Monday, December 17, 2007

White Chocolate Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

All right it is time for props. President's Choice rocks!! Can I get an AMEN?? With my obsession of Caramel, I had to buy the Dulce de Leche. OH. MY. GAWD. If sin can be bottled, then this is it. Really. It is THAT good. The ultimate in creamy, super thick and you can just spoon gobs of it out of the jar. It reminds me of something, too. It has almost that Kraft-i-licious kind of underlying flavor. Only better.

At one point in my life I thought, hey maybe I will be Cryogenically tucked away, but now I am thinking of being entombed in the PC Dulce de Leche. I am sure there must be some similar effects that could lead to future revival.

I am a product-a-holic...a slave to what's hot and new. I jump for joy when I see the new Insider's Report. I know it is a bit weird, but what is better than finding a new product that turns out to be the best thing since bread came sliced??? New food items too, are the shiz. They can revive cooking and baking and bring a new twist to a recipe.

As I shop this Christmas season, though, I have to say it is not quite the same experience as Superstore at home. I haven't quite achieved that lovin' feeling when I walk through the door. There is no one to greet me in every department. Like sweet Brown Sugar in the bakery and Mr. Kraft in the cheese aisle **le sigh**. I know it will take time...but I have to say I sure do miss it.

I also miss the late night shopping sprees for more Eagle Brand milk or marshmallows with Wanda. I swear, we get the urge to bake at the most ungodly hour. But yet, up to SS we would go...a trip that should have lasted 10 minutes, but somehow was about an hour. We always seemed to get sidetracked in the kitchen gadgets aisle...seeing if we could score a deal on a professional grade cookie sheet. Yep there is many a memory centered around the Antigonish Superstore!

So, as I give it up one more time to the President, let me just say that I won't back down. I will find the love in Superstore in Medicine Hat if it kills me. Maybe, just MAYBE it might be in the Dulce de Leche aisle.


WHITE CHOCOLATE DULCE DE LECHE CHEESECAKE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ingredients:

* CRUST
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
* FILLING
* 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) white chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
* 2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
* 1 1/2 cups (President's Choice Dulce de Leche

Directions:
FOR CRUST:
PREHEAT oven to 300° F.

COMBINE butter, sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add crumbs; toss until crumbs are moistened. Press onto bottom of ungreased 9-inch spring form pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

FOR FILLING:
HEAT 1 2/3 cups morsels and cream in medium, heavy-duty saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Cool for 15 minutes.

BEAT cream cheese in large mixer bowl until fluffy. Beat in morsel mixture and vanilla extract. Stir in eggs. Remove from heat. Heat 1 cup Dulce de leche dip in small saucepan over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or just until slightly softened. Remove from heat. Stir in 1 cup cheesecake mixture. Alternately spoon cheesecake and caramel mixtures into prepared pan, ending with caramel. Swirl gently with knife.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Turn off oven and let cheesecake stand in oven for 1 hour. Remove from oven. Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Run knife around edge of cheesecake. Cool completely. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

**At this point I also made a whipped white chocolate ganache topping for my cheesecake. I thought it just needed something smooth ans creamy on top!! You HAVE to add this...it is silky smooth!! The recipe follows:

WHITE CHOCOLATE GANACHE
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1-1/2 cups heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate chips

In a saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups of the cream and bring just to a boil. Remove from the heat. Place white chocolate chips in a large bowl and pour hot cream into the bowl containing the white chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then whisk until smooth. Transfer to the refrigerator to cool, stirring occasionally.

When mixture is cold and thickened, beat with an electric mixer to soft peaks, then beat the last few strokes by hand with a whisk until thick and firm. (Be careful not to over-whisk, or mixture will become grainy.)

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

French Chocolate Cheesecake

I can remember being a kid a pouring over the pages of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was fascinated...drawn in by the complete escapism the book lent to me at that early age. I was probably in grade 4 or 5 and I remember my teacher asking me if I could return the book (I was a Chocolate Factory hog) so other kids, too, could have a chance to read it. I wanted it all to myself. Why, why, whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy do I have to give it back???? **having a Veruca fit**

I had visions of walking through that factory...my mind was filled with Everlasting Gobstoppers, Fizzy Lifting drinks and Rainbow Drops galore!! My favorite part was when Violet chews the magic stick of gum. The one that gives her a full course roast beef dinner with all the trimmings, and that she could taste every last bite, right down to the blueberry pie for dessert!! I couldn't possibly imagine the technology behind THAT stunt.

My dad always says, "If Wendy made it, then it has to either be made of chocolate or cream cheese". And that is a bad thing how????? Yes, it is true. I admit it. And I will fight tooth and nail to be the one to make dessert. I feel just like Bree on last week's episode of Desperate Housewives...not to be outdone by someone else's prize winning Lemon pie. I try not to be so dominant, but it just happens. See what you have done, Charlie????

Most of what is good in life somehow is related to chocolate. When chocolate melts in our mouths it produces feelings of pleasure. That in itself is a bonus. When winter comes and stays for 6 months...hot chocolate helps warm our bones. Seriously...we have national holidays that would seem somehow violated if chocolate was not involved. I mean, what would Easter be without the eggs and bunnies??? Valentines day?? What would happen if all the pretty boxes contained icky hard candy?? Or worse yet...licorice?? **shudder**

To quote Martha, it is a Good Thing. If we can have just one pleasure in life, it should be good chocolate. No cheap-it-looks-like-it-was-Turtle-waxed stuff. I mean go NOW to Godiva. Make it worth every bite. Or, go to your kitchen and make this cheesecake. It might not be Godiva, but it runs a close second. It melts like a magic elixir on your tongue. Just like Violet's magic chewing gum. Only better.


French Chocolate Cheesecake
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crust:
~~~~~~~~~~~
1 1/2 cups ground pecans
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Filling:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3-8 oz packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Directions:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all crust ingredients. Press in bottom and up sides of greased and parchment paper lined 10" spring form pan. ***DO NOT USE SMALLER PAN...the filling comes right to the top of the 10" pan**** Set crust aside.

Filling:
~~~~~~~~~~

HEAT cream in medium saucepan over medium heat just to boiling. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until chocolate is melted. Cool for 15 minutes.

BEAT cream cheese and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl on medium speed until smooth. Add chocolate mixture; beat on low speed until just combined. Add eggs; stir until just combined. Pour into prepared crust. Place pan on baking sheet.

BAKE for 55 to 60 minutes minutes or until edge is set but center still moves slightly. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes; run knife around edge of cheesecake. Cool for 30 minutes. Remove side of spring form pan. Cool completely on wire rack. Cover; refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Garnish as desired. This makes one massive and heavy cheesecake!! Dig in!! And don't forget the caramel sauce!!

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bon Jovi Squares

I am in a tizzy. A full blown fit where there is hair pulling, bodies being thrown to the floor (mainly mine), and excessive high pitched squealing.

I have a problem, you see. It is this whole Bon Jovi concert that has set me right off. He is coming to Calgary, which is only 3 hours from my house. But here it gets complicated. My sister Wanda and I made a pact. The pact was that we were going to get to one of his concerts before we die. But TOGETHER!! I can go, she can't. This just isn't right. I refuse to go without her.

The reason for this whole kafuffle started way back in the 80's. There was this album called 7800° Fahrenheit that started my obsession. It goes on from there through the permed and teased hair, the leopard print leggings, rubber bracelets and the leather jackets. Right into my bedroom, where the walls were barely visible through all the posters of that caramelly highlighted hair. **Insert light bulb moment** Talk about juxtaposition: my love of caramel = my love of his caramelly hair. I feel so deep right now. ;-)

There were songs that seemed to fit through every phase of my life. There was Silent Night...the tune that my first love, Fabian, made into our theme song. Then came Livin' on a Prayer...the song that got every hardcore 80's girl through the day. There was some Bad Medicine...the only prescription ever needed. Bed of Roses, Never Say Good bye, I'll be there for you...classic ballads for those moments when chocolate and wine is just not enough. Now that I live in Alberta, "Who Say's You Can't Go Home" rings true.

My all time favorite song is Dead or Alive. One day, I will rip into Richie's guitar riff and make it look effortless. You may laugh but this is what I aspire to be. This is also the song that I tell my children over and over I want played as they carry the casket out at my funeral. We will have none of this weepy business. Just a good quality final exit from life. Gone out in a Blaze of Glory. ( For those who have read my previous posts, this happens right after the sprinkling of the body glitter)

I remember a few years ago..back when Lauren was in her mid teens. There would be many an occasion where we would be traveling in the car, or just listening to music at home and Bon Jovi would come on. There would be screeching and running to crank the stereo up (Wanda and I). Then the air guitar and singing would commence (Wanda and I, again). Lauren and her friends would take one look at us and practically run like wounded animals from the room. Now today, after many years of never giving up and subliminal messaging in her sleep , Lauren has also developed the love for his music. Obviously a sign of stellar parenting skills.

Anyone who knows me, knows me as his Biggest Fan. I will never deny it if asked. So when you get in my car and Bon Jovi comes on the radio, don't ask me to turn it down.

So, I cannot entertain the thought of going alone to this concert. When we go...and we will someday...know there will be 2 girls, front and center whose lives were forever changed because of his songs. Words that take us back to exact moments..and to the future, where we will Make a Memory.

**Going to resume position back on the floor**

As a tribute to the Caramel Hair...I give you this recipe!

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Caramel Shortbread Squares
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2/3 cup butter
1/2 cup whole sugar
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 bag milk chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In medium bowl, mix together 2/3 cup of butter, white sugar and flour until evenly crumbly. Press into a 9" square pan, sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake until light golden brown.
3. In medium saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter, brown sugar, corn syrup and Sweetened condensed milk. Over med-low heat, bring to a boil. Continue to boil for 5 minutes, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon for about 3 minutes, until thickened. Pour over baked crust. Crust can be either warm or cool.
4. Put chocolate and veggie oil in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute, then stir well. Continue for 20 second increments until totally melted. Pour over the caramel layer and spread evenly. Chill. Cut into squares.

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Fall...the time of year that floods my mind with a thousand thoughts. The stunning colors and the smell in the air that only falling leaves and dropping temperatures can bring. Farmer's markets with pumpkins, plums, peaches and about a thousand different kinds of apples. There was also the yearly walk our family would take up on the hill beside our grandmother's house just so we could all sit for five minutes on the huge rock at the top of the hill. Even though I am not there I can still smell the air and retrace every step. Fall seems almost perfect.

Mom and Dad always had apple and pear trees growing in every nook and cranny. I loved it when picking time came. It was so hard to believe that so many apples could come from one single tree. The last time I picked apples was one afternoon with my sister Wanda. Dad had rigged up this long-handled Javex bottle picker that did the trick. After most of this one tree was picked, there were still quite a few towards the top that could not be reached. Not to give up easily, Wanda and I climbed and shook, only to end up with scraped hands, ripped jeans and no more apples.

After the picking was done, mom would go on one of her marathon pie baking tangents. She always wanted us to peel and slice the apples for her while she made the crusts. At first there was plenty of complaining, but then when we all were sitting around the table, it seemed no time and we were done. We would laugh and drink tea and inhale the cinnamon and butter aroma. It was wonderful.

I have only been gone from Nova Scotia for a few months, but I still miss these things. There may not be apple pies, but there ARE Caramel Apple Cheesecakes. It's funny, but these Alberta apples taste just like the ones they grow in Nova Scotia ;-).

Caramel Apple Cheesecake
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup white sugar, divided
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons butter
2 apples, peeled,cored and sliced thinly
20 Vanilla caramels (I prefer Kraft :-))
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
2 pkgs cream cheese,softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Combine flour,1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup of the white sugar and egg yolk. Blend well. Press crumbs on bottom and up sides of a 9" spring form pan (I spray mine with non stick spray and line with parchament paper). Bake at 400° for 10-15 minutes, until edges are light golden.

Melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a large fry pan. Add apples and cook until tender. Arrange apples on baked crust. Melt caramels with 1 1/2 teaspoons milk, stirring over low heat, till completely melted; drizzle over apples.

Beat together cream cheese, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Pour cheese mixture over caramel apple layer. Bake at 325° for 30-35 minutes, or until set. Cool and then chill. Serve with Caramel sauce.

Caramel Sauce:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Melt 20 caramels with 1/4 cup of milk over low heat, stirring until smooth. Drizzle over cheesecake and sprinkle with toasted almonds or hazelnuts.

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Monday, May 7, 2007

Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake

Some days require just a little help. I am talking the kind of fix that only a piece of cheesecake will cure.

My life right now is one of mixed emotions. I am soon going to be moving from my home of 14 years. It is wonderful to think of all the memories we made here. Morgan was a baby in this house. Morgan and Lauren's height, every year, was measured on the doorway to the basement. My family laughed, cried and threw many a temper tantrum in this house(myself included). There are so many wonderful memories.

Like my sisters and I lying on my bed, laughing and carrying on like we were 12 again. Telling stories and remembering things like when Gram and Grampie were alive, or how Kim made Annette sniff rocks up her nose when she was little. Or how Annette put Wanda in the dryer and told Kim and I she was gone. Or picking bouquets of Mayflowers from behind Bob and Beryl's house.

There was one wonderful moment when I came home from work to find that Morgan had made the Shreddie's recipe from the back of the cereal box. You know...the one that had the nuts, sugar....a snack mix recipe. Yep, he whipped that recipe up all right. It was so nicely baked to the bottom of my cookie sheet, but not a Shreddie to be found on the pan (the cereal was long gone). Just sugar, butter and nuts. It smelled good, though. I loved that day and couldn't be mad if I tried.

There are sad times, too, like when Scott left us to go work in Alberta for the first time. I thought the ache in the pit of my stomach would never go away. It is so wonderful to be more in love with the person you are married to now than when you first got married. I wasn't sure that was possible, but time has shown me it is.

There is also the memory of Lauren in her bedroom for days on end this past summer. She would rip clothes apart, create new ones and be so totally lost in hum of the sewing machine. The only time I've seen that much fabric on the floor is when I am sewing. It is like rewinding the clock and looking myself at that age. It is nice...especially when I thought all along she was a Kennedy through and through. Now I can see she's half MacDonald, too.

Even though our memories here in this house will soon come to an end, they will be forever stored in my mind and my heart. There will be new memories in a new house. Ones that will make us smile, or cry or throw just one more hissy fit. A house is just a box with 4 sides. It is the people that live in it that make it a home. So home for me will be anywhere that Scott, Lauren and Morgan are.

And as long as they sell cream cheese and Kahlua at the local grocery store...I will make it through!



Kahlua Chocolate Cheesecake
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups chocolate wafer crumbs
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate bits
1/4 cup Kahlua
2 tablespoons butter

2 large eggs, beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
16 ounces cream cheese, softened

whipped cream, (optional)
Chocolate covered coffee beans (optional)

Directions:
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Prepare Chocolate Crumb Crust (directions follow). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In small saucepan, over medium heat, melt chocolate bits with Kahlua and butter; stir until smooth. Set aside.

In bowl beat softened cheese till smooth. Add sugar, eggs and salt. Beat till smooth. Add sour cream and mix till smooth. Gradually blend in chocolate mixture. Turn into prepared crust. Bake 40-45 minutes or until filling is barely set in center. Remove from oven and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Then refrigerate several hours or overnight. Garnish, if desired, with whipped cream and chocolate leaves. Chocolate Crumb Crust: Combine chocolate wafer crumbs, butter and sugar. Press firmly in bottom of 9 inch springform pan.

**I baked mine 45 minutes and it was perfect! Adjust to your own oven, of course!

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Pistachio Dessert

I am not sure, but maybe it is National Pudding Awareness Month. OK...it is probably ONLY my house that is celebrating.

Really, what is better than a big ole bowl of pudding?? My favorite has got to be homemade butterscotch. And it has to be warm...right out of the pot, too.

When I was a kid, I used to make pudding for dessert all the time. It didn't matter really if it was made from scratch. I was just as happy to have a boxed pudding cooked. Or even instant pudding would do.

I think when pudding is set in front of you, there is some kind of mutation that evolves. There is an instant desire to take a big blob of it on a spoon and make sucking noises. Or pudding bubbles, only in reverse...lol. With all the talk of keeping young, and finding the fountain of youth, I think the strategy may need rethinking. Perhaps if the fountain were made of pudding, then we would all be a kid again. **Mental note to buy stock in the Jello company**

One of my specialties as a preteen was Pudding in a Cloud. I remember thinking I was some kind of culinary goddess at 12 years old, when I had this dessert whipped up. I would use mom's ruby red footed dessert dishes. The most awesome compliment to the pale green Pistachio pudding, nestled oh so lovingly inside the Dream Whip clouds. I remember how all my sisters would ohh and ahh when it was dessert time. I am sure it was my mother telling them behind my back to make a fuss. It is ALL about the presentation, I always say!

Pudding is still playing a part in my cooking. It is incorporated into desserts, and trifles, even my cookies sometimes use pudding. One of my favorite recipes comes from my sister Kim. It is Pistachio Dessert. Oh. My. Gawd. For such simple ingredients, it truly is a confection worth creating. It sounds all simple, but when you get a taste of that shortbread bottom, exploding and blending with cream cheese, Pistachio flavor and Cool Whip (Yay for edible oil products!!!) you are hooked!!! My kids think the sun rises and sets on this recipe. This recipe requires no special skills...only the ability to whisk!!

So when you feel like being young again, forget the Botox, the butt implants and the puffy Goldie Hawn lips. Just turn left at the pudding aisle!

Pistachio Dessert
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Crust:
1 cup butter (or margarine)
2 cups flour

Cut butter into flour. Pat into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes until golden brown; cool.

Filling:
8 oz pkg of cream cheese (I use light)
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup of Cool Whip

Mix above ingredients together a spread carefully over cooled crust.

Beat 2 packages of instant Pistachio pudding and 2 1/2 cups of milk together and pour over cream cheese layer. Top with more Cool Whip. Just before serving, garnish with toasted almonds. Cut into squares and serve!! YUM!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Pudding Cookies

Who doesn't love an old standby?? Like your favorite pair of jeans that just refuses to die, or a book you have read 5 times and still it fascinates you enough to read it again.

I still have favorites to this day. Some I will NEVER give up. A HUGE piece of home made bread, warm from the oven, with molasses. Or chewy chocolate chip cookies that just make almost anything right. Or chatting with your best friend on the phone for hours, talking about nothing you can remember after you're off the phone. You simply enjoy the conversation, albeit trivial or intellectual.

I think I have lucked out in the best friend department. My best friend's name is Laura, and I have to say that she has always been there for me...she has been my standby.

We have been best friends for 15 years...maybe more. The very first time I met her was in the dressing room at a hockey game. Both her husband and mine played hockey, so the women went to chat it up where it was warm. The first words out of her mouth were something to the effect about how men all belonged in a commune somewhere...I knew then that she was my kind of girl. I do love my husband, but there have been a few moments that the commune had sounded pretty good...lol.

Over time we became best friends, with many antics and tales stored in our memories. We could really talk about almost anything from clothes to recipes to men for hours without fail. To this day we have not had a fight about anything...only over who was paying for whose meal when eating out.

Laura has been there for me through thick and thin. There were some days that I was so grateful just to have her to talk to. She really is the most generous person I know, too. She has always gone out of her way for me...so much more than most friends do. She helped me out when I needed it, in many aspects.

Laura is fun, spontaneous, beautiful, humorous and kind. She would never hurt a flea. I think if one were dying on her carpet, she would be down on her hands and knees, trying to resuscitate it by blowing through one of those coffee stir sticks into it's miniscule mouth. Really.

I do consider myself lucky to be her friend. I think we all need someone in life, separate from our families (whom I love and adore), to share things with. Laura is my chocolate chip cookie. Without her, my life would be just an oatcake.


Pudding Cookies (aka: chocolate chip cookies!)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
INGREDIENTS:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix (I use chocolate, pistachio..whatever you feel like)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips(mix it up, add white choc, skor bits,peanut butter chips, etc)
2 cups chopped pecans (optional...use what you want)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Sift together the flour and baking soda, set aside.
2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat in the instant pudding mix until blended. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. Blend in the flour mixture. Finally, stir in the chocolate chips and nuts. Drop cookies by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven. Edges should be golden brown.

**I tend to under bake mine a bit for a chewier cookie**

The best thing about this recipe is that it makes a ton!! I always freeze one container for later consumption.

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