Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies

One of my fondest childhood memories was helping Nana and Papa prepare for their annual Hanukkah soiree.  If I close my eyes just tight enough, I can picture myself in their kitchen; donning an oversized apron and covered in flour as we prepared dozens of scrumptious cookies.  After an afternoon of hard work, nothing was more rewarding than sampling the fruits of our labor.  While all of our baked goods were delicious in their own right, the Chocolate Cherry Surprise Cookies were by far my favorite.  Imagine a pillowy soft chocolate cookie topped with a layer of rich frosting, certainly a decadent enough treat on its own. . .but take a bite and you find a gooey marshmallow center and a maraschino cherry hiding inside. Truly the best cookie I have ever, ever had (let alone baked).

Unfortunately, my Papa passed away when I was just nine years old — he actually passed away during their Hanukkah party. Since I had such vivid memories of baking these together, I asked my Nana several years later for the recipe. She dug through all of her cookbooks and index cards, but came up empty handed. I scoured the internet as well, but nothing seemed to come close; it seemed as though these cookies would be but a distant memory.

If you read the introduction to this blog, you know that my Nana passed away in 2009 and that my mom and I were tasked with packing up all of her belongings. It was an emotionally taxing day, but on the kitchen counter in plain sight was a Pillsbury cookbook with a post it note marking a page. Lo and behold, there the recipe was with Nana’s handwriting calling out that it was my favorite cookie.

 Since then I have baked these cookies every holiday season, and I can feel both Nana and Papa in the kitchen alongside of me.

Cookie Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup of softened butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 18 maraschino cherries, cut in half
  • 18 marshmallows, cut in half
  • *The original recipe called for chopped walnuts or pecans, but we always omitted them.
  • To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

    In a bowl, mix together the first 5 ingredients.

    In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, alternating between the milk and the flour.

    Drop cookies on ungreased baking sheet (though I line mine with foil) by rounded tablespoon.

    Press cherry half, cut side down, in each cookie. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and top with marshmallow half. Return to oven for 2 minutes more. Allow cookies to cool completely.

    Frosting Ingredients

    • 3 cups of powdered sugar
    • 3 tablespoons of melted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
    • 3 ounces of semisweet chocolate, melted
    • 5 tablespoons of water
  • Mix frosting ingredients and spread over the marshmallows.
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    Creating New Memories in the Kitchen – Pecan Crusted Chicken with Pumpkin Filling

    While the initial goal of this blog was (and still primarily is) to cook my way through my Nana and Papa’s cookbooks – I think it is also important to highlight meals that create new memories in the kitchen.

    It is no secret that I love the Fall – the cooler weather, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and of course the flavors of the season! Bring on the pumpkin, butternut squash, pumpkin, apples, pumpkin, parsnips…did I mention pumpkin!? I look for every excuse possible to bake and cook with pumpkin, and today’s featured recipe is no exception: Pecan Crusted Chicken with Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filling


    I’ve made this recipe on two different occasions: the first time was for a Once Upon A Time dinner with friends, and the second was last night for my grandparents. With rave reviews on both occasions, I think it is safe to say that this one is a winner!

    I apologize for not having step-by-step photos, I will try to remember to capture some the next time I make it (there will be a next time!!), but without further ado, the recipe:

    4 chicken breasts, pounded thin
    4 heaping Tablespoons of Einstein’s Pumpkin Shmear
    2 Eggs
    Ground Pecans

    1) With chicken pounded flat, place one heaping tablespoon in center of the breast. Fold sides inward and roll up (much like a burrito or wrap). Once this has been completed for all four chicken breasts, place in fridge to solidify for about 30 minutes.
    2) Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
    3) Set up “breading” station:
    In a shallow dish/bowl – crack 2 eggs and whisk to make the egg wash.
    On a separate plate pour a generous amount of ground pecans.
    4) Remove chicken breasts from fridge, one at a time dip each breast in egg wash, then roll in pecans until evenly coated.
    5) Once all chicken breasts are complete, place on foil lined baking sheet.
    6) Bake for 32 minutes. Use thermometer to ensure chicken reaches 165 degrees F.
    (It is normal to have some of the cream cheese filling leak out on the baking sheet).

    Optional garnish/sauce:
    In a small saucepan, pour about 1/2 cup of maple balsamic and bring to boil. Once it begins to boil, reduce temperature and simmer – stirring frequently until thickened to syrup consistency. (Note: I purchased this at a local oil and vinegar shop, but I bet you could add high quality maple syrup to plain balsamic for similar effect)

    I usually serve this with roasted broccoli.

    When I made this last night, my grandma (who usually doesn’t eat chicken) finished every bite! Success!!!

    Did you try this recipe? Let me know your thoughts!

    New York Penicillin

    I’m allergic to the real penicillin, so when I’m sick I like to soothe my cold symptoms with a big ‘ol bowl of chicken soup. I’ve tried multiple recipes over the years, and while the broth base is almost always the same (a chicken covered with water and boiled for 4 hours), the vegetable and herb combinations vary. Truthfully, I can’t say I’m married to any one specific combination – but the New York Penicillin made famous by Marie Stacey in Molly O’Neill’s New York Cookbook has a simple combination of flavors: carrots, celery, onion, parsley, a bay leaf, salt and pepper. I wasn’t really actively looking for a new chicken stock recipe, but Nana says it’s the best!



    I started by chopping my veggies.


    Then in a large stockpot I added my chicken, vegetables, herbs, and seasoning. I turned the heat to high and waited patiently to reach a boil.


    Once the boiling point is reached, the heat is turned to low and we play a 4 hour simmer waiting game (skimming frequently!).

    After the 4 hours you have 2 options – strain everything, save the broth, and keep it as a stock. . .OR you can discard everything but the deboned, carrots, and celery and serve it as a chicken soup.  Molly O’Neill states in the original recipe, “The soup’s curative powers are released only when the vegetables are mashed together in the bowl…Use a fork for mashing. Use a big spoon for eating. You’ll feel better soon.”

    I’m not under the weather, but sometimes you just need comfort food to lift your spirits.  I mashed the carrots and celery into the broth, found a big spoon, and took a big ‘ol dose of comfort.


    This soup was really wonderful, it truly just “warmed the soul.”  Definitely a keeper – I know that when someone in our household falls ill, I’ll be thankful to have a frozen supply awaiting!


    • 4 quarts cold water
    • 1 fryer chicken 4-5 pounds quartered
    • 2 chicken feet, or 4 chicken wings or 1 turkey wing (I did not have chicken feet or wings – but I did have some extra drumsticks, so I used this instead)
    • 1 clove of garlic peeled and bruised
    • 1 onion peeled and cut in half
    • 2–3 carrots peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces (about one cup)
    • 2 celery ribs tops and all cut into 1 inch pieces (about one cup)
    • ½ bunch fresh flat leaf parsley tied with a string
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
    • ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns
    1. Put all ingredients into a large stock pot, except the noodles, and slowly bring to a boil.
    2. Reduce heat and simmer for four hours, skimming often.
    3. Strain the stock from the solids and discard the onion, parsley, bay leaf and peppercorns but save the chicken, and other vegetables.
    4. Remove skin and debone the chicken. Shred the chicken between your fingers and return the chicken to the pot with the stock.
    5. Return the carrots, celery and garlic to the pot with the stock and bring back to a simmer.
    6. Season finished soup with salt and pepper to taste. Skim off top layer of fat and discard.

    Sophie Minkoff’s Spiced Pumpkin Bread

    In Florida we don’t have much of a Fall – the leaves don’t change color and the weather is still pretty warm; the only thing that feels different to us Floridians during the Autumn season is the presence of harvest time flavors.  Be it a pumpkin spice latte or a butternut squash soup, these seasonal eats are what make this time of year special.

    While thumbing through the pages of the New York Cookbook, I landed on Sophie Minkoff’s Spiced Pumpkin Bread, which Nana wrote to be “Incredible!”


    I gathered all of my ingredients together. . .


    Boiled the raisins.


    Whisked together my wet ingredients.

    20131025-115608.jpg 20131025-115622.jpg


    Combined my flour, baking soda, and spices.


    Then I mixed the pumpkin mixture into the flour, which created a very thick batter!


    Once the flour and pumpkin mixtures were well incorporated, I stirred in the boiled raisins.


    Warning, this batter smells absolutely delightful!  I could not wait to get this into a loaf pan and baked!



    Friends, if you like pumpkin – this is an absolute winner.  Not only do I agree with Nana’s incredible rating, but I can also understand why the original author of the recipe won first place at the Harvest Fair in NY.  This bread, especially warm out of the oven, is moist, flavorful, and comforting.

    Here’s the recipe if you’re looking to recreate this at home:

    1 cup raisins

    2 large eggs

    1/2 cup vegetable oil

    1 cup unsweetened pumpkin puree

    2 cups all-purpose flour

    3/4 cups of sugar

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    3/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1/2 cup coarsely chipped walnuts * (I omitted these as I did not have any on hand)

    1.) Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Grease a 9 X 5 X 3 1/2 inch loaf pan

    2.) Combine the raisins and 1/3 cup water in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Removed from the heat, and set aside to cool.

    3.) Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and 1/4 cup water.  Add the pumpkin puree and stir to combine.

    4.) In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, an salt.  Stir the pumpkin mixture into the dry ingredients.  Stir in the undrained raisins and walnuts.

    5.) Transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan.  Bake until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours (mine took about 67 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack.

    Did you make this recipe at home?  Tell me how it came out in the comments below!

    Tommaso’s Penne With Zucchini

    It was tough to choose which cookbook I should start with, but I ended up picking Molly O’Neil’s New York Cookbook. Heavily creased and overflowing with post-it note bookmarks, I had a good vibe about this publication.

    I was a little strapped for time today, so I opted for a simple pasta dish.


    According to Nana, this dish was so delicious – so I couldn’t wait to try it! I stopped at the grocery store on my way home from work, and then it was time to get cooking!


    (Sorry about the sticker on the tomato, I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before – but I was a little pressed for time!)

    The first thing I did was to peel a clove of garlic, smash it, and then sauté it in some olive oil until golden.


    While the oil was infusing, I started boiling my pasts, minced my onion, julienned the zucchini, chopped the tomatoes, and prepped the prosciutto. Everything was coming along nicely, and the aroma in the kitchen was intoxicating.


    Once the sauce was complete and the pasta was boiled, I tossed them together and topped with cheese.


    All in all, this was a really great dish; delicious, just like Nana said. A flavorful sauce that came together in a matter of minutes using fresh produce, and with a hefty serving of vegetables. The red pepper flakes added a subtle zing and the prosciutto gave it a nice dimension of flavor (though next time I think i will add a bit more than what the recipe called for). The only other addition I would make is adding some minced garlic into the equation (the recipe has you discarding the smashed clove)

    If you’re looking to try this at home, here’s the original recipe as published:

    1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
    1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 onion, minced
    1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
    1/4 cup minced thinly sliced prosciutto
    3 zucchini, scrubbed and cut into julienne
    2 tomatoes, chopped
    1 pound penne
    1/4 cup minced fresh Italian (flat-leaf parsley)
    1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, torn
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese

    1. Warm the garlic in the oil in a nonreactive large sauté pan over medium heat until the garlic is golden, 5 minutes. Remove and discard. Add the onion and pepper flakes and cook until the onion is soft, 7 minutes. Add the prosciutto and zucchini, partly cover the pan, and cook until barely soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to very low.
    2. Boil the penne in plenty of well salted water until tender; drain.
    3. Meanwhile, add the butter, parsley, basil, salt, and pepper to the sauce and stir well.
    4. Place the sauce in a large pasta bowl. Add the penne and toss. Add the pecorino cheese and additional salt-and-pepper to taste and serve.

    Serves 4.

    If you made this recipe, leave a comment and tell me what you thought!

    Welcome to Mealtime Memories

    With so many food blogs available at the click of a mouse, you may be wondering “Why this blog?  What makes this one so special?”  Well, I’ll tell you:

    In 2009 my maternal grandmother, affectionately referred to as Nana, passed away.  One afternoon shortly after, my mom and I had the emotionally difficult task of cleaning out her home.  We packed up boxes of clothing, combed through cabinets of assorted trinkets, and sorted through photographs and home movies. . .the day seemed to be filled with tears, until I stumbled upon her cookbook collection.

    Most aging cookbooks have yellowed pages, perhaps a few creased corners serving as a bookmark, or maybe a few handwritten recipe adjustments; but not Nana’s.  No, Nana’s cookbooks were filled with stories – and before long my mom and I were laughing and crying.  You see, my Nana hadn’t cooked or entertained in a number of years – not since my Papa had passed away when I was nine – and each of these notes brought us back to a time when she (and my Papa) were full of life, love, and energy.

    The goal of Mealtime Memories is to cook and bake my way through the recipes in my Nana and Papa’s cookbooks – sharing the fun anecdotes along the way.  I am also very fortunate that my paternal grandmother, an amazing chef, is still alive and ‘cooking’ – and I plan on creating some fun tutorials with her along the way!

    Thank you for reading, and I can’t wait to have you on my journeys in the kitchen!