You know you have a best friend when...

Today Milena and I decided to have our last lunch "date" before embarking on our exciting journeys abroad next semester. She is truly the best thing to happen to me since I moved to Charleston last January. If you have been following my blog even remotely, you have probably noticed that Milena acts as my right hand in nearly everything. It's hard to call it chance when someone as remarkably compatible, adventurous, loving, loyal, fun, funny, intelligent, talented, challenging, and beautiful of a person enters your life. Because of this, I know that God undoubtedly had a hand in Milena and I meeting last January. For this I am forever thankful.

Onto lighter things and foodie talk :) Today, with little hesitation, we agreed to try the newest Mexican restaurant, Caliente, in West Ashley known for it use of fresh and local Lowcountry ingredients.

In addition to the excitement of trying something new, we also decided to use this time together to exchange Christmas gifts.
We had barely settled in our seats before we were greeted with house-made corn tortilla chips and a fresh, spicy salsa!
And before I could ask the server for a water, Milena chimed in, "and we would like to start with your fresh guacamole." We had both read a review before coming to Caliente that described their guac as the new "standard." Our review: Simple, uncontrived avocados with fresh and chunky tomatoes. Quite delicious!
Milena and Santa have a dance off...
As per usual, we wanted to try everything on the menu so we decided to split two of their lunch specials. First shown, veggie fajitas with black beans.
Second, chicken taco and steak enchilada with Mexican rice
We hated everything. Lies. But we both agreed that our favorite element was the cheesy steak enchilada followed by the most flavorful element, the sauteed vegetables in the fajita dish.
Best friends are great at a lot of things, but have you ever realized how well they gift?! Milena nailed it by creating and writing the most thoughtful card and giving me the most unique ring handcrafted by a local Charlestonian. The "thank you" symbolizes the most simplest of prayers - giving thanks.

Balsamic Glazed Winter Vegetables

Skillet Balsamic Glazed Winter Vegetables
Adapted from
(Serves 3-4)
* 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
* 3 cloves garlic, minced
* 12 ounces mixed baby potatoes, quartered
(I used purple-skinned and fingerling potatoes)
* 8 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (to taste)
* 1 tablespoon good quality Balsamic vinegar
* Drizzle of honey (optional)

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add the olive oil to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add the garlic, potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Add the dried thyme and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir to evenly coat the vegetables with the oil and thyme.
2. Let the potatoes and Brussels sprouts caramelize on one side for about 4-5 minutes. Stirring occasionally to make sure that the other sides of the potatoes and Brussels brown evenly, continue to cook until fork tender (about 10-15 additional minutes).
3. Drizzle the Balsamic vinegar over the vegetables. Toss in the skillet so that the vegetables are evenly coated and the vinegar thickens a bit. Adjust the seasonings to taste and serve immediately.

Simple Beet and Goat Cheese Salad

This might just be the simplest and most delicious 3 ingredient salad! I bought some beautiful red and golden beets at the Farmer's Market last Saturday, as well as some of the best looking and spiciest arugula I have ever seen and tasted.

Preheat your oven to 450 F. To prepare the beets: Simply wash them, trim (cut-off) the roots, wrap them in foil and let them roast in the oven for 50 minutes. While the beets are in the oven, I prepare my dressing: whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp orange juice, 2 tbsp champagne or white wine vinegar, fresh chiffonaded basil, salt and pepper. Once the beets are done, and can be easily pierced by a fork, let them cool. Then you can peel off the skin and thinly slice the beets placing them over a bed of arugula and lettuce blend. Lastly, dress your salad with the fresh vinaigrette and crumbled goat cheese.

I also LOVE to add "crunch" to my salad by spreading goat cheese on seeded flat bread crackers, then breaking them up into mini croutons all over the salad. The addition of the "make shift croutons" really sets this salad apart :) My favorite cracker to use is Suzie's Spelt Multiseed Flatbread

Eggplant Pizza

It's about that time of the month where I try to be a little less extravagant and a bit more frugal with my money. In the kitchen this means things get extremely creative! Around mid-day yesterday, I decided I wanted something savory and went to the fridge only to find some cheese, one eggplant, one tomato, half an onion, and one remaining naan bread from a dinner I made earlier this week. My thoughts - Naan bread pizza of course!

But how was I going to incorporate eggplant?? I searched around some food blogs for a minute and came up with a quick, delicious recipe for a vegetable pizza.

Garden Eggplant Pizza
(Recipe yields: 2 Naan bread pizzas or 1 large pizza)
* 1 large eggplant, peeled
* 1 medium tomato
* 1 red bell pepper
* 1 onion
* 1 small zucchini (optional)
* 1 large garlic clove, minced
* 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
* 2 fresh Naan breads (or pizza dough to make 1 large pizza)
* 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
* Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or fresh basil chiffonaded)
* 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
* 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Chop eggplant and next 4 ingredients coarsely; saute garlic in 1 tablespoon oil (just long enough to infuse the oil); sauté vegetables in garlic oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat 10 minutes or until tender.
Layer pizza crust evenly with cheese and eggplant mixture; sprinkle with basil and next 4 ingredients. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons oil.

Bake at 425° for 10 minutes or until golden.

Second Batch: Pumpkin Granola

WOW! This batch came out perfect! If you are craving a delicious, clumpy, fall-inspired granola please try this recipe ;)

Nutty Pumpkin Granola (inspired by Ellie Krieger's recipe)
1.5 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup chopped raw or slivered almonds
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (cashews)
1/4 cup pepitas
2 tbsp wheat germ (optional)
2 tbsp flax seeds (optional)
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. allspice
1/3 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1/3 cup dried cranberries (I added golden raisins, chopped dried figs, apricots)

Preheat the oven to 300 and spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray.

Mix together the oats, nuts, salt, and spices. Then, stir in the pumpkin puree, vanilla, maple syrup and cranberries. Be sure everything is well combined.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. The granola will crisp up a bit more after it’s out of the oven, too. And when I am craving a healthy snack/dessert, I combine all my favorite things with Greek yogurt. It's the simple things in life...

Pumpkin Madness

Pumpkin Spiced Granola
I used my original recipe, left out the orange zest, added pumpkin spices, and a touch of Godiva's Pumpkin Spiced Coffee grains :)

One of my favorite ways to enjoy homemade granola is over a bowl of Greek yogurt with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey!

Almost two weeks ago, Milena and I went on a pumpkin puree baking binge! We got very excited about the Fall weather, holidays, and foliage and decided to celebrate with cans and cans of pumpkin puree. Ok I am kidding, only sort of, but we did decide to bake everything pumpkin on the Friday before Halloween. Most of the baked goods were sent to a Halloween party for a club Milena is involved with at the College, but the rest were for our enjoyment!

*The next two recipes were adapted and made Gluten-free due to Milena's allergy, however I have posted the recipes using the original ingredients
Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from here)
Yields: about 16 large cookies
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper, set aside. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until smooth and lightened in color. Next, mix in the oil,
pumpkin and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the flour to incorporate. Mix in the chocolate chips.
Using an ice cream scoop (1/4 cup size), scoop mounds of the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the cookies at least 2 1/2 inches apart. Use a thin metal spatula to smooth and flatten the rounds. Bake until tops feel firm and an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes with Chocolate Drizzle
(adapted from here)

Dry ingredients:
1/2 cup blanched almond flour (also called almond meal)
1/4 cup millet flour
1/4 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of sea salt
Wet ingredients:
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp. ground turmeric, optional
For the chocolate drizzle:
6 tbs. dark chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil 12 cups of a mini-muffin tin with coconut or olive oil. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry with a wooden spoon until smooth. Divide batter evenly among greased muffin cups, filling each all the way to the top.
Bake cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 24-26 minutes. Allow to cool completely before removing from pan. (Run a sharp knife around the edge of each cake to help release it from the pan.)
For the chocolate drizzle: melt together the chocolate chips and coconut oil over very low heat in a small saucepan, stirring often to avoid burning the chocolate. When chocolate is melted and smooth, remove from heat. Drizzle chocolate over top of the cooled cupcakes using a teaspoon. Transfer cupcakes to refrigerator to set up the chocolate.
Store cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve, or up to 2 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

These were so cute and delicious!

Berry Stella Cookies

These cookies didn't last long in my kitchen! They were the perfect crunchy and sweet accompaniment to a bowl of yogurt or ice cream. If you can't already tell by the pictures, I made three variations of the cookies using the original batter: 1)topped with fresh raspberries and a cranberry/blueberry compote 2) dark chocolate chunks topped with drizzled honey 3) dark chocolate chunks topped with drizzled peanut butter

Berry Stella Cookies (recipe adapted from Eden Kitchen):
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or zentrofan fine wheat flour or all-purpose flour)
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup rolled oats
½ cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamias)
¼ cup flax seeds, ground
½ teaspoon fine ground sea salt
¾ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup virgin coconut oil (I used a canola olive oil blend)
½ cup desired add-ins: dark chocolate chunks, raspberries (fresh or frozen), peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350°F/ 180°C. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Finely chop the nuts until they resemble small bread crumbs. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, desiccated coconut, oats, nuts, flaxseed, salt and baking soda.

Add the vanilla extract, oil, and maple syrup and mix until well combined. If using cookie cutters scoop 2 tablespoons of the dough into each cutter following the instructions above. Otherwise simply roll the scooped dough into balls and flatten them a little.

Lightly press and small handful of frozen berries onto each cookie and bake in the upper third of oven for 13-15 minutes, or until golden on top and bottom.

Makes about 20-25 cookies.

Sweet Potato, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Salad

Roasted Sweet Potato, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Salad
(adapted from The Sunday Times at

For the Salad
1 medium, orange-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and diced into 2.5cm cubes
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into thin wedges
2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin (original recipe calls for Bengali five-seed mix, also called panch phoran seeds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
15g whole almonds, blanched, lightly roasted and split down the middle
50g soft goat’s cheese (I used local Giddy Goat's Cheese)

For the dressing
1 3/4 tsp lemon juice
4 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas Mark 5. Place the potato and onion on a small baking tray. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and if using, add the seeds. Sizzle for 10 seconds over a low heat, then pour over the vegetables, season with cumin, salt, and pepper and mix well. Place the vegetables in the oven and roast for 45-50 minutes until soft.

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Season with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. When you’re ready to serve, pour the dressing straight onto the vegetables on the baking tray and toss well to coat, then add the almonds. Continue to stir until well amalgamated. Plate up and serve warm with the goat’s cheese crumbled on top.

Fall Vegetable Curry in 30 mins!

As I was flipping through the latest issue of CookingLight magazine last week, this recipe immediately caught my eye! Not only are the fall colors deliciously inviting, but the ingredients were simple (and affordable)! The idea of a light, tomato-based curry was impossible for me to turn down. There is nothing simpler and more satisfying than throwing together this 30 minute dinner after a long day of classes. Serve the curry over steamed rice and add in some chopped cashews for texture and taste! This recipe is a keeper and I cannot wait to make it again and share it with friends!

Fall Vegetable Curry (adapted from the October issue of CookingLight Magazine)

* 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
* 1 cup diced peeled sweet potato
* 1 cup small cauliflower florets
* 1/2 cup sliced red, yellow, green peppers
* 1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
* 2 teaspoons curry powder (Madras)
* 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (if you like your curry spicy!)
* 1/2 cup organic vegetable broth
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
* 1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
* 1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
* Served over steamed rice with cashews (I used wild rice but Basmati or brown rice are good too)

1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sweet potato to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Decrease heat to medium. Add cauliflower, pepper, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve with yogurt.

Also worth noting - the flavors truly meld together after a day of sitting in the fridge. The leftovers of this sweet potato curry were even BETTER than the first serving!

Ginger-Chile Caramel Cookies

Ingredients - (recipe adapted from Leite's Culinaria)
For the cookies:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking sheets
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger

For the chile caramel:
1/2 cup sugar
a pinch of ground cayenne or hot chile powder (I added a little more!)

1. Preheat the oven to 325F (160°C). Butter 1 baking sheet.

2. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. Stir in the crystallized ginger.

3. Mix the flour, baking powder, and ground ginger in a separate bowl, then gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.

4. Place a generous teaspoonful of the dough on 1 of the prepared baking sheets. Flatten it slightly, then repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the dough balls well apart, given that they will spread during baking.

5. Bake for 20 minutes, until the cookies are golden. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet while you make the chile caramel.

6. Place the sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for a few minutes until the sugar has completely dissolved and turned a shade of brown that’s caramel but not yet dark brown. The sugar can burn quite easily (which will turn the caramel bitter and unusable), so stir it often and keep a close eye on it. Immediately remove from the heat and stir in the cayenne or chile powder. Use it immediately before it starts to harden.

7. Using a spoon, carefully and quickly drizzle the hot caramel over the cookies any way you like. When the caramel has set (which happens quite quickly, a matter of minutes), transfer the cookies from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Serve (eat) immediately.

Can be enjoyed with milk :)

Austin EATS

Although it feels like we have known each other forever, Milena and I met only 10 months ago (January of this year). Among other things, it didn't take long for us to realize that we both shared the same love for the city of Austin, Texas. Neither of us had ever been to the Austin City Limits music festival (ACL) but had always wanted to attend. Without hesitation, and mostly in the excitement of meeting each other, we marked our calendars and bought ACL tickets the day they went on sale! The rest is...And so, the week finally arrived after months of anticipation and we flew to Austin on Thursday of last week. Everything was amazing! The music, the food, the people, the culture, the weather, it was a perfect weekend in Austin. I decided to blog about this trip because honestly the food was a huge highlight. One of our favorite spots was this small, funky (hipster-esque) cafe found on S. Congress Avenue in Austin called Snack Bar. Don't let the simple name fool you, this modern diner has a killer menu with tons of gluten-free options for Milena and serves up the simplest and most creative brunch favorites to satisfy anyone's taste!OhM Sandwich - 2 over medium fried eggs, applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, bibb lettuce, tomato, onion, gluten-free millet bread
Tamago Yoko - cabbage & leek hash cake, 2 poached eggs medium, wild alaskan salmon, with wasabi aioli, siracha, nuóc châm. Yumm! I ate every bite of this Japanese style pancake. For once in my life, I looked at the menu at Snack Bar and immediately knew that I wanted the Tamago Yoko. That never happens - and even rarer, I loved every bite :)

I couldn't go to Austin without eating tamales. I have had a SICK obsession with tamales ever since my pit stop at La Nortena Tamales in Pecos, West Texas during my road trip from Los Angeles to Louisiana.
These were not my La Nortena tamales, but they definitely satisfied my craving! [purchased from The Gardener's Feast - organic tamales sold at the Austin Farmer's Market]
We tried the Pork Tomatillo tamale and the Poblano and cheese tamale. Muy bueno!

Sweet Simplicity

Problem: I cannot ever seem to deny myself dessert; even after the heaviest of meals.
Solution: Light and tangy, fresh, and delicious... Greek yogurt topped with fresh berries and drizzled with honey :)

Ginger Fried Rice, Simple Salmon, Arugula Salad

Dinner tonight was such a treat. Just saying ginger fried rice puts a smile on my face. By now, I think you should all know that I find South East Asian flavors to be completely irresistible! Tonight's menu was super easy, quick, and bursting with flavor! Milena and I were also pretty proud of ourselves when we realized our meal only cost roughly $3 per serving. Rice, eggs, and spices are pantry staples and Milena has been needing to use up her arugula and figs, so the only item on our grocery list was fresh salmon :)

Ginger Fried Rice (adapted from NYTimes recipe)
2 tablespoons peanut oil (can substitute with olive oil)
1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 tablespoons minced ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 scallions, sliced
1 cup leftover rice
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoons soy sauce

1. In a large skillet, heat 1 T oil over medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp and brown. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels and salt lightly.

2. Reduce heat under skillet to medium-low and add 1 T oil and scallions. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until very tender but not browned. Season lightly with salt.

3. Raise heat to medium and add rice. Cook, stirring well, until heated through. Season to taste with salt.

4. In a nonstick skillet, fry eggs in remaining oil, sunny-side-up, until edges are set but yolk is still runny.

5. Divide rice among dishes. Top each with an egg and drizzle with 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Sprinkle crisped garlic and ginger over everything and serve.
BLURb on Saturday night
Great friends, amazing food, perfect ambiance
(Dinner and drinks at Pane e Vino)
It didn't take much for our server to talk us into the "Organic" Cecchi Chianti Natio.
After dinner drinks - Limoncello
Extremely talented young duo.

Kitchen Round-up!

Dear followers, though few, I love you all dearly and hope that I haven't lost your support in these past months of negligence. I have been extremely busy with work and preparing for the beginning of yet another semester of stimulating classes and labs. Nevertheless, cooking is always the purest, most effective form of therapy in my life. Now that my best friend and cooking buddy (Milena) has returned from her cowgirl escapades in Wyoming, I have been back in the kitchen, cooking, baking, experimenting and documenting.

Course 1 - Appetizer - Shrimp Bruschetta with Lemony Fennel SaladIngredients

* 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced through the root, green fronds reserved
* 1 heaped tbsp roughly chopped dill
* zest and juice ½ lemon , plus wedges, to serve
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 4 small slices rustic wholemeal bread , or widely sliced baguette
* 1 garlic clove , halved
* 3/4 lb. shrimp or prawns
* handful rocket (arugula)

1. Bring a pan of water to boil then add the fennel slices for 2-3 mins until tender. Drain well and toss with reserved fennel fronds, dill (optional), lemon zest and juice, 2 tsp olive oil and salt and pepper.
2. Brush the slices of baguette with remaining oil. Place in a hot griddle pan (or under a grill) and toast on both sides until lightly charred. Rub one side of each slice with the garlic, then divide the fennel salad between them. Top with the prawns, then the rocket (arugula) and serve.

Course 2 - Entree - Seared Sesame Tuna, Roasted Summer Vegetables with Goat Cheese, and Steamed Garlicky Asparagus Seared Sesame Tuna:
* 1 fresh Tuna Steak
* 1 tsp black and white sesame seeds
* 1 tsp low sodium soy sauce
* 1 tsp rice wine vinegar
* lime juice
* dash of chili powder
* salt and pepper
* oil for searing

1. Season the fresh tuna steak with salt and pepper on all sides.
2. Combine the sesame seeds, soy sauce, rice vinegar, lime juice and chili powder in a small bowl. Coat the tuna steak with the marinade, try to evenly distribute the sesame seeds.
3. Heat a pan with a tsp or 2 of oil and gently sear each side of your tuna steak, approximately 30-40 seconds per side (I like my tuna to be medium-rare). Roasted Summer Vegetables with Goat Cheese
* 1 zucchini
* 1 yelllow squash
* 1/2 red onion
* 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 pound bag of fingerling and gourmet potatoes
* 1 tsp cumin
* 1 tsp paprika
* dash of chili powder (or Cajun seasoning)
* 1 tbsp olive oil
* 1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Cut all the vegetables into 1/2 inch slices (diced) and toss in a large roasting pan with the remaining ingredients.
3. Bake the vegetables for 20-30 minutes until tender and browned.
4. Serve over a bed of lettuce tossed with oil and vinegar and top the vegetables with crumbled goat cheese.

Steamed Garlicky Asparagus = Milena's Secret!

~ Amidst my stress these past few weeks, Lance sent a surprise delivery of the beautiful orchids in the background of the entree photo. Fun fact: the purple variety of orchid is the National Flower of Singapore

Course 3 - Dessert - Cherry-Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies (GF)
* 1 cup flour (we used Gluten-free rice flour)
* 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
(we substituted 1/4 butter for 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
* 1 large egg
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
* 1 cup old-fashioned oats (we used gluten-free oats)
* 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
* 1 cup dried tart cherries
* 1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted (optional)

1. Position racks in center and top third of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter (applesauce), sugar and brown sugar in large bowl until well blended. Mix in egg and both extracts. Beat in flour mixture. Mix in oats, then chocolate chips, and cherries.
2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto baking sheets, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake cookies 12 minutes. Switch and rotate baking sheets. Bake cookies until golden, about 6 minutes longer. Cool cookies on baking sheets (cookies will firm as they cool). (Can be prepared 1 week ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.)

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Baking in my eclectic/hippie kitchen - although, I do love the natural light it provides.Caught licking the bowl ;)