Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies

These treats include a beloved flavor combination baked into super soft pudding cookies. 

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Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Honestly? I’m not sure what to say about these cookies. What is there to say, really? They’re super soft, chocolate pudding cookies studded with white chocolate chips and chunks of Oreo cookies.

In my opinion, cookies get no better than this. Then again, I’m fairly obsessed with cookies and cream, well, everything. Check out the bottom of this post for more cookies and cream-flavored recipes!

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

The original recipe comes from Crazy for Crust; I’ve also shared Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies, too.

*dough requires ~1 hour of chilling*

You’ll need (yields approximately 24 cookies):

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract until smooth.

Add the pudding mix, baking soda, and kosher salt. Mix until combined. Add the flour. Mix again until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. Add the white chocolate chips and chopped Oreos and mix on medium-high speed until they are well distributed throughout the cookie dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop ~2 tbs balls of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chilled balls of cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, approximately 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and press additional white chocolate chips into the warm cookies, if desired. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Need more cookies and cream-flavored desserts? I got you.

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Chocolate Cookies and Cream Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks
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Orange Creamsicle Crush

These cocktails are super refreshing and taste just like a creamsicle.

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Orange Creamsicle Crush Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

The weather is warming up again, and that invariably puts me in the mood for a Crush. They’re refreshing, lightly sweet, and can be made in a variety of flavors. For example, I’ve shared Grapefruit Crushes with you before.

Thanks to the combination of fresh orange juice, triple sec, and whipped cream vodka, these Crushes taste just like an orange creamsicle.

Orange Creamsicle Crush Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

You’ll need (makes 1 cocktail):

  • 1.5 oz whipped cream vodka
  • .5 oz triple sec
  • 2 oz. orange juice (freshly squeezed, please!)
  • lemon-lime soda or citrus flavored sparkling water (Orange La Croix is my go-to)

Add the whipped cream vodka, triple sec, orange juice, and ice to a cocktail shaker. Shake for 10 seconds or so, or until very cold. Strain into a tall glass with ice. Top with lemon lime soda or sparkling water. Garnish with an orange slice if you’re feeling fancy.

Looking for more warm weather cocktails? Check these out, too:

Orange Creamsicle Crush Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

Orange Creamsicle Crush Cocktail | A Nerd Cooks

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies

These pudding cookies are super soft and packed with bright, zingy lemon flavor.

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Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

It’s official: pudding cookies are my new go-to cookie. They addition of pudding mix ensures that they are super soft, bake up perfectly every time, and can be flavored however you like. Want a more traditional chocolate chip cookie? Use vanilla pudding + chocolate chips. Is pistachio your jam? Use pistachio-flavored pudding. You get the idea.

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Beyond being delicious, lemon and white chocolate strike me as being a perfect flavor pairing for spring time. The sweet and tangy flavor combination is also a refreshing alternative to all-sweet cookies.

In the mood for more lemony treats? Check out these Pink Lemonade Cupcakes and Whole Lemon Bars!

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

These cookies are adapted from the recipe found on Crazy for Crust.

*Before we dive into the recipe, know that this dough will need to be chilled for at least 1 hour before baking.*

You’ll need (yields approximately 24 cookies):

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar on medium speed. Mix in the egg and lemon extract until smooth.

Add the pudding mix, baking soda, and salt. Mix until combined. Add the flour. Mix again until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl as needed. Add the white chocolate chips and mix on medium-high speed until they are distributed throughout the cookie dough.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop 2 tbs balls of dough onto the cookie sheet. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

When you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two additional baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the chilled balls of cookie dough on the prepared baking sheets, approximately 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes, or until the edges just start to turn brown.

Remove the cookies from the oven and press additional white chocolate chips into the warm cookies, if desired. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

Lemon White Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

A Nerd Travels: Rome, Italy

Yes! Sean and I went to Italy last month! If you follow me on Instagram or follow the blog’s page on Facebook, you have likely seen a few photos already.

One of the annual scientific conferences that I attend was in Florence this year. Sean came with (of course), and we we decided to make a proper vacation of it by tacking on a few extra days before and after the meting so we could do some sightseeing. Our itinerary went like this: Rome –> Florence (+ a day trip to Cinque Terre) –> Rome. I’ll be sharing photos from Florence and Cinque Terre soon, but let’s start with Rome.

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One of the first things that we did was go see the Colosseum. We’re all more or less familiar with the Colosseum, right? I think it’s probably the most easily recognizable of the ancient landmarks in Rome.

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When you get off of the Metro at the Colosseo stop, it’s right there. First thing you see when you walk up the steps and out of the metro station is the Colosseum. It’s just there, in the middle of modern day Rome.

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It’s incredibly impressive, both in size and also in terms of how old it is. It was built between 70 and 80 AD. You can see that the skies were pretty overcast and dreary looking; this was the worst of the weather that we experienced the entire time that we were there. We were really lucky.

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Speaking of the Roman Metro system, all of the train cars are tagged up like this. Really, a good bit of the city is covered in graffiti. I think that, in the U.S. at least, we tend to equate graffiti with a geographic area not being the nicest or safest. Broken windows theory, and all that. Not so in Rome. From what we saw, most buildings were tagged. And really, a lot of it was beautiful or at least interesting to look at.

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We briefly visited the Trevi Fountain, which was super crowded but also beautiful.

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We also visited quite a few old Catholic churches. They were, of course, very beautiful. The photo below was taken in The Basilica of Santa Sabina, which was completed in the year 432. I lit a candle and said a prayer there.IMG_1564

This wooden door was in the Church of San Saba (13th century). It was almost directly across the street from the Airbnb we stayed in during the 2nd portion of our stay in Rome.

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For me, there’s something seriously comforting about the fact that all Catholic churches smell the same. Even the really old ones, and ones that are 5,000 miles from home.

There’s an area in Rome called the Aventine Hill. It’s one of the seven hills on which ancient Rome was built. It has orange gardens (below), and is where the Basilica of Santa Sabina (the church with the painted ceiling, above) is located. There’s also a really nice view of some of the city, as well as the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. Unfortunately, I only brought my iPhone with me, and wasn’t able to take very clear photos of the view.

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Also on Aventine Hill is The Aventine Keyhole. It’s literally a keyhole in a door. When you peer through it, you see a treelined path, and framed perfectly within the opening at the end is the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. I couldn’t get my phone to focus on the dome, but you get the idea.

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We also took a rather abbreviated trip to Vatican City. We made it through a good bit of the Vatican museums, and saw the Sistine Chapel. However, I was battling bronchitis at the end of our trip, and was fading quickly. We saw the line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica, and I knew that I just couldn’t make it. We turned around and went back to our Airbnb. I tell myself that we’ll just have to go back some day to finish what we started.

Our time in Rome was incredible. The city is large and bustling, the people friendly to American tourists, and the food and wine were delicious. I would love to go back some day to see things that we couldn’t squeeze in this time around.

Stay tuned for more photos from our time in Florence and Cinque Terre!

 

Pressure Cooker Carnitas

These are the easiest, most delicious carnitas you will ever make. Depending on how much time you have on your hands, make them in either the electric pressure cooker OR slow cooker.

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I have made these carnitas embarrassingly often since first discovering the recipe 3 years ago. The original recipe is for the slow cooker, which is great if you have all day, or have the presence of mind to throw everything together before you leave for work. For me, this is not always the case. After receiving an electric pressure cooker for Christmas, I decided to adapt the recipe. That way, I’m able to have carnitas in a fraction of the time.

Our favorite way to eat these carnitas is Chipotle burrito bowl-style. Toss some of this crispy yet tender pork in a bowl with some Cilantro Lime Rice and a variety of taco/bowl toppings (beans, cheese, guacamole, etc.), and you’re in business. They’re also excellent in a taco (corn tortillas, please).

The slow cooker preparation comes from Damn Delicious.

You’ll need (yields 8 servings):

  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 1 tbs chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 onions, quartered
  • 3-4 lbs pork shoulder, boneless and trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 oranges, juiced
  • 2 limes, juice
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Combine all of the spices in a small bowl. Set aside.

For the Pressure Cooker

Cut the pork shoulder into 2- to 3-inch chunks.

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and cubed pork to the electric pressure cooker (PC) insert. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the PC insert.

Place the lid on and lock it. Depending on what kind of PC you have, you’ll want to do a couple of different things. If you have an Instant Pot: Cook for 25 minutes on high pressure. If you have one without the high/low pressure manual options (like mine): select the “meat” menu and cook for 25 minutes. Depending on your preference, you can allow the pressure to release naturally or do a quick release.

For the Slow Cooker

Add the garlic cloves, quartered onions, and pork to the slow cooker. Sprinkle the spice mixture over everything. Using your hands, toss the garlic, onions, and pork around in the spices, rubbing the spices into the meat. Add the orange and lime juice to the slow cooker.

Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Both Preparations

Here’s where both the electric PC and slow cooker recipes come back together.

Now that the pork shoulder is cooked through, you’ll want to crisp things up a bit. Preheat the broiler to high. Remove the pork from to a baking sheet lined with foil, and shred the meat. Spoon some of the juices and onions that are left over onto the shredded meat. Broil for 2-3 minutes.

Remove the sheet pan from the oven and toss the meat around a bit with tongs. Pour some more of the juices over the meat and broil for 2-3 additional minutes. Remove from the oven, top with chopped cilantro, and serve immediately. Definitely enjoy with some Cilantro Lime Rice.

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Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing – Updated

This salad is equal parts sweet and savory, and entirely delicious.

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Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

I know that some people automatically think of salads as being “sad desk lunches.” While this certainly can be true, this particular salad definitely does not conform to that stereotype.

This salad has a little bit of everything: fresh greens, sweet red grapes and blueberries, filling chicken, and a savory dressing. The sweet freshness of the salad and savory dressing play really well together. Plus, while it doesn’t have all of the colors of the rainbow, it’s also very colorful and pretty.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Along these lines, I’ve shared a few savory-sweet salads with you in the past. See the Strawberry Pecan Salad with Beets, Watermelon Avocado Salad, or Strawberry Balsamic Salad for other delicious examples.

Sad desk lunch be gone!

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

This salad is based on a recipe from Pinch of Yum. I blogged about it almost 3 years ago exactly (original post found here), but tinkered with the proportions for the dressing a little bit.

You’ll need:

For the salad (makes 1 salad) –

  • 2 oz. cooked chicken, shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces (rotisserie chicken is a time-saver)
  • 1 cup red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup almonds, slivered or sliced
  • lettuces/greens of your choice (I used a combination of spring mix greens and baby arugula)

For the dressing (makes enough for 4-5 salads) –

  • 4 tbs almond butter (sub peanut butter if desired)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tbs water
  • 2 tbs stoneground mustard
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 garlic clove

Assemble the salad in whatever vessel you choose. I prefer a bowl. Set it aside while you make the dressing.

Combine all dressing ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until smooth. Taste and add more salt as needed.

Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy.

Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks
Rainbow Chicken Salad with Almond Honey Mustard Dressing | A Nerd Cooks

Penne with Vodka Sauce

This pasta tastes like you cooked up a storm, but it really couldn’t be easier.

Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

I originally intended to post this on Valentine’s Day, but then again I intend to do a great many things and never get around to it. Also this recipe doesn’t requires the occurrence of a Hallmark holiday for you to make it.

This pasta is very simple to make, requiring not much more than a bit of chopping and stirring. Despite its simplicity, it’s delicious and tastes like you made a real fuss.Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks

I originally blogged about Penne with Vodka Sauce about 3 years ago, here. I’ve updated the recipe (and photos!) pretty significantly.

You’ll need:

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium-sizes shallot, minced
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup plain vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • cooked shrimp, scallops, or chicken (optional)

Add the olive oil to a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the garlic and shallots, and sauté until the shallots are translucent.

Add the tomato paste and cook for a minute, stirring it around a bit. Add the crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, sugar, and vodka, stirring to combine.

Turn the heat heat to medium-low and simmer until the sauce reduces by about 1/4; about 20 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to directions on the package. Strain and set aside.

Add the cream, stir to combine, and simmer until heated through. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir, and heat until melted.

Add the cooked pasta, stir to coat all noodles with sauce, and serve. Top with additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Add some protein, too, if you’d like. Shrimp, scallops, or chicken would all be very good.

Penne with Vodka Sauce | A Nerd Cooks