Food52
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