Caramel Filled Dark Chocolate Cookies by Chelsea Zwieg

Caramel filled things are some of my favorite things. Rolos, anything turtle related, THESE COOKIES. I don't think I realized how much I wanted caramel inside of my cookies until I pulled these out of the oven and could not stop eating them/pulling them apart so I could take gooey, stringy, caramel pictures. Seriously, these photos are whittled down from like 500. Not really 500. But a lot. That is also partly because my finger or my nose or some other part of my face that I am not even aware of changed the image size setting on my camera part way through which I did not realize until I uploaded a whole bunch of the lowest resolution pictures I have ever seen. But I wasn't even mad about it because I was simultaneously stuffing caramel stuffed cookies into my mouth. Ok, maybe I was still a little mad. But I rewarmed them up, re pulled the apart, re shot them and they were just as gooey, stringy and caramely as ever. Crisis averted. 

Maybe you're not so interested in my camera problems but are more so interested in how to get as much caramel as possible in the darkest, richest chocolate cookie you will ever make. Well. Let me tell you. 

These cookies are made with dark cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark etc.). This provides MEGA chocolate flavor but also gives the cookies a super dark color which makes the caramel rivers flowing out of that much more stunning. As for the caramel, I just used store bought caramel squares which I'm pretty sure were created for this very purpose. No need to make your own caramel (unless you are a cookie overachiever. In which case, I like you already). When you get to shaping the cookies, just be sure to completely seal in the caramel. If there are any cracks or holes, the caramel will leak out of it in the oven. 

I also stuck a few chocolate chips in the top of each cookie. I didn't want to mix them in because some of them were bound to melt together with the caramel and make chocolate/caramel centers which isn't a bad thing. Just not the thing I was going for. You can also skip the chocolate chips completely if that doesn't thrill you and go for a little sprinkling of sea salt. Or a caramel drizzle. Or both! Oh my goodness. 

Caramel Filled Dark Chocolate Cookies

| Ingredients | 

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder (Hershey's Special Dark, etc.) 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg 
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 12-15 caramels (I used these

| Instructions

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a small bowl. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the vanilla and egg and beat until combined. With the mixer running on low, gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. 

Scoop the dough into balls using a large cookie scoop or 1/4 cup measure. Flatten each ball, making a well in the center. Place a caramel in each well and press the cookie dough up around it to seal it in. Reshape the cookie so that it is smooth all around and flatten it slightly with the palm of your hand. Press chocolate chips into the tops of the cookies. Chill shaped cookies for 30 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silpat. Arrange cookies on the trays, leaving several inches between each. Bake 13-15 minutes, until the cookies are beginning to crackle slightly around the edges, but the center is still soft. It can be a little tricky to determine if they are done, since the cookies are so dark, but I found the perfect time in my oven to be 13 minutes. If you chill them longer, I would guess it to be around 15. Let cool on trays. 

Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Grain Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette by Chelsea Zwieg

One problem with having a blog where I post recipes that I'm really excited about is that I'm always really excited. I pretty much begin every post by typing "oh my gosh you guys, this salad is the best thing ever". Then I backspace it and start again because if I say that every time, no one will believe me. It will be like the boy who cried wolf (which I won a ribbon for presenting at the speech meet in 2nd grade. heyo.) except I'll be crying "yay salad!" and you all will be rolling your eyes. So I refrain. But let me break that rule just really quick to say: you guys, this salad is the best. thing. ever.  

I basically threw everything I love at the moment into a bowl, called it a salad and then happy danced around while eating it. Many, many nights in a row.  It starts with farro, a grain that I think should be a lot more popular than it is. It's a little bit chewy with a toasty, nutty flavor that sets any salad made with it up for success. Then there is some roasted eggplant, caramelized onions (all hail the greatest ingredient ever to grace a salad), red grapes, spinach and some crumbly, salty feta cheese. To finish it off, I made a walnut vinaigrette to amp up those toasted nut vibes.

It might be a little bit more time intensive then some other salads but it makes fantastic leftovers. So if you have a little extra time to devote to roasting veggies one night, you can eat like a salad king (or queen) for the rest of the week. I also cannot decide if it's better eaten hot or cold. So if you make it, let me know what you decide! 

Eggplant and Caramelized Onion Grain Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette

Serves 4 as a side

| Ingredients

  • 1 small eggplant, cubed
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup pearled farro
  • 2 cups spinach, loosely packed
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese
  • salt and pepper

For the dressing: 

  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • salt, to taste

| Instructions

Preheat oven to 425. Place eggplant on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and browned, 20-25 minutes. 

There are a few ways to caramelize the onions. My preferred method is to do it in a crockpot, which I explain here, because you can do a giant batch at one time and use them in everything you eat for weeks. But, if you don't think of it the day before, you can also do them on the stovetop. Heat a tbsp. of oil or butter and add the onions, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook on medium-low heat, stirring every 5 minutes, until the onions are deeply browned and almost jam-like in texture, about 40 minutes. There is quite honestly few things in the world better than caramelized onions. But I won't pretend they don't take a lot of time. If you are super short on time, toss the onion on the same pan as the eggplant and let it cook that way. It will still get brown and a little caramelized, just not quite as good. 

Bring 3 cups salted water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the farro, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the farro is tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the spinach and toss to combine. The heat of the farro should wilt the spinach. 

Once the eggplant and onions are cooked, add them to the farro/spinach mixture along with the grapes and feta cheese. Stir to combine. 

Place walnuts in a small saucepan over medium heat and toast until they smell super toasty and begin to turn golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Chop toasted walnuts into small pieces and place in a blender. Add oil, vinegar, honey and mustard. Blend until smooth. If you're blender, like mine, is not very powerful, you might have a few bits of walnut remaining which is fine. Add salt, to taste. 

Add the dressing to the salad and toss to coat. Serve warm or cold. Personally, I think it is so good either way.