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Lunchbox Recipe: Monkey Cookies


Makes about 3 dozen

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt


1 whole banana, small dice

1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries

1. Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until mixture is light and fluffy. Stop the mixer a few times and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bowl.

2. Add egg and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, or until thoroughly combined, scraping the bowl again to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

3. In a medium bowl, stir the flour, baking powder and salt until well mixed.

4. On low speed, slowly blend flour mixture into butter mixture until the flour has been incorporated and dough is evenly mixed.

5. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap flat. Form dough into a long cylinder; roll in plastic wrap to form an even round shape. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. (Note: The dough may be frozen at this point, if you wish.)

6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from plastic wrap. Slice cookies 1/4-inch thick; place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Sprinkle cookies with the bananas, nuts and cranberries, mounding them on top of the dough. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until cookies are golden brown on the edges and pale to light brown in the centers. Cooled cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

(Recipe courtesy Matt Greco, executive chef, The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards)

Lunchbox Recipe: Bacon-Cauliflower Mac and Cheese


Serves 4 plus

Note: Make this for dinner, then heat up the leftovers in the microwave and pop them in a thermos for lunch in the days ahead. Hirsch's son likes the mac and cheese folded into a grilled cheese sandwich, an idea Hirsch says "totally works." The breadcrumbs and broiling are optional steps.

1 pound whole wheat elbow pasta

10 strips bacon, chopped

1/2 medium head cauliflower, cored and cut into small florets

2 cups milk

1 tablespoon garlic powder

1/2 tablespoon each onion powder, dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 ounces cream cheese, cut into chunks

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated cheddar

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) grated Gruyere

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Kosher salt

3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1. Heat oven to broil.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, in a large, deep, oven-safe saute pan over medium heat, cook bacon for 2 minutes. Add cauliflower; saute until lightly browned, about 12 minutes.

4. Add drained pasta to pan; mix well. Add the milk, garlic powder, onion powder, mustard powder, black pepper and cayenne. Mix well and heat until milk is hot.

5. Add cream cheese, stirring until melted. Sprinkle in the cheddar, Gruyere and Parmesan, stirring until melted. Season with salt.

6. In a small bowl, toss breadcrumbs with melted butter, then scatter evenly over the pasta. Broil 2 minutes, until lightly browned.

(Recipe courtesy J.M. Hirsch, "Beating the Lunchbox Blues," Rachael Ray Books/Atria, $10.99)

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