Leftover Peanut Butter and Overripe Bananas

In our open-concept kitchen pantry (read: no doors or cabinets – totally open, and beautifully constructed by my hubby) we have what’s called a “baking basket.”  Let me see if I can find a photo…
There…top left corner, that’s the baking basket!
 Of course I have to show off a little bit more…
Have I mentioned how awesome it is being married to a handyman?  This also reminds me I should update the rest of our remodeling photos, now that the construction is finished.
Anyway, back to the basket.  So this baking basket holds exactly what you’d think: sprinkles, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, brown sugar, pecans…everything I need for holidays, birthdays and special occasions.  It gets used pretty frequently from October through December, then again from March through May.  After that, there comes a lull in baking.  But, in good Southern spirit (and with my mom’s voice in the background reminding me that I should never waste anything) I’ll haul that sucker down and take a peek at what’s inside.  And that, my friends, is how many of my husband’s all-time favorite cookie recipes are born.
Since “Baking Basket Day” began a few years ago, we’ve had some really tasty treats come out of this oven…all in oatmeal cookie form.  So today, I thought I’d share the coveted basic oatmeal cookie recipe that all my BBD wonders are made of…
Basic Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats (aka “quick cooking” oats, in the oatmeal section)
2 cups all-purpose flour (wheat flour works, too)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Directions: Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine the salt, baking powder, baking soda and flour.  Using a hand mixer in a medium bowl, or a stand mixer, cream together the butter, white and brown sugars, then add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla extract.  Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stir together, then add your quick cooking oats.  Add your favorite baking basket goodies.  Scoop by tablespoon onto a greased baking pan, then bake for 8-12 minutes, depending on whether you like chewy (8ish minutes) or cripsy (12ish minutes) cookies.
So, what can you add to a baking basket oatmeal cookie?  Well, here are the ingredients I’ve added to the basic recipe in the past:
Coco-Choco Oatmeal Cookies: Added the rest of a bag of coconut flakes (I’ll guess a bit more than 3/4 full) along with half a bag of large semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a full bag of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, along with a dash of pumpkin pie spice.  Yes, pumpkin pie spice…it’s a super lazy way to get all my fave spices in one shake!
Triple Chipperdoodles: Decent amount of white chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate and butterscotch chips, two teaspoons of cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of allspice (note: I am a big fan of allspice).
Graceland Oatmeal Cookie: Two very ripe mashed bananas, half a jar of chunky peanut butter, a bag of jumbo semi-sweet chocolate chips and half a bag of walnuts (crushed) and I’m certain some allspice…just a tad.
You may notice there are no real measurements to the basket ingredients…and that’s because I am literally cleaning out the basket.  So, whatever half-empty bags of chips, flakes, sprinkles, etc., are in there, go into the cookie.  It’s really about feeling the cookie; getting that cookie vibe, knowing whether it needs coconut or peanut butter.  Is it a sweet little butterscotch cookie, or a ticked off ginger cookie?  Dark chocolate, or white chocolate?  Where are my dried cranberries?  And just how many chocolate chips is my husband going to think I didn’t see him eat?!
BBD has taught me which spices I love (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves) and which I hate (okay, none…).  It’s an awesome way to get creative, come up with a recipe of your very own, and really understand how flavors can work together.
If my mom is reading this (as she should be…) she’s probably surprised I shared a recipe.  Normally, I won’t share the true recipe; I always omit something, or change a measurement (I know, I know).  I’m pretty big on keeping family secrets close to the vest; I usually only share the real-deal recipe with the closest friends, and only when asked repeatedly (also, after bargaining for cat-sitting services or bottles of wine).  But this is one recipe I’m happy to share, because it’s really not mine…it’s yours.  Yours to create something utterly decadent, or totally screw up (stay away from dried apricots).  The choice is yours.
Finally, I’ll share one teensy little baking tip that I’ve found makes cookies and breads even more delicious.  If you come across a recipe (such as the basic oatmeal cookie) that calls for both brown and white sugars…take the white sugar amount, and cut it in half.  Now, add that amount to the brown sugar.  That’s it.  It gives the cookies or bread a warm, sweet, molasses taste, without the super sweet, teeth gritting kick you’ll sometimes get from just plain old white sugar.
And now you know my BBD secrets.  The next time you see a cookie post, rest assured that the inspiration truly was, “what am I supposed to do with three bags of Christmas M&M’s in July?!”
Happy baking!

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