Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

Baking cookies with kids is one of those things that sounds so wonderful when you’re pregnant. You picture yourself with your angel children carefully measuring and pouring ingredients in your well-stocked, immaculate kitchen all while wearing matching aprons with just a little dab of flour on your rosy cheeks. It’s a perfect Martha Stewart moment. You’ll do it every week!  It will be magical! Memories will be made!
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Then you actually have the baby and see how absolutely ridiculous this idea is because you don’t have time to even take a shower by yourself, much less go to the store, get ingredients, bake cookies, and clean up. I’ve always loved baking, but I’m definitely a control freak in the kitchen and just couldn’t see how to involve my kids without making it a miserable experience for all of us. I like baking – it brings me pleasure and relaxes me, so adding my kids to the mix seemed a little ridiculous so I avoided it for a long time.

But baking with your kids really can be awesome if you do it right. First, if you can manage to do it with one kid instead of 2 or 3, it’s much better. Second, I suggest starting when your kitchen is already a mess – because it will definitely be one by the time you’re finished. Finally, young kids don’t have much of an attention span. Make something fast and easy, or only involve them in a small part (trust me on this – if you’re going to make, cut out, bake, frost, and decorate 100 Christmas cookies, spread it out over a few days and only make 20). This skillet cookie cake is one that RG and I make together a lot. It’s one bowl, there’s plenty of fun measuring and pouring to do, you probably have all of the ingredients on hand, it’s forgiving, and it takes about 20 total minutes. No scooping our individual cookies, waiting for anything to rise, frosting – nothing. You mix, pour, and bake. It’s also absolutely heavenly.
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Chocolate Chip Skillet Cookie Cake

2 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup regular white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons instant espresso or coffee powder

2 cups flour

2 cups chocolate chips (I use 1 cup of bittersweet and 1 cup of semisweet, both ghirardelli)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a large mixing bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and eggs one at a time, mixing and scraping the bowl between additions. Mix in the baking soda, espresso powder, and salt until everything is combined and smooth.  Add the flour  one cup at a time, making sure the first is fully incorporated before adding the second. Fold in the chocolate chips.
  2. Grease an 8″ cast iron skillet (I just spray a little vegetable oil on mine) and pour the batter/dough in, using a spatula to smooth out the top. Bake for 35+ minutes, until the middle is set and a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cookie cake cool for 20 minutes, but then serve warm out of the skillet, preferably with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Lamb Rolls with Tzatziki Sauce

I am the first to admit that as a person who grew up not eating lamb, I had a hard time warming up to the idea as an adult.  I always kind of thought I had plenty of proteins in my lineup so there was no real reason to add another, but then I made this dish.  It’s the first lamb dish I ever made and I use it as a litmus test for those who are skeptical about lamb (read: my mom).  In the years that I’ve been making it, I’ve never had someone determine that they truly disliked lamb after eating it, so if you aren’t sure, give it a try.

The recipe originally came from a Rachael Ray cookbook we received as a wedding present nearly 7 years ago.  I generally am not a huge Rachael Ray fan – I find that in her “30 Minute Meal” gimmick it generally translates to 30 hours of dishes, which I’m so not down with, but in an effort to actually try something out of each cookbook, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised at the lack of dishes.  I usually serve mine with a big Greek salad, and estimate that each diner will eat half of one roll (it makes 2 big rolls or 3 moderately sized ones).

Lamb Feta Rolls with Tzatziki sauce

1lb. ground lamb

1 cup feta cheese

2 green onions

1 jalepeno (only use half if you’re heat sensitive)

2 cloves garlic

10-12 sheets phyllo dough (I just buy a package – inevitably some will rip) – defrosted

6T butter

for the sauce:

2 cups Greek yogurt

1/2 of a cucumber

1/4 of an onion

1 clove garlic

1 small handful of mint leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Finely chop the green onion, mince the garlic and jalepeno, and melt the butter.  Mix the lamb, feta cheese, garlic, green onions, and jalepeno together in a mixing bowl.

2. On a large cutting board or cookie sheet, lay out your first two sheets of phyllo dough, brush it with some of the melted butter, season with salt and pepper, then add another 2 sheets, butter, salt and pepper again.  Continue until you have 6 sheets of phyllo dough.  Spoon the mixture in a log shape in the center of the dough and fold it up like a burrito.  Repeat for the second and, if you want smaller portions, a third roll.  Use a little butter to seal the edge and brush the tops with a bit before you place them in the oven.  Bake for 15 minutes, until the phyllo is a golden brown.

3. While the rolls are baking, grate the cucumber and onion, mince the garlic, and finely chop the mint leaves.  Stir together with the Greek yogurt to make a sauce.  Serve the lamb rolls with the sauce.