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Monthly Archives: May 2015

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #11 and Grandma’s Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

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What do you get when you combine Grandma, bananas, oatmeal, and chocolate chips?

A week’s worth of breakfasts!

No, that’s not quite right. But when I was a kid I did go to my grandparents’ house for a week of fishing with my grandpa. And my grandma would make a different kind of homemade muffin each morning–blueberry, bran, banana nut, oatmeal, corn. I don’t think she ever put chocolate chips in the muffins, but she did make a killer chocolate chip cake that she’d pack in our lunch along with homemade lemonade and ham sandwiches on white bread that Grandpa would dole out around midday at a sunny spot on the river bank with a log for a seat.

But I digress. Grandma and bananas and oatmeal and chocolate chips will do that to you.

What you get when you combine all those ingredients on Reading and Recipes is the best darn cookie you’ll ever sink your teeth into, a cookie so good you’ll tell your girlfriend when she asks what kind of cake you want for your birthday that you don’t want a cake, you want Grandma’s Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies!

And she’s so nice she’ll make them for you.

And we’re so nice we’ll share the recipe with the world.

And Grandma’s so nice that she created the recipe and happily baked them for you all those many years.

Happy Birthday, S. E.!

banana oat choc chip cookies

Grandma’s Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup shortening*

1 medium ripe banana, mashed

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup oats**

1/3 cup chocolate chips


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat, and set aside.

Over top of a mixing bowl, sift together all of the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour through cinnamon). Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the shortening until light and fluffy. Stir in the mashed banana and vanilla. Mix in the sifted dry ingredients until all ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the oats and chocolate chips until evenly distributed throughout the batter.

Scoop 1 tablespoon size balls onto a cookie sheet, placing about 2 inches apart. You should get about 9 cookies. Bake the cookies for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 9 cookies.

*You can substitute unsalted butter for the shortening.

**Regular oats or quick oats can be used.

banana oatmeal choc chip cookies

{adapted from Grandma E.’s recipe–thanks, Grandma!!!}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #11 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #11, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #11, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #10 and Blueberry Orange Oat Muffins

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What is it about springtime that makes us get back to basics? Whether it’s planting the vegetable garden or refurbishing the flower box or cleaning out the closet or washing off the deck, we get this feeling of repeating an age-old task, one that may go back to a time before we were around; and we feel good about it! We don’t know why. Often the task is tedious or exhausting. But we feel a part of something greater than ourselves, than our fairly narrow outlook or concerns.

And something about this week’s recipe–Blueberry Orange Oat Muffins–gives me that same sense of back to basics, of being connected to traditions greater than ourselves. Maybe it’s the mix of elemental ingredients–blueberries, orange juice, oats–or maybe the simple wholesomeness of this muffin that creates that impression.

Or maybe I’m just feeling sappy today.

Come to think of it, maybe the feeling is tied to the brief chapter segment in Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #10. In this scene and the previous serial, Leah is confronted with a vague sense of loss precipitated by several changes in her life. She wants to grab onto something solid, something unchanging and consoling; but she can’t find her way to that reassurance. She needs to make a batch of these Blueberry Orange Oat Muffins. That would set her right. Too bad she doesn’t have Reading and Recipes in the novel. We’ll have to work on that.

blueberry orange muffinsBlueberry Orange Oat Muffins

2/3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup oats (old-fashioned or quick oats)

2 Tablespoons light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

1/3 cup milk 

3 Tablespoons orange juice

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

1 egg yolk

1/3 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

blueberry orange oat muffins

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a regular muffin tin with cooking spray or line with 6 muffin liners.

Mix dry ingredients together (flour through salt). Add remaining ingredients and stir until just incorporated, careful not to over mix. Gently fold the blueberries and orange peel into the batter.

Spoon muffin batter into six prepared muffin tins. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in tin for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack. Serve warm, and store any leftover muffins in an airtight container.

Makes 6 muffins.

blueberry orange oat muffin

{Adapted from Cooking to Perfection}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #10 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #10, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #10, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #9 and Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcakes

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There are only a handful of American dessert staples, and most of them have found their way onto Reading and Recipes–chocolate-chip cookies, brownies, banana pudding, apple pie.

But the American dessert staple for early spring has to be Strawberry Shortcake. During strawberry season when I was growing up, my mom would make a large buttermilk biscuit in a cake pan, slice it in half horizontally, layer in the strawberries fresh-picked from the garden on the lower half, put the other half of the biscuit on top, put a large bowl of fresh-whipped cream (ladled off the top of the unhomogenized whole milk) alongside, and turn us kids loose on that delight. And she would do this daily for what seemed weeks on end! It wasn’t the tidiest dessert to serve or eat, but then kids don’t care about that sort of thing!

So in homage to that childhood memory, and in recognition of the start of the traditional strawberry season (quietly forgetting that strawberries are now available year-round), we’re posting Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcakes as this week’s recipe. The biscuits are single-serving size, and thus neater and easier to serve and store; but the flavor and smell and colors of this spring staple are every bit as enticing as those cake-sized mountains of springtime joy from yesteryear.

So make your own fond memories now with these Buttermilk Strawberry Shortcakes from Reading and Recipes!

strawberry shortcakesButtermilk Strawberry Shortcakes

1/2 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

2 Tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled

3 Tablespoons buttermilk*

1 1/4 cups sliced fresh strawberries

4 teaspoons strawberry jam (optional)

whipped cream**

deconstructed strawberry shortcake

In a small bowl, combine sliced fresh strawberries and 2 teaspoons of granulated sugar. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

When ready to make shortcakes, preheat your oven to 425 degrees.

Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar, and salt to a food processor. Pulse until dry ingredients are combined. Add the chilled butter to the food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Add the buttermilk to the food processor and pulse until the dough is moistened.

Divide the dough into two. Place biscuits on a nonstick cookie sheet. Brush each biscuit with a little bit of buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining teaspoon of granulated sugar. Bake shortcakes for 15-18 minutes, or until golden brown.

When ready to serve, split the warm biscuits in half. Spread 1 teaspoon of jam onto each half. Top bottom half of the shortcake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream. Place other half of shortcake on top. Serve immediately.

Makes 2 shortcakes.

*Buttermilk is highly recommended, but you can use regular milk or dairy-free milk if you do not have buttermilk on hand.

**Feel free to use whipped cream out of a can or Cool Whip. If you want to make homemade whipped cream, beat 1/4 cup whipping cream until soft peaks form. Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

strawberry shortcakeClick below to listen to or read Serial #9 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #9, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #9, text © Jeffrey Anderson


Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #8 and Gooey Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

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What do you think of combining two dessert favorites into one scrumptious dessert?

Don’t have to twist my arm.

I’m there.

Let’s go!

O.K. We’ll start off with a super fudgey brownie. That’s a keeper all by itself.

Now we’re going to double the fun by mixing up a cheesecake filling and swirling it into the brownie batter.

Voila! Cheesecake Swirl Brownies!

And to liven up the occasion, we’ll pull them out of the oven while they are still a little underdone–give you the hint of eating the batter without being quite that naughty.

Gooey Cheesecake Swirl Brownies!

Phew! Too much excitement! Make my heart go pitty-pat–and that’s not including the sugar/caffeine rush from the dessert! But hey–we told you a few weeks ago this site is for indulgent pleasures. And this brownie/cheesecake combo will accomplish that end. And you can always go jogging or bike-riding tomorrow to burn off the calories.

Or go to the pick-your-own strawberry farm down the road. That’ll get you fit and yield a bucket of fresh berries to boot. We’ll use them in next week’s dessert!

cheesecake brownies

Gooey Cheesecake Swirl Brownies

For the brownies:

5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk (keep egg white for cream cheese swirl)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

7 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

pinch of salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup chocolate chips

For the cheesecake swirl:

3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

2 Tablespoons plain Greek yogurt or sour cream

3 Tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg white

cheesecake swirl brownies

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease a 5×7 baking pan and set aside.

To make the brownie batter, whisk the melted butter and granulated sugar together until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla, stirring until a smooth batter forms. Slowly stir in the cocoa powder, salt, baking powder, and flour. Mix ingredients together until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.

In a separate bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the Greek yogurt, 3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla, and egg white. Beat ingredients together until well combined.

Pour the brownie batter into prepared pan. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a couple of trenches through the brownie batter. Pour the cheesecake batter into these trenches. Using a knife, cut rows into the batter in the opposite direction of the cheesecake trenches.

Bake brownies for 16-18 minutes, or until just set. These brownies will be very gooey. (If you prefer more baked brownies, bake an additional 5 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.) Remove the brownies from the oven and allow to cool before cutting. Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

Makes 6-8 brownies.

gooey cheesecake brownies

{Adapted from Yammie’s Noshery}

Click below to listen to or read Serial #8 of “Two Sisters Times Two”.

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #8, audio © Jeffrey Anderson

Two Sisters Times Two, Serial #8, text © Jeffrey Anderson