Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies [two ways!]

 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser

When I first made these cookies, I intended only to bake the mint chocolate version I grew up eating every Christmas. Maybe you’ve seen similar recipes before. Basically, you make a simple chocolate dough and then melt an Andes mint on top. They’re a family favorite (except with family members who dislike mint in their desserts). I happen to love mint in most desserts, and these cookies are no exception.

I shared the classic Mint Chocolate Cookies below. But as is typical when I cook, I didn’t have enough ingredients on hand to finish the whole batch. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? What I lacked in mint chocolate I had in dark chocolate, so I popped a few pieces of dark chocolate on top of a dozen of the cookies, and then sprinkled on a pinch of flaky sea salt.

You guys. This sea salt version may be my favorite cookie ever (or at least in the top three). The key is the salt. Not all salt is created equal, and it’s worth finding really good flaky sea salt for this recipe. I originally tried it with fleur de sel I had on hand, but what I had was finer than I wanted (however, it will work if that’s what you have easy access to. The fleur de sel I have is from Trader Joe’s). Thanks to a pantry filled with random items including several different kinds of salt, I had a bag of Alaska Pure Sea Salt. You want big, flaky pieces of sea salt here. Sea salt dissolves easily in your mouth and complements the dark chocolate so well. Plus, the large pieces look amazing against the deep chocolate color of the cookies—like little flecks of snow.

If you don’t love the combination of salt and sweet, though, have no fear. Stick with the mint version, or create your own! The main cookie is a basic chocolate cookie, so you can use whatever you want on top—like peanut butter chips or white chocolate! You can also do like I did, and make a dozen or two of one version, and the rest a different version.

(Scroll to the bottom of this post for the recipe.)

 Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies [two ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies [two ways!] | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Andes Chocolate Mint Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser
 Double Chocolate + Sea Salt Christmas Cookies | Sarah J. Hauser

Double Chocolate Christmas Cookies [two ways!]
Makes about 3-4 dozen cookies

Cookie Dough
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
2 Tablespoons water
1 ½ cups packed brown sugar
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 eggs
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt

Mint Chocolate or Chocolate + Sea Salt Topping
2 (4.67 oz) packages Andes mint candy, each candy unwrapped
OR
About 8-9 ounces of dark chocolate, broken into chunks (you need 1 chunk for each cookie)
Flaky sea salt such as Alaska Pure Sea Salt

In a medium saucepan over low heat, add the butter, water, and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the butter and sugar melt. Add the chocolate chips and stir until everything is melted and mixed together. Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Let it cool for 10-20 minutes.

Turn the mixer on high speed and add the eggs one at a time. Reduce the mixer to low speed. Add flour, baking soda, and salt, mixing just until blended. (Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula if needed.) Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1-2 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Roll the chilled dough into 1 to 1 ½-inch balls and place about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 9-11 minutes. Immediately after taking the cookies out of the oven, place an Andes mint or a dark chocolate chunk on each cookie. Let the chocolate melt a bit, then spread the melted chocolate over the cookie with a spoon. If you’re making the Chocolate + Sea Salt version, sprinkle a pinch of sea salt onto the melted dark chocolate.

Cool completely until the chocolate on top hardens. Store in the fridge or freezer, or serve. Enjoy!

Did you try these? Post a picture on Instagram and make sure to tag me (@sarah.j.hauser)! I’d love to see what’s happening in your kitchen!

Note: Want to know the difference between various salts? Check out this article from Real Simple.


Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini

 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a weird season for cooking, in my opinion. I’m all cooked out after Thanksgiving but not quite ready to gear up for Christmas recipes. Okay, I may have already made my first batch of Christmas cookies—and it’s not even December. But apparently I can’t live off that batch of Double Chocolate Sea Salt cookies for the next few weeks (recipe coming soon!).

In these weeks in between feasts, I’m trying to keep it simple. We’re eating leftovers, soups I made a while back and stored in the freezer, and sandwiches. It’s so easy for me to go overboard in the kitchen during the holidays, and that only adds to the stress and overwhelm this time of year. But I’m learning to be realistic, simplify, and still eat food that’s really good.

Paninis are a perfect weeknight dinner. We’ve done panini nights in the past with friends and family, too. We provide an array or ingredients, or people bring something to share. Then everyone assembles their own and savors their creations alongside soup, salad, or a good glass of wine. (If you do this, I suggest borrowing multiple panini presses from others to make the cooking process go faster. We learned that the hard way!) It’s a great way to get a meal on the table, gather with others, and enjoy good food without spending a ton of time prepping. And to make things even easier? Go ahead and pull out those paper plates. You can use the good dishes at Christmas.

What are you cooking this week? Are you ready for the next big holiday meal, or craving something a little more simple?

 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser
 Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini | Sarah J. Hauser

Ham, Apple + Parmesan Panini
Yields 1 sandwich

2 slices bread (I prefer a crusty white bread)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
A few slices of deli ham (I used Oscar Mayer Deli Fresh ham)
Thinly sliced Parmesan cheese
Thinly sliced apples
Fresh thyme leaves

Preheat a panini press or grill pan. Brush both sides of the two pieces of bread generously with olive oil. Season both sides with black pepper. 

Layer the ham, Parmesan cheese, sliced apples, and fresh thyme leaves in between the slices of bread. Warm it all in a panini press and enjoy! It also taste great alongside your favorite soup (like this Butternut Squash Soup)!

Note: I didn’t give exact ingredient amounts because you can layer on the ingredients as you like! You can also try changing up the recipe to fit what you have on hand. Try using Asiago instead of Parmesan or sage instead of thyme. Enjoy!


This recipe was created in partnership with Oscar Mayer. All opinions are 100% my own.


Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes [gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole30!]

 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser

I always shop for the Thanksgiving ingredients I need as early as possible. If it can last in the fridge for a week, you’d better believe I’ve already purchased it. I make every attempt I can to avoid endless long lines at Trader Joe’s or ALDI, although inevitably I forget something and wind up heading to the store late Wednesday night.

And then every year about this time, I look at our overflowing fridge and realize I’m fully prepared for Thanksgiving, but not at all ready for dinner tonight. And apparently, everyone in my house still wants to eat between now and Thursday.

So, here’s an answer. While you’re planning your big holiday feast, let’s make the next meal simple. This recipe takes one sheet pan and only a handful of ingredients—many of which you may have on hand. It’s based on the Sweet Potato, Sausage + Apple Bake I shared a couple years ago over at Coffee + Crumbs, but this version uses bell peppers and white potatoes seasoned with paprika and oregano. It’s easy to toss together and makes a perfect weeknight meal!

P.S. This dish also travels well if you need to bring dinner to a friend, family member, or neighbor! It’s also dairy-free, gluten-free, and can be make Whole30 compliant (just double-check the ingredients in the sausage).

What do you make in between big holiday meals? Our other favorite option, of course, is takeout!

 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser
 Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes - Sarah J. Hauser

Sheet Pan Sausage, Peppers + Potatoes
Active Time: 15 Minutes | Total Cook Time: 60-65 Minutes
Yields 4-5 Servings | GF/DF/W30

1 ¼ - 1 ½ pounds mild or sweet Italian sausage (for Whole30, check your ingredients!)
1 ½ pounds potatoes (I like using red-skinned potatoes or Yukon Gold)*
2 red, orange, or yellow bell peppers
1 small onion
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Cut the sausage into 1-inch coins. Cut the potatoes, peppers, and onion into bite-sized pieces. Add to the prepared sheet pan in a single layer (use two pans if your sheet pan gets crowded). Drizzle on the olive oil.

In a small bowl, mix together the oregano, salt, paprika, and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over meat and vegetables. Toss everything together so it’s all evenly coated with oil and spices.

Bake uncovered for 45-50 minutes, tossing everything once halfway through the baking time. The potatoes should be tender on the inside and the sausage cooked through.

Remove from the oven and transfer to plates or a serving bowl. Sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. I like serving this alongside a salad or sauteed green beans. Enjoy!

*Note: Ever wonder which type of potatoes works best for roasting, mashing, or baking? Check out this article from The Kitchn.



Autumn Chowder [and remembering at the table]

 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

It’s a Wednesday night. We’re on the homestretch after a day filled with toddler laughs and toys strewn on the floor, naptime snuggles and pleas to share. I pull out the giant soup pot I inherited from my mom. That pot has seen gallons of homemade spaghetti sauce, wild rice soup, and our perpetual favorite, Autumn Chowder. I place it on the stove, turn on the heat, and start frying chopped bacon and sauteing an onion. The potatoes, carrots, and corn get dumped in next, followed by broth, milk, and loads of cheese. It’s hearty, rich, and full of the flavors of fall—quintessential comfort food.

I think of my mom while I stir, and soon I’m back in her kitchen. The fan above her stove hums, and the smell of bacon wafts through the house. She wears a stained apron and holds a wooden spoon in her hand. She stirs up magic in that pot. Dishes cover the kitchen island, alongside the skins of onions and trimmings from carrots. Our excitement grows as dinnertime nears. The “First Making of Autumn Chowder” felt like a special occasion, despite usually occurring on an average weeknight amidst soccer practice and algebra homework. We set bowls and soup spoons on the table—the table always adorned with one of my mom’s seasonal tablecloths—and shuffle to fold napkins, fill glasses, and find our seats.

I pull myself out of the memory and back into my own kitchen. Dirty dishes balance in a precarious stack next to the sink, and the squeals of three kids fill our ears. Our table sits bare. I rarely use a tablecloth, and attempting to set out dishes and utensils in advance seems useless with a one-year-old who constantly climbs on said table. But my stovetop fan hums a familiar tune, and the savory aroma of onions and bacon smells like memories that make me tear up—although I blame it on the pesky alliums.

It’s been five years since she died, and I notice her absence most when I’m cooking. Yet somehow it feels like the act of chopping vegetables and melting cheese keeps her alive.

Keep reading and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.

 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser
 Autumn Chowder - Sarah J. Hauser

Read the full essay and get the recipe at Coffee + Crumbs.