Poblano Corn Quesadillas

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We officially have a crawling baby! Which means, my life is about to get a little more hectic. As of yesterday, Landon is on the move and ever since then he does not want to be confined in any way, not in the bouncer, not in the playpen. Just wants to be able to move freely. No more setting him down on the play mat to run to the restroom, or turning my back to do dishes while he sits in one spot playing. Nope.
How do moms of toddlers get anything done? Serious question. Already today I feel like I haven’t been able to accomplish a single thing until he went down for a nap. I think this is just a phase as he gets used to his new skills but hopefully he will go back to liking the playpen and bouncer, at least for small amounts of time.

Here is a little update to your plain old cheese quesadilla, with sweet corn, onion and Poblano peppers, these take a basic dish and turn things up a notch. I made these for dinner and they were plenty filling, but if you wanted a bit more substance, you can easily add some cooked chicken as well.

Poblano Corn Quesadillas
1 tsp vegetable oil, plus more as needed
2 fresh Poblano peppers, thinly sliced
1/2 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2 corn on the cob, kernels removed
1 lime, halved
salt and black pepper
3 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
4 6-in tortillas

To garnish (your choice):
Salsa, Guacamole, Cilantro, Sour Cream

1. Heat the oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the Poblano and onion to the skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt & pepper and add the corn. Stir to combine, remove from heat and squeeze half a lime over the mixture.
2. Transfer to a plate and wipe the skillet clean.
3. Heat 1/2 tsp of the oil in the skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add one tortilla and scatter over it a quarter of the cheese, and a quarter of the Poblano mixture. When the tortilla turns just golden brown in spots, in about 2 minutes, fold it in half, pressing it with a spatula to flatten. Transfer to a baking sheet in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining ingredients to make three more quesadillas. Serve with garnish of your choice.

* Original recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking

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Red, White & Blue Pretzels

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For those of you who procrastinate…like me…a super quick treat for your 4th of July festivities! These are so adorable, no? And the hands on time is maybe 15 minutes, tops!!

Red, White & Blue Pretzels
12 pretzel rods
20 ozs white chocolate for melting
blue food coloring
red food coloring
white candy sprinkles

1. Prepare a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper and topped with a cooling rack as a place for the pretzels to dry in between each coating of chocolate.
2. Place 10 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (I used a small mason jar for this part because you want to be able to dip the majority of the pretzel in the chocolate) and warm on defrost or low setting, for 15 seconds at a time, stirring the chocolate during each interval, until chocolate is completely melted. Once melted, dip each pretzel in the chocolate until about 2/3 is covered. Remove and place on the cooling rack until chocolate is dry to the touch.
3. Place 5 ounces of white chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and warm the same way as the last. Once melted, add blue food coloring until you reach the shade of blue you want, I added about 20 drops. I also added a few drops of red to get the blue a little darker. When ready, dip the pretzels into the blue chocolate to cover about half of the white chocolate. Before setting the pretzel back on the cooling rack, shake some white sprinkles on the end while the chocolate is still wet.
4. Once the blue chocolate has dried, melt the remaining 5 ounces of chocolate and add red food coloring, I used 25 drops. When ready, spoon the red chocolate into the bottom corner of a plastic sandwich bag, cut a TINY piece of the corner off and slowly drizzle the red chocolate across the white chocolate portion of the pretzels in a back and forth motion to form stripes. Allow the chocolate to dry.

Enjoy!

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells

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Well, today the baby got himself from lying on his tummy up into sitting position for the first time. I love each new skill he develops but this one has mama in a panic! Crawling is just around the corner which means I’ll be spending this week baby proofing!! And…it also means there will be a DIY baby gate post coming your way in the near future. So, if you’re into that sort of thing, stay tuned!

This recipe is tasty! Lately, I’ve been trying to incorporate vegetarian dishes into our diet here and there. I grew up on a VERY hearty diet, meat, potatoes and a glass of milk at every dinner and I always want flavor, flavor, flavor so sometimes the veggie dishes fall a bit short for me. This one does not! There are tons of veggies, chickpeas for protein and the sauce is full of flavor. In total, it took 40 minutes, which is totally doable for a weeknight meal. If you wanted to make it even quicker, you could easily prep the veggies and sauce ahead of time and then just cook the pasta, fill the shells and pop it in the oven at dinnertime.

Ratatouille Stuffed Shells
16 uncooked jumbo pasta shells
1 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 1/2 cups diced eggplant
1 cup diced red bell pepper
3/4 cup diced zucchini
3/4 cup chopped plum tomato
1/2 cup canned unsalted chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 3/4 cups low sodium marinara sauce
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp torn fresh basil, divided
3/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
cooking spray
4 oz shredded Italian blend cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.
3. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, sauté 2 minutes. Add eggplant and bell pepper, cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, tomato and chickpeas; cover and cook 4 minutes. Remove pan from heat; stir in 1 cup marinara, 1/2 cup basil, black pepper and salt.
4. Coat a 2 quart glass or ceramic baking dish with cooking spray. Spread remaining 3/4 cup marinara over bottom of dish. Spoon about 2 Tbsp vegetable mixture into each pasta shell. Arrange filled shells in dish; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 12 minutes. Top with remaining 2 Tbsp basil.

*Original recipe from Cooking Light

Kale Summer Salad

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I have a confession…I love having friends and family over, hosting dinner parties & BBQs and cooking for lots of people. Problem…I’m not actually very good at it! I mean, the food is great and I’d like to think we create a fun environment but every single time, I spend a lot of the time in the kitchen preparing food and not mingling and hanging with our loved ones. It actually makes me really anxious too, something about people watching me cook, having a messy kitchen and not being able to just enjoy myself. The worst part is that I KNOW the steps to having a successful dinner party and I DON’T FOLLOW them!! Typically I go to the grocery store the day of and do no prep ahead of time. I also don’t pay too much attention to the steps that go into making a dish (i.e. cook time and or something with a lot of hands on time).

So, I’m turning over a new leaf 🙂 I really want to enjoy our dinner parties more so I am determined to plan ahead. Here you go, steps to a successful dinner party that the cook can enjoy as well…
1. Make recipes you are familiar with. Your best bet is to stick to recipes you have made before. This way you are familiar with the ingredients and the steps, plus, you know how it is going to taste. No wondering if your guests are secretly spitting their food into their napkins 😉
2.Choose recipes with as little hands-on time as possible or can be mostly prepped ahead of time. Whether it is meat you can marinate the day before and can just throw on the grill, a dish that can be prepped and tossed in the oven to cook or fruits and veggies cut up the day before. Anything you can do to lessen your time in the kitchen, the better. Ideally, during the party, you should shoot to only be tossing something in the oven, on the grill or on a dish.
3. Stick to your timeline. Grocery shopping 2 days before, recipe prep 1 day before, on the morning of pull together any cold dishes, dishes that will go in the oven later. Get your serving table ready and decide what dishes and utensils you will be using for each dish.
4. Accept offers of help! I am terrible at this. People ALWAYS ask, can I do anything to help? And I ALWAYS tell them NO! Why do I do this?!?! Probably because I want to seem all cool, calm and collected 🙂 Haha! Let them help! Not only will they feel good about helping you, if you are stuck in the kitchen for a bit it will give you a chance to still chat while getting things ready.

This salad is my attempt at better dinner parties. We are planning to have people over for 4th of July so I am trying out some new recipes ahead of time so I can plan the menu. This salad is ABSOLUTELY making the cut! Seriously delicious, a bunch of kale, gorgeous summer fruits, nuts and a tangy dressing to top it off.

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Kale Summer Salad
1 bunch of Kale
1 cup strawberries, sliced
1 cup blackberries
1 peach, pitted and diced
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup raspberries
1/2 cup diced mango
3 Tbsp dried cranberries
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
For the dressing:
3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

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1. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard, honey, salt and pepper until combined. Slowly stream in olive oil while whisking until emulsified.
2. In a large bowl, combine the kale and dressing. Massage the dressing into the kale until coated and place in the fridge to marinate for a few minutes. (Don’t do this too far ahead of time or the kale will get soggy, no more than 30 minutes before serving)
3. Before serving, add the diced fruit, dried cranberries and nuts to the kale and toss until evenly combined.

*Original recipe from The Balanced Berry

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Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce

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Well, another year older. Not sure about wiser 🙂 One thing is for sure, this birthday felt different. In the past, I haven’t really wanted to celebrate my birthday, do anything special or draw any sort of attention to it. I wouldn’t say that I dislike birthdays, just haven’t wanted to make much out of it for the last 5-10 years or so. Maybe after 21, birthdays just aren’t a big deal anymore.

This year felt a bit different. I didn’t want to throw a big party or anything but I did want to acknowledge it, to celebrate with my husband, to let him dote on me and treat me to a special day. Not sure why? Because I’m a mom now and I cherish any time that I can take advantage of a “special day off”? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that I’m happier this year than I’ve ever been before?

My friend, Janine, took some 6 month photos of Landon a couple weeks ago. I was showing the pictures to my little sister and she was saying how great they were and what a pretty mama I am. I, in my self-deprecating fashion, said “aw thanks. I just look so tired and like I need to get rid of the rest of the baby weight”. She quickly shut me down, saying the only thing she can see that has changed is that my boobs are bigger 🙂 and that I look happier than she has ever seen me look. Hahaha! Yes, the boobs are definitely bigger. But she was right. I am happier than I have ever been. This little munchkin has brought so much joy to our lives, more than I ever thought possible. Especially because I wasn’t even sure I wanted to have a baby in the first place. (Not sure if I’ve mentioned that or not.) I knew we would be great parents and I knew that I did like children but we also liked our lifestyle. Being able to spend money on whatever we wanted, take a trip whenever we felt like it. You hear “having a baby will change your life” but I don’t think it’s possible to realize the extent of that until it happens. Yes, I don’t get to sleep in anymore, and no, we can’t just jump on a plane and go away without LOTS of planning. But, I can not imagine our lives without Landon in it and now that he is here, I CAN’T BELIEVE there was ever a time that I wasn’t sure I wanted to have a baby. Having a baby does change your life, but my life is better now than I ever could have imagined it.

So, happy birthday to me 🙂 and happy 7 months old to our little guy!!

Parmesan crusted salmon with lemon cream sauce
2 – 2.5 lb side of salmon
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
For the parmesan crumb
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
cooking spray
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
pepper
For the lemon cream sauce
2 Tbsp butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper
For serving (if you want presentation platter)
watercress (I used extra dill sprigs instead)
fresh dill
lemon wedges

1. Remove salmon from fridge and bring to room temperature (if salmon is fridge cold when putting in the oven, add 3 minutes to cook time). Preheat oven to 390°F.
2. Spread panko breadcrumbs on a baking sheet, spray generously with cooking spray then bake 3-5 minutes until light golden brown. Scrap into a medium bowl immediately, add butter and stir, then add remaining Parmesan crumb ingredients.
3. Line the same pan with foil, place salmon on foil-lined pan. Spread Dijon on salmon using a butter knife, just thin coating – like buttering toast. Sprinkle parmesan crumb all over.
4. Bake for 20 minutes until just cooked and flaky (may need to adjust based on oven and size of salmon filet).
5. While salmon cooks, make lemon cream sauce (see below).
5. Remove salmon from oven, loosen from skin, which should be stuck to foil, using a spatula or butter knife.
6. Spread watercress onto serving platter. Use foil to lift salmon onto serving platter, then slide out the foil from under it by slightly lifting salmon with a spatula one section at a time and pulling foil away, tearing the foil if necessary. Serve with lemon cream sauce and lemon wedges on the side.

Lemon cream sauce
1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium high heat. Add shallots and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine and bring to a boil. Leave to boil rapidly for 5 minutes or until reduced by 3/4 or so.
2. Turn heat down to medium. Add cream, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir, then add lemon juice and mustard. Stir again. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes or until thickened. Adjust salt, pepper and lemon to taste. Be generous with the salt, remember the salmon is not marinated, the only salt is in the topping.
3. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, it will thicken as it cools. It can be served warm or at room temperature.

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas

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I feel like I’m a bit obsessed with sheet pan cooking these days. Anything I can throw on one pan, toss in the oven and POOF! dinner is done!?!? Count me in!

Store this one under SUPER fast and easy weeknight meals that taste delicious!! I mean, it’s pretty hard to mess up tacos and fajitas, right? But this is ready in less than 20 minutes and most recipes like that have no flavor, but this…SO not the case…tons of flavor from the spices and fresh squeezed lime juice. Plus, it’s Cinco de Mayo and I know you haven’t seen enough Mexican food and drink in your feed yet today 🙂

Sheet Pan Shrimp Fajitas
1 1/2 lbs of shrimp, peeled and deveined – you can remove tails, I left mine on for the photo and removed before serving 🙂
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced thin
1 red bell pepper, sliced thin
1 orange bell pepper, sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
several turns of fresh ground pepper
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
lime
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
tortillas, warmed – once I take the shrimp out of the oven, I toss the tortillas in so they get a little char from the broiler. Keep an eye on them though because they will burn quickly. Only need about 1 minute.

1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
2. In a large bowl, combine onion, bell pepper, shrimp, olive oil, salt, pepper & spices. Toss to combine.
3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Spread shrimp mixture on baking sheet in a single layer.
4. Cook for 8 minutes. Then turn the oven to broil and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until shrimp is cooked through.
5. Squeeze juice from lime over fajita mixture and top with fresh cilantro. Serve in warm tortillas with your choice of topping. We like ours with sour cream.

Enjoy! 🙂

Loaded Nachos

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I was really feeling that 70°F weather yesterday! And now…back to rain. I can’t wait for more consistently sunny weather. I have so many projects I want to do outside, particularly, finally finishing the back deck. However, that requires paint, so I need to wait for a stretch of at least a few dry days.

On the other hand, the munchkin is officially sitting up…which means crawling is probably not far behind…which means baby proofing. I have plans to DIY some pretty cute baby gates at the 2 sets of stairs in the house as well as the stairs on the deck so that project may need to come first. The list of projects really never gets any smaller. Each time I finish 1 thing, I add 2 more to the list.

So, let’s talk about something less stressful…like these loaded nachos! We have always made sheet pan nachos in this family, but never like this. They usually consisted of some ground chicken, taco seasoning, shredded cheese and salsa and sour cream for dipping. Pretty basic. I decided to make nachos on Superbowl Sunday and this was the result. And let me tell you, we will NOT be going back to the basic version, EVER. I’m not exaggerating when I say that these rivaled ANY restaurant nachos I’ve ever had. And that’s saying a lot…hello…massive plate of nachos at Margaritaville in Vegas.

Loaded Nachos
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package taco seasoning
12 ozs tortilla chips
1 15oz can refried black beans
1 cup corn kernels, frozen, canned or roasted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 jalapeno, diced
2 Tbsp sour cream plus 2 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add ground beef and garlic, and cook until beef has browned, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in taco seasoning. Drain excess fat.
3. While ground beef is cooking, heat refried beans in a saucepan over medium heat until warm throughout, about 5 minutes.
4. Place tortilla chips in a single layer onto the prepared baking sheet. Top with half of the cheeses. Next layer ground beef, black beans, corn and remaining cheese.
5. Place into oven and bake until heated through and the cheese melts, about 5-6 minutes.
6. While nachos cook, mix sour cream and water in a small bowl. You want to just thin out the sour cream so it is easy to drizzle.
7. Remove nachos from oven, top with tomato, onion, jalapeno, sour cream and cilantro.

Enjoy!

Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam

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I had intentions of posting this much earlier in the week for your Easter dinner ideas. Now, here it is, Friday afternoon, and I’m just getting around to it. SMH. I’m just going to stop planning blog posts by the calendar. I can’t ever seem to stick to it.

Anyway, if you are still deciding what to make for Easter dinner, then yay! I’m not too late. To be honest, these lamb chops are SO simple, you could make them any night or for any occasion. I feel like lamb chops are one of those things that are super intimidating to most people but you really shouldn’t be afraid of them. When I first started to make lamb chops, my biggest mistake was over-cooking them. Lamb should usually be served at medium-rare and mostly pink in the center.

Peppercorn-Crusted Lamb Chops w/ Spicy Fig Jam
1 cup fig jam
4 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 racks of lamb, fully trimmed and bones frenched
4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup coarsely ground peppercorn mélange (mix of pink, white, black and green peppercorns)

1. To make the spicy fig jam sauce, mix the jam, 2 Tbsp water, and Sriracha together in a small saucepan. Warm the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add the butter to the sauce and stir until incorporated. Set aside while cooking the chops.
2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 500°F. Brush 1 Tbsp of the oil over the lamb racks. Season with the salt. Spread the peppercorns on a cutting board, press the top and sides of each rack into the peppercorns to coat. Set aside.
3. Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a very large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add one lamb rack, top side down, and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board. Repeat with the second rack. Interlace the lamb racks, bones facing up, and return to skillet. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a rack and not touching bone registers 130°F, about 20 minutes, for medium-rare.
4. Let the racks stand at room temperature for 5 minutes. Cut between the bones into individual chops. Transfer 4 chops to each dinner plate and add a large spoonful of sauce. Serve immediately.

Enjoy everyone! And have a fantastic Easter weekend filled with fun, food, friends & family!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo

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Ok mamas…I now have a baby who is suddenly sleeping 10-11 hours at night only waking up once, maybe twice AND taking 1 1/2 to 2 hour naps!!!! I have made a couple changes recently, most notably to his feedings. But I’m wondering, is this normal that there is a shift around 5 months and babies just start napping well? Or is it possible that the feeding changes I made actually made the difference? Just want to know before I go tooting my own horn about sleep training in a blog post 🙂 Haha! That sounds way more “I’m-so-amazing” than I wanted it to.

Anyway…this dinner! I’ve made it twice now, and the second time was just as good as I remembered. It was really simple too, only 1 pot and about 30 minutes (minus putting the chicken in a marinade a couple hours prior), great weeknight meal!

Italian Chicken & Tomato Basil Orzo
For the marinade:
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1Tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp Italian herb mix
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

For the orzo:
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta
14 oz can crushed tomato
3 cups chicken stock
1 tsp Italian herb mix
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup basil leaves

1. Combine all marinade ingredients and marinade for 1 hour – overnight.
2. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, add chicken and cook through, about 8 minutes per side. Remove to a plate and cover with foil.
3. Heat 1/2 Tbsp olive oil in the skillet, increase heat to medium high. Add onion and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add bell pepper, cook additional 1 minute.
4. Add orzo, tomatoes, broth, herbs, salt and pepper. Mix, bring to a simmer, lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Pasta should be just cooked and still quite saucy. Take it off stove immediately.
5. Stir through parmesan and basil, adjust salt to taste. Spoon into bowls, top with chicken, garnish with more parmesan and basil.

*Original recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Can I just say, infant sleep training is not for the faint of heart. I’m probably taking longer with each stage because once he masters one part, I just want to sleep at night so I am hesitant to move on to the next stage. We’ve only been working on it for a week and the first stage is getting baby comfortable with sleeping with his arms outside the swaddle. I may be starting a bit too early, we will see. Most blogs and experts recommend sleep training not begin until after 4 months old. I decided to start a little early because Landon kept waking up in the middle of the night fighting to get his arms out of the swaddle. Last week I started swaddling 1 arm outside and it took 2 days for him to be used to it and back to his regular sleeping pattern. Thursday, I started keeping both arms outside the swaddle. You would think going from zero to 1 would be much harder than 1 to 2, not the case. We are on day 3 and he seems to be getting more comfortable with it but even so, his naps are still short and he woke up 4 times last night. Let’s see how this goes…

Anyway, time for a tried and true classic! I have been searching for the best chocolate chip cookie recipe I could find, and, after weeks and weeks of excruciating (sorry, not sorry) recipe testing, I think I finally nailed it. These cookies have tons of chocolate chips and are perfectly soft and chewy! Since perfecting this recipe, I think I’ve made about 6 dozen…oops.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 bag chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)

1. Preheat oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.
2. In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients – flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time and mix, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mixture may look lumpy.
4. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the bowl of dry ingredients and until mixed. Lastly, mix in the chocolate chips.
5. Drop spoonfuls of batter onto the baking sheet. Mine were about 2 tablespoons each.
6. Bake for 8 minutes until edges are golden brown (baking time will depend on oven). Let cookies cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.