I am always looking for new cookie recipes to try, especially ones that sneak in some healthy stuff but are still delicious. This week, I tried a recipe from Martha Stewart that blew me away. These cookies are phenomenal. Imagine you combined a banana bread with an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. The banana flavor is not too strong, the old-fashioned oats and walnuts give them a nice crunch and who doesn’t love chocolate? I really liked these cookies. I know you will too!
Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 Cup All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole-Wheat Flour
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
3/4 Cup (1 1/2 Sticks) Butter, Softened
1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
1/2 Cup Packed Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Mashed Banana (about 1 large)
1 Cup Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats
8 Ounces Chocolate Chips (I used Ghiradelli semi-sweet)
1/2 Cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts (about 2 ounces), Toasted
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl; set aside. Put butter and sugars into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low. Add egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture. Mix until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chunks, and walnuts.
Using a 2 tsp disher, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper (or roll into balls about one inch in diameter) spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, about 9 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers up to 2 days.
Even after five summers in Rockwood, Maine, I am still struck by the sheer beauty of the Great North Woods and Moosehead Lake. On mornings like this, it is easy to see why this place is called America’s crown jewel.
It’s not just the place, although the scenery is truly magnificent and changes constantly. The people that live here are a true community. Everybody knows everyone else and people wave to you as you drive down the road. As I stop in the Post Office to pick up the mail, a friendly golden retriever pokes his nose through from the opposite side of the mailbox to say hello and give me a sniff.
I head across the street to the Kineo Dock and enjoy the gorgeous view while I finish my morning coffee. Mount Kineo towers above the town of Rockwood and Moosehead Lake like a cathedral, beautiful and majestic.
After what seems like a peaceful eternity, I pick up my empty coffee cup and start heading back to camp. I stop at the local store on my way to pick up a few things and catch up on the local gossip. There is going to be live music and a celebration at the local bar and grill tonight, maybe I will go.
As I pull off the tar onto the gravel road leading to camp, I reflect on the last five summers spent on Moosehead Lake with my family. I feel grateful my wife and children have been able to spend their summers surrounded by natural beauty, far away from the stresses and worries of the big city. We are truly lucky to have found a life filled with hiking through the forest, swimming in the lake, picking blueberries, catching frogs and skipping stones here in Rockwood, Maine.
It’s been a beautiful week on Moosehead Lake. It’s hard to believe that the summer is almost over. There is a feeling of change in the air, of seasons shifting and changing weather. It is about this time every year that I smoke the salmon and trout that has not found another purpose in our summer menu.
Every year I have been here, I have learned a little more about this process. Every year I have made minor adjustments to my technique that improved the final product. This is my fifth year cleaning, brining and smoking fish from Moosehead Lake and I am thrilled to report that it is the best ever. I am excited to share my technique with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Total time: 5 hours
Step 1: Make the brine
8 Cups Water
1 Cup Kosher Salt
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Bay Leaf
Combine all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature or colder.
The quickest method I have found for cooling the brine is in an ice bath. Fill a large bowl or other container halfway with ice and place a slightly smaller bowl or container on the ice, pushing it down so the ice comes up around the sides. Pour hot brine into the smaller bowl and leave to cool. The brine should be chilled in about 30 minutes.
Step 2: Clean the fish
It is important when smoking small to medium fish that the skin be kept on. This will help the fillets keep their shape and insulate them so they do not dry out.
Lay out your fillets side by side in a roasting pan or other shallow container. Completely submerse them in brine and allow to sit for one hour at room temperature, or longer if your fillets are particularly thick.
I like to use an electric smoker because A: I have one and B: It maintains a constant temperature with minimal effort on my part. If you do not have an electric smoker, there are many alternatives available that are just as good or even better. Feel free to use the resources that are available to you.
I use alder wood because it is a traditional choice for smoking fish. It has a sweet, mellow flavor that does not overpower the fish. Feel free to experiment with whatever hardwood is available to you and decide which one you like best.
When the chips are smoking, I open the door and place the racks with the fish already on them in the slots nearest the center of the smoker. I like to keep them away from the relatively higher heat of the top and bottom of the smoker.
After closing the door, I smoke the fish for 3 hours. During this time, I change the chips in the smoker twice, about once per hour. This relatively short smoking time creates a product that is tender and moist but still has great smoke and fish flavor. If your fillets are very thick or you prefer a drier, smokier product, increase the smoking time accordingly.
After two hours, the fish are ready. Remove them from the smoker and cool on the racks. I find it difficult to keep myself from enjoying them right away but they will keep in the refrigerator at least a week and up to a year in the freezer.
This summer was an exceptional summer in the garden. I ended up with a large harvest of fresh basil. After making caprese salads, marinara sauce and Oven-dried tomato spread, I still had bunches of it left over.
It was time to make pesto. This simple Italian sauce is the perfect way to take a large amount of fresh herbs and consolidate them into a small container that can be stored in the freezer until you are ready to use it.
Makes: 2 1/2 Cups
3 Large Cloves Garlic
1 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Cup Pine Nuts
2 Cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese
4 Cups Packed Fresh Basil
1 Cup Olive Oil
Wash basil thoroughly in cold water and place on a towel to dry.
Secure the lid and run the food processor until the basil is about half chopped. At this point start adding the olive oil in a thin stream until all the basil is chopped finely and sauce is emulsified.
Year after year, there are certain dishes that I just can’t seem to get away from, dishes that people remember and repeatedly request. One of those dishes is Beer Can Chicken. I can see why so many people like it. The beer keeps the chicken from drying out, ensuring a juicy, tender bird all the way through. The sweet and savory rub complements the flavor of the hardwood smoke and cooking the chicken whole on the bone ensures maximum flavor. This dish does not require any special ingredients or expensive equipment. I like to use hardwood to cook over but you can do the same thing with charcoal and achieve delicious results. I have scaled the recipe for one 5 pound chicken, but you can cook as many as you can fit in your grill. I regularly cook five or six at a time when I have a big crowd.
1 Five Pound Chicken
1 Can Beer
1 Bay Leaf
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/8 Cup Smoked Paprika
1/2 Tbsp Granulated Garlic
1/2 Tbsp Onion Powder
1/2 Tbsp Black Pepper
1/2 Tbsp Chili Powder
Combine all the ingredients for dry rub in a bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside until ready to use.
Liberally salt the chicken, inside and out and let sit for at least an hour. This step is called dry brining and will help the chicken retain its natural juices while cooking.
While the chicken is brining, build a raging fire in a kettle grill and let it burn down to coals or start your charcoal in a chimney smoker (a hardwood fire will take about an hour to burn down, charcoal will be ready in about 15 minutes). When the fire has burned down to coals, bank it to either side of the grill, put the grate on and close the lid, making sure the vents are open and you have good airflow.
Open the can of beer (I typically use Budweiser) and drink half, after all, you’re the one doing all the work! I have used 12 and 16 ounce cans and they both work well. With a church key style can opener, make two extra holes in the top of the can. This will allow the maximum amount of steam to escape from the can while the chicken is cooking. Crumble the bay leaf and put it in the can with the remaining beer.
Apply dry rub to the chicken liberally, inside and out. You may have some left over. You can store it in a spice jar and it is good on all sorts of stuff, including BBQ Ribs.
Check the temperature of the grill. The internal temperature should stay around 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If the grill gets too hot, close the vent to kill the fire. If the temperature drops too low, add more fuel and stoke the fire. Once you have the temperature where you want it, Insert the beer can into the chicken cavity and place on the grill grate so the chicken balances on the can. I find it helps to use a metal grill pan to provide more stability but it is not necessary.
Close the lid of the grill, being careful not to accidentally knock over the chicken. Make sure the vents are open and you can see smoke coming out. Resist the temptation to frequently open the lid and check on the chicken. Every time the lid is opened, heat is allowed to escape, making it difficult to maintain a consistent temperature. For the first hour, do not open the lid unless you have to.
After the first hour, open the lid and take a look. Cooking over a live fire is not an exact science. There are many different variables that can affect cooking time. If all goes well, your chickens should look like this after an hour. A few times I have opened the grill only to be horrified at finding black, carbon-coated chickens inside. Every time I was pleasantly surprised to find that the chicken was still cooked perfectly inside and completely delicious!
Check your chicken’s temperature by inserting a thermometer in the breast and along the thigh bone. Chicken is ready when the breast temperature measures 160 degrees and the thigh measures 175 degrees. If it isn’t ready, don’t rush it. Just close the lid, open another beer and cook a little longer.
When the chicken is ready, carefully remove from the grill and tent with foil. Allow the chicken to rest for 10-20 minutes before carving. Remove the beer can carefully (it will likely still have some hot liquid in it) and cut the chicken into pieces and serve.