JeanMarie Brownson's Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies Credit: Mike Sula

Moving along with our continuing series of local food books: To date Tribune food columnist JeanMarie Brownson’s most notable cookbooks have been coauthored with Rick Bayless, for whom she serves as culinary director of Frontera Foods. Though her name was on 1989’s The Chicago Tribune Cookbook (when she was head of the paper’s test kitchen), until now there’s been no hardcover collection of her own work. Dinner at Home, published by Agate Surrey (which is becoming the publisher of record for local cookbooks), is made up of recipes selected from Brownson’s column, and it has the wide scope you’d expect to come out of a major daily.

That means it’s a family cookbook consisting mostly of undemanding recipes with broad appeal: chile-roasted kale, goulash with bacon and potato, grilled turkey burgers, curried red cabbage with chestnuts, vegetable-black bean soup, et cetera. I made a red lentil and lamb soup from it a few weeks back for a couple of new parents—delicious and restorative. But like most of the recipes in the book, it’s nothing groundbreaking—just simple, good stuff.

Yet one recipe that jumps out are these fruity, nutty, chocolatey, chewy flourless everything cookies, which in my household were demolished, as if attacked by crazed stoners, within 12 hours of completion. Complement their understated red (dried cherries) and green (pepitas) color scheme with a handful of shredded coconut and you could argue that this is a holiday cookie. 

JeanMarie Brownson’s Chocolate Cherry Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Prep: 25 minutes | Cook: 12 minutes | Makes: about 90 cookies

These chocolate cherry peanut butter oatmeal cookies have it all going on: oats, nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate. The scent of them baking will warm your house, through and through. These cookies are made without flour. For the best crunch, be sure to use old-fashioned rolled oats, not the finer-textured quick-cooking varieties. I like natural peanut butter for its deep peanut flavor. Store the cookies in a covered container up to several days or freeze up to 2 months.

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup each: granulated sugar, packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup extra-crunchy natural peanut butter, at room temperature
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
½ cup salted, toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), roasted hulled sunflower seeds or roasted peanuts
½ cup dried cherries (chopped if large), dried currants or small dark raisins
8 ounces milk or semisweet chocolate bars, roughly broken into ¼-inch pieces

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Beat together butter and sugars in large bowl of electric mixer.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until smooth and creamy. Beat in baking soda and vanilla. Beat in peanut butter until incorporated. Use a wooden spoon to stir in oats, pumpkin seeds, cherries and chocolate pieces.

2. Use a teaspoon to make balls about 1 inch in diameter. Place on 2 parchment paper-lined baking sheets spacing them about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with a spoon. Bake until set and bottoms are slightly golden, about 12 minutes.

3. Cool cookies on pan, 5 minutes. Transfer with a metal spatula to a wire rack to cool completely. (You can reuse the paper-lined baking sheets to bake the remaining cookies.) Nutrition information per serving: 67 calories, 3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 6 mg cholesterol, 8 g carbohydrates, 2 g protein, 34 mg sodium, 1 g fiber

Reprinted with permission from
Dinner at Home by JeanMarie Brownson, Agate Surrey, 2015.